Facebook, Privacy, Etc  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in , ,

Here's a neat little Flash presentation about Facebook and information-gathering organisations.

Chomsky Lite, with a Scottish Accent  

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"Senator, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an oil trader,
and neither has anyone on my behalf."

I didn't expect to see so many people at Galloway's speech last night. The hall at Auckland Girls' Grammar was packed out with a variety of people, from Muslim New Zealanders of different flavours to activists to politicians to just interested non-Muslim Kiwis. I suppose I don't know what I was expecting - a small cosy discussion panel. Anyway, I was wrong.

Scottish MP George Galloway leapt to international attention a few years ago when he appeared before the US Senate to answer charges related to the so-called UN oil-for-food scandal. He took the opportunity to make a speech about the United States' illegal invasion of Iraq, which spread like porn across the Internet, and he became a bit of a hero.

Then he ended up on Celebrity Big Brother. Huh.

The event was organised by the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, along with Residents Action Movement, a growing socialist Auckland City Council faction. Ostensibly, RAM/FIANZ was responding to the "Mosques and Miracles" conference tour of New Zealand by Australian evangelical speakers/writers Stuart Robinson and Daniel Shayesteh. The tour, organised by Vision Network of New Zealand, was apparently mostly closed to the public - a point that probably seems a bit more sinister than it is.

Both Shayesteh and Robinson are former Muslims, now converted to evangelical Christianity. Their fervour for demonising their ex-religion and promoting their newfound serotonin is no real surprise. Converts later in life are almost always more fanatical than those who grew up with their religion, partly because their conversion is a significant life-altering event for them, and partly because their old beliefs seem all the more evil to them due to the contrast.

The same is true, for example, of Christians-turned-Wiccans. Any number of times I have heard from such a person, "The Bible tells people to... <insert atrocity here>" Converts always feel especially authoritative in criticising the religion of their past, or lack thereof. The difference is that few have a massive and wealthy support structure through which to voice their zeal, like that of the evangelical Christians.

One could be forgiven for wondering if excerpts from Robinson's book Mosques and Miracles, quoted by RAM organiser Grant Morgan, have been taken out of context. However, it's hard to imagine what kind of context would render intelligible such utterances as, "Muslims always build mosques on mountainsides... [as] places to retreat when they have destroyed the surrounding cities." Giving the benefit of the doubt, one might hope the comment was prefaced with, "I once heard a fucking retard say..."

Galloway is a talented orator, and while points of substance were scattered amongst standard left-wing crowd-pleasing platitudes ("Real Christians believe in the Prophets, these guys believe in the profits!" - cue laughter, applause), I found myself more appreciative of Paul Buchanan's succinct words. With little trace on his face of the unpleasant week he's had (fired from his lecturing position, commence conspiracy theories at your leisure), Buchanan noted simply and clearly that we are far more at risk of a tsunami than a terrorist attack in New Zealand. He did say, and others echoed him, that the long path to sectarian violence in New Zealand begins with suspicion and fear of the Vision Network variety, and all speakers were clear: it's not a first step we should take.

Grant Morgan had the misfortune of appearing alongside skilled and experienced speakers, though his good nature shone through any lack of oratorical proficiency. I found his points a little confused, though. He expressed a concern that evangelical Christian networks were inventing or exaggerating "the Muslim threat" for political gain. We all applauded when he said that only around 30 people turned up at the Wellington evangelical meeting - that most Kiwis don't want a bar of that nonsense. And then he proclaimed the virtues of Residents Action Movement and its commitment to multicultural diversity in the upcoming council elections. Now, I'm no genius, but couldn't organising a popular international speaker in response to an admittedly tiny group of anti-Islamic nutters with RAM flyers everywhere in the lead-up to a council election be considered to be inventing or exaggerating a threat for political gain?

Someone from the audience near the front seemed to think so; though, given his rudeness in yelling out to interrupt Morgan, I'd like to think he hadn't thought about it as much as I just did. "You're fearmongering!" called the man, and Grant Morgan addressed the point quite politely before continuing. The point, though, I think remains.

It would be a bit more a point if RAM didn't have several other strong campaign platforms, not the least of which is public transport and climate change in Auckland. They are hardly a one-item voucher.

Christians versus Muslims isn't a concern for me, theologically speaking. I'm not inclined to pay attention to people arguing over the colour of Santa Claus's socks. But religious freedom - both institutionally and societally - is a value I hold dear.

Basically, fuck off, Aussie evangelical preachers. Here in New Zealand, we don't think it's "cool" to be a "cunt" to people.

Potato, Potato  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in

Due to a combination of Blogger not hosting animated gifs and Dylan Reeve being too useless to reboot my web server after his box went down, you must click here for coolness: Militant Platypus

Getting Ready to Seize the United Nations  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in

The only explanation?

Here's a hell of a thing. If you "pose a significant threat of committing" acts of violence in order to hinder the US in Iraq, the US government can "take all your shit".

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, as amended (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.)(IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.)(NEA), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code,

I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, find that, due to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by acts of violence threatening the peace and stability of Iraq and undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq and to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people, it is in the interests of the United States to take additional steps with respect to the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 of May 22, 2003, and expanded in Executive Order 13315 of August 28, 2003, and relied upon for additional steps taken in Executive Order 13350 of July 29, 2004, and Executive Order 13364 of November 29, 2004. I hereby order:

Section 1. (a) Except to the extent provided in section 203(b)(1), (3), and (4) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(1), (3), and (4)), or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the date of this order, all property and interests in property of the following persons, that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of United States persons, are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in: any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense,

(i) to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of:

(A) threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq; or

(B) undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people;

(ii) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, logistical, or technical support for, or goods or services in support of, such an act or acts of violence or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; or

(iii) to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.

(b) The prohibitions in subsection (a) of this section include, but are not limited to, (i) the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order, and (ii) the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.

Sec. 2. (a) Any transaction by a United States person or within the United States that evades or avoids, has the purpose of evading or avoiding, or attempts to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.

(b) Any conspiracy formed to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.

Sec. 3. For purposes of this order:

(a) the term "person" means an individual or entity;

(b) the term "entity" means a partnership, association, trust, joint venture, corporation, group, subgroup, or other organization; and

(c) the term "United States person" means any United States citizen, permanent resident alien, entity organized under the laws of the United States or any jurisdiction within the United States (including foreign branches), or any person in the United States.

Sec. 4. I hereby determine that the making of donations of the type specified in section 203(b)(2) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(2)) by, to, or for the benefit of, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order would seriously impair my ability to deal with the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 and expanded in Executive Order 13315, and I hereby prohibit such donations as provided by section 1 of this order.

Sec. 5. For those persons whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order who might have a constitutional presence in the United States, I find that, because of the ability to transfer funds or other assets instantaneously, prior notice to such persons of measures to be taken pursuant to this order would render these measures ineffectual. I therefore determine that for these measures to be effective in addressing the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 and expanded in Executive Order 13315, there need be no prior notice of a listing or determination made pursuant to section 1(a) of this order.

Sec. 6. The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, is hereby authorized to take such actions, including the promulgation of rules and regulations, and to employ all powers granted to the President by IEEPA as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of this order. The Secretary of the Treasury may redelegate any of these functions to other officers and agencies of the United States Government, consistent with applicable law. All agencies of the United States Government are hereby directed to take all appropriate measures within their authority to carry out the provisions of this order and, where appropriate, to advise the Secretary of the Treasury in a timely manner of the measures taken.

Sec. 7. Nothing in this order is intended to affect the continued effectiveness of any rules, regulations, orders, licenses, or other forms of administrative action issued, taken, or continued in effect heretofore or hereafter under 31 C.F.R. chapter V, except as expressly terminated, modified, or suspended by or pursuant to this order.

Sec. 8. This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right, benefit, or privilege, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, instrumentalities, or entities, its officers or employees, or any other person.



July 17, 2007.

An Arsenal of Argumentation  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in , ,

Creeping slowly backwards in time, the glaciers
attacked their ancient enemies, the mountains.

New Scientist magazine, while not the greatest thing on the planet, has put together a handy collection of questions and answers regarding climate change. They are here - Climate Change: A Guide for the Perplexed.

"A guide for the perplexed" is rather a fucking cool name for something, and has been used for everything from books on Levinas to ecology. However, it was originally come up with by a Rabbi named Maimonides. If you're interested, because of your nascent interest in the mystical philosophy of 12th century Judaic philosophical mystics, it is available online at Wikisource.

Anyway. If you want to skip straight to the 26 Myths of Climate Change, click hard like Rickard:

Human CO2 emissions are too tiny to matter

We can't do anything about climate change

The 'hockey stick' graph has been proven wrong

Chaotic systems are not predictable

We can't trust computer models of climate

They predicted global cooling in the 1970s

It's been far warmer in the past, what's the big deal?

It's too cold where I live - warming will be great

Global warming is down to the Sun, not humans

It’s all down to cosmic rays

CO2 isn't the most important greenhouse gas

The lower atmosphere is cooling, not warming

Antarctica is getting cooler, not warmer, disproving global warming

The oceans are cooling

The cooling after 1940 shows CO2 does not cause warming

It was warmer during the Medieval period, with vineyards in England

We are simply recovering from the Little Ice Age

Warming will cause an ice age in Europe

Ice cores show CO2 increases lag behind temperature rises, disproving the link to global warming

Ice cores show CO2 rising as temperatures fell

Mars and Pluto are warming too

Many leading scientists question climate change

It's all a conspiracy

Hurricane Katrina was caused by global warming

Higher CO2 levels will boost plant growth and food production

Polar bear numbers are increasing

I Didn't Draw This  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in , ,

(click to view properly)

Awesome blog/webcomic, and a tiny bit
fucking hilarious to boot: I Drew This

New Experiments in Fiction  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in

Last link for the day. Click above for a sweet webcomic thing.

Disney Animation Reuse  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in ,

Click picture for a neat collection of Disney scenes
recycled, sometimes years apart.

The World According to the US  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in

Click for a bigger version.
A bit more effort than the usual ones.

"Mankind has always dreamed of destroying the sun!"  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in ,

Experts will notice that I have merely brightly
coloured a photograph of a testicle.

First it was denial - that it wasn't happening, that the globe was cooling, in fact. Then that it might be happening, but wasn't caused by man. Then that it was happening, but was caused by... the sun. Yes, the sun. A recent documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle, makes the increasingly popular claim that it's not that we're keeping more heat in, it's just that more heat is arriving from the sun.

Well, that little notion has been cleaned up by the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and the World Radiation Centre:

They conclude that the rapid rise in global mean temperatures seen since the late 1980s could not be ascribed to solar variability, whatever mechanism is invoked.

The UK's Royal Society says the new research is an important rebuff to climate change sceptics.

"At present there is a small minority which is seeking to deliberately confuse the public on the causes of climate change. They are often misrepresenting the science, when the reality is that the evidence is getting stronger every day," it says.

As Leigh Dayton of The Australian reports, regarding the results of the study (published by the Royal Society soon), University of Melbourne climate scientist David Karoly commented: "These findings completely refute the allegations made by some pseudo-scientists that all recent global warming is due to solar effects."

The phenomenon of climate-change denial is fascinating and complex. It's not as simple as scientists being bankrolled by oil companies, though this certainly does happen. Spokespeople for organisations called things like the Institute for Honest and Truthful Science that Doesn't Lie tend to be publicity experts rather than science experts, though that doesn't stop them having a doctorate. And interestingly, we can thank tobacco companies for some of the larger wholescale misinformers. Organisations that began as official-sounding denial of passive smoking find new funders in ExxonMobil and the like, now denying anthropogenic (that's manmade, kids) climate change.

Concern about climate change has become identified with The Left, thanks partly to Al Gore (who passes for left-wing in American politics) and the left-leaning social and economic policies of environmentally concerned groups (like, say, the Greens). What this means is that the massive self-supporting propaganda structure of Blog Punditry swings into action to counter it.

I'm sure I've said this before, but I'll say it again. It means that those people who normally identify with The Right will consider changing their mind to be some kind of loss in a very important game. And so when a theory is put forward that offers a chance of not losing a point to the Enemy, it's leapt on. When, like this sun thing, it is debunked, either the debunking is ignored or some other theory is found - preferably unfalsifiable.

And so it goes on, playing games while the world burns.

For anyone confused about global politics  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in , ,

(hat tip)

Leaked Memo Reveals Reaction  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in ,

Michael Moore's new film, Sicko, has got private health providers talking, amongst themselves, at least. This leaked memo (PDF) is, if nothing else, an interesting glimpse into the workings of industries that find themselves in the documentarian spotlight. Naturally, the memo was leaked to Moore himself, who no doubt was delighted.

Interestingly, you might want to check out where www.sickomovie.com takes you. You'll never guess.

I'z up in ur memeplex... spreddin ur memez  

Posted by Ryan Sproull

Yes, that's right. It's lolpresidents. What of it.

Joincidence with a C  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in ,

Secret Lives  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in , , ,

Click on the picture for a photo essay
of urban youth under Mugabe's Zimbabwe.

The Flat World of Global Capitalism  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in , , ,

"Okay, wait. Yep, no. No, wait. Yep.
Yeah, we've made a mistake somewhere along the line."

You haven't heard of Stephen Marshall. You've seen his work, though, if you've seen Eminem's music video for White America. And if you dismiss Eminem out of hand, simply for being Eminem, I suggest you take a closer listen to his lyrics. Stephen Marshall is a founding member of the Guerilla News Network. In his latest book, Wolves in Sheep's Clothing, Marshall addresses the prophets of the profits, the popular ideological supporters of global free-market capitalism.

An except of the book, directed at Thomas Friedman, is available here. It's worth checking out, so again, click on these words to read it. Friedman's a veteran reporter and op-ed writer for the New York Times. He won a Pullitzer prize for his reporting of the 1982 Sabra-Shatila massacre in Lebanon, in which thousands of civilians were murdered by local militias with the knowledge and support of the Israeli Defence Force. Despite being considered by many (including Chomsky) to be an apologist for Zionism in general, the account - especially so soon after the event - included the most significant facts of the atrocity. Honestly, I'm not convinced he's as bad as some make him out to be - just professional, which perhaps is bad enough.

Friedman's latest book, The World is Flat, is a look at the progress of what's commonly called globalisation. It's been a Times bestseller for fucken ages. Marshall takes some effort to reply, "Sorry, Thomas Friedman. The world is round."

Hemingway Turns in his Grave  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in , ,

Sexologist Mariela Castro Espín, director of...

Now, hold on a goddam second. There's a sexology? Why wasn't I informed?

Mr Stick?! I thought you existed only in the realm that is my nightmare realm.

Thank you, Mr Stick! You are helpful in real life, instead of terrifying me with Lovecraftian images that haunt me for days.


Sexologist Mariela Castro Espín, director of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education, reckons that Cuba will soon have same-sex civil unions. Go, equality. Ka pai, Cuba.

Castro said the reform package also recognizes the rights of transgender persons, people who for various reasons identify with a gender identity that differs from their original physiological and psychological status. The law would give Cuban men and women the legal right to change their sex after a medical diagnosis. She said that sex-change operations, including hormonal treatments, are already being carried out in Cuba, and medical personnel are being trained to carry out such procedures.

Castro also mentioned that the Cuban government’s education ministries have already agreed to undertake efforts, through changes in the curriculum, to eliminate prejudice against gays, lesbians and transgender persons among young people.

US Bipartisan Op-Ed: Going Green is Profitable  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in

Congressmen Seeking Congressmen

Ignoring, for a moment, that they agree on practically everything, isn't it nice to see a Republican and a Democrat agreeing on something? Congressmen Roscoe Bartlett (R) and Tom Udall (D) have written a nice op-ed piece about how, you know, fuck saving the world, there's good money in ecological technology (or "teconology", as I don't call it).

On financial reward, for example, the American auto industry’s ranking as the world’s top manufacturer is slipping because apparently bigger is not better: the top selling hybrid is a Toyota, not a General Motors or a Ford. While the U.S. invested in gas guzzlers, Japan invested in energy efficiency. With gas at $3 to $4 per gallon, consumers made the switch and Toyota won out in the end. Lest that happen with other industries, America must wake up fast to the consumer trend towards energy-efficient, and thus cost-efficient, lifestyles. With oil prices on the rise, the money is in efficiency.

Giving Up  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in , ,

Vanilla Ice: Weapon of Mass Destruction?

So, on Friday, the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) was voted out of existence by the UN Security Council. The vote was 14-0, with Russia abstaining, using the opportunity to snipe at the US, saying it wasn't up to the UK and US to decide when the job was done.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad was asked whether he would credit the team for its work and for having what turned out to be better intelligence about Hussein's weapons capabilities than did the U.S. and Britain.

"That is something that historians will have to work with," Khalilzad said.

How far we've come. I wonder how many Americans today, especially the younger adults, recall that the whole invasion of Iraq was originally in order to disarm Saddam of WMD that the US couldn't convince the UN he had.

The Death of Farfur  

Posted by Ryan Sproull in ,

Farfur, the Palestinian Mickey Mouse-alike that recently began appearing on a children's TV show on al-Aqsa TV, has been killed off after only five episodes. A source of controversy from the start, Farfur ("Butterfly") has been accused of inciting anti-Semitism in Palestinian children. Of course, we're relying on translators to tell us what's being said.

I love that. This idea that, while Israel illegally annexes yet more land, bulldozing Palestinian farms and houses to do so, it's a TV show that's causing anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli sentiment in Palestinian children. Anyway, check out the clip above. It is pretty worrying. The kid hosting the show, Saraa, looks like she's on sedatives. In general, the show is almost as blatantly anti-Semitic as The Smurfs was.¹

¹ - I maintain that The Smurfs was very anti-Semitic, and am here making a joke, as it is very obvious how racist Farfur is.