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INSIDE: CLIFF CURTIS IN LA, THE SECRET TO FEMALE AGGRESSION (P.70)

INVESTIGATE November 2009:

Are Schools Brainwashing Kids? College Principal Lashes Out “A system that abuses the children in their care...

State education brainwashing  •  Aisling Symes  •  Tsunami

“Children are to be moulded according to the pattern of the state... Confines children’s knowledge to ‘official’ versions of truth”

Aisling’s Legacy

Issue 106

The fallout from the case, and how it’s highlighted a bigger problem

Tsunami hell

Ewan Wilson’s first-hand account

$8.30 November 2009


INVESTIGATEdigital This is the Adobe Flash edition of Investigate magazine. To zoom in, simply click the mouse on the page, then use the mouse to move the page. Whilst back issues will appear publicly online after they’ve gone off sale at the newsstands, you can purchase a premium digital subscription and get a link to the latest editions as they’re published. If you prefer, you can also purchase a fully functional PDF of the magazine to save to your disk – putting the text of the entire issue at your fingertips. For all these options and more, visit our webstore: http://www.tgifedition.com For access to our news feeds, story archives and blogs, visit our main site: http://www.investigatemagazine.com In the meantime, enjoy, and feel free to share this edition with friends and colleagues.


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Contents 28

34

42

52

56

78

FEATURES

28  Children Who Vanish

When Aisling Symes disappeared this month, a cascade of emotions and scenarios poured through the minds of nearly every New Zealander. But as IAN WISHART reports, the case has highlighted a growing problem with child abduction

34  Brainwashing Kids

We send our kids to school each day for an education, but the new curriculum next year heralds a new age of social engineering, warns private school principal MICHAEL DRAKE. He argues in his new book that parents need to be aware of what’s coming

42  Tsunami Hell

As the Pacific cleans up from the tsunami, one with first-hand experience of rebuilding shattered communities is EWAN WILSON, who led a relief team to Sri Lanka. Wilson’s experiences shed light on what’s needed in Samoa

52  Cliff Curtis

The unassuming kiwi star most famous for texting and crashing into a house now headlines a new NBC tv series, Trauma. LUAINE LEE spoke to him in Pasadena

56  Where Eagles Dare

The world’s largest eagle used to live in New Zealand, but its extinction is part of the catalyst for a French refuge specialising in breeding endangered birds of prey. PATRICIA VALICENTI has the story

78  The Organics Debate

Health correspondent Maureen O’Hagan analyses the fallout from the latest organics study, see HEALTH

Cover: iStockphoto


20

Editorial and opinion 06 Focal Point

Volume 9, Issue 106, ISSN 1175-1290

Editorial

08 Vox-Populi

The roar of the crowd

16 Simply Devine

Miranda Devine on dogs in cafes

18 Mark Steyn

Hollywood protects paedophiles

28

20 Global Warning

Noel O’Hare skewers greenies

22 Eyes Right

Richard Prosser on drink driving

24 Line 1

Chris Carter goes boating

26 Contra Mundum

Matt Flannagan on fundamentalism

Lifestyle 16 Poetry

Amy Brooke’s poem of the month

64 Money

Peter Hensley on reverse mortgages

68 Education

Amy Brooke on a badness abroad

72

70 Science

What makes girls aggressive?

72 Technology

Akai’s new USB turntable

74 Sport

Chris Forster on cricket

76 Health

Claire Morrow on placebos

78 Alt.Health

Fuller Media Richa Fuller 09 522 7062 richa@fullermedia.co.nz

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

Heidi Wishart Bozidar Jokanovic

Tel: +64 9 373 3676 Fax: +64 9 373 3667 Investigate Magazine PO Box 188, Kaukapakapa Auckland 0843, NEW ZEALAND AUSTRALIAN Editor Ian Wishart Advertising  sales@investigatemagazine.com Tel/Fax: 1-800 123 983 SUBSCRIPTIONS Online: www.investigatemagazine.com By Phone: Australia 1-800 123 983 NZ 09 373 3676 By Post: To the PO Box NZ Edition: $85 Au Edition: A$96 EMAIL editorial@investigatemagazine.com ian@investigatemagazine.com australia@investigatemagazine.com sales@investigatemagazine.com helpdesk@investigatemagazine.tv

88 Pages 92 Music

Investigate magazine Australasia is published by HATM Magazines Ltd

80 Travel

The Berlin Wall

84 Food

James Morrow on sea urchins Michael Morrissey’s spring reads Chris Philpott’s CD reviews

94 Movies

Jane Campion’s Bright Star

80

NZ EDITION Advertising

All content in this magazine is copyright, and may not be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the publisher. The opinions of advertisers or contributors are not necessarily those of the magazine, and no liability is accepted. We take no responsibility for unsolicited material sent to us. Please enclose a stamped, SAE envelope. Inquiries in the first instance should be made via email or fax.

Organics and pesticides

78

Chief Executive Officer Heidi Wishart Group Managing Editor Ian Wishart

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Editorial

Bring on the global warming

A

s this magazine hits the newsstands, a battle royal has Oh, the ignominy of it all. Proof, if ever it was needed, that the been playing out over global warming behind the scenes. global climate tax scam is built on false evidence and false claims, It won’t have escaped notice that while the wheels have been deliberately designed to scare you, the average punter, into paying falling off the climate change gravy train, instead of admit- thousands of hard earned dollars a year to Nanny State and the ting the obvious those who wish to steal the gravy are instead getting United Nations in order to save you from a problem that doesn’t more and more shrill in their claims of imminent doom and disaster. actually exist. The government, led ably in this regard by Climate Change Apparently it is not technically theft if you, the victim, conMinister Nick Smith, is boasting to the world that it’s putting in sent to it. place tough new climate laws that will hit the average household Then came the news that one of the world’s leading global with extra bills of $7,000 a year. warming research centres had mysteriously “lost” all the raw cliAnd of course, taxpayers will have to pay above that to compensate mate data from the past 100 years, meaning the only data we’re for all the beneficiaries who can’t afford an extra $7,000 after tax. left with is what has already been officially corrected manipulated. The battle royal, however, centres on the discovery of yet more There’ll be more on this in the next issue of our free digital clifraudulent – in my opinion – science from UN-supported cli- mate magazine Climate Reality, available each month from www. mate “scientists”. Many will remember the now widely discredited investigatemagazine.tv “hockey stick” purporting to show a massive increase in global temIn that vein, however, it shows how important it is to read facperatures in the past twenty tual information about cliyears in comparison with the mate change rather than the  Don’t get angry about previous 1000 years. one-sided lobby group spin That hockey stick has been served up in the daily media. government and Green schemes to Which is why we decided to used to justify claims by Al Gore and other s that it’s hotbuy the rights to Ian Plimer’s tax you back to the Stone Age on ter now than it has ever been. massive global warming bestDespite being debunked, cliseller Heaven & Earth, and climate change. Get informed mate change believers like release it for the first time New Zealand author and here in New Zealand. blogger Gareth Renowden have tried to claim that other studies Heaven & Earth, and our own book Air Con, were released at have backed up the original hockey stick. the same time on different sides of the Tasman. Both shot to the Well, not so fast. It’s now emerged that the studies that so-called top of their respective bestseller lists, and Air Con was the first “back up” the hockey stick used a very selectively chosen set of to hit #1 on Amazon.com’s global warming category in July on evidence, in the form of tree rings, from which to get their claim both sides of the Atlantic. Then a US-based publishing company of record 20th century warmth. Scandalously, rather than objec- picked up Plimer’s Heaven & Earth and have managed to turn it tively look at all the tree samples available, the UN climate sci- into the topselling climate change book worldwide. entists happen (and I’m sure coincidentally) to have chosen only Don’t get angry about government and Green schemes to tax the trees that give them the record result they wanted. you back to the Stone Age on climate change. Get informed. Canadian researchers Ross McKitrick and Steve McIntyre have Knowledge, in this case is definitely power and this magazine been battling for years to get access to the raw data used by the UN and publishing company have done more to give you a chance to team. A couple of months ago it was finally released, and when all read the real story on global warming than any other publisher the tree samples – rather than just a special handful – were added to or media outlet in New Zealand. Tell your friends. Help build an the computer programme, suddenly the modern warm period loses outcry that the government dare not ignore. its specialness, and the Medieval Warm Period is provably hotter. How embarrassing, to be caught with utterly dodgy scientific studies. To make it more concerning, these studies had passed through the so-called prestigious “peer review” process and appeared in venerated journals like Nature or Science! 6  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009


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>  vox populi

Communiques The roar of the crowd AN EXCUSE TO TAX

LEAKY HOME VICTIM

John Key fails his fellow New Zealanders by introducing an emissions trading scheme, a totally unjustified tax on energy and productivity. Climate change minister Nick Smith loudly and proudly trumpeted in parliament how much better off New Zealanders would be with their scheme, but he is a stranger from the truth, no emissions trading scheme can benefit New Zealanders, especially those on low incomes. Apparently the scheme will only cost New Zealanders $419 million by 2013, only? As we know only a fool would accept a politicians “best case” guesstimate, Treasury states the cost to 2013 will be closer to $500 million and grow to $2 billion by 2020. This tax will be the final straw on an already struggling camel’s back and when the true cost is passed on to the consumer Australia will be looking mighty attractive. The cost of administering this tax regime and the economic retardation effect from the uncertainty it generates, with business investment, is where the serious damage is done, all for no climate related benefit whatsoever. I challenge Nick Smith to justify to NZ citizens how his emissions trading scheme can influence climate change and why he supports a tax based on science fiction, at a time when NZ struggles to emerge from the worst recession since 1930? As courageously demonstrated by Czech Republic president Vaclav Klaus at the United Nations summit last week, true leaders stand firm on principle through adversity. Our prime minister and Nick Smith are no more than lemmings content to follow each other over the cliff. Kevin Campbell, Awhitu, Franklin

I do not own a leaking home but I am also a victim of the ‘leaky home syndrome’. As director of a development company I organised a ‘building team’ to construct a 10 unit residential development. A Court order will strip me of my life’s work and my ‘crime’ was using untreated timber (now banned) and hard fixing monolithic cladding (now banned). These two elements are at the core of the leaky home debacle and coupled with a ‘slack approved building code’, were the recipe for disaster, with the result that developers that abided by these approved rules are now held liable for reparations, and that is both wrong and unfair. You cannot blame home owners for attacking developers, at present they have no alternative for compensation. Government can legally deny responsibility thanks to the unbelievable 2005 Appeal Court ruling that found the Building Industry Authority (BIA) not liable as being “too far removed from building sites”. But the BIA’s ‘recipe book’, the NZ Building Code, (the builders bible) was embodied, and had to be adhered to, on every construction site throughout NZ. Undoubtedly the State’s actions led to this catastrophe and therefore you would expect the Government to have a moral and ethical ‘duty of care’ to assist in this growing disaster; on humanitarian grounds just as they would natural disaster victims. There seems to be no legal defence for developers because of a long established law (Mt Albert Borough Council v Johnston 1979) that residential property developers owe a ‘duty of care’ , which cannot be delegated. A convenient law that enables the Courts to ‘hammer’ developers rendering them defenceless no matter how diligent their endeavours in construction and making it easy pickings for lawyers. My contention is that I discharged my ‘duty of care’ by being conscientious in engaging a ‘building team’ with an unblemished record. What else can administrators or developers do? No wonder developers flee, they are vilified for the blunders initiated by the BIA. But let’s not forget it was the BIA that fled first, and with their legacy of an estimated $11.5 billion repair bill we all now know why. Defending my 4 year litigation has not only cost my family home but my self-esteem, self-confidence and my life has been shattered, leaving me emotionally and financially devastated and heading for bankruptcy. I have done nothing to be ashamed of and yet I feel like a criminal and I am sure home owners agree, that we have been betrayed,

TIME TO TELL THE POLITICIANS Just a brief note to congratulate you on your book Air Con. You did an excellent job in presenting the issues involved in a clear and rational manner and your provision of numerous references means the reader can study the topics further. The problem now, as you indicate in your final pages, is for citizens to control the politicians in the Climate Change decisions, not the other way around. I enjoy reading the various articles in Investigate magazine and in particular the comments of your Education writer. Perhaps in a future edition, Investigate magazine would be able to deal with the possibility of parents taking control of schools away from bureaucrats as has happened in other countries.  Denis McCarthy, via email 8  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009


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conned, ripped off and taken for a ride by a scam perpetuated by the State, administrated by the Courts and fuelled by the media. Brian Gailer, via email

AN EVOLVING ARGUMENT Renton Maclachlan (October 2009), responding to my August 2009 letter, is adamant in maintaining he is not wrong in calling evolution an “atheistic evolutionary religion”, which I described as nonsense, an oxymoron in the same category as creation ‘science’. However, his attempt at justification is all in vain. He argues that creation ‘science’ is just like evolution in being a historical science (rather than a “hard science” such as chemistry), essentially because it too deals with past events. (Note that evolution is no longer a religion!) Nice try, but it won’t work. Most significantly, this is because creation ‘science’ (or ‘scientific’ creationism) at its core is purely religious; based on assumptions that are not scientifically testable. (I have dealt briefly with testability in relation to evolution in my October 2009 letter.) To quote relevant statements by a prominent ‘scientific’ creationist, Duane Gish: “By creation we mean the bringing into being of the basic kinds of plants and animals by the process of sudden, or fiat, creation described in the first two chapters of Genesis…We do not know how God created, what processes he used, for God used processes which are not now operating anywhere in the natural universe. This is why we refer to divine creation as special creation. We cannot discover by scientific investigations anything about the creative processes used by God.” (Emphasis in original.) Your correspondent complains that I did not provide even one piece of what I have deemed the mountain of empirical evidence in support of evolution. It should have been obvious that I was simply responding briefly to the false assertion that evolution is “an atheistic evolutionary religion”. But if Mr Maclachlan is truly interested in this aspect of evolutionary science, I can do no better than recommend Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is True, and Richard Dawkins’ latest, The Greatest Show on Earth, both of which cover in some detail the evidence for evolution. With respect to my objection to describing evolution as ‘atheistic’, I have already explained why science ignores the supernatural; an appeal to the supernatural goes nowhere in science. Calling science ‘atheistic’ is both silly and misleading. It is silly because there is no more reason to label evolution (i.e. evolutionary science) ‘atheistic’ than to call chemistry ‘atheistic’. Or as Robert Pennock has expressed it: “Science is godless in the same way as plumbing is godless.” And it is misleading because the impression is more than likely to be given that in practising science, scientists in effect are deliberately promoting atheism. Which I suspect is really the intention of creationists like your correspondent all along, most particularly in relation to evolutionary science. I think I can be forgiven for assuming that when atheism is described by Mr Maclachlan as at root meaningless and purposeless then the implication is its adherents must lead meaningless and purposeless lives. We are assured this is not the case. Although fully capable of having a meaningful and purposeful life, that life apparently is still lacking any firm philosophical foundation. As a consequence, “all atheists are inconsistent/schizophrenic”, which I take to mean they lead lives characterized by inconsistencies and contradictions. Yet I have already informed Mr Maclachlan that atheism is compatible with the cosmic perspective as revealed by science, and that atheism can merge into secular humanism. It is this life stance, rather than atheism per se (since its main focus is 10  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

disbelief in any deity), that for many is fully capable of sustaining meaningful and purposeful lives. The remainder of Mr Maclachlan’s letter warrants little comment in the context of this correspondence since organic evolution is a process concerned with what has occurred (and is occurring) after the appearance of life and the genetic code. The near universality of the genetic code strongly supports the view that life has arisen only once on this planet and that therefore all organisms are related to one another through common descent. Your correspondent resurrects the creationist chestnut: “…if life could not get going naturalistically, then evolution is dead on the starting blocks. No amount of huff and puff can salvage it…” Somehow I doubt the theistic evolutionists would go along with this. He concludes his letter with: “Yes, Warwick has seen some of these arguments before, but he’s never answered them.” I can only take this to mean I have not answered them to his satisfaction. Warwick Don, Dunedin

EVOLUTION I believe in evolution. What am I saying by that? The first principle of science is to define and make everything measurable. Evolution (Oxford English Dictionary,1950): evolve: unfold, open up, develop, deduce. Evolution has many meanings, but here: “Theory of Evolution that the embryo is not created by fecundation, but developed from a pre-existing form..; not by special creation”. Evolution (in the sense of evolve and develop) has been applied to describe the change a staphylococcus undergoes to become resistant to penicillin. The bacterium evolves to adapt to a new environment. It mutates and mutation is thus a form of evolution. This happens all of the time; spontaneously (without human interference) or scientifically (applying science), such as “creating” cannabis capable of producing higher levels of di-hydro cannabiol. Genetic engineering is just another of Man’s tools. Yes, that is evolution and as such I believe in it. But I said that I believe. How does one define belief? In a Biblical sense believing means to have faith, and that faith is the acceptance of Christian concepts in the absence of (scientific) proof thereof. To define non-Christian faith is somewhat more difficult: I do believe in everything that can be undeniably proved (by science). So, is there anything wrong with accepting science and still believing the Bible? If man can be proven to come from apes – even going back to amoebas, Christians must accept that and need not be scared of real science. Come on Christians; what scientific fact will make you depart from your religion? Ultimately, the scientists who are fighting the concept of “intelligent design”. or anything that smacks of a biblical truth, are not true scientists; they are religious, but their religion is based upon science, provided that science refutes the Bible. Maybe there is a devil who knows that the science behind some science is not promoting science, but demoting the Bible. Francois du Toit, via email

AND IN THE BLUE CORNER… Correspondent Warwick Don claims my use of Kerkut’s general theory of evolution, that all living things are descended from a single form which arose from non-living matter, muddies the water because evolution says nothing about the origin of life. It depends on which theory is used. Kerkut’s special theory states that living


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Kids? Brainwashing Are Schoolsncipal Lashes Out Pri College t abuses

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“A system tha their in the children care...

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animals can be observed to change over time so that new species form. As long as it is understood that the definition of species is not the same as that of the biblical kind then, as I said, the special theory is non-controversial from a creation perspective. Using a clear definition of evolution avoids the game of bait and switch, that most common and tedious tactic of evolutionary apologists. Mr Don notes correctly that Linneaus interpreted the evidence of a nested hierarchy in life from his theistic perspective; however he fails to note that evolutionist’s accommodation of that hierarchy into their hypothesis does not produce a prediction. Moreover as a nested hierarchy is based on the comparison of points of similarity any number of items or entities can be placed in a hierarchy without assuming common descent. Indeed, designed structures like cars can easily be placed into such a pattern. In truth however, the general theory predicts only one pattern. That is a clearly defined lineage from ancestor to descendant. That is the pattern necessary to establish evolution as a viable option. It is this pattern of a clear lineage that is lacking from the evidence. Mr Don might plead the paucity of the fossil record, but Darwin claimed the same thing. Despite countless fossils being uncovered since then, the evidence for evolution remains as scanty as it was in Darwin’s day. Mr Don claims that intermediate forms exist, and defines them as organisms possessing features characteristic of two other groups. However we only need to look at the platypus to see how subjective that criterion is. The platypus possesses features common to beavers and ducks, yet no one would regard it as a transitional form. If living specimens of tiktaalik or archaeopteryx were found, they’d probably be found to be chimeras, much like the platypus. As an aside, to claim that the tiktaalik was transitional between fish and amphibians is scientifically vacuous. “Fish” and “amphibians” are supraspecific groups containing multiple species. The statement does not identify a phylogeny; it merely creates the illusion of one. Mr Don ought to know the difference between a scientific statement about the galactic location of the Earth, and the philosophical question of the Earth’s place in the cosmos. The ancients placed Earth in the lowest sphere because of their disregard for the earthly compared to the excellence of the heavenly spheres. Copernicus exalted the Earth by moving it away from the centre. Further research has taught us how unique our planet is in the universe. Mr Don wants to see science taught in the science classroom. So do I. However he has yet to establish that evolution is science. Jason Clark, Auckland

THE WHANGANUI CHRONICLES Does Minister Maurice Williamson really have a difficult decision? It can’t be that hard to decide between democracy or bureaucracy. The people of Wanganui spoke in a referendum. There are always complaints about tyranny of the majority but if democracy is not upheld then this will be another case for tyranny of the minority. Steve Baron – Better Democracy NZ, Cambridge

DILMAH TEA-GIF EXCEPTIONALS WINNERS Congratulations to those who entered our Dilmah Tea competition for subscribers to TGIF Edition. The winners of Exceptionals prize packs are: Sally McIntyre, Gore Digby Bell, Wanganui, Mike Kempsall, Havelock North Jackie Halkett, Christchurch 14  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

Poetry Is it poetry? Then send submissions to Poetry Editor Amy Brooke:amy@investigatemagazine.tv ODE TO PORTIA Her stage is decadence. A fade of dyes across the mists of Venice. Seemingly perpetual. Yet steeped in transience. Her dress is masquerade to foil the crowd. All evidence of femininity is camouflaged behind the male facade. Her face is luminous. A stroke of brush da Vinci style and Mona Lisa fresh. Remote. Yet skilfully conspicuous. Her speech is eloquence to overpower the avarice of usurer and free the fate of borrower from forfeiture. Her tone is clear across the dank canals of bigotry. “The quality of mercy is not strain’d ... ‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest ...” Her script is literary masterpiece more memorable than any monologue in history composed by dramatist. Joy Ogier

DROP US A LINE Letters to the editor can be emailed to us, faxed or posted. They should not exceed 300 words, and we reserve the right to edit for space or clarity. All correspondence will be presumed for publication unless it is clearly marked to the contrary. Address: INVESTIGATE, PO Box 302188, North Harbour, North Shore 0751, or email to: editorial@investigatemagazine.com


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INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  15


>  simply devine

Miranda Devine Shih tzu hits fan in latte land

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If dogs stay away from cafes for a few weeks, chances are that n Poland, where I am going soon, “complex” attitudes to rules and regulations are a hangover from communist times. blind eyes will return when they do. Dog lovers could even estabRules, especially petty ones, are bent or broken when there are lish a fighting fund, to pay fines for cafe owners should an overno consequences, and everyone turns a blind eye, according to zealous ranger not understand the way things work. But next the Culture Smart guide to Poland. Sounds like my kind of place. time, dog lovers should fiercely regulate each other’s behaviour. Having recently become the owner of the mongrel Biggles, I Although NSW is not communist, its web of bureaucracy rivals anything the Eastern Bloc could offer, and the attitude of its fed- am more forgiving of dog-related inconvenience than I used to be. But it is unspeakable to allow a dog to sit on a cafe table, or up people is the same. even to sit on your lap while you sit at the table. Take, for instance, the latest dog ban in Mosman. It is unhygienic, not to mention detrimental to the dog’s Mosman prides itself on being a dog-friendly suburb. The habit of dressing up shih tzus and bichon frises in bows is something wellbeing. It is part of the insidious and self-centred trend in pet owning that can be overlooked in the interests of community harmony. A labrador lying contentedly under an outdoor cafe table, while – anthropomorphism, or humanising. As with the upbringing of children over a generation, the fashits owner drinks a low-fat cappuccino, is a familiar sight. According to the NSW Companion Animal Act and Food Safety ion for dogs has been laissez-faire, with pooches sleeping with Act, this is not strictly legal, as dogs must be a good 10 metres away owners on their beds, perching on couches, having the run of the house, plied with human from areas where food is confood, weekly blow-dries and sumed or prepared at cafes. One woman stays home from manicures, and all manner of However, like any law that designer trinkets to spice up doesn’t accord with prevailing work because her dog gets so their idle lives. attitudes, it has been quietly But, according to one ignored. Dogs and cafes have anxious when left alone. She even dog trainer, John Vella, reached an amicable accomsuch pampering can lead to modation all over Sydney. takes him into the shower because behavioural problems. In Woollahra, Zigolini’s Dogs, being pack animals Cafe allows you to sit outhe hates being separated descended from wolves, need side with the dog, as do cafes to feel there is an alpha dog in Double Bay, Bondi Beach and Balmoral, which provide water bowls for pooches. And, of taking care of them. They expect to be led by their owners, and if instead their owner lets the dog take charge they often become course, there is Leichhardt’s famous Cafe Bones. anxious about their duties of protection, with separation anxiety But some people just have to push the envelope. A growing sense of entitlement from a few dog owners in and such behavioural problems as digging, chewing or barking. “It can’t be a complete dictatorship but dogs need fair leaderMosman, including one dog reportedly sitting on top of a cafe table, led to a flurry of complaints to Mosman Council, which had ship,” says Vella. He is run off his feet by dog owners desperate to no choice but to remind cafe owners of their licence obligations. part with $195 a session to get their animal under control. Most of the time it’s because the dog has been spoiled to the After a barrage from upset dog owners, the council hired lawyers and found that if it did not enforce the pooch ban it would point it thinks it is top dog. One woman he saw recently stays home from work because her be “exposed to a legal claim”. In an attempt to mollify dog-loving ratepayers, this week the dog gets so anxious when left alone. She even takes him into the council has been considering a plan to have cafe owners “identify shower because he hates being separated. Another client has a big American staffordshire terrier which appropriate tie-up areas for dogs in the vicinity of their business sleeps on his bed. If he gets into the bedroom after his dog and to mitigate any inconvenience to patrons”. wife, the dog won’t let him into bed and he has to sleep on the Good luck with that. In a country in which even the reserve powers of the Governor- couch. Vella had to institute an urgent “de-ranking” program. Like it or not, dogs are unreconstructed rankists. Anyone they General are not codified, there is merit to letting sleeping dogs lie.

16  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009


WENN

consider below their status, human or otherwise, they will attempt to dominate. Vella’s recipe for Biggles was no unearned pats, no walks for two weeks, more time outside and, if inside, to be tethered until he understands he can’t roam the house. Excessive cuddling had made Biggles feel he was top dog, as, in the wild, only the alpha is groomed by the others. And when it comes to meals, you prepare the dog’s food and place the bowl in front of a window where he can see it from outside. The family sits down to eat ignoring the dog’s baleful stares. Only when dinner is over is the dog allowed to eat. This is to mimic wolf eating habits and assert the dominance of the dog owner. Instead of having their owners moan to the council, perhaps the over-entitled pooches of Mosman need a lesson in who’s boss. devinemiranda@hotmail.com

 Dogs expect to be led by their owners, and if instead their owner lets the dog take charge they often become anxious about their duties of protection, with separation anxiety and such behavioural problems as digging, chewing or barking INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  17


>  straight talk

Mark Steyn

Hollywood protects paedophile artistes

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s the feminists used to say in simpler times, “What part place occasionally involves an involuntarily conscripted 13-yearof ‘No’ don’t you understand?” old, well, you can’t make a Hamlet without breaking a few chicks. Quite a lot, if the reaction to Roman Polanski’s arrest is France’s Society of Film Directors warned that the arrest of such anything to go by. I didn’t know, for one thing, that if you an important artist “could have disastrous consequences for freedecide to plow on regardless, the world’s artists will rise as one to dom of expression across the world.” nail their colors to your mast. Really? For the past two years, I’ve been in a long and weary Whoopi Goldberg offered a practical defense – that what battle up north to restore “freedom of expression” to Canada. On Polanski did was not “rape-rape,” a distinction she left impre- Monday afternoon, in fact, I’ll be testifying on this very subject cisely delineated. Which may leave you with the vague impres- in the House of Commons in Ottawa, if France’s Society of Film sion that this was one of those deals where you’re in a bar and the Directors or Miss Winger would like to swing by. Please, don’t all gal tells you she’s in 10th grade and you find out afterward she’s stampede at once. Ottawa’s airport can only handle so many Gulf only in seventh. Hey, we’ve all been there, right? Streams. If only I had known how vital child rape was to “freedom But in this particular instance, Polanski knew the girl was 13 of expression,” my campaign could have taken off a lot earlier. years old and, when she declined his entreaties, drugged her with Let us stipulate that Polanski has memories few of us would wish champagne and a Quaalude and then sodomized her. Twice. to bear. He is the only movie director to have had three generaWhich, even on the Whoopi scale, sounds less like rape, or even tions of his immediate family murdered – his mother by the Nazis, rape-rape, and more like his wife and unborn child by rape-rape-rape-rape. Charles Manson’s acolytes.  By the age of 13, the pattern of But heigh-ho. After pleadThe only reason he didn’t ing guilty, the non-nonwind up with his parents in his life was set: That hurried escape Auschwitz is that when he rape-rapist skipped to Paris and took up with Nastassja was 8, his father cut a hole through the wire of the ghetto Kinski, who was then 15, in the barbed wire of the which in Polanski years puts Warsaw ghetto and pushed would be only the first of a series of his son out. her up there with Barbara Bush. He eventually was In a movie, the father hasty exits arrested en route to Zurich would die or survive for a to receive a lifetime-achievetearful reunion with his boy. ment award – no, no, not for the girls, for his movies. In reality, Polanski’s dad remarried after the war, and the new wife For three decades, he was, to be boringly legalistic about it, a didn’t want young Roman around. By the age of 13, the pattern of fugitive from justice – and there’s no statute of limitations on that. his life was set: That hurried escape through the wire of the ghetto But, of course, throughout that time, he also was a “great artist,” would be only the first of a series of hasty exits. which his fellow artists (Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese) and even In swingin’ London, he made his name with Repulsion (1965), the French foreign and culture ministers think ought to trump a in which Catherine Deneuve descends into schizophrenia and little long-ago misunderstanding over anal rape. kills a man she believes has come to rape her. He hit Hollywood The Berlin International Film Festival announced collectively with Rosemary’s Baby (1968), in which Mia Farrow is impregnated that it was shocked by “the arbitrary treatment of one of the world’s by the devil. most outstanding film directors,” and defending the outstandYou could make the case that these films reflect the psychoing director because he’s an outstanding director quickly became logical burdens of his childhood – if it weren’t that they’re almost the standard line of defense. Debra Winger denounced the Swiss freakily literal pre-echoes of the violence in his adult life. In 1969, authorities for their “philistine collusion”: No truly cultured soci- Sharon Tate and four others were murdered at Polanski’s house by ety should be colluding with the “philistines” of American law a group called Satan’s Slaves. “I remember,” Joan Didion wrote, enforcement. “that no one was surprised.” Polanski, explained producer Harvey Weinstein, “is a man who One sympathizes. Except that there are millions of children cares deeply about his art and its place in the world.” And if its of the Holocaust struggling under the burdens of the past – and 18  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009


only one who deals with them as Polanski does. Working on the film Chinatown, the writer Robert Towne found it hard to concentrate at the director’s pad, what with “the teenyboppers that Roman would run out and take Polaroid pictures of diving off the ... diving board without tops on. Which was distracting. With braces.” Braces. Cute. Mr. Weinstein, the man behind the pro-Polanski petition, rejects the idea that Hollywood is “amoral”: “Hollywood has the best moral compass, because it has compassion,” he told an interviewer. Let us agree that Hollywood big shots have “compassion” for people in general, for people far away in a big crowd scene on the distant horizon, for people in a we-are-theworld-we-are-the-children sense. But Hollywood big shots treat people in particular, little people, individuals, like garbage. To Polanski, he was the world, you are the children; now take your kit off and let’s have a “photo shoot.” The political class is beginning to recalibrate. In Paris, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government withdrew its initial enthusiasm for Polanski after it emerged that even the boundlessly sophisticated French aren’t eager to champion creepy child rapists just because they’re celebrities. As Susan Estrich wrote, “Yes, he’s made some big films in those years. So what?” Hold that thought: “Big films,” like what? Until The Pianist briefly revived his reputation, Polanski had spent the previous quarter-century making leaden comedies (Pirates), generic thrillers (Frantic) and lame arthouse nudie flicks (Bitter Moon with the not-yet-famous Hugh Grant). If that level of “great art” is all the justification you need for drugging and sodomizing 13-year-old girls, there won’t be enough middle schoolers to go around. The cocky, strutting little Euro-swinger is old now, Roman in the gloamin’, in the twilight of his career. The Roman Polanski of Chinatown was a great director on his way up, his best years presumed to lie ahead. The junk of the past 30 years pretty much killed that. What he did wouldn’t be justified if Polanski were Johann Sebastian Bach. But is this resume really “great art” to go to the wall for? Why, Harvey, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world, but for Bitter Moon? That in turn raises another question: Earlier bad boys – Lord Byron, say – were obliged to operate as “transgressive” artists

 Nastassja Kinski, seen here in To The Devil A Daughter aged 16, was another of Polanski’s conquests, moving in with him at the age of 15

within a broader moral order. Now we are told that a man such as Polanski cannot be subject to anything so footling as morality: He cannot “transgress” it because, by definition, he transcends it. Yet all truly great art is made in the tension between freedom and constraint. In demanding that an artist be placed above the laws of man, Mr. Weinstein & Co. also are putting him beyond the possibility of art. That may explain the present state of the movie industry. Mark Steyn is the author of the New York Times best-seller America Alone. © 2009 Mark Steyn

INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  19


>  global warning

Noel O’Hare Skewering Greenies

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n this extract from his new satirical book, How to save the world by recycling your sex toys, NZ journalist Noel O’Hare’s alter-ego Dr Green offers advice to earnest and anxious environmentalists

Pet Lover – 04 Jan Dear Dr Green, My cat has passed away. Every day my heart is saddened when I see her little face as I open the freezer. My husband says it’s not right keeping a dead animal among the frozen peas and chops and that I should get another pet. But I’m worried about the impact on the environment. What can I do? Pet Lover

you might like to consider an insect for a pet. Insects can be great fun and they have very small carbon footprints. I have a stick insect called Wally and I’ve spent many a happy hour playing ‘Where’s Wally?’ with him. My son insisted on something bigger so we got him a hamster. We named him ‘Al’ after Al Gore. To reduce Al’s carbon footprint, I attached a small generator to his treadmill, which produces enough power to recharge all the family’s mobile phones. Wrung Out – 11 Feb Dear Dr Green, The fear of global warming is having a traumatising effect on my seven-year-old son. He suffers green nightmares, crying out that the polar ice caps are melting and we’re all going to be drowned. I would like to reassure him that it’s not going to happen, but the truth is it probably will in his lifetime. I’m at my wit’s end. What can I do? Wrung Out

Dear Pet Lover, Your concern for the planet is admirable. Many pet lovers are selfish and ignore the environmental costs of owning a  One solution is to wash clothes pet. Did you know that a dog can produce over 1.5 tonnes Dear Wrung Out, less often by rotating them or only of greenhouse gases a year Scientists tell us we’re and a cat about 850 kg? And only a few years away from wearing dark clothes that don’t then there’s all that processed climate Armageddon, so it’s tinned pet food they eat. A probably a good thing the show the dirt. Did Jesus wash his moderately active 36 kg dog younger generation is anxrequires 1955 calories a day – ious about it. A survey of Jockeys every day? I doubt it the energy requirement of a 1150 seven- to 11-year-olds 55 kg woman! Pet owners try in Britain found that half of to salve their consciences by buying organic pet food, organic flea them often lose sleep from worrying about climate change. One treatments, biodegradable poop bags and so on, but it doesn’t dis- in seven declared their own parents weren’t doing enough to save guise the fact that most domestic pets have large carbon pawprints. the planet. Have you thought about having your cat freeze dried? A One of the reasons your son is having ‘greenmares’ could be that company called Perpetual Pet provides a ‘Loving and Lasting he thinks you’re not taking the situation seriously enough. Buy Alternative’ to burial. This is much more environmentally an inflatable dingy and stock up on his favourite tinned foods. friendly than having your pet stuffed. In the conventional This may help ease his mind. When I was growing up and having method of taxidermy, only the outer hide of the animal typi- bad dreams about mushroom clouds, my parents built me a small cally remains, attached to a plastic form or other type of arti- bomb shelter in the back garden. It wouldn’t have given protection ficial mounting. ‘Perpetual Pet works with you to create a pose from the blast of a firecracker, but I didn’t know that at the time. and appearance that looks as natural and lifelike as possible. Try to be a greener parent. Demonstrate you care by helping Even from a distance of a mere couple of feet or so, it will be him insulate his playhouse and teaching him to recycle his pet’s difficult to tell any difference at all, save the lack of movement.’ hair (cat and dog hair can be spun to make great sweaters and Not only will your pet have a zero carbon footprint, you will beanies). Help him spot opportunities for green activism in the also save a fortune on pet food and vets’ bills. And when you go neighbourhood: for example, letting down the tyres of parked on holiday just pop your little loved one in your suitcase. SUVs he passes on his way to school. Buy some low-energy light If your heart is set on a more animated pet companion, though, bulbs so he can take one as a gift for his friends’ parents when he 20  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009


is invited for a sleepover or party – it’s a great way to spread the green message. Get him involved in greenie chores such as weeding the veggie garden, seeing to the composting, and sorting the rubbish for recycling. With any luck he’ll be so tired by the time his head hits the pillow that he won’t toss and turn worrying about the polar ice caps. Remember, there’s an upside to all this for parents. You won’t have to buy expensive trainers or designer clothes for your little worrywart. He will insist that all his stuff comes from the local second-hand stores. When he spends too long on the Xbox, remind him that video-game consoles consume billions of kilowatt-hours each year. ‘Remember those polar ice caps are melting!’ Clothes Sinner – 2 May Dear Dr Green, We’ve had a long spell of terrible weather. It’s been impossible to get clothes dry. When it’s not raining it’s windless. Since we try to keep heating to a minimum, it’s hard to dry clothes indoors. I’ve begun to use the tumble dryer again, something I haven’t done since seeing Al Gore on that forklift in An Inconvenient Truth. I’m feeling terribly guilty. What should I do? Clothes Sinner Dear Clothes Sinner, A tumble dryer is the crack cocaine of laundering. Once you start, you’ll find excuses to use it again and again. The dryer is the most energy-hungry appliance in the house, churning out 7.5 kg of carbon dioxide a week. One solution is to wash clothes less often by rotating them or only wearing dark clothes that don’t show the dirt. Did Jesus wash his Jockeys every day? I doubt it. Most of the time, I suspect, Jesus went commando. Do you really need to wear clothes in the house? Going naked at home will not only keep your laundry basket from overflowing but may also improve your sex life. I go around in the buff most of the time I’m at home. I keep an old robe by the front door so as not to scare the Girl Guides when they come knocking. An ingenious method has been devised for drying clothes on windless days. You take your basket to the side of a busy highway and hold each garment out towards the oncoming traffic in much the same way as a bullfighter does to a charging bull. The backdraught from speeding vehicles will have your clothes dry in no time. Large trucks are especially good dryers. If you have lots of clothes to dry, round up some spry old people in the neighbourhood to help. They have little to do and are usually willing to help for a small fee. Noel O’Hare is a Wellington journalist who has been writing about health issues for over 20 years. His work has been recognised with numerous awards including the Qantas Media Awards Senior Feature Writer of the Year. He is best known for his writing in the New Zealand Listener, but has also contributed to publications such as the UK Guardian and Investigate. His biting new global warming satire, How To Save The World, is available from good bookstores. [ How To Save The World, NEW HOLLAND PUBLISHERS, RRP $19.99].

INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  21


>  eyes right

Richard Prosser

One more for the road

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bought a radar detector a couple of months ago. It’s the and thankfully still legal, modern technologies. The Anglo-Saxon first one I’ve ever owned. It cost me 400 notes on TradeMe, in me feels no compunction to obey the law of the land simply but it paid for itself inside the first week. because it’s there. There has to be good reason for the law to exist I make no apology for finally deciding to utilise tax-minimi- first. Authority is required to justify itself, in my book. Generally, sation technology such as my shiny new Whistler® XTR-690 SE. it attempts to do this by identifying a problem, prescribing a remIn fact I think it makes me a safer driver, in that I can now drive edy for the problem, and enforcing that remedy by imposing variwith both eyes on the road all the time again, instead of having to ous punishments upon those who do not voluntarily adhere to it. keep one of them on the speedo, like I have had to do ever since the This would be fine were it not for two considerations, these Police Force became a branch of the Inland Revenue Department. being (1) that deterrence based on punishments dished out to other It’s not even as if I drive particularly fast these days. Once upon people doesn’t often work, and (2) Government, given the option, a time, when I was a testosterone-fuelled young sales rep, I went usually manages to miss the target completely, by addressing a quite everywhere at at least 140k. Nowadays, I prefer to pootle along different reality from that which is actually causing the problem. steadily at a more sedate 120 km/h. I’m older, greyer, more at one Speed is an acknowledged causative factor in something like 30% with the world, and I have less to prove to anyone. of vehicle accidents. Government responds to this situation by dicMy motivation for purchasing the aforementioned device was tating speed limits for motor vehicles for various open and urban the receipt of one too many speeding tickets. I have had six in my roads, and imposing fines upon those drivers who exceed them, driving lifetime; the latest – generally in such places and last – was, for this writer, where the aforementioned  The teenager of 25 years ago the Bridge Too Far. drivers are easier to catch. I have spent a not inconsidBut speed in itself is never couldn’t just go out and buy a erable part of the 27 years since the sole cause of any accident. I first got my licence, behind It could be said that speed the wheel. As a truck driver, turbocharged Jap import rocketship which is excessive for the contravelling salesman, tourist, and ditions would fit that descripfor five hundred bucks just for fun, I guesstimate I’ve tion, and if they were serious clocked up around two-and-aabout reducing the road toll, half million kilometres, in New Zealand, the UK, and Europe. it is this which the Powers That Be would be addressing. Pardon my In my opinion – about which there is nothing humble – speed cynicism, but perhaps it just isn’t as profitable to patrol known acciand safety are the product of so many, and such varied factors, dent black spots with marked Police cars, than it is to hide a camera that simple arbitrary limits are utterly pointless. There are, whether van in the shadow of a motorway overbridge, or an unmarked car in the wowsers believe it or not, parts of this country where one can the one dip on a long straight country road. Police cars out patrolling happily cruise at 180 km/h and faster, without endangering any- with the red-and-blue flashing lights on, when it’s foggy or raining one. Likewise, there are plenty of city streets where 50 km/h is or there’s sunstrike, might save a few lives as well. Cameras on poles, the legal limit, but where, at times, driving at anything over 30 hidden in the trees, probably won’t. Y’know? could be rightly classed as homicidal madness. Alcohol is another serious issue when it comes to road safety, When it’s dark, or raining, or the road is made of gravel, or and as I write, Government is considering, amongst other things, you’re passing a primary school, or a combination of all of the lowering the legal blood alcohol limit for drivers, from 80mg per above, of course you shouldn’t drive with your foot to the boards. 100ml, to 50mg. Nice sentiment. Alcohol causes or greatly contribThat much is such a no-brainer that it shouldn’t even need a law. utes to about another 30% of road traffic accidents, and I believe Equally, when it’s fine and calm and there is visibility for miles, that the Government genuinely wants to overcome this real and and the tarmac is dry and so is the driver, then there is no evil completely avoidable insanity. inherent in exceeding 100 km/h, and I for one feel no obligation But reducing the legal limit from 80mg to 50mg will not achieve to pay a fine for the privilege of doing so. Silly laws need to be this, because it is not the drivers in the 50mg – 80mg range who ignored, as do the control freaks and the hystericals who promote are causing the problem. Global statistics show that on average, them – or, at least, avoided by the judicious use of the appropriate, alcohol-affected drivers involved in death and injury accidents

22  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009


return a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 160mg, or twice our current legal limit. One paper from the Journal of Epidemiology, recording actual hospitalisation data from a New Zealand study, (see here: http:// journals.lww.com/epidem/Abstract/2004/05000/The_Contribution_of_ Alcohol_to_Serious_Car_Crash.15.aspx) shows that some two-thirds of

impaired drivers returned BACs which were 150mg/100ml or above. Of the other third, BACs were evenly split between drivers whose BAC was between the proposed new lower limit of 50mg/100ml and 150mg/100ml, and those whose BAC was between 3mg/100ml (almost nothing) and 50mg/100ml. From this it would seem that if two thirds of the drivers who cause crashes after drinking are already at twice the limit, and the rest pose an equal risk whether they are virtually sober or not, to lower the limit from the present 80mg/100ml to the proposed 50mg/100ml is unlikely to achieve anything at all in terms of lowering the alcohol-attributable road toll, but is very likely to criminalise drivers who are not presently contributing to it. The world renowned and benchmark-setting Grand Rapids Study on alcohol and driving, cited here, (http://www.hsrc.unc.edu/safety_ info/alcohol/blood_alcohol_concentration.cfm) suggests that in lowering the limit from 100mg/100ml to 80mg/100ml, as we have already done, and as most jurisdictions in North America are either doing or contemplating, we have already taken what is probably the most effective step we can, in terms of disallowing drivers from reaching what appears to be the significant first level of impairment. Indeed drivers with a BAC of 20mg/100ml (the Swedish limit) would appear to have a lower accident rate than those with a zero concentration, and the increase in risk for levels between 20mg/100ml and 80mg/100ml appears to be negligible. Curiously enough, even in Sweden, the most commonly recorded BAC for drivers involved in alcohol-related accidents is, you guessed it, 160mg. Further examination of data from around the world appear to suggest that other factors, and more importantly combinations of them, such as youth, speed, the presence of passengers, other types of intoxication, and weather and road conditions, are far more significant in causing crashes than the differences between simple BAC levels of between 50mg/100ml and 80mg/100ml. As far as enforcement of some of these other factors is concerned, I can report that of the five of my seven step-children who have reached driving age, all have at one time or another been let off with warnings from the Police for breaching age-related driving curfews and passenger restrictions. Perhaps we don’t take these things seriously enough as a nation – or at least, the Police and the Courts don’t take them seriously enough. Indeed the latest two editions of the North Canterbury News report, respectively, a 37-year-old driver avoiding a jail sentence after being breathalysed at more than four times the legal limit, despite having three previous convictions, and a 19-year-old, finally disqualified after a crash, who had clocked up no fewer than nineteen warnings from Police, for driving unaccompanied on a learner’s licence. Perhaps, as a methodology for reducing alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents and associated deaths and injuries, greater emphasis on the vigorous and visible enforcement of existing regulations, including more road patrols, more checkpoints, random stopping, and booze buses, may be far more effective than the arbitrary lowering of the legal limit, which is unlikely to do very much other than to unfairly target drivers who are not currently responsible for causing the problem. The same could almost certainly be applied, in conjunction with

a return to the discretion of our wise, sensible, and sorely-missed senior Constables of yore, to speed limits. But even with alcohol and speed removed from the equation, some 40% of motor vehicle accidents require an explanation; and I would suggest that the most likely answer is that, as a nation, New Zealanders are just simply not very good drivers. Given that we have the second highest rate of motor vehicle ownership in the world, this is inexcusable. We are rude, aggressive, poorly schooled on the road rules, discourteous, and technically incompetent behind the wheel. Government’s suggested answer is to raise the driving age. Yes, that’ll work, won’t it; defer the problem for a couple of years, from 15 to 17. This change is being promoted by people who, like me, learned to drive at fifteen. It has not occurred to them that today’s learner drivers will, like us, be no more mature or sensible in two year’s time, than they are now. What was different then, was that cars were slower and less accessible. The teenager of 25 years ago couldn’t just go out and buy a turbocharged Jap import rocketship for five hundred bucks. If you got to borrow the car at all, it was Mum’s Hillman Avenger, which was flat out at 90 k, and on top of that, it was worth seven grand, so you’d better look after it, or else. Why do we not, as a nation, teach kids to drive, and drive properly, in schools? Is this genuinely valuable life skill not more important than some of the worthless PC rubbish which we waste curriculum time on filling their heads with today? Or limit the CC rating and horsepower of the cars they’re allowed to drive, by themselves, just like we used to with learner motorbike licences? Sometimes I despair of our Governments and their ill-advised, headline-driven, knee-jerk approach to policy making. It’d be enough to drive a less responsible man than myself to drink.

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www.stressless.co.nz INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  23


>  line one

Chris Carter Carter owns a ship

T

hey always reckon that you are never too old to learn those who do not against each other inevitably leads to a society or, at the very least, to be able to change your mind about based on pure envy and distrust. Having now cast aside the mensomething or other that you’ve always held to be true. Me? tally crippling blight that has previously infected this city, the rest From having lived in Auckland for the better part of my of New Zealand should be delighted to learn that the attitude of life, during which time I’ve also traveled the length and breadth of folk up here has improved almost out of sight. New Zealand, I was forced to agree with the bulk of the populaDespite currently still being in somewhat of an economic downtion who live south of the Bombay Hills: Aucklanders are mostly turn it’s now quite common when wandering down Queen Street right up themselves, tend to be less than friendly, only worship to see complete strangers acknowledging one another. God help the making of money, or bleating about losing it in vast amounts us, even the occasional smile can now be observed, which brings to the indigenous con-men and crooks that prey on the unwary. me, somewhat circuitously to the point of this story. In short, not unlike the inhabitants of Sydney, Australia, There is a man-made device that has saved this city, even in Aucklanders are generally distrusted or even actively disliked by its darkest moments, from mirroring for instance the sad city of the folk who live outside of the City Limits, to the point in fact that Sydney...it’s the common old boat! Doesn’t matter, be it a dinghy one of the most dangerous activities that can be undertaken by any or a super yacht, the boat has a magical effect on people that’s Aucklander visiting the otherwise genteel City of Christchurch is, almost beyond belief. Auckland is pretty well acknowledged as in an unguarded moment, to even let on that you are a Rangitoto being one of the top boating capitals of the world with more vesYank. Your inevitable reward sels per head of population is more than likely to be an than most. Which is why, if  If you’re at all interested in enforced visit to the A&E for you’re at all interested in disa quick repair job! covering the true character discovering the true character of It’s actually quite scary for of a people you should head any Aucklander taking his for the sea, because it’s there a people you should head for the or her first trip to the less you will be pleasantly surcivilised parts of Godzone prised as to what you will sea, because it’s there you will be that lie beyond the City gates find. – those ones marked on most People who might well pleasantly surprised as to what you do anything from just plain AA roadmaps with the words “Here be Dragons”, as whilst ignoring you through to will find Southerners are thought by showering you with abuse international visitors to be for just about anything at amongst the most friendly and hospitable people in the world, all, undergo a complete metamorphosis when meeting others these feelings of “hail fellow well met” seem rarely extended to about to brave the briny. Rich or poor, old or young, girl or guy, the allegedly humourless and flinty eyed Auckland worshipers of it seems to make absolutely no difference at all; it’s the one activMammon. ity beyond anything that I’ve ever struck before that for some Indeed, it is small wonder that until very recently Aucklanders peculiar reason creates a common bond that is truly remarkable. willingly embraced the dark, Socialist philosophy that preached I bought a boat a couple of weeks back and rented a marina to the State would provide everyone with that which they may need. put it on, nothing particularly flash,certainly not in comparison to Curiously, Aucklanders quietly observed that these same left- some of the stuff that it’s parked alongside that’s for sure. Like all ist messiahs also believed that Greed is Good and were shame- second hand boats it needs a bit doing to it so I’ve been working lessly grazing with wild excess at the public trough to the point on her for a couple of weeks or so, looking forward to the weather where even the jaded Aucklander cried enough and immediately coming right so we can head off and catch some fish for tea, like changed religions. who can afford to buy it eh? Anyway, from day one on this pretty Thus began the rehabilitation of Auckland. People began to re- busy West Auckland Marina, I just cannot believe the attitudes discover that politically generated division between people, based and the good natured camaraderie being freely expressed and daily on the destructive Marxist principals of pitting those who have and demonstrated by the dozens of people who have stopped by to 24  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009


just say good day, offer advice or even just to comment about what I’m up to. It would be pretty near impossible to walk fifty yards anywhere around here without some complete stranger saying good-day to you ,and you only have to look like needing a bit of a hand to do something and a small army suddenly appears. Reminds me a bit of Southland or Invercargill, so I can only guess that maybe enough of you guys have emigrated northward to have some effect on the Big City’s inhabitants! Whatever the reason, strip away all of the B.S. about the so called Auckland image and it appears that there is indeed very little difference between Kiwis wherever they happen to hang their gumboots, which I reckon is the thing we should always remember, especially when those who would seek to divide us and to eventually try to rule us can scarcely be thought of as being anything other than people whose only motive is to help themselves rather than their fellow Kiwis. Ordinary Kiwis are quite properly thought of, worldwide, as being nice, hard working , very approachable and trustworthy people. It’d be nice to think that we will reinforce that well earned image as we elect our leaders, preferably from amongst real Kiwis who share our values rather than those more usually found in dusty books of agendas belonging to rabid revolutionaries of the long past.

Meantime, let’s simply look around us at what we’ve got and should be very grateful to have, and that in a nutshell is not the landmass, but rather the people who were either born here or choose to live here. New Zealand is a great place to live and to bring up kids only because of the people we live amongst who, by and large, are free and happy. Our main job is to keep it that way! Chris Carter appears in association with www.snitch.co.nz, a must-see site.

INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  25


>  contra mundum

Matthew Flannagan

“Bigoted fundamentalist” as Orwellian double-dpeak

I 

am a Theologian with a strong background in Philosophy; that Israel is central to biblical prophecy of future events) pre-milapart from Philosophical Theology, my particular area of inter- lennial (belief that Jesus Christ will return to Earth and rule from est is Ethics. Given this, I often publish my thoughts and reflec- Jerusalem for a thousand years, based on Rev. 20:1-6) and 6-day tions on moral issues, of various persuasions, in various media. creationist reading of scripture. However, many of the authors of I have written on the morality of warfare, whether it is some- “The Fundamentals” were Darwinists and rejected pre-millennialtimes permissible to lie, the morality of torture, capital punish- ism. To complicate things further, Islamic terrorists are not dispenment, the nature of our obligations to the poor, issues around sational pre-millennial, though some are literal 6-day creationists abortion and homosexual conduct – topics, I think, that are and others are old earth creationists. Now, dispensationalists are unavoidable if one is a theologian writing from a relatively con- committed to the State of Israel. I doubt Al Qa’ida, Hamas, et al servative evangelical perspective. are terribly enthusiastic about the protection of the Israeli state. Some of my positions are controversial, I believe that homoWhen I was researching for my doctorate in theology I noted sexual conduct is contrary to divine law and I believe that feticide Roman Catholic apologists often use the term “fundamentalist” is homicide. The latter claim is not just a casual opinion; I spent to designate evangelicals. Yet when I studied at Laidlaw College some years writing a PhD thesis on the topic and over the last the term was used by evangelical professors to designate defenders couple of years I have had academic articles published in this area. of a strict understanding of biblical inerrancy, particularly those Now an all too pervasive response to a Christian, like me, express- who emphasised a strict adherence to scripture in contrast to the ing a position on these issues experiential theology assois to be deemed a “fundamenciated with Pentecostalism.  The labelling of someone as talist bigot” (or variation to However, the media often that effect). One would think describes Pentecostal a “bigot” fairs little better. The that it would be fairly obvious churches, like Destiny that one cannot refute a posiChurch as fundamentalist. dictionary defines a bigot as “an tion simply by calling the perIn his book Warranted son who holds it names, and Christian Belief, Alvin it is tempting to dismiss this obstinate or intolerant adherent of a Plantinga noted that the response as simply a confused term “fundamentalist” point of view” ad hominem, the problem is tends to expand or contract that people do not appear to depending upon who uses it find this obvious. In my experience, many people, even educated and we can definitely see that in the examples above. Plantinga’s people, recoil from considering any argument against feticide or conclusion was that, homosexual conduct or listening to theological concerns on these Its cognitive content is given by the phrase ‘considerably to the right, or other matters because they perceive such positions to be “fun- theologically speaking, of me and my enlightened friends.’ The full damentalist” and “bigoted.” meaning of the term, therefore (in this use), can be given by someIt is worth fisking this objection a bit. A good place to start is thing like ‘stupid sumbitch whose theological opinions are considerto ask what this charge amounts to? ably to the right of mine’.1 Take the term “fundamentalist,” what exactly does it mean? It It is hard to resist his conclusion that “merely pointing out that is hard to find a consistent definition of the term. Originally the they differ from the objector’s (even with the addition of that abuterm referred to a particular protestant movement of Christianity sive emotive force) is not [a valid objection].”2 The term fundain the early 20th century who published a series of tracts entitled mentalist in its contemporary use “is simply meant to denigrate the “the fundamentals.” Clearly, when the term is used today, few and demonise, to label and conjure up stereotypes to avoid havwho use it have this meaning in mind. ing to actually come up with anything concrete”3 like an actual Muslim terrorists are regularly called “fundamentalist” yet they argument against their position. do not defend the fundamental Christian doctrines that this moveThe labelling of someone as a “bigot” fairs little better. The dicment defended. In other contexts, fundamentalist is a term used tionary defines a bigot as “an obstinate or intolerant adherent of to describe those with a strict dispensationalist (end-times belief a point of view.”4 Presumably, the objector claims that one who

26  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009


appeals to the law of God to condemn feticide or homosexual conduct (or some other practice celebrated by contemporary liberal secularists) displays or expresses these features; they are both obstinate and intolerant. The accusation clarified, an obvious question arises, why? Turning first to the issue of obstinance, why assume that the fact that someone holds these beliefs automatically renders them obstinate? Could they not have come to these beliefs as a result of careful and considered reflection? Alternatively, could they hold to them because they are not convinced that the counter arguments are sound? What is needed here is some argument to preclude such options and none is forthcoming; names and labels won’t do the job. I suspect that what lingers behind this accusation is the belief that theologically-based opposition to issues like abortion is obviously mistaken and the case against it so compelling that no rational, informed person could possibly think otherwise. If so, then this is not so much an argument against such appeals but an assumption that those who make them are mistaken on other grounds. The objector should come clean about what these other grounds are and put forward these compelling, unassailable arguments that everyone else should apparently already know about. Regarding the charge of intolerance, let me here just say that the concern about intolerance implicit in this objection is mistaken. Even if the proponents of more conservative positions were intolerant, this would only constitute an objection to their behaviour if it were first assumed that people have a duty to refrain from intolerance but this assumption is problematic. In many contexts intolerance is appropriate and contrary to popular slogans, is a virtue. Imagine a society that tolerated rape, child molestation or infant sacrifice? Moreover, if unqualified, the assertion that people have a duty to be tolerant entails that one is required to tolerate intolerance; a deeply paradoxical claim. For this charge to have any substance, the objector needs to specify what sorts of action he or she thinks one should tolerate and which ones are such that intolerance is inappropriate. He or she needs to justify this distinction and then provide reasons for thinking that appeals to divine law on a subject like feticide fall into the latter category. Again, a label will not achieve this. Here us the rub; if feticide is an action on a par with infanticide then intolerance towards it is justified. In asserting that it is not, the objector implicitly assumes that feticide is not homicide without offering an argument. Similarly, if homosexual conduct is a serious form of sexual immorality, on par with incest, bestiality, polygamy or adultery, then intolerance against it is not necessarily wrong. Our society, for example, has laws against incest and bestiality and few contend for their repeal (though the chipping away has begun). Once again, the objector here, in making their charge, assumes that homosexual conduct is not seriously immoral without providing an argument. Now it is possible that these assumptions are correct but it is also possible they are not. Anyone who appeals to divine law to condemn practices like feticide or homosexual conduct is denying these assumptions. You don’t provide a cogent objection to a position by assuming it is false at the outset and then using this assumption to prove that it is, arguing in this circular fashion proves nothing and is an error of logic. What is needed is an actual argument for the assumption in the first place. Until some actual argument is forthcoming that demonstrates the falsity of what has been defended, objec-

 Even if the proponents of more conservative positions were intolerant, this would only constitute an objection to their behaviour if it were first assumed that people have a duty to refrain from intolerance but this assumption is problematic tions based on the notion of tolerance merely beg the question and have no impact on the thesis being advanced. I think there is a kind of irony here; often when someone accuses Christians of “fundamentalist bigotry” they themselves are the ones obstinately assuming that their position is true and their assumption leads them to castigate and refuse to tolerate the opinions or persons who express dissent to their secular liberal orthodoxy. In using these labels they are dismissing a person’s opinion, not on the basis of reason but on the basis of a religious stereotype. Here, as elsewhere, the accusation of “fundamentalist bigotry” is a form of Orwellian double-speak. References:

1. Alvin Plantinga Warranted Christian Belief (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000) 245. 2. Ibid. 3. I am grateful to my wife, Madeleine Flannagan for these words. 4. Oxford English Dictionary

INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  27


28  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009


The VANISHED A DARKER TRUTH BEHIND CHILD ABDUCTION HEADLINES The disappearance of Aisling Symes shocked a nation, and made headlines across the world as fears of a McCann-style child abduction grew. While the tragedy turned out to be a terrible accident, it’s raised the profile of a rapidly growing problem – the trade in abducted children. IAN WISHART has more INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  29


I

t’s sunset over Longburn Road. The last rays of a dying day dance in the branches of the many trees gracing this West Auckland loop road, occasionally punching through the foliage to dapple a patch of footpath or glisten in the hair of a playing child. Metres away from where I stand and right where I’m staring, although I’m painfully unaware at the time, the body of two year old Aisling Symes lies wedged in a stormwater drainpipe. It will be 24 hours almost to the minute before police are recalled to that drainpipe and make that grisly discovery. For now, Longburn Road is quiet. I’m the only person pacing the footpath outside the home that Aisling disappeared from, although the sounds of other children can be heard just around the corner. Believe it or not, children do still play in the front yards of the houses here, albeit that anxious adults now hover, like the ultimate helicopter mothers, just metres away, taking no chances. The vanishing of Aisling Symes haunts parents here, and indeed throughout New Zealand as a reminder of what could have been. “That could easily have been my two year old grandson,” one woman says with a slight shudder as she glances across at the lit30  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

tle boy kicking a ball across the grass in front of his home. Like a number of the properties on the street, it is not fenced. Tonight, however, Nana, Mum and aunties are present in abundance. On the Monday it began, six days earlier, Auckland was deluged with rain and freezing temperatures. Those of us who’d heard the news of the missing child from a house near a creek felt our hearts sink low as the frosty air from the harsh southern front that dropped snow on the central north island tightened its wintry grip on the city. No two year old was likely to survive such a cold wet night, we all knew, alone. That’s why in a perverse way the news that Aisling had last been seen with an Asian woman, walking around a corner, boosted hopes that the child might be alive. Surely no female adult would leave a two year old alone on the street. But as that female adult failed to come forward, and still hasn’t, fears of an abduction grew. While we now know that wasn’t the case, the problem of child abductions is worth taking a deeper look at. Every day, in the United States alone, 30 children disappear without trace, never to be seen again. That’s more than one child


an hour – a total of more than 10,000 vanishings a year. These are the kids on the milk cartons, if they’re lucky. In New Zealand, you can count the number of known child disappearances on the fingers of one hand over the past three decades – it just isn’t that common at all. But what happens when kids disappear? Is it all the work of random paedophiles? Apparently not. According to the UN, human trafficking – a modern euphemism for abduction and forced slavery – is one of the top three moneyspinners for organized crime. No longer is it just sex offenders grabbing kids off the street – now gangs are prepared to do it because of the money they can make selling the child on. A US State Department investigation into child trafficking released a few weeks ago paints a grim picture of a growing industry – stealing kids to order. “When Julia was 8, a man took her and her sisters to a neighbouring country and forced them to beg on the streets until their early teens when he sold them into prostitution,” documents the State Department report of one European case. “Julia’s traffickers expected her to bring in a certain amount of money each day or face beatings. At 14, Julia ran away, eventually coming under the supervision of local authorities. They placed her in an orphanage where she was not allowed to go to school due to her undocumented status. “After a few months, Julia ran away from the orphanage and became involved with a pimp who prostituted her to local men and tourists. “Recently, Julia was arrested on narcotics charges. She will likely spend the next two years in a juvenile prison, where she will finally learn to read and write.” The State Department claims New Zealand has been a destination for abducted women and girls. “The Republic of Korea (ROK) is a source country for the trafficking of women and girls within the country and to the United States (often through Canada and Mexico), Japan, Hong Kong, Guam, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation.” Where there is demand, such as New Zealand, potentially there may also be supply. Anecdotally, Investigate has been told of children being prostituted in New Zealand to wealthy and prominent clients in brothels run by organized crime, but without hard, catchthem-in-the-act evidence it’s almost impossible to nail. Nor is it just sexual slavery. Adults and children can also find themselves snatched, or conned, into other macabre and dangerous situations according to the State Department report. “Mohammad Salim Khan woke up in a strange house and felt an excruciating pain in his abdomen. Unsure where he was, Khan asked a man wearing a surgical mask what had happened. ‘We have taken your kidney,’ the stranger said, according to a January 2008 Associated Press report. ‘If you tell anyone, we’ll shoot you.’ “Six days earlier, Khan, a 33-year-old Indian day laborer from New Delhi, had been approached by a bearded man offering a construction job. The man explained that the work would pay $4 a day – not unusual in India – and would last three months. Khan, a father of five, jumped at the chance for work. “He travelled with the man to a small town several hours away. Once there, Khan was locked in a room and forced at gunpoint to give a blood sample and take drugs that made him unconscious. He didn’t wake up until after surgery. “Police raided the illegal clinic afterward, rescuing Khan and

two other men. Khan never received money for his kidney, and it took months to recover physically. Indian authorities pursued charges against the doctor involved. “Khan was trafficked for the purpose of organ removal. “The UN TIP [Trafficking in Persons] Protocol prohibits the use of human trafficking for the purpose of organ removal. This may include situations in which a trafficker causes the involuntary removal of another living person’s organ, either for profit or for another benefit, such as to practice traditional medicine or witchcraft. “The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 10 percent of the 70,000 kidneys transplanted each year may originate on the black market.” Hopefully, the following series of reports will provide some context to the wider issue of abductions:

WOMEN THE MAIN OFFENDERS New York/Vienna , DPA– The United Nations says more women than men are human traffickers, particularly in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) published a global report on “trafficking in persons” with a warning that the UN still has a lot to learn about the worldwide problem, as it admitted that data and understanding still elude researchers on the sad plague of modern-day slavery. “We have a big picture, but it is impressionistic and lacks depth,” said Antonio Maria Costa, the UNODC executive director. “We fear the problem is getting worse, but we cannot prove it for lack of data, and many governments are obstructing,” Costa said in releasing the report at UN headquarters in New York. “It is sick that we should even need to write a report about slavery in the 21st century.” The report provided no data regarding the global scale of the problem, noting only that the total number of identified victims rose from 11,700 to 14,900 between 2003 and 2006 in 71 selected countries. Costa called for help for the victims, and for measures to deter trafficking, increase the risks for traffickers and “lower the demand for the goods and services of modern-day slaves.” In addition to the need for more research, the report said many governments still lack the legal tools to identify, report or prosecute human trafficking. A total of 155 countries have signed on to implement agreements or laws against human trafficking in the past five years, but only 61 of them provided data for the present report. “Either they are blind to the problem, or they are ill-equipped to deal with it,” Costa said. Sexual exploitation is the predominant reason for human trafficking making up 79 per cent of cases, followed by forced labour. But there were worrying instances of new types of trafficking, including trade with human organs, the report said. The report said 30 per cent of countries that provided information for the report showed that women made up the largest proportion of traffickers. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, females accounted for more than 60 per cent of convictions, many of them were former victims. UNODC said human trafficking has become a multi-billiondollar business, with profits second only to arms trafficking around the world. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  31


portion of minors in human trafficking cases has risen from 15% to 22%, the report said. Worth around 32 billion dollars a year, human trafficking is the third most lucrative illegal trade after weapons and drugs, UN experts say. The report by ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes) said that half the money made from the global sex trade is made in industrialised nations. “Along with pimps and clients, passport counterfeiters, corrupt officials, transport workers, paedophiles and other sex tourists are also involved,” said ECPAT’s Astrid Winckler. Situated in the middle of Europe, Austria is a crossing point for many minors who are brought from eastern Europe or the Caucasus to work as prostitutes or escorts in private clubs in the West.

 In China, the photos of abducted and missing children grace playing cards in the hope of jarring recognition. US STATE DEPT

Forced labour represents 18 per cent of human trafficking, but has eluded detection and is less reported than trafficking for sex because the latter is highly visible in cities and along highways. “We only see the monster’s tail,” Costa said. Forced labour involves hundred of thousands of victims in sweat shops, fields, mines, factories or trapped in domestic servitude, the report said. Another form of human trafficking involves child soldiers and the exploitation of children for street begging or sex. Southern Africa was cited as the region with the weakest mechanisms for prosecuting and reporting abuses. Of the 11 countries in the region, only Zambia has prosecuted suspects since 2003. Some countries, including China, Saudi Arabia and Iran, did not provide any data to the UNODC. The UNODC said it was alarmed by reports of cases involving new forms of trafficking, including for organ trade in Europe and other regions, ritual killings in Southern Africa and forced marriages in Asia. According to earlier UN estimates, annual profits from human trafficking are US$32 billion. Around 2.5 million people are estimated to be held in forced labour, including forced sex, at any given time. Citing a lack of information, the report said: “Today, the member states lack the ability to say with any precision how many victims of human trafficking there are, where they come from or where they are going.”

CHILD TRAFFICKING ON THE INCREASE Karachi, PPI: The proportion of children in human trafficking cases around the world has risen to more than one in five of all victims, a report aimed at raising awareness of the problem said recently. More than 1.2 million minors are still being sexually exploited in the world every year... and between 2003 and 2007 the pro32  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

EUROPEAN CHILDREN POSSIBLY VICTIMS OF ORGAN HARVESTING Brussels, DPA – The numerous children who disappear every year from shelters in Europe run a high risk of falling into the hands of child traffickers, a European Union report urging more action against this crime warned this month. “Every year, a significant number of children in the EU fall victim to trafficking for sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, adoption and organ extraction,” the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency chief Morten Kjaerum said at the launch of the report in Brussels. However, as EU countries collect inadequate data, the Vienna-based agency has been unable to estimate the full extent of the problem. The report collected official figures indicating that a large number of children disappearing from shelters “most likely fall into the hands of traffickers.” For example, 400 of 1,320 minors who arrived in the Italian immigration centre at Lampedusa went missing in 2008. In Ireland, more than 50 children in public care went missing annually in recent years, including five Nigerian girls who vanished in June 2007 and remain unaccounted for. The rights agency called for specialized shelters for young trafficking victims. It said that unaccompanied minors should be allowed to stay in the country, an approach that the Czech Republic has been taking. Hindering efforts to combat child trafficking was the fact that authorities were often unable to identify trafficking victims, instead treating them as criminals or prostitutes. The report indicated some national authorities were simply not aware of the problem.

Of course, none of this ultimately turned out to be relevant to the disappearance of little Aisling Symes. But the growing trade in humans worldwide means that it’s no longer just a lone sex offender we have to watch out for on the streets. The same people behind methamphetamine and other nasties are not above other lines of ‘business’. Finally, a word to Angela and Alan Symes. Our love, thoughts and prayers and indeed those of our readers are with you and your daughter Caitlin. As a community, we all briefly came to know little Aisling through her photos and video, and we all of us feel your pain. But in the midst of the darkness, hold on and cherish the good, and the treasured memories. Kia kaha. God Bless. n


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34  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009


Children of the

State

With a new education curriculum coming into effect next year, school principal MICHAEL DRAKE warns in his new book The Child Moulders that state control of children is becoming an increasing threat to a future free society

O  

n any normal school day around three quarters of a million New Zealand1 children head for schools where they can expect to be taught by dedicated, enthusiastic and highly motivated teachers. Most will encounter a range of activities and experiences, some mundane but most engaging and enjoyable, that are parts of a national curriculum designed to help them become happily integrated into a multi-ethnic national culture. Apart from the more than 30,000 who are truant2, almost all will be attending schools that are part of a national system of 2,300 state schools. The importance to the nation of this state school system, developed and maintained with pride by successive governments since its inception in 1877, can be gauged by its present cost to government of over $7,500 million3 a year. Children spend up to 13 years in state schools. In that time they receive over 13,000 hours of planned and structured teaching. What do they learn? Parents and children rightly expect that in going to school children will gain knowledge and skill. And they do, although not all of it as a result of teaching the curriculum. They also leave school with a whole lot of other learning that shapes their character and lives, learning parents may be quite unaware of. Much of that “other” learning is also carefully INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  35


“The curriculum taught in state schools has kept pace with changing times and developing educational theory. Today’s schools present stimulating, media-rich environments that contrast dramatically with classrooms of the past. Lessons involve activities and out-ofschool adventures that were not even dreamed of in 1877” 36  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009


knowledge and allowing them to grow to maturity with individual integrity. Its focus is on moulding children to fit a national pattern of the ideal child, a dependent member of a peer group. In a part of the New Zealand Curriculum called a “Vision Statement” the Ministry of Education sets out what schooling should achieve: it should prepare children for a life-long dependency on more learning, it should conform children to society, and it should enable them to contribute to the economic growth of New Zealand, ensuring they “secure a sustainable social, cultural, economic, and environmental future for our country.”4 The success of state schooling is to be measured by how well children contribute to national economic growth. Children are to be moulded according to the pattern of the state to become components of the state.

From Knowing to Believing

planned and taught, and it has become so important to the state over the 130 years of its schooling, that it has taken centre stage. Schooling used to be about passing on the knowledge, skill and experience of an older generation to a younger one. No longer. The Curriculum that becomes compulsory for all state schools from 2010 has no specified content. It has replaced passing on knowledge and skills with changing children’s beliefs as the central core of teaching. It has changed the meaning of “knowledge” from facts and ideas individual children can master to sharing the experiences of groups. It no longer focuses on giving children

Just 18 years before New Zealand boldly made state schooling “compulsory, free and secular”, J S Mill warned that “A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another … it establishes a despotism over the mind.”5 That warning went unheeded here. In the middle of the last century, C S Lewis similarly warned, “The man-moulders of the new age will be armed with the powers of an omnicompetent state and an irresistible scientific technique: we shall get at last a race of conditioners who really can cut out a posterity in what shape they please.”6 That warning too has gone unheeded here. We now have a state education system that is exciting, stimulating, popular and moulding children to its own shape. The curriculum taught in state schools has kept pace with changing times and developing educational theory. Today’s schools present stimulating, media-rich environments that contrast dramatically with classrooms of the past. Lessons involve activities and out-of-school adventures that were not even dreamed of in 1877. In keeping with the state’s commitment to modernity, the New Zealand Curriculum7 that becomes official in 2010 has been launched with public consultation, teacher re-training and glossy publicity. Yet state education has always dragged with it the spectral shadow of state control of the minds and beliefs of the nation’s children, and never more overtly so than with the new Curriculum. Among the most striking developments is the comprehensiveness of change. Every aspect of the curriculum prescribed for state schools has changed. Its aims, content and methods are all different from what once characterised education. One of the most radical changes has been in the content of state schooling. Once what was to be taught was prescribed and what children believed was personal. Now there is no prescription of what is to be known but there is a very narrow prescription of what is to be believed. Once a child had to know what the state prescribed and could develop a personal faith or religious perspective. Now children must believe what the state prescribes (what it euphemistically calls “values”) and can know whatever. When I started teaching 40 years ago, the aim of a state schooling was to pass on to each child a sound foundation of objective knowledge and skill. That foundation, it was expected, would enable children to grow as individuals, becoming part of a variegated adult society in which the state protected individual rights and life, but in which people made their own choices about the nature of their participation in wider society. Social order grew from the choices people made about how they wanted to live their INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  37


lives – and they were held morally accountable for those choices. The state existed then as the servant of its people, and education as the servant of parents and children. By giving explicit expression to the new aims that have been gradually introduced over recent decades, particularly the aim of securing a “future for our country,”8 it is evident that the imposition of a social order has become the state education system’s focus. Social order is of course desirable. But instead of social order growing from the free choices of people, it is now to be imposed by the state, and the education system is the vehicle by which it will be imposed. Instead of schooling that equips children with knowledge upon which they can draw, in maturity, to make decisions about the society in which they would live, the state school system now prescribes the shape of society and gives an “education” that conforms children to that mould. Children and education are now the servants of the state. New Zealanders look with justified horror at school systems in totalitarian states of the past and present where uniformed ranks of children are herded into institutions to be indoctrinated into a narrow view of the world and their place in it, forced to replace traditional loyalties, beliefs and morality with the state’s authorised culture, and infused with selected and adapted bits of knowledge that rob them of the vast breadth and variegated heritage of facts and ideas common to mankind. Nothing is more threatening to a controlling state than freedom to know. Those schools are often served by dedicated, enthusiastic and highly motivated teachers. Many such teachers implement training and curricula about which they have some reservations but which they nonetheless employ because that is what is expected of them. Any questions they have will be silenced by their advisers, managers, or colleagues, or by fear of isolation and stigma. There will be some who stand against the flow, and teach with an integrity that respects children’s individuality and the freedom to think and be different; to learn beyond the boundaries authorised by those in control. Most teachers in those schools however will share their state’s aims and methods, and employ them to the best of their abilities. For all their benevolence and innocence, we rightly regard those teachers as misguided and part of a system that abuses the children in their care. This however is not a description of a foreign education system serving a despotic regime. It is a description of New Zealand state education.

The Impact of a State Monopoly Since 1877 school enrolment and attendance have been compulsory in New Zealand. Education is not compulsory – just going to school, and to a state school at that. Parents who want to choose a different way of shaping their children’s thinking, knowledge, skills and beliefs can only do so with a licence from the state: either they have to have a licence to teach children at home or the private school they want to use has to have a licence. In New Zealand, education is not a right protected by the state but a national duty controlled by the state. The first element of a totalitarian education is state compulsion exercised over all children. That fits New Zealand all too well: only 4% of children9 (30,000 children – about the same number who are truant each week from state schools) attend private schools. Compare that with our nearest democratic neighbour, Australia, where over a third (33.6%) attend non-state schools.10 Our state school system is a compulsory monopoly. It matters little whether 38  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

the service provided by a monopoly is good or bad, whether the education provided by this monopoly is benevolent or evil, or whether its intentions are right or wrong. A compulsory monopoly is by definition repressive and tyrannical. Another element of totalitarian education is manipulation of knowledge. Despotic states invariably confine children’s knowledge to “official” versions of truth through censorship and rewriting everything from science and history to literature and music. In such states every individual is not only dependent upon the state for induction into a body of politically correct knowledge, but for the meaning given to that knowledge from day to day. Although New Zealand’s School Journals, children’s readers, and local text books are overwhelmed with politically correct role-modelling and ethnic awareness, New Zealand has too entrenched a culture of shared knowledge and access to information for such manipulation to gain complete traction. Yet our state education system does limit what children can know with three dramatic and almost unbelievable educational ideas that shape the Curriculum. First is the idea that nothing can be known in any objective way, that knowledge cannot be passed from those who know to those who do not know, and that knowledge has to be made up by children from their experience. As a result the Curriculum has no prescription for what content is to be taught in state schools. Second is the idea that individuals cannot know, and that only groups can know. As a result the Curriculum makes children dependent on groups to know anything, and it makes children dependent on groups to continue to know anything. Third is the idea that what groups do know is temporary and always changing. As a result what children “know” can never really be tested, and children are to be declared educated if they have taken part in the process of schooling irrespective of any objective knowledge they may or may not gain or retain. In a free state, such an education might well be offered by some group of innovative thinkers, a fringe cult, or a colloquium of lunatics. And in a free state parents would be free to choose such an education for their children, or to reject it in favour of something different, and perhaps more rational. But not in New Zealand. The 96% of children enrolled in state schools have to be taught that way once the Curriculum becomes compulsory in 2010, and the 4% who are licensed to be different will still have to demonstrate that they are being taught to the same “standard”. Parents have no choice; children have no alternative. This too is tyrannical. What internationally respected educator Dr Michael Irwin has said of the previous national curriculum applies just as pointedly to the new one: We have a virtual monopoly of schooling and a far-reaching government curriculum which is to be mandated for all state schools and which seeks to force on all children particular and contentious views about the nature of humanity, how our society should be understood, and the way in which people should live.11

Moulding Children Despite its presumptions, our state is not yet omnicompetent, but it has proved irresistible in changing the education it provides from imparting knowledge to children, to moulding them to what it calls “outcomes”. In the preface to the Curriculum, Secretary for Education Karen Sewell identifies this as our second12 “outcomesfocused curriculum” which, she claims, “sets out what we want students to know and to be able to do.”13 There is a subtlety here that is not immediately obvious: unlike


“Our state school system is a compulsory monopoly. It matters little whether the service provided by a monopoly is good or bad, whether the education provided by this monopoly is benevolent or evil, or whether its intentions are right or wrong. A compulsory monopoly is by definition repressive and tyrannical” traditional ways of curriculum writing, this “setting out” does not list what should be taught. As already noted, there is no content of knowledge listed in this curriculum. As the Curriculum unfolds, it becomes plain that “what we want students to know” is not a body of knowledge in a traditional sense, because according to the foundational ideas of this curriculum, nothing can be known in that way. Instead, “what we want students to know” is a range of experiences from which students are to create their own temporary and untestable knowledge. As will become clearer in reading the following pages, “what we want students to know” is not a description of what is to be taught, but a process that will mould students to the state’s pattern of what children should eventually be like. Hence its proud boast that it has replaced the teaching of knowledge with “outcomes” education. Nearly 70 years ago, C S Lewis predicted values or beliefs would cease to be what motivated parents and teachers to educate their children, much less to ensure their children’s education had rich

content. Beliefs, he said with perspicuity, “will be the product, not the motive, of education.”14 That is exactly what the new Curriculum prescribes. With equal insight Lewis described how teaching would change: [Previously, teachers] did not cut men to some pattern they had chosen. They handed on what they had received: they initiated the young neophyte into the mystery of humanity which over-arched him and them alike. It was but old birds teaching young birds to fly. This will be changed. Values are now mere natural phenomena. Judgements of value are to be produced in the pupil as part of the conditioning.15 Lewis could not have been more accurate: not only are traditional values to be discarded by children, the values that they are now to live by are those “produced in the pupil as part of the conditioning” experienced through group discussion and peer pressure. The result can only be unbridled selfishness: “When all that says ‘It is good’ has been debunked, what says ‘I want’ remains.”16 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  39


Lost Humanity For Lewis, this not only dehumanises the learners, it strips the teachers of their humanity, and of any beliefs or values that have meaning: I am not supposing them to be bad men. They are, rather, not men (in the older sense) at all. They are, if you like, men who have sacrificed their own share in traditional humanity in order to devote themselves to the task of deciding what ‘Humanity’ shall henceforth mean. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’, applied to them, are words without content: for it is from them that the content of these words is henceforth to be derived. … It is not that they are bad men. They are not men at all.17 Lewis did not hold out much hope for what this sort of education could produce, caustically commenting, “We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”18 It would be the “abolition of man.” By that Lewis meant people would be stripped of their humanity. He saw the teachers he was writing of as already dehumanised in that way: “they are not bad men. They are not men at all.” No one who has more than a passing knowledge of teachers in the state schools of New Zealand could doubt their commitment to teach for the good of children, and to do it with enthusiasm and sheer hard work. In over 40 years I have been teaching it has been rare for me to find teachers who do not express a love for children and a desire to help shape their minds and lives in a fitting way. True, there have been some who were incompetent, lazy

onstrates that such teachers are the rearguard of sanity. To collaborate with the curriculum is to capitulate; besides which, the new teachers in state schools are graduates of training in the Curriculum: they can do no other than teach it. They teach now and they will teach in the future with enthusiasm, hard work, and a commitment to the destructive idea that the good of children is to be found in moulding them to the shape of a state prescribed state. Of such teachers Lewis says, “They are, if you like, [teachers] who have sacrificed their own share in traditional humanity in order to devote themselves to the task of deciding what ‘Humanity’ shall henceforth mean.”20 In the same decade Lewis published The Abolition of Man George Orwell published Nineteen Eighty Four. By then the horrors or the Nazi fascist state were becoming things of the past to a west basking in peace and growing affluence, a West still to awaken to the equally horrific impact of communist totalitarianism in Eastern Europe and Asia. Orwell’s hero, Winston greets readers with a message from a time when uniformity and conformity meant personal loneliness. It is a world of loneliness despite the managed community because in Winston’s world individuals dare not express anything personal. Adults and children chant the mantras of the state while they live together but live alone: To the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free, when men are different from one another and do not live alone— to a

“There are many whose aim in teaching is the nurturing of individuals who, equipped with knowledge and transcendent morality, will make free choices in adulthood and shape a society unconstrained by cloned conformity to the state’s present preference, or to the selfish shifting values of peer groups” or ill-suited to the task, but they have been few. For all the politics and posturing that goes with teaching as a unionised “profession”, the majority of state school teachers retain something of that quality once known as vocation or calling. There are many who continue to teach knowledge, giving children facts but not just facts; giving them a rich inheritance of the stuff that is real and true and that can be passed on from the mature to the immature with benefit. There are many teachers who will continue to uphold traditional standards of right and wrong and teach children that morality is not what they determine but what should determine their conduct, what should guide and will judge their choices. There are many whose aim in teaching is the nurturing of individuals who, equipped with knowledge and transcendent morality, will make free choices in adulthood and shape a society unconstrained by cloned conformity to the state’s present preference, or to the selfish shifting values of peer groups. There are also teachers who are better than the ideas of education they ostensibly adhere to, better than the curriculum they are committed to teaching. Like some of the teachers in Lewis’ day, they cannot wholly embrace the model of education before them, “not because their own philosophy gives a ground for condemning it (or anything else) but because they are better than their principles.”19 They too will do better than the state intends. But the already universal and overwhelmingly enthusiastic acceptance of the New Zealand Curriculum in state schools dem40  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone: From the age of uniformity, from the age of solitude, from the age of Big Brother, from the age of doublethink – greetings!21 When the state mandates what is thought and taught freedom and individuality are necessarily destroyed. It cannot be otherwise, for the state that deems itself to have the right, power or wisdom to shape children’s thinking is a state that claims to know better than its individual citizens, better than the parents of the children being taught. As Ivan Illich has said, “The ideology of obligatory schooling admits of no logical limit.”22 Children are no longer children of their parents: they are children of the state. Even if the state gets it “right” and enforces what every citizen would freely choose – which clearly it cannot do – it gets it wrong because to force each child to conform to one pattern of thought and action is to merge each child into the amorphous blob of state childhood. Orwell’s prediction of what it would be like in the Soviet state proved to be so horribly right, and was just as true of every subsequent totalitarian state: “a nation of warriors and fanatics, marching forward in perfect unity, all thinking the same thoughts and shouting the same slogans, perpetually working, fighting, triumphing, persecuting—three hundred million people all with the same face.” Our state school system mandates what is thought and taught, its children shout its slogans, and they begin to wear the same faces. In the form it has now taken, state education is stripping chil-


dren of their personhood, it is dehumanising teachers, and in a final denial of what makes for a good education, it is now consciously displacing any semblance of family responsibility for educating children. It is not just the compulsory institutionalisation of children; it is not just the forcing on children of a curriculum devoid of content; it is not just the teaching of children to abandon their parents’ morality and replace it with their own creations; it is the deliberate replacing of families by the state’s schools that is reducing families to mere suppliers of children for the state. In one of its most revealing statements, the new Curriculum claims it “engages the support of (students’) families”23 for schools. Schools were once meant to help parents educate their children; now parents are being recruited to help the state educate “its” children. J S Mill’s statement on the state education, made in 1859, is worth repeating in full: That the whole or any large part of the education of the people should be in State hands I go as far as anyone in deprecating. All that has been said of the importance of individual character, and diversity in opinions and modes of conduct, involves, as of the same unspeakable importance, diversity of education. A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another, and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, a priesthood, an aristocracy, or the majority of the existing generation; in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by natural tendency to one over the body. An education established and controlled by the State should only exist, if it exist at all, as one among many competing experiments, carried on for the purpose of example, and stimulus, to keep others up to a certain standard.24 Mill’s point is that the state should not be providing education; but if it nevertheless does, it should do so only as an alternative.25 Education in the hands of a state monopoly must by its nature contrive to suppress individuality and mould every child to the same dehumanised pattern of uniformity and conformity in the service of the state. Michael Drake is the principal of Carey College in Auckland, and has more than 40 years’ experience in the state and private education systems. His book can be ordered by emailing wycliffechristianschools@ gmail.com

References 1. In March 2009 there were 745,000 students in New Zealand schools according to Education Counts, Ministry of Education, Wellington, School Roll Summary Report March 2009 http://tiny.cc/ ziWO4 2. New Zealand Herald 10 June 2009 3. From Budget 2009 http://tiny.cc/Ujdtu . “Primary and Secondary Schooling” are said to cost just on $5,000 million in 2009/10 http:// tiny.cc/LUVXk but this figure does not include any apportioning of

Ministry of Education and related costs. 4. The New Zealand Curriculum: Vision http://tiny.cc/pMa1S 5. J S Mill On Liberty and Other Essays OUP Oxford 1991 pp117f. 6. C S Lewis The Abolition of Man Harper Collins London (1943) 1978 p38 7. Henceforth usually “Curriculum” with a capital “C”. 8. Vision 9. Education Counts 10. Private Schools and the Law / Issues Paper 12 Law Commission, Wellington 2008 p28 11. Michael Irwin From Virtues and Vices to Passionate Values Independent Christian Schools Fellowship, Auckland, 1999, p13 12. The first was in 1992 13. The New Zealand Curriculum: Forward http://tiny.cc/S6YTn 14. The Abolition of Man 15. ibid 16. ibid 17. ibid 18. The Abolition of Man p 20 19. ibid 20. ibid 21. George Orwell Nineteen Eighty-Four Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1976 (1949) p26 22. Ivan Illich Deschooling Society Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1978 (1971) p17f 23. The New Zealand Curriculum: Principles http://tiny.cc/QpIj3 24. On Liberty and Other Essays 25. Mill was of course inconsistent, and went on to advocated state schooling despite these caveats! n

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42  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009


Waves of n o i t o em

IN THE AFTERMATH OF A TSUNAMI – HOW TO REBUILD

long-haul a e b ld u o c t a h ars up for w e g d n la a e Z w who’s seen e n a m As N e n o , a o m devasted Sa im a n u ts f o cted relief d e il ir u d y reb ll a n o rs e p rst hand and fi n o ti details ta s s e a d v e lu d c h in k o suc o b whose new , N O S IL W N g Day A in W x o B e th r e efforts is E ft a a ing Sri Lank d il u b re s e c n e ision to ri c e e d e th g in of his exp h c a writes of re e h t, c a tr x e is th disaster. In important ’s it y h w d n a , d e get involv INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  43


T

he message was clear. A practical solution to the medical emergencies that were stemming from this devastating tsunami was antibiotics. Using my contacts within the Waikato District Health Board, we set about trying to identify where we could source antibiotics and were overwhelmed by the generosity of local pharmacists and were donated enough antibiotics to treat two-and-a-half-thousand patients. I decided my course of action would be to fly up to Sri Lanka, donate the antibiotics in the village of Matara, which had been badly affected, and then undertake a number of meetings to determine what long-term assistance programme we could put in place. From my experience in politics, I knew that to get full support of my fellow councillors it would be essential that I took somebody else with me. My initial thought was to bring another City Councillor along and approached both Councillor Peter Bos and Councillor Dave Macpherson. I also felt that bring water-purifying equipment would be a good idea. Dave Macpherson suggested that I get a hold of Rob Hamill who was famous in New Zealand for winning the inaugural trans-Atlantic rowing race, as he knew a lot about water purifiers. In time, both Councillor Bos and Councillor Macpherson advised that they were unavailable to come with me on the trip and since Rob Hamill had been so helpful it was decided that I would ask Rob if he would like to accompany me on a fact-finding mission to Sri Lanka. In the city of Hamilton, each year an elected member of Council is entitled to spend $2,000 on training and I chose to use my $2,000 to help cover my airfare costs up to Sri Lanka. I felt that there was no doubt that I would derive considerable benefit from this experience and so would the City of Hamilton. I would see more detailed examples of how best to manage things in an emergency situation from a City Council’s point of view than any conference that I could attend. I was delighted that Councillor Macpherson also made his $2,000 available and, from memory, so did His Worship the Mayor Michael Redman. So within a few days of the Boxing Day tsunami, Rob Hamill and myself were ready to go. It had been a busy few days, we had spent a lot of time coordinating the antibiotics, getting approvals from the Sri Lankan Government, arranging meetings with the UN officials in Matara. I had also spent a lot of time getting approvals from our own Ministry of Health to get the antibiotics out of New Zealand. Dr Jan White, the CEO of the Waikato DHB, and Michael Ludbrook, chairman of the Waikato District Health Board were particularly helpful in making that happen. On Friday the 31st of December, Rob and I travelled to Auckland to receive our inoculations which included, Hepatitis A, Typhoid, and Malaria medication from Marc Shaw one of the world’s leading travel doctors. We hunted around for the most affordable airfare and realised quickly that no such thing existed and paid an over-inflated fare to House of Travel and Singapore Airlines. The old saying, ‘In the midst of adversity and disaster, some will profit’, came to mind and taught me a lesson about booking airfares last minute. The flight to Colombo, Sri Lanka on the 02 January 2005 was uneventful, although very long. We flew via Singapore, arriving in Colombo just after midnight. We took our transfer to our hotel. Immediately after departing the airport I couldn’t help but notice a number of machinegun posts littering the arrival and departure area around the airport. Although clearly the civil war between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan Forces had ceased under a peace 44  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

accord, tensions were still relatively high. The following morning I was awoken to the sound of helicopters arriving and departing from an Air Force helicopter base just opposite my hotel. Looking out over the ocean and over the city of Colombo, it looked like any large third-world city untouched by the tsunami. Tuk tuks raced in between vans and buses in nerve-wracking rides for their occupants. The temperature was incredibly hot. The minute you walked out of the hotel, you were hit with a wall of moist, hot air necessitating either a change of clothing or acceptance that you were going to walk around half drenched most of the day. After attending a couple of meetings in Colombo, we arranged for a trip south to inspect first-hand the impact of the Boxing Day tsunami. The usual 160 kilometre journey to Matara would usually take no more than two hours, albeit the most hair-raising driving experience you would ever encounter, but on this day the drive down took in excess of five hours. What I witnessed will never leave me. The first 45 minutes of the journey was uneventful but then, as though we suddenly arrived on a new planet, clear evidence of the destructive force of the tsunami just overwhelmed us. Newspaper articles and photos, television image and radio broadcasts cannot give you the intimate and full picture of the devastation. The component that was missing in this media cocktail was the smell, and as we drove throughout the day an odd blend of the smell of ocean, death, and dust from the destruction blanketed us no matter where we went. Boats that had been out in the harbour or fishing off the coast had ended up being placed one to two kilometres inland. As we drove down the main Galle road, boats now occupied spaces that should have been occupied by cars. Buildings had crumbled, like a child had smashed a Lego-set house. Piles of rubble lay scattered across the sides of the road, clear evidence that here once stood a house. Tents now stood roughly where homes had once occupied and people were doing their washing amongst all of this devastation. Palm trees still gently swayed in the ocean breeze. I witnessed a train track that had been picked up by the force of the wave and wrapped around a coconut tree. Clearly the coconut tree swayed with the force of the water and the steel was manipulated like one would twist and snap a coat hanger or paper clip. Families tried to go about their normal day-to-day business. I noticed a two-storied house with no walls left, just the frame and the roof and people were living, sleeping and eating in what remained of their homes. What took me by surprise the most was the selective nature of the destruction. It was as though some villages took the brunt of the wave and other villages looked nearly untouched. The reason behind this suddenly became clear. In the village of Seenigama they had developed a number of small industries including a few that involved raiding the reef just off the coastline, bringing the coral back, putting it through a kiln and turning it into plaster which in turn would be ironically used in construction. Just a few kilometres down the road was the village of Hikkaduwa. They, the villagers, had always had a very popular diving industry, so the reefs were untouched. When the tsunami wave approached and slowed down as it hit shallower water, the wave struck the coral reef in front of Hikkaduwa and passed through the village with some destruction, but not total. The wave had nothing to slow or break its mighty force outside the village of Seenigama and hit its first obstacle, which was the coastline, with devastating effect. Half the villagers drowned. Mother Nature had just reminded us of the delicacy of our environment.


A man looks at a derailed train coach laying next to a destroyed house in the town of Dellewatha near the city of Galle, Sri Lanka, 2 January 2005. Hundreds of thousands of people living in the coastal areas of Sri Lanka lost their homes and around 30,000 people were killed by a devastating tsunami. Photo:DPA

Just north of Seenigama was a scene I will never forget. I recall the car coming around the corner and off to the left-hand side was what had become the norm, a once thriving village now a pile of rubble. But, as though out of some terribly bad B-grade horror movie, train carriages were scattered before us. The train had been brought to a stop by signal lights. As it waited for the lights to turn green, the full force of the tsunami wave hit. Eye-witnesses told me the wave took them by total surprise and trapped a majority of those riding the train, their seats becoming their final resting place and many were children. Of the 1,500 on board, a thousand died.

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he unrelenting stench of human death was emotionally overwhelming and physically overpowering. As we pulled up in our vehicle, the Sri Lankan army was attempting to right a number of the train carriages using a tank. I wandered around the scene in absolute dismay. Littered in between the rubble were little children’s shoes, the odd stuffed toy and a hand-held light that had been sponsored by Anchor Milk with the inscription, “The goodness of milk from New Zealand”, lay scattered amongst the ruins. In an attempt to get some fresh air I walked across the road towards the ocean and was overwhelmed by emotion. In front of me lay the tranquil, inviting ocean, golden sand beaches, swaying palm trees and behind me, a scene of destruction inundated with smell and death. As I looked down at my feet, I suddenly realised that the smell was so concentrated because I was standing right next to a decomposing body that had obviously been buried in a very shallow grave and had made its way to the sur-

face, thanks to dogs, maybe. I crossed back over the road, tried to grab the attention of a policeman and explained to him that there was a body. He looked at me, shook his head and his hands and walked off. Clearly my news was not new and they had all had enough of death. The journey to Matara was a very sobering event. Out to the right, boats turned upside-down littered the shoreline, traffic was intense, the sounds of parping horns, people shouting, livestock walking across the road. These scenes were occasionally interrupted with beautiful views of beaches and ocean and fields. If you limited your view in a very concentrated way you could, for a split second, eliminate the destruction around you. A yellow school bus, roof destroyed, on its side, greeted us around the next corner. It had been shoved off the side of the road and lay there as clear evidence of a bus outing that went terribly wrong. Talking to locals later, they explained that it had been full of children on their way to pick up sporting equipment that had been donated as Christmas gifts to their school the day after Christmas, and the wave had taken the bus and them. The most surreal sight that I saw on my way to Matara was what appeared to be a hospital bed stuck some twenty feet above the ground in a tree. I think my senses were becoming overloaded with what I was seeing and absorbing, and I found reaching the hospital, where I was able to offload the 8 boxes of antibiotics to a team of doctors and nurses, as a great relief. Rob Hamill was also incredibly good company. He’s the sort of guy you would want to be with in a situation like this, unflappable, cool, collected, but I believe INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  45


Tsunami waves Most often created by the movement of the Earth’s plates on the ocean’s floor, a tsunami wave intensifies as it approaches land.

Shore

Wave direction

3

2

Ocean

1 Sea floor shifts

1

Wave speed in 100 ft. (12 m) of water is about 40 mph (64 kph)

2

Ocean

Uplifting sea bed

Shore

Wave created

Slows, intensifies

3

Tsunami nears shore, waves may increase 10 times in height

Tsunamis Floor shifts; plates move abruptly

Creates a vertical displacement of sea water

Source: U.S. Geological Survey, NOAA

Graphic: Lee Hulteng

also overwhelmed by what he was seeing. We were running out of adjectives to use to describe what we were encountering. After dropping off the antibiotics, we visited a refugee camp located at Rahula College. We wanted to talk to locals to get their take on what had happened and how best we could assist. The refugees were in surprisingly good spirits; they were receiving three meals a day and had toilet facilities, but had been sleeping on concrete. On the day we arrived a shipment of mattresses from 46  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

Approximate wave speed in 15,000 ft. (4,570 m) of water is 475 mph (765 kph) A tsunami wave 5 ft. (1.5 m) high equals a 5-ft. (1.5 m) rise in sea level © 2009 MCT

the Swiss Government had just arrived. Most people that I spoke to simply said they wanted to return to their homes and their daily routine. Some were fishermen who used to live right on the coast and desperately wanted to re-engage in their primary occupation as fishermen and needed help getting their boats repaired or securing new ones. It was interesting talking to them. It became very clear that the fishing villages were particularly susceptible to the tsunami


Quake triggers tsunami A deadly tsunami caused by a powerful earthquake in the Pacific hit the islands of Samoa and American Samoa worst.

Samoa

300 km

• Area 2,831 sq. km (1,093 sq. mi.)

SAMOA

300 miles

• Population 220,000

• Independence 1962

PAPUA NEW GUINEA

1000 miles

9 hr.

AUSTRALIA 1000 km

Pacific Ocean

Tectonic plates, subduction zone

6

PHILIPPINES

INDONESIA

FIJI

hr .

CHINA

9h r.

JAPAN

Earthquake epicenter

3 hr.

SAMOA

Tsunami waves up to 4-6 m (15-20 ft.) high

American Samoa • Area 200 sq. km (77 sq. mi.) • Population 65,630

FIJI

• Unincorporated territory of the U.S. since 1900

NEW ZEALAND

because, despite government’s best wishes, these villagers had set themselves up in homes right next to the ocean, which meant that when the wave hit, they were directly in the firing line. I made a mental note of thinking that if we were to help rebuild we should at attempt to rebuild houses that were at least 100 metres back from the coastline. To do otherwise, I felt at the time, would simply be setting them up for another disaster if it ever happened again. One described that fact that there was such high loss of life in her village because they had all flocked to the beach to pick up stranded fish left when the water receded prior to the tsunami hitting. She said when she looked up it wasn’t a wave coming it was a “mountain of water”. We also spoke to a young 19-year-old man whose mother and

AMERICAN SAMOA

© 2009 MCT Source: CIA World Factbook, USGS Graphic: Junie Bro-Jorgensen, Jutta Scheibe

father and other siblings had been killed and now he was left to look after his 13-year-old sister. He had been a fisherman but wasn’t keen to go back to the water. I went outside for fresh air and discovered some young children playing cricket, but it wouldn’t be how our kids would play. The little boy had just a piece of wood and the girl, who was throwing the ball, was simply using a scrunched piece of paper. And they were laughing and having great fun. Children are incredibly resilient. As we finished our cups of tea, Rob and I were filled with a terrible sense of guilt, that we were so fortunate and also so incredibly blessed. I had seen enough. I felt that the best way to help these people INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  47


A boat rest near a road in Dewata, which is located 2.7 km from Galle, Sri Lanka. The tsunami devastated this small community. Photo: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

was to bring some New Zealand tradesmen back and we would start slowly rebuilding. The question was, where would we do this? As we drove back past Telwatta, the scene of the world’s worst train disaster, I could see the army had had some success. One of the carriages had been righted. We chose to stop and were invited to walk through the train. I entered the red train carriage with some hesitation. Brown-benched vinyl seats were neatly arranged in rows, debris was strewn all about. On one particular seat, a woman’s handbag stood upright with the purse lying on the seat next to it, coins and a cellphone, as though somebody was quickly looking for something in their handbag and had taken everything out. What was different here was this woman was never coming back. The key to her motorcycle lay abandoned. One had to wonder whether or not the motorcycle, probably left at the train station in Galle, had also not been affected by the wave when it hit the city of Galle. Money and other personal effects lay scattered throughout the train, reflecting the desperate attempts of people to get out. Looking out the window I could see the train’s engine, number 56, battered and bruised. It looked like it had been picked up and tossed around before being discarded, again just illustrating the incredible force and velocity of this killer wave. On one news clip on BBC dated the 30th December 2004, a survivor spoke of the tragedy on the train. He was a tourist by the name of Danny Shahaf, an Israeli living in London. He was on the train travelling with a friend. “That’s when I panicked”, he said, recalling the moment when the wave scattered the train’s carriages, turning his carriage on its side. “It was so quick. It washed us so far away, the carriage kept filling up with water. I was telling my 48  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

friend to run to the front of the carriage. The windows there were still above the waterline. I pushed my friend through the window to get her up, out of the carriage. There was a woman next to me holding her baby, trying to hold the window open with the other hand. As I tried to help her, the carriage filled completely, the water pushing the window shut. Only my friend managed to get out. Back at the other end of the carriage it was dark. I held my breath. I thought, ‘This is how you die’. As I thought that, the train flipped again and the water slid away and I waded towards the light”. Danny made his escape, but the woman with the baby was not so lucky. There were lots of children on the train, he recalled. We continued our drive back to Colombo. We were forced to go inland a bit as a number of attempts to clear the Galle-Colombo Road were being made. As we reconnected with the main ocean road, we stopped for a late meal. Rice and curry were delivered. As I sat watching the rice settle, I was overwhelmed with nausea. It reminded me of the maggots in the body that we had witnessed on the beach. It goes without saying, I never did eat the rice. That evening we were involved in another couple of meetings regarding whether or not we would look at setting our base up in Matara before Rob and I grabbed our Singapore Airlines flight back to New Zealand. Upon returning to New Zealand I set about planning our response, which we called Operation Phoenix. We felt the most practical way of responding to the devastating tsunami was to help rebuild thirty houses in southern Sri Lanka. The City Council very kindly agreed to manage the bank accounts, as the last thing I wanted to do after the demise of Kiwi Air and the subsequent debacle was to be involved with managing any of the money.


TOP LEFT: Author in captains seat of PAF at Archerfield airport Feb 2009; TOP RIGHT: A trip to pick up sporting equipment ends badly for a busload of kids near the village of Seenigama; MIDDLE LEFT: A reminder of Home. Anchor milk Radio and light in rubble. New Zealand exports millions of dollars of milk product to Sri Lanka. MIDDLE RIGHT: The force of a wave. House before Operation Phoenix team rebuild in the village of Seenigama, Sri Lanka; BOTTOM LEFT: Kiwi number 8 wire mentality at work. House after rebuilt completed. Seenigama, Sri Lanka. BOTTOM RIGHT: Operation Phoenix team local transport. The highlight of the day was the trip back to Hans Surf Hotel. Great air conditioning

INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  49


The next component was to try to organise a number of volunteers who would be willing to travel up to Sri Lanka to help. We put out a press release regarding our intentions and the Waikato Times newspaper picked up the story and the subsequent response was overwhelming. Within days we had enough builders, plumbers, electricians and a project manager all indicating they would be keen to go. This clearly reflects the humanitarian element that is alive and well in New Zealand. I mean, January and February each year is New Zealand’s prime holiday period and you could usually not secure a plumber, electrician or builder for love nor money, but here we had up to fifteen volunteers come forward to sacrifice at least a month of their life for no pay. I was awed and overwhelmed by the response we received.

A

t this early stage we had focused on building thirty houses from scratch and I engaged the services of the Hamilton City Council Building and Planning Department to draw up a simple 20 x 20 foot house consisting of two bedrooms, a living room, a small bathroom and cooking area. It was pretty clear from the outset that we couldn’t build in wood, which would be the normal construction type here in New Zealand, because of the elements in Sri Lanka, particularly the termites, so it would have to be a brick construction. We planned on the houses being connected to the mains electricity and the sewerage connected to a septic tank. With some help from Sri Lanka, we got an indication that NZ$3,000 would suffice to build a single house. This enabled us to go out to the public in a fundraising exercise promoting, “Donate $3,000 and you fund a new house in Sri Lanka”. And we were overwhelmed by the response. Within a few days Council had received over $90,000. A number of corporate sponsors came on board, including the Ceyline Group of Companies, the Gallagher Group of Companies, Grasshopper Developments, the House Company, the Hamilton City Council Social Club and a number of individuals who wanted to remain anonymous. I was sitting in my Council office when Mayor Michael Redman called, asking if I’d be available to attend a meeting the following day in his office. He’d been asked to meet with the Executive Director of a major charity, concerning Operation Phoenix. Of course, the whole initiative had received quite a lot of media attention. It was only a sixty-second stroll into the Mayoral Office. Redman, after winning the election, had been clever enough to realise that any form of geographical separation between the Mayoral Office and the Councillors’ office was a recipe for disaster, and at some considerable cost to the ratepayers, the Mayoral Wing had been created on the 9th Floor with a stunning result. The views are spectacular, and his close vicinity to his Council colleagues means the likelihood of a coup-d’etat, bloodless or not, was highly reduced. The CEO of the charity had a commanding presence and an equally dictatorial voice. The long and the short of what she had to say was that, in her opinion, these amateur-type initiatives, such as Operation Phoenix, do not do much to benefit those who need help. That, in fact, because we are a short term initiative, our ability to ensure long term aid and assistance is provided in an appropriate manner, was highly restricted by our short term nature. Some of her points were of interest and I made a mental note to ensure that I would mitigate the concerns, but she quickly led to the true purpose, in my opinion, of the meeting, which was why bother go ahead and send this team of amateurs up to Sri Lanka when you would be much better off giving the funds to profes50  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

sional charity organisations. After all, they’d been in the business of providing humanitarian aid and relief for decades. It suddenly hit me like a sledgehammer in the back of my head – to a number of these NGOs the provision of aid and relief is a business. All this time I naively thought that it would be nothing like the corporate world. How wrong I had been. This, and a number of other occurrences over my year and a bit involved with the establishment and running of Operation Phoenix were, in some ways, a revelation to me, certainly in terms of how aid entities operate. In my opinion, it’s akin to a Coke bottle in shape. The big fat end at the bottom is through which all the money is generated by highly emotive, tear-jerking commercials and the thick part of the bottle is all the funds that are absorbed from running such a huge entity and then the narrow neck is how those funds ultimately are delivered to those who require the help. I accept that is a very generalised comment and, do not get me wrong, organisations like World Vision and Red Cross and Oxfam do incredible work and the world’s poor and disadvantaged are the better for their activity, but what frustrated me from that meeting and what I saw over the next twelve months was, in fact, that small privately-driven initiatives can do incredible work with great outcomes. Throughout my time in Sri Lanka, I met numerous people who came and worked with us who said, “Look, I’m a doctor, a nurse, a builder, a plumber, and I wanted to give my time, but none of the global agencies were interested. They wanted my cash. I wanted to give of my time and energy”. We did see the sniffy charity arrive in Seenigama and Hikkaduwa, the area which we worked in, but not until six to eight weeks after we had been there and had completed most of our initial phase of Operation Phoenix. In my many trips between Colombo and Hikkaduwa I couldn’t help but notice flash UN vehicles that all appeared to have come straight out of the manufacturer’s showroom and were parked neatly in front of some of the best hotels. Fair to say that I wasn’t overly impressed with that charity (I’m allowed to name it in my book!), and I would get to deal with them and talk to them on a few more occasions, and my feelings never changed. Looking at the thirteen volunteer faces seated around my deck, I couldn’t help but wonder what the next few weeks had in store for us all. I, however, felt that these men would come back changed and I wasn’t wrong, in the weeks to follow they all were changed. They witnessed some horrific sights and partook in what I feel was a wonderful humanitarian initiative. One would nearly die in a horrendous head-on motor vehicle accident, another the victim of hornets the size of small buzzards, and yet another would be viciously attacked by a rabies-infested dog, all would come back with stories that the grandchildren would be excited to hear. n A NOTE FROM EWAN WILSON: “Unlike Sri Lanka where distance was an issue, New Zealand is in a position to really take the lead in providing help to Samoa and Tonga. Samoa is a close friend of New Zealand and we must go out of our way for close friends.  There is also in my opinion the opportunity for people not only to give money but if they have a skill take a week off work and travel there to participate in the rebuilding. It is so rewarding.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Ewan Wilson, author of the new book Help My Plane’s On Fire which this brief extract is from, rose to prominence as the founder of the nuts-and-cola Kiwi Airline, is a former Hamilton City Councillor and now helps run a travel consultancy business with his wife Monique


0800 872 455

77 Paerata Road,

www.caravansandmotorhomes.co.nz

PUKEKOHE

INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  51


52  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009


Real Men Don’t Act Cliff Curtis of NBC’s ‘Trauma’ defied Kiwi tradition to become an actor, writes LUAINE LEE

SILVERSCREEN INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  53


are men, real men. This whole idea of get“Men ting into the arts – no, no. But my job wasn’t challenging for me intellectually or creatively, and I saw a play, John Osborne’s ‘Look Back in Anger’ and the lead character from that play is called Cliff. I just thought, ‘Wow! I’m going to try that.’ and I just did

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here do you go when you want someone to play a cocky, American helicopter pilot who’s part of the daring, first-response paramedics? Why, New Zealand, of course. The folks over at NBC, where the thriller Trauma has just premiered, are not the first to cast Cliff Curtis in an exotic part. Not only is Curtis a Kiwi, he’s an indigenous Maori – but he’s played everything from a caveman to an Arab to a Chechen and costarred in films like The Whale Rider, The Piano, John Grisham’s Runaway Jury, Training Day, Geoff Murphy’s Spooked and Three Kings. It never occurred to Curtis that he should act until he’d already done it for 10 years. “It was a very organized process in that I was not driven or ambitious in that way,” he says in his New Zealand accent seated at a small, round table in a hotel lounge here in Pasadena, California. “I left school at 15 to go and work with my dad. I was a manual labourer. He was a glazier and did concrete and all these things. And he had this odd little hobby – growing up in the 1950s, he loved rock ‘n’ roll. I had to go with him to these rock ‘n’ roll revivals every weekend because he needed somebody to drive him home. So what do you do? I started joining in, and I danced competitively for a couple of years in my late teens and won a couple of nationals. And from there I joined up with the local theater group.” But acting was always a hobby to him. “You don’t take these things seriously in New Zealand,” he shakes his head. “Men are men, real men. This whole idea of getting into the arts – no, no. But my job wasn’t challenging for me intellectually or creatively, and I saw a play, John Osborne’s ‘Look Back in Anger’ and the lead character from that play is called Cliff. I just thought, ‘Wow! I’m going to try that.’ and I just did.” His father objected strongly. But Curtis had seen his father briefly most of his life. His mother died when he was 3, and he was shuffled off to various relatives. “I moved around a lot so I got sort of like that gypsy thing in my blood. I move around a lot, hard to keep my feet in one place. I’m calming down. I have such a lifestyle that I can’t stay still if I wanted to because my work demands it of me. So unless I quit the business then I’d really find out if I could stay in one place for too long.” 54  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

Curtis was rootless as a kid. “In the absence of my father there were a number of people who inspired me. I suppose trying to define myself through my work is one interesting journey, but when you really break it down to what are the life defining moments it really comes down to the people who touched your lives and some of those people have come through my work,” he says, after a long pause. “I had a surrogate-type father figure, the most wonderful man. His family really elevated for me the possibilities in life, and they really kind of gave me the possibility to see the potential in myself. I was a teenager and didn’t have a lot of hope in my life and not a lot of opportunities – that was before acting came along – and they had a huge influence in my life. They taught young boys, took them on a summer camp situation and taught us the tradition in Maori cultural things,” says Curtis, who’s dressed in dark slacks and an unbuttoned tuxedo shirt. “Though it was taught through the cultural aspect, what was really taught was sort of self-respect and love for yourself and others – basic human values. I think that was really key in changing my perspective.” Before that he’d been raised a Catholic. “It helped me as a child but for some reason failed me as a teenager and the church and those things didn’t seem to be making sense. I couldn’t differentiate between the ritual and the culture of the church and all of those elements and the spirituality of it, but I found it in this family who really helped me.” Though he’s worked in the U.S. for 15 years, he still commutes. “One little television film I did with Anthony Quinn and they flew me here to L.A. to do my pre- and post-production. I thought, ‘What am I doing here? I don’t want to be here. I want to be home, I’m homesick.’ A couple years after that I started getting gigs.” Curtis, 41, is married and has two children, a boy and a girl. He’s reluctant to talk about family, he says, because he wants to keep that part of his life private. But he does recall when he became a dad for the first time. “It changed me in so many ways. I became a man, to my measure of a man. It’s a very deep experience I can’t tell you all the ways it changed me. It helps you define your purpose and crystallizes things.” No airing date for Trauma in New Zealand has yet been announced. n


NBC INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  55


ENVIRONMENT

 A Roman Imperial eagle, closely related to New Zealand’s Haast eagle. / SPF

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With the recent discovery that the world’s largest eagle died out in New Zealand only a few hundred years ago and was strong enough to carry away a human child, attention is turning to saving the world’s remaining birds of prey. PATRICIA VALICENTI reports on a French refuge breeding endangered raptors

INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  57


E

xquisite eagles, fabulous falcons, venerable vul- ter with two that he killed in the mid 1800s but if so they were tures await discovery at this exemplary conserva- definitely the last of their kind. tion and captive breeding centre for birds of prey Still others remain extremely endangered, like the California in Rocamadour, France. A flying formation of rap- condor. The cause: generally speaking the usual suspects, humans tors boldly takes flight soaring over a scenic valley. and their activities. Raptors have fallen victim to pollution, pesFalconers reveal the mysterious and fascinating ticides, habitat destruction and are in some places still hunted behaviors of these birds of legend and lore. On the ground, tiny as pests or trophies. Some species numbers remain stable in the newborn babies, juveniles and adult birds show off their fin- wild; others are declining rapidly, still others like the vultures of est feathers. Journey into the lives of some of our planet’s most the gyp’s genus on the Indian sub-continent are going through emblematic birds, birds that are a part of our fast disappearing a critical phase. According to the U.S.-based Peregrine Fund, a natural world. leading research and breeding centre for birds of prey, during the Condors, vultures, eagles and falcons, a squadron of soaring last decade, populations of gyps vultures across India and neighsky lords take flight, forming a great family of raptors in the sky. boring countries have been drastically reduced, becoming locally Taking to heights from the limestone plateau or dipping down extinct in places. The scale and speed of the declines are alarminto the splendid valley carved into the landscape below, they peri- ing, with losses of 95 to 100% reported in a number of localities, odically disappear from view, until their falconer lures them back. the report stated. Eagles appear, among them the acrobatic bateleur, its name is the The American bald eagle was brought back from the brink of French word for tightrope walker. Majestic fish eagles, African, extinction, as were the peregrine falcon and the California conEuropean and American swoop down to a pool just skimming the dor through captive breeding and re-introduction programs. But water with their claws. An Egyptian vulture deftly cracks open an who’s next? Raptors are vulnerable at best, and when not, endanegg with a well-aimed stone. gered, some species seriously so. Birds of prey and carrion birds, Meanwhile, down on the ground, the visitor to the Rocher like vultures, are among the planet’s most endangered and all of des Aigles – the Rock of the Eagles – this breeding centre for them are protected by the Washington Convention, the internabirds of prey in southwestern tional treaty on trade in endanFrance can take a closer look at gered species. an impressive array of dozens of We need our raptors. They “Once thought to have been a species of raptors. The morning are at the top of the food chain, cousin of Australia’s wedge-tailed sun shone onto the colourful so their presence is a vital sign topknots of a breeding pair of and an indicator of the health eagle, the Haast’s is now known king vultures, New World vulof an eco-system. to be more closely related to the tures that live in the tropical Eagles, falcons, owls and forests of South America. The other raptors feed on weak or genus Aquila, of which Rome’s tops of their heads glimmered injured members of the ecoImperial Eagle is perhaps the best red, yellow, white and black. system. Vultures scavenge, known example” An Andean condor spread his thus earning the nickname of wings out to their expansive nature’s cleaners and also stopand impressive three-metre ping diseases from spreading span on his perch, taking in the sun. The condor with his ermine from rotting carcasses. Raptors are carnivorous birds of prey feedstole, the griffon vulture with his feather boa, the European fish ing mainly on fresh meat taken by hunting or on carrion. The eagle in his white tailcoat. They are all in their finest of feathers, term raptor comes from the Latin rapere, which means to seize appearing as the most decorative of evening guests. or ravish. Their range spans all five continents, although vultures These are all birds of legend and lore, revered in Antiquity. The are absent from Australia where one of the modern world’s largeagle and falcon represent the Lord of the Skies, the power that est eagles – the Wedge-tail – dominates. Currently 64 species of rises above the world of men. For the Romans, the vulture was the world’s 292 species of birds of prey are threatened with extincthe god of war and to kill one was sacrilegious. The griffon vul- tion, the others remain vulnerable. ture represented the goddess of birth for the Egyptians. Eagles Centres like the Rocher des Aigles (Rock of the Eagles), a spewere symbols of power and strength to empires and armies and cialized zoo and raptor conservatory, have taken on the formidable are still venerated by native cultures. task of teaching the general public a little bit more about these But the planet’s raptors are declining; some are disappearing great and magnificent birds. If raptors in the wild are threatened, with a rapidity that startles experts. The largest that ever flew, then all of the other animals in that system are at risk, too. The Haast’s eagle (Harpagonis Moorei) from New Zealand, enjoyed a centre is among the world¹s most successful in the captive breeding three metre wingspan like some of its modern counterparts but of birds of prey and has participated in re-introduction programs was almost twice as big in the body at 15 kg, turning it into a for several species. The centre’s motto: “To know is to appreciate, swift, taloned missile capable of striking a giant moa at around 80 to appreciate is to respect, to respect is to protect.” km/h. Once thought to have been a cousin of Australia’s wedgeAt the Rocher des Aigles, which has bred close to 2,000 birds of tailed eagle, the Haast’s is now known to be more closely related prey spanning nearly 50 species from peregrine falcons, to kites, to the genus Aquila, of which Rome’s Imperial Eagle is perhaps hawks, vultures and bald eagles, over the past 20 years, the parents the best known example. often raise their own babies. Other eggs are taken from the nest The Haast’s eagle died out some time in the Middle Ages – one and placed in incubators. This incites the female to lay another noted and usually reliable explorer claims to have had an encoun- clutch of eggs. The breeding enclosures, far from the public eye, 58  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009


INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  59


face the rising sun and are framed with local vegetation like oak and juniper, providing shade and freshness in the heat of summer. Wooden slats cover the entire enclosure, keeping their world apart from the humans. The enclosures are dotted with perches and platforms for the big birds to build their nests upon. Raptors spend most of their time in the wild, perched. “We are not scientists. We started out doing fieldwork, observing populations of raptors and their behavior, protecting them in the wild. And then started the centre. From observing their behavior in the nature, we learned a number of interesting things and we were able to re-create their milieu in captivity,” explains Raphael Arnaud, the director of the centre which sits perched atop a causse or limestone plateau in the sacred and vertiginous city of Rocamadour, whose black virgin statue has drawn pilgrims for the past eight centuries. A visit to the Rocher des Aigles is a learning experience into the lifestyles and the plight of this great family of falconiformes. Their ancestors roamed the planet millions of years ago. “We wanted to emphasize education, especially with school groups, you have to get the message over to the young generations,” says Arnaud. Here in this tiny corner of France dotted with a breathtaking array of valleys, resurging waters and prehistoric caves, the Rocher des Aigles has been perched atop a rocky point overlooking the Alzou Valley since 1976. The centre participates in European breeding and re-introduction programs for the White-tailed European fish eagle, the griffon vulture and the cinereous vulture. They have also successfully bred imperial eagles which are vulnerable on the global level, but endangered in Europe. The griffon vulture, Gyps fulvus, the European species closely related to those that are disappearing so fast in and around India, is found mainly around the Mediterranean and Black Seas, although it was once far more widespread. It is declining everywhere except Spain. The European griffon vulture is particularly threatened by poisoning, electrocutions, direct killing and disturbance at the nesting colonies, according to the World Working Group on Birds of Prey and Owls. In France it is now confined to the Pyrenees and the Cevennes, where a small population has been established through a captive breeding program. “In the Cevennes, there were no more Griffon vultures in the wild,” said Mr. Arnaud whose Rocher des Aigles contributed birds to the re-introduction program. The FIR and the LPO, respectively the French acronyms for the Raptor Intervention Foundation and the Bird Protection League, spearheaded the program, he explains. “The population has been re-built. It is a considerable success,” he adds, “Now we are working with the cinereous vulture and the European fish eagle which has for all practical purposes, disappeared from France.” Visitors to the Rocher des Aigles can take a close look at dozens of species of birds of prey and 11 species of vulture and watch a falconry demonstration replete with a soaring squadron of vultures, falcons, kites and eagles. The flying demonstration is used to educate the public about these spectacular birds and draw attention to their plight in the wild. A feast of falcons takes off. Among them, the mythical peregrine falcon once on the verge of extinction, the finest of the hunters, the king of birds, takes its prey, generally other birds, in flight. The acrobatics of Africa’s colorful bateleur eagle astound as does the call of the African Fish eagle, so piercing, so penetrating, so unforgettable, it is known as the Voice of Africa. Tony, an Andean condor and the world’s largest bird of prey, is 60  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

a favorite with the crowds, certainly for his gregarious nature and impressive stature, but not least because of his antics during the flying show. Although considered to be one of the world’s finest of flyers, he enjoys walking after his falconer, following him up a flight of steps. He is a bird that will never be able to live in the wild, his role, to educate the public, an ambassador of his magnificent species. The centre also has a breeding pair of Andean condors. When Giselle the Himalayan vulture, the largest of the Old World vultures, takes to the sky, she is lost from view, capable of soaring to heights of 20,000 feet (6000 metres) – more than double the height of Mt Ruapehu. A variety of vultures take flight. These attractive birds have been a misunderstood, even feared character in our modern natural world although venerated in Antiquity. Mountain folk believed


they would swoop down and carry off small children or baby lambs. The reality is that vultures don¹t have the strength in their leg muscles to carry off children. They are scavengers, feeding only on carrion and their claws and legs are too weak to fly away with prey. At the Rocher des Aigles, this point is underscored when a captive griffon vulture, Nestor, walks over the legs of the visitors so they can feel how light his legs are. The movements of vultures are deliberate, they groom themselves with extraordinary precision and thoroughness, reminiscent of cats. Some at times look as if they are bending their heads over backwards to comb over their neck feathers. Sun is an element they welcome, stretching out their wings to embrace the warmth. This sunbath will also help them to gain altitude when they fly. They are rather social and gregarious creatures sleeping in the

“The centre participates in European breeding and re-introduction programs for the White-tailed European fish eagle, the griffon vulture and the cinereous vulture. They have also successfully bred imperial eagles which are vulnerable on the global level, but endangered in Europe” INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  61


same perch area, looking as if they are having a nocturnal meeting of sorts. They are excellent fliers, dynamically soaring up into the sky from which they will look down upon the earth for carcasses to consume. Vultures have been both venerated and annihilated. Despite the key role they play in keeping an eco-system clean and stopping certain diseases from spreading, man made a pariah of the very birds he once venerated in Antiquity. Vultures, particularly the Egyptian vulture and griffon vulture were once given a place of special honour in Ancient Egypt, engraved on the pillars of the temple of Ptolemy and on the ceiling of the temple of Hathor. The griffon vulture is none other than the goddess Nekhbet, the goddess of birth. Egyptian vultures appear in hieroglyphic writing. Both species are today in decline. In southern parts of Africa belief has it that eating the brain of a vulture enables one to see the future because local folklore recounts that a vulture divines where a carcass is located. And so the massive slaughter of vultures for their seer saying brain is not uncommon. Vultures in Tibet and India play a role in funeral rites, for the Buddhists, the vulture in addition to ecologically eliminating carrion, will “carry” the spirit of the dead towards the heavens. The New World vultures are among the oldest on the planet. They belong to the cathartidae family and bereft of a voice box, are largely silent. There are seven species of New World vultures, including the king vulture and the condors. Condors, despite their impressive size, are peaceful birds, which pose no threat to man. The California condor faced extinction until captive breeding brought it back from the brink. The Andean condor could face the same fate if current education, conservation and captive breeding programs are not maintained. The Old World vultures belong to the accipitridae family as do eagles.

M

eanwhile, head falconer Christian Larnaudie was weighing Yemen and Congo, baby African fish eagles, in the nursery, which the public can view through windows. They represent the 46th and 47th African fish eagles to be born at the centre. Baby eagles have a voracious appetite and down a meal of ground quail three times a day. The quail are raised out back. A six-month old baby bateleur eagle was sharing the nursery with the fish eagles. Another baby African fish eagle born in captivity at the Rocher des Aigles was sitting up in its nest. This tiny eagle however is kept far from the public view, raised by its parents, factors which will give it a better chance of being released into the wild someday. This is the breeding pair¹s 48th baby born at the centre, where they have formed a happy couple since 1991. It is the seventh that they have reared themselves in the nest. “We try to have the parents raise the babies themselves so the young birds don’t become imprinted,” explains Arnaud, the director of the Rocher des Aigles. The African fish eagle or river eagle, Haliaeetus vocifer, is listed as vulnerable on Appendix II of the Washington Convention and on the IUCN’s Red List. Its better-known American cousin, the bald eagle or Haliaeetus leucocephalus and European cousin, the white-tailed eagle, Haliaeetus albicilla, are endangered. All are being bred in captivity at the Rocher des Aigles. As the name implies, African fish eagles are found throughout Africa below the 16th L near any water containing fish. While numbers remain steady and stable in the wild, the spectre of decline for this bird of prey, like all birds of prey looms. Research programs 62  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

assessing its numbers have noticed a decline in the magnificent black brown birds with their white head, neck and tail feathers in some parts of Kenya. The Peregrine Fund Kenya Project has been monitoring populations at Lake Baringo and Lake Naivasha, two lakes in Kenya’s Rift Valley and has observed that populations there have declined by 50 percent since the 1970’s. Decreasing water levels, deforestation of the acacia woodland shoreline and the introduction of the Louisiana crayfish which has damaged the fragile fish eco-system that the eagles feed on have contributed to this decline, according to Peregrine Fund Kenya Project field biologist, Dr. Munir Virani. “It (the African fish eagle) is an exemplary indicator of the ecological state of aquatic environments,” he says. Eagles, particularly the golden and imperial eagles, were symbols of warfare, power and glory for the Persians, the Roman legions, Poland, Russia, the Holy Roman Empire and the Great Army of Napoleon I. But the bird also became an object of persecution, hunted in the case of some species to near extermination, poisoned with pesticides, stolen for trade, electrocuted by power lines. But man has, too, used the eagle for its excellent sight, a result of the elevated number of light sensitive cells located on the bird’s retina. Its acute vision, it is believed, sees and understands all things. They allow the eagle to localize its prey hundreds of meters away. A human being would need binoculars that enlarge six-fold to have the same vision as an eagle does with its naked eye. Its fabulous sense of sight is why some tribes in Kirghizia use golden eagles to hunt with. The golden eagle or Aquila chrysaetos is one of the nine eagle species found within the genus Aquila. Others include the tawny eagle (Aquila rapax) and the Imperial eagle (Aquila heliaca) all three have been bred successfully at the Rocher des Aigles. White-headed sea eagles have been in the skies for the past 10 million years. Symbol of nobility, power and strength, one, the majestic bald eagle, became the national bird of the United States. Fish eagles carried the thunder rod of Zeus. All birds of prey represented the sun for the peoples of Antiquity but for the Greeks, only the eagle could look straight into the sun without being blinded by it. The ancient Romans believed the eagle was the only bird to live in the skies with gods and immortals. While most Native Americans venerate the golden eagle, it is the feathers of the bald eagle that adorn their headdresses and are used in ceremonies. The bald eagle, like the Native Americans themselves was nearly driven to extinction. Raptors belong to the order of falconiformes, all of which are theorised to descend from a common ancestor, a giant water bird that waded over the planet some 50 million years ago. They belong, like us to the Animal Kingdom, a living world disappearing faster than we think it is. Fortunately the conservation work of the Rocher des Aigles, like other organizations, extends beyond its border. In 1997, the Rocher des Aigles purchased a portion of tropical forest in Mexico, bidding higher for the parcel than a cattle ranching concern. The parcel was next to a forest protected by the Mexican government. Opening it up to agriculture or ranching would have fragmented further the tropical forest and its wealth of species and medicines. The place is Nanciyaga where conservationist Carlos Rodriguez has been fighting to preserve the wilderness for decades and is home to a host of species, including 566 species of birds. It is traditional habitat for the highly endangered harpy eagle. And for the Rocher des Aigles, the circle will only be complete the day this magnificent raptor can be re-introduced into the lush forest of Nanciyaga. n


INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  63


think life | money

Reverse mortgages Peter Hensley argues there’s a time and place, later rather than sooner Jim and Moira’s cousin Christine was due around for lunch. Jim was pleased on three accounts. Firstly it had been ages since they had a chance to catch up with his cousin, secondly it was forecast to be fine and, thirdly, he knew that Moira would be putting together a special lunch. Even though they had been married for almost 50 years he still looked forward to her baking. Jim made sure his chores had been completed. When he retired from full time work Moira insisted that he shoulder his share of the domestic duties. Being a methodical fellow he allocated at least one and sometimes two chores per day including the weekends. Whilst this roster system did not suit Moira, she was thrilled that Jim was doing some of the work required to maintain her high level of cleanliness. With the lounge dusting and general vacuuming complete Jim set the table in the conservatory. The wind was a shade cool and was coming from the south. This meant that he could leave the ranch slider open and not be concerned that the serviettes would end up on the floor. When the time had come for them to retire they chose to build a practical townhouse, within walking distance to the supermarket and local shops. The section 64  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

had no lawn which suited them both as neither was a gardener. They were fortunate enough to secure a section overlooking the sea which faced north east. The built in conservatory situated on the balcony had wide sweeping views and today the vista was picture perfect. As Jim looked up from the newspaper he could see the southerly wind catch the tops of the waves and throw the spray back gently into the swells following behind. It was a perfect spring day. It had been several years since they had seen Christine. The years had been tough on her. She had lost her husband about 15 years ago and the two kids had followed their hearts and partners and moved to Australia. The cancer had come as quickly as a summer’s storm and within three weeks it was all over. The local Hospice had been excellent. The staff there had made his last days peaceful and pain free. The small life insurance policy had gone to pay off the mortgage and Christine had been able to stay in work, but her devotion to making sure the kids did not go without meant that she was constantly struggling for cash. She was a little late as usual. This annoyed Jim as he was always extremely punctual. Moira had expected it and besides she had prepared a fresh batch of home-made

pumpkin soup which meant that it did not matter what time she turned up. Jim’s annoyance melted away as quickly as the garlic butter on the warm buns that come with the soup. Moira smiled quietly to herself as she knew the best way to get him to come around to her way of thinking was through his stomach. Even though Christine was Jim’s cousin, Moira had known her for almost as long as Jim had. They had gone to the same school together and whilst they were slightly different ages, they belonged to the same generation. Jim had one ear on the conversation and two eyes on the lunch. He heard all about Christine’s children. They were both still married to their first partner which now days was a feat worth mentioning. The grandchildren were all going to school with the elder ones almost finishing high school. She did think that the Australian system which did not use the intermediate school was a far better process with the kids just having to deal with one transition between primary and secondary school. Christine confessed she did miss being able to watch and experience first-hand the joy that goes along with grandies growing up. Whilst she was working she would


generally make two trips a year, however since she had retired from the work force she had to drop the trips down to once per year. She also commented that she strongly supported the airline airfare war and blatantly took advantage of the cheap fares when they were offered. Jim noticed how Christine had steered the conversation around to money and waited to hear the real reason behind the visit. It turned out that Christine was seeking advice, not a handout. She laid her cards on the table and told Jim and Moira her fiscal circumstances. She owned her modest unit debt free and had managed to accumulate $40,000 which was on term deposit at her local bank. She also admitted to losing $15,000 via the recent demise of several of the finance companies. She was thinking of applying for one of those Reverse Mortgages from Sentinel and had come around to find out if Jim and Moira thought it was a good idea or not. She had already done some home work and worked out that at her age (70) she could qualify to borrow up to 25% of the value of her home which was recently valued at $300,000. This meant that she could get access to almost $75,000. Moira saw the glint in Christine’s eye

and noticed that her level of attention had increased markedly when she raised the topic. Seventy-five k would fund lots of trips to Australia, meaning she could go twice yearly and stay on a little longer each time. Moira sat quietly as Christine enthused about all the reasons why it would be a great idea. She had always struggled for money and what with losing $15,000 with some bad investment decisions the $75 k would be a godsend. Moira instructed Jim to fetch a pencil, paper and calculator from the study. He knew what was coming and had learnt that if he wanted to fill his mouth with coffee and cake after lunch it would be wise for him to keep it shut right about now. Upon his return to the conservatory he dutifully handed over the said instruments to his wife and started to clear the soup bowls and bread and butter plates. He had seen Moira conduct a similar calculation earlier in the week. Without asking Christine a question, she wrote $40,000 at the top of the page. Initially she deducted $5,000 and wrote funeral expenses next to it. She then deducted another $5,000 and wrote emergency cash reserve against it. That left a balance of $30,000. She then asked Christine

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if her lifestyle would improve if she had an extra $100 per week to spend. She knew the response would be yes. Then Moira pointed out that if Christine paid herself $100 per week from her own savings, the savings would last over 5 and half years. She would still have cash put away for emergencies and also a small funeral fund. This would mean that she could delay applying for a Sentinel LifeTime loan for over 5 years. Moira glanced at Jim and he knew that it was his cue to contribute to the discussion. These types of loans should be kept in reserve until applicants have exhausted all other avenues, including inquiring if family members are able to provide financial support. Jim and Moira were both adamant that a person’s lifestyle should not suffer. The family home should be treated like any other asset and if cash was needed then it should be utilised, but it should only be used as a last resort. The relief on Christine’s face was visible and Jim knew that his reward would soon be a piece of freshly baked carrot cake with thick cream cheese icing. © Peter J Hensley October 2009. A copy of Peter Hensley’s disclosure statement is available on request and is free of charge.

EVE’S BITE

THE DIVINITY CODE

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

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

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

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

www.evesbite.com INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  65


think life | money

Floating rates An investment option with a difference catches Ian Wishart’s eye

There are investments you can admire on paper, like bank balances or share portfolios – in the latter’s case sometimes something you can only admire on paper because it turns out to be less impressive in reality. There are investments you can wear, like gemstones, and then there are some you can live in, like houses. Then there’s the second tier of what we loosely call ‘investments’ – flash cars, bloodstock and other items that may or may not hold their value but which are generally enjoyable along the way. For most people though, some things remain out of reach. Some might, thanks to the property boom of the previous six years, have enough equity in the house to technically slap $400,000 on the desk and buy a Ferrari, but they also know that it’s just a touch extravagant given the cost to use ratio. For Simon Barker and Lachlan Wilkinson channeling that desire for a good time into a more practical avenue has led to the expansion this year of Ownaship, the company that effectively puts boat ownership in the reach of ordinary families and businesses. The concept is simple: most pleasure boats are only used for a few days a year, not just because of the time out on the water but also because of maintenance, cleaning and other below-the-line opportunity costs. But what if you offered people the chance to buy one-tenth of a boat 66  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

and get a guaranteed 30 or more days of use per year. “You’re not tying all your capital up in something you hardly use,” explains Barker, “instead you’re spending only a fraction of the cost and the company looks after the maintenance.” “Essentially,” adds founder Wilkinson, “it’s a walk-on, walk-off boat ownership service. You make a booking online, the boat’s ready when you and your family come down to the marina, and off you go for an afternoon’s fishing or cruising. When you come back, we take care of cleaning the boat and putting it away. There’s nothing to tow, nothing else for you to do.” While Wilkinson acknowledges people sometimes form private partnerships to share boats, they usually fall apart after a while because of the inconvenience – issues over boat storage, access to the craft, whether the last guy properly cleaned it and so on. So a corporate model, he says, overcomes all that. “People’s lives are getting busier. We don’t have as much time anymore and the whole walk on walk off thing we have is really appealing to people. “Our biggest market, at the moment, is people with families who want to own a boat, want their kids to experience that traditional kiwi way of life, and maybe want to come down after work and go for a fish for a few hours.”

Although they offer smaller Rayglass leisure craft at one level to cater to the average boatie, they’re finding increasing demand for million dollar luxury craft which, on the one-tenth basis, can give a family or a corporate access to a seriously luxurious getaway or entertaining venue whenever they need it. “We’ve doubled our fleet this year,” says Barker. “We’ve brought on a brand new Mustang 32, and a Rayglass 25 which I call our ‘bread and butter’, and we’ve got a brand new Rayglass 4000 which is coming in November as well.” The business plan required Ownaship to fully allocate shares in the new craft by next March, but demand has been so strong it appears they’ll be fully subscribed by Christmas, in time for the hot summer. The exit strategy for those looking to trade up or move on is simple too. Because the share parcels are governed by a prospectus, they can be sold to new customers at market prices. There’s been no shortage of buyers for the occasional secondary opening that comes up. “No, they’ve been snapped up really quickly this year,” says Wilkinson. As one of the many kiwis, like Chris Carter this month, who’ve fantasized about owning a boat but don’t like the hassle, the shared ownership concept is a good one. Now, if I could only find time between feeding the kids, running the magazine, publishing TGIF and writing the next book…


INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  67


think life | EDUCATION

A great badness abroad Amy Brooke wonders about the great pre-school experiment So many eager little five-year olds start school. Such a big day ahead. But how many are already damaged by a play-centre culture which has pre-schoolers suffering from incessant noise so distressing to many children? A survey of 65 early childhood centres has 20% of the children worst afflicted actually putting their hands over their ears and crying. We can’t presume the others, too, are not harmed by this damaging environment. 68  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

What exactly is progress, when long gone are the quarter acre sections where little ones used to explore their sandpits and dig for worms, while their fortunate at-home mothers made their shopping lists and got pushchairs ready for the daily walk? The situation is disgraceful when mothers in tears are forced, when their babies are only six months old, to go back to paid work. Even with two wages it’s almost impossible now

for young couples to afford the deposit on a home. And whose fault is this? Ah yes – ask the experts, the politicians, the left-wing “liberal” intelligentsia and their bureaucracies steering government directions. However, the feminists’ heyday of at-home mothers feeling despised for abandoning careers for the sake of their children has changed into if-only-Icould by mothers trying to contrive the


best care for their little ones – mere babies woken up and breakfasted much too early, driven across the city in pre-work, peakhour traffic, even in the dark in winter, to be handed to professional caregivers. The latter are simply unable to offer the quiet conditions babies largely need, let alone such basic things as being able to give them individual time and attention, change nappies promptly, feed them on time, properly managing children with incipient colds, viruses, etc. to keep them away from infecting others. In some crèches the babies are stacked up like biscuits in an oven. If they can’t stand the heat, today’s young parents, ‘let them get out of the kitchen’ is apparently the thinking of the day. Debthobbled by polices such as the iniquitous student loan system pushed by the farRight, many are already up to their neck owing money they’ll spend a lifetime scrabbling to pay – let alone managing mortgages and allowing the best possible person in the world, a conscientious mother, to look after a family’s children. What about the long-term effect on the children? According to the findings of Stuart McLaren, 75% of early childhood centres exceed maximum levels permitted in the workplace. Peak readings top 140 decibels – the equivalent of a jet plane taking off. Damaging to children’s hearing and learning? What about their emotional, psychological and intellectual development? In this abuse of children, what about the very possible correlation between the insidious conditioning them to noise many eventually can no longer do without in an adolescence prolonged into what should be adulthood? In the case of so many, this has now apparently been extended even into their 50s and 60s –a very real dependence on noise, noise, noise – crowding out thinking, quietness, and reflection. Is this related to the early dropouts from state schools offering an “education” bearing no relationship to the concept of quality? It should shock us that so many eventually leave with no genuine literacy or numerical competence. Moreover, from the early infant classes onwards some seem virtually unteachable, unable to concentrate, to settle quietly, to listen properly. Hyper-active, they are a nightmare for teachers and a hindrance to the learning of others, ill-disciplined, showing off, constantly demanding the attention too commonly given those who are over-praised, over-stimulated, never quietly stable in themselves in the way that well-grounded

“From the early infant classes onwards some seem virtually unteachable, unable to concentrate, to settle quietly, to listen properly. Hyper-active, they are a nightmare for teachers and a hindrance to the learning of others, ill-disciplined, showing off, constantly demanding the attention

children are. They are not too dissimilar to already considerably disturbed new entrants coming from the abusive homes of themselves grossly uneducated parents. What are the links here? Should we be wondering why graduates of an education system long claimed to promote quality thinking should nationwide be contributing to a New Zealand subculture which has now had us called a country of drunkards? Yobbism rife – even in our universities? Judging from the halls of residence magazines, the majority of students from supposedly normal middle-class homes are mindlessly part of a binge-drinking subculture. In their parents’ day, the wilder few destined to be drop-outs were very much in the minority. Violence is spiralling, as is child abuse; our prisons are over-full; our teenage promiscuity figures should dismay us – as should those the Abortion Supervisory Committee blandly presides over – the killing of an unborn son or daughter being the very first, primal form of child abuse. What happened to the quiet values that our previous, more literate parents and grandparents subscribed to? These held together what was, with all its faults, a far more peaceful, more civilized country. Very largely, their loss is because of the quite deliberate attack on Christianity which formerly instilled into our young the choice between rightness and wrongness, that central message of responsibility to ourselves. Deliberately demonized, its stabilizing intellectual and spiritual strengths were attacked as if it were merely one among a number of hangover religious beliefs

belonging to a “less enlightened” age. It is not purposeless that university courses in “religious studies” present Christianity as merely equal, or inferior even, to ethnic shaman-type cultures or Maori primitivism – when the reality is that Christianity towers intellectually above its competitors. The concerted attack on a people’s belief and those of their forebears is part of an education environment now deliberately orientated towards morally valueless teaching where only “the rules”- the mere letter of the law – are observed. Theft, once considered a particularly mean offence in that it removes from an individual the end result of hard-earned work, has been reduced to merely “nicking” things.… Cheapening values has extended to the lessening of respect for what should be genuine education – as does the obvious mediocrity of so many hired to teach, ready to endorse whatever edicts are handed out by the education politburo. Fine teachers are obviously not the majority, too many themselves undereducated – as poorly spoken as our own MPs (and even boorish Prime Ministers) these days – let alone the dismayingly uncouth-sounding Sue Bradford – so ill-taught in the actual pronunciation of their own language that that it is impossible to regard them as well-educated individuals. Nor does this exclude flagship National Radio and mainstream television’s ill-spoken, slack-jawed, even gabbling hosts and presenters, whom, as so-called professionals, we should be able to expect not to mangle our official language. Given the collapse of standards across our state schools and institutions, the new move proposed by the Law Commission – with its own recent history of dubious “liberal” recommendations – to further expand the power of the state over independent schools to “meet new standards” – what standards ? – and a “sound curriculum”according to the same failed bureaucracy’s requirements – is ominous. World-wide, the rethinking of the philosophy of education is endorsing exactly the opposite directions. “Poor-performing independent schools…”? In whose view? It is not just against a failed system that parents are going to have to fight for their children: it is one with its roots not just in sheer incompetence, but in a greater badness. We should explore this reality next. © Amy Brooke www.amybrooke.co.nz www.summersounds..co.nz http://www.livejournal.com/users/brookeonline/

INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  69


think life | SCIENCE

Bottled-up aggression A chemical found in plastic soft-drink bottles has now been linked to aggression in girls, reports Sarah Avery

Pre-birth exposure to a chemical widely used in plastics appears to be linked to more aggressive behavior in little girls, according to new research. The findings, which are preliminary and call for more study, are the first to connect behavior problems in humans with the chemical bisphenolA, which is a key component of plastic bottles, the liners inside canned goods and medical devices. The chemical leaches from plastic and is detectable at some level in nearly everyone’s system. Scientists began to raise concerns about BPA because of its tendency to mimic estrogen – a hormone that plays a crucial role in establishing the sex differences in the brains of developing fetuses. Studies in mice have shown that fetal 70  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

BPA exposure can abolish or reverse inherent behavioral differences between the sexes – specifically, females act more aggressive – and those studies prompted questions about what the chemical does to humans. Joe Braun, a doctoral student in epidemiology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, is one of the authors of the aggression study published this month in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. He said researchers began examining the effects of BPA two years ago with a group of pregnant women enrolled in a larger study into lead. The researchers measured BPA levels in urine samples from 249 women at three different times during their pregnancies: at

16 weeks, 26 weeks and birth. Later, they observed the women’s children at age 2, using a standard behavioral test. They found that women who had the highest concentrations of BPA at 16 weeks of pregnancy were inclined to have more aggressive, hyperactive 2-year-old daughters. There was no statistically significant change of behavior among the boys, although there was some evidence of heightened anxiety and depression. “It’s an intriguing finding that suggests the need for more research in this field, especially with prenatal exposure and the timing of exposures,” Braun said. Timing is especially important from a regulation standpoint. Some have called for curbs on BPA, and


Canada last year became the first country to ban BPA in baby bottles. Afterward, WalMart and Toys R Us announced they would stock only BPA-free baby bottles, toys and baby-food containers in all their stores. But the work of Braun’s team suggests that the time to limit exposure is in the womb – maybe even before many women know they are pregnant. And that could lead to calls for a larger BPA ban, and a far more controversial approach. “It’s hard to remove it from all consumer products,” said John Bucher, associate director of the National Toxicology Program in Research Triangle Park, N.C. He noted that baby items represent less than 2 percent of the plastic products sold to consumers. BPA lines most metal cans,

including soft-drinks and tinned foods. Bucher said the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, which is one of the National Institutes of Health and is based in RTP, has allocated $30 million to study BPA. But the research, coming after the chemical has become so widespread in the marketplace, may result in a regulatory effort akin to putting toothpaste back in the tube. “Polycarbonate plastic is a huge market,” Bucher said. “It goes into lots and lots of things, many where BPA may not be harmful.” The American Chemistry Council, along with BPA plastics manufacturers in Europe and Japan, cite studies showing that the chemical additive is safe. The groups note that BPA does not appear to cause cancer

“Women who had the highest concentrations of BPA at 16 weeks of pregnancy were inclined to have more aggressive, hyperactive 2-yearold daughters and that “the potential human exposure to BPA from polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resin food contact applications is minimal and poses no known risk to human health.” The New Zealand Ministry of Health has also publicly backed the chemical in the past, rejecting studies suggesting BPA is a risk. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  71


think life | TECHNOLOGY

Spin me right round baby… Ian Wishart reviews Akai’s new plug and play turntable I have a major admission to make. As one who migrated to CDs in 1987 when there were only about five titles available on the digital format, you’re reading the words of a guy who long ago confined his record collection to a cupboard. But do you know what? I had forgotten how incredibly good vinyl sounds! Some of you will have noticed the new ad from Akai we ran last month featuring the plug and play ATT023U USB turntable. It wasn’t the ad we’d originally planned to run, but ended up in the slot by accident. It caught our attention in the Investigate office, however, because – like many of you I suspect – it’s been an aeon since we last saw turntables advertised in anything beyond Trade Me. Occasionally, while shifting house or searching for something, I’m sure most of us have stumbled upon old 45s and 33 LPs and spent a moment or two reminiscing 72  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

about lost youth and the days when album covers were an art form. I asked my 11 year old Cade what a “record” was and he looked at me blankly. Nine year old Logan was a little more savvy: “I’ve seen one of those on Bugs Bunny”. While there’s an old turntable (actually two), stored away with the record collection, it hasn’t been used in anger in 15 years and frankly I doubt it is compatible with the modern sound systems without the addition of a pre-amp (cue 11 year old: “what’s a pre-amp?”). So when I saw Akai’s stunning-looking analogue-to-digital turntable that boasts recording direct to computer, SD card or USB flash drive, a little lamp inside my head went off: think of all the old albums you can record straight to your MP3 player! No messy connections to stereos and then downloading to a digital recorder before re-uploading to a computer, it just plugs

straight into a USB port and uploads whatever’s playing on the turntable direct to a folder on your hard-drive. The model we’re testing has all of those features; a slightly cheaper version lacks the direct to SD or USB flash, but still records direct to your computer via the USB cable. Incidentally, it also works as a turntable on any sound system or MP3 player that has a ‘line-in’ facility, so you can be confident you are getting a versatile turntable tailored to the 21st century user. And so, onto the sound. Rich, vibrant, real. If mahogany was aural ambience, it would sound like this. The Akai does what Akai always did best – in this case harvesting analogue sound from the grooves of a 25 year old LP – and transports listeners to a concert auditorium (it was the Dragon Live album from 1985, recorded at the Sydney Entertainment Centre and released in remembrance of keyboardist


“A little lamp inside my head went off: think of all the old albums you can record straight to your MP3 player! Paul Hewson who’d recently died of a drug overdose). None of the tinny emptiness of a CD here. I’d truly forgotten what bass on a vinyl LP sounds like. For those interested in hearing the results, I’ve uploaded a WAV file to our website [http://www.investigatemagazine. com/audio/dragonextract.wav 23mb, so it will take a minute to download] featuring a few samples from the raw, unedited recording. I say unedited because the turntable comes complete with software enabling easy erasing of scratches and other vinyl idiosyncrasies. I chose not to edit the sample – what you hear is just as the computer recorded it straight from the platter. The software of course gives you the option of converting to MP3 or CD quality WAV. On a need to know basis, the specifications include the ability to play 33 and 45rpm discs, and old 78s with a special adjustment. Rather than direct drive, Akai have opted for a belt driven turntable and boast stylus head interchangeability. Pitch is adjustable, while an anti-skate feature helps keep your stylus on-track by minimizing and balancing some of the forces that act on tone arms. An audio out RCA feed can plug into the Line In socket of

your MP3 recorder or audio system, while the USB cable and Audacity software work with both PC and Mac computers. The Akai turntables will save you a packet in iTunes fees or new CDs, if you’ve been looking for a way to digitize your old record collection. Sure, you could save $60 and buy a cheaper turntable. But then it wouldn’t be an Akai, would it? And it probably wouldn’t have the name of a trusted audio house on it. It’s a fantastic Christmas gift for the music lover in your household, and sure to give old record collections a new lease on life. RRP: $349.95 for the baseline ATT022U, and $449.95 for the direct-to-SD card ATT023U. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  73


feel life | SPORT

Anton de Villiers / PHOTOSPORT

Bowling them over The Black Caps’ valiant ride into the Champions Trophy final in South Africa has been a welcome tonic for the team’s flagging fortunes. But is it the cure? Chris Forster sizes-up the prospects of success in a stopstart summer for international cricket 74  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

BOND, MILLS and VETTORI New Zealand Cricket is blessed with three of the world’s best bowlers. They’re the driving force for the team to compete with the bottomless talent pools India, Australia and South Africa have at their disposal. It’s been the same scenario for decades. Good old-fashioned Kiwi fighting spirit is a handy weapon, but only in harness with quality players. Daniel Vettori was stunning at the Champions Trophy, leading by example with ball and bat. The bespectacled leader steered his team past highly-fancied Pakistan in the semifinal in Johannesburg with a fine bowling display, taking 3 for 43. Then he promoted himself up the batting order to great effect in a match-winning partnership with Grant

Elliott, when the New Zealand run chase was in serious danger of unravelling. But a cruel hamstring injury robbed the team of captain Vettori when they needed him most, in the final against the ultraconfident Australians. The imposing pace of Kyle Mills and Shane Bond briefly sent shivers through the Aussie top order, and it was game on for a while. But without Vettori’s canny spell of spin bowling in the middle overs, the meagre target of 201 for victory was never going to be a problem. Shane Watson’s unbeaten century got the defending champs home with plenty of wickets and deliveries left. There-in lays the problem for the New Zealanders. It’s the other part of the game. The bit where they accumulate runs.


“The lofty 30 year old snared three wickets in the losing cause against Australia in the final at Pretoria on October the 6th. That was enough to rifle Mills to top slot on the I.C.C official rankings for ODIs The top and middle order batting is fragile, leaving lower-ranked batsmen, and bowlers to try and salvage a decent score. Ross Taylor’s the world class performer in the top order. But if he fails, as he did in the final, it’s over to all-rounder Grant Elliott, or relative newcomer Neil Broom to build a big score. And this is just the one day game, where New Zealand is now ranked fourth in the world. Test cricket – the purest form of the game – is an even bigger issue. They got thumped by Sri Lanka in both tests before heading to the South African tournament, and have slumped to 7th in the rankings, marginally ahead of the West Indies. All-rounder Jacob Oram is always missed on the frustratingly regular times he’s on the treatment table for injuries. It upsets the balance of the side, and weakens the batting. Brendon McCullum’s swashbuckling days as an opener must be nearing an end. He made a 14-ball duck in the final. His best score at the Champions Trophy was when he rode his luck on a dodgy Wanderers pitch to make 49 in their successful run chase to beat England. But the list of failures has heightened calls for McCullum to be dropped down the order, and to try a new option at the top of the ODI batting order. Getting to the final was a great achievement, their best in a major world tournament since winning the same event in Kenya back in 2000. But those batting frailties are an issue. Coach Andy Moles is into his second year in charge and increasingly reliant on the two freshest batsmen on the block, Martin Guptill and Jesse Ryder, to stand and deliver. SHANE BOND is back from the rebel cricket wilderness, and immediately proven he’s a class act. It was an ignominious return initially. In his opening over of a Twenty-20 International in Sri Lanka, he was smacked for four consecutive boundaries. The very next match Bond was back on song with 3 for 18 from his regulation 4-over spell. The familiar, genial smile from the former Christchurch police constable was back. At 34 he’s not quite the menacing express bowler of a couple of years ago. A steel rod in your lower back after surgery for stress

fractures would have something to do with that as well. But he’s still lively, street smart and a real handful with the new ball. Two years stranded with the non-sanctioned Indian Cricket League (ICL) haven’t done him any harm with the International Cricket Council (I.C.C). Bond’s up to 5 in the world rankings after the Champions Trophy, and loving it. “It’s sort of one of those things you dream about as a boy, playing for the New Zealand cricket team in a final – and a world final, you know. It may be my only opportunity to do so”. I’ve had some good spells and bad spells but all I’ve ever worried about is bowling as well as I can. I don’t think I’ve bowled the perfect game yet”. Pakistan, Bangladesh and Australia are all in Bond’s targets this summer. “Getting a 2nd chance (to play for the Black Caps) is something I thought I’d never have. I’m just determined to enjoy it. I’m as relaxed as I’ve ever been”. The so-called “mini World Cup” in South Africa featured the top eight countries in the game, and proved a real gauge for the relaxed paceman. ”Even when things have gone pearshaped it hasn’t really fazed me too much. It’s just part of the game. I’ve noticed the game’s picked up a couple of notches since I’ve been out and come back”. Welcome back Mr Bond, your country needs you. KYLE MILLS is at the top of his game, after a career blighted by injuries. The lofty 30 year old snared three wickets in the losing cause against Australia in the final at Pretoria on October the 6th. That was enough to rifle Mills to top slot on the I.C.C official rankings for ODIs. He’s played 108 games since his debut in 2001, taken 159 wickets at an average of just over 26, and with an impressive economy rate of less than 5 runs an over. He’s sure they will prosper from the South African experience. “It’s drawn a line in the sand for us for the rest of the summer”. Next stop is Pakistan’s home away from home in Dubai, and another clutch of one-dayers.

ER OF CRIC9/K1E0T      NZ SUMMab road 200   home and

1) PAKISTAN In the United Arab Emirates Nov 3. 1st ODI, Abu Dhabi Nov 6. 2nd ODI, Abu Dhabi Nov 9. 3rd ODI, Abu Dhabi Nov 12. 1st Twenty-20, Dubai Nov 13. 2nd Twenty-20, Dubai In New Zealand Nov 24-28. 1st test, University Oval, Dunedin Dec 3-7. 2nd test, Basin Reserve, Wellington Dec 11-15. 3rd test, McLean Park, Napier 2) BANGLADESH Feb 3. Twenty/20, Seddon Park, Hamilton Feb 5. 1st ODI, McLean Park, Napier Feb 8. 2nd ODI, University Oval, Dunedin Feb 11. 3rd ODI, AMI Stadium, Christchurch Feb 15-19. One off test, Seddon Park, Hamilton 3) AUSTRALIA Feb 26. 1st Twenty/20, Westpac Stadium, Wellington Feb 28. 2nd Twenty/20 AMI Stadium, Christchurch March 3. 1st ODI, McLean Park, Napier March 6. 2nd ODI, Eden Park, Auckland March 9. 3rd ODI, Seddon Park, Hamilton March 11. 4th ODI, Eden Park, Auckland March 13. 5th ODI, Westpac Stadium, Wellington March 19-23. 1st test, Basin Reserve, Wellington March 27-31. 2nd test, Seddon Park, Hamilton.

INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  75


feel life | HEALTH

Just a spoonful of sugar Claire Morrow wonders why placebos sometimes work better than nothing Penicillin paediatric syrup is, to my mind, one of the most therapeutic possible smells. The white one, not the orange one. They’re the exact same thing, of course, I just happen to associate one of them with getting better; that was the stuff you got when you were really sick and then you got better. That sweet white medicine must work. Oh, and soluble aspirin, the sweet, fizzy kind. I am loathe to this day to take non dissolving aspirin. The other stuff simply doesn’t work as well, even though it is the exact same medicine, and I know perfectly well that it does work exactly as well. Except, of course, that it doesn’t. Maybe. 76  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

The Placebo effect was described in detail in a 1955 medical paper called The Powerful Placebo, and changed the way medicines and other treatm ents are assessed. When a drug company makes a medicine it must prove that it (relatively) safe and that it works. But just giving a group of patients medicine and seeing if they get better is not enough. Maybe they were going to get better anyway. Maybe they got better because they saw the clinic nurse every day, and they benefitted from her smile and the walk to the clinic, and so forth. And so we have the idea of the randomized, double blind placebo controlled clinical trial. Now we

have (at least) two groups of patients, randomly divided into two groups: those who receive treatment, and those who receive a fake treatment, which in all accounts is identical to the real one. No-one knows which patients are receiving the real treatment, and which are getting the dummy, the code isn’t broken until the end of the trial. To be worthwhile, a new treatment must do better than the placebo treatment. It is very common for the placebo treatment to be fairly effective, more effective than no treatment at all. But why? Many symptoms, like pain and depression, really are amenable to circumstance.


It’s not that your pain is all in your head (in the sense that it’s made up), but it’s certainly modified by circumstances. The headache doesn’t seem so bad if you’re distracted, the toothache is tolerable since you’re in such a good mood. The expectation that things which taste of sweet fizzy aspirin make headaches better is likely to make headaches remit with the administration of sweet fizzy things. But that’s not all there is to it. Telling someone they will feel better (or worse) if they take tablet X is likely to cause it to have that effect, if they believe you. But telling someone that injection X will increase their secretion of growth hormone doesn’t increase their secretion of growth hormone. However, giving an injection that has this effect, then swapping it for an identical (but inactive) injection allows the inactive (placebo) medicine to work. And it still works, even when the patient is told it will have the opposite effect. This is, of course, quite involuntary. The brain has been taught to do something when it gets an injection, and it intends to do it. Imagine teaching a dog to sit, then trying to teach it to ignore the command, just when it’s got the idea of what it should do. So something really is happening with placebo effects. Recent research has shown that people who respond to placebo painkillers and antidepressants are not just pulling their socks up because the doctor was nice to them. For people who get a strong positive response to their placebo treatment, they are not getting “no treatment”. Their brains are changing their chemicals (not activating the pain sensors, or releasing endorphins, or pumping out the naturally occurring chemicals that relieve pain, or lighten mood). Dopamine, for example, is used to treat Parkinson’s Disease, amongst other things. In patients who respond to placebo treatment, they really are feeling better, because their brain really is producing more dopamine. Not all maladies respond to placebos, and not all people do either (nor do all people respond to every medicine, of course). And conditioning is significant. A drug can perform much better than placebos in one country, and worse in another, due to local beliefs about the likely efficacy of treatment. When antidepressants first came out, they seemed to work much better than placebos. They now don’t. They work as well as they ever did, but placebos get a much better response. Presumably seeping cultural belief that pills relieve depression

makes trial subjects more susceptible to getting better. In fact, the two are about equal (you are as likely to get well on sugar pills as on antidepressants), but there seems to be some difference – recent research suggests that it’s possible to predict which patients will respond to placebo and which won’t based on their brain chemistry. Primo Non Nocere, meaning “First Do No Harm”, is often cited in defence of placebos. They can’t hurt and may make you feel better. Unlike “real” medicine, which can hurt you and may make you feel better. But I am not sure. Placebo surgery (put the patient under, make an incision, do nothing useful) is effective for some things, but there is surely some risk involved with the anaesthetic and the theatre, and the cost. Believing in medicine which doesn’t work

means taking medicine which doesn’t work. It enforces an idea that one should always take a tablet if they feel sick. I remain divided on the topic. And as to the fizzy aspirin? As far as placebos go, unconscious cultural conditioning is important. In our part of the world the most effective placebos are the more expensive ones; brand name placebos work better than generic looking placebos, more costly placebos are more effective. More pills work better than less pills, capsules work better than tablets, and colour is important. Yellow placebos are better for depression, blue placebos are better for sedatives. But in Chinese medicine, there is a saying that “no-one trusts pleasant tasting medicine”. It may be all in your mind, of course, but then, the mind is an incredible thing.

  HEALTHBRIEFS   RADIATION AND CANCER DRUG EXPOSURE STUDIED  u  OKLAHOMA CITY, Oct. 8 (UPI) – U.S. scientists say they are co-leading an international study on the possible genetic effects of radiation and cancer drug exposures on future generations. The study’s principal investigators are meeting this week at the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center to discuss their recent findings, which will be presented at an upcoming meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics. The study, focusing on cancer survivors in the United States and Scandinavia, is designed to discover the potential genetic consequences of reproductive organs exposed to curative therapy by drugs or radiation. Scientists said they want to determine whether radiation and chemotherapy before conception increases the occurrence of birth defects, stillbirths and specific conditions such as Down syndrome. They also want to know if radiation treatment leads to cancer or DNA damage in the patients’ offspring. Project leaders said it is the first and largest study of its kind. So far, the results have been encouraging, said Dr. John Mulvihill, one of the study’s leaders and a University of Oklahoma geneticist. This study is important for many reasons, but most notably for cancer survivors who need reassurances that their children will not be affected by their chemotherapy and radiation treatment. This research also will help families in Hiroshima and Chernobyl, where residents were exposed to high levels of radiation as children and young adults. GENE AFFECTING HEMOGLOBIN IS IDENTIFIED  u  LONDON, Oct. 12 (UPI) – British scientists say they’ve identified a gene that has a significant effect on regulating hemoglobin in the body. The achievement came during a genome-wide association study conducted by Imperial College London researchers who looked at the link between genes and hemoglobin level in 16,000 people. It shows a strong association between a gene known as TMPRSS6 and the regulation of hemoglobin. This new finding is critical (because) understanding how hemoglobin levels are controlled at a genetic level has significant public health implications for people of all ages in developing and developed countries, said John Chambers, one of the lead authors of the study. Abnormally high or low levels are associated with a range of serious health problems, such as poor growth (low levels) and increased risk of stroke (high levels). Changes in hemoglobin levels can also affect our susceptibility to diseases like malaria, which infect the red blood cells said Professor Jaspal Kooner, who led the investigation.

INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  77


feel life | ALT.HEALTH

To eat, or not to eat? New study says organic foods equally nutritious, but doesn’t consider lack of pesticides, writes Maureen O’Hagan For years, healthy-food advocates have said organic food is more nutritious than conventionally grown. But that claim – trumpeted on the Web sites of organizations ranging from the national Organic Trade Association to the Seattle-based PCC Natural Markets – is being challenged by a comprehensive new study released last month. Now the healthful-eating crowd is up in arms. Not only did researchers reach the wrong conclusion, advocates say, they didn’t even ask the right questions. Such as: Why, exactly, do people buy organic? Many advocates say it’s not so much about what’s in the food; it’s about what isn’t. The study, conducted by British researchers and published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, examined all the relevant research between 1958 and 2008, eliminating studies the authors deemed not scientifically sound. It has been billed as the most comprehensive review of the nutrition question to date. Researchers concluded “there is no evidence of a difference” between organic and conventionally grown produce in 20 of 23 nutrient categories, including vitamin C, calcium and potassium. The researchers 78  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

had similar results when comparing meats. Any nutritional differences they did find were not significant, the researchers said. “Our review indicates that there is currently no evidence to support the selection of organically over conventionally produced foods on the basis of nutritional superiority,” the lead researcher said in a news release. The study was undertaken “because there is currently no independent authoritative statement” on the nutrition question, the researchers said. The study was conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the country’s national school of public health. It was funded by the Food Standards Agency, an independently operating government department “set up to protect the public’s health and consumer interests.” Media reports on the study have appeared on CNN and in newspapers stretching from Chicago to Australia. Meanwhile, the blogosphere is buzzing with criticism. Some worry that publicity about the results could affect consumer buying habits. The main problem with the study, critics say, is that nutrition is only a small part of organic’s appeal. The researchers did not examine, for example, what effect chemical

fertilizers and pesticides – used in growing conventional crops – have on consumers. Nor did they look at the environmental effects of each growing method. “Nutritional quality is one of many potential variables related to the advantages of organic food,” Margaret Wittenberg, global vice president of quality standards for Whole Foods Market, said in a statement. “But for us, there are already plenty of well-documented reasons to choose organic.” Advocates pointed to a study completed last year by The Organic Center that reached a different conclusion. Like the British study, these researchers examined the results of previous studies but went back only to the 1980s and used different methodology. For example, they focused exclusively on “matched pairs” of organic and conventional foods – that is, “crops grown on nearby farms, on the same type of soil, with the same irrigation systems and harvest timing.” The conclusion? “Yes, organic plant-based foods are, on average, more nutritious.” The Organic Center’s mission is “conversion of agriculture to organic methods, improved health for the earth and its inhabitants, and greater awareness of and demand for organic products.” Pointing to the conclusions of the The Organic Center’s report, Diana Crane, of PCC Natural Markets, said the British report was “not balanced.” “I don’t see it as a matter of taking sides,” Crane added. “I see it as being informed, knowing what’s reputable, and in some cases what just makes common sense. ... Organic has intuitively to be better for you.” While criticism of the British results abound, some have chosen to look at the bright side. Debra Boutin, chair of Bastyr University’s Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science, said that while the results may have been overblown in media reports, she’s not about to dispute the conclusions. Her priority is to get people to eat their fruits and vegetables, whether they’re wellto-do fine-diners or struggling shoppers. If they can get as many nutrients from conventionally grown as they can from organic, she said, “that’s a good thing. They’re equally good for us.” MORE INFORMATION Read more about the British researchers’ study: www.food.gov.uk/news/newsarchive/2009/ jul/organic The Organic Center’s study: www.organic-center.org


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INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  79


taste life   travel

Don’t mention the wall… Without forgetting its ordeal, once-divided Berlin has roared back to life, writes Clayton M. McCleskey BERLIN – The modern skyscrapers of Potsdamer Platz glisten in the sun. Stylish Berliners sip coffee in swanky sidewalk cafes. And the streets are packed with cyclists and tour buses. Hard to imagine this used to be the Death Strip. If you had tried to come here 20 years ago, you would have been shot. The Berlin Wall ran right through the middle of this square, making it a deadly no man’s land between freedom in West Berlin and Communist dictatorship in East Germany. Instead of skyscrapers were barbed wire, watchtowers and the wall. But on Nov. 9, 1989, the wall fell. Two decades later, Berlin has roared back to life, offering visitors both a taste of modern Germany and a firsthand encounter with the wall’s history. To understand Berlin, you have to understand the story of the wall. On Aug. 13, 1961, East Berliners woke to find themselves prisoners in their own country. During the night, the 80  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

East German regime had sealed the border between East and West Berlin. What was at first a makeshift barrier of barbed wire became the Berlin Wall, a network of walls, fences and obstacles that stretched for nearly 160 kilometres. For decades, the wall sliced through Berlin, splitting not just a city but also families, friends and loved ones. But in the face of a pro-democracy revolution in 1989, the East German regime imploded and the wall fell. After the two Germanys unified a year later, the remnants of the wall were torn down. While not much of it is left, a small segment was preserved and is now the mustsee Berlin Wall Memorial. In addition to part of the actual wall, you can visit a memorial chapel and a small but informative museum that tells the story of the wall. From a viewing platform, you can look over the wall and into the Death Strip. “The border guards had the motto, ‘Nobody gets through,’” says Axel

Klausmeier, director of the Berlin Wall Foundation, which runs the memorial. Guards were authorized to shoot to kill, he said. And 136 people lost their lives at the wall, many while trying to escape. “This wall was built to keep people in. East Germans were voting with their feet,” says Klausmeier, adding that between 1949 and 1961 nearly 3.5 million East Germans fled, many through the open border at West Berlin. The wall – nearly 12 feet tall in places – plugged that hole. While the Berlin Wall Memorial offers a look at the wall in historical context, the longest remaining segment of the wall has been turned into an open-air art gallery known as the East Side Gallery. The near mile-long section of the wall runs along the Spree River and features more than 100 paintings maintained by a group of artists as a memorial to freedom. When the wall split Germany, slogans and pictures were painted on its western side. In the East, such open expression was


strictly forbidden. And Easterners weren’t allowed to get near the wall out of fear they might try to flee. Without question, Berlin’s most popular wall-related site is Checkpoint Charlie, the border crossing where American and Soviet tanks faced each other down at the height of the Cold War. Actors dressed as border guards pose for tourists at the tollboothlike reconstructed checkpoint. Next to the checkpoint, the Museum of the Wall at Checkpoint Charlie offers visitors a crash course in Berlin’s Cold War history. “It’s a lot more educational than just what you read in history books,” American tourist Martin Mulford says as he browses the exhibit. “The wall is such a vital part of our history. It’s a reminder of the division of peoples.” “Welcome to hell,” says the tour guide as he leads us into Hohenschonhausen prison, where the East German secret police, the Stasi, imprisoned 40,000 enemies of the state. The head of the Stasi at the time defined an enemy of the state as anyone with their own opinion, our tour guide tells us. The Stasi kept close tabs on East Germans, reading 90,000 letters a day and listening in on 20,000 phone calls. Political dissidents and anyone the Stasi wanted to silence landed in this cold, gray prison surrounded by barbed wire in what formerly was the Soviet sector of Berlin. Tours take visitors from the processing area where prisoners arrived in unmarked vans to the lonely cells where they were held without legal recourse. This type of oppression led to the mass demonstrations that eventually brought down the East German regime. “The prison is part of the 1989 history. In order for the wall to come down, there had to be a resistance movement. And many of those who protested landed here,” explained Andre Kockisch from the Memorial Berlin-Hohenschonhausen. The Hohenschonhausen prison offers visitors a view into life in East Germany, he said, adding, “This place explains how the dictatorship functioned. This is the other side of the coin.” In the years since the fall of the wall, the German capital has become one of Europe’s hippest cities, with culture and clubs galore. The former East, especially, is hopping, with pubs, cafes and a pulsing night life. The city is aggressively grungy and

“In the years since the fall of the wall, the German capital has become one of Europe’s hippest cities, with culture and clubs galore nonconformist. In the heart of the hip Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood, a dilapidated building displays a sign proclaiming, “Capitalism kills.” In contrast to other European capitals, Berlin is dirt-poor. And proud of it. The mayor boasts that his city is “poor but sexy.” Berlin is edgy, alternative and full of energy. But visitors are constantly confronted with Berlin’s history. Bullet holes dating to World War II are visible in many buildings. And a split is still noticeable between the wealthier, right-leaning western part of the city and the poorer, left-leaning eastern area. “Walking down Unter den Linden, you experience several hundred years of history,” tourist Severin St. Martin says of Berlin’s grand boulevard that leads under the Brandenburg Gate. “Princes and princesses rode down the street. The Prussians, Hitler and Stalin, you just imagine different periods of time and realize they all played out on the same street,” he says. And it wasn’t that long ago. “It baffles me how it was so recent. To see where people protested, it makes me wonder, what I would have done if I had been there,” tourist Tovah Penning says as she browses an exhibit about the wall at the Checkpoint Charlie museum. “It’s pretty crazy if you think about it.”

BERLIN WALL TIMELINE 1945: World War II ends with Germany’s surrender. The Allied powers – the United States, UK, France and the USSR – divide Germany into four occupation zones. June 1948 to May 1949: When the Soviets blockade West Berlin, the Western Allies respond with the Berlin Airlift. 1949: The Federal Republic of Germany is established in the West and the socialist German Democratic Republic is founded in the East. 1953: Uprisings and demonstrations against the regime in East Germany are put down by Soviet tanks. 1949 to 1961: 3.5 million East Germans flee. Aug. 13, 1961: The border between East and West Berlin is sealed and construction of the Berlin Wall begins. October 1961: Famous standoff between Soviet and American tanks at the Checkpoint Charlie border crossing June 12, 1987: U.S. President Ronald Reagan at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate challenges Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, “Tear down this wall.” October and November 1989: Mass demonstrations and protests break out across East Germany, including on Berlin’s Alexanderplatz. Nov. 9, 1989: The border is opened, and the Berlin Wall falls. Oct. 3, 1990: East Germany joins the Federal Republic of Germany, unifying Germany. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  81


IF YOU GO  WHERE TO STAY  u  Myer’s Hotel, Metzer Strasse 26; 00-49-30-44-01-40; www.myershotel.de. Rooms from about US$142. GOING OUT  u  Berlin has more than 6,500 bars and restaurants, so there’s no shortage of food or drink. The good news is that Berlin is relatively cheap. I recommend the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood, a great place to enjoy yourself after a day of sightseeing. EATING AND DRINKING  u  I Due Forni, Schonhauser Allee 12. Known for its famous pizzas (about US$12) and infamous service. Subway: U2 Senefelderplatz. Also, the area around the Eberswalder Strasse U-Bahn Station has many bars and restaurants. My favorites: Wohnzimmer, Lettestrasse 6; www. wohnzimmer-bar.de; drinks about US$6. Also, Weinerei, Fehrbelliner Strasse 57; tram station, Zionskirchplatz; you set the prices. MUSEUMS AND EXHIBITS Berlin Wall Memorial www.berliner-mauer-gedenkstaette.de. Free. Museum of the Wall at Checkpoint Charlie www.mauermuseum.de. Cost: about US$18; audio guide, about $4.50. Memorial Berlin-Hohenschonhausen, former Stasi prison www.stiftung-hsh.de. Cost: about US$6. The Peaceful Revolution 1989/1990, www.revolution89.de. German Historical Museum www.dhm.de. Cost: about US$7. RESOURCES Anniversary events, www.mauerfall09.de/en Berlin tourist information www.visitberlin.de Virtual tour of the wall: www.youtube.com/ watch?v=OwQsTzGkbiY SEEING THE WALL After the wall was dismantled, panels – many with brightly colored, often political graffiti – were dispersed among museums, galleries and public spaces worldwide. Here are a few sites where you can see original pieces of the barrier.

82  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009


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www.danskemobler.co.nz INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  83


taste life   FOOD

New York, New York James Morrow has the meal of his life Remember that iconic scene in Paddy Chayefsky’s classic film, Network, when a deranged Peter Finch urges everyone to stand up wherever you are, go to your window, and yell, I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore? Well, my friend, I have not received any prophetic visions, nor am I suffering from any level of delusion that would prevent me from holding a job or a driver’s license. But if you love your food, I do want you to get up, go to your computer, and book yourself some plane tickets to New York. Do it now, while the American dollar is still weak and the air fares are still relatively low. Because I have just returned from two weeks in Manhattan. And you know what? It should no longer be called the Big Apple. 84  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

Instead, it should be called the big 12-hour sous vide confit of apple with mille feuille of truffle and foie gras. Despite all you may have heard about recessions and layoffs and the decline of American greatness, the New York food scene is probably the most vibrant of any city anywhere on this planet. Whether it is street corner pizza, the wave of wine bars that are sweeping the city, or the very topend dining rooms such as those which populate the revitalised Time-Warner Centre at Columbus Circle, New York has a culinary energy about it I have not felt since the end of the last decade. But here is the best part: because there have been cutbacks in certain sectors, most notably banking and finance, if one is will-

ing to eat a bit late – say, 9:00 or 9:30 – some of the hottest tables in town are there for the taking. Over the course of a fortnight we ate at everything from Scarpetta, New York’s “it” Italian, to the classic Gramercy Tavern, to Tom Colicchio’s (think “Top Chef ”) CraftSteak. And because New York is really a 24-hour town, it is possible to have a full meal, drinks with friends, and then a second course of dinner – as we did one night when we wound up with a bunch of wine and cheese distributors at Jody William’s delightful Il Gottino, eating terrines and salume at one in the morning. Perhaps – no, scratch that. By far the best meal we had was the eleven course degustation at Eleven Madison Park, downtown


at 11 Madison Avenue. And when I say eleven courses, I really mean about 15 or 16, because by the time Chef Daniel Humm is done, from the first little amuse-bouches (including a surprisingly great bite of fried veal sweetbreads delivered and eaten before one’s brain really registers what they really are), to the last petit-fours (which are, delightfully, left at the table with a bottle of self-serve cognac to help you digest), the menu grows to far more than the sum of its advertised parts. And what parts! After a number of treats from the kitchen, the batting officially opened with a Californian caviar, served with the traditional accompaniments on a bed of pannacotta and lobster gelee. An insalata caprese comprised two globules of spherified liquid: one buffalo mozzarella, the next tomato and basil, each one exploding in a mist in the mouth. A gorgeous piece of halibut, the best I have ever tasted.   A glass dome that is lifted at the table to reveal a cloud of smoke and then a perfect square of smoked pork belly. An egg shell containing a creamy sabayon and frog’s legs. Perhaps the greatest dish, however, was a porcelain cup – molded off an actual sea urchin’s shell – containing a “cappuccino” of sea urchin, cauliflower and crab, which was foamy, creamy, salty, briny, rich and yet ethereally light at the same time. Everything that a seafood dish should be. None of this was let down by the service, either. Though we did not sit down until 9:30, the restaurant happily served us until well after 2, and standards never fell down once. Each course came with an entourage, two servers carrying plates, another to carry accompaniments, the head waiter who explained each course, and the sommelier who was in charge of the wine pairings: everything from a Japanese sake with the caviar to a 1996 Burgundy to a Merseault to an Austrian number I had never heard of to a special dessert wine made by a mad Italian in California who makes a few hundred cases in years when he feels like it. This is serious food, but also seriously fun. It was an edible performance. Earlier this year, a study by researchers at San Francisco State University suggested that when it comes to buying happiness, experiences provide much more bang for the buck than mere things. Having sat through five hours of this sort of sustained genius, I can see why.

MAXPP

DANIEL HUMM’S SEA URCHIN CAPPUCCINO WITH CRAB AND CAULIFLOWER Yield: 10 Servings You’ll need: Cauliflower Puree: 500 grams pureed cauliflower florets 250 grams whipping cream 3 gelatin sheets Crab Salad: 100 grams Dungeness crab meat (cleaned and cooked) 20 grams creme fraiche Chopped tarragon, to taste Salt and pepper, to taste Sea Urchin (Kina) Foam: 30 grams butter 40 grams chopped shallots 50 grams sea urchin roe 20 grams cognac 6 limes, juiced 200 grams reduced lobster stock 600 grams cream 100 grams creme fraiche Salt and cayenne, to taste

To make: For Cauliflower Puree: Cook the tops of cauliflower in salt water until very soft. Strain and blend until very smooth in a blender. Cool down. Heat a little of the puree with the bloomed gelatin sheets and add back to the puree. Add whipping cream. Season to taste. For Crab Salad: Combine all ingredients and season to taste. For Sea Urchin Foam: Sweat shallots in butter. Add sea-urchin roe and flambé with cognac. Add lime juice and reduce by half. Add lobster stock and reduce by half again. Add cream and bring it up to boil. Add crème fraiche. Season to taste. Cool mixture slightly and then pour into a nitrous oxide whipped cream charger and charge with one charger. To Serve: Fill the cauliflower puree into the bottom of small bowls or martini glasses. Add crab salad and finish with foam. INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  85


touch life  >  toybox

EPSON STYLUS PHOTO T50 The Epson Stylus Photo T50 single function printer is an upgrade for the popular Epson Stylus Photo R290, with outstanding printing performance up to 38ppm in mono draft mode and 4 x 6 inch photos in as little as 12 secs. The Photo T50 offers CD/DVD printing and BorderFree photos up to A4 on a wide range of Epson photographic papers. A USB cable is included.T he Photo T50 is compatible with Windows 2000/XP/XPx64/Vista operating systems, and Mac OS 10.3.9 or later with USB connection. RRP $199. www.epson.co.nz

AKAI LCD TV Home electronics brand Akai has launched its L8 Series range of LCD televisions, consisting of 19”, 22”, 26” and 32” models. Boasting a host of features, Akai’s L8 Series provides an affordable LCD offering for the living room, bedroom or child’s playroom. Engineered from advanced technology, all screens use a high-quality LCD panel for improved image clarity and sharpness for superior picture quality. Its sleek, piano black housing also incorporates a range of connections, including a HDMI input, S-Video, and composite video, as well as a PC input to easily connect to a personal computer. The Akai L8 Series LCD range will be shipping from August 2009, available from selected retailers from September 2009. www.digitalblue.co.nz Pricing: L819ATV (19”) - $499.00 L822ATV (22”) - $599.00 L826ATV (26”) - $799.00 L832ATV (32”) - $899.00

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OLYMPUS DS-55 DIGITAL VOICE RECORDER The new DS-55 Digital Voice Recorder is the perfect choice to record lectures, meetings and group discussions. With a built-in 1GB memory the DS-55 can record over 260 hours on its highest compression setting or 16.5 hours on the highest quality record setting. The detachable stereo microphone further enhances the recording quality and pickup. The DS-55 records in WMA (Windows Media Audio) and supports playback for both WMA and MP3 Music Files. Thanks to the advanced DVM technology on this machine, the microphone directivity can be switched between Zoom, Narrow, Wide or Off mode. RRP $399.00.

CANON IXUS 120 IS The Digital IXUS 120 IS is Canon’s slimmest ever wide-angle Digital IXUS – a powerful camera in an elegant frame. Small and perfectly formed – ideal for slipping into handbags and pockets – it can be whipped out anywhere to take stunning images with its 28mm wide angle lens, 4x zoom and 12.1 Megapixel image sensor. All your shots can be comfortably reviewed on its beautiful 2.7 inch PureColour LCD II screen. The Digital IXUS 120 IS features Smart Auto mode with Scene Detection Technology so snapping is easy and picture quality is guaranteed. The Digital IXUS 120 IS also includes a ‘Hints & Tips’ system so camera settings are clearly explained within the menu. Blink Detection is another helpful feature to make sure you always get a perfect shot. It immediately alerts you if any of your subjects had their eyes closed, letting you swiftly take a replacement photo. Available in four subtle shades – black, blue, brown or silver – taking quality images on the move has been never so stylish and easy. The Digital IXUS camera records 720p HD video letting you shoot high-quality video, as well as stunning stills. Whether at a party with friends, travelling through exotic locations, or playing sport in the park, you can capture all your moving memories. www.canon.co.uk

INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  87


see life / pages

Bad writers get great sales Michael Morrissey ponders Dan Brown’s Lost Symbol THE LOST SYMBOL By Dan Brown Bantam Press, $60 A Dan Brown novel increasingly resembles not so much as a collection of paper bound along the spine, as a tsunami – an unstoppable force sweeping other books before it, like smashed matchwood. Over in England, it has been reliably reported that literary authors like Sebastian Faulkes, Nick Hornby and William Trevor have had new novels rushed out a few scant weeks before Brown’s latest grand slam, lest their sales be lost in the swamp of the record-breaking first print run of 6.5 million copies of Lost Symbol in hardback. Not even this carbon dioxide-boosting slaughter of trees will quench the thirst for a Brownian novel any more than a bucket of water will satisfy the hapless victims of a sub-Saharan drought. And they say the book is dying. Singlehandedly, Dan Brown is keeping it alive and well. In case there is anyone on the planet who hasn’t realised it, Brown’s fifth novel does for the Freemasons what The Da Vinci Code did for the Vatican with one important difference – the Vatican were the bad guys, and the Opus Dei sounded like the Left Hand of Darkness but the Masons, despite their secretive ways, skulls filled with blood-coloured wine, and spooky death rehearsals in coffins, turn out to be the good guys. And Washington D.C., apart from being a Minotaurian labyrinth concealing hidden corridors and chambers, turns out to be festooned with Masonic symbols in all sorts of unexpected places. As for America’s political finest ...yep, Masons. Perhaps President Obama will have to issue a denial or, alternatively, invite Dan Brown to the White House for a glass of affirmative bubbly? Sporadic literary snobbery notwithstanding, I am not immune to Dan Brown fever. I, too, lurched with mounting excitement from one breathless short chapter to the next, in quest of the secret which was going to bring down Western Civilisation And when I discovered what it was ... but by the ancient code of thriller reviewing, I’m custom-bound not to reveal it – though some of the nas88  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

tier tortures (hand severing, slow drowning) outlined in The Lost Symbol would speedily prompt me to blurt it out. It must be said there is no secret I can conceive of capable of annihilating our resilient Western world which, so far, has survived fascism, communism, Nazism, terrorism and recession not to mention ipods and fast food. Meanwhile, cheap Chinese goods – no secret surely – are doing the job quite nicely. Let it be said, Mr Brown does a great job of villains. Not since Ian Fleming have we had such a scary assemblage of deformed psychopaths (“crooks” doesn’t do it any more). Here the bad guy is Mal’akh – a tall, muscular brute whose flayed tattooed skin would make the scariest lampshade in town. Only his toughened fontanelle awaits the crowning glory, the lost symbol. This nasty bag of goods is prepared to do anything – even shame the United States government and the venerable order of Freemasons – to obtain the symbol in order to broker power with the Prince of Darkness, but in the end (this can hardly be a secret), he is vanquished and though the word Hell is not mentioned, a chilling passage (italics compulsory) makes it clear that’s where he is headed. So, in a strange back-handed kind of way, Brown’s novel is an affirmation of Christianity though some may feel uneasy that Freemasonry gets such a resounding thumbs up. The other tough memorable character is four feet ten inches of voluble dynamite, Inoue Sato, the take-no-prisoners head of the CIA. Sato’s “secret”- revealed soon enough – is that this pint-sized bully is a woman. (And I’ve never quite recovered from the illicit transgendering of James Bond’s boss M into a humourless battleaxe.) Compared to these two fire-eaters, Langdon (despite being an amalgam of Sherlock Holmes, James Bond and Indiana Jones) and heroine Katherine Solomon, are dull fodder indeed. But then, was James Bond ever as colourful as Hugo Drax, Dr No, Auric Goldfinger, or Ernst Blofeld? In the thriller’s fantasy world, bad guys always finish last but they go down with a lurid bang. And so they do in the symbol-drenched blood and conspiracy-riddled thunder novels of Dan Brown. This over-extended, over-secretive, symbol-rich farrago will mean a sleepless weekend for many.


When a Professor Pullum mocked Dan Brown’s writing ability by making a list of the best-selling author’s twenty worst sentences it made for hilarious reading. But Brown, like those two other awful writers, Stephen King and William Rice Burroughs, provides enough colourful characterisation, B-grade adrenalin and cliff hanger chapter endings to ensorcell readers by the million. It has been revealed that Brown has another 12 books planned. The mind reels – how many secretive organisations worthy of attack are there? I see no reason why the Nazis, the Communists or Muslim terrorists should be exempt. Bring it on Dan, the world loves a thunderous conspiracy, almost as much as it loves a hot takeway. THE BOOK OF GENERAL IGNORANCE By John Lloyd & John Mitchison Faber & Faber, $24.99 Imagine yourself at a dinner party and someone says, “The Great Wall of China is the only man-made thing that can be seen from the moon.” Flushing brightly with the righteousness of superior knowledge, you burst out, “Wrong! You cannot see anything man-made from the moon – you can barely see the continents.” A bit later, another hapless guest claims, ”Of course most of the world’s tigers live in India ...”Wrong!” you scream. “There are more tigers in zoos in the USA than in the whole of India!” Finally, a third guest declares, “Did you know George Washington’s teeth were made of wood?” “WRONG! They were made of hippopotamus and elephant ivory held together with gold springs.” My guess is you won’t be invited back to dinner at that particular household, nor will you wish to go, for it is no fun being surrounded by people who clearly have not read The Book of General Ignorance which goes a long way in clearing up popular misconceptions. This is the kind of book that is aimed at party bores, all but forgotten quiz kids, pursuers of trivial pursuits, and those eager to make big money on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Even a moderately informed fact geek such as myself, was surprised to

find out that Hitler was not a vegetarian – and how often have we read that? – but a not so secret lover of German sausage and pigeon pie. And according to a website I visited, it was Goebbels who bruited it about that Hitler was a vegetarian to encourage the idea of a pure-living ascetic leader. Sometimes, myths are made by the media. For instance, a group of feminists did place bras and other items of female apparel in a trash can. Later, it was reported they intended to burn them, and still later, they simply became bra burners. And bra burners they have remained – until this handy little myth-buster of a book put us right. It is hardly surprising to discover that hippopotamuses are Africa’s leading killer mammal nor was I astounded to learn that St Bernard’s dogs did not carry flasks of brandy under their massive chins. I was already wised up that the famous curse of the Pharaohs was a fizzer because Howard Carter, the discoverer archaeologist in question, lived another 17 years which makes the supposed curse about as fast as a slow case of AIDs. I learned somewhat uneasily that a severed head stays conscious for between 5 to 13 seconds. And it must be asked, how do the authors know that? Did they interview one? When the authors suggest that the idea that mediaeval folk thought the earth was flat was a nineteenth century invention, I must protest WRONG! Many ancient thinkers from Greece, Mesopotamia and China, as well as leading theologian Cosmas Indicopleustes thought the earth was flat. However, they were a minority and it was nineteenth century propagandists who exaggerated the notion of flat earthism among our mediaeval ancestors. And here’s one which gives a local surge of pride – the lightest wood in the world is not balsa (as most of us think) but the small whau tree, used by Maori to make floats for fishing. So there! LEVIATHAN, OR THE WHALE By Philip Hoare Fourth Estate, $27.99 First up, this is one of the best researched and written books I’ve read in a good while. Our finest natural history writer, Graham Billing – no slouch when it came to describing whales – would surely have eaten his heart to pen some of these beautifully phrased descriptions. Here is Hoare in full flight on the subject of differing whale blows: “As massive as it may be, a whale may be identified by its blow: the tall columnar geyser of a finback; the brief, staccato snort of a minke; the bushy blow of a humpback, the steam engine of the sea sometimes turned into an indignant-sounding elephant trumpet; and the distinctive v-shaped spout of a right whale ... iridescent, airy signifiers of something so huge.” Understandably, and respectfully, a good half of this whale encyclopaedia is given over to celebrating Herman Melville and his unforgettable book Moby-Dick. Melville went to sea on a whaling vessel for several years and was also a scholarly researcher and historian. He would have been aware of the sinking of the Essex by an 85-foot long sperm bull whale weighing 80 tons, and the legendary status of the very real Mocha Dick. This colossal beast, said to be over 100-feet long with 28 foot-wide flukes, killed 30 men, stoved in 14 boats, but was eventually dispatched in 1859 by a Swedish whaling vessel. The frequent sightings of aggressive super-sized sperm whales of 80 or 90 feet and more, encourages the notion that whales were larger then – they are no more than 65-feet long now. However, it is now impossible to check these INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  89


stories. Perhaps the great sperm whales were fiercer in those times, or reacted more violently to the closer proximity of its harpooning enemy, man. In a sense, whale lover Hoare wants to have it both ways – to scare us with their former ferocity and size, then to tell us that sperm whales are gentle giants, docile most of the time, shy enough to flee from intruders. But then there are the stories of the belligerent Mocha Dick and other sinkings. Hoare also tells us that Melville read and borrowed heavily from Thomas Beale’s Natural History of the Sperm Whale published in the 1830s. He also (my researches) borrowed from Jeremiah Reynolds and William Comstock None of these abundant sources explains Melville’s extraordinary literary gifts and his strange and compelling neoBiblical style. Like all natural historians worth their weight, Leviathan teems with facts both familiar and exotic. Sperm whales can go without food for three months; they have a 19-pound brain and can kill other fish with a 200-decibel boom. The giganticism of the whale is cheerfully extended to several tales of sea serpents allegedly hundreds of feet long. Surprisingly, Hoare seems half inclined to accept that such creatures may exist – or existed – as most of the sightings are from the nineteenth century. Alas, such beasties or 90-foot sperm whales are a thing of the past. Like Melville, Hoare covers his giant prey from every angle – oil in the head, the mystery of beaching (innumerable theories) and the puzzle of ambergris which, believe it not, is whale poo – though paradoxically, a vital ingredient of perfume. Though it peaked in the 1950s, the slaughter of whales still continues at the hand of the Japanese and the Norwegians and to a lesser degree by authorised ethnic groups who “cheat” by using modern equipment. But former whaling nations such as the Americans and the British have long quit. And in some ocean regions, there is evidence of some species re-generating. In the latter part of the book, Hoare experiences the thrill of being surrounded by some 60-70 whales spread over a three mile circle. Then climatically – the magnificent climax to an epic book – he goes swimming with the whales. Alone in the sea with these enormous mammals, he sees them, hears them, eyeballs them up close. Even more than their great size and strength, he was struck by their beauty. And in the end, by their almost magically quick departure. If you want to know all about whales, you need only two books – Moby-Dick and Leviathan. WAY BACK THEN, BEFORE WE WERE TEN Compiled and edited by Graeme Lay David Ling Publishing, $34.99 Prolific novelist, travel writer and anthologist Graeme Lay has assembled this collection of memoirs and short stories about childhood. In the main, it comes across as a warm bath in nostalgia, as it should. Many of the memoirists and writers are middle-aged and then some, and unsurprisingly, recollecting a time of full employment, warm summers in waterholes, holidays by the seaside and gathering pipis during an era when children were perhaps less vulnerable to stranger danger, when the world seemed safer. Indeed, publisher and biographer Christine Cole Catley, who grew up on an isolated farm, reflects, “Danger was a concept that didn’t enter my childhood.” While this was because no one told her the world was a dangerous place, the then cosy world of New Zealand didn’t contradict this parental assumption. 90  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

The Kiwi do-it-yourself tradition is well-captured in poet Kevin Ireland’s recollection of moving from a sturdy brick State house into a ramshackle bungalow composed of rotten floorboards, waterstained ceilings, smells of mildew, tobacco and boiled cabbage together with bugs, slater and silverfish but which his father single-handedly converted into a superbly rebuilt home. The same vigorous optimism is present in Fiona Kidman’s memory of being taught to read and write in no time at all. Among the short stories, I was surprised to find that I wasn’t as impressed by the Janet Frame short story as I expected to be, though Katherine Mansfield’s excerpt from the longer story Prelude still has a chilling – or is it blackly comic? – description of a headless duck waddling along for a few steps before giving up the ghost. I was once more impressed by Sargeson’s careful honesty as a writer plus a subtle feeling of something lurking below the surface, also by Graeme Lay’s story of differences in wealth and moral values, and Sue Orr’s story of a grandfather confronted by his risque past. But again, how innocent it all is. This trauma – by world standards – in a teacup is typified by Toni Quinlan’s account of being reprimanded for eating four ripe nectarines intended for her grandmother. Oh grievous sin! And terrible punishment ensues! And yet, despite the presence of Sargeson, Frame, Mansfield etc I was more captivated by two memoirs from two gifted authors who – scandal of scandals – are not even New Zealanders (though both have strong New Zealand connections): Bernard Brown and Kapka Kassabova. Brown grew up in Hadleigh, England and from his colourful childhood, retrieves memories of a low flying machine-gunning German aircraft, school with the notorious Kray brothers and fetching clay for renown painter Frances Hodgkins. Kassabova recalls shopping by government permission and the bleak concrete dwelling of her upbringing in Bulgaria – by comparison Kevin Ireland’s brick State house seems palatial. Personally, I prefer anthologies that do not mix genres. I do not care for collections that combine poetry and short stories and correspondingly would have preferred this assemblage not to be an admixture of extracts of published memoirs, excerpts from longer works, short stories and freshly retrieved memories. Memories alone would have done nicely. Naturally, this is a matter of generic taste and does not reflect adversely on the general excellence of the material. Another critique could be that this looks very much like a North Island collection, with nothing from our southern cousins. But never mind, I remain warmed by blackberries, eels in waterholes, sunny beaches, glowing sunsets and ripe nectarines, pohutukawa and kauri trees, sheep and horses, restored bungalows and all the bright colours and smells of a golden New Zealand childhood. ORDINARY THUNDERSTORMS By William Boyd Bloomsbury, $38.99 William Boyd has something of a cult following and I count myself among the ranks. My favourite Boyd novel is The Blue Afternoon though I also enjoyed An Ice-Cream War, The New Confessions, Stars and Bars and his immediately preceding novel, Restless. If there is any contemporary English novelist who might assume the mantle of a Graham Greene, it is he. Boyd’s fiction has a comparable weary worldliness, sardonic wit, dramatic irony, gift for dialogue, a liking for exotic locations and more than a smidgen of crime and the sordid.


Born and raised in Ghana and Nigeria, Boyd attended universities in Nice, Glasgow, and lectured in English at Oxford University. Now he lives in London and Ordinary Thunderstorms, his ninth novel, is London-saturated. In fact, reading this novel is an urban geography lesson, partly because Adam Kindred, his central character, fleeing a murder scene (yes, he is innocent but looks as guilty as sin), becomes a street person, and there is nothing like living “rough” (as the novel puts it), to make a person familiar with the streets of a city. In Ordinary Thunderstorms, Boyd’s rapid plot development, pace, suspense and lashings of violence makes him more akin to a thriller writer, but this reviewer is not complaining. If he has subtly shifted away from his earlier political-satirical socially sophisticated novels to thriller mode, and might now be compared to John le Carre, are we any the poorer? A climatologist may seem like an unlikely hero – but why not? With global warming in the air (so to speak), it has become a sexy occupation [Memo to Michael: must send you a review copy of Air Con – Ed.]. Not that Adam would know because he spends most of the novel living under the Chelsea bridge, eating food from rubbish tins, devouring careless seagulls and trying to figure out to survive without a job, money, credit cards, place to live, not to mention being without an ipod or a plasma screen. Having followed his slow progress back to employment and identity, it doesn’t seem that difficult – you become a fake blind beggar – but Boyd doesn’t spare us all the humiliation, helplessness and hopelessness that goes with the condition. He also gives a sympatheticsardonic portrayal of charitable organisations that hand out food and shelter to just such lost souls as Adam. Enter Janjo Case, ex-mercenary, hired killer, as nasty a piece of work, as you can find in fiction, who Kindred succeeds in outwitting, never implausibly. Besides the sinister Janjo there are a host of characters to be relished – the foolish Lord Ivo Redcastle, resourceful policewoman Rita, drug company villain Ingram Fryzer and tough little streetwalker Mhouse. Maternal solicitude as practiced by this unhappy species of lowlife: “Mhouse filled a bowl with sugar-coated cornflakes added some milk and a few glugs of rum. Then she crushed 2 10 mg Diazapem under the blade of a knife and sprinkled it over the flakes.” Then feeds it to her infant son. She herself has already drunk a lot of alcohol and snorted many lines of cocaine. She completes her drug regimen with two Somnola and a joint to help grab 12 hours sleep after plying her trade. Like Dickens updated by Tom Wolfe, Boyd takes us through the seamy underbelly of modern day London – its back alleys, bolt holes, doss-houses, and the river Thames, as in Dickens’ novel Our Mutual Friend, is afloat with rubbish, barges and corpses. For London, one of the great cities of the world, a sinkhole for all nations and ethnicities, is also a city where for various reasons people disappear – a staggering 100 and more a day – just like Adam Kindred. From the point of view of the police and civil authority, these people become all but invisible – since they do not use bank accounts or credit cards, they leave no financial trail and are virtually untraceable except of course by a relentless killer like Janjo. His pursuit of our down at heels hero gives the novel its taut thriller edge. Many New Zealanders know London, but probably they won’t know this dark side. Boyd is our expert guide through this contemporary dystopia. Not all is darkness and death – late in the novel, a romance burgeons between Rita and Adam, evoked, as with all of Boyd’s human depictions with psychological depth and some tenderness. A great read.

 Reviewed by Hal Colebatch 

GODDESS UNMASKED: THE RISE OF NEOPAGAN FEMINIST SPIRITUALITY By Philip G. Davis Spence Publishing Company, Dallas, USA In this book Professor Philip G. Davis, a Canadian academic, proves with compelling scholarship that the present-day “goddess” cults have no detectable linkage with any ancient pagan beliefs. Apart from being anti-Christian anyway, they have no association with even the traditions and dignity of classical paganism. Advocates of “goddess” and other feminist and New Age religions have generally tried to claim some ancientry behind their beliefs. However, on investigation this dissolves. Evidence for the worship of a great or supreme Mother Goddess in the ancient world or in ancient Europe simply does not exist. The story that modern witchcraft cults are the descendants of something sometimes called “the old religion” (which has allegedly been slandered and driven underground by the oppressive forces of Christianity) is false and manufactured. In fact, this book shows that while these cults generally have the usual heritage of Gnosticism to be found in most Christian heresies, the ideas behind them were concocted by occultists – largely men – mostly in the last couple of centuries. Those responsible

“The wicca cult in England, far from being ancient, appears to have been the creation of one Gerald Gardner, who died only in 1964 (typically, claiming a doctorate from the University of Singapore from a date before it existed), and who was an associate of the Satanist Alister Crowley included as unsavoury a collection of disordered cranks, mountebanks, sexual predators and crooks as might be imagined. The very best were perhaps little worse than ridiculous. One of the saner and actually less unwholesome examples (compared to some) was the French artist Ganneau. He founded a movement called “Evadism”, combining “Adam” and “Eve,” in its title and styled himself “The Great Mapah,” combining – you guessed it! – “Ma” and “Pa.” As Davis tells it: “Garbed in a grey felt hat, a smock, and clogs, he preached eloquently of love, human fraternity and sexual equality and wrote condescending letters to the Pope.” Then there were two pioneers of goddess-worship who joined the Alpha and Omega Lodge: “the two feuded, however, and engaged in psychic and magical battles with each other in which cats were strangely prominent. Fortune accused Mrs Mathers of inflicting a plague of cats on her house by occult means and, after fighting one out-of-body battle on the astral plane reported finding cat scratches all over her back.” This book provides additional evidence for the fact that people who adopt one crank belief tend not to let it go at that, but to gradually adopt the whole spectrum of them, whether they are compatible with one another or not. Fairly innocent, or at least Continued on page 96 INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  91


see life / music

At ease, Sergeant Chris Philpott reviews a Beatles classic, and finds Alice breaking free of the chains ALICE IN CHAINS Black Gives Way To Blue  Generation X readers of this magazine may recall Alice in Chains, the often forgotten or overlooked Seattle-based metal group who emerged around the same time as grunge spearheads Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, though established themselves as different by shunning some of grunge’s shall-we-say less appealing aspects, and embracing vocal and guitar harmonics as one of the cores of their songwriting. Sadly, since 1995’s self-titled album, the band have been forced into hiatus due to former singer Layne Staley’s drug problems, leading to his death in 2002. However, armed with a new vocalist in William Duvall and with a new batch of songs written by long-time creative lead Jerry Cantrell, the group has emerged with one of the years’ better rock records. The group take on the full spectrum, appearing brutal at times, such as on first single “Check My Brain”, yet tender and understated at others, such as on ballad-based track “Your Decision”, before closing with Elton John’s appearance on the title track dedicated to former singer Staley. While not entirely new sounding, Black Gives Way To Blue is the work of a band returning to what they love to do, and a throwback record that is sure to appeal to most rock fans. MUSE The Resistance  It’s one of those curious things you notice, talking to people about music as much as I do, that very few current, mainstream acts have managed to strike a chord (no pun intended) across multiple generations. One such band is Muse, whose theatrical stage shows and dynamic musical arrangements have seen their star rise among people of all ages across the world. However, latest album The Resistance may have undone the work that 92  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

previous albums Black Holes and Revelations and Absolution has done. The Welsh trio self-produced this time around, meaning that the musical direction, song choice and sound is entirely at the bands discretion. But while this should have been a good thing, instead we are treated to nearly an hour of experimental symphonies, popinspired dance tracks, and guitar harmonics lifted straight from Queen’s A Night at the Opera. It could have easily been totally inaccessible to casual listeners, but for the most part it works – sure, the record sounds disjointed (at best) but the range of musical styles is huge, showing the immense talent packed into this 3-piece group. It won’t be an instant hit, but give it a few listens and you’ll find yourself enjoying more with each play. THE BEATLES Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Remastered)  Before you think to yourself “is this guy nuts, reviewing a 40 year old album?!” you should know that I’m not reviewing the album – generally revered as one of, if not the, greatest albums of all time – but rather taking a look at the remastered edition released in September this year. For those living under a rock, Beatle-mania hit again in 2009 with the release of a Rock Band video centred on the Liverpool foursome, and the release of all the groups albums, freshly remastered and with more goodies than ever before. Starting in 2005 a team, led by Giles Martin (son of legendary Beatles producer George Martin), began sifting through master recordings made on vintage equipment at London’s Abbey Road Studios, using new equipment to remix and remaster the tracks. The result is a crisper sound, both much clearer to listen to, while warmer as well - older CD versions of this album and others sound harsh to listen to – and a collection of albums that sound on par with current recordings. The overall quality is as good as it’s going to get for The Beatles back catalogue, and a fine way to commemorate one of the most influential bands of all time.


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INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  93


see life / movies

Bright Carr Jane Campion’s Bright Star and kiwi author Simon Carr’s The Boys Are Back get mostly positive reviews BRIGHT STAR Starring: Ben Whishaw, Abbie Cornish, Paul Schneider and Kerry Fox Directed by: Jane Campion Rated: PG (chaste, but erotic) 119 minutes Where words fail, poetry triumphs. Bright Star, Jane Campion’s ecstatic couplet to John Keats, tubercular Romantic poet, and Fanny Brawne, robust Regency fashion plate and muse next door, conveys desire in an ode, consummation in a sonnet. Intimate as a whisper, immediate as a blush, and universal as first love, the PG-rated film positively palpitates with the sensual and spiritual. Though it takes place in 1818 and the language is of the period, thanks to superb performances the real-life characters are as timely today as they were nearly 200 years ago. There is the ethereal Keats (Ben Whishaw, feverish with longing), awakened as from a reverie by the substantial and spirited Fanny (Abbie Cornish, rosebud-fresh). It is not love at first sight. She is a seamstress of considerable originality (look at her threeply strawberry collar!), but Keats has eyes only for nature, not for clothes. He is a poet of controversial reputation (listen to his allusions!), but Brawne has ears only for the language of flirtation, not of verse. Poetry, she tells him, is a strain. He dismisses her as a minx; she sizes him up as sickly and penniless – not desirable qualities in a suitor. And yet. When they are in the same room, each feels more deeply. “You always concentrate my whole senses,” Keats would write Brawne, who inspired his best-known works. 94  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

As Campion tells it, in imagery as rhapsodic as that of any Romantic ode, when the two are together, colours are more vivid, smells more pungent, feelings more profound. Campion did not film her movie in Smell-O-Vision, it only seems as though she has. In a woodland sequence where the pair trip lightly across a carpet of bluebells, I nearly swooned from the fragrance – not to mention the erotic vibrations – emanating from the screen. Too often figures in costume dramas are arranged like statuary in a museum. Campion sees the extraordinary in the ordinary, casually presenting her characters like fresh cuttings from the garden. As Keats, Whishaw (Perfume) is a frenzy of hair atop a twiglike trunk. As Brawne, Cornish (Stop-Loss) plants herself next to him as if to furnish protective windbreak. Together, they flourish; apart, they languish. And, as in any great romance, there are many forces driving them apart. Chief among them are Keats’ ill health and abject poverty. Close behind is Keats’ meddlesome friend and patron, Charles Brown (Paul Schneider, wonderful as this sarcastic and selfimportant swan), who rents quarters from Brawne’s widowed mother (Kerry Fox). At first, Keats and Brown live next door to the Brawnes. Then the poets share a house with Fanny’s family, bringing the lovers in even closer proximity. Campion, who both wrote and directed, tells their story elliptically and soaringly. The filmmaker’s offbeat dialogue has a unique cadence, and her oblique compositions observe Archibald MacLeish’s faith that “a poem should not mean, but be.” Through Campion’s eyes, there is never the sense that Keats expressed to Brawne poetically what he could not physically. Here is a movie that believes that verse and image are physical expressions. In a word, it’s ravishing. Reviewed by Carrie Rickey


THE BOYS ARE BACK Starring: Clive Owen, Nicholas McAnulty, George MacKay, Emma Booth Directed by: Scott Hicks Rated: PG-13 for sexual language and thematic elements 104 minutes minutes Though it’s inspired by true story, the Aussie film The Boys Are Back seems mostly to have been inspired by Kramer vs. Kramer. Like that Dustin Hoffman Oscar winner, the latest from director Scott Hicks (Shine) finds an often absent father and his young son thrown together by a family crisis. Because the father is played by Clive Owen, here allowed to mine emotions usually absent in his tough-guy roles, Boys has some compelling moments. But it’s also an uneven and sometimes infuriating experience, with a leading man who keeps shifting in and out of moral focus and an attitude that will strike many as misogynistic. Owen plays Joe, an Englishman now living in Australia, where he’s a respected sports columnist – a gig that keeps him travelling. He has a lovely wife (Laura Fraser) and a cute-as-a-button 6-yearold named Artie (Nicholas McAnulty). But soon Mama sickens and dies, leaving a weepy Joe to rear their hurting son (though she keeps popping up as a sort of ghost in her husband’s imagination). The usual story arc for a tale like this has the father struggling with his male ego to become a nurturing (i.e., more feminine) parent. Joe ultimately navigates this passage but only after making so many boneheaded mistakes that viewers will lose patience. To put it mildly, parenting does not come naturally to him.

In the movie’s opening scene Joe races his SUV down a beach while sunbathers scream at him. At first we think it’s because his mad driving is threatening them; then we realize that young Artie is perched on the hood of the speeding car, whooping with excitement. Joe thinks this joyriding will unite father and son as defiers of stodgy convention. Yeah, but it’s still child endangerment. Allan Cubitt’s script (based on New Zealander Simon Carr’s novel about his own experiences as an ex-pat Brit in NZ) is filled with these ambivalent situations. Joe, whose parenting motto is “Just say yes,” lets Artie run wild. Their house soon looks like a landfill. Joe befriends a divorced mother (Emma Booth), but his goals are less romantic than practical – she can be an emergency sitter. Halfway through, the film takes on a new character. Harry (George MacKay), the teenage son of Joe’s first marriage back in Britain, arrives for an extended stay, radiating abandonment issues and sibling jealousy. Will these three ever be able to form a true family? Maybe, but I totally lost sympathy for Joe when, unable to find a minder for the boys, he tells his editor he’s going to an important tennis tournament and then writes his columns based on what he sees on the telly at home. Not only is the guy a questionable father, he’s a bad journalist. Owen is brimming over with pain and loss and sensitivity – although it tends more toward self-pity than an awareness of the needs of others. Gradually his Joe starts thinking less about himself and more about the two souls in his charge. But it’s a long time coming. Reviewed by Robert W. Butler INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009  95


see life / dvds

The burden of Knowing

From page 91

Reyhan Harmanci interviews Rose Byrne about her role in Knowing Australian actress Rose Byrne, 29, has the unusual distinction of being in two recent movies that involve a common enemy – the sun – threatening life on Earth. First, she appeared in Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle’s 2007 sci-fi thriller, and now she stars alongside Nicolas Cage in Alex Proyas’ Knowing, an apocalyptic tale involving a string of numbers, a pair of single parents and the newest and hottest global menace, solar flares. While Knowing traffics heavily in the mystical, Byrne’s nononsense sensibility comes through in her role. She plays Diana Wayland, the daughter of a dead schizoid savant, Abby, who heard whispers that led her to write out a string of numbers for a school time capsule. Abby’s scribblings end up in the hands of another sensitive child, Caleb (Chandler Canterbury), whose father, John (Nicolas Cage), happens to be an astrophysicist. When John, who has taken to drinking after Caleb goes to bed because his wife died in a freak hotel fire, figures out that the string of numbers is anything but random, Knowing begins to take a turn toward the apocalyptic. Byrne’s character also happens to be a single parent, and after John tracks her down to talk about her mother, together they grapple with the knowledge that the world’s end has been already ordained. “The script was really intriguing,” Byrne says. “It’s all very dramatic – I’m not really involved in the supernatural elements of the film. I had huge empathy for the role. Diana was so traumatized by the past, but also determined to be a good mother. She had a powerful fear that anything could happen.” Playing a victim, though, was not Byrne’s intention. “No. We (director Proyas) talked about that for a while. ... We wanted her to be steely, and completely self-sufficient.” The porcelain-faced Byrne has a knack for playing women with surprising strength. Her most visible role has been on American TV, starring alongside Glenn Close in the FX Network’s legal thriller, Damages, now in its second season. Her character, Ellen Parsons, may have started out as a straight-A, over-achieving young protege of Close’s powerhouse attorney Patricia Hewes, but she’s no wilting flower anymore. Ellen Parsons is a complicated role in a complicated show, and it doesn’t help that the writers like to keep the actors guessing about the fate of their characters up to the day of shooting. “I tend to get a little frustrated,” Byrne says. “But it’s just the way they work. And my character is part of a bigger creation – TV is more about the style of the show, and the network and so on. “But also, it’s kind of like life, right? You have no idea what is going to happen next.” 96  INVESTIGATEMAGAZINE.COM  November 2009

naïve, sandal-wearers and vegetarian cultists could link up with practitioners of full-blown Satanism. The 19th-Century occultist and neo-pagan movements from which modern goddess-worship sprang had links with the origins of both communism and Nazism. The wicca cult in England, far from being ancient, appears to have been the creation of one Gerald Gardner, who died only in 1964 (typically, claiming a doctorate from the University of Singapore from a date before it existed), and who was an associate of the Satanist Alister Crowley. It was Gardner who concocted the spurious figure of nine million alleged victims of witch-hunts. Much of English wicca actually seems concerned with men getting women to take their clothes off (The late great English satirist Peter Simple created in his Daily Telegraph column gallery of targets a “thoroughly nice” British coven with Satan dropping in for tea and seed-cakes). Davis points out that these goddess cults have made considerable inroads into the mainstream Christian Churches, including parts of the Catholic Church, particularly in the US and Canada: “Where God the Father is supplemented by God the Mother, it seems the Mother Goddess is rarely far behind. Her appeal crosses many boundaries. In the larger denominations today, in in not only women in small groups who welcome her. Male theologians with international reputations have spoken up in her cause; some of the more prominent names include the Rev. Matthew Fox of “creation spirituality” fame, and Professor Harvey Cox, the erstwhile secular theologian of Harvard Divinity School.” Matthew Fox was, of course, invited to speak in Perth not once but twice (at least), by the University of WA. I was assigned to report one of these lectures and was surprised that Perth could produce as many weirdos as were present in the audience. In 1993 Pope John Paul II warned American Catholic bishops against the sort of gender-polarising feminism which seems to be a first step towards goddess-worship. The “Reimagining” conference held in Minneapolis that year was, Davis says: “an interdenominational assembly of Christians openly bent on destroying the historic Christian religion root and branch, and steering the churches into wholesale neopaganism.” Davis’s scholarship leaves nothing standing of the notion that goddess-worship is an authentic religion. It is the invention of latter-day crooks, cranks and creeps. This book is both a valuable historical survey of the great currents of occultism which have had more influence of the modern world than is sometimes appreciated, and a valuable mental disinfectant.


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