Monday, November 30, 2009

Sending rainbows

In the not too distant future, data might be stored in rainbows. In some ways, it already is. Turn a CD over and there's a rainbow, disproving generations of science teachers. The angle of incidence does not just equal the angle of reflection, but is more accurately the sum of all possible pathways.

Instead of trapping this rainbow on a plastic coated slice of silicon, try a glass convex mirror with some gold trimming. According to New Scientist, it can be done:


According to Gizmodo, this is a good thing for optical computing. I bet there'd be a lot less redundancy and error correction with rainbows. Data crystals and laser nets can't be too far away.

Luckily, I happen to have a laser pointer, convex lens and a mirror handy. So, I just had a go at replicating it. Unfortunately, I have no gold, it is a red pointer not a white light one, and it's a convex lens held up to a mirror, not all-in-one. But it did trap the red light somewhat.

If one can split white light right, then this could be big. Think of a heliograph that can transmit Megabytes more than Morse Code.

Dubai or not Dubai

While Abu Dhabi ponders bailing out its prodigal neighbour Dubai, a constitutional crisis for Dubai's leader is quite possible if a debt default does occur.

Dubai law throws debtors in prison. Dubai law also states that it is "illegal to produce a derogatory image of the ruler or to deface his picture." As Head of State, the buck for the possible debt default stops with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. If an $80 billion debt doesn't get you into debtors' prison, what does? But isn't the leader beyond reproach?

Abu Dhabi has Dubai over a barrel. But even a sovereign wealth fund such as theirs will still feel the pain of bailing out what is essentially junk assets. What price will Abu Dhabi extract from Dubai? Emirates Airlines is just a start.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Rising tides

The BBC has a slideshow showcasing some of the ideas Rotterdam is considering to adapt to flooding. There's everything from Hundertwasser rooftops to floating houses. I'm particularly impressed with the lateral thinking involved in "water plazas," which act as playgrounds when fine and emergency flood tanks during deluges.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Linkorama

# MoJo looks at the growing water problem in the California New Mexico region:
The Central Valley, the thin, fertile band running down the middle of California, has long boasted the world's richest agricultural economy, reliably producing more than a quarter of the nation's fruits, nuts, and vegetables. But it's done so in defiance of ecological reality. The 70-year-old irrigation system that has pumped water into the otherwise arid valley is proving increasingly vulnerable to shifting weather patterns. It now appears that waterwise, 20th century California was an anomaly, a relatively wet period in the midst of a historical cycle of severe drought.
# The Mandelbrot bulb has appeared everywhere from New Scientist to Boing Boing. Beautiful complexity and depth:



# The Nine Nations of China, described by The Atlantic.

# A Dummies Guide to The Authoritarians. Covers all the bases, from God to Milgram.

# The Large Hadron Collider has finally powered up and successfully completed a low-impact collision. Familiarise yourself once again with what it is all about with Wired's guide to sub-atomic elements, presented as a reality show cast list.

# Wired also has a good guide on choosing a #$&%ing strong password.

# 2010 looks like a make or break budget for National. Ratesblog looks at Bill English foreshadowing the spending cuts putting an end to Labour's reckless last five years. Guess which minister managed to get a 2220 percent raise in spending for his portfolio under Helen.

# The Big Squeeze? Ratesblog also looks at the latest Household Economic Survey, which shows that median rents increased 9.5 percent over last year, even as average mortgage payments dropped. Squeezing pennies or frontloading the almost inevitable end of the LAQCula scam, who knows?

# And finally, one more gem from Wired. Petrol fumes may fan road rage.

Up shit creek

It's a shame to see that the mighty Manawatu River, the old man who carved the Manawatu Gorge, is among the most polluted rivers in the Western world. Frogblog is rightly doing their nut on the matter, making me give pause to the free range cows comments I made earlier in the year.
Under a system measuring oxygen changes in water, the Manawatu has by far the highest reading, almost twice as much as the next worst. The Manawatu measured 107. Anything over eight is considered indicative of an unhealthy river ecosystem. A measurement of 0–4 is considered healthy.

I grew up alongside the Manawatu. I have toured Palmy's sewerage plants as a kid, never realising quite how much ended up tipping into the river. The Mangaone stream has long been recognised as befouled, but as a kid never realised just why it was that way. I assumed the water was bad in the same way as the water beneath Ketitahi Springs in the Tongariro National Park was fouled.

It turns out the Mangaone is not naturally bad, but merely part of the run-off from Palmy's oozing crap. 75,600 kilometres cubic metres of crap a day is allowed to be discharged into the Manawatu River. That's just under one square metre of crap per Palmy person per day. And Feilding somehow manages to have a hugely disproportionate leeway, which is permitted to throw in about double that per head of shit into the river further upstream.
WHAT IS POLLUTING THE RIVER?
* Farm runoff from fertilisers, and animal waste such as cow dung and urine, leach into the river.
* Treated sewage discharged by councils
* Treated industrial effluent including wastewater from Fonterra, New Zealand Pharmaceuticals, Tui Brewery
* Sediment washing into the river from overgrazed farms or eroding countryside alters the natural habitat for native bugs or fish
I'd like to know how the scientists tell the difference between human and animal byproducts. There's a lot of nitrogen in human piss too. Fonterra have Longburn, the Pharm boys are probably Bunnythorpe with Tui down the road at Mangatanoka.

It would be interesting for someone to do a graphic of the Manawatu's toxin levels taken from the source up in the Tararuas down to the Tasman Sea at Foxton. That would put some blame where it was due.

Poor bloody Foxton Beachers. No digging for toheroas next year. Whitebaiting mustn't be so much fun either. As for Palmy, I think old man Manawatu will have the last laugh as the gorge funnels the wind over the stagnant banks and wafts it over the city. Nothing worse than Old Man BO.

Horses for causes

Another Onion classic:


First Openly Gay Racehorse To Compete Sunday

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tonedeaf Rhapsody

My singing voice has been compared to Mark Knopfler doing a duet with a tomcat thrown in a gorse patch. While I'm waiting for Tom Waits Singstar to be released, here's The Muppets singing Bohemian Rhapsody:

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Getting tougherer on crime

Gareth McMullah, head of lobby group the Rational Sentencing Institute, called for courts to adopt a new policy of medical disfigurement for violent criminals at the March for Freedom rally today.

"Rapists should be castrated, aggravated burglars should have their hands cut off and murderers have their legs amputated," said Mr McMullah in a speech to an audience of around 3,000 people holding placards and waving small children above their heads.

The policy follows similar statements from the RSI earlier in the year, which included the right to assault children and a return to capital punishment for violent offenders. However, this is the first time the RSI has publicly supported dismemberment as an alternative to prison sentencing.

Mr McMullah also mentioned that RSI researchers are putting the finishing touches on their minor crime platform.

"Recent studies at Leviticus University in Alabama have shown that breaking a tagger's fingers is a much cheaper and more effective deterrent to future criminal behaviour compared to fines or community work," said McMullah enthusiastically.

A spokesperson for Police and Corrections Minister Judith Collins has said the minister, emboldened by the passage of her car crushing legislation, is open to other new and old ideas for cruel and unusual punishment.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Easy pass


Auckland University wins this wet bus ticket for their behaviour trying to smooth over Witi Ihimaera's plagiarism. It's not easy being a writer. Just ask Alan Duff. Ihimaera is doing his best to make things right, but there's no excuse for the alleged bastion of novel thought holding a member of faculty to a lower standard of truth than an undergraduate.

Goff loses chess game to analogue computer


Opposition Leader Phil Goff was humiliated today after being beaten by the Reserve Bank's Monetary National Income Analogue Computer, the MONIAC.

The Labour leader had declared the end of the consensus of an independent Reserve Bank earlier in the week. The Reserve Bank MONIAC, through its curator Dr Arnold Quasibollard, accepted Goff's challenge to a game of monetary chess.

Dr Quasibollard primed the water and pump driven computer to the current monetary layout and left Goff to defend his ideas against it. Unwilling to turn the game his way by tightening the government spending spigot, or sacrifice his tax rooks, Goff conceded the game within minutes.

Goff later went on media interviews explaining his loss, saying that gravity had played a substantial handicap to his strategy. He sees this as evidence that it is "clearly time to dismiss the consensus on gravity". Goff said that his party intends to release its new theory of gravity sometime in the next eighteen months, and will campaign on it at the next election.

As seen on TV


Operation Cobra launches a round of drug raids in the Wellington region. Stuff's Emily Watt goes advertorial-aggressive as the valiant embedded journalist for the drug warriors.
It could be any office meeting. Morning sunshine streams through the window, staff are sitting around the table flicking through reports and nursing mugs of instant coffee, a manager uses a laser pointer as he talks through slides. 

But instead of suits, staff are festooned with weapons and gear – canisters at their chests, pistols at their hips, sledgehammers at their backs, their large semi-automatic weapons laid on tables.
It could be Fallujah.
The armed offenders squad is briefing for Operation Cobra in Wellington. Six teams of police are about to search 60 properties in seven days. Fifty-five people will be arrested, and $100,000 worth of drugs and $200,000 in bank accounts will be seized. The squad is involved in a handful of the most dangerous or potentially volatile searches.
It could be GI Joe. No, it's just Paraparaumu and the cops on a drug bust, with a branch of AOS for insurance.

Thanks mainly to Jan Molenaar, the exception has now become the rule. Just like American reality TV show COPS from the 90s, the police have now fully embraced the para-military lifestyle.
The briefing is meticulous. Detectives have spent three months gathering intelligence on the suspects. They know the layout of the homes, likely occupants, what drugs they are expecting to find, and they have detailed plans and backup plans for entry.
This is grist to the mill for those Search and Surveillance powers currently being reviewed by parliament. Clearly, the cops do not have access to very much information at the moment, eh.
Two hours later, two large black vans with a squad of masked, armed, anonymous officers clinging to the running boards storm through a quiet middle-class suburb. Mothers walking their kids to school gawp at the unfamiliar sight, small children wait patiently at a temporary roadblock, wondering if their bus will come and if their teachers will believe the reason they were late.
Two black vans with masked men armed to the teeth speeding through suburban Mum 'n Dadland. Roadblocks not too dissimilar to the Ruatoki raids of yesteryear. Why not order the NZ Navy off the coast to provide bombardment support, just to be sure?
Detectives wait at a safe distance while the AOS swoops on the house and batter their way through the front door.
Boy, this is just like CSI.  They aren't cowards, they're just cautious. There might be Weapons of Mass Destruction in there.
They find the occupant naked at the sink, apparently trying to flush objects down the drain. A powerful air rifle, similar to that used to kill undercover officer Don Wilkinson in Auckland in September 2008, is lying on the couch in the lounge, and amateur do-it-yourself surveillance has recorded their approach and any other sound outside.
While I wouldn't put my chances on a game of scissors paper rock with Clayton Weatherston, I'm pretty sure ninja beats naked man in the game of citizen armour drone. Hey, isn't John Key keen on buying some drones for NZ?

And a "powerful air rifle" is also no match for a Bushmaster. Don Wilkinson died because his attacker was lucky. Take enough pot shots, eventually you might hit something vital. A glorified BB gun does not justify David Gray-at-Aramoana strength equipment.
In the lounge, the plasma TV cycles through photos – a smiling baby oscillates with blurry-looking partygoers, fast cars, and young blonde women flashing their breasts. The life of an alleged drug dealer in a slideshow.
Outrageous Fortune DVD set not pictured.
Million-dollar homes in suburbia are a relatively rare target for the AOS. Everything else about this drugs bust is routine. It goes like clockwork.
True, you don't see the AOS in Paritai Drive very often, except maybe at parties. I'm sure there's space for a gun room at Mark Hotchin's new pad. Ah, but who needs a gun to rob people these days?
Once armed police have secured the site, detectives come to search the property. It is painstaking work. Every room from the laundry to the garage is meticulously scoured. Every drawer examined, every paper and magazine opened. Every pocket of every item of clothing is shaken out.

A specialist firearms dog is brought in to sniff out weapons. The wheelie bin of rubbish is tipped and searched. It is not a glamour job.
Once the unnecessary AOS teams go home, with much less fanfare than their arrival, the police clean the house, pick up the laundry and confiscate everything inside.
Officers find the drug fantasy, a methamphetamine pipe, and more than $10,000 in cash. A man is arrested and charged.
$10,000. And how much did the raid cost? Once the inevitable court and possible imprisonment costs are added, is it all worth it?
The same morning in a different part of town, another team has found a sophisticated marijuana-growing setup. The garage in the waterfront property looks like a blokes' paradise, with boats, tools, wetsuits and fishing rods. Buried in the back is a room with 15 healthy plants nurtured by UV lights, a watering system, a carbon filter to extract the smell, and a camera so the grower could keep an eye on his crop on his TV from upstairs. The plants' street value is difficult to estimate – probably about $15,000. In a setup like this, money grows on trees.
Kiwi bloke (likes his outdoors, no guns mentioned), gets done for 15 plants, with a laughably estimated value of $15,000. Average haul of a hydro is 2 ounces of head. $700 per plant retail, once everyone down the line has taken their bite as well, it's not much in it for the grower. I'd call 15 plants personal use.
Police say there is a notable difference between search warrants for different drugs. Morphine dealers are often users trying to fund a habit, whereas cannabis or methamphetamine are often run by organised gangs who have higher security and involve higher risk.
Dudes, morphine is in a class of its own. Seeing as how Tasmania makes shitloads of the stuff legally, why not fund some decent rehab and be done with it? Do you wonder why Christchurch is full of skagheads? Because they're too isolated down there to get anything else. Why do you think Christchurch went nuts on BZP? There's some good money to be made in a Christchurch scam.
The death of Don Wilkinson no doubt still weighs on some minds, but it does not deter the officers.
In the past five years, Wellington police have kicked in 300 doors and arrested 400 people in seven such operations. Some of those arrested during Operation Cobra were caught in earlier operations. Others were on parole and were recalled to prison as a result of the sting. Thirteen of the arrested were known gang members. In the latest raids, police have seized four homes and frozen $200,000 in bank accounts under the Proceeds of Crime Act, which allows them to seize ill-gotten gains till the accused are either convicted or freed. These powers will strengthen under new laws in December.
Yep, this is the start of a long campaign by Judith Collins to crack down on drugs. That, or she's hoping to crash the courts and prison systems. Little wonder Simon Power, the Law Commission and the police are looking at ways to cut corners all around the place.
Operation head Detective Inspector Darrin Thomson says the results are terrific. "We have caused significant disruption amongst those people involved in the drug trade and I am sure this operation sends a clear message."
Yes. It sends the message that the MSM has completely lost its objectivity and become part-time PR people for the Police Association. It sends the message that the police have given up chasing burglars and instead gone into the selective burglary business too. It sends the message that police are nothing better than a bunch of raping thieving cowards. Just the people who they were supposed to protect the community from.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

That takes the bikoi

There's a saying in Wellington; if you don't like the weather, wait half an hour. Earlier in the day, when the sun was still shining and before the overcast skies came over, I was enjoying getting lost in Tane's labyrinth:


In between dodging joggers and watching the ferries to-ing and fro-ing, I noticed a dazzling sight where the caketin concourse usually stands. Of course, it was the bikers protesting the enormous jumps in registration costs under Nick Smith's ACC plan.

Instead of rattling their dags outside of parliament and being accused of being a bunch of faggots, the protest organisers wisely had all the motorcycles park up at the stadium and have the protesters march down to parliament on foot from there. Good move. The NZ Herald has some images.

While most marches occur through the old Civic Square - Lambton Quay route, this new concourse idea has great potential. One day in the future, the stadium could act as a public forum with the option of marching on parliament. That'll put the willies up the lawmakers.

Woowar retrospective



Ending of The Wicker Man. The good one.



With Stewart Copeland theme music and a decent pay packet:



Taking the piss out of both Callan and The Wicker Man, Ewar Woowar in Hot Fuzz:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

4:20 News

# The biggest news that has been in the headlines recently is the rolling storm after the sacking of the government's chief drugs advisor Professor David Nutt. The day prior to this news, David Nutt had appeared in the BBC headlines for accusing ex-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith of "devaluing" the copious evidence on drugs. An Op-Ed column from David Nutt also appeared in the Guardian, pointing out that in spite of all the skunk hysteria, the evidence doesn't back up the rhetoric.

Incidentally, Jacqui Smith resigned her ministerial office after a scandal involving parliament funds for porn.

The day after the dismissal, the Guardian launches a stinging editorial. The same day, scientists gather in support of Professor Nutt. The next day, Sunday 1st November, the Independent reports that six members of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs threaten to resign.

On Monday, the Home Secretary who had fired Nutt was revealed to have ordered a review of the ACMD. Actually, a review has been on the books for a while, but the search for more elastic yes men has been kicked up a couple of notches.

By Tuesday, the government's chief science advisor was publicly backing the sacked professor. Wednesday had Professor Nutt appearing in New Scientist. Clive James tackles the whole drugs trope on the Friday.

The following Monday, Kathryn Ryan catches up for a chat with Professor Nutt on NatRad's Nine to Noon. The next day, three more advisors quit in protest. Wednesday, it's back to Johann Hari at the Independent who draws strength from the controversy to push the whole war on drugs argument down to dust.

# Meantime in the US, President Obama has issued a directive to federal authorities not to prosecute drug users where state laws allow it:
In a sharp policy shift, the Obama administration told federal attorneys not to prosecute patients who use marijuana for medical reasons or dispensaries in states where it has been legalised.
# The federal pull-back gives these others chance to breathe easier. A NYT editorial backs the policy. Prior to this, the New York Times had looked at the only person in America who has a state license to distribute marijuana. There are other places which did so under constant threat of arrest, such as compassion clubs. This Heat Off card will give them some peace of mind.

# The American Medical Association has changed its policy and asked for the illegality of cannabis to be reconsidered:
The American Medical Assn. on Tuesday urged the federal government to reconsider its classification of marijuana as a dangerous drug with no accepted medical use, a significant shift that puts the prestigious group behind calls for more research.

# A Colorado newspaper has signed on a critic to exclusively review marijuana.

# According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), NZ gets the bronze medal for cannabis per capita usage. Only the United States and Australia beat us to the bong. Of the Europeans, the Danish are the biggest stars in the union:



We beat those Euros in the "ever used" department though. Over half of NZ has tried the wicked weed.

# Speaking of smoke-offs, Snoop Dogg has confessed that the only person he has met who can smoke him under the table is Willie Nelson. HT Boing Boing.

# The Daily Dish has the stats on the most deadliest drugs in the UK, courtesy of Information is Beautiful. Marijuana is less dangerous than aspirin:



# Speaking of drug deaths, the widespread use of anti-psychotics in rest homes has been linked to around 1,800 needless deaths.

# In the trippy department, scientists are looking at studying the health benefits of LSD and Ecstacy. National Geographic goes inside the head of a tripper. If our scientists in NZ are ever allowed to have a go with it too, I volunteer to be a lab rat.



# The Boston Globe's Big Picture looks at the graphic reality of the war on drugs. NSFW pictures are clickable, but it's all very vivid.

# And finally, Transform has released 'After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation'. Pdf here.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The man in the Faraday Suit

Dr Megavolt plays with his tesla up close. People, do not try this at home without a PhD in Physics. Someone should really get this guy over for the Wellington International Festival of the Arts.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Oh no, not again

Yes, dear readers. It is going to be yet another blog post about the Top Secret Copyright Treaty known as ACTA. Firstly, here's the only civil society observer who has actually read the proposed ACTA treaty in full explaining why this is all so important:



According to Michael Geist, participating countries in the ACTA agreement, including NZ, have agreed to signing the ratified document as early as next year.

If there's any more evidence required that ACTA is yet another underhanded over-zealous reaction by multi-national conglomerates to hold on to an extinct branch of the distribution model, have a read of Colin Jackson's guest post at Public Address:
If I come over as a little irritated about this, that's because I'm seethingly angry.
Colin Jackson's not wrong and he's not alone. The NZ Pirate Party, the Creative Commons Foundation, InternetNZ, Geekzone, and a fistful of ISPs are also seethingly angry at the lack of say that NZers have over this secret deal. The plebs with pitchforks and torches won't be far behind.

I'm surprised there's not more seething from Mike Moore, former head of the WTO, on the matter. The proposed treaty circumvents the World Intellectual Property Organisation, making it the most overt and least legitimate grab for power since Blackwater became the United States' preferred mercenary.

And, if you're still not convinced that the ACTA treaty will contain some very thorny thorns for everyone, here's BoingBoing with the latest news:
The MPAA has successfully shut down an entire town's municipal WiFi because a single user was found to be downloading a copyrighted movie.
A year from now, it might happen in a city near you.

UPDATE: This just in from Geekzone:


© kiwiright from fyminc on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Interesting rhyming couplets

# Sleepwalking into the surveillance state headlines - Woman Loses Job Due to Error in FBI Criminal Database sez Wired. The Guardian looks at how the UK state intelligence actively monitors political activism.

# Economist dolphins and Doctor sharks. HT DPF for the latter (that went global quick, eh?)

# Interweb wars - Gripping Hand and Aardvark take a couple of bites at the Orwellian Top Secret ACTA treaty. Steven Price's Media Law Journal points to a very interesting symposium. Next month, the Law Commission, InternetNZ and the Ministry of Justice are hosting a seminar on the Internet and the courts. It will be looking at issues such as:

• Undermining of suppression orders
• Lack of jurisdiction over material hosted outside NZ
• Online discussion of crimes and trials potentially being a contempt of court
• Jurors who “Google”
• How deleting a story doesn’t remove it from caches and syndication feeds
• How do media and Internet publishers find out what actually has been the subject of a suppression order?
• Online criminal offending databases, and the right to a fair trial
• Is education or incarceration needed for Internet publishers who commit contempt

# The collected unconscious - Jung's Red Book has finally been released. The New Yorker features some of Jung's fascinating drawings, while Charlie Kaufman interprets selected images from Jung's head live on stage.

# Goldman Squid - The improbably named Lloyd Blankfein, head beak of Goldman Sachs, has been on the charm offensive. He has classed his minions as the most productive people in the world and calling it all God's work.

# Speaking of squid, I had some time to kill yesterday. After I finished my cigarette at the waterfront while schoolgirls were celebrating the end of uniformity, I went to visit Te Papa's big squid. Sure, I was expecting it to be bigger, but it was an unexpected pleasure that old school TV star Roger Gascoigne was explaining that as underwhelming as it is, it is the biggest captured so far. Do you know how hard it is to catch a big squid?

All My Beltway Circuits


Next week on All My Beltway Circuits, Rodulon and HON-E share a drink and compare notes on how their unreserved apologies went down with the public.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Taser Wars

Consider a world where non-lethal ordnance makers such as Taser International mislead the public over public safety, just like Big Tobacco and Big Pharma have done in the past. Wired does a brief history of tasers. A bloody good read. Here's a taste:
A week later, he started complaining about chest pains. Saxon downloaded the memory of his pacemaker which revealed that his heart beat had synced up with each Taser pulse. For over 5 seconds, his heart beat 15 times per second, about five times faster than during vigorous exercise.

Police Commissioner Howard Broad is still a coward. Unlike every other head of police who has introduced the taser, Broad has yet to take a hit on one. Is it any wonder why?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Who bugs the buggers?

I've just been flicking through my newly arrived copy of NORML News. Then this story jumps out at me:
SIS  denies NORML's file

New Zealand's Chief Spook has refused to release any files it may hold on NORML, the ALCP, or the NORML News Editor...

NORML News editor Chris Fowlie then wrote to the SIS requesting anything held on himself, NORML or the ALCP. After a lengthy delay SIS director Warren Tucker said he would "neither confirm nor deny the existence or non-existence of that information."
Read the full story in NORML News, on sale here. Needless to say this concerns me mightily. SIS director Warren Tucker is playing Shrodinger's cat silly buggers with my privacy.

I've been mulling a request to the SIS for a copy of my file for a while. Y'know, just to check it's accurate and all. There's a fine line between Buttle and Tuttle after all. But I keep coming up with the more profound question. Why would the SIS have a file on me?

I can understand that Baycorp/ Veda Advantage/ HueyDueyLouie Corp has found a profitable way to live off my credit history file, and they keep lobbying to make their job even more profitable at my expense. But why on Dagg's earth are the state spooks picking on the marijuana hippies?

When is the last time you heard of stoners overthrowing anything? Never. The Rugby Sevens, the Undie 500, and the Rugby World Cup will inflict more damage on the national wellbeing than anything a J Day could accomplish. On the contrary, one of the more non-violent ways to break up a riot is to douse them in marijuana smoke. It works like a bucket of water on fighting cats.

As I've pointed out a few days ago, there are more pertinent threats to keep the spook budget busy. Who else does the SIS keep a file on? David Farrar? No Right Turn? Russell Brown? Eric Crampton? Where does the SIS remit stop? Where is the accountability?

Chris Fowlie is taking the matter up with the Privacy Commissioner. I might just ping an OIA for my file from the SIS too. I challenge my fellow bloggers to do the same and see how far this thing goes.

Ryall refuses OIA request on Herceptin costs

The Otago Daily Times is reporting that Health Minister Tony Ryall has refused to disclose the cost of funding Herceptin as the information is apparently "not in the public interest":
In response to questions first raised by the Otago Daily Times on September 24, Health Minister Tony Ryall has now advised public interest in releasing the information about the cost of the breast cancer drug was considered, but it was determined this did not outweigh the reasons for withholding the information.

He cited a section of the Official Information Act as grounds for withholding the information, which referred to protecting information which was subject to an obligation of confidence.

That sounds like an appeal to Section 6 (b) of the OIA:
Conclusive reasons for withholding official information

Good reason for withholding official information exists, for the purpose of section 5, if the making available of that information would be likely—

(b) to prejudice the entrusting of information to the Government of New Zealand on a basis of confidence by—

(i) the Government of any other country or any agency of such a Government; or

any international organisation.
So Ryall is claiming that he can't release such politically sensitive information because of the commercial sensitivity of the Herceptin suppliers. The fact that the Herceptin exception flies in the face of the standard Pharmac model, a model created by the last National government, has nothing at all to do with it.

Keep digging ODT and good luck. The public deserve to be informed on the pricetag that this election promise is costing the health sector.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The men who stare at Americans

Wired has a few stories on The Men Who Stare at Goats, the movie about an Army squad training in the psychotropic and paranormal arts. Wired's movie review's fair to say that the square peg of Alternative Special Ops is forced through the round hole of Hollywood narrative structure a bit too forcedly.

The source material really does justice to it all with the stereotypical pale weedy Brit of John Ronson fronting it and outdoing Sacha Baron Cohen's deadpan:



Wired also pull out the old yarn of an old CIA plot to purchase ten kilos of LSD, as well as another report on the spook stash of thirty to forty pounds of LSD. The current exchange rate for one pound of LSD is $55 million (according to BERL, one kilo of LSD causes $1 billion of societal harm).

All the same, it'll be good to see Jeff Bridges' Dude again, albeit Parallel Universe Dude.

Watch out Bob

Bob Harvey appears supportive of Tamaki's Briantology cult:
In a letter to the New Zealand Herald this week Bob Harvey compares the Destiny Church leader to the founders of the Salvation Army and Martin Luther, spearhead of the Protestant Reformation.

Harvey said he does "anything to cheer on people who are turning people's lives around".
As far as I'm aware, neither Martin Luther nor the Salvation Army require their do-gooders to swear an oath of loyalty to one man. Not the CEO, not the cause, but the man.

Sure, the Salvation Army employment contract and attached appendices do require some sort of position on god. They have a brand to maintain after all (and they have the bigshot lawyers to back it up). Fortunately for the plebs, this god bloke is very hard to pin down, so there's always plenty of wriggle room.

I mean, how many times have you heard someone say "as god as my witness" and that bugger Jesus never actually turns up? Him and his Mum appear on everything from burnt toast to semen stains on eBay. But according to Brian Tamaki, he has a signed character reference from Him and it pays the bills nicely.

Why is this Briantology thing a Bad Idea? Well, firstly there's that whole idea behind the anonymity of charity. The donors don't brag so the beggars don't starve. Whether it's the burden of guilt that comes with relying on the kindness of strangers, or the master slave relationship that threatens the character of the giver, it's fucked up.

Secondly, here's David Kilcullen saying it out loud:
The classical counterinsurgency theorist Bernard Fall wrote, in 1965, that a government which is losing to an insurgency isn’t being out-fought, it’s being out-governed.

It's how Hezbollah gained legitimacy in Lebanon, by feeding and sheltering the masses. It's what Al Quaida are doing in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And it is this threat that Tamaki poses with his flock.

Bob Harvey might just be in thrall of the marketing machine's beauty, but its purpose cannot be underestimated. Because the third reason is the most important. Financing. This is the hurdle, among many many others, that prevented Tame Iti's Flightless Circus from being a serious threat. Briantology has really really good financing.

The links between the Destiny Church and the US Southern fundamentalist barons make this an international affair. If you're looking for a branch of God's Warriors in this young country, you could do worse than keep an eye on those guys.

Once that disaffected X and Y lot come online from within, and more join up when this Supercity squid starts sucking, you've got a generation of people who have but one constant, Bishop Brian Tamaki, in their lives. The man who can move mayors.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Paul Holmes backs evidence based drug policy

MPs have tabled a motion in parliament calling for the government to adopt an evidence based approach to drugs policy. One of the co-signers is a Mr Paul Holmes.

The bad news is, it is not NZ's own stunt dwarf Paul Holmes, but Paul Holmes MP and others in the UK legislature:
MPs from the Cross-Party Group on Drugs and Alcohol Treatment and Harm Reduction (DATHR) have today tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) calling on the Government to base its drugs and alcohol policy on scientific evidence. The call comes in the wake of the forced resignation of Professor David Nutt as Chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).
Nope, the NZ namesake still sits in Hypocrite Class with all those MPs who have used illegal recreational substances yet continue their flight of fancy at the public expense.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The polymath and the ayatollah


In what was first dismissed as a government hoax by some, a university maths student has criticised Ayatollah Khamenei, in public, to his face:
The session began with a speech in which Khamenei told the students the "biggest crime" was to question the results of the June 12 presidential election that returned hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power. Khamenei himself declared Ahmadinejad the victor despite opposition claims of widespread fraud.

After the speech, Vahidnia raised his hand, then for 20 minutes he criticized the Iranian leader over the fierce crackdown on postelection protests, in which the opposition says 69 people were killed and thousands were arrested...

"I don't know why in this country it's not allowed to make any kind of criticism of you," said the student, wearing a long-sleeved blue polo shirt and appearing calm.

"In the past three to five years that I have been reading newspapers, I have seen no criticism of you, not even by the Assembly of Experts, whose duty is to criticize and supervise the performance of the leader," he said, referring to the clerical body that chooses the country's supreme leader.
That's the thing about reformation. It has got to come from within. It's great to see signs of courage from Iranian civil society that has not diminished in spite of state intimidation, violence, torture and murder.

While trying to find a source clip on YouTube, I tripped over this. I hope it isn't true.

A bad report

Titus Furius Te Kaumatua
Headmaster
Bowen St Normal School
Molesworth St
Wellington

Dear Mrs Harawira,

Your son Hone's recent column for the school newspaper has caused dishonour and shame among his classmates and teachers. Hone's story describes his recent scholarship trip to Brussels, where he absconded from the field trip for a frivolous detour to Paris.

Instead of fostering the greater wellbeing of his whanau through intercultural exchange as per the terms of his scholarship, Hone asked his billeted host to write him a sick note excusing him from his duties.

Hone's lapse was bad enough. He then compounded this by bragging about it in the school newspaper. He has set a poor example that other impressionable and misguided children might mistake for a role model. The school cannot allow such flippant insubordination.

I won't detail the precise words Hone used to respond to Senior Master Mr Mikaere, who had attempted to get Hone to admit fault with his various deliquencies. Suffice to say that it was no way to address a kaumatua.

Hone's form teachers, Mrs Turia and Dr Sharples, are becoming exasperated with his behaviour. If his attitude remains uncooperative and abusive, the school will have no choice but to suspend Hone until such time that he does not disrupt the good reputation and learning environment that this school fosters.

Ka kite,

Furius Te Kaumatua

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Wedding Planners

When Rodney Hide and Hone Harawira leave parliament, they will probably become wedding planners. Rodney Hide is experienced at pulling out all the stops to make the perfect wedding and Hone Harawira can wax lyrical about Paris for potential honeymooners. The best part about this on-the-job training perk is that you get to root all the taxpayers.

Fuzzy numbers

The NZ Herald has a couple of stories highlighting the lacklustre performance, blurry accounting and sometimes downright wrong advice that many NZ small investors have to contend with. Consumer NZ has described many financial advisors as shoddy, while Massey banking wonk David Tripe has called Westpac's financial statements "scurrilous, nonsensical data".
Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin said only three out of 17 advisers produced plans that were rated "good" by the expert panel. The remaining 14 were rated as "disappointing" or were "rejected"...

Issues found by the investigation included poor analysis, unclear costs, advisers portraying themselves as independent when they were not, high costs and bad products.
You can almost see why property investment is so popular in NZ. At least it's a hands on tangible investment. A fool and his money may be soon parted. But more dangerous is the fool with someone else's money. Come on Securities Commission, pull finger.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

They are coming to cut you off, oo argh

The Fantastic Judith Collins will be thrilled with provisions of the Top Secret Copyright Treaty that have leaked out from under the cone of silence. As Cory Doctorow from Boing Boing sez, it's bad. Very bad:
  • That ISPs have to proactively police copyright on user-contributed material. This means that it will be impossible to run a service like Flickr or YouTube or Blogger, since hiring enough lawyers to ensure that the mountain of material uploaded every second isn't infringing will exceed any hope of profitability. 
  • That ISPs have to cut off the Internet access of accused copyright infringers or face liability. This means that your entire family could be denied to the internet -- and hence to civic participation, health information, education, communications, and their means of earning a living -- if one member is accused of copyright infringement, without access to a trial or counsel.
  • That the whole world must adopt US-style "notice-and-takedown" rules that require ISPs to remove any material that is accused -- again, without evidence or trial -- of infringing copyright. This has proved a disaster in the US and other countries, where it provides an easy means of censoring material, just by accusing it of infringing copyright.
  • Mandatory prohibitions on breaking DRM, even if doing so for a lawful purpose (e.g., to make a work available to disabled people; for archival preservation; because you own the copyrighted work that is locked up with DRM)
 Mauricio Freitas at Geekzone is ashamed that NZ has anything to do with this. Computerworld has early comment from InternetNZ rep Jordan Carter:
"If correct, this is cause for alarm and shows a significant change in ACTA's focus,” says InternetNZ spokesperson Jordan Carter.

"Instead of focusing on customs procedures and stopping large scale commercial piracy, it seems the negotiations are turning to areas that should be out of bounds.

"Because the ACTA process is secret, none of us can know the precise details of what is being discussed.

"New Zealand should take a stand against any attempt to hijack the negotiations."

I hope someone starts raising the idea of protecting citizens from this sledgehammer by doing a Finland and declaring internet connection a human right. I mean, it's not as if Judith Collins has a problem with trampling the Magna Carta.

That's it. I'm off to join the NZ Pirate Party.

Political Scientists

The backlash on the sacking of Professor David Nutt from the head of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs is snowballing, with the government's chief science advisor coming out in support of the fired advisor. While the Labour government close ranks around their own, little do they realise how much damage they are inflicting on themselves. Even opposition leader David Cameron doesn't quite grasp the nature of things.
The row over Prof Nutt followed a series of public comments including a view that alcohol and tobacco is more harmful than cannabis, ecstasy and LSD.

What Professor Nutt was allegedly dismissed for is nothing new. This harm index was devised some time ago, and even Paula Bennett could work out from the graph below that indeed, according to the government's science select committee, alcohol and tobacco are more harmful than cannabis, ecstacy and LSD:




Sciblogs has a look at Nutt's sacking too. Here's Peter Griffin and Grant Jacobs.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Interesting things

# I've just spent the best part of today re-installing a clean dual boot system, the better part of which is Karmic Koala Ubuntu 9.10. There has been a quantum leap forward from Jaunty, from file system through to software management. While the Synaptic Package Manager still lurks for the intermediate user, the new Ubuntu Software Center (sic) makes it so straight-forward even a Windows user could use it.

There's still a few things you need to know. Various lawyers have caused needy bits and bods to be excluded from Ubuntu point blank; Adobe, which is currently getting passive aggressive with Apple, has some exclusion principle with the Ubuntu distribution. Proprietary codecs have similar issues.

But where there's a law there's a loophole. The Silent Number has an excellent list of what is missing and where to find it. There's also a whole heap of stuff for everyone. OK, I don't have a need for an atomic clock widget, but the Restricted Extras are a must, the media centre gear is useful, and the real beauties are the Electric Sheep Screensaver and the Themes Kit. Very very nice.

# The Economist has a very good look at the multinational conglomerate of Nestle. It looks at the mass customisation of food, as well as the perils that can arise. It's not just milk powder in Africa that should be a worry, but also right here in NZ. Breast is best but stuff all Mums do it these days, seeing how convenient the formula is.

# Michael Coote at the NBR looks at another angle on the food commodity trade. It really amazes me how much of the world's diet is reliant on eight varieties of crop:

• Coffee
• Corn
• Lean hogs
• Live cattle
• Soybeans
• Soybean oil
• Sugar
• Wheat

Talk about putting all your bananas in one Cavendish.

# New Scientist has a beautiful and enlightening photo essay on the rise and fall of American mental asylums, including the Gothic inspiration for Arkham Asylum. Out of curiosity, I went looking for our little NZ experiment, Lake Alice.

# Johann Hari looks at two recent Ayn Rand biographies over at Slate, shedding light on what could only be described as a cult of personality. On the subject of deconstructed personalities, Ron Rosenbaum goes to town on Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger.



HT Andrew Sullivan.

Black and white and blue right through

Judith Collins' transmogrification into a 21st century Jenny Shipley is progressing nicely. To give the dwarf his dues, the transcript from last Sunday's Q+A program shows off nicely the black and white world that Collins lives in.

One particularly telling response has electrified a wide variety of the blogsphere, but there's many other blood diamonds in the interview:
PAUL Yeah but take the man on I think the front page of the New Zealand Herald yesterday. Now this is a fellow with tattoos on his shoulders, he wears a black singlet and he drives flash cars and the Police keep pulling him over. He won the Lotto. He won a million bucks in the Lotto but because the cops decide he doesn’t look like the kinda guy who should be driving these cars they keep pulling him over. Is that the kind of persecution we can start to get? If the Police don’t like the cut of your jib you're gonna get persecuted.
JUDITH Well that’s actually under the current law. What we're looking at with the Assets Recovery Unit is that they're going after big crime and big criminals.
PAUL Take my point, he doesn’t look right.
JUDITH I also noticed that the Police said there was another side to the story, but look Paul you're always going to get instances like that, but frankly the Police have got far better things to do than worry about people who are Lotto winners.
 As everyone knows, people in suits cannot commit crimes. Besides, the cops had their reasons. What more excuse do you need?
PAUL Yeah but the truth is, under the Criminal Proceeds Act, the Police can take your property if they suspect you're dodgy.
JUDITH But you’ve got the right to get it back, you’ve got the right to claim it

The Police have a right to confiscate property and the citizen has a right to request its return..? Are our Police being trained by Somali pirates?
PAUL Yeah but then you’ve got a whole matter of procedure to go through because the cops have decided they suspect you got the property criminally.
JUDITH Well actually Police would lose all credibility if they went round doing that unnecessarily.

THAT's a check and balance? That the cops might be worried about losing credibility? Who needs credibility when you have the monopoly on extortion?
PAUL No, but what has been proposed in this is an extension of powers for those people and I wonder how can you possibly think that these people should have the same powers as the Police, to detain you, to use reasonable force, to rub you down, have a search?
JUDITH Well you might well think that the Child Youth and Family Inspectors might want to.

Collins considers CYF might have a right to detain, search and restrain people forcibly. Isn't this the sort of stuff the National opposition used to accuse Clark's Labour of? Ah, but the jackboot is on the other foot now.
PAUL You're also proposing an end to the right to silence from groups of three or more people thought to be involved in a single criminal activity. Now obviously that’s aimed at gangs, get them all in a room and make them talk, but the right to silence goes back hundreds of years.
JUDITH Yes, and obviously we've got to constantly be looking at the tension between the individual's rights and those of the State in terms of trying to keep people safe, and that’s what all our law and order policies are about Paul. There's on theme, it's about trying to actually deal with crime and keep New Zealanders safe
Hey Jude, who keeps people safe from the State? The State is not some all-knowing, all-seeing benevolence machine y'know.
JUDITH Well people should be always concerned about our freedoms because we are a free country. However having said that DNA is the modern version of fingerprints and the Police will not be keeping samples if people are not actually convicted.
DNA is like fingerprints, and charcoal sketches are like MRIs. There is a great divide between reasonable information and too much information.
PAUL It's the law. The Police are now able to take a sample of DNA from people they intend to arrest for an imprisonable offence.
JUDITH Yes.
PAUL Why not make them wait till after they’ve arrested you, anyone can say I intend to arrest you for an imprisonable offence.
JUDITH Well obviously they need to have the evidence before they arrest people, and this is one of the things we're trying to do is to make sure they’ve got the right person
Oh, so DNA is not like fingerprints! The Police have no right to one's fingerprints until arrest. But DNA can be taken before arrest. This is done to ensure that there might be at least some evidence before Police arrest someone.
PAUL Is it inevitable that we're gonna have to move towards becoming something almost of a Police state if we want to crack these?
JUDITH I don’t think we need to do that at all.

We're already there, aren't we?

Monday, November 02, 2009

The squid has landed


Artist's impression of the new Auckland Supercity

Ripped from the NBR:

Corporate services facing change/centralisation:
  • Strategy
  • Policy and planning
  • Maori relations
  • HR
  • Democracy services
  • Communications and PR
  • Project management
  • Property
  • treasury
  • Procurement
  • Legal services
  • Risk and assurance
  • Chief executive/Mayoral offices
  • Executive group support staff
Services not likely to be reviewed:
  • Libraries
  • Parks
  • Recreational facilities
  • Social housing
  • Local community development and funding
  • Youth, safety and other community programmes and initiatives
  • Local events
  • Infrastructure services (stormwater, transport and water services)
Democracy services being centralised. How apt.

Public servant paradise

Stop the presses, I've found a valid beneficiary to bash; public sector superannuation scheme recipients. While Lindsay Mitchell takes aim at drug abusing invalids beneficiaries (no, I'm not taking it personally), perhaps a look at the Labour Cost Index might show where a lot of public spending growth has gone. The trend is Billy bolded.

From the June 2004 quarter to the June 2005 quarter:
Surveyed labour costs rose 2.7 percent.
Non-wage labour costs rose 3.0 percent.
Annual leave and statutory holiday costs rose 2.9 percent.
Superannuation costs rose 7.3 percent.
Workplace accident insurance costs rose 7.2 percent.
Other non-wage labour costs (vehicles, medical insurance and low interest loans) fell 2.8 percent.
These results are final and revisions have been made to the indexes. Please see the Commentary for further details.
Biggest rises in Super and ACC.The commentary sez:
Employer superannuation costs increased 7.3 percent from the June 2004 quarter to the June 2005 quarter. This follows no change in the previous June year. The latest increase in superannuation costs was influenced by a 2.6 percent increase in salary and ordinary time wage rates.

In the public sector, superannuation costs rose by 15.2 percent, mainly due to the introduction of the State Sector Retirement Savings Scheme (SSRSS) and greater membership by teachers of retirement savings' schemes. From the June 2003 quarter to the June 2004 quarter, public sector superannuation costs decreased 3.1 percent.

Superannuation costs for the private sector increased 1.3 percent from the June 2004 quarter to the June 2005 quarter. This follows an increase of 2.5 percent in the previous June year.
From the June 2005 to the June 2006 quarter:
Surveyed labour costs rose 3.7 percent.
Non-wage labour costs rose 6.2 percent.
Annual leave and statutory holiday costs rose 7.1 percent.
Superannuation costs rose 6.6 percent.
Workplace accident insurance costs rose 4.8 percent.
Other non-wage labour costs (vehicles, medical insurance and low interest loans) rose 0.7 percent.
The two biggest rises that year were Holidays and Super. The commentary sez:
Employer superannuation costs increased 6.6 percent from the June 2005 quarter to the June 2006 quarter. This follows an increase of 7.3 percent in the previous June year. The latest increase in superannuation costs was influenced by a 3.3 percent increase in salary and ordinary time wage rates.

In the public sector, superannuation costs rose 12.3 percent, mainly due to the increase in the employer contribution rate of the State Sector Retirement Savings Scheme (SSRSS), which took effect from 1 July 2005. From the June 2004 quarter to the June 2005 quarter, public sector superannuation costs increased 15.2 percent, mainly reflecting the SSRSS, which was introduced from 1 July 2004.

Superannuation costs for the private sector increased 1.7 percent from the June 2005 quarter to the June 2006 quarter.
Can you spot the trend yet? Twenty-seven percent increases in public sector superannuation bonuses over two years and counting... Here comes another one...

From the June 2006 to the June 2007 quarter:
All labour costs rose 3.9 percent.
Salary and wage rates rose 3.2 percent.
Non-wage labour costs rose 8.1 percent.
Annual leave and statutory holiday costs rose 9.3 percent as a result of an increase in minimum annual leave entitlement.
Workplace accident insurance costs rose 9.3 percent.
Superannuation costs rose 4.2 percent.
Other non-wage labour costs (vehicles, medical insurance and low interest loans) rose 1.8 percent.
Super takes a break from blowing out the costs. This was the year that annual leave was raised from three weeks to four. The commentary explains:
Annual leave and statutory holiday costs increased 6.3 percent for public sector employees, down from the record 7.8 percent increase in the year to the June 2006 quarter. For the private sector, annual leave and statutory holiday costs rose 10.6 percent, the largest increase recorded for the private sector since the series began in the December 1992 quarter. One reason for the private sector increase being greater than the public sector increase was that fewer employees in the private sector were previously entitled to four weeks or more annual leave than in the public sector.
One thing to note about those ACC levies by the way, which in those three years have risen by 25 percent. Public sector pay level negotiations would not be nearly as affected by these levies half as much as their private sector counterparts. This is solely because public sector employers (the gummint) have the biggest taxpayer-augmented tits in the country. As for the private sector, it's much more zero sum for the workers, seeing as their smaller employers have less tit to hand around.

OK, back to the numbers. From the June 2007 quarter to the June 2008 quarter:
All labour costs rose 3.7 percent.
Salary and wage rates rose 3.5 percent.
Non-wage labour costs rose 4.1 percent.
Annual leave and statutory holiday costs rose 4.7 percent.
Workplace accident insurance costs rose 4.7 percent.
Superannuation costs rose 2.7 percent.
Other non-wage labour costs (vehicles, medical insurance and low interest loans) rose 0.3 percent.
Blah. Costs in line with the CPI. Not surprising seeing how there's a recession and an election year on the plate. KiwiSaver was also introduced, and the commentary makes an interesting observation on that:
In the four months from April 2008 to July 2008, employers reclaimed, on average, about 70 percent of their contributions to KiwiSaver schemes. In some industries, the proportion of  contributions reclaimed averaged about 90 percent, and in other industries, only about half was covered by tax credits.

That doesn't sound like a very egalitarian outcome! Anyway, on to this year. From the June 2008 quarter to the June 2009 quarter:
Surveyed labour costs rose 2.8 percent.
Non-wage labour costs rose 2.6 percent.
Annual leave and statutory holiday costs rose 0.3 percent.
Superannuation costs rose 30.8 percent.
Workplace accident insurance costs fell 2.5 percent.
Other non-wage labour costs (vehicles, medical insurance, and low interest loans) rose 1.7 percent. 
The LCI (all labour costs) indexes have been reweighted. For more information see the commentary section of this release.
Sweet Zombie Jesus in aspic, a 30 percent increase in superannuation costs. The commentary explains:
The main reason for the large increase in employer superannuation costs was the changes to employer contributions to employees' KiwiSaver schemes which took effect on 1 April 2009. Part of these changes involved an increase from 1 percent to 2 percent in employer compulsory minimum contributions to their employees' KiwiSaver schemes.
So it was the big switcheroo from tax credit to tax cut, which will be back out the door again as next year's ACC levy increase. Back to the commentary:
In the public sector, superannuation costs rose by 14.2 percent. Superannuation costs for the private sector increased 40.0 percent from the June 2008 quarter to the June 2009 quarter.
OK, public sector superannuation is a bit like the ACC story; largely unaffected by the tax cut swaparoo. Even so, the public sector still managed a 14 percent increase in super costs.

Over five years, public sector superannuation costs have risen over 50 percent cumulatively. When will the Benny bashers tame public sector superannuation? There's no PERFect storm of disapproval with this rort, just the usual easy targets.

The Benny bash is back

Walking through Wellington city, you might be forgiven for thinking that we're still in thick of recession. Willis St has vacant shops a go-go, Thorndon is awash with colourful For Lease signage, and the queues outside the WINZ office are as long as ever. However, Bill English is assuring the nation that the worst is over and it's time for all those bludgers on the sickness and invalids benefits to head back to work:
The Government is poised to implement a key election pledge requiring parents on the domestic purposes benefit to find work or training once their youngest child turns six.

Sickness and invalid beneficiaries are also in the Government's sights, with plans to make it tougher to sign up and stay on either benefit indefinitely.
It's not all stick, according to the Nats. Beneficiaries will now be able to earn an extra $20 a week before their benefits are abated. That's one hour of cleaning Bill English's non-residence in entitlement-speak, although I don't imagine many Nat MPs will be hiring me to do their dirty work.

That's right dear readers, I am an invalid beneficiary. Hire me. Yes, I'm half deaf and have a mind that is part fluffy duck, part gin trap, but the Nats think I'm up for work. Yes, I have been on the dole before and been turned down as under- or over-qualified, or just plain not-what-we're-looking-for. But, like Tolley's testicles, the Nats want to tick the boxes more often to see if I am still strange.

I tell you what, Nats. You can introduce your Benny bashing bolicy once you get WhaleOil a job and off the disability pension. Go on, he's just one man. If you can't do well with one of your own, what hope do you have with all the others apart from locking them up in jail at three times the price of an out of town MP allowance?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The NIMBYed gentry

Deborah Coddington is appalled that a wind farm in the Wairarapa is going to wreck the world around her:
With 45 turbines twice as high as the Auckland Harbour Bridge, and blades twice as large as the Westpac Stadium, sited 8km from the town square, this could be the end of Martinborough as we know and love it. The tourism industry our economy depends on - wine festivals, outdoor concerts, homestays, weddings, cycling - will they continue with noise from these turbines?
The township of Martinborough (population 1,300) is home to a lot of well-off Wellington part-timers, not just Deborah Coddington. Madame Prawn has a pad out that way, as does Dick Griffin, who made his displeasure known on an otherwise jovial Panel with Mike Mora on Friday.

Quite how cyclists will be affected by wind turbines up a mountain range has not been made clear. And aren't wine growers fond of using low flying helicopters to keep frosts away in winter? So much for the noise factor. Are the gentry really arguing that you won't be able to hear outdoor concerts becuase of wind turbines 8 kilometres away from the town centre?

Pah. I've got acquaintances in Ashhurst who say the 103+ wind turbines near them are not a noise problem. Even on the very rare occasions when an Easterly hits them, the noise is no louder than a dishdrawer in the next room. Most of the time there's no sound at all.

I put wind turbine opponents in the same category as opponents of cell towers; hypocrites who want all the benefits of the technology without any of the negatives.They are the fairweather mates of the Little Red Hen, wanting the bread without all the effort.

Yet I bet those rich cluckers will raise a hell of a stink and Meridian will end up ditching this choice windy spot for electricity harvesting because of them. What the rich and powerful want, the rich and powerful get.

Signs of the apocalypse on Sunday

Kerre Woodham is the Top Story on Google News, beating Abdullah Abdullah and motorcycle protests:


Michael Lhaws talking sterilisation tops the New Zealand headlines, beating power cuts and scrub fires: