Thursday, June 28, 2007

Books You Should Be Reading Number 25 Of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

Un Lun Dun by China Mieville

‘Conductors on other routes, if they’re real unlucky, sometimes get attacked by giraffes.’
The girls stared at each other.
‘You’re the second person to say that,’ Deeba said.
‘I’ve seen giraffes,’ Zanna said.
‘They’re not so scary...’ Deeba said.
‘Ha!’ The whole bus looked up at Jones’s laugh. ‘They’ve done a good job making people believe that those hippy refugees in the zoo are normal giraffes. Next you’ll tell me that they’ve got long necks so they can reach high leaves. Nothing to do with waving the bloody skins of their victims like flags, of course.
‘There’s a lot of animals very good at that sort of disinformation. There are no cats in UnLondon, for example, because they’re not magic and mysterious at all, they’re idiots.’


Un Lun Dun is also worth reading because it contains the simile: “It laughed again, with a noise like a sack of dead animals being dragged across coal and broken glass.”, which is so good it’s going into my lessons about similes (replacing Douglas Adams’ contribution of “The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.”)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Apathy Jack writes:

I notice people have been embedding music in their posts of late. Now, of course, I don’t listen to anything that doesn’t have Christina Aguilera in it, but I have long loved the art form of the music video. It makes me sad that 90% of what one sees on C4 and Juice is simply footage of the bands acting like dicks. (Alt saves us from this – near as I can tell, they don’t actually play music videos, choosing instead to go the brave route of having talentless artwankers talking about nothing for hours and hours and hours without even hinting at the idea of ever playing an actual honest-to-god music video. Except the Grunge show. That’s awesome.)

Anyhoo, today, you get possibly the best music video ever made: Everlong by the Foo Fighters. Doesn’t matter if you don’t like the song (and I personally am long over it), but in terms of concept, execution, and meshing with the song, you don’t get better than it.

You find it here.

(I’ve given the link rather than embed it because embedding always causes a drop in picture quality.)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Apathy Jack writes:

One of the ones I’ve taken an interest in has gotten herself on Daily Report – the monitoring system for recalcitrants. I took her aside quietly.
“When do you get off report?”
“When I’m good.”
“Right. Well, I’ll do you a deal.”
“If you’re off Report by the end of term, then I won’t break your arms and legs.”
The kid’s eyes widened as she shot me a look of pure shock.

I need to remember that they’re not used to me yet. At Hoodrat, I needed to threaten to kill them, skin them, wear their skin as a suit, and commit crimes dressed in their skin so that their reputation would be ruined and their memory would be tarnished, even to get them to look up from what they were doing...


Got a text from a number I didn’t recognise, which started “Hae dad!” The shocking spelling and grammar which followed marked it as a being from a student, and I wondered to myself how the Year 11 who has taken to referring to me as her father in the last fortnight got my number. I read further, and realised it was from one of my old Year 9s from Hoodrat, who had similarly taken to addressing me as “Dad”.

I’m not sure what this says about society, but it’s probably nothing good...


ERO have been in the New School this week, and, as is the style, Management have been running around like headless chickens in preparation. I’ve been blasé about the whole thing, having lived through more ERO visits than most right-thinking people. Chatting to the Principal, I mentioned that I’d probably be on first-name terms with the ERO people, and that the visit to my class would probably go something like:
“Phil! Good to see you, mate.”
“Still doing all the same stuff?”
“Okay, then I guess we’re done here.”
“Always a pleasure. How’s the wife?”
“She sends her regards.”
The Principal, who so far has about a fifty percent ratio of getting when I’m kidding, earnestly told me she was sure I hadn’t been through that many visits.

So I happen to be walking past her office when the ERO team are having their introductory meeting.
“Jack!” One of them calls out.
I go and hug my old acquaintance hello as the Principal looks on in horror.

I’m so pleased it’s worked out the way it has that I throw in “The gang’s back together!” loud enough for the boss to overhear.

Life is good.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Apathy Jack writes:

See, I miss out on all the exciting news when my internet shits itself and goes slower than dialup for a few weeks due to what I assume is the prodigious porn-downloading abilities of sundry flatmates.

Here is George Bush’s press release announcing that he has nominated James W. Holsinger to be the new Surgeon General, in which capacity he will “be charged with providing the best scientific information available on how Americans can make smart choices that improve their health and reduce their risk of illness and injury.”

Here is the article about gay rights groups being less than thrilled with Holsinger’s nomination, given that several years ago he authored a paper for the Methodist church called “The Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality”, in which he said that all scientific evidence pointed towards homosexuality causing injury and death.

The article has a link to a pdf of Hosinger’s original paper, for those who are interested.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Josh writes:

Yeah, so let's talk about discrimination.

Discriminating means choosing, that's all -- it's neither good nor bad[1]. What makes it good or bad are the reasons behind the discrimination. Discrimination on unreasonable grounds is unfair and should not be condoned. I bring this up, of course, because of the front page story on yesterday's Herald on Sunday about Talley's Fisheries being done by the High Court for gender discrimination in refusing to hire a woman for the position of fish filleter on the basis that she is a woman.

The boss of the company, Mr. Andrew Talley, thinks this is bollocks, and brings up an interesting example in disputing it:

There are jobs - pole dancing being one and fish filleting being another - that have a higher predominance of either men or women.
Well let's look at those two vocations. Without wanting to appear crass, the job of a pole dancer is, in the overwhelming majority of cases, to give heterosexual men erections. Without wanting to get into a debate on gender politics, it is a fact of biology that heterosexual men get erections from looking at women, but not from looking at men[2]. There is therefore a genuine reason why women are more suited to the task of pole dancing than men, and therefore legitimate reason to discriminate on the grounds of sex when hiring a pole dancer.

What, then, are the requirements for being a fish filleter? Well, the job of a fish filleter is to fillet fish -- as far as I'm aware, that is done with the hands and not, for example, the penis[3], so there seems to be little reason why a two-handed person of any sex couldn't do it. What's that? "[T]he job sometimes required lifting fish bins that weighed up to 30kg," you say? Right, so a requirement is upper body strength sufficient to lift a heavy bin of fish. Call me silly, but I would have thought a good test for whether or not someone can lift a heavy bin of fish is to get them to lift a heavy bin of fish, not to check whether or not they have tits.

Now sure, it is also a biological fact that men on average have greater upper body strength than woman, but there's no reason to believe that any given woman doesn't have the required strength for this job just because she's a woman. Unreasonable grounds = unfair discrimination = book 'em, Dano.

What confuses me is that Mr. Talley goes on to say that Talley's employed female fish filleters "and always has done as far as I'm concerned" -- doesn't that undermine everything he said beforehand? Ah, well -- you know those fisheries bosses...

[1] As a former linguist, I'm obliged to point out that, English being the mercurial whore that it is, the word "discrimination" is often used as a shorthand for "unfair discrimination against human beings" -- so much so that this sub-meaning is fast becoming the main meaning. This sort of thing happens all the time -- deal with it.
[2] Unless they're attractive transgendered people who they think actually are women, I guess.
[3] That'd be something to see, though.

Friday, June 15, 2007


Josh writes:

It begins...

Although, it's not like we didn't see this coming.

Monday, June 11, 2007


Apathy Jack writes:

As Josh pointed out over on Farrar's blog - I am the most prolific poster here. (This was in response to David's misconception that this blog was called Apathy Jack; which wasn't so much a misconception as it was people finally giving me my due, dammit!)

Counting this bad boy you're reading right now, I've made three hundred posts, and all of a sudden, I find Taylor Mali, who says everything I've spent the last two-and-a-half years trying to get across, but does so in the space of three minutes. That's one minute for every hundred posts I've done.

Watch him while I go and have a lie down...


Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

Gregor Paul in the Herald...

And it was the sight of the French forwards retreating faster than their army in 1939 that broke the spirits of les Bleus.

Oh Dear. Anyone want to set up a Paypal account to buy him a history book?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Bang and Blame

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

Ever since someone had another idea, people have been debating the merits and disadvantages of their various views on things. It seldom gets more heated than when the subject turns to the political realm, and within that the bloody twentieth century also stands out. That century is still fairly raw, especially in Europe where some of the European Union's newer members have tried (and failed) to have denial of Stalin's terrorism criminalised alongside Holocaust Denial, and where there has been rioting in Estonia after the removal of a statue erected to commemorate the Red Army. All this makes good fodder for Internet debate.

In late May, a Youtube video on the victims of Communism was posted on the blog of David Farrar, who was then linked to by Peter Cresswell on his blog. This is a common enough event, but the comments sections of both blogs are what I want to focus on. Regular Kiwiblog commenter "Sonic" jibed in response about the victims of Capitalism and how their number would be beyond counting, and at "NotPC", a chap called "ScrubOne" thought that the Youtube horrors were "atheism at work". Today, we're going to look at the four views mentioned, Atheism and Capitalism, Religion and Socialism, and show how Religion and Socialism can justifiably be blamed for causing a great deal of suffering but Atheism and Capitalism cannot.

We'll start with the easy ones. Religion comes first since it is the easiest thing in the world to prove that religious people have committed atrocities, and more importantly that their behaviour was caused and justified by their religious beliefs.

It may seem obvious, but worth pointing out anyway, that people act according to their beliefs. And this is especially true for the religious since religions often come with a book of rules that their followers have to abide by. Given this, it doesn't take much detective work to find out why a religious person does something since they usually advertise it. "Terror in the Mind of God" by Mark Juergensmeyer is an excellent resource for this, with examples contemporary of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and so on murdering and finding justification for it in their religion. And of course there are historical examples that everyone can think of like the Crusades, the Inquisition, the spread of Islam and so forth.

To cut some objections off at the pass, a religious person might claim that the passages used to justify murders are being used "out of context", or that the perpetrators were not "real" adherents of the faith. This is usually done by either citing alternate passages in the religion's scriptures that condemn the terrorist's action. These two objections are easily handled. Firstly, just because person "A" can find scripture that negates the scripture that person "B" does not mean that that person "B" is wrong, it just means that the religion contradicts itself. If you are against murder you look to the Decalogue, but a few pages away the Chosen People are happily murdering, raping, and enslaving the Amalakites for example. You would be pretty hard pressed to find something that was not approved of at least once in a scripture, except perhaps atheism. And so any appeals to "context" ring hollow, and in the end depend on whatever you are trying to justify. Just find a conclusion and the scriptural justification will come. Also, arguments about who is a "real" adherent suffer when you look at the overwhelming number of sincere believers who must have been wrong. All the people involved in the machinery of the Inquisition, or the Crusades, or in Al Qaeda, or the homicide bombings in Iraq and Israel, missed something. Probability suggests otherwise.

We remain within the genus of religion, although the species is secular, when we turn to Socialism. Not without good reason has Socialism been labelled a secular religion. Charles Sutherland, as one example, included communism (and for all practical intents and purposes Communism and Socialism can be interchanged) with Christianity, Judaism, Islam in his excellent critique of religions "Disciples of Destruction : The Religious Origins of War and Terrorism".

Whilst not an ethical system to the same degree of the supernatural religions mentioned above, Socialism is still a governor of human behaviour by virtue of its being a political and economic ideology, and people's politics, economics, and ethics are linked. When you put together the ingredients of Socialist scripture - the metanarrative of how humanity should be organised and how it will get to that stage - and of human beings themselves, and more importantly how they survive and flourish in reality, you will find that they do not mix well. No matter who the individual Socialists are who are trying to implement the ideas, the ideas themselves dictate certain outcomes, most notably suffering and death, to happen regardless of whether that is what individual Socialists or their writings intend. We shall explore the freedoms required by people to survive when we examine Capitalism, but suffice it to say for the present that the equality demanded by Socialists runs contrary to those freedoms.

David Horowitz puts it succinctly when he says that “the rights historically claimed in the paradigm of the Left are self-contradictory and self-defeating.”, and further that “The regime of social justice, of which the Left dreams, is a regime that by its very nature must crush individual freedom. It is not a question of choosing the right (while avoiding the wrong) political means in order to achieve the desired ends. The means are contained in the ends. The leftist revolution must crush freedom in order to achieve the ‘social justice’ that it seeks. It is unable, therefore, to achieve even that end. This is the totalitarian circle that cannot be squared. Socialism is not bread without freedom; it is neither freedom nor bread.”

The means are contained in the ends. The violence that occurs under Socialism is not only dictated by Socialism itself, but is ongoing. It isn't an aberration that will go away once Socialism is achieved and it wouldn't have not happened if different people were in charge. Sadly that lesson not been learned by the many who go around wearing Che Guevara T-Shirts and the like, if more than a hundred million deaths worldwide won't drive the point home then it becomes quite unnerving to think of what would need to be done to prove it.

In explaining just how Socialism is not just wrong, but horrendously wrong with murderous consequences, we turn to Capitalism.

We have seen that the Socialism by its very nature leads to a large helping of terror, but, in comparison, what is the nature of Capitalism? If you look in your average dictionary, and on the Internet serves our purpose, you will find a definition along the lines of:

An economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to the accumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market.

Which is all very well, but incomplete. In order to have this sort of economic structure there need to be a range of political conditions, and so to complete the definition we would need to add something like this definition of Capitalism from, appropriately,

Capitalism is a social system based on the principle of individual rights. The term capitalism is used here in the broader philosophical political sense, and not in the narrower economic sense, i.e. a free-market.

The strict economic conditions present in our first definition require the political principle of individual rights proposed in the second. This sentiment is expressed by John Locke when we writes “Every man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his.”

Buried within Capitalism, then, is the secret of its success. When judging political and economic systems a criteria just as important as what the system thinks people that follow the system should do, is how the system treats people that don’t follow the system. Or in other words, what happens to those who disagree?

We have seen that under Socialism, and Religion, that those who disagree must die. You can’t just disagree with God and carry on you merry way because since you are going against God you are immoral, and since your life does not belong to you true believers are well within their rights to either do what is necessary to set you straight or remove you from society altogether so you don’t contaminate others, and the same is true with the secular religion of Socialism. You can’t just be left free to contaminate others with ideas of liberty as a class enemy, you have to be eliminated.

Tolerance of those who disagree, then, is Capitalism’s greatest asset and Socialism and Religion’s greatest flaw. With Capitalism you are most welcome not to have money or property if you regard it as exploitative and evil, and you will be left alone, you can even set yourselves up with other believers in a commune run according to your beliefs and will be left alone. The only provisos being those that govern any civilised society in that you will not be allowed to steal or initiate force to get your way. Socialism killed around 100,000,000 people during the previous century and still does in hellholes like North Korea, Cuba, and Zimbabwe.

Finally, we turn to Atheism. As easy as it was establishing that Religion causes atrocities as a governor of people’s ethics and therefore actions, it is just as easy to defend atheism from that charge. Whatever your definition of Atheism (and we can include agnosticism), whether it be lacking a belief in god, believing that god does not exist, or thinking that the question can never be resolved, one thing is clear – Atheism provides absolutely no ethical pointers. There are people around who claim things like “Since I do not believe in god I realise that this is the only life we have and I must live it to the full and treat others well.”, but they are talking nonsense. The quote attributed to Dostoyevsky that "If God does not exist, everything is permitted." with its implicit ethical nihilism is just as valid a conclusion from simply not believing in god.

This means that when Atheists commit atrocities they are doing so with other justifications, and interestingly enough when we look at the most murderous atheists – Stalin, Mao, and so forth – we find that they were Socialists and so it was within Socialism that they found justification for their horrendous acts of mass-murder and terror.

Before we conclude we should tidy up one objection that could be raised with regard to Atheism. One might claim that although atheism itself does not cause people to turn bad, it leaves them with a moral vacuum, vulnerable to all sorts of dangerous beliefs to come and take root. These can be quickly dealt with. Firstly, by looking through the historical record, it is clear that having a religious morality is little defence against being a thoroughly unsavoury person. Also, the classic philosophical objections raise their heads as to just how religious morality is justified. Is following a religious commandment “good” because “god” has willed it, or are there external criteria by which religious morality can be judged. If the former then all sorts of horrific acts can be justified – just look at the Old Testament. If the latter, and there are external criteria to judge whether religious morals are good or not, then why not just ditch the untrue religious part and keep the perfectly good reality based moral justifications – as many secular reality-based ethical systems like Ayn Rand’s capitalistic Objectivism does, for example.

And there we have it. The supernatural and socialistic religions have within their very beings the justifications for unbelievable acts of terror both past, present, and regrettably future. On the other hand Atheism and Capitalism have no such problems, and when grounded by a coherent ethical justification they provide for humanity to flourish peacefully through consensual interaction.

Righto, here's Elton John

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Apathy Jack writes:

Standing outside my class, dogmatically going through the Marley-esque chain of keys I’ve been given now that all the locks have been replaced. One of my new ones attracts my attention, and points at a girl who appears to be hiding behind another, larger girl.
“She’s scared of you, Sir.”
“Nah!” Or some other equally articulate noise, as the girl comes out of hiding and wanders with aggressive nonchalance over to wait outside her classroom.
I walk over to where she is intently peering into the empty room. My one calls her name, and she turns around, to see me standing behind her. She shrieks, stumbles backwards and falls to the ground.
I address her: “See, people who aren’t scared of me: they don’t usually do that...”

Building my reputation here probably won’t take as long as I was worried it might...

Sunday, June 03, 2007

I changed by not changing at all

Apathy Jack writes:

The more things change...

The Education Review Office visits schools every three or four years to audit them on the way they’re doing things. For a while there, visits to Hoodrat High were scheduled annually, because we weren’t to be trusted unsupervised with the minds of the young for more than eleven or so months at a time.

The exhaustive list of improvements they demanded before we were put back onto the regular cycle included: teachers showing evidence of basic competency; delivery of lessons with actual educational merit; and departments with high failure rates proving that they were, at the very least, trying to do something about the problem.

In a few weeks, ERO visits the New School. Their focus is to check what procedures we have in place in the event of South Auckland being struck by a pandemic disease.

I’ve never seen a school with so little to complain about...

The more they stay the same...

“Any chance of you doing some work?”
“Aah! I didn’t see you there!”
“No you didn't.”
“You know, Sir, when you smile, it looks like the smile psychos on TV have before they torture and kill people.”
“Yes. I would like to take this opportunity to remind you to all do some work. I’m still used to the Hoodrat way of doing things, and I was allowed to hit students there, so you all better watch out.”
“Ha! This girl thought you were serious for a second.”
“Why are you laughing? She’s right, I am serious. Now get back to work!”