Thursday, September 29, 2011

We Suck Young Blood

Let's see now. That's 2 SAS dead, one teenage civilian courier dead, three or so death by cops, and something like a dozen dead from police chases. Is this some kind of record for government carnage?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fisking Graham Bell

I had to have a good laugh at Old Police's Graham Bell on NatRad's Panel yesterday. He's so used to juking stats in his old cop job, or juking ratings to prop up his Police 10-7 cop show porn, he doesn't know when to stop.

The excellent David Slack had just related his thoughts on Elizabeth Warren, who nicely encapsulated the "No-one is an Island" thought convincingly:
I hear all this, you know, "Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever."--No!
There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.
You built a factory out there--good for you! But I want to be clear.
You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for.
You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate.
You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.
You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.
Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea--God bless. Keep a big hunk of it.
But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.
After such wisdom, Graham Bell was a refreshing sorbet of deceitful ignorance. He was incensed that Don Brash had dare give such credence to those stoners seeking drug reform:
"Speaking of legal and political frameworks, Don Brash and his comments about cannabis, his musings on cannabis... Now, the real effect of these is that we've got the all the [sic] usual suspects like Fowlie and Dakta Green and all these other half-wits coming out of the woodwork to screech about cannabis law reform. Green's ridiculous bus (pictured below outside Parliament) was running up and down Queen Street with a loudhailer and a horn, on the back of Dr Brash's comments. "

The only reason why anyone heard anything about Dakta Green this week was because the police have dragged him out of Mt Eden Correctional Facility to the Auckland High Court to try and get him locked up a lot longer. No Right Turn has the gory on that story. Brash's comments were fortunate timing, nothing more.

Bell splutters on with inarticulate outrage. He hunches and theorises what might have given Brash the wherewithal to spout such stuff. Probably "victim" to some "cannabis lobby people". Not police mouth and wormtongue Greg O'Connor.

But then Bell has a punch at statistics, and this is where the greasy brotherhood of cops shows its stain. Because as all cops know, facts are flexible. They can be edited and re-arranged to prove criminal intent the way any reality TV editor can make even the most mundane act loaded with portent. Planting evidence? No worries. Lying under oath? For Queen and Country, maaaate.
"They quote these statistics that have no empirical worth. Like, an estimated 400,000 people are using cannabis each year. Now there are no actual statistics to back up that claim. The Health Department (hasn't been called that for a long time, old man) did a- a study where they interviewed a whole lot of people and one in seven of those surveyed reported having used or tried cannabis at some stage, but doesn't say that there are people out there smoking cannabis every week and the numbers are 400,000, that's a ridiculous assertion."
 The 400,000 figure is based on that fairly comprehensive survey quoted in the Law Commission's Controlling and Regulating Drugs report:

The footnote explains how they got 385,000:

1,000 people is considered the minimum for statistical significance. 6,500 people is very statistically significant. That's that's not just a whole lot of people, that's a shitload.

Graham Bell must have big problems with the Department of Statistics, because interviewing random samples and extrapolating from there is pretty much what they do. Of course, the police do not treat statistics with the same respect. The Masterton Police Child Abuse Cover Up is the most obvious example of this juking of the stats.

Stats are a best guess. No-one really knows how many people used cannabis last year, let alone last week. It's the same reason as nobody really knows how many LGBT New Zealanders there are. Estimates vary between five and ten percent of the population. It's same reason as we don't know how many drunk cops beat their partners in the last year, because all the evidence we have to go off are police convictions.

So, 385,000 in 2006 is the best guess available. Factor in population growth  to 2011, and there's an estimated 400,000 people who tried cannabis in the last year.

Most of New Zealand supports a change in the cannabis laws. Whatever we may think of our cannabis toting friends and relatives, very few believe we should lock them up. The murder of Liam Ashley put the sternest parents off that idea. The drug treatment groups are behind reform. The experts are behind reform (although they won't go on the record because their careers will be ruined e.g. Don Brash). Every poll that the MSM ask comes back with majority support for reform.

It is a good sign to hear Graham Bell being so defensive on cannabis law reform. It's a sign that the bullies might not get to pick on the hippy kids forever.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Karma Police

Busted Blonde points out that Taupo police arrested a South African journalist as a suspected drug dealer:
Ngobeni, an employee of Pretoria News and rugby analyst for the South African Broadcasting Commission (SABC), was the only black person in the pub at the time, said a Sapa journalist travelling with him.

Ngobeni was taken to a police station and searched. He had to remove items of clothing.
Stupid shit like this comes at a high price of tourism and reputation. The weird bouncer with the high moral stance who leaked video surveillance of holidaying Brits was bad enough. What goes on in NZ, stays in NZ. But here's the police abusing the Misuse of Drugs Act's search and arrest powers to hassle foreign correspondents.

Luckily for Ngobeni, he had sufficient credentials to get him out of trouble. I know other foreign nationals who haven't been so fortunate. It goes to shows those VRWC types though. Not all people arrested on drugs charges are guilty. Sometimes it's just a case of "we don't like the look of your type around here" hassling.

I can't wait til NZ Customs sic the drug dogs on a visiting head of state.

Nutt Blakemore Drug Harm Index

Here is a vid I put together today on the Nutt Blakemore Harm Index:

The NZ Law Commission and the Nutt Blakemore Drug Harm Index from Will de Cleene on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I've Been Smoking

I've got to give it to Don Brash. For an unadventurous man, he was pretty brave supporting the decrim of cannabis this morning. Yeah, this is old school Act policy. Richard Prebble backed decrim, as did Rodney Hide. Still, when you're running a lobotomised pitbull like John Banks in Epsom, it's a brave stance.

As a reward, here's a bit of advice for Don Brash. Cannabis is not his thing. If he's serious about making up with Je Lan, I recommend they both drop MDMA. It's like a marriage counsellor in a pill.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Act party completes conversion to nihilism

John Boscawen in walking out of the Act party. Seeing as he got into Act on the back of his Electoral Finance Bill protests, this does not bode well for next week's many votes in parliament.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Territorial Pissings

National has released the emergency urgency bill they are hoping to jump the pre-election shark, courtesy of Labour's Red Alert. It's pretty much as the Maori Party's Flavell said last week, making the illegal legal. Carte blanche for police video surveillance on private land.

It's nice to know all the parties are paying attention to this sort of stuff. Even Boscawen is only swearing to a first reading. A chocolate fish to Patrick Gower for telling Labour to harden the fuck up.

Happy 20th Nevermind:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mako Polo

For a party that sells itself as a law and order party, National sure treats the law as a mutable ball of Play Doh. They have stretched and pulled at it constantly this last term with constant urgency motions, smudging the lawbooks in crayons unmoderated by the select committee process. And now, National is proposing emergency retrospective urgency to contradict the highest court in the land.

National is preparing to jump the Foreshore & Seabed shark in a penguin suit. Will they have the momentum of numbers to make it over the mako tank? Peter Dunne will plank for anyone, but the Maori Party won't put out. Will law and order hypocrites the Act party plank for the penguin? Just remember what happened to the last sand-eating penguin.

Would any concerned MP like to ask John Key during Question Time what variety of "very serious criminals" he is referring to? I'm quite sure there's some very nice criminals mixed in that clump of police perving as well. Gardeners, florists and so forth.

UPDATE: Dean Knight covers the issue very well.
UPDATE 2: Andrew Geddis is going for it here. Maui Street has a say and linkage to other reactions.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Justice Rant 2.0

One of my most valued possessions is an original Hansard of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. The staples are a bit rusty, but it doesn't take much to hold what is essentially two pieces of yellowing A4 paper with words on it together.

This gossamer document is Joe Bloggs and Aroha Hapuka's only plain New Zilind armour to defend them against the full weight of the state machinery. You are free to come and go. You are free to choose your Tao, even ones not listed in the Department of Statistics little religion boxes. You are free from unreasonable search and seizure. You have a right to a trial by one's peers if the state threatens to lock you up.

It only takes a simple majority in Parliament to rip those words asunder. There is no love lost between me and the cold dark blue heart of this National government and its idea of justice. The right to silence is safe, for now. Simon Power couldn't muster more than a bare majority for that erosion of BoRA, relying on three kamikaze Act MPs tempted to cross the floor.

My heart has hardened to the Labour Party after they supported Simon Power's substantive changes in the Criminal Procedures Reform Bill, raising the jury threshold from three months to two years. The stench of Helen Clark remains on them with last Labour's government eroding BoRA their own way, with the Criminal Recovery Act fiddling with double jeopardy and unreasonable search and seizure. Then there was the daft and dangerous Electoral Finance Act that throttled the freedom of expression during the last election.

I'm not relying on the next Labour caucus to protect the citizens of this country from National when the re-write of the Search and Surveillance Bill is introduced to parliament properly. John Pagani thinks Greg O'Connor is spot on with his stance that police should be above the law:
Too many people have been far too quick ignore the seriousness of what's at stake here. Just imagine if the variety of ethnic nationalism at issue was the type preached by the Norwegian monster.
Pagani sounds like he disagreed with the Norwegian  political response, which was that they weren't going to over-react and curtail civil freedoms due to a single fanatical nutjob.  Pagani is pointedly disagreeing with the majority decision of the Supreme Court as well. Witness the arsenal at hand:
The Crown have listed the guns which they allege the group had. They include a sawn off shot gun, a Lee Enfield .303, a rifle, a sawn off rifle and four other rifles.
My old man would have still outgunned them. Former part-time Army guy Jan Molenaar could have outgunned them. There's no doubt that the resources available to the police would have outgunned them. The town of Ruatoki got a taste of force multipliers available to the police a few years ago, with not so much as an apology pending.

But that's getting a bit too close to sub judice right now. I'll wait until next year's trial to dig into that further.

Pagani agrees with O'Connor that their illegal practices of video surveillance should be made legal. The argument this tilts on is fundamental to human rights. O'Connor spilled it on Checkpoint last night:
"We always believed that if it wasn't illegal, if it was for a normal member of the public, if something's not illegal, you're essentially allowed to do it."
Police are not normal members of the public. They are state servants. They are armed with a formidable range of tools well beyond the reach of a normal member of the public. No normal member of the public can harass someone quite so comprehensively as the police. The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act is the public's only protection from this brotherhood of cops.

Greg O'Connor would be a happy man if BoRA was repealed tomorrow. His men could follow their gut instincts, fantasies and grudges with impunity, without the restraint of reason or balance of natural justice. Both of the main political parties are happy to dismantle the Bill of Rights Act, one word at a time. So, it's good to have a Supreme Court that can balance out the scales of justice a little.

No normal member of the public has such voluble PR or political access as police mouth Greg O'Connor. No-one challenges him when he spouts rubbish, such as that Checkpoint interview when he sez that the video surveillance decision will affect rape and murder inquiries. Most surveillance is on alleged crime conspiracies such as unarmed dope growers or wingnut circus militias on private land in the wop wops. Mainly the former.

Only the police can sex up a cannabis raid as seizing "$10 million worth of tinnies" and skite about how much property they have stolen with a straight face. I know people who have had their banks accounts trawled and personal belongings seized as arrest warrants are served for cannabis offences. It's a shakedown, plain a simple.

Only the police would argue to change the law to suit their illegal habits, yet stymie any de-escalation in the War on Drugs. If only the police are given more tools! more tools! then they will win this destructive civil war on our people. Somehow, the police will manage to arrest the 400,000 New Zealanders who used cannabis last year. Somehow, the nation's treatment services will get all these reasonable, rational members of the public to forsake cannabis and convert to more mainstream therapies such as alcohol, rugby or Jesus.

Thank Dagg for the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. The rats from National and Labour might gnaw away at it, but these two pieces of paper still protect me from the vanilla people and their narrow diet. Whatever my thoughts on Tame Iti's Flightless Circus, I thank them for the precedent that will make the police think twice before perving on their eccentric neighbours.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pretty Vacant

Dim Post points to Russell Brown's photo from last night's Auckland fan zone. This was shot this evening in Wellington's fan zone on the waterfront before the Russia US game:

By the start of the game, a dozen or so people had turned up, but you get the idea.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Godmother

It is 4am in the morning at Sir Peter Jackson's house in Miramar. The phone rings. Sir Peter picks up the phone.

"You owe the Godmother a favour," the voice says. "Be ready to receive the Godmother at your studio in one hour."

Sir Peter is standing by the elevator door as the lift descends to the production floor. Two figures in trenchcoats and fedoras carry a stretcher out of the lift past Sir Peter. Helen Clark steps out and walks to Sir Peter.

"Are you ready to do me a service?" says Clark.

"Certainly, Godmother. How can I be of service?" says Sir Peter.

They walk over to the table where the stretcher has been placed.

"I want you to use all of your powers and all of your skills..." says Clark. She pulls back the blanket to reveal a badly mangled penguin.

"I don't want the public to see him this way. I want you to stuff this penguin and make it presentable for public viewing." she says.

"The damage is immense," says Sir Peter, inspecting the corpse. "This is a gunshot wound, not bite marks."

The Godmother stares icily at one of her minions. "We were only meant to stun and recapture him once the DoC crew had departed. Chris Carter mistook the shark gun for the tranq gun though and blew half of Happy Feet's torso away. Can you... fix him?" says Clark.

"It will be done, Godmother." says Sir Peter. "You want to give him a proper funeral?"

"No, I want you to stuff him with as much animitronics as you can. I want him to replace Phil Goff as Labour Party leader after the election."

The Loudest Guys in the Room

In most cultures, guests are honoured not abused. National party culture is not one of them. John Key and his chums come across as boorish hosts. John Key thought it a lark to dress the Pacific Forum members in All Black jerseys. Julia Gillard tired of Key's incessant Wallaby bashing. Then there's accusations of jingoistic rugby banter going one toke over the line in a corporate box.

But as far as boorish hosts hijacking parties goes, you can't go past the first King of Queen's Wharf, Murray McCully. At least King Gerry the First got given his unbridled power after an earthquake or two. King Murray got his just because he can.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Peter Dunne and the smoking gun

A couple of days ago, Associate Minister of Health and new Drug Czar Peter Dunne released the government's response to the Law Commission's Controlling and Regulating Drugs Report, the review of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975. His written statement noted:
“It is the Government’s view that is not its role to initiate clinical trials on cannabis leaf or any other product or substance."

The National Drug Policy, first instituted in 1998 under the last National government, has this to say on drug research funding:
2.5 National Drug Policy Discretionary Fund

The National Drug Policy Discretionary Grant Fund (NDPDGF), established in 2004, provides government ministers involved with drug policy with access to a pool of funding for new initiatives or projects that fill gaps in drug policy work. The NDPDGF will continue to fund:
  • High-quality cross-departmental projects that support the advancement of the National Drug Policy
  • Projects that fill a gap which would otherwise remain unfilled due to not meeting a particular agency’s funding criteria
  • Projects that allow for forward planning and fast response by government agencies to changes in current and emerging drug trends.

The fund is jointly managed by the IACD and MCDP.

The NDPDGF has funded research into benzylpiperazine (BZP), a substance for which there was little knowledge world wide. It is expected that the NDPDGF will continue to be a source of funding for cutting-edge research and interim support for innovative approaches to drug issues.
It's not that the government doesn't fund drug research. It just wants to avoid any inconvenient truths on it's faith-based crusade of drug prohibition.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Working for the big cheese

The people in Whangarei are safe from the mortal dangers of fake adidas goods. I just hope I don't have to shut down the 2012 goNZo Freakpower Summer Collection. I've got dozens of black singlets ready to roll off the Pook Farm presses...

The mouse who drives the small tractor over the singlets might have to be let go.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

4:20 News - Paper Planes Edition

Back Benches was deserted last night. Wallace and Damian were stuck with safe MPs who were trusted by their respective whips enough not to say anything interesting and/or controversial, as well as a hollow audience to bounce off. The pub was empty because Parliament was a hive of activity right last night. Parliament rises in barely a month, and the Heineken Mastercard Rugby World Cup will provide a distraction for a flood of paperwork.

Peter Dunne has released the government's response to the Law Commission's Misuse of Drugs Act review. A complete re-write of the Misuse of Drugs Act will be on the cards after the election, but not in a good way:
“The current Act was developed nearly 40 years ago at a time when drugs and their use were very different than they are today and the argument for a substantive update is clear and compelling

Mr Dunne said it is unlikely that all the Law Commission’s recommendations would find their way into Government policy or law.

“Officials are evaluating all the recommendations and will advise the next government on how best to incorporate some of the key into a new Act to be considered by the incoming Parliament,” he said.

Among the more controversial Law Commission recommendations in its May report was that clinical trials be conducted into the medical use of leaf cannabis.

“We are not going with that recommendation. It is the Government’s view that is not its role to initiate clinical trials on cannabis leaf or any other product or substance.

“If the active ingredient of cannabis is seen as essential or beneficial for pain relief there are already pharmaceutical forms of it available that provide measured doses and quality control,” he said.

Mr Dunne said that the Law Commission’s recommendations that specialist drug courts be established was being progressed separately by Justice Minister Simon Power.
Dunne is saying that it's not the government's job to base their conclusions upon evidence. The last patch-up job to the MoDA earlier this year (the Kronic ban, characterised by a complete absence of evidence) already gave Peter Dunne the power of Drug Czar. Dunne is able to ban substances with a wave of a Gazette and an order in Council motion. No need for EACD advice, select committee scrutiny or moral hazard. Dunne is judge, jury and censor.

It comes the same day that police around the country executed 300 search warrants, arresting 301 people, mainly for cannabis. No Right Turn sums it up: Madness. This must be about the fifteenth or sixteenth "cornerstone of the cannabis industry" the police have knocked off. How many cornerstones are there?

Meantime, a drug mule dies after trying to import half a kilo of cocaine into the country. Prohibition is literally killing people in this country. The lucrative profits that are bestowed on these drugs is solely because of their illegality.

Massey University's annual Dope Fiend survey has been released by SHORE. The Herald notes that Ecstacy use is up and price is down. Not in the Herald story but in the survey, cannabis remains easy or very easy to procure. The price is stable at an inflation-resistant $20 a tinnie, $300 an ounce.

The Forty Years Civil War goes on...

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Justice Rant

The firearms charges against many of Tame Iti's Flightless Circus have been dropped. Just a handful of charges remain, mainly for aggressive performance art. Justice delayed is justice denied and if you can't beat the system, stalemate it.

The rumble of thunder going through the blogosphere and elsewhere over the Cunningham decision to not impede a certain comedian's career in canned laughter continues. One of the latter examples is No Right Turn comparing the obiter dicta of two sentences and their very different punchlines.

Not wanting to demean the situation, but I know people who are in prison right now for sharing flowers amongst consenting adults. Surely their so-called crimes are less despicable than pissed stand-ups going down on forbidden fruit.

One of those people in prison is Dakta Green, who is experiencing the Private Prison system first hand; the Serco Circus Experience as it is known. In some ways, the prison reflects the justice system, in that it is increasingly user pays.

May the most expensive lawyer win. Good luck to everyone else stuck with Public Defender Lotto. In the unlikely event that the wealthy lose their case and are actually sent to prison, conveniences such as in-cell widescreen TVs can be had for a fee. If you're too poor to buy the services, hopefully you'll double-bunk with a former finance company director.

In other Justice News, Medical cannabis campaigner Billy Mckee's next court hearing was unexpectedly postponed. Billy only found out on Monday through his lawyer that his day in Levin court wasn't todasy as planned, but now scheduled for October 12th.

It usually isn't the defendant who holds up things in court proceedings, as VRWC bloggers have argued. It wasn't the Defence that paused Billy's path through the justice system's large intestine. It was either a court or prosecution hold-up. Maryjane the Cannabus was planning to drive down in support Billy, and suddenly all this is put screaming to a halt due to the fickle court system.

The weight and complexity of the Crown can take almost all the time it wants to persecute their target, with resources far beyond the muster of the regular citizen. It is the defendant who is more out of pocket when they are called up, postponed and generally given the run-around while the bureaucracy sharpens its knives.

There is too much cash and bling skewing the scales of justice. Guilt and innocence are increasingly being determined by the ability to pay. Scale and proportion are out of kilter. Ethics don't even some into the equation any more. That principle died the same way as reasonable doubt and universal suffrage. Strangled by a government which is also eyeing up removing the right to silence, the right to a trial by peers not lords.

Wanna hear a joke? New Zealand's Justice System.

Jobs Machine

The latest Ministry of Truth figures are out on teen unemployment. Good news, everybody! Benefit numbers are at a two year low!

With less than a week before the Heineken Mastercard Rugby World Cup kicks off, you'd presume that there would be a need for cheap casual labour somewhere. Sure enough, they're all working for minimum wage (or less) at the understaffed and under-prepared novelty Wynard Quarter.

Wait til after Xmas and see how the figures look then. Ah, but Chris Trotter's ear for wit has beaten me to the punchline.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Correlations of the Wairarapa

Stuff carries a story this morning of rumours of a mass suicide teen pact in the Wairarapa:
After the sudden deaths of four teenagers, authorities and community groups are clamping down on frenzied social media messages which make claims of a pact among some teenagers to end their lives, and identify – often falsely – teenagers who have killed themselves and ways they have done it.

Four teenagers have died tragically since June – three from Masterton and one from Pahiatua. A girl, 17, died in Masterton on Thursday morning, following the deaths of a Masterton girl, 14, last week and a boy, 17, in June. 
I am loathe to point fingers at correlation and causation from this side of the Tararuas, but one can't help wondering whether this mental health breakdown has anything to do with the rampant burying of sexual abuse cases by police back in 2006:
Eighteen separate police employment investigations were launched in the wake of failures in Wairarapa child abuse cases. The buildup of 142 cases in Wairarapa sparked an operation that led to police revisiting 7000 child abuse files nationwide, going back over 25 years.
The children of 2006 are today's teenagers.

Nor can I resist looking up the NZ Police's Annual Report from 2006:

Police have assumed responsibility from the Ministry of Justice for a sector wide initiative involving the deployment of family safety teams. Five teams have been established across Auckland, Hamilton, Hutt Valley, Wairarapa and Christchurch along with a National Family Safety Team Co-ordinator.
Or checking the stats (.pdf) to compare how many cannabis arrests Masterton busted:

Compared with how many sexual offences were charged:

Over 600 cannabis arrests in 2006 with a resolution rate over 90 percent. A mere 38 sexual offences were recorded for the same period, with a resolution rate of 31.6 percent. Barely a quarter of the actual 142 sexual abuse cases were recorded here. Of that, an infinitesimal 12 cases were resolved.

You can see where the police's priorities lie in the safe National seat of the Wairarapa. Busting cannabis users is as simple as following your nose and the easy road to promotion. Whereas resolving sexual abuse offences is messy, difficult and possibly devastating to careers if you cross the wrong suspect.

When self-medication is unavailable, self harm becomes an option. The police have failed in their duty to protect the vulnerable and defenceless, and now the price of that failure will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

The New Adventures of Super Key Man

Is it a shag? Is it a glider? No, it's Super Key Man!

Faster than a parliamentary urgency motion! Can leap tall facts with weightless confidence! It's Super Key Man saving the rich and well-off from the evil forces of the proletariat!

Last week, you will recall that Super Key Man had a close shave with DPB Mum and Delinquent Unemployed Hoodie Boy. What terrible fiend has threatened the focus group munchkins this week? Stay tuned for another exciting episode of... The Adventures of Super Key Man!

John Key is relaxing at his secret hideout in Hawaii after a hard week of smiling and waving. His butler, Toby, is hard at work giving him a facial and arm rub.

Toby: Senor Key, you mustn't overwork yourself. If you don't slow down on the smiling and waving, you'll get arthritis.

John Key: There's no rest for the righteous or the wicked, Toby. If I don't fight for the rich and powerful, who will?

The phone rings in the next door study.

Toby: I'll get it, Senor Key.

A few moments later, Toby returns with an iPhone on a platinum platter.

Toby: It is Police Commissioner Marshall on the phone, Senor Key.

John Key: Hello Commissioner Marshall. Super Key Man here. What can I get you today?

Police Commissioner Marshall: Super Key Man, please help us! Domestic Violence and Suicide have been appearing all over the country! We don't know what to do! Our tasers and jail cells are useless!

John Key: Never fear, Commissioner. I'll get right on top of it.

John Key jumps up and runs to the study. He plays the first few bars of "If I Were a Rich Man" on the grand piano. A bookshelf of Forbes magazines clicks open and John Key disappears inside. He emerges as... Super Key Man!

After a short flight back to New Zealand in his Super Key Hercules plane, as well as a connector flight in his Super Key Iroquois copter, followed by a quick drive in the Super Key BMW mobile, Super Key Man has cornered Domestic Violence and Suicide in a dramatically lit trailer park.

Super Key Man: I've got you cornered now, Domestic Violence and Suicide. You will prey on the fears of middle New Zealand no longer! Come out of the shadows, Domestic Violence and Suicide!

Domestic Violence: OK, OK. Just don't hit us!

Super Key Man: Hang on. Ummm, aren't you DPB Mum? Didn't I vanquish you last week?

Domestic Violence: That's right. I was hoping you wouldn't recognise me with the mask of welts and bruises.

Super Key Man: And... er... I suppose Suicide lying over there is Delinquent Unemployed Hoodie Boy.

Domestic Violence: Was. He's dead.

What a bummer! How can Super Key Man win the day and make political capital out of this? Stay tuned next week for another exciting episode of... Super Key Man!

Friday, September 02, 2011

The Power and the Passion

It's Friday night and I don't really want to rip into a long post on SOE sales and Rogernomics, but posts by David Farrar and Chris Trotter are really grinding my gears. Someone is wrong on the internet.

David Farrar's piece on the political cost of partial SOE floats should be a bit easier to lambast, seeing as Paul Walker at Anti-Dismal has shredded his arguments quite nicely. The old man used to discuss aspects of Labour IV's 1980's asset sell-off with me. Parts of his arguments appear in Walker's post.

For example, the whole point of selling down an asset is to get the very best price for its sale. When the Fourth Labour Government started its state sell-offs, the calculus was straight-forward. They would balance the retirement of massive public debt against the strategic utility of that asset.

That's why Petrocorp was one off the first on the block. The high risk, high expense speculation of oil and gas fields might have been potentially lucrative, but it would take the luck of Jed (Beverley Hillbillies) Clampett to make anything of it. The NZ government was not in the position to go huntin' for some crude with its then-dire balance sheet.

Same with the Forestry sale. Sure, those saplings might be worth something in twenty or thirty years' time, but owning future logs was not core infrastructure. I remember the old man coming home after selling the forests. It was one of the rare occasions where my father looked genuinely happy. Y'see, the forestry sale paid off the last chunk of New Zealand's serious public debt.

Trev was aware of the political cost of asset sales. He used to crow that he'd have flogged Air New Zealand off to Singapore Airlines or JAL, but the RSA brigade would crucify them with "Who won the bloody war anyway?" arguments.

Times have changed but the maths hasn't. The partial float of power companies will not get the best price for what it's worth. Believe me, it makes the 80's fire sales look well-priced in comparison. OK, don't believe me. Here's Paul Walker:
[H]aving foreign bidders just means that the price the government gets for its assets is higher than it otherwise would be. A higher price is also paid for a controlling share in a firm, selling a partial share in a firm will lower the price paid. 51% is worth a lot more than 49%!

A partial float is rotten value for the government. OK, so why sell it anyway? The puny sale prices will not go towards paying down structural debt, but is instead earmarked for pork; roads, schools and so on. Stuff that should be already budgeted for in normal government expenditure, but will instead be used to sway marginal constituencies to National's tune.

A far lesser reason to sell up is to prop up the moribund NZX with companies of some scale. This is a rubbish reason. Brian Gaynor highlights this corporate stagnation nicely:
In December 1986, all of the 10 largest companies had private sector origins, and most were named after their creators. Top 10 company founders included Ron Brierley, James Fletcher, James Wattie, Bob Jones and Frank Renouf. Chase and Equiticorp were also dominated by individuals, Colin Reynolds and Allan Hawkins respectively.

Thirteen years later only Carter Holt Harvey and Brierley Investments remained in the top 10, and Brierley's value is down from $5481 million to $1097 million.

Sure, those 80's companies were pre-1987 sharemarket crash. But as Gaynor points out, even former Telecom CEO Teresa Gattung cashed up her shares and stuck it in gold. Such is the confidence with which the NZX is held these days. Sticking a few more former state owned assets on the board is not going to breathe life into that beast.

Electricity companies are core infrastructure. They quite literally power the country. Or at least, 75 percent of it. The other 25 percent off their output goes to the aluminium smelter in the Deep South. We've all seen what happens when you sell one off. Contact Energy is losing customers hand over fist due to bad press and competitive pressure.

Then there's the Enron thing. The California power crisis rorts and swindles of the early 2000's was well described in the documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.

Then there's the TVNZ Charter problem. That horrible mish-mash when a company faces conflicting objectives of serving the shareholders as well as the public good. It ends up a PushMe-PullYou bush pig.

Chris Trotter's opinion column blaming Rogernomics for crappy news programs is just hilarious:
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO just under half of the news items on the six o’clock news were devoted to politics. Today, less than a quarter qualify as political coverage...

The answer, of course, is “Rogernomics”.

At the heart of the neoliberal revolution that Roger Douglas and the Fourth Labour Government ushered in was a profound hostility towards, and impatience with, New Zealand’s highly participatory political tradition.
I have blogged previously on some of the reasons why "New Zealand’s highly participatory political tradition" has declined in the intervening decades. Short answer, it wasn't Rogernomics.

Rogernomics did not repeal compulsory unionism. People still had to be riveted to the TV to see how much of a wage increase Federation o'Labour's Jim Knox had got them in the latest award rates round. No-one's glued to the telly these days wondering whether the PM is going to declare a wage and price freeze. That's a good thing.

Rogernomics did split the Post Office into three; Telecom, Postbank and NZ Post. The rapport between constituent and MP widened as MPs no longer had sway over who got their phone connected earlier than six weeks. These days, we're limited to MPs pork-barreling over who gets government paid fibre optic to their home first.

The one thing that Chris Trotter could have used against Rogernomics, he doesn't. The Fourth Labour Government spawned government Public Relations spin. The advent of television saw the Beehive respond with media advisors in the 1980's. Where once MPs just blabbed to reporters directly or through their private secretary, now the press secretary ironed and starched their releases. The hollow age of professional politics was born.

The old man was rather proud that he was the only government minister who hadn't succumbed to getting a press secretary, but it was not a trend that anyone else picked up on. Similar principles led him to always pick male private secretaries, so the risk of cheating on his second wife was greatly diminished. It's a lesson many have yet to learn even now.

And now, here's Peter Garrett way before he nailed his hand to the Oz insulation scheme:

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Fear and Downloading with Skynet

It's the first day of spring and P2P in NZ is now "illegal". The troll farmers are sowing their infringement notices as we type. Not that the hardcore will get them. It'll be the public libraries, the wifi hotspotters and completely innocent Mums and Dads who'll get the nastygrams in the mail.

Circumvention measures have already been taken by those with half a clue. The torrents will flow. Hell, I'm almost tempted to torrent today for the hell of it and do the finger to the troll farmers. After all, mobile networks are immune to trollers until 2013.

Nope, it'll be the naive who will be cross-subsidising John Key's dinners with Warner Brothers, the unsecured wireless home and business networks who will help pay Rupert Murdoch's legal fees through the guilt-before-innocence copyright notices.

I mean, it's not as if the copyright trolls are balancing things out with making Hulu or Netflix or even the BBC feed available here. And I'm with Aarvark on Labour's cheap shill at the Zeitgeist:
As a footnote -- the headless Labour party has announced this week that it would repeal the 3-strikes provision of the new law. What a bunch of tossers. Much of this stupid law is their doing and they actually voted for it back in April. It seems this is a political party that really has lost the plot and is grasping at any straw in the lead-up to the November elections.
Will the trolls take on the wrong goat? Methinks the troll farmers and lawmakers will reap what they sow.