Friday, December 24, 2010

Wishing you a Green Xmas

Nicked from here

With a bit of luck and a pinch of getting-the-shit-together, goNZo Freakpower will return in 2011. Merry Cannabis and a Hippy New Year.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Paul Quinn, Creep of the Year

National MP Paul Quinn wins the inaugural Creep of the Year award. His outstanding contribution to pond scum this year came with his repugnant private member's bill stripping the vote from all prisoners, which gave parliament a chance to show how low they can go.

Bizarre and inane speeches in the House in support of the bill, whitewashed select committee hearings, the stomping on the Bill of Rights. Shame on the pussy-whipped National MPs who block voted in support of it, but it's hardly the first or last time their pragmatism will trump principle.

Parliamentary perks and the swathe of law passed under urgency was bad enough, but it is small beer compared with a mass disenfranchisement of the population. The precedent opens the door to future disenfranchising of any other politically vulnerable sector of NZ citizenship.

So please join me in a one-handed clap for Paul Quinn, Creep of the Year 2010.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Prohibition still doesn't work

Behold the new NORML leaflet and membership form:

NORML Prohibition Brochure 2010

Download and share among your friends and families. There are successful policy alternatives to the war on drugs. Please help end this conflict and stop making health choices a criminal matter.

Albert Goes West

Still preoccupied in the real world. Here's Nick Cave:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I read the news today, oh boy

Pardon, dear readers, for my absence. I have been occupied with more pressing matters, of which there will be more detail in a later post. In the meantime, here's Constable Peter Marks with the Police Report from the Ruapehu Press:
Over the last week there were 30 incidents reported to police - an average week.

Monday started with the report of a burglary where yoghurts were taken from a fridge; the person was known to the occupier and was subsequently spoken to by police.

There was a domestic incident on Hakiaha Street, and a male turned himself into the police station on a warrant to arrest.

The day ended with the report of theft of dogs.

On Tuesday a person reported that they had someone knocking on their door at different hours of the day and night. Two sisters had a fight and a door was smashed at a Ward Street address. Police assisted the fire brigade with a bush fire beside the camp ground. It is believed to have been lit by juveniles. Finally a New Rd address was burgled and items taken included a Husqvarna chainsaw, a Sharpe stereo and an old laptop.

Another five incidents were reported on Wednesday. A missing person was found. A person reported having money taken off him and a male was assaulted by four others. The day ended with two domestic incidents.

Thursday was the quietest day with a breach of bail the only incident.

Murphy's Law: Thursday quiet, Friday busy. A hole was kicked in the wall of the Bailey Ingham premises and a search was done of a house after police smelt cannabis. A person claimed that he had clothing taken from a clothesline and an insecure building was reported.

There was a domestic incident outside the hotel and police dealt with two vehicle incidents.

Saturday it slowed down a bit. A concrete fence had been pushed over sometime during the night. Police were called to intervene in a civil dispute after threats were made and as a result a person was trespassed from the premises.

On Sunday police were called to a domestic incident at 8am where one of the people had been drinking.

A traffic incident was reported and two people were arrested for separate incidents earlier in the week.

Police were targeting vehicles that are not roadworthy and drivers who are outside their licence conditions. Unfortunately, there are a few drivers around town who think they can drive any vehicle - roadworthy or not. The laws are to protect the many motorists who are responsible. It is a little bit ironic that it is the police's "fault" that motorists get stopped for doing something stupid!

Recently there was a motorcycle crash where the rider tried to avoid stock being moved onto the road. If you are moving stock along the road then at the barest safety minimum there should be warning cones or signs out. The safest method of all (including stock) is to have a front vehicle, a back vehicle and someone else controlling the stock.

Clowns of the week (and this is not an uncommon theme) the two brothers fighting because after breaking up with his partner the other brother is now seeing her.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Mash my kitsch up

While Hillary Clinton's Wellington Declaration is busy swamping the PublicACTA Wellington Declaration in Google rankings, the Creative Freedom Foundation highlights a Mix and Mash competition during November:

Mix and Mash: The Great NZ Remix and Mashup Competition was launched last night at the Mix & Mash Mini, and we’re thrilled to announce that a total of $30,000 in prizes is up for grabs including cash prizes of up to $10,000, and great gear including a Macbook Pro & MinoHD Flip video cameras.
 
Mix & Mash is the biggest push ever to get people using NZ digital content and data, and is being run to assist New Zealand organisations to release their content and data for reuse, and to encourage the creation of new tools, services, experiences and artworks using this material – from iPhone apps to digital stories to things the organisers haven’t even thought of yet.
 
Check out all the categories at www.mixandmash.org.nz and get making now!
Entries close 30 November.
I'm particularly keen on the comic mash-up category featuring art by Brunswick the Rat and Jitterati creator Grant Buist.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Voices of authority

My father was a font of wisdom. He was so well read, he couldn't help but burst forth with a thesaurus of quotations and observed truths. Two of his pronouncements were repeated much more than all the others. The first was, "Mow the lawns. It's going to rain soon." The second, and possibly more important one, was "Time spent in reconnaisance is seldom wasted."

Dakta Green is in Wellington with Maryjane the Cannabus. After travelling the length and breadth of the country gathering signatures and stories, the end of the Armistice Tour approaches:
:: 10am Armistice Day 11/11/10 ::

Dakta Green, Maryjane and the friendly Daktory crew conclude thier 2010 NZ-wide tour with a peaceful protest and a march on parliament, demanding the end of the unlawful and inhumane persecution of NZ cannabis users.

Please, invite your friends! The more people who speak up, the more obvious it is that the persecution of cannabis is an issue facing many in NZ society.

Remember, this is an R18 event.

Yesterday afternoon, just after 4pm, a group of organisers went to Parliament Grounds to reconnoitre the permitted spaces for presentation of grievances to MPs. Ptotests must remain off the forecourt at all times. Barriers are erected in the front of the row of flagpoles at these occasions.

As we stood around Seddon's statue well away from Parliament buildings going about our business, a parliament security guard approached the small group. I recognised the guard. He was the same one who insisted on the security wand the day of the Reconstituting the Constitution conference.

No-one was smoking anything at this stage, although several very small burning effigies of Richard Nixon might have been passed around at some stage earlier on. Dakta Green spoke for the group, polite and clearly pointing out that we are minding our own business.

We had concluded our floor plan for the 11th November at Parliament, and went to continue our deliberations back on the bus. No sooner had we started walking back down the hill, I clearly heard the man in the uniform call for Comms. He had called the cops on us.

The guard followed the clutch of us down the hill, speaking with Dakta Green. We boarded Maryjane parked outside parliament, across from the Law School. The guard stood at the gates of parliament expectantly as we returned to our meeting.

Not long afterwards, two police cars parked blocking the rear of the Bedford bus, as one of those police command vehicles with aerials a go-go (and probably Glocks and Bushmasters in a lock box) blocked our front. Sergeant D857 of the Wellington Police approached as his officers scoped out the scene outside.

Dakta Green once again acted as spokesperson. After a quarter hour talk between the Sergeant and Dakta, the police left. Good on Sergeant D857 for not causing a fuss. The guard walked back up the hill to continue his petty vigil, undaunted by his impotence.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Quantum of Hobbit

As I understand matters so far, a Lord of the Rings model maker's out of court settlement crossed a chasm between contractor and employee. In order to prevent an Australian actors' union from using the tenuous precedent to disrupt filming, the Nats are passing an urgent law on video games. I'm quite attuned to convoluted plots, but this one has me stumped.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sentence of the day

Another essay deals with a group of aphasiacs - people who through damage to their speech centres can no longer understand speech - who watch a televised speech by an unnamed politician (heavily hinted to be Ronald Reagan), and who are brought to hysterical laughter by the insincerity of his tone and body language.

From the Telegraph. I have never got around to reading Oliver Sacks, but this sentence might tip me off the chaise lounge of procrastination.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Painful confetti

Nicked from here


Whoever won the UK election was always going to be facing seven shades of shit on their plate. If you want to see Rogernomics writ quite large in a modern font, go to old Blighty these days. Meantime the US teeters along on another round of artificial stimulus, putting off for one more day the sad fact that the junkie is broke. Whenever that taco breaks, it'll make the collapse of the USSR look like sanity.

Portrait of ugly

The bill to strip the vote from all prisoners passed its second reading last night. The bill's sponsor, National MP Paul Quinn, began the vote:



I urge you to watch the clip above for a study in hollow arguments and poor communication. Of the nine minute clip, the first two minutes plods across the glaring hole in the legislation as pointed out by Andrew Geddis (That was the part of the bill which gave all prisoners the right to vote). Paul Quinn places the blame on the Parliamentary drafters, not his own daft bill. Quinn then spends the rest of his time defending the bill against the minority reports from the select committee, brushing Bill of Rights Act protections aside.

This vulgar speech was followed up by further ugliness. Team Nat backed up the bill with token Me Too-isms:





Act the allegedly Liberal Party's Heather Roy chimes in with 30 seconds of nodding:



I have been angered in the past with abuse of parliamentary action. MPs rushing through additions to their Superannuation entitlements in the dead of night, smash and grab tax increases on tobacco and alcohol. But this is law without reason. It is ideological not logical. This is a new low.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Fordian Enlightenment

The teachers are striking, the National Standard testing regime is a goer. Time for another RSA Animate. Sir Ken Robinson looks at the "modern" education system's batch-cooked, medicalised, standardised, bastardised, 19th Century paradigm:



Full speech here. Viva diversity.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Outrageous Outrage

It seems you can't say cunt on TV3 at 8:42pm on Outrageous Fortune. The producers of the show can claim innocence based on the assumption of a usual 9:30 timeslot. Calling Draska a cunt saves a lot of time of needless flashbacks of why Cheryl would call her that. And it's not as if the word hasn't been thrown around before at judicious moments.

If I had any complaints about this last season of Outrageous Fortune, dropping the c bomb is not the biggest of my complaints. Aaron Spiller's airtime and the times Robyn Malcolm literally phoned home her lead status are bigger crimes.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Twangy Wig-out


Richard Feynman's dad was a uniform salesman. The physicist learned from an early age that the pope was just some guy in a suit. Power and authority legitimised by tradition's accumulated mass of threads. My old man was a lawyer, a bastard granted legitimacy with horse hair and mad rector cape. His function was to keep another bunch of uniforms, the police, from ruling the masses like sheriffs from Nottingham.

So I dig Feynman's principle. In her own way, it's what Helen Clark was aiming at in her own blinkered efforts to bring the lofty halls of justice back to street level. Earlier signs of levelling came through Chief Judge Eichelbaum's decision to remove the wearing of lawyer robes and wigs in court proceedings in 1996.

So what's all this about bringing the wigs and gowns back?
Lawyers should return to wearing gowns in court, the Law Society says – but the suggestion has been mocked as silly and elitist, with one legal bigwig arguing the attire should remain "in the dress-up box". 

The Stuff story sources this archaic novelty as the Law Society, but this story at LawFuel reckons it was from Attorney General Chris Finlayson. Wellington Governor's Counsel Lithgow has been liberal with his scorn:
Funny clothes are for private clubs, private schools, freemasons and sects. The gown is the last remnant of the ill-matched black gown of the medieval scholar and teacher and the powdered wig of the restoration fop. Individually and collectively, with or without little bibby things, they are silly, elitist, and serve no proper function in the support of a people first justice system.
TVNZ vox pops the legal brigands as well.

On the police front, Police Minister Collins is foreshadowing the routine arming of police car patrols and holsters as part of police uniform. John Key is saying that to avoid arming the police with guns, we must arm them with tasers. Police mouth Greg O'Connor is ecstatic. It's all his para-military dreams come true.

Guns and taser training. That looks good on an NZ cop CV looking for a job in Queensland. TV3 has more on that story here.

Not only do Finlayson and Collins share a taste for men in uniform - albeit one cross-dressing, one fascist - but they point to a worryingly authoritarian swing in the seat of power. I don't know what kind of pep talk that Nat cabinet had over recess, but something's in the water. Even Simon Power is acting passive aggressive on a relatively sound idea.

Maybe there's something that cabinet knows that we don't. Could be an interesting silly season.

Free Zealandia

Zealandia, formerly known as the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, is offering free entry to locals this Saturday and Sunday. In other news, the Kakariki has been crowned NZF&B's Bird of the Year.


The winner of last year's title, the Kiwi, was not returning calls from the media.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Crisis, the musical

HBO is making a TV movie based on Alan Sorkin's book Too Big To Fail. William Hurt, Billy Crudup and Ed Asner will play Henry Paulson, Timothy Geithner and Warren Buffett respectively. Hot on the heels of NZ Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard's book Crisis, how long before NZ on Air funds our own version of the meltdown? Karl Urban would be a shoo-in to play Bollard.

Wade-Brown Town

Congratulations to Celia Wade-Brown, the new mayor of Wellington. David Farrar sez that Celia is nominating Westie Councillor Andy Foster for Deputy. I'd second that. The Lambton clique have been ruling the city for long enough.

And I presume that's the last we've heard of a Wellywood sign too.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Inflatable assets

Inflatable Russian tanks are making news, but the stunt has been around a while. More novel is the US attempt to inflate an artificial university in northern Iraq. The students are keen to learn but the faculty are a mixed bunch. It runs like a neo-con version of Animal House:
The first sign that he was not exactly committed to intellectual integrity was his choice of textbook for the course: an abominable book called America: The Last Best Hope, by William Bennett. Yes, THE William Bennett, Reagan’s Secretary of Education, the buffoon who sermonized on virtue until his gambling losses added up so high that they drowned out his pomposities, the man who once scolded a child in public for wearing a Bart Simpson t-shirt.

Bennett’s title sums up the thesis of his textbook clearly: America is literally, simply, the last and best hope for the human species. Tough luck, China — or Burma, or Ecuador, or any other nation on the planet — because we R it, the alpha and omega. It’s a classic reactionary thesis: “I can’t imagine any nation ever being as great as America; therefore no nation ever will be.”

Monday, October 11, 2010

Key of Man

Dim Post and Red Alert are holding caption contests for this photo:

Danyl suggests a bowler hat, and so here's my hasty etching:

Evil Boy

Paul Henry has pulled the pin and TVNZ are left wondering what to do with the advertorial news and current affairs show Breakfast. Just as Outrageous Fortune was always the Cheryl West Show, Breakfast was the Paul Henry Show. The niche that Henry's escalating village idiot persona drew on ended up swallowing his cushy job.

A left swinging dick like Oilver Driver couldn't save TV3's Sunrise, and Henry the right swinging dick might just bury Breakfast. I don't really care either way, but the housewives deserve something to dilute the soap operas. Maybe they could try an all-chick line-up for a change. If not, TVNZ really needs some non-threatening entertainer in there who is more Selwyn Toogood than Les Patterson.


EVIL BOY (official) from Die Antwoord on Vimeo.

Song backstory at MoJo.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Landslides and other spillages

The people of Auckland should give themselves a pat on the back. As far as first stabbings at a Supercity Council goes, that's a pretty good result. Congratulations to Len Brown becoming the first High Mayor. From early fumbles and quite creative spin out of the blue corner, Len Brown has swept decisively into the job. Even with the clunky FPP vote splitting the right with Colin Craig, the gap between Brown and Banks was huge.

The Banks campaign was not helped at all by John Banks. He was never quite firing right from the beginning, but I think he had an "Anderton moment" with that boy drinking himself to death on his doorstep. The meltdown at his surprise appearance at the inquest a few days before polling closed was a strange and desperate last fling at meshing the populist with the parent.

There were other odds and sods too, titbits such as Banks only going to the movies three times in his life. Small joys that the masses take for granted, communal enjoyment which this robot just couldn't compute. Tens of thousands of hours Banksy has given us with his received wisdom over the years, nay, decades of talkback, etc. He has not managed to spend any time at all immersed in someone else's story for 90 scant minutes. Banks was also linked to the big bailout of My Fair Lady not so long ago, a stage production of epic failure proportions. His finger on the pulse of the city plank was all shot to hell.

Auckland also gave the C&R ticket a good caning too, with only five getting a seat on the Council. The North Shore has forsaken its brush with change after the Williams fling and has returned George Wood as their Councillor. Wood was probably doing C&R a favour, same as 90s throwback Christine (Chris) Fletcher who also got in. But the Born to Rule aristocracy got a serious telling off, especially by the Smart Young Things; Brewer, Swney, etc.

Of course, there were some races which were utter stitch-ups:

But on the whole, the turnout, the balance of the Council forces, the very clear mandate, it's all good for Auckland. There's hope for them yet.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Sam and Nummy go to New Zealand

I am loathe to revisit the story of NZ's most highly paid twelve year old, especially while he is still in the naughty corner. However, out of bullshit springs daisies. I have been enjoying the thread of this post of Russell Brown's over the affair, which has morphed into an exposition on what it means to be One of Us in the forum. It all brings to mind a couple of tales; the story of Sam and the story of Nummy.

I bumped into both characters in my chequered restaurant career. Sam was the best cold larder chef I ever met. Hailing from Indonesia, he was a demon at appetisers and desserts, part of an award winning team of gastronomes. One of this team still works Courtenay Place, but not Sam. Sam is now offshore.

Sam had been in NZ ten years and had working himself into a respectable position in the Wellington culinary scene. Worked hard, paid his taxes. He had been at Restaurant X for well over two years when he was locked up and deported in short summary.

Sam had done two things wrong. Firstly, he had overstayed his workers permit by some years, and had never faced the outlaw status before it was forced upon him. The immigration service was informed of his whereabouts by his then-NZ girlfriend, who had feigned contraception during their relationship in order to go on the DPB. One day they locked him up in Wellington police station. Within three days he was deported to Indonesia.

Nummy escaped from Mugabe's Zimbabwe, selling up his middle class assets as the currency devalued by the minute. Gone was the land, the boat, the job at the supermarket. His cashed up savings a tenth of what it was worth before Mugabe lost the plot in the late Nineties and the family emigrated to NZ.

I met Nummy in Auckland in the early 2000's. He was managing a central city restaurant near Sky City. He ended up not long afterwards, like me, scrounging a living at that temple of Mammon itself. We didn't have much chance to talk on the floor there, but he confided in me that his NZ residency was merely a means to ends, the endgame being Oz. Sure enough, that's where he is now.

NZ is not an easy place to live. I reckon that if anyone makes it 10 years in this place and wants to stay, good on them. And their kids.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Chariots of FIRE

What would the US House and Senate look like if you ordered members by major campaign contributions? MoJo slices and dices.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Repartee machine

What was said:
 Click image to embiggerate
What TVNZ thought was said:
 What John Key should have said:
What Paul Henry's apology said what he meant to mean:
Make your own highly rating insult:

Monday, October 04, 2010

The popular vote

Get your local body vote in soon. If you don't, you lose the moral prerogative to whine for the next three years, and will have to shut up.

And Paul Henry can just shut up altogether. His ooze on TV is like the secreted fluids left after Noel Edmonds spent the night shagging Glenn Beck on the roof of the Death Star, the leaking of toxic juices rotting through to the studio floor and passed off as a morning TV host.

But didn't we learn a lot about the PM though.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Sunlight

This just in from the MetOffice. The whole country is guaranteed a week of sunlight. About bloody time, La NiƱa!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Letter to Bernard

Some smart dead Greek guy once observed that you can never step in the same river twice. The good keen trampers of NZ don't need to be told the truth of that. Even the best of plans, through the entropy of time, erode downstream. Chaos theory is based on the concept of System Dependent on Initial Conditions. Due to measurement rounding and time, what started out as predictability is rendered to white noise.

So I've always treated economics with as much respect as religious tomes; spiked with historical observations and occasional pearls of wisdom, but still requiring too large a leap of faith to base an entire philosophy upon. Sacred texts of rationality and ineffable logic, all of them. But there's everything else as well.

It's also why I get so annoyed with the USA. The founding fathers were wise enough to realise that their sentiments would fall into disarray over time without the strong voice of its people to guide and reinvigorate their government. Now it's all professional lobbyists from K Rd riddling Washington DC, nutjob teabaggers swamping the forecourts of mainstream media and mid-term elections. Where are all the smart Americans? Offshore or working for a hedge fund?

I haven't been shackled to neo-liberal orthodoxy the way Bernard Hickey has. I'll defend what the Fourth Labour government did, but I never liked Thatcher or Reagan. Economics is only a tool, an abstract one at that. The larger task at hand for any government is the long term well-being and prosperity of its citizens.

Most of Bernard's wrath is aimed at the Global Financial Crisis. Sure, we had to deal with the ripples to our shores, as detailed in Bollard's book. The crisis, in part, can be blamed on the loosening of rules around investment banks under Clinton, as well as a heap of bad lending and mutton sold as lamb. Reagan's wholesale slaughter of regulation was also a big factor (Reagan's crimes go on, from corrupting the Supreme Court and regulatory bodies to the unresolved Iran Contra scandal, but that's another post).

The wild currency swings that the NZ dollar faces on the open seas has made it hard going for exporters. Not only do they need to be good at manufacturing and selling, they have to become experts in hedging the dollar as well. Wrong bets can and have killed businesses. It has been this way since the NZ dollar was floated in 1985.

Now don't go blaming Rogernomics for the floating dollar. The pegged dollar had been dead for some time, just stuffed with borrowed overseas cash and Muldoon's cackling ventriloquism. It died the day of the Nixon Shock, itself wedged between two other catastrophic effects on NZ exports of the era; falling wool prices in the late sixties and the UK joining the EEC in the early seventies.

The end of the Bretton Woods Agreement marked the end of the era of American Empire, just as Britain abandoning the gold standard had relinquished its empire decades earlier. The USA has limped along since then, relying on increased government borrowing for the last thirty years to keep up appearances of normality.

The absence of an international trading standard allowed the foreign exchange traders into the pond. These were amongst the scavengers feeding off the pegged NZ dollar before devaluation in 1984. George Soros did a similar thing to England on Black Wednesday. It is scenes such as these that makes me very wary of returning to a fixed peg currency.

There is talk of a new international currency, IMF Special Drawing Rights. Until something like that happens, there's no way a minnow like NZ can outbid the big fish in the international waters.

And as for tariffs, the big problem with tariffs is how to remove them when they're no longer warranted and the money could be more productively spent elsewhere. We went through all this with SMPs and farmers in the '80s. America has distorted its farm subsidies beyond belief. As the documentary Food Inc demonstrated so well, the price is much higher than that advertised. The US will one day have to face a balancing of the books. It will not be pretty. Do we really want to go back to that trap?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Today is Thursday


# Europe according to stereotype. Above map is how the Yanks see Europe. French, German and other perspectives here.

# BoingBoing points to some good lessons. Applicable not only to programming, but also to critical thinking in general. eg:
• Be suspicious of any technology that requires walls. If you can fix it, modify it or hack it yourself, that is a good sign.

• The proper response to a stupid technology is to make a better one, just as the proper response to a stupid idea is not to outlaw it but to replace it with a better idea.
# Bernard Hickey has recanted his neo-liberalism. I agree with some but not most of what Bernard's on about. I think it's good to keep an open mind on things. What is made abundantly clear is his genuine frustration at the way the game has been rigged. We agree on that much. I'll get around to blogging up a response some time later on.

# Open Labour is calling on votes in its first ever openly sourced policy platform. Vote for a range of policies, at this stage mainly focussed on opening up the state mechanism to the people. Registration required but otherwise plain sailing from there on.

# The Law Commission has released its discussion document on the Official Information Act Review. There are some major overlaps with the Open Labour aim of opening up official information by default. Am still wading through the 300+ page document. NRT is way ahead of me.

# And finally, here's the latest copy of NORML News available online. Includes a good overview of Operation Lime so far.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Security

The Search and Surveillance Bill is still gestating in select committee, with a report due at the end of next month. There are some encouraging signs. The Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff has given the OK:
My previous submission raised concerns over a lack of adequate safeguards in some parts of the Bill, particularly around searches, the use of surveillance device warrants and productions orders.

The changes that have been made in the revised Bill make the balance between privacy and law enforcement interests more acceptable and I have no further substantial issues to raise.

The New Zealand Law Society has also given the amended bill the thumbs up, with a few reservations lingering about regulatory powers and tracking devices. Another submission, this time from Tech Liberty, suggests how the former might be solved:
Split the Search & Surveillance Bill into two, with one for enforcement agencies and the other for regulatory agencies.

Yes. But the geeks hone in on the real remaining threat as I see it:
Computer Searching

The bill contains a number of provisions around the searching of computer systems. The submissions and comments in response discuss issues around:
o The wide-ranging scope of data held on personal computers
o How to define what is to be searched
o What “plain view” means on a computer
o The issue of “trawling” through computers

When authorities seize a computer, they not only seize what is relevant to their enquiries. They take someone's life. Their photos, passwords, access to banking and bills, as well as any alleged offence. If someone seized my laptop, I'd be stuffed. My tenuous grip on personal finance and daily life would crumble. That's not a collateral damage I'm prepared to take on, thanks.

I'd be much happier with cloning a computer for searches, as opposed to outright theft. But even then, that has its risks. You need only witness the cloning of cellphone information at Customs under the guise of Operation Lime with existing search laws to see what menaces might come out of this fishing trip for control freaks with a grudge:
The wife of Switched on Gardener chain owner Michael Quinlan was detained by Customs at Auckland airport while officers downloaded the data from her phone for police trying to link her to an alleged cannabis operation.

The incident has sparked concerns police are circumventing warrants by using Customs' sweeping powers to detain, search and take information from international travellers. 

So it's not surprising that there's a protest by the people in Wellington on Saturday October 9th to highlight what is at stake with the reform of Search and Surveillance powers. I might see you there.


Monday, September 27, 2010

The Grapes of Goff

Labour's search for elegant policy platforms continues in vain. Not content with upsetting the consensus on the Reserve Bank Act and monetary policy, the Labour opposition now seek to upset the clean and level consensus on GST. After ruminating on the idea for most of the year, Goff has declared that Labour will remove GST off fresh fruit and vegetables.

Let's examine some of the qualities of awfulness about the idea. Firstly, if one were trying to mesh a policy with Labour's "for the many not the few" slogan, I'm not sure making grapes tax exempt while retaining tax on raisins makes much sense. "The few" can afford grapes in their fruit basket, with or without tax, and "the many" can't.

Then there's the disproportionate complexity of such an idea for very little gain. The lawyers are having a field day over at Dim Post's if you want to see some of the looming loopholes. If you're going to end a 25 year cross party agreement on a straight-forward consumption tax, this is not the way to go about it.

Goff says the scheme would cost $250 million a year of foregone revenue. How they're going to fill that hole isn't made clear. But costs will echo beyond a lighter Treasury. Labour should talk to some businesses to discover how much effort is going into the GST rise and personal tax cuts right now. This is a doddle compared with the initial and ongoing costs of the GST exemption. The policy is a makework scheme for accountants and lawyers. And, once one exemption is allowed, lobbyists will seek to widen the tax loophole as well.

As long as Labour continues to release expensive esoteric solutions to non-existent problems, the Nats have nothing to fear.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

God save the Queen, because the plebs won't

The Independent uses the UK's Freedom of Information Act to expose Buckingham Palace's idea of lateral thinking:

The Queen asked ministers for a poverty handout to help heat her palaces but was rebuffed because they feared it would be a public relations disaster, documents disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act reveal. Royal aides were told that the £60m worth of energy-saving grants were aimed at families on low incomes and if the money was given to Buckingham Palace instead of housing associations or hospitals it could lead to "adverse publicity" for the Queen and the Government. 
Putting in the boot with the other foot, Gordon Campbell looks at the hopeful demise of the Commonwealth Games. Stephen Franks might pine for renaming them the Empire Games. The Empire's dead, Stephen. Even the Brits are seriously considering going Republic, making QEII the last Queen of England. That would  guarantee her the plinth.

Right about now, I'd recommend the UK royal family contact Simon Cowell about starring in a new reality show. It's a bit of spare change that would go to supplement the 38 million or so taxpayer quid a year handed over to the palatial household. Reality TV is the closest they'll get to royalties right now. I understand that Elton John gets a million quid for playing at birthdays. What kind of rent would Prince William get?

Friday, September 24, 2010

The outlaw Paula Bennett

Increasingly, it seems that Social Welfare Minister Paula Bennett considers herself above the law. There was her leaking of beneficiary details which has led to a complaint being made to the Privacy Commissioner.  Shroff concluded that the complaint against Paula Bennett had "sufficient substance" and referred it to the Director of Human Rights Proceedings.

No Right Turn has shown the contempt with which the minister treats Official Information Act requests:
Paula Bennett does not appear on the table because she refused to cooperate with the project, offering various excuses before ultimately claiming that compiling the data would not be in the public interest. Her refusal is now the subject of a complaint to the Ombudsman.

John Drinnan now reports that Bennett successfully wrangled an extension to the time limit on BSA complaints:
More obscure than the sex complaints - but in many ways more intriguing - was the BSA decision from an obscure interlocutory hearing that bent the deadline for a complaint by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.

Drinnan goes on to note a motive for this unique relaxation of the rules:

But a parliamentary source said that the Bennett complaint had support elsewhere in Cabinet - and there was more at stake than one story on 3 News. National believed that the complaint had a good chance of being upheld and reflected concern about TV using what was regarded as flimsy source material from social media sites such as Facebook.

TV3 look like appealing and fair enough. Join the queue. Just because the Nats are stacking their mates in various tribunals, it doesn't mean they can break the rules because the minister is a slack bastard. And good luck trying to suppress social media. News is three quarters corroborated gossip anyway.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

This town needs an enema

Absolutely Positively Wellington is dead. Stuff Wellywood. Here's our next anthem:

That one's on the house.

The prohibitive cost of prohibition


In case you don't like your history in black & white, HBO has produced a new series based on prohibition-era Atlantic City featuring the always excellent Steve Buscemi.



HT to Inquiring Mind, who mentions that the series will appear on Sky TV from next month. If Sopranos and The Wire can't get the drug prohibitionists to see sense, maybe this one might help.

Gerry-proofing the vote

All the interest (and swarm of party leaders' visits to come) for the Mana by-election has thrown up some remarkable contours of the coming vote. Unlike general elections, which are becoming less about the people and more about the presidential glamour surrounding the party leaders, by elections are all about the people.

Sean Plunket has wasted no time after being taken off the NatRad leash, colouring in his meanings of the local place names to us f/palangis in the Dom Post and a little ripper of a story at The Nation. Much detail is made of the wide disparities in livings standards within the electorate, straddling the gutter black to the gentry further up north, sitting in their no alarms and no surprises retirement villas.

There's some fuss made about the Labour selection process as well, which saw PR paratrooper Kris Faafoi pitted against local heroine Josie Pagani. David Farrar has rubbed salt into the broth. But it's the same as it ever was in the Labour Party. Just ask Chris Trotter about this old vote:
There was Ernie Hemmingson, Secretary for the Hotel Workers' Union. Not a very bright person to say the least of it. He was sitting down with a deck of 54 votes; card votes. I told the audience that in any other meeting of card players, he would be thrown out for having too many in the pack. Anderton moved that the Unions' vote be restricted and I seconded him. But of course the card vote manifested itself and the motion was lost.

Fair go to Goff though. Faafoi might seem an empty vessel, but he'll be a centre-left one. I fear Josie Pagani, who seems a good sort, would be too hard left for the parliamentary mix. The Labour caucus is still brimming with hard lefties, part Clark legacy, part fusion with Chairman Jim's Progressive Party. Labour needs to rebalance, and if that means the Mana LEC gets vote spammed, that's how it is.

But back to the people. Yeah, there are contrasts within the electorate. You've got to wonder how our electorate boundaries are worked out. There's communities of interest mixed with a representative slice of the spectrum. I think our election wonks do a pretty good job, all things considered.

NZ's electorates are a lot more balanced that the gerrymanderama in the USA. But that might not be for much longer. MoJo reports that some maths geeks have worked out the equation showing whether a district is gerrymandered or not; G = gP/A.

They've also designed their own vision of Texas electoral districts:

I don't think things would work quite that simple in NZ, but I'd be interested if anyone gave it a crack.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Nom and the Censors

Jeez, I thought NORML News had it rough, with the Police and Customs attempting to restrict or ban the NZ political quarterly. The Economist has more cutting problems:
China is more proscriptive. Distributors destroy copies or remove articles that contain contentious political content, and maps of Taiwan are usually blacked out...

Go Dog Go

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Exorcist

Can't get this out my head right now. Maybe posting it will help.

The Great Entertainer

Paul Henry might be a preening, vain, self-important dwarf who might have fallen on something sharp as a baby resulting in a partial lobotomy. His head may look like it has been dipped in something carcinogenic. But the man has timing.



And fucksakes MSM, grow up.

Ministerial responsibility

"The prime minister is responsible for the general conduct of his ministers."

Shit gets real in the House today. Speaker Lockwood Smith adjudicates over the finely worded question and supplementaries from Phil Goff to John Key:
Question: 
Does he standby his statement “All I can say is that in the 22 months that Mr Hide has been a Minister in my Government he’s shown very good judgement and he has my full support”?
The fun starts here. HT Bomber.
 
And after John Key blamed MMP for the Garrett mess, all I can add is:
 
 
Keep a sense of proportion, prime minister.

Woop Woop

Alarm bells have been ringing in Act's ears for a week now, and still no-one has moved to switch off the alarm. The mountain of public disapproval with the Garrett mess still looms with mortal proximity to the party. Chucking the decepticon from the plane has only marginally lightened the load. They've yet to replace the poisoned pilot with a more able-bodied one.

No mistake, Rodney Hide is now politically toxic. The board, the caucus might have known some of Garrett's background. But it was Rodney's call. Garrett was his man:


Hide's one chance at pulling the nose up came last Friday, and he choked it. He conceded as much on The Nation the next day, saying that he led the party at the pleasure of the board and would stand aside if the party said so. So, who's next to captain this bipolar fixed wing aircraft?

The Deborah Coddington/ Paul Holmes nudge nudge wink wink game on Q&A was enlightening. Heather Roy should come out of this smelling of roses, the wronged co-pilot.

If Act were willing to follow Roy's ploy and aim for more than 5 percent of next year's vote, she would be a better leader to accomplish this. She would certainly stop scaring off the girl power bloc. However, a five percent target was optimistic at the time of her Black Swan dive at the conference. Right now, Act would be lucky to scrape one percent of the vote, not enough lift to avoid the mountain.

Richard Long has outlined the John Boscawen option. This would involve Boscawen sitting in the cockpit and taking over Epsom from Hide at next year's election. Unlike David Shearer in Mt Albert and Kris Faafoi in Mana, Boscawen knows the lie of the land in Epsom. For the comfortable people of Epsom, an accountant is close to sainthood. It would help remove the fishy smell left by his predecessor. Boscawen could fly through the mountain in the Epsom wormhole. It might just work.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Muppets in blue

Casting the NZ VRWC blogosphere for the Muppet show:

Kermit: David Farrar. Popular "show must go on" frontman.
Miss Piggy: Cactus Kate. Unusual feminist.
Fozzie Bear: Whale Oil. Misunderstood comedian.
Gonzo: Clint Heine. Dubious cunning stunts.
Camilla: Busted Blonde. Broody clucking loyalty.
Sam the Eagle: Stephen Franks. So sensible!
Swedish Chef: Monkeys with Typewriters. Pleasant gibberish with cutlery.
Beaker & Honeydew: Crampton and Hogan at Offsetting Behaviour.
Lew Zealand: New Zeal. For Americans who don't know any better.
Scooter: Keeping Stock. Repeater with occasionally original insights.
Statler & Waldorf: Roger Douglas and Michael Bassett.
Muppet Newsman: No Minister. Absurdities a go-go.
Dr Teeth: MacDoctor. Gospel influences.
Floyd: Bernard Hickey. Economic bard singing about hard rain.
Zoot: John Ansell. Nice tunes, shame about the lyrics.
Janice: Lindsay Mitchell or Homepaddock.
Rowlf: Big News, banging out the blues.
And Animal? I'm tempted to say Rodney Hide. But he neither blogs nor has any sense of rhythm.

UPDATE: On second thoughts, Not PC can easily pass for a Randimal. At least they recognise beauty when they see it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Supersize My Fiefdom

Voting in the Wellington City local body elections seems a doddle looking as the last few weeks of Supercity Idol grind on. The reality show of the Auckland Slopotropolis has long outstayed its season. At long last the series finale is in sight though. In just over two weeks, we'll finally find out who gets to be Big Brother.


I'm not sure whether Aucklanders vote for mayor under STV or FPP. I'd be surprised if most Aucklanders know either, even if they've received a ballot. The turnout for this mammoth vote will be very very interesting. If I was eligible (i.e. owned a tax write-off shithole rental and therefore a remote control vote), I'd pick Simon Prast as Number 1 and Len Brown as Number 2. I'd rather cough blood than vote for John Banks as mayor.

As for the Vorlon Council vote, a few names are recognisable amongst the many many candidates. But by and large, it's just a long gray list. Literally at times,  especially Howick through to South Auckland, with a sea of empty boxes.

Then there's the local board vote to select. No-one knows what role the local boards will play. Not even the candidates. My guess is they'll be less powerful than the popularly elected eunuchs in the DHBs. For some very unfortunate Aucklanders, the Westies and North Shorties, there's yet another vote on licensing trusts.

Auckland. It'll drive you to drink.

Pre-Announcement Announcement

Sometime in the next two weeks, I will announce something.




Hey, if Chairman Jim Anderton and the Daily Show can do it, so can I.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

3 STV's and an FPP - 2010 edition

It's that time of the trimester for local body elections and the ballot papers have arrived. Let's get this over and done with. Fortunately, there's less dart-throwing required than last time, largely thanks to this handy little website.

Working from the back of the ballot to the front, first up is Wellington Regional Council. FPP, tick five choices from a field of 12. After a quick look through the Turf Digest, I reckon I'll take a process of elimination on this vote, combined with the form of the existing council. My experiences with the WRC over the last three years have not been positive. The weed control officer was polite but not entirely helpful, whilst bus fares have doubled in three years.

Clearly, the Council must be sent a message. Someone's for the chop. Sally Baber can go, for talking of expanding water supplies without mentioning the leaky public pipes right now, where up to fifty percent of water loss occurs on the way to the ratepayers. Judith Aitken can also go. Cruising on a reputation. Paul Bruce avoids the axe by a whisker, leaving Chris Laidlaw out in the cold.

Fran Wilde and Paul Bruce now need three new faces in there. Two chicks got knocked out of incumbency, and the only other choice a Dianne Buchan, a consultant. That nearly got her kicked off the island. Saved by helping start the Newtown Festival. She's in.

Another consultant, Labour's Daran Pointer, is not so lucky. The B Ark Golgafrinchan quota is now full. He's out. I'm also very wary of local candidates running on large party tickets, especially the way Labour is barricaded right now. However, if I'm going to give Charles Finny a crack, some yin is required. Congratulations to Chris Lipscombe for providing enough information to make an informed guess.

My WRC vote: Paul Bruce, Dianne Buchan, Charles Finny, Chris Lipscombe and Fran Wilde.

Next up, the CCDHB race. Rank seven in order, like a favoured septella (Think of it as the offspring of a trifecta and a quinella). My experiences of the health services and those of my circle over the last three years has been uniformly positive. Therefore, I really don't care enough look for alternative candidates and I'm going to just rank the incumbents in the order presented on the ballot. The Electoral Office saw me coming, and the candidates are helpfully listed in random order. So:

1. Donald Urquhart-Hay, 2. Virginia Hope, 3. Margaret Faulkner, 4. Judith Aitken, 5. Helene Ritchie, 6. Peter Roberts, 7. 7.... Where's Ruth Gotlieb? OK, I'm going to have to pick one. Where did I put my darts... 7. is... Russell Franklin.

OK, only two votes to go, Wellington's Westie Ward and mayor. Both are STV ballots. Now there's a funny lesson I learned from Scoop earlier this year about STV votes. Rank your choices, yeah. But if you DON'T want a candidate to be elected, don't rank them. AT ALL:

DO’S AND DONT’S FOR VOTING

Obviously, it is important to make sure the candidates you choose are the ones you prefer – in the order that you prefer them.

Do not put a number next to a candidate who you do not want to vote for, even if it is the lowest vote, it is still a vote, and could be counted as such if all your other candidates reach their quota of votes.

You may think there is not a huge difference between ranking a candidate as your sixth preference or ranking them as your seventh preference, but in a system such as STV, and in an election with such a large amount of candidates, such differences can be hugely significant in terms of results.

Time to pull out my shit list from earlier in the year. No votes for Kerry Prendergast, John Morrison or Jo Coughlin. In Onslow Western, that makes Andy Foster an easy Number 1. Oh dear, with one down and two scratchings, that leaves a field of only four and two spaces to fill. Not picking any more risks Jack Ruben getting back in, so I'm holding my nose and:

Onslow Western Vote - 1. Andy Foster, 2. Ingrid Sage, 3. Sharon Blaikie.

Finally, the mayor. As mentioned earlier, Kerry is on the shit list. Apart from that, I'm tired of her face. I'm tired of every public space within a one block radius of a Rex Nicholls property being ripped up and made over at public expense. It may be an STV vote, but I'm only ranking one candidate. Celia Wade-Brown for mayor.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Zero tolerance


It's a bit hard to read, but you might be mistaken for reading the sign as "3 Strikes and you're in Act."

Ripped from Election 2008 footage here.

In hindsight, the coffins might more accurately represent ex-Act MPs over the 14 years the party has been in parliament. Ken Shirley, Derek Quigley, Trish Schnauer, Owen Jennings, Penny Webster, Donna Awatere-Huata, Gerry Eckhoff, Deborah Coddington, Richard Prebble, Stephen Franks, Muriel Newman, Kenneth Wang and now David Garrett. That's thirteen dead careers. But there's 14 coffins in the photo. There's still a dead man walking.

Pads, paws and claws

While we're waiting for Rodney Hide to arrive back in NZ, please enjoy this rat staring competition:



Riffing off this BB post. And now, ladeez and gennelmen, hereeee's Elvis!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fun Lovin' Criminologists

The Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology held a talk at Vic Uni's Hunter Chambers this afternoon. The moot was "Should drug offenders be punished?"

First up was Massey University's Dr Chris Wilkins at SHORE. His initial answer seemed to be yes, they should. I sat with increasing twitchiness and frustration as Wilkins presented basically every drug stereotype known to man as evidence in favour of the status quo. Drug users have low self esteem, come from dysfunctional families, are uneducated. He's obviously never been invited to a Wall St coke and hookers party.

Wilkins went on to list the benefits of prohibition including, amazingly, black markets. Next slide, the dangers of decriminalisation and legalisation of drugs.
I was waiting for a slide on the dangers of prohibition, but it never arrived. I had him up about the missing balance at question time, where he admitted to some drawbacks to prohibition.

I expected better of him, and over wine and cheese after the talk, I told him so. His own Drug Monitoring Surveys showed cannabis remains either easy or very easy to find. Even with prohibition, there's no supply control, let alone quality control. The truth emerged. No, drug offenders should not be punished sez Wilkins.

Next and best speaker was Ross Bell from the NZ Drug Foundation. Drug use is a health issue, not a criminal one. Drug offenders shouldn't be punished. Evidence was presented that showed that laws have absolutely NO EFFECT ON DRUG USE. Some bullshit stats from the Stellar Trust were scrutinised. Fair go. The Stellar Trust is to drug policy what the Sensible Sentencing Trust is to law and order policy. Effing gimps.

Ross Bell went on to describe the Portugal example, where 10 years after all drugs were decriminalised for use, Portugal has lower drug use, less imprisonment, more treatment, and fewer drug deaths than most of the EU. Better yet, Ecstacy dropped from four dollars something each to $3.50. $3.50!

Peter Dunne was the third man. Drug offenders should be punished. That was the government line. He talked on and on, but most of it was rubbish. The only interesting bit was him talking of his Vienna enlightenment attending the UN Drug Forum last year. An Iranian delegate told him that they stone drug users to death over there, but for some reason they never had any fewer drug users.

OK, audience participation time. Apart from the three white guys on the podium, and the esteemed matron who hosted the event, it was mainly a caucasian affair in the stalls. About 60 attendees, women outnumbering men two to one. The only obvious Maori in the room was the young cop attending, and he might have been Samoan for all I knew.

Not a single voice or query from the floor supported the status quo prohibition. Not the old academics, not the young ones who grew up on Ritalin and McDonalds. As the old conservatives are slowly finding out, we don't take kindly to blatant hypocrisies around these parts. Get wise or get out, that's my advice.

I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)

What else is in David Garrett's bookshelf? That's the chatter at the moment. Perhaps this photo of the Act bookshelves ripped from the Boscawen coup last month might help:

Click image to embiggerate

On the far right, between Rodney and the off camera David Garrett, you'll notice a selection of Ayn Rand including Atlas Shrugged. Train wreck, anyone?

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

The continuum continuums...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Are you an NZ Republican?

You are at Piha beach. You see Rachel Hunter and Prince Charles drowning. You can only save one of them. Who do you save?

I've been pondering an acid test for support of an NZ head of state for some time. This is the best I can come up with. Why would Prince Charles be drowning off Piha? I dunno. Maybe his Airbus 319 crashed on the way to a compost festival.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Unbridled power

It seems we have another neo-liberal experiment about to happen in Christchurch, joining Auckland as a guinea pig but with a larger knife. Dean Knight has bothered to read the legislation being crammed through parliament at near light speed, and he's not a happy chappy:
The Bill contains a massive Henry VIII's clause, allowing the Minister to re-write any legislation that is "reasonably necessary or expedient for the purpose of the Act". The power to direct the Governor-General to issue an Order-in-Council to "grant an exemption from, or modify, or extend any provision of any enactment" (including 22 specifically listed enactments - but thankfully not the Bill of Rights 1688, the Constitution Act 1986, the Electoral Act 1993, the Judicature Amendment Act 1972, or the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990). That's incredible power!
This has set off the notoriously precise Graeme Edgeler, who has pulled out the big guns:
Section 6(3) states:
The recommendation of the relevant Minister may not be challenged, reviewed, quashed, or called into question in any court.
I'm pretty sure the courts would tell them to stuff off anyway, but that's not really the point - they shouldn't be trying to do this anyway.

I have often wondered what it would take for me to swear off a political party forever. It would be a very rare circumstance. Plenty of things would stop me voting for a party. I wouldn't support a party that intended to reintroduce the death penalty, for example, but swearing off a party forever is quite drastic.

It is a terrible and permanent thing to swear off a party, to eliminate a choice forever more. I've only cursed one party with that distinction; not Alliance (unworthy) nor Labour, but Act.

What began as misgivings in the mid 1990's turned to confusion when Owen Jennings ran for the Taranaki-King Country by-election. Apathy spanned the Donna years, replaced with vague hope when Richard Prebble stood down and it was either Rodney or Stephen Franks. Not long after Dancing with the Stars, that hope reverted back to apathy. Then, another glimmer of hope when Roger Douglas rejoined the anarchy. And then John Boscawen and David Garrett happened along, and then there was Lindsay Mitchell's mana abuse, and the bad fish n chip brigade stunt. And then the front fell off. Forever.

I can understand a bit why National are slamming through bits and pieces of dogma under urgency. They've got their 2008 election bribes to slam into place; the MMP referendum, DNA testing for all arrestees, three strikes. But it seems as if they're getting a bit too keen on the rush of power.

Ever since the introduction of select committees in the 1980's, I have kept an eye on the ever-increasing propensity for Order in Council motions. And this is the biggest bastard of them all. Order in Council powers to do anything short of declaring war on Antarctica. This is the executive picking winners like a horse race, and it's on the taxpayers' card.

Poor bloody Christchurch. They won't feel a thing. They won't even see it coming.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Universal free education at last

Way back in 2006 I suggested an alternative form of education:
Not so long ago, DPF posted about a fun way to learn calculus. Unfortunately, such things just don't work. The blood flows to all the wrong places. However, the principle is sound. A worthwhile teacher can spellbind an audience like any other performer. These teachers exist in NZ. For many of them, their skills are monopolised by the elite schools in the nice suburbs.

I wonder how much it would cost to get a film crew to record a year's worth of lessons from these excellent teachers? Sure, you'd pay the teachers a good salary, especially if you didn't want them to prostitute themselves to advertisers like sportspeople and former comedians do. Now, once you've taped the periods, you'll need to burn, print and distribute them to all eligible students. I can't be arsed checking for statistics so I'll make a bold generalisation. Let's say half of NZ's population gets sent lessons. At about $3 from burn to letterbox, that's $6 million to passively educate half of NZ. A percursor to this is already available in Oz, the Interactive Maths Series for Year 7-10 students. Even at $50 a year, it's cheaper than those voluntary annual school fees some of you will be coughing up for shortly.

Someone much smarter and more motivated than me has now done it. The Khan Academy currently features over 1800 YouTube videos covering a vast range of educational tutorials. Kim Hill talked to the founder Sal Khan this morning. Nice one, Sal!

Friday, September 10, 2010

National Lampoon's Spies Like Us

I'd feel more foolish about announcing Farrar's "engagement" if it weren't for the unfortunate story involving NZ's armed forces and Stephen Wilce. TV3's 60 Minutes program uncovered what the NZ Defence Forces were unwilling to do, namely perform an elementary background check on a man handed a $350,000 a year salary and top security clearance.

John Key has said that it wasn't the role of the SIS to fact-check the details. That was presumably the job of employment consultants Momentum, who selected Wilce. Former National Prime Minister Jenny Shipley happens to sit on the Board of Directors for that company, so it's looking pretty eggy for the Nats whatever face they try to put on it. Not that Labour can make much hay out of the fiasco. Wilce was hired under their watch, along with the now-disgraced Mary Anne Thompson, the Immigration head who pretended to have a PhD.

Unlike Thompson, who seemed quite competent in her job up until trying to bend the rules for her family, Wilce seems to have been an incompetent and habitual fantasist for a very long time. At least Thompson worked towards a PhD at one stage. There are no mitigating circumstances for Wilce's pathological lying.

And there's no excuse for the Defence Services either. A complaint in 2008, presumably after Wilce claimed credit for inventing the Polaris missile, led to an overseas junket for Wilce, according to Patrick Gower. Talk about rewarding failure.

The last decade has been a reign of error for the Defence Forces. Whether it's LAV over-supply, unseaworthy navy vessels, double dipping military attaches or un-sellable Skyhawks, the only thing that seems to work properly is the front line grunts.

There needs to be a sea change in Defence culture, but there's little sign of it happening. The SIS will continue to maintain files on traditional targets such as Green MP Keith Locke and cannabis reformers such as NORML. We're obviously much more of a threat to national security than fabricating morons in highly paid and sensitive military positions.

All Day and All of the Night

Congratulations to David Farrar on his engagement. There's more to life than blog after all.

UPDATE: False alarm. Fucking cunts playing silly buggers.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Unorthodox traditions

Excellent long form journalism by Michael Lewis in Vanity Fair, looking at the teetering pile of crockery known as Greece. HT from the Greek Chorus of Felix Salmon, The Economist, Tyler Cowen, Andrew Sullivan, Dim Post, Quote Unquote and Bernard Hickey.

The ferry trip to the dark heart of Orthodoxy, where allegedly ascetic priests have used guilt to leverage land deals in order to renovate their holy sites, reminds me of 1990's Russia. Huge sums were spent there retrieving religious idols and doing up the orthodox spires while the masses starved. Quote Unquote shows how little has changed, linking to a story on how to buy lightbulbs in Russia.

Arts & Letters Daily links to two parts of Robert Fisk's inquiry into honour killings. The third part, looking at Egypt's murders dressed as suicides, shows it is not just a barbarism practised by Muslims. Even the Coptic Christians in Egypt are not above a bit of incest and slaughter.

And lest NZ gets too smug about our enlightened way of life, Hone Harawira points to our own skewed justice system, where jail sentences for Pineapple Lump theft are meted out, whilst multi-million dollar inbred transactions by South Canterbury Finance doesn't so much as get a slap on the wrist. HT Simon Pound.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Subatomic telethons

Not a week after the Christchurch Quake, NZ is scrambling its Special Entertainment Services. The NZSO is holding a free concert in Christchurch to help salve the residents' raw souls. Fund-raisers are sprouting up everywhere. Tonight in Wellington alone, Young Labour are holding a fundraising quiz. Up the road and round the bend, Bodega is holding a charity DJ set.

A number of businesses have contributed to relief efforts as well. The cynic in me sez there's a fine line between charity and marketing, but perhaps the shell-shocked inhabitants of Canterbury don't care where aid comes from right now. Unless it is from the US or UN, apparently:
New Zealand had turned down offers of support from the US military, based in Hawaii, and the UN he said. This was met with surprise, [Civil Defence head David Hamilton] said.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Satellite of love

If NZ has learned any lesson over the weekend, it is that the story of the Three Little Pigs is arse-backwards. Brick houses might keep the wolf from the door, but they are completely shagged in earthquakes. A House of Sticks would bend sufficiently to accommodate the vicious birth of new land, but a House of Straw would absorb even more shock.

In spite of early media reports of looting after the Christchurch Quake, there are no wolves in NZ. To date, reports of "looting" amount to two separate incidents of sole opportunists, and maybe a house burglary, which is par for the course in Christchurch anyway. Hell, it is probably the plot of this week's Outrageous Fortune episode. It's not beyond the skills of the kiwi Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of Falani and Eric.

On the contrary, NZ pulled together to help where they could. Twitter was spewing out news like a telegraph wire. Photos, status reports, severity indications, flood notifications. NatRad had Kim Hill giving advice on how to poo in plastic bags.

The impact of it all was apparent on Q&A. It was landmark television, along the lines of the Walker-Muldoon interview or Campbell's Corngate interview with Helen Clark. It was utterly devoid of PR spin and media office platitudes alike. It was a show made in NZ.

Therese Arseneau was visibly upset, raw with stress and fairly bruised. She had been at the Reconstituting the Constitution conference in Wellington the two days prior to Saturday morning's earthquake, and still managed to fly up to Auckland for Q&A while her family remained down south with the aftershocks. Paul Holmes and Bob Harvey rightly got an earful from her over the Bollard interview later on and fair go. Today of all days, she was not going to listen to their complete bullshit.

Tim Watkin best summed up Bob Parker's commentary over at Pundit. And yes, Parker (not Harvey) deserves all the credit for getting out there and daring the sky to fall on his head.

New Zealand, like Australia, is home to the black swan. What works in the northern sphere might seem ludicrous down under, and vice versa. It might take guns and Jesus to make USAers be nice to one another, but down this way, all we need is each other. She'll be right.