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INVESTIGATE April 2010: UN Global Governance  •  Mr Big  •  The Dawkins Delusion

Helen’s Happy Place THE UN UNVEILS ITS STRATEGY FOR GLOBAL GOVERNMENT BY 2012

Mr Big

The Criminal Doing Big Business With Chrisco Boss

The Dawkins Delusion Why Richard Dawkins is utterly wrong

Meat Loaf’s Meltdown The interview that riled the rocker

Issue 111

$8.30 April 2010


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CONTENTS Volume 10, Issue 111, ISSN 1175-1290

F  EATURES

26

Mr Big Does Chrisco

What does a convicted German fraudster, computer hacker, inside trader, embezzler and porn entrepreneur have to do with Chrisco? Well, he’s signed a deal to buy the Chrisco Mansion, but based on our special investigation we don’t think he’ll be allowed to live there. IAN WISHART has the exclusive story

2012: Global Government?

A Foot In The Grave

Meat Loaf’s Meltdown

The Dawkins Delusion

The ancient Mayans thought 2012 marked the end of the world, but maybe it’s just the end of the world as we know it. Newly released UN documents show plans for a global governance structure are set to be signed off in 2012. IAN WISHART reports

They’re calling the late Michael Foot one of Britain’s political heroes, but HAL G. P. COLEBATCH has a very different view

You can’t keep an old bat down, but you can find him grumpy if TV3 have just wound him up. IAN WISHART talks to Meat Loaf about his new album

34

Richard Dawkins’ grand tour of Australia and New Zealand was a roaring success, except for one inconvenient detail. IAN WISHART explains where Dawkins has got it wrong

52

Nature Unleashed

Photos of the Chile earthquake aftermath and the terrible storm damage in Europe

Cover: UPI

38

46


EDITORIAL & OPINION

16

70

Focal Point Editorial

Vox-Populi The roar of the crowd

Simply Devine

Miranda Devine on Lara Bingle

Mark Steyn

Is this what happened to NZ?

Eyes Right

Richard Prosser on matching Australia

18

Line 1

Chris Carter on youth driving

Contra Mundum

Matt Flannagan on slavery

L  IFESTYLE Poetry

68

Amy Brooke’s poem of the month

Money

Peter Hensley on the next Crash

Education

Amy Brooke on the new savages

Science

Shark vs Squid

Technology

TomTom GO 950 GPS

Sport

Chris Forster on the Phoenix

22

Health

Claire Francis on 3D vision

Alt.Health Science fraud

Pages

Michael Morrissey’s autumn reads

Music

Chris Philpott’s CD reviews

Travel

Movies

Food

Cutting Room

Caribbean getaway James Morrow on spaghetti

Films to avoid ABBA in rock Hall of Fame

Chief Executive Officer Heidi Wishart | Group Managing Editor Ian Wishart | NZ EDITION Advertising 09 373-3676, sales@investigatemagazine.com |  Contributing Writers: Hal Colebatch, Amy Brooke, Chris Forster, Peter Hensley, Chris Carter, Mark Steyn, Chris Philpott, Michael Morrissey, Miranda Devine, Richard Prosser, Claire Morrow, James Morrow, Len Restall, Laura Wilson, and the worldwide resources of MCTribune Group, UPI and Newscom | Art Direction Heidi Wishart | Design & Layout Bozidar Jokanovic | Tel: +64 9 373 3676 | Fax: +64 9 373 3667 | Investigate Magazine, PO Box 188, Kaukapakapa, Auckland 0843, NEW ZEALAND | AUSTRALIAN EDITION Editor Ian Wishart | Advertising sales@investigatemagazine.com | Tel/Fax: 1-800 123 983 |  SUBSCRIPTIONS – Online: www.investigatemagazine.com By Phone: Australia – 1-800 123 983, NZ – 09 373 3676 By Post: To the PO Box NZ Edition: $85; AU Edition: A$96 EMAIL: editorial@investigatemagazine.com, ian@investigatemagazine.com, australia@investigatemagazine.com, sales@investigatemagazine.com, helpdesk@investigatemagazine.tv All content in this magazine is copyright, and may not be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the publisher. The opinions of advertisers or contributors are not necessarily those of the magazine, and no liability is accepted. We take no responsibility for unsolicited material sent to us. Please enclose a stamped, SAE envelope. Inquiries in the first instance should be made via email or fax. Investigate magazine Australasia is published by HATM Magazines Ltd


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FOCAL POINT

Editorial

The problem with shysters YOU’VE GOT TO HAND IT TO RICHARD DAWKINS, HE

knows how to pull a crowd. After a lightning visit to New Zealand as a side leg of his Australian tour, the world’s best known atheist was back in Oz telling jokes at the expense of religions everywhere. Except, of course, with Dawkins it is mostly smoke and mirrors. After initially agreeing to make himself available for a radio debate in studio, he pulled out when organisers mentioned my name. Pushed for time or something. You see, the problem for Dawkins is that whilst it’s easy to poke fun in front of your mates at the majority of the world who believe in God, it’s actually not quite as easy to explain away the unanswered questions about origins. Those questions I threw into the RichardDawkins.net forum when The Divinity Code was first published, and ultimately they stayed unanswered. Three years later, Dawkins still has no answers. It’s not good enough to simply wave your hand with a cheeky grin and say it’s merely an “astonishing stroke of luck” that we happen to live in the only universe capable of supporting life. Dawkins is a scientist. He is supposed to follow the scientific method requiring proof, rather than guesses. What proof does he have that there are a billion other universes? None. In terms of scientific evidence we only have proof of one universe and we’re in it. Appealing to multiple universes is like appealing to the existence of fairies, something that Dawkins accuses everyone else of indulging in. I’m reminded of a biblical passage along the lines of, “Before castigating your brother for the speck of pixie dust in his eye, first remove the entire pixie from your own.” Dawkins then tries to argue his way out of 6  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

a whole by saying that just because he can’t explain the Big Bang or the existence of life doesn’t mean God did it, because a God capable of such feats would have to be “at least as complicated and at least as implausible” as the situations he is claimed to be responsible for. But again, what would Dawkins know? He claims not to believe in gods, or fairies, but is apparently a self-appointed expert in their complexities. Classic. Speaking of shysters, the fascinating tale of Kim Schmitz, a convicted German fraudster, dominates the first few pages of this issue of Investigate. Schmitz, or “Kim Tim Jim Vestor” as he has passed himself off to authorities in this country, turns out to be the mystery buyer of New Zealand’s most expensive house,

the $30 to $35 million Chrisco mansion just north of Auckland. If I were Richard and Ruth Bradley, the Chrisco millionaires selling the real estate, I’d be very worried right about now, wondering a) whether Schmitz/Vestor has the money for the deal, and b) whether given his extensive criminal record he will actually be allowed to reside in New Zealand. Investigate searched company records and databases across Asia and Europe to build a picture of the con-man who managed to ink a deal on the country’s most illustrious house. Fascinating stuff. Enjoy this month’s issue.


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VOX POPULI

Communiques The roar of the crowd

Nanny state continues under Nats

Your Investigate magazine is in the forefront of efforts to expose the erosion of civil liberties and individual freedoms both here and overseas. Your March copy dealt with the green police, the erosion of community standards by media, the undermining of Christian churches, the indoctrination of the children in schools by and I quote “our neoMarxist controlled education ministry” and many other issues. One thing you do not cover is the erosion of individual property rights under the Resource Management Act. In our area, the Horowhenua, we have seen two thirds of the district brought under bureaucratic control by the Horowhenua District council. These controls will see many normal farming operations subject to consents, the starting cost of which will be $500. There will be a significant slowing of farming development within the district. This is all done under Plan Change 22 Outstanding Natural Features and Landscapes. The intention is to not only control all farming activity within two thirds of the district but to regulate the design and even colour of buildings erected in the designated areas. Horizons, which is the regional authority covering our area, has introduced regulation which will not only control further development within the region but will even reduce farm production and income by a third in the targeted catchments. This at a time when New Zealand needs every overseas dollar that it can get. We as a nation are drowning in overseas debt. We collectively owe the equivalent of our gross domestic product to overseas lenders ($175 billion). The most dangerous aspect of the regulations will be the need to get a consent to farm. This nationalises the land. The Resource Management Act, with the stroke 8  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

of a pen, overturned our ancient constitution (inherited from Britain) dating back to the Magna Carta. And I believe it is deliberate. Just as it is necessary to undermine the family (the nuclear family is the basis of the exploitative capitalist system); just as it is necessary to undermine the value system which has made us great (Christianity); so too is it necessary to undermine our system of individual ownership of businesses and land. Small business owners and farmers constitute the Yeoman class. These people are very active in local organisations and local body politics. The Yeoman class is the greatest hindrance to the dictatorship of the proletariat. To get back to regional and local governance the bureaucratic impositions being imposed on our local farmers shows quite clearly that the ideas of the prophet Karl Marx and his disciples, Stalin and Chairman Mao are well entrenched in the ethos of the local bodies of Aotearoa. This Draconian, communistic encroachment on individual rights and freedoms, if allowed to continue unabated, will lead to, as Winston Churchill put it ‘an end of our free ancient constitution and we will come down to the level of those unhappy countries where the ordinary people are simply the pawns and slaves of the government and of the gang who are in the swim’. Bill Huzziff, Horowhenua

Air Con a chilling story

Thank you, thank you for writing Air Con – at last a voice of reason. Wonderfully and clearly written for non-scientifics and a book that should be left in all corners of the globe. Having returned yesterday to the UK from a holiday we are met by the news from the the ‘Met Office’ saying: “... man-made greenhouse gas emissions are very likely to be the cause. Long-term changes in our cli-

mate system have been observed across the globe, from shifts in rainfall patterns to a decline in Arctic sea-ice. The changes follow the pattern of expected climate change and bear the ‘fingerprint’ of human influence, providing the clearest evidence yet that human activity is impacting our climate.” Today they have put this out: “long range forecasts... limited use to the public – for example they are not something that could be used to plan a holiday. In our customer research the public have told us they would like a monthly outlook. We have therefore decided to stop issuing a UK ‘seasonal forecast’ four times a year. Instead, we will now publish a monthly outlook, updated on a weekly basis.” What does this mean? If you can’t plan a holiday, how can you plan for the next millennia? Ah, but if you work at the Met Office I think you call it “feathering the nest” and “riding the Gravy Train”. Yours in total admiration for your book and your diligent journalism and clarity of your prose. Sally Louis, United Kingdom

Smith’s dream

I am writing to say that in a letter dated February 25, 2010, Climate Change Minister, Dr Nick Smith stated, “I am advised there is a clear link between human activities and the amount of carbon dioxide in the air.” I wish to suggest, with respect, that this advice is wrong. I also have been reading about Global Warming/Climate change, and have concluded that the evidence shows that Global Warming is NOT happening and Climate Change has always happened through history and is not primarily caused by mankind. With the greatest respect, I suggest Dr Smith has been misled by self confessed dishonest global warming scientists, paid big


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money by political and big business interests to continue the biggest fraud the world has ever seen. They have now been caught red handed (Climategate emails) discussing “tricks” they could use to hide the worldwide “temperature decline”, and stacking their peer review process to deliberately distort information. Then there is the Himalayan glacier melt debacle, where a little known Indian scientist authored article (“purely speculating, and with no evidence at all,” he said), was plucked from a magazine, obliviously not peer-reviewed or checked, and put into the 2007 IPCC report that sent 15,000 people and 140 private jets, rushing to Copenhagen. Has the world gone completely mad? Is it wise to support a scam designed mainly to make millions for IPCC chairman Pachauri, Al Gore, et al, starve people in the Third World, and reduce our economy to that of Cambodia? A quote from New Scientist magazine – “Carbon trading won’t do a darn thing for climate change, but will make a lot of money for a lot of people.” A short history lesson – 2000 years ago the Britons grew vineyards in the far north of England. We know because the Romans collected a grape tax from them. Fact 1 – The world warmed up 2000 years ago and then cooled again. Fact 2 – 1000 years ago the world warmed again and was a very much warmer than today – the Norwegians has a large sheep and cattle farming colony (including 300 towns) on green hills in Southern Greenland. Fact, because it is part of their recorded history, and the farms are still there, under the ice, which has only been there (according to Norwegian history) 500 – 600 years. The Greenhouse gases are made up of Water vapour (95%), CO2 (less than 4%), Methane and other gases (less than 1.5%). The man-made contribution to these greenhouse gases is about one quarter of one percent. They say that mankind changes the climate with this minuscule contribution? Nonsense! The theory of Global Warming seems to reappear in history in various guises. It has a curious history, dating back to the French mathematician Joseph Fourier who first postulated a terrestrial greenhouse in the early nineteenth century. Yet science has flip-flopped five times on the issue since the beginning of the twentieth century as scientists and the media proclaimed approaching climate doom – first by global cooling, then global warming, then

global cooling and so on until today when we are back to warming. The history of science is littered with the carcasses of dead theories, killed off by individuals who assaulted the scientific “consensus.” Since when has scientific truth been done by consensus or a show of hands? Science is the systematic knowledge of Nature through unbiased observation and experimentation. So why is the term “consensus” applied to the science of Global Warming or Climate Change? Someone’s been telling outright lies to scare politicians into introducing Draconian and expensive carbon laws, and this is just the tip of the iceberg! Kerry Sharp, Palmerston North

Candid carriers

It’s just great. We pass a law forbidding phone calls while driving a car then get truckers to become photographers, taking photos and videos while driving “truck-andtrailor units”. Peter Parr, Christchurch

Confirmed: man as old as coal

In the January issue of Investigate, evolutionist Warwick Don said “evolution would be falsified if even one out of sequence fossil were ever found in the fossil record, e.g. a fossil ‘human’ in the Carboniferous… No such anachronistic fossils have ever been found.” Don theorises that life forms evolved from simple to complex, ending in man. But what if human remains were to turn up in the “oldest” strata? Would that mean that man was here at the beginning of life on earth? Oh bother! A fossil human skull has been found in Carboniferous strata near Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania. Specimens of this skull were taken by Chinese scientist Lin Liangtai first to the geology department of National Taiwan University. Then also, on March 28, 2008, this fossil was scanned by the Computed Tomography system of Alberta Research Council in Canada. This fossil and more than 20 others from the same Carboniferous strata have been thin sectioned and more than 1,000 microscopic pictures taken. Examinations have been made not only through a stereo-microscope, but also through a digital microscope, a transmitted-light microscope and a scanning electron microscope. Liangtai first asked, Is this a rock or a fossil?

10  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April February 20102010

The examining scientist noted, for a start, that its computed-tomography images don’t look like any rock. Images of the object show numerous remains of (1) bone cells (osteocytes); (2) branching blood vessel remains, Haversian canals and osteons; (3) transverse section remains of blood vessels; (4) red blood cells; (5) degraded remains of neurons, neuroglial cells and nerve fibres; (6) muscle fibres; (7) various fossilized tissues. It contains fossilized nerve cells, dendrites and somas of brain cells, that exist only in the central nervous system and which are not found in any organ except in brains. The remains point to a calvarium fossil that once contained brain tissue. The blood vessels in the brain have carbonized into shiny bituminous coal/anthracite. No rocks or plants contain all at the same time the remains of neurons, neuroglial cells, bone cells, red blood cells, Haversian canals, osteons and blood vessels. Pictures of the other Carboniferous fossils likewise show Haversian canals and osteons, which are distinguishing features of fossil bone micro-structures. They include organs such as human liver, fingers, penises, testes, kidneys, limb, etc. Liangtai’s next question was, Is this animal or human? All crania have different, distinctive shapes among different orders of animal. Human skull caps have a unique shape from mammalian skull caps. The skull’s inner cavity has a capacity of 1,025 c.c.- 1,665 c.c. The No. 1 distinction of human skulls lies in their large cranial capacity. No animal has a skull that remotely matches human skulls in cranial capacity, cranial shape and cranial size. The analysis shows that this subject fossil matches human skull caps in cranial size, cranial capacity, and cranial shape. Thus, it can be identified as a human calvarium fossil by forensic experts on human skulls. One such expert is Mr Wilton Krogman, who has physically examined the fossil and confirmed it to be a human calvarium fossil. Liangtai finally asked, Is it carboniferous or modern? Portions of the fossil, including some of the fossil’s blood vessels have turned into coal. The skull was discovered near Mahanoy


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they have not sought truth about man’s origin and ancestry, but have gone along with a colossal lie to protect their vested interests. Surely this requires a no nonsense, “look in the mirror with new honesty” approach. And when one who is honestly mistaken hears the truth, he will either quit being mistaken or cease to be honest. Jonathan Gray, Thames info@archaeologyanswers.com A detailed report can be seen at http://www. photokb.com/Uwe/Forum.aspx/photography/9795/TESTING-CONFIRMS-MANINDEED-AS-OLD-AS-COAL-Lin-Liangtai-of http://www.edconrad.com/ug/index.html

POETRY

Is it poetry? Then send submissions to Poetry Editor Amy Brooke : amy@investigatemagazine.tv

Romeo’s Reprise So where are you going to go, Romeo, hand in hand with sweet, fresh Juliet?

City between the coal veins. The Pennsylvania state government’s geological unit has confirmed in writing to Lin Liangtai that fossils found near Mahanoy City are all 305 (+/- 7) million years old. For over 27 years, the owner of the fossils, Ed Conrad, has attested many times that all his fossils were found between coal veins near Shenandoah and Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania. That is in the anthracite region, the only one in the U.S. proper. It’s a most-studied geological area of the Carboniferous age. That is to say any animal fossil found there must have lived there in the Carboniferous age. I have addressed this issue at length with Ed Conrad, who for 27 years has battled the entrenched “experts” to come clean about the discoveries. Among Conrad’s other fossils are (a) a coalified axe handle as well-made as those sold on e-bay. (b) a coalified piece of limb cut flatly across soft flesh and hard bone, as if with a sharp knife, and (c) a fossilized human finger complete with skin tissue, finger nail, ligaments, and the middle phalanx. Twenty medical experts have pronounced this as a genuine human finger. This is not good news for the evolution theory. But it gets worse…

Not only have numerous other human remains been discovered in Carboniferous strata – such as a complete skeleton in Carboniferous (Macoupin County, Illinois – The Geologist). But also in EVERY other socalled geological age – for example a human skeleton in Silurian rock (Franklin County, Missouri – Scientific American); and tools, inscriptions and physical human remains in Cretaceous, Triassic, Devonian, Ordovacian and Cambrian. Hundreds of reports have appeared in Scientific American. This is not about the age of the earth – an increasingly debateable topic – but about the evolutionary succession-of-life blunder. Even just one man found in the Carboniferous falsifies the evolution theory. So why does this evolution scam go on? The truth is, many honest but misinformed scientists are caught up in the system – while their mentors deliberately suppress this information. After all, careers, reputations and funding are at stake. So, if the facts do not agree with the favoured theory, then such facts, even an ‘imposing array’ of them, must be thrown out of the window. My hat is off to Lin Liangtai, who has confirmed that the scientific elite are members of a pseudo establishment. Why? Because

12  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April February 20102010

You must feel elated, Romeo, you cheated history, fate, death and the Bard. Mercutio lives, laughing still, and your cool words drained Tybalt of his poison. Capulet and Montague can walk arm in arm, and share the same bed. How did you do it, Romeo? Your mind misgave some consequence yet hanging in the stars, but you changed the way the wind blew, and won your lady. Triumph torn from tragedy, and the rose now thornless. No matter, Romeo; you’ve earned your prize. after so many years of death. Maybe  I’ll see you again, one day, on a beach, or in a bar. We’ll have a drink, and catch up. Go in peace Gwyn Ryan


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Helen’s Happy Place THE UN UNVEILS ITS STRATEGY FOR GLOBAL GOVERNMENT BY 2012

Mr Big

The Criminal Doing Big Business With Chrisco Boss

The Dawkins Delusion Why Richard Dawkins is utterly wrong

Meat Loaf’s Meltdown The interview that riled the rocker

Issue 111

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SIMPLY DEVINE

Miranda Devine Let those without sin… JUST WEEKS AGO, SYDNEY’S LATEST WHIPPING GIRL,

Lara Bingle, updated her busy Twitter account with a prophetic message to the 10,000 people signed on to receive her tweets. “I just wonder just how many of my followers are actually haters!’’ she wrote on February 21. In the wake of the topless photo scandal and the break-up of her two-year relationship with her fiance, the Australian cricket vice-captain Michael Clarke, Bingle has found out exactly how much hate this city can dish up to a naive 22-year-old girl from Cronulla who was hoping to be a star. Or, as one of myriad internet sadists preferred to style her: “Shire Bogan’’ – a slur that was well at the gentler end of the spectrum of calumny. What is wrong with Sydney that we have this peculiarly misogynistic history of vicious mob takedowns of young, pretty minor female celebrities? Another starlet with blonde, bubbly girl-next-door looks, Jo Beth Taylor, was chewed up and spat out a decade ago in just the same way as Bingle. As the presenter of Australia’s Funniest Home Videos on Channel Nine, the then 25-yearold had a thriving career in 1997, when rumours of a nude photo and sex tapes started swirling around Sydney. Neither surfaced, either because they never existed or because of the largesse of Kerry Packer, who took brand protection seriously. But the vicious takedown of the pretty Perth native had terrible consequences. From being one of the most ubiquitous and talented young stars in the Nine stable, appearing regularly as Daryl Somers’s Hey Hey It’s Saturday sidekick, hosting the children’s cartoon show What’s Up Doc, and establishing a career as a pop singer, she suddenly dropped out of sight. She left town, as every media manager worth their salt is urging Bingle to do, and 16  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

didn’t return for two years, having suffered what she later described as a nervous breakdown. Who could forget the Mimi Macpherson sex video of the late 1990s which her sleazy former boyfriend allegedly spread around town as a get-square. At the time, it was great sport in the city for stockbrokers, investment bankers, and journalists to share their copies and watch it in groups. It was a gross assault on her dignity, an invasion of her privacy and tantamount to a psychological gang rape. It shamed everyone who participated. But people then had to physically possess the VHS tape or know someone who had it.

to bite you. We’ve had the Paris Hilton era of women being famous for nothing. We’ve had the Britney Spears/Lindsay Lohan era of celebrities disintegrating on camera. But Lara Bingle is younger still, from the generation that has no secrets from each other. She and Clarke, 28, lived their lives as an open book in the fishbowl of Bondi. They even tweeted their private conversations for the world to share. “On the couch watching the football … I don’t do this enough … What’s my girl reading?’’ tweeted Clarke on February 13. “Reading British Vogue in my room baby!! Yep we are tweeting each other from diff rooms in the same house…’’ replied Bingle.

She and Clarke, 28, lived their lives as an open book in the fishbowl of Bondi. They even tweeted their private conversations for the world to share It was before YouTube and the social networking revolution that allows people’s reputations to be shredded in a nano-second – whether with the truth or lies is immaterial. It seems we have an insatiable hunger for characters to assassinate. The story of Bingle and Clarke has dominated the news, despite the loud protestations of those who feign boredom while lapping up every word. It has resonance not just because it is about two young and beautiful star-crossed lovers, but because it tells us something about the nature of modern celebrity just as it’s morphing into something new. We’ve had the Princess Diana era of celebrity coming back

Clarke used Twitter to woo his fiancee. “@ LaraBingle if only we could be in two places at once,’’ he wrote to her on the evening of January 28, from Perth, while he was playing cricket and she was moping around Sydney. The next day he tweeted: “@LaraBingle you are just perfect for me.’’ Her last tweet on Monday, was, “Wish you were here.’’ The problem with this kind of self-invasion of privacy is that the audience can be hateful. And the internet has made it possible for people to express that hate before their better instincts kick in, before the instant rush of blood to the head dissipates and is forgotten. Their primal viciousness is captured and congealed in digital form.


What might never have existed has a fearsome destructive force. Bingle is an object of hate forever, and claiming that she deserves it because when she was 19 she had an affair with a married man, the AFL player Brendan Fevola, is just post-facto justification. Sure it was wrong, but since when have gossip-mongers been so moralistic? And anyway, he was the one with the wife and kids. The quality of Fevola’s character is revealed in the fact he took the photo of Bingle in the shower against her will and promised her he had deleted it after she protested. The character of Michael Clarke, on the other hand, is in no doubt. He is a gentle-

man, who did the right thing by his then fiancee. And for that we hear his future captaincy is in doubt. While Cricket Australia and his teammates are standing by him, the unofficial cricket fraternity has branded him unsuitable for leadership and a sook for leaving his teammates in New Zealand and flying home to help Bingle. In the end Bingle’s downfall is also a salutary lesson for other young women that sexism still rules, 40 years after the publication of The Female Eunuch. Despite the best efforts of Germaine Greer and her sisters to destroy the value of female modesty, the fact remains that if a woman trades on her looks

Lara Bingle and Michael Clarke,   The Doncaster Day racing carnival at Royal Randwick Racecourse Sydney, April 2008. Robert Wallace/ WENN

and body alone, she will eventually pay the price. Like young men who go to war or wreck their bodies in contact sport, young women don’t fully comprehend the effect of the sexual war zone until it’s too late. They end up with post-traumatic stress disorders of a different kind. devinemiranda@hotmail.com INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  17


STRAIGHT TALK

Mark Steyn

Is this what happened to New Zealand? SO THERE WAS PRESIDENT OBAMA, GIVING HIS BAZILlionth

speech on health care, droning yet again that “now is the hour when we must seize the moment,” the same moment he’s been seizing every day of the week for the past year, only this time his genius photoop guys thought it would look good to have him surrounded by men in white coats. Why is he doing this? Why let “health” “care” “reform” stagger on like the rotting husk in a low-grade creature feature who refuses to stay dead no matter how many stakes you pound through his chest? Because it’s worth it. Big time. I’ve been saying in this space for two years that the governmentalization of health care is the fastest way to a permanent left-of-centre political culture. It redefines the relationship between the citizen and the state in fundamental ways that make limited government all but impossible. In most of the rest of the Western world, there are still nominally “conservative” parties, and they even win elections occasionally, but not to any great effect (Let’s not forget that Jacques Chirac was, in French terms, a “conservative”). The result is a kind of two-party one-party state: Right-of-centre parties will once in a while be in office, but never in power, merely presiding over vast left-wing bureaucracies that cruise on regardless. Republicans seem to have difficulty grasping this basic dynamic. Less than three months ago, they were stunned at the way the Democrats managed to get 60 senators to vote for the health bill. Then Scott Brown took them back down to 59, and Republicans were again stunned to find the Dems talking about ramming this thing into law through the parliamentary device of “reconciliation.” And, when polls showed an ever larger number of Americans ever more opposed to Obamacare (by margins approaching three-to-one), Republicans 18  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

were further stunned to discover that, in order to advance “reconciliation,” Democrat reconsiglieres had apparently been offering (illegally) various cosy Big Government sinecures to swing-state congressmen in order to induce them to climb into the cockpit for the kamikaze raid to push the bill through. The Democrats understand that politics is not just about Tuesday evenings every other November, but about everything else, too. A year or two back, when the Canadian Islamic Congress attempted to criminalize my writing north of the border by tak-

minister of justice. Makes no difference. Once the state swells to a certain size, the people available to fill the ever-expanding number of government jobs will be statists – sometimes hard-core Marxist statists, sometimes social-engineering multiculti statists, sometimes fluffily “compassionate” statists, but always statists. The short history of the post-war welfare state is that you don’t need a president-for-life if you’ve got a bureaucracy-for-life: The people can elect “conservatives,” as the Germans have done and the British are about to do, and the

Once the state swells to a certain size, the people available to fill the ever-expanding number of government jobs will be statists – sometimes hard-core Marxist statists, sometimes social-engineering multiculti statists, sometimes fluffily “compassionate” statists, but always statists ing me to the Canadian “Human Rights” Commission, a number of outraged American readers wrote to me, saying, “You need to start kicking up a fuss about this, Steyn, and then maybe Canadians will get mad and elect a conservative government that will end this nonsense.” Makes perfect sense. Except that Canada already has a Conservative government under a Conservative prime minister, and the very head of the “human rights” commission investigating me was herself the Conservative appointee of a Conservative

Left is mostly relaxed about it because, in all but exceptional cases (Thatcher), they fulfill the same function in the system as the firstyear boys at wintry English boarding schools who, for tuppence-ha’penny or some such, would agree to go and warm the seat in the unheated lavatories until the prefects strolled in and took their rightful place. Republicans are good at keeping the seat warm. A bigtime GOP consultant was on TV, crowing that Republicans wanted the Dems to pass Obamacare because it’s so unpopular it will guarantee a GOP sweep in November.


OK, then what? You’ll roll it back – like you’ve rolled back all those other unsustainable entitlements premised on cobwebbed actuarial tables from 80 years ago? Like you’ve undone the federal Department of Education and of Energy and all the other nickel’n’dime novelties of even a universally reviled one-term loser like Jimmy Carter? Andrew McCarthy concluded a shrewd analysis of the political realities thus: “Health care is a loser for the Left only if the Right has the steel to undo it. The Left is banking on an absence of steel. Why is that a bad bet?” Indeed. Look at it from the Dems’ point of view. You pass Obamacare. You lose the 2010 election, which gives the GOP co-ownership

President Barack Obama delivers a speech urging Congress to pass health care reform in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. /Robert Trippett/ PSG

of an awkward couple of years. And you come back in 2012 to find your health care apparatus is still in place, a fetid behemoth of toxic pustules oozing all over the basement, and, simply through the natural processes of government, already bigger and more expensive and more bureaucratic than it was when you passed it two years earlier. That’s a huge prize, and well worth a midterm timeout.

I’ve been bandying comparisons with Britain and France, but that hardly begins to convey the scale of it. Obamacare represents the government annexation of “one-sixth of the U.S. economy” – i.e., the equivalent of the entire British or French economy, or the entire Indian economy twice over. Nobody has ever attempted this level of centralized planning for an advanced society of 300 million people. Even the control-freaks of the European Union have never tried to impose a unitary “comprehensive” health care system from Galway to Greece. The Soviet Union did, of course, and we know how that worked out. This “reform” is not about health care, and certainly not about “controlling costs.” As with Medicare, it “controls” costs by declining to acknowledge them, or pay them. Dr. William Schreiber of North Syracuse, N.Y., told CNN that he sees 120 patients per week – about 30 percent on Medicare, 65 private on private insurance plans whose payments take into account the Medicare reimbursement rates, and about 5 percent who do it the old-fashioned way and write a cheque. He calculates that, under Obamacare, for every $5 he now makes, he’ll get $2 in the future. Which suggests now would be a good time to retrain as a realtor or accountant, or the night clerk at the convenience store. Yet Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., justifies her support for Obamacare this way: “I even had one constituent – you will not believe this, and I know you won’t, but it’s true – her sister died. This poor woman had no dentures. She wore her dead sister’s teeth.” Is the problem of second-hand teeth a particular problem in this corner of New York? I haven’t noticed an epidemic of ill-fitting dentures on recent visits to the Empire State. George Washington had wooden teeth, but, presumably, these days the Sierra Club would object to the clear-cutting. Yet, even granting Congresswoman Slaughter the benefit of the doubt, is annexing the equivalent of a G7 economy the solution to what would seem to be the statistically unrepresentative problem of her constituent’s ill-fitting choppers? Is it worth reducing the next generation of Americans to indentured servitude to pay for this poor New Yorker’s dentured servitude? Yes. Because government health care is not about health care, it’s about government. Once you look at it that way, what the Dems are doing makes perfect sense. For them. © 2009 Mark Steyn INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  19


EYES RIGHT

Richard Prosser Riding the wave

THE 2025 TASKFORCE ON CLOSING THE GAP, AND catching

up economically with Australia, released its first report before Christmas. Being somewhat preoccupied with a new baby meant that I hadn’t read it until last week, and other than third-hand accounts from the media and various other commentators, had very little idea of what was actually in it. Now that I have, I’m not sure whether to laugh, cry, check the date to make sure it isn’t April 1st, or simply shake my head and wonder. In essence, the Taskforce’s report says little other than “Well, Rogernomics didn’t work last time, and in fact it near terminally stuffed the country – let’s try it again!” Seriously. The best brains the Government could recruit, supposedly, have come up with a list of initial recommendations which they apparently genuinely believe will bring this country closer to income parity with our trans-Tasman neighbours. They include lowering taxes for the rich, slashing health spending, cutting welfare, abolishing the Super Fund, privatizing everything which hasn’t been already – including local Government assets; charging everyone for water (also privatised), stinging road users even harder for the privilege of driving on the Queen’s Highway, corporatising education, getting rid of the last remnants of worker’s rights, and giving away our mineral resources to foreign owned mining companies. No, really. That’s what the report says. And that’s just for starters – it goes on to emphasize the absolute necessity for more time, more studies, more recommendations, more reports, and presumably more fees for the Taskforce’s appointees, before any further progress can be made. Nowhere does the Taskforce offer anything practical. Nowhere does it even suggest, let alone state, that it has examined the better-performing economies around the world and attempted to discover the secrets 20  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

of their success. Nowhere does it give any indication that it has the first clue about how wealth is actually created. Now I can’t say I’m any great fan of unions, especially when, as they have done in the past, they step outside their brief, and start meddling in politics and other things which don’t concern them, like Springbok tours and the enviro-fascist movement. But the average working New Zealander certainly needs some protection against the more rapacious and unprincipled of employers, especially those whose philosophy is and has been represented by some of the Taskforce’s

buy back its services, and the private buyer intends to profit from this exercise, then the only way in which the private buyer can make a profit is by buying the business for less than it is worth, or selling the services for more than they should cost, or both. Either way, the previous owner, that’s you the taxpayer, can only lose out. Anyone who claims otherwise is either thick or a liar, and since the esteemed members of the Taskforce, on the basis of their records, are almost certainly not the former, it could very well be argued that they may instead be the latter. As for turning water into a chargeable,

The Taskforce presume that Australia’s success rests solely on her mining sector, and that we can become likewise rich by digging up our National Parks and giving our minerals to the lowest bidder in return for a peppercorn Royalty own members. And I have long been an advocate of turning welfare back into a safety net, instead of the increasingly feathered multi-generational hammock which it has become in recent years. But privatization doesn’t work, as we have already long since learned in the most painful of ways, and it cannot possibly work, as anyone who isn’t a complete moron can easily understand. This is really, really simple. If you own a freehold business or asset, paid for by and inherited from generations of taxpayers past, and you sell that asset to a private buyer from whom you will then lease or

tradeable commodity, I have to say the idea turns my stomach. There are some limits. Water is a necessity of life and a basic human right, not some discretionary product to be usurped for profit by the grubby little Shylocks of the self-styled “New Right”, or any of the other worthless parasites who prey on decent society. These people are not Right-Wingers, whatever they may claim; they’re soulless thieves, bereft of decency, morals, or a work ethic, globalists and internationalists by nature, and an internationalist by any other name is still a communist. Before I digress too far, I should say that


I fully support lowering taxes as well, but before a person or a company can pay tax at all they have to actually earn money or make a profit, and focusing on methods of cutting Government spending, and reducing the sovereignty of the Nation State, has nothing to do with encouraging businesses in New Zealand to do better. The Taskforce seems to be suffering from some form of cognitive disconnect with regards to these two issues. Maybe it’s because almost none of them have ever had a real job. Back in the bad old days of Rogernomics, the fools who were running the asylum made bad policy out of poor choices based on incorrect and incomplete information. Then, they presumed that New Zealand could be transformed into the “Switzerland of the South Pacific” by becoming a tax haven, concentrating on banking, currency trading, company registrations, and other non-industries which didn’t involve anyone doing any actual work, and we were all going to sit back and do nothing and become very rich. Then, they simply did not understand, and would not be told, that the financial sector was only a very small part of the Swiss economy, which was and is underpinned by real industry – engineering, steel, pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals and the like. Today, the Taskforce – the heirs of the Rogernomics doctrine, it would seem, and in at least one case a surviving member of it – presume that Australia’s success rests solely on her mining sector, and that we can become likewise rich by digging up our National Parks and giving our minerals to the lowest bidder in return for a peppercorn Royalty. They just don’t get it that Australia has real industry as well, manufacturing and processing, with real factories which employ ordinary people, making goods out of raw materials, adding value and passing some of that value on to their workers in the form of higher wages, which the workers then spend into the economy, to everyone’s benefit. Australia manufactures motor vehicles, ships, locomotives, plastics, textiles, rubber goods, glassware, industrial machinery, automotive and aerospace products, mining equipment, furnishings and electrical cables; the list goes on, but you get my point. Personally I’m all in favour of unlocking our mineral riches, as I have said before; but it has to be the New Zealand nation and New Zealand companies and workers who profit from it, not foreign multinationals. Obviously not everyone can go and work in the coal mines of the West Coast, but people

do have to get out of bed in the morning and do something productive. The essential bottom line here is that if South Auckland is to be weaned off the dole, then there have to be real jobs for them to go to instead, and not everyone can be a graphic designer or an IT consultant. If we cannot compete with the Asian economies in terms of producing bulk goods with cheap labour, then we shouldn’t try – but that doesn’t mean we can’t still have manufacturing. New Zealand needs to concentrate on doing things which the Asians can’t do, making quality which they can’t produce, filling the high end of the market

There is no reason why New Zealand cannot make a deliberate effort to become the source nation of choice for the very best of electronic products, audio and military equipment, laboratory instruments and medical technology with the luxury goods and premium brands which the discerning buyer in the niche market simply doesn’t want to buy from China. Wealthy car buyers in Japan and America do not seek out marques such as Volvo or Mercedes because they’re an economical option, because they’re not. They seek them out because they have a reputation for quality and prestige. Engineers in Europe and the United States do not specify roller bearings from Sweden because they’re cheap, because they’re not cheap. Rather, they specify them because they’re known to be of superb quality. Wine connoisseurs in Britain and New

England don’t buy New Zealand Pinot Noir because it comes in a three-litre cardboard box for $9.95, because it doesn’t. Instead, they happily pay $US100 a bottle for it because it is known to be the best Burgundystyle red in the world. So must it be for the rest of New Zealand’s production, and thereby for the rest of our economy. If we can’t make footwear or clothing as cheaply as the Fijians or the Vietnamese, then we shouldn’t make cheap footwear or clothing; but that doesn’t mean that we can’t establish a reputation for making the world’s finest outdoor and work wear, designer fashions, and specialist safety clothing. If we can’t mass-produce low quality pocket calculators and transistor radios in competition with the sweatshops of India or China, then that is not the market for us; but there is no reason why New Zealand cannot make a deliberate effort to become the source nation of choice for the very best of electronic products, audio and military equipment, laboratory instruments and medical technology. Fisher and Paykel, having established a market and a reputation in the US on the back of being perceived as a quality whitewear brand from New Zealand, may yet find that moving their manufacturing base to the third world has been a very silly mistake indeed, regardless of what the moneylenders and the beancounters have to say on the matter. The inventor and manufacturer of the Martin Jetpack, unable to secure venture capital in New Zealand, is leaving Christchurch for an unspecified foreign destination, even as the Government wrings its hands in despair at not being able to find the way forward for our economy. He is the latest in a long line of New Zealand innovators who have been driven from our shores by the inability of anyone in Government to see the wood for the trees where economic growth and direction is concerned. All we need is a little Governmental foresight, a progressive tax regime, and a modicum of seed capital; perhaps a Government-backed venture finance Bank, and an understanding and desire to follow the likes of Singapore, Israel, Sweden and Switzerland. Now here’s an idea; instead of scrapping the Kiwisaver scheme and using the proceeds to pay off debt, as the Taskforce suggests (how do they propose we should fund retirement and pensions, or don’t they?) maybe we should just scrap the Taskforce, and use that money to fund some value-adding industries instead? If these idiots get their way, the only gap we will close will be the one between New Zealand and Somalia. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  21


LINE ONE

Chris Carter Teaching chimps to drive YE GODS! WATCHING, LISTENING AND READING THE news

over the last couple of weeks must, to most thinking New Zealanders, simply have reinforced a long held view that our parliamentarians are completely clueless about road safety. That we pay so handsomely and charge these people to pass rules and regulations to reduce the road toll and therefore make our roads a little safer to drive on is plainly a major waste of time and effort. Regardless of which party is in power, from time to time they feel compelled to “fiddle” and at best create traffic laws and regulations apparently put together over a few beers at Bellamy’s rather than as a result of examining why other countries similar to our own have far fewer fatal traffic accidents. Take this latest hare-brained idea of putting up the age that a youngster can first gain a driving license from 15 to 16 years old. What the hell is that going to achieve? Well, apart from guaranteeing a sharp increase in kids driving without a license at all. Why not make the age 18, and even at that age only allowing a student to begin driving so that weeks of driving training can then commence leading to a full license test that has to be passed or you’re back on the bus or walking again. How about a psychological aptitude test, bearing in mind the large number of people around who are so loopy they would never be able to obtain a toy gun license, yet at the moment can cheerfully swan around in a V8 Commodore or a ten ton truck. By the way, like most things this is not a new idea; for instance, in the Fatherland, the Germans have to pay two or three thousand NZ dollars equivalent , face months of testing and a psych test, so when they finally get to cruise the Autobahns they get to join the best and safest drivers in the World. So what have we been doing by way of research then? Well b-all it would appear, 22  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

other than lifting holus bolus stuff from the Aussie State of Victoria, famous throughout Australia for their Ned Kelly approach to hold up their drivers and rob them at every opportunity, all done in concert with an unsettling “horror movie” TV ad Blitz campaign to frighten their citizens into complying with laws and bizarre regulations probably near as silly as ours. Typical is the nutty Victorian slogan so mindlessly embraced by our very own LTSA, that “Speed Kills”, and then of course using millions and millions of taxpayers’ dollars to, on the one hand, subsidize TVNZ’s need to make a profit for the Government, but more importantly to try to convince the viewers

country, where do we start? Perhaps with the people who actually drive do you think? A bit of a diesel spill from a truck maybe with a loose filler cap: a series of fully licensed drivers hit this spill and the car inevitably spins and falls off the road. Would you be one of them? If so, chances are that apart from a couple of diagrams in our comic book like Road Code the average driver has absolutely no idea at all what to do when involved in a skid, yet ten minutes on a skid pan or a grassy paddock somewhere being practically shown what to do could very likely save you and your passengers lives. How many drivers are aware of the good and bad points of non skid brakes, like if you

Ten minutes on a skid pan or a grassy paddock somewhere being practically shown what to do could very likely save you and your passengers lives that the LTSA actually has a reason to exist! It’s much more likely that the genius of various car manufacturers plus the efforts of NZ’s used car importers have done more for road safety on our roads with good safer cars, than the LTSA has achieved in its entire existence as master propagandists, scare merchants, bullies and rapacious fine gatherers. But there you go, can’t come up with anything original so let’s do what the Victorian cops do, she’ll be right. But enough of bagging the LTSA and the other bureaucrats who, in my view at least, should be re-named the Ministry of Manslaughter. If we really want to effect a major improvement in road safety in our

need to stop in a hurry you must stamp on the brake pedal hard and leave the foot pressed hard on until you stop. Only problem being that with non-skid brakes the car can still be steered, so unlike with ordinary brakes you can still steer to avoid the stopped car in front of you so you might well move right and collect an oncoming vehicle with maybe a fatal result. How did I learn this? From a day spent at Pukekohe with the Holden driving school. Anything about it in the road code or LTSA guff? You have to be kidding. The right line to take through a corner is smoother and safer; learning to reverse using your mirrors is much safer than turning your head; getting your driving position


right is very important; don’t stick a box of apples or a tool box on the back seat,if you hit something it’ll likely take your head off. There’s all sorts of stuff all of us have picked up over the years of driving around, but think of the kids: a quick written test that a moderately smart chimpanzee could easily pass, a couple of times around the block, a three point turn and congratulations kid, here’s your license to join the mayhem... and we seriously wonder why youngsters are having lots of serious accidents. It’s nothing at all to do with the young age of a driver; it’s nearly non-existent training and listening to the Minister the other day I’ll guarantee you sod all will change under the new regime. Reason: it will cost money which the Government can’t afford and if we try to get student drivers to pay then they may not vote for us eh! Funny thing is that, returning to Germany for a moment, the Huns are effectively a Socialist State yet despite the usual “fairness” dogma so beloved by the hand wringers and their ilk they consider that if you can’t afford to pay the Reich Marks to get the training then tough – best you go buy a bike or walk. Same thing with third party car insurance – in most of the world it’s all built into your annual registration fee. Here in NZ if it’s ever brought up that we do the same thing the bleating starts up, “what about the poor and the needy etc”. Yeah right! You can afford to own and run a car but tough luck on anyone I might happen to run into. Thus they display an overall attitude problem that

should have them off the road in any case I would have thought, but there you go – like a lot of things, we see a problem, we’ve got a pretty good idea as to how to fix it, but we mustn’t upset anyone must we. My pick is that these latest fiddles with the road regulations will have little if any effect on the road toll or, worse, the thousands of serious injuries that occur each year on our roads, simply because we have people in charge who are terminally stupid and too timid to do what will eventually end up being done.

20 Year old female driver lost control of her convertible MG sports car. There were no other vehicles involved in this crash. The driver was not hurt, but badly shaken. Hottwire.net/WENN

Chris Carter appears in association with www.snitch.co.nz, a must-see site.

INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  23


CONTRA MUNDUM

Matthew Flannagan Slavery and the Old Testament “WHY DIDN’T THE CHRISTIAN GOD EVER EXPLICITLY and

clearly condemn slavery?” This was John Loftus’ question in his book, Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity. He posed it after sharing the following chilling account of slavery as practiced in the antebellum American south, He took her into the kitchen, and stripped her from neck to waist. He made her get upon the stool, and he tied her hands to a hook in the joist. After rolling up his sleeves, he commenced to lay on the heavy cow skin, and soon the warm, red blood came dripping to the floor … No words, no tears, no prayers, from his gory victim, seemed to move his iron heart from its bloody purpose. The louder she screamed, the harder he whipped; and where the blood ran fastest, there he whipped longest. He would whip her to make her scream, and whip her to make her hush; and not until overcome by fatigue, would he cease to swing the blood clotted cowskin. Loftus is not alone, it is often affirmed as an incontestable and obvious truth that the Bible supports slavery. Atheist philosopher Walter Armstrong substantiated this accusation with a citation from the book of Leviticus, “as for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations around you” (Lev 25:44 ESV). The ESV here uses the English word ‘slave’ to translate the Hebrew word ebed. The problem is that it is not at all clear that these two terms are analogous. In 1690 philosopher John Locke argued that an examination of the Old Testament’s references to an ebed shows that it is not the equivalent what we think of when we hear the term ‘slave.’ Locke is only one of many scholars who have come to the same conclusion. The Oxford Dictionary defines a slave as a “person who is the legal property of another or others and is bound to absolute obedience, human chattel.” Rodney 24  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

Stark utilises a similar definition, “A slave is a human being who, in the eyes of the law and custom, is the possession, or chattel, of another human being or of a small group of human beings. Ownership of slaves entails absolute control, including the right to punish (often including the right to kill), to direct behavior, and to transfer ownership.” Timothy Keller astutely observes that the English term ‘slave’ carries connotations of new-world slavery as it was practiced in the British Empire and made infamous in the antebellum southern states of the US. In the British Empire and in many US states, slavery was governed under the Code

However, what the Old Testament refers to differs from slavery, so understood, in several important respects. First, an ebed was not acquired by kidnapping. Kidnapping a human being and selling that person as a slave was a capital offence in the Old Testament (Ex 21:16). Moreover, slave trading is implicitly condemned in the book of Revelation (Rev 18:13) and explicitly condemned by Paul as contrary to the law and sound doctrine (1 Tim 1:9-10). In the Old Testament an ebed was usually person who offered to work for another, free of charge, in exchange for a debt being cancelled. It resembled a form of indentured servitude.

In the Old Testament an ebed was usually person who offered to work for another, free of charge, in exchange for a debt being cancelled of Barbados. This code was explicitly racist and described Africans as “heathenish, brutish, and an uncertaine, dangerous kinde of people.” It allowed owners to use, “unlimited force to compel labor without penalty even if this resulted in maiming or death.” It denied slaves due process rights and permitted owners to, in effect, kill their slave for any cause. It forbade slaves from marrying. It effectively prevented owners from setting their slaves free. Keller writes that, “The African slave trade was begun and resourced through kidnapping.” Stark notes that “20 to 40 percent of slaves died while being transported to the coast, another 3-10 percent died while waiting on the coast, and about 12 to 16 percent boarded on ships died during the voyage.”

Second, the institution was not based on notions that ebed were of an inferior race. In fact, the opposite is affirmed. In the book of Job we read, If I have rejected the cause of my male or female slaves [Hebrew: ebed amah] when they brought a complaint against me; what then shall I do when God rises up? When he makes inquiry, what shall I answer him? Did not he who made me in the womb make them? And did not one fashion us in the womb? (Job 31:13-15) Here Job refers to an ebed as having a right to go to court and sue his or her “owner” in pursuit of his or her rights. Job bases this on the idea that both he and his ebed are equal, both are created by God. Third, as Locke noted, an ebed was not


the property of another and could not be disposed of. To deliberately kill an ebed was a capital offence (Ex 21:20-21). Similarly, it was illegal to strike an ebed (Ex 21:26-27). However, some dispute this latter point on the basis of Exodus 21:20-21, If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property. Some interpret this passage to mean that because a “slave” is the property of another they can severely beat the slave and providing the beating is not fatal, there is no legal punishment. However, this fails to deal adequately with the context and the Hebrew text, the word translated as ‘property’ here is actually ‘silver’ (a reference to money) and the word translated ‘punishment’ here is not the usual word for punishment. Old Testament scholar Christopher Wright notes that the word implies “the shedding of the blood of the master of the slave” and so refers to capital punishment. It is used in direct contrast with the same word in the previous verse where it is stated that deliberately killing an ebed is to be avenged. Therefore, it does not say the person will not be punished for beating a slave, it says he will not be executed for it unless he kills the slave. For further evidence that the passage is not a license to beat, a couple of verses later even causing a minor injury on an ebed, such as a bruise, is explicitly condemned. The same contrast occurs in the passage immediately preceding the Exodus verse quoted above, where a free man who struck and killed another was to be “held responsible” but not if the person survived. It is clear, however, that the person was in fact to be legally punished as v 19 states he had to compensate his victim for the injury. Hence, in context the ‘held responsible’ is referring only to being held responsible for murder and is not speaking to the lesser charges of assault. What Ex 21:20-21 says then, is that if a person deliberately kills his or her ebed then that person is to be held responsible for murder and executed. If the slave “gets up after a day or two,” then the person is not to be held responsible for murder because the ebed is his or her “silver.” This makes sense as a few verses later, in Ex 21:26-27, striking a slave is explicitly prohibited and the legal punishment is for the ebed to go free. In The Old Testament, the penalty for assault was for the assailant to provide monetary compensation to the victim.

This would create a quandary in this case as an ebed is in a position of servitude because he or she is in debt to the person he or she works for. In such a case the assailant would owe money to a person who owes him or her money. The Old Testament resolves the issue by declaring that even a trivial strike, such as causing a bruise (v21:25) should result in an immediate cancelation of the ebed’s entire debt, which would often result in a financial loss to the assailant. The New Testament similarly concurs, prohibiting “masters’ from even threatening their “slaves” (Eph 6:9) and to treat their “slaves” the way the “slave” is required to treat them. Further, unlike new-world slavery which was life long and where, under the Barbados Code, emancipation was effectively prohibited, an ebed could not be held in service for more than six years (Ex 21:2). Upon release, their employer was morally required to give them sufficient resources for them to be set up on their own feet (Deut 15:12-18) and the community left resources for them to live on for a year (Ex 23:10-11, Lev 25:2-7). These passages are often thought to refer only to Hebrew and hence Jewish slaves. Wright, however, argues that that in its original context the key word ibri designated a social class, not an ethnic group. This was the class of people who did not own land and in an agrarian economy survived by hiring themselves out to land owners. In fact, in the passage immediately before the verse Armstrong cites the Old Testament forbids any Israelite taking another Israelite as a ebed on the grounds that they are a “ebed of God” whom God has redeemed. Paul applies the same teaching to Christians pro-

hibiting Christians from being sold as ‘slaves’ (1 Cor 7:23). Similarly, the Old Testament commanded people to prevent family members from becoming an ebed by paying their debts for them (Lev 25:48). Further, Paul, after writing to the Corinthians and encouraging them to “retain the place in life that the Lord assigned,” encourages slaves to purchase their freedom and to not remain in this position if it was possible to do so (1 Cor 7:21-22). Finally, if an ebed fled from an oppressive employer it was illegal to return him or her to “his master.” Instead, he or she was to live “wherever he likes and in whatever town he chooses” (Deut 23:15-16). It was forbidden to send an ebed back to his or her owner; contrast this with the practice in the antebellum south, the Fugitive Slave Act 1850 required the return of run-away slaves at penalty of law. Contrary to what some contend, the Old Testament does not permit slavery. It is more accurate to say it tolerates indentured servitude under certain situations; the paradigm being where the servitude is voluntary, temporary, is done in exchange for payment of a debt where the alternative is starvation and destitution and only in situations where the servant is given the same basic legal rights as everyone else and is protected from abusive treatment. To suggest this picture fits with the opening quote above is a stretch to say the least. Dr Matthew Flannagan researches and publishes in the area of Philosophy of Religion, Theology and Ethics. He is an adjunct lecturer in Philosophy for Laidlaw College and Bethlehem Tertiary Institute. He blogs with his wife at www.mandm.org.nz. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  25


Merry Chrischmitz    International criminal sets up home in Chrisco mansion

26  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010


or Merry Hell? It would make a great movie script, unless of course you were the owners of the Chrisco mansion and you hadn’t realised the man offering to buy your $30 million property – New Zealand’s most expensive private home – was a convicted felon. IAN WISHART with the exclusive story

I 

t’s a far cry from Merry Christmas for Chrisco founders Richard and Ruth Bradley – their empire embroiled in legal fights with former business partners, bad publicity over their Christmas hampers in recent years, and now revelations that their massive $30 million Auckland mansion is being flicked off to a high-profile German con-artist and fraudster with business interests in pornography and cybercrime. To top it all off, the new digs for the Chrisco founders appears to be a modest $700-a-week 2-bedroom renter in inner Sydney, valued around A$850,000. How did it come to this? News of the Chrisco mansion’s sale first hit newspapers in early February, when the New Zealand Herald reported a “Finnish” buyer apparently purchased the property in a lease to buy deal. A week later, the Herald on Sunday named the buyer as German computer hacker Kimble “Kim” Schmitz. “A convicted German computer hacker is believed to be the secret buyer of the $30 million Chrisco mansion. “A source, who wishes to remain anonymous, said Kim ‘Kimble’ Schmitz, 36, was the man behind an arrangement including a long term lease of the 24.3ha estate and sale once the lease expires. “The Finnish flag flying from the house last week was ‘a disguise’,” added the Herald’s source. What followed in the newspaper story was

a potted “greatest hits” of Schmitz’s exploits. “The source, who knows Schmitz, had heard he was interested in the mansion a few months ago and had recently been told Schmitz had entered into an agreement for the property with the Bradleys. “Schmitz rose to fame in Germany in the 1990s as a teenage internet tycoon, who eventually received a two-year probationary sentence for hacking into corporate computer systems and accepting gang-related stolen goods. “He also had to pay a €100,000 ($195,000) fine for what was then Germany’s largest insider-trading case. Newspaper reports said that after his arrest he made his fortune by investing in tech stocks and selling a majority stake in an internet security company, DataProtect. “The company filed for insolvency shortly after. “In 2001, Schmitz provided more than $1 million of his own money to help the flailing web company LetsBuyIt.com, but was arrested the following year for his alleged involvement in the “fluctuating fortune” of the Dutch company. “According to the Independent, Schmitz was deported from Thailand and arrested at Munich Airport, where he called himself the “Royal Highness Kimble the First”. “His now seemingly defunct website www.kimble.org once provided details of his extravagant life – including images of INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  27


He even hired a model who’d posed in Playboy to pretend to be attracted to him as he squired a cluster of pals around the Caribbean in a rented yacht he hopes we’ll think he owns

his cars, his yacht and the Playboy models he surrounded himself with.” That’s the last story published on Schmitz in New Zealand, back in mid-February, but it was enough to get a German documentary TV crew on a plane and stalking the country lanes of Coatesville in search of the elusive King Kimble. He remains, it seems, a person of interest to the Germans. But what do we really know about Herr Schmitz? There are conflicting reports about his activities in the 1990s. The earliest newspaper report we could find in English dates from January 26, 2001, where Britain’s Guardian documents a crisis at the dotcom company Letsbuyit.com: The extraordinary new double act at the helm of Letsbuyit.com last night insisted that the crisis-hit e-tailer has a bright future – despite issuing Christmas sales figures which again missed analysts’ expectations. The chief executive, John Palmer, and his flamboyant white knight, a 27-year-old convicted German computer hacker named Kim Schmitz, insisted that a scaled back Letsbuyit.com would raise the 40m euros (£25m) needed to take it through to 2002, when it says it will be in profit. “I’m completely convinced that Letsbuyit can 28  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

reach profitability despite its current problems,” Mr Schmitz said. According to the Guardian report, the market was so raptured by the appearance of Schmitz in a rescue package for Letsbuyit. com that “private investors and day traders piled into the stock, driving its price up by 220% to 77 cents as a record 87m shares changed hands, in the hope that the e-commerce site will imminently resume trading.” The Guardian then took a closer look at why Schmitz was generating such attention: Mr Schmitz’s dramatic emergence as a potential saviour has caused amazement in financial circles. “I’ve seen some circuses in my time, but this one beats the lot,” said one analyst. The former hacker has achieved widespread fame in his homeland after being convicted of bypassing the security of NASA, the Pentagon and Citibank under the name of Kimble, after the character of Richard Kimble in the film The Fugitive. After giving himself up to the authorities in the 1990s, Mr Schmitz developed an encryption service that claims to allow secure payments to be made over the internet and sold an 80% stake in this business to German credit firm TUV.

The 6’4”, 18-stone giant has since divided his time between growing Kimvestor – which he values at 200m euros – and spending his money on top models, fast cars and expensive boats. He now owns a Challenger jet, a helicopter, several sports cars and a yacht. Last May he spent $1m (£684,000) chartering a 240-foot luxury yacht for a week, mooring it in Monte Carlo harbour for the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix and throwing lavish parties for guests including Prince Ranier of Monaco. Later that year, the same group of friends flew in his private jet to the party island of Ibiza and then to a castle in Ireland for a pheasant shooting trip. Mr Schmitz has posted pictures of his escapades on his website www. kimble.org, which he claims has had 20m hits. “We are having a lot of fun,” he said. However, he remains deadly serious about Kimvestor, which is midway through a preflotation private placement round with a target of 20m euros. “Anyone who buys shares in this placement gets a guarantee that their value will eventually triple or they get their money back,” he said. “I will personally stand responsible for the state of this company, and you don’t see many chief executives doing that.


“Kimvestor will achieve a market capitalisation of 1bn euros within five years.” It didn’t take long for the bubble to burst. Europe’s The Standard took just five days to find Schmitz was a man with no substance: “Schmitz is no white knight for Letsbuyit,” the paper wrote. “Kim Schmitz’s company has no board, no registration and no money...a tale of confusion that raises serious doubts about the ability of Schmitz to fund the [bailout].” Although Schmitz had boasted he was “midway” through selling shares in his German Kimvestor company to fund the bailout, The Standard discovered Kimvestor AG did not actually exist at the time: “Schmitz was not available for comment on the fact that he appears to have sold shares in a company which has not been registered.” There were other irregularities, but one of the most interesting related to his past as a computer hacker – or not: “More confusion surrounds Schmitz’s criminal escapades. Even his much publicised claim to have altered the credit rating of former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl is not backed up by court records.” The newspaper singles out another claim, that Schmitz had once hacked into Citibank and stolen US$20 million to give to Greenpeace, as fictional: “Sara Holden, a spokesperson for environmental campaigners Greenpeace International says this is ‘just not true. Twenty million dollars would have been half our annual budget in the mid 1990s and I am sure we would have noticed this [boost to our funds]’.” There’s speculation Schmitz stole the story of a real Citibank hack involving a Russian group around the same time, that caused $10 million worth of disruption. No money was ‘donated’ from that hack to Greenpeace either. Nonetheless, German court records confirm Schmitz was arrested twice in 1994, aged 20, and held in custody for a month on both occasions. Although being convicted of 11 charges of computer fraud, 10 of “data espionage” and 11 charges relating to receiving stolen business data, the 20 year old was only given a two-year suspended sentence because he was “under age” at the time the offences had been committed. “One of the charges related to a scam which earned Schmitz over 61,000 euros,” reported The Standard. “Having bought two thousand stolen phone card account numbers from US-based hackers, Schmitz then

set up chat lines in the Caribbean and Hong Kong and developed a computer programme that automatically called those lines using the stolen cards. “As the owner of the lines, he got a share of the charges he had stolen from the calling cards – as well as running up enormous bills on the cards himself.” That report dated from January 31, 2001. What Schmitz had not disclosed was that on January 24th, when announcing his “rescue” of Letsbuyit.com, Schmitz’s company had by then purchased US$375,000 worth of shares in the struggling dotcom business which, as a result of the rally caused by his “white knight” announcement, rocketed in value. He quickly sold them on the high and, according to reports, Schmitz pocketed US$1.5 million in profits from spiking the

Schmitz had been seen at Munich Airport in 1999 photographing himself inside planes parked on the tarmac, apparently in a bid to boost his claim that he owned a private jet

market like that. He didn’t rescue Letsbuyit and in fact had no funds to do so. After fleeing to Thailand as investigators closed in, he was eventually arrested in January 2002 and deported back to Germany to face the music. Except, for some strange reason, the music was once again Brahms Lullaby rather than Wagnerian anger in style: “German glam-hacker Kim Schmitz (aka Kimble) has received a 20 month suspended sentence from a Munich court after being convicted of stock price manipulation designed to net him EUR1.2 million,” reported The Register in the UK on 28 May 2002. Schmitz also pleaded guilty to insider trading on the Letsbuyit.com deal and received a EUR100,000 fine. During this same period, Schmitz had still

been committing fraud, using used false pretences to obtain an unsecured EUR280,000 loan for an intercompany transaction that his company Kimvestor AG benefited from. When his public companies Monkey AG and Kimvestor AG went belly-up, Kim Schmitz was again treated leniently by the courts. In November 2003 he pleaded guilty to embezzlement but was again given a two year probationary sentence. The Register headlined their story: “Fat fake escapes porridge”, and noted Schmitz had built his reputation on fakery: “He even hired a model who’d posed in Playboy to pretend to be attracted to him as he squired a cluster of pals around the Caribbean in a rented yacht he hopes we’ll think he owns.” Schmitz had been seen at Munich Airport in 1999 photographing himself inside planes parked on the tarmac, apparently in a bid to boost his claim that he owned a private jet. After a string of wet-busticket punishments from the German courts, Schmitz took off to Hong Kong in late 2003, which is where Investigate began seriously digging. The media reports talk of him residing in the penthouse suite of a luxury Hong Kong hotel. That’s a trifle hard to believe; the address given for his companies is the 45th floor of a prestige Hong Kong skyscraper, The Lee Gardens. That’s all well and good until the discovery that the 45th floor of that building is merely serviced office suites for the international virtual office company Regus, which essentially rents out boardrooms and a receptionist for small businesses that can’t afford their own premises. Internet WHOIS records show Kim Schmitz’ s now blank Kimble.org website was registered to that same Regus office address in Hong Kong, which was given as the home of his company Kimpire Limited. The phone number listed with the registry is now disconnected, but the fax number (+852 22735999) is, and always has been, a Regus fax number available to all its clients. The Kimster, it seems, couldn’t afford his own dedicated fax line. So that’s a little of the Kim Schmitz story, but it’s here – at the Coatesville mansion in Auckland – where the trail gets a little murky. You see, Investigate has done some checking of its own and there is no official documentation linking Kim Schmitz to the mansion. Property records show that the Chrisco mansion has not yet been sold. It is still owned by a company called “Lurcher Limited” – an oddly-named entity set up by INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  29


Chrisco founder Richard Bradley. What we did find are two caveats registered against the property. Caveats are a legal “foot in the door” that, when lodged with the High Court, can prevent someone selling a house. In this case, the caveats prevent Lurcher Limited from selling the Chrisco mansion. The first caveat was registered against the Chrisco house just before Christmas, December 21st 2009. Official records show the document was lodged on behalf of a company called “Vestor Limited”, in regard to a lease “where Vestor Limited is the tenant and Lurcher Limited, the registered proprietor, is the landlord.” Further down the page, Lurcher and the Bradleys are clearly warned: “Take notice that the Caveator forbids the registration of any instrument, having the effect of charging or transferring, or other30  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

wise affecting, the estate or interest protected by this caveat...” In other words, Vestor Limited appears to have been given the right to lease the Chrisco estate, and was protecting its lease by preventing its lease or sale to anyone else. But, like we said, there’s a second caveat. This one was registered on 18 January 2010, but while Lurcher was still the owner, the Caveator in this case was a man by the name of “Tim Vestor”. The fine print says Lurcher Limited granted Tim Vestor an option to purchase the Chrisco mansion, by way of “an option to purchase contained in an option deed dated 17 December 2009”. The terms of the second caveat, preventing the sale or lease of the mansion to anyone else in the meantime, were the same as for the first caveat. But who was Tim Vestor? An agent for Kim Schmitz? It sounded suspiciously close to the company name Kimvestor, but

according to Vestor’s lawyer in Auckland he’s a real person. The Herald’s story had been based on a “source who wishes to remain anonymous”. It made for good headlines, but it didn’t prove German criminal Kim Schmitz was connected to the deal directly. Was it possible, we wondered, to make that link. Again, who was this Tim Vestor – the man listed on NZ land registry documents as the prospective owner of the country’s richest piece of real estate? Just as in the TV series Missing Persons, when it comes to any kind of investigative work these days Google is your best friend. There are only a handful of references to the name “Tim Vestor” on the internet. We found company records in Florida listing a “Tim Vestor” as an “employee” of Megacard Incorporated, based in Tampa. Other office holders on the company file include Sven Echternach. Echternach


Internet WHOIS records show Kim Schmitz’ s now blank Kimble.org website was registered to that same Regus office address in Hong Kong, which was given as the home of his company Kimpire Limited.

appears on internet WHOIS files as the contact man for a porn website, Callgirl99.com, registered in Frankfurt, Germany. Callgirl99 shares the same IP server, however, as other Kim Schmitz websites. It wasn’t until we went beyond what the internet offers for free, however, and started to pay to search legal records, that we hit paydirt. Investigate searched official company databases in Hong Kong. We found Kim Schmitz listed as a director of four existing companies: •  Kimpire Limited •  Kimvestor Limited •  Monkey Limited •  Trendax Limited Kim Schmitz has long been linked to a controversial website called Megaupload.com, which allows people to upload and download video and audio files. Pirated moves like Peter Jackson’s District 9 have fallen victim to

Megaupload.com. But despite the fact that Megaupload was started by Schmitz, his name is no longer on the WHOIS records and German media have been unable to prove a link with the company any longer. “So far it is unclear who is the owner and operator of this Mega-empire,” reported German magazine FOCUS in November 2007. “Rumours for months, however, refer to the German internet entrepreneur Kim Schmitz,” noting that Schmitz has not admitted any links to Mega. “The circumstantial evidence for links to Megaupload and Schmitz has long been rather meagre,” FOCUS reported, before noting that another magazine had boasted in September 2007 of being offered free advertising on Megaupload if they downplayed any links to Schmitz. Even the mighty Forbes magazine in the US reported late last year:

“In an email Megaupload and Megavideo spokesperson Bonnie Lam denied any connection to Schmitz and wrote that the Mega sites don’t tolerate copyright infringement.” In the same Forbes story, the magazine nonetheless reported that the Mega sites are now “bigger than Facebook” in terms of traffic, accounting for 0.6% of global internet bandwidth usage. To put that in perspective, it’s twice as much as Facebook consumes and half of what Microsoft generates across all of its sites, including Hotmail and Bing. So, officially, Schmitz is no longer involved with Megaupload. But guess what we found in our own investigation – Tim Vestor, the mystery man on the Chrisco mansion property records is associated with Megaupload! Somewhere along the way, after his arrest and deportation from Thailand, King Kimble the 1st apparently decided his “Schmitz” name was getting too hot to hanINVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  31


dle. We haven’t been able to find out whether he did it legally or not, but Schmitz reappeared in the Hong Kong records in 2005 with a new name, “Kim Vestor” or, more precisely, “Kim Tim Jim Vestor”. Technically, he could present himself as any one of those three Vestors. Investigate’s search of official records shows “Kim Tim Jim Vestor” is allegedly a Finnish national, travelling on Finland passport number 16783622, whose residential address was given as “Paljaspaa 6C6” in Turku, Finland. As the street picture we obtained from Google shows, 6 Paljaspaa is the modern equivalent of a collection of log cabins – hardly the kind of place you’d expect the buyer of New Zealand’s most expensive house to provide as one of the “previous addresses in the past five years”. A Tim Vestor, or more precisely Kim Tim Jim Vestor, is on file as the sole director of Vestor Limited, a Hong Kong registered company named as the prospective lessee on the Coatesville mansion. All our ducks were clearly starting to line up. We’ve tracked this “Kim Tim Jim Vestor” through his directorships on seven companies in Hong Kong, including the ones the German media have been unable to prove he’s linked to. Investigate’s extensive enquiries in Asia show Kim/Tim/Jim Vestor is the director of: •  Megamedia Limited •  Megapix Limited •  Megaupload Limited •  Megavideo Limited •  N1 Limited •  Vestor Limited A Kim Tim Jim Vestoer (Vestor misspelled) is listed in Hong Kong Companies Office records as director of another company, Megarotic Limited, specialising in porn. There is no updated residential address in the Hong Kong registry – it remains the modest shed at unit C6, 6 Paljaspaa, Turku, Finland. As we said, media reports have suggested Schmitz resides on the “top floor of the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Hong Kong with his wife and child”, but when Investigate called the hotel they had no record of either a Kim Schmitz or a “Kim Vestor” or a “Tim Vestor”. Perhaps he really does live on the top floor of a five star hotel. Perhaps he really does have the kind of cash needed to buy a $35 million mansion in New Zealand. But based on a track record of lying, embezzlement, fraud and hacking, perhaps there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell he will really end up buying the Coatesville mansion at all. 32  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

Part of the reason we make that prediction is this: “To grant you a New Zealand visa or permit we need to be assured that you and any family included in your application are of good character. We make this requirement to protect the wellbeing and security of New Zealanders.” The NZ Immigration Service publishes details on its website of the good character tests they impose. “Under section 7(1) of the Immigration Act we will not grant you a visa or permit if •  in the past 10 years you were convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for 12 months or more... •  you have been deported from any country, including New Zealand •  it is believed you are associated with an organisation or group that has criminal objectives or is engaged in criminal activities and for that – or any other reason – you are considered to be a threat to the public interest or public order of New Zealand” Whilst Schmitz never served jail time, seemingly miraculously, he was certainly ‘sentenced’ to jail for longer than 12 months on more than one occasion and is a convicted embezzler and fraudster. It’s certainly a matter of record he was deported from Thailand in 2002. It is certain that his involvement in computer hacking, cybercrime and the online porn industry could pose character problems in New Zealand. The issue of whether Schmitz/Vestor has changed his name legally, or is merely using a false identity, remains unresolved, so we

Paljaspaa Street, Turku, Finland. Previous address of Kimble Schmitz / Google Street View

rang Vestor’s legal representatives at Simpson Grierson in Auckland and spelt out how we’d found Tim Vestor using a Finnish passport in the name of “Kim Tim Jim Vestor”, and that we believed he and convicted criminal Kim Schmitz were one and the same person. “Did he change his name legally?” we asked. “I have no knowledge of any of that, so I can’t comment on that at all,” a clearly surprised Greg Towers told Investigate. “I just don’t know any of that history.” Which then raises the question of whether Richard and Ruth Bradley, the Chrisco millionaires selling the mansion, know any of this either. As in most property transactions, they’re unlikely to have personally met the “Finnish” gentleman using the name of “Tim Vestor” who’s offered to purchase their home. Instead, the details were handled by lawyers, as far as we can tell. The news that the Chrisco mansion will soon house an international pornography magnate is not the first time that the porn industry and Chrisco have been mentioned in the same sentence. Last August, media reported Chrisco’s top hamper distributor in New Zealand was also a prostitute. “Christmas hamper empire Chrisco has admitted it is aware its top distributor markets hampers to customers of her escort business,” reported Sunday News. Ironically,


Chrisco saw no problem with this, but the company felt it would be “inappropriate for 45 year old Nelson-based distributor Pip Rene to offer discounts for people buying Christmas hampers and sex at the same time.” “I have men visit me, women visit me, men and women together visit me,” Rene confirmed to the newspaper. “Once we have finished we get dressed, have a coffee and I tell them about Chrisco.” Imagine what she could do with Tupperware. Rene is so successful she’s been named top distributor three times in five years, and even won a P&O cruise courtesy of Chrisco as a reward, which she promptly used to sell sex and hampers to passengers. “Rene said she has always been upfront with Chrisco about how she sells hampers,” reported the newspaper. “She said she sold sex to three clients on the recent P&O cruise. After sex she promoted Chrisco to the clients.” Meanwhile, over on Australian consumer

complaints website NotGoodEnough.org on 11 December last year, another Chrisco distributor was letting the whole world know how he felt about the company: “I have been an agent for Chrisco hampers for the past 4 years. Up until this year that is. They have screwed me over one last time.” On this occasion, a late un-notified switch in a customer’s order meant the distributor didn’t get his payment cheque just before Christmas. The Chrisco operation is large, operating in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, shipping around two million hampers a year. It would be impossible for Chrisco not to generate consumer complaints from time to time. Nonetheless, some of the company’s woes are much bigger than a mere missing hamper. One example is a multi-million dollar lawsuit, reportedly an eight million dollar claim against Hats Holdings Limited, the company that owns Chrisco, over a finance company it once operated, Hopscotch Money. “Hopscotch launched in May 2005 in

a blaze of advertising and aimed to market personal loans to Chrisco’s huge customer base, with most of its funding coming from major banks,” reported the Sunday Star Times late last year. “It has since all but vanished from the public eye and it appears the partners are no longer on good terms.” Details of the case are impossible to come by because the High Court proceedings have been sealed by order of the judge. The case itself won’t be heard until next year. For its part, Hats Holdings told the newspaper the $8 million figure is not correct and the company has no comment while the dispute is before the courts. Chrisco has also been hammered by competitors and the media over claims that its Christmas hampers are overpriced. In a much publicised stoush, New Zealand’s The Mad Butcher Peter Leitch began promoting the rival Hampsta company brand with a series of ads comparing prices. The Butch, for example, claims the 2010 Chrisco meat hampers will cost between 44% and 56% more than if the customer purchased the same meat cuts from The Mad Butcher stores. While that’s true, it and much of the other criticism ignores the reality that a hamper full of products saves the customer from using their own petrol and time to find the selection in the shops. A bunch of flowers delivered by a florist is far more expensive than you’d pay to buy the same blooms at the morning flower markets yourself. As with all things, whether hampers or houses, there’s always an element of ‘let the buyer beware’. With a claimed annual sale of some two million hampers across Australasia, at say $500 each on average, that equates to a revenue stream of a billion dollars a year. Things may be tighter at the home of Christmas than they used to be, but even if the sale of the Chrisco mansion falls through it’s doubtful Richard Bradley will be too financially strained. There’s always the address he’s given to the New Zealand Companies office as his Australian residential address in the Sydney inner suburb of Paddington. Admittedly the photo doesn’t do this century old two bedroom unit (rented out at around A$700 a week according to property records) any justice, but in all likelihood it’s not the Bradleys’ primary Australian residence. Given that the Chrisco mansion is unlikely to end up being Tim Vestor’s primary residence either, there’s a certain serendipity in all this. q INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  33


2012:

GLOBAL GOVERNMENT?

UN AGENCIES DRAFT STRATEGIC PLANS FOR A WORLD CLIMATE ‘GOVERNMENT

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Helen Clark’s UN Development Programme is working hand in glove with the UN Environment Programme to fast-track plans for a ‘global governance’ system to coordinate the fight against climate change. IAN WISHART has the details

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I 

f you thought the climate change debate was dead and buried in the wake of the Climategate scandal think again – the United Nations has given its clearest signal yet it is committed to pushing through a new world government to combat global warming, and it’s even named a date to sign the treaty establishing this new political beast: 2012. With too much money and time invested to give up now – the United Nations has confirmed it is pushing ahead with plans for a “global governance” institution to regulate the lives of all people in the fight against climate change. Even though a controversial clause ushering in a new global “government” was dropped from the failed Copenhagen Accord at the last minute as negotiations collapsed, the UN is refusing to take no for an answer, and has named 2012 as the date the new world control agency will be launched. The deal, which should have been signed off at Copenhagen if things had gone according to plan, has now been rescheduled to coincide with a new summit at Rio de Janeiro – scene of the big Earth Summit in 1992 – set to take place on the 20th anniversary of that event in 2012. Capitalising on the symbolism, UN documents call the event “Rio+20”. A UN Environment Programme briefing paper put together for a conference of world environment ministers in Bali, Indonesia at the end of February, suggests the UN is perfectly placed to capitalise on a perfect storm: “Over the past two years the world has witnessed the emergence of multiple global crises related to food, fuel, freshwater and ... a financial and economic crisis whose recessionary impacts continue to be felt in most parts of the world. Adding to the situation’s complexity is climate change, a phenomenon that is exacerbating the impact of each global crisis.” The UNEP document goes on to say that these events present the opportunity for “a dramatic shift” in the way the world is governed. “While it is clear that Governments and the international community face multiple and serious challenges, the situation also presents genuine opportunities for a dramatic shift from what can be termed ‘business as usual’. “While our current dominant economic model has clearly improved the well being of many societies over time, its operations have also created significant negative exter-

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nalities in the form of global environmental risks (eg, Climate Change).” The UNEP says countries are too focussed on old style indicators of progress such as gross domestic product (GDP), which the UN claims is “unsustainable” and “risks perpetuating and exacerbating persistent poverty and distributional disparities” – UN codespeak for wealth redistribution from first world countries to the third world. The UNEP, which says in the documents it is working with Helen Clark’s UN Development Programme on the global governance idea, is proposing a new world order that fundamentally breaks the existing world economic model of free market capitalism, in favour of a world economy essentially controlled by a UN environmental treaty. “A green economy implies the decoupling of resource use and environmental impacts from economic growth,” says the UNEP, pitching for a massive investment instead in green technology and green living systems which will “provide the mechanism for the reconfiguration of businesses, infrastructure and institutions, and for the adoption of sustainable consumption and production processes.” The UNEP says getting agreement for the new “green economy” from world leaders will “provide an opportunity to re-examine national and global governance structures,” – an apparent reference to the reality that implementing such a global policy would require a global agency to ensure compliance and sanctions against countries that failed to meet their targets. The briefing document acknowledges that in the new world system, environmental and economic policies will be intertwined: “Environment and economic policies are complementary: we need to use regulated market mechanisms to promote new and innovative investments in green technology... linkages between environmental sustainability and the economy will emerge as a key focus for public policymaking and a determinant of future market opportunities.” Those “mechanisms” are certain to include massive taxpayer-funded subsidies for multinationals to develop UN approved greentech systems. Meanwhile, UN Development Programme boss Helen Clark, who was back in New Zealand for her 60th birthday at the time, was “ambushed” by an independent video news crew who challenged her on whether the UN was pitching to become a “world government”.

“If you didn’t have the UN,” Clark told interviewer Will Ryan, “you’d have to invent one because you have to have some way of getting countries talking.” For the record, the UN plan to get a global government set up to control the regulation of world climate change and economic policies in the Copenhagen Accord was contained in Annex 1, Article 38 of the Draft Accord: “The scheme for the new institutional arrangement under the Convention will be based on three basic pillars: government; facilitative mechanism; and financial mechanism. “The government will be ruled by the


President Barack Obama addresses global leaders at the 64th Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations on September 23, 2009 in New York City /Tony Blake/ PSG

COP [Conference of the Parties] with the support of a new subsidiary body on adaptation, and of an Executive Board responsible for the management of the new funds and the related facilitative processes and bodies. The current Convention secretariat will operate as such, as appropriate.” Stripped of UN bureaucracy-speak, the essence of the proposal is simple: climate change is too big a problem for any one government to handle; national governments need to cede enough powers and finances to a centralised entity capable of co-ordinating global policy in all areas that can affect climate. The new ‘government’ will be answerable to the Conference of Parties (UN

signatories to the treaty meeting together as they did in Copenhagen on an annual or biannual basis). The public get to vote for politicians in their own national governments, but it is the governments who make votes at the Conference of Parties, usually only after heavy lobbying from non-elected Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) like Greenpeace, Oxfam or Socialist International, and on the advice of unelected bureaucrats who tell the politicians they must comply with XYZ clause of relevant UN treaties. Thus, the entire thing becomes circular: the new UN government gets its real authority from the powers ceded under the Treaty, and its politi-

cal legitimacy from the Conference of Parties rubber-stamping its decisions, because they have no power to do otherwise. As previously reported in Investigate, international law provides no mechanism for a country to withdraw from a Treaty without the approval of the other treaty partners. For all practical purposes, once a new world climate government is set up, it is set up forever. [A version of this story first appeared in Investigate’s TGIF Edition] RELATED CONTENT: Read the UNEP document here: http://www. foxnews.com/projects/pdf/022510_greeneconomy.pdf q INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  37


OBITUARY

One Foot in the Grave E P I TA P H F O R A L I A R A N D W R E C K E R Michael Foot’s influential distortion of British history left Goebbels for dead, writes HAL G. P. COLEBATCH

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B 

ritish Labour politician and former Labour Party leader Michael Foot, who has died aged 96, grotesquely described by Tory MEP Daniel Hannan as “God’s Englishman”, deserves a place in history, apart from his laudable achievements in bringing the British Labour Party to disaster when leader: he was not only the biggest liar since Goebbels, but a good deal more effective. As a wrecker of British industry he was also second to none. He was the principal author, under the pen-name “Cato” of the World War II book Guilty Men, which created the enduring myth that the British Tories had been solely responsible for Britain blundering into the War disarmed, and the ill-equipped British Army being driven into the sea at Dunkirk. There is no doubt Guilty Men, completed in only about a week, is a brilliant piece of writing: fast-paced, taut and vivid with a sense of impending doom, its recounting of British politics in the 1930s captured perfectly Churchill’s quote: “Death is in charge of the clattering train.”

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The first edition was published shortly after Dunkirk. The first chapter “the doomed army,” a vivid picture of the Dunkirk beaches, describes British soldiers with Brenguns fighting hopelessly against Panzers and Stukas: “flesh against steel …. this is the story of an army doomed before it took the field.” The Home Secretary, by co-incidence also a Labour politician, made apparently unlimited amounts of paper available for its printing in the middle of the war, despite paper being severely rationed, and it went through edition after edition. There is no doubt that it played a major part in the Conservative defeat of 1945 and the subsequent installation of a socialist Labour government with all the disasters that followed. It was a perfect example of the deliberate creation of a political myth. Few if any other books can claim such influence. Cleverly, while damning the old guard of pre-war Tories, it praised Churchill, thus ensuring at least some acceptance in patriotic Conservative circles. Foot himself neither served in the armed forces nor took part in war-work that might have helped

the defence effort. He is said –rather vaguely – to have had asthma but this would not have excluded him from a variety of defencerelated occupations. Like all the best liars, Foot based his work on a half-truth. Apart from the fact that appeasement of a man like Hitler, bent on war more-or-less for its own sake, would never work, it is true that is many ways Britain’s pre-war re-armament was grossly inadequate. As George Orwell put it: “[In] 1940 we nearly perished for lack of a large, efficient army, which we could only have had if we had introduced conscription at least three years earlier.” (Whether Britain could have afforded more re-armament is another matter.) But Orwell prefaced this with another

A vivid picture of the Dunkirk beaches … British soldiers with Bren-guns fighting hopelessly against Panzers and Stukas


Labour voted against every estimate for land, sea and air until 1937, when it became patriotic enough to actually abstain. On 11 March, 1936, British Labour leader Clement Attlee protested in Parliament against a modest increase in rearmament and advocated “disbanding the national armies”

point: “As late as 1939, the Labour Party voted against conscription, a step which probably played its part in bringing about the Russo-German pact and certainly had a disastrous effect on morale in France.” What Foot was at great pains not to mention, and which no-one reading his book could possibly have guessed from it, was that, inadequate as the Conservatives’ rearmament was during the 1930s, the rearmament that was achieved was undertaken in the face of opposition from the Labour Party virtually every step of the way. Labour voted against every estimate for land, sea and air until 1937, when it became patriotic enough to actually abstain. On 11 March, 1936, British Labour leader Clement Attlee protested in Parliament against a modest increase in rearmament and advocated “disbanding the national armies.” Hitler intro-

duced conscription for Nazi Germany five days later, contrary to the Versailles Treaty and ten days later told the British Foreign Secretary that Germany, which was supposed never again to have an Air Force, had reached parity with Britain in air power. In the same year Germany launched its third new pocket-batttleship – ships in breach of the Versailles Treaty and specialized for commerce-raiding, whose only real target could be Britain’s maritime trade. Labour continually attacked the prewar Conservative Governments of Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain not for appeasement but for war-mongering and for spending too much on rearmament. Various Labour leaders, including Attlee, at various times wanted the British armed forces disbanded or placed under League of Nations (now the United Nations) control. In June,

I would close every recruiting station, disband the Army, and disarm the Air Force

1933, at the East Fulham by-election, Labour Leader George Lansbury sent a message to the candidate: “I would close every recruiting station, disband the Army, and disarm the Air Force. I would abolish the whole dreadful equipment of war, and say to the world; ‘Do your worst!’” Attlee, his successor, told the House of Commons on 21 December, 1933: “we are unalterably opposed to anything in the nature of re-armament.” Shortly after the Nazi re-occupation and INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  41


remilitarisation of the Rhineland, the first, and crucial, major test of the Western democracies’ resolution, Labour front-bencher Sir Stafford Cripps proclaimed: “Every possible effort should be made to stop recruiting for the armed services.” A Labour MP, Geoffrey Mander, claimed, in what was with perhaps unconscious irony titled a “Victory Book,” We Were not All Wrong (Victor Gollancz, London, 1941): “[O]n 8 March, 1934, we find Mr Attlee saying: ‘Is what is meant an air defence for this country against some possible attack, or is it meant as a contribution to collective security under the League of Nations? We believe it is not too late for the Government in their policy to say that the Air Force which we have is our contribution to the force that shall support the rule of law in the world.’ “The same clear realistic view of defence [sic. This is not intended ironically or sarcastically] is once more spelt out by Mr Attlee on 13 July, 1934: ‘We have stated quite clearly our position, which is that we do not believe in individual defence. We believe only in collective defence, and for the use of armed forces by the League for League purposes and for peace’.” As late as 26-27 April, 1939, when Hitler had swallowed the post-Munich remnant of Czechoslovakia and was plainly bent on a general war, Attlee and the Labour Party attacked plans for the emergency and temporary introduction of conscription, Attlee claiming in Parliament it was “further evidence that the Government’s conduct of affairs throughout these critical times does nor merit the confidence of this House.” The French socialist leader Leon Blum, writing in Le Populaire of 28 April, 1939, said he was shocked at the contradiction between British Labour’s verbal anti-Fascism and its continued opposition to conscription, which it maintained up to the outbreak of war. Winston Churchill wrote in his memoirs of World War II on the impression which the lack of a sizeable British Army made on the Soviet Union at the crucial time leading up to the signing of the Nazi-Soviet pact in 1939, which removed the last Nazi inhibitions against war, as told to him later by Stalin himself: “At the Kremlin in August 1942 Stalin, in the early hours of the morning, gave me one aspect of the Soviet position. ‘We formed the impression,’ said Stalin, ‘that the British and French Governments were not resolved to go to war if Poland were attacked, but that they hoped the diplo42  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

matic line-up of Britain, France and Russia would deter Hitler. We were sure it would not.’ [Stalin said he had asked a British diplomat before the war] ‘How many divisions will France send against Germany on mobilisation?’ The answer was, ‘About a hundred,’ He then asked, ‘How many will England send?’ The answer was, ‘Two, and two more later.’ ‘Ah, two, and two more later’” Stalin had repeated. ‘Do you know,’ he had asked, ‘how many divisions we shall have to put on the Russian front if we go to war with Germany.’ There was a pause. “More than three hundred.” I was not told with whom this conversation took place or its date. It must be recognised that this was solid ground ...” Even during the Battle of Britain trade unions affiliated with the Labour Party were striking at aircraft factories. On 21

May, 1940 the labour force at the Blantyre Colliery near Glasgow stopped work over a disagreement between machine-men as to which employee should take over the cutting work of a section. A few days later there was a strike at the Roe (later Avro) aircraft works at Manchester over the dismissal of an employee who had falsified the record of his arrival times. From 6 to 24 August, 1940, during the Battle of Britain, the De Havilland aircraft factory at Edgeware lost 4,426 working days from a strike because of the transfer of four capstan-fitters from the Even during the Battle of Britain trade unions affiliated with the Labour Party were striking at aircraft factories


The French socialist leader Leon Blum, writing in Le Populaire of 28 April, 1939, said he was shocked at the contradiction between British Labour’s verbal anti-Fascism and its continued opposition to conscription, which it maintained up to the outbreak of war

firm to other work of national importance. There were, according to historian Andrew Roberts, who wrote drawing on official sources, “myriad” strikes at Scottish mines over trivial matters, and strikes in the same year in ship-building yards at Hartlepool, Plymouth and South Shields. There was no hint of any of this in Foot’s book. A particular target for Foot’s sneers in Guilty Men was Sir Thomas Inskip, the Conservatives’ Minister for Defence

Co-ordination. Actually it was Inskip, a lawyer and former intelligence officer, who as much as almost anyone saved Britain, ensuring the Air Force received a large share of what defence money was available for modern fighters like the Spitfire and Hurricane and chains of radar warning stations. These did not appear by magic at the Battle of Britain in 1940 – they were the result of pre-war planning and the right allocation of priorities.

Foot in the same book also sneered at the Polish Army – “that vast herd of horses” – for cowardice, only good for fleeing, a charge which at least had the merit of originality. The Russian invasion of Poland in 1939 (which forced the Poles to resist on two fronts and was the ultimate reason they fell to Germany) was not so much as mentioned. Foot’s post-war achievements as a practical politician were entirely negative, though he at least played a big part in ruining the INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  43


When Labour returned to power in February 1974, for the first time in many years, he was Secretary of State for Employment. He promptly settled a miners’ strike, which had toppled the Conservative government, by the simple expedient of allowing miners pay rises of between 22 and 25 per cent.

Labour Party for many years, and as leader making it unelectable. This was his greatest service to Britain. When Labour returned to power in February 1974, for the first time in many years, he was Secretary of State for Employment. He promptly settled a miners’ strike, which had toppled the Conservative government, by the simple expedient of allowing miners pay rises of between 22 and 25 per cent. An Employment Protection Act set up tribunals against unfair dismissal, gave women rights of maternity leave and reinstatement, and established the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), putting 44  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

the last nails in the coffin of British manufacturing and export competitiveness. The Manpower Services Commission, responsible for training and job creation, was another creation of this period. Foot’s most totalitarian measure was the legalisation of the closed ship. It was perhaps particularly shocking that as a journalist, in theory committed to the freedom of the press, Foot limited the rights of editors to publish contributions by those who did not belong to the far-left-controlled National Union of Journalists. Foot’s grovelling to the unions produced a succession of ruinously high wage settlements – 31 per cent for the electricity workers, 27 per

cent for the railwaymen, 37 per cent for the National Union of Seamen. This inevitably produced runaway inflation and destroyed whole industries. (Anyone ever wonder where Britain’s once world-leading car, aircraft and ship-building industries went?) Whether or not Foot was a conscious Soviet minion, he certainly served Soviet interests. He approached the Russians for help in an effort to defeat Margaret Thatcher. Otherwise Foot’s later career, including an inglorious spell as leader of the Labour Party (Margaret Thatcher wiped the floor with him) was not marked by any great achievement. He had done his great work in 1940.  q


Labour Party Leader Michael Foot walks his dog Dizzie in Tredegar, Gwent in Wales on the morning of the 1983 General Election. He lost. /MIRRORPIX

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H  e Would Do

ANYTHING

F  OR ART But He Won’t Do That

MEAT LOAF IS BACK WITH A BRAND NEW ALBUM IN STORES LATE APRIL, BUT AS IAN WISHART FOUND OUT, DON’T MENTION THE ‘B’ WORD

T 

he sirens were screaming and the Meat Loaf was howling, cos no-one was doing it right/ They’d all come along, to hear his new song/ but the questions weren’t very nice/ Then a dude from Nightline, was making him whine/by feeding the veggie-man meat/ and down in the shadows with his temperature rising, I know I swear I saw a rock god thumping a table/ and really start to turn up the heat... “That’s gotta be the stupidest thing I ever heard!!” Meat Loaf snapped down the phone at what had been a fairly innocuous question. Unfortunately, our interview slot was at the tail end of a long afternoon of interviews for Michael (né Marvin) Lee Aday and it wasn’t until I saw TV3’s piece by Dave Farrier – where he smugly served up a plate of meatloaf to the strict vegetarian thinking it was a hilariously original stunt – that I realised why Loaf might have had enough of the media asking inane questions. The Bat-meister’s mood wasn’t helped by the fact that – due to a scheduling mixup – no review copies of the new album Hang Cool Teddy Bear were available for

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the media and the intimate preview session of the album – hosted by the Loaf himself – wasn’t taking place until the end of the day. This meant that none of the journalists who’d lined up to interview him on this Auckland Monday had a clue what Teddy Bear held in store for them. “It’s not your fault,” Meat Loaf quickly apologised as he regained composure. “It’s just that you really, really need to hear this album in order for us to have an intelligent conversation about it.” Well, sometimes life is a lemon and you just can’t get your money back. You simply have to, as Meat Loaf reminds me, get over it and pick yourself up. Realising that I, like everyone else he’d spoken to that day, was flying blind, Meat tried to paint a word picture of his new work. “If you take a, what’s the word, if you had a big piece of marble and the other albums all took that big piece of marble, took their chisel and their hammer and planted it right in the centre of that marble and just struck it, and struck it, and kept hitting it, this album is glancing blows off that piece of marble, as opposed to really hammering the marble.”


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In other words, it’s a departure from classic Meat Loaf, rather than continuing to mine that Bat vein. Yet, as I reminded him, the album cover reeks of bat, right down to having a small bat in a corner with the tiny Roman numeral ‘IV’ emblazoned on its chest. Significant? “Yeah, because the record company wanted to call it Bat out of Hell IV and I told them no. I said, ‘you’ve gotta be kidding me, that’s a negative. First of all it’s a negative for Jim Steinman and it’s a negative for [producer] Rob Cavallo’. So I said I would call it Hang Cool Teddy Bear IV, but I didn’t put the IV on the front, I put it on the back – it’s a joke.” What’s the significance of the title? “If you haven’t heard it you’re looking for what you normally ask someone, but the way I’ve been promoting this record is completely different – I am pioneering a new way of promotion, which is being in a room, introducing the record, then playing the record, and then explaining more about the record, and then talking. But I sit in the room while we listen to it, and I’m gonna do that in about 20 minutes with some journalists. “The significance of the title is nothing more than for you to question and go, ‘what?’ Because everybody has their titles like ‘A long road home’, or ‘Fighting my way back’, ‘come on over’ – and then they give us these weepy tales about, ‘well, God, it was this and I felt I had to give myself more to you’ – you know, violins – stop with the b/s and tell me the truth! And the truth is it’s nothing more than where it’s so far removed from Bat out of Hell or any connotation of a clichéd Meat Loaf title, that you go, ‘what?!’” For the record (no pun intended) Hang Cool Teddy Bear is also a line from Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls. Most of his album titles incidentally don’t have the word ‘bat’ in them. For those with a passing acquaintance, Meat Loaf has always been bigger than bat. Both musically and literally. He piled on 31kg in the mid 1960s in a bid to beat being drafted into the military, and when that failed he stole his police officer father’s credit card and legged it to LA where he worked as a beefy teen nightclub bouncer. He was still carrying weight when Bat Out Of Hell was released in 1977. He and Jim Steinman had begun collaborating on Bat in 1973, around the time that New Zealander Richard O’Brien gave Meat Loaf a big break by casting him as Eddie in The Rocky Horror Show. 48  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

It took four years to write, record, and shop around to a bunch of tyre-kicking record company execs who felt it didn’t fit any recognised musical genre and therefore wasn’t commercial. And yet, when it finally came out, Bat 1 became one of the biggestselling albums of all time with more than 43 million copies sold. It still sells around 200,000 units a year, 33 years after its release. After Bat came Dead Ringer – another collaboration with Steinman who by then had also penned “Total Eclipse of The Heart” for Bonnie Tyler and “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All” for Aussie duo Air Supply – before Meat Loaf became bogged down in ill-health and financial woes. A third album, 1983’s Midnight At The Lost And Found, featured no Steinman compositions, and wasn’t a hit. 1984’s Bad Attitude, marked a return to form not just because of a couple of Steinman tracks but also because of a more consistent theme across the entire album. Blind Before I Stop and a Live compilation rounded out the eighties with pretty much a whimper, before Meat Loaf and Steinman pulled off one of the greatest comebacks of all time with 1992’s Bat Out Of Hell II, the album that launched the career of one Angelina Jolie, a then-19 year old who starred as the love interest in the music video for the Rock n Roll Dreams Come Through single. Over the phone, Meat Loaf insists to me that Hang Cool Teddy Bear is not a reprise of the Bat franchise. “And yet,” I venture foolishly, “I’ve heard Hugh Laurie’s piano playing on the Youtube

Meat Loaf in concert as part of the British Motorshow at the Excel Centre London, England / WENN

preview clip and it is reminiscent of Roy Bittan on Bat out of Hell –” “There’s nothing reminiscent of Bat on this record!” interrupts Meat. “Get rid of Bat. As much as I love that record, you have to get rid of that. It goes away, it completely goes away. We’re not piano based on this record, we’re guitar based. The lyrics are more reality based; yes, they’re poetic because they’re lyrics, but they’re reality based. It’s the story of a soldier who’s dying, whose life flashes forward instead of backwards. It’s all the scenarios that he goes to. There’s a song called “LosAngeloser” which is something like you’ve never heard before. But Roy Bittan, and what Hugh Laurie plays on the beginning of “If I Can’t Have You” – the difference between that and anything Roy Bittan plays is night and day. All you want to do is reference to the past. There is no reference to the past on this album.” In a Youtube preview, Loaf has described himself as “captain of this ship” and said this is probably the most important album he’s done. “It is, and it is by far,” he confirms. “Some of the early reviews from the UK have come in and they’ve called it my best work to date.” Indeed, they have. Music journalists who’ve been closeted for a special sitting report seeing a man clearly proud of his


It appears to be a touchy question for Meat Loaf/ WEEN

achievement with this album, and moved to the point of tears by seeing the reactions of his audiences. Meat Loaf attributes that critical success to his producer. “Rob Cavallo (Green Day, My Chemical Romance Paramore, Fleetwood Mac) – he’s the best producer in the world because he takes an artist, he takes the vision of that artist, and he makes that record a hundred thousand times better than you could have ever anticipated or dreamed it could be.” “In terms of how much of Meat is in this album,” I ask, “as compared to previous offerings, obviously with the Steinman writings of the first two Bat albums, there was a lot of anthemic rock and epic storytelling going on –” “Well there’s epic storytelling going on in this one,” growls Loaf, “but it’s just a different style. We don’t have a ‘wall of sound’, we don’t have the Todd Rundgren backgrounds, but it is much more epic and much more powerful in its presentation than anything I’ve ever done.” With such free rein, how much of Meat Loaf the person is in this, I wonder. “Everything,” he says quickly before I can even finish the question. I try and rephrase: “The early stuff you did, some of it could be seen to relate to your life in some respects –”

“I disagree with that, nothing relates to my life, ever.” It appears to be a touchy question for Meat Loaf. I recall seeing a video years ago where he talked of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his drunken father, and he has written of the time his father even tried to kill him with a knife. To me, and others, it sounded spookily similar to aspects of the Bat 2 song “Objects In The Rear View Mirror”, whose lyrics in part read: And when the sun descended and the night arose I heard my father cursing everyone he knows He was dangerous and drunk and defeated And corroded by failure and envy and hate There were endless winters and the dreams would freeze Nowhere to hide and no leaves on the trees And my father’s eyes were blank As he hit me again and again and again I know I still believe he’d never let me leave, I had to run away alone So many threats and fears, so many wasted years Before my life became my own And though the nightmares should be over

There’s nothing reminiscent of Bat on this record! – interrupts Meat. Get rid of Bat. As much as I love that record, you have to get rid of that. It goes away, it completely goes away INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  49


Some of the terrors are still intact I’ll hear that ugly coarse and violent voice And then he grabs me from behind And then he pulls me back But it was long ago and it was far away, Oh God it seems so very far And if life is just a highway, Then the soul is just a car And objects in the rear view mirror May appear closer than they are Yes, the song was penned by Jim Steinman, not Meat Loaf, but I had to ask: “Objects in the rear view mirror?” “No, not a prayer, I wouldn’t allow it. I find that, it’s like saying that Marlon Brando when he did Streetcar named Desire, that that reflected back onto his life and if it didn’t he couldn’t possibly tell you the truth or have any basis in reality in the movie. That doesn’t work, that’s not true. That’s like if an artist painted a picture of a place he’d never seen before that he couldn’t bring any truth to that because he has no point of reference – no, he does have a point of reference, his truth is the point of reference is and that’s what the point of reference is. That’s what any kind of artistic endeavour should have, is always finding the truth.” I think what Meat Loaf was trying to say is that objects in his own rear view mirror are long dead and safely buried, and that whatever he brought to the table from his own life had no bearing on the integrity of Steinman’s song other than to provide Meat with an artistic experiential frame of reference. The characters and situations depicted in this song are fictitious/Any resemblance to real people or events, including the singer, is entirely coincidental. “Even the people who write these songs” says Meat, “and tell you it’s about the truck running over their cat and how horrible it was when it happened – they have a problem revealing the truth inside the story that actually happened, because they’re not willing to give themselves up. They’re not willing to really open up and pour their blood out. As Sally Field said, when you divulge the truth on the screen, or in a scene or in a role, you are cutting yourself with razor blades. And these people are too afraid to do that, and I’m not, and this album is about truth.” For Hang Cool Teddy Bear, the concept album about a young soldier dying on the battlefield whose mind races through what might have been in his life, Meat Loaf brings his skills as an actor. 50  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

You know, the problem we have in the music business today is we hear kids on these shows who go, ‘I want to be famous’. They don’t say they want to have integrity, they want to be famous. And art, no matter what form it takes, is about integrity. Until you have integrity, you have nothing. Your integrity is what drives you

“That has been something that has been said about me, ‘oh, this couldn’t possibly be truthful, he can’t be real, because he didn’t live those moments’. I got news for you: you go tell every actor who was in any Shakespeare play from the beginning of time, any movie from the beginning of time, and you look them in the face and you tell them you couldn’t possibly be real, how stupid is that?” As a singer documenting the life of a man facing death, Meat may well have drawn on his own brushes with the grim reaper: surviving a car crash, an emergency landing in his private plane with an undercarriage failure, or getting whacked in the head with a shot put. Not to mention collapsing on stage in an early Bat concert leading to worldwide rumours in the late seventies that he’d died an untimely death. “In terms of how the project came to you, did the writers come to you with an idea for a concept album or did you go out and commission it?” “No, no. It started like this, a song fell out of the sky – we had started the record and had two songs but Rob said ‘we can’t

cut any more of these songs you have, we’ve gotta start over’. All of a sudden a song fell out of the sky, I have no idea from where, and I heard this song and immediately called my friend, screenwriter Kilian Kerwin, and said, ‘do you still have that idea about the guy whose life is flashing forward?’ “He said, yes. We workshopped it for about two hours on the phone, he started writing the story and I started recording the album. We pulled together a core of writers: Justin Hawkins, Rick Brantley, James Michael, Eric Nalley, Kara DioGuardi, and I did not tell them the story because I did not want the writers to become – they get too literal. “There’s three people that knew what we were doing: Rob, myself, and Kilian. And we put the rest of them together in July and we started working and moving forward. I left them alone until we were about three quarters of the way through. I was taking pieces of songs that they had started and then I started manoeuvring and developing them. Rob would come in and write on them, I would come in and write on them. “There was this song called “Like a Rose”,


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which was given to me and that pretty much stayed intact. “LosAngeloser” pretty much stayed intact. Those were the first two songs we recorded and after that Rob said ‘nothing else works’. Everything else had been reworked lyric wise all the way down to – there’s a Jon Bonjovi song that ends the record because the guy’s life does flash backwards at the end – and I started rewriting that even though Jon doesn’t know that right now,” he chuckles. “Tell me, given the strong narrative through this album, do you see it and is it already being plotted as a musical or feature length movie?” “Yeah, people are talking about a feature length movie because the story is so intriguing.” “You’ve had a rollercoaster career over the years, up and down, all sorts of things happen to you –” “Hey, that’s life! Has your life ever been tough? You keep going don’t you? That’s it, my life isn’t any different. I get blamed for stuff that isn’t my fault.” When I put it to him that the music business is tougher than most, he waxes lyrical

about what the industry has become. “You know, the problem we have in the music business today is we hear kids on these shows who go, ‘I want to be famous’. They don’t say they want to have integrity, they want to be famous. And art, no matter what form it takes, is about integrity. Until you have integrity, you have nothing. Your integrity is what drives you.” He would do anything for art, but he won’t sacrifice his integrity. “Do you see anything positive coming out of American Idol?” “No, absolutely nothing. This is how it goes down. A record company picks out 20 songs, they send them over to five different producers. Five different producers cut these tracks, the artists are not there, they have no artistic input on how the tracks are cut. You’ve got some record producer’s ego cutting these tracks, half the time they’re in the wrong key, then they’ve got four days when the artist comes in to do a vocal. He leaves, they piece together the vocals, they put it on Pro-Tools, they tune it to death and put all this stuff on it, they Beatmaker it, it’s no longer real. They mix it, the art-

ist is no more than some record company A&R guy’s puppet who’s simply trying to get downloads on iTunes. “These shows are ruining the music business, because there’s great people who have real talent on some of these shows, but I’ve always said an artist is nothing more than a can of soup with an opinion, but in this situation these artists are no more than a can of soup and even their opinion is gone.” No one could accuse Meat Loaf of not having an opinion. “So what’s next for you?” “This is it, dude. There is nothing ‘next’, now. This is the most important moment of my life. To even consider that anything else could possibly come into play in the middle of this – there’s no relevance, nothing will.” But if this is ‘it’, how difficult is it to get one’s head back into past incarnations when people at concerts want the old favourites, I wonder aloud. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. It’s a crime not to. I think any artist, if you’ve recorded a song and somebody wants to hear it – I mean obviously I’ve done a lot of songs and I’d be on stage for eight days, you can’t possibly please everybody – but I would never think about walking on a stage without doing Bat out of Hell. “First of all I’m different from other artists in that Bat out of Hell comes to life that night as if it’s the first time I’ve ever done it, because I don’t do anything but live in the moment. It’s not about the show before, it’s about right then, right there, that moment in front of that audience. Bat out of Hell doesn’t feel like I started singing it 35 years ago. I just did it live, on television for the first time in history, about three weeks ago in England on a show called Popstar to Opera Star and you go online and find it [Google Meat Loaf Popstar Youtube Bat]. You’ll see I’m in the moment and living the moment, and there is nothing old about it. Of course people want you to play the old stuff, and you’d be wrong not to.” I remember, as we hang up, seeing Meat Loaf in concert in Auckland nearly twenty years ago; a sea of faces ranging in age from six to 80, and being staggered at the demographic reach of the performer. The kids who’ll hear Hang Cool Teddy Bear were not alive when Bat out of Hell II came out, and in some cases even their parents were still in nappies when Bat 1 took the planet by storm. Call Meat Loaf anything you like, but you can’t call him a LosAngeloser. Hang Cool Teddy Bear, out April 19 q INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  51


A HOLLOW MAN

WHY RICHARD DAWKINS IS WRONG ABOUT THE ORIGIN OF LIFE

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ritish atheist Richard Dawkins has told sellout crowds across New Zealand and Australia that life exists purely because of “an astonishing stroke of luck”. That message became the keynote theme of his speeches, his best argument for batting away claims that life is intelligently designed. Hailed as New Atheism’s “rock star”, Dawkins makes a lot of money telling non-believers what they want to hear, but as I argued in The Divinity Code there’s actually very good evidence that Dawkins is utterly and completely wrong. Let’s look at some of his assertions. Firstly, he’s telling his audiences religious belief is an evolution of “gratitude”. “When you feel just plain grateful, then who are you being grateful to? You have to invent a God of pixies or something to be grateful to.” Dawkins fails to explain why gratitude would be an evolutionary trait worth keeping – after all, there are millions of animal, plant and insect species that have flourished in far greater numbers than humans without being grateful in the slightest. At one point in his speech he suggests perhaps natural selection favoured the survival of those who believed what their parents believed – a Dawkinsian appeal to one of Kipling’s “Just so” stories, perhaps. Here’s how I tackled it in Divinity Code: A recent poll showed 77% of New Zealanders believed in some kind of higher power. But the question is ‘Why?’. Why do we believe in God? Time magazine put it another way: “Which came first, God or the need for God? In other words, did humans create religion from cues sent from above, or did evolution instil in us a sense of the divine so that we would gather into the communities essential to keeping the species going?” Examine the last part of that statement for a moment. It’s the idea that evolution created the idea of God in our heads. Yet evolution is supposed to be purposeless and randomly-caused. How could a single-celled organism know in advance that in order to succeed it needed to believe in an imaginary friend called God’? The idea seems more farcical and fraught with contradictions than simply believing in God himself, but it has led to what some scientists are calling their theory of “the God Gene” – the idea that humans are programmed to believe in God. “Even among people who regard spiritual life as wishful hocus-pocus, there is a growing sense that humans may not be able to survive without it,” says Time. “It’s hard enough getting by in a fang-and-claw world in which killing, thieving and cheating pay such rich dividends. It’s harder still when there’s no moral cop walking the beat to blow the whistle when things get out of control. Best to have a deity on hand to rein in our worst impulses, bring out our best and, not incidentally, give us a sense that there’s someone awake in the cosmic house when the lights go out at night and we find ourselves wondering just why we’re here in the first place. If a God or even several gods can do all that, fine. And if we sometimes misuse the idea of our gods – and millenniums of holy wars prove that we do – the benefits of being a spiritual species will surely outweigh the bloodshed.” Again, from Time, no explanation as to why this is an evolutionary advantage. If natural selection measures success by the number of members of your species alive at any one moment, it’s worth remembering New Zealand has more possums than people (30 million at last estimate). Intelligence and self-awareness may have helped us in our own ecological niche, but to argue that humans are the most successful species on the planet in the unbiased eyes of Nature would be a mistake. 52  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010


INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  53


Dawkins ventures that the ultimate gratitude that led to religious belief was perhaps amazement that we exist at all. That’s certainly a valid thing to be amazed about in modern society, because science has now shown just how unlikely life is. But by the same token there’s no reason to believe that primitive humans had any reason to experience this particular strain of gratitude, because unlike Dawkins they had no reason to know their existence was against all odds. Dawkins waved away inconvenient details like the origin of life by appealing to the “astonishing stroke of luck that we are here.” He speculated that life might have begun accidentally, that maybe it was indeed extremely rare in the universe, but nonetheless we are here so we should just chalk it up to a natural surprise event. Is this truly the best argument Richard Dawkins can muster in favour of atheism? It appears so, but let’s return to The Divinity Code to see just how “astonishing” the existence of life on earth is.

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alileo’s discovery that the earth revolves around the sun is often cited as a turning point, the moment that science trumped religious belief for the first time. Its significance, according to atheists, is that it showed the Earth was not the centre of the solar system, let alone the universe, and that really we inhabit an insignificant speck of rock, three planets out from the sun, in a forlorn and minor arm of an inconsequential galaxy in a far-flung corner of the cosmos. Some scientists – the late Carl Sagan, for example – are so certain that we are not unique, and that the universe must be teeming with life that they set up projects like SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, which harnesses the power of millions of home computers over the internet to number crunch radio telescope data in the hunt for intelligent messages from outer space. As anyone who has seen Star Trek or Star Wars knows, the appeal of other civilizations in far off places is at the core of modern science fiction, touching as it does on the deep human need to explore, seek out new frontiers and to boldly go where no man has gone before! Well, you get the picture. In a sense, our search for aliens is a reflection of our deeper search for meaning and truth in the universe. What is life for, if not to seek out the unknown? What most people don’t appreciate, how54  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

ever, is that our location appears to make us unique in the universe. If the earth was not placed precisely where it is in space, none of you would be here, let alone reading this book. Romantic as science fiction is, there are growing signs that the universe is not teeming with life, and that we may indeed be alone. Part of this is because of the brick wall evolutionary biology has hit in trying to find out how life arose on earth. As I explained in my earlier book, Eve’s Bite, experiments to create life from scratch have failed. The best that science appears able to do is cobble together components of existing life forms to create new hybrid organisms. Creating life from a puddle, even with the best amino acids, electricity surges and ideal conditions, has flopped. Various alternative theories have been put forward, such as life arising elsewhere in the universe and arriving here either on a comet or via aliens “seeding” Earth (panspermia theory); or alternatively the “RNA World hypothesis”, which suggests that RNA molecules might have powered primitive life forms on our planet before evolving into DNA life. The problem with panspermia theory is that if life is too complex to have arisen on the planet most suited to sustaining life (Earth), then how likely is it to have arisen somewhere else in the universe and survived millions of years of cosmic radiation while being transported here on a comet? And how did it survive the journey from its own planet onto a comet in the first place? Christopher Hitchens, in God Is Not Great, says “Francis Crick even allowed himself to flirt with the theory that life was ‘inseminated’ on earth by bacteria spread from a passing comet.” Not so fast, Hitch. In an interview with Bible Code author Michael Drosnin, Crick denies the comet idea: “I called,” writes Drosnin, “the most eminent authority in the world, Francis Crick, the Nobel laureate biologist who discovered the double helix, the spiral structure of DNA. It was one of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time. As Crick himself declared in the first moment of revelation, ‘We’ve discovered the secret of life’. “ ‘Is it possible,’ I asked Crick, when I reached him at the Salk Institute in San Diego, California, ‘that our DNA came from another planet?’ “ ‘I published that theory twenty-five years ago,’ said Crick. ‘I called it ‘Directed Panspermia.’ “ ‘Do you think it arrived in a meteor or comet?’ I asked.

“ ‘No,’ said Crick. ‘Anything living would have died in such an accidental journey through space.’ ‘Are you saying that DNA was sent here in a vehicle?’ I asked. ‘It’s the only possibility,’ said Crick. “I asked him to explain his theory of the genesis of DNA. The DNA molecule, Crick said, was far too complex to have evolved spontaneously on Earth in the short time between the formation of this planet 4 billion years ago and the first appearance of life 3.8 billion years ago. “ ‘But it is unlikely,’ said Crick, ‘that liv-


ing organisms could have reached Earth as spores from another star, or embedded in a meteorite.’ Therefore, said Crick, there was only one possibility: “ ‘A primitive form of life was planted on the Earth by an advanced civilization on another planet – deliberately…all life on Earth represents a clone derived from a single extraterrestrial organism. “ ‘We know very little about the origins of life,’ said Crick, ‘but all of the new scientific discoveries support my theory and none disprove it. “ ‘There has been one big change since

our theory was first published’, he told me. ‘We now know that other stars do have planets. So it certainly is possible that an advanced technological civilization existed elsewhere in the galaxy even before the Earth was formed’. “Crick was more certain than ever. ‘DNA was sent here in a vehicle,’ he said. ‘By aliens’.” Three things emerge from this fascinating discussion between Crick and Drosnin. Firstly, suggestions in some quarters that Crick had backed away from his “aliens theory” appear to be wrong. Secondly, Crick destroys any possibility of random life trav-

Professor Richard Dawkins launches UK’s first ever atheist advertising campaign on the side of London’s busses at Kensington Gardens London, England /WENN

elling here on a comet. Thirdly, his thesis requires there not only to be aliens, but for the aliens to specifically choose Planet Earth on which to seed new life. Anyone care to run the probability calculations across that one? INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  55


Interestingly, in Richard Dawkins’ speeches, he makes much of the possibility that probability favours the emergence of life, saying it’s his “gut feeling”. “There are billions and billions of planets out there, so there could be millions of planets that have life on them, but the origin of life could still be a staggeringly good stroke of luck,” he told an audience in Christchurch this month. Yet as you are about to see, “staggeringly good stroke of luck” doesn’t even begin to cover the odds against the emergence of life naturally. All of the life on planet Earth is based on DNA and its simpler precursor RNA. Yet these molecular strands are like encyclopedias full of computer code. Where did they come from?

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NA theory has difficulties, such as RNA’s vulnerability to breaking down in sunlight and water. RNA life forms would find it hard to go outside on a fine day, or a rainy day, and probably any day in between. As acclaimed DNA chemist Robert Shapiro noted in 2007, RNA is not what many are still cracking it up to be.1 “The hypothesis that life began with RNA was presented as a likely reality, rather than a speculation, in journals, textbooks and the media. Yet the clues I have cited only support the weaker conclusion that RNA preceded DNA and proteins; they provide no information about the origin of life, which may have involved stages prior to the RNA world in which other living entities ruled supreme. Just the same, and despite the difficulties that I will discuss in the next section, perhaps two-thirds of scientists publishing in the origin-of life field (as judged by a count of papers published in 2006 in the journal Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere) still support the idea that life began with the spontaneous formation of RNA or a related self-copying molecule.” Citing the 1986 study by Nobel Laureate Walter Gilbert that ushered in the RNA hypothesis, Shapiro now says: “Enormous obstacles block Gilbert’s picture of the origin of life, sufficient to provoke another Nobelist, Christian De Duve of Rockefeller University, to ask rhetorically, ‘Did God make RNA?’” Some scientists, he notes, still appeal to the “prebiotic soup” idea, that enough amino acids existed on primitive earth that can be forced in the lab to combine. This is essentially what Richard Dawkins 56  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

appeals to, that somehow life just spontaneously emerged by accident, despite it being a mathematical impossibility. “It mattered little if kilograms of starting material were required to produce milligrams of product,” remarks Shapiro wryly of the lab experiments. “The point was the demonstration that humans could produce, however inefficiently, substances found in nature. Unfortunately, neither chemists nor laboratories were present on the early Earth to produce RNA.” He describes in his paper the huge lengths scientists are still going to in a bid to make the base ingredients bind in the lab, and the ridiculous claims they then make in science journals like Nature about how it might have happened on primitive earth. “The exceptionally high urea concentration was rationalized in the Nature paper by invoking a vision of drying lagoons on the early Earth. In a published rebuttal, I calculated that a large lagoon would have to be evaporated to the size of a puddle, without loss of its contents, to achieve that concentration. No such feature exists on Earth today. “The drying lagoon claim is not unique. In a similar spirit, other prebiotic chemists have invoked freezing glacial lakes, mountainside freshwater ponds, flowing streams, beaches, dry deserts, volcanic aquifers and the entire global ocean (frozen or warm as needed) to support their requirement that the “nucleotide soup” necessary for RNA synthesis would somehow have come into existence on the early Earth. “The analogy that comes to mind is that of a golfer, who having played a golf ball through an 18-hole course, then assumed that the ball could also play itself around the course in his absence. He had demonstrated the possibility of the event; it was only necessary to presume that some combination of natural forces (earthquakes, winds, tornadoes and floods, for example) could produce the same result, given enough time. No physical law need be broken for spontaneous RNA formation to happen, but the chances against it are so immense, that the suggestion implies that the non-living world had an innate desire to generate RNA. [Author’s emphasis] The majority of origin-of-life scientists who still support the RNA-first theory either accept this concept (implicitly, if not explicitly) or feel that the immensely unfavourable odds were simply overcome by good luck.

“Many chemists, confronted with these difficulties, have fled the RNA first hypothesis as if it were a building on fire. One group, however, still captured by the vision of the self-copying molecule, has opted for an exit that leads to similar hazards. In these revised theories, a simpler replicator arose first and governed life in a “pre-RNA world.” Variations have been proposed in which the bases, the sugar or the entire backbone of RNA have been replaced by simpler substances, more accessible to prebiotic syntheses. Presumably, this first replicator would also have the catalytic capabilities of RNA. Because no trace of this hypothetical primal replicator and catalyst has been recognized so far in modern biology, RNA must have completely taken over all of its functions at some point following its emergence. “Further, the spontaneous appearance of any such replicator without the assistance of a chemist faces implausibilities that dwarf those involved in the preparation of a mere nucleotide soup,” warns Shapiro. “The chances for the spontaneous assembly of a replicator in [such a nucleotide soup] can be compared to those of [a] gorilla composing, in English, a coherent recipe for the preparation of chili con carne. With similar considerations in mind Gerald F. Joyce of the Scripps Research Institute and Leslie Orgel of the Salk Institute concluded that the spontaneous appearance of RNA chains on the lifeless Earth “would have been a near miracle.” I would extend this conclusion to all of the proposed RNA substitutes that I mentioned above.” Shapiro’s ‘solution’ to this dilemma is a relatively new theory called metabolistic evolution based on small molecules. This is the idea that chemicals can metabolise in rocks or similar compartmentalised structures that might, just might, become self-replicating by virtue of environmental actions like heat, tides, rock-falls etc that allow the chemicals to leach from one compartment to another. These would be entirely different lifeforms to those on earth today. Experiments have so far failed to produce these either, and Shapiro concedes that even if it can be done, that would not explain the emergence of RNA and then DNA and the path to life as we know it. In short, there’s no guarantee that such a process would throw up DNA lifeforms at all. Yet, if such an explanation for origin of life were credible, wouldn’t we be seeing rival life forms on earth all around us, based on non-DNA structures? We don’t, of course, and I sus-


It is not until you see the astrophysics evidence, about the conditions necessary for life on Earth, that you begin to appreciate why our third rock from the sun is anything but insignificant

pect it is simply more clutching at straws. If Shapiro and the leading biochemists have to redefine the search for life to include rocks, then frankly it is not that inspiring. “A highly implausible start for life, as in the RNA-first scenario, implies a universe in which we are alone,” he acknowledges. In short, none of the scientific theories about life’s origin are anywhere near remotely convincing, so from a biological point of view the possibility of meeting wise and advanced aliens is getting more unlikely by the day. When you take into account that scientists are now admitting the universe seems mysteriously fine-tuned to support life – what you’re about to read is, frankly, stunning. You see, whilst the universe is finely tuned for life, it appears to be finely tuned specifically to support life on Earth, not just anywhere. It is not until you see the astrophysics evi-

dence, about the conditions necessary for life on Earth, that you begin to appreciate why our third rock from the sun is anything but insignificant. Take the moon. Contrary to popular belief, the moon has not always been in our skies. According to the best scientific theories to date,2 the moon was formed during a gigantic game of cosmic skittles that was crucial to giving us a breathable atmosphere. As astronomer Dr Hugh Ross points out, the general “rule of thumb in planetary formation is that the greater a planet’s surface gravity and the greater a planet’s distance from its star, the heavier and thicker its atmosphere.” Earth, he says, “departs dramatically from that rule”. In theory, our atmosphere should be even heavier and thicker than Venus’, but instead it is forty times thinner. The solution, says Ross, lies with the moon. As he points out,

the moon is 250 million years younger than Earth, based on the composition of moon rocks brought back for analysis. It is made from a different kind of rock to those found on Earth, meaning the two bodies could not have been formed together. Furthermore, we know from measuring the moon’s orbit that it was once much closer to Earth than it now is. “The moon’s movement away from Earth and the measured slowing of Earth’s rotation imply some kind of collision or near collision more than 4 billion years ago,” writes Hugh Ross. “Only one collision scenario fits all the observed Earth-moon parameters and dynamics: a body at least the size of Mars (nine times the mass of the moon and one ninth the mass of Earth) and possibly twice as large made a nearly head-on hit and was absorbed, for the most part, into the Earth’s core. “Such a collision would have blasted almost all of Earth’s original atmosphere into outer space. The shell of cloud or debris arising from the collision would orbit Earth and eventually coalesce to form our moon.” It was this singular, unrepeated event (our very own, localized ‘Big Bang’), scientists argue, that stripped the dangerous gases out of our atmosphere and left us with air and water vapour. With the atmosphere now much thinner, light could reach the surface of the planet for the first time, and the absorbtion of the rogue planet into Earth’s core increased our gravity enough that we could hold onto the water vapour in our atmosphere (molecular weight 18), but not so much that it would keep dangerous levels of the lighter ammonia (molecular weight 17) or methane (mw 16) in the atmosphere. Both of those gases now eventually dissipate off into space (methane in the atmosphere takes about 8.5 years to go, partly by reacting with oxygen and hydrogen to create water vapour, and partly by stratospheric loss). The other thing this even gave us was “day” and “night”. Day and night are relative to an observer, they only exist if a planet rotates on its axis. Mercury, for example, does not rotate, and one side of the planet is continually burning in the sun’s heat while the other side is perpetually in the dark and cold. The moon, likewise, does not rotate relative to us. Earth, on the other hand, was left spinning like a top after the collision – we know this because the Earth is now slowing down. Thus, the collision that led to the eventual INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  57


creation of the moon also set Earth spinning, thereby creating the effect of “day” and “night” and providing inspiration for the poetry in the Bible’s Book of Genesis. All of this is merely an aside, however, setting the scene for the scientific evidence about the unique events that allow life to exist on earth. Had the Mars-sized object not slammed into Earth, we wouldn’t be here. According to Dr Ross, the collision between the mystery planet and Earth also “boosted the iron content of Earth’s crust [so much] as to permit a huge abundance of ocean life”, iron being crucial to biological life, particularly in the marine food chain. The collision created a phenomenon known as plate tectonics. You probably learnt about this in school or on the Discovery Channel – it’s the theory that continental plates float on a sea of volcanic magma, occasionally releasing the tension when they collide with another plate, creating volcanoes and earthquakes. No other planet in the solar system has active plate tectonics like Earth. Instead, the predominant form of crust renewal involves entire continental plates tipping up and sinking back into the magma in their entirety. Such destruction on Earth would take all life with it. In contrast, earthquakes and volcanoes seem a small price to pay for our relative stability.

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strophysicist Guillermo Gonzalez sums it up pretty succinctly: “Earthquakes destroy property and kill many people every year; nevertheless, they benefit both our planet’s habitability and scientific discovery. Without earthquakes, we probably wouldn’t even be here and, if somehow we were, we would know far less about Earth’s interior structure,” he writes in The Privileged Planet. Through measuring the pressure waves created by earthquakes, which reverberate around the planet “like a hammer hitting a bell”, says Gonzalez, scientists have been able to create a map of the type of rock the waves are passing through, “like a geological CAT scan”. It is this data, recorded by seismographs, that allowed scientists to figure out the boundaries of the various continental plates. It was through one of the earthquake wave “CAT scans” just mentioned that scientists were able to confirm that a core of liquid iron is still spinning inside the planet, independent of the planet’s own rotation. It is this spinning iron core that creates 58  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

Earth’s magnetic field. And by measuring the impact of that magnetic field on rocks, this has allowed science to trace the positions of the various continents over hundreds of millions of years. We wouldn’t have a spinning iron core, however, if the mystery planet had not collided with Earth just after it was created. And without a spinning iron core, you and I wouldn’t be here. The reason for this is actually quite simple. It is Earth’s strong magnetic field that shields the planet from much of the most damaging cosmic radiation. The field holds in place what scientists call the “Van Allen belts” – a series of highly charged energy fields. In essence, the Earth’s magnetism traps these radioactive particles and energy streams before they can hit the planet. Without the magnetic field, life on Earth would be nuked, day in, day out. Venus, again, is a good example. It is spinning so slowly that it has almost no magnetic field. The solar radioactivity rips into Venus 24/7 like a hot knife into butter. So far in this chapter, then, you’ve seen how a cosmic road accident had to happen in order for you to live: it ripped away the thick, poisonous primitive atmosphere and left us with air and water vapour, it gave us the mineral iron essential for life to grow, it gave the planet a spinning iron core which generates magnetism to protect us from lethal radiation, it gave us night and day to balance out temperatures, and it gave us relatively gentle [in comparison with other planets] earthquakes and volcanic activity rather than the wholesale destruction of entire continents. This is on top of the unknown series of coincidences that fine-tuned the universe to support life. Critics will no doubt argue that it doesn’t support the idea of God, because if God existed he could have done it right first time. Yeah, he could. But the ability to sling the occasional lightning bolt or play ten-pin bowling with planets might actually have given the deity some enjoyment – which is surely as good a motive as any other. It is also entirely possible that God did it this way deliberately to leave his fingerprints visible – to help scientists come to the conclusion physicist Paul Davies reached when he said, “Scientists are slowly waking up to an inconvenient truth – the universe looks suspiciously like a fix...” Strongly agnostic cosmologist Stephen Hawking agrees that the universe does indeed have this appearance.

“The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electric charge of the electron and the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron …. The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.” Agnostic scientist Robert Jastrow summed up the views of many of his peers a few years ago in his book, God and the Astronomers: “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.” This then, is just a tiny portion of the evidence waiting for Richard Dawkins outside the relative safety of a town hall filled with like-minded atheists. He spoke in his talks of “six constants” that appear to show the universe has been fine tuned for life. Six coincidences you might be able to accept, but Dawkins lied – it isn’t six but nearly 200 remarkable coincidences that had to line up for you to be alive and reading this article. Six in a row is like winning Lotto. Two hundred in a row is a probability so small that it would not be expected to happen naturally even if the universe was trillions of years old, rather than billions. Yes, the British author can dismiss it all with a shrug of the shoulders and admit “we don’t know”, but that doesn’t then give him a logical starting point to proclaim, “but it wasn’t God”. And that is the problem facing Dawkins. His best natural argument is so extremely unlikely that much higher qualified scientists than he have thrown it into the category of “miracle”. The Dawkins-inspired bus adverts telling people “There is probably no God” are, on the basis of scientific probability, most probably wrong.

References: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article. cfm?id=a-simpler-origin-for-life&page=1 2. A New Zealand born scientist named Ross Taylor, working for NASA during the Apollo missions,  was  given  the  task  of  analyzing  moon  rocks  to  determine  their  origin.  Taylor  is widely regarded as the father of the “giant impact” theory that is now considered the most likely explanation of lunar creation q


INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  59


PLANETARY ENERGY When a massive earthquake struck Chile, sending millions around the Pacific to higher ground in fear of the tsunami, and when massive storms struck Madeira in Europe, both events show the power of a planet letting off steam. PHOTOGRAPHY BY Kyodo /Newscom, Marcelo Hernandez/DPA, CF/PACOEDEN/ITSPRESS

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KYODO /NEWSCOM

KYODO /NEWSCOM

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Marcelo Hernandez/DPA

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CF/PACOEDEN/ITSPRESS Brainpix Group

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CF/PACOEDEN/ITSPRESS Brainpix Group

CF/PACOEDEN/ITSPRESS Brainpix Group

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RPG/PACOEDEN/ITSPRESS Brainpix Group

INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  65


n  THINK LIFE

money

If it looks like a duck... Peter Hensley picked the global collapse two years before it happened. Now, he’s warning again

M

oira was hosting her usual Tuesday morning coffee morning. The group of approximately twelve women had been getting together for close on four decades. It was a loose group with members drifting in and out and others bringing friends along from time to time. It was called the Tuesday group, but they did not meet every Tuesday, more likely twice 66  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

a month. Their meetings were weather dependant as they normally convened for a walk or to view something interesting that was going on in the neighbourhood. Arrangements were always confirmed via email. This particular gathering was convened to watch the new walkway bridge being installed. As part of their district plan they were extending the walkway and the bridge

which was rumoured to be sturdy enough to take an ambulance was being installed. Because Moira’s house was within walking range, Moira had suggested that they come back for a cup of tea, biscuit and a chat. Hazel, a newish member of the group had heard that Moira was reasonably knowledgeable on world events and raised the topic of the debt. With a little bit of encouragement from other members of the group Moira was asked to share her thoughts on the topic. Moira said that the Global Financial Crisis was borne out of too much debt moving around the world. Individuals know that it is possible to spend more than you earn as long as you can borrow money to make up the shortfall. Sooner or later lending institutions will lose confidence in your ability to repay and will stop lending money and demand its repayment. Companies are able to do the same, when a company starts, banks and lending institutions know it takes time to build momentum and sales and accordingly they are prepared to fund a company’s expansion, but sooner or later the institution will lose confidence in the company’s ability to repay the debt. Governments and countries are no different. The only difference being, the bigger you are the more money you can borrow. Or in the case of the USA it can print its own currency. But sooner or later the music stops and the lending institution wants to get repaid. Greece is at that point now. They owe over USD$400 billion dollars, their government debt to GDP ratio is 120% and their government deficit is almost 13%. This means that as a country they owe more than they produce in a year, it also means that the Govt collects less in taxes than it spends. Moira went on to explain that because Greece is a signatory to the European Economic Union (EU) they are obliged to run their country’s economy within some tight fiscal rules. The local EU rule allows for a deficit of 3% not 13%. Many commentators have suggest that the issue could be described as a storm in a tea cup because Greece only makes up less than 2.5% of the EEU. Greece has a history of defaulting on its debt and that it will be OK because Germany is likely to bail them out. As time goes on this is looking less likely. Germany, being the strongest member of the EU, also recognises that there are other countries in a similar predicament as Greece. Financial journalists have even given them


a barnyard acronym, PIIGS. It stands for Portugal, Italy, Ireland Greece and Spain. Whatever happens will be a strong test for the strength of the Euro. One possible solution is that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will come to the party and bail them out. This raises an interesting dilemma, the IMF (just like everyone else) theoretically should not be allowed to spend more than it has in reserves. In 2008 they sold part of their gold reserves to fund shortfalls created by the first wave of the Global Financial Crisis. They only have 191 tonnes left and they have recently announced that this too will be going onto the market. The other problem is the elephant in the room, which many commentators are ignoring. US debt levels are approaching 100% of GDP and President Obama recently released forecast government deficits all the way out to 2020. In the same way as Greece, the US is also collecting less in taxes than they are spending. By this stage Moira had the group’s attention because they thought she was about to predict the pending collapse of the economic world. Not exactly, there is a saying, if it can’t continue, it won’t. But it is likely to keep going longer than most people think.

Hazel suspected that she knew what Moira was going to say. Japan experienced their own mini version of the GFC in the late 1980’s. Their stockmarket index almost topped 40,000 and land ownership was beyond the wildest dreams of the average worker. At one stage Japan’s imperial palace was valued at more than the entire state of California. Then the wheels fell off. The Japanese government refused to let the banks go under and they dropped interest rates to almost zero. They introduced their own version of fiscal stimulus, they have built roads and bridges to nowhere and anywhere in particular. Twenty years later their Government debt to GDP ratio is the highest in the world at 200%. Their stock market index is still around 10,000 and interest rates still hover around zero. Mum and dad investors have long since given up on seeking an investment return in their own currency, they have accepted that exchange rate risk is now a normal part of investing. The world has recently seen the biggest edifice of debt ever created. In turn it fuelled

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a real estate and stock market boom. As sure as night follows day, the boom got the speed wobbles and started to falter. The problem we had is that the authorities wanted the party to continue and so they kept topping up the punch bowl by protecting the global banking system, decreasing official cash rates to almost zero and promising to spend money they didn’t have. Market analysts are now coming to realise that these actions were short term solutions to long term and potentially serious major problems. Moira explained to her captivated audience that this is why she has always been of the belief that people should strive to become debt free. In time, the global financial system will correct itself, but when and how it will all pan out is anybody’s guess. As sure as lending institutions will stop lending to an individual who can’t or won’t pay back their loan, then the same thing will happen to a country or countries who are planning on doing the same. Copyright © Peter J Hensley March 2010. A copy of Peter Hensley’s disclosure statement is available on request and is free of charge.

EVE’S BITE

THE DIVINITY CODE

“…the most politically incorrect book” in New Zealand. He is absolutely right…Prepare to be surprised and shocked. Wishart may ruffle a few feathers but his arguments are fair as his evidence proves. If you are looking for a stimulating mental challenge, or a cause to fight for, Eve’s Bite will definitely satisfy. – Wairarapa Times-Age

Wishart takes up the gauntlet laid down by Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, and in fact, uses Dawkins own logic and methodology to launch a counter-attack against unbelief. Challenging…thought provoking…compelling – keepingstock.blogspot.com

Discover the truth for yourself. Get these two books today from Whitcoulls, Borders, PaperPlus, Dymocks, Take Note, and all good independent booksellers, or online at

I’m having a cracking good read of another cracking good read – The Divinity Code by Ian Wishart, his follow-up book to Eve’s Bite which was also a cracking good read – comment on “Being Frank”

www.evesbite.com INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  67


n  THINK LIFE

education

Reverse evolution in New Zealand? Amy Brooke ponders the slide back into savagery

W

hen a well-educated, thoughtful individual looks back over eight decades in this country, reflecting that our Kiwi population has reversed the evolutionary process and is reverting to a more animal, savage condition, this can’t just be dismissed as a nostalgic myopia. Former Education Department Senior Inspector John Mills, one of a lost generation of well-educated, deeply knowledgeable individuals who worked to achieve an education of genuine quality for young New Zealanders, is simply being factual when he says: “In my younger days I could walk down the street knowing that anyone I should meet would be friendly and would almost always offer some sort of greeting. It would not matter what colour skin the person had, because we were all Kiwis together. The knifings, home invasions and other violence that happens on a daily basis today hardly ever occurred. One murder a year was about the norm, and violence [of that level] against children simply was unthinkable and did not occur to any extent.” One, even two generations before ours, we were basically a civilised society. If one comes across spoken interviews with our soldiers going off to World War II, it is striking how well the so-called ordinary man in the street spoke. Many New Zealanders’ speech now is slovenly, some cringe-makingly awful – and hard to actually understand. We can thank the education politburo for this. Its “experts” deliberately withdrew teaching speech standards to all young New Zealanders – removing the good basic training we once got in schools. It’s common now for any who speak our first language simply and well, without affectation, to be asked if they’re English – asked even aggressively – or defensively. Lazy speech rules the day – good enough for our children. This failure to teach clear English pronunciation contrasts with the markedly different emphasis on the importance of exaggerated, even quite wrong pronunciation of Maori

68  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010


with the politicisation of words such as kowhai (and other wh sounds) as kofeye – and the ridiculous Oh-ah-mar-oo for Oamaru. The contrast is obvious to visitors to this country. It is no credit to the education ministry’s trashy standards that young continental visitors, taught at least three languages before they leave school, speak English markedly better than most New Zealanders. Yet to teach people to speak clearly and well, letting them know why this is important (for reasons which have nothing whatever to do with snobbery) is halfway to teaching them to think well. And to teach youngsters how to think well goes hand-in-hand with teaching them how to behave well – all fundamental requisites for a civilised society. To note the very obvious deterioration in civilised standards we need go no further than the boorish behaviour of many of our parliamentarians in recent years. Parliament itself may have always been a bit of a bear pit, centre-staging egotistical individuals with a verbal ability of self-projection and self-promotion which got them there in the first place. It certainly isn’t to today’s MPs that we look for quality thinking – let alone moral stature. Add to this the reluctance of concerned individuals to now speak out on matters that, ominously, have become dominated by politically correct thinking – that way of claiming things are true which we know aren’t true at all. The consequence? New Zealanders’ fearing to speak to the truth of issues. As someone mentioned to me recently – he dares not speak his mind on politicized or moral issues – like many, he is now too fearful of the consequences. We’ve become more inhibited, cowardly even, about voicing concerns that thoughtful, civilised individuals see as the truth of things in case offence is taken (often deliberately and manipulatively taken) so unpleasant can its punitive consequences now be . What has happened to us as a society when the country is subjected to the crudely inexcusable language and twisted insights of a Hone Harawira, MP, in a radicalized, minor party tail-wagging the majority party, abusing the colonial ancestors of the majority of New Zealanders and romanticising his own? What when a University of Otago spokeswoman for its Maori/Indigenous Health Unit can blandly promote more racial dissent by falsely claiming that majority New Zealand society has been “exclusive of Maori” – accusing the Crown of deliberately dehumanising Maori – (“the portrayal of Maori as aggressive, cannibalistic warriors, pagan worshippers, pro-

miscuous and ungodly…”.) Uncomfortable as they may be for those who wish to rewrite history, these portrayals certainly do not lack accuracy. But wrongly attributing ill-will to the Crown, accusing it of encouraging the deliberate mispronunciation of Maori is so aggressively pernicious that one can only wonder why this sort of nonsense is published in the University of Otago alumni magazine. But then the universities themselves have long been invaded, as with all our other institutions, in that long march from the Left whose hostile agenda throughout the 20th century has been the destruction of the West, targeting in particular those Christian values which underpinned its now doubtful survival – that of civilization itself. It was Nietzsche who warned that the life of the West and its values are based on Christianity, that the notion we can get rid of Christianity

ment-run schools, so much so that a young doctor in training, advertising on Trade Me, can’t spell, is subliterate, and can barely run words together, addressing u guyz… Why should we be surprised that a regrouping of the Left is using unionized teachers to fight tooth and nail against the best outcomes for New Zealand’s children and their parents – the effort to implement something at least approximating to national standards, predictably railed against from the usual quarters? “Expert slams reform” brays a newspaper headline when Lester Flockton of the educational assessment research unit at the University of Otago attacks the national standards policy for primary school children as “the most undemocratic reform in the history of New Zealand education sector”. The same tedious nonsense… We’ve heard enough from “experts” whose

The universities themselves have long been invaded, as with all our other institutions, in that long march from the Left whose hostile agenda throughout the 20th century has been the destruction of the West, targeting in particular those Christian values which underpinned its now doubtful survival – that of civilization itself

and keep its values is an illusion. “Our Western values are what Nietzsche terms ‘shadows of gods’.”* His inescapable conclusion? “Remove the Christian foundation and the values must go, too.” * Ugly language and ugly thinking go hand in hand. The debasement of higher education, the rubbishy courses now offered by the universities are described by Reid Buckley, author of USA Today: the Stunning Incoherence of American Civilization, when analyzing and marking students’ papers, as “a whole generation being defrauded by the contemporary Zeitgeist, “an illiterate heaping of multi-syllabic social studies mush {its} meaning either obscured or contradicted by other heapings of academic mush as indecipherable as…ungrammatical”. What else can we expect when our cheated children emerged so very ignorant from our govern-

wrong-headed, highly-politicized theorizing has made things so much harder for so many of our ignorant, poorly-spoken youngsters cheated out of genuine learning. They have every right to reproach the generation that has let this happen to them. The survival of the fittest takes on a new urgency, when one reflects on John Mills’s shockingly accurate perception of a society that has gone backwards in abandoning the values and jettisoning the learning that gave it coherence and stability. Shouldn’t we now be asking ourselves: What happens to a society undergoing reverse evolution? Or is it too late? * What’s So Great About Christianity? Dinesh D’Souza. © Copyright Amy Brooke www.amybrooke.co.nz www.summersounds.co.nz http://www.livejournal.com/users/brookeonline/ INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  69


n  THINK LIFE

science

Shark vs squid New studies suggest that great white sharks may migrate so they can dine on giant squids, writes Jill Leovy

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n what could be the ultimate marine smack-down, great white sharks off the California coast may be migrating 2,600 km west to do battle with creatures that rival their star power: giant squids. A series of studies tracking this mysterious migration has scientists rethinking not just about what the big shark does with its time but also about what sort of creature it is. Few sea denizens match great white sharks and giant squids in primitive mystique. Both are the subject of popular mania; both are inscrutable. That these two mythic sea monsters might convene for epic battles on the stark expanses of the Pacific is enough to make a documentarian salivate. For more reserved scientists, the possible link between sharks and squid, suggested by marine ecologist Michael Domeier of the 70  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

Marine Conservation Science Institute in Fallbrook, Calif., is just one part of emerging research that has altered their understanding of the great whites. The shift began eight years ago with the surprising discovery that great white sharks migrate, somewhat as humpback whales do. That and subsequent studies have demolished the iconic image of Great Whites lurking in relative shallows, ready to snatch an errant swimmer, as popularized in the movie Jaws. Domeier said he believes the animals “are not a coastal shark that comes out to the middle of the ocean. They are an ocean shark that comes to the coast. It is a complete flip-flop.” Picture them not as a dorsal fin off the beach but rather as an unseen leviathan swimming through black depths where the oxygen thins and fish glow in the dark, and

maybe pouncing on a 10-metre squid. The squid part is controversial. But Domeier’s work and that of other scientists increasingly suggest that great white sharks are not randomly roving eating machines. Instead, they obey set migration patterns, have distinct populations and return to the same locales. They are not desperadoes but dutiful migrants: Nomads but not outlaws, they yearn for home. But this new understanding raised a question: Why would an animal so large, that grows teeth as humans grow hair, bother to go so far when it can dine on just about anything in fin’s reach? The migration is especially puzzling because it means sharks miss out on coastal food supplies, said the University of Hawaii’s Kevin Weng, who also tracked sharks’ migration. Determined to find the reason, Domeier


Tracking the great white

Researchers tracking tagged great white sharks have discovered that some make long-range, seasonal migrations from the Farallon Islands and Guadalupe Island, gathering at a deep-water zone. Nev. Farallon Location of 10 tracked sharks Islands (since October 2009) Calif.

U.S.

Pacific Ocean

MEXICO

White shark migration area

Guadalupe Island Hawaii

650 km 650 miles

Source: Michael L. Domeier, Marine Conservation Science Institute, ESRI Graphic: Julie Sheer, Lorena I. Elebee, Los Angeles Times

and his team spent three years catching 22 great whites off Guadalupe Island, southwest of San Diego and bolting high-tech tags to their fins. The area, like California’s Farralon Islands, is a hot spot for shark visits. The team used hooks that could cradle a volleyball. They wrestled the sharks onto platforms, lifted them aboard their vessel and put towels over their eyes. The 1,800-kg predator is only a minor threat out of water, Domeier said. But after being thwacked off his feet, he learned to tie up their tails. Funded by Newport Beach’s George T. Pfleger Foundation and others, Domeier arranged a voyage with a National Geographic Channel television crew to follow the sharks in a 35 metre boat. The crew used the tags to track the sharks to an area of the deep Pacific about 2,500 km east of Kauai that scientists consider an ecological desert because it is so biologically unproductive. There, the sharks abruptly ended their migration, and satellite tags showed them milling around and diving. Despite hours of surveys and trolling during last spring’s monthlong voyage, members found barely any fish or other prey that the sharks might be eating. But there was an exception: squids. Purple and neon flying squids were easy to find. There also were leaping sperm whales, a marine mammal known to feed in spawning areas for large squids. To Domeier, it was clear: The sharks

© 2010 MCT

The crew used the tags to track the sharks to an area of the deep Pacific about 2,500 km east of Kauai that scientists consider an ecological desert because it is so biologically unproductive

had found a squid-based ecosystem with big enough prey to attract sperm whales. Finally, the crew found a whitish carcass of a giant squid that had been chewed on, perhaps by various predators. Because of the lack of alternative food sources, and the pinging tags that traced deep and frequent dives, Domeier said, he formed a speculative conclusion: The sharks go to the area for the same reason as sperm whales: to feed on large squids, including the giant ones in the area, and on various predators the squids attract. The weather turned bad, and the investi-

gation ended early. The trip back was boring enough for the crew to form a band, then break up. Domeier said he believes the sharks return to the coast to breed. His tags showed that some females stayed out at sea full-time. The idea has set off robust debate. Some scientists argue it remains possible that the sharks mate offshore, and all agree that more research is needed to determine exactly what, and when, they eat. And it’s highly unlikely anyone will ever see a shark making an easy kill of giant squid. But Oscar Sosa-Nishizaki, a fisheries biologist in Ensenada, said the tagging effort helps researchers count sharks and plan conservation efforts. Shark scientists face a dilemma: There is intense popular interest in their work, but some fret it may hinder conservation. Media interest in sharks tends to be “sparse on detail, high on testosterone,” said marine biologist Weng. “It’s as if aliens were to visit planet Earth, and the only thing they saw of human beings was ultimate fighting on TV.” Though wary of pop biology, Domeier made the most of it. He used his time on camera to lobby against eating blue fin tuna and Chilean sea bass. If mythic predator-mania gave him the chance, so be it, he said. “We are at a state of real disaster of our oceans,” he said. “Perhaps the scientific routine ... doesn’t work.” INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  71


n  THINK LIFE

technology

Getting off the road to nowhere Ian Wishart roadtests the new TomTom GO 950 GPS system

I

recall, five years ago now, unpacking a brand new Navman GPS system, plugging it in and putting it to the test locally. I well remember being instructed to take a shortcut up a road that I knew to be a dead end, and further instructed to drive across what the Navman insisted was asphalt but I could plainly see was paddock. It was a quick baptism of fire as to the limits of modern guidance technology. To be fair, the fault is not that of the GPS retailers like Navman or TomTom, but that of the New Zealand agencies they purchase their mapping information from. You see, out beyond the city fringe it is common for legal roads to exist on paper (or software), and on council town planning maps, that have never actually been built. Provided the motorist is wise to this possibility, few things can go wrong in vehicular sat-nav operations. On the test-bed this month was the new TomTom GO 950, the top of the range system spearheading the company’s push into the Australasian market. At first glance, this unit is light years ahead of the five year old Navman. I should say that at final glance it was still light years ahead, except for one irritating oversight by TomTom, which is this: When our daughter’s finger was accidentally amputated at daycare, the ambulance rushed her to Middlemore Hospital in South Auckland. I remembered the Navman having a useful ‘points of interest” list pre-programmed that included medical centres and hospitals. In vain, I searched for a simple icon on the TomTom that could find the hospital without me having to know the street address. Try as I might, I couldn’t find one and the unit became a dead weight as far as the rush to hospital was concerned. Alas, as I later discovered, there is a function that can direct you to hospitals, but it’s buried in the Help Me menu which, as a rule with computer products, usually revolves around troubleshooting the device rather than providing genuine lifesaving help. Better, on reflection, to have an icon for Emergency Centres, perhaps illustrated with an ambulance icon. 72  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

The 950 offers built in maps of NZ, Australia, USA, Canada and 45 countries across Europe. If you are ever planning to travel anywhere, the GO 950 literally makes the world your oyster

That said, it was the only negative experience I had with the GO 950. The first thing worth raving about is that TomTom have packed this unit with everything else imaginable. For example, the 950 offers built in maps of NZ, Australia, USA, Canada and 45 countries across Europe. If you are ever planning to travel anywhere, the GO 950 literally makes the world your oyster. With many other GPS systems you pay an extra $300 or so for maps of each different country, so you can see how the GO 950’s price tag of just $849 makes it a

steal in terms of the millions of kilometres of roads on offer. A more interactive business model means maps can be updated by other TomTom users and shared via a free PC connection – a useful addition given the number of major roading projects currently interfering with traffic routing. TomTom have also brought interactivity to the dashboard, with the GO 950 reporting speed cameras both fixed and mobile on your route, thanks to a screen icon allowing you or other TomTom users to report


a speed camera as you pass it. The satellite registers the co-ordinates, and the location is rebroadcast to other drivers approaching the same stretch of road. For those concerned that this encourages speeding, rest easy – the GO 950 goes into the redzone if you exceed the posted speed limit by 6km/h, and has an audible alert reminding you that you are speeding. Another plus, which the 950 shares with its cheaper $599 stablemate the GO 750, is Bluetooth handsfree calling. Essentially, these GPS units act as an in-car speakerphone to allow you to comply with the new handsfree driving laws. The GPS automatically searches out your phone and establishes a connection even as you are approaching the car door. The GO 950 offers a range of voices to choose from, including John Cleese, Snoop Dog and one of the latest available is Homer Simpson. The voice I ended up choosing was the bog-standard English female, mainly for

the novelty value of hearing her continually pronounce SH1 as “arse-H-one”, or when it found my phone she’d say “connected to the mobile of William Ian Wish-it”, not because my first name is Bill but because the mobile has a device name of “wm-Ian Wishart”, the wm being short for Windows Mobile. The “Wish-it” pronunciation is Scottish, so clearly TomTom have gone to the trouble of seeking authenticity on their names database. I did wonder what she might have done though with a surname like “Whakaruru”. All in all a fantastic GPS unit that made travel entertaining. Worth the price for the international coverage alone.

The GO 950 offers a range of voices to choose from, including John Cleese, Snoop Dog and one of the latest available is Homer Simpson.

INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  73


FEEL LIFE SPORT NEWSCOM

Rise and shine New Zealand’s football stocks are at an all-time high, on the back of a twopronged success story spearheaded by coach Ricki Herbert. Chris Forster has the inside running on how the All Whites and the Phoenix have turned the round ball code into something of a national phenomenon

H

erbert is an unlikely cheerleader. He’s a stoic former defender prone to measured media comments and a stern sideline look rather than wild celebrations. He used to be best known for playing a key role in New Zealand’s famed side of the early 80s which emerged from a rollercoaster 15 game ride to qualify for the World Cup finals, in Spain. 27 years later Herbert steered the All Whites down a simpler, but equally treacherous path to beat the Bahrainis and make the grade for the 2010 showpiece in South Africa. 74  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

Both achievements go down in New Zealand folklore, a country which rises to the challenge of championing the underdogs. Then less than 5 months later, without drawing breath, he developed a formula to steer the Phoenix towards the pinnacle of club football in these parts. They’ve attracted record crowds to Wellington’s Cake-tin, including more than 32 thousand for the 3-1 extra-time victory over the Newcastle Jets in their second bite at the A League playoffs. That’s no mean feat in a far-flung country

locked into its rugby mentality, and supposedly still feeling the pinch of the tail-end of the recession. But Herbert isn’t the sort of bloke who gets carried away with a few stellar successes. The Phoenix are almost like the business side of his two-pronged passion. A rare outburst and a few choice swear words after the All Whites triumph back in November are the most lively you’re likely to see the 49 year old father of twins. He’s clinical and often dwells on the “doubters”. Those who didn’t believe the


Zealand’s chances of staying in the Oceania Confederation, which provides a much easier path to the World and Confederation Cups, than Australia faces in Asia. It could be a bitter sideshow to a landmark year for the professional game on the lesspopulated side of the Tasman. Herbert will probably have a crack at the doubters and then just get on with a plan to create another slice of football history.

NZ FOOTBALL

HISTORIC MOMENTS (All featuring Ricki Herbert as player or coach) Ross Setford/NZPA

Phoenix could make the grade, or that Wellington could prove a top level football team. Or the cynics who wrote off a club side’s chances of attracting decent football crowds to one of the country’s most famed rugby and entertainment stadiums. More recently he had the no-win situation of an All Whites game sandwiched in between the two home playoffs for the Phoenix. It required him and four frontline internationals travelling all the way to Los Angeles to play the world’s 15th ranked side Mexico. It was the first part of their 4 match international programme to prepare for the FIFA World Cup in June. The fact the New Zealanders escaped with a 2-nil defeat in front of 80 thousand rowdy Latino fans at the famed Rosebowl in Pasadena, seemed to be overtaken by anxiety back home over whether the players and Herbert would be able to recover in time for an A League playoff on Sunday evening against Newcastle. An occasion which also happened to be the first sell-out for a New Zealand club football side. Well they did – and Herbert in his restrained way was again taking a shot at the “doubters”. “Why wouldn’t you want international players representing your club? Internally we had no doubt (they could recover). We jumped on a plane (in L.A) took some medication and had a good sleep. I take my hat off to the application of the boys”. He’d proven the critics wrong again and

steered his club into another knockout tie against glamour club Sydney FC, at the Sydney Football Stadium. Win that and they’re through to the A-League Grand Final, and that sort of achievement from an outpost team living on borrowed time is not going down too well with some members of the Asian and Australian football fraternity. The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is a close ally of Football Federation Australia, but not really on the Christmas card list of New Zealand Football. It’s a complicated geographical relationship, which allows the winner of the A-League to compete in the Asian version of the Champions League against the best club sides from Korea, Japan, China, the Middle East and South Asia. So far that’s been either Sydney, Melbourne, Newcastle, Central Coast or Adelaide, and the New Zealand imposters haven’t been a threat. But the special exemption from FIFA, the world game’s controlling body, doesn’t seem to merge into Asian business models. As it stands the Phoenix are still negotiating a new 10 year deal, even though they’re ineligible for the lucrative end-of-season competition. There is talk the Wellington club could ditch its current emphasis on local talent – and employ the “three foreigners rule” and register as an Australian club. This is not only complicated and bureaucratic. It could also impact on New

January 1982 – NZ 2 China 1, in Singapore – qualify for the World Cup Finals in Spain 15 June 1982 – NZ 2 Scotland 5 – in first World Cup game, played in front of 36,000 fans at Malaga. (Lost to Brazil 4-nil and Russia 3-nil, in the other Group matches) 2007 – Wellington Phoenix gain a license to compete in the A-League after securing the license from the Aucklandbased New Zealand Knights. Nov 14, 2009 – NZ beat Bahrain 1-0 in front of 36.000 fans in Wellington. Qualify for the 2010 World Cup Finals in South Africa (winning the tie 1-nil on aggregate) March 7, 2010 – The Phoenix beat the Newcastle Jets 3-1 (after extra-time) in Wellington to qualify for the elimination semi-final against Sydney FC.

THE ALL WHITES’

BIG YEAR I N T E R NAT I O NA L S

March 7 – v Mexico … Rosebowl, Pasadena (lost 2-nil) May 24 – v Australian Socceroos at the MCG May 29 – v Serbia, Austria June 4 – v Slovenia, Maribor, Slovenia FIFA World Cup/South Africa – Group F June 16 – v Slovakia, Rustenburg June 21 – v Italy, Nelspruit June 24 – v Paraguay, Polokwane

INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  75


FEEL LIFE HEALTH

Moving in stereo Claire Francis discovers one in 50 people cannot see in 3D

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have spared myself the expense of Avatar at the giant cinema. It’s expensive, and it’s primarily a visual movie. One sees it principally to see special effects. On a large screen in 3D, for lots of money. Well, that was what I heard. Alas, some people managed to be deeply affected, to a point of depression, by the film. Various news agencies reported in January that some fans liked the movie so much that they were depressed, sometimes to the point of suicide, by the reality of their own world, so unlike the mythical world “Pandora”, portrayed in the story. It is tak76  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

ing all of my reserve not to say anything sarcastic, and before you find these people on the internet and hassle them, it might do to recall that the already depressed can be pushed over the line by small things. Last straws and so forth, and so remember your compassion, and that sometimes people cry wolf because they see one. And that concludes today’s sermon. But really, it is not just the expense, or the fear of random black dogs, that keeps me from 3-D movies. I will go and see Alice in Wonderland, perhaps, probably at the twin cinemas in rural Bowral, where it is cheap

and might not be in 3D. It was a long time before I understood that I share with Johnny Depp (and around 2% of the population, although figures vary wildly) an inability to see in 3D. This was something of a relief to me, since magic-eye things were big at the time, and a major frustration to me. 3D movies and images play on stereoscopic vision, the fact that the brain receives images from both the right and left eye, and blends them to create an image with “depth” in everyday life. In 3-D images, a slightly different view is deliberately sent to each eye, so that the image on the (flat) screen is per-


ceived with depth, as if it were “real”. This is interesting, not just for movies, but because so called “lazy eye” is the most common vision problem in New Zealanders under 40, as is the case in most first world countries. You might remember learning that in our regular binocular vision, we see record two images of the same scene, one from each eye, then image seen by the left eye is sent to the right brain, and vice versa, and that these images are processed to give a “three dimensional” image of the world. By covering one eye, you should be able to get an idea of how the world might look if you were – say – blind in one eye. And clearly, if you have lost an eye to injury or illness, you won’t see in stereo, and you won’t be able to see 3D movies. Amblyopia is commonly called “lazy eye”, although this is something of a misnomer, since it does not involve “laziness” and is not strictly a disorder of the eyes, and additionally, some other conditions are also referred to as “lazy eye”. Technically, amblyopia refers to a vision impairment in one or both eyes in the absence of, or disproportionate to, any problem with the eye. This might develop if you – say – give a kitten temporary blindness with eye-drops. If you do this for the critical stage of kitten-hood, the adult cat is forever blind, with normal eyes but abnormal brain development, and the kitty-blinder is the recipient of the Nobel Prize for medicine (1981) for proving this to be so. And so it is with human brains, where the critical period is around birth to 24 months. Note that intentional blinding of children does not result in Nobel Prizes. In the first world, of course, it would be rare for a child to have – say – cataracts from birth to two without treatment, but we still have these – relatively – high rates of amblyopia because of the nature of strabismus and anisometropia, and the difficulty in detecting these problems in young children. Strabismus refers to misaligned eyes (where one or both eyes turn in or out or “wanders”), anisometropia refers to eyes with different refraction (where there is short or long sightedness in one or both eyes but they are not affected equally). While these might be noticed by parents or the family doctor, they might be missed, and are not easily picked up without a specialised eye examination. While refractive (or anisometropic) amblyopia is harder to detect, when mild, it is also easier to correct, and glasses are often enough to correct the problem. But strabismic amblyopia is harder to treat, in

part because (so long as the misalignment is mild) it often goes unnoticed, and there is a pervasive belief amongst many people including some doctors and infant nurses that such eyes will “right themsleves”, which they won’t. While in adults misaligned vision may cause jumpy, blurry, or double vision, in children – who are blessed with neuroplasticity – the brain helpfully suppresses the image from the weaker eye, and uses only the image from the strong eye. As a result, amblyopia develops, the brain ignores the input of the weaker eye, and will continue to do so if left unchecked. Treatment for these conditions may involve surgery or glasses, but principally involves patching (or putting drops in) the “strong eye”, to force use of the weak eye, and then vision exercises to establish the use of both eyes in sync. Until recently it was

believed that there was a critical period to “correct” lazy eye. It was, the last time I had checked, held to be 7. Subsequent research was able to show significant improvement in 10-17 year olds. And incredibly, there are recent accounts of significant improvement in adults – including neurologist Susan Barry, who has written a book about curing her “lazy eye”, aged 48. Which is something to consider, really, rewiring the brain after a decade. As is routine vision screening (by an optometrist, or children’s testing unit) for preschool children. And if you can’t see 3D movies, if they give you a headache, or it takes a while for your vision to adjust, and you don’t know why, you should see an optometrist. If you do know why, come to think of it, you might still look in to treatment if you’re interested. See you at the movies.

  HEALTHBRIEFS FLU SHOTS. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommended that all Americans over the age of 6 months – with the exception of those who are allergic to eggs – should receive a seasonal flu shot every year, beginning this fall. The advice must be accepted by the CDC director and the Department of Health and Human Services before it becomes official, but that ratification is usually pro forma. The CDC has been slowly broadening the recommendations for flu shots over the last few years to the point where about 85 percent of the population is now covered. The primary exception now is adults ages 19 to 49 who do not have underlying medical conditions. But the committee noted that many such adults do not realize they are at risk because of diabetes, hypertension or other hidden problems and do not seek the shots. LACTOSE INTOLERANCE. The National Institutes of Health convened a panel of experts to reach a consensus on what is known about lactose intolerance. Their consensus: There is no consensus. It is a real condition, but there are no good numbers for its incidence, little is known about its effects on health and even less is known about potential treatments. Lactose is the primary sugar in all mammalian milk, including human milk. Virtually all babies are born with enzymes, called lactases, in their intestines that digest lactose, turning it into a form that can be used by the body. But beginning at about age 5 or 6, many children, particularly those of African and Asian ancestry, begin to lose the ability to digest the sugar. If they continue drinking milk and eating dairy products afterward, bacteria in the gut often ferment the sugar, producing diarrhea, abdominal pain, flatulence and bloating. Surprisingly, there are no good estimates of how many people have the problem, and the panel didn’t even try to make one. “A lot of people who think they have lactose intolerance don’t,” Dr. Frederick J. Suchy of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, chair of the panel, said in a telephone news conference. At the opposite extreme, many people who do not digest lactose properly do not manifest symptoms of lactose intolerance because their gut bacteria do not ferment it. Many people who think they have lactose intolerance, he added, actually have irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease or perhaps celiac disease.

INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  77


FEEL LIFE ALT.HEALTH

Autism-study doctor facing grant probe A scientist whose work downplayed links between vaccines and autism is now under investigation for fraud, reports Josh Goldstein

A

Danish scientist involved in two major studies that debunked any linkage of vaccines to autism is suspected of misappropriating $2 million in U.S. grants at his university in Denmark. Poul Thorsen, a medical doctor and Ph.D., was an adjunct professor at the Drexel University School of Public Health for several months before resigning this month. On Jan. 22, Aarhus University said that it had uncovered a “considerable shortfall” in grant money from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a research program that Thorsen had directed. The university referred the matter to police, who are conducting an investigation. Anti-vaccine groups have seized on the allegations to contend that scientific studies disproving the vaccine link to autism are wrong. Those groups have long argued that thimerosal, a preservative in some vaccines, can cause autism, as can the MMR vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella. “I think it is quite significant,” says Dan Olmsted of the Age of Autism. “I think someone allegedly capable of ripping off his own university by forging documents from the CDC is capable of pulling off anything.”

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The CDC and coauthors of the two studies published in major U.S. medical journals maintain the studies remain valid. “CDC is aware of the allegations by Aarhus University against Poul Thorsen,” agency spokesman Tom Skinner said in a statement. Federal authorities are investigating. Skinner noted that Thorsen was one of many coauthors on peer-reviewed studies looking at autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and alcohol use in pregnancy. “We have no reason to suspect that there are any issues related to the integrity of the science,” Skinner said. Efforts to reach Thorsen for comment by phone and e-mail this week were unsuccessful. In a statement, Drexel University said that Thorsen was an adjunct at its School of Public Health from Dec. 11 until “he resigned his appointment with the school of public health on March 9, 2010.” Drexel’s statement noted that his role was limited to serving as a member of the thesis committee of one doctoral student. “To our knowledge, Dr. Thorsen has performed no other work directly connected to Drexel while holding a title at Drexel University,” the statement said.

In 2002, Thorsen was the sixth named author of a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that analyzed whether where is a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism by examining 537,303 children born in Denmark from 1991 through 1998. The researchers concluded that their data provided “strong evidence” that there is no link. “Poul Thorsen had absolutely no influence on the conclusions regarding this paper,” wrote Mads Melbye, head of the division of epidemiology at the Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen and senior author of the study, in response to e-mailed questions. “Thorsen was not actively involved in the analysis and interpretation of the results of this paper,” Melbye said. The second study, published in Pediatrics in 2003, examined 956 Danish children diagnosed with autism from 1971 to 2000. It concluded the incidence of autism increased in Denmark after thimerosal was removed from vaccines. Kreesten Meldgaard Madsen, the lead author, said Thorsen played a minor role. “Dr. Thorsen was not in a position to change or compromise the data,” Madsen wrote. “Dr. Thorsen was part of the review cycle, but never very active in giving input. Dr. Thorsen never had access to the raw data nor the analysis of the data.” Others, such as Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a vocal opponent of the anti-vaccine groups, said even if the allegation against Thorsen is true, it does not mean his science is bad. “Let’s assume it is true that he embezzled money,” Offit said. “The notion that it casts the science into question is false. For these big epidemiological studies, it is hard to believe that one person could effectively change the data.” Offit pointed out that a dozen major studies show no link between MMR and autism and at least a half-dozen say the same about thimerosal, which contains mercury. But the Internet was afire over the allegations. “Questions about Thorsen’s scientific integrity may finally force CDC to rethink the vaccine protocols since most of the other key pro-vaccine studies cited by CDC rely on the findings of Thorsen’s research group,” Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote on the Huffington Post. “The validity of all these studies is now in question.”


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INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  79


TASTE LIFE TRAVEL

Bob Downing/Akron Beacon Journal/MCT

St. Martin vs. St. Maarten

Caribbean polar opposites share an island, writes Josh Noel

J

ust a few feet beyond the twisting border that separates the French and Dutch sides of this Caribbean island, things start to change. And the changes don’t always sit well with visitors. Like one afternoon, at my hotel on the French side, I met an couple who had just returned from Le Galion, a fine beach tucked into a bay and favored by families for its tame surf. The couple, however, were unnerved by women baring their chests while children frolicked in the sand. They had seen no such thing on the Dutch side. “Coming from the U.S., that was obviously pretty shocking,” said Joe Williams, 44, a Baptist pastor. 80  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

No surprise, then, that the Williamses were more comfortable on the Dutch side. They reported favorably on the friendly tourists they met and the endless shopping. One store even reminded them of the Sam’s Club back home. You don’t find that amid the French side’s quiet sidewalk cafes. St. Martin – or St. Maarten if you’re on the Dutch side – easily breeds allegiance. The two sides have different governments, languages, cuisines, currencies and general dispositions. They have different electrical currents from different companies, which explains why blackouts are routine only on the Dutch side. What they don’t have is much of a border. All that denotes the divide, depending

on your direction of travel, is a sign reading “Welcome to the French Side” or “Welcome to St. Maarten.” No fences, no checkpoints. Still, that border often leads visitors and locals alike to identify with one side of these 37 square miles, thereby turning the other into a faraway boogeyman. In a Dutch-side restaurant, for instance, a man asked his server whether robbers still swiped purses from scooters on the French side. The waiter assured the man no such problem exists, but the man and his wife, from northern New Jersey, were hardly comforted. “We’ve been coming for years, and I won’t even give them my business anymore on the French side,” the wife said.


A vendor tends to her open air market space in the city of Marigot on the French side of St. Martin. /Bob Downing/Akron Beacon Journal/MCT

“The French side is very ... French,” the husband added. What he meant was clear. He wasn’t being nice.But he was correct. The French side is very French, all the way down to Marigot’s chocolate croissants and a languid pace generating a fraction of the traffic that plagues the Dutch side. Between the language and the food, the sun and the surf, it’s like a Caribbean version of Nice. As Muriel Demy, a 39-year-old Nice native who moved here to open a beachfront hotel, sunbathed on an 80-degree January afternoon (topless, it should be noted), I asked if true French culture exists on the island. Yes, she said, in the beachfront village of

Grand Case. There, on the main street wide enough for just one car at a time, French chefs craft dishes of snails, cassoulet, foie gras and local fish ladled in butter and cream at more than 25 restaurants. “This is the real French food,” Demy said. I asked how often she goes to the Dutch side – a mile from where we talked – and she looked as if I had asked how often she visits Mars. “Maybe sometimes for work or to shop,” she said. It might not sit well with the northern New Jersey contingent, but many locals, even on the Dutch side, said they prefer the French side. “Less tourists,” a cabdriver said. True enough; though slightly larger, the French side attracts a tenth of the cruise traffic, meaning fewer people wind up there. The Dutch side, on the other hand, feels less like Holland and more like the Caribbean. As with much of the region, it is a cultural mishmash – local, Asian, Indian, European and American. It is admired for the shopping that comes in three essential experiences: the dutyfree liquor store, the duty-free jewelry store and, in a nod to efficiency, the duty-free liquor/ jewelry store.

There are more than a dozen casinos and plenty of inexpensive clothing stores. As you’d hope from the Caribbean, it’s hard for anyone not to smile and offer a kind word on the Dutch side. “It’s much more casual,” said Anne Dodril, 65, an annual visitor with her husband for 20 years. “We just feel more comfortable.” Because of the relentless tourism, everything is for sale: fast food, Cuban cigars, straw hats, towels that fold into beach bags and blessedly cold, cheap bottled beer. Men offer any stray tourist a taxi, and women peddle parasailing, writing the rates – it’s more expensive the higher you go – on the back of a failed scratch-off ticket. “Tell them Emily sent you,” one said. “That way I get a little commission.” But it all comes with a Caribbean ease. When I arrived at the Dutch-side Harbour View restaurant for a delicious lunch of curried goat, my waitress plucked my hat from the finger where I twirled it, put in on her head and danced. Then she disappeared and, with my hat still on, served an ice-cold Carib lager with a short glass and a slice of lime. The French were eminently friendly. But they did not clown with my hat. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  81


IF YOU GO French Side: Most speak English, but

French is the default. Great French wine can be found at French restaurants. ”Lolos” – local barbecue stands – offer great cheap meals. Dutch Side: English is the language. Traffic is particularly bad. Casinos are casual. Check out the beach and bars at the foot of Juliana Airport’s runway. Getting There: Nonstop flights to Princess Juliana International Airport (on the Dutch side) are available from a handful of American cities, including New York City, Miami, Philadelphia and Charlotte, N.C. Depending on time of year, flights can approach $1,000 but will more commonly cost $US350 to $US550. Getting Around: Buses run regularly, and taxis are easy to find, but renting a car allows for the most exploration. The average daily rental from a major company is about $US30 per day. Staying There: There are about 75 options, including resorts, inns, hotels and guest houses. Prices are $US150 to $US350 per night, including taxes. Currency: The official currency of the Dutch side is the guilder, but I only saw the dollar used. French-side businesses take euros and US dollars.

More information:

vacationstmaarten.com

82  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010


INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  83


TASTE LIFE FOOD

On top of spaghetti... James Morrow is on a roll

E

very now and then I wonder just what my sons think of the gender roles that play out in my house. On the one hand, I do just about all of the cooking and fume quietly to myself when someone leaves the lid off the mayonnaise on the kitchen bench. On the other, when a leak developed in the shower requiring the tiles to be yanked up and re-laid, well, let’s just say it was not yours truly in there going at the grout hammer and tongs. And don’t even bring up the subject of pay packets. Which is why I am probably not doing my manly-man quotient much good in the eyes of the reader when I also reveal that I got

84  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

a Kenwood for Christmas – and promptly declared it ‘the best Christmas gift ever’. (In my defence, I also really enjoy guns having once shot 23 out of 25 at the double traps at Rolling Rock Hunt Club, I like my meat blood-rare, and do not have much time for cosmopolitans, either as drinks, magazines, or even foreign policy paradigms). Now a Kenwood, for those who are not familiar with this particular beast, is about 1,000 watts of pure kitchen processing power [I feel a Jim ‘the tool man’ Morrow grunt coming on, Ed.]. Yeah, OK, you could call it a “mixer” or a “food processor”, but that’s like calling the VW cabriolet your girl-

friend drove at university a “sports car”, or a Maltese terrier a “dog”. Only in the vaguest, kinda-sorta way is this true. And the marvellous thing about the Kenwood – if you buy the full kit – is that it comes with enough attachments to do just about anything you want to do in the kitchen. This is, in fact, why I am convinced so many men are now into cooking, and why so many supposedly enlightened professional women who spent years wishing their husbands and partners would help out around the house would just let them cook a damn dinner for once: It’s a great way to use sharp things, dangerous things, flaming


things, and powerful things, all in the service of atavistic instincts to do everything from feed the family to demonstrate status. Really, there’s a doctoral thesis just waiting to gather dust on a shelf somewhere in all this. At the moment, my favourite attachment is the meat grinder, for a number of reasons. For one thing, it is liberating to never have to buy supermarket mince again: after all, who knows what is really in that stuff? For another, grinding one’s own meat allows the chef to control both fat and flavour. Mince is generally sold too lean in the shops, and as a result we are eating sub-standard hamburgers and the like. (Similarly, campaigns to market pork as a “healthy alternative” makes it increasingly difficult to find cuts of pig that are properly marbled, inevitably returning us to an era of driedout pork chops, albeit by a different route). And it means that one can mix meats. Now there are as many recipes for “authentic” spaghetti bolognese as there are Bolognans, but most of the real ones (i.e., ones where a squeeze of ketchup does not figure prominently) call for a mix of beef, pork and veal. Similarly, meatballs. They sound basic, and in a sense they are. The Roman chef Apicius lists a number of meatball recipes, and from India to the Mediterranean one can find any number of meatball recipes in the “kofte” family. I recently spent a happy afternoon with my boys making meatballs – it is one of the most kid-friendly meals around, both in the preparation and in the eating – and discovered that they need not be the stuff of steam trays and school lunches. Instead, it is quite possible to class them up: in this case, by flavouring the meat with slowly cooked, finely minced onions, and by adding a thumb’s press-worth of mozzarella cheese to the centre, it is impossible to dry them out, even in the oven. We served these with pasta, but that was very much the side attraction as the boys competed to see who could eat the most meatballs. The winner, Nicholas, attempted to eat one for each of his eight years on this earth, but stopped one short of his goal. Still, an impressive innings, and made me glad we made a double batch. (You might want to as well). The next morning, Number One Son staggered out to the kitchen table, sipped a glass of water, got real quiet, and announced … “Dad, I just did a burp. And it tasted like meatballs”. Not quite a Michelin star, but I’ll take it.

Meatballs with pappardelle Adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad hoc at home You’ll need: 2 teaspoons canola oil 1 cup chopped onion 2 teaspoons minced garlic 300g boneless beef sirloin 300g boneless beef chuck 250g boneless pork butt 250g boneless veal shoulder ¼ cup dried bread crumbs 3 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley 1 large egg 125g fresh mozzarella cheese 500g fresh pappardelle 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted Juice of ½ lemon A good quantity of your own red sauce, or quality jarred marinara To make: 1. Grind your meat. First, cut your meat into uniform cubes and mix together with some salt. Set up your meat grinder with a 3/8 inch die, run your meat through into a chilled bowl, then run through again

using a smaller, 3/16 inch die. Add your onion, which you have softened slowly in canola oil, along with the breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons of the parsley and the egg. Mix thoroughly but do not over-mix. 2. Make your meatballs. Divide the meat into 12 equal balls, and cut the cheese into 12 equal cubes. Shape the meatballs, stuffing a cube of cheese into the centre of each. 3. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C. Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet, and bring a large pot of slated water to the boil. Place your meatballs on the rack and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until cooked through but still juicy. Remove from the oven and let the meatballs rest on the rack for a few minutes before serving. 4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta; drain and put in a large bowl. Toss with the melted butter, remaining parsley and the lemon juice. Spoon the tomato sauce into a shallow serving dish and top with the meatballs. Serve with the pasta on the side. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  85


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SEE LIFE / PAGES

A moon shadow Michael Morrissey finds a literary pool to plunge in Living As A Moon By Owen Marshall Vintage,$35

The ”old” master of the New Zealand short story shows every sign of youthful vigour. Is this his eighth or ninth book of short stories? – I fear I’ve lost count. His collected published stories must surely have topped 200 by now. As with Guy de Maupassant, commonly regarded as the greatest short story writer of all time, we have both abundant quantity and quality. Taking a realistic historical perspective, it must be said Marshall has long overtaken his old mentor Frank Sargeson as master of the genre and only Katherine Mansfield remains as rival contender for best New Zealand short story writer ever. His work continues to be both stylistically confident, warmly humane, gloriously detailed, expertly clipped in dialogue and razor sharp in perception. Though arguably there is a “typical” Marshall story, he continues to artfully surprise. Sometimes it is the consequence of deft juxtaposition – for instance, the tough-toned idiomatic apostrophe-less “Head Butting” (which despite its blatant violence has a sly black humour) ends with a penultimate four letter phrase yet the next 88  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

story, “Another’s Shadow” begins: ”Perugia, hill fortress of the Etruscans. Antony’s brother was besieged there by Octavian in 41 BC, and after the capitulation Octavian executed the senate of the city.” From the street-smart demotic, a dizzy leap to the classical. A surprise perhaps, for the unwary, yet not to veteran Marshall readers. Marshall’s stories tend not to be straightforwardly climactic and more often than not weave several tendrils of narrative and events into a complex but very life-like pattern of human interaction not always neatly resolved. I have to confess sometimes I find myself wishing he might throw us a little more of the traditional situation/conflict/climax/resolve sort of story – and so “The Detention “ provides a nice frisson of excitement depicting a teacher and rector doing battle with a pushy parent anxious to remove his son from a justly deserved detention for a family sailing trip. One of the most attractive qualities of Marshall’s work is the succinct way he can summarise an aspect of human psychology: “My wife never finds the need to change her initial assessment of character in any significant way.” (from “Sleeping in the Afternoon”). His descriptions are dazzling and often poetic: “There were beds

of severely disciplined roses, the blooms of which had just a tinge of colour in the moonlight.” (from “Freezing”). Like the great nineteenth century social realists such as Balzac and Dickens, Marshall confidently gives diverse occupations to his characters, moving from the workaday (fish splitter, tyre balancer, shop assistant) to the upper level such as lawyers or academics. His vision accurately roams over society at all levels. May his boldness and his confidence continue for years to come. I am sure it will.

Americans In Paris By Charles Glass Harper Press, $29.99

For some years I have been fascinated by the connection between Americans particularly of the artistic type – eg writers, poets and painters – and Paris which they regarded as their creative Mecca. During the prohibition era especially, Americans saw Paris as a city of liberation as well as a richer artistic city than their own sky-skyscraper dominated metropoles. My vision was historically limited, for the long-lived American affair with Paris went back to the likes of founding fathers Benjamin Franklin, Thomas


Jefferson, and Thomas Paine and also came to include not only writers but diplomats, journalists, socialites and financiers. When the seemingly invincible German panzer armies swept into France, the 84 yearold but still alert Marshal Petain decided the nation could no longer afford to expend the lives of another million of its sons on a war they could not hope to win and chose the softer option of surrender. In his official speeches, he used the word “collaboration” which sounds like a betrayal to modern ears but it helped to save Paris and the southern part of France from devastation. In turn, the suave but staunch American ambassador William Bullitt was effectively made mayor of the city by being asked by the French authorities to take charge of Paris when it was declared an “open” city. The French were better treated than the Poles, for German soldiers could be courtmartialed and executed for rape and pillage. Immediately prior to the German invasion of 1940, there were some 20,000 Americans in Paris. By the time they left, it had shrunk to 5000. Those that remained continued to provide a considerable measure of cultural energy for their fellow Americans and to the city at large. Two of the apexes of this energy were the American library (100,000 volumes) and the American hospital. The library was heroically maintained by Clara Longworth de Chambrun, Shakespeare scholar, author of 16 books, who staged plays and earned the coveted Legion of

Honour. At the American Hospital, the tall surgeon Sumner Jackson who secretly worked with the Resistance and once successfully amputated a patient’s leg in darkness, treated prominent Americans such as Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce, who was made an honorary American. Eventually Jackson was arrested and sent to concentration camp and his young son was accidentally killed when the Allies mistakenly bombed ships containing French prisoners. When Sylvia Beach, manager of the famous book shop Shakespeare and company, published James Joyce’s controversial Ulysses, she became “the most famous woman in Paris”. She and her companion Adrienne Monnier, kept two bookshops flourishing amid the Nazi occupation. Leading French poets and novelists like Paul Valery, Apollinaire, Andres Gide and Jules Romains found a rightful place within this book-lined sanctuary. One of the most ambiguous figures of the period was Gaston Bedaux, who adroitly served both masters so to speak. He was both admired and reviled as an Americantrained efficient expert whose methods reduced employees to virtual slaves in the name of higher production results. He earned favour by leasing his luxurious chalet to Ambassador Bullitt for a pepper corn rent and sheltered other Americans but he blotted his copy book by doing business with the Germans and helping host the Duke of Windsor and his wife on behalf of the Nazis

– a propaganda coup the Nazis were not slow in celebrating. Bedaux was not alone in currying favour with both sides. Glass knows his subject matter inside out. Though at times, he might have opted for a less densely packed narrative style and added a few more human incidents with accompanying dialogue and anecdotal detail, this book is a fascinating read about some largely unsung heroes and colourful figures that made Paris one of the most intriguing cities in the world.

Zone Of The Marvellous By Martin Edmond Auckland University Press, $34.99

I have a confession to make. Every time there’s a new book about Captain James Cook or the Treaty of Waitangi I find it hard not to suppress a groan. Here we go again ... the more than familiar data recycled yet again with possibly a new spin. It’s perfectly understandable in a way. Cook and the Treaty are defining events in our history but New Zealand is of course just a part of the history of the Pacific. What Edmond’s marvellously learned book does is give us an overall picture of the quest for the Great South Land, that long fabled zone, that geographic symmetry once required as a necessary balance to the gravity-heavy Northern hemisphere. In the end, as we now know, it was never found but was to some degree replaced by Australia, Antarctica and Polynesia. The scope of Edmond’s survey is dazzling – from the epic of Gilgamesh to Ptolemy INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  89


to Dante and more obscure figures like Ibn Arabi or Mendes Pinto and ending surprisingly with the famous Australian painter Sydney Nolan, and our own Colin McCahon. Edmond’s prose, while astonishingly learned, is always lucid, readable and stylish. This is a magnificently broad sweeping account rather than a theory-maddened text, though plenty of theorising gets done en route. At times, I was reminded of the beginning of a Borges short story. As in, for example, this lovely sentence: ”It was said in Peru that the Inca Tupac Yupanqui had in 1480, with 20,000 men and a great fleet of balsa ships, sailed into the Pacific and found there black people, gold, brass and horses.” Note the prefix “It was said” – so Edmond offers the honesty of an account which legend may have embellished or exaggerated rather than guaranteed history. There is of course plenty of dyed in the wool world history but Edmond draws on myth, fable, hearsay, speculation and oddball New Age types like Blavatsky and James Churchward in giving us the full picture of Pacific speculation and exploration. One of the delights of reading this book is the encounter with a new idea. Eratosthenes, who lived in the third century BC, and who first accurately estimated the size of the earth is also, according to Edmond, given credit for the derived invention of the antipodes. The down under Other. The authoritative solemnity of Ptolemy’s world map, which was eventually proved wrong by Vasco da Gama’s pioneering voyage to India, reminds Edmond of the Surrealist map of the world. Naturally, Edmond, in his scholarly caution, does not accept any of the alleged sites for Atlantis, the most famous of all fabled lands (or continents) but makes the shrewd point that Plato was a philosopher who reasoned by analogy; and that the “truth or falsity of that tale is always subordinate to the point he is making”– which is a morality tale about corruption. There is an array of Greek/ Phoenician thinkers and navigators unknown to me (though no doubt known to scholars) such as Euhemerus, Eudoxus, Hippalus, Sataspes and Hanno. Bring it on, Martin! Later, Edmond gives full credit to numerous French explorers such as Nicholas Baudin who retrieved a boggling 200,000 specimens from Australia including over 2000 new animal species thus doubling those of the known world. Why aren’t such people better known? Has our history been too Anglophilic? Though Edmond never says so, that is an implication one might make. So we pass through the Land of Parrots (probably 90  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

the coastline of Brazil) and or Locach later Bocach (and many other names) which was possibly Cambodia or Thailand as Edmond slowly charts his way to present thinkers. Stephen Oppenheimer is one such who engages Edmond’s attention at some length. Oppenheimer makes us reconsider the origins of the Flood in various ways and advances the hypothesis that there may have been a city-based civilisation in South East Asia lost to ocean flood. Thus one might say Atlantis pops up in the Pacific. The fabled sunken continents of Lemuria and Mu are, as it were, replaced by the drowned conti-

The scope of Edmond’s survey is dazzling – from the epic of Gilgamesh to Ptolemy to Dante and more obscure figures like Ibn Arabi or Mendes Pinto and ending surprisingly with the famous Australian painter Sydney Nolan, and our own Colin McCahon

nents of Kerguelen and Zealandia. Which ever way you look at it, Edmond restores to us a wide polynational view of a world that is amazing, and that, as Jim Shepherd, of The New York Times, quoted on the dust jacket says, “demonstrates that the natural world is as splendiferous as any fable”. This is a book that invites more than one re-reading.

Lola

By Elizabeth Smither Penguin, $30 Elizabeth Smither is one of our most admired poets. And rightly or wrongly, I have previously viewed her as mainly a poet

and somewhat secondarily as a short story writer and novelist. This is in fact the first of her novels that I have read and if the others are as good as this one, this is an omission that I should speedily remedy. Thus said my initial statement is not altogether inaccurate, for the poet comes through in this novel very strongly. Lola begins with much panache and confidence by introducing to the reader many characters whose fuller charcterisation is only slowly leached, as it were, through the leisurely unfolding of the text. Though Lola is a person who cannot be said to have one foot in the grave, she has married into the firm of Dearborn and Zander, funeral directors. Undertaking, one might say, is a prominent part of her psyche. Ironically, or appropriately, she spends a lot of time nursing Alice Zander who is the unfortunate victim of a freak accident. Her eventual death is rendered with all the gentle sensitive poetic prose that Smither can effortlessly conjure up like an enchantment. Lola is like an Iris Murdock novel crossed with Marcel Proust plus an undertow of Jane Austen. In the first segment it is uncertain which country we are in for there are almost no geographic markers to guide us. My guess is Australia. Later, it is clear we are in an art deco Napier, not the rough port but a cultured provincial town that enjoys lashings of classical music provided by the Sylvester Quartet with which Lola, somewhat improbably, becomes involved as a sort of companion mascot, for she is not a musician. It is a tribute to Smither’s transmogrifying prose that she can make Australasia seem such a culture-saturated locale. Like Murdoch, the characters do not do much rolling around on beds; romance begins so subtly you almost miss its initial frisson and indeed you can’t really be sure it has actually started until Lola receives a kiss, a rather chaste osculation I suspect, on page 129. Here’s a typical passage that shows off Smither’s acute ability to analyse character as well as her rather coy reserve in describing any approach to intimacy; “Sam was very fond of Alice in the way that a sensuous ebullient man can find a reserved unflirtatious woman restful. Flirting had never been in Alice’s repertoire. She suspected she lacked it even as a girl; there was no sidling up to her stern father, no batting of eyelashes or performing little dance steps.” One could say that Smither’s characters do small dances around each other. A minuet, one might say, rather than a tango.


While some might miss the presence of passion or the roller coaster vigours of a driving plot, there is much delight to be derived from the sensuousness and precision of her prose. In an age that has been saturated by sexual candour and a Philistine bluntness, Lola seems like a return to a gentler more refined age when yearning and decorum provided both emotion and gentility in such a way as to sooth the reader with a verbal music, which unlike the sirens of Homer, does not compulsively enscorcell us, so much as allure us into the benign umbras of a cultured world.

Nine Lives

By William Dalrymple Bloomsbury, $40 While gifted Indian novelists have been multiplying like fruit flies, Dalrymple has seemingly grabbed the monopoly on arresting non fiction books on historical India. His books amply reaffirm my feeling that India is the most complex and fascinating culture – or set of cultures – on the planet. Directly interviewing a member from several sects, Dalrymple effaces himself as reporter and lets each person speak at length. It might have been monotonous but for the fact what each speaker says is so compellingly exotic and culturally revealing. This is cinema verite without a camera, the raw stuff of social anthropology. The contrasts are science fictional – recently, in India, the world’s fifth richest man built a “house” of 27 stories worth $1 billion and manned by 600 servants while elsewhere the naked Jains who take elaborate measures to kill no living creature, and own nothing, wander the rural areas of India and are fed by the populace. The story of Jainism is here told by a nun (the females are clad) who tells a heart-wrenching story of sacrifice and physical privation including having all her lovely long hair pulled out by the roots. She of course volunteered for the ordeal to test herself. When her parents saw her naked, bleeding scalp they burst into tears. Yet eventually they came to accept her choice because such challenging spiritual paths, severe as they are, earn respect. Tearing your hair out is just the beginning. The highest achievement for a Jain is to exit this life by Sallekhan which quite simply is slowly starving one’s self to death. “First you give up your home, then your possessions. Finally you give up your body.” From the calm of the Jains to the vigour of the dancers of Kannur. Again, as with all

of these extreme sects, the aim is the same – greater spiritual enlightenment whether through physical privation or extreme physical exertion. What is perplexing to western perception is that though the dancers are from a low caste, during the festival the Brahmins defer to them so the temporary frenzy of dancing provides a social equaliser. Once again, it is clear that the participants feel there is much more happening than physical exertion. Allegedly, the dance is a gateway to higher powers. Hari Das, one of the dancers says, ”You lose all fear. Even your voice changes. The god comes alive and takes you over. You’re just the vehicle, the medium.” Thus in his own belief, for three months of the year, Hari Das goes from manual labourer to a dancer-god. What Dalrymple makes clear – and the notion is not new – is that acquiring literacy in some mysterious way damages oral memory. Some of the feats he records here seem beyond what is humanly possible but who am I to doubt that it possible for someone to memorise 360 stories taking weeks to recite and which in a printed version ran to 46,000 pages. However, the last of the dastan-gos who knew the mighty Amir Hamza epic by heart died in 1928.

Some of the sects charted here are dark, spooky, unnerving. Chapter 8 begins, “Before you drink from a skull,” said Manisha Ma Bhairavi, “you must first find the right corpse.” Thanks, but no thanks. The eerie god being worshipped is Tara who is partial to goat sacrifice. The Tantrics are variously described as “perverts, drug addicts, alcoholics and even cannibals” but for Manisha, Mother Tara is a benign presence. Her image I fear, is not very assuring – “ almost naked with matted hair and blood-red lolling tongue and sitting upon a tiger’s skin with four arms, wearing a garland of freshly severed heads.” Benign? Oddly enough, a local politician thought he could gain political advantage through this weird god. Whether he succeeded is not recorded but Manisha warns that a mistake in the ritual can result in madness. The whole thing sounds mad to me or a species of black magic to be avoided like the plague. And yet in the same breath Manisha is talking about devotional love and helping those who need assistance. Only in India, one suspects, can such paradoxes hold sway though thankfully only over a small number of devotees. This is definitely not the India of tourists. I for one will stick to admiring the Taj Mahal.

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SEE LIFE / MUSIC

Gorillaz top the list Chris Philpott gives top marks to ‘Plastic Beach’ Gorillaz

Marina and the Diamonds

Lightspeed Champion

It’s been 5 long years since the release of multi-Grammy nominated sophomore album Demon Days by Gorillaz, a music “project” formed by Blur singer Damon Albarn and comic book artist Jamie Hewlett. The seemingly-mismatched duo return this month with third album Plastic Beach, and as with previous Gorillaz records, it’s not so much about the music itself but the collaborations. Along with showings from the likes of Snoop Dogg, Mos Def and De La Soul, the album also features a fantastic performance from singer-songwriter Lou Reed on “Some Kind of Nature”, one of the albums many highlights. Guitarists Mick Jones and Paul Simonon, formerly of The Clash, also perform together for the first time in nearly 20 years, on the albums’ title track. Even Gorillaz music videos have star power, with Bruce Willis playing the lead in the video for “Stylo”, the records first single. Of course, the risk of multiple collaborations is that the album, as a whole, can seem disjointed, but Albarn seems to have combated this by taking a step back and producing, rather than performing. The result is the finest Gorillaz album to date, and (for what it’s worth) arguably one of the albums of the decade so far.

It seems like it’s in vogue for critics to talk about the damage that Lady Gaga is doing to pop music by experimenting too much, incorporating too many eclectic styles, and turning pop into dance music. For myself, I prefer to dwell on the good an artist like Lady Gaga is doing – namely, pop music has never before been so wideopen to any number of styles from typical pop to dance to indie to rock. Everything is now on the table, so to speak. Cashing in on this trend is Welsh singersongwriter Marina Diamandis, aka Marina and the Diamonds (explaining that ‘The Diamonds’ are actually her fans, not a backing band), whose debut single “Mowgli’s Road” shot her to stardom around the world, thanks in part to the above-mentioned trend. Working with a number of producers, including Greg Kurstin (who has recently worked with Lily Allen, Kesha and Ladyhawke), and incorporating a number of influences – from synth-pop to glam and disco sounds – Diamandis has managed to put together a strong debut. It doesn’t all work – several pun-based titles (“Hermit the Frog”) seem contrived, and the album does seem a little same-y – but for the most part The Family Jewels is a decent pop album.

Lightspeed Champion – the stage name of songwriter Devonte Hynes – emerged from the rubble left behind after the breakup of dance-punk group Test Icicles, releasing debut Falling Off The Lavender Bridge in 2008, and helping his star to rise with an appearance on Basement Jaxx track “My Turn”, as well as songwriting credits for the likes of Florence and the Machine and Solange Knowles (Beyonce’s sister). Sophomore album Life is Sweet! Nice to Meet You! began recording in late 2008 with Gnarls Barkley producer Ben Allan, and the result is simply remarkable. Hynes draws on a considerable talent for composition, and incorporates a number of styles – from the indie rock of first single “Marlene” to the gentle folk of “There’s Nothing Underwater” to the orchestral balladry of “I Don’t Want To Wake Up Alone” to the old school rock-n-roll feel of “Madame Van Damme”. Comparisons to groups like TV on the Radio or The Shins are not out of the question. Hynes has proven himself a true talent, and a creative force to be reckoned with, while Life is Sweet! Nice to Meet You! should be remembered at years’ end as one of the better records of the 2010.

Plastic Beach 5 stars

92  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

The Family Jewels 3 stars

Life is Sweet! Nice to Meet You! 4.5 stars


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SEE LIFE / MOVIES

A brutal life This French film pulls no punches, Colin Covert finds A Prophet

Starring: Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup Directed by: Jacques Audiard Rated: R (for violence, sexual content, nudity, language and drugs) Running time: 155 minutes

A Prophet strikes home like a shiv in the ribs. French director Jacques Audiard’s grim, disturbing prison picture slices through gangster cliches to hit raw nerve. It reverberates with the ring of truth, whether it’s focusing on the racial politics of the exercise yard, the lockup economy where a life is worth a carton of cigarettes, or the strong, steady undertow of intimidation that can turn a callow petty criminal into a remorseless killer. Tahar Rahim plays Malik, an unformed 94  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

19-year-old French Arab starting a six-year prison sentence. He seems scarcely old enough for adult detention, humiliated by the strip-search intake process, intimidated by the hard older convicts. Early in the film, a character tells Malik, “The idea is to come out of this place a little smarter.” A Prophet is the story of Malik’s bruising education. He’s changed by prison, but not in the way the government would like. His saga is a dark rags-to-riches success story. Malik’s vulnerability catches the hawklike eye of Cesar (Niels Arestrup, chilling) a Corsican mob don who controls the corrupt guards like marionettes. He recruits the frightened newcomer to murder a snitch. Cesar becomes Malik’s slavemaster and the cruel old man, hollowed out from loneliness, begins to look on Malik as his subhuman pet. The young Muslim bides his

time, learning to read and secretly studying the Corsican language. Whether he will use his new skills to serve his boss or to undermine him is a question Audiard does not rush to answer. We have no reason to like or trust Malik, yet we identify with him as he goes about his criminal missions, rooting for him to do his ruthless work, escape undetected and return to his cell before curfew. For most of the film, Malik doesn’t have the luxury of moral choice. If he disobeys or fails, he’ll be killed. It’s hard to condemn a young man struggling for his very survival. He continually makes the wrong choices for the right reasons. The film’s title is never explicitly addressed, but Malik rises in influence after moving through a number of spiritually symbolic trials. He’s repeatedly shot with arms outstretched as if awaiting crucifixion as the guards pat him down. He spends 40 days and 40 nights in solitary confinement. He becomes a leader of his people, though guiding them to power, if not freedom. Outside the prison walls, where chiaroscuro lighting makes every shadow menacing, he sees a glimpse of personal paradise, and we must guess whether he will reform to earn it or take it by criminal force. Alongside this compelling character study, the film gives us scalp-tingling mob hits. The film pulls no punches where brutality is concerned. Awful as these murders are, they build to a spectacular massacre that is somehow hideously exhilarating. Arestrup, with his unwavering dead stare, gives a powder-keg performance as the malicious Corsican boss. He embodies the conflict at the heart of the film, that of the ever-increasing Arab prison clique and the crumbling old-guard Mafiosi, out of touch with the modern world but still powerful enough to do some final damage. Take from that what social commentary you will. The film belongs to Rahim as Malik, though. His guarded performance grows in mystery and cool reserve scene by scene. He has probably never heard of The Godfather’s Michael Corleone or Scarface’s Tony Montana, but he’s their distant relation. The film doesn’t invite us to condone his actions, and Rahim doesn’t milk our sympathy. A Prophet credits the audience with enough intelligence to realize that this character is a sociopath. Malik himself seems to know this too. A pessimistic coda hints that even when such a man triumphs, he’s trapped by his crimes. – By Colin Covert


A saving grace here is Brosnan, finding his post-Bond niche not in musicals but in playing perfectly coiffed powersuited jerks. His scenes with Tyler are over-thetop, shouting matches in the middle of high-powered business meetings, but Brosnan keeps his icy, uncaring cool

Remember Me

Starring: Robert Pattinson, Emilie de Ravin, Pierce Brosnan, Lena Olin Directed by: Allen Coulter Rated: PG-13 (for violence, sexual content, language and smoking) Running time:108 minutes As a package pandering to members of the Rah Rah Rob Pattinson Fan Club, Remember Me showcases the Twilight hottie in all his zoned-out, sideburned, hair-tossled and chin-flexing glory. Pattinson is placed in a romantic setting, gets to smoke and play tough, gallant and troubled. And if there are no fangs, Team Edward can still imagine them there. But Pattinson’s fussy, affected acting, his grab bag of screen mannerisms and a script that has him lurching between moony romantic and wild-eyed psychotic do nothing to suggest dude has a prayer of a fangless career. A more “adult” romantic melodrama that pushes the boundaries of how sexual you can get without earning an R-rating, Remember

Me smashes mushy up against mental illness. Pattinson plays Tyler, a morose, aimless and seemingly bipolar hunk who dotes on his much younger sister, mourns a dead brother, gets into fights just to feel something and dates a cop’s daughter just to get back at the NYPD detective (Chris Cooper) who roughed him up. But this girl (Emilie de Ravin) isn’t to be trifled with. She’s interested, even though he asks her out with his face all beaten up. She stays interested after seeing his violent temper and his moods and meeting his jerk workaholic dad (Pierce Brosnan) and needy little sister (Ruby Jerins). But someday, he’s going to cross paths with her dad, who will remember him. Someday he’s going to find out why she never rides the subway – 10 years before, in 1991, her mom was murdered right in front of her. And eventually, as a viewer, you’ll do the math adding 10 years to 1991 and figure out where this contraption is headed. A huge problem is the script by Will Fetters, who apparently used this as a means of landing the assignment of re-writing A Star is Born. When Tyler’s obnoxious and

not-even-remotely-funny doofus roommate (Tate Ellington, poorly playing a badly written cliche of a role) talks him into dating the cop’s daughter out of revenge, this is what passes for cute and witty. “What do you want me to do? Kidnap her?” “What? No. We don’t have the closet space!” A saving grace here is Brosnan, finding his post-Bond niche not in musicals but in playing perfectly coiffed power-suited jerks. His scenes with Tyler are over-the-top, shouting matches in the middle of high-powered business meetings, but Brosnan keeps his icy, uncaring cool. Director Allen Coulter made his mark with Hollywoodland, but unlike Brosnan, he hitched onto the Pattinson popularity express and brought nothing to the ride. The film’s tone is all wrong, the pacing is dead and the veering between sex, sadness and sado-masochistic violence is enough to give you motion sickness. It’s a bad movie. And considering how much RPattz smokes during it, it may turn out to be worse for him than mere career-battering reviews. His fangs may turn yellow. – By Roger Moore INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010  95


SEE LIFE / THE CUTTING ROOM

Do their mothers know? ABBA enters the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, writes a surprised Glenn Gamboa No one was more surprised about ABBA being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame than the band’s co-founder Benny Andersson. “We’re a pop band from the North Pole,” Andersson says, calling from his studio in Stockholm. “There’s no such thing as a (continental European) band in the Rock Hall, so it is flattering. It feels good, but it’s very unexpected.” After all, ABBA – Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha Faltskog – is best known for pop hits such as “Dancing Queen” and “Knowing Me, Knowing You” and disco anthems such as “Lay All Your Love on Me,” as well as the Broadway smash “Mamma Mia!” and the movie of the same name. Andersson’s latest album, “Story of the Heart” (Decca), gorgeously runs the gamut of classical-inspired instrumentals, American Songbook-styled ballads and even a tinge of country. Big rock guitars and heavy drumbeats? Not so much. “Every year, there’s someone that attracts 96  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  April 2010

attention from people who aren’t happy about the choice,” says Terry Stewart, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s president and chief executive. “One of the problems this year is you have the extremes of ABBA getting inducted and KISS doesn’t. I’ve answered 5,000 to 10,000 e-mails and letters. This issue is a high point this year.” Of course, what could be more rock ‘n’ roll than a little bit of controversy? What gets lost in all the Internet hubbub about this year’s incredibly diverse induction class – which includes punk pioneers the Stooges, reggae ambassador Jimmy Cliff, British Invasion stars the Hollies and British art rockers Genesis – is that ABBA is exactly the kind of artist the Rock Hall needs. “ABBA, for some people, skews the class in a direction that’s really weird, but what it does is get into the question of ‘What is rock and roll?’” Stewart says. “Everybody defines it personally, and nobody’s wrong. But few people really look at it with the same fully encompassing view that we do. ABBA

doesn’t come out of the Gershwin songbook, they come out of the Elvis Presley songbook, the Little Richard songbook. But it’s translated through people who don’t speak English as a first language, so it’s no surprise that it has a little different feel. It’s all in there, it’s just a little different.” For David Weier, vice president of programming and talent for Fuse, which broadcast this year’s induction, it shouldn’t even be a question. “I don’t know why they wouldn’t be inducted,” Weier says. “These are artists that have a significant body of work. ... Rock is such a thin term these days. We should be looking at music in general – great music. They may not be known to our audience, but we are there to make the connections. We bring the best of the old and new together.” Actually, it’s those connections that should cement ABBA’s place in the Rock Hall. Obviously, the band has a massive following. It has sold more than 375 million albums worldwide, ranking ABBA among the world’s biggest sellers, behind only the Beatles, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. “We tried a little in the beginning (to be a rock band) because we sort of enjoyed that side of music,” Andersson says. “But it never worked really because we were just a genuine pop band.” Sometimes, the rock influences shone through, such as the bit of rock guitar in “Does Your Mother Know.” But ABBA’s influence is more evident in today’s rock and pop stars. “ABBA influenced Erasure, Pet Shop Boys and Culture Club,” Weier points out. “And they influenced Lady Gaga and Adam Lambert. No ABBA, there may be no Lady Gaga.” Perhaps more important to today’s music is the way ABBA influenced other Swedes to enter pop music. These days, Stockholm – thanks to producers and songwriters Max Martin, Dr. Luke, Rami, Shellback and others – is a music industry hub that has built hits for everyone from Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys to Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Katy Perry and Ke$ha. “We may have inspired them by showing that it is possible to come from Sweden and be known throughout the world,” Andersson says. “There’s a lot of good recording producers here, making lots of good recordings.” That includes Andersson, who continues to write in his studio every day, working on new music for the Benny Andersson Band, as well as bringing the musical “Kristina,” which was performed at Carnegie Hall last year, to Royal Albert Hall in London.


Investigate April 2010