The Dim-Post

December 29, 2008

Eyeless in Gaza

Filed under: general news — danylmc @ 7:41 am

Marty Peretz has a column in the New Republic praising the Israeli bombing of Gaza:

So at 11:30 on Saturday morning, according to both the Jerusalem Post and Ha’aretz, as well as the New York Times,
50 fighter jets and attack helicopters demolished some 40 to 50 sites
in just about three minutes, maybe five. Message: do not fuck with the
Jews. At roughly noon, another 60 air-attack vehicles went after other
Hamas strategic positions. Israeli intelligence reported 225 people
dead, mostly Hamas military leaders with some functionaries, besides,
and perhaps 400 wounded.  The Palestinians announced 300 dead, probably
as a reflex in order to begin their whining about disproportionate
Israeli acts of war. And 600 wounded.

I don’t think the message here is ‘don’t fuck with the Jews’ – I think the message is that the coalition government is beset by allegations of corruption and are afraid they’re going to get rolled by Likud in the February elections; they think that bombing the most densely populated city in the world is a good way to look tough on national security.

Certainly none of the Hamas leaders are going to be harmed in the attacks – they’ll have fled to Egypt long before the bombing started. Since they seem to be utterly indifferent to the lives of their people they can, indeed, fuck with the Jews and will cheefully continue to do so no matter how dire the consequences. The bombing has failed to stop the rocket attacks into Israel.

The Israeli’s look set to invade, which will be grimly fascinating. The IDF has a reputation for deploying highly trained soldiers supported by first-class intelligence, a reputation that took a beating when they went into South Lebanon in 2006 – the IDF and even the celebrated Golani regiments were easily outmatched by the entrenched Hizbollah fighters. Military leaders blamed politicians, who blamed incompetent intelligence reports for the defeat.

Hamas appears to relish the prospect of a ground invasion suggesting that they are dug in and well prepared. Someone is underestimating their enemy here; the leaders of Hamas are smart and competent but they are also prone to delusional mistakes of the ‘Allah will grant us victory’ variety. The leaders of Israel are neither smart nor competant, but they are a lot more rational than their Palestinian counterparts and they do have an overwhelming military advantage.

December 28, 2008

Buzz Buzz

Filed under: general idiocy — danylmc @ 10:44 am

Poneke spent Christmas in Brisbane and reflects on how much furthur Australia has come compared to New Zealand in terms of material prosperity; I had a similar experience in Bangkok earlier this year – a place I first visited in my early twenties and still thought of as a low-cost third world backwater had transformed into a wealthy international city. It had the ‘buzz’ Poneke encountered in Brisbane. I felt it again this year on business trips to Melbourne, Sydney and Cairns – the sense that the world is changing and that New Zealand really is getting left behind.

On the other hand, this morning I went running along a public track through the farmland behind Karori. From the top of the ridgeline I could see all of the western suburbs; white weatherboard 1920’s homes scattered about the green hills, as well as the empty farmland out to Makara and the southern coastline and across the Cook Strait the seaward Kaikoura’s, the tallest of which were snowcapped and ragged with clouds.

My weekend run is ninety minutes long and although I saw rabbits, breakfasting hawks, paradise ducks and the odd wild goat I didn’t see a single person the entire time – even though the track is a short walk from one of the largest suburbs in the country.

If we were richer all that land would be sold up, paved over, developed and filled with townhouses and malls. Maybe being left behind isn’t such a bad thing.

December 26, 2008

Best Movies of 2008

Filed under: movies — danylmc @ 6:46 am

Waltz with Bashir

bashirAri Folman’s animated documentary about the 1982 invasion of Lebanon and the massacres in the Palestinian refugee camps Sabra and Shatila is one of the best war movies ever made and hands-down the most beautiful film of the year.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

4weeksArguably the worst date movie of all time: set in Rumania during the dying days of the Ceausescu regime filmmaker Christian Mungiu tells the story of two students trying to obtain an illegal abortion. Amazing performances and gorgeous ultra-realist cinematography won this the Golden Palm at Cannes. Few of us get to experience the pleasure of living under a soul-crushing communist regime so this is a good way to experience that overwhelming sense of paranoia and perpetual doom in the comfort of your own home.

Man on Wire

manonwireThe weird, fascinating story of French dare-devil Phillipe Petit and his obsessive quest to walk on a tightrope between the two towers of the Manhattan World Trade Center.

Jar City

jarcityFilmed and set in Iceland before the country went bankrupt and they all had to go back to lives as fishermen, this thriller is based on one of Arnaldur Indriason’s intense, bleakly funny thrillers. The murder of elderly men, rape of young women, dead babies kept in jars – what else do you look for in an evenings entertainment?

My Winnipeg

my_winnipeg31

Guy Maddin’s  dream-history of his home city Winnipeg, Manitoba – ‘the sleep-walking capital of the world’. Psychic rivers run beneath the city, historical figures vomit ectoplasm. Rumour has it the film was financed by the Tourism Board of Manitoba who must have been aghast when they saw what their funding had wrought.

(A word of warning, My Winnipeg IS pretty weird and not to everyone’s taste. You might want to check out the trailer before you rent the DVD.)

The Dark Knight

joker-nurse-the-dark-knight

Batman fights the war on terror; Christopher Nolan’s sprawling, confused parable in which the Joker is Osama bin Laden and Batman represents President Bush, VP Cheney and the CIA is both a demented far-right fantasy and an outstanding action film whatever your political persuasion.

Up the Yangtze

uptheyThe mind-numbing pace and scale of modern China is illustrated by this documentary about the lives of two teenagers who get work on a riverboat hauling western tourists up the Yangtze river, past the drowning cities and farms soon to sink forever beneath the waters of the Three Gorges dam.

Edge of Heaven

edge_of_heaven

Turkish-German film about the complicated relationship between the two countries tells three intersecting stories in which the subjects try to find happiness, through sex, love, revolution, travel and redemption.

December 25, 2008

Seasons Greetings

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 6:07 am

festivus

December 24, 2008

Quibbling

Filed under: general idiocy — danylmc @ 7:14 am
Tags:
World Geography by Estimated Population. 1 AD

World Geography by Estimated Population. 1 AD

I know there’s a certain futility in pointing out mistakes in Garth George’s columns – its like staring at the sun trying to figure out which parts are hotter and brighter. George’s column today is about Jesus:

He came into a world which, in human terms, had much in common with the world today. Globalisation, for instance, was a reality. The Roman Empire straddled almost the whole of the known world.

This is certainly what Garth would have been taught back when he was at school but we now know that most of the  population of the world lived in China and India back in 1 AD and that the Roman Empire – while interesting from an historical viewpoint – was somewhat smaller than the Han dynasty and a lot less sophisticated. The main religions in the world were Buddhism, Confucianism and Hinduism and they’d endure as the top three for about 1500 years.

I’ve often thought that if you wanted to save mankind then Roman occupied Judea was a strange place to do it; if I were God I’d have gone to the Ganges or Yangtze river valleys – in numbers of souls saved that was definitely where the action was. Better food too.

December 23, 2008

Schools out

Filed under: general news — danylmc @ 8:38 am

dazed-and-confusedA few of my friends are school teachers and I suspect they’ll have mixed feelings when they read this:

The School Trustees Association, which represents most of the 2700 school boards, wants a national debate on whether schools should open well before 9am and shut much later each day to better cater for pupils’ changing needs.

Education Minister Anne Tolley has welcomed the suggestion, saying there is an “appetite” for fresh ideas to benefit pupils, teachers and principals.

Association general manager Ray Newport said any such changes would require a law change.

He conceded that extending the school day had huge implications for staffing levels, teachers’ hours and the effects on pupils and working parents.

The modern school day is an historical artifact from way back in the distant past when Mum’s stayed at home to look after their little cherubs before 9 and after 3 and drank gin while watching Days of Our Lives in between times. Sadly we have moved on as a nation and those stay at home Mums all have jobs as National Party Cabinet Ministers so it seems very sensible for schools to reflect these social changes.

In fact it seems like such an obvious, socially progressive thing to do you have to wonder why the hell Labour didn’t get around to it during the last nine years? I guess passing the EFA and giving tens of millions of dollars away to the racing industry were just higher priorities (how you liking it there in opposition guys?)

Clearly the hard part is getting the teachers unions on board. If a ~50% increase in school hours (say, an 8-4 shift and a 10-6 shift) was accompanied by a 50% increase in staff then I think the teachers union would be pretty sweet. If the answer is to just have the teachers work a lot longer in the classrooms and then do all of their lesson planning and marking in their own time then I think that most of the teachers in the country will just quit their jobs and move overseas.

I think its obvious which of these is preferable and I also think its obvious which one the Nats will opt for – but we are looking at a surge in unemployment over the next few years, and while there seems to be some sort of fantasy in which the jobless retrain themselves as network engineers and work on the broadband roll-out it seems to me that encouraging people to retrain as teachers seems like a more realistic option.

December 22, 2008

Mental Health Break Christmas Edition

Filed under: general idiocy,nz blogs — danylmc @ 7:57 am

By now you’ve figured out that the youtube clips I post are actually very bad for your mental health:

Cactus Kate gives post-election career advice to the press gallery. Whaleoil weighs in. It’s like watching blind people give fashion tips.

McSweeney’s presents the Gutenberg Christmas Catalog 1608:

Dulcimer for Morons
BY ANONYMOUS

Master the old trapezoid with lessons so simple even John of Hanover could follow them. Also available: Be a Guitar Angel.

Eatf, Shootf, and Leavef
BY ANONYMOUS

Expreff yourfelf clearly in newly ftandardised Englifh. Now available in convenient whaleboneback!

The 104-Hour Workweek
BY ANONYMOUS

What if we told you that you could go carping in the Thames, win a jig contest in Switzerland, and toss dwarves in Vienna, all while your turnips grow rapidly at home? Before you brand us for false prophecy, read this book. It will teach you how to, among other things:

* Outsource your life, using the magic of peasants

* Make hereditary power work for you

* Retire at 15

Wendy Cope has a heartwarming Christmas poem for the unattached:

At Christmas little children sing and merry bells jingle,
The cold winter air makes our hands and faces tingle
And happy families go to church and cheerily they mingle
And the whole business is unbelievably dreadful, if you’re single.

santa-claus-lg

December 21, 2008

The Mourning Bride

Filed under: general news — danylmc @ 9:46 pm
Tags: ,

Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned,
Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned

William Congreve, The Mourning Bride. 1697

Rochelle Rees has a press release up at Scoop with more fascinating details about Rob Gilchrist and his correspondence with his handlers in the police Special Investigations Group:

. . . in the emails sent by Rob Gilchrist to the police counter-terrorism units, was an email sent on 30/07/2005, containing naked photographs of a female and then teenage activist . . .

Well why didn’t you say so in the first place? Bill Ralston had a column up the other day condemning the tepid media response to this story; something tells me that our nation’s high-minded news editors are going to be a LOT more interested from here on in:

Also discovered on Rob Gilchrist’s computer were naked photos of a then 16 year old activist, which look to have been taken while she was sleeping . . . Rob Gilchrist also had photographs on his computer he had taken of the previously mentioned 16 year old girl, and another 16 year old female activist, taken seperately, with them posing with his guns. This included shots of one of the said girls posing with one of Rob’s guns pointed to her head, and in her mouth.

I have to admit I’m surprised none of these revelations were in the SST today – the media strategy here seems a bit scattershot, maybe they’re just releasing stuff as they trawl through Gilchrist’s hard drive?

This must be awfully stressful for the staff in the police comms unit. Presumably Mr Gilchrist is also somewhat apprehensive as to which horribly embarrassing details of his private life Ms Rees intends to reveal to the nation next.

December 20, 2008

COINTELPRO

Filed under: general news — danylmc @ 8:30 am
Tags: ,

From The Herald

The police-paid spy Rob Gilchrist passed officers information about union pickets, student demonstrations, and a pepper-sprayed protester who was preparing a case against them.

New Zealand’s biggest union, the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, and the Unite union last night called for a Commission of Inquiry into the police’s Special Investigation Group that Mr Gilchrist worked for.

It followed the release of further emails that Mr Gilchrist forwarded to his police handler which contradict Police Commissioner Howard Broad’s assurances that the SIG’s investigation of activist groups only targeted individuals.

The emails, seen by the Herald, refer to plans by the eight union groups.

They discuss protests about youth rates outside fast-food outlets like McDonald’s, a picket schedule during the Progressive Enterprises lockout and meetings about National’s “fire-without-recourse” bill.

The SIG received information about the EPMU, the Maritime Union, National Distribution Union, Unite, National Union of Public Employees, Youth Union Movement and Council of Trade Unions.

Howard Broad is taking flak from some of the left-wing bloggers who claim he lied when he briefed his Minister that the SIG was monitoring individuals not groups. I doubt Broad had the faintest idea that his department had launched a covert operation against every major union in the country and that he will have been incandescent with rage when he found out about it – which was probably by reading the newspaper.

Spying on activist groups is one thing; antagonising the unions – who have lawyers, money, media-savvy and powerful political allies – is quite another.

Whoever runs the SIG and signed off on this little adventure has to be out of their fucking mind; I doubt we’re going to get a public inquiry – the profile of the police is wretched enough at the moment and the last thing they need is an open investigation into an intelligence group operating wildly out of their mandate run by paranoid reactionaries who seem to be clinically insane.

December 19, 2008

Newspaper correction of the year

Filed under: media — danylmc @ 9:16 am

From The Daily Mail:

In articles published on 23 and 26 May 2008, we gave the impression that Mr Gest had contracted a sexually transmitted infection and alleged that he had Liza Minnelli’s dog killed without her knowledge.
This was wrong. David Gest has never had a sexually transmitted infection and did not have Ms Minnelli’s dog killed.
We apologise to Mr Gest for any embarrassment caused.

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