Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sterilise the poor?

Laws denies 'sterilise beneficaries' claim
12:53PM Friday Oct 30, 2009

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10606339

http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/national/3012644/Laws-hits-back-over-comments

Initial reporting on Laws' comments:
http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/3014271/Sterilise-underclass-to-stop-child-abuse-Michael-Laws

Background:
Michael Laws, formerly an MP for NZ First and now Mayor of Wanganui as well as a radio talk-back host, is the conservative man that liberals love to hate. If liberals bought dart boards with people's faces on them, his would be a best seller. Laws has been at the forefront of the anti-PC crusade for a number of years, and has recently been villified and pilloried by the media for successfully banning the wearing of gang regalia in Wanganui and for his comments over the 'H' debacle (a blog dedicated to this will be written soon; I am currently awaiting the government's decision on whether to accept or reject the NZ Geographic Board's decision to insert the letter 'h' between the 'W' and the 'a' in 'Wanganui').

The situation:
The Dominion Post approached Michael Laws for his view on the recent death of two year old Wanganui lad Karl Perigo-Check, whose father is a member of the Mongrel Mob and currently serving a stint in Her Majesty's Correctional Facilities for his role in the murder of Black Power daughter Jhia Te Tua in a drive-by shooting several years ago. (The obvious suggestion that this is karma or divine justice would probably be unfair both to the child and his mother.) Mr Laws, who had not sought out the press but responded to the DomPost's request for an interview, said that "the children of beneficiaries, drug addicts and criminals had little chance in life". Fair enough - I personally have seen first hand from my experience of working in the state schooling system enough evidence to support this view. Laws went on to say:

"If we gave $10,000 to certain people and said 'we'll voluntarily sterilise you' then all of society would be better off. There'd be less dead children and less social problems. Do we really expect these children to become doctors or brain surgeons?"

Well! Anyone would think he'd come out and said "I think we should abuse and kill children" judging by the backlash from civil libetarians and general professional liberal "do-gooders". (I call into question what "good" these people actually "do" but that is beside the point here.)

Janfrie Wakim from the Child Poverty Action Group called the suggestions 'reprehensible' - obviously she would far rather that children live in poverty than allow any intervention which would actually successfully prevent the growth of numbers in this area. Murray Edridge of
Barnardos New Zealand believed the comments were intentionally provocative and went on to indirectly blame a lack of community support for why such children may not be able to become doctors or brain surgeons. The Child Commissioner, John Angus, described the comments as being unrealistic and unhelpful, saying that

"many children who grew up on benefits became good citizens. Wider family members often ensured children were well cared for if their parents suffered from substance abuse or mental illness".

Even (now former) MP Sue Bradford called the 'Laws solution' draconian and totalitarian and one which would never be considered by Parliament, suggesting that instead more money needs to be poured into solving the problem of dysfunctional families and abused kids.

My opinion:
Once again we see the blatant attempts of a liberal media to villify conservatives by putting words in their mouths. Laws suggests that there is an underclass in NZ society (which there is) and that perhaps some could be paid to undergo voluntary sterilisation - all at once the liberals pounce and claim that Laws wants to sterilise all beneficiaries! Where do they get this from? Like Laws, I take issue with the liberal association of 'beneficiary' with 'underclass'. Many beneficiaries are there out of compulsion rather than choice, and doing everything they can to make their dependence on the state as short lived as possible. Their children, by and large, are raised with love and values and will grow up to be honest and productive members of society.
BUT here is the point that these blindly liberal commentators just cannot see. We DO have an underclass in NZ, one which is composed of people who have performed little or any legitimate work in their lives. Their parents have been dependent on the state, as have, in some cases, their grandparents, and as will be their children. For this underclass, welfare is a right, not a privilege, and accepting welfare is an acceptable long term alternative to working. Their children grow up in households where no adult has a work history - and there are often a large number of adults in these households, pooling their welfare payments so as to be able to afford Sky TV, flash new mobile phones, i-pods, and stereo systems etc. They learn that if they get pregnant at 15 they can get the DPB; if they drop out of school at 16 they can get a youth allowance and, later, the dole. Essentially, they learn how to function as a parasite, the perennial calf sucking on nanny-state's tit. As a tax payer, that's my tit they're sucking on too - and yours!
Our society has been in a rapid state of flux for some years. Many things deemed irresponsible, sinful, or just plain unthinkable even 50 years ago are now commonplace - divorce, abortion, homosexuality, prostitution, drug use, to name just a few. It is not my place (and certainly not in this article) to pass judgement on this state of change; certainly, society 50 years ago was a lot more conservative and less tolerant of difference, some flexibilty is required if we are to function as a tolerant and respecting society. But for some reason the 'right' to bear children is still sacrosanct. Civil libertarians are all too eager to support the right to terminate a pregnancy (although interestingly most are more eager to kill an unborn child than to kill a convicted mass murderer or serial rapist...), and yet they also support the right of Mrs Smith having 25 children to 14 different fathers and claiming child support for all of them. In a world which is overpopulated as it is, where the people more likely to be breeding more often are also the ones least likely to be able to support their children, this is something that MUST change. Having a child is a responsibility, not a right. If you cannot support one, you should not have one. And if giving people $10,000 to have their tubes tied or cut or whatever helps alleviate social problems 15 or 20 years down the track, then I say it is a much more effective use of tax-payers money than having to pay for more benefits to pay the bludgers and more prisons to house the delinquents.

And that's my two cents to sense.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Lamentation on Modern Living

Here's the truth - life sucks, and then you die.

Positive self-affirmations are a waste of time. Feng Shui is bollocks. Karma is crap. Your star sign predictions in the daily paper are always wrong. Neither the Bible, the Koran, the Talmud nor the collected sayings and wise words of Confucius will ever be of any help to you. Psychologists and psychiatrists and therapists and counsellors and life coaches and motivational speakers and even Tony bloody Robbins are all speaking through a tiny hole in their massive butts. You are not significant. You are not important. You are not a valued member of our society. You can‘t make changes to improve your life; there is no twenty step programme to turn you into someone that matters.

You're not going to change the world. You have nothing to offer but a meaningless life, a parasitic existence on the planet which nurtures you even as you help to destroy it. You will never amount to anything. You pass through people’s lives like a breath of air, instantly forgotten and replaced by the next breath. The world owes you nothing and God isn’t listening.

Complete strangers win the lottery while you can’t even get three numbers on the same line.

Over the course of your entire life to date you have achieved absolutely nothing - the world would not notice your absence. Your life is completely, totally and utterly void of purpose, direction, or meaning.

You are not a sports star, a movie star, a rock star or a shooting star. You will not be famous, wealthy, a celebrity, an important personality, a millionaire, a media magnate, King of England, President of the USA, a corrupt megalomaniac Armageddon cult leader or a talk-show host. You will never marry royalty. You will never have a yacht, a private jet, a mansion, your own private movie theatre, a cereal box with your picture on it, a Playboy bunny or an island in the South Pacific. You can’t write a best-selling novel, nor think up a box-office smash-hit award-winning screenplay. You can‘t write next year‘s most popular song, and you wouldn‘t be able to sing or play it anyway.

No matter how hard you hit a golf ball, a tennis ball, or a football, you will never make any money from it. You will never be asked to endorse a clothing label, a make-up range, or a sports shoe. The closest you will ever get to a five star hotel room is seeing one on TV, and you will never even travel business class, let alone first class.

No matter how much you exercise and diet, you will never look good enough. You’ll fail the Jenny Craig diet, the Atkins diet, and the Subway diet. You're afraid that if you attain your ideal weight there will be something else wrong with you which will be even harder to fix, and if there isn’t then you will no longer have anything on which to blame your failures: you’ll be forced to accept that you really are a complete waste of a human life. All these years on the planet and THIS is all you are?

You will never meet anyone who really loves you. There is only one person on the entire planet that we are each destined to be with; you were five minutes late on the day you were supposed to meet yours, and missed her forever. Your soul mate died in a car accident, or a plane crash, or a medical mishap before you even knew she existed. Every time you think you are getting somewhere, the rug is pulled out from under your feet, again and again, and you seem to end up even further back than when you started. You will continue to mistake female friendship for adult affection, until you manage to alienate all your women friends and end up with no friends left at all. You will never again have a long term relationship, a short term relationship, a summer fling or a one night stand. You will never marry, but on the bright side you will never divorce.

You will never have children or your own house or a stock portfolio.

You will never do what you want to do, but at least you don’t know what that is, so you will never know what you're missing. You will never have a job that pays you what you are worth. You will work in one dead-end job after another until the day you retire (which you won't be able to do until you are 80 because of all the money being spent on deadbeats and layabouts who refuse to get off their butts and find a job), and you will die a week later. You will have been forgotten even before you die. Your obituary will be less than two lines on the back page of the classified section that no one will ever read. Your tombstone will not say “beloved father” or “sorely missed” or even “rest in peace”. Your entire life will be summed up by your birth and death dates. If you're lucky they might spell your name correctly on the plaque which marks your burial spot. There will be no flowers over your grave, and in fifty years time it will be ploughed under to make way for another block of low rent housing. Hordes of welfare kids and immigrants will pee on the lawn under which you will be buried, and you probably won’t even be able to haunt them.

You're nobody special, and you're pissed off about it. The worst thing is that you can only swear in one language, and all the best swear words are foreign. They never teach you the words you really want to know when you study a language at high school.

You can’t save the Earth. The only planet we have will continue to disintegrate one piece at a time as you sit in your living room, eating dinner and watching it happen on TV. Global warming, coastal flooding; El Nino, La Nina; urbanisation and traffic congestion; expanding deserts and diminishing rainforests, mass extinctions, whale hunting for ‘scientific research‘, oil drilling in ‘nature reserves‘; globalisation, global recession, unemployment, Third World debt, Hollyweird, McWorld, and Paris god-damned Hilton; declining democratic participation in the West, rising totalitarianism in the East, tyrannical theocracies and military juntas everywhere else; plagues and pestilence, the Sars virus, the Aids virus, Ebola, the Influenza epidemic, Hong Kong Chicken Flu, Mexican Swine Flu, Tamiflu; mad cows with CJD and mad scientists with DNA; wars, insurrections, famines, droughts, bush fires, deluges, swarms of locusts and rivers of blood, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, cyclones, huricanes, tsunamis and typhoons; lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Terrorists, Al Qaeda, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the Taleban, Hamas, Hezbollah, the PFLP, the ETA, GRAPO, KWP, Tamil Tigers, FARC, the Shining Path, the UDF, the IRA - Real, Orginal, Official, Provisional, Continuity, and any other splinter group that exists; the Red Brigades, the Red Army, the Republican Guard, the US Marines; Iranian nuclear acquisition, French nuclear testing, North Korean chemical programmes; holy atomic Jihad; religious persecution, increasing intolerance and extreme evangelical movements, the Christian Creationist Right, the Socialist-Anarchist Left, Islamo-fascism, eco-fascism; declining moral standards, legalised prostitution, grow your own dope, do-it-yourself abortions and euthanasia but don't you dare smack your kids; over-population, declining sperm counts, increased bacterial infections, genetic modification and genetic engineering; melting ice sheets, rising sea levels, climate change or climate hoax? Obesity in the Developed World and starvation everywhere else; civil libertarians protecting skinheads’ freedom of speech, liberals protesting to stop anyone who disagrees with them from speaking, violent demonstrations hijacked by terrorists, riots, revolutions...

The Decline and Fall of Western Civilisation, brought to you 24 hours a day by CNN, the BBC, and the lovely people at Fox.

500 million Indians want their own cars - there goes the last of the oil reserves, and what did we do with that water powered engine ...?

600 million Chinese households want refrigerators - what ozone layer was that, now?

It’s not your fault that Europeans conquered and exploited the rest of the world before anyone else could do it - but you get to live with the fall out.

It’s not your fault that African nations can’t govern themselves, South American nations love military coups, Central American governments are owned by drug lords, or that Asian governments are corrupt. Why is it that the Pacific Islands can’t afford to have decent electricity generation? Who’s to blame for the fact that most sub-Saharan Africans have never heard of a computer or held a telephone? If China hadn’t destroyed their fleets in the fifteenth century, they‘d be running the world and most Africans still wouldn’t know what a microwave dinner tasted like. Should you apologise for the fact that your European ancestors were more advanced than everyone else? That they decided to bring the advantages of their more advanced civilisation to the rest of the world? Should they be sorry for trying to help? Should you be carrying some kind of racial guilt and apologising to their descendants on your ancestors' behalf? "Terribly sorry from rescuing you from those caves ..." Maybe those who complain about colonisation would like it better living in caves or mud huts again, wearing animal skins and sacrificing virgins to the sun god.

World Vision wants a dollar a day so you can sponsor some kid who will join an extreme terrorist fundamentalist group which will dedicate itself to destroying your life. The government wants you to pay taxes on every dollar you earn so it can pay other people to sit at home and watch TV all day. You are buying their cigarettes, their alcohol, their takeaways and their Playstation. You're putting clothes on their kids’ backs. You're paying for the education of children you don‘t have, for hospitals you don’t use, TV stations you don’t watch, politicians you don’t like, roads you don’t need, sports events you're not interested in, and artistic or cultural events you couldn’t give a stuff about. Charities ring you at home to beg for money you don‘t have. You obey the law and you're punished for it, but prisoners get three square meals a day, daily exercise, TVs in their prison cells, phone calls and conjugal visits. You pay more in student loan repayments than you do in rent, while juvenile delinquents get their fines written off because they can’t afford to pay them. You may be nothing special, but a word of thanks every now and then would be nice.

You're sick of life as it is, of being persecuted because you actually do care about yourself, your society, and your country. You are sick of voting for people who stab you in the back for a pay rise they don't need. You're sick of List MPs who got into Parliament without public scrutiny begin able to legislate for things that 90% of us don't want. You're alarmed by the realisation that there is nothing in our laws to prevent a List MP from becoming Prime Minister. And you're sickened by the realisation that the three-yearly lolly scramble by the same relentlessly power hungry and corrupt administration masquerading as different political parties manages to fool enough morons to allow them to retain some semblance of power. You know that democracy doesn't work, but you're labelled a Fascist for daring to say so. Democracy is moronocracy. The People? Sheeple.

Welcome to your life.

The good news is, one day it will end.

One day.


(This was first published by at http://karlgodnz.spaces.live.com) in June 2007. I may have been slightly depressed and not coping well with rejection issues at the time. That does not in any way prevent much of this from being a realistic portrayaly of life in the contemporary West.)

Destined for Danger

"Tamaki's 700 'sons' swear oath of loyalty "
4:00AM Thursday Oct 29, 2009

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10605956&pnum=0 - by Garth George

Background:
The Destiny Church is a small religius community which regularly punches above its weight in terms of gaining media attention. A lot of this is due to its leader, Brian Tamaki, a media-savvy opportunist who has transformed the tiny little Lake City Church from my home town, Rotorua, into a trans-Tasman religious money spinner. Destiny Church is a Pentecostal, strongly conservative religious group which favours the more literal viewpoint of the Bible and draws in worshippers from predominantly lower socio-economic and Maori + Polynesian sectors of the community.
The Church has aroused attention over recent years due to controversies surrounding its leader and its actions. In 2003 Brian Tamaki issued what he called a prophetic announcement that Destiny would be ruling the country in five years time. (http://tvnz.co.nz/view/news_national_story_skin/451171?format=html). In 2005 Tamaki had himself ordained a bishop, charging his parishoners $70 a seat to watch the ceremony amd warning that "the church must recover again its attitude of militance." He declared "war" on a so-called "evil" government (okay, it was Labour but even I would balk at calling them evil!), and on the modern "secular humanism, liberalism, relativism, pluralism" which apparently plagues our society. (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10331506) Destiny is probably best known for the creation of a Destiny Party in 2003 to contest the upcoming 2005 election (it was the 9th most popular party on election night, winning 14,210 votes nationwide,or 0.62% of the popular vote - http://www.electionresults.govt.nz/electionresults_2005/partystatus.html); the August 2004 "Enough is Enough" march against the civil union legislation, where thousands of black-clad marchers evoked memories of the Nazi stormtroopers in 1930s Germany; and reports in October last year that Destiny planned to build their own enclave or 'city' where all followers could live, children could be educated and the outside world kept at bay.

The situation:
Over the weekend, at Destiny Church's national conference, some 700 young men swore the following oath to Tamaki:
"To you Bishop we pledge our allegiance, our faithfulness and loyalty. We pledge to serve the cause that is in your heart and to finish that work. Success to you and success to those who help you - for God is with you."

The NZ Herald article explains exactly what this means - Tamaki's "spiritual sons" are obliged to always speak highly of their leader; to publicly acknowledge him first on formal occasions; to protect him from outsiders who are seeking to be "in his face"; to ensure that he and his wife are given "appropriate respect"; to "guard, protect and watch out for him" and his wife; to endorse and support whatever he endorses and to ensure that others do not cut in when he is speaking; to follow him on his speaking circuit in order to reflect his importance to them; to give gifts to him and his wife "on birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions or achievements" or just as a surprise; to never expose any weakness which Tamaki may have or demonstrate; to reinforce and emphasise his words, quoting him as often as possible in favourable terms; and, most chillingly,
They must never tolerate anyone (regardless of who they are) speaking or talking critically of Mr Tamaki and his wife/family or the church. "You are not only to stop them in their tracks but warn them that they criticise you when they criticise Bishop."

My opinion:
Some of my very distant ancestors, the Anglo-Saxons, swore an oath of fealty to their superiors. They would proclaim this binding oath: "I will to my lord be true and faithful, and love all which he loves and shun all which he shuns." Essentially, Tamaki could have just made his followers swear that oath, as it has the same effect. Much comment has been made in the media about whether or not this group is a cult. I say that if it wasn't before, this "cult of worship" created on the weekend confirms the status of this 'church' as a dangerous and oppressive cult. Those who challenge Tamaki now challenge 700 men who have pledged to follow and protect him, like clients surrounding their patron as he walked towards the Forum Romanum in the latter days of the corrupt Roman Republic.

Further to this are the revelations that Tamaki has, apparently, adopted the title of 'King' and that, in addition to the six figure salary he already receives from the 'church', he apparently pockets some half-a-million dollars straight from the collection plate (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10606489 and http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10606279&pnum=2). No wonder some of these people are struggling - many of his supporters being in the lower socio-economic groups anyway, struggling with paying their taxes, possibly affected by unemployment, yet having to pay a tithe to their leader AND pay to attend special services, not to mention getting guilted in to purchasing Destiny merchandise from the gift shop in the lobby. If tithing and the sale of indulgences created such a backlash against Catholicism in the 15th century, it is interesting to see a Protestant based faith going even further. This is no religion - this is a business, pure and simple.

My suggestion is that local dairies in the vicinity of Destiny Church buildings put their Refresh, Raro, and Rat-poison on sale to help Tamaki carry out his next Jim Jones impersonation. Hopefully he drinks it first and gives the rest of them time to realise that living with him was bad enough, let alone dying with him.

And that's my two cents to sense.

Maori Party acts to protect its own ... criminals, that is

c Young men 'will fight back' against police, says Maori party
8:32AM Thursday Oct 29, 2009
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10606054

Background:
Yesterday the NZ Parliament passed the Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Amendment Bill to enable police to take DNA swabs from any person they intend to charge with an imprisonable offence, from 2011. The vast majority of the House voted in favour of the bill, which was opposed only by the 13 MPS of the Green and Maori Parties.

The Situation:
According to the NZ Herald article, Rahui Katene of the Maori Party said that Maori youths would "of course" fight back if police attempt to take a swab without their consent. I'm still waiting to hear if this constitutes a violation of a person's mana or a lack of respect for Maori cultural traditions, which are the usual planks of any protest by Maori advocates when opposing any measure they don't happen to like. Ms Katene, whose concerns were echoed by new Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei (who has done one GREAT thing in her political career - her promotion to coleadership of the party directly resulted in Sue Bradford's resignation), both of whom suggested that the DNA database kept by police would become overwhelmingly Maori.

My view:
The use of DNA evidence in law enforcement has been a contentious issue for civil libertarians, all of whom seem to think that the police don't actually do anything except plant evidence at crime scenes just to make an arrest so they can knock off at five and have a drink at the pub. Personally, I think that the vast majority of law enforcement officials in this country are good, honest citizens who are trying to protect society. Collecting DNA from people they intend to charge for an offence makes sense - it could be that the DNA sample proves that person's innocence, but realistically the police would have to have some evidence with which to charge the suspected offender before taking the swab. A glance at NZ prison statistics () reveals that roughly 42% of current female inmates and 53% of men currently behind bars had already racked up 6 or more previous convictions, while only 25% of women and 17% of men in prison were there as a result of their first conviction. This suggests that crimes are more likely to be committed by existing criminals, already known to the justice system. Surely it makes sense to collect DNA samples from these people?
The Maori Party is concerned for obvious reasons - many Maori seem to have an affinity with Her Majesty's Correctional Facilities. According to the Ministry of Justice (), 45% of the male population of NZ prisons in 1995 were Maori, whereas only 10% of NZ's population at the time were Maori men. The report explains that:
"Part of the difference between Māori and non-Māori is accounted for by the younger age distribution of the Māori population, as young people in general are more likely to be offenders. However, the high percentage of Māori in prison also reflects higher offending rates (measured by the rate of prosecutions per head of population) and a greater number of previous convictions on average compared to other ethnic groups, and a greater average seriousness of offending compared to other ethnic groups with the exception of Pacific peoples."
The same report identified 49% of the female prison population as being of Maori descent.
Critics will point to the disparity in educational outcomes and socio-economic status as expalantions for this disproportionate figure, but I ahve never bought into that. Crime is crime, and there is no justification for it. I've never heard of anyone being sent to prison for stealing a loaf of bread; offences leading to conviction are not acts of desperation but of calculation.
If the police intend to charge you with a crime and you have done nothing wrong, then you should be glad to give a DNA sample to clear your name. The only reason for not wanting to do so is because you have something to hide.

And that's my two cents to sense.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A new blog

With all the best intentions in the world, I honestly really mean it this time - I will try to keep regular updates on this darn thing! My old blog didn't last too long; I'll try to rescue some of the content and repost it here, but the original can be found at http://karlgodnz.spaces.live.com/ for now.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

War is War, Peace is Peace, and Ignorance is Bliss

A response to John Pilger's "War is Peace and Ignorance is Strength", published in the New Statesman on October 15, 2009.

(Thanks to Lawrence Hill for directing this to my attention.)

It will help to read if you read the Pilger article first: http://www.newstatesman.com/international-politics/2009/10/obama-pilger-war-peace

Much as I intensely dislike the cult of worship which has developed around US President Barack Obama in the past 18 months or so, this article by John Pilger is remarkably unfair to him - it basically calls Obama a dishonest warmonger. While this diatribe is about what I'd expect from the pen of John Pilger, who leans so far to the left that his brains seem to have seeped out of his ear, what I find most interesting is that hell hath no fury like a liberal scorned - if old Pilgie wasn't one of those liberal commentators near the forefront of the "go-'bama" campaign in the foreign (ie non American) press then he was certainly watching with joy from the sidelines, but he's now turned his back on the Golden Child. However, it is nice to know that such people can change their minds.


I would like to address some of the key issues raised in the article, which is why, if you haven't read it, you should probably click on the link and do so before moving forward.

Afghanistan

We need to acknowledge some home truths here. The Taleban do not obey the rules of war. They are not signatories to the Geneva Convention. They kill, beat, maim, rape, torture and steal from people who do not hold their views. After the recent Afghan elections Taleban agents cut off the hands or even limbs of people they caught with the indelible ink mark imprinted on their thumbs while voting, because they did not want Afghans to vote at all. The Taleban routinely hold meetings, training camps, and recruitment posts under cover of weddings, birthday celebrations, and the like on innocent peoples farms, on construction sites, in schools and especially mosques, etc. Sometimes the people involved are forced to be there in order to provide cover; sometimes they themselves are Taleban sympathisers. The Taleban are not stupid - they know that the West puts more faith in a couple of minutes of one sided, disjointed emotive drivel on a news report than in the strategy and tactics of fighting a war against people who welcome death as martyrdom.

Yes, civilians have died, and more are dying, as a result of US and allied raids and tactics. The Taleban have been routinely killing civilians for years, raping women who go out in public without a male escort or revealing too much skin, raiding schools where girls are taught to read in order to keep the fairer sex subjugated and oppressed, murdering anyone who speaks out against them. This is a WAR, people, and until the boffins can create weapons which have a friend / foe distinguishing button, collateral damage will happen - ESPECIALLY when the enemy deliberately use civilian shields to maximise the death count.

Yes, more money does need to be spent on infrastructure such as roads, electricity, education, and medical care, but it must be noted that a lot of the money given to the government for such projects is being siphoned off and diverted to the Taleban by corrupt bureaucrats and sympathisers within the Afghan administration. A lot of the existing projects in Taleban controlled areas are being destroyed by the insurgents, so obviously we need to get rid of the Taleban first before the serious reconstruction can begin - otherwise, it's just money down a sinkhole.

Yes, the current 'President' of Afghanistan appears to have stolen the election, but he has bowed to international pressure and a new run-off election is to be held within the next fortnight.

We in the West have a choice: we fight these people on their home ground, now, or we leave them alone, wait for them to gather strength, allow their agents to infiltrate our society as 'refugees', and then fight them in our own streets when they try to force NZ neighbourhoods to adopt sharia law, female genital mutilation, institutionalised rape (aka arranged marriages, or the belief that men should rape women who are out in public and not wearing a hijab or a burqa, or even that to avenge an insult against your family the men of your clan can rape a woman of another clan, who will then be put to death by her own family in order to save face - yes these things happen, not just in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the Sudan but in Amsterdam and Oslo and Bradford!) and all those other fundamentalist practices which have been adopted by Islamic extremists and which are an anathema to our way of life. Gay rights and marriage? Forget about it - under sharia law homosexuals can be stoned to death, and I don't mean the kind where they lock you in a room with several kilos of maryjane and tell you to go for it. These fundamentalists hate our way of life, and they hate our perceived weakness in accepting other ways of life, and they despise our secularism, our freedom and our democracy as an affront to Allah, who alone has the right to legislate the regulation of society (through the earthly intervention of the mullahs and imams, of course).

Pakistan

The 'war in Pakistan' has nothing to do with Obama. It is a Taleban inspired insurgency which has more to do with the rise of militant Islamic fundamentalism in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of the North-West Frontier Province and reaction to the Pakistani system of government than anything the US and its President are doing. The fact that Taleban funded mullahs have had free access in the tribal areas in the north for a number of years without the authorities intervening, providing educational and social services which were poorly funded by the federal goverment, has been a major catalyst for the extremist sympathies and anti-government feeling in this area. US pressure on the Pakistani authorities to deal with this situation before it spirals out of control (remember that many commentators believe that, if he is still alive, Osama Bin Laden is most likely in this area) fell on deaf ears for a number of years; the previous Pakistani military dictator General Musharraf used the existence of the pro-Islamist militia as an excuse to maintain a strong army and also as a scapegoat for anti-Indian agitation and action when such things occured. The new civilian government of Pakistan has taken the threat seriously but their poorly trained troops are not doing particularly well, simply encouraging the pro-Taleban cause through their ineptitude.

Iran

Obama did not lie about the Iranian cover up of a “secret nuclear facility” - Iran reported it to the International Atomic Energy Authority only after they realised that British and American intelligence knew it was there. As for the supposed dichotomy of the US supporting Israel's right to have nuclear weapons while contesting the Iranian nuclear programme, I can see how some people might have an issue with this. From my point of view, and this is admittedly the weakest part of my counter-argument, is that IF Israel has nuclear weapons (the Israeli government officially neither confirms nor denies the existence of any nuclear aresenal), then you can certainly understand why - ALL of its neighbours (apart from the Egyptian government which does not reflect the will of many of its people in this regard, and to some extent Jordan) want to OBLITERATE the nation, pound it into the dust, and forget it was ever there - they do not even officially recognise its existence! Israel is outnumbered significantly and with Iran aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons (oh, sorry, a 'nuclear power' policy) can we seriously ask Israel to give up the one deterrent it has to safeguard its existence? I can see the counter argument - with US forces in Iraq to the west and Afghanistan to the east, the theocratic powers that be in Iran may see themselves as being encircled by potentially hostile forces, and is seeking to build a deterrent. If this is the case, why not just admit it instead of lying to the international community at every turn? I'm sure a number of countries would support Iran's right to a nuclear deterrent if it was diplomatic and responsible enough in raising the issue. However, the actions of Iran's governments of late has been everything else BUT responsible - look at the crack down after the current government blatantly stole the election this year and demonstrated its contempt for any moderation of its hard line rule. Even Zimbabwe's Mugabe realised that, in stealing an election against such an obvious groundswell of opposition, you need to do a sneaky compromise and make people THINK you're going to accept change. (Conveniently killing off the wife of the main opposition partner and new government coalition ally can send a powerul message to other opponents as well!) The point here is preventing further proliferation of nuclear weapons - once the genie is out of the bottle, you can't put it back, but you can prevent others from releasing it. Am I uncomfortable with the Israelis having a finger on the big red button? Yes, of course - just as any of us are uncomfortable with any country which currently has them. Nuclear non-proliferation is not about getting countries to give up their existing arsenals (how would we ever trust that any country has done so?) but about preventing more countries from joining the nuclear club. Building nuclear power stations is a very small step before building weapons facilities, and we know Iran has been testing missiles with longer and further ranges over the past few years. I expect that at some point in the near future, if this is not resolved, we will see a repeat of Israel's 1981 pre-emptive strike on Iraq's nuclear facilities on Osirak. I find it hilarious that the Iranian nuclear programme was initially funded by the US 'Atoms for Peace' prorgramme in the 1950s, but of course everything changed with the toppling of the Shah in the late 1970s. I've read that Iran's "Supreme Leader", the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, once proclaimed in a fatwa that the use, and even production, of nuclear weapons was an offence to Allah and forbidden by Islamic law; then again, apparently there is nothing in the Koran about raping women to avenge honour-crimes so I guess some of this stuff can be made up as you go along. Certainly on 24 September 2005 the International Atomic Energy Authority's Board of Governors declared that Iran's failure to comply with the Safeguards Agreement in the past compised a "non-compliance" with the protocols of the agreement, and this remains the current view. Given the rhetoric from people such as Pakistan's President about Israel's right to exist, I think Iran has yet to prove that it is responsible enough to be trusted to develop a nuclear programme, even a peaceful one. Even at the height of the Cold War neither the US nor the USSR ever refused to acknowledge their adversary's right to exist.

Palestine

Pilger is a well known Palestinian apologist, so of course I expect him to discuss the "Israeli war crimes" without making mention of the actions of Hamas. Is firing rockets into civilian areas on a daily basis not a war crime? Again, because Hamas is an illegal terrorist organisation, it has not signed the Geneva Convention governing the rules of war. Yes, it cannot be denied that there were more Palestinian casualties than Israeli in teh recent conflict. Much of this is due to that fact that Gaza has an extremely densely packed population, and therefore more casualties will be suffered in any conflict. The vast majority of the population are first, second, or third generation refugees, descended from people who fled Israeli forces in the War of Liberation of 1948 after the sudden and immediate declaration of war on the nascent Jewish state by its Arab neighbours. Many Jewish inhabitants of those states fled or were expelled from their homes as well; they were taken in primarily by Israel and the US and their descendants are fully functioning members of those states; some 40% of Israel's population in 2002 was comprised of or descended from these refugees. Many Palestinians remained in Israel instead of fleeing their homes - 20% of Israel's population, according to the latest census, are of Arab descent, although estimates of the 1948 'exodus' are suggest that up to 80% of the Arabs within Israeli territory (perhaps up to 750-800,000 people) left of their own volition, fled the conflict, or were expelled by Israeli Defence Forces or the government after the conflict. In 1949, at the Lausanne conference, Israel offered to accept 100,000 refugees back, while the Arab states would take the remaining refugees and Israel would take the Jewish refugees from those lands. The Arab states did not agree to this proposal. So while Jewish refugees were resettled within Israel, the supposed brethren of the Palestinian Arabs on the borders of Israel forced the Palestinian refugees to live in refugee camps by not allowing them free passage into or citizenship of their countries. While we in the West are constantly castigated about not having high enough refugee quotas, those countries which are socially and culturally a better home for many of the refugees refuse to have anything to do with them, and blame Israel for the enduring poverty of their existence.

The USA

Pilger bewails the use of Long Range Acoustic Devices against protestors in Pittsburgh. My God, what does this man want teh authorities to use? Rubber bullets and tear gas? How about a full military clamp down with sub-machine guns? Crowd control during protests and demonstrations is essential because, as learnt in Somalia over a decade ago (if not in other places earlier), crowds of innocent protestors are targetted by anarchists and terrorists and used, against the knowledge and support of many of their participants, to mask violent action. The right to organised protest should never be permitted to outweigh the right to safety and security. As for calling Guantanamo Bay a concentration camp, well, in some ways it is nice to see someone who is not scared of invoking howls of outrage from Jewish lobby groups at the blatant misuse of that term, but come on - it is an internment camp. Yes, it needs to be closed if we (the West) are to retain any moral high ground, but such a closure must be managed - a vast majority of the inmates are not suspected terrorists, they are actual terrorists, and holding them saves lives; releasing them just means more people will die, and if my mother is killed because some extremist is released from Guantanamo Bay to find his way to Christchurch and blow up the NZI building at Addington as an attack on the western financial system then there will be trouble. Oh, and the convenient thing about accusing people of "secret assassinations and torture" is that you don't need any proof - it's a secret, so there is none!

Colombia

The US - Colombian military bases are primarily targeted at controlling the Western Hemisphere and intercepting the drug trade which is sponsoring the terrorists. The worst thing about the West is that we are our own worst enemy in this regard - we bleat on about drug laws and how ever many percent of our people routinely use drugs, but such recreational use creates what I call “herbological latifundia” in poor nations - farmers can earn more from growing coca and opium in one year than from growing corn or wheat in 20 years. The war on terror must tackle the purse strings as well as the terrorists. This is in no way an indication that Obama of the US plans to “rollback” the independence and democracy of Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia and Paraguay - it is just a recognition that the institutions in these countries are so corrupt that they cannot deal with the problem themselves. The Colombian armed forces receive military support and training from the US and Britain; I don't read anywhere in this article about the terrorist and guerrilla warfare training camps in Afghanistan and the Sudan which are run by the Taleban and/or Al Qaeda and are paid for in roughly equal amounts by Saudi Arabian fundamentalists and European governments - the latter through the excessive welfare payments made to non-integrating 'refugees' who send money back to their 'families' at home and also donate money to their local mosque, some of which then send the money on. (In some countries such as Denmark, Muslims make up 5% of the population but receive 40% of the welfare outlay.)

The Nobel Peace Prize

Finally, Pilger and I are, if not on the same page, at least within the same chapter. I agree completely that Obama should not have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at such an early stage of his presidential career; in my opinion, someone like Zimbabwe's Morgan Tsvangirai, Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba, or even Chinese activist and current political prisoner Hu Jia would have been a much better recipient. I completely agree with Pilger's concerns regarding what he calls the "Call of Obama", which he describes as being "not unlike a dog whistle: inaudible to most, irresistible to the besotted and boneheaded." And I love the quote from George Clooney which Pilger uses to illustrate his point: “When Obama walks into a room... you want to follow him somewhere, anywhere." (For those keeping score, this may well be the first time I have EVER agreed with Pilger on ANYTHING apart from the issue of sweatshops in Indonesia.) And, for a record third time, I totally embrace Pilger's comments about political debate having become so debased in our "media monoculture" that issues of race, gender and class can be used as "seductive tools of propaganda and diversion." I point the finger, in part, to the education system and our curriculum; yes, as a Social Studies teacher, I must admit that I and my colleagues are part of the disease. I do as much as I can to prevent a liberal-socialist-egalitarian view point from brainwashing my students but one person can only do so much.

For those of you who are interested, I recommend you read "While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within", by Bruce Bawer. It's an interesting take on the phenomenon of Islamic fundamentalism in Europe, written by a gay American who lives in Norway and has also lived in the Netherlands - two countries renowned for their tolerance.

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