It’s duck season for Trevor Mallard over a favour
Deans vs Henry – the ultimate local derby
Lazy afternoon siestas, olive groves, vineyards...
INVESTIGATE February 2008:
The Vitamin D
Vitamin D bombshell • Mike Moore • Trevor Mallard • A Soldier’s War
Bombshell! Sunlight key to reducing heart disease, cancer Two new studies turn medicine upside down
Mike Moore The Jiminy Cricket of NZ politics sounds a summer warning for the year ahead
A Soldier’s War Issue 85
He’s a major in the US Army, a blogger for a US newspaper, and it’s the biggest story of his life
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Contents 24 42
24 SunSmart Backfires
This could be the most important story you read in your life. IAN WISHART, JOHN FAUBER and RON KOTULAK bring you the stunning news that the SunSmart “slip, slop, slap” campaign may actually be killing ten times more people each year than die from skin cancer, and that sunbathing may actually save your life – literally
36 Duck Season
Just when Cabinet Minister Trevor Mallard thought it couldn’t get any worse, it has. IAN WISHART has the exclusive story of the Government’s involvement in a scheme that financially benefitted a private company and which has allegedly contributed to the loss of jobs in other companies that couldn’t compete
42 Tell Me Moore
The elder statesman of NZ politics, former World Trade Organisation head Mike Moore, explains to IAN WISHART why he’s been so outspoken this summer about the dangers of the Electoral Finance Act, and what it will mean for this year’s election campaign
50 The Last Post
A US Army Major blogging for an American newspaper from the frontlines in Iraq ends his blogging with one final, incredibly moving post. ANDY OLMSTED lands the biggest story of his life, in his own words
Editorial and opinion 06 Focal Point
Volume 8, issue 85, ISSN 1175-1290
The roar of the crowd
16 Simply Devine Miranda Devine on the politics of child abuse
18 Straight Talk
Mark Steyn is being prosecuted
20 Eyes Right
Richard Prosser’s open letter
22 Line 1
Chris Carter has a revolutionary idea
Chief Executive Officer Heidi Wishart Group Managing Editor Ian Wishart Customer Services Debbie Marcroft NZ EDITION Advertising email@example.com Contributing Writers: Melody Towns, Selwyn Parker, 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 Design & Layout
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Amy Brooke on tarts
The world’s biggest mystery
Office 2007, Dragon Wireless
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Julie Deardorff on kids’ tantrums
A Spanish getaway
James Morrow on vichyssoise
Ferarri’s F430 Spider
The latest and greatest
Michael Morrissey’s summer picks
Chris Philpott on the Eagles
Juno, Charlie Wilson’s War
Evan Almighty, Facing The Giants
Heidi Wishart Bozidar Jokanovic
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> focal point
When imbeciles hold public office…
ver the summer, a friend of mine was arrested by police him in the cells all day. Additionally, added police, if he pleaded at Whangamata for breaching the town’s liquor ban. He and guilty they would let him take diversion, provided he made a donahis wife had literally just arrived in town from Auckland a tion to charity of around $200. few minutes earlier on their way to a bach where they were Faced with the prospect of spending New Year’s Eve in the police scheduled to stay with friends for New Year. cells, my friend decided to plead guilty and seek diversion. Arriving at the bach, they found it locked – the others were out When I spoke to him a little later, he was furious. When he – so my friend and his wife climbed back in their car, packed to found out from me that the liquor ban did not apply to residents the hilt with summer luggage, including some beer and a bottle of or holidaymakers simply transporting liquor to their homes, he rum picked up in Paeroa on the way through that morning. The hit the roof. The bylaw, I assured him, was actually quite explicit liquor was still in its plastic carry bags, unopened. on the point: as long as the liquor was unopened and in its bags, The couple, not having been to Whangamata before, decided to it wasn’t covered by the ban. Otherwise, naturally, a large number drive around for a short sightsee while they waited to get into the of the good citizens of Whangamata would be in the clink over house. Unfortunately, Police Constable Ploddette stepped out into Christmas, and the town’s liquor stores would be empty. the road in front of their car as they arrived in town. Overzealous, out of town police officers appear to have been the “Is that liquor in your car?” she asked. problem here. Naturally, I told my friend to change his plea to not “Well, yes,” came the bemused response. guilty when he appeared in court at Waihi a week later. “I’m sorry, I’m going to have to arrest you for breaching the “Why take diversion for a crime you did not actually commit? You liquor ban. It is illegal to posstill end up with a record in the sess or bring liquor into a pubpolice computer if you do that. My friend lost his alcohol purchase, You are better to fight this on lic place.” “What the???” principle. No judge with a brain half a day in police custody, a day off will convict.” “And if you don’t cooperate sir, I will charge you with I was right. My friend work to attend court in Waihi and a obstruction as well.” changed his plea, at which My friend tried to explain point police prosecutors whole lot of stress that they’d purchased the liquor said they would definitely be in Paeroa, that it was not open charging him, and suggested and was merely being transported, along with the rest of their lug- he go and see the duty solicitor. When my friend pulled out a gage, until the bach was unlocked. Plodette was not interested. written submission, laying out chapter and verse the sequence of In the blazing midday sun, while she called for backup, she insisted events, attaching the receipt from the Paeroa liquor store dated to that my friend remain in his car with the windows fully up and the less than an hour before the arrest in Whangamata, and including engine off, and the doors closed and locked, so that he could not section 406 of the bylaw authorizing holidaymakers and residents attempt to run away – from his own car and luggage, I might add. to transport liquor to their homes, the duty solicitor found it very As the minutes ticked by, my friend began to sweat in the swelter- easy to convince police to withdraw the charges. ing interior of the car. He tried to open his door for air but a male But he shouldn’t have needed to go to all this trouble. The Whangamata police officer stepped in to close it, ignoring the pleas, and warned Police should have read the bylaw they were enforcing, and more to the him of the consequences of breaching a police instruction again. point brought their Auckland and Waikato “ring-in” colleagues up to About quarter of an hour passed before my friend was bundled into speed properly before unleashing them on the public. a police car and taken to the station. By this stage, he was soaking My friend lost his alcohol purchase, half a day in police custody, with sweat and close to fainting. His wife was beside herself and was a day off work to attend court in Waihi and a whole lot of stress. also warned that she too would be arrested if she didn’t be quiet. When police take shortcuts, justice suffers. Two hours passed. My friend was told by police he had two choices: he could plead guilty and have his liquor confiscated by the large police team seconded to the holiday area for New Year’s celebrations, or he could deny the charge and police would keep
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
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> vox populi
Communiques The roar of the crowd
FREEDOM OF SPEECH The Electoral Fraud Act (EFA) (alias Electoral Finance Act) goes much further than finance … It cements in place another set of restrictions on democracy that are intended to buy Helen Clark’s dictatorship another three years in office. This bill muzzles criticism of Clark’s policies from 1st January 2008. Note now and remind yourself (every week until the next election) of this regime’s many outrages in power and throw them and their quisling mates out of office this year. Amongst other unconstitutional provisions, this Act seeks to dry up both criticism of the Clark regime and the funding of opposition parties; but it exempts the unions from running interference with Labour propaganda. There is a slush fund that helps them do this. It is called “The Employment Relations Educational Contestable Fund” (ERECF) and it dishes out some $2 million each year (from the public purse) mostly to labour unions and has been doing so since 2000. In return the unions run propaganda campaigns and make generous donations to labour’s fighting funds. Before the 2005 election the EPMU declared war on National and were in a financial position to do so thanks to this funding. By 2004 they had received more than $482,556 from the ERECF and last year they received $99,000. (Last year the CTU received $457,000, the National Distribution Union $130,000, and the Service and Food Workers Union $85,000). It would take a book to critique the EFB and beyond; but be warned, your freedoms are being eroded at an alarming rate. Remember also to punish the minor parties who voted for the EFB. Hugh Webb, Hamilton
BUMPER STICKERS? As a means of individual and collective response to the above, I envisage the printing of simple and uniformly recognisable bumper stickers/posters/plaques etc simply and boldly worded “Change the Government”. Individuals could purchase and display these during election year to identify their individual and collective disgust at the antidemocratic legislation. The message is simple, unmistakable, and does not identify any political party. It would not be a political campaign because the manufacturer is simply printing and distributing a commodity, a disclaimer could be printed on the reverse of each stating that the distributor is simply producing a marketable product not endorsing any political opinion (just as a “no Junk Mail” sticker manufactured for individuals to place on their letterboxes does not INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
endorse or imply any motive regarding individual mail distributors). Nor is there any large expenditure on campaign advertisingsimply thousands of individual minor expenditures on expressing free speech. If someone had the backing and motivation to get this underway it could return a tidy marketing profit as well as helping NZers express their individual and collective will. As an individual with enough to do running a family and mortgage it is beyond me, but the idea is there. Looking forward to change. Roger Evans, Ranui Editor responds:
Hate to burst your bubble, Roger, but “change the government” identifies a party in the form of Labour. You might have a case, however, if you told the Electoral Finance Police that you meant it in a New Agey, inner-change kind of way…
POLITICAL CORRECTNESS The type of thinking – or world view – or “possessed”, emotive, nonthinking, that comes to expression in so-called “political correctness” will ultimately cause a greater holocaust than the combined efforts of the Bolsheviks / Communists, the fascists and the Nazis. In fact, these three departures from normal human rationality and compassion are not qualitatively separate or different evils, as is generally supposed, but simply variants of the same one. Political correctness is nothing less than the modern West’s version of this three-in-one (so to speak), evil. Particularly in the English speaking West wherein at the time in question, a sufficiency of true liberalism still survived, these evils in their above manifestations would never have been tolerated. Therefore their insinuation into English speaking societies required a far more devious and subtle approach – i.e. the politically correct approach. While the Bolsheviks / Communists / fascists and Nazis fought with all the powers of Hell against everything that the then, still strong Judeo-Christian ethos held sacred, political correctness (by sickly-sweet stealth), seeks to gradually eradicate these bedrock values from the human psyche altogether – thereby eliminating the very foundations of social order. When this three-in-one evil (in its modern form) first raised its loathsome head in twentieth century Europe, there was a sufficiency of folk raised in accordance with true values to fight and eventually overcome it. It is by no means certain that this circumstance remains true nowadays.
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Whether or not such a catastrophic eventuality actually comes to pass depends, like so much else, upon human free-will; but to the degree that is does, then to that same degree the very lowest aspects of human nature will be given free reign. Unfolding current events testify to the fact that post world war two generations have been increasingly deprived of a grounding in true values – i.e. in a cultivated and shared understanding of what is right and wrong – of what is good and evil. Relativism in all spheres, especially the moral, is becoming ever more entrenched. If this trend continues then the above turn of events will inevitably come to pass, at which point unprecedented world chaos and conflict will erupt. This then, will be the modern, politically correct version of past social holocausts. It will not be a case of the politically correct social engineers directly causing death and destruction, as was the case with their communist, nazi, fascist predecessors. No, the P.C / atheistic holocaust will be the consequence of the near complete breakdown of civil society. In such circumstances the once (more or less) steadfast and reliable bastions of law, order, and basic morality will no longer exist in sufficient strength to withstand the tidal wave of depraved criminality. At this point the politically correct social engineers and their hordes of indoctrinated minions will look on with horrified disbelief at the chaos that they, in their towering arrogance, had unwittingly unleashed. The real possibility of such a disastrous state of affairs, as any discerning observer of current events can see, or at least sense, is even now throwing its shadow before it. Now comes the crucial point. It is undeniably the political, atheistic, Marxist, Socialist Left which created and drives political correctness. After all, the very term “political correctness” originated in the 1930’s in Lenin’s Communist Russia ; and it is those of more a conservative nature – unjustly blanket-labeled “Right-wing” by the Left – (which coined both epithets), who oppose it. Does more need to be said? In short, the long prophesied division of mankind into good and evil factions, or into the “sheep” and “goats” (to employ Biblical terminology), may right now be coming to pass in the “Right” / “Left” divide which is unmistakably at work in every social sphere and contentious controversy. Indeed, it’s not going too far to say that this ideological / philosophical stand-off lies at the very heart of all of these constantly escalating and seemingly irreconcilable differences. Unlike the non-Western world, (generally speaking), it is not religion, politics, philosophy, world-view etc. per sec, which nowadays sets Westerners against each other, but the Left / Conservative divide within these issues. Thus, the misnamed Left / Right rift among Western peoples – (which has been incipient since approximately the 15th-16th centuries but first came to outer and bloody expression with the French Revolution), is, in all likelihood, the long prophesied schism of mankind. Not for nothing is the Latin root of “left” sinistrorse or sinister, or is the Left hand path the wrong / evil one. Nor is it mere coincidence that “right” has its double meaning, or that the good and holy always “sit at the right hand of God”. In naming themselves the “Left”, the Jacobin extremists of the French revolution unwittingly gave us a clue. 10 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
There is, of course, a relatively small proportion of people – among whom must be included immensely powerful “elite” groups who operate, more or less invisibly, at the very heart of global politics, industry and finance – who can justifiably be described as “Right wing” – with all that this label infers. In fact these elite “special interest” groups are possibly even more evil in their characteristic way than the brainwashed Left, (inasmuch as the extreme Left is largely their creation), but this is an entirely different matter. The overwhelming majority of those, who for the sin of disagreeing with Left-wing ideology are maliciously labeled “Right-wing” are ordinary decent folk who, on the best of grounds, still believe in “old-fashioned” (Christian) values. Hopefully it goes without saying that in human affairs we cannot speak of anything totally evil or of anything totally good, or of anything, at this stage, completely beyond redemption. However, the potential for such an eventuality is there before our eyes. Colin Rawle, Dunedin
AVSEC COMMENT I write in respect to the article entitled “Mission Impossible – Air New Zealand’s cloak and dagger flights rattle staff’, published in your September 2007 issue. Your article briefly discusses issues in respect to the use of an Air NZ charter flight to “ship Australian combat troops to the Iraqi border”, then concentrates over the 10 page article on allegations about Air NZ flight operations, security breaches, recruitment and training issues and public safety. At page 36, six separate and serious allegations are made in respect to the “Aviation Security Service leaving a lot to be desired as well”. The allegations are from a Human Resource management and security perspective and read as follows – 1. “There was a terrorist alert given to them by Customs” reported our source. “A passenger on a Singapore flight was a suspect, no one knew what to do. It was hushed up. Customs said it was not their problem, passed it to Aviation Security and they fumbled. The passenger got on the flight”. 2. “A senior manager was on a work-related trip overseas. He was so drunk in the business class lounge he had to be helped to the aircraft by his own staff’: 3. “The hand-held metal detectors they use do not work near the floor as there are metal rods in the concrete. Anyone can take whatever they like onto an aircraft by simply placing an item in their shoes. 4. “A senior officer grabbed the ears of an officer and banged his head against the car door for not knowing where the spare wheel was kept in one of their cars. There are apparently many breaches of human rights in this organisation, staff I spoke to were baffled as to how they get away with it’. 5. “IDs are never checked. Recently at the Air NZ gate, an Air NZ staff member tested Aviation Security by going through the checkpoint with a photograph of a monkey on the ID. It was not picked up” 6. “The General Manager was recently interviewed on TV at our airport. There was a screening machine in the background. Staff were seen passing items around the machine, on camera”. After carefully considering the content and nature of these allegations an investigation as to their validity and credibility was immediately commenced. The completion of this investigation now enables me to confirm that each of the allegations is groundless. Mark Everitt, General Manager, NZ Aviation Security Service
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As expressed to you privately Mark, it was an oversight on my part in not contacting you at the time, as I overlooked you while concentrating on the Air New Zealand side of things. Unfortunately given the heat created by our troop flights revelation, nobody wished to assist further on this particular aspect in case it lead to their own identification as a source. The magazine must protect its sources at the end of the day, and I’m sure you can understand that. But I do apologise for not seeking comment – it wasn’t intentional, and we certainly will if the need arises in future.
I BELIEVE I have been an agnostic for whole my short life from a newborn till I was 14. When people have asked me about if I believe in God, I have said “I dunno”. Then after my parents’ divorce – and my dad getting a new girlfriend who is really religious – I lost my faith. I was 15 then. She dragged me to church every Sunday and I never wanted to go. I became a hardcore atheist and every time someone said the word “God” I became angry. I didn’t understand how anyone could find God from the church, where the priest reads a page or two out of the Bible and then preaches for an hour about what he THINKS the pages were trying to say. I’m talking about the Lutheran church, it’s big in Scandinavia. I came last year to NZ as an exchange student. I am 16 now. I started to believe in God here.. or at least I wanted to. There are just so many clues that indicated that there is a higher force, some one who is far bigger and better. My host dad got a book from our neighbour as a birthday present. The book was Eve’s Bite. He was totally blown away and I started to read the book. And I just need to say, you have totally converted me! All those facts were the stuff I needed to really believe. I just finished reading The Divinity Code and I had an urge to try and contact you and tell how much you have influenced me! I hope you get this e-mail. Thank you very much! Zandra from Scandinavia
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’?” Randomly-caused is the key phrase, in the sense of mutations. In the absence of any guiding hand, a mutation happens and it may either be beneficial or harmful. In most observed cases they are harmful, but that’s irrelevant. Natural selection then kicks in, and supposedly a beneficial mutation will survive to enter the community and a harmful one will not. Natural selection works on advantages, and thus is not random… but mutations are. Evolution, in its wider sense, meanwhile, definitely is purposeless. It goes where the winds of change and natural selection take it…it has no “end goal” in mind. Suppose natural selection threw up someone with a predisposition to believe in a non-existent Sky Fairy who would rescue him from anything bad. If the Sky Fairy actually didn’t exist, how long do you think it would be before that individual’s defective optimism saw him squashed like a bug, taking his genes with him? To my mind, the argument that evolution guided religious belief is nonsensical, for that reason alone, let alone many others. Who is more likely to survive an impending sabre-tooth tiger attack, the caveman who erroneously believed in a non-existent deity and stood there confidently praying, or the one who threw the cat the buffalo steak he was cooking and hightailed it out of there? If God doesn’t exist, prayers don’t get answered no matter how much the evolutionary voice in your head might tell you so. Purely as an aside, blogger Barnsley Bill, posting on the No Minister site recently, relayed this hilarious oldie-but-a-goodie that I’m sure you’ll also find amusing in the context of this discussion:
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DISGRUNTLED ATHEIST WRITES I brought your book recently and I was wondering if it would be possible to get my money back. My reason you ask? Because your book claims to be “Explosive new evidence” and “explosive scientific and historical evidence” when it really isn’t. To be honest I found it hard to read past the first few chapters because it is very obvious you don’t know what you are talking about. Examples? Why sure! Your statement that evolution is “random and purposeless” makes it very obvious that you don’t know what you are talking about. When you claimed that Stephen Hawking was wrong, doubt again began to arise. Or maybe your complete and utter disregard for things like culture and gene behaviour when you claim that Neanderthals should be as intelligent and as literate as us. If you want I can pick apart your book even more, in fact me and my friend take pleasure in exposing frauds like you. So feel free to email back and we can have a friendly discussion :) Michael Rowlands, via email Editor responds:
Sure Michael, but given your current foray do you think you’re up to it? :) For example, you quoted me out of context on the evolution/random/ purposeless bit. What I actually wrote was: “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
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95864 Investigate 87x120 Feb08 stressless.indd 1
12/18/07 11:36:25 AM
A story... An atheist was walking through the woods. “What majestic trees!” “What powerful rivers!” “What beautiful animals!” He said to himself. As he was walking alongside the river, he heard a rustling in the bushes behind him. He turned to look, and saw a 7-foot grizzly bear charging towards him. He ran as fast as he could up the path. He looked over his shoulder and saw that the bear was closing in. He looked over his shoulder again, and the bear was even closer. He tripped and fell on the ground. He rolled over to pick himself up but saw that the bear was right on top of him, reaching for him with his left paw and raising his right paw to strike him. At that instant the Atheist cried out, “Oh my God!” Time Stopped. The bear froze. The forest was silent. As a bright light shone upon the man, a voice came out of the sky. “You deny my existence for all these years, teach others I don’t exist and even credit creation to cosmic accident.” “Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament? Am I to count you as a believer?” The atheist looked directly into the light, “It would be hypocritical of me to suddenly ask you to treat me as a Christian now, but perhaps you could make the BEAR a Christian?” “Very Well,” said the voice. The light went out. The sounds of the forest resumed. And the bear dropped his right paw, brought both paws together, bowed his head and spoke: “Lord, bless this food, which I am about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord. Amen.” Did you like that? In regard to your other points, I’ve just done a text search on “Hawking” in the manuscript and I’m unsure as to what you are on about there, so you’ll need to be more specific. Perhaps you can cite me a scientific research paper on a longitudinal study of a family of Neanderthal individuals that negates the glancing reference I made to Neanderthals… So, so far, I’m not really feeling picked apart. Ian
Open letter to Health Ministry Oral health care for children I am a concerned parent writing to you from Katikati in the Bay of Plenty. Back in October, our school was told that there was a group of people from the DHB coming in to ‘consult’ with our board and principal on the findings of their proposal in regards to our dental clinic. In September of 2006, the board and principal had been lead to believe the clinic would stay. I was not at that meeting as we were told only Board of Trustee members and principal only. My sister-in-law was there as a Board of Trustee member and said that there was no consulting, tape measures were bought out to measure where a concrete pad should go because, oh you are going to lose your clinic and a mobile unit will take its place. When this was relayed to me I got a little annoyed. I wrote a letter to the editor of our BOP Times, informing people of what was going on. Our local paper, Katikati Advertiser, and our Chairperson asked for a meet14 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
ing with a representative from the DHB people involved, to come and ‘consult’ with us. In the meantime, I got onto the BOPDHB website and had a look at this proposal, no sorry Business Case, that was the cause of all the problems. In effect, 7 fixed units (what we used to call dental clinics) would be kept and some mobile units would be bought to cover the schools that had no fixed units. Now the Bay of Plenty area we are talking about starts in Opotiki. They will have a fixed unit with a mobile unit in support. Then we have Whakatane, a fixed unit with one or two mobile units in support. Then Te Puke with a fixed unit with a mobile unit in support. Then Tauranga, they will have four fixed units with some mobile support. Then last but not least we have Katikati. No fixed unit but a mobile unit. This was in the Business Case. We finally got a date for our face-to-face with DHB people, 18th December, 7pm. Unfortunately the Business Case had already been sent to the Ministry of Health for approval, 6 days before! The people from the DHB were Karen Smith, Regional Manager, Angela Frances, Portfolio Manager, Sharon McKoy-Thomas, Dental Manager and Carol Woollaston, Communications Manager. We were told at this meeting that there is certain criteria and benchmarks that have to be met to have a fixed unit. According to their figures, we do not have enough children to qualify for a fixed unit. Having seen how our dental therapist is over-worked (the clinic is actually a two person clinic but there seems to be a shortage of dental therapists because ours has been working on her own for a year), with a roll of 627 students just at our school, not counting the pre-schoolers and year 7 and 8 students, our clinic is 6 months in arrears with just seeing children. They expect us to believe that a mobile unit with two therapists will complete treatment on all the above children in 26 weeks! If this doesn’t happen, we were then told that there would be flexibility to keep the mobile unit there until all treatment of every child was completed. You might as well take off the wheels of this mobile unit and call it a fixed site! Mind you if you listen to their Communication Manager, Carol Woollaston, these mobile therapists will motor the children through in 26 weeks. Not exactly words that I wanted to hear. All we are asking for is for the DHB to listen to our concerns and provide this end of the Bay of Plenty with a fixed unit. Unfortunately I think that the blinkers and earmuffs are on and nobody wants to know. In this Business Case, there is a paragraph which states: ‘BOPDHB has undertaken a collaborative approach to the development of this business case. This has involved a wide-ranging consultation and engagement process with key stakeholders and the the community over a considerable time period.’ This is a false statement and this document should be sent back to the BOPDHB with instructions to actually do what they say they have done. Consult the wide-ranging community. I appreciate you taking the time to read this letter. I hope that something will be done. Michelle Diggelmann, Katikati
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> simply devine
Aussie Labor starting to sound like the NZ version
enny Macklin had better get out her red pen: there’s a lot The moral compass of so many authority figures in this tragic more to say sorry for than the actions of social workers more story is so out of whack with universal community standards, you than 40 years ago. The Minister for Indigenous Affairs hailed wonder if they are in the grip of a sort of group delusion, in which the 10th anniversary of the Bringing Them Home report just theoretical compassion is more real than people’s suffering. before Christmas with the news that she was busy formulating a Only the much-maligned local police, according to Queensland’s national apology, “from the heart”, for the stolen generation. Premier, Anna Bligh, “took the matter very seriously”, pursuing the While she’s at it, she should start formulating an apology to all charges and making sure they went to court. But there, those on those children murdered, raped and abused in the past decade as a the comfortable side of the bench let down the victim. direct result of the report, which, in the name of cultural correctEven the prosecutor in the case, Steve Carter, who might be ness, has put so many obstacles in the way of removing indigenous expected to be the girl’s advocate, produced no victim impact children from unsafe homes. statement, despite being asked by Bradley. Yet he offered all sorts Take, for instance, the case of the 10-year-old girl gang-raped in of mitigation for the perpetrators, requesting they not receive cusAurukun, in remote Cape York, last year. todial sentences. In a decision that made headlines around the world, from The He told the court on October 24 that the attackers were “very New York Times to Al-Jazeera, the Cairns District Court Judge naughty” but had just been indulging “in a form of childish experiSarah Bradley allowed all nine attackers to walk free because the mentation [which was] consensual … in a general sense”, despite girl “probably agreed to have the fact one of the attackers sex with all of you”. was 25 at the time. To choose not to enforce the law She released six teenage Carter gave an intrigumales with no conviction ing insight when he told the in such dysfunctional communities judge: “ It’d be arrogant of me and gave three older males, aged 17, 18 and 26, suspended to stand here and start seeking only renders them even more sentences. [harsher sentences].” She did, however, give them He has been stood down this a stern talking to: “It is a very dangerous for their most vulnerable week pending an appeal and shameful matter and I hope that a Queensland Government members: children and women all of you realise that you must investigation into the case. not have sex with young girls.” Bradley, too, has come It was not the first time the little girl – described by a former under fire this week, with calls she be removed from the bench. foster carer as “just a skinny 10-year-old … not even developed” But you can hardly blame even her, as she, too, is a model prod– had been raped. uct of her culturally correct times. Reportedly “mildly intellectually impaired”, having been born As recently as a year ago this month, she gave an insight into her with foetal alcohol syndrome to an alcoholic mother, she had been thinking in a speech in Perth at a judges’ conference titled “Using gang-raped by five juveniles at the age of seven in 2002 in her Indigenous Justice Initiatives In Sentencing”. hometown of Aurukun. Indigenous offenders should be treated differently, in a more According to The Australian newspaper, the girl was then moved “culturally appropriate” way, she said, because of their “gross overbetween foster placements before going to a non-indigenous fam- representation in the criminal justice system”. ily in Cairns in July 2005, who ensured she went to school and Just two per cent of the population, they comprised more than received counselling. 22 per cent of the prison population. But she stayed only nine months before being removed by social She said “legislative and informal initiatives” were needed in sentencing workers from the Orwellian-sounding Child Safety Department, so that “penalties can be more creative, meaningful and appropriate”. which believed that placing an indigenous child in a white foster She is singing from the sentimental songbook of the progressive home was creating a new stolen generation. left so perfectly it is no wonder the 1976 law graduate has been the The girl was sent back last April to Aurukun, where she had contracted golden girl of the Queensland Government’s affirmative action syphilis and gonorrhoea, and within a month was raped again. program for women lawyers. 16 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
In far-flung outback aboriginal communities, the ‘law’ is what you make it
The aim of lenient or “creative” penalties is to reduce incarceration rates of indigenous men, as recommended by the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. But as one Cape York worker says: “You’ve got this spiral of dysfunction in these communities – of course the rate of imprisonment is going to increase.” To choose not to enforce the law in such dysfunctional communities only renders them even more dangerous for their most vulnerable members: children and women. Suspending the state’s laws when dealing with Aboriginal offenders is what the Melbourne University academic Marcia Langton describes as the “ultimate racehate practice”, which rewards “serial rapists and murderers”. It is the behaviour of such people which prompted the former federal government’s Northern Territory intervention, an attempt
to stem the epidemic of child sexual abuse. There are encouraging reports trickling out of early successes, with school attendance rates up and violence down. To his credit, the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has vowed to keep the intervention going, for a year at least. But there are signals of the watering down of key aspects – such as reinstating the scrapped permit system, which had so much to do with maintaining secrecy around child abuse. Even last month, when asked about the case of the little Aurukun rape victim, Macklin indicated she is a prisoner of culturally correct thinking when she claimed at the 10th anniversary of the Bringing Them Home report that there was no connection with child protection policies today. firstname.lastname@example.org
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 17
> straight talk
In defence of a dying realm
he problem with redesignating the “war on terror” as of the fall of the empire rather than the cause. The governing class “the long war” is that it’s easy for it to degenerate a step fur- found themselves, to quote Cole Porter, “fighting vainly the old ther and lapse into non-war mode entirely. But what are the ennui” – and that’s harder to do than fighting off an invading army. alternatives? Retreat behind Fortress America? What fortress? Bernard Lewis, the West’s preeminent scholar of Islam, worked for The one Congress built on the Rio Grande as a Latino Welcome British intelligence through the grimmest hours of World War Two. Center? The hyperpower has to be engaged with the world, if “In 1940, we knew who we were, we knew who the enemy was, we only because splendid isolation is rarely seen as such by others. knew the dangers and the issues,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “In What was the biggest single factor in the radicalization of young our island, we knew we would prevail, that the Americans would British Muslims? The then Conservative government’s conclusion be drawn into the fight. It is different today. We don’t know who in the 1990s that it had no dog in the Balkans junkyard. As Osama we are, we don’t know the issues, and we still do not understand bin Laden put it: “The British are responsible for destroying the the nature of the enemy.” Caliphate system. They are the ones who created the Palestinian The advantage for the United States and, to a lesser extent, other problem. They are the ones who created’ the Kashmiri problem. parts of the English-speaking world is that Europe is ahead in the They are the ones who put the arms embargo on the Muslims of line, and its fate may wake up even the most blinkered on this side of Bosnia so that two million Muslims were killed.” the Atlantic. Islamism is militarily weak but ideologically confident. How’d a list of imperial interventions wind up with that bit of The West is militarily strong but ideologically insecure. The suicide non-imperial non-intervention? Because, for great powers, detach- bomber is a symbol of weakness, of a culture so comprehensively ment from the affairs of the failed that what ought to be world is ‘ not an option: evenits greatest resource – its peo Islamism is militarily weak but handedness by Washington ple – is instead as disposable will be received as a form of as a firecracker. But in our selfideologically confident. The West doubt the enemy’s weakness one-handedness by the time its effects are felt in Wackistan becomes his strength. We simis militarily strong but ideologically ply can’t comprehend someor Basketkhazia. Isolation doesn’t travel. one like Raed Abdel Mask, insecure Americans and other pictured in the papers in 2004 Westerners who want their with a big smile, a checkered families to enjoy the blessings of life in a free society should under- shirt and two cute little cherubs, a boy and a girl, in his arms. His stand that the life we’ve led since 1945 in the Western world is very wife was five months pregnant with their third child. So he kissed rare in human history. Our children are unlikely to enjoy any- her goodbye and then big, smiling Raed strapped an eleven-pound thing so placid, and may well spend their adult years in an ugly bomb packed with nails and shrapnel to his chest and boarded the and savage world unless we decide that who and what we are is number 2 bus in Jerusalem. worth defending. To a five-year-old boy watching Queen Victoria’s We heard a lot about “root causes” in the weeks after September Diamond Jubilee procession on the Mall in 1897, it would have 11 – mostly the usual ones: “poverty breeds despair,” etc. But the been inconceivable that by the time of his eightieth birthday the September 11 murderers were middle class and educated, which is one greatest empire the world had ever known would have sunk to an reason why they were so skilled at their job that day. It was carefully economically moribund strike-bound slough of despond whose tax plotted. They hijacked long-haul flights with the most fuel at the rates drove its best talents abroad, and whose most glittering colo- time of day when airport security would be even more careless than nial possessions now valued ties to Communist Russia over those usual. It was brilliantly planned, superbly executed. The perpetrators to the mother country. It’s difficult to focus on long-term trends trained to become jet pilots – a profession that would guarantee a because human life is itself short-term. So think short-term: huge good life anywhere around the world. They could be pulling down changes are under way right now. six-figure salaries instead of Manhattan skyscrapers. But they went to The threat to U.S. power comes not principally from Chinese pilot school and trained in a highly disciplined fashion so they could innovation or Indian engineering graduates but from America’s make one flight, one time, one way: into a tall building. own cultural indolence, just as the sack of Rome was a symptom We cannot fathom men such as Mohammed Atta and Raed 18 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
It’s difficult to focus on longterm trends because human life is itself short-term. So think short-term: huge changes are under way right now
Abdel Mask. But, if you were the late Messrs. Mask and Atta following events in North America and Europe, wouldn’t we strike them as a little odd too? When we hear about some guy in a cave dreaming of the new caliphate, we think he’s nuts. But if you were in the cave watching a CNN bulletin in which legal analysts explain why the U.S. Supreme Court decided to confer Geneva Convention rights on unlawful combatants under an unprecedented reading of Common Article 3, or watching New York Times executives explain proudly how important it was for them to reveal fatally damaging details of a national security terror-tracking program for no good reason whatsoever, wouldn’t you conclude that we’re the ones who are nuts? If you’d been in the cave and had your radio tuned to National Public Radio for the following exchange, wouldn’t you have been splitting your sides (and not because your suicide-bomber belt went off early)? This was an interview on NPR’s Morning Edition with the mayor of Toronto, after the arrest of seventeen alleged terrorist plotters. I was laughing so much I drove off the road. There ought to be a health warning before these cockamamie public broadcasting gagfests. Hizzoner David Miller warmed up with a bit of boilerplate Islamoschmoozing: “You know, in Islam, if you kill one person, you kill everybody. It’s a very peaceful religion. And they’re as shocked as Torontonians are. And – ” Renee Montague, the NPR anchorette, instantly spotted the ghastly breach of PC etiquette and leapt in: “Well, they sort of are Torontoni-ans,” she pointed out. “Sorry,” gulped the mayor, hastily re-smothering Muslims within the great diversity quilt. “They’re shocked as every Torontonian is.” Ms. Montague then expressed bafflement that these allegedly alleged fellows would have wanted to commit a terrorist atrocity in what was, compared to the Great Satan next door, “a very open soci-
ety, very liberal immigration policy, very good social services.” Mayor Miller agreed. “More than half of the people who live in Toronto, including myself, were not born in Canada. And I think that’s why Canada works.” “Although it didn’t work in this case,” Ms. Montague noted, some-what maliciously. “Well, we don’t expect these kinds of occurrences, exactly because of our public services, because of diversity,” blah, blah, blah. Insofar as there’s any relation between jihadists and “good social services,” the latter seem to attract the former – at least in the sense that the millennium bomber, the shoe-bomber, the Tube bombers, etc., were all products of the Euro-Canadian welfare system. But go ahead, pretend that these guys were upset about insufficient “social services,” that they wanted to behead the prime minister to highlight the fact that wait times for the beheaded at the Toronto General are now up to eighteen months, and they don’t always reattach the right head. It’s easy to scoff that a chap who can be bothered to blow up the Canadian Parliament must be insane, but if you were a jihadist sitting in the cave back in the Hindu Kush listening to Renee Montague and David Miller compete to abase themselves before the most irrelevant PC platitudes, wouldn’t you conclude that they’re way more suicidal than you and Ahmed? A suicide bomber may be a weak weapon, but not against a suicide culture. © Mark Steyn, 2007 Mark Steyn is currently being sued under Canada’s new anti-free speech laws for writing comments like those above in his recent bestseller, America Alone. As a mark of solidarity on the need to defend Western freedom of speech on critical issues, Investigate has reprinted the above extract from his book, in place of Steyn’s usual monthly column.
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 19
> eyes right
Richard Prosser An open letter
ear politicians and defence planners of New Zealand, behaviour, decided to become good guys. Pacifism didn’t work for please read this and take note. After the disbandment of Moriori or Tibet, and it won’t work for New Zealand either. the Air Force, and the shrinking of the Army, we are now We do not live in a special time bubble. Things are not “differinformed that the Navy is about to be forced to lay up its ent now”. There is no Benign Strategic Environment, and there frigates because of a desperate shortage of technicians. Recruitment never was. We are simply living in a temporal lull in the fighting; and retention of quality people has become such an issue since the the eye of the storm, if you prefer. It is an historical blip, predictLabour Government’s demilitarisation of New Zealand’s military, able but not the prevailing norm. Conflict will come again, as it that $45,000 cash payments are being offered to marine technicians always does, and when it does, those who believe that the nature who agree to remain in service. of wars, and the hardware required to fight them, has somehow Well, I have news for you. miraculously and irrevocably changed, will find themselves sorely People aren’t leaving the New Zealand armed forces because of mistaken. By then, of course (and it could as easily be tomorrow money. They never joined in the first place because of money. They or next week, as next year or in five years’ time), being able to say never stayed because of money. The money in the NZDF has always “I told you so”, will be cold comfort. been poor, when compared with equivalent roles in the civilian The challenges and dangers faced by the world prior to the events sector, or the militaries of other countries. And money won’t keep of 9/11 have not gone away because of it, and neither has military them now, at least not the ones you’d want to keep. reality altered. We face a new and additional threat, true; and all They joined to be part of a military. A real military, a fight- of the old ones are still there as well. ing force. They joined to serve In 1936, Labour politicians their country, out of a sense in Britain sought – and almost Bring back the Air Force. Re-arm achieved – the disbandment of of loyalty, of patriotism; sentiments which I think politicians the RAF, through believing, the Navy. Re-establish some form on the Left never understood, and arguing, that the type of and which the Right appears war for which such an organof alliance with our traditional and isation, and such hardware, to be largely forgetting. No-one joined up to be was designed, would never familial partner nations, and give part of a de-militarised Peace happen again. Corps. It isn’t a real job, and WWII lasted six years. the Army a real job to do again it isn’t a credible career; and it There were nasty people on won’t ever become so, no matthe other side, people who ter how hard the current Government wishes it would. wanted to kill us and take our countries away. We had to fight Pacifism is an unreal desire. It flies in the face of the human and kill them in order to protect and defend ourselves. If we hadn’t condition. The natural state for mankind is one of conflict. This done that, our countries and our cultures wouldn’t exist today. And has always, and will ever, be the case. Denying it is, I believe, a yes, there was such a thing as diplomacy back then; but y’know, form of mental illness. It’s a kind of retardation, to believe that the bad guys just didn’t listen. Diplomacy is like that. It only works blind adherence to a naive fantasy can somehow change the his- when people are prepared to be reasonable. The Germans weren’t torical path of the human race. There will never be peace, unless prepared to be reasonable. They didn’t get reasonable until the that peace is imposed and protected by force. Paradoxical, perhaps, Yanks and the Russians beat them to death. The Japanese weren’t but true nonetheless. prepared to be reasonable until the Yanks nuked them. Then they The Pax Romana was maintained by the Legions, and their got reasonable, and surrendered. Do you people really not rememimposition of military force. The Pax Britannia was maintained by ber this? Do you, further, really think that things would be different the Royal Navy, and its imposition of military force. And we have now – and if so, why? Why would you think this? What is differhad relative peace throughout most of the world this past half cen- ent about now? Has the human animal changed? tury only because of the Pax Americana, the presence of American Neville Chamberlain believed in appeasement and diplomacy, military power and the threat of its use, and not because the bad and brought back “Peace for our time” after meeting with Hitler in guys have suddenly, and out of keeping with the history of human 1938. He was a gullible fool who could not comprehend that he was
20 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
being lied to. Today, equally gullible and foolish politicians believe in the United Nations, and cannot comprehend that the Chinese or the Muslims may be lying to them. Things are not different now, you unrealistic politicians. They have never been different. They will never be different. You have simply looked at an unrepresentative generational snapshot of world events, and without looking at the bigger picture, used it to extrapolate a completely unreal vista of the human condition, both before and after our present time. All that changes is technology. The nature of the beast, the human animal, does not change. We are fickle creatures, poor of memory, and driven by base desires. The veneer of civilisation is very thin indeed. China is simply biding its time and building its strength. The belief that China’s expansionist plans will not evolve from economic to military in nature because they are “inextricably intertwined with the west now”, is naive folly almost beyond comprehension. China is more of an organism than a nation, and as a culture, it has been planning what it is doing now for around 5,000 years. Preposterous, some may say; but not, I would venture, those who have actually read history. Prior to the Vietnam War, aircraft designers removed guns from fighter jets, claiming that such weaponry was outdated, and that all future wars would be fought with missiles. In the face of the experience of that conflict, and the subsequent retrofitting of cannon to American aircraft, and in spite of all other historical evidence, the Poms have just done it again with the new Typhoon. Are things really Different Now? Immediately prior to the Falklands War, the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible was about to be decommissioned and sold to Australia, because Britain’s defence planners could not foresee any conflict or eventuality which would require her use. Things Were Different Now, eh. In 1939, Polish Generals sent mounted cavalry against German tanks, because they had nothing else with which to respond; they were unprepared for the reality that the Great War had not, in fact, been the War to end All Wars, that the Treaty of Versailles was not a substitute for adequate and correctly prepared defence forces. Battalions of dead soldiers and shredded horsemeat became proof that Things were not Different Now. Bring back the Air Force. Re-arm the Navy. Re-establish some form of alliance with our traditional and familial partner nations, and give the Army a real job to do again. This will bring people back to the Forces. More money, and more pink flags, won’t. No-one in their right mind wants war. But at the same time, no-one in their right mind believes that war will go away if you shut your eyes and pretend that it doesn’t exist, or that being nice to people will mean that they will be nice in return. Remove your heads from your posteriors, you politicians, please, and wake up and smell the coffee. You occupy important positions of great responsibility and influence, and our security is dependent on you making informed and correct decisions. We need, very much, for you to be realistic and worldly when you do so. Give us back our Armed Forces, you foolish and shortsighted politicians. They were never yours to take away, and your ridiculous notion that the nation and the world could somehow be secure
Give us back our Armed Forces, you foolish and shortsighted politicians
without them, beggars belief. You are not at university anymore. You are supposed to have grown up. Childish idealist fantasies have no place around the Cabinet table. You need to look at the realities of the world the way it is, not the way you would have liked it to have been, when you were nine, or nineteen. I would ask your consideration of two salient quotes; Only the dead have seen the end of war – Plato We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm – George Orwell You are wrong to believe that the human race of Plato’s world is different from the human race of today. We are only 12,000 years from the Stone Age (50 years, if you count Papua New Guinea). The only thing which has changed, is the technology of war. The supposed diplomacy of the United Nations is a sham; which is all it was ever intended to be. And the rough men (and women) who stand ready in the night, do so partly because visiting violence in a good cause, is what they want to do. To do so effectively, they need weapons. I know that some of you people struggle with this concept, but it is truth nonetheless. On whom will you call when your children are missing, or your home is invaded in the night? The Police, of course; and how will they respond? With violence, you should hope, if such is required, in the face of the type of people who choose to invade your home in the night. Some people do do that, you know; illegal or not, that is how they behave. So it is with nations. I wonder, I really do, why it is that supposedly intelligent people such as politicians struggle to grasp this reality. Just as some individuals choose to ignore the niceties of the law, so some regimes choose to ignore the conventions of civilised behaviour, and conflict is the result. It is generally overcome, yes; sometimes only after a very long number of years, and always, as with the home invasion, by the very real use of force, force involving weapons, people prepared to use those weapons, and the death of those who oppose them. It is nasty and it is unpleasant, but it is real, and it requires the maintenance of a proper military in order to deal with it. A Peace Corps will not suffice, because, ineffectiveness aside, the necessary type of people will simply not join one. You really need to get this truth through your collective heads, because human nature will not change in order to accommodate your unrealistic worldview. Please take heed of all this, and do something about it, before it is too late. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 21
> line one
Time for a Wellington tea party
’ve been watching with almost morbid fascination, courtesy whim of our political mistress and her acolytes, could well explain of Sky’s Fox News Channel, the enormously complex manner in why this devious duo endeavour on all possible occasions, to rubbish which the good citizens of the United States select one of their the US, who, with all their faults, still enjoy the freedoms guarannumber to become the next President. Not unlike Rugby, the teed by a living Constitution that we, by comparison, can now only process appears to be a game of two halves. The Democrats versus dream of. The Yanks for instance have a constitutional right to say the Republicans, up to half time, beat the living proverbial out of what they like, whenever they like, especially, I might add, during not only their sworn political enemies, but also, and most savagely, an election or during its run up. They enjoy furthermore, should their own individual team members. During this first half, untold their electoral system let them down and a real rat bag find his or millions of dollars, apparently freely given by mainly individual sup- her way into the White House, the absolute right to the impeachporters, are spent in bucket loads on the most extraordinary media ment and the tossing out of office of the offending party. campaigns, that both sing the praises of the respective team, but In any case, unlike here, they long ago recognised that power does also to call into serious question the character of one’s own fellow inevitably corrupt, so two terms in office as President and it’s on your team members. Come half time, the selectors choose one member way sunshine! They enjoy, as we once did, an essential upper and from each team, who, at the recommencement of the game, muscle lower house, where the Congress comes up with the ideas, which the up to play the second half of the match as individuals, completely Senate then takes a good look at before anything gets passed into law. unaided by their previous team members who presumably having A further safeguard also existing where the peoples’ elected choice, been found out as folk of low The President, can then exercharacter, have been literally cise his right to veto anything No better political device banished from any further parthat he believes is against the ticipation in this rather strange national interest, something ever existed for those wishing to political contest. our own Governors’ General The other rather odd feature used to do until they simply corrupt the democratic process. in this presidential selection became politically appointed process is the length of time poodles, who now more or Governments can now be formed, that it takes, although, due less sign anything put before to the amount of extremely them by the same people, who not to suit the stated wants and close scrutiny that each canafter all, gave them the big saldidate receives during this ary, the fancy uniform and the needs of the common voter time, the chances of an absoRolls Royce. lute bounder finally getting The Americans also enjoy the nod are somewhat reduced. A very different way of selecting the luxury of being able to actually get rid of politicians who prove a Head of State to be sure, but at least it remains absolutely dem- themselves to be absolute dick heads, like at the next election they’re ocratic and indeed it gives the ordinary voter the unchallenged voted out of office. Here, that has become more or less an impossibilright to make that selection, as opposed to other supposedly dem- ity. We can all name NZ Members of Parliament who share a similar ocratic countries, where leadership selection is usually made after I.Q. with the common earthworm. However, as some suspect, they all sorts of murky and secret meetings having taken place amongst perhaps know where some particularly smelly old political bodies are various party members whom experience has taught us, are to be buried, so they naturally are placed well up the “Party List” and theretrusted the least. fore continue on in their usual roles as political voting fodder or as the Most of us, I am quite sure, are not in the least bit surprised to zombie-like askers of patsy questions to make some moronic cabinet hear our own beloved Prime Minister in chorus with her familiar, minister look at least slightly competent. They simply cannot be gotMichael Cullen esquire, drawing the most odious comparisons ten rid of can they? It’s bad enough that a given MP might prove over between the U.S. Political System and our own on a more than time to be a bit dim and incapable of properly representing the people regular basis. Which, bearing in mind the manner in which we New in his or her electorate properly, but when the people try to give him Zealanders have in recent years found ourselves being continually the bum’s rush, being a mate of the PM whatever, there he is again as stripped of our previous rights and privileges, more or less at the a list MP even if his local electorate has voted in as their new parlia22 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
From small protests and simmering resentment, the Boston “tea party” turned into the American revolution
mentary representative someone from another party! Now it’s one thing if the guy is just plain stupid, but what if the locals have found out that he’s actually quite mad or, worse, it’s all around the neighbourhood that he’s a real low life. As long as the Party still loves him and he continues to be ignored by the Parliamentary Gallery Journo’s, chances are he’ll end up as a very well paid associate minister! What a crazy system we’ve allowed to have foisted upon us, although some of you still dodging the effects of political Alzheimer’s may recall that we were promised on a stack of bibles that we were to have a referendum, to see, after a session or so of Parliament, whether or not we wished to keep this lunatic MMP system or not. Any referenda of course, not being conducted in a democratic country any more, would not be binding in any case! Why? Well gaze around Parliament and work it out for yourselves. No better political device ever existed for those wishing to corrupt the democratic process. Governments can now be formed, not to suit the stated wants and needs of the common voter. Heavens no! Much better to have the pollies gathering together after the election, to do all sorts of dirty deals, accept bribes in the form of guaranteed top jobs and salaries, in exchange for the hand full of votes that are necessary to form a so-called Government. Democracy my backside. We were right royally conned to effectively hand over Our voting powers to some of the biggest rogues and ne’er-do-wells who have ever drawn breath in this country’s history, who regardless of how we may have voted, have simply set up a system where our vote is now worth, in truth, bugger all. Then to cap off what has to be one of the shonkiest political rorts outside of the Zimbabwean electoral system, we now see introduced the Electoral Finance Bill steamrollered through Parliament by a minority government now terminally corrupt, but naturally still supported by those minuscule parties who in effect sold them their party votes. This legislation is so bad that every one from the Law Society,
the Human Rights Commission, right through to just about every Newspaper Editorial in the land, not forgetting even the Electoral Commission itself, cried foul! Did this force a re-think or even a genuine attempt by the Government to rework this appalling Bill? Well of course not, after all “They had the numbers”, obtained of course by, as pointed out above, little more than political bribery, sweet job offers, and God knows what else that we probably never will ever get to know about! To give us some idea as to how powerless we Kiwis now are to have any real say at all as to the way our Country is now run, I wonder how many of you are aware that well over a quarter of a million people have now signed a petition calling for a referendum, whereby the highly controversial “Anti Smacking Bill” might be scrapped. More properly perhaps we should ask ourselves how it came into being in the first place! As a direct result of payback to the Green Party for their unstinting and blind support of Labour is my guess. Should Sue Bradford have awoken from another of her nightmares and decided to inflict something even sillier upon us all I am equally sure that this Government would have given it their full support. By the way, speaking of the 250,000 plus signature petition mentioned, this is far more than necessary, in my view, to totally negate any need to ask or to “Pray” for the granting of a referendum. This is now simply a matter for the Government to make it happen or to be prepared to face the consequences should they not. Enough people have now come to recognise the face of totalitarianism when they see it, we’ve beaten it before and we’ll beat it again! Matter of fact the Americans established their democracy and guarded it against future tampering with a written Constitution directly after the conclusion of the American Revolution. Perhaps Helen and Co might consider the number of harbours we have to dump tea into here. Chris Carter appears in association with www.snitch.co.nz, a must-see site.
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 23
THE BEST MEDICINE?
The Jury Is In
For three years now, sunsmart campaigners have been appealing for calm and “more research” before making “hasty” decisions about the dangers of UV rays. But now two new scientific studies have confirmed one of medical science’s worst fears – sunsafe campaigns could actually be far more hazardous to your health than sunbathing. IAN WISHART, JOHN FAUBER and RON KOTULAK have the story 24 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
or two decades now, we’ve been told to slip, slop, slap; that the sun is dangerous and will kill us. We’ve encouraged an entire generation of kids to grow up with these secret fears, reinforced by politically-correct and well-intentioned community advertising campaigns. But all the way through, some things just didn’t seem to gel. Firstly, humans have always had plenty of sun exposure in the past, yet it is only since the widespread use of sunscreens that skin cancer rates have appeared to rise. In the early 1990s, a Norwegian Cancer Institute research scientist, Professor Johan Moan, made a staggering announcement in the British Journal of Cancer: while the annual incidence of melanoma in Norway had quadrupled between 1957 and 1984, there had been no corresponding change in the ozone layer over the region. “Ozone depletion is not the cause of the increase in skin cancers,” his medical journal report notes1.
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 25
As if to emphasise the rapid increase in skin cancer rates, the Norwegians re-analysed the data just a few years later and found the rates had grown again, a 600% increase in skin cancer between 1960 and 1990 – just thirty years! Yet still no change in ozone levels. New Zealand and Australia – two of the countries that were first to latch on to the sunsmart message – now have the highest rates of melanoma in the world. And it’s not just skin cancer – other types of cancer have rocketed upwards as well. Until now, scientists have not made a connection between all these things, but that’s all changing. Two new scientific studies out this month have added to the growing mountain of evidence that our obsession with reducing sun exposure and slathering ourselves in sunscreen could actually be killing us. At the heart of the debate is vitamin D – a crucial ingredient, it now turns out, in the battle against a whole range of modern illnesses. Vitamin D is produced by the skin’s exposure to the sun’s “harmful” ultraviolet rays. If you protect yourself from UV rays by covering up all the time, chances are your body is not topping up its vitamin D storage banks. And the impact of that can be fatal. One of the new studies shows a massive increase in the risk of heart disease among people who have low levels of vitamin D, while another shows increased sun exposure actually reduces your chances of dying from skin cancer! 26 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
What follows is a series of international reports on the latest discoveries and what they mean: SUNLIGHT AND HEART DISEASE Original study published: In the journal Circulation, January 2008 At a glance: Survey sample – 1,739 patients over five years Conclusions – A 53% to 80% higher risk of heart attack or stroke in people with low levels of Vitamin D
Study ties heart ills, vitamin D deficiency By John Fauber
MILWAUKEE – Low levels of vitamin D, a chronic problem for many people in northern latitudes, were associated with substantially higher rates of heart disease and stroke, according to the latest study in a growing amount of research suggesting that vitamin D deficiencies might be at the root of a variety of serious health problems. Indeed, a second study published online Monday [see following story] in another journal concluded that people who got increased levels of sun exposure had a better chance of surviving various cancers than those who got limited sun exposure. In one of the strongest studies to date linking the vitamin to
“Over the last several years, numerous studies have found links between low levels of vitamin D, not just with bone health, but in various cancers, the flu, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders”
cardiovascular disease, researchers followed 1,739 members of the Framingham Offspring Study for more than five years. They found the rate of cardiovascular disease events such as heart attacks, strokes and heart failure were from 53 percent to 80 percent higher in people with low levels of vitamin D in their blood. “This is a stunning study,” says John Whitcomb, medical director of the Aurora Sinai Wellness Institute in Milwaukee. He was not involved in the study. Whitcomb says the study bolsters the idea that people should be supplementing their diet with vitamin D pills during autumn and winter. Whitcomb noted that other than eating lots of fatty fish, it is nearly impossible to maintain optimal vitamin D levels through diet alone. Sun exposure and taking vitamin D supplements are the only proven methods, he says. “We were designed to live in sunshine,” Whitcomb says. “Every year we go through this five-month stress test.” Because the study followed patients after their vitamin D levels were measured, it is more rigorous in design than other research that merely found a retrospective link between vitamin D levels and cardiovascular disease, says Denise Teves, an assistant professor of medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin who was also not involved in the study. “It makes perfect sense,” she says. In patients she evaluates for possible osteoporosis at Froedtert Hospital and the Zablocki Veterans Affairs Medical Center, up to 90 percent have insufficient levels of vitamin D, Teves says. Teves noted there are several reasons why vitamin D might help prevent cardiovascular disease. She says cells that line the arteries of the heart have vitamin D receptors. Low levels of vitamin D can lead to a proliferation of smooth muscle cells in those blood vessels, which, in turn, can lead to blockages and stiffness in arteries. In addition, more vitamin D can lead to less inflammation in arteries. It also has been linked to reduced blood pressure. Teves says that while the current recommendation for adults is to get about 400 international units of vitamin D a day, an optimal level might be from 800 to 2,000 international units. However, other vitamins have shown initial promise in preventing cardiovascular disease only to fizzle out when randomized clinical
trials were done, says Matthew Wolff, chief of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison. Wolff, who was not involved with the study, says that people who take vitamins tend to lead healthier lives than those who don’t and it is hard determine whether it is the vitamin or the lifestyle that is the root of the health benefit. Still, Wolff says, there is a great deal of biochemical evidence that explains why vitamin D might be beneficial. “We can’t assume there is a therapeutic benefit from taking the vitamin,” Wolff says. “It’s just intriguing.” However, researchers say there may be one significant difference between vitamin D and vitamins such as C and E and folic acid, which have failed to show a benefit in reducing cardiovascular disease risk in randomized trials. For much of history, humans lived near the equator and were exposed to higher amounts of ultraviolet light, resulting in higher levels of vitamin D in their bodies, says Thomas Wang, lead author INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 27
of the cardiovascular risk and vitamin D study, which was published online this month in the journal Circulation. “The levels we see today in developed countries are relatively unusual, especially from an evolutionary standpoint,” says Wang, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. One-third to one-half of otherwise healthy, middle-aged to older adults have low levels of vitamin D in the United States, the study says. The study found a significant reduction in cardiovascular disease risk in people who had more than 15 nanograms per millilitre of 25-dihydroxyvitamin D – the form of vitamin D stored in blood – compared with those who had less than that. Wang says the benefit might have been even greater if the study had compared 15 nanograms per millilitre or less with at least 30 nanograms per millilitre, which many researchers believe is the optimal level of vitamin D. Wang says his study doesn’t prove that taking vitamin supplements reduces heart attacks and strokes. That can only be done with a large clinical trial in which vitamin D is compared with a placebo. However, until such studies are done, there is little risk for adults who take up to 2,000 international units a day, he says. Over the last several years, numerous studies have found links between low levels of vitamin D, not just with bone health, but in various cancers, the flu, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders. The amount of vitamin D produced in the body as the result of sunlight is 3.4 times to 4.8 times greater below the equator than in the United Kingdom and Scandinavia, according to a separate analysis published online this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers found that survival from various internal cancers improved with greater amounts of sun exposure. “It’s at least a 30 percent reduction” in mortality, says senior author Richard Setlow, a biophysicist with the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y. “It depends on the cancer.” Most of the work on the study was done in Norway.
AT A GLANCE
SUNLIGHT AND REDUCED CANCER DEATH RATES Original study published: In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, January 7th, 2008 At a glance: Survey sample – mortality and cancer incidence data from NZ, Australia, UK and Scandinavia Conclusions – “Increased sun exposure may lead to improved cancer prognosis and, possibly, give more positive than adverse health effects”
Sunlight helps you survive cancer By Ian Wishart
For most New Zealanders, the release of this major study got lost in the silly season. The lead author on the report, Norway’s Johan Moan, is the man whose 1992 study found that ozone holes were not the cause of skin cancer. This time around, he and his team have compared skin cancer data from New Zealand and Australia, with the same statistics in the Northern Hemisphere. They chose racial and skin types that are closely related genetically, in order to get the best possible comparison. What they found is, quite simply, stunning. While those of us downunder suffer much higher melanoma rates than our colleagues in the north, our survival rates are – paradoxically – much higher on a victim-for-victim comparison. The same applies to internal cancers like breast, prostate or colon – although we suffer higher rates, we are also more likely to survive them. Australians, who get more sun than kiwis, are more likely to survive their cancers than New Zealanders are, lending further weight to the theory. What remains up in the air is the exact cause of many of these cancers. Modern diets are full of agricultural chemicals, with one Spanish study published this month finding every single Spanish citizen (100% of the study sample) has one or more agricultural pesticides circulating in their blood at significant levels. New Zealand and Australia, as heavy agricultural producers may have correspondingly higher cancer rates for that reason. Even so, sunlight appears to have a significant impact in helping us survive the cancers that we do get.
The Scientific Findings
62% reduction in the risk of MS among those with higher levels of vitamin D in their youth.
Heart Disease: You are up to 80% more likely to suffer heart
Type I Diabetes: Taking vitamin D during pregnancy can help pre-
attack or stroke if your vitamin D levels are low.
vent the development of diseases later in the unborn child’s life, according to Armin Malter of Germany’s Professional Association of Gynaecologists. “The latest studies show that vitamin D can aid the immune system and help prevent auto-immune conditions such as diabetes and thyroid problems,” says Malter, who adds that pregnant women are likely to have a deficiency of vitamin D as their unborn child develops in the womb and need to either get sunlight, or take supplements.
Breast Cancer: Up to 50% lower risk of developing breast can-
cer if you get 15 minutes of direct sunlight a day, with vitamin D supplements in winter. If you get breast cancer, and your vitamin D levels are good, you have a 30% better chance of survival. Remember that 87% of pregnant women in a Wellington survey, however, were found to be vitamin D deficient, so don’t assume your levels are good. Colorectal and other internal cancers:
A 50% reduction in the risk of developing the disease, and again a 30% better chance of surviving if vitamin D levels are high. Multiple Sclerosis: A 40% reduction in the risk of devel-
oping the disease if you get plenty of direct sun exposure as a child. A study of seven million US servicemen over a number of years found a
28 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
Osteoporosis: Over 70 percent of seemingly healthy teenage girls
may be vitamin D deficient, says a British study, and are at increased risk of osteoporosis and other health problems later in life. Such results may lead to recommendations in certain countries of vitamin D supplementation for adolescents to help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. “Vitamin D deficiency during childhood and adolescence might impair the acquisition of peak bone mass at the end of skeletal growth and maturation, thereby increasing the risk of osteoporosis fracture in later life,” explained the researchers from Saint Mary’s Hospital for Women and Children in Manchester.
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Even the science on the exact cause of melanoma is not settled, with the latest report highlighting the arguments against solar radiation being the main cause: “The main arguments against the concept that sun exposure causes cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM) are that: 1) CMM is more common among persons with indoor work than among those people with outdoor work; 2) in younger generations, more CMMs arise per unit skin area on partly shielded areas (trunk and legs) than on face and neck; and 3) CMMs sometimes arise on totally shielded areas [soles of feet, palms, inside the eyeball].” Nonetheless, the PNAS study suggests that a “significant fraction” of malignant melanomas may be caused by sun exposure. No mention is made, however, of the possible effect of the chemicals in sunscreens themselves. “Most chemical sunscreens contain from 2 to 5% of benzophenone or its derivatives (oxybenzone,benzophenone-3) as their active ingredient,” reports researcher Hans Larsen. “Benzophenone is one of the most powerful free radical generators known to man. It is used in industrial processes to initiate chemical reactions and promote crosslinking. Benzophenone is activated by ultraviolet light. The absorbed energy breaks benzophenone’s double bond to produce two free radical sites. The free radicals desperately 30 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
look for a hydrogen atom to make them “feel whole again”. They may find this hydrogen atom among the other ingredients of the sunscreen, but it is conceivable that they could also find it on the surface of the skin and thereby initiate a chain reaction which could ultimately lead to melanoma and other skin cancers. “Researchers at the Harvard Medical School have recently discovered that psoralen, another ultraviolet light-activated free radical generator, is an extremely efficient carcinogen. They found that the rate of squamous cell carcinoma among patients with psoriasis, who had been repeatedly treated with UVA light after a topical application of psoralen, was 83 times higher than among the general population.” In other words, how much of the slip, slop, slap – particularly when the campaign began two decades ago with lower grades of sunscreens – might actually be the real cause of skin cancer outbreaks today? Leaving aside the cause, however, the PNAS study has some breakthrough data on cancer survival rates. If your vitamin D levels are high, you are around 30% more likely to survive “prostate, breast, colon and lung cancers, as well as lymphomas and even melanomas,” reports the study. “Other investigators have found comparable results. These data argue for a positive role of sun-induced vitamin D in cancer prognosis, or that a good vitamin D status is advantageous when in combination with standard cancer therapies.” Unfortunately, this protective effect cannot be guaranteed using vitamin D supplements. “Our recent investigations…show that a high sun-bed induced [vitamin D] level cannot be maintained by daily intakes of the recommended amount of vitamin D (200 units in the form of codliver oil pills). “Thus we conclude that…the sun is an important source of vitamin D…So far, epidemiological data for cancer argue for an overall positive role of sun-induced vitamin D. There may be more beneficial than adverse effects of moderately increased sun exposure, even for total cancer mortality.” Of course, as with all things, there is a trade-off between increasing sun exposure for your family’s health, and increasing the risk of skin cancer. But the numbers tell the story: In 2004, 7,900 Americans died of melanoma. On the flip side of that coin, 45,000 Americans are believed to have died from cancers that they could have survived with greater exposure to the sun. In other words, you are nine times more likely to die from cancer caused or aggravated by a lack of sunlight, than you are from skin cancer caused by sunlight. THE OVERVIEW: Vitamin D – Cheap wonder drug? By John Fauber
MILWAUKEE – It seems too simple to be true: Expose most of your body to about 15 minutes of sunlight a day during the summer and take large doses of inexpensive vitamin D pills during the winter and maybe, just maybe, you will substantially reduce the risk of getting various cancers, the flu, diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune diseases and neurological disorders. A flurry of research in the last few years suggests that low levels of vitamin D, a fairly common occurrence in those who live in northern locales much of the year [or the southern latitudes of New Zealand in the southern hemisphere], may be partly to blame for much of the ill health of many people. “Vitamin D is not just for bones anymore,” says Hector Deluca,
a pioneering vitamin D researcher at the University of WisconsinMadison. “The questions are: How much do we take and do we expose ourselves to sunlight?” Deluca noted that the vitamin plays a role in shutting down or activating at least 100 genes, many of which are involved in preventing diseases. Consider these recent developments: • A small observational study by University of Wisconsin researchers published online in January 2007 showed a significant association between low levels of vitamin D in the blood of Alzheimer’s patients and poor performance on a cognitive test. The study was prompted after family members of the Alzheimer’s patients reported how well they were performing and acting within weeks of being put on large doses of prescription vitamin D, says lead author Robert Przybelski, an associate professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Wisconsin. “We hypothesize that good vitamin D levels might prevent or mitigate the disease,” Przybelski says. The study noted that neurons, like many other cells, have vitamin D receptors. It says vitamin D might enhance levels of important brain chemicals and that it also might help protect brain cells. • Last February, an analysis in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine looked at vitamin D levels in the blood and concluded that daily intake of 1,000 to 2,000 international units of the supplement could reduce the incidence of colorectal cancer by about 50 percent with little risk. The current recommended intake ranges from about 200 IU in children to 600 IU in the elderly. • Also that month, many of the same researchers concluded in a separate analysis that intake of 2,000 IU of vitamin D and, when possible, about 12 minutes a day of sun exposure could reduce the incidence of breast cancer by about 50 percent. Vitamin D has the potential to reduce at least half of serious invasive cancers and make the remaining ones milder and far more treatable, says Cedric Garland, a co-author on both papers and professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of California-San Diego and the Moores Cancer Center. Garland and others have estimated that 15 minutes a day of sun exposure would prevent 10 cancer deaths for every one skin cancer death it would cause. • In December 06, a study involving 7 million whites in the U.S. military found that those with the highest levels of vitamin D in their blood were 62 percent less likely to develop multiple sclerosis years later than those with low levels of the vitamin. The study echoes earlier research showing that MS, the most common nerve disease among young adults, is much less common in people who live closer to the equator. • Even seasonal flu now is being linked to the lack of sun exposure that occurs each year at northern latitudes. A September 06 review article in the Epidemiology of Infection noted how seasonal flu peaks dramatically between November and February [the northern winter] while, at about the same time, vitamin D levels in the blood drop off substantially, a decline attributed to the lack of sun exposure that occurs during winter months. Vitamin D is synthesized in skin when it is exposed to ultraviolet radiation. The paper noted that vitamin D, which is considered a steroid prehormone, plays a profound role in regulating the immune system. It dramatically stimulates the expression of anti-microbial substances in cells lining the surface of the respiratory tract and it helps prevent over-production of inflammatory substances produced by certain immune system cells.
The paper says a lack of sun exposure during the winter also may contribute to susceptibility to other respiratory viral infections, including many of the more than 200 viruses that cause the common cold. And the older a person gets, the more susceptible they are. Although sun exposure can produce huge amounts of vitamin D, the elderly make only about 25 percent as much of the vitamin D in their skin as a 20-year-old who is exposed to the same amount of sunlight. Blacks also are significantly less able to convert sunlight to vitamin D in their skin. Vitamin D shots? “Vitamin D may be the most potent antibiotic that exists,” says lead author John Cannell, a psychiatrist at Atascadero State Hospital in California and executive director of the non-profit Vitamin D Council. “Maybe the shot people need to get in the fall is not a flu shot, but a vitamin D shot. Our ancestors got it every day in Africa.” Given the strong body of evidence linking excessive sun exposure to skin cancer, taking a supplement might be the safest way to increase vitamin D levels. While 15 to 20 minutes a day probably will not lead to a significant increased risk of skin cancer, the risk will vary depending on INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 31
SUNLIGHT AND OTHER DISEASES By Ronald Kotulak
whether the person is fair-skinned and the time of day they are exposed, says Thomas Russell, interim chairman of the dermatology department and clinical professor of dermatology at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Russell argues a more sensible approach for adults, in his view, is to take an additional 1,000 to 2,000 IU a day with supplements. “There is no definite answer about how much sun you can tolerate,” Russell says. “If you are trying to generate vitamin D, just take it by mouth.” Indeed, a growing number of researchers now are saying that taking up to 2,000 IU a day, and possibly more, is safe for adults. The Institute of Medicine says that is the tolerable upper limit, or the highest daily intake that is likely to pose no adverse health risks for a healthy adult. Researchers say exposure to intense sunlight was mostly a yearround occurrence for our prehistoric ancestors who, for eons, existed naked near the equator. It has been only in relatively recent human evolutionary history that people moved north, began wearing clothing and spent more time indoors, resulting in vitamin D deficiencies. But whilst there is a risk of vitamin D overdose when taking oral supplements, it is impossible to overdose on vitamin D through sun exposure. This, say researchers, is because the human body is designed to process sunlight-induced vitamin D easily, whereas megadoses taken orally are not natural and not as easily processed by the body. 32 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
CHICAGO – Emerging research indicates that vitamin D is more important to our health than previously thought, leading an increasing number of scientists to challenge whether the fear of sun exposure has made us cover up too much. Doctors are finding an increase in vitamin D deficiencies, even as researchers discover remarkable results from the vitamin that affects nearly every tissue in the body. When women took vitamin D in multivitamin supplements over a long period of time, their risk of developing multiple sclerosis was reduced by 40 percent. And a disturbing number of children who don’t have enough vitamin D in their bodies are showing up with rickets, a crippling bone disorder thought to have been eradicated more than 70 years ago. Dr. Craig Langman, a kidney and mineral metabolism expert at Children’s Memorial Hospital and Northwestern University Medical School, sees a new case of rickets every week, triple the rate of five years ago. “We’re finding more and more kids are presenting with evidence of vitamin D malnutrition,” says Langman, who noted that includes fractures and bone pain. In New Zealand, studies at Starship Hospital found 10% of infants under the age of 2 are vitamin D deficient, whilst 87% of pregnant women in a Wellington study were also found to lack sufficient levels of vitamin D. Cases of rickets are turning up in New Zealand and Australian hospitals with more frequency, even though we have some of the highest UV levels in the world. In other words, we’re covering up so well and avoiding the sun so much, that these diseases are making an appearance, even here. Vitamin D is a critical hormone that scientists are discovering helps regulate the health of more than 30 different tissues, from the brain to the prostate. It plays a role in regulating cell growth,
the immune system and blood pressure, and in the production of insulin, brain chemicals and bone. “We thought that vitamin D was a very narrow-acting substance,” says Dr. Hector DeLuca of the University of Wisconsin, where vitamin D was first identified in the early 1900s, leading to the fortification of milk and some other foods that eliminated endemic rickets. “The big surprise is that it’s got a lot of important biological effects that probably contribute to our health and we’re just now beginning to uncover them,” says DeLuca. “Are we getting enough vitamin D? No we’re not, especially in the winter.” Vitamin D is one of the body’s many control systems. It acts like an emergency brake that helps stop cells from perilously misbehaving, as immune cells can do when they cause such autoimmune diseases as multiple sclerosis and as breast and prostate cells do when they turn cancerous. This protection declines as vitamin D levels drop. University of Chicago microbiologist Yan Chun Li discovered just how that happens with high blood pressure. Vitamin D helps normalize blood pressure by keeping a pressure-increasing switch called renin in check. Vitamin D’s importance for health goes back more than 750 million years to the earliest life forms that left the ocean for the Earth’s surface. All vertebrates today depend on sun exposure for vitamin D production. The lack of vitamin D is known to cause rickets, osteoporosis and osteomalacia (soft bones). New research indicates that vitamin D malnutrition may also be linked to many chronic diseases such as cancer (breast, ovarian, colon and prostate), chronic pain, weakness, chronic fatigue, autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and Type 1 diabetes, high blood pressure, mental illnesses – depression, seasonal affective disorder and possibly schizophrenia – heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, tuberculosis and inflammatory bowel disease. “A lot of people with aches and pains and marginal weakness could be helped by vitamin D supplements,” says Dr. Paresh Dandona of the State University of New York at Buffalo who reported the first five cases of vitamin D deficient myopathy three years ago in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Undiagnosed pain is the chief complaint of more than one-third of patients. Studying 150 children and adults with undiagnosed pain, Dr. Greg Plotnikoff of the University of Minnesota discovered that 93 percent were severely or profoundly vitamin D deficient. All were put on prescription doses of the vitamin. “One patient with chest pain had multiple balloon angioplasties and his pain never went away,” Plotnikoff says. “He also had surgery for his low back pain but he didn’t get any better. “I measured his vitamin D level and it was basically zero,” he says. “His chest and low back pain were not due to cardiac or spinal disease but to low vitamin D. We put him on prescription strength vitamin D and he got much better. We had spent over $200,000 on him in the hospital for these other procedures without doing a $20 blood test.” A study in the British medical journal Lancet found that infants receiving 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily were protected from developing Type 1 diabetes. Various forms of vitamin D have become a major treatment for psoriasis and preliminary evidence suggests it reduces blood pressure, reduces hip fracture risks in older people and improves symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. “Our study supports a possible role for vitamin D in the pre-
vention of MS,” says epidemiologist Kassandra Munger of the Harvard School of Public Health. “Further studies are needed to confirm the findings, but taking a multiple vitamin as part of a healthy diet can’t hurt.” Researchers are finding that the current recommended daily allowances of vitamin D – ranging from 200 international units for infants, children and adults up to age 50 years; 400 IU for men and women from 50 to 70; and 600 IU for people older than 70 – are probably far lower than the minimum amount necessary for optimum health. Scientists are quick to warn that although people may need more vitamin D, mostly in the form of supplements in higher latitudes where sunlight is weak during winter months, they should consult a physician before consuming large doses. Taking too much vitamin D can elevate levels of calcium in the blood, a potentially serious condition that can lead to nausea, vomiting, or even death. It is especially easy for children to overdose on vitamin D supplements. Dr. Michael F. Holick of Boston University Medical Center, one of the world’s foremost vitamin D experts, recommends 1,000 IU daily for everyone through a combination of safe exposure to sunlight and supplements. Summertime sun exposure on the face, arms and hands around noon for only five to 15 minutes for people with light skin two to three times a week provides sufficient vitamin D, he says. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 33
Blacks have the highest risk for vitamin D deficiency because dark skin needs five to 10 times more sunlight than white to produce the same amount of the vitamin. One study found that 42 percent of African-American women in the U.S. were vitamin D deficient. Chronic diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency are 25 to 50 percent more frequent in northern climates than among people living closer to the sunny equator, where humans first evolved. As people migrated away from the equator, it is thought, skin evolved lighter shades to absorb more sunlight for vitamin D production. Vitamin D is not available in most foods (oily fish, egg yolks, liver and cod liver oil have some), but it is abundantly made when sunlight strikes the skin, which normally produces about 90 percent of the body’s store of the vitamin. People living in high northern hemisphere or low southern hemisphere latitudes don’t get enough sun in winter to make vitamin D. A person living in Chicago, Boston, Detroit or New York can stand naked outside all day in the winter and not make any vitamin D, says Holick, author of “The UV Advantage.” Even in summer the skin’s vitamin D-making ability gets dampened from the increasing use of sunscreen, leading a growing number of health experts to challenge the advice given over the last two decades to avoid the sun at all costs in order to reduce skin cancer risk. 34 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
“The amount of vitamin D in our diet is totally inadequate,” Holick says. “We are in an era of sunphobia – that is not being exposed to any direct sunlight – that’s being promoted widely by the dermatology community and it’s probably hurting people’s health more than it’s helping them.” “That message needs to be modified and moderated to a more sensible approach so that people can get a little bit of safe sun,” he says. The evidence is overwhelming that excessive sun exposure causes skin cancer. More than 1 million cases of squamous and basal cell cancers, which are highly treatable, are expected this year, according to the American Cancer Society. Solar exposure is also blamed for the anticipated 55,100 cases of melanoma in 2004 and 7,910 deaths. Melonama, a potentially deadly skin cancer, usually occurs years after severe sunburns in childhood. On the other hand, increasing evidence suggests that adequate vitamin D levels from healthy sun exposure may reduce the risk of many other cancers. A recent study of more than 430,000 death certificates showed that people who had more exposure to sunlight had a 26 percent lower risk of death from colon and breast cancer, says D. Michal Freedman, an epidemiologist at the National Cancer Institute. Testifying at a “Vitamin D and Health in the 21st century” conference called by the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements, William B. Grant, a retired NASA senior scientist and solar radiation expert, says his studies determined that lack of vitamin D accounts for 45,000 cancer deaths annually and 165,000 new cancer cases. The conference was prompted by growing concerns of widespread vitamin D inadequacy and how to strike a balance between supplements, dietary fortification, tanning booths and sun exposure, says NIH nutritionist Mary Frances Picciano. “If you go to the literature where people are talking about sunlight and cancer risk, nobody mentions that you need sun for vitamin D,” she says. “By the same token if you go to the vitamin D literature where people are talking about skin irradiation to get vitamin D, nobody talks about cancer. “One of the first things that might be necessary is to get the skin cancer people together with vitamin D requirement people,” Picciano says. “There are questions that need to be addressed before meaningful public health policy can go forward.” New research puts a greater importance on vitamin D, which the body develops from sunlight exposure. Vitamin D’s main function is to maintain normal levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. THE NZ CANCER SOCIETY’S POSITION: By Ian Wishart
So where does all this leave the sunsmart campaign in New Zealand? The writing in regard to vitamin D has been on the wall for several years now, as study after study shows the impact of slip slop slap on our wider community health. While skin cancer rates are falling overall, far more of us are now dying from other conditions caused by the lack of sun exposure than have ever been killed by skin cancer. Have we failed to see the wood for the trees? For two years, now, the NZ Cancer Society has been evaluating the new data, occasionally updating its official position through a statement on its website. The latest of those statements contains the following assertion:
“Our melanoma incidence and mortality rates, which are among the highest in the world..” As a point of fact, they are not. Whilst our incidence of melanoma is second only to Australia, the ratio of deaths compared to the number of people developing the disease is far lower in NZ and Australia than anywhere else in the world. If you develop melanoma in NZ, your hope of survival is greater here than in, say, Britain. And at the risk of laboring the point, according to the latest science, that’s because the very same sunlight that allegedly causes melanoma conversely gives us some built in protection against its fatal effects. The Cancer Society is in an interesting position – being an advocate for all types of cancer, not just melanoma. But it is also a commercial business, making money from the sales of its branded sunscreen products. Based on the scientific studies, more than 2,000 New Zealanders are dying each year from cancers they could have survived if they’d had greater sunlight exposure every day. Weighing the data in the balance, a safety campaign designed to reduce our 240 or so melanoma deaths per year, which backfires and kills a further 2,200 people by worsening their health, would seem to be a hollow victory. That’s equivalent to an incredible five times the road toll! A 50% reduction in breast cancer rates among women who sunbathe more will save far more women than the few who will develop skin cancer. And that doesn’t even factor in the costs of up to 80% more heart disease caused by low vitamin D levels – heart disease being New Zealand’s biggest killer. To be fair to the Cancer Society, it has tried to get its head around the problem, as its latest position statement discloses. “The Cancer Society of New Zealand has supported sun protection and skin cancer control research and activities since the 1980s. The links between excessive sun exposure and skin cancers and, in particular, intermittent episodes of sunburn in childhood and adolescence and melanoma, are clearly established. However, in recent years there has been an increasing body of research which examines the beneficial aspects of sun exposure, in addition to those already known for musculoskeletal health, mainly in relation to human synthesis of vitamin D. “In 2005, recognising the need to balance both the risks and benefits of sun exposure in public health messages, the Cancer Society convened a forum of experts from a range of organisations and disciplines, including dermatology, bone health, immunology, nutrition, climatology, and social and behavioural research. This resulted in the development of The Risks & Benefits of Sun Exposure in New Zealand Position Statement (www.cancernz.org. nz/HealthPromotion/SkinCancerControl/VitaminD. “In July 2007, the Society again brought together a multi-disciplinary expert advisory group with the key objectives of 1) reviewing new evidence on vitamin D, sun exposure, & health and 2) revising the current position statement. The Society commissioned Robert Scragg (Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Auckland University School of Population Health) to undertake a review of vitamin D, sun exposure (solar ultraviolet radiation or UVR) and cancer. “A key conclusion of this commissioned review was that there was “strong evidence that vitamin D, through sun exposure or dietary sources, protects against colorectal cancer”. “However, other epidemiologists have queried the strength of this protective effect, given the quantity and quality of evidence currently available. “Recognising the contested nature of these findings, the Cancer Society believes that the key conclusion of the
VITAMIN D SOURCES
Y Multivitamin supplements Y Sunlight: Ultraviolet rays trigger the formation of vitamin D in the skin, accounting for 90 percent of the daily recommended intake. 5 to 10 minutes of sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily in the summer are recommended. Particularly in southern areas of NZ and Australia, it is difficult to produce in the winter. Y Foods: Milk and cereals are fortified, and will say so on the packet if they contain extra vitamin D. Oily fish naturally contain vitamin D. FOOD SOURCE INTERNATIONAL UNITS
Cod liver oil (1 tbs.) 1,360 Salmon, cooked (90gms) 360 CURRENT DAILY ALLOWANCE RECOMMENDATIONS
In international units (IU), by age 0-50: 200 50 to 70: 400 Older than 70: 600 Many vitamin D experts recommend 1,000 IU daily for everyone. Vitamin D-related health risks DEFICIENCY
Rickets: A disease in which children’s bones soften, break. Osteopororis: A condition characterized by fragile bones. Osteomalacia: A bone-thinning disorder in adults that is similar to rickets. Vitamin D malnutrition is now being linked to diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes, strokes, cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and high blood pressure. Sources: US National Institute of health, National Osteoporosis Society
commissioned review is “hypothesis generating” and, therefore, requires further research.” Now, remember, this was back in July last year. The two dynamite medical studies just published were not out then. Given that the sunsmart campaign may actually be killing thousands more New Zealanders than it could ever save, perhaps it is time for the Cancer Society to urgently review its entire strategy, especially when you consider that the current “cancer statistics” document on the society’s website, published in October last year, actually lists sunlight as a cause of cancer: “Other potentially avoidable causes of cancer include dietary factors, alcohol and sunlight.” It would appear the sunlight is actually saving far more people than it harms. Sunburn is still something to avoid at all costs, but researchers now recommend developing a moderate tan early in the season so as to maximize the body’s inbuilt protection against skin cancer whilst allowing plenty of vitamin D to be processed. Fifteen minutes of noonday sun in summer is the maximum exposure needed. n Endnotes 1 Moan, J. & Dahlback, A. The relationship between skin cancers, solar radiation and ozone depletion. British Journal of Cancer, Vol. 65, No. 6, June 1992, pp. 916-21 2 http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/0710615105v1
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 35
Mallard winged IN WOOD FLAP Did A Good Deed For A Constituent Do Bad Things To The Furniture Industry? 36 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
Furniture manufacturers are up in arms after the discovery that a rival has been importing cheap kitsets from China and getting them assembled in New Zealand prisons by jail inmates under a government prisoner rehabilitation programme. To make matters worse, there are allegations the work-scheme has allowed Debonaire Furniture to undercut its competitors, contributing to company closures and helping put other kiwi workers out of a job. IAN WISHART has the exclusive
or embattled Cabinet Minister Trevor Mallard, 2007 was an “annus horribilis” – a year he’ll happily chalk off as a bad experience. Wounded from his skirmishes as a political bovver-boy, and from his fisticuffs with National’s Tau Henare resulting in a “guilty” plea in court, Mallard would have been hoping to turn the corner. Possibly, he will. But if furniture manufacturers have anything to say about it, not yet. Just before Christmas, the industry started to buzz with rumours that Debonaire Furniture, a company whose operations are based in Mallard’s Lower Hutt electorate, had done a deal with the government to get its imported Chinese furniture kitsets assembled cheaply in New Zealand prisons. Mallard, it was claimed, had helped broker the deal, and Debonaire management had allegedly let slip the details of the cosy arrangement just recently. To understand the allegations, however, you first have to understand the context. Formed in 1967, Debonaire had been one of New Zealand’s leading furniture manufacturers at one point. “The company used to be a great exporter from New Zealand, of NZ manufactured products. But obviously there’s been some changes,” reminisced rival manufacturer Graham Crowley when we first raised the issue with him. What were those changes? Well, in late 2005 the South Island town of Waimate lost two major employers, one of them Debonaire, with the axing of 60 jobs between the two. Debonaire cited the high kiwi dollar and cheap Chinese imported furniture as the problem, and told the media if it couldn’t beat them, it would join the drift to China. Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons lamented the kiwi/ China crisis in a speech to Parliament two years ago: “The list of jobs lost through closures and redundancies, due to cheap imports or the high dollar, is already long: Swanndri; Guthrie Bowron; Jack Link’s beef jerky; PanaHome, who make wood products; Click Clack, plastic suppliers; Ion Automotive; Renaissance Furniture; Fisher and Paykel Ltd, appliance manufacturers; Skeggs Group, frozen peas; clothing firms making clothes for the iconic brand Icebreaker; Feltex Carpets; Air New Zealand maintenance staff; and Debonaire Furniture. The total jobs lost from those redundancies over just the last 6 months is at least 1,139 and, depending on the Air New Zealand outcome, it may be over 1,600. We cannot afford to lose 1,600 jobs every 6 months.” Debonaire however, with a bailout from Timaru businessman Alan Hubbard, moved its plant to China and began manufacturing the kitsets there, for export back to New Zealand and re-assembly. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 37
“My logic is that it’s better to keep prisoners as occupied as possible on work that is as meaningful as possible in order to have the work habits, and a better chance of rehabilitation when they go out”
Although Debonaire retained an assembly division in Lower Hutt, what few in the industry knew was that it had approached local MP Trevor Mallard for assistance. The end result was jail inmates, in New Zealand prisons, assembling Chinese-made furniture destined for stores like Harvey Normans, Big Save, Target or Smiths City. “That’s a new one!” exclaims Auckland manufacturer Noel Funnell, who’s in the final stages of winding his company up. “ To be honest we made the decision in February 07 that we were going to close down our business after 55 years, and so basically 48 staff were put into other jobs and we’ve just about wound 38 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
it all down. Yeah, they were a stiff competitor of ours. I didn’t know anything about that, to be quite honest.” The sting in the tail, according to industry sources, is this: although prison work schemes have been around for a number of years, the Corrections Department may not have been aware of all the hidden costs a furniture manufacturer or importer normally faces. The labour cost of actual assembly is just one factor. “If we bring in kits from offshore,” says one insider, the units have to be loaded and unloaded off trucks, for example. Now when trucks deliver the Debonaire furniture kits to the prisons, they have to be de-vanned. Now in the outside world we pay a labour and freight cost for that, and for the warehousing of the units etc. Debonaire are getting their trucks unloaded by prison inmates, and they’re not being pinged for that, or for storage, or for equipment – because the jail buys all the equipment necessary. “All of that builds into a price differential that works to Debonaire’s advantage.” It’s a huge impact, huge,” agrees Funnell. “In that sector of the market, no one will be able to compete, bottom line. That’s it. We all buy the board at the same price, we all buy the overlays near enough the same price, the hardware’s the same. We won’t be able to compete. “Oh, Ian, this is, ah, this is a new one on me. Smiths City’s a great beneficiary of this! That’s one of Debonaire’s main customers. I wonder if that’s why we couldn’t get in there. I haven’t heard a whisper about this!” Others have, however. Graham Crowley is a director of furniture maker, Heartwood. “Certainly, if what you are saying is correct – and I must admit I’d heard rumours but not anything more factual than that, it obviously gives them an advantage that is very difficult to compete with. It would be interesting to know the background to it. “That would explain why even Harvey Norman – they’ve had their product in there and we haven’t been able to get anywhere near it.” Crowley can see the funny side, however: “I wonder if the furniture imported is made by prison inmates in China anyway!” he chuckles. “We’re probably selling it as NZ pine furniture, NZ pine that’s been shipped to China, made by prison inmates, shipped back to NZ, assembled by prison inmates, and all the other poor manufacturers have to compete on ‘a level playing field’. It’s pretty good, isn’t it!” Noel Funnell says he would be “absolutely horrified” if there was official confirmation that Debonaire was using taxpayer-subsidised prison labour to assemble Chinese kitsets, “while the industry’s been ripped to shreds!” When Investigate tracked down Debonaire’s General Manager, Robert Smith, we asked him outright about the government assistance: “Did your company’s relationship with Trevor Mallard…play a part in getting units assembled in the prison?” “No, not at all,” replied Smith. “We were advised that [the prisons] were manufacturing furniture and we, ah – Stuart Davenport was the one who started the thing, he’s no longer with us, but I don’t know how contact was originally made. But, yeah, we certainly have furniture being assembled in the prisons, there’s no question about that. There’s certainly nothing underhand about it.” “What we were told was that Trevor Mallard helped to expedite the process as your local MP?” “No, not at all!”
“He was not involved in any way?” “Not that I rec – he came to visit us in relation to, we were trying to get permanent residency for one of our Chinese girls working for us, which was taking some time. That’s what the connection with Trevor Mallard was,” said Smith. What about, we asked, the allegations that Debonaire was benefitting from lower overheads by not being charged for extras because the prison absorbed the costs? “What I do know is we pay exactly the same rates to Corrections as we pay our assembly people. There’s no question of that.” “What about de-vanning, storage, warehouse and that sort of thing?” “It’s incorporated into the costs, just as our assembly people would in the factory in Waimate and in Wellington.” “When you say factored into the costs, does Corrections invoice you for warehousing, storage and de-vanning?” “Absolutely!,” answered Smith. “So what would that be, roughly?” “Look, I’m not going to divulge that kind of information to you.” We continued to press the point: “From your point of view, all of that is invoiced as part of the process?” “Absolutely! And there’s no difference in the cost we pay the Corrections Department to the amount we pay our local assembly people.” But that’s not entirely what was alleged to Investigate. “Debonaire told us they were paying market rates for the assembly of the units using prison labour, but they did say they had no overheads – no de-vanning, no storage, no equipment costs – things like that, and management were really happy about that aspect,” said one industry player we contacted. But with Debonaire’s Robert Smith rejecting suggestions his local MP was involved in the jail deal, we needed to get confirmation elsewhere. “You asked whether Trevor Mallard facilitated the business arrangement between Corrections Inmate Employment (CIE) and Debonaire,” wrote a Corrections spokeswoman in a short statement to the magazine. “Mr Mallard sought information about CIE’s business opportunities and joinery operation after receiving correspondence from Debonaire. A meeting was then arranged between Debonaire and CIE which led to the current business partnership.” Although that’s the documentary evidence inside Corrections, that’s not quite how Trevor Mallard remembers it. He agreed to an interview with Investigate. “[Debonaire] approached me with a complaint that prison furniture was underpricing their furniture,” confirms Mallard. “And I wrote a letter to Paul Swain, I think, essentially saying, ‘What’s the story? These people are being undercut, they say that the pricing’s not fair’. “My memory is that he then wrote back to me saying, ‘I’ll arrange a meeting between Corrections and Debonaire to talk the issue through’, and I can’t remember anything after that. I don’t think I had any follow up either from Corrections or Debonaire, which you wouldn’t really expect – you’d expect them to talk it through.” It is, as Mallard himself concedes, deeply “ironic” that after complaining that prison labour was undercutting their business, Debonaire now find themselves accused by rival manufacturers of pulling exactly the same stunt. “I don’t know whether you commend them for their initiative or criticize them for their hypocrisy. Yeah,” mutters Mallard after we explain that some of Debonaire’s competitors in New Zealand
have recently gone out of business. “That was essentially the basis of their complaint to me, if you see what I mean. The fact is that their complaint to me was ‘look at cost, plus X’ – they didn’t put dollars on it – but ‘Corrections are doing it for a hell of a lot less!’” Investigate forgot to ask Mallard about his immigration assistance for the Debonaire employee from China seeking permanent residence (the woman told Investigate she got her residence as a result of the intervention), and the Minister forgot to remember it. He couldn’t even remember meeting anyone from Debonaire in relation to the prison labour scheme. “I can’t actually remember seeing anyone, I certainly wasn’t involved in a meeting. Part of my problem is that because I’m the local electorate MP I would probably do 150 business visits a year and sometimes you merge things? I can’t remember how this started, whether it was just straight from a letter or whether it was from a conversation which led to a letter, but I wasn’t involved in the meeting with Corrections. “Any suggestion that I set them up to get work is not right. I set them up to sort it out – I mean, they were complaining about Corrections’ pricing of competitive material [affecting] them!” A Corrections official told Investigate the prison furniture assembly programme had only been going for a couple of years, and Debonaire was its only client. He rejected suggestions that Debonaire had an exclusive contract to prison labour, however, and said the prisons would welcome approaches from other manufacturers. No one, on or off the record, was prepared to divulge how much
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“It is prisoners who unload Debonaire’s trucks, and prisoners who load them back up again. Normally there is a per square metre warehousing charge factored in while kits are awaiting assembly. That’s not being charged”
Debonaire was paying to get each unit assembled. There has been no evidence supplied to Investigate however, that shows Corrections had factored any freight unloading or warehousing costs into the equation. Indeed, the prison explicitly denies charging this, despite Robert Smith’s assurances above. “Product arrives by container and is taken into the prison workshop and assembled immediately,” says Corrections’ timber sector manager Gavin Houston. “There are no warehouse or transport costs as the product is collected by Debonaire as soon as it is assembled. These additional costs are met by Debonaire. We have therefore not been able to identify the $30 differential in unit price that you claim to have been told exists by other players in the market.” The cost, say rivals, is staring Corrections in the face. “It is prisoners who unload Debonaire’s trucks, and prisoners who load them back up again. Normally there is a per square metre warehousing charge factored in while kits are awaiting assembly. That’s not being charged,” says one source. One thing most agree on, however, is not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The concept of rehabilitating prison inmates by giving them genuine work skills and work habits, is widely recognized as a positive one. “Business-like industries in prisons are operated by the Department to provide work skills and habits for prisoners in work environments that match, as much as possible, a comparable industry environment outside of the prison,” acknowledges Houston. “The products or labour that is supplied is priced at market rates. Prisoner employment provides prisoners with employment skills, training and formal qualifications to help them find work on release from prison. Research shows that prisoners who find sustainable work after release are less likely to re-offend. “The last prison census identified that 52 percent of prisoners had no formal qualifications and only 45 percent were in paid work before going to prison. “The Department of Corrections, through Corrections Inmate Employment (CIE), provides a range of initiatives to improve prisoners’ employment skills, training and formal qualifications whilst they are serving their sentence. “CIE has 140 business-like industries in prisons throughout the country, ranging from engineering and farming, to printing, joinery and forestry. In addition, more than 160 low security prisoners undertake Release-to Work jobs in the community each day receiving market-rate pay, and supervised work parties from pris40 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
ons undertake contracts in the community such as silviculture and forestry work. “In total, about 46 percent of the total muster is engaged in employment or training at present. That represents a total 3,755 prisoners, from the total muster of 8,255, are working in CIE industries, Release-to-Work, work parties, or providing core services in prisons such as unit cleaning.” Trevor Mallard is also supportive: “My logic is that it’s better to keep prisoners as occupied as possible on work that is as meaningful as possible in order to have the work habits, and a better chance of rehabilitation when they go out. And if it is real work, rather than make-work, then that’s a better thing. “The flip side of it would be if you were not in a full employment economy it would cost people’s jobs, but in this particular case we are screaming out for unskilled labour and as long as the pricing is right it is something everyone can succeed in.” He does, however, admit that there’s more to be done on this particular investigation. “My view is the more work the prisoners can do, the better, but it’s got to be properly priced. I think, probably as a result of the work you are doing, I would expect more competition among furniture manufacturers for prison labour, and also some better pricing from a Corrections point of view to help cover the enormous cost of keeping people in prisons.” The Corrections Department is taking it on the chin, sort of. “We agree that it is important that Corrections Inmate Employment charges its services in accordance to market rates,” says General Manager of Rehabilitation and Reintegration, Phil McCarthy. “Where CIE is offered a set market price for conducting work, this occurs automatically eg. a rate for pruning trees on a per-tree basis. In this instance, CIE receives the same rate as any other organisation in the market. “In all other circumstances, CIE endeavours to ensure that what it charges is consistent with industry norms, eg. although prisoners are not paid market rates, a proposal would not proceed if revenue didn’t cover at least the minimum adult wage. CIE will not participate in a venture that is dependent on undercutting our partners’ competitors. “We have no reason to believe that these principles have been breached in the Debonaire case. We know that the price paid to us by that firm has been broadly consistent with what they were previously paying. However, we will take the opportunity to reassess the situation to ensure that our current prices remain in-line with current trends. “Note there is not necessarily a direct link between CIE’s revenue and its costs and because of this CIE looks to ensure that its prices are consistent with industry standards. There are often additional costs incurred by CIE that other organisations in the private industry would not incur such as the very high prisoner turnover, the low skill levels, the high and increasing emphasis on training, and the cost of custodial supervision and management. These can also result in additional re-work and lower productivity.” McCarthy says Corrections will not be disclosing its prices in the Debonaire case, “for commercial reasons”. An argument could probably be mounted that if Corrections wants to offer its services in competition with the private sector, its prices in fact should be transparent for all to see. For the moment, however, that is not an option. n
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Jane Ussher/PRESSPIX 42 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
Moore Why the former Prime Minister is speaking out
He’s the elder statesman of New Zealand politics, and Mike Moore has managed to provoke a lot of debate in recent weeks with his frank views on the wisdom of the Electoral Finance Act. In this interview with IAN WISHART, Moore says he’s only guilty of telling it the way he sees it INVESTIGATE: Just touching on the Electoral Finance Act. The implications of that haven’t sunk in for most people have they? MOORE: Well, I don’t know. I think there are a lot of people who see great sport to be had here, and I rang friends well before this, saying, ‘look this is going to do the opposite of what you think. It’s going to provoke direct action of all sorts from all sorts of people. And you’re going to hook in people you’ve never thought of, it will be the students association or Tuhoi or somebody, you know?’ Of course, I didn’t think of Tim Shadbolt! But I think it’s been the subject of barbecue talk for quite a few people – just the pure sport of testing the law. And I find it difficult to see how we will get to the election without a lot of legal issues going to court before the election. People out there are going to deliberately provoke it. Young Bob Jones-type figures who just feel incensed about it, and normally wouldn’t do anything but ‘if you tell me I can’t I will!’ INVESTIGATE: Well to go back to the Lange administration that you were part of and the Labour party of old. The idea of this kind of legislation would have been anathema I would have thought? MOORE: Well, it was the National party that moved in to crack down on dissent in 1951 and censorship and all that, and we have a history with the Martyn Finlays, the Geoffrey Palmers and Bill Jeffries of this world and the civil liberties side of the movement was enormously strong, because we were the dissenters for a hundred years. I just think they are using a sledgehammer to crack a few nutters, and in parallel with other stuff, it is not healthy. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 43
INVESTIGATE: What other stuff do you mean? MOORE: Well, government funding of publicity campaigns. Every government is worse than the last, these sort of things just get out of hand, you know? I mean, we did some of it but I did turn down, as minister, a number of government campaigns that would have made me look good – I thought they were improper. But every government is slightly worse than the last, and with the growth of consultancies and advisers, it just gets more and more out of control. For example, there’s a good thing happening with electorate offices, I thought it was a very good thing, and for guys like me it was very helpful – I had offices, but I paid for them myself. I was the only MP to do it, but nobody when that was agreed dreamed that the budgets would be bundled together and people would then use that budget to put signs up at election time, and you know many parties did that – National party did that, we all push it, you know? And it gets more and more out of hand. It’s so easy now with technology, for some staffer (and there’s dozens of bloody consultants and bloody advisers) to come and say look, “sign this letter, minister, and we’ll send it to every pensioner!” My in-laws got a letter from the Prime Minister and a letter from their local MP, both telling them pensions were increased, ‘we are doing more for police, we are doing more for hospitals’ – all these things that are important to pensioners. It’s so easy to do! Would I have done it? Well I did do some of that, but I did actually know how to say ‘no’ occasionally. INVESTIGATE: Is this symptomatic of politics itself or is it symptomatic of wider society losing its anchor points, its foundations? MOORE: Oh, I think the moral compasses have disappeared! I mean look at Australia, Howard spent hundreds of millions. The
expectancy around 1900 was about 50. So most of these things are good. I remember when I was leader of the opposition, holding a news conference, saying that all government accounts should go to either a bipartisan or independent audit to check that it was pure information and wasn’t mood building. Now the media just fell on the floor laughing. They didn’t believe me! Then I pointed out that I had stopped a TV campaign on tourism, featuring me, I had refused a TV campaign on closer economic relations, which some agency brought up suggesting that they start with me driving a truck on Auckland Harbour Bridge, and me driving a truck off the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I thought gee, that looks good, pollies like to be on telly. I’d like to remind people how terrific I am and how I had clinched the deal – then I thought ‘No, it’s improper’. And what exporter really is going to go to Australia just because they see me on television? So you can say ‘no’. Now, I notice Rudd has suggested he’ll do something similar in government over there, it’ll be interesting to see whether he does. Because they spend something like $300 million in 18 months over there, the government on advertising in Australia. And I’ve yet to see the National party adopt – and I put it in a column somewhere – it would be good to see the National party adopt Rudd’s position. And of course we are now into a three-year election campaign. The old days of a campaign for three months have gone – and with MMP, members now have a different challenge. You frequently have a full-time member of Parliament living in your electorate, who wasn’t elected by the people, with a staff and secretary, running against you, and a lot of money is going into politics that never went in before. INVESTIGATE: Well, go back to when you first entered Parliament back in the 1970s –
We’re becoming a sort of, I don’t know, anti-Christian, secular country, where every religion is fine except the dominant one. And there’s this paranoia about fundamentalists. Well, people are allowed to be fundamentalists! Brits are doing it now. Governments feel obliged to tell the people, and we are obliged to tell the people, but what on earth are we advertising ACC for when there’s no competition and you can’t go anywhere else? One thing that strikes you when you come back to New Zealand after living overseas – I spend half of my time away still – is the number of government ads telling you to be a better person in all sorts of worthy and good areas. Of course we should care about water safety, road safety, and we should like our partners and we shouldn’t bash kids, but the government is probably the biggest single buyer of TV time now, probably heads off Coke and Kentucky Fried Chicken. And they are all worthy, you can’t individually say no. INVESTIGATE: But this is the interesting point though, isn’t it, that the role of government has changed so much in the last 100 years. If you go back pre 1890, the government was basically there for the maintenance of law and order and pretty much that was it. Then you had the introduction of income tax, and the bureaucracy grew. And government has now become the core pretty much of every country’s social system. MOORE: Well, it has in many countries, but that’s not altogether an unhealthy thing. In those days, they put all the effluent from the freezing works straight in the river, and people’s life 44 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
MOORE: My biggest donation until 1984 was $250, but we had donations in kind – people would give us a month of their lives, their holidays, I would work for a year without pay to be a candidate. And then of course, I think the government was traumatised by the Brethren. There were some things done there that weren’t pleasant. I mean, a private detective going through people’s rubbish trying to find information on someone’s partner is pretty traumatic stuff – INVESTIGATE: Yes, but it cuts both ways, because apparently John Key’s rubbish was gone through as well [Editor’s Note: as a matter of record, the only incident of rubbish being targeted was in fact by private investigators trying to dig up dirt on Key. The private investigators used by the Brethren were not involved in such actions] MOORE: Yes, I had heard that and it’s terrible! But this is not the answer to it. The answer to the Brethren is actually disclosure, and notice the Bill, and the National Party and all the pollies are very, very cautious about disclosure. Most countries have disclosure. And every country has spending limits during an election campaign. And most countries, including the US, have state funding of political parties of some sort. INVESTIGATE: Getting back to the Brethren, it came down to
seven elders. How far does one have to go before it becomes an organizational responsibility rather than individuals? I mean, if it were seven Roman Catholics, would that require the entire Catholic Church to take responsibility? MOORE: I expect so. It used to be in the old days. There was a protestant political association still floating around with a few old members in my day. The Act of Tolerance gave Catholics the vote a few hundred years ago, and they were demonized. I think my dear friends are traumatized, and just like the National Party saw reds under the bed, they’re seeing Brethren under the bed. And some of them do have a core emotional problem with fundamentalist Christians. I actually wrote an article defending the Brethren. And I feel a bit like the ACLU which spends all its time fighting for civil rights but feeling morally obliged to stick up for the Ku Klux Klan! I disagree with them, I think it’s appalling that these guys want more military expenditure and say that we should go to Iraq, but none of them are prepared to serve in the military. Now pacifism is a legitimate idea, you’re allowed to be a pacifist, but something’s a bit wrong where ‘I’ll be a pacifist, but you must not be!’ And I don’t believe in pacifism. You’re entitled to your views, but disclosure is the issue. INVESTIGATE: Well this is the thing, because the new Act is seen as cracking down on dissent. MOORE: Well I think it will end up doing that, and there will be all sorts of people who will provoke it. I’ve talked to a few – there’s great sport to be had here! It was rushed, amendments were coming in at the last minute. It’ll be like the anti terror legislation which the courts find very difficult to implement. For example, if someone goes to Wilson and Horton or comes to see you, says ‘here’s a million bucks, I want to produce a local paper, it’s a giveaway, I’ll give you the copy on Wednesday and I want it distributed on Saturday, I’m prepared to lose a million dollars and I want the last issue to go out in the last weekend of October 08’, that’s not covered. For pure sport, what if you overspend and put down some poor old guy in a hospice as your nominated person, are they going to take that poor old guy in the hospice to court? I mean, the sport that will be had here! And then someone says, well, you can set up a political party. Well why should you set up a political party? INVESTIGATE: The government of course keeps coming back and saying the rest of the western world is doing it, but they’re not really. MOORE: Well, they are, but there is a difference here. We don’t have disclosure as some do, but they do have a 12 month term in Britain, but it’s a five year election cycle. And in Britain there’s always people ending up in bloody court over this – the treasurers of the major parties are always in court. You can never quite fix it, and probably you should never be able to fix it. INVESTIGATE: The amount of money you collect in a war chest often has no bearing on winning an election. MOORE: Money can’t win an election, but the lack of it can lose. I was outspent ten to one and goodness me, I understand ACT got into about $6 million in its first session, and I ran elections for less than half a million. I was a little annoyed about that but that’s the way it goes. You shouldn’t be able to purchase influence, but then again you’ve always been able to purchase influence. But this is clumsy, I don’t think it’s been thought through, and I think it’ll do the opposite of what the authors want it to do.
But if I’m a bit nutty, I’m allowed to be nutty! If someone says, ‘I’m going to sell my house and spend the rest of my life trying to get fluoridation out of water’, you’re entitled to, for heaven’s sake! We’re becoming a sort of, I don’t know, anti-Christian, secular country, where every religion is fine except the dominant one. And there’s this paranoia about fundamentalists. Well, people are allowed to be fundamentalists! I thought the Destiny Church, with their black shirts and fist salutes reminded me of the black shirts in Europe, but they’re entitled to, for heaven’s sake! INVESTIGATE: You’ve talked about standards slipping. MOORE: Everywhere! Once you give something up, you give it up. Certain standards, such as the use of briefing notes in parliament of a conversation Brash had with the Americans – once that convention is broken it’s all on. And so what happens is the Leader of the Opposition, when they go overseas, they don’t want Foreign Affairs people in the room because they feel awkward about it. Heavens, I travelled when Shipley was Prime Minister, and I’d always praise the NZ Prime Minister whoever it was – I don’t want that out as an ‘endorsement’ in the public domain, thank you very much! INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 45
I saw those kind of cables when I was Minister, and in the end said, ‘look, I don’t really think I need to see these, I’m certainly not going to bother reading them!’ You just didn’t bother about it. It’s one of those things, like, once you take your ties off in parliament, or your jackets, then why not jandals? And if jandals, why not footy shorts? I understand some in parliament now are speaking from their computer screens – I don’t know if that’s true – so someone can feed the speech into them! Now under parliamentary rules you were not supposed to read a written speech unless it was highly technical. It was an ancient rule. So you move to written speeches, which is fine, but you might end up with the American system where you no longer have to give the speech, you just table it! And so these are incremental changes that do not seem profound at the time, but which whittle away systems. Traditions are there for a reason. INVESTIGATE: With the EFA, it’s been – regardless of one’s political perspective – the icing on the political cake for a whole range of issues that have rankled the public. How dangerous is it for a political party to get that offside? MOORE: Well I think it’s become a symbol, and unfortunately I think it will do the opposite of what the authors want it to do. As I said earlier, it’s going to provoke all sorts of political involvement that was never involved before, on principle. I can’t see how this can survive without it going to the courts – because people are going to deliberately go to court. What if you get 500 people who protest the law and then turn themselves in and lay complaints against each other? It’s your obligation as a citizen to take on the powerful, it’s sport, it’s your duty and your obligation in a democracy to have the system on. INVESTIGATE: Well fundamentally in the West, we have been brought up to believe in free speech, freedom of expression and freedom of political expression, and to have yourself muzzled in election year seems to go against the entire grain of everything we’ve fought for, surely? MOORE: Well, you would think! Look, I can understand why you would want transparency in donations. If a big aluminium company is going to put a lot of money into one party which wants to flood a lake, we should know about it, and I think the public have a right to know about that. But this doesn’t do that. And I do think traditions of political parties that have been around for a hundred years are important. That somebody who’s starting up – and because they just happen to get the money from Thailand or Italy because some capitalist owns a football club and made a lot of money out of privatization and wants to set up a political party, I think that should be disclosed and we should know about it, and the public can then judge it. Perhaps the three months could go to six months or something. But this Act does not do that. What if students want to campaign against student fees, one way or the other? What if the abortion issue raises its head? People have a right to go out and campaign. The other thing is, these things have to be done gently, slowly and with real consideration, because you must try to maintain a cross-party consensus on these things. Governments have the right to privatise, nationalize, put in GST, abolish GST, that’s what governments do. But things that are of a constitutional nature are very profound and should not be entered into with haste, and as much as possible there needs to be some kind of cross-party consensus on this. 46 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
Because we’re governed by convention – I mean the Magna Carta, the Glorious Revolution, they made some big decisions – the sovereign is answerable to the law. Our memories did not begin in 1840, our memories did not begin in 1986, our memories go back to the Charters, to the Glorious Revolution, to the Magna Carta, so do America’s. Everything doesn’t start with us! Nobody came here without a memory. And in common law, common convention, the danger we have when conventions are ripped up so quickly, without space or consideration – it’s very hard to un-make. INVESTIGATE: Internationally, the War on Terror has provided governments increasingly with new powers, a new focus and so forth. Are we seeing across the West a move towards a new kind of political regime, in effect? MOORE: I don’t think it’s as decisive as that. I think that instant politics, instant opinion polls, the short periods for reflection that you have, decisions have to be made and you have to look as though you’re on top of it, provokes politicians to take immediate action and there isn’t the space you used to get to think about things. INVESTIGATE: When you would have first entered parliament, 1972, it was pretty much a part time occupation, it did not sit all year, did it? MOORE: Yeah, but that’s one of the myths – that the only job you do in parliament is when you sit in parliament. You have your select committees, you do go out and write books, you do go out and think about things and prepare yourself for government. Ministers have to administer. Cabinet is really your board meeting and Parliament is your meeting of shareholders, and so the company continues to function. You go out and prepare, you propose, you oppose, you depose, and you get yourself limbered up and ready for government. What is curious about the last few years is that nobody is writing any books, there’s no dissent, nobody comes out with many different views – everything’s poll-tested and everybody’s me-tooing! And because there’s instant examination, opinion polls make cowards of everyone. What is John Key? He’s Labour with tax cuts! And Rudd’s the same in Australia, and Blair did it. You can actually even get to be too good at ‘politics’ if you don’t take risks because you’re talked out of them. You make political history when you’ve got everyone against you but finally they come around. If there’d been a general election after Munich, Chamberlain would have got a huge majority. INVESTIGATE: In terms of the political landscape this year, and I realize you’re a Labour man through and through, but looking at the current polls and the dissent that’s likely to be stirred up by the EFA, is Labour likely to get its fourth term or is it going to be hard? MOORE: It’s going to be really hard, for any government to get a fourth term. The government has a story to tell, welfare rolls crumbling, unemployment down, industrial disputes down, savings regime up – or half of a savings regime but gee, it’s better than anyone else has done. There are some good stories for the Government to tell, but I’m afraid this is going to crowd some of it out. INVESTIGATE: Of course, too, John Howard’s economy was going along sweetly and people got tired of him… MOORE: It happens, but don’t forget we have MMP and it’s not who wins the election but who forms the government. INVESTIGATE: Was MMP a wise decision, in hindsight? MOORE: I never supported it because, at the time, I said ‘it won’t be the tail that wags the dog, it’ll be what’s under the tail that wags the dog’, and I got roundly rubbished! MMP was a popular revul-
MMP was introduced by the Allies into Germany to stop any single party governing
sion against what they saw as excesses of politicians and political change, but now you’ve got a permanent gridlock. MMP was introduced by the Allies into Germany to stop any single party governing – to stop any powerful single political force emerging and to force compromise. Now there’s an argument for that. But, what it does, it gives tremendous leverage to small parties. The preferential system [like Australia’s] means you have to talk to small parties and cut deals, but you do it transparently, before the election. INVESTIGATE: If we’re going to have transparency in the political donation process, shouldn’t we have utter and complete transparency in the political negotiation process? MOORE: Well that’s a nice thing to say, but what does it mean? In any negotiation you can’t do it in public, whether it’s trade or whatever, because you’re not going to put your bottom line or top line out there. What it does do is it creates a moral hazard. The hazard is that it drives up political skills that are sometimes unpleasant, to form a government. To form a government, suppose, you have to ban plastic bags. OK, well, if that’s what it costs… Or you’ve got to make Winston finance minister, if that’s what it costs, which is what Bolger did, do it! INVESTIGATE: But if the government is going to turn around and tell the public of NZ, ‘well, you can’t have a say in election year because it skews the political process, but at the same time we’re going to do all these backroom deals about what we’ll do if we win the election but you’re not going to know about it!’ –
MOORE: Well it would be nice to know about it, but the truth is, whether it’s National or Labour, under MMP you’ve seen the deals – the small parties say ‘well, we’re not going to deal with you until after the election, and we’ll get as much as we can out of you in terms of what we were elected on. If we get ten percent of the vote we want a lot more influence than if we get six percent’. INVESTIGATE: Yeah, but I’m raising the possibility of a counter piece of legislation saying, right, if there’s going to be coalition deals the public have a right to know their contents before the election – MOORE: It’s nice, but it’s impractical! Because you don’t know – there may be no NZ First, or no Greens, or ACT may get 20 seats, you don’t know. Sure, that’s a legitimate case to make, but… If there’s a group out there that wants to put ads in the paper demanding politicians do it, they’re entitled to do it! Or are they? Heck, I don’t know! [chuckles] But why would you, if you are a small party, hurt yourself politically with people saying, ‘you’re just a lap dog for National’ or ‘you’re just a lapdog for Labour’, and essentially you don’t know [the outcome of the election]? And that’s why Winston when he says he won’t do a deal with National, and then becomes their finance minister, then he says he’ll talk first to whoever gets the most votes – well, what does that mean? I think that’s the nature of MMP and we’ve got to live with that. To be fair to the parties, they then publish after they’ve cut the deal. Because, you know, I negotiated for Labour against Bolger to INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 47
try and get Winston in to form a Labour government, and we fell at the step where we weren’t prepared to make him finance minister; Bolger would. And I think Helen learned from that, so next time, ‘whatever it takes’, you know? That’s the nature of MMP. Why would you, if you think you’re going to be the biggest single party, cut a deal with somebody you don’t need to? But what it allows is an escape hatch for every politician to break his promises. Not that they need an escape hatch. I think you’ve got to accept that’s the nature of MMP. MMP does other things, it’s not all bad. The fact that you’re able to parachute into parliament – although I don’t see the parties using that opportunity as much as I thought they would – but I like the electorates, I like the idea that someone’s got to front up to the RSA, front up to the Plunket. MMP also gives a lot of power to the party bosses. The proMMP thing is almost anti-politician, because it gives a hell of a lot of power to the party bosses. In the old days, if things were tough 48 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
A billboard attacking the new Electoral Finance Act is erected in an Auckland city suburb by Free Speech Coalition’s David Farrar after the billboard was removed earlier from Kirkbride Rd & George Bolt Drive near the Auckland International Airport. NZPA / Wayne Drought
and your seat was marginal, you had to knock on doors and make your case locally. These days you don’t have to make your case locally, you’ve got to make your case nationally to the party bosses that you should go up the list! That’s the nature of it. You know that if you’re number five on the list you’re going to be a member of parliament, if you’re number 60 you are not going to be, and it takes away your power. But otherwise the old idea of going to live in New Plymouth or Gisborne, and spending six years winning the seat, becoming part of that community, is gone. I like the electorate system, but there was an injustice I guess with parties getting 20% of the vote and not getting anybody in parliament. INVESTIGATE: I guess, it’s because of the fact that unelected MPs
chosen by the party can totally override anything the public want – MOORE: Well, they can do that anyway, the safer the seat the more arrogant they become. But that is the nature of MMP, and they have to be selected by the party because it is a party system. We know about that, we decided for it – I advised against it but that was the public’s view! That’s part of it. You’ve got people who couldn’t get elected to a school committee, or a footy club, or who only got a hundred votes when they stood for council, coming in as the Alliance or something, or Copeland – who wouldn’t exist otherwise. Maybe MMP will shakedown, but the truth about MMP is that so many of the people who are now in parliament are people who won an electorate seat who had frustrations in their own political careers inside the National or the Labour parties – you’ve got Winston, you’ve got Dunne, you’ve got ACT, you’ve got Jim Anderton. If Anderton went down to Sydenham and had not been a Labour MP he would never have won that seat in the first place. Neither would Peter Dunne, neither would Winston Peters! They used their existing brand, which they’d become disappointed with (and you’re allowed to be disappointed) and that base, to win. INVESTIGATE: Putting on your ‘elder statesman’ cap, and taking a global view of the NZ political environment, are you impressed at the level of interchange and debate, or do you think both sides need to clean their act up? MOORE: I don’t think there’s enough writing going on. I mean, where are the feature columns, where are the books? I think the political process is so driven by polling and focus groups now. They got rid of the quorum in parliament – it’s a small thing, but people are speaking to empty parliaments. You always used to have to have 20 people there at least! There is a problem in Wellington, mate, where there is all the passion of Washington, Brussels or London, but there’s only a couple of hundred people. So people go from the press gallery to the minister’s office, from the minister’s office to consultancies, back to the minister’s office or the leader of the opposition’s offices. It’s not a conspiracy, but we tend to enjoy
the company of like-minded people. If I’m a golfer, most of my mates play golf, or if I am a political enthusiast most of my friends are involved. And you find that people’s partners are working in offices. It’s not corruption or conspiracy, it’s just a function of the Wellington beltway. But the salaries just got out of hand – I think they’re enormous. If someone gets out of the gallery and goes to work for a minister, and suddenly their salary goes up 50%, you think well, wait a minute, how long have they worked for that minister? Then again, I got a couple of people out of the gallery because they were the people I knew! I never asked them their politics, and they certainly did me no favours [in the gallery] and I didn’t ask them to do any favours, I just thought they were a clever person. Maybe I made the wrong decision, I dunno. I abolished the Ministry of Publicity, maybe that was a mistake! INVESTIGATE: Yeah, I remember all the debate when I came on board, National was slamming us as political hires. MOORE: Well I certainly didn’t know your politics. But see, these are incremental things. I didn’t mean to start something there, we just sort of slightly got out of control. And I think each government gets worse than the last. The National Party ought to get up now and say ‘we’ll disclose political donations’, it will ensure that any government programme is going to go through an audit committee or bipartisan committee, and maybe government programmes and publicity stop for three months of the election campaign. But what’s going to happen with this is a lot of people are going to have the government on and test the law, I can predict that. The loopholes are so enormous. For example, there’s no definition of intellectual property, so if I put an ad in the paper for $50, and then I get an invoice sent to me for $12,000 or $50,000 to do the artwork, is that included? You could get a hundred people putting a $50 ad in, invoice them through a dodgy company for $20,000 for doing the artwork and intellectual property, and have they broken the Act. And if 50 people decide to test the courts – The courts will consider this before the election, we know this to be true. Will the police prosecute? You have parliamentary committees for a reason, and they take time for a reason, but when you bang through supplementary order papers on legislation – the terrorist act or this – you are going to make mistakes. INVESTIGATE: I’m presuming you had chats to some of your Labour colleagues, did they realize what they were up against, here? MOORE: The few I spoke to, (I won’t tell you who I spoke to) I don’t believe realized what would happen. I think they were so traumatized by the Brethren and I don’t think people were thinking it through, quite frankly. INVESTIGATE: Were they genuinely traumatized by the Brethren? I mean, let’s get real! MOORE: That was their answer. And also they were worried that National was going to spend millions on an “iwi vs Kiwi” campaign which was racist. Well, I think it’s on the nose, but that’s another issue. Is it then OK if you agree with it? Right or wrong, you’re allowed to have a view, and just because I don’t like the campaign doesn’t mean I should use the power I have in parliament to stop it. Anyway, I’m not trying to position myself in anything, I’m trying in all cases to analyse and say what I think, and let people judge. I don’t want to be demonized or idealized. DISCLOSURE: Ian Wishart was a former press secretary to Mike Moore in 1986 n
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BY THE RIVERS OF Babylon A US Major’s frontline blog ANDY OLMSTED’s dispatches from Iraq reveal the heart-wrenching, personal, cost of war Another First Saturday, September 15 at 6:16 AM Coming back from a visit to one of our battalions, our lead vehicle comes to a sudden stop. There’s a civilian vehicle stopped in the middle of the road ahead. That’s a classic sign for an IED (Improvised Explosive Device, crude landmine) attack, so we set up security to check things out, machine gunners scanning the area for any signs of a trigger man or shooters. Mac moves up to get a better look and sees a man on the ground, his dishdasha dark red. Looks like someone has been ambushed, so we roll up quickly to survey the site and see if we can help. Mac is first on the ground to confirm that the man is wounded, two Iraqi women with him wailing over his injuries. I run up with Q, one of our terps, to check him out until Doc gets there. His dishdasha is absolutely drenched with blood, and my first thought is that there is no way he’s going to make it. I begin checking him for injuries; he has obvious wounds in his hands and arms, but I can’t find anything on his torso. Doc hits the ground next to me and confirms what I saw; the man’s injuries, though painful, are not life-threatening now that Doc is on the scene. I help Doc treat his wounds, telling our other terp, Tony, to fetch him some water. Q keeps the women away as we work. I tell the man he’s going to be all right, and while he doesn’t understand the words, his murmured ‘thank you mister’ tells me he gets the gist of what I’m saying. Mac commandeers an Iraqi bongo truck. Nobody wants to take the man to the hospital, so he offers them a choice: give the man a ride, or give up their truck and we’ll use it. They decide to drive him to the hospital after all. While Doc finishes treating his wounds, I run to the car to see if anyone else is alive. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 51
“Three AIF (Anti Iraq Forces) set up an illegal checkpoint on the road they were using, and when they stopped for the checkpoint, they emptied three magazines of AK-47 ammo into the car. It is a miracle our friend survived, but survive he has”
trucks and mount up to continue the mission. As I step into the HMMWV (Humvee 4WD), I see a large patch of slowly-drying blood on my sleeve, a souvenir from my attempts to check the man for wounds. I shake my head and sit down; we’ve got work to do.
A U.S. Marine provides security for his fellow Marines during a stop in the patrol of Mission Supply Route – Michigan outside of Camp Taqaddum, Iraq.
Four men are slumped in the car. The man in the forward passenger seat is lying in the lap of the driver, his skull open to the sky. Thankfully I don’t vomit at the sight. The others are in equally poor shape; none of them have life left in them. I snap some pictures of the ambush scene for the record, holding the camera far from me as I don’t want to get any closer look at the interior of the car. Pictures done, I move back to help load the man into the truck and we mount up. The ride to the hospital is quick, and the Iraqi docs rush out to pull the man out and get him inside so they can treat him. We go inside with him, as Doc wants to make sure they’ll treat him properly, and we need to find out what happened, so Tony, Q, and I chat with the two women. The men in the car were all related. A cousin of theirs drowned in a canal a few days ago, and they were going to pay their respects at his grave site. Three AIF (Anti Iraq Forces) set up an illegal checkpoint on the road they were using, and when they stopped for the checkpoint, they emptied three magazines of AK-47 ammo into the car. It is a miracle our friend survived, but survive he has. His relatives were not so fortunate, and instead of paying their respects, they will now go into the ground not far from their drowned cousin. Doc is satisfied the man is in good hands. We move back to the 52 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
No Greater Love Saturday, November 17 at 10:34 PM Every day I’m on the FOB (Forward Operating Base), I walk into the squadron headquarters building to check in. That was easier in recent weeks, because the pictures were gone. For the first few months we were here, every time I walked into the building I had to walk by the memorial to all the soldiers from the squadron who had died during the deployment. It was impossible to walk by and not notice them. Brave young men who died long before they should have, far from home. When that squadron rotated out of our FOB, though we had a very good working relationship, I did not miss seeing that wall every day. Better yet, for the first four months we were here, not a single soldier affiliated with our FOB was killed, and few were even wounded. Things were still dangerous, but luck was with us. That luck ran out last week. A convoy heading back from a mission took a hit and lost a man last week. They evacuated him very quickly, but the damage was too severe, and he died of his wounds within a few hours. The squadron continued to operate, of course, but they also prepared for their first memorial service. It was hard. Several soldiers and the soldier’s commander spoke of the deceased. Naturally, one expects nothing but good things to be said at a memorial service, but these soldiers made it pretty clear that they had lost a dear friend. He had done quite a bit in a short career in the Army; this was his second trip to Iraq already. He had been planning to go on to college soon, and hopefully, to get married. His whole life was arrayed ahead of him. Now all that remains is the memories of his friends and family. After the remembrances and a stirring rendition of Amazing Grace, the ceremony closed with the salute to the deceased. In small groups, all of us came up to the display commemorating the fallen, took a moment to gaze down at the dog tags, the helmet, the empty boots, and then we came to attention and saluted our fallen comrade. There was no time period allotted; one could stay as long or as short a time as one wished. I had never met the soldier, but I found it very difficult to keep my eyes clear as I saluted a good man who had so much more to offer the world.
U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory Frias points in the direction he wants a SLAV to stage as it navigates a muddy road during a stop at a combat outpost in Muquadiah, Iraq.
We are in a dangerous business. Soldiers die in war; there’s no way around it. But that knowledge does not make those losses any less bitter. The Hunt Continues Sunday, December 2 at 4:43 AM As I should think anyone who follows the war already knows, improvised explosive devices, aka IEDs, are a huge headache for everyone in Iraq. You can’t drive anywhere without being aware of the possibility of the road exploding beneath you; I don’t know how the Iraqi Army and police have the courage to go out day after day with their often-unarmored vehicles; I might be happy to just stay inside the FOB myself, if I didn’t have duties elsewhere. Needless to say, eliminating the people who build, emplace, and detonate these devices is an important part of what the IA (Iraqi Army) does. They are pretty well-motivated to find these people, for obvious reasons, and one of the things they do to try and locate them is just being out and about as often as possible, so the locals get to know them and feel comfortable speaking with them. From what I have seen, most of the locals don’t want their roads strewn with these devices, but they are very aware of the possibility retribution against them by AIF if they tell the Iraqi Security Forces what
they know. When the Iraqi Army is seen on the streets frequently, the locals are more likely to believe that they will be protected if they speak up. So a large part of our job is just going out with the Iraqis while they interact with local citizens. The other day that paid off for us, as one of the citizens approached the patrol leader to let him know about a group of individuals who they had spotted emplacing IEDs not far away. They claimed to know where the bomb makers were hiding, so we developed a hasty plan to search the area and started rolling. Things didn’t go quite as we planned. The description of the enemy hideout apparently matched two separate sites, and we hit the wrong one first, so we lost 15-20 minutes surrounding and beginning to search the wrong place. Once we sorted that out, we rolled to the correct site and began a search of the area. As is so often the case, there were no military aged males there, likely because they saw our dust trails and were able to flee, so we were only able to search the area. Our Iraqis acquitted themselves very well. One of the women was clearly unhappy with our presence, but the Iraqi soldiers refused to react to her presence, speaking with her politely and explaining why there were there and remaining respectful but firm at all times. The search did not turn up anything incriminating, so in that INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 53
U.S. Army soldiers move to their next objective during a focused search in Baghdad, Iraq.
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our (hopefully) superior firepower to bear. Unfortunately, we were too slow, and the enemy was able to break contact and get away. One of the more interesting things about being in contact was that, although the actual duration of the combat was probably less than five minutes, from that point on we couldn’t be sure when it might return as we searched the area, coordinated with some helicopters, and did what we could to track down the enemy and finish him off. Still, it was a reasonably successful engagement for us. Everyone stayed calm and relatively cool, we drove them off with absolutely no injuries or damage to us, and we established that the Coalition isn’t afraid to face the enemy on his own turf. A pretty good day’s work.
respect it could be considered a failure. But, while we cannot rule out the tip being based on an attempt at retaliation, we had enough intelligence to believe that it was good, and the Iraqis did the right things. It’s not a huge day, but we take progress where we can find it. The Wicked Flee... Thursday, December 6 at 4:47 AM There are only so many ways for us to get from our FOB to our battalion’s FOB. That means that the enemy has an easier time of targeting us if he so chooses, because there are so many places we can be. Since we want to spend our time targeting the enemy and not being targets, we are always looking for ways to turn the tables. The other day, the XO (Executive Officer, a team leader within the military unit) came up with a good one: he located an alternate route for us to take. Whenever we get off the main roads, we see very different sites, largely because the Iraqis aren’t used to our being there. Some of them even run when they see us coming, and indeed, a passel of them did as we were heading down this new route. These guys weren’t content to just run, however. As our lead truck approached them, the men on the ground opened fire on us, actually striking the lead HMMWV several times. Our gunner returned fire at once, and the rest of us began maneuvering on the enemy, trying to bring
Culture Matters Monday, December 17 at 10:52 PM The Army did a lot of work to prepare us for this mission. We spent better than two months at Fort Riley training, and that training was remarkably extensive, although the broad brush necessary to train people going all over Iraq did mean that we weren’t particularly precisely prepared for exactly what it was we would end up doing here. But that’s inevitable; the only way they could have done that would have been to detract from the unit on the scene by having them put together a training program for us, and that’s simply not practical. So given the constraints of reality, the Riley program was pretty good. However, one area that we didn’t spend enough time on, and I think we could not have spent enough time on, was culture. Almost every day when we deal with the Iraqis, we end up with misunderstandings and confusion because we just don’t understand how they think, and vice versa, although to a lesser degree. (Iraqis see a lot of Americans, and the Iraqi Army has figured out how to understand us pretty well.) And from these confusions we tend to see a lot of anger, particularly on our side. Why, we wonder, do the Iraqis do the things they do? Can’t they see the problems they get when they do things that way? It’s hard, sometimes, not to think that the Iraqis are somehow stupid or ignorant. But that’s a trap. It should come as no surprise to anyone to learn that Iraqis possess the same range of intelligence, wisdom, bravery, and every other human trait that Americans do. The ‘problem,’ at least for us as advisors, is that their culture is different than ours and so they express these traits differently than we do. Over time, we’ve started to learn a bit about these differences, and our working relationship has improved to that degree. But it is an incredibly difficult process, because it involves trying to step outside the cultural norms that we have internalized over decades of life so that we can see them and how they differ from those of the Iraqis. By the end of our year here, we will probably have begun to have some real understanding of how Iraqis think. I’m reluctant to point out this next part, but it’s true. Having spent a year learning a little Arabic and a little more Iraqi culture, we will all head back to other more traditional military assignments, and the Iraqis will get a brand new crop of advisors, all of whom will be starting from ground zero once more. I wouldn’t recommend leaving us here beyond our year; at six months we’re already getting a bit stir-crazy. But I think the Army might be wise to consider developing a crop of people who are good at this job and rotating them through it more often, rather than simply training a new crop every eleven months or so. I don’t know how long we’re going to be in Iraq and Afghanistan, but I do know that cultural literacy is too difficult a skill to throw away lightly. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 55
Ayomma Sayyida Tuesday, December 25 at 12:04 PM From all of us on Team Nightmare to our friends, families, and fellow citizens: have a very Merry Christmas, and know that you are in our thoughts. We’ll be home for next Christmas, but until then, our hearts are with you. Boxing Day Wednesday, December 26 at 1:50 AM The Muslim world recently celebrated Eid al Adha, the festival of the Hajj. The Hajj, of course, is the fifth pillar of Islam: the requirement of all Muslims to take a pilgrimage to Mecca at some point in their lives. There are so many Muslims that not everyone can go every year, so while only a small selection of Iraqis got to actually visit Mecca this year, everyone celebrates Eid al Adha for four days. This meant several things. First, since there would be lots of peo56 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
U.S. Marines bow their heads in silence in honor of fallen comrades during an evening vigil at Camp Al Taqaddum, Iraq.
ple celebrating, it was an opportunity for the enemy to try and pull off some high profile attacks, so our unit was working hard to bolster local defenses to minimize the chances of any successful strikes. Second, it meant that the IA had an opportunity to win a few friends with a gesture or two of aid and goodwill towards the local populations. We have been fortunate enough to receive a lot of gifts from the United States: clothing, food, personal hygiene items, and toys, mostly. A lot of the guys have worked the phones hard in their home towns and collected a great variety of things that can help Iraqis down on their luck, and they suggested that we give all that to the IA to distribute to the locals, since the Iraqis are far more likely to make sure the stuff goes to the truly needy. It’s hard to argue with that kind of logic, so we packed up the HMMWVs and headed to one of our Iraqi units to make the pitch. They didn’t need any convincing, and suggested a small commu-
NEWSFLASH: January 04, 2008 http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2008/01/andy-olmsted.html
Andy Olmsted By Hilzoy Andrew Olmsted, who also posted here as G’Kar, was killed yesterday in Iraq. Andy gave me a post to publish in the event of his death; the last revisions to it were made in July. Andy was a wonderful person: decent, honorable, generous, principled, courageous, sweet, and very funny. The world has a horrible hole in it that nothing can fill. I’m glad Andy – generous as always – wrote something for me to publish now, since I have no words at all. Beyond: Andy, I will miss you. My thoughts are with his wife, his parents, and his brother and sister. What follows is Andy’s post: “I am leaving this message for you because it appears I must leave sooner than I intended. I would have preferred to say this in person, but since I cannot, let me say it here.” – G’Kar, Babylon 5 “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” – Plato
This is an entry I would have preferred not to have published, but there are limits to what we can control in life, and apparently I have passed one of those limits. And so, like G’Kar, I must say here what I would much prefer to say in person. I want to thank hilzoy for putting it up for me. It’s not easy asking anyone to do something for you in the event of your death, and it is a testament to her quality that she didn’t hesitate to accept the charge. As with many bloggers, I have a disgustingly large ego, and so I just couldn’t bear the thought of not being able to have the last word if the need arose. Perhaps I take that further than most, I don’t know. I hope so. It’s frightening to think there are many people as neurotic as I am in the world. In any case, since I won’t get another chance to say what I think, I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity. Such as it is.
nity that is made up largely of refugees who have fled more violent parts of Iraq for the relative calm of this area. We transferred the boxes to Iraqi vehicles and rolled out. Handing out gifts is great fun, but in Iraq you always have to be alert for the possibility that the enemy will take advantage of the opportunity to turn such an event to their advantage. Iraqi soldiers handing how clothing is good for building relationships between the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi people. A suicide bomb in a crowd of children seeking gifts could destroy that in a heartbeat, however, so while we enjoyed the scene of the Iraqi soldiers handing out clothes, toys, candy, and more to the hordes of Iraqi children, we were pleased to see that they also remained alert to potential threats, and they handed out a lot of great gifts that, we hope, will provide just a little help to families down on their luck. Thanks to everyone back in the U.S. for your kind donations. Until you see how little a lot of these people have, you don’t really understand poverty; your donations go a long ways.
“When some people die, it’s time to be sad. But when other people die, like really evil people, or the Irish, it’s time to celebrate.” – Jimmy Bender, “Greg the Bunny” “And maybe now it’s your turn to die kicking some ass.” – Freedom Isn’t Free, Team America
What I don’t want this to be is a chance for me, or anyone else, to be maudlin. I’m dead. That sucks, at least for me and my family and friends. But all the tears in the world aren’t going to bring me back, so I would prefer that people remember the good things about me rather than mourning my loss. (If it turns out a specific number of tears will, in fact, bring me back to life, then by all means, break out the onions.) I had a pretty good life, as I noted above. Sure, all things being equal I would have preferred to have more time, but I have no business complaining with all the good fortune I’ve enjoyed in my life. So if you’re up for that, put on a little 80s music (preferably vintage 1980-1984), grab a Coke and have a drink with me. If you have it, throw ‘Freedom Isn’t Free’ from the Team America soundtrack in; if you can’t laugh at that song, I think you need to lighten up a little. I’m dead, but if you’re reading this, you’re not, so take a moment to enjoy that happy fact. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 57
U.S. Army soldiers inspect a suspected insurgent base in the Arab Jabour region of Iraq.
Soldiers discover containers of acid during a patrol in the desert outside of Mosul, Iraq.
“Our thoughts form the universe. They always matter.” – Citizen G’Kar, Babylon 5
Believe it or not, one of the things I will miss most is not being able to blog any longer. The ability to put my thoughts on (virtual) paper and put them where people can read and respond to them has been marvelous, even if most people who have read my writings haven’t agreed with them. If there is any hope for the long term success of democracy, it will be if people agree to listen to and try to understand their political opponents rather than simply seeking to crush them. While the blogosphere has its share of partisans, there are some awfully smart people making excellent arguments out there as well, and I know I have learned quite a bit since I began blogging. I flatter myself I may have made a good argument or two as well; if I didn’t, please don’t tell me. It has been a great five-plus years. I got to meet a lot of people who are way smarter than me, including such luminaries as Virginia Postrel and her husband Stephen (speaking strictly from a 58 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
‘improving the species’ perspective, it’s tragic those two don’t have kids, because they’re both scary smart.), the estimable hilzoy and Sebastian of Obsidian Wings, Jeff Goldstein and Stephen Green, the men who consistently frustrated me with their mix of wit and wisdom I could never match, and I’ve no doubt left out a number of people to whom I apologize. Bottom line: if I got the chance to meet you through blogging, I enjoyed it. I’m only sorry I couldn’t meet more of you. In particular I’d like to thank Jim Henley, who while we’ve never met has been a true comrade, whose words have taught me and whose support has been of great personal value to me. I would very much have enjoyed meeting Jim. Blogging put me in touch with an inordinate number of smart people, an exhilarating if humbling experience. When I was young, I was smart, but the older I got, the more I realized just how dumb I was in comparison to truly smart people. But, to my credit, I think, I was at least smart enough to pay attention to the people with real brains and even occasionally learn something from them. It has been joy and a pleasure having the opportunity to do this.
A U.S. Army soldier scans the immediate area from behind a dried mud wall as he provides security during a patrol in an area outside of Mosul, Iraq.
U.S. Army soldiers dismount from their Humvee after getting stuck in a mud hole while patrolling through Kirkuk, Iraq.
“It’s not fair.” “No. It’s not. Death never is.” – Captain John Sheridan and Dr. Stephen Franklin, Babylon 5 “They didn’t even dig him a decent grave.” “Well, it’s not how you’re buried. It’s how you’re remembered.” – Cimarron and Wil Andersen, The Cowboys
I suppose I should speak to the circumstances of my death. It would be nice to believe that I died leading men in battle, preferably saving their lives at the cost of my own. More likely I was caught by a marksman or an IED. But if there is an afterlife, I’m telling anyone who asks that I went down surrounded by hundreds of insurgents defending a village composed solely of innocent women and children. It’ll be our little secret, ok? I do ask (not that I’m in a position to enforce this) that no one try to use my death to further their political purposes. I went to Iraq and did what I did for my reasons, not yours. My life isn’t a chit to be used to bludgeon people to silence on either side. If
you think the U.S. should stay in Iraq, don’t drag me into it by claiming that somehow my death demands us staying in Iraq. If you think the U.S. ought to get out tomorrow, don’t cite my name as an example of someone’s life who was wasted by our mission in Iraq. I have my own opinions about what we should do about Iraq, but since I’m not around to expound on them I’d prefer others not try and use me as some kind of moral capital to support a position I probably didn’t support. Further, this is tough enough on my family without their having to see my picture being used in some rally or my name being cited for some political purpose. You can fight political battles without hurting my family, and I’d prefer that you did so. On a similar note, while you’re free to think whatever you like about my life and death, if you think I wasted my life, I’ll tell you you’re wrong. We’re all going to die of something. I died doing a job I loved. When your time comes, I hope you are as fortunate as I was. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 59
“What an idiot! What a loser!” – Chaz Reingold, Wedding Crashers “Oh and I don’t want to die for you, but if dying’s asked of me; I’ll bear that cross with honor, ‘cause freedom don’t come free.” – American Soldier, Toby Keith
Those who know me through my writings on the Internet over the past five-plus years probably have wondered at times about my chosen profession. While I am not a Libertarian, I certainly hold strongly individualistic beliefs. Yet I have spent my life in a profession that is not generally known for rugged individualism. Worse, I volunteered to return to active duty knowing that the choice would almost certainly lead me to Iraq. The simple explanation might be that I was simply stupid, and certainly I make no bones about having done some dumb things in my life, but I don’t think this can be chalked up to stupidity. Maybe I was inconsistent in my beliefs; there are few people who adhere religiously to the doctrines of their chosen philosophy, whatever that may be. But I don’t think that was the case in this instance either. As passionate as I am about personal freedom, I don’t buy the claims of anarchists that humanity would be just fine without any government at all. There are too many people in the world who believe that they know best how people should live their lives, and many of them are more than willing to use force to impose those beliefs on others. A world without government simply wouldn’t last very long; as soon as it was established, strongmen would immediately spring up to establish their fiefdoms. So there is a need for government to protect the people’s rights. And one of the fundamental tools to do that is an army that can prevent outside agencies from imposing their rules on a society. A lot of people will protest that argument by noting that the people we are fighting in Iraq are unlikely to threaten the rights of the average American. That’s certainly true; while our enemies would certainly like to wreak great levels of havoc on our society, the fact is they’re not likely to succeed. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t still a need for an army (setting aside debates regarding whether ours is the right size at the moment). Americans are fortunate that we don’t have to worry 60 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
too much about people coming to try and overthrow us, but part of the reason we don’t have to worry about that is because we have an army that is stopping anyone who would try. Soldiers cannot have the option of opting out of missions because they don’t agree with them: that violates the social contract. The duly-elected American government decided to go to war in Iraq. (Even if you maintain President Bush was not properly elected, Congress voted for war as well.) As a soldier, I have a duty to obey the orders of the President of the United States as long as they are Constitutional. U.S. Marines conduct a I can no more opt out of missions I twilight patrol through disagree with than I can ignore laws the deserted streets of I think are improper. I do not conHusaybah, Iraq. sider it a violation of my individual rights to have gone to Iraq on orders because I raised my right hand and volunteered to join the army. Whether or not this mission was a good one, my participation in it was an affirmation of something I consider quite necessary to society. So if nothing else, I gave my life for a pretty important principle; I can (if you’ll pardon the pun) live with that. “It’s all so brief, isn’t it? A typical human lifespan is almost a hundred years. But it’s barely a second compared to what’s out there. It wouldn’t be so bad if life didn’t take so long to figure out. Seems you just start to get it right, and then...it’s over.” – Dr. Stephen Franklin, Babylon 5
I wish I could say I’d at least started to get it right. Although, in my defense, I think I batted a solid .250 or so. Not a superstar, but at least able to play in the big leagues. I’m afraid I can’t really offer any deep secrets or wisdom. I lived my life better than some, worse than others, and I like to think that the world was a little better off for my having been here. Not very much, but then, few of us are destined to make more than a tiny dent in history’s Green Monster. I would be lying if I didn’t admit I would have liked to have done more, but it’s a bit too late for that now, eh? The bottom line, for me, is that I think I can look back at my life and at least see a few areas where I may have made a tiny difference, and massive ego aside, that’s probably not too bad. “The flame also reminds us that life is precious. As each flame is unique; when it goes out, it’s gone forever. There will never be another quite like it.” – Ambassador Delenn, Babylon 5
I write this in part, admittedly, because I would like to think that there’s at least a little something out there to remember me by. Granted, this site will eventually vanish, being ephemeral in a very real sense of the word, but at least for a time it can serve as a tiny record of my contributions to the world. But on a larger scale, for those who knew me well enough to be saddened by my death, especially for those who haven’t known anyone else lost to this
war, perhaps my death can serve as a small reminder of the costs of war. Regardless of the merits of this war, or of any war, I think that many of us in America have forgotten that war means death and suffering in wholesale lots. A decision that for most of us in America was academic, whether or not to go to war in Iraq, had very real consequences for hundreds of thousands of people. Yet I was as guilty as anyone of minimizing those very real consequences in lieu of a cold discussion of theoretical U.S. Army Sgt. merits of war and peace. Now I’m facing some very real Shane Pudgett consequences of that decision; who says life doesn’t have hugs his wife a sense of humor? goodbye as his son cries durBut for those who knew me and feel this pain, I think it’s a ing a going away good thing to realize that this pain has been felt by thousands ceremony at the and thousands (probably millions, actually) of other people RCA Dome in all over the world. That is part of the cost of war, any war, no Indianapolis, Ind. matter how justified. If everyone who feels this pain keeps that in mind the next time we have to decide whether or not war is a good idea, perhaps it will help us to make a more informed decision. Because it is pretty clear that the average American would not have supported the Iraq War had they known the costs going in. I am far too cynical to believe that any future debate over war will be any less vitriolic or emotional, but perhaps a few more people will realize just what those costs can be the next time. This may be a contradiction of my above call to keep politics out of my death, but I hope not. Sometimes going to war is the right idea. I think we’ve drawn that line too far in the direction of war rather than peace, but I’m a soldier and I know that sometimes you have to fight if you’re to hold onto what you hold dear. But in making that decision, I believe we understate the costs of war; when we make the decision to fight, we make the decision to kill, and that means lives and families destroyed. Mine now falls into that category; the next time the question of war or peace comes up, if you knew me at least you can understand a bit more just what it is you’re deciding to do, and whether or not those costs are worth it. “This is true love. You think this happens every day?” – Westley, The Princess Bride “Good night, my love, the brightest star in my sky.” – John Sheridan, Babylon 5
This is the hardest part. While I certainly have no desire to die, at this point I no longer have any worries. That is not true of the woman who made my life something to enjoy rather than something merely to survive. She put up with all of my faults, and they are myriad, she endured separations again and again...I cannot imagine being more fortunate in love than I have been with Amanda. Now she has to go on without me, and while a cynic might observe she’s better off, I know that this is a terrible burden I have placed on her, and I would give almost anything if she would not have to bear it. It seems that is not an option. I cannot imagine anything more painful than that, and if there is an afterlife, this is a pain I’ll bear forever. I wasn’t the greatest husband. I could have done so much more, a realization that, as it so often does, comes too late to matter. But I cherished every day I was married to Amanda. When everything else in my life seemed dark, she was always there to light the darkness. It is difficult to imagine my life being worth living without her having been in it. I hope and pray that she goes on without me and enjoys her life as much as she deserves. I can think of no one more deserving of happiness than her.
“I will see you again, in the place where no shadows fall.” – Ambassador Delenn, Babylon 5
I don’t know if there is an afterlife; I tend to doubt it, to be perfectly honest. But if there is any way possible, Amanda, then I will live up to Delenn’s words, somehow, some way. I love you. Major Andrew Olmsted, killed in action January 4, 2008, NZ time. He was 37 years old. n
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think life | money “We now have several generations who have never experienced a recession. To them, debt, in its many forms is something that they live with.
Run with the bulls, hunt with the bears Peter Hensley looks at the year ahead Market commentary originating from the USA is equally split between those who think the share market will continue to rise in value, and those who suggest that the market is overvalued and is due to head south for the winter. Legendary investor, and second richest man in the world, Warren Buffett, recently mused about the business cycle and that the USA has not seen a recession for almost three decades. His comment to the interviewer was that he was hoping to see several more recessions in his lifetime (he is 84). The US authorities have been doing their very best to avoid a recession. They have used a double barrel approach by aggressively adjusting interest rates whilst at the same time flooding the market with liquidity. Their perception has been that recessions are a bad thing and must be avoided at all costs. My personal opinion is that we could do with a recession. We now have several 62 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
generations who have never experienced a recession. To them, debt, in its many forms is something that they live with. They do not appear to fully comprehend that it has the potential to turn against them and take away the lifestyle they have come to accept and many even take for granted. The doom and gloom commentators quote numerous factors to support their case that the share market is over valued. On a price earnings ratio basis, it most certainly is. The P/E ratio for the past 150 plus years is approximately 13. The P/E for the Dow Jones (US market) is currently between 17 and 18. They also quote the sub-prime debt market. This is where US financial institutions granted mortgages to borrowers who in normal circumstances would not qualify for a loan. Obviously they did not want to retain these loans, so they packaged them up and on-sold the loans to fund manag-
ers who had surplus funds to invest. As it turns out it was a good deal for the seller as they collected two sets of fees, one for selling the loans in the first place and the second for on-selling the loans. Clearly it was not a good deal for the purchasers of these loans who are now faced with defaults and the costs associated with foreclosure and debt collection. The institutions who purchased these loans also purchased a special type of insurance protection to ensure that the loans would be repaid. This insurance is known by several names, the most common being CDO’s (collateralized debt obligations). Market observers have seen this synthetic debt / derivative market grow over nine fold in the past three years to more than $45 trillion. Putting such a large number into perspective, $45 trillion is almost five times the US national debt and more than three times US Gross National Product. This market is unregulated and there is no central register of who actually owns which contract/policy. Now, (as I have said many times before), derivatives are not a bad thing and are designed to reduce the risk of an investment and some commentators suggest that all this insurance protection is a good thing for the market place. I say that it is and it isn’t. In November 07 several of the largest banks in the world actually set up SIV’s (Structured Investment Vehicles) in order to provide liquidity in the structured debt market because no-one was prepared to trade due to the uncertainty surrounding the sub prime issues. This meant that even good quality assets were being dramatically under valued. An interesting and not often quoted impact of SIV’s is that they move non-performing loans off the institutions balance sheet (a modern version of pass the parcel). Combining the above with the fact that the majority of the sub-prime loans were made with teaser interest (read very low) rates the majority of which are due to be
reset (upwards) during the first half of 2008, suggests that the dominoes could be starting to topple. Should the wheels come off some time in the future, the media is expected to throw their hands up and say ‘how did all this happen?’. We should remember that just over two years ago, in August 2005, the respective central bank governors of the USA (Greenspan), Australia (MacFarlane) and New Zealand (Bollard) all gave publicly reported speeches citing the fact that (a) house prices were too high and (b) individuals were borrowing too much money. It does not appear that many people listened to their warnings. Warren Buffet wants to see more recessions in his lifetime because they always present opportunities for investors to buy good quality assets at a discount. Current market prices are best described as elevated, which suggests that at some stage in the future they will become more attractive. It is possible that a person could grow old waiting. In the past decade all investment markets have floated higher on a sea of liquidity. In order to promote growth and expansion, authorities the world over have pumped new money into their economies. The US
authorities actually went so far as to stop reporting M3 in August 2006 citing the fact that the market place did not need to know how many dollar bills were in the system. This has been a global experiment and to date it has worked. What is uncertain is the long term impact this new money will have on inflation. Cynics will note that the method used to calculate and report on inflation has also been subtly adjusted along the way. The short term impact the flood of new money has had on the markets is there for all to see. Share markets are at all time highs, house prices have gone through the roof and bond markets have had no trouble issuing (selling) debt instruments in all its many and varied forms. Another factor to suggest that the wider markets are not ready to fall off a cliff just yet is the impact of superannuation savings. Americans have 401k’s, the Australians have compulsory superannuation of 9% (soon to go to 13 and maybe 15) and we have taken to KiwiSaver like a duck to water. All this money needs to find a home and fund managers are obliged to invest the cash into share / bond / property markets. The simple adage of supply and demand applies. The tide of baby boomers approach-
ing peak earning capacity is due to ensure that demand will stay high, which translates into higher prices. Not exactly a domino toppling scenario. Another issue is Sovereign Wealth Funds. Recent research suggests that twenty-five nations now have SWF’s. The further estimate is that by the year 2012 the SWFs will have piled up $7 to $8 trillion. The SWFs may not save the world, but in due time they may own the world. China is said to have $1.4 trillion, Japan has $893 billion, United Arab Emirates has $743 billion, Russia has $397 billion, Norway has $385 billion. New Zealand’s fund is known as the Cullen fund and has just over $4 billion. These will only add to the demand side of the equation suggesting that international asset prices are doomed to remain in the stratosphere. Commentators are evenly divided and there are strong arguments for both sides. History shows that it unlikely to go on forever. At some stage the energy supporting international investment markets will run out of steam. The truth is that we have to admit we are unable to predict when this might happen. On the current information it is unlikely to be soon, but I could be wrong.
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”
think life | education
I saw a tart Amy Brooke encounters the prostitution of the language If language is the crucial index of the health of a society, what has happened to ours is ominous, and I must take issue with a good friend, columnist Karl du Fresne, who, at his best, is one of our very few excellent critical commentators. However, even Homer nods, and Karl dozed off in a recent column – Torture in accent’s evolution – on an issue important enough for public debate: the attack on standards of speech promoted by the education bureaucracy in the name of egalitarianism and “authenticity” – inevitably resulting in today’s vulgarization of the language. In the sixties there finally solidified the long-planned agenda leading to the manypronged attack on education standards envisaged as granting the Marxist-hated bourgeoisie (or middle-class) educational, and therefore social, possibly financial 64 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
advantages over a perceived under-class. In the twisted thinking of the Left, the solution did not lie in working to improve the chances of the under-privileged, to teach all children thoroughly and well, and in emphasising to parents – Maori and European – that the way forward for their children was that great leveller, hard work and attitude. It lay in removing standards to achieve an imposed egalitarianism, a forced “equality of outcome”- our education bureaucracy’s too-little challenged mantra. The attack on standards of speech was part of this, and the voice of the Left is unwittingly there in Karl’s invoking the “ ‘proper’ mode of New Zealand speech” as if “proper” was somehow ridiculous… ”drummed into the children of the statusconscious-middle classes by generations of elocution teachers…” Karl sees this as mim-
icking “an upper-middle-class pronunciation” he assumes as standard English, strictly enforced on radio and TV, and recalls that on his own voice test he was “condescendingly” told he “wasn’t up to scratch.” Therein may lie the rub, although his pleasant, wellmodulated voice and pronunciation is today undeniably that of standard English. Undoubtedly, too, the more exaggerated or affected speech of some individuals would make any socialist’s hackles rise. However, Karl is quite wrong in classifying as an affected, upper-middle-class pronunciation the standard English taught by generations of English teachers to their pupils, to make sure they spoke intelligibly and well. The very word “elocution”, which became so ridiculously demonized, crudely targeted in the language of the aggrieved as “toffeenosed”, was simply from the Latin “elocu-
tus”, meaning having spoken out well. However, while he considers it a mark of “our growing sense of cultural self-confidence that we no longer feel it necessary to slavishly imitate the ‘proper’ English accent”, he simultaneously deplores the “lowering of pronunciation standards” that subsequently ensued, the “awful mode of speaking” English of many media professionals, as lazy and slovenly. He wonders if the deterioration in standards “is a backlash against our old colonial obeisance towards Britain”, dismissing this possibility “since the generation that now mangles the language is too young to remember the era when we took all our cultural cues from the Mother Country...” He sees it instead as a rejection of speech standards now seen as élitist. His argument is circular and confused. The result of not teaching acceptable standards to all is that people can feel put-down in the presence of someone who speaks better than they do. The common chip-on the shoulder, leftist disparaging of what Karl terms “poncy accents” ignores the difference between affected, exaggerated language – compared to what was essentially an agreed standard taught in fairness to all New Zealanders, to actually help extend the opportunities closed to many because of poor speech standards. I recall the case of a former Miss New Zealand whose beauty was captivating – until she opened her mouth. The phrase “colonial obeisance” is an all-too-common, politically correct exaggeration of the respect New Zealanders legitimately had for the best we inherited from Britain. The fact that we took our “cultural cues” from this Mother Country was no bad thing. Through her rich language we share in a splendid cultural inheritance, embracing the best of what has been said and thought by her greatest writers and thinkers throughout history, including those from other cultures and civilizations. These taonga of the West celebrate the very standards of excellence which have always been anathema to a Marxist agenda. The inequities of class warfare and language used as a tool for putting others down had little hold in this new country. Moreover, the Left’s success in whittling away at standards has been no help to young New Zealanders, who are now disadvantaged by the sheer inadequacy of much of their written and verbal communications. Learning how to master basic vowel sounds,
... ongoing prostitution of a great lady, the Mother Tongue, controlled by the pimpery of the education establishment...
clarify consonants, etc. is culpably no longer taught in schools, because of the uncritical adoption of so much of an antagonistic agenda by those too easily persuaded that standards were “discriminatory”, affected, élitist, and unnecessary. On the contrary, it has been the removal of those standards which has placed so many at an educational, social, even financial disadvantage – and accelerated the very degradation of the culture now subsequently deplored in Karl’s column. It’s some time now since I resignedly heard a singer in a school concert gargle the lines, “ I, sore at heart,” as “I saw a tart…”. And no – “congratulate” is not pronounced as “congradulate”. But while I could still be bothered listening to Radio NZ, it was an irritating experience trying to work out what its broadcasters were actually saying, so indistinguishable have become words of similar sound once clarified by the clear enunciation of its personnel. Today, Radio NZ’s reporters’ execrable speech standards obviously rely on a non-standard approved by management. Yet for a spoken medium which, above all, should rely on communication with clarity, good enunciation and pitch, allied to a pleasant voice, the slovenly vowels of one reporter; the nasal honking of another camp-sounding male; the cocky, over-loud fatuousness of a weekly comic commentator; the rapid-fire gabbling, quasiquacking of a male afternoon programme host; the exaggerated, tortured linguistic distortions of a weekly female commentator
are not only an invitation towards the offswitch, but an indication of the inevitable ugliness ensuing when respect for standards in speech became regarded as superfluous, and irrelevant. Incompetent language usage applies now at every level, written and spoken. We can include those who promote their private doggerel as “poetry”, embarrassingly unencumbered by the knowledge that an ambition to write poetry brings on board a necessity to have a certain mastery of the language, its grammar and syntax – absolutely basic requirements – even granted its evolution, elasticity and possibilities. Moreover, the knowledge and tools available to effect the distinction between poetry and prose need to be combined with an appreciation of great poetry, its canons and conventions. Add to these often semi-literate wannabes those with ambitions to “be a writer”, but with little at all important, original, or even worthwhile to say, with little command of the medium, hopefully enrolling at writers’ courses run by those of minor talent. Mix in teachers with no real competence in the written and oral language they are supposed to teach, and we have indeed the ongoing prostitution of a great lady, the Mother Tongue, controlled by the pimpery of the education establishment, devalued and sold to the lowest bidders. www.amybrooke.co.nz www.summersounds.co.nz http://www.livejournal.com/users/brookeonline/
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 65
think life | science
Deep freeze, deep space Operation Deep Freeze in Christchurch was the staging point for a project aimed at solving one of science’s hottest mysteries, as the Chicago Tribune’s William Mullen reports
Photography: Chris Danals / National Science Foundation
AMUNDSEN-SCOTT STATION, Antarctica – Anywhere on Earth this would be a big telescope, as high as a seven-story building, with a main mirror measuring 10 metres across. But here at the South Pole, it seems especially large, looming over a barren plain of ice that gets colder than anywhere else on the planet. Scientists built the instrument at the end of the world so they can search for clues that might identify the most powerful, plentiful but elusive substance in the universe – dark energy. First described just nine years ago, dark energy is believed to be a mysterious force so powerful that it will decide the fate of the universe. Having already overruled the laws of gravity, it is pushing galaxies away from one another, causing the universe to expand at an ever faster rate. Though dark energy is believed to account for 70 percent of the mass of the universe, 66 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
it is invisible and virtually undetectable. Nobody knows what it is, where it is or how it behaves. “If you see it in your basement,” jokes University of Chicago cosmologist Rocky Kolb, “you better get back on your medication.” But he knows better than most the high priority the world’s governments and scientists have placed on coming to a fuller understanding of the invisible force. “Many think dark energy is the most important problem in physics today,” says Kolb, who recently served as chairman of the Dark Energy Task Force, convened in 2005 by the U.S. Department of Energy, NASA and the National Science Foundation. Figuring out what dark energy is would explain the history and future of the universe and generate new understanding of physical laws that, applied to human invention, almost certainly will change the way we live – just as breakthroughs in quantum
The site of the new telescope, AmundsenScott Station at the South Pole itself. Aurora Australis, the Southern Lights, can be seen streaking the sky
mechanics brought us the computer chip. Swinging its massive mirror skyward, for the last few months the South Pole Telescope has begun to search the southern polar heavens for shreds of evidence of the elusive stuff. Controlled remotely from the University of Chicago, the US$19.2 million telescope has quickly succeeded in its first mission: finding unknown galaxy clusters, clues to the emergence of dark energy. The Chicago university has a stronger astronomy presence at the pole than perhaps any other institution, having built several smaller experimental telescopes there over the last 20 years. This scope, however, was the most ambitious project by far. Its components had to be custom-built by scientists and craftsmen in several different parts of the world, then shipped to Antarctica in pieces for final assembly. The largest sections of the telescope were carefully designed so each could fit into
ski-equipped military transport planes. It took 25 flights in via Christchurch, New Zealand, all to ferry 260 tons of telescope components. In 2006, a crew mostly made up of graduate students spent eight hours a day outdoors to help put them all together. “It gets really, really cold, because you aren’t moving much,” says Joachin Vieira, 28, a graduate student in physics. “There’s steel behind you, steel in front of you, and you’re holding steel tools.” His crew was assembling a 10-metre aluminum mirror and attaching it to a carbon fibre backing designed to keep the mirror rigid in the powerful South Pole winds. Earlier they had spent three months doing a dry run on the mirror assembly in the blazing summer heat of Texas. At the pole, temperatures never warmed more than 29 degrees below zero. Crew members say it took hours after coming back indoors before their fingers loosened up enough to type on their computers. “We have to get these pieces into place to within 1/000th of an inch of accuracy,” says Jeff McMahon, 29, a postdoctoral physics student. “If you move, you risk screwing it up, so you stand motionless at 30 degrees below zero.” Also out there, slinging two-by-fours alongside ironworkers putting together the telescope’s main structure, was John Carlstrom, a veteran South Pole astronomer and University of Chicago astrophysicist who is heading up the international team that designed and constructed the telescope. The problems Carlstrom and his team are trying to solve are 21st Century, and so is much of the technology they are using, but their methodology is very old school. For thousands of years astronomers have been puzzling out the size, shape and chemistry of the universe, first by naked eye and then – for the last 400 years – with increasingly powerful and sophisticated telescopes. Mostly they study the motion of very large objects and apply the known laws of physics to analyze what they see. The telescope can’t go looking for dark energy directly. Instead, it is gathering information researchers hope will lead to a better understanding of the mysterious force, by tracing for the first time how dark energy emerged and changed over billions of years. To do that, scientists will use the South Pole Telescope to search for enormous clusters of galaxies – the last structures in the universe to be forged by the force of gravity
after the Big Bang. First, gravity formed the stars, then the galaxies, and finally vast clusters containing 50 to 1,000 galaxies. But at some point, dark energy got the upper hand over gravity, slowing down and stopping gravitational formations and instead beginning to push galaxies away from one another. “It’s not incorrect to think of dark energy as acting like negative gravity,” Carlstrom says. In other words, it is a force that causes all physical matter to push away rather than collapse together. The idea behind the South Pole Telescope is to try to trace how many galaxy clusters have formed at different periods in the history of the universe, how they formed, and then when dark energy slowed or stopped their formation. “We’re looking at a tug-of-war with dark energy and gravity trying to expand or collapse the universe,” says Carlstrom, 50. Galaxy clusters are rare, holding perhaps just 1 percent of all the stars in the universe, and most are so far away and faint that most optical and radio telescopes cannot detect them. Instead, scientists need to find tiny variations in temperature of the cosmic microwave background, which is the remnants of the first light in the universe, emerging 400,000 years after the Big Bang. Slightly warmer spots in the background indicate the presence of the dim, distant, hard-tolocate galaxy clusters. And the South Pole, inhospitable as it is, is the best place on Earth to do that. Humidity in the atmosphere would distort signals the telescope receives and, thus, the picture it makes. But there is very little water vapor at the South Pole. Even though the pole sits on a massive, millionyear buildup of ice 10,000 feet deep, the area is a natural desert – the air is dry and it almost never snows. In addition, because of the tilt of the Earth’s axis, the pole for nearly half the year is bathed in 24-hour-a-day darkness. That allows researchers to focus the telescope continuously on one part of the sky for long periods of time. To do its work the telescope takes advantage of the Sunyaev-Zel’dovich effect, a phenomenon named for two Russians who discovered it in the 1960s. As the particles of light that make up the microwave background travel through space, some encounter the hot gas cores of distant galaxy clusters. The Russians predicted that about 1 percent of photons pass-
ing through the gas cores would interact with electrons there, slightly kicking up their energy. The telescope’s main mirror collects photons as they arrive at our planet and sends them to an array of bolometers that record their intensity. The bolometers, the most crucial elements in the scope, contain sensors that can measure temperature differences up to 10 millionths of a degree. Ironically, the weather at the South Pole is much too warm for the bolometers to work. The cosmic microwave background has cooled to a nearly uniform 270.43 below zero Fahrenheit, or 2.725 degrees on the Kelvin scale. To detect the photons’ slight variations in temperature, scientists had to plan for cryogenic freezers that would keep the bolometers just a quarter-degree Kelvin above absolute zero, or 273 degrees below zero Celsius. Ultimately the telescope produces a picture revealing slightly more intense patches in the cosmic microwave background – in effect, a map pinpointing the location and mass of the galaxy clusters that heated up passing photons. When the sun went down at the pole in March, the telescope passed all its preliminary tests and began successfully searching out unknown galaxy clusters in small patches of the sky, babied by two scientists who remained with it through the long polar night. “It’s unusual for an instrument of this complexity to make good observations so soon after deployment,” says product manager Steve Padin, 47, a senior University of Chicago scientist who just left the pole after staying there more than a year helping work out technical issues. Carlstrom and his colleagues believe the survey will provide breakthrough information on dark energy by documenting its first interactions with ordinary matter. Just as important, the telescope’s cluster inventory will serve as a guide for other telescopes to glean far more information on dark energy’s attributes by zeroing in with specialized detectors the South Pole scope lacks. Eventually, when astronomers know more about how to look at dark energy itself, the quest may require powerful space-based telescopes, says Rocky Kolb of the Dark Energy Task Force. “We in astronomy think dark energy is a billion-dollar question,” says Kolb. “We feel it is that fundamental. It is a big question that will require a big effort to answer it.” INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 67
think life | technology
Software to move you Ian Wishart spends his summer in front of a computer screen Two products this month, both time savers. First up is Microsoft Office Professional 2007 – this package has been sitting on my desk and glaring at me for the past six months, but a series of computer meltdowns and deadlines has intervened to prevent us hooking up in any meaningful sense. I finally took the opportunity to do so over the Christmas break, and I’m glad I did. Office 2007 was designed to partner the new Vista operating system, but it works just as happily on XP. Those of you who have migrated to Internet Explorer 7 will recognize the interface quite readily. Like all software updates these days, the progression usually comes by soft evolution rather than massive bursts of leap-forward tech-savvy. The new Office is a mix. Controversially, Microsoft ditched the old Word interface which customers have been using pretty much since the days of Word for Windows 2 back in the early 1990s. Instead, users are now greeted by a tab68 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
ribbon along the top designed to be more intuitive for a new generation, and clearly setting the design template for the next few versions of Word. Old icons for tasks like printing or saving have disappeared from the menu entirely, and are now restricted to a drop down menu in the top left of the screen. It took a little getting used to, but it is now second nature. While the switch has left some regular Office users ruffled, by and large the new design is simple to use once you get the hang of it, and that’s really only a matter of playing around for a while. There are new default fonts and heading styles, which mean that if you’re wedded to existing styles you’ll need to set them up anew. As TechRepublic points out, it’s actually the power users of Microsoft Office who are most affected by the changes, because of the intellectual capital they’ve invested in getting on top of the 2003 version.
Given that blog software – with its ease of use that makes updating websites incredibly fast and convenient – is rapidly dominating the internet with even news websites now utilizing it, this latest integration in Office 2007 will, I suspect, become a major tool for both corporate and home users in maintaining their online presence easily.
Some companies are offering aftermarket software “plug-ins” that allow you to resurrect the old Word templates and interface, whilst using the grunt of Office 2007 and its myriad new features to undergird the whole thing. Word 2007 no longer supports word documents created in the mid 90s (well, it does but you have to confine them to a special folder first), so who would have thought that the very first Word email attachment I tried to open would turn out to be one of these archaic, no longer supported types? Even more surprising to me was that the document originated from Newstalk ZB! Talk about stretching your capital replacement programme out! It reminded me of last year’s incident where the computers at Wellington Airport all crashed, and passengers were stunned to see the display boards rebooting with a Windows 95 logo. Then again, many point of sale cash-register systems still in use today are based on software first developed back in the 1980s or, in computer terms, when Methuselah was a boy. For me, one of the most useful new features in Word 2007 to date has been its blog interface. For the first time, you can now write and publish a blog post directly from Word that’s just as slick as anything standard blogging software offers. Given that blog software – with its ease of use that makes updating websites incredibly fast and convenient – is rapidly dominating the internet with even news websites now utilizing it, this latest integration in Office 2007 will, I suspect, become a major tool for both corporate and home users in maintaining their online presence easily. The Outlook 2007 interface now throws up not just your emails but, at the same time on the same screen, your calendar, appointments and tasks, so the whole shebang is there at a glance. Overall, very impressed. Although I have other copies of Office 2003 on other computers in the office, I haven’t been tempted to retreat back to them. Office Professional 2007 comes bundled with Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Access, Publisher and Outlook with Business Contact Manager. DRAGON NATURALLY SPEAKING PREFERRED 9.0: Wireless Edition Regular readers will be well aware of my perspective on the Dragon speech recognition software, which I’ve used in various incarnations for more than ten years now for specific projects. Mistral Software, the NZ agents for Dragon, have recently released the
Wireless edition of the latest Dragon. There are some obvious aspects to this – being wireless, the software has been fine-tuned to work with the Plantronics CS60 USB headset, which comes bundled with the software. The CS60 retails for UK£220 on its own in the UK, roughly the price of the entire Dragon package, including headset, here in NZ. The CS60 uses the DECT wireless technology used in many cordless phone models, and in fact the unit can be also used as a phone headset for Skypebased calls via the internet. With a range of 100 metres, there’s plenty of scope to unleash yourself from the desk while dictating letters or other documents, and in particular I find it gives you the freedom to attend to family or work interruptions without having to constantly take your headset off – a hazard of wired systems. As I pointed out in previous reviews, Dragon is incredibly responsive, so much so that I actually don’t talk fast enough for it. The cursor sits waiting for me, kind of like a puppy dog wagging its tail, trying to hurry its Master up, while I am still gathering my thoughts. If you were used to dictating into a tape machine or a digital recorder, the good news is that Dragon happily transcribes digital audio files. To test the theory, I’ve just recorded a oneminute dictation segment on my Treo 700 WX smart phone using a fantastic Windows Mobile product called mVoice. Transferring the file to the laptop, Dragon ripped the audio to text in around 30 seconds. Now, due to those computer meltdowns referred to earlier, I lost my previous Dragon user profile and am therefore in the state of getting the software used to my voice again. Even so, there were only minor corrections needed in the segment, and given an afternoon of solid practice I could, to paraphrase the late Sir Edmund Hillary, knock the blighter off. The more you use Dragon, the quicker the software gets used to your voice patterns, and the sooner you get error-free transcriptions. Again, highly recommended. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 69
feel life | sport
It’s an intriguing rugby rivalry no-one could’ve predicted. The fortunate incumbent against the younger pretender, sage Henry locking horns with ambitious Deans. Two coaching heavyweights thrust into opposing corners by fate, illfortune and politics. Sports columnist Chris Forster chronicles and analyses a clash of wills that’s sure to breathe new life into this year’s Tri Nations
Deans v Henry: the ultimate local derby The first blows in this sumptuous saga are about to be traded, as Robbie Deans leads the Crusaders into Super 14 battle for one last time. It’s his eighth and final year in charge of the most successful team in Super rugby history; six finals – four titles – and the evolution of a Canterbury rugby dynasty. It’s these credentials that got him oh-soclose to relieving Graham Henry of his All Blacks duties, before landing him the top job in Australia. But before he takes on the Wallabies coaching gig and the vengeful might of the New Zealand All Blacks, Deans has a chance to scan the talent and the opposition 70 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
in the Super 14. It’s a contractual arrangement with the NZRU which could play into the Australians’ hands, and backfire on the All Blacks when they defend their Tri Nations and Bledisloe Cup crowns in the winter. Deans will be coaching a cluster of Henry’s All Blacks, before the international window. He’ll also be scoping the Wallabies hopefuls and South African rivals at close hand. It must be a win-win situation for the 48 year old, who’s only bummer will be trying to swat aside the spying claims that are sure to dog the campaign. Another Crusaders title would be both awesome and ominous.
Henry and his two loyal servants, Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith, somehow survived the guillotine from their French folly. There was no doubting their credentials before the best laid plans unravelled at the World Cup, and THAT ignominious quarterfinal exit in Cardiff. The 61 year old Aucklander had a week to decide whether to run again, after the NZRU opened the coaching job to all-comers. He later explained how tough a decision it was, how deep the wounds from Millennium Stadium were. But in the end it was public support, and the incredible sympathy from rugby fans which swayed him back to have another crack.
NZPA / Tim Hales
From then on it was a fait accompli. The NZRU board was hardly going to throw out the coaching panel – and the rest, rehabilitation and reconditioning programme – they’d so vigorously supported. One Sunday paper later reported a sole dissenting voice, but that was never verified. Henry’s immaculate skills at dealing with and dealing to the media, sponsors and politicians – undoubtedly swayed the jury. His news conferences at the World Cup were full of quips and barbs, and the diplomacy of a top notch English civil servant. When the going got tough and terminal in Cardiff, he was humble and didn’t offer excuses. France played well, New Zealand didn’t.
A comprehensive review into the All Blacks ill-fated campaign is now in full swing. Auckland lawyer Mike Heron and SPARC guru, former Black Sox softball coach Don Tricker are charged with trawling through a truckload of material. They’re interviewing an incredible array of players in the business of rugby, starting with the NZRU board, senior executives, All Blacks management, coaches and players, through to Super 14 board members, the IRB and anyone else involved with the national obsession, including sponsors and the media. It was first promised during the wake at the Vale of Glamorgan, the day after New Zealand’s darkest World Cup night. It should be a weighty volume, with a near inevitable conclusion. You can bet your bottom dollar they’ll find resting players during the Super 14 left the players underdone, when the World Cup got serious. It also disenfranchised their Tri Nations partners, pay television and sponsors – and fired-up the South Africans into world-beating feats. This will also come out in the middle of the Super 14 campaign, ironically when so many All Blacks will be contributing to Robbie Deans cause at the Crusaders. Rivalries don’t get much more intense than Australia against New Zealand. The big guys across the ditch usually win the contests, then rub their smaller brothers’ noses in it. You can ask Kiwis league players and Black Caps cricketers about how that feels. Rugby has been the exception for most of the decade under Henry’s philosophy, John Mitchell’s bizarre regime and Wayne Smith’s stint in the top job. The All Blacks have had the wood on the Wallabies. Last year’s worrying 20-15 defeat in Melbourne was only Henry’s second in nine trans-Tasman encounters. The NZRU cabinet has the Bledisloe Cup under lock and key, alongside the Tri Nations trophy, and just along from the gap where the tiny but precious golden World Cup should’ve been. Staunch Cantabrian and former All Black Robbie Deans now has the job of reversing the air of superiority. He’s dealing with a few negatives of his own even before he unpacks his toothbrush after the Super 14. The Wallabies were also knocked out of the World Cup in unexpected fashion by the grinding England forwards in Marseilles, just a few hours before New Zealand’s world caved in.
TIMELINE OF A COACHING SAGA October 7 – Millenium Stadium, Cardiff. All Blacks lose World Cup quarterfinal to France 20-18. The Wallabies defeated hours earlier, 14-11 by England at Stade Velodrome in Marseilles. October 8 – Vale of Glamorgan, Cardiff. NZRU officials promise a full enquiry into their defeat at a news conference full of tearful All Blacks. October 10 – The New Zealand entourage leaves for home, and get a surprisingly warm welcome at Christchurch Airport. October 31 – Deans publicly declares his interest in the All Blacks job and is automatically promoted as red hot favourite by the media. November 15 – Henry forced to reapply for his job. Given one week to decide as the NZRU opens the country’s number one sports job to candidates Thursday, December 6 – Henry, Deans, outsiders Ian Foster and Colin Cooper interviewed for the All Blacks job at NZRU headquarters, in alphabetical order. Friday, December 7 – Henry reappointed – Deans misses out Tuesday, December 11 – Deans flies to Sydney to be interviewed by ARU execs Friday, December 14 – Deans appointed new Australian coach, ahead of five Australians including Blues coach David Nucifora. He is the first non-Australian to coach the Wallabies.
Their front row is considered the weakest of the major rugby playing nations, and with League and Aussie Rules so strong in the “lucky country”, his playing base and options are nowhere near the options open to Henry. His only other international coaching gig, as Mitchell’s assistant at the 2003 World Cup ended with a semi-final surrender to the Wallabies. But Deans looks up for the challenge. His public relations skills improved exponentially during the whole coaching brouhaha. His time has come along with a mighty battle with Graham Henry to decide who’s boss in this part of the world. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 71
feel life | health mature more slowly than girls is true when it comes to such thrilling neurological tasks as risk assessment, and predicting consequences. The brain isn’t “cooked” by adolescence, these skills are still developing through the early 20s, the age of college or – traditionally – of going off to war. Boys take more and stupider risks, are more likely to drink to excess at any age, more likely to ride motorbikes, more likely to be crushed by a tractor, more likely to be shot in a violent crime or a war. One may not be able to change much of that. Men do, of course, grow up, and start to drive carefully with children strapped safely into the back seat they have installed, and return from war or live in peacetime and grow tired of drinking til they pass out. But they continue to have significant health problems. Men do drink more, are more likely to binge drink, but as they grow older are more likely to drink every day. One thing we know about that slow but steady – but frequent – drinking is that it is as often as not habit as “a problem” and that it’s contagious. If you take a job in a boysclub environment where everyone drinks, you probably are expected to follow suit and probably will. Women can turn down food and drinks with impunity; no one is surprised to find a woman dieting, and no woman was ever passed over for promotion for being unable to hold her liquor. Not that a man working in such an environment has to feign being in a 12 step program or sign over his liver. His best bet, if he is older, is to blame the cardiologist and announce that past a certain distinguished age, one is so confident in themselves that they don’t need to imbibe. If he is young and keen to fit in, he might simply learn to pretend to drink, parking half-drunk drinks, nursing drinks, buying a round of gin and tonics, his own just with tonic. Or one could change the system, work elsewhere, play elsewhere, befriend others. Or embrace the theory that Men drink to manage their depression. It was once thought that women suffer depression more often than men, but given that men are more likely to commit suicide, there are many people of the view that women are simply more likely to seek treatment, not only from their doctors, but from help from friends and social networks. Rather like urinary continence, often strained in women by childbirth, this was thought to be a “woman’s problem”. Several recent studies
... no one needs more patronizing by health campaigns telling men to see their doctors.
Mo’ for the boys Claire Morrow argues in favour of men’s health campaigns It’s not too often someone comes up with a campaign to raise money and awareness that really sticks. Red Ribbon day for AIDS awareness, Daffodil Day for cancer, Pink Ribbon day…and pink phones and pink tim-tams and pink T-shirts and pink everything for breast cancer awareness. Not that breast cancer is not an important cause, but one is aware of how very effective the pink ribbon campaign has been, their PR people must be an incredible team. There’s Pink Ribbon day, of course, but the “pink” awareness continues all year, it’s practically iconic. It’s hard to think of a trademark associated with men’s health though until…Movember, when men are sponsored to grow moustaches over the month. The money raised by the Movember foundation then goes to support mens’ health, but the foundation has the loftier aim of raising awareness. Men have health issues. This should actually be obvious, but judg72 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
ing by the dominance of doctors waiting rooms by women, you wouldn’t notice. Of course, women have pregnancies, but these are not illnesses, even when you take that out, women are much more likely to see their doctor if pain persists. Men take the “she’ll be right” approach. She may be but, he, meanwhile, is learning to live with his symptoms rather than approach the dreaded men in white coats. Not that there ought to be equality in illness. Although there have been great affirmative action movements, such as the increase in women with heart disease and men with eating disorders, there are obvious (more than physical) differences between men and women across the lifespan. Little boys are more likely to be injured, because they are not usually temperamentally inclined to sit inside and play nicely. Teenage boys are often allowed more freedoms, and likely to take them anyway. The trope that boys
have shown that of a random group of men, four times as many men have continence issues than have ever mentioned this to a doctor. C’mon guys. When did you decide that you’d rather be miserably unhappy, contemplating suicide and living with an unreliable bladder than see a doctor? I’m inclined to wonder if the new generation of stylish, metrosexual lads will be different. They have manbags. They go to the gym. They might even go to the doctor. They might, indeed, be sissies, but they’ll be healthy sissies who live longer and better lives, sporting moustaches in November. Well, it’s not ideal, but then, dying of something that could have been cured is not ideal either, and no one needs more patronizing by health campaigns telling men to see their doctors. It’s a simple slogan: Don’t be a sissy, see your doctor.
of all the words that are hard to talk about
ESTROGEN LINKED TO ANOREXIA u A British study of Swedish twins found an overproduction of estrogen may affect the baby’s brain making the child more susceptible to anorexia. Marco Procopio, one of the study’s authors, said estrogen and other hormones “can have a powerful effect on the body and it would seem that there is an ‘overexpression’ of estrogen by the mother and the girl twin in some pregnancies.” While estrogen is needed in development of females, “it is possible that too much affects the structure of the brain.” Procopio said, in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry. Cancer-fighting agent found in beer u A key ingredient of beer may contain a cancer-fighting substance, a German study indicated. Studies show xanthohumol, found in hops, inhibits a family of enzymes that can trigger the cancer process, as well as help the body detoxify carcinogens, science newswire Ivanhoe reports. Preliminary studies at Oregon State University show that xanthohumol can kill breast, colon, ovarian and prostate cancers. Xanthohumol contains more powerful antioxidants than vitamin E and some studies indicate it helps reduce oxidation of bad cholesterol, the newswire reported, although it would take 60 glasses of brew to deliver a medicinal dose. TEA HEALTHIER THAN WATER? u Drinking three or more cups of tea a day is as good for you as drinking plenty of water and may even have extra health benefits say researchers. The work in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition dispels common belief that tea dehydrates. They found the water in tea replaces fluids adequately, but the extra antioxidants in tea pack a powerful health punch.
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ABORTION TRIPLES RISK u An abortion or miscarriage is a significant risk factor for a subsequent low birth weight baby or premature birth, U.S. researchers suggest. The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, finds U.S. women who have miscarried or had an abortion run three times the normal risk of later having a low birth weight baby and the risk increases further with increasing number of abortions.
feel life | alt.health
Last month, just before Christmas, my 3-year-old lost it in a toy store because I didn’t buy Max and Monty, an overpriced pair of dump trucks from the Thomas the Tank Engine series. “Sweetie, you don’t need Max and Monty,” I tried. “You have lots of Thomas trains.” When he threw himself on the floor and began screaming, “But I want it! I want it!” I began to worry. Yes, it was fairly typical – albeit ugly – behavior for a preschooler, but was I also witnessing an ominous sign of things to come? Social scientists – and plenty of parents – have labeled tweens and teens “the most brand-oriented and materialistic generation in history.” Parents who hope to teach their children how to live simply have tried turning off the TV or muting the ads. They’ve joined groups that advocate reducing TV commercialization. And they’ve modeled the behavior they want to see. But since it’s impossible to shield a child from their everyday environment and the influence of friends and peers, researchers who study materialism are now suggesting an additional antidote: work on raising your child’s self-worth and sense of accomplishment. Low self-esteem can create materialistic tendencies in children, according to Lan Nguyen Chaplin, an assistant marketing professor at the University of Illinois, who co-authored a new study that looked at how materialism develops in youngsters. Chaplin and her colleague found that between the ages of 8 to 13, a child’s level of self-esteem drops, in part because of physical changes. The self-conscious tweens turn to material goods to make themselves feel better. Then, surprisingly, as self-esteem rebounds by the end of high school, roughly between the ages of 16 and 18, the need for consumer goods goes down, according to the work published in the Journal of Consumer Research. If a child has a stronger sense of self during these down-swings, the researchers believe, they’re less likely to see material goods as the key to happiness and popularity. “It’s the strongest evidence to date that 74 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
Beating the Thomas tantrums Boosting children’s self-esteem curbs the ‘gimme’ attitude, writes Julie Deardorff self-esteem is actually a cause of materialism; all past evidence has been correlational and thus has left open the possibility that materialism causes low self-esteem, or there’s some third variable,” says Knox College psychology professor Tim Kasser, who has studied materialism and values for 20 years but was not involved in Chaplin’s study. What’s important, he says, is that their finding “opens the possibility of future interventions designed to focus on low self-esteem children and help them resist the problematic influences of consumer culture.” Experts say to raise a child’s self-esteem, key in on an interest – drawing, music, sports, fantasy play, debating – interact with him and give him positive, supportive messages. But don’t overdo it, either. “Don’t drown him in praise, and make sure your words are genuine and honest,” says Stanley Greenspan, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at George Washington University Medical School and author of “Great Kids”. “It should not be empty praise,” he added. “And you don’t have to say a word. It can be the smile on your face, the gleam in your eyes.”
Focusing on family activities rather than material things can also help, says Beth Casarjian, a mother of three and co-author of “Mommy Mantras”. “Kids will remember the time you made a [sandcastle] for them a lot longer than the plastic toy that gets broken or lost shortly after it’s opened,” she says. Also, give your child the opportunity to serve others in need. “Younger children can choose or wrap a gift for a child while adolescents might help in a food pantry,” Casarjian says. “Focusing on those with less gives a sense of perspective that can become part of a larger family dialogue of gratitude. Most important, helping others contributes to a child’s genuine sense of well-being and self-worth.” Though preschoolers won’t appreciate this, it might also help to remember Kasser’s 2002 study in the Journal of Happiness Studies that discovered what really makes for a “Merry Christmas.” He found that family and religion were the two factors most closely tied to holiday happiness. What caused the most dissatisfaction? Spending money and receiving gifts.
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taste life travel
The sigh of the Moor An ancient history: In Spain, modern meets antique, writes Jennifer Modenessi MADRID, Spain – It was while peering through the window of the train as it snaked its way through the dry and dusty mountains of Andalusia that I saw him. Dressed in a thick blue sweater and pants, and holding what looked like a staff, the elderly shepherd driving a flock of white sheep looked as if he’d stepped out of a 17th century Velazquez painting. Don’t get me wrong. My excitement at glimpsing this seemingly ancient inhabitant of Spain didn’t mean I had found something lacking in Madrid’s bustling energy or its sophisticated, sun-kissed people. Ever since I’d stepped off the plane two days earlier, I’d been dazzled by the modern-meets-antique 76 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
sensibilities of Spain’s capital city. I’d enjoyed the first afternoon’s stroll around the Baroque environs of the old city: sprawling parks sprinkled with weathered monuments and sunbathing Spaniards; Euro-chic shopping districts packed with teenagers and couples holding hands. There was the smoky but aromatic environs of crowded tapas bars with their surreal window displays of olive oil-slicked shrimp and plump hanging legs of Iberian ham. There was the royal grandeur of the Palacio Real, built by King Felipe V on the splinters of a Moorish fortress. But the fleeting image of the shepherd spoke to me, reminding me that there is
much more to Spain than the bustling metropolis I’d just left behind. Ahead of us were the majestic Sierra Nevada mountains with their olive orchards and crumbling castles. Beyond that lay Granada, the ancient Moorish city named after the pomegranate. Finally there was Salobrena, a Mediterranean village by the sea. Although I’ve done a bit of traveling before, this trip was radically different. First there was the fact that I was traveling with my mother and aunt. A born organizer, my aunt had arranged all our hotels and transportation before I’d even booked my plane ticket. She kept a belt-pack full of train schedules, confirma-
tion numbers and driving directions. My mother acted as our translator (my Spanish is nowhere near her fluency) and wore the biggest smile throughout the duration of our trip. I spent 24 hours a day with these women, save for a few hours when I wandered through Madrid’s art museums. I wouldn’t have done it any other way. No, I wasn’t traveling with a best friend or a lover or by myself with just a camera and backpack, but I couldn’t have chosen better companions. Outside of the continental United States, the Bahamas, Mexico and Hawaii, I haven’t done much traveling. But I know one thing for sure: A trip isn’t simply a vacation. Whether domestic or international, it’s an immersion in culture: a chance to relish its food (well, the vegetable-based dishes), see its art and lose myself in its history. Spain gave me ample opportunity to do that. My first taste of Spain’s complexity came while standing on the shiny cobblestones of Madrid’s central Plaza Mayor. It was hard to imagine that the sunny square, thick with Madrilenos lunching on regional delicacies such as black-eyed shrimp and fluffy potato omelets, was once the site of bullfights, Inquisition trials and royal pageants. The next day, we took a guided bus tour to Avila, a melancholy city an hour northwest of Madrid. Avila is famous for its tall medieval walls, which once protected its 11th century inhabitants from invading armies. You can walk the lonely cobblestone streets toward the Convento de Santa Teresa and stare at the relic of the mystic saint’s finger resting in a tiny flower-filled vitrine. The nearby city of Segovia, part of the daylong Pullman tour, dazzles with its immense aqueducts and imposing fairy-tale castle. During our visit in mid-September, the city was celebrating its Roman heritage with Romana Segovia, a traditional arts-and-crafts festival and living history demonstration.
“You can walk the lonely cobblestone streets toward the Convento de Santa Teresa and stare at the relic of the mystic saint’s finger resting in a tiny flower-filled vitrine.
It was while leaving Segovia, my eyes drinking in the parched brown countryside and thick patches of cactus dotting the rocky terrain, that I started to think about “duende,” the Spanish concept of longing, sorrow and hardiness that permeates everything from dancing to literature to song. If any landscape could inspire that, this was it. What a surprise then, to descend the Sierra Nevadas in our rental car the following day and drive into a tropical paradise. A lush greenery of sugar cane, custard apple and banana trees lies at the foot of Salobrena, the Mediterranean village and main destination of our trip. My aunt’s friends were already there in rented villas, ready to celebrate the wedding of their son and his fiancee. The Martinez couple, David and Maria Hendrickson, had spied the white-washed coastal hamlet on the Internet and chosen it as the site for their nuptials. They’d picked the intimate (by early Spanish Catholicism’s Baroque standards) 16th century church of Nuestra Senora del Rosario, a former mosque sitting in the shadow of a windINVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 77
swept Moorish castle, for the ceremony. Not only do I have the bride and groom to thank for inviting me to their simple, elegant and deeply romantic ceremony, but I’m grateful for the pre-wedding-day trip from Salobrena to the Alhambra, the architectural marvel and “jewel of Granada,” which they organized for their entire 17-person wedding party and guests. Walking up the red dirt pathway from the main entrance gives you little indica-
tion of the splendors that lie deep within the Alhambra, the palatial 9th century fortress sitting on a Granada mountaintop. There are crenellated ceilings and woodwork as thick and frosty as wedding cakes. Myrtle and jasmine-ringed reflecting pools mirror the lines and angles of patios and arches. Walking the grounds and making your way into the Nasrid and Comares palace interiors, you start to wonder if there’s an end to the madness.
Apparently not. Burdened by the beauty of their meeting rooms and gleaming palaces, the Alhambra’s princely builders created an adjacent summer retreat known as “Generalife,” complete with vegetable patches and breathtaking landscaped gardens. Throughout the Alhambra, the sound of water trickles in countless fountains and cisterns, flowing down the rails of a stairway known as the “escalera de agua.” Even the Moorish baths, chambers once filled with fragrant steam and the sultan’s favorite royal bathers, retain vestiges of their former beauty. Shafts of light float down eerily from the stars cut into the vaulted stone ceilings. Trudging back up the steps into the bridal party’s rented micro-bus, I felt overwhelmed by the amount of beauty I’d just seen. It wasn’t only the views that enthralled me but the whole experience – the sublime melding of sight, sound and smell. I had stepped back in time and gotten a taste of ancient Spain. I’d found exactly what I’d been looking for.
unconventional royal family portrait “Las Meninas,” a selection of Hieronymous Bosch’s altar pieces and hundreds of Francisco de Goya’s paintings and drawings. Entry is US$9. Paseo del Prado s/n, Retiro, Madrid. 00-34-91-330-2800, www. museodelprado.es. Tablao Torres Bermejas, Madrid. Flamenco legends Paco de Lucia and Cameron de Las Islas got their starts in Madrid’s Tablao Torres Bermejas. Today, the venerable club hosts nightly shows full of passionate dancers, emotive cantaores and skilled guitaristas in its Moorish-tiled dining room. Order paella from the dinner menu, but remember that this generous dish (like most Spanish cuisine) is meant to be shared. Reservations recommended. Open 9:30 p.m.-2 a.m. nightly. Mesoneros Romanos, 11, 28013, Madrid. 00-34-91-532-3322, www.torresbermejas.com. Cathedral, Capilla Real, and Alcaiceria, Granada. Take a day to explore Granada’s immense Cathedral followed by a visit to the Royal Chapel where the remains of Queen Isabella, King Ferdinand, daughter Joanna and son-in-law Felipe lie underneath ornate marble mausoleums in tiny lead coffins. Exit the Capilla and begin exploring the narrow twisting alleys of
the Alcaiceria, once the Moorish silk bazaar, now a treasure trove of North African imports and tourist shops. Capilla Real: US$4. Gran Via, Granada. 00-34-95822-7848. www.capillarealgranada.com; Cathedral: Gran Villa de Colon, US$4. Centro de Interpretacion de Sacromonte, Granada. These hillside caves housed Muslims, Jews and gypsies from the 16th century straight into the 1960s. No longer inhabited, the whitewashed dwellings have become an outdoor museum where visitors can wander in and out of a bedroom, kitchen, art studio and weaving room, all surrounded by a wildly fragrant herb garden. Entry is US$6. C/ Barranco de los Negros, s/n 18010, Granada. 00-34-95-821-5120, www. sacromontegranada.com. WHERE TO EAT u Mirador Del Cerro Gordo, Malaga. Situated on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean, chef Kevin and hostess Alix preside over a former rural dwelling and Swedish restaurant, serving Spanish dishes infused with French, English and Southeast Asian cuisine. Do not leave without sampling the house sangria. Vegetarian-friendly. Carretera (highway, abbreviated as Crta. on some maps) vieja de Malaga. 00-34-95-8349099, http://miradorcerrogordo.com.
IF YOU GO WHERE TO STAY u For affordability and comfort, the family-owned Hotel Carlos V in Madrid can’t be beat. It offers clean, cozy rooms and a delicious breakfast buffet in the heart of Old Madrid. Rates start at US$109 per room. Reservations: 00-3491-531-4100. www.hotelcarlosv.com. Looking for luxury? The sumptuous Westin Palace Madrid faces the Museo del Prado and boasts a grand dining room complete with an Art Nouveau glass cupola. Rates start at US$430 per room. Reservations: 00-34-91-360-8000, www. westinpalacemadrid.com Best Western Hotel Dauro II, Granda is a simple but elegant three-star hotel within walking distance of Granada’s Cathedral, Capilla Real and the Alhambra/ Generalife. Rates start at US$95 per room. Reservations: 00-34-95-822-1581, www.bestwesterndauro2.com. WHAT TO DO u Museo del Prado, Madrid. This is one of three museums that make up Spain’s “Golden Triangle of Art” (The others are the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, which houses Picasso’s anti-war masterpiece “Guernica”; and El Museo de Arte Thyssen-Bornemisza. All are within walking distance of one another). Take a full day to digest the massive collection, which includes Velazquez’s
78 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
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taste life food is that they are incredibly low-maintenance pets. A few feed pellets a day, an occasional treat of frozen bloodworms, the occasional water change, and you’ve got a pair of delightful, beautiful creatures who combine grace with slapstick comedy. Even my offspring, who a few months ago thought nothing could top my acquisition of a big flat-panel LCD television have shifted their affections to the fish, and can happily watch them for minutes at a time, giving play-by-play reports of their antics, before returning to worship at the altar of Nick Jr. Of course, I’m not sure if that’s because the fish are legitimately more entertaining or simply because they are higher definition with a better refresh rate. In any case, it got me thinking that in these summer months, when we simply cannot be fagged to think about anything too hot or bothersome in the kitchen, it James Morrow discovers he can’t is the simple pleasures ‘segue’, but he can whip up a mean thatAndcount. if it is not too awkdish of cold broth ward a segue, one of the greatest simple pleasures of the kitchen in these It’s a long and incredibly uninteresting times is chilled soup. story – even to me – but the upshot of it is Of course, chilled soups such as gazthis: I am now the proud owner of a pair pacho and vichyssoise were very much of Siamese fighting fish. One red, one blue in vogue during the 1970s and ‘80s. For a (and in true Antipodean fashion they are time it became a staple joke of American named “Bluey” and “Red” respectively), sit-coms, especially those which had bien the pair spend their days alternately float- pensant pretensions, to poke fun at the poling about without a care in the world and troons by serving them chilled soup, only suddenly remembering that their sole pur- to have them ask the waiter to take it back pose on this planet is to break through the and heat it up. thick glass that bisects their tank and kill (In this vein, one of the more distressing their neighbour. These amusing displays of culinary experiences of my life took place puffed-up fins and tails are reminiscent of when I ordered steak tartare at a once-venerthe testosterone-soaked gusto of Anthony able French bistro in Manhattan’s theatre disMundine at a weigh-in, say, or an Irish back- trict which has lately become beloved of the packer after 10 AM. tour bus matinee set and was asked to confirm But the wonderful thing about these fish that I understood that the dish in question did
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indeed come forth cold and raw). While chilled soups often – indeed more often than not – require the application of heat at some stage in their preparation, they are far more welcome on a hot late summer’s day than any bowl of piping hot chowder. Nor does flavour have to be sacrificed by culinary cool hunters. As with white wine, the concomitant chill has the potential to hide a multitude of sins, but it can also reveal a host of glories. No less a culinary giant than Anthony Bourdain credits a bowl of vichyssoise, taken at age 9 on a transAtlantic passage on the Queen Mary, as the catalyst for his life-long love of cooking. Of course, in his memoirs he also credits the gross-out factor associated with eating raw oysters at around the same age as being similarly inspirational. Coming from a man whose most recent television series seemed to involve the consumption of the fried, baked or pickled genitalia of one or another hapless and obscure member of God’s creation at least once per episode, I think I know which story I’m more likely to believe. Chilled soups, of course, have a relatively recent history, given the difficulties involved in refrigeration through human history in places where a cold dish might actually be welcome. Had the Norwegians been attempting to dazzle palates for a millennium with a chilled lutefisk bisque, it would still be little more than an unfortunate footnote to culinary history. Of all the chilled soups, vichyssoise – a cold concoction of potatoes and leeks – is perhaps most famous, and while it is subject to as many creation stories as the Bloody Mary, none reliably dates any further back than 1910, when (according to the delightful food historian Molly O’Neill) French émigré Louis Diat is said to have invented the stuff, possibly due to an error involving timing and the reheating of what was supposed to be a hot dish. As another historical footnote, and as further proof of Ecclesiastes’ salutary and humbling advice that there is no new thing under the sun, the attempt to re-brand “French Fries” in the US as “Freedom Fries” due to Parisian intransigence over the Iraq War was but an echo of an earlier World War II effort to dump the vichyssoise name – redolent as it was of the collaborationist government based in Vichy – for the somewhat more awkward “Creme Gauloise Glacee”. But even if there is nothing new, there is still nothing better than a bowl of cold soup, when under the sun.
Gazpacho There are few better and easier ways to take advantage of the abundance of late-summer tomatoes than with this classic cold Spanish soup. You’ll need 1kg ripe Tomatoes, skinned 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped 75ml virgin olive oil 25ml sherry vinegar To serve extra virgin olive oil croutons Serrano ham, diced Cucumber, diced hard boiled Eggs, peeled and chopped Method 1. Put the tomatoes and garlic into a food processor and blend. With the engine running, slowly drizzle the olive oil down the funnel. 2. Add vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Chill in the fridge for 2 hours. 3. To serve: ladle the soup into 4 bowls, drizzle over a little olive oil and allow guests to add their own croutons, chopped ham, cucumber and eggs.
Vichyssoise Julia Child called this soup “the mother of them all”, and it is fitting to use her recipe here. You’ll need 4 cups sliced leeks, white part only 4 cups diced potatoes, old or baking potatoes recommended 6 to 7 cups water 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt or to taste 1/2 cup or more sour cream, heavy cream, or crème fraîche, optional 1 Tablespoon fresh chives or parsley, minced Method Bring the leeks, potatoes and water to the boil in the saucepan. Salt lightly, cover partially, and simmer 20-30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Purée the soup if you wish. Taste, and correct seasoning. After chilling the soup, you may wish to stir in a little more cream. Taste carefully INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 81
touch life > drive
Along came a Spider Miss Muffet would have welcomed one of these babies in her Christmas stocking
There’s nothing quite like the guttural growl of a fine Italian, or a Ferrari for that matter. Back in the old days of Muldoon’s New Zealand you could almost count on one finger the number of prancing horses gracing our roads. Now, thanks to import and exchange deregulations, you can have a top of the line Ferrari for less than the price of a three bedroom brick and tile in Massey or Maori Hill. On the other hand, you’d then be the flashest homeless person on the streets. With summer in full swing, those who couldn’t afford to buy a car with a decent roof are making the most of their convertibles, while the rest of us simply switch up the air-con. A select
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few, however, are enjoying the trappings of supercars like the Ferrari 430 Spider. The F430 Spider joins the F430 as the latest addition to the new generation of Ferrari V8-engined sports cars. The Spider boasts all of the F430’s stunning technology, itself the product of a close working relationship with Ferrari’s Gestione Sportiva F1 racing division. The F430 Spider’s all aluminium bodywork has also been carefully strengthened as has its chassis to guarantee both safety and the structural rigidity demanded by a car as high performance as this.
Two very robust steel roll-bars are integrated into the windshield structure to guarantee maximum occupant protection. The electric hood is fully automatic and fold away under its own flush-fitting tonneau cover, allowing Ferrari’s engineers to carefully hone the aerodynamics of the car with the hood down. Styling
The F430’s design, created by Pininfarina in collaboration with Frank Stephenson, is inspired by the car’s exceptional engineering. The aggression and performance of the F430’s design has been effortlessly transferred to the Spider so that the new model exudes all of the breathtaking elegance typical of a Ferrari drop-top. In design terms, this means that the new Spider has an even stronger personality and more muscu4512 mm lar stance, both of which strongly hint at its pow1923 mm erful engineering and blistering performance. 1234 mm Their shape was inspired by the Ferrari 156 F1 2600 mm that Phil Hill drove to his F1 World Championship 1669 mm title in 1961. 1616 mm
The F430 Spider is the only uncompromising 90˚ V8 mid-engine convertible to boast a compact, fully 3.62 x 3.19in 92 x 81 mm automatic electric hood that allows the engine to 32.9cu in 538.5 cc be seen at all times. 262.9cu in 4308 cc This stylistic flourish comes courtesy of a soft 11.3:1 top system designed to take up very little space 360.3 kW (490 bhp) @8500 rpm indeed. The fully-lined electric hood is com465 Nm (343 lbft) @5250 rpm pletely automatic, and is opened and closed by seven electrohydraulic actuators. The hood folds over 193 mph 305 kmh over twice before disappearing completely into a 4.1 s well just ahead of the engine compartment. Opening and closing the F430 Spider’s hood takes 20 seconds from start to finish. The driver is alerted that the movement is complete by an audio signal.
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS Dimensions and Weight Overall length
Type Stroke Unit displacement Total displacement Compression ratio Maximum power Maximum torque Performance Maximum speed 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph)
The F430 Spider Hood
The F430 Spider is powered by the new 90 degree V8 featuring Ferrari’s traditionally uncompromising design approach with a flat-plane crank (180 degrees between throws). The improvement in terms of performance, weight and reduction of overall dimensions is yet another result of Ferrari applying its wealth to F1 experience to its road cars: + 25% (465 Nm at 5,250 rpm, 80% of which is already available at 3,500 rpm) and powered by 23% (490 hp/360 kW @ 8,500 rpm). E-Diff/ Electronic Differential
The E-Diff or electronic differential, the real new feature on F430, is now standard equipment on the Spider. On the track, the E-Diff guarantees maximum grip out of bends, eliminating wheel spin. On the road it is a formidable technological refinement that improves roadholding. For the driver, the E-Diff increases handling balance and grip (which noticeably improves acceleration), improves roadholding on the limit and also guarantees even better steering feel.
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Manettino commutator switch and Vehicle Set-up
Just like the formula 1, the F430 Spider driver can change various areas of the set-up of his car using a single selector set on the steering wheel. The Manettino, as it is called by Scuderia Ferrari drivers, is a commutator switch has been adopted directly from racing, where total commitment to driving requires maximum efficiency and speed in controlling the car’s various functions. The settings available to the driver have been concentrated in five different strategies. u ICE: performance is significantly restricted for maximum stability – indispensable for driving in very slippery conditions. u LOW GRIP: this position ensures stability both on dry and wet surfaces. It is therefore recommended for surfaces with poor grip (rain), gritty roads or particularly broken or undulating blacktop. u SPORT: this is the standard setting that strikes the best balance between stability and performance. This position is ideal for the open road. u RACE: this setting must be used only on the race track. Gear changing is even faster to minimise gear shifting times. u CST: activates or deactivates the stability and traction control. With the manettino set to off, the driver has full control over the car’s reactions. Chassis
The chassis of the F430 Spider fully exploits cutting-edge aluminium technology that allows considerable structural stiffness, excellent driver and passenger protection with minimal weight. 84 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
To offset the loss of the roof, the Spider’s chassis has been significantly reinforced. The sill members have been strengthened with extremely light, rigid aluminium foam inserts where they connect to the rear B-pillar chassis members. Similarly, at the front the sill members are strengthened by a robust connection with the A-pillars which include the Ferraripatented integral door mounting points and the base of the windscreen surround. The reinforced door structure, inner wheel arches and chassis, the positioning of the collapsible arm rest and a more enveloping seat shape provide excellent protection, as emerged from the very high scores achieved in side impact tests. Aerodynamics
Traditionally, Ferrari has clothed its mechanical package in forms that are dictated by the need for maximum aerodynamic efficiency. In the case of the F430 Spider, just like the Coupe, this principle has been developed to the extreme, employing exactly the same engineering approach to computer development models and wind tunnel testing as used by the F1 team. Particular attention was focused on studying the air flows in the cockpit to ensure that the F430 Spider would be as comfortable for occupants with its hood down as up. Experimental techniques and fluid-dynamic calculations were used to establish the distribution of the loads and velocities on the occupants. This in turn led to the definition of the dimensions and position of the wind deflector to ensure optimal comfort in terms of wind and noise.
Kids in crash test programme Ford has developed a crash test to focus on children, Rick Popely reports CHICAGO – It takes a pretty smart dummy to find new ways to prevent injuries in accidents. And Ford Motor has taken another step in that direction with an insert to measure abdominal injuries in a crash-test dummy representing a 6-year-old. It developed the silicone shell about the size and shape of a 6-year-old’s abdomen to study the effects of seat belts in auto accidents. “The major focus (of crash tests) has always been on head and chest injuries,” Ford safety engineer Steve Rouhana says. “We really didn’t have the technology before to accurately measure abdominal response.” But more children who are too large for child-safety seats but too small to be adequately served by adult seat belts have been suffering such injuries in crashes. The silicone shell can measure the penetration of seat belts into a youngster’s abdomen. With those test results and data from actual crashes, Ford is looking to improve seat-belt designs for children not restrained in booster seats, which are recommended until age 8. To speed the research, Rouhana says Ford will offer the technology to other automak-
ers early in 2008 through the Society of Automotive Engineers. Safety is one area in which automakers share technology rather than using it to maintain a competitive advantage. In a recent crash-test collaboration, several automakers developed a side-impact dummy that helped them meet stricter federal standards. Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Honda, Nissan and others also are part of a consortium, formed in 2006, to create computer models of humans for use in virtual crash tests to speed development of safety features. The first six human models are due in 2011, with the goal of preventing such injuries as bruised kidneys when there is no apparent impact with the interior of the car. “The goal is to create a virtual human so you can measure tissue-level injuries, like a torn aorta, which you can’t tell from a regular crash-test dummy,” GM spokesman Alan Adler says. Even as automakers develop digital humans for virtual crash tests, dummies should still have jobs for the foreseeable future. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which enforces safety regu-
lations, measures injuries recorded on dummies in crash tests, so automakers also need the dummies to ensure passing grades so their vehicles can go into production. “We do lots of development with virtual tests but, ultimately, we have to have a physical test. We don’t want to be surprised when NHTSA does its test,” Ford’s Rouhana says. The new dummies and virtual people are a far cry from early dummies, which came into wide use in the 1970s. The primitive devices that represented an average-size male (about 5 feet 6 inches, 170 pounds) could measure mainly head and chest injuries. Now, NHTSA uses a family of dummies that includes a 6-month-old, a 6-year-old, a small adult woman (about 5 feet tall, 108 pounds), a pregnant woman and a large man (6 foot 2 inches tall, 225 pounds). The dummies are designed for specific tests, such as front or side impact or whiplash, and can measure injuries to the neck, ribs, hips and internal organs. “We need the precision we know we can get from using dummies in tests that can produce consistent results,” says NHTSA spokesman Rae Tyson. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 85
touch life > toybox Epson’s HD EMP-TW2000 The Epson TW2000 introduces Epson’s innovative DeepBlack technology which produces the ultimate deep, rich blacks in smoothly flowing images from Epson’s three new D7 high definition Crystal Clear Fine LCD panels. Epson’s new D7 LCD panel has a 20% improvement in aperture ratio that improves light transmission and reduces even further the microscopic gap between pixels, increasing brightness and contrast at the viewing screen. With a 12-bit LCD driver capable of controlling 68.7 billion colours to boost accuracy in reproducing subtle differences in colour and tonal gradation, the D7 LCD panels deliver vivid, smoothly flowing images from movies and games alike. 3LCD projectors operate at lower lamp temperatures than other projection systems of similar brightness, allowing for quick start up and shut down and most importantly, making the projector quieter with less fan noise. For more details visit www.epson.co.nz
NIKON COOLPIX L14 This compact, user-friendly camera combine high performance and easy operation with the latest in imaging technology at affordable prices. The L14 will be able to capture an astounding 1,000 shots on a single pair of AA batteries, the most of any camera in its class. With the COOLPIX L14, users of any experience level can capture great images without having to master complicated features or controls. With an enhanced face recognition function, L14 is able to recognize five separate faces, faster and more efficiently than ever before. Additionally, the L14 incorporates the new EXPEED advanced image processing system for enhanced speed and brilliant color reproduction. The seven megapixel L14 allows for high-quality prints in a variety of sizes and are easily connected to compatible printers via a PictBridge port for on-thespot printing without a computer. www. nikon.com
DENON’s S-32 TABLETOP MUSIC SYSTEM The S-32 tabletop music system can stream music either via Ethernet or wirelessly from Internet radio sources and other Network attached storage devices, including PC or Mac computers on the network. The S-32 will decode MP3, WMA, AAC, and WAV formats as well as FLAC encoded files and will even support the rhapsody music service. The in-built speakers with supporting amplification offers sound quality comparable to Denon’s separate component systems. Similarly, the S-32 features Audyssey Dynamic EQ, Spatial EQ and Bass XT that offer a range of sound enhancing technologies that tailor the sound to fit your own room acoustics or individual listening requirements. It also offers a mono output for the use with a separate subwoofer if ever required. RRP of A$999, the S-32 is available from selected Denon retailers. For further information visit www.audioproducts.com.au.
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Canon VIXIA HF10 With the light, compact Canon VIXIA HF10, you can have stunning AVCHD (Advanced Video Codec High Definition) format recording with the ease and numerous benefits of Flash Memory. It’s used in some of the world’s most innovative electronic products such as laptop computers, MP3 players, PDAs and cell phones. Canon offers the best in Flash Memory with Dual Flash Memory – record to both the camcorder’s 16 GB internal memory and a removable SDHC card, extending your available recording space and offering added flexibility in file transfer and playback. Add to that the VIXIA HF10’s Canon Exclusive features such as our own 3.3 Megapixel Full HD CMOS sensor and advanced DIGIC DV II Image Processor, SuperRange Optical Image Stabilization, Instant Auto Focus, our 2.7” Widescreen Multi-Angle Vivid LCD and the Genuine Canon 12x HD video zoom lens and you have a Flash Memory camcorder that’s hard to beat and unmistakably Canon. www. canon.co.uk
Nokia 8800 Arte The Nokia 8800 Arte makes its own unique statement in stylish black. Arte translates as art. In creating the Nokia 8800 Arte, Nokia celebrates the art of individuality by way of natural light and the intricate ways in which it reflects, flickers and glows. Just two gentle taps are all it takes to illuminate the clock screen, while living wallpapers move organically throughout the day to give unique on-screen decoration. In addition to the 3G capabilities and 3.2 megapixel auto focus camera, the Nokia 8800 Arte boasts a stunning OLED display and 1 GB built-in memory space. A unique silencing mechanism is activated when the phone is turned over, screen-side down. Visit www.nokia.com
ESET Smart Security Security vendor ESET is attacking threats on all fronts, integrating NOD32 Antivirus with antispyware, antispam and firewall protection in a new single solution, called ESET Smart Security. Built on ESET’s award-winning advanced heuristic ThreatSense detection system and the ESET NOD32 scanning engine, Geoff Cossey, managing director of ESET’s New Zealand distributor, Chillisoft, says tight integration allows each module to share information with the other to evaluate and classify every threat appropriately. “Threats no longer appear in the form of pure viruses or spam or phishing. They now come as blended threats and demand an integrated response that harvests intelligence from individual security features,” he says. ESET’s ThreatSense technology provides the industry’s highest level of accuracy. It uses NOD32’s antivirus technology that has not missed an in-thewild-virus in Virus Bulletin VB 100 testing over the past nine years. It has also received more Advanced+ awards from AV-Comparatives.org for proactive protection than any other product. ESET Smart Security is available from http://www.nod32.co.nz or one of 600 NZ resellers. The suggested retail price for ESET Smart Security is $93.00 for individual users and includes a one-year subscription to all product updates and new versions. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 87
see life / pages
Putting us in the picture Michael Morrissey ruminates on art, spies and the Man-Booker prizewinner THE BIG PICTURE: A History of New Zealand Art By Hamish Keith Godwit, $49.99 Hamish Keith has been professionally involved with art since 1958 – some fifty years – so in terms of experience he is well qualified to make the just concluded excellent TV series on the history of New Zealand art of which this is the book version. Keith divides the history of our art into six broad chapters. One of his central ideas – which was new to me and which I find compellingly persuasive – is that New Zealand’s decision not to join the Australian federation (“Tasman World” – a term coined by historian Belich) reinforced our sense of isolation. At the same time, we began to strengthen our ties with “mother” England by making her our major export market and also crucially they became the dominant source for our art purchases and for a negative rating of our painting abilities. Hence, as chapter four espouses, we reinvented distance. For, as Keith reminds us, prior to this period of cultural cringe we had flourishing art galleries and art schools. Colin McCahon, now regarded as the dominant figure of New Zealand painting, was a key factor in us regaining our sense of artistic identity. Indeed, Keith reports that when he showed a group of New York art curators McCahon’s, “King of the Jews” they were incredulous that what looked like pop art could have flourished in New Zealand as early as 1947. Explanation? McCahon was looking at Rinso packet advertisements! Apart from McCahon, Keith sees Toss Woollaston, Rita Angus, 88 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
Len Lye and Pat Hanly as our most crucial figures – though dozens more receive credit and praise like, for instance, William Hodges whom Keith credits with inventing a new style of brushwork later to be taken up by Constable. I myself (no art critic) respond much more to Lye’s ingenious vibrant sculpture (and wish that his grander pieces could have been realised) than to McCahon’s landscapes. In Keith’s view, biculturalism is a meaningless term which divides rather than integrates. He reminds us that the carved Maori houses were a nineteenth century invention. And as he sardonically observes, putting ethnic art in museums is a favourite trick of colonisers – the effect of which can be to freeze it. And ironically something like a freeze – though that was not the original intention – occurred in the wake of Apirana Ngata’s school of carving initiated in the 1920s. Just as Frances Hodgkins and Len Lye were New Zealand presences on the world stage, the 1984 touring of Te Maori, as living works of art – not museum artefacts – brought Maori art to the wider world. Keith concludes his excellent survey with two contemporary artists, pakeha Bill Hammond and Maori Shane Cotton. In a spirit of temerity, I was surprised by the absence of artists like Jacqui Fahey and Brent Wong and speculate that they do not neatly fit into Keith’s largely modernist-centred history which might be regarded by some as a predominantly male affair. More popular artists like Dean Buchanan, Stanley Palmer and Peter Siddell also do not figure. I also cannot bring myself to agree with Keith’s early statement that “there is nothing mysterious or complicated about art.” I believe art to be deeply mysterious and often complex. And Keith’s overview has given us a look into that mystery and that complexity – and its diversity.
SPIES AND REVOLUTIONARIES : A History of New Zealand Subversion By Graeme Hunt Reed, $30 I recently reviewed James McNeish’s The Sixth Man, a biography of the brilliant linguist and diplomat Paddy Costello which throws considerable doubt on the notion that Costello was a Soviet agent. I was fairly convinced. Now I’ve just read Hunt’s account and I’m (almost) persuaded the other way. In the classic detective formula, Costello had the motive, the means and the opportunity though whether he did actually spy is currently a matter of hot debate between these two capable writers. Perhaps one day we will know for certain, perhaps not. Am I that shallow, fickle and impressionable? Or it just that, most of the time, I suspect that most us tend to believe what we are reading unless it contradicts our basic beliefs or contradicts incontrovertible face. We tend – especially in a western democracy – to trust print which means God save us when we read things on the Internet. There’s another issue – McNeish is left wing and Hunt is right wing. McNeish is, moreover, the type of left winger who wishes to seek justice and defend the wronged – particularly if they’re left wing. In New Zealand few left wingers – almost none nowadays – are communist though there would have been a few more skulking about in Costello’s day. Hunt does not hide his right wing inclinations and the right wing tends to find communists, subversives under numerous beds. So not to hide my own bias, I’ll admit to having a university left wing background which includes despising and hating communism but has moved to a more centralist position in the light of recent excessive political correctness. Your true dyed in the wool communist stays communist no matter what but there are interesting swings and roundabouts. Historian Dick Scott joined the party in the 1940s but left in 1952; his half namesake Sid Scott was expelled after his opposition to the Hungarian invasion. Finton Patrick Walsh was a founder member of the New Zealand communist party then became anti-communist in the 1940s. Membership has never been more than in the
modest hundreds and in 1926 was just 78 members. The left picture is/was always complex – there are committed communists such as Dick Griffin or Bill Anderson, left wing sympathisers like Professor Airey, suspect spies, ex-communists, expelled communists, militant unionists, anarchosyndicalists, anti-conscriptionists, pro-conscriptionists, varieties of Socialists plus what Hunt calls the curious left such as Jim Bertram and Geoffrey Cox as well as rank and file members of the Labour Party most of whom are anti-communist. All of these people are certainly left wing but not all could be considered subversives – though from a right wing perspective they might all be suspect. Because spies are of necessity covert rather than overt, Hunt has had to frequently qualify his assessments, e.g., Dick Griffin “was almost certainly a communist agent”; Ian Milner “was probably a secret member of the university branch of the communist party” and so forth. The left seems always more colourful than the right. And though committed communists and militant unionists are often a boring lot, an exception was Moses Baritz, a visiting Marxian socialist who was a journalist, music critic (a Wagner expert) and the world’s first disc jockey. He was deported from New Zealand in 1920. Hunt’s coverage is very thorough and many of these left wing high flyers’ names were new to me. An early chapter on the French, Russian and Fenians is of particular fascination. In short, Hunt’s compilation has expanded my knowledge of the left in all shades from Soviet scarlet to China red to pale pink. Despite my left wing leaning in some matters, I have to agree with Hunt’s comment that communism “represents oppression, deceit, destruction and lies and the ruination of many economies”. Surprisingly, Hunt omitted to mention mass murder. THE NEW ZEALAND BOOK OF LISTS Edited by John McCrystal & Steven Barnett Random House, $29.99 I love books like this and to prove my love I edited one myself back in the 90s called New Zealand’s Top 10. It did reasonably well saleswise and I’m confident this one will also perform well. There’s a couple of small overlaps but in the main this is an original compilation, with plenty of humour. I believe there is a list lover in every human being struggling to burst free. My own addiction began at age eight when I was in a fearful row over which was the largest ship in the world. There were no list books then (how deprived we were) and I had to wait for the Guinness Book of Records to reveal that I had been backing the wrong ship. This latest list book is divided into nine chapters ranging from Geographical through Crime and Mystery, Books Film and Music, Sex Death and Money, and concluding with a Numbers chapter. Perhaps the single most compendious is 24 Reasons to Love New Zealand Music which re-runs the careers of such luminaries as Johnny Devlin (whose shirts were specially sewn to rip off easily when female fans grabbed them); the bizarre rise and fall of the composer of “How Bizarre” – our biggest selling song; and notes that Dave Dobbyn’s Loyal has been democratically voted the greatest song ever. Not to be missed is a list of some of Chris Knox’s weird song titles such as Lament of the Gastropod, Fatty Fowl in Gravy Stew, God Sez No to Cosmetic Surgery. With titles like these, their musical qualities become (almost) secondary. And how can an Aucklander not relish knowing that there were 2632 earthquakes in Wellington in just nine years? List books provide an incidental education. Among things I learned INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 89
were that 10,000 French were killed at Gallipoli; that up to 60 French whaling ships used to frequent New Zealand waters; that we eat 360 million Weet-Bix a year; that 15,000 South Koreans settled here in the last decade but only 8 people arrived from North Korea. Did you know, fascinated reader, that 13 famous people were born in Taumaranui and I’ve only heard of three of them? This ideal beach browse laments the passing of the glass milk bottle and the disappearance of jug ears. My theory – for what it’s worth – is they get rubbed off in footie scrums. This would make an ideal birthday present for that curious child and just maybe that occasional adult who likes odd, little known yet compelling facts. EXIT GHOST By Philip Roth Jonathan Cape, $54.99
Zuckerman is Roth in disguise then Roth is hard on himself – for Zuckerman is not the most attractive of human beings. Some of his venom towards Kilimanjaro makes one wince. Though this is a book about its characters, it is also an impassioned examination of the morality of biography and literature. This is an enjoyable but at times perturbing read – though that could be said of all of Roth’s novels. The implication of the title is that we may – after nine novels – have seen the end of Zuckerman, novelist and Roth masque – but watch this space. THE GATHERING By Anne Enright Jonathan Cape, $34.99
Speculation as to which of the six short-listed novels would win the Man-Booker came to an end late last year ago when the winThe aging Jewish maestro has yet another novel out – and ner was announced. Not as the bookies and the punters expected surprise (not really), it features Roth’s very own alter ego, literary either Mr Pip by our much gifted Lloyd Jones or On Chesil Beach impersonation and bete noire rolled into one – Nathan Zuckerman. by the equally if not more so Ian McEwan but the rank outsider, Zuckerman is about the same age as Roth, is a Jewish novelist and The Gathering, by relatively little known Irish writer Anne Enright. has an eye for the ladies. So what else is in common? Did the committee make the right decision? Zuckerman, I suspect, is more socially isolated than Roth – he In an unpublished letter to the NZ Listener, I speculated that the lives alone, doesn’t read the newspapers or watch TV – and resides judges may have become so irritated at the unprecedented amount far from the madding crowd of New York. When he returns to the of prefiguring of what was after all their decision, that they thought Big Apple after more than ten years absence, he is disconcerted by to themselves, “OK folks, you expected us to pick either A or B but the minimal way young women dress and the way everyone gabbles to show you who’s Boss we are going to pick C – so there!” Of course nonstop into cellphones. Fair enough. I don’t expect the judges to admit to such a heinous accusation but The terminal cancer of an old friend prompts a move to house secretly (it will probably always remain so), I can’t help wondering. swap for a year with a young successful couple. In terms of narrative, drive and excitement, the Two things now occur that unhinge the prosthree I have read – Mr Pip, On Chesil Beach and tate-operated and now impotent and incontinent “We watch as Liam The Reluctant Fundamentalist – The Gathering is Zuckerman – Jamie Logan, the thirtyish wife of self destructs in sorely lacking in this often assumed to be essenBilly Davidoff, is disarmingly attractive; and he tial ingredient of good novel writing – certainly receives a disturbing phone call. The call is from the Brighton sea by it is bereft of drama and confrontation. a young ambitious writer called Richard Kliman weighing down his So what is The Gathering all about? A funeral seeking to write a biography of a deceased short gathering of a large Irish family and much rumistory writer called E.I. Londoff (who first fea- pockets with stones, nation about relationships therein. The nartured in the original Zuckerman novel nearly 30 and cringe as Veronica rative is by 39-year old Veronica, one of the years ago) . These two factors are like the upright nine Hegarty children as she prepares for the and cross beam of a crucifix to which Zuckerman recalls some fevered funeral of her brother Liam. Enright herself has will proceed to nail himself. Life would have memories about said in an interview that families are the same been easier for the masochistic Zuckerman if – “There is always a drunk, always someone he did not fixate on Jamie, and decided to help her grandmother’s who has interfered with a child, always someKliman in his biographical endeavours – but wanton ways. one who has been a colossal success”. Or failthen if he did, he wouldn’t be Zuckerman and ure she might have added. So Liam is another there would not be this absorbing novel. child abuse victim. Nominally, Zuckerman is perturbed that an early scandal – a Very poignant and very Irish in its flavor, The Gathering explores relationship with a half sister – will result in a wounding por- that female gaze of the male body – a gaze at once candid, almost trait of Londoff but the other reason motivating his spiteful han- cruel, yet compassionate as she watches her sleeping husband. We dling of Kliman’s insistent probing is that the young author is watch as Liam self destructs in the Brighton sea by weighing down the former boyfriend of Jamie – in other words, he has had what his pockets with stones, and cringe as Veronica recalls some fevered Zuckerman wants but can’t have – the physical embrace of the memories about her grandmother’s wanton ways. Though Veronica’s attractive Jamie. memories are full of gloom, the lyric power of the writing does not The conflict between Kliman and Zuckerman reaches a make the reader gloomy. Her novel has been appropriately described Dostoyevskian intensity which involves passionate declarations of as “exhilaratingly bleak”. Sadness and beauty, tragedy and compaswhat literature should do and not do and winds up being rather sion intermingle in this well-written though relatively actionless more interesting than his doomed-to-fail attraction to Jamie. Instead novel. Worth a read but prepare not to be enthralled by drama as of any actual contact, Zuckerman expresses his hopeless lust in moved by memory, description and evocation. Perhaps it deserved the form of a written dialogue – interesting in its way but much the Man-Booker prize after all – perhaps not. Personally, despite less so than his tussle of ideas with the potential biographer. If lots of fine writing, I found it hard going. 90 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
Reviewed by Ian Wishart
TRUE RED By Tuhoe Isaac with Bradford Haami True Red Publishing, $35 This book is a page turner in an unconventional sense – the insight into New Zealand’s gang scene via the eyes and words of a former President of the Mongrel Mob. Those who remember the vicious Ambury Park rape in 1987 may also recall the efforts of Tuhoe ‘Bruno’ Isaac and his Egyptian advisor George Mamfredos to help bring the perpetrators to justice. In this no holds barred, and at times quite brutal account of life as a gang boss, Isaac also details the point at which his life turned around; as he puts it, “the essential biography of one man’s fascinating journey from the realm of darkness into the world of light”. GOD’S UNDERTAKER: Has Science Buried God? By John Lennox Lion Publishing, $28 Lennox is a mathematician at Oxford University, and uses his skills to give evolutionist and fellow Oxford lecturer Richard Dawkins a not-inconsiderable pasting in God’s Undertaker. In similar vein to The Divinity Code, God’s Undertaker mounts a scientific argument for the existence of God, elaborating on some of the cutting edge discoveries that appear to betray the fingerprints of a Creator. This book is yet another nail in the coffin of New Atheism. CONSPIRACY FILES By David Southwell and Sean Twist Reed, $39.99 Picking up where the X-Files left off, Southwell and Twist have tried to document every conspiracy theory they can think of. Who knew, for example, that Paul McCartney died in the 1960s and was replaced by an imposter Beatle – it is the imposter McCartney now having the messy marriage breakup! Who knew that David Icke may secretly be an MI5 agent spreading disinformation? The recent death of Alexander Litvinenko is also covered, along with many others.
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 91
see life / music
The Eagles have landed Chris Philpott discovers the band that could check out any time it liked, but could never leave… Pluto Sunken Water Following on from the success of their sophomore effort Pipeline Under the Ocean, Pluto return with their third, and totally under-the-radar, LP Sunken Water – a more than worthy followup for the group While there aren’t any obvious hit singles – a la their 2 biggest hits “Dance Stamina” and “Long White Cross” – this is a sleekly produced and highly enjoyable album that cashes in on the groups reputation for breezy, laid-back pop and catchy vocals courtesy of frontman Milan Borich. Dripping with sexy synth-pop fusion and moving indie-rock sensibilities, Water is the sound of a group really discovering what they are capable of. Each track ebbs and flows, carrying the listener on the journey that makes up each song, giving the album as a whole an almost transcendent feel. Borich’s unique voice adds another dimension throughout, oozing confidence while shifting to softer, almost falsetto tones when necessary, giving songs like first single “French Grave” and standout “Waiting Watching” a dimension that sets Pluto apart from their peers. That said, these guys also know how to rock when the occasion calls for it, making Sunken Water one of the most well-rounded Kiwi records of the year. The Eagles Long Road Out of Eden A lot has been said about The Eagles long-awaited return – indeed, Long Road Out of Eden took 6 years to arrive since it was first announced – and with good reason: its been 28 years since their last release, and Eden comes after the legendary Hell Freezes Over tour, referring to when the group might reform. No wonder it’s been a chilly summer so far. Of course, the main problem with such high expectations is 92 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
whether or not they can be reached. The true answer is it’s hard to know at this point. The Eagles’ legacy is built on classic tracks like “Hotel California”, “Take It Easy” and “Life In The Fast Lane” – time-tested hits that are perhaps better now than when they came out. Many of these new songs, particularly first single “How Long”, possess the same qualities as those hits of old, while musically the material has a definite southern feel that crosses into the silky smooth harmonies that Henley and company seem to be so adept at. Tracks like “Guilty of the Crime” and “Somebody” especially stand out. Is it as good as the material of old? I certainly enjoyed it as much, but only time will truly tell. Three Houses Down Dreadtown It was with great enthusiasm that I got stuck into the debut from Three Houses Down (3HD), one of my favourite live local bands of the moment, and let me say upfront that I was not disappointed. Behind the impressive, wide-ranging vocals of Charlie Pome’e (one gets the sense he could sing anything you put in front of him), 3HD have fashioned a debut record that builds on their innate talent for old-school sounding funk & reggae and spiritually-searching lyrics, a la Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff or UB40, as well as a natural leaning toward a more Kiwi/Pacific roots sound, typical of the swag of chart-toppers like Fat Freddys Drop, Katchafire or the Black Seeds. That said… I find the reggae feel extremely repetitive, and Dreadtown is no exception. I love the sound and feel of the group, and I genuinely feel like this is a band stacked with talent and on the cusp of something big, but by the halfway point, I started pining for something that sounded a little different. Tracks like “What Babylon Wants” and “Island Lullaby” standout, and opening track “Dandyman” is sheer reggae genius. I just found it extremely hard to get through Dreadtown in one sitting.
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www.mistralsoftware.co.nz INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 93
see life / movies
Another teen pregnancy movie? Juno worth seeing, leave Charlie Wilson’s War to Charlie JUNO Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, J. K. Simmons, Alison Janney Directed by: Jason Reitman Rated: M – Contains Offensive Language 91 minutes The best strategy for anyone interested in enjoying Juno for what it is – an exceedingly clever, offbeat comedy about a pregnant teenager – is to stop reading anything about the movie, especially anything that refers to it as “offbeat.” Wait, you’re still here? Man, NO ONE ever listens to me. The fact is, Juno is always honest about what it is. From the moment we meet its heroine, Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page), she is the stuff cheerful fictions are made of; a precocious 16-year-old who talks with the assurance of a 65-year-old woman without any hang-ups. She communicates at Gilmore Girl speed, but every line of dialogue crackles with an intelligence that feels innate, not practiced. Juno’s self-confidence doesn’t mean she doesn’t know her own limitations; having discovered that her one sexual encounter, an experiment with her buddy Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera of Superbad, as tenderly dorkish as ever), has left her knocked up, she quickly decides against becoming a teen mother. Or as she puts it, “I’m in high school dude. I’m ill-equipped.” Abortion is on the table, but Juno decides to seek adoptive parents instead. The leading contenders are Vanessa (Jennifer Garner in a truly touching performance) and Mark (Jason Bateman), a picture-perfect pair of yuppies who can’t have children. Any interpretation that this is the sign of a conservative agenda being visited upon America’s youth is either paranoid or optimistic – depending on your political outlook – since the movie never presents Juno’s decision as anything more than exactly that, her deci94 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
sion. (The screenwriter is a former stripper who calls herself Diablo Cody; it seems unlikely she’s pushing a Jerry Falwell-esque agenda, but that may be jumping to conclusions.) After all, it’s the right to choose we talk about, not the right to make only one choice. Juno represents a change of pace for director Jason Reitman, in that his last movie, “Thank You For Smoking,” featured people who were entirely not nice, while in this one there’s hardly any evidence of people behaving badly. Juno’s father (J.K. Simmons) and stepmother (Allison Janney) greet her announcement with dismay, but never anger. Their love for Juno is too fierce and unwavering. As it should be. The girl is lovable, even while trying to deliver witticisms through teeth that are clenching a pipe. A teenager carrying around a tobacco pipe? Pretentious? Yes, absolutely. But actress Page can get away with it. This tiny 20-year-old, who carried a somewhat dubious revenge fantasy called “Hard Candy” on her slender shoulders at 17, is a dynamic, exciting talent. There will be people who proclaim Juno precious and studied. And certainly there is something potentially exhausting about the way Cody rolls that humor at us like a snowball headed downhill. The movie is at its best when it stops and takes a breath, as it does in exchanges like this: “I didn’t think you were the kind of girl who didn’t know when to say when,” Juno’s father says, his disappointment evident. “I don’t really know what kind of a girl I am,” Juno replies. What made me find the film so memorable in a year full of terrific movies centered on unexpected or unwanted pregnancies – with Waitress, Stephanie Daley and Knocked Up, this was really the Year of the Mother – is its willingness to examine the situation’s impossibilities. The movie dares to make us hope for conflicting outcomes, that a child lucky enough to have parents like Juno and Paulie would get to be raised by them, but also that a woman like Vanessa would get the child she deserves. Ultimately, it reminds us that bravery has many faces. Reviewed by Mary F. Pols
CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR Starring: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman Directed by: Mike Nichols Rated: R (strong language, nudity/sexual content, drug use) 97 minutes A movie with a terrific story and absolutely no idea how to tell it, Charlie Wilson’s War recounts the efforts of the ne’er-do-well U.S. congressman Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) from East Texas, who in the spring of 1980 watched a report on 60 Minutes that alerted him to the plight of the mujahideen in Afghanistan – the freedom fighters who were then waging war against the Soviet Union. Shortly thereafter, Wilson – mostly known for his boozy lifestyle and his bevy of beautiful female congressional aides – received a call from his campaign donor and occasional lover Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts), a God-fearing Houston socialite who wanted nothing more than to see the Communists brought down. We first meet Wilson in a Las Vegas hotel suite as he cavorts with strippers and cokeheads in a hot tub. And here we arrive at Nichols’ first grave misstep: Why on Earth would he cast Hanks – an immensely likable and versatile actor who nonetheless seems constitutionally incapable of conveying sexual voracity or deeprooted perversion – to portray this boozy, wheels-off Southern hound dog? Hanks tries his hardest, adopting a lazy Southern drawl and an easy-does-it manner. But the part is an awkward fit, and Hanks never finds a way to make us care about this man. Enter Roberts, blowzy and unconvincing as Herring, who insists that Wilson make a trip to her house in Houston, where she’s trying to raise awareness about Afghanistan among her wealthy friends. Except the screenplay never really allows us to fully understand Herring’s motivations; she alternately comes across as power-mad and just plain loopy in her determination that godless Communists be defeated. As for Roberts, she seems much more interested in batting her mascara-caked eyelashes and flashing her million-watt smile than in actually figuring out what makes this woman tick. With these two hugely popular stars at its center, Charlie Wilson’s War almost seems afraid to dig too deeply or to reckon with the many ambiguities of the Soviet-Afghan conflict Instead, Nichols aims for the lowest common denominator and serves up a vague, frothy romp: Characters drift in and out, including Amy Adams as Wilson’s chief legislative aide and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her Emily Blunt as a young woman he seduces. As for the reason Afghanistan eventually fell under Taliban control? According to Sorkin’s screenplay, it’s because Congress failed to heed Wilson’s warnings that the U.S. needed to provide funds to rebuild the nation after the war against the Soviets. Except this interpretation is so broad and cursory, and so closed-off to the nuances of Afghan history and politics, that it just comes off as condescending – a Hollywood liberal’s naive screed delivered with 20/20 hindsight. The only reason to even consider seeing Charlie Wilson’s War is Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays an oddball CIA agent named Gust Avrakotos, the man who joined forces with Wilson and Herring in their capital campaign. Foul-mouthed and proudly obnoxious, Avrakotos is like a refugee from The Office – the career man who, because he’s got nothing left to lose, is determined to do exactly as he pleases. Hoffman cuts through the terminal mildness of Charlie Wilson’s War, giving a performance that’s brazen, funny and original. He breathes the only signs of life into a movie that’s otherwise dead on arrival. Reviewed by Christopher Kelly
PARENT’S GUIDE: What you need to know
By Roger Moore
JUNO Rating u M – Contains Offensive Language. What it’s about u Teenagers have sex, she gets pregnant and decides to have a baby and give it up for adoption. The Kid Attractor Factor u Sassy, smart-alecky Ellen Page plays a teen who handles her pregnancy with the same sarcasm and confusion that rule the rest of her life. Good lessons/bad lessons u Unsafe sex leads to all sorts of unpleasant possible alternatives, from abortion to carrying a baby to term at an age when you cannot handle it. Violence u None. Language u Not as coarse as you might expect sexually active teens to be. Sex u Uh, yes. Not incredibly explicit, though. Drugs u None. Parents’ advisory u An “adult” movie that amusingly and sweetly takes on serious issues, a film with strong teen appeal – though they’ll probably want to see it by themselves, without their parents.
P.S. I LOVE YOU Rating u PG-13 for sexual references and brief nudity. What it’s about u A dead husband has planned elaborate travels and exercises to help his beloved wife move on with her life. The Kid Attractor Factor u Gerard Butler, the “300” hottie, is the cheerful yet dead Irish hubby who charms Hilary Swank, even after death. Good lessons/bad lessons u Don’t wait to begin living your life. There isn’t time. Violence u None. Language u Pretty clean. Sex u Played for laughs, including a brief bare backside. Drugs u Alcohol, bars. Parents’ advisory u Not the worst date movie to send your teens off to see, but younger kids will be bored to tears.
Water Horse: Legend of the Deep Rating u PG for some action/peril, mild language and brief smoking. What it’s about u A Scots boy finds an egg that grows up to be The Loch Ness Monster. The Kid Attractor Factor u A very cuddly monster, especially when he/she is a “puppy.” Good lessons/bad lessons u If you love a wild animal, set it free. Violence u Well, it is set during World War II. Language u Disney clean. Sex u None. Drugs u One bit is set in a pub, and people smoked a lot more during the war. Parents’ advisory u A genial Free Willy-ish kid-and-critter fantasy, suitable for all ages.
INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008 95
see life / dvds Rather than giving supernatural powers to a jerk and having him reform, a la Bruce Almighty, this Almighty takes a conservative TV anchor and congressman and makes him walk the walk and not just talk the talk. His faith is put through a Job-like series of tests. You don’t have to be a Christian, past or present, to warm up to Evan Almighty, but it helps. God’s zingers about “I haven’t done the pillar of salt thing in a while” and his little intervention with Evan’s wife are as positive an exploration of his “mysterious ways” as the movies have ever had. Credit Freeman for this. The flinty actor is channeling his adorable Electric Company past. As summer comedies go, Evan isn’t heaven sent. It’s just standard Hollywood fare, cleaned up for the Christian audience that Universal prays will show up. Reviewed by Roger Moore
The Almighty franchise machine Evan Almighty provides gentle humour, Facing the Giants some sporting grit EVAN ALMIGHTY Starring: Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham, John Goodman, Wanda Sykes Directed by: Tom Shadyac Rated: PG for mild rude humor and some peril 93 minutes The benevolent, godly presence of Morgan Freeman comes out as a born-again tree hugger in Evan Almighty. He’s an Almighty on the lookout for a new Noah to build a new ark because of what we’re doing to His Creation. Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) is a Buffalo TV news anchor who has won a seat in Congress. His party isn’t identified. But he’s a TV personality. He makes a big show out of praying. His first purchase to celebrate the career change is a HumVee. His second is a McMansion in a newly clear-cut valley in the Virginia suburbs of Washington. And he has won his seat by promising to “Change the World.” God (Freeman) takes him up on it. Evan may be all set to sell out to the pro-rapacious development committee chair (John Goodman) who wants him on board his “Pave the National Parks” bill. But Mr. “One nation, under Me” has other plans. God starts out subtle, rubbing the General Electric label off Evan’s alarm clock until it reads “Gen 6:14,” as in “Genesis, 6:14.” That’s the chapter and verse of the Bible that has to do with boats and gopher wood. But Evan has to have it spelled out. “I’m God. And I want you, Evan Baxter, to build me an ark.” Evan’s wife (Lauren Graham) and kids are confused when trucks start dumping loads of timber in the vacant lot next door, when Dad’s beard starts growing and he takes a liking to Charlton Heston’s Ten Commandments wardrobe. Think of how Congress and the cynical press (“New York’s Noah,” “Evan Help Us” and “Evan Can Wait” are the headlines) take it. 96 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM February 2008
FACING THE GIANTS Starring: Alex Kendrick, Shannen Fields Directed by: Alex Kendrick Rated: PG for thematic material 101 minutes This inspirational football film, made for a paltry $80,000, is an evangelical outreach effort by a Christian congregation in Georgia. It was written, directed and edited by Alex Kendrick, who also takes the leading role, and cast mostly with church members making their film debuts. This could have been a recipe for an amateurish disaster, but the makers of Facing the Giants have nothing to be embarrassed about. The film (actually it was shot on high-def video) is technically solid – cinematographer Bob Scott and the film’s sound crew have numerous TV and film credits – and Kendrick has created a believable environment. And if it cannot avoid the cliches of both the sports film and the inspirational film, at least Facing the Giants leavens its message with good humor. Grant Taylor (Kendrick) is the football coach for the Shiloh Christian Academy. Never having had a winning season in his six years, Grant and his players are demoralized. Some of the kids’ fathers are agitating to have the coach replaced. Things aren’t much better at home. Grant can afford only an unreliable car held together by rust, and after four years of trying he and his wife, Brooke (Shannen Fields), have been unable to get pregnant. To top it all off, he wryly notes, he’s losing his hair. At the end of his rope, Grant picks up his Bible for inspiration and decides to start coaching in the name of God. This sets off a spiritual revival in the school and turns the team around. Now they’re playing not just to win, but also in the name of the Almighty. “Stay sharp. Stay focused. Play hard. And honor God,” Grant tells his young warriors before they run out onto the field. In short order Grant has a new set of wheels, Brooke is with child and the team gets a shot at the state championship. No luck, apparently, with the premature balding. It will be interesting to see if Facing the Giants finds an audience beyond church going Christians who make up its target audience. But whatever your religious leanings, the film inspires by example: Grass-roots moviemaking can be a viable alternative to the usual Hollywood claptrap. Reviewed by Robert W. Butler
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