Lyndon Hood, Otago-ean, Wellington

Monday, February 27, 2006

Why did we never think of this before?

Navy to seek proposals for disposal of Canterbury

Lyndon Hood - Go-Passer, Lower Hutt

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Of course, some of the other rehabilitation programmes actually have bloody good results. Check out the sex offenders programme Kia Marama, for example - its relative effect on the relapse rate is in the same league as Herceptin (more cheerleading here).

In fact, the biggest problem with the intensive, in-prison rehabilitation programmes is that there aren't enough of them. Much like employment or vocational programmes. Or re-integration ones.

You can't say rehabilitation is a failed experiment if it hasn't been tried.

Even professional corrections-apocalypse-trumpeter Simon Power - despite the tendency of his rhetoric and his attempt to link it with an exaggerated version of a release plan Damien O'Connor says he doesn't have - is careful to consistently refer to some programmes (about two, isn't it?) being the Spawn of Satan.

So Tariana Turia can, in this instance, sod off. Not that she doesn't have a point about re-integration, but "a peculiar feature of our prison system is the dominance of psychologists in treatment programmes"? Who does she expect to do the psychological treatment? Boilermakers? Maori Party Co-Leaders?

Perhaps, at any rate, someone who knows what they're talking about. Not only does Turia clearly not understand the jargon she's making fun of, but the things she's complaining about are the ones run by the psychological amateurs.

If a problem that has (apparently) already been recognised and is (apparently) being fixed becomes an excuse to abandon stuff that actually works, well, I guess we'll just have to hope that lifetime criminals locked up with lifetime criminals somehow spontaneous develop not just the will but the empathy and skills needed to go straight.

Or, as the only other thing we could do for the reoffending rate, keep the minor criminals the hell away from prison.

On the other hand, if you want to mock justice system bureaucrats, you can try this...

On restorative justice conferences' positive impact on reoffending: "While the difference was not statistically significant, the decrease appeared to be real."

In other words, we can't say it wasn't blind luck, but we'll put out a press release just for the headline.

Victims seem to like it though:

"The majority of victims, 87%, who participated in a restorative justice conference reported a positive experience and 68% said they would attend one again."

Not, I'm guessing, if it meant being re-victimised. They probably didn't mean that.

Disclosure: There is a personal connection here. Does it show?

Newer-than-any-other Hood: Rage Over Round-Ended Egg Opening Escalates

How-could-bloggage-be-any-lighter-news: I'm currently runningScoop's coverage of the arts festivals. Busy.

Hamish McKenzie - j-schooler, Ontario

Dead-eyed Dick

Despite the obvious humour value of the Vice President of the United States shooting his 78-year-old GOP fundraising buddy, I've pretty much dismissed Quailgate as nothing more than a lark in the park.

Some have tried to make an issue out of Cheney's and the White House's reticence in reporting the issue to the public -- but, really, why do we care so much?

Seriously, why is this so much in the public interest? It's definitely interesting insofar as it is undeniably hilarious (only so because the victim seems like he's going to pull through), but it's not like Cheney's mishap has dire social, economic, or political implications.

Sure, it does show Cheney to be a buffoon -- but we already knew that. And, seriously, he's at least partially responsible for the death and torture of many more thousands. So why do we care all of a sudden if he sprays his pellets in his friend's face?

Where it could become much more of a political embarrassment, however, is if the official version of events is proven to be a fraud. Americans seem to care a lot more about this incident than anything happening over in Iraqistan, or whatever it's called, so if the administration is shown to be lying about this one, perhaps Americans could believe it is capable of lying about other less important issues -- like the tortures at Abu Ghraib.

But of course, Cheney and the White House have come clean on this, haven't they? It was just a straight accident, nothing to be done about it. Cheney wasn't to blame. After all, ol' buddy Harry does look remarkably quail-like.

Or are there holes in the story?

Hamish McKenzie - journalism student, London, Ontario

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Chinese checkers

As a wannabe journalist about to relocate to a Chinese administrative region, I probably find this story about press freedom in China more interesting than most.

But the letter from prominent past officials and academics exhorting the Chinese authorities to loosen their censoring grips is of major significance; important to freedom of speech in China, important to political development in the country, and therefore another important step in China's seemingly inexorable march towards global superpowerdom. (As a qualified blogger, I reserve the right to make up words.)

The odd thing is, the letter -- which calls on China to "demolish every method of news censorship" -- is signed by former propagandists. It's kinda like the equivalent of a future Scott McLellan writing to a Republican administration urging them to stop lying and avoiding sticky questions at White House press conferences.

Go figure.

Hamish McKenzie - blogger, London, Ontario

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Entering the Frey

If you haven't heard of the James Frey scandal, you probably haven't heard of Oprah. In which case, you're very lucky.

So, for those of you who don't know about the James Frey controversy, here it is in a nutshell: Frey writes faux memoir trumping up a bad-boy past. Frey is later revealed to be a liar (see link above). Oprah, who endorsed his book with her 'Oprah Book Club' seal of approval, confronts Frey on her show. He admits to being naughty. Oprah is indignant.

And, for thos of you don't know about Oprah, here she is in a nutshell: Gregarious female talkshow host. Once embraced Michael Jackson (she's the one on the left. I think).

Why am I talking about these relatively unimportant wowsers? Well, mainly just to point out that it was my old university writing teacher who first revealed Frey to be a snivelling privileged rich-kid liar.

John Dolan, co-editor of Moscow's wonderfully loose-cannon exile magazine, details his role in Frey's downfall in typcially scathing exilian language here.

Dolan's original review of A Million Little Pieces, aptly titled "A Million Pieces of Shit," in which he opens with the line "This is the worst thing I've ever read" can be found here.

And now, I'm sorry to be rude, but I have to abruptly end this post because I am being summonsed to drink. And drink I shall.

Hamish McKenzie - here, London, Ontario

Friday, February 10, 2006

Here's some distraction, brought to you without links, without scruples, and totally without underpants.

No, I am wearing underpants. It's minus 5 degrees with snow on the ground and icicles on the roof. I wouldn't dare subject my nether-babies to that. That would be child abuse. Abuse, that is, of very small children. Barely detectable children.

But, before you continue reading, how about giving me a job? Preferably in Hong Kong, 'cos that's where I'm going next. Granted, I am not a real journalist, but I can dance for money. I look stupid doing it, but that's the entertaining part. I'm sure my dancing will be much sought after in Hong Kong, but I don't want to risk turning up there sans employment. So far, looking at my bank account, I have enough money to survive for about three days in the Special Administrative Region. And really, to be honest with you, I owe that money back to the Canadian government.

Remind me to edit out this shit later.

Some topical comments on major happenings from the past week.

The Mohammed cartoons

The protesters were right to burn down the Danish embassies in Syria and Lebanon. It's about time someone alerted us to the fact that countries need to start taking responsibility for their offensive cartoonists. For too long, cartoonists have been allowed safe haven in countries not willing to accept that they helped cultivate some of the world's most reprehensible doodlers and sketch artists. (I'm just waiting for the day someone sets fire to the Beehive in protest of Garrick Tremain.)

I too am outraged at the Danish cartoonist's rough impression of the prophet. Mainly because it wasn't in the least bit funny. And I too would have rioted, if it weren't for the fact I would have looked a little odd rampaging alone down the main street in London, Ontario with a large placard reading:

Slow painful death -- preferably by asphyxiation or stab wound to the stomach -- to the offending but as yet unidentified Danish cartoonist who responded to a right-wing Dutch newspaper's call for depictions of Mohammed by drawing a dude with a turban-bomb!

Mind you, maybe the protesters did over-react after all. I mean, a poor sense of humour shouldn't necessarily cost lives, as happened in the Afghan riots. Perhaps the protesters would have been better drawing their own cartoons to illustrate their point.

Bad pun intended. In fact, I constructed that whole paragraph around it.

The Winter Olympics

They're starting in Italy this week.

You think I'm joking, don't you?

No, seriously, they are. Canadians actually care about them. I saw it on telly.

Amazing survival at sea story

But really, would he have made the news if he wasn't Norm Hewitt's brother?

I just hope no-one sees fit to make it into a movie. I've seen Open Water.

The Whig's not-at-all-petty-and-immature squabbles with various non-love interests and friends

One of the most captivating sagas in the New Zealand blogosphere -- nay, make that the whole Internet -- this financial year. Love, loss, ecstacy, rejection, heartache, humiliation and ewwwww-you-are! get-you-backs. Brilliant stuff. But, my word, isn't that handsome young right-winger Blair Mulholland successful with the ladies? I'm sure he, like, totally didn't need that maybe-good-for-nothing Annika person and he's not going to let nuthin' get in the way of him getting on with his life. You go girlfriend! I mean, boyfriend! I mean, ah, um, uhhhh. Well, actually, no -- just go.

Lyndon Hood - Pontificating Moralist, Lower Hutt

Monday, February 06, 2006

Periodically I draft out a post about some issue of the moment then go off and have a life or whatever for a while - by the time I come back it's too late. Looks like this cartoon thing isn't going away though.

I wanted to concentrate on the New Zealand side, because I may have some kind of handle on it. The rest of the world is clearly insane, and the post is too long anyway. It's not as if Russell is not there for you.

Much of my opinion could be summarised as 'go the Herald', but I do have something to add, unless it's come up in the blogs I haven't been reading over the weekend. That right! I didn't read your blog! Anyway, skip to the end if that's all you're interested in.

[For the record, the note about Hard News was added shortly after posting. SO I hadn't read your blog either, Brown. It also transpires I don't really have anything to add. The post, however, remains.]

It is about freedom of speech. Of course it is. People have a right to say, and newspapers to publish, whatever they want, without fear of state censure, international sanctions, rioting or death threats. Citizens of some states are even lucky enough to have this right enshrined to some extent in law, which is highly beneficial for the state concerned.

This of course includes the right to be offensive, even in the highest degree - otherwise there is no protection at all. Offensive speech is the only kind anyone tries to ban.

We may not be able to do anything about the way other states treat their citizens but we cannot, indeed, back down on this on our own homeboy turf.

Okay? Good.

It's also about editorial ethics.

Just because people should be allowed to publish highly offensive images does not oblige you to republish them.

Particularly when there's more of a sense that you're republishing not for informational purposes (like the unfortunate editor who lost his job in Lebanon) but because you can - in fact, publishing something simply because its publication made people really, really, mad - this is not, to my mind, good citizenship.

The London Times Diplomatic editor (from memory): "Publishing something that causes a huge row is unfortunate. Publishing something after it's caused a huge row is like poking someone in the eye with a stick ..."

Because of fundamental freedoms alluded to above, newspapers only have to - should only have to - answer only to their consciences and any voluntary organisations they belong to. And to their readers, who can often provide more of an immediate incentive for good behaviour.

And possibly the God of choice. But as far as I've noticed the burning death that rained down from the sky on various media organisations in the last decade or so did not come direct from any deity.

Anyway, when various Government representatives coem out against the republishing of the cartoons - and we do, for example, have hostage issues where the respect New Zealand might have for Islam is relevant - than can only express annoyance in the same way that anyone else can. Of course, when the talk about the damage in dollar terms they don't exactly sound like they're arguing a moral point.

I do have sympathy with running the cartoons as a way of indicating in the clearest terms that you will not be bullied. Or just a gesture of solidarity. But publishing something that you would not otherwise have touched with a barge poll seems an odd way to defend freedom of speech. And it's not helping.

Certain bloggers' reaction to the problem has been to keep on poking. In some cases with a sharper stick. David Farrar managed to add insult to two different kinds of blasphemy and religious libel by saying that the 'bomb' cartoon isn't all that offensive - a claim that does rather fly in the face of the empirical evidence.

But blogs individual things. They are not typically taken to reflect the zeitgeist or be the journal of record in the way newspapers are.

There have been calls (UN, RSF, IFJ) for dialogue. Which is, where both sides listen. What we have had is two contradictory - actaully antagonisitc - positions. I am of course ignoring how they got that way. And I do believe one should be able to safely mock religion. But, looking back, would you rather say you sat there and trumpeted how right you were, or that you helped clean up the mess?

The Christian world got as tolentant as it is, I suppose, through a long history of being poked in the eye with a sharp stick. Few supporters of free speech will deny that being poked is a good thing. But the poking, if I might strain this metaphor beyond breaking point, was done from the inside.

Insensitive pontification from New Zealand newspapers may well be conterproductive in the struggle to liberalise the Muslim world. Not that there is a coherent entity called the Muslim world.

The End Bit

Anyway, what started me off was the urge to supply people trumpting our own tolerance of religious dissent with a talking point. Either for or against, I'm not sure which.

Aside, that is, from the point that No Right Turn makes (with a kind of well-meaning and highly valid inevitablity): in terms of legislation and case law, one could be prosecuted for religious libel if you said the same thing about Christianity. And given that someone is being prosecuted for sedition it could happen.

Not that I don't remember the Virgin in a Condom. And apparently, not having a tele, I missed Popetown.

I also recall that slightly before my time at Otago University there was a capping show cartoon poster combining imagery from all the popular stage musicals. It included a picture of a cat nailed to a cross. Caused a bit of a stir, but that's not what I wanted to talk about either.

I actually wanted to remind everyone about Malcom Evans.

In 2003, Evans was sacked as editorial cartoonist at the Herald (the same Herald that so pointedly not publishing the Prophet series, also the same Herald that weathered the storm over publishing Thomas Fudge's defense of Joel Hayward's thesis). Depending on who you talk to he was fired either for some quite powerful cartoons about Israel that some (some Jewish groups, for example) saw as anti-Jewish, or for some procedural weirdness which was part of the same saga. Evans said the Herald tried to stop him drawing cartoons about Israel. The Herald denied this (One News Report,Mediawatch interview). Apparently Eating Media Lunch showed there was no Zionist conspiracy at work (end of this Listener article). What they found, Google has yet to tell me.

Of particular note (leading to an apology), a response to some particular legal segregation of Palestinians had a ruined wall with "APARTHEID" written on it with a Star of David for the second "A".

As it happens, he was attacking the actions of Israel using a symbol of Judaism (and of Israel - see the flag). If he had been just accusing Judaism of being a racist religion - had been entirely clear that that was what he was doing - then that would be more like the 'bomb' cartoon in the current controversy. Except a somewhat less criminal pan-religious accusation and not so very blasphemous.

One imagines, in a case like that, the consequences for the cartoonist and possibly editor that let it pass might have been more severe.

So, without actually endorsing Evan's side of the story - interesting, eh?

Lyndon Hood - Peeved, Lower Hutt

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A Few Thoughts

Gah! Aggh! Grr!

And so on.

I didn't actually expect, and I do not like.

Funny, I can't seem to find my copy. No, seriously.

Which is why I can't tell you if Hasting's description of this profiled porn merchant (Where did that come from anyway?) in the next article, whoever he is, is a bit extreme. 'Unicritical'? Not according to someone I know who actually remembers. 'Sarcastic', possibly? Note to self: readers cannot be trusted to work out when someone is a seedy bastard merely by description. Always include sentence along lines of "Remember kids, masterminding the flying of full jet airliners into the side of office buildings is wrong".

I actually found the whole press release kind of weird. I'd have expect something more like the Commerce Commission's work - saying what the ruling is, summarising reasons, etc. Here's Chief Censor Bill Hastings providing quotes. Makes him look keen, but. Also seems more like an endictment than a judgment.

Which goes to show how subjective the interpretation of the tone of piece of writing is.

In his favour, it's quite possible that the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards is more annoyed with Bill Hastings than I am.

Me, I'm cautiously for banning anything solely there to feed inhuman sexual fantasies. Anything else I'll have to think about.

Vouching for the intentions of those involved - that it was meant to raise awareness. And critically, it did. Because it was provocative. I worked at Critic when we published I think more than one straight article about drug rape to absolutely stuff all response.

Also, that it was not meant to be funny.

Not that it doesn't do people good just purely to be offended every once in a while. Keeps the intellect from stagnation. Note that offensiveness it not, per se, censorable.

From a note on Farrar - just because someone was getting confused:
Offensiveness is not a criteria in the law for banning stuff and it hasn't been cited here. The question is whether it's "injurious to the public good". It does get more specific than that. See http://www.censorship.govt.nz/censorship_law.html

A lot of people consider the high court ruling about those anti-gay videos to have specifically made the point that being offensive is in no way ground for being objectionable (and to have smacked down the censor acting different). Protection of offensive speech is in fact what protection of free speech is all about.

That said, the regime as it is does still fall prey to the slippery slope thing (it is expanding is some shifty-looking ways)and the question of how much good it does in the first place.

Here's the Stuff article, complete with the effusive praise recieved by Critic on winning last years ASPA awards.

It's only just occured to me how elusive the critical question of fact - whether a particular publication actually is "injurious to the public good" - can be. Given that its effect arises from the nexus of the actual content, its surface meaning, its percieved attitude, its audience and its social and historical context... I don't actually know what they use for a standard of proof, but it's a wonder the Censor's Office makes any decisions at all. And this - it's not like this is one of those non-murky cases. Give a magazine a break!*

I probably know enough to write some notes on legal issues for NZ bloggers. Now would probably be an apposite time. Plus we can talk more about the whole censorship project. Y'know, as if we can't think for ourselves. And how much longer your mum'll be allowed those naked toddler photos in your family album. Something to look forward to.

*Update (8:00am, 2/2) - On Nat Rad (no doubt up on the website soon) I discover that the submitters included Greg Newbold - like, an actual criminologist. As in, someone who might know. Submitting in favour of Critic. Though he did accept the Censors had some 'strong arguments'.

Another One: Remember what I said about the Society For Promotion Of Community Standards?
SPCS Critical of Censor's double standards over Rape Publications

Hamish McKenzie - shivering, London, Ontario

Is it illegal to have a copy of a magazine in Canada that's banned in NZ?

Not that I have one. I'm just interested. You know, hypothetically.

In the meantime, it's lovely that Critic is finally getting the recognition it deserves after its superb showing at this year's ASPA Awards. It is rather a pity, though, that the Classification Office should see fit to ban one of the magazine's best issues.

What a claim to fame though, eh? I wonder what the last magazine banned in NZ was: Wishart's Investigate? Maxim's Evidence? A magazine of bullets? All worthy candidates.

But seriously. We all know the power of the student magazine. And we all know we should fear it.

I'm going to go hide under my bed.

Lyndon Hood - Criminal, Wellington