October 28, 2005

This little piggy went to market.......

First it was an innocent piece of ice cream packaging, now it’s plastic containers for loose change.

Not very long ago, Mr Evil Pundit bought us news of the “sacrelicious”, when “The fast-food chain, Burger King,[was] withdrawing its ice-cream cones after the lid of the dessert offended a Muslim.” Notice the “a Muslim” as in: one, single, solitary, lone, solo.

Now the banks in Britain are getting rid of piggy banks, because they “may offend UK Muslims”.

This move was hailed by one Muslim spokesperson as “simply being courteous”, while an opposing Reverend squawked that “next thing we will be banning Christmas trees and cribs”. Ah, actually, Reverend, you’re way too late; many a school and town has already “banned” the nativity scene. Indeed, our own Melbourne Council, this year, is reintroducing “the crib”, with much fan fare, after some years of absence.

But getting back to the pig “problem”: Muslims do not eat pork. Okay, that’s fine. I don't eat brains, or liver, or prawns, or broccoli, or prunes, or glace cherries, but I don’t throw a hissy fit every time I walk into the fruit and veggie market and catch sight of a lush display of broccoli, and I don’t call the local priest, or the police, when I see someone buying a piece of icky liver, which they clearly intend to cook and eat.

Another spokesman trots out the cliché of - "We should learn to celebrate our difference, not be fearful of them." Which is mind-numbing in its silliness. Celebrate not eating pork? How do we do that, exactly? Celebrate piggy banks? Well, some of them are quite cute, sure, but I don’t know that I’d break out in celebration at the site of an especially cute pig. This has nothing to do with celebrating differences.

This is the thin edge of the wedge. This is the envelope being pushed with gusto.

We are being toyed with, tested, pushed, poked, prodded, to see how gullible we are, how stupid, how idiotic we will be in our acts of appeasement and accommodation.

I don’t believe for one second that Muslims walk into a bank and are outraged or offended – for days, weeks, months – because they caught a glimpse of a plastic pig with a slit in its back. I really don’t.

I think we are being made to look like fools; fools who will give up previously normal and unremarkable bits of our everyday and mundane lives because we are being brow-beaten by a minority - sometimes a minority as small as one. Some day we’ll be able to explain to our grandchildren the past shame of the existence of – gasp piggy banks. This is ludicrous. Someone out there is having a never-ending laugh - at us.

I saw some lovely, soft and cuddly, pigs at the “Be Be Boutique” the other day – should they be banned too? New born babes, no longer the recipients of cute little pig’s to hug, and their cots furnished with farm yard mobiles with all food groups represented, except the pig?

What next, people being fined for causing offence for using the old-fashioned expression “bringing home the bacon”? No more references to being “pigs in a poke”? No more nursery rhymes about little piggies going to market, and no little piggies going wee, wee, wee, all the way home?

Enough already. This is not about tolerance. This is not about consideration for other cultures or religions. This has nothing to do with being politically correct – which was, and still is, a euphemism for castrating our intellects and our language; neutralizing words, so that when strung together, they only ever come out in a homogeneous shade of beige. Yes, this great brown land is being beiged into nothingness, and it has been going on for a couple of decades now. Soon all we’ll be able to hear is the soft unified nodding of our empty submissive heads. This is tosh; total tosh! There is nothing to celebrate here.

Damn it – no one is forcing anyone to EAT piggy banks!

Will type for food, hey? NO! We should be typing for bacon and ham, and pickled trotters.

Now time for my dinner, sweet and sour pork, with a bit of not at all special, in fact remarkably average, fried rice. And if you're off there eating broccoli and liver, I don't mind at all, and I will never show even a modicum of outrage; nor should I - it's your body, your stomach, your tastebuds, your choice - eat up, enjoy!

In the meantime, Mr Evil Pundit draws our attention to a far more serious and dangerous example of this encroachment of double standards and cowardice in the face of any would be terrorist, harboring deep and committed hated of all infidels Muslim.

October 22, 2005

Post hurricane ups and downs

Over in the US, the Senate and the House of Representatives have yet to reach agreement on post-Hurricane Katrina aid programs, but if they ever do, one of the little gems buried in the small print is a $US500 million aid package to help the Gulf States pay unemployment benefits to the survivors.

In the true spirit of giving with one hand, and taking away with the other, this component of the aid package would be paid for by blocking the Federal Government from paying for erectile dysfunction drugs through Medicaid and Medicare, as well as health programs for the poor and elderly. The estimated savings over five years are $US600 million. No figures have been provided on the specific value of the Viagra savings.

In the post-coital wash up of Katrina, re-erecting lives takes precedence over erecting penises.

October 21, 2005

Tough Job Selection Criteria

When you’re sweating over that pesky selection criteria statement for your next job application, spare a thought for gay men trying to meet the selection criteria to become a Catholic Priest.

Try proving that you’ve been celibate for three years, and once you’ve worked out that little trick, have a shot at proving that you are not intellectually, or in any other manner, attracted to homosexual culture.

According to The Age, (08 October 2005), Vatican City has reported that:

“they will allow gay men into the priesthood if they can show they have been celibate for at least three years.

But the Vatican will ban men "who publicly manifest their homosexuality" or show an "attraction" to homosexual culture "even if it is only intellectually".

The views were contained in a secret, 16-page document expected to be released by the Vatican next month. Pope Benedict XVI had approved the document.

Have to wonder about the three year parameter around celibacy, assuming it’s possible for a person to prove such a thing – how would anyone prove three years of sexual activity (note: mere boasting doesn't count!), let alone inactivity is there something magical about the three year barrier? Do people forget about sex if they abstain for three years? It’s clearly arbitrary and, therefore, meaningless.

October 19, 2005

Phasing ourselves out

According to the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT), we should voluntarily phase ourselves out for the good of humanity and the planet.

They call for a moratorium on making more of us.

Their proposed alternative to the extinction of millions of species of plants and animals is the voluntary extinction of only one species: Homo sapiens.

Thus the Earth will be allowed to return to its former glory, with all remaining creatures (not us) free to live and die and evolve as “Mother Nature” intended.

October 13, 2005

Jarring, Revolting, Abhorrent and True

Approximately 43% of the dramatically decreasing American crime rate can be attributed to the increased number of police (accounting for 10%), and the increased number of people imprisoned (accounting for about 33%).

The remainder is attributable to legal abortion.

The longitudinal data is in, has been carefully analysed, and it’s well established that American crime rates have been “dropping like a stone since 1991”. The year 1991 marks roughly 18 years since the US Supreme Court upheld women’s right to abortion in Roe v Wade.

To put this simply: the population required to preserve, or increase, the crime rates of the past does not exist, because a significant percentage of today’s would-be criminals were never born. "Abortion is one of the greatest crime-lowering factors in American history.”

Let’s be very blunt: if legal abortion is ever significantly restricted or even banned (a highly improbable scenario, in Australia, however, America seems perpetually on the precipice), we can sit back and wait 20 years for a “catastrophic rise in crime”.

Where have all the criminals gone?” is chapter four in the book Freakonomics, by Levitt and Dunbur. This is not the first time the evidence has been raised, but on this occasion it can’t be sweep away as too distasteful for polite conversation, after all, Freakonomics is currently the best selling nonfiction book in the US.

In The Weekend Australian (8 – 9 October 2005) Caroline Overington provides that increasingly rare beast in MSM concise, clear reporting, about a complex matter, covering all key points in a dispassionate and impartial manner. No hysterics, no asinine opinions, no hyperbole, pure reporting.

Ignore the erroneous headline, the work of a clumsy and uncomfortable sub-editor, it would seem. Crime rates seen as a matter of life and death

Post Script – meanwhile, Craig contributes this thought - “Call me old fashioned, but I'd rather execute the criminals after they have committed the crime...”

October 10, 2005

Howling still relevant - more than ever

Fifty years ago, somewhere in San Francisco, Allen Ginsberg read his poem Howl to an audience of 200.

Back then, the beat generation and the hippies were unambiguously to the extreme left of politics, because the left was, like, you know, radical non-conformist, man.

On reading Howl today, and perusing some of the MSM “anniversary” articles, the present day resonance of Howl is startling. More startling, however, is how the poem can no longer be claimed as a lengthy and glorious chant for the left, who seem to have lost all interest in passionately raging against conformity, in favour of verbally battering all-comers into a mindless and purposeless submission.

Even if you hate poetry, even if you think the beat generation was useless, give it another try.

Howl is a stunning piece of radical poetry, and, in contemporary times, could easily be appropriated by the right, the conservatives, as an anthem against the strictures and waste of the increasingly tedious, vapid and irrelevant political left.

A piece from The Weekend Australian (Robert Lusetich, 8-9 October, 2005), concludes with the quotes:

"Once, when Kerouac was high on psychedelics with Timothy Leary, he looked out the window and said: 'Walking on water wasn't built in a day,"' Ginbserg once recalled. "Our goal was to save the planet and alter human consciousness. That will take a long time, if it happens at all."

Those old guys, if they were still alive, probably wouldn’t be too surprised at how retrograde the left has become. They seem to have had their sights set low, hopeful, but low.

Compare this to a review in The Age (not sure if you have to register to access), The beat goes on for Howl:

Toward the end, the writer quotes a biographer, Gerald Nicosia:

"We are in an era where censorship is creeping back in through the Patriot Act and where people are ... being intimidated not to speak about what we should be speaking about," said Gerald Nicosia, author of Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac.

"If you substitute terrorism for communism, we are getting the same rhetoric."

“The anniversary couldn't be more well-timed for those who enjoy historical parallels, agrees Ginsberg biographer Raskin.”

Go back and read that again, slowly – just a suggestion, not an order.

Substitute terrorism for communism?

Okay then, the lesson for today would be what, exactly?

Notice their sincerity, notice the lack of irony, notice that the speakers seem to be unaware of the legacy of communism, and that communism around the globe (with few exceptions), has fallen – not recently, this started more than 15 fifteen years ago - and fallen in a most inglorious and spectacular manner. Formerly communist countries now scramble to institute and improve their democratic foundations, and sprint to catch-up with capitalism.

The paradox of these quotes – these intellectual opinions being offered up with the intent of providing compelling grist for anyone who doubts the rightness and righteousness of the terrorist apologists, the “why-ners” (as Tim Blair has dubbed them), the anti-American crusaders, those “altruistic” anti-globalization purists, the guilt laden appeasers – these quotes are supposed to be self-evidently compelling, defining a past and present radical-left cause.

Yet, democratic capitalist countries were right about communism. The capitalist ("western") countries never capitulated. The west won; democracy won; capitalism won, freedom won - cleanly and decisively. Back then, anyone who agreed was deemed to be conforming, conservative, and let’s be blunt – stupid and ignorant. A few quiet minutes listening to a lecture by a solemn lefty would have set any anti-communist wealthy westerner on the straight and narrow. Right?

Now we are seeing the same, wall-to-wall, in the MSM: a friendly chat with would-be suicide bombers will change their minds; terrorist are just like us; it’s a misunderstanding over language; let’s not provoke terrorists by being critical; lets spread the lurve and understanding; let’s respect each other’s differences, because underneath we’re all the same; let’s mutually admire each other’s unique interpretation of religion and the world; and we will all live in peace and harmony with our hands joined together.

Bizarrely, it was only on reading these articles on Ginsberg, and Howl, that I did see the parallels, but not in the way any of the authors intended.

Yes, people ARE being intimidated into NOT speaking about what we SHOULD be speaking about. Drawing knee-jerk historical parallels is dangerous territory. These unthinking intellectuals of the left do not see that their few brief words shored-up the parallels, but had the unintended consequence of blowing their conforming leftist views to pieces.

If the beat generation were the voice of radical individualism, within an era of deep conformity and conservatism, the question must be asked, fifty years down the track, who gets to appropriate their symbolism today?

It is certainly no longer the natural home of the left, indeed, the beat generation would look like shags on a rock amongst the left of today, and would be vigorously howled-down by the left, before getting through a single passionately delivered stanza.

From Howl
by Allen Ginsberg

I saw the best minds of my
generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical

dragging themselves through the
negro streets at dawn looking for
an angry fix,

angelheaded hipsters burning for
the ancient heavenly connection
to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,

who poverty and tatters and hollow-
eyed and high sat up smoking in
the supernatural darkness of
cold-water flats floating across
the tops of cities contemplating

who bared their brains to Heaven
under the El and saw
Mohammedan angels staggering
on tenement roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities
with radiant cool eyes
hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-
light tragedy among the scholars
of war,

who were expelled from the
academies for crazy & publishing
obscene odes on the windows of
the skull,

who cowered in unshaven rooms in
underwear, burning their money
in wastebaskets and listening to
the Terror through the wall…


For the full version of Howl

October 7, 2005

The prosecution rests – case closed on global warming!

We now have conclusive evidence that global temperature is inversely related to the number of pirates on earth.

Approximate number of pirates is shown on the horizontal, with average global temperatures on the vertical.

Clearly the problem of global warming can be expeditiously addressed with the vigorous implementation of pirate apprenticeship schemes in all parts of the world, but most particularly focused in first world developed countries. This initiative should hold enormous appeal to the young in search of an altruistic but lucrative career path, as well as the more mature worker looking for a sea change. Plus everyone gets to wear really zany costumes, use weapons of choice, and talk in funny voices.

October 3, 2005

70 White Raisins

Every time a suicide bomber goes off someone feels compelled to mention the 70 or 72 virgins allegedly waiting languidly on the other side (exact numbers seem to vary, but who is counting after the first three dozen?).  

No-one ever mentions what female suicide bombers are rewarded with once they arrive in paradise, but it turns out that their reward might be just the same as for the men.

As with all belief systems, the relevant texts are open to whatever fanciful interpretation the reader wishes to believe, in order to justify whatever it is they are up to at any given moment, so we can’t be surprised if the odd bit of misunderstanding occurs. And so it would seem that the mythical 70 virgins that homicidal-suicide bombers believe will be waiting for them on their entry to heaven may be a little less than they had been promised - in shape and utility, if not numbers. 

According to one scholar of ancient Semitic languages, (writing under the pseudonym Christopher Luxenberg), a mistranslation is responsible for the Muslim paradise being strewn with 'virgins’ - Arabic hur, transliterated as 'houris' - literally 'white ones'. It seems to this scholar at least, that passages describing paradise in the Qu'ran were drawn from earlier Christian texts that make frequent use of the Aramaic word hur, meaning 'white raisins'.

Imagine the look on a young martyr's face when, finding himself in a paradise teeming with his fellow thugs, his seventy "houris" arriving in the form of a bowl of white raisins.

October 2, 2005

What do we want? NO OUTCOMES! When do we want it? NOW!

As Nick & Nora’s friend, Jai, has noted (see under previous comments), the journalist students are revolting, but it would seem that teachers in Australia are becoming rather more revolting than students or journalists.

A proud Western Australian teacher has established PLATO People Lobbying Against Teaching Outcomes. (Wonder how Plato would feel about having his name used in this context?)

In just four months they boast 28,000 hits to their site. Important to notice that they are encompassing everyone in their lobbying efforts “people”, not restricted to “teachers”, because, as we know, people everywhere, especially parents, must be aghast at the onerous expectation of outcomes from education.

Now we must be careful not to get caught up in their references to American grades, since our own Minister for Education is hammering away at the novel concept of going back to real rankings and ratings, including that good old fashioned word “fail” to signify when a student is, well, failing, as opposed to the gentle euphemism “N” for “nearly”, being used in Britain.

We mustn’t overlook the self-evident idiocy of the name of this lobby group. No teaching outcomes? Sure, it’s catchy, but really, did the teachers think about how this reads? Did they think about this, critically, at all?

I’m really struggling with this one and need help. I am trying to think of other jobs, industries, professions, who could and would publicly admit their opposition to “outcomes” from their work, and who could and would, furthermore, declare their commitment to having no outcomes by setting up a lobby group.

Should we expect other such groups to come to fruition? I keep trying to think of who else would get away with this notion of their work having NO OUTCOMES.

  • Doctors against Medicine
  • Architects against Buildings that Stand Up
  • Hairdressers against Scissors and Foils
  • Personal Coaches against Change
  • Gardeners against Growth
  • Accountants against Balance
  • Coffee Shops without Caffeine
  • Real Estate Agents against BMWs
  • Programmers against Code
  • Television Networks against Content (oh, oops, we already have that)

Stunningly, a local Emeritus Professor of Education, at Monash University, seems to agree that outcomes are not all they’re cracked up to be. In a letter to the editor of The Australian (1-2 October, 2005), Prof Fensham writes:

“Australian parents do want their children to become proficient in basic literacy skills, but they also want them to learn social skills and values, to be helped to become physically fit, to enjoy the arts and to become self-motivated and critical learners.”

Yes, your kiddies will be illiterate, but they will just lurve "the arts", and will be motivated to apply for a grant, if only they can find a grown-up to help with filling in the application form.

Marvelously, the Professor acknowledges that test performance deficiencies (our students perform “less well”), when compared with the “tightly defined [curricula] … in some other countries”, is a consequence of the “narrow type of learning in these countries’ curricula. [There is] no evidence about how well the Australian curricula are meeting their own more open goals for learning”.

Yes, damn those misguided narrow curricula that lead to learning and good test results!

Critical learners” really sticks in the claw when I contemplate all those lads and lassies in the workforce with at least one university degree that are incapable of cogently presenting an argument, who can’t write a grammatically correct sentence, and are oblivious to both deficiencies in their little basket of skills. Many of them are, however, physically fit, so at least they will be first out of the building during fire drills. Sixteen straight years of “no outcomes” education is the single greatest drain on profitability and productivity in this country. We are breeding them with extremely high self-esteem, but no knowledge base, no ability to think, and no ability to perform basic tasks.

Shouldn't one first "learn", before taking the step to "criticism", since one does tend to require some exposure to, and comprehension of, a wide ranging education and knowledge base, not to mention competencies in certain simple skills, prior to being capable of taking on the role of analysis and criticism?

On the same letters page Andrew Wyminga provides anecdotal evidence of our teaching outcomes, as he describes witnessing “three students hopping out of a car and happily purchasing a six pack of bear each at $12.99, when a full case of 24 is only $30.99".

He actually attibutes this to "outcome based teaching", so there ya go. What the hell ARE they doing in our schools these days?!