Thursday, December 30, 2004

Physics 1, Teenager 0

The Herald reports how a teenager was shocked to death when he climbed through a barbed wire barricade and up an electricity pylon. Just goes to show that imbecilic morons cannot be stopped, no matter how many laws you threaten them with.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


(STR/AFP/Getty Images)

When the night shows
the signals grow on radios
All the strange things
they come and go, as early warnings
Stranded starfish have no place to hide
still waiting for the swollen Easter tide
There's no point in direction we cannot
even choose a side.

I took the old track
the hollow shoulder, across the waters
On the tall cliffs
they were getting older, sons and daughters
The jaded underworld was riding high
Waves of steel hurled metal at the sky
and as the nail sunk in the cloud, the rain
was warm and soaked the crowd.

Lord, here comes the flood
We'll say goodbye to flesh and blood
If again the seas are silent
in any still alive
It'll be those who gave their island to survive
Drink up, dreamers, you're running dry.

(Eranga Jayawardena / AP)

When the flood calls
You have no home, you have no walls
In the thunder crash
You're a thousand minds, within a flash
Don't be afraid to cry at what you see
The actors gone, there's only you and me
And if we break before the dawn, they'll
use up what we used to be.

Lord, here comes the flood
We'll say goodbye to flesh and blood
If again the seas are silent
in any still alive
It'll be those who gave their island to survive
Drink up, dreamers, you're running dry.

Words: Peter Gabriel

Monday, December 27, 2004

Reasons to be Cheerful

2005's movie listings are making quite a few freaks and geeks go apeshit in anticipation.

1. King Kong - A Christmas without a new Peter Jackson movie seems odd. Thankfully, King Kong will brighten next year's Seasoned Madness.

2. Star Wars 3: Revenge of the Sith - The final prequel to the 1977 classic hits theatres around the globe in May. Expect retro-70s design and lots of heavy breathing.

3. Batman Begins - Forget the camp crap of Batman Forever or Batman and Robin. Memento director Chris Nolan steers the American Psycho star through a labyrinth of dark places. Mind-buggeringly good support cast (Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Morgan Freeman, Rutger Hauer)

4. Sin City - Frank Miller, inspiration behind the Batman Begins grit, penned this noir comic back in the 90's. He teams up with Robert Rodriguez to put three of the stories onto film; Sin City, That Yellow Bastard, and The Big Fat Kill. Another gob-smacking cast, and Tarantino directs a story.

5. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams is dead but, before the dolphins took him, he wrote the screenplay for this movie.

6. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - not my thing, but Miss Ann Thrope made me include it.

7. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - I'm not throwing out the Gene Wilder DVD yet, but Depp and Burton are the right people for the job.

8. Aeon Flux - If this movie is half as kinky as the TV4 show, I'm in. With Charlize Theron in the lead role, I might be in twice!

9. War of the Worlds - Having grown up with the spooky soundtrack and a vivid imagination, this film will have some strong preconceptions to improve upon. Spielberg and Cruise did a good job on Minority Report, so here's hoping there's not a friendly ET in sight.

10. The Brothers Grimm - Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas director Terry Gilliam returns to the big screen after The Man Who Killed Don Quixote washed out.

11. The Rum Diary - F&L in Las Vegas stars Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro twist one of HST's tales into celluloid.

12. The Fountain - Darren Aronofsky has been linked to many almost-movies since Requiem for a Dream shattered people in 2000. There's been Batman: Year One, Watchmen, and Kazuo Koike's Lone Wolf and Cub. Although they are currently filming this post-modern masterpiece, I'll wait til the trailers start popping up before getting too hopeful.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

It was 90 years ago today

Around the western world, credit cards are warming down from the Mad Christmas Shop and preparing for the Post-Christmas Sale. For their owners, it may be worth taking some time to remember one past Christmas present beyond the reach of cash.

Ninety years ago, the armies fighting World War I had their first Christmas in the trenches. On the Frelingien-Houplines part of the front line, German and British soldiers met in No-Man's Land for a game of soccer.

Have a very Human Christmas.

Peace, Love and Understanding,
Will, aka Zippy

Friday, December 24, 2004

Elgoog beats Chinese Govt restrictions

Here's something. Go to Google and type in "elgoog". Click the first link in the results. You can now search any subject you like, as long as it is entered backwards. eg. sgniR eht fo droL. This is a great tool if you live in China, as the government restricts access to subversive sites such as BBC News. The (literal) Google mirror circumvents this censorship completely. Have a look in New Scientist for the details.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Silly Season Headlines

You can tell the silly season is upon us by observing our media. Today's headlines are no exception. Auckland City Councils are looking at banning aerosol paint to under 18 year-olds in a hopelessly naive effort to stop taggers from defacing property. Never mind the article points out that taggers are diversifying with marker pens and window gouging. Banning spray paint will fix the problem.

The Councils shouldn't bother. For one, Chairman Jim wants every aerosol labelled, signposted and restricted to adults soon, as three or four people died from huffing the fumes off them a while ago. His SOP aims to ban everything that might possibly maybe hurt stupid teenagers. (Note: one of the deaths that brought this SOP into daylight was a 27 year-old).

Secondly, no-one in the Auckland Councils seems to suggest mentoring these taggers in their artistic skills is a Good Idea. Auckland is one of the most boring places to grow up in, and it is no surprise kids are making their own fun. Although their talents might be better aimed at becoming the new Colin McCahon, the designated mantra of government to everything is: if in doubt, ban it.

Banning things only works if you can enforce it. Who will do that? Another Council Business Unit perhaps, like the Brothel Patrol, the Smoke Police, the Health Inspectors, the Dog Poo Crew, or the Noise Control Killjoys (first The Temple, now the Speedway. Who is next?). I know! Let's get our police to enforce it, along with the gazillion other things government heaped on the under-funded, resource-scarce and crap moraled police force.

Meantime down in Christchurch, the highly-competitive herbal high market is causing concern. Drug Foundation Exec. Direc. Ross Bell said there was "hysteria" from some Christchurch doctors who said young people were checking into A&E after eating too many pills. There are reports that Christchurch Hospital has been getting a 'cluster' of admissions; six people a week. Are they the same six people each week?

Even if they aren't, I'm certain more people get admitted to hospital with gardening injuries. The media aren't seeing this as a cause for concern. Legal party drugs sold without labels dangerous: watchdog, screams the Herald. Where's the danger? "People might not know what they are taking and might not know the recommended dose." Gee, sounds like they're talking about homebrew. I suppose the Herald must maintain the same level of proportion they used for the P epidemic, just to be consistent.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Speedway, Schmeedway

I can't understand what the fuss is all about with the Western Springs Speedway. If you live in the city, expect noise. If you live in the country, expect shit on your car tyres.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Art of Circumlocution

Interesting comparing the TV headlines tonight. TV3 had Judy Bailey firmly in their sights, headlining the news of her stratospheric salary. Much talk of "heads will roll" and other sound and fury.

TV One had time to show two news headlines in the time it took to show TV3's headliner. Watching Judy Bailey announce how her salary package got her bosses into political hot water was an exercise in pokerface. The news item, covered chivalrously by Mark Sainsbury, glossed over Bailey's involvement. It seemed a mere technicality in the political shitstorm that followed.

TVNZ, bringing meta references into the mainstream.

New Zealand Upgrades Armed Forces

I wouldn't normally post chain emails, but this one got me good.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Doing the Cuba Mall Shuffle

Just got home after collecting signatures in Cuba Street for the referendum. Absolutely stoked by the level of support for a new flag. If this level of interest continues, Kiwis will get to have a say on election day next year in a Citizens' Initiated Referendum on the issue.

The people in Wellington never cease to amaze me. A diverse bunch of ethnicities and eccentricities, styles and smiles. Even the few people who disagreed with the 'change the flag' idea did so in an amicable way. No wonder I moved back here.

A highlight was getting former mayor and National candidate for Wellington Central Mark Blumsky to sign the petition. OK, it was a soft sell. He pointed out the flag he was flying from his apartment roof further up the street.

Couldn't resist name-dropping David Farrar into the conversation. Old habits die hard!

Friday, December 10, 2004

The unbearable dangers of safety

You'll find more children playing Virtua Cricket on PS2 than the real thing these days. No wonder the Black Caps still rely on Chris Harris and Cairns. The joy of riding a bike has become a chore ever since bike helmets were made compulsory, yet the Health freaks gasp in surprise at rising obesity problems.

'Behold the wholly sanitized childhood, without skinned knees or the occasional C in history. "Kids need to feel badly sometimes," says child psychologist David Elkind, professor at Tufts University. "We learn through experience and we learn through bad experiences. Through failure we learn how to cope." ' So writes Hara Estroff Marano in A Nation of Wimps.

Interesting times

A big congratulations to Tim Barnett, David Benson-Pope and all the others who persevered in the face of the Chicken Little wackos and nosey do-gooders to pass the Civil Union Bill into law yesterday.

Some years ago, I made a promise never to get married. The Civil Union Bill will allow me to circumvent this pact without condemning me to a life of solitude. OK, there are a few things to sort out still, such as finding a woman who can tolerate my highly-strung antics. But it's a start!

My prospects in finding a suitable partner will not be increased by the anti-smoking law that came into effect last night. Another attempt at extricating free will from human nature, the smokefree law provides one more reason to stay at home. L'enfer, c'est les autres!

Not content with banning doubleplusungood habits indoors, the anti-smoking lobby is now looking at putting age restrictions on movies which feature smokers. I can just imagine it; Winston Churchill's memoirs rated R18 due to gratuitous cigar smoking. Casablanca has no sex or graphic violence but will be adults-only viewing because Bogie likes his ciggies. Steven Spielberg will re-release Saving Private Ryan, digitally inserting carrot sticks where cigarettes used to be. Never mind the horrors of war. Think of how many Allied soldiers died from passive smoking!

It is bad enough that live theatre performances will make all roles non-smoking whether it suits the character or not, thanks to another stupid law. The Safety Nazis will not be happy until they curse all art with their presence too.

Thursday, December 09, 2004


The MPs have just gone in for the final reading of the Civil Union Bill. Coincidentally, the weather has just turned to shit. Is Brian Tamaki in town?

Working for the dole

For an unemployed person, I'm pretty damned busy. Not content with putting my hand up for a few NORML things, I've just gone and doubled my workload by volunteering as the Wellington co-ordinator for the referendum campaign. With a little luck I might one day talk myself into a position that actually pays the bills!

In the meantime, there's intense media training to be done. I'll soon be learning all the buzzwords and soundbites for the media outlets. I've already been reading up, perusing books like Seven Highly Effective Ways to Sell Ice to Eskimos and the Goebbels Guide to Marketing. Very soon, I reckon, I'll excel at spouting bullshit communicating effectively with target markets.

If anyone from WINZ reads this, I am still actively seeking employment, OK?

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Zippy Gonzales has left the building

David Farrar pointed out in the Weekend DominionPost that political blogs should have real names. Fair point, I suppose. Anyone can rant behind a pseudonym. Therefore, I have taken his advice and removed my alter-ego from the site.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Spam the MPs on CUB

Well, it's less than 24 hours before the MPs mass debate the Civil Union Bill in the House. Do-gooders and control freaks have been lobbying like crazy. I've spent the best part of the afternoon throwing out pro-CUB emails.

Act, the Liberal Party, are looking at voting 5-4 For. It's a pity new MP Kenneth Wang has sided with Muriel, Gerry and Stephen. Don Brash, a closet liberal, also looks like he'll be voting against the Bill. But until they vote, you just don't know.

Try the lazy bastards' guide to lobbying MPs at the CUB letter engine here. Remember, democracy only works if you use it!

First select committee appearance cut short

Just got back home from appearing before the Health select committee, which is currently hearing submissions regarding the Misuse of Drugs (No 3) Bill. This nasty Bill wants to extend police and Customs powers above and beyond the call of reason, make possession of Coldrex without an excuse a crime, and repeatedly strip search people held on suspicion of concealing drugs internally.

Now I'll be the first to admit I'm not the best in front of crowds, but it would have been good to at least have a chance to finish what I had to say. These are public submissions after all. After spending hours upon hours researching this thing, following due proceesses and deadlines, I would have thought they could at least humour me for ten minutes. Nup.

Health Chair Steve Chadwick, a model of politeness, felt they shouldn't take up too much of my time. I tried to point out I was free until 4:20, but to no avail. So much for the many valid uses for amphetamine, ethedrine and pseudoethedrine, which would be affected by the P witch hunt. So much for the demonstration of social and economic sense behind government-controlled meth clinics.

In fairness, I can see why I was shut down. Everyone else who gave submissions at the meeting was an expert. The Drug Policy Foundation were there talking to the guy from the Needle Exchange Program in Auckland. Sage professionals filled the room, lamenting the failure of prohibition to prevent drug abuse, and were heard by the committe chair in rapt awe and attention. Me? I was with the NORML ppl.

Ah well, "Nobody Takes Me Seriously Anyway," as Split Enz used to say.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Happy days in Paki Paki

Have just got back from Paki Paki, near Napier. The NORML annual conference was held at the marae there and was a great weekend with the team. JR and his family hosted our stay and for that, we toasted him in return. Here's a snap in front of the wharenui, which had been lovingly restored by the locals.

That's me in red on the left. Which is ironic, because from my perspective I was on the far right.

Clean Slate Act kicks in today

Good on the Clean Slate Act coming into force today. It is welcome as a balance to all the crap, hoops and drama that it takes to endure job applications.

The focus has shifted from whether a person is able to do the job well or shows trainable potential. Nowadays it's all about psychometric dogma, credit reports and piss testing with the recruitment agency pimps.

The difficulty of firing someone makes employers insanely risk-averse when hiring. Once someone has been employed, it is damned near impossible to get rid of them. Planting child porn on their computers is the only sure way.

The Clean Slate Act should stick around as long as there are high fences around the job market.

Chairman Jim gives Time Warner $NZ 3.4 million

There have been murmurings over the taxpayers handing $NZ 3.4 million to media moguls Time Warner for The Last Samurai. This translates to $US 2.4 million, about average for a garden-variety California lawsuit. We should be grateful Time Warner didn’t sue IRD’s ass for pissing them about when filming, or it could have been a bigger number.

If New Zealand wants to encourage big budget films here, it’s prudent to be professional and not spring things on them halfway through when the budget’s been set. The nature of movie making is fraught with enough difficulties, what with the artistic hissy fits and schizophrenic weather (Check out Lost in La Mancha at the DVD store).

It’s bad enough that New Zealand’s reputation has been poked in the international student market by shoddy management, we don’t want to lose the opportunity to make good movies because of uncivil servants. Jim Anderton’s ‘gentleman’s agreement’ will hopefully rekindle goodwill lost in the paperwork.

If we can’t keep our tax laws simple and constructively communicated in the future, we can kiss that sweet art goodbye.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Only fifteen sleeps to go

A quick glance at the calendar shows it is only fifteen sleeps until the Safety Nazis arrive. That's right, the anti-smoking laws banning smoking indoors in every workplace come into effect on 10th December. Whether you work alone or own the business, whether you're on a charter boat off Waiheke Island or sitting in a strip club surrounded by naked women, Health Department Enforcement Officers can inspect the premises to ensure no-one sucks a fag indoors. Obstructing one of these officers can land you with a $1000 fine, so don't get in the way of their Final Tobacco Solution.

In two short weeks, returned servicemen who risked their lives fighting for our freedom will be told to take their filthy habit outside. Having survived the horrors of war, few will enjoy the irony of their country pushing them outside to catch pneumonia and die.

To commemorate this historic day, the goNZo Freakpower Brains Trust brings you the Official Tobacco Persecution Armband:

As the pictures show, the 100% natural cotton armband suits both casual and formal fashion and looks smart alongside any military decorations. The armband is Kiwi made from local and/or imported ingredients (just like Watties Spaghetti!) and available for the low price of $2 (incl. p&p).

Please send $2 for each armband and your postal address to:

Tobacco Persecution Armband
goNZo Freakpower Brains Trust
PO Box 27-102
Marion Square
Wellington 6030

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Don't Steal; the government hates competition

So reads the bumper sticker on my car. Labour's latest policy swing of stealing assets off 'drug barons' and crime syndicates shows how apt the slogan is. No matter that the bumper sticker was made by the Labour campaign team in 1981. It's just as relevant today as it was back then.

Apart from flying in the face of the Bill of Rights (looking more like a doormat every day) and reversing the convention of being innocent until proven guilty, it goes to show how desperate the War on Drugs is getting.

Of course this law, if passed, will be enforced consistently. Not only will police steal off drug lords, the Serious Fraud Office will be approaching Donna Awatere Huata demanding the maybe-publicly-funded staples in her stomach back.

Any lawyer suspected of sucking on a trust fund will have all their assets seized. The SFO will hunt down inside traders and take any assets they suspect have been gained fraudulently. Will companies who use tax havens be mugged in the civil courts by Inland Revenue? It's their job to be feared.

I don't think so somehow. This Bill is unashamedly aimed at 'drug lords' and crime syndicates, not white collar larcenists. So much for equality before the law.

I think Mr Goff is pushing shit uphill to get what he wants out of this. Even if this brutal Bill somehow passes the select committee and is rubber-stamped by the GG into law, it is doomed to failure. If Labour think they've seen judicial activism, wait til they try waving this law about in the High Court. Any judge with half a brain will throw out cases due to insufficient evidence.

In the unlikely event the High Court signs off a judgement based on 'reasonable belief' that a crime was committed, appeals lodged with the Supreme Court will definitely overturn it. The upshot of all this is lots of lawyers getting work at the taxpayers' expense and business as usual for the hedonism wholesalers.

The War on Drugs is an unwinnable strategy. A prohibitive environment doesn't fix the problem. Hard-line tactics, seen in Thailand, the US and Russia, have failed. The US locks away a mind-buggeringly high proportion of its populace (NZ is catching up quickly) while drug use soars. Russian authorities are banning marijuana images on cellphone covers in a futile attempt to stem endemic heroin problems with its youth. Thailand's recent drugs clampdown netted hundreds of dead people and little else.

Meantime in Oz, the harm minimisation program that started back in 1985 has shown that you can fix a problem without pointing fingers or waving sticks. The Dutch coffee shop example showed how to bend rules without breaking them.

While our government is in denial, the black market will continue to sell eager consumers dubious products at inflated prices. Taxpayers will continue to foot the legal, social and economic costs while staggering superprofits from untaxed, unregulated activities continue unabated.

The Proceeds of Crime Amendment Bill seeks to offset these costs and make the police self-funded through traffic fines and drug lord swag. An unfortunate consequence is it may ruin New Zealand's reptutation for low levels of corruption. When money becomes a motivation for police resources, bribes aren't far behind.

There is no good angle to this proposal. If there's any sense in the select committee, this Bill will be stillborn.

A strong constitution

All this talk about a review on our constitution is stirring up a heap of interest in the media:

NZ Herald
Republic question 'to be raised' in constitution inquiry
Editorial: Are we ready to have a constitution?
Ditch Queen, say former Governors General
Editorial: Constitution issues can't be left to MPs
A timely review
Brash criticises constitution review
Editorial: A long and winding road
Constitution debate vital, Dunne says
PM playing down constitutional review

As far as can be determined, the story goes something like this. For whatever political reasons, the Prime Minister has raised the subject of a constitution review. Maybe Brash is right and this is a herring to detract from the Foreshore and Seabed Bill. Perhaps it's closer to our Philosopher Queen's personal vision than many suspect. The romantic idealist in me is betting on the latter. The wary cynic doesn't care.

Around a hundred years' ago, the New Zealand Women's Christian Temperance Union was pushing for alcohol prohibition. Clued-up Christian socialist Kate Sheppard figured that prohibition would be passed if women got to vote. She lobbied conservative former premier, Sir John Hall, to introduce the women's suffrage bill to Parliament. Hall did so believing women would vote for against Liberals given the chance. Sure enough, many Liberal ministers absented themselves from the vote. Party squabbling and in-fighting led to New Zealand being the first sovereign state to give women the vote. (Thanks to Michael King's History of New Zealand for the refs, pg. 264-265.)

There is a very good chance of history repeating itself. Whatever the reasons, our politicians are handing us an opportunity. This chance is rare and must not be squandered.

No-one under 40 cares a whit for the Queen as Head of State. Her last visit to New Zealand had a lower turnout than an All-Blacks match. Although she's a nice old bird with a dysfunctional family I can relate to, her titular spot on our political structure is meaningless, an irrelevance.

No-one under 40 remembers the days before the Common Market and the European Union. New Zealand's special place as England's pastures has been and gone. Our export market now focuses on regional trade with Oz, China, the US, and Peru.

Nothing compares with the current groundswell of support for Kiwi self-awareness. We are crying out for symbols we identify with. The referendum on changing the New Zealand flag is proving a nexus for this sentiment. We may be a diverse bunch of people, but heaps agree that anything has got to be better than this cloth, with a quarter of it dedicated to a colonial hangover.

Nowhere are the Crown obligations to its citizens made clear. The Treaty of Waitangi doesn't spell it out. The English version promises "to secure to them the enjoyment of Peace and Good Order" by "a settled form of Civil Government with a view to avert the evil consequences which must result from the absence of the necessary Laws and Institutions alike to the native population and to Her subjects." What. The. Fuck.

The post-Sept 11 climate has given the government all the reasons to spy, detain without trial and confiscate property, but none of the constraints to prevent the abuse of same. So what if Helen Clark raised the enquiry to distract from other matters? So what if Peter "Captain Sensible" Dunne is chairing the committee? We need to straighten out what we want from government and what limits they have imposed of these goals.

Bring on the constitutional review!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Are You Being Served?

A funny thing happened the other day. My car, nicknamed EFTPOS (EFecTive Piece Of Shit), was in dire need of an oil change and new air filter. A mate was giving me a hand and we headed off to Super Cheap Autos (they're so cheap, they don't have a website).

From my perspective; we walked in, went to Aisle C3 (or equivalent) where the oil and air filters were located. While flicking through the catalogue, the Spotty Teenage Manager (STM) appeared asking if we needed help. This was great. Normally you are left to wander the aisles, tempted by other crap while you search for want you actually came in to buy. I immediately got STM looking for spark plugs, air filters and suchlike. My mate was perturbed for some reason.

My mate's perspective; we walked in and went to Aisle C3. The checkout girl announces "Security to Aisle C3, security to Aisle C3" over the speakers. The STM appeared and enquired how he could help. My mate was pissed at having security called on us.

I'm half-deaf, and missed the intercom offence. It was only once we had lawfully purchased the goods with checkout girl and left the store, that he explained the reason for STM's assistance. Then it was my turn to be pissed. Call me sensitive, but I get offended when people unjustly accuse me of kleptomania or violence. Maybe they thought I was from Brotaki (Otaki to the PC, where the police have every weekend off), but that's no excuse to call security without good reason.

I'm not going to write to Super Cheap Autos to complain. I'm just going to bitch about the rude attitude of Super Cheap Autos to all and sundry and vow never to return to the franchise. That's the Kiwi way!

Friday, November 12, 2004

I'm not against homosexuals voting, but...

I've just been doing some work on the Civil Union campaign, collating a summary of written submissions that went before the Justice & Electoral select committee. Here's a few quotes from citizens of this tolerant and good-natured land:

  • "The head of the family is the father. The usual duties of a wife are cooking, washing and cleaning." - Christian lay preacher and not Taleban mullah
  • "[It] will open the floodgates to bigamy, polygamy, paedophilia, bestiality and necrophilia."
  • "I'm not against homosexuals voting, but I am against this particular Bill."
  • "This Bill legalises a lifestyle that brought us AIDS."
  • "Gays cause lots of diseases and abuse children."
  • "If all society adapted to same sex unions,… it would be catastrophic, the total elimination of society." - Geez Wayne, they're not making it compulsory!
  • "God will not protect our nation if we break His Laws."
  • "Gays are sterile and represent a serious health risk."
  • "Don't we have enough trouble with incest and paedophilia? Must we now add sodomy and lesbianism- making it legal?"
Now wash your hands.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Screaming for help

National MP Tony Ryall had asked a question in Parliament about whether a caller had to be "screaming down the phone" before the police would respond. "The answer to that is no, sir, but it helps," Police Commissioner Rob Robinson told the committee.

In the good old days, yelling for help usually got the neighbours. Now, it seems, it won't even work on the cops. It's one more sad inditement on the state of the police.

Since former Commissioner Peter Doone had a word on Oriental Bay, the police have faced a barrage of bad PR. Remember Doone? Pulled over by a rookie for driving without the lights on, Doone's partner wasn't spoken to or breath tested after Doone approached him and had a word or two.

In a somewhat similar twist of happenstance last year, a Tauranga policeman had his drink-driving charge thrown out when police withheld evidence. The policeman, son of a Tauranga Crown Prosecutor, was pulled over and breath tested at almost twice the legal limit. He was pulled over by an out-of-town booze-buster who didn't know a local cop from a yokel sop. Constable Matthew Elliott, stood down on full pay since the original charges were brought, will go back to court next month to face the same drink-driving charges.

Then there's the rape allegations here, here, here and here. An inquiry into police conduct is currently on hold while they work out whether past and present police officers should face criminal charges for rape.

The latest faux-pas, involving a genuine Damsel in Distress, a 111 operator, and a taxi, doesn't help either. Then there's BOP girl Maggie Bentley, who rang for help and got the operator. When the top cop suggests screaming on an emergency call, to underline the fact that there is an emergency happening, something is wrong.

It's not surprising that Act Justice Spokesperson Stephen Franks has jumped into the barrel, tempted to draft a "Make My Day" Amendment to the Crimes Act, making provocation an allowable defence.

Dagg knows, I can see where he's coming from. Known as the "Baddies' Buddy", my father wasn't paranoid, he knew people who were out to get him. In the days before voicemail and message services, we answered the home phone hoping it wasn't another death threat. My father preferred the minimum-length pump-action shotgun under the bed.

"A shotgun's much more useful than a small-bore gun," Dad used to say. "You can aim at their legs and it probably won't kill them. They might even be able to walk out of hospital. With a .22 you have to aim at something vital." He also showed me how to make buckshot cartridges with the shell packer at home. "If you can't get buckshot, rock salt or pepper works well too."

These bits of information gave me no comfort at all when walking a girlfriend up the driveway at home one night got me face-to-barrel with any one of Dad's cartridge recipes, as he hung out the bedroom window with the safety (hopefully) on.

Aye, there's the rub. As Michael Moore pointed out so subjectively in Bowling For Columbine, lots of times guns end up aimed at the wrong things. So although I do have some sympathy for Stephen Franks' call for provocation as defence, I'd say be like a Canadian and leave the guns in the gun rack.

If we're not going to resort to vigilantism, it has to come back to the cops.

Let's go widescreen for a moment. The police are entrusted to protect citizens and uphold the law of the land. To achieve this, they are armed with a state-given monopoly on force. That use of force is tempered by the public level of trust and respect for the office. That respect and trust has diminished drastically in the light of damning revelations on how our police operate.

On the other side of the coin, I'd bloody hate being a cop. Like a doctor who only sees the sick or the unfortunate, cops are constantly faced with the worst elements of humanity. Burglars and wife-beaters are a cop's daily bread. Given 19 weeks of intensive training and put on the streets, these humans work the dirtiest shifts in a highly antisocial environment. I would not be surprised if off-duty cops spent a lot of their spare time on alcohol and drugs as a way of dealing with the job.

Constantly on the look-out for new recruits, the police keep getting handed more laws to enforce with increasingly stretched resources. Many experienced cops PERFed out of the force or went to Queensland with better pay and conditions, gutting the police of some serious talent. Meanwhile, Parliament just keeps introducing more ways to suck up a cop's time, be it speed cameras, dope fiends or smoking in bars. While all these legislative toys keep the control freaks happy, the core business of protecting the public has become lost in the haze.

Non-cops are hired to look after police prison cells, parking wardens ask for more hammers to beat motorists with, city councils create more inspectors with quasi-police functions. The monopoly of force is spreading from the police to any civil servant with a Napoleon complex.

What can be done? First up, we could look at pruning the laws. This is a hard ask of any government. After all, making more laws is their raison d'etre. But every law should be examined for merit and priority, from stupid bike helmet laws to Chairman Jim's attack on air fresheners.

Secondly, we could look to the privately-run Auckland Remand Centre for ideas on how to lower re-offending levels. Not only would this lower the police workload, it would minimise the need to build more prisons, cut back the court backlog, and help more Kiwis stay out of trouble. Restorative justice and more creative sentencing options could address this too.

Thirdly, police should receive more training, better support and clearer objectives. It might be worth separating police and traffic duties once more, allowing a hint of specialisation and pride to creep back in to the job. Again, it is a matter of prioritisation. Which poses a greater public concern; women crying for a cop to help them out of mortal danger, or ticketing some sucker for not wearing their seatbelt?

Finally, the Police Complaints Authority should be disbanded and an oversight committee in the Executive or Judiciary branches of government should watch our watchmen. The present appeal system, where citizens complain about police to police, lacks independence. The public needs a clear indication that if police break the law or abuse their privilege of force, the complaint is dealt with thoroughly and the problem fixed quickly.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Backlogged blog

Forgive me, Blog. It's been three weeks since my last visit. I've been away from the computer doing things, meaning the blog wasn't fed. Everything has a price.

Sure, Bush was re-elected. So was Nixon. While Watergate brought Nixon down, there a quite a few activists in the States pushing a case of e-fraud in the 2004 US presidential election.

Pedigree chihuahua Paul Holmes has left TVNZ for Prime. The Rumour Mill is grinding over the likelihood of John Campbell appearing in a TVNZ slot in 2005. Good on him if it's true. Helen Clark will have no choice but to indulge the little creep all the way til election-time.

And omfg, Jim Anderton wants to lower company tax. The world's still a wild and crazy place.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Bush-bashing Backfires for Brits

Not so long ago, an urge to write a letter to major US newspapers pleading for Americans not to re-elect George W Bush crossed my brain. I never followed through with it. Last week, The Guardian started Operation Clark County. This project asked Brits to send letters to undecided voters in the swing state of Ohio. Over 11,000 people asked for US addresses. Here are some of the replies.

From the Ministry of Truth Newsdesk

It seems the previous post, pointing to an Indian private company supplying nuclear weapons to Sweden and Russia is erroneous. The NewFacts are that only the Indian Government are allowed to make nuclear weapons and Sweden has only conventional arms and ABBA CDs. It has not beaten North Korea and Libya to be the next nuclear-capable state. Quoting the Herald, "Helen Clark called the report a low-value beat-up."

The PM & the weapons grade mouthwash

The Herald's top story is Nuclear arms claims rock PM's visit to Indian company. It seems that during the PM's visit to Larsen and Toubro, one of India's largest private companies, staff were tripping over themselves to point out how their mission statement included exporting nuclear weapons to Russia and Sweden.

This transparent approach to state secrets is one thing. I just hope they weren't giving out free samples. If so, the PM has no choice but to be breath-tested for plutonium on her return to the country.

What would ABBA want with a nuke? Will George Bush be adding Sweden to the Axis of Evil? Or were the employees just pulling an untimely April Fool's on our leader?

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Stealth Cops Come Out

The DominionPost reports that Speed Police Can't Hide this morning."All speed-measuring devices are to be employed in an overt manner. No form of hidden or camouflaged deployment is to be used," it states.

It might have been a different story if police cars had Friend or Foe systems installed. Speed cameras could then wontonly edit out the Candid Camera moments starring its own officers.

The guidelines also state that the speed limits have been raised ten kilometres across the board. Regardless of weather conditions, car competence or driver experience, it is officially legal to cruise control your way through the densest of city traffic at 60 kilometres per hour. Unless you are a politician and you're running late for the footy, any car driving 11 kph over the speed limit will be fined.

Let us put aside the charges of revenue gathering for a moment(30 percent increase in two years). There is a much more important principle at work behind these guidelines. It is an admission by police that speed limits are arbitrary and covert speed cameras may cause more accidents than they prevent.

Speed doesn't kill. Lack of control does. When covert cameras are the norm, driving is a nerve-wracking experience. Government-trained terrorists can hide behind any bush, lie in any gutter, ready to assault wallets for the greater good. Keeping one eye on the road, one eye on the peripheral and one eye on the speedo is tricky when you don't have the eyes of a chameleon or the third eye of a mystic. It's OK for rich people. They can afford Hawk detectors.

In the days before speed cameras, Black Spot warnings were posted at accident-prone areas. These were swapped by warnings signs marked Speed Camera Area, and all was good. Then Speed Camera Areas were popping up in perfectly clear stretches of roads where few, if any, accidents had happened. They were hidden round bends, spooking drivers of nervous disposition into paroxyms of near-fatal hysteria. Who else has had a hit of adrenaline when surprised by a speed camera and almost flipping the Toyota, only to look down and see the needle on 90?

The level of fear and loathing increased when covert cameras meant more driver concentration was focussed on the side of the road rather than on it. The new police guidelines can be seen as a concession to their over-exuberance, a reality-check on their supposed public safety remit. While it's good to hear the police are to stop sniping drivers, it is still a long way from instilling a respect for the concentration needed to drive. Every speed camera operator must take responsibility for their obvious contribution to endangering drivers' lives, not saving them.

Up until a recent policy change, only the top ten percent of speedsters were ticketed by speed cameras. This made sense, as it penalised extreme speeding outside the standard deviation. Now, anyone going more than eleven kmh over the speed limit is done. It is now irrelevant whether traffic is flowing smoothly and safely, that people allow good distances between road users, that convoys match their speed for conditions. Road users are trusted less by authorities.

Driving is a dangerous pasttime. A million or more things can go wrong when you risk sitting inside a whizzing metal box. The tyres might fall off. The brakes might fail. You might get hit by lightning. The driver coming towards you head-on may be an American tourist assuming everyone drives on the right. Inside one's head, the survival instinct performs countless Newtonian physics calculations while the motor functions co-ordinate appropriate responses.

It is an issue of trust. Each and every driver implicitly trusts one another. They assume that their fellow travellers have their whizzing metal boxes in working order. They agree not to play chicken with each other and consent to drive in a manner consistent with conditions. Speed cameras throw a spanner into this dynamic.

For example, imagine we had three vehicles on a motorway. The first vehicle is a Mark I Ford Escort 1970 driven by a hard-working 19 year-old male hurrying to a stimulating job flipping burgers in a franchise. The second car is a tidy Toyota Rav4 1998 driven by a 36 year-old female accountant with an SUV-inspired superiority complex. Behind the wheel of the third car, a Volkswagen Passat 2004, is a 45 year-old highly-paid executive armed with radar detector and a salary which makes speeding tickets feel like mozzie bites on a mammoth.

Got that? For the moment we'll assume that this is not in Auckland because traffic is moving freely. When will these vehicles be in equilibrium? Easy.

The teenager will start in the fast lane, because that's what boy racers do when they are late for work. It ensures he rattles past the grannies with minimal haste, while showing how cool he is to any girls travelling in the back seat of their parents' cars.

Eventually he would demur to the thin-lipped woman flashing her lights impatiently at him in the 4WD that has never known mud. Reluctantly, the burger boy would ease into the middle lane while maintaining as cooler posture as possible. He is merely pulling over out of politeness and it has nothing to do with the smoke billowing out from the bonnet of his uninsured car.

The Rav4 cruises past the Ford Escort smoothly and twenty k's faster. The driver performs a cost-benefit analysis and concludes that it is much more efficient to maintain the current speed in the fast lane. After all, her vehicle is much more reliable than the teenager's. It is packed with life-saving goodies such as airbags, better at braking with ABS, and easier to steer thanks to power steering. The Baby On Board logo affixed to the rear window ensures other drivers keep their distance, even when six year-old Jemima is spending the school holidays with her father, that bastard former husband of hers.

She tells her shrink that she's not obsessive-compulsive but on the road the skill is put to good use, her eyes peeled for speed cameras. She inserts the knowledge of a $170 opportunity cost, if she gets clicked, into her equations while cruising at 125 kmh.

The man in the Passat knows there's no cameras for at least the next kilometre. Five days a week, for forty weeks a year, for twenty years, he has travelled this stretch of road. He knows which parts have good grip, and which parts have been most recently resealed. He can read other motorists like a shareholders' meeting.

Wrapped in a $100,00 galvanised sheet metal box, protected by airbags and Side Curtain Protection™, hermetically sealed in all sorts of figurative and literal ways, the suit on the carphone is as comfortable as he is on his corporate throne. While the teenager stares in awe and avarice at the silver flash that buffets past his immobile carriage, the businessman doesn't even register his existence.

With preternatural observation, the accountant recognises the status symbol in her rear vision mirror when it's still six cars back. She positions her Rav4 in the middle lane so the Passat will have no choice but to drive parallel to her for some time. Sure enough, the executive gives her the once over. The woman pouts slightly then gives him a little smile.

However, the executive's tastes favour lamb over mutton. He has noticed the Baby On Board logo and doesn't alter his plans to catch up with the escort who reminds him of his secretary. Once the car in front has been nudged into the middle lane ahead of the accountant, the Passat lunges forward and is gone.

If we repeat the experiment, including a speed camera this time, things change.

The teenager doesn't see the speed camera until the last moment, as he is wondering if the accountant's breasts are real. He gets ticketed and spends the next four months asking if people want fries with their order so he can pay the fine. The accountant sees the speed camera in time but brakes suddenly. The car behind rear ends her and causes a pile-up. No-one is seriously injured, but a lot of no-claims bonuses go out the door. The Rav4 is recycled into supermarket trolleys. Some time earlier, a beep has alerted the businessman and he slows to precisely 110 kph until the threat has gone. The chat with his sharebroker is unaffected.

This moral of the story is that speed alone does not present a threat. Fear of punishment is a blunt instrument and can lead to greater harms than it is supposed to prevent. Speed fines fall heaviest on people on low incomes, and rich people have nice cars.

Friday, October 15, 2004

You can't beat Wellington on a fine day; on a bad day, you can't even SEE it


You could be forgiven for thinking this is a pretty blank shot. You'd be right. This is the view out the window today, courtesy of God
™. Normally, there would be a city bordered by the Cook Strait and a lot of sky. Not today.

Weather is a big topic for Kiwis. It's right up there with the All Blacks and the Gum'mint as subjects to trade comments on over the water cooler/chardonnay/beer/bong. Maybe it's because they are all so damn fickle in their performance.

Don Brash was asked after his Orewa speech what it means to be a New Zealander. His answer was less than satisfactory. He could have pointed out that one quality of New Zealnders is that we have a fatalistic view on climate. Crowded House wrote "Four Seasons in One Day" out at KariKari, west of Auckland. There's a saying in Wellington, "If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes." Kiwis accept change as inevitable. A lot of this stems from the weather.

Non-Kiwis have difficulty wrapping their heads around it. An ambassador once likened New Zealand women's dress sense to combat soldiers. He didn't note that, like combat soldiers, New Zealand women have to be prepared to negotiate a range of climates, usually at short notice. A few years' ago I was picking bananas in Innisfail, one hour's drive south of Cairns in Tropical Queensland, Oz.
Every day was fine, 28 celsius, light breeze. The locals couldn't understand my constant banter on the fine weather. To them, it was like saying, "The sun's up." Big deal.

With those thoughts in mind, even a dull crappy day like today has its benefits. I think of it as organic smog.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Sacks of Gold

When will Wellington City Council be adding EFTPOS and credit card facilities to pay and display parking machines, now that the city’s parking levies are the highest in the southern hemisphere? My prepaid cellphone doesn't have enough calltime on it at the best of times, let alone reserving 20 minutes of calltime for two hours' parking.I don’t like leaving sacks of silver and gold in the car, and the machines don't accept notes. The need to carry around large amounts of coins in my pockets is causing an injury. I have a bulge in my jeans for all the wrong reasons.

Pity the poor shopkeepers. I wouldn't be surprised if the shops start closing during the week and open only on the weekends, when parking in public spaces is free. This would be a nice irony, considering that weekend shopping has only been around for twenty years or so.

It is worthwhile noting WCC's decision tree. They sell off a parking building or two. The new owners hock it off months later for twice the price. Parking fees double. Councillors have free parks in town, and the ones who live 200 metres away from the office think it's justified.

Has democracy been spread so thin that public representatives don't see the need to lead by example any longer? Judging from the local body elections, where less than 40 percent of voters bothered to care for mayor, the answer is yes.

It is Alive!

Finally, this thing looks the way it should. I'm too tired from learning HTML code to type anything remotely engaging. I'd rather learn Latin.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004


Testing, testing... one TWO one TWO.... one TWO. TWO. One TWO. TWO. One TWO.