Blog from February 2004

There are 4 blog entries from February 2004

Allan Dick Response
February 27th, 2004 | View Post
Here is the letter that I sent Mr. Allan Dick regarding the portions of the article that were omitted from the published magazine article.

Email Response Below

Dear Mr. Dick,

I was pleasantly surprised to open a copy of "New Zealand Today" in a local bookstore this afternoon to find bits of my response published. On a similar note, however, I was not so pleasantly surprised to find how you had treated the article.

As one who enjoys throwing my comments to the mercy of such writers as yourself, I was not at all surprised to see many points cut out. However, I would like to use this letter to question both the integrity of your journalism, and your moral obligations as an editor.

I acknowledge the following two things: some digressions need to be cut in order to fit the given text space, and cutting the entire passage regarding the Kennedy assassination is completely acceptable as it leaves no room for misquoting. With that, I will say nothing more of cuts where only additional insight was given, and I will say nothing more of the Kennedy section (or lack there of it).

What I would like to note, however, is that you cut a variety of significant passages in the middle of my text that would have given highly credible support to my overall argument.

The first such edit appears on page 10 of the magazine at the end of the second to last paragraph. My final statement, "Not only that but specifically if people want to fix the aforementioned problems, they will need to expect an increase in petrol tax." was cut. This line states that I am NOT advocating what I had just written, but rather was used to imply an obvious fundamental flaw within your original article. Again, raising petrol prices hurts the less fortunate - that is a fact. Driving smaller cars and ultimately consuming less petrol hurts the government's profits - that is a fact.

The next cut specifically leads me to question your journalistic integrity. From the original text I sent you, you cut the next three paragraphs that would have followed the above sentence. To be honest, the third such paragraph is merely my opinion to you on politicians and thus I understand its lack of necessity. The first two, however, are necessary to the argument at hand.

Quite clearly, what you wrote in the original text (with respect to this section) is entirely wrong. I believe I need not point that out to you, but I find it strikingly unfair that a journalist with any degree of integrity could find it fit to omit such a retort. Whether or not you like how capitalism works is irrelevant to how you should choose to include facts. With regards to the Challenge vs. BP, you could not have given a better example than you did to depict how capitalism is / was intended to work for everyone, not just the rich, and certainly not just Americans. Why then would you omit these passages?

It also clearly shows that the writer (in this case me) is not an uneducated, ignorant, and greed-driven American, but rather one who is economically aware of the reality in which we live and would like to see EVERYONE better themselves - not just the already wealthy.

Again, I take no personal grief in seeing my passages omitted, but I feel you have done your readers a grave injustice. There are people in your country (and mine alike) who are unaware of how the simplicities of a competitive market can benefit them. Still, such benefits are not without a cost. People need to be aware that if they are to inherit such benefits, they must do their part to make things happen. The example of people switching petrol brands to save mere cents is a cost people must choose to pay, a very small cost at that.

Now, you may immediately want to respond to the above claiming there was a lack of space. To save you the time, I do not believe so. The response printed after mine, 'Taranaki Land Confiscations', is two and a quarter columns long. My comments, including the paragraph you responded with, are still only one and one half columns long. This would normally bring us to the obvious notion that you felt more text from the latter response was important, but again, I beg to differ. It logically seems to me, given that I 'won' the contest for submitting the best piece, that the best piece would have priority over the others. Perhaps I am confusing my logic with another god-given rights of Americans to always be heard.

Clearly sir, you did not like having obvious facts and figures pointed out to you. Seeing as how you are the editor, fair enough, but again I am not so much complaining as merely pointing out the lack of honesty and integrity you have distilled upon your readers. I noticed you cut a single word out, 'three', when I made reference to your cars. Three being how many you own. Good move, as it no doubt takes away from your ability to connect with the more common New Zealander trying to afford just one. Your agendas are hidden about as well as a giraffe in downtown Japan. I hope you take no insult to that, but rather realize that if I can figure it out, who else might?

The irony of the situation is that while you made postscript comments antagonizing Americans, you yourself are guilty of two things people around the world despise about America - myself included.

The first is the lack of honesty and integrity coming from our media on a daily basis. No doubt this happens, but is it your goal to fight fire with fire, especially when at least one American has written you a very factual and non-biased rebuttal?

The second is always feeling homage should be paid to the corporation. In this case, you have even dishonestly represented me in paying such homage. The opening line of my text: "While taking a rather enjoyable and short Origin Pacific flight from Christchurch to Dunedin...". As you know, I did NOT make any note of Origin Pacific in my letter to you. Given that you did not inquire towards my travel arrangements, had it occurred to you that charter flights between Christchurch and Dunedin also exist? In many cases they are even at a less expensive rate. Had it occurred to you that as an educated traveler I might have looked into such arrangements?

Perhaps it did and perhaps it did not; the simple fact remains that you plugged a giant corporation in an editorial of all places, and for what reason?

Finally, as I said I would like to question your moral obligations as an editor, I see two flaws.

The first is again in regards to your postscript comments. If your intention was to bring your own agenda into spectrum, I suppose there is not much I can do from my laptop to stop that. All the same, if you are going to criticize my words in print, at least have the courage to include what I actually said. Do not omit the facts surrounding the included paragraphs, and then choose to represent yourself.

The second is with regards to my contact information being published. It is true that I included such information to you, but intended for YOU to contact me. I have to question your intentions upon including it at the end of the editorial. Published is a full name, address, city, state, zip code, and email address?

As an EDITOR of a popular magazine, you know fully well that publishing ones personal contact information is a breech of confidentiality. I did not ask to remain anonymous, but misrepresenting my words and then allowing readers to personally attack those words is highly immoral, and I will quickly be looking into the legalities of it as well.

I hope that in the future you will take better note of many of the issues I have just written to you.

On a more personal note, America has its problems, but so does New Zealand or any other country around the world. Your false editing, while I cannot prove it, seems to be nothing more than an attack against Americans in general. This is more apparent given your postscript comments. Perhaps if you (and other like you) would stop merely hearing what many of our countrymen and women actually represent, and rather start listening, you might find you are pleasantly surprised.

Thank you very much for your time and good luck with your future editorials.

I have sent a copy of this letter to each person in your department specifically to remind them that personal contact information is NOT to be printed within a national magazine editorial.

Kevin Ludlow

New Zealand Today Response (Edited)
February 27th, 2004 | View Post
The article that I wrote was published in the "New Zealand Today" magazine. Unfortunately for my writing, Allan Dick (the editor) chopped the article up. I'm not particularly upset that he chopped it up for its length, but some of the cuts he made pretty significantly changed the meaning of what I was saying.

In any event, the article that was published in the magazine is visible below. The red areas are words that he added into the article; the yellow areas are words that were excluded from the magazine.

Edited Article

While taking a rather enjoyable and short Origin Pacific flight from Christchurch to Dunedin, I came across Allan Dick's "Talkback" in NZ TODAY. ...a seven-page article in an "NZ Today" magazine written by editor, Allan Dick. With a bolded introduction proposing my thoughts in return for $100 and a supply of tea, I could not refuse the offer - I love tea.

My background in brief: I am an American citizen twenty-five years of age and have been traveling this fine country for the past seven months. I hold an honors degree in Mathematics and have resided in the state of Texas most of my life. I am generally employed as a computer programmer or web developer but I love to write, especially when there is some degree of philosophy involved. I am of the age where I still believe I can help the world and my future ambitions include working with NASA and even running for president of the United States.

Dear Mr. Dick,

I found your views of the world fairly entertaining and certainly captivating enough for a travel through the sky. There are a few things I disagree with and I would like to use this time to share them with you.

Firstly, I would like to comment on your thoughts regarding toll roads and tax increases on petrol. Allow me to note early on that I am much more in favor of toll roads over petrol taxing. The reason is fairly simple, toll roads ultimately create a 'simpler' albeit more expensive passage from points a to b. I doubt very sincerely that a toll road that whisks drivers to an uncharted area will be built or that an existing road will be tolled without the existence of alternate (perhaps somewhat longer) routes. Because of this, I see a toll road as a luxury - a luxury affordable to those who are willing to pay its toll. Petrol tax is, amongst other things, a highly regressive tax. You can assume that as I have found my way to New Zealand, such a tax increase would not ruin me, and I will assume that since you are a published editor that it would not ruin you either, but it seems somewhat unfair to simply include you and I in this mix. The people that it hurts are those near the poverty line. They pay the same 5 cent per liter increase (as an example) that you or I would, only it is significantly more of their income with each liter pumped.

I have been asking myself why you make petrol cost comparisons to the UK, Europe, and Japan but fail to include the United States. Not surprisingly, these comparisons follow the same introduction that claims, "Petrol in this country is too cheap". Petrol in New Zealand, by any American standard is incredibly expensive. Even with gas prices currently 'high' in Texas, I would expect to pay no more than $1.30 US / gallon (~$0.51 NZ / liter). A Californian, who would probably pay the most within the US, might shell out around $2.40 US / gallon (~$0.94 NZ / liter). Within that range, prices can vary significantly around the United States but any way you dice it, it is still considerably less expensive than anywhere in New Zealand.

That brings me to your claim that if petrol was not so inexpensive that New Zealanders would "...all be driving smaller cars". Again using my homeland as an example, the SUV (Explorers, Land Runners, etc.) has been on the rise for years now. Americans want their cars larger and the car companies will stop at nothing short of being able to transport your entire estate in the backseat. I realize that this is the same idea that you describe occurring in New Zealand but what's wrong with it? Your claims are not geared at being more efficient, nor reducing gasses in the atmosphere but rather your argument is with respect to "...transport and traffic problems". Not only that but specifically if people want to fix the aforementioned problems, they will need to expect an increase in petrol tax.

I did not say I have a PhD in mathematics, but lets see if I can get the algebra right. If I drove a truck that only got 14 miles / gallon and tax on gas is roughly 40 cents per gallon then I am giving the government roughly 2.8 cents per mile of travel. On the other hand, if I drove a mini that got 40 miles / gallon with the same tax rate then I am paying the government only 1 cent per mile traveled. The distance is the same but I am ultimately paying a higher tax rate to drive that 'gas-guzzling' vehicle. Also, as the truck's four wheels do not harm the roads any more than the mini's four wheels, the road maintenance cost is the same for both.

Don't get me wrong, I am not advocating further pollution of the Earth but you neglect to discuss green politics and thus I am simply arguing that driving smaller cars hurts the government's revenue rather than helps it. This is especially true when we throw diesel into the equation.

Another point I would like to make is regarding your visit to a Challenge petrol station. Perhaps you are much wealthier than I, but the ability to save money is just that. Your blurb about a man thinking he would save $20 on petrol at a Challenge station over a BP station is humorous but its connotation is also somewhat arrogant. Years ago I would ask my mother why she spent the time to cut out market coupons in the Sunday paper even though I knew we could afford our groceries without them. Her response was always "you don't become wealthy by wasting your money". It seemed silly to me when I was ten, but it is perfectly logical now. Consistently saving 2 cents per liter of gas adds up quite quickly and claiming the savings are not worth your thought is capitalistically incorrect. It is incredible what amount of money a shrewd shopper is able to save in a year - saving on petrol is just one of those savings.

Furthermore, scoffing at the consumer for his or her desire to save a few pennies undermines the goal and ability of a free and competitive market to work for the consumer. You point out in the same passage how even though only a few pennies could be saved via Challenge, the BP station was still empty. It is by that very example that the BP station would ultimately have been forced to lower its petrol prices by 2 cents in order to resume business. If Challenge then wished to drop another cent or two, it could do so thus regaining control of the local market and BP would have to match it, and so on and so forth. Eventually both stations would assume a financial level where they could no longer afford to drop their prices and the competitive market has been a success; the consumer is now paying the most nominal price for his or her petrol. In regards to your overall argument, this does not adversely affect what the government collects, as the tax rate on petrol remains constant. If anything, the government is able to collect slightly more from this local market as people may be more inclined to consume higher quantities of petrol finally available at a cheaper rate.

As for your concluding paragraphs in this section, I tend to agree. We could probably solve a lot of problems in the world if real solutions were provided and the powers that be (ie: politicians) stuck to those solutions instead of finding ways to mend them for personal financial gain. Since, however, we do not live in such an idealistic world, we need to work with what we have. Flat taxes can be great in certain areas, specifically when some of the proceeds will help those that the tax hurts most. Increasing petrol tax does not do this. There is zero return a poor person will expect to gain over a wealthy person with reduced traffic or better roads. Choosing between your two options, the toll road only financially hurts those who choose to drive it. You could argue that it's the same thing where higher petrol taxes only affect those who 'choose' to purchase petrol. Unfortunately for many, that is similar to arguing that increasing food prices only affects those who eat - definitely a true statement, but immensely unfair given the necessity.

If you'd like to use my math from above to help your government increase revenue, get rid of those small engine, anti-gas-gobbling three cars you have. Instead buy a car that gets 1 kilometer to the liter. You'll be paying the government the full tax rate for each kilometer traveled! The ozone hole over Alexander in Central Otago may slightly increase, but you'll get to work faster thanks to reduced traffic from increased government profits.

Another section of your article that I would like to comment on is regarding the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I certainly am not picking on you in this matter, as there are literally millions of people that have written about the conspiracies that may or may not have existed. The point that I would like to bring across, especially when depicting American history in a New Zealand magazine, is that Kennedy, contrary to popular belief, is not that unique.

Ask any American which presidents have been assassinated and you'll most definitely hear Kennedy. A generous proportion will also tell you Lincoln. I doubt very sincerely, however, that you will hear the likes of James Garfield or William McKinley, both assassinated. The fact is that 4 of 43 presidents have in fact been killed, just over 9% of our complete presidential history. Moreover, 4 additional presidents have suffered assassination attempts, the most famous probably being Ronald Regan, yielding roughly an 18% chance that someone may try to kill you while president of the US. Why then is Mr. Kennedy so famously credited with being assassinated?

I have no idea whether or not there was a conspiracy to kill JFK but what I do know is that is that we as humans tend to make up better stories about the more popular or controversial figures. There is nothing terribly surprising about that logic but it does put a nasty thorn in the side of conspiracy theorists because scientifically speaking, the control group (less popular figures) has suffered just as many occurrences. So what was the great conspiracy to kill McKinley, or Jackson, or even Truman? Gerald Rudolph Ford had assassins after him twice, why didn't Oliver Stone make a movie titled GRF?

The reason is simply that there just is not enough controversy and mystery to dig up. Truman approved the incineration of tens of thousands of people in minutes, you would think we could find good reason to discuss gunner Oscar Collazo at the same level as Oswald but the time was different. WWII did not have the same controversy as the Vietnam war. The media format of the time was different and there was not a tremendously sized hippy movement in the 40's as there was in the 60's. Best of all, Collazo was not Japanese and the assassination attempt had nothing to do with the atomic bombs at all but rather issues regarding Puerto Rico.

The elements just happen to line up for JFK. That does not take away from the notion that there could have been a conspiracy, but rather that it's easier for us to believe there must have been one instead of considering that perhaps we are over examining one moment in time. It does seem that Oswald could not have acted alone, but why is it so impossible to accept that perhaps his partner(s) in crime got lucky and ultimately got away? Plain and simple.

Will we ever know? Most likely we will not. But quoting you, "in public life, perception is often more important than reality". I could not agree more with that statement and would like to use it for my own benefit. We will always be more infatuated with the perception that the government set all of pieces moving rather than the possibility that one or two radicals didn't like Kennedy. Either way, given he was just one of eight presidents targeted for removal in American history, his assassination is not quite as unique as we have made it out to be for 40 years.

I hope you will find my comments insightful and fully worth a supply of tea.

Legion of Fire: Killer Ants!
February 8th, 2004 | View Post
This is a movie review of Legion of Fire: Killer Ants!

Normally I enjoy watching a bad movie late at night. Sometimes it can be a good way to fall asleep or at least it creates a cinematic ambience in the room while I am working on something else. Not only is this the worst movie I have ever seen in my life, EVER, but it was so incredibly frustrating to watch. You expect cheesy stuff, surre, but this flic didn't even take you down that road. Just one stupid occurrence after another and the acting - dear god if they got paid to act in this movie - I could be a millionaire! After all of that, if you are still curious, the digital graphics that work to create the 'killer ants' could have been made on a Tandy 1000. Like I said, it's very frustrating to watch.

Seriously, if this movie comes on, you are warned. It is not worth your time even if you enjoy less than good movies.
AS-Currency v2.0 Released
February 4th, 2004 | View Post

See how some people are using are block.
Anyone looking for a Currency Converter (169 different currencies included) or that is already using AS-Currency 1.0, I have finally completed AS-Currency 2.0. Tons of new features including a redesigned and more powerful admin interface, market gain and loss calculations, ability to use graphical images, new flag sets (for 45 countries), and plenty more. Previous bugs have been worked out and I have included a thorough documentation set as well as an easy to use install script. For use with PHP Nuke 6.9+

Heavily redesigned PHPNuke block/module combination built off of the existing v1.0. The block displays current exchange rate information - displaying countries that the administrator defines. The module is a currency converter. New to v2.0 are: -market gains and losses displayed within the block. -graphical displays available for both gains and losses, and for numerical values -new flag images included -redesigned admin interface -redesigned module interface -multiple data servers can be selected for each currency used -ability to edit specific currency information Version 2.0

New in v2.0 is:
  • Redesigned admin interface
  • New look to all program tables including the module itself.
  • New and smoother flag images (for about 45 common currencies)
  • Ability to use multiple financial sources
  • Ability to display block values as text or as graphics.
  • Gains and losses for market values.
  • Admin now has ability to determine frequency of data pulls.
  • Control over block and module color schemes including admin interface.
  • Administrator is able to edit specific country information.
  • New installation code designed for quick installation.

This PHPNuke block/module combo converts between world currencies including countries, territories, and precious metals. The included block displays the value of admin-defined markets vs. the current value of a single market.

Get this module/block combination from Freecode (previously FreshMeat):

Download directly:

Tar/GZ: AS-Currency-v2.0.tar.gz (129,013 bytes)
WinZip: (205,880 bytes)