Tuesday, March 27, 2007

They shoot press gallery journalists, don't they?

Not here, we don't. Nor have any of NZ's press gallery been kicked out of a gig for just being there. Good on Commonwealth Press Union stalwart Tim Pankhurst going in to bat for press freedom (again) by accusing the DPS of exceeding their authority. Damned straight. That is not their function and it's a shame to see their role diminished by this incident.

Am also deeply unimpressed with the official response. The Speaker's report better have some very explicit material to back up Helen Clark's assertion that Nick Wang was 'causing a disturbance.' An immediate back-track to ignorance of the circumstances, as well as Michael Cullen's mantra of 'unfortunate,' sounds unusually defensive and does not bode well.

I haven't renewed my Labour Party membership yet, and I'm running out of reasons to remain a member. Hmmm, maybe I'll do a Mulholland.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Spooky coincidence

Telecom sold its golden goose for $2.165 billion, plus 75 million in Yellow Pages debtors. Telecom's losses from AAPT write-downs and CDMA redundancy cost $2.172 billion.

My First MSM Meta-reference

Woohoo! I finally get a mention outside a student newspaper. This from Stuff:

"Capital City Lodge, which provides longer term accommodation, is upgrading its Newtown site to cater for increasing demand. "There are just so many people – just normal people, just trying to find a place to live, or a roof over their heads", manager Will de Cleene said. One resident had reported up to 100 people going for a flat in Brooklyn this month."

One Hand Smacking - Reprise

Lawyer Michele Wilkinson-Smith has an excellent guest column in the Herald regarding Section 59. She posits a very real consequence of removing the reasonable force provision of the Crimes Act; messy custody battles:
"Picture this: a child at the centre of a custody battle comes back from an access visit. Mum questions the child: Did Daddy smack you? Has Daddy ever smacked you? The child says yes. Mum takes the child to the police station. She is vocal and upset. "Investigate" sounds benign. It is not.

That child will be put through the evidential interview process. It's not a process you want your child involved in. Dad will be asked to go to the police station to make a statement. All this will probably be good for lawyers. Probably no charges will be laid, but the child and the family will have been through a traumatic and damaging experience."

Do not underestimate how much children are used as pawns in the battle between embittered former spouses. It happens enough already. Repealing Section 59 will open a whole new front, to the detriment of the very children Sue Bradford should be trying to help.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

All Men Are Wankers

There's a nice piece of moral panic in today's SST. The blurb goes:
"The typical man trading internet child pornography is an Auckland Pakeha, aged in his early 30s, according to new research from Internal Affairs."
I suppose it depends what one means by average.
"The most recent update, in February, included profiles of 215 offenders, of whom all but one were male. Just over half (52%) lived in the main urban areas of Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. About 75% (162) were New Zealand European, while only 1% (three people) identified as Maori. More than half (63%) were aged between 10 and 34, the average age range being 30-34."
So the poll shows just over half of the surveyed criminals lived in the main centres. This is demographically uninteresting due to roughly half the country's population also living in the four main centres. Nor is the supposed fact that almost two thirds were aged between 10 and 34. This is the golden era of wanking. What is interesting is that if only 76 percent were NZ Honkies or Maori, who were the other quarter? Brit? South African?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Tesla alarm

Some Ozzie inventor has come up with a preferable alternative to car alarms.

The Best Medicine

Don't know when it happened, but the 2007 Comedy Festival has been finalised for May. Highlights include the welcome return of Dylan Moran, as well as a veritable cornucopia of comedians and comediennes. Check it out.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Fear & Loathing at the NDP Launch

I was sitting in the sun on the steps of Parliament last Thursday, when the drugs began to wear off. I remember saying something like, "I need a drink. I hope there's a bar at this gig." Suddenly, there was a terrible roar all around me, as the forecourt swarmed with Korean teenagers streaming out of Parliament all swooping and screaming and diving around my formerly placid smoko. Perhaps they weren't Korean. Maybe Chinese, or from somewhere in the South-East Asian subcontinent. I didn't ask.

A couple of weeks ago, I had received an invite the the launch of the National Drug Policy 2007-2012. This document was the end product of a long and intensive consult-athon based on the National Drug Policy 2006-2011 Consultation Document. I wasn't holding out for much good coming out of it. Maybe a glimmer of hope that there was at least some improvement on the clusterfuck known as the Misuse of Drugs Act.

It was time to enter the corridors of power. I walked to the newly-refurbished, sphincter-shaped plebian entrance. Because some Saudi Arabian college graduates had flown several hundred tonnes of aluminium and fuel at some buildings 14,000 kilometres away 6 years previously, the entrance resembled a US-customs privacy rape centre. I put my manbag on the X-ray conveyor belt, along with all my metal objects; ipod, pen, lighter, cigarette case, and various loose change. Should I remove my tie clip? My hearing aid? How naked did they want me? Last time I was here, I got pinged by the machine for wearing a leather belt with metal fastenings that a girlfriend gave me for my 21st. Please don't wave that wand at me. I don't like people in my personal space.

"Can you show me the knife in your bag?" said the security man after I walked through the metal detector still wondering whether I had set the thing off. I pulled out my Swiss army knife with the house keys on it from the manbag, trying not to spill NORML News magazines and leaflets on the floor. The security man unfolded the main knife and held it up to an unseen chart. "Make sure you keep it in the bag," he said, handing it back to me. "Of course," I replied, putting my MacGuyver away hoping that no horses would need stones taken out of their shoes while I was in the Grand Hall.

After a nervous piss in the elegant pissoir on the ground floor, I wandered up the stairs to the Grand Hall. Maybe it's my deafness, maybe it's the Asperger's, but I really hate a room full of strangers. Not personally, you understand. I'm just unsure of the protocol and get freaked out adapting to different voices all at once. I head for the name badge table, because I'm absolutely certain that everyone should have a name badge.

I spot the most interesting person I know in the room, and head towards Ross Bell from the NZ Drug Foundation. Hey, no offense Matt Bowden from STANZ. It's just that every time I try to approach people I have only seen on TV, I have an overwhelming urge to tell you the Specials of the Day and ask if you'd like an aperitif. I call it Repetitive Waiter Syndrome. Ross is yakking with Billy McKee from GreenCross. We swap stories until El Presidente of NORML, Chris Fowlie turns up. Then a polite voice on the PA advises us to take a seat.

As usual, I sit on the far right so I can hear as much as possible. There's a copy of the National Drug Policy on the chair. I have ample time to skim it as the MC gives a welcome in Maori, leads a waiata as well as a karakia. Admittedly, I didn't know it was a karakia til the amen. Whatever happened to the separation of church and state?

The National Drug Policy is 39 pages long, including one page for abbreviations, two for Bibliography, three for title pages, and five completely blank pages. God, I should have gone into the printing industry. That leaves 28 pages, exactly the same amount as the consultation document, only more tables of statistics and graphs and far less words. It has actually shrunk.

The effusive MC says the last amen for the moment and announces the format for the launch. In spite of about a hundred attendees, there will be no question time. No wonder only TV One and Prime News turned up to cover it. It's only news if it's new. Obviously, the MSM had been given an embargoed copy and knew what to expect. Although NORML had requested an embargoed copy in order to formulate an educated response, none was forthcoming. We only found out when we got there.

Chairman Jim was up first. He shambles to the podium and exhales. He launches into his usual Morse Code monotone with this speech. Off the cuff, he says that this policy is not a top down effort but a bottom up thing. He returns to the script and contradicts himself immediately.
"If you wanted to make a difference and reduce the harm drugs cause in this country, you would sit down and map out a tough strategy that looked far into the future...

That policy had a strong emphasis on health objectives and approaches to addressing the harms arising from tobacco, alcohol, illegal and other drugs."
Listening to Jim Anderton is reasonable cause to take drugs. I wimp out of lighting a spliff during his speech and resort to non-violent protests of pulling exaggerated sceptical expressions and masturbatory hand gestures to try and throw him. I'm not going to listen to this drivel sitting still.

Page 3 of the NDP lists the three-pronged approach to "reduce the effects of
harmful substance use":
  • control or limit the availability of drugs (supply control)
  • limit the use of drugs by individuals, including abstinence (demand reduction)
  • reduce harm from existing drug use (problem limitation)
The first prong is by far and away the preferred tool of harm minimisation. And aren't the cops and customs doing so well? Police find 4300 plants in a field here. A copper chopper finds 6500 plants in the West Coast there.
"They were all over the place, the entire length of the West Coast ... anywhere and everywhere."
I can't find the source now, but I remember reading how one copper was stunned at the quantity being grown and the lengths that growers went to. Something about how the nearest roads were days and days away, cannabis growing in the middle of nowhere. He wondered how futile his task was. Just as often as not, the cops rely on tripping over a pile of dope unexpectedly. TVNZ reports how police are looking into 1000 "cannibas" plants were found at a chicken shed fire.

I flip to the sixteen lines in the NDP report directly related to cannabis.
"The 2003 New Zealand Health Behaviours Survey – Drug Use showed that one in seven New Zealanders (13.7%) had used cannabis in the last year, and that 15.1% of past-year users smoked cannabis frequently (10 or more times per month on average) (Ministry of Health forthcoming)."
14 percent of NZers used cannabis in one year. That's 560,000 people, about seven Palmys. Sort of makes the second prong, demand reduction including abstinence, a bit of an uphill battle.

The audience were giving Chairman Jim the clap. He must have stopped droning. Next up was embattled Corrections Minister and Associate Minister of Health Damien O'Connor.

"Drugs of all kinds have a devastating effect on the health and well-being of our communities. Most of us here today know this. Each of us, no doubt, know of personal and professional horror stories about the havoc wreaked by drugs. For my part, I am reminded on a daily basis, through my job as Minister of Corrections as well as Associate Minister of Health. We know that drugs are a factor in a large amount of all crimes committed, with illicit drugs often coming to mind."

Billy McKee interjected loudly at this point. It proved to be the only unofficially permitted comment of the day. Way to go Billy. O'Connor continued his crapola, listing achievements involving media campaigns and how drug use in prisons is at an all time low and he had the statistics to prove it. He somehow didn't mention how his department was fucking around with the third and most important prong, harm minimisation.

I threw myself back into the NDP appendix.
"Earlier surveys have shown a significant increase in illegal stimulant use between 1998 and 2001: in 2001 5.3% of those surveyed reported having used an illegal stimulant in the last year, compared with 3.2% in 1998. In the New Zealand Health Behaviours Survey – Drug Use 2003 report (Ministry of Health forthcoming) amphetamines (including methamphetamine) were the second most commonly reported illegal drug ever used (6.8%) or used in the past 12 months (2.5%). Past-year ecstasy (MDMA) use was reported by 1.9% of New Zealanders, making ecstasy the second most commonly used stimulant."
Not only has cannabis use increased, so have the speed freaks.
"Currently there is no way to measure the volume of diverted pharmaceutical drugs on the illicit drug market."
Omfg, they really don't have a clue.
O'Connor sat back down next to a sullen Clayton Cosgrove. Director-General of Health, Stephen McKernan, stood up and gave a rational speech which I have almost completely forgotten. He managed to use the term 'misuse' more flexibly than any other speaker. Then, just as he had me feeling that there was a scrap of hope in all this War On Drugs spittle, he throws it all away. He is a father, he says. He has three daughters and he wants to see them grow up in a Drug Free World.

Martyn Dunne, Comptroller of Customs, stood up and gave a good deadpan comedy routine. "The last thing we want is a reputation for exporting drugs." Shhh, don't tell Montana or Lion Nathan. At the end, he called on everyone making a difference to the "harmonious, er, harmful effects of drugs."

The final speaker was Detective Superintendant Win van der Velde, Police National Crime Manager. He stood up looking like a rugbyhead in a chess club meeting. Maybe there were flecks of foam on his lips as he spoke, maybe there weren't. The police were happy with the NDP. Any opportunity to bust a few more dope fiends and amphetamine psychotics. Increased information sharing by government departments is sure to make him happy.
"Over the next five years the Government will retain health-related objectives but will also develop a greater intersectoral focus, which will encompass both the social and the economic harms from drug use. All government agencies will be held accountable by the MCDP for achieving the objectives of the National Drug Policy, delivering effective policies and programmes, and collaborating with other agencies to achieve a co-ordinated approach to reducing drug-related harm."
This is unlikely to provide added comfort to the hopeless who wish to seek treatment when they lose their grip. Who wants to go to CAYAD and wonder whether the cops are going to turn up at their home afterwards? It's not paranoia when you know they are out to get you.

I could hardly wait for the closing karakia so I could rush out for a cigarette. It can never be said that the NDP doesn't have a prayer. It is faith without hope, ignorance without compassion, action without reason. The NDP has launches another round of the War on Drugs. It has worked so well for the last thirty years, why change now?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Sound of One Hand Smacking

PJ O'Rourke once demonstrated the difference between the left and right wing. It went something like this: Have you heard the one about Helen Keller and the time she fell down a well? She broke three fingers calling for help. A right winger will say you shouldn't tell jokes like that. The left winger says you can't tell jokes like that. Such is my sentiment towards Sue Bradford's Section 59 Bill.

Greater minds than mine have dissected the hoo-ha into two main arguments. This is no mere flattery. His guest post at PA, featuring his cattle prod argument, nicely sums up Chester Burrows' suggested amendment, albeit using a human tool as opposed to an implement. It's, like, metaphorical. David Haywood splits the Section 59 debate in twain:

Debate 1: Human Rights and Physical Punishment

Cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is clearly in the eye of the beholder. What is cruel, inhuman or degrading in Kazakhstan is different to what is cruel, inhuman or degrading in NZ. Yet Sue Bradford clearly supports a zero-tolerance policy to smacking on this basis. What was once a reasonable hurdle of force, is set to become an insurmountable high jump of virtue bestowed magically by the power of legislation.

Nup, not gonna happen. Treaties and Conventions are aspirations, yearnings. Law is different. Law is not a matter of "sending messages." Section 59 is not a Family Court matter, it is a criminal thing. Say a parent or caregiver is found guilty of Bradford's new improved Section 59. Now what? Put the kids in care of CYF, that bastion of parenting? Jail? Jail is a fine example of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Just ask Tim Selwyn. A fine perhaps, or community service? That'll help the kids.

There is little in common with the corporal punishment precedent set in schools. Schools are ultimately servants of the state, unless one goes private. I am old enough to remember getting the cane, shoe, roman sandal, slipper, wooden spoon and strap. I am young enough to remember Errol Brookie at Palmy Boys' High, Master of Monday Morning Calisthenics. Caned for wearing a necklace to school. Heh. Yet I bear no malice to the teachers who used physical punishment.

I cannot say the same for the prefect system at PNBHS. It was my first experience of a fascist regime. I am glad prefects have lost the right to use physical discipline. No more metal rulers and bleeding knuckles. I suppose the current prefects have perfected the art of psychological torment by now.

So, schools is different from families. Families are not servants of the state. Sue Bradford's Bill unreasonably puts the state between the parent/s and child. Which segues nicely to...

Debate 2: Problems with Section 59

Whichever path one may take defending Sue Bradford's Bill, you reach the same ending. The relationship between parent and child is interfered with by the state. As Mr Haywood highlights:
Here is Bradford's proposed amendment:
  1. Every parent of a child... is justified in using force if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances and is for the purpose of:
    1. preventing or minimising harm to the child or another person; or
    2. preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in conduct that amounts to a criminal offence; or
    3. preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in offensive or disruptive behaviour; or
    4. performing the normal daily tasks that are incidental to good care and parenting.
  2. Nothing in subsection (1) or in any rule of common law justifies the use of force for the purpose of correction.
  3. Subsection (2) prevails over subsection (1).
Somehow, the nature of reasonable force is to be tamed. With words. The new law will permit parents to:

a. take the toy off your child when he tries to hit another child with it
b. remove your teenager's stash from their possession
c. somehow prevent them from calling strangers "cunts"
d. y'know, whatever

This is the great misunderstanding on Sue Bradford's side. When transcribing woolly social policy into law, something is lost in translation. Sentiments only go so far.

According to the J&E report linked above:
"The Department of Child, Youth and Family Services told us that it has various policies for dealing with situations that endanger children. It told us that it would expect the thresholds at which it removes children to remain the same if section 59 were repealed. If section 59 were repealed, Child, Youth and Family told us that it would expect a greater volume of reports, but that the legislative principle that intervention in family life should be the minimum necessary to ensure a child’s or young person’s safety would remain. Child, Youth and Family is concerned with child abuse and neglect but will consider removing children only if they are at serious risk. It told us that if section 59 were repealed it would look at developing operational guidelines in conjunction with all affected agencies, especially the police.

We acknowledge that the police and Child, Youth and Family need to maintain their professional discretion when dealing with complaints regarding physical force used against children. We expect the police and Child, Youth and Family to develop effective operational guidelines and protocols and to maintain a close working relationship."
CYF admit that the amended Section 59 will change nothing, but they are gearing up to modify their operational guidelines to take account of the change. Oh, good.

With Bradford's section 59, what would actually change? Tariana Turia is justified in thinking that the weight of the amendments will fall disproportionately upon brown people, like drug convictions, taser victims and prison statistics already do. In spite of this, Pita Sharples has stated that his party will support the Bill as it stands. It's all about messages.

I agree with David Haywood, in that I have some strong empathy for Bradford's Bill in theory. In practise however, the Bill is an unworkable feel-gooder. One more law to ignore. And there's the tragedy.

Bring back Mr Pink

NZ's Government Statistician for the last umpteen years has buggered off to Oz to replace their Head Honcho Head Counter over there. Brian Pink will be missed as an interesting voice on NatRad. His interim replacement is Dallas Welch, the current Deputy. The first thought that springs to mind is going from bloody-mindedness to soap. The second, is this. How many interim HODs do we have at the moment?

The Herald points out that both the Electricity and Telecommunications Commissioner seats are still vacant. The CEO of the DoL, Dr James Buwalda, has given it up before the end of his contract.
“I will immediately begin the recruitment process for a new chief executive,” Mark Prebble said.

If I had more time before moping off to work, I'd follow up what is happening in the echelons of Child, Youth and Family.

Friday, March 09, 2007


61 stevlins, 24 corks, a total of 85.

Brit Plebs Increase Democracy

Splendid news from the British House of Commons, where the House of Lords has been democratised. While a quarter of the Upper House will be still be annointed/appointed, the snobs have lost their power.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Reasons to be Cheerful 3.11

Yesterday morning, a mate's missus went to the midwife for a check-up for the bundle of joy due in May. The midwife couldn't find a heart beat. Mr and Mrs went off to Wellington Hospital this morning from Kapiti. Throughout the day, the whanau had gathered. In the halls outside, babies cradled in the arms of others', babies in incubators rushing past, songs sung by jubilant strangers. My mates' wife sat all day in a delivery room with a dead baby inside her.

In the waiting room, there was a surprisingly accurate crayon drawing of the classic African safari variety. Around the border was the story of twins who died in utero in the same trimester as this one had. Later on, other stories came out. Dead babies handed over in ice cream containers. Things had changed since those days, but my mate felt some comfort in bringing his own coffin.

Back at work, Cleaner Dave told how his sister had had the same thing happen, only without the midwife check-ups to bring attention to the death. The baby had gone septic inside her. Full hysterectomy, the works.

So, all in all, it's been a pretty fucked-up kinda week. In search of distractions, I have realised how poorly my research into movies was recently. I hereby wish to add this Supplementary Order Paper:

300 - The Battle of Thermoperlimmi-, Thermopylon-, The Battle between the Spartans and Persians as rendered by Frank Miller.

Pan's Labyrinth - How did I miss this? The trailer bogglingly draws on legends such as Alice in Wonderland, The Diary of Anne Frank, LOTR and Neil Gaiman's A Game of You. Hat Tip - The cute chick at Arty Bees.

Zodiac - David Fincher's latest, with Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Death of Reason

I admit to failing LAWS 101 twice which, to the best of my knowledge, still gives me more formal legal training than Attorney General Michael Cullen. Speaking from ignorance though I may be, I cannot fail to notice the unlamented death of reason. Knee-jerk polls in the MSM, along the lines of removing the right to silence or whether prior convictions should be provided to juries, cajole a skewed response.

Take, for example, the hoo-ha over the cop rape trials. Russel highlights the issue thusly: Should the jury have been told that Schollum and Shipton were previously convicted of rape?

Answer: No. Any trial must focus solely on the evidence of the case in hand, not the defendant's history. Why? Partly due to the presumption of innocence. Just because one has rolled three 6's in a row, it does not follow that the dice will roll a 6 the next time. The construct of law provides the benefit of the doubt, as Nandor more eloquently demonstrates in the thread of Russel's post. Making prior convictions admissible in trials would also open the floodgates on the temptation for police to frame certain suspects or manufacture evidence. I'd rather not provide for that temptation.

That said, I recommend jurors hang on every word when the judge gives them their brief. The court is the judge's domain, and they are damned sure to be fully informed on the defendant's history. Pay attention. Read between the lines.

So, where did this attack on reasonableness begin? The rot set in with the Smokefree Environments Act 1990. That precedent set the stage for all this... moronity. Safety, or at least the illusion of it, has supplanted reason. This is why the cigarettes will soon be stashed under the dairy counter, next to the Penthouses and full cream milk. We no longer accept reason, we demand perfection.

Remiro has died

The DomPost advises that Remiro Bresolin passed away on Monday night.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

37 times around the sun

37. Jeez, I'd better start planning my 40th some time soon... In the meantime, have a go at guessing the previous year's cork count. This is the sum total of one year's personal consumption, at home:

Answer posted on Friday.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Feynman again

A huge thumbs up to Boing Boing for posting this link. When I ditched the old Typepad address, I sadly had to toast the 'The Pleasure of Finding Things Out' vid. It's available on Google Video here, and is simply brilliant. Ta for the Gonzovision thing too!

Schnell Fenster