Monday, October 20, 2003

What's True This Week?

Despite my own good intentions and the encouragement of others< I haven't found much to write about over the past couple of weeks. The Christian Science Monitor's Are you a Neo-Conservative test looked promising for at least long enough to write an opening sentence, especially if you combined it with the recent short-lived revival of the fad for on-line IQ testing.

In both instances the inspiration proved to be illusory. As far as the CS Monitor quiz is concerned, suffice it to say that I came out as a "Liberal". The most curious thing about the test is the number of Oz bloggers who take pride in being rated by it as "realists"; I'm not sure that a position that might be considered realist for a US citizen (surely the intended readership of the quiz) ought to be considered a realist position elsewhere.

To illustrate with an example from ordinary life, I have often thought it realistic, particularly when inebriated, to assume that the world is full of dangerous people and that the best policy to ensure personal self-preservation is to get them before they get you. Whether anyone else would consider this a realistic assumption is open to question, and they may well wish me to behave in a more moderate manner, especially in the matter of alcohol consumption. They might consider it more realistic to regard me as an aggro drunk, and someone best to be avoided. Unfortunately this is not as viable an option in global politics as it is in personal life.

As far as IQ testing goes, the first time I ever bothered to find out my IQ was back in the 1980s. One inebriated night I found a copy of that HJ Eyesenck Know Your Own IQ book. Although I was smashed out of my brains I managed a fairly respectable 130. Combining that result with the one I obtained on this test indicates that half a cask of Penfolds red produces a 17% improvement in IQ, while the result from this one indicates that it produces a 3% reduction in IQ (hopefully temporary) while according to this one the temporary IQ loss from excessive consumption of cask wine is 21%.

There's probably a test out there on the web where you can get yourself an IQ of 200, if not higher. Certainly there are plenty you can practice on and build up a score which will scrape you into Mensa. Here's a practice question to get you started:

Logically, "If Bill is up himself and Bill is a member of Mensa then all members of Mensa are up themselves" is:

* True; what else would you expect?
* False but logic isn't everything.
* Neither but it makes you think, doesn't it?

Now that the gratuitous realism and IQ jokes are out of the way, it's time to turn to the main purpose of this post, which is to catch up on the state of the world as it has developed over the past couple of weeks. To do this I bought the rainforest editions of both The Oz and The Age on Saturday. It's well known that whatever is reported in The Oz is reliably true (with the definite exception of anything written by Phillip Adams), while The Age as a Fairfax paper, only relates the half-truths and fabrications beloved by the out-of-touch latte left. Keeping these principles in mind it should be possible to build up an accurate picture of the state of the world as it was at the time the Saturday editions of The Oz and The Age went to press.

Some of the fabrications in Saturday's Age, while obvious, are a little puzzling. I'm at a loss to explain how the political agenda of the left is advanced by promoting the fiction that East Anglia is a predominantly flat area of England.

This assertion is made in an article in the Travel section of the paper. That it is a fabrication is obvious from the photographs which accompany the article which, tellingly, do not include any land features at all. Instead, they concentrate on man-made structures: Ely Cathedral, a "Fruit and Veg" shop which is alleged to be in Ely but could be in Southend for all we know and Cromer Pier. Not one photograph shows the Fens and marshes that feature prominently in the article's description of the East Anglian landscape, so I think it's safe to conclude that in reality East Anglia more closely resembles the Scottish Highlands or Cumbria in its land-forms and to take the assertion that it is a flat area of fens and marshland as an extreme and slightly misplaced enthusiasm for leftist levelling.

THe motivation for John Pilger's piece on Afghanistan two years after the war is much easier to penetrate. Typically, Pilger depicts Afghanistan not as a country flourishing after its liberation from the repressive Taliban regime, but a country in ruins where the people (particularly women) are prey for the US-sponsored warlords who have replaced the Taliban as the the scourge of ordinary Afghanis. It's a typical Pilger puff piece, complete with ilustrative photography as selective as that which accompanies the East Anglia travel piece and plenty of self-damning quotes from US officials past and present. Obviously Afghanistan now has a thriving democracy and free market economy, hence Pilger's consistently negative account of the current state of the country.

I'm not sure what to make of the upcoming visits of US President George Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao. Tony Parkinson's extended article in The Age suggests that this a historic visit and something of a political and diplomatic coup for the Howard government. The Oz' editorial says much the same thing which creates a bit of a quandary; it isn't possible for The Age to be completely wrong, in its typically off with the Fairfaxes fashion if it's saying the same thing as the editorialist at The Oz. This dilemma is easily resolved if we assume that The Oz editorial was written by Phillip Adams or Emma Tom, but the writing style argues against it. On this issue, the available facts are as inconclusive as the evidence (cited above) that all Mensa members are up themselves.

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