Hiding In Your Cupboard

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

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.


Saturday, 13 September 2008

Creationism vs Evolution

I was going to write a post about, what I consider, the blinkered, head in the sand concept of creationism and then stumbled upon this article in the Sunday Times which pretty much says it all..

Click on the blog title.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

A criticism of Fisk

Fisk's suspicion of the internet is perhaps understandable; he is an old school journalist that has been much maligned by cyber critics.

However, there is a generation of young journalists who do not all share the same distrust. Fisk may be right that newspapers still have the only authority, but this ignores a growing wave of online media that although in its infancy will some day command the same respect.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

More on Robert Fisk


More Robert Fisk video footage can be found by clicking on the title of this blog entry.

Some thoughts on Robert Fisk's talk:

The man holds a remarkable amount of history and information about the middle east in his head. When the US or UK government attempt to hoodwink their citizens into condoning war in Iraq, they often do this on spurious grounds. This does not get past Fisk because of his immense knowledge of the area; unfortunately this does not hold true for most people.

I wonder how many people know that invading Iraq has been a favourite pastime of the West since the time of the crusades? Or that many of today's problems in the Middle East are due to way this area was carved up after the First and Second World Wars?

Fisk brought up two interesting analogies. The first came from Colin Powell's, now infamous, speech about weapons of mass destruction to the UN Security Council. What the cameras didn't show was the graphic behind Powell, an image of an Iraqi making chemical weapons in a train.

Fisk argues the Iraqi rail system is so shonky, as a result of economic sanctions, and trains are so liable to come off the tracks, that the last place anyone would make volatile chemical weapons is on a train.

He asked the US authorities, who had control of the rail system, whether they found any weapons of mass destruction.

"No," they replied, but they thought that prior to invasion the chemical weapons had been rushed over the border to Syria or Jordan (memory fails me here).

It took Fisk to point out that there was no train line from Iraq to Syria or Jordan.

Again, knowledge that the average person does not have and will not know if the mainstream media continues to be lazy in reporting this conflict.

The second analogy that interested me was a comparison between ancient crusader castles and US army bases.

Apparently, Crusader castles were built one days march from each other so that the crusaders were not left exposed to attacks from Arab assassins.

American military bases are spaced exactly one hours cherokee ride from each other so they can avoid being attacked by suicide bombers.

The comparison is chilling; especially when you take a look at a photo of the US's imposing Baghdad embassy.
Not too disimilar to an imposing castle?
I wonder how much contact the US army gets with the Iraqi citizens sitting in this monolith.
Facts about this embassy are available at:
Apply for a job in Baghdad at the US embassy here:

John Key spins out of control with Barack Obama comment

Excessive spinning leads to dizziness, and John Key certainly placed himself at a dizzy height this week when comparing himself to Barack Obama.

Was his comment published in a Financial Times profile the work of the National Party’s spin machine Crosby-Textor, or a slip of the tongue by an inexperienced politician?

The Labour Party nearly choked on their tongues in mirth, but it was a mirth misplaced. John Key wasn’t directly comparing himself to Obama.

He was clumsily trying to explain away the Financial Times suggestion that he would be the most inexperienced politician to lead New Zealand in more than 100 years.

Any party leader would like a slice of Obama pie at the moment; the US democratic candidate is riding high on the back of his policy of change and commands a stadium-sized audience of devotees.

He is the new rock star of politics. John Key is just new.

The question we have to ask about this fiasco is whether John Key is a puppet of his public relations company, or just green. To be fair to Key, he is right in saying Wellington hasn’t jaded him yet.

Like Obama, his career has been largely outside politics and like Obama he is offering change to the people of New Zealand. But what sort of change?

Crosby-Textor has done an excellent job with brand Key, but at some point we need to see some concrete policies.

Labour has tried various attacks on Key. First he was slippery, a politician who would go back on his word given the slightest opportunity.

But then it emerged that Key was far too wooden to be slippery. Now Key has a secret agenda.

According to the media he is going to turn into an evil dictator as soon as he gets into power and sit laughing at us from his pedestal in the Beehive.

“Mwah, hah, hah, there goes your precious KiwiBank!” he’ll mock.

Either that or senior National politicians love to talk more than gossiping grandmas in a tea room.

Spin is no laughing matter though. It has real effects on a nation’s politics and is very expensive to do properly. Companies like Crosby-Textor do not come cheap.

The advent of spin has seen a system of politics, in the Western world at least, that relies too heavily on image.

Policies are the last thing on a politician’s mind these days; a killer sound-bite and a witty one-liner to put down your opponent are more important.

Spin has turned parts of the media from an independent communicator to a ventriloquist’s dummy.

A political campaign dies its death or thrives on the pages of the newspapers and the screens of televisions.

Much better to see elections fought on the streets with well informed citizens able to hold their leaders to account on tangible matters rather than the ephemeral whirr of the spin machine.
Illustration: Sally Connor

Robert Fisk at AUT

A video of Robert Fisk, one of the World's leading journalists and middle east correspondent for the Independent newspaper.

Fisk is known for his outspoken views on the state of journalism, which he believes supports oppression and is a strong critic of American foreign policy in the Middle East.

Click on the title for Fisk's writing.

Katie Llanos-Small wrote this article for the Pacific Media Centre at AUT University:


More on Fisk later.

Low Alcohol Beer

Low alcohol beer is becoming worryingly popular. For christ's sake if you don't want to get drunk drink water or a juice.

I wonder whether low alcohol beer can be considered a gateway beer for other stronger beers such as Heineken Cold Filter at 3.3%.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Published in Singapore!

I have been published in Singapore - how novel!

Click on the link to see the story...