Hiding In Your Cupboard

Hiding In Your Cupboard
Banksy's desecration of the Palestinian wall

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Blog on 3news.com

Click on the title to see some writing I have done on the 3 News website...

Or read a review of Christchurch's Hotel So here:


Wednesday, 5 November 2008

One step for mankind and oh bugger a step backwards

Click the title above for the Timesonline story.

One overlooked story from the US election is California's decision to ban gay marriage. Proposition 8, which stated that marriage is the union only of a man and a woman, was voted on at the same time as the presidential election. Anti-gay marriage supporters won the vote 52.1 - 47.9. It is the first time gay marriage has been banned retro-actively.

It is shameful that on a day when discrimination and those who wish to discriminate took a slap in the face, this backwards step has been taken. What right do those people who voted "no" have to impinge on a person's life in such a manner.

The discrimination of homosexuals is no different to discrimination of any other groups. Opponents may argue dubiously that being gay is a choice. Whether it is a choice or not, a person should not be discriminated against because of any choice they make - provided they are harming no one directly.

Offending narrow-minded people's sensibilities is not reason enough.

Barack Obama - a leader to believe in?

So America now has that rare thing. A leader that inspires people to be better, a phenomenom that draws huge crowds of supporters eager to make good in the world. The last time America had a president like that he was assasinated. Lets hope the same fate does not befall Obama. Footage of McCain supporters calling Obama a terrorist is easy to find and the new president may be considered a target by the far right.

It is also important not to get carried away. The World's problems are not insolvable but they are large and increasing. When Obama talks about change he is addressing the whole world not just American citizens. Across the world people hope that a changed America will solve all our problems.

It won't, it will help, but one man and one concept will not make fundemental change overnight. If there is one lesson to be learnt from the last one hundred years, it is that the World should take responsibility for its own problems and not rely on the shepherding of Superpowers.

The USA's power is waning in the bright sunlight of China and India's economic growth. The USA can no longer hope to provide a moral compass for such powerful nations, they must do this themselves. Human rights abuses in China and the Middle East and abject poverty in many areas of India are things that also must be changed.

Barack Obama cannot be expected to bring about change in these sovereign countries, but we can hope that a new spirit of governance from the USA may seep into the conscience of others and make the planet a better place to live in.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

A key moment

John Key was in relaxed mood after this Sunday's episode of Campaign 08. He took off his tie and enjoyed a couple of beers with the show's panel journalists, even though he has a strictly enforced 11pm curfew.

He was a different man, in this media-centric situation, to the man I met briefly over a year ago. He has either been well trained or learnt to relax. There were even a few jokes that people laughed at. Although, I wonder how much of this was to do with journalists wanting to be on the right side of a man who may be the next Prime Minister.

As he drank his bottle of Corona someone asked why he wasn't drinking a New Zealand beer. Fortunately for John there was only Steinlager in the fridge. Even politicians shouldn't have to drink Steinlager.

On the wide-screen, and we are at Sky TV so it's a mammoth widescreen, Barack Obama's waving and grinning face hogs the corner of our eyes. Key notices the placards that Obama supporters wave no longer read "a change you can believe in" but "the change we need". He points his PR guy, Kevin, towards this and says "maybe we should change ours"...

It's hard to tell whether his tongue is in his cheek.

Key left in good time for his 11pm bed-time.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Alternative Maps of the World

Click on the title for a fascinating way of analysing the planet. These maps have been made in proportion to certain criteria. For instance the first map you see shows the world through the lens of the amount of books published. Consequently the UK looks like it is suffering from a rare form of giganticism - its nearly bigger than the USA and Canada.

The image above shows the most popular destinations for refugees. It clearly expounds the myth that countries like the UK are being overrun by asylum seekers. Most refugees, according to this map, cross national borders - not continents.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Debate over Sharia Courts in Britain shows internet's ability to spread hate

Click on the above title to read a story from the UK's Times newspaper about the use of Muslim Sharia law in the UK. Then read the comments; largely from denizens of the USA, but also, to my shame, from citizens of the UK.

I will copy a few examples:

Unbelievable! When do we get the first beheadings of Christians daring to hold a service in Bradford or any of those other Islamic areas Its time the politicians started looking at what is happening in this country, sorry they are too busy wallowing at their expenses trough in Westminster.

John Dykes, Pontypool, Wales UK

Insanity and disgusting. Are we going to see woman stoned to death in the street for having an affair like they do in Iran? In Iran they hanged to 19 year old lads because they were gay. There was a picture of it on the internet, they were hanged off two JCB diggers! Considering joining BNP!
Peter Duffy, Glasgow, Scotland

The only good thing that will come out of this, apart from the amputation of the limbs of proven thieves and the death sentence for murderers and traitors, will be the rise in support for the BNP. Out of bad comes good my mummy used to say.
Peter C. Lucas, Torquay, England

The crusades lasted 20 some years and where the desperate response after more rthat 400 years of aggressions by the Muslims, we need another crusade.
juan, Brownsvile, USA

Islam is not a "Religion of Peace" -- nor is it even a Religion -- it is a POLITICAL SYSTEM! This is a start of a Very Slippery Slope..... Adios, amigos.
Abigail, Tampa, FL, U.S.A

The people who have left these comments clearly have an inability to read. The story refers to a part of UK law which allows alternative arbitration for disputes if both parties are in agreement, the results are legally binding. They do not apply to criminal law, only civil law, and Jewish Beth Din courts have operated in a similar fashion in the UK for more than a 100 years. I don't see the UK being overrun by hordes of barbaric Rabbi.

The comments here, and of course there is no way for me to know their true origin, have a flavour of what I imagine hatred of the Jews was like in the first half of this century (or throughout history).

Ill-informed and exaggerated stupidity and hatred coupled with threats to vote for a racist, violent party (the BNP) are a sign the love of different cultures that many in the UK hold dear is being threatened. These comments are from an ignorant bunch of reactionaries too lazy to get out of their IKEA-clad box flats and walk down the street to talk with neighbours who are just that bit different..

Don't be appalled by their difference - be interested, it's what makes the world go round.

This is not to say the idea and concept should be without debate. I am against courts set up in the name of religion - religion should be a personal value not an arm of the state. However, I am prepared to argue the point without the use of such racist, ignorant language - instead using the time honoured tradition of logical argument and debate.

I also find it strange that, although these courts are for civil disputes, cases of domestic abuse have been heard. I thought this was a criminal offence and should therefore be heard before a criminal court. I am also concerned about the treatment of women in such a court - we cannot allow inequality between the sexes in our legal system.

So - I am fine with these courts with two recommendations. Firstly that they are not used for criminal cases only for dispute arbitration and secondly that the UK's equality laws hold sway over decisions.

There, I managed to say it without calling a single muslim a barbarian or calling for a new crusade - how clever of me.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Read all about it! What can be done to make the internet trustworthy...

Click on the title for a BBC news story about Tim Berners-Lee's ideas for making the internet more trustworthy.

His proposal for a foundation to vet internet sites is a good idea but I wonder about the sheer volume of sites and the amount of work this would create. I fear the creation of a bureaucratic monolith that slows down innovation on the web.

Important questions about who would control such a foundation and how it should be funded need to be answered. Would the process be thorough? Or would the sheer volume of internet sites mean that those setting up a website would have to jump through a few hoops to gain creditation? Who monitors a site's ongoing work - would a site need to be checked on a yearly basis and what could a divisive, race-hate site get away with inbetween being checked?

Berners-Lee is absolutely right in his assertion that the internet needs to be verifiable for it to succeed in the longer run as a reliable resource. However, I imagine that at some point newspapers would have been thought of with a similar level of distrust. On the whole, we trust our Western newspapers these days, despite the quality of some of their coverage of events in the Middle East and other controversial issues, and this is because their brand has been built up over a long period of time and is now considered trustworthy.

This trust is not based on any code of ethics that journalists share, or legislation that punishes journalists who lie or attack maliciously, it is branding pure and simple. No one buys The Sunday Times in the UK and trusts it because of the good work of the Press Council. They trust it because it is the Sunday Times and has been around for years.

Established newspapers know that it is suicide to break that trust and go to huge lengths to make sure they appear consistent (anyone who has spent any time designing a newspaper will know how painstaking the process can be to ensure that pages and copy are accurate and consistent). There is also a culture within most professional journalists that promotes honesty, bad apples are usually syphoned out (I accept that there are instances of unethical journalists though).

For the internet, I see the branding as being a cinch. It has only been in widespread use for ten to twelve years yet we already have sites such as Google that we, wrongly or rightly, trust. Websites are cottoning on that trust is essential for them to survive - the moment, and a moment is a long time in cyberworld, people start to distrust the Google search engine is the moment Google the company hits economic decline. What is needed now is a culture of professionalism amongst bloggers and the like to ensure that trust isn't broken.

At the moment this is where the internet fails, not enough people take it seriously. It's ok to break the rules on the internet because it is only the internet. New frontiers are often lawless and it's because the ethics for these frontiers are not understood yet - no one knows the consequences of cheating or no one thinks they will get found out. How many rogue cowboys were arrested and tried in Wild West?

The internet may develop in an instant but the ethical constructs of mankind evolve at a much slower rate.

You only have to look at the attitude of Auckland City councillor Aaron Bhatnagar, who has admitted writing detrimentally about other candidates on their Wikipedia sites, to see this problem in a real life situation. He claims what he wrote was true but by using the pseudonym "Barzini" (a psycopath from the Godfather novel) he was clearly trying to hide his identity and in doing so he must have known that what he was doing was not really top of the ethical billboard.

He was quoted in the New Zealand Herald as saying:

"Anyone can make a comment on Wikipedia and if someone doesn't like something that they see it is very easy to change it. I think it is all a bit of a storm in a tea cup."

Mr Bhatnagar, that is a very arrogant statement. What you have done is tantamount to electoral fraud in my opinion, it is certainly not in the spirit of fair play. I wonder if the people of Hobson would have voted for you had they known of your underhand tactics?

I imagine that Bhatnagar would shy away from such electioneering in more tangible form, his actions are borne of a misunderstanding of the internet's power and the ethics that surround it.

Once the ethics are more understood, more ingrained into our society, I think the internet will become a more trustworthy resource of its own accord.

Click on link below for Bhatnagar's story.