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:

(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. ... - 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


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


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.