Thursday, December 08, 2005

They shoot the mental don't they?

Anyone with a slight mental disability may wish to avoid travelling on planes with US Air Marshals. These nuts have guns.

The copper goldmine

I'll give you a prediction; within ten years, Telecom will either be dead and gone, or a completely different beast from today's dinosaur. Telecom must evolve or die. Today's articles in Stuff show that Telecom knows this. According to a letter to Swain from Teresa Gattung released to the DomPost under the OIA, unbundling would rip the shit out of Telecom.

This is true. Telecom makes a fortune on toll calls and would lose millions in revenue by removing national toll zones. Like any company, Telecom wishes to retain value to shareholders. One way of doing this is upgrading their toll system to VoIP over the next few years. That's right, by 2012 Telecom wants all NZ toll calls to go through its fat bandwidth high speed lines, something that any customer with Skype could do if only they had access to said high speed lines. Only the former scam maximises the return to Telecom's shareholders, so no surprises which one is Gattung's preferred model.

Same as it ever was. When I was at Telecom, I observed a range of revenue streams directly linked to Telecom's monopolistic stature in NZ. I'm not sure whether I am at liberty to disclose what these were, so I won't go into detail. You'll have to trust me on this. Suffice it to say that it is in Telecom's interests to employ as many lawyers as possible to put off the inevitable for as long as possible. Frankly, it makes the Waitangi Tribunal gravy train look like a scramble for 5c pieces.

Maybe, just maybe, Telecom may survive all this. A mate of mine in the telco trade reckons it will only happen if Telecom get out of retail and make their money in wholesale only. Good advice I'd say.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Safety nazis get serious

A German man has lost his job after being caught smoking at home by private detectives hired by his employer. The man had previously signed a contract with his bosses where he would get paid more it he did not smoke. According to his work fuhrers, no-smoking incentives made economic sense... every full-time worker who smoked was losing an average of 12 work days a year in cigarette breaks.

Well, dip-shits, he wouldn't take so long if you didn't make them walk outside for cigarettes. Not that he seems to have taken any cigarette breaks at work since the pogrom started, so the company technically got what it wanted from him anyway. Perhaps they should pay people more to not take toilet or meal breaks. Then they would be even more efficient!

Entre les trous de la memoire

No real news today so why not... (Tip DPF)

TEN FIRSTS

First Best Friend: Phil. Met in the first year of primary and still friends.
First Screen Name: piscean
First Pet: Kaiser, a german shorthaired pointer who was put down after 16 great years. Smarter and more loyal than the average human.
First Piercing: Left ear when I was 18. Had more along the way but they've all gone now.
First Crush: Suzannah, the class giant
First CD Bought: Peter Gabriel - Car
First Car: 1977 Vauxhall Chevette, bought off a granny in Taupo who used it primarily as a shopping trolley and had never discovered third gear.
First True Love: Jenny, bless her
First Stuffed Animal: A green felt stuffed crocodile made by Nana, the first of a whole zoo.
First Words: No idea
First Game System: Atari, with the unfeasibly large cartridges that slotted in the top for each game of "ping pong" or "gridiron".

NINE LASTS

Last Alcoholic: Corbans White Label Cab Sav a couple of weeks' ago
Last Movie Seen: Two Towers on the telly
Last CD Played: Nick Cave - Lyre of Orpheus
Last Bubble Bath: No bubbles, last bath six months' ago
Last Time You Cried: The day after the election but absolutely nothing to do with politics. I watched the last episode of Six Feet Under and cried like a baby.
Last Time You Laughed: This morning at my cat, Hunter
Last Time You Fell: Two months' ago, tripped over a Wet Floor sign on a dry floor

EIGHT HAVE YOU EVERS

Have You Ever Dated One Of Your Best Friends: Most of the female ones
Have You Ever Been Arrested: Yes
Have You Ever Been Skinny Dipping: No, unfortunately not
Have You Ever Been On TV: several times, as an object not a subject
Have You Ever Regretted A Kiss: Of course
Have You Ever Been Drunk: Of course
Have You Ever Slept For 24 Hours Straight: Yes, and none of them was drug-induced
Have You Ever Worn the Same Pants for 3 Weeks Straight: No

SEVEN THINGS YOU'RE WEARING

1. Boxers
2. Dressing gown
3. Straw hat
4. The fish
5. The mouse
6. The yin
7. The masks

SIX THINGS YOU DID TODAY

1. Breakfast of Champions, coffee and cigarettes
2. Read a few chapters of a Lincoln biography
3. Made a batch of afghan biscuits
4. Looked through the DomPost job ads and got remarkably depressed
5. Listened to the sound of trees
6. Logged on

FIVE FAVOURITE THINGS/PEOPLE IN NO ORDER

1. The computer, the vacuum cleaner of my life
2. Hunter, rat killer and comedian
3. My friends, who keep me sane
4. The beauty of Wellington, especially the view from my hobbit hole
5. Music

FOUR PEOPLE YOU CAN TELL ALMOST ANYTHING TO

1. Phil
2. Dennis
3. Roo
4. Pauli

THREE CHOICES

1. radio or cd: cd
2. German chocolate cheese cake or vanilla bean cheese cake: chocolate
3. black or white: black

TWO THINGS YOU WANT TO DO BEFORE YOU DIE

1. Write this bloody book!
2. Taste marijuana honey

ONE THING YOU REGRET

Going to Vic instead of Massey

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Stash levels

UK Home Secretary Clarke has released his thoughts on the difference between using and dealing. Over the next few months, he hopes to consult widely and put it into law. Let's compare the proposal with current NZ law:

Minimum levels for supply:_____NZ_____UK
Heroin:___________________0.5g____7g
Cocaine:__________________0.5g_____7g
Ecstacy:___________________5g____10 tablets
Amphetamine:______________5g_____14g
Cannabis resin:______________5g_____125g
Cannabis bud/leaf:____________28g____550g

Tomorrow, while we're feeling morally superior to Singapore as Nguyen Tuong Van swings, just remember that NZ is not so shit hot on sane drug law either.

Going through the motions

Colin James has an excellent piece on how MMP elections have formed MMP governments. Spoiler alert, please do not read it if you wish to keep any shred of belief in NZ democracy. Things such as a Legislature as rubber stamp, the GG as irrelevant to the discussion, and the Labour triumvirate deciding the fate of the nation makes a mockery of our constitutionally hollow symbols.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Free advertising

Congratulations to Michael Chow for getting the NZ Herald to copy and paste his PR on the opening of Il Bordello into their paper.

Qantass



"One moment please sir, while I check your ID against the Paedophile and Sex Offender Index"

Candlelit Rome

Half the reason of living in the sticks is the wonder of seeing the night sky. Which is why I'd never live in Coromandel. The electromagnetic radiation let off by Orkland ruins any chance of stargazing on the upper left Coromandel peninsula. It glows without warmth like a nuclear accident.

New Scientist reports that Rome is the latest major city to go brown. This is a great synergy of saving money (smaller power bill), aesthetics ("look at all that air up there"), and responsible consumption. David Crawford, director and founder of the International Dark-Sky Association, sums up the rules:

"Shine light down, not up or sideways; don't over-light; turn off lights when they are not needed; use energy-efficient lights and fixtures; and impose curfews. Illuminated adverts could be switched off at night, for example, as could lighting in parking lots."

It is certainly more practical than my suggestion to remove streetlights and get everyone night-vision goggles.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Sue this Jew

Borat says bring it on. He goes on to defend his Motherfatherland:

"Since 2003 ... Kazakhstan is as civilised as any other country in the world... Women can now travel on inside of bus, homosexuals no longer have to wear blue hat and age of consent has been raised to eight years old."

More here. Happy Monday.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Urban myth no more

One third of Wellington's parking wardens have been suspended after allegedly not ticketing their mates' illegally parked vehicles. Proof at last that they are all a wunch of bankers. I hope the suspended group includes the bastard who ticketed my car only five minutes after my coupon expired and the tosser who fined me for parking on yellow lines for five minutes while doing a voluntary magazine drop.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Sad rabbits

The ongoing Sydney court case of alleged rabbit fucker Brendan McMahon has got much weirder. The charge of bestiality has been dropped. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, "it was because prosecutors are unable to prove he used his penis to penetrate the rabbits, a requirement of that charge."

McMahon has been cleared of any mental illness, yet a combination of religion, mysticism, P and cannabis gave him the insight that he is a "tool for the universe". Using his "third eye", the mortgage broker communicated with the rabbits and understood their sadness.

It seems all he wanted to do was contribute more to nature. In hindsight, I hope he one day finds that doorknocking for SPCA donations might have been a bit more constructive.

Leading by example

"Give me a second chance" is the wrong thing to say, Winston. This is your second chance mate. You blew your first chance when you were Treasurer, a job specifically invented for you. Now you're giving a bad name to Foreign Minister, an important role distorted to mean whatever you want it to mean. Bad mana.

The media and opposition feeding frenzy on Winston Peters will ease a bit once he does one thing; admit that NZ First are part of gum'mint. Sitting next to Labour in the House is a bit of a giveaway. Saying things to Stuff such as '[Peters] "can't wait to get home" to respond to attacks by National' and a quick look at NZ First's press releases entrenches this obvious fact.

Since the proclamation that the NZ First leader has formed a confidence and supply agreement with Labour on October 17th NZ First has had 18 press releases, compared with 34 for the same period last year. This year's post-election missives are all rather pussy compared with 2004's vitriol.

Here's one from Ron Mark in 2004 decrying the recruitment drive for Asian 111 emergency call centre staff. "“The police move to recruit more Asians in their Auckland call centre confirms New Zealand First'’s repeated claims that Auckland is Asia'’s latest colony,"” said Mr Mark. New NZ First president Dail Jones laid down a nasty one on Labour's immigration policy: "This is very opened ended indeed and could apply to tens of millions of people."

Contrast that with the limp offerings in the last few months. Ron Mark and Winston attacking the Nats, Pita Paraone picks on a poacher, and Doug Woolerton demands clarity from the Minister of Agriculture. Just admit NZ First is part of a ruling coalition. Shut down the debate and move on, as Helen Clark might say.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Throat-slitting bad, cannibalism OK

The throat-slitting gesture at the end of the All Blacks' new haka has received "a negative reaction" in Britland. One would be hard pushed to call me a Rugbyhead at the best of times, but the Brits calling for a ban on haka 2.0 are pushing it uphill. Little attention was given to all the poking tongues in the old haka, which symbolised eating one's opponents, so why all the hoo-ha now? Wooses.

Like Politics, Rugby is a very poorly disguised version of war. Kapa o Pango's composer Derek Lardelli is absolutely right in saying, "They are gladiators in the arena. If they win they are heroes, if they lose they are taken apart." Just ask Don Brash. For their parts, the Brits are welcome to respond with some aggressive Morris Dancing before the big game. With all the fear and loathing about bird flu, waving hankies could yet become a potent symbol.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Kazakh Attack

Kazakhstan has the third worst sense of humour in the world behind Germany and Vatican City. You'd think that Kazakhstan would be grateful to Borat for raising their country's international profile. Alas, not so. After arriving for the MTV Europe Awards in a Air Kazakh propeller plane controlled by a one-eyed pilot clutching a vodka bottle, Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry has threatened legal action against Sacha Baron Cohen aka Borat "to prevent new pranks of the kind."

If this wasn't bad enough, there are suggestions that Borat's humour is part of a conspiracy to ruin Kazakhstan's reputation as... as... well, I'm not too sure but the Foreign Minister is really pissed:

"We do not rule out that Mr Cohen is serving someone's political order designed to present Kazakhstan and its people in a derogatory way," Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman Yerzhan Ashykbayev told a news briefing.

Now that's funny!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Changing brands

Some commentators reckon that Nandor Tanczos' brand is all wrong for where the Greens should be heading. Perhaps he should have get a haircut, a non-hemp suit and a sensible tie:


Vanilla Nandor

Like fuck. Coming from a minority religion myself (Jedi), I am unimpressed with such crass rationale. It's as offensive as suggesting Simon Power should become Rastafarian:


Jah Simon

Grammar check

The SST has a problem with grammar:

NZ has no room for complacency say stop anti-terror cop

Friday, November 11, 2005

Apres toi la deluge

The Sydney Morning Herald reports how the state of Massachusetts has joined the EU and the US Library of Congress in moving from Microsoft proprietry Office programs to OpenDocument format. Who knows, perhaps one day NZ will regain the electronic initiative as well.

No surprise there

You Are Scary

You even scare scary people sometimes!

What killed Rod Donald?

Stuff quotes Christchurch pathologist Martin Sage reckoning Rod Donald died of viral myocarditis (Hattip frog). This is an entirely appropriate diagnosis. Rod spent his life around toxic clean-ups. Then, in 1996, he became an MP. You can't get much more toxic than Parliament Buildings. At the end of the day though, a more precise cause of death exists. Politics killed Rod Donald.

You never hear of former politicians celebrating a 100th birthday. It just doesn't happen. A life in politics guarantees a shorter lifetime. Whatever we pay politicians, it will never be enough. If a week is a long time in politics, how long is one of their years? No wonder John Tamihere gave a rousing concession speech on election night. His relief was understandable. Witness his transformation:


Circa 199?


2004

Hearing former MPs such as Stephen Franks waxing lyrical on re-learning the beauty of this country around them on National Radio, you might get a glance at the shadows of MP life. The job is not fit for humans.

Thankfully, there are ways to mitigate this. Anyone driven to represent one's peers is crazy by definition. Chips on the shoulder are awed like medals. Whatever drives you. Then there's the alcohol, bizarre love triangles and Christmas parties. The mental and physical dangers of a politician's lot are bad enough in themselves. What about the MP's families?

"Looking back on his career, Rod acknowledges that it's hard to reconcile being an MP with being a good parent and partner." - Rod Donald.

"A definition of an MP is a person who abandons his family to go to Parliament to talk about the importance of families. " - Richard Prebble.

If our MMP representatives are any indication of our nation's families, NZ is a No-Man's Land of familial desolation, separation, isolation and estrangement. A look back at a history of MPs' lives shows a litany of suicide, divorce, infidelity and broken principles. One of the more colourful examples is the tale of William Larnach, he of Larnach Castle in Dunedin. The MP ended up killing himself in his office after he discovered his son was fucking his third wife. Thank you, Michael King!

If there is one benefit of having lots of queers, trannies and lesbos in Parliament, it is that there is a certain harm minimisation at work. Until the Adoption Act changes, or IVF gets cheaper, most of them will remain childless. At least that puts them on the same moral compass point as the slinkies, dinkies and empty nesters.

But there's no way I'd support a law saying that Family Men and Women cannot run for MP. At the end of the day it is a personal choice. If you do it, make it count. Go for co-leader, Nandor. You can do it.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Two Degrees of Separation

There's a disclosure meme going round at Cathy's and DPF's. What a good idea.

In my time with Prebble's Rebels and volunteer in the ACT Research Unit in the late '90's, I had the pleasure of meeting:

DPF; Blogfather, not sat down with enough alcohol with this guy yet ;-)

Cathy; several grey hairs came about being editor for Rebel Yell and worrying whether Cathy's piece on Trevor Mallard would see me in court. "A duck that needs to be shot down" was one of the lines I recall. Pretty tame compared with today's blog vitriol but enough to spook me clear of defamation for a while.

G-Man; I recall Greg's vehemence as he read Creative NZ grants lists out loud!

Clint Heine; made a better president of Prebble's Rebels than me. Good on ya, mate!

Aaron Bhatnagar, met a few times back in the '90s.

Rodney Hide, raconteur par excellence. Best moment was sitting round the office listening to Rodney telling the story of Donna Awatere Huata's dad.

Through various other noble causes:

Met Keith last year around the VUWSA bar. Studiously avoided him when he was trying to crucify me about J Day. Keith mistook 'not returning phonecalls' for a disappearing act. Little did he know I followed an old Mossad boss' advice: "No comment" is a comment. Say nothing.

Sat in the same POLS tutorials as Matt. Bumped into him a couple of times since then.

Met Lewis on the NZ Flag petition trail earlier this year.

Had occasion to meet Bloggreen in my parliamentary travails.

Have had a few meetings with Tim Barnett and Tony.

Introduced myself to Russell Brown at his launch of the Great NZ Argument earlier this year in my traditional greeting; blurting out staccato sentences and acting like a twat.

I met beNZylpiperazine last year and will one day let him drag me along to Toastmasters classes again!

Bumped into Whig at that Nuffield Street brick shithouse ACT used as offices in Orkland a few years back.

I've met Gary, Jordan and many others at bloggers' drinks a while back.

This list is far from perfect. I will have excluded bloggers who I have met but not caught their name, seeing how bad I am with proper nouns and short-term memory. Apologies. I think the Japanese are onto something handing out business cards as often as handshakes. Then there's those pseudo-anonymous bloggers out there whom I think I know but don't know I know. Maybe next time.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

His heart gave out

A Scoop alert has just arrived bearing shocking news. Greens co-leader Rod Donald died last night of a heart attack. At 48! I'm completely pole-axed. And what a way for Nandor to re-enter the House...

It's been a while since an MP has died in the line of duty. Was Norman Kirk the last one until now? His heart gave out too.

So long Rod Donald.


UPDATE: DPF has cleared up the query on MP deaths. It still makes Rod the first party leader to die on the job in nearly thirty years.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Maxim-ised

It looks like Maxim Director Bruce Logan has fallen on his Clipboard and has been put out to pasture. Strange, there was no mention of it in Maxim's latest newsletter put out the same day.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Rodent Idol

Scientists have discovered that mice sing ardent love ballads to chat their girlfriends up. Male mice get turned on by the smell of female mouse piss and start singing ultrasonic riffs, raps and melodies at about ten syllables a second.

Take that, Eminem!

Monday, October 31, 2005

Get Charter

I am shocked but not surprised by the resignation of Ian Fraser as head honcho of TVNZ. Once again, TVNZ is making meta-references with mainstream monotony. Ian Fraser, all round good-guy and The Right Man For The Job, cites political interference from the TVNZ Board. I went Googlemanic on the TVNZ board and found some goodstuff. I've given goNZo odds on each board member's business vs. political clout, on a 0-10 scale. 0 is complete breadhead and 10 is full-tit fan-quango.

Starting from the bottom of this list, we have Trish Stevenson. Trish was appointed way back in 2000 by then Broadcasting Minister Marion Hobbs, two full years before the one page TV Charter would be finalised. She was inaugurated at the same time as Chairman Ross "My shout" Armstrong in a speech at the Film & Television Conference at the Carlton Hotel in Auckland on 10 November 2000. Although the speech has inconveniently disappeared from the Beehive's website, Google has conveniently cached it here. It's well worth a read:
"This year I have made progress in setting a new direction for TVNZ in line with the government's objectives for broadcasting. I appointed Ross Armstrong as the new Chair of TVNZ and subsequently Paul Smith, Stephen Walker, Craig Boyce, Trish Stevenson and Russell Hewitt as new Board members." - Marion Hobbs
As we know, Chairman Ross has since left the building. So has media commentator and author Paul Smith, investment manager Stephen Walker and former Compaq Managing Director Russell Hewitt.

Trish Stevenson came to the TVNZ board fresh from a stint on the board of NZ On Air. Prior to her valuable work at NZ On Air, Trish had been International Manager at educational publisher Learning Media Limited. According to their website, Learning Media Limited's job is to design, develop, publish, and distribute classroom resources on behalf of the New Zealand Ministry of Education. If public servants worked in the private sector, this is how it might look like.

Paul Smith reminisces on Colleague Trish:
"The Charter was still being formulated in 2000, but I had some immediate priorities. The first was to bridge the chasm which had opened up between the network and the creative sectors - writers, producers and directors. For the first time ever, these groups came to address the Board about their issues with TVNZ and this proved to be a first step in resolving them. The next was longer term but just as important. Colleague Trish Stevenson and I worked to restore the belief that there was a broader canvas of content to be explored, and that we could sell our own programmes overseas. We believed this would not only create new revenues and build profile, but open up opportunities for partnerships."
In other words, Trish thought that she might use the same contacts she forged in her previous work with Learning Media and foist TVNZ programmes on them. Trish has worked two three-year terms and got her first one-year term from Hon Steve Maherey earlier this year.

There are times I wish I had a subscription to OnFilm. This summary looks tasty:
TV NEWS
Net-workings

(PM Helen Clark opined to Net-workings that TVNZ’s early call was absurd, ...
Bryan Gould, and Trish Stevenson, all of whom have ties to the Labour Party. ...
www.onfilm.co.nz/archives/ViewEditorial.asp?EditorialID=20063&pubcode=ONF - Similar pages
I will defer final judgement for DPF, considering Trish Stevenson is helping InternetNZ with developing the governance structure for ISPAG (whatever that is).

In the meantime, Trish Stevenson's goNZo Odds: 10

Bryan Gould became a member of the TVNZ board in 2003 straight from Waikato University, where he was Vice Chancellor. Although born in NZ, Bryan was Environment Speaker for the UK Labour Party Shadow Cabinet under Neil Kinnock. Following Kinnock's resignation, Gould made a bid for the leadership of UK Labour but came second to John Smith, who won over 90 percent of the vote.

Bryan Gould's goNZo Odds: 10

The only other person to last as long on the TVNZ board as Trish Stevenson is current Chairman, Craig Boyce. Mr Boyce was the Chief Executive of Smiths City from 1990 to 1999. According to the NZ Gazette, pg 15 halfway down on the right, Smiths City was liquidated in 2002. Craig Boyce began his internship at TVNZ as chair of the board's audit committee. He became Acting Chairman of TVNZ after Ross Armstrong's credit card statements got out of hand in 2002. He was confirmed for the role a year later and has been Chairman ever since.

Although Smiths City turned into a bloody disaster, at least he has some experience of company realities and not just political machinations. Unfortunately, his experience has nothing to do with broadcasting so Craig Boyce's goNZo Odds: 2

June McCabe was installed on the TVNZ board a year ago, at the same time as Bryan Gould. June is a corporate director at Westpac, responsible primarily for the government, university and Maori portfolio businesses. According to her Westpac profile, her iwi affiliations are Ngapuhi, Te Rarawa, Te Aupouri and Ngah Kahu. She is also an advisory board member at Vic Uni's Roy McKenzie Centre for the Study of Families, and has also been a member of the Board of ACC and Housing New Zealand.

Ms McCabe has an MBA and is the former Chief Executive of The Home Mortgage Company. She is also involved in the Anglican Trust for Women and Children, Business in the Community (free business mentoring service), and Business and Parliament Trust.

Although June has a good background in business, it is counter-balanced by her equally-strong political background. If I were feeling more cynical, I would place her as the Token Maori on the TVNZ board. I'm giving June McCabe a very considerate goNZo Odds: 5

Robert Fenwick has been on the TVNZ board since 2003, and his considerable range of business talents justify his deputy chairmanship it. A Director search on the Companies website lists him on the board of 14 companies apart from TVNZ. Only 3 of them are in liquidation. Broadcasting experience from his association with Mai FM warrants Robert Fenwick's goNZo Odds: 0

Former Labour Minister Dame Anne Hercus is into her second three-year term on TVNZ's board. Her appointment in 2002 raised eyebrows as "she [was] still an active corporate fundraiser for Labour". Nuff said.

Dame Anne Hercus' goNZo Odds: 10

Philip Melchior is a bugger to Google. He was put on the TVNZ Board in 2003 after a long career in journalism in NZ and overseas, culminating in his role as Managing Director of Reuters Media in London. Apart from a few pages in German and what looks like Norwegian, all the other links point to his role at TVNZ. For want of more evidence, Philip Melchior's goNZo Odds: 1

Business wunderkind John Goulter is the latest addition to the board, joining earlier this year. His stint as CEO of Auckland Airport got him a sterling review from Brain Gaynor in the NZ Herald, Deloitte Management Top 200 Executive of the year and NBR New Zealander of the Year for 2002.

John Goulter gets goNZo Odds: 0

The average Odds on the seven TVNZ Board members is 5.43, a small bias towards political expediency versus business acumen. And that's just from Googling them. No doubt I have seriously under estimated much latent politicking. It will be interesting to see this story unfold. How long before Bill Ralston leaves this mess too?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Nice day for kite-flying

Newbie Police Minister Annette King has thought out loud about contracting some police work out to the private sector. Predictably, this has gone down like a cup of cold sick with Police Association head honcho Greg O'Connor. As it should. Let's look at a few other policy hassles.

1. Annette King's time as Health Minister saw precious little effort towards contracting out to the private sector. The preferred method to reduce waiting lists was to tighten the criteria. So why the sudden enthusiasm for privatisation now?

2. The problem of defining core and non-core health services stalled at the gate. Dividing the police services between sworn and non-sworn positions will be infinitely more hazardous to everyone's well-being. Defence lawyers will have a field day ripping apart prosecution cases based on evidence contaminated by private contractor collusion.

3. Contracting police jobs out to the private sector is counter to the same Labour ideology which killed off Auckland's privately-run remand prison. If it's not OK for private prisons, how in the hell can one justify rent-a-cops?

.......

While we're on the subject of law & order, readers may have noticed my vitriol on the SFO's idea to remove the Right to Silence over at DPF's. I see this argument on the same slippery slope as the Nats' policy on DNA testing every person arrested. New Scientist has an interesting story on how DNA testing resulted in a false-positive due to a bone marrow transplant. As DNA databanks get bigger, you can be certain that many innocent citizens will be convicted for crimes they haven't committed.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

And in the blue corner...

With a super-sized choice of MPs this time round, the Nats' new portfolio line-up makes interesting reading.

By far and away the least boring announcement is Wayne Mapp's portfolio of Political Correctness Eradication. As many around the blogosphere are pointing out, this trick could go either way. If the former Army Intel guy treats it with a light touch, taking the piss and demonstrating the patent absurdity of the more deranged hand-wringing, it is all well and good. However, I have witnessed scant evidence that there is a comedian's touch in his delivery so he had better make sure he doesn't turn all sourpuss and grumpyface over PCness like Muriel Newman did.

Mapp's portfolio is the key to the new-look Nats. Transitional Portfolios abound, with Liaisons in Pacific Island, Asian, Women's, Youth and Ex-pats. These TransPorts are a novel idea, responding to niche groups with go-betweens and not some bureaucratic office patronisingly patting their heads. It also foreshadows an intention to eventually do away with the Ministries of Silly Walks entirely. However, I remain sceptical as to whether this is all so much window-dressing. I can't see Judith Collins jumping in to help solve the Otara youth gang problem in a hurry.

It is good to see Katherine Rich back on the front bench with the Economic Development portfolio. With Maharey in her targets, this looks to be a battle to the death between Ken and Barbie. Former WTO man Tim Groser will be going head-to-head with Helen Clark in the Arts and Culture portfolio. Niiiice. Likewise, lawyer Simon Power has a good chance to make his bones against Labour's Police Minister and former dental nurse Annette King.

When are those parliamentary cameras getting installed? $6.2 million should be a doddle to find out of that $1.9 billion election bribe fund. Next year's "House, MP" will be a hell of a lot more entertaining than the endless "NZ celebrity" reality shows.

Monday, October 24, 2005

NOYB

Seems I'm not alone to objecting to pre-employment tests. A South Taranaki processing plant has noticed a drop in applicants since it introduced mandatory drug testing. Now I'm no businessman, but in a tight labour market the last thing one should do is unnecessarily raise the employment barriers.

Working on a freezing works chain is a boring, repetitive job. Surrounded by blood, guts and excrement all day may seem a challenge to most of us, but for those with the requisite dexterity and tenacity, the biggest challenge is not to go insane with boredom.

When I was banana picking in Northern Queensland a few years ago, I was surrounded by dope fiends and alcoholics. They were weird and strange, but only a very few were considered dangerous.

Banana humping is probably one of the worst jobs in the world. It consists of pulling 100kg bunches of bananas down while another worker uses a cane knife to chop the vine some ten centremetres above your head. The gush of nana juice feels like an elephant has pissed on you, irrevocably staining your clothes and body with pungent sticky sap. One then carries the unripe fruit on your shoulder to the trailer. In the shed, you take the cover off the banana bunch and hope a snake is not living inside, like these possums were.



All this for $A10 an hour.

The cane knife is a machete-like implement which widens out to a 30cm width blade with a spike on the other edge:

Sharpened as often as a butcher's knife, these things could be lethal in a number of ways. I heard stories of a backpacker's face being cut off as she stood too close to one in mid-swipe, scalpings as the blade whizzed too low for the vine, hitting the back of the humper's head. One Brit backpacker on my team sliced his shin open with one.

The weather was a consistent 35-40 degree dry heat. You'd take a 6 litre waterbottle from the deep freeze at dawn. By 3pm you'd be finishing off the last lukewarm gulps from it. Tempers frayed easily. I witnessed a near-fatal argument between a father and son over fertilizer preferences. A Kiwi at home can safely talk about the weather for hours. In Northern Queensland, it's grounds for homicide.

"Nice day today, eh?"
"Yeah. Like the last fucking ten months. What's your fucking point???"

Thankfully, I found a way of defusing such tempers by turning the rage onto the imminent Australian general election and discussing that eternal Charlie Brown of Oz Pols, Kim Beazley.

Away from the work of banana-picking, one's entertainment prospects were limited. Friday night involved the hostel people all chipping in for their preferred drink and emptying them all into a rubbish bin.


The most popular arts and entertainment was provided by the DVD store. Live entertainment was at the pubs. The country & western songs on the jukebox provided slight excuses for bar brawls.

In such weird circumstances, the small madnesses prevented the bigger ones. I was stoned the whole time, watching and smelling the sugar cane fields on fire. There are worse ways to pass the quiet times. My bosses didn't care, as long as I did the job I was paid to do. As you do.

It's a lesson that employers had better click onto, whether they are police recruiters or freezing works. The important thing is that you hire the best people for the job, not discriminate based what they do to keep sane off-duty. As long as workers fulfil their function, it's NOYB; None Of Your Business.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Mickey Mouse Massacre?

Molesworth and Featherston's Weekend Update has a good probe on Murray McCully's half-life as political strategist for the Nats. They name 16 Nat MPs expressing some level of concern with McCully's skills. It's not hard to see that bloc becoming the majority soon.

The Nats have a thing for post-election sacrifices. Michelle Boag got it directly after the 2002 result, followed shortly thereafter by Bill English. Sure, the Nats doubled their vote but they are still in Opposition. Someone has to pay the price of failure and McCully is it.

The only thing that should be holding the Nats back is timing. If Brash and Hungry hold off too long, their own jobs will be on the line. Even if the act of sacrifice is held off until 2006, there should at least be some foreshadowing of McCully's demise for the punters to chew over round the summer barbies.

It's time to sharpen those knives.

Warning: Stuffed goat may offend

Auckland Animal Action have lost the plot over a Silo Theatre play featuring Man-Goat love. An unsuspecting member of AAA ended up walking out of a production of "The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?"in tears. By any measure of art, that's one of the highest compliments one can earn. Something so good it hurts. Way to go Silo!

The AAA member didn't quite think that way, according to Linda Herrick's story in the NZ Herald. The article portrays (AAA) Gray as a Low-Threshold/High Maintenance Freak.

'Gray rang the Silo the next day to protest. She says she was told, "Everyone knows about it and everyone knows what happens, so it was my fault for going." '

Damn straight. This wasn't some derivative backyard pile of crap.
The play's pedigree is impeccable. Written by the same brain as "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf", the premiere cast included Bill Pullman and Mercedes Ruehl. A reviewer at Amazon cites themes of "intolerance, nonconformity and the arbitrariness of societal standards."

' "They should have had some kind of warning," says Gray.'

Such as? I don't think Bill Hastings should run around plot-spoiling plays as well as films, like his office did to "House of Sand and Fog". Besides, the mention of a goat in the title should have been a dead give-away. You had been warned. Go at your own risk. It won't kill you.

'Gray also wanted to know where the goat had come from, and how many goats was the production culling?'

Oh for Dagg's sake! Was she worried about Michael Hurst stealing out at nights after the production for fresh goats?? IT'S NOT REAL. IT'S A PLAY. Anyone with that much guilt in their head would be better utilised somewhere else. The Catholic Church, for example.

Jasmine Gray, just go to Wallace & Gromit and expect what you're given.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

NZ First Redux

Whichever angle you look at it, NZ First is in for an interesting term in quasi-coalition.

Rodney reckons Winston P pushed to bring back the Electoral Integrity Act, fearing his party splitting. It wouldn't be the first time. Remember Mauri Pacific, the Maori party before the Maori Party? Well, they didn't have half the reasons that the current NZ First caucus has to walk out.

Winston is now just like the rest of his List colleagues; electorate-less. He couldn't hold his own seat. The Member for Tauranga no more! Winston has obviously given up the ghost on getting the seat back by any honest means too. Oh yeah, Winston bought a bridge for them. And he's getting the racing industry $30 mill each way. He sprinkled the wrinklies with a tenner a week and a coupon card. Kevin Taylor sums it up in the Herald as a return to pork-barrel politics.

But prancing around on overseas trips does little to endear yourself to the locals, something that Bob the Builder will use to entrench his hold on Tauranga. Winston has lost that for good. All those taxpayer-funded trips that the Foreign Minister will take also give the other NZ First MPs ample opportunity to mull alternatives around the ever-decreasing caucus table.

Was Woolerton's resignation as President a token bunt or was this truly some Principled Thing? Even assuming the Electoral Integrity Act reboots before a split, Winston will still have to worry about a leadership coup. He won't be around forever. Will the rest of NZ First tie their political careers to the raggedy-arsed fortunes of a man on the decline?

There's going to be some interesting talks around the barbie this summer.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Completely shagged

Talkin' bout a revolution

"You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We'd all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We're doing what we can
But when you want money
for people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait"
- The Beatles

Like Act, the Greens should take heed at the ideological schisms that threaten to consume their support base. The NZ Herald's Kevin Taylor summarises the grilling the Green Party is receiving from all sides about its lacklustre election campaign.

Parliament would be a less colourful and challenging environment without Act or the Greens to keep the main parties honest. Unlike NZF, UFO, and JAP, the Greens and Act are not cults of personality but of ideas, and have a long-term future if they can only work out what their raisons d'etre are.

The biggest problem I see with both Act and the Greens is the focus on niching their policies to a limited audience instead of taking on the centre. Neither party has the luxury of committing to National and Labour only. It limits their appeal and reduces them to Baldrick status, much like Labour's lapdog Chairman Jim in his "Party of Me".

If the Greens wish to truly placate business groups, a policy or two which National would assent to couldn't do much harm. Surely, there must be some common ground? Likewise, many of Act's ideas were fermented in the '80s Labour caucus. To disavow Labour forever, as Rodney did early on in an interview on Kim Hill's Face to Face, may make a great soundbite but it isolates you from a large proportion of voters. How averse would Act be to Labour if Phil Goff were leader?

The Greens need to spit out some of those watermelon seeds. While well-intentioned and committed to environmental issues, limiting their policies to pecuniary measures such as bans, taxes and regulation is getting them nowhere. It can also come back to bite them on the bum later.

There is only so much labelling the Greens can stick to themselves before they start peeling off. Frog has recently described the Green Party as "socially libertarian", yet they backed the Smokefree ban. How much has litter increased with smokers throwing their butts into the gutters and into stormwater drains instead of ashtrays that are emptied into rubbish bins? How many gas burners are used to keep the smokers warm on winter balconies? Are pubs, clubs and cafes conserving power by trying to heat outdoor lounges? So much for holistic thinking.

Another area that the Greens should consider is whether to co-ordinate with opposition parties on tactics to thwart Labour. It looks increasingly likely that the Greens will be outsiders looking in to government this term. Lacking any direct influence on government policy to demonstrate their effectiveness next election, the Greens might gather more support by challenging Labour's policies. If nothing else, it would teach Labour not to take their party for granted.

One more piece of advice, well-meant and freely given, is that Greens should not pretend to have all the answers. Promoting a comprehensive Research & Development policy would be a good start. If the Greens want to promote households as self-sufficient in that Good Life mythos sort of way, how about doing something demonstrable to lower the barriers for that choice?

For example, which is preferable; spending 2.5 billion taxpayer bucks on getting 500,000 solar panels installed in private homes (@$5k a pop), or spending a fraction of that researching a cheaper alternative to the current technology? Photo-voltaic cells are still really expensive and difficult to retro-fit in existing buildings. There are prototypes of solar cells almost as cheap as Glad Wrap. Expand on this idea in a way that lowers the barriers to encourage consumer uptake. Make it cheap enough for it to be in everyone's interests to buy their own. Time for the Greens to support Demand-Pull over Supply-Push.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

FBI may mellow drugs policy

As a follow up to yesterday's rant on employment testing, a mate passed on this link. Evidentally, the FBI are having are hard time finding good recruits who have tried marijuana less than 15 times (It is unclear whether this means fifteen hits, joints, ounces or benders). The Feds are considering a "whole person" approach to recruitment as opposed to the current tickbox system.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Free Culture Movement

The Sydney Morning Herald has a good story backgrounding the amazing Wikipedia. Founder Jimmy Wales' recent speech outlining the goals for a "Free Culture Movement" is a must-read for anyone interested in the latest Renaissance.

Fear and loathing on the employment trail

The right to privacy has taken a battering once again with employers' requests for police checks rising to 450,000, up 40 percent in five years. That's a fifth of the workforce scanned by police on behalf of fearful employers in one year. Wary of legal action by a public fuelled by news media speculation of kiddy fiddlers behind every bush, and worried that every employee is a potential fraudster, bosses are demanding greater access to the private lives of their wage slaves.

What are they looking for? Well, police may recommend that "an individual does not have unsupervised access to children, young people or more vulnerable members of society." These files are marked with a Large Red Stamp. How many of these files are stamped every year? Oh, about 170 and they might be duplicates for one person under more than one name. 450,000 checks versus 170 miscreants, tops. Talk about overkill.

These police checks are over and above the Dagg-knows how many credit checks performed every year by employers either directly or by their pimps in Employment Consulting. Oh yeah, and the growing industry of drug testing as promoted by Crown Research Institute moneyspinner, the ESR.

All these tests are compulsory. Refusal is sufficient grounds to lose your job, or in my case, job interview. Why would a reasonable person refuse to give employers permission to strip search their records, unless they have something to hide? Well, the short answer is, it is none of their mother-loving, whore-sucking, sheep-buggering business.

The longer answer is a bit more personal. A few years back, I applied for a job as Table Games Dealer at Sky City in Orkland. The application form for a casino licence requires a credit check, your employment history over the last ten years (mine took three pages), a police security check involving the taking of fingerprints (guilty until proven innocent), photo (probably to match with mugshots of illegal immigrants) and a $450 fee for the pleasure. Suffice it to say it is closest you can get to an official rape this side of the police force.

That one seriously bad trip put me off employment checks for life. No more, nuh uh, no way, no how. Unfortunately, this promise has also led to the longest period of unemployment in my life. Ah well, it's not the first time I've cut my nose to spite my face and it won't be the last...

Doing up the chastity belt

It's now official; Orkland City Council are servants of the Religious Right. The OCC are pursuing a ban on established sex toy shop D.Vice in Ponsonby Road.

D.Vice is a NZ small business success story. Started up a little help from a small business grant/loan, the sex toy manufacturers have grown into a niche export market with stores in Orkland, Wellington, Melbourne and Palmerston North. The store gained some infamy when Marian Hobbs did a factory visit and inadvertently posed for the media wearing furry cuffs.

The store in Ponsonby Rd has operated for at least five years and it is part of the Ponsonby shopping district. No-one has had just cause to complain about its presence and everyone was happy (some more than others).

Two pieces of legislation changed all that; the Local Government and the Prostitution Reform Acts. The synchronicity of both laws passing so close together culminated in the largest attack of do-goodery in living memory, Orkland City Council's Brothels and Commercial Sex Premises Bylaw. It is a sad twist of Fate indeed that Tim Barnett's landmark Bill, designed to protect the vulnerable, was instead used by the OCC to drive them even further underground.

Not content with making a bad thing worse, the local council blue rinsers and Jesus freaks decided to sterilise the city of "commercial sex premises" as well. My thoughts on the bylaw went largely ignored by the OCC. The bylaw went through largely unchanged and passed by the Council one week before Christmas Day 2003, hardly a time that garners much media interest.

First, they came for the brothels. Now, under the benign leadership of Dick Hubbard, the OCC are trying to stick sex shops in the ghetto. Why persecute a profitable and harmless retail store? Because the law is on their side.

The same goes for picnics in Albert Park. The OCC has banned alcohol consumption in the city limits, eliminating the romantic luncheon with a bottle of bubbly as well as the homeless winos. If only it were just the Orkland local authorities playing Safety Nazi. Alcohol bans are springing up with alarming regularity. This plague of Pleasantville has spread to almost every council in the country. Even in liberal Wellington, alcohol is restricted to private establishments in the city and the Public Places Bylaw makes spontaneity punishable with a $20,000 fine. Bloody killjoys.

This all reminds me of a certain character called Judge Death. This dude came from a twisted dimension where policy analysts had worked out that crime was only committed by the living. Therefore, life was made a crime. The analysts were validated when, sure enough, the crime rate dropped.


from Judgment on Gotham; Grant, Wagner, Bisley, DC Comics 1991

UPDATE:

Idiot/Savant says Judge Death was to blame for the "The Crime is Life, the Sentence is Death" policy, and not a bunch of analysts. Later stories, namely Young Death in the Megazine, revealed Sydney D'Eath came up with the idea with a little help from the Sisters of Death. However, as Judge Death's character morphed from the horrific original to the humourous repeat performances, the substance of the policy might have been compromised.

A quick look at the original Judge Death storyline way back in 1981 leaves the answer open. Judge for yourself, and if you want to read the entire first story, which also introduces the babelicious Judge Anderson from Psi Div, check it out here (login required). In the meantime, enjoy a slice of nostalgia and damn fine artwork.


from Judge Death; Wagner, Bolland, 2000 AD Prog 149, 1981

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Unfair gaming practices

The NZ government takes yet another page from the Sopranos School of Hostile Takeovers. On one hand, the government wants to minimise problem gambling. It introduces the totalitarian Gambling and Smokefree Amendment Acts, killing off misery and fun in equal measure along with many businesses and jobs. On the other, a Crown Entity called the Lotteries Commission is finding more creative ways to part fools from their money.

Jesus Freak backlash

It was a bit of a shock last year when Michael Cullen was made Attorney-General. I have failed first year Law twice, which to the best of my knowledge gave me more legal training than him for the role. This is nothing compared with the shit-storm George W Bush is facing with his nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

According to ultra-conservative judge Bob Bork, Miers has "no experience with constitutional law whatever." She probably thinks the Supreme Court is a Reality TV show starring Diana Ross.

George W Bush is defending his choice:
"Yesterday he highlighted Ms Miers' high-flying legal career - she was once his personal lawyer in Texas and now serves as White House counsel - and evangelical beliefs in his weekly radio address."

Do you really want to bust me?

Boy George has been busted for possession of 5 grams of cocaine and faces up to 15 years in a US prison. The NYPD had responded to call about a burglary at the former Culture Clubber and Ministry of Sound DJ's apartment. On arriving at the Little Italy apartment, they found Boy George apparently in "a drugged stupor."

As PJ O'Rourke points out in Modern Manners:
"A tip for cat lovers: do not give your cat cocaine

Fifteen years ago it was fashionable to blow marijuana smoke in your cat's face and watch it 'get mellow'. This was fine for marijuana. Do not, however, give your cat cocaine. If you do, it will climb the wallpaper, shred the drapes, and tear apart every piece of furniture in the house looking for cat-nip so it can get to sleep. Then it will spend the night howling in the backyard, and, after you've passed out, will sneak back in the house and take all the rest of your cocaine.

For the same reasons, do not give cocaine to other animals. In particular, do not give cocaine to animals that aren't there, such as the giant spiders you think you are seeing under the couch."
If there's one thing worse than freaking out at imaginary burglars while high, it's calling for the real police.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

He's on a Mission From God

A BBC documentary will soon be shedding light on George W Bush's relationship to God, and how He told Bush to kick the shit out of Afghanistan and Iraq.
"I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.' And I did, and then God would tell me, 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq', and I did."
What does God sound like? Is his accent:

a) foreign-sounding
b) Mexican
c) British
d) George Bush Snr
e) George W Bush, because God does not fucking exist and he just imagined it.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Six Degrees of Litigation

Once upon a time, in the long long ago, universities were places of higher learning. Free and open discussion of ideas, not matter how radical, were encouraged. Even from the worst of ideas might spring a seed of innovation and thus the greater good of humanity was served by expanding our knowledge of the thisiness of This. But something went wrong.

Somewhere in the '80s, things changed. Stockbroking became the latest Get Rich Quick Scheme. To gain entry to this profession, one only needed a piece of paper with BBS or BCom written on it. With all this fake money flying about, accountants had to be employed in order to disperse it. Universities started throwing money into Business and Commerce at the expense of other, less materially-rewarding courses such as Science and Arts.

After the sharemarket crash, Marketing and Advertising Consultants were in demand to try to convince people to buy stuff they couldn't possibly afford. Fee rises and student loans schemes introduced in the early '90s forced prospective students to look at tertiary study as a return-on-investment and not as a consciousness-expanding exercise. By the late '90s, BCom/LLB was the only degree worth having.

So what happens when universities lose their universalism? Well for one, universities focus on training up a bunch of B-Ark Golgafrinchans. Secondly, it seems that they lose the one thing that separated universities from being just another business; free enquiry.

The High Court injunction stunt by Vic Uni management is the worst possible thing they could have done. Withholding publication of Salient on the grounds, not that the facts weren't true but that Salient shouldn't have them, is reprehensible. As Brian Boyko points out, even the Litigious States of America has a No Prior Restraint law. Haggle first, sue later. Poorly pursued and executed legal action adds to an impression that the Vic management are as competent as a certain wananga's. Geez, the place was bad enough back in the late '90s when the VC changed on a yearly basis.

Unfortunately, it also reinforces the thought that some NZ universities have lost their way. There was the academic freedom thing about Joel Hayward some time ago. More recently, a bunch of holier-than-thou's at Auckland Uni got in a righteous hissy about Holmes and his cheeky darkie comment.

Keith Ng sounds relieved and thankful over at Public Address. The mainstream media has picked up his story, furthering his wunderkind reputation. The DomPost have an excellent piece (Hattip DPF) which even features Scott Trainor sticking the boot in. Goodstuff! Sometime in the future, I see Keith Ng picking up a few political scalps along his path. That's unless he buggers off to the BBC or somewhere.

David and Goliath fights aside, Vic Uni is looking at making a mockery of the Fees Maxima and possibly raising next year's course fees by up to $500. Vic Uni's rationale includes:

'One of the Deans says that the "level of fees implies that VUW offers a lower quality product in comparison with other universities. The fee level is not commensurate with the quality of the [Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences] teaching and research programmes.'

Good to see snob values are still alive in the Ivy Towers.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Waitangi Park Design Competition

If you're a Wellingtonian, or at least give a crap about the capital's waterfront, then head along to the Academy of Fine Arts at the entrance to Queen's Wharf. The Waitangi Precinct Design Competition is at hand.

The landscaping of Waitangi Park, near the Chaffers New World, is all sussed. However additional buildings have yet to be finalised. There's a transitional thing going next to Te Papa for exhibition space and a tea garden. Something has to fit next to the Herd St building and something else between the Overseas Terminal and Oriental Bay.

I went down to the exhibit today and had a look. There are five entrants from around the globe, and here's some notes I took about each:

1. Shin Takamatsu Architect and Associates Co Ltd – Kyoto, Japan

Big bubble, biodomish. Imposing. Blade Runner or Akira? Too bright. Too many ads.

2. UN Studio – Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Julia Set trigonometry. Sterile? No context given to existing buildings. Mmmaybe.

3. John Wardle Pty Ltd Architects – Melbourne, Australia

Scratchy, chunky, flaxy. Fissures and fibrous. Fits well next to Te Papa. Why?? Nice shape to the bowed building. Favourite.

4. Oosterhuis Lenard – Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Nice shapes and textures. Bird's Head, Koru and Fishhook; Gold, Green, Rust. I like. Good in theory, well envisaged and displayed. Breaks height restrictions for apartments, not a good enough reason.

5. Architecture Workshop Ltd/Kerstin Thompson Architects Joint Venture – Wellington, New Zealand/Melbourne, Australia

Slope off Te Papa. Hard to visualise, where's the 3D model? Would really like this one if I knew what it looked like. Folded ground hard on the head. Hundertwasser haircut. Thermodynamic considerations/ Know Your Wind.

But hey, this is just my opinion. Get your brains down to the display. There are plenty of pens and feedback forms for everyone to have their say.

Better than Bali

For the second year in a row, NZ has been chosen as the most popular tourist destination in the Telegraph Travel Awards.

"Affection for New Zealand owes much to the spectacular box office success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which was filmed there."

Now that's 100% sweet.

Hobbs fobs jobs

Marian "Boo-Boo" Hobbs is one of three current Cabinet ministers who have turned down roles in the next Executive. George Hawkins and Paul Swain are the other two with withdrawal symptoms. It's no surprise that Hawkins is out. The only curiosity is whether he fell on his sword, tripped on it or was pushed onto it by everyone else.

Paul Swain is slightly more surprising. He hasn't done a fantastic job in Immigration but then again, who does? His IT portfolio had been principled right up until Cabinet rolled his local loop unbundling ideas last year. Swain claims he wants to spend more time with his family and electorate issues. The best way for a politician to spend more time with their family is to quit politics.

Maybe he is concerned about his majority dropping from almost 13,000 to just over 8,000. If he doesn't help his rural constituents, I'm certain he will lose more votes to National next time round. It would be interesting to know what sort of electorate issues he needs to spend more time on. RMA applications?

No reason is given for Boo-Boo's decision not to aim for Cabinet again. Hobbs had told Clark some 18 months ago that she wanted outski. Pity she couldn't let her Wellington Central constituents know her plans whilst on the campaign trail this year. I suppose it is difficult to campaign as a high-powered Cabinet Minister who wants to chuck the stresses of the Disarmament and Environment portfolios.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Oddjob description

Whilst on another fruitless search for employment, I had the misfortune to stumble across an advertised position for Senior Caretaker at VUWSA. Judging from the job description, most of the work involves living up to a strict regime of political correctness. Eleven lines cover the experience and skills required. The remainder of the five-page jobsheet is filled with feelgood gobbledegook.

Coulda Woulda Shoulda

For the first time in NZ Green party history, the party missed picking up another seat in the specials. For want of 1,246 votes, Nandor misses out getting a seat.

Frog gets the knives out for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party and their 5,748 votes. Blaming ALCP won't get the Greens anywhere. If they wanted the stoner vote, the Greens should have done something like, y'know, included it in their campaign. None of this Jonathan Livingston Seagull bullshit:




All the final result means is that the Greens couldn't sell their policy platform to an extra 1,246 people. Their bad.

Twisted sister


JOHN SELKIRK/Dominion Post

Ceci n'est pas une femme.

Friday, September 30, 2005

The Third World laptop

Researchers at MIT are on the cusp of democratising the IT Revolution. A prototype of a $100 laptop which runs a 500 MHz Linux flash drive notebook will be unveiled in November. It will be powered by AC or hand crank.

R&D saves the world again.

Socialist was a tax avoider

The Brit National Archives has just released details of EA Blair's tax record. Better known as George Orwell, the records show how the socialist tried to save his family from crippling death duties after the success of 1984 and Animal Farm.

It reminds me when I was going out with Miss Machete and she was working for a left-wing small business owner. We went to a Christmas party he threw at a pub in Blair St for the team. Miss Machete's boss was talking about this great mythical socialist paradise where everyone paid their dues. In annoyance, I asked him if he would claim the Christmas party as a business expense and lower his tax bill. But of course he would!

I Dream of FoNZIE

There has been some heated discussion over at The Whig's on where Act should go from here. He lists 11 policies that Act should use to rebrand and reassert itself as a party of innovation, shit-stirring and setting the agenda. As far as 3:30am policymaking goes, it's not a bad list. Let's have a look.

1. Catherine Judd should resign as president

Assume Whig's dissection is all correct. If not Catherine, then who? No matter how justified one might feel about an incumbent, who could do a better job? Who wants to be a party president? In the political circus, the party president is a platespinner.

From time to time, the audience gives the platespinner their own homemade stick and platter and somehow the platespinner has to successfully integrate it into the act. If the audience finds the performance clumsy or disharmonious from time at any time, they demand a refund. It is a tiring, thankless task which engenders fear and loathing all around.

2. Talk flat tax

Yeeeeaaaah I suppose... Flat tax is an eventual goal for Act, as dictated in Unfinished Business. However, Act has yet to work out a path to this which doesn't give the General Electorate the shits. They've got to sell it better. Explain the Why, the When and the What now. Inform, don't preach. Entertain, don't patronise. Know your arguments, don't read a teleprompter.

For example, when my old man went around the country selling GST and dodging rotten eggs back in the '80s, he made a wager. If anyone was demonstrably worse off after the introduction of GST, he would personally fly them to Wellington and shout them dinner. No-one ever took him up on the offer.

3. Raise the age for Superannuation

No way, José. The Maori Party had a point about lowering the age of superannuation for Their People. Poor people die younger, thereby subsiding the virtuous wealthy who live as long as their private health insurance policy allows. OK, subsidise might be the wrong word, but you get the drift. National Superannuation is the scheme that keeps Boxer the horse happy, dreaming of the day he will retire to green pastures and live out his days in peace. In reality, he overworks himself and gets knackered. Only the pigs get to retire as they live longer through home comforts.

Somehow, the current scheme has to be grandparented and a tax transfer system set up that skims personal income into retirement savings schemes. This would increase NZ's level of savings, improve investment capital for the NZ market, return private responsibility to individuals' personal decisions and provide probably the only asset that some Kiwis will ever have. This is not a million miles away from Cullen's favoured Kiwisaver. Cut back on the arbitrariness of it and you might be on to something.

The trick will be how to top up the lower end of the scale when they reach a retirement age. And should the retirement age be indexed as a proportion of the average lifespan? While no system is fair, at least an indexed retirement age would de-politicise the issue and give some reliability for those poor sods who almost reach retirement and then the government raises the limit again.

4. Neutrality

The good thing about NZ is that we are completely inoffensive to other countries. We are neutral by default. We are unlikely to ever be attacked by our closest neighbours. Australians can't be arsed, the penguins don't care and the Pacific Island nations wouldn't say Boo to a Schmoo. NZ is in a primo spot to play China and the US off each other and neutrality is a subtle way of accomplishing this.

If we are to have any armed forces, we should have kick-ass specialist ones. Our SAS should be better than Navy Seals, our air force should be able to monitor trespassers in our territorial waters, our frigates should make better interceptors than bars.

5. Abolish the Petrol Tax and Use Tolls to Pay for Roading
6. Scrap the RMA
7. Republicanism
11. Tino Rangatiratanga


I dream of FoNZIE, the Federation of New Zealand Independent Enclosures. It is an idea loosely based on Tino Rangatiratanga and its ideal of self-determination, and former convict/ New Zealand Company bastard Edward Gibbon Wakefield's city-state scheme but without his class mentality. In short, let's go back to the provinces.

City councils around the country are already thinking the same thing. They need to co-ordinate with their neighbours in order to develop their patches. The Wellington and Orkland region mayors in particular are looking at some larger structure than their current incarnations.

The Local Government Act 2003 gives them something to work with. Unfortunately, this legislation wasn't balanced by a corresponding lowering of national bureaucracy. Instead of a transfer of responsibility, we have one complicated set of rules sliced and diced by a thick scum of national public servants AND another thick scum of local body bureaucrats adding to the rulebook as well. No wonder the punters lose hope or go overseas.

The needs of Orkland are not the needs of Christchurch. Let each region do what it knows is best based on local knowledge and co-operation not some pre-formulated, abstract crap from Central Services. It's all about districts; district police, district courts, district nurses, district hospitals, district schools, district councils. This ties into the central premise of classic liberal government; its default setting is to stay the fuck out of our faces. If we want help, we'll ask for it. Our present form of governance does neither.

8. Halve the tax on alcohol and cigarettes

Health insurance companies love smokers. They pay higher premiums and die earlier and quicker than non-smokers. Because the government has declared Smoking Is Bad, there's no way they will regulate health premiums for smokers, asking health insurers to justify their rorts. Excise taxes have no bearing on the public costs of these good vices. The tax goes up with the CPI, guaranteeing an income stream that would make Tony Soprano proud.

Act could introduce a similar scheme to Fly Bys. I call it the Happy Daze card. Every time an alcohol or tobacco purchase is made, the excise tax from the sale is credited to the consumer's private health insurer thereby matching the cure with the medicine. The scheme is cost-effective as there is no need for the government to get a cut. Think of it as Truth in Taxation.

9. Start up a Space Programme!

Supporting an increase in R&D would be a start.

10. Licensed Cafes for Cannabis - Increase Penalties for Supply to Minors

Grant the first license to Paul Le Gros and trial a coffee shop in Wellington for two years. Thirty years of prohibition hasn't worked, so why not give it a try?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

I'm scared of Americans

We live in a world of choice. Why, even the supermarket offers us twenty-eight varieties of toilet paper to wipe our arses with. Aren't we lucky. Andrew Gumbel writes in NZ Herald about a US company called CleanFlicks that offers a strange variation on 'choice'.

CleanFlicks (It's about choice!) unilaterally censors movies of anything remotely offensive. With God on their side, these fanatical editors have taken "excessive blood and gore" out of From Hell (presumably renamed From Heck), all the "language which refers to sexual activity or has sexual connotation" out of Young Frankenstein, and cleansed all the profanity from 8 Mile.

When filmmakers rightly claimed the service breached intellectual property rights, George Fucking Bush shut them down by passing the Family Movie Act. I swear it won't be long til they're burning books in that twisted country.

Through Cook Strait Darkly

Although I have lived 50 kilometres from Nelson half my life, I have never been there. It's a shame really, because it sounds like a nice place. It would be good to see it now before it becomes something else, Tauranga II for example. It's just that, well, it's too damned expensive to get there.

A round trip on the Interislander for one man and his car can cost as much as $255. Aside from the three-hourish crossing time, loading and unloading the vehicle can double the time reserved for the trip. Stuff that. For the same time and money I could fly to Fiji baby.

Time and money aren't the only pricetags. The hoo-ha over Toll's latest clanger, the Kaitaki, is a case in point. Toll might have meant well, trying to bring scales of economy to a prohibitively expensive but vital link between the Mainland and the Heartland. Evidence is growing though that the boat is way out of proportion to its surroundings. No-one in Toll considered whether the new boat could hook up at the ferry terminal. Now the Marlborough locals are pissed that the ship's wake is ripping the shit out of their shores. The latest on the latter can be read in detail in the Weekend DomPost offline A12.

Whatever happens, the only winners will be the lawyers. Toll risks losing up to $43 million a year through lost earnings if the Kaitaki is reduced to the speed of Jesus on the Galilee. Cruising the Strait will cost freight handlers and normal people even more in ludicrous tariffs. On the other hand, it would be a cold-blooded Kiwi who supports the shoreline getting carved up by such a blunt instrument. Decisions, decisions...

Instead of just bitching about things, goNZo Freakpower has researched possible solutions. The answer is simple. We need a bridge. Now before you say "Bullshit" and stop reading, please be patient. Imagine, just for a moment, a bridge spanning the Cook Strait from Cape Terawhiti in the north to Rununder Point in the south. Imagine hopping in your car with a bunch of mates and heading across the ditch for the afternoon and splitting the $30 toll between five of you. A World Wonder right here in NZ. Wouldn't it be good?

Engineering has come a long way since our antecedents constructed the Main Trunk Line. The world's longest suspension bridge, the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge in Japan, was built to withstand strong tidal currents, high winds and earthquakes. The Hangzhou Bay Trans-oceanic Bridge is a 36 kilometre long six-lane highway. An NZ version needn't be something like the dumpy, ugly and shortsighted Auckland Harbour Bridge with its cling-ons. One has only to admire the beauty of France's Viaduct de Millau to see what is possible.

I was having a smoke with an architect mate of mine last night when I brought this Think goNZo Scheme up. He remains sceptical of a cost-effective way to sink piles in an ocean floor that is up to 270 metres deep across a treacherous stretch of water that straddles a major faultline. However, he reckoned an idea he saw on the Discovery Channel about a Trans-Atlantic tunnel might do it. He's right, it's bloody brilliant idea.

In the spirit of the Ansari X Prize, I would like to see the NZ Government develop what I like to call the goNZo X Prize. Through private funding or government bonds, I would like to see a six- or seven-figure booty to inspire all of us to come up with a viable way to bring NZ together with a physical connection. We live an age of marvels, where dreams converge with the sciences. Space elevators made with carbon nanotubes and powered by lasers are a reality. What else is possible?

Whatever the outcome, the goNZo X Prize scheme would be a hell of a lot more value for money than another year of Judy Bailey.

A Ward Award

Former Green MP Mike Ward has moved from the Dark Arts to Inspirational Arts, winning the Montana World of WearableArt™ supreme prize in Wellington last night. Congratulations to Mr Ward. I only hope he can inspire other MPs to quit bossing other people about and get their arts into gear.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Spooky action at a distance

I'm staying right out of the latest Christian Heritage thread over at DPF's. The thread participants are stacked at two extremes. On one side, there's the Christian Heritage groupies. On the other, there's everybody else. Neither side is ever going to agree on anything, no matter how much logic is applied.

There is a damned good reason why religion and politics should stay apart. On their own they are harmless diversions of intellectual masturbation, making people feel good about themselves while releasing a bit of pressure. Both are rather personal matters built up over each person's lifetime. But mix politics and religion together and all you have is a bunch of wankers.

The cult of personality is alive and well and living in New Zealand. We have the old hat variety of Captain Sensible, Winston P and Chairman Jim. It is now clear that Graham Capill was the Christian Heritage Party. In the eyes of his groupies he can do no wrong, or at least nothing a dozen Hail Marys can't fix.

Thank Dagg for parties such as CHP and Destiny though. It is easier to keep an eye on them when they are grouped together like bluebottle jellyfish. Their continued existence is also preferable to the infiltrations of the Religious Right in some of the more mainstream parties.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Harm minimisation

The NZ Herald has a [P] epidemic on its hands. No, not methamphetamine, Premium Content. In the interests of health and safety, goNZo Freakpower lists below ways people can minimise the harm caused by this [P] epidemic:

1. RB suggests using Google to search the Herald by typing site:http://www.nzherald.co.nz/ followed by a space then your search query. Works like a charm. If NZ Herald end up blocking this, the cached version works fine too.

2. Colin James' Opinion column from NZ Herald is available here. Send him an email and Colin will personally email his columns to you. How's that for service, and IT'S FREE.

3. Email your favoured NZ Herald columnists and ask them to set up their own open-source opinion archive like Colin James does. Browse for their email addresses here.

4. Find some other columnists to read. New Zealand's coolest economist, Gareth Morgan, reposts his columns from the DomPost a week after print. Subscribe FOR FREE here, or read them online here.

Knowledge shared is knowledge gained. Add your suggestions in the comments section.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

NZ Herald's search for money

Well that's tossed it. The NZ Herald has unveiled its new revenue stream on unemployed researchers: Premium content searches at $3 a day or $99 a year. History comes with a price tag.

What do you want?

Yesterday I dissed Roger Kerr for wanting to have a referendum on MMP, assuming he wanted a return to FPP. My bad there, the article mentioned no such thing. Phil O'Reilly reckoned MMP's all good. They are both right.

Consumercitizens should constantly be appraising their system of governance, questioning to ensure the government machine does what we want it to. A permanent vote on the ballot paper, asking voters if they have confidence in the MMP system, couldn't be a bad thing. Not so long ago electorates were asked each election if they wished to remain dry or get wet, alcoholically speaking. The idea has precedent. Roger Kerr's statement is sound.

This year The General Electorate has shown a maturity and understanding of how MMP works, using eloquent tactical voting gambits while returning to the honesty of the the Great Urban/Rural Divide. Last term, Helen Cark demonstrated proficiency at playing minor parties off one another while maintaining a centrist-left government. She is the Spinball Wizard and this term it's multiball. So Mr O'Reilly is also right. The public has little reason to lose confidence in MMP. Yet.

John Campbell had the tangental Mike Moore on his show last night. The closest The Panda got to a point was that the public wanted a system of government that harnessed party power; instead they unleashed a monster. The Panda is right.

Never before has The General Electorate been so alienated from our representatives. Meet the Candidates meetings, with the exception of Aro Valley, are ill-attended affairs of 100 people if you're lucky. Most of those attendees are party hacks without a brain cell to sway to another cause. The party is Mother, the party is Father.

Communication between politicians and public is a one-way street of advertisements, direct mail and polling. Polling for example reverses the Q & A game. In the past, voters asked their candidates questions and the candidate replied. Nowadays the candidate-commissioned pollsters ask the questions and the voters reply. How fucked up is that?

Membership in political movements has gone the way of most community groups. Membership has plummeted, allowing power to coallesce relatively unchecked and making a mockery of the illusion of participatory democracy. The only party that still subscribes to consulting its members is the Maori Party with their hui. Look how much they are mocked.

Like Super 12 and One Day Cricket, MMP has reduced politics to a television entertainment, sold as a brand with presidential-style icons leading a dubious bunch of party chosen into an arcane parliamentary sytem. Door-knocking and talking to ordinary people has been replaced with soundbites and photo opportunities as the most efficient way of electioneering. All this is encouraged by the story-hungry packs of media hounds following the leaders around this election.

If anyone lost this election, it was the mainstream media. Once a refuge for some objectivity that voters could use to analyse the merits of our alleged representatives, an intrusive media has set their own agenda. TV3's unilateral exclusion of JAP and UFO and subsequent forced acquiesence showed the influence of the media on the outcomes in a poor light.

Bad polling presented as news by print and television media has damaged their credibility. Rodney Hide is justifiably pissed by this. By continually dissing Act, the media forced Act's vote down. Even Captain Sensible, looking radiant with a There's Something About Mary hairdo, lost his rag with the media on election night. Meanwhile, it seems Judith Tizard MP doesn't exist without media present.

But I digress. Winston Churchill once described democracy as the least worst system we've thought of so far. MMP is not perfect, but it's the best thing we've got. Philip Temple (Hattip DPF) reckons MMP just needs tweaking. As eminently respected as his opinion is, I would discount his two suggestions.

Increasing the electorate threshold from one to two seems arbitrary. Germany has a threshold of five electorates in a Bundestag of over 600 seats. Germany also has a bicameral system as opposed to our single House. Eliminating the single electorate parties in NZ would disproportionately increase the power of the Executive.

His second point, the one favoured by the Nats, is even more threatening. If there was ever a time to remove the Maori seats, it was with the introduction of MMP. Too late now. Any attempt to remove the Maori seats now, without any comparable trade-off to favour them, is futile. It would mean we have learnt nothing from our short history, nothing from our literature, nothing
from our movies. As Alan Moore once said, "Citizens should not fear their governments; governments should fear their citizens."

It is with this thought somewhere in her mind that Helen Clark looks to keep not only her leadership and the fortunes of Labour V in favour, but MMP's as well. If our three-yearly civil wars don't work, if stable government is not possible under this system, we will have to find something that does.