Sunday, July 02, 2006

The end, again

Wha- hey. Another tipping point. The same as last year only different. This time, there is a good reason.
There was something that RB's excellent Great Blend gig did for me. Bumping unexpectedly into Matt Nippert, fresh from the Democratic Republic of the USA and all set to go full throttle back at the Listener. I got a Barry Soperish vibe. Fatalists make good journalists. I discovered how to pronounce Keith Ng (It's Ing, phonetically). I was always too embarassed to ask. I was blown away by the high resolution version of Starlords and hearing the hitcount of the hirtherto-unknown-to-moi SkyKiwi. The excellent danah boyd spoke with Tim Shadboltian fluency on the MySpace teenage phenomenon. Nice hat too.

The people I met who, under any other circumstances, I would never have had reason to talk with. Kitchens at parties was OK in the 80s. In the noughties the kitchen has moved outdoors. You'll find the best conversations are among smokers, freaks, geeks and queers.

And yes, for all those who heard the goss, I dropped out of uni. Nothing personal against the excellent lecturers, who deserve the payrise, even as the exodus of brains continues overseas. I always thought a university is where you learnt about the universe, not just Life, Law and Commerce. I attribute my postgrad demise to a mix of the "Knowledge Brings Fear" thing and my time of the month lasting over a month. Che, you are not alone.

I have also reached a tipping point where I have told so many people I have been "working on a book called Kiwianatopia" so often, I am obliged get stuck in and do it. The blog has to go. I can't type for shit anyway, doing all my best writing longhand. The computer is also an almighty distraction. AL Daily linked to an interesting piece pondering whether George Orwell would have ever written his goodstuff if he blogged about Colonial India. What blogging brings with immediacy, usually detracts from reflection. Little wonder Orwell locked himself away to write on a remote Scottish island with nothing but a large stock of tea and write 1984. Should I start this epic tale or one more game of Alpha Centauri? Enough. I'm going dark. If anything gets too much, I'll post it up at the old Blogspot addy.

So long, and cheers for the beers.

Welcome to NZ, King Loong

Like a beggar in a bazaar, NZ is overjoyed to be visited by Premier Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, perhaps the world's only democratically elected constitutional monarch. So awed by his country's wealth and glamour, we swallow our chewing gum and hope that some crumbs of trade are thrown into our lap as he goes by.

Who are we to throw stones? As this Herald editorial points out, we are fresh from putting one of our own in the pillory of sedition. In our own oligarchic democracy, any outdoors public meetings must be authorised by Wellington City Council. Failure to do so risks a fine of up to $20,000 plus court costs, enough to bankrupt many in these debt-fuelled times. Justice is no longer free. Aside from the lawyers' bills and the ironically termed Legal Aid, applying to the higher courts is beyond the pricetag for those who do not know how to milk the system. Donna.

We treat smokers like lepers, only worse. Lepers do not pay leprosy tax.

While Singapore's path has been steered through poverty to the fabled knowledge economy, our good ship Endeavour has been wrapped in so much red tape and bubblewrap, it is indistinguishable from a Zorb. Our economy bobs on the tides of overseas currents, without direction or purpose. The God of Safety keeps us from all harm and hope.

I awoke from a terrible dream this morning. I was on a captainless ship and got washed overboard. I was thrashing about in the water, not knowing how long I could keep my head above the waves. Helen Clark saw what was happening and threw some money to me. Don Brash stood there berating me for falling off the boat in the first place. Rodney Hide dived in to save me but ended up getting caught in a rip. Jeanette Fitzsimons was looking at the exhaust stacks with disapproval, while Hone Harwira said that I'd be able to stay afloat longer if my lungs weren't buggered from smoking.

My friends turned up, saw what was happening and threw me a lifefloat. I got back on board and thanked my trusted friends profusely. The political leaders congratulated themselves on a job well done and went off to get their media units to issue a press release.

(Originally posted 21/6/06)

The Road to Sedition

The blogs are alive with support for Tim Selwyn, who is the first person in over seventy years to go to court charged with sedition tomorrow. The heavyweights, I/S and DPF, have weighed in with more eloquence and evidence than I could ever muster. This case bothers me on a number of other fronts as well.

We have had some really strange decisions from police prosecutors in recent times. Apart from the Selwyn vs Vorlons thing, there was the midwife criminal prosecution. It was the wrong tool for the job in the whole unfortunate saga and should never have gone to court in the first place. I'm sure there were another couple of examples of vexacious prosecution but buggered if I can remember them at the moment.

On the other side of the coin, there have been cases which had prima facie evidence but never got a look in. The Labour pledge card fiasco is a prime example. Even the Nats GST bungle should have been cleared up in court, rather than considering any once-off retrospective legislation. It's not as if they can take back 12.5 percent of their election propaganda, is it?

But the sedition charge bugs me in a more disconcerting way. Maybe it's the timing. It can be viewed as a testing of the waters by a post-9/11 government on what free speech means. This could very well be the Kiwi version of the Patriot Act. The Mohammed cartoons business showed how little regard the right to publish is thought of by our alleged leaders.

Consider for a moment the example of CommunityNet Aotearoa. On the surface, it seems a genuine attempt to promote a civil society. Its mission is to "help all New Zealand community organisations by providing access to relevant, quality information, raising the profile of the community sector , [and] encouraging information sharing between organisations" . It's not until you get to the bottom of the page that you see the major qualification: " The Department of Internal Affairs Te Tari Taiwhenua maintains as a community service."

This makes all the difference. An Advisory Group actually decides what "all New Zealand community organisations" means. "All" actually means "approved". NORML was barred from being included on the site. The following email says why:

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, May 25, 2006 4:30 PM
Subject: Nomination of for linking

Dear Colin (note, no-one in NORML knows who Colin is)

Thank you for your nomination of the National Organisation Reform of Marijuana Laws NZ Inc. website. I apologise for the delay in responding.

The editorial strategy of CommunityNet Aotearoa is set by our community Advisory Group, who's members have been nominated by community organisations (see ). The Advisory Group has set the selection criteria for material and links and decided to exclude links to material advocating or encouraging illegal acts.

Members of the Advisory Group are supportive of some aspects of the NORML website and work - for example the information on legal rights and a harm minimisation approach; however several of the Forums on your website (for example: the Cannabis Growing Forum) are clearly set up to advocate and encourage the growing, possession and use of Marijuana, which is currently illegal.

We have therefore decided not to link to NORML at this stage. Should the contents of the site change, please do not hesitate to resubmit it.

Best regards
Bill Dashfield

Project Manager, CommunityNet Aotearoa
Local Government and Community Operations Team
Department of Internal Affairs
DDI: (04) 495 7285 Mobile: 021 140 5422
Try CommunityNet Aotearoa - - NZ's online resource for community and voluntary organisations

OK, got that? Now imagine that the internet existed before the Homosexual Law Reform Act was passed. Any site peacefully promoting an illegal act such as homosexuality would have also have been banned.
Either all ideas are OK, or none of them are. Give 'em hell, Tim.

(Originally posted 5/6/06)

Another toothpick

The policy wonks are looking at putting toothpick instructions on booze. By this, I refer to Douglas Adams' dude in SLATFATF who lived outside the asylum after getting pushed over the edge by reading some toothpick instructions.

As we know from Kate Sheppard and the Women's Christian Temperance Movement a hundred years ago, alcohol is bad. In contemporary technocratic language strategies, "We have a product that if used in some ways it has very real harms for both individuals and communities." Of course, the best way to solve this is to do what they did to tobacco, banning advertising and putting warning labels everywhere. Oh yeah, that'll stop the harm. "But wait," say the wonks. "This is no silver bullet. It is only part of a comprehensive strategy to address the inadequecies of the current paradigm. I'll show you the Powerpoint presentation." I've spent enough time dancing to recognise a loop when I hear one.

Earlier in the month, I'd waltzed along to the National Drug Policy forum to review their Five Year Plan. There was a good turnout of around 40 people. There were representatives from the Ministry of Health, Corrections, Youth, and other government bodies I lost track of. The Pharmacy Guild were there, almost filling up the back row. The NZ Drug Foundation had a rep and Mark Peck from the Smokefree Coalition was there. A wide variety of NGOs and public servants were at the public meeting. No-one was there as an individual.

Not a single member of the public was there. Not even Blanket Man bothered, even though morning tea was provided. Dagg knows how lively the meeting would have been if some NORML and Green Cross people hadn't turned up. As it was, we filled the many silences with our suggestions and observations while half the room took notes. There were a few other sensible people there, notably the guy from the DHB who had more relevant and practical knowledge than a hundred PUBL or MGMT courses. Don't get me wrong. I have no doubt that everyone who attended meant well. The road to public policy is paved with good intentions.

Of course, it is pointless to send a submission on the Five Year Plan. While Chairman Jim has the final word on drug policy, nothing will change. Even though in his heart of hearts, he knows that prohibition doesn't work, he is too proud to admit he has been wrong all these years. This mediocre King Lear will have to go, Captain Sensible with him, before any admission of reality will be accepted.

This warning label trend is part of escaping the reality of the situation while still looking like you're doing something. It also means you can disavow responsibility for reality. "Hey, we warned you!" It's the same script that says, "You had the opportunity to consult, even if we did set the rules of engagement, the jargon and the terms of reference."

Compare, for example, three levels of warning labels for the same inflatable swim-ring:

The blunt Oz warning: "Flotation toy - Warning: Use only under competent supervision."

The moderate Brit warning: "Warning! Only to be used in water in which the child is within its depth and under supervision."

The 'don't sue us' American warning: "Caution: This is not a life saving device. Do not leave child unattended while in use. Never allow diving into this product. Never leave in or near the water when not in use. Only use in water. Follow these rules to avoid drowning, paralysis or other serious injury."

Guess which country Robert Strange McNamara came from?

(Originally posted 31/5/06)

Quality over quantity

I'm reasonably certain that the 99 MP Bill thing will get sunk. In spite of the public majority who supported a referendum on the issue several years ago, it's just too threatening for the system to consider hacking off one sixth of its bodyfat. It would also be an admission that while MMP is an improvement on FPP, the system is still pretty out of whack.

The Royal Commission on the Electoral System in 1986 got it wrong. STV should have been the recommendation, proportionality balanced with effective government. Instead they chose MMP, the German model that would prevent fanatic extremists from gaining power. Yet here we are, still stuck with Winston P and Chairman Jim. Instead of an evolution to STV in local body and national elections, the MMP anomoly has contributed to a mesmerizingly complicated governance plan. People are faced with up to three different electoral systems. Tick this, number that, pick a colour. Only a technocrat's logic could justify this as making it simpler for the governed.

By the Royal Commission's own terms of reference, MMP has not improved constituent representation. Going from 99 electorates in 1993 to 69 in 2005 has not seen a corresponding improvement in representation of anything other than party machinery. MMP has not stalled the decline in political party membership. Voter turnout last year confirmed this abyss between the party theory and the participatory reality. People haven't cared this little since 1919, the last time turnout hit 80 percent. Oops, I tell a lie. 2002 was worse with only 77 perecent legitimacy.

The Commission's second aim of representing NZ as a whole is arguable. There are indisputably more women in parliament than under FPP. But perhaps more women were going to be in parliament anyway because of changing public attitudes irregardless of MMP. 16 of the 39 women MPs are electorate representatives. But why stop at gender balance? If MPs truly reflect NZ, half the country must be unionists and teachers, while the other half are lawyers, accountants, doctors and farmers. Where are the 24 MPs who defend Kiwis who smoke tobacco, or the 15 MPs who admit smoking pot in the last year? Where are the six MPs who represent the unemployed? If the median age of NZers is 35 years, why is the median age of MPs closer to 70? If MMP provides a reflection of NZ, it is through a very narrow prism.

Effective government has suffered because of this illusion of representativeness. Helen Clark is facing this dilemma right now. Sure, the central committees sliced and diced the party list to get the appropriate gender and ethnicity balance. Unfortunately, it has come at the expense of selecting the best people fit to hold ministerial warrants. It is a triumph of form over function. We have a 120 member parliament yet there's still not enough talent to spread around the executive.

And what an executive. As DPF points out in his draft submission, cabinet has expanded to record size. This phenomenon is entirely due to having a larger parliament. It is no coincidence that there are 25 to 26 ministers in Labour's caucus of 50. Super-sized executives first appeared after Labour's landslide victory in 1972, when the party held 55 out of 87 seats. Cabinet comprised 20 members of caucus, just shy of today's record setter. Back then, a simple majority wasn't needed. Twenty ministers was considered a sufficient scrum to push caucus along. Muldoon didn't need a large executive to keep his caucus under control, as he bullied his way to a majority. 1984 came along and Lange's 56 person caucus saw a return to 20 ministers. In 1987, cabinet expanded to 23 out of a caucus of 57.

A decade later, MMP made huge executives the norm rather than the exception. Faced with mainly minority governments, it is political suicide not to have an executive majority in caucus. Without a simple majority, a backbencher backlash becomes an all too real possibility. If the Royal Commission's suggestion of increasing the size of parliament to 140 MPs went ahead, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to witness an executive of 35-40. Conversely, lowering the number of MPs to 100 would cause a corresponding drop in the size of cabinet.

One way to stop this all happening would be to cap the size of the executive. DPF reckons 20 is a good number and I could live with that. Personally, I think that at any one time there are no more than 9 useful ministries. The rest are there to fill up the ranks, hence the Ministry of Silly Walks proliferation over the last 20 years.
Would dropping the number of MPs to 100 effectively kill MMP? It depends whether you prefer a quicker or slower death I suppose. As DPF's calculations demonstrate, overhangs will become more likely over time anyway. What started out as a 65:55 split between electorate and list positions in '96 could, by 2026, evolve to a 90:30 split without any help from Barbara Stewart's Bill whatsoever. And hey, we've got an overhang this term so we might as well get used to them.

The most significant harm caused by reducing the size of the House would be in the select committees, the one place where democracy and consensus can flourish outside the party mantras. With twenty-nine MPs currently locked up in the executive, that leaves a maximum pool of 91 MPs to spread between 18 select committees. It's fair to say that they're spread very thinly as it is. Dropping to 100 MPs would leave around 80 MPs to sit in on the public feedback and discuss legislation before the ideologies get wheeled out in the debating chamber. If you amalgamated a couple of these commitees, you might retain something resembling the existing balance.

So, in summary, I both support and oppose the 100 MPs Bill. In order to get the best of both options, I propose the following:

Completely separate the electorate and party vote. Candidates may stand as electorate or List MP, not both. STV both formats.

Stick 100 electorate MPs in the Legislature of the House of Representatives with a primary focus on delivering the best policy possible through the select committee process.

Stick 30 - 40 List MPs in an Upper House executive, thus providing the ideological check and balance required by the anachronistic party system, while limiting its power to wreck considered and reasonable legislation proposed by the Lower House. Remove the 5 percent threshold completely.

No more overhangs. More mana for electorate MPs, who are currently subsumed by the pseudo-democratic Party Vote. Most importantly, it provides for the more consensual approach to legislative action that the public have been screaming out for in the referenda of 1992 and 1999.

(Originally posted 30/5/06)

Power grab

The Wellington City Council is calling for submissions on how the next local body elections will work. Judging from how the proposals are laid out, the Council is hoping to destroy the left-wing bloc once and for all.

At present, 14 Councillors represent five wards; Lambton, Onslow/Western, Northern, Eastern and Southern. In spite of the Local Government Commission strongly recommending that "grouping together two or more communities of interest that share few commonalities should be avoided," it hasn't stopped Council pushing for an amalgamation of wards.


Possible future:

WCC doesn't stop there. The election of at-large councillors is pushed as the preferred model, making the idea of wards altogether irrelevant. Such a system would mean that the whole of Wellington could be represented by a wunch of bankers who could corner the market due to the large cost and canvassing hurdles faced by their lesser financed competitors.

There is also a review of the community board system. Community boards act in much the same way as elected reps of DHBs. That is, they carry the blame for whatever policy they are handed by their superiors. At present, only two community boards exist. Makara/Ohariu has 6 elected reps at a ratio of 1 for every 164 residents. Tawa has 8 reps, 1 for every 2,417 residents. The Council's discussion paper suggests that all wards have community boards, at a ratio of 1 member for every 6,000 odd residents (except Makara/Ohariu which will maintain a 1:245 ratio).

Submissions close 31 May. Have your say before the power-hungries gerrymander themselves into a fiefdom.

(Originally posted 18/5/06)

Does your dad own a brewery?

One time, after getting sozzled at a Richard Prebble birthday barbecue bash, I tried to beg and plead my way into an invite-only Deborah Coddington bash being held at Sky City. All supplications failed, and I ended up going across to the Mexican Cafe where I was asked to strip for a Hen's Party and got free tequila all night. In retrospect, this was definitely a better move.

This was in the days when Act was still a force to be reckoned with. Debs was the rising star of Act, possibly the next leader. Smart, articulate, formerly married to Alistair Taylor, the publisher of the definitive guide to NZ sex and social behaviour Down Under the Plum Trees. Deborah Coddington was the saviour of Act, a truth-seeking social and economic liberal. Alas, it all went to pieces. This partly explains the blog vitriol aimed at her NZ Herald columns. Like Lucifer getting kicked out of heaven, it's a long way to fall.

Her latest column has been predictably savaged. I have a little to add, in regards to Debs' restaurant analogy. The only reason the Chateau Tongariro survived after its sale was by the very deep pockets of Madame Lo, who owns it, and diversifying into backpackers accommodation. It sometimes plays host to the stupidly rich, such as a brewery dude who hired the place one weekend for his son's wedding, kitting it out with his own staff and furniture. This luxurious white elephant has not an iota in common with the Telecom thing. Deborah confuses monopoly with uniqueness. They are not the same values.

(Originally posted 15/5/06)

Sheep in wolf's clothing

It's illegal to impersonate a police officer, unless you work for the police. Hot on the heels of the smoking causes blindness bullshit, I get the overwhelming impression that the government is 'using confusion as a marketing tool'. They are not being 'straight up'.

(Originally posted 11/5/06)

Masturbation, sorry, *smoking* causes blindness

Is it a coincidence that the new suggested health warnings look a bit Clockwork Orangey?

It might convince Australians to quit, but us Kiwis will just stick with alternative arrangements such as cigarette cases and tobacco pouches.

(Originally posted 10/5/06)

The Hunting of the Nark

Fran O'Sullivan provides her own terms of reference for the inquiry into the Telecom leak. Highlights include:

Was the billion-dollar leaker working for Telecom back [in 2003, when the loop was not unbundled] and was he or she part of a nexus of well-connected players paid from the telco's alleged $30 million Government relations budget?

Which business organisations does Telecom belong to and help fund?

How many MPs hold Telecom shares through their trusts and are frequent guests of Telecom?

Investigate how many former Beehive advisers are paid lobbyists or consultants to Telecom.

(Originally posted 10/5/06)

Being There

I hope tomorrow's dailies shed more light on the context of Teresa Gattung's comments at 'a conference'. Bonus points to Russell Brown for bringing such incendiary evidence to light with the requisite caveats. It begs many questions which the audio submitter or, more importantly, Telecom's CEO must address. I wonder how long it will be before the corporates, like movie theatres, ban recording devices at conferences. I wonder if their employees will object.

Likewise, thank Dagg for the TV3 cameraman who caught NZ's answer to Rodney King. No way this would have ever turned up on Motorway Patrol. Whatever faith I had in the police went down the toilet in 2002 when I was home invaded by them. These days, I have more trust in my neighbours or my dealer. Hell, even my lawyer's got more respect. It's good that the public are finally clicking that a monopoly on violence breeds its own disgrace.

It also tickles my brain that sub-atomic particle theory is shown on this scale. Recording an event changes its outcome. "You had to be there" as anthropic principle.

(Originally posted 8/5/06)

Scars on Sunday

Self-mutilation is today's theme in the SST's Focus section. Michelle A'Court admits to dysthymia, a feeling that can't be touched. Rosemary McLeod dredges up a headfuck of hidden memories. Tony Wall reports on Cathy rising out of the ashes of Sam, while Frederico Monsalve dissects a couple of books on happiness.

There is no such thing as a happy comedian. The sense of humour is a survival mechanism, talent by necessity. Growing up in Levin would do it to you, as Michelle A'Court's case attests to. It's particularly interesting reading how she handled her shrink like an audience for a while. It reminds me of the time I checked out a shrink up in Orkland. Instead of humour, I threw Jung and Bertrand Russell at him.

Miss Tigger swears by Aropax. She's been on it for years and says she hardly ever cuts herself up any more. She's unnerved me on occasions by running her nails up her arms leaving bloody lines, so it's a comfort to both of us that she feels more at peace. I ask her every now and then if she should get off Aropax and see whether her improved state is her making or if it's the Aropax. It's the Aropax, she says. I think she sells herself short, but she's happier so who am I to nag.

I knew Miss Mountain Goat back when she was best friends with a then girlfriend, Miss Dancing Dragon. Unbeknownst to me and DD at the time, MG had been raped on a regularly basis by her father since she was 4. It all came out in her late teens, unravelling to the family at large and her friends. No court case was held. Justice was served elsewhere. Her father was present at her 21st, and all of MG's male friends present were bristling. Had MG whispered the right words, there were plenty of people willing to rip this bastard to shreds and bury pieces of him in the backblocks. MG knew this. Her father knew this.

Nothing happened. She married her uni boyfriend a few years later, a true yin-yang thing. Miss Mountain Goat now lives in Switzerland with her identical husband. It is the memory of people like MG who give me the strength when all else fails. Happiness is possible. In the meantime, in the dreamtime, I'll settle for beauty.

(Originally posted 7/5/06)


In spite of 31 years of the Misuse of Drugs Act, cannabis is NZ's third most popular recreational substance after alcohol and nicotine. According to the APHRU 2001 Drugs Survey (the latest stats available), 52 percent of Kiwis 15-45 years old have tried marijuana. 20 percent, or around 800,000 people, had some in the preceding 12 months. 70 percent of 19 year olds had a go. While Captain Sensible and Chairman Jim stick their fingers in their ears and go "lalalalala," tens of millions of dollars are thrown at 'supply control,' a campaign that even the cops admit is ultimately futile.

Today is International Cannabis Freedom Day, or J-Day in Kiwispeak. It's a day to remember that that laws should reflect societal norms, not try and twist the people to fit the law.

In related news, you can help foil the drug sniffers by wearing Cannabis Flower perfume (Tip Boing Boing). If you get searched without a warrant by the cops, you might then be able to counter-sue for wrongful search!

(Originally posted 5/6/06)

Free advertising

Hell Pizza's imaginative leftovers box has been Boing Boinged. Way to go, dudes!

(Originally posted 5/5/06)

Who da bitch now?

The Backbencher pub has unveiled a 'revision' of the Helen Clark & Winston Peters puppets:

Originally posted 4/5/06

Supa-dupa Loopa Blooper

Michael Cullen must be super pissed off this morning. It was bad enough that last year's backspin blooper buggered his Budget and almost cost Labour the election. This year's 'boring' Budget was all set to drop jaws and someone went and stole his thunder. Whomever leaked the cabinet papers should feel very worried. It won't be a golden handshake, more a smiteful thunderbolt.

(Originally posted 4/5/06)

A death in the family

An old girlfriend, Miss Machete, just texted me to say that my first cat, Rorschach passed away at home on Monday. RIP, dude.

(Originally posted 3/5/06)

Sweetest Thing

Just get back in the door after having a squizz at Labour HQ in Fraser House, and lo and behold David Cunliffe has announced the best news in yonks. Local (and sub-) loop unbundling and infrastructure investment in fibre, etc is bloody great.

I can't understand all the bitching going on over at DPF's. Telecom and its shareholders have had ample time to anticipate something along these lines. Labour have foreshadowed this for months. Like a steamroller accident in an Austin Powers movie, I have no sympathy for short-term speculators caught on the spot. Long-term investors have little to fear. This kick in the pants is just what Telecom needed to change its zero-sum mentality.

(Originally posted 3/5/06)

Misuse of Misuse of Drugs Act

It hasn't taken long for the knee-jerk idiocy of the Misuse of Drugs Amendment (No 3) to start pissing off the twinset and pearls brigade. Winter is imminent and a slow parade of depressions mope across the islands. The sniffles have started, leaky nose syndrome. Down the chemists, the wrinklies are lining up for their favourite brands only to get ID'd, as Rosemary McLeod found out.

There will be many harmless old biddies around the country, frightened by everything from driving instructors to rap music, who will simply stop buying their Coldrex or Codral. Some will die or, if they're really lucky, end up on a hospital waiting list. Nice going, narrow-minded prohibitionist morons. I've half a mind to go live in Mexico, where small amounts of marijuana, cocaine, peyote and LSD are no longer a criminal offence.

(Originally posted 30/4/06)

No smoke, no fire

The Companies Office has come to the bottom of the matters surrounding David Parker with precision and transparency. Laziness as opposed to criminality, by an Official Assignee and not David Parker, completely clears this honourable member. Here's expecting Mr Parker back in the Attorney General's job pronto and good on him too. He has acted the gentleman throughout the procedings.

Lacking a shred of evidence to back up Investigate's conspiracy theory, not even a prima facie case as Idiot/Savant points out, opposition attacks on the matter are just blowing dirt.

(Originally posted 26/4/06)

Hemingway woz here

Gareth Morgan has escaped the sychophantic sob-stories brought on by his $30 million Act of Random Kindness. His first entry on the Backblocks of America tour sees him shacking up in a posh-pit run by a US tax outlaw and getting feedback about the change in NZ's tax on overseas investments.

(Originally posted 26/4/06)

Rates rise favours property elite

Wellington City Council looks set to do a John Banks. According to the Capital Times, the Council's Long Term Community Plan wants to double the Uniform Targeted Rates and continue moving the rates burden from business to residential properties. Both measures benefit the breadheads at the expense of the penniless.

Uniform charges are a lazy and haphazard way to spread sewerage and water costs. Even leftie Deputy Mayor Alick Shaw favours a user-pays system over this all-you-can-flush plan. Why should small bungalows pay disproportionately more than the palatial mansions of Kelburn and Karori? Do all those apartments going up around the town have a secluded one acre section to irrigate, a driveway to wash down the SUV on Sunday mornings?

Mayor Kerry Prendergast, happily married to the incredibly rich property owner/ developer Rex Nichols, continues her inexorable agenda to push the rates differential onto householders. What started out as a 7:1 ratio of business to residential split in 2000 looks set to become 4.4:1 next year, with a 'goal' of 2.8:1 by 2010. Eastern Ward's Leonie Gill belabours the obvious with the observation that businesses can make up some of their rates bill in ways residents cannot. What she mean, 'some'?

Both the Uniform Charge and the rates differential demonstrate the Council's desire to out-price the riff-raff and poor people, forcing them into the New Jersey of Lower Hutt, the Brooklyn of Porirua, or the Alabama of Tawa. This is no different from the selling of Council housing and UAGC charges that saw Banks' reign wipe out a whole central city subculture. It's daylight snobbery.

(Originally posted 25/4/06)

Bad vibrations

Although the bible says nothing about vibrators, it hasn't stopped the South Carolina Jesus freaks from trying to ban "devices used primarily for sexual stimulation" (Tip DPF). Such a stupid law will be and should be as ignored as the anti-bong laws put forward by the Nats (and put in law by Labour) back here in the late '90s:

"That's not a vibrator, officer. That's a personal massager! Oh no, they aren't Ben-Wa balls, officer. They're Chinese healing balls. You roll them in your hands and feel better. Give 'em a go. That whip's for beating the servants with."

Some of my favourite webcam girls are based in the Deep South and I'd hate to see them without their tools of the trade. In case anyone's forgotten how useful these toys are, refresh your memory with The D Song video.

(Originally posted 24/4/06)

There can be only one (male co-leader)

There's one simple thing about the Green co-leader battle. It's age and guile vs. youth, inexperience and a bad haircut. Forget about Dave Clendon and Mike Ward. They are there only to fill the ranks. Expect one or both of them to drop out before judgement day. Hanging around any longer in the race risks damaging party stability. This is between Russel Norman and Nandor Tanczos, and my money's on Nandor. I know I'm betting against Chris Trotter and most other commentators, but I'll choose an underdog over the favourite any day.

Fortunately for the Greens, there is precedent for them to go off. The leadership scrap in Act showed how not to do things. Like the Greens, Act believe (or at least used to believe) in direct democracy. The primary race, while good on paper and ideologically sound, is a dangerous thing for a niche party to do in practise. I re-joined Act when it became clear that Prebs was standing down. Like most Act members, I had made up my mind who to vote for way before the big day. I joined so I could vote for Rodney and keep Stephen Franks and the Rabids from taking over.

I went along to a Meet the Candidates meeting anyway, just to be certain of my decision. Speaking order was very fairly decided by random ballot. One by one, the four contenders stood at the podium and gave absolutely no clue why they would be the best leader for Act. Oh yeah, everyone got the blurbs, the CVs, the former glories. Staying true to Act's core values was mentioned more often than the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi are mentioned in statutes. The meetings didn't change a thing. They only provided media fodder to highlight rifts in Act.

If Rodney hadn't won the leadership, Act would not be in parliament now. Neither Franks nor Shirley had the visibility to sell the party at the election and neither had a shit show of winning an electorate. It's a stern lesson which the Greens would do well to learn from. Jeanette Fitzsimons has implied that Russel is her preferred co-leader, in much the same way Roger Douglas not so subtly backed Stephen Franks a few years back. While Norman has enough gingervitus to rekindle the likes of the late Rod Donald, he lacks the experience and depth of a parliament-hardened Tanczos.

Norman may be trawling for numbers around the grassroots circuit but it's popular visibility that counts in a leadership contest. The ability to bring out the warm and fuzzies does not translate as a party-saver and that's precisely what the Greens need to survive 2008 without Rod Donald. You can say many things about Nandor, but being invisible isn't one of them. He has long since put away his skateboard and grown into leadership potential this term. He has confounded Winston Peters on his home turf in the House and gained respect for his grasp of IT issues. His open and forthright views on the Corrections department left quite a few people looking at him with new respect.

Nandor shows no signs of slowing down either. In contrast to the Act leadership debacle, he has a policy platform and is not afraid to stand up for it. Calling the Greens Labour's lapdog last election is about as unequivocal as you can get. Strategically, this is a damned good platform. The Greens haven't got an electorate to hold firm with, so repositioning the Greens nearer the centre means a wider target market. It would allow, for example, the Greens to steal the BlueGreens vote from the Nats. It would also mitigate the scary watermelon factor that keeps otherwise keen voters offside.

Announcing this platform also leaves Norman little room to manoeuvre. He too wishes to distance the Greens from Labour but Nandor has already marked out the best territory. Norman's got nowhere to go but hard left, a sure sign for defeat next election. Matt McCarten's not promoting Unite out of altruism. He is setting them up to run in 2008, as DPF kindly points out. Vernon Small reckons that Norman will focus on the Social Justice ticket, which will be a hard row to hoe considering Nandor's the spokesperson for Restorative Justice. With six weeks to go before the final vote, I expect we'll be seeing a whole lot more action plan from the Rastaman.

Speaking of which, derisive comments on Nandor's dreads are practically a non-sequitur these days. Dr Sharples doesn't lose any mana from his mullet, since what comes out his mouth makes too much sense to squander on superficial trivialities. Meantime, Russel Norman seems quite keen on GE (goatee eradication):

Finally, and I'm a republican not a nationalist, but I don't think an Oz dude who has been in the country less than 10 years should be a party leader. While Nandor is a Brit-born Hungarian, at least he spent most of his childhood here. I reckon you've got to acclimatise to this country a while before you can start bossing everyone about. 10 years does not cut it.

(Originally posted 23/4/06)

Anyways, I must be off. I've got to go book my seat at the Greens Conference in Silverstream over Queens Birthday weekend.

That time of year again

Wishing you a Hippy Harvest weekend

(Originally posted 14/4/06)

Key to the cookie jar

Thank you Rod Donald for lobbying so hard for MPs to disclose their pecuniary interests. The results are truly interesting. It's just a pity the full story is hidden under another onion skin of family trusts. Here's a top 5 of hypocritical bullshitters.

5. Taito Field for numerous housing projects which excludes the Apia shack-up (Tip DPF).

4. Chairman Jim, for having shares in a foreign-owned bank. Splitting hairs on bankers' shares does not wear.

3. Alleged Muslim MP Ashraf Choudary's stake in Sin City Sky City

2. The Honourable David Carter is a shareholder of CanWest (them of the liberal TV3 channel), 42 Below (homegrown vodka), Sky City (gambling), and meat & wool products. This guy actively supports hedonism, even though his voting record says it's monkey say not monkey do.

1. John Key's mortgage on the Wellington apartment. How much debt is owing on this property and how does that compare with the $16,000 of taxpayer money heading his way? I bet you Mr Key got out his little calculator and worked it out to the nearest cent. The biggest rort since Hobbs and Bunkle, and at least they weren't as loaded as he is.

(Originally posted 9/4/06)

Supression, repression, depression, expression

The grumble of thunder has passed overhead, blue skies emerging as if nothing ever happened.

About five haircuts ago, October 15 2004 to be precise, I wrote of the nature of being kiwi had a lot to do with the weather. I started the blog as a means to further define in my own fuzzy way what it means to be here and now. Unfortunately, I got distracted. My bad. Thing is, there is such a thing as kiwi. In this, the last place to be inhabited by people, geographically isolated with the firm, undisputed border of our fractal coastlines. We carve a place for ourselves here and the place carves us in return.

Kiwis are at home in both light and shadow. Sam Neill's Cinema of Unease puts the point nicely. Neill's debut in Sleeping Dogs, ending with him doing the finger to authority, is a prime example of Kiwiness (It's all the more poignant now after Sam Neill, winemaker, addressed the Labour party conference last year). Tim Finn sang of Dirty Creatures and Leaky Boats. Fuck knows what Colin MacCahon was on about, but it wasn't Disney.

With this is mind, as well as the upcoming ANZAC Day, it was a good time to unveil the excellent Paul Dibble memorial sculpture destined for Hyde Park. At first I thought it was a mimic of the anti-tank defences used on the beaches. Then the crosses at the top were shown, raw and bright. The distinct totems on each beam. Respect.

My brother, Randy Gonzales, sent me a copy of Dad's memoir notes for my birthday. In Trev's words:

"My Father William Leo de Cleene volunteered for the NZ Rifle Brigade and was grievously wounded by shell fire near the town of Ypres. Mary and he married when he was discharged from the army on a pension. He slept with a loaded rifle beside his bed to repel possible dawn assualts. I think that it has always been difficult for those who have not suffered in the horrors of war to appreciate the influence it had on those who survived it. "Pop" only rarely spoke of his experiences but such was his "shellshock" he became drunk on little alcohol. A few beers and he was away. His body had holes where the shrapnel had gone in and much of it stayed there.I am quite sure they in there own way loved each other. I never saw my Mother and Father embrace - hold hands or display emotions publicly."

It's eerie to compare with my own upbringing. Dad slept with a loaded Luger under the pillow and, later, he upgraded to a minimum-length pump action shotgun under the bed. Like Pop, he was waiting for a dawn raid that never came. Well, there was that one time...

On an aside, Dad's Mum smoked like a chimney. At the hospital where she was slowly dying of cancer, she was disappointed Dad had bought her chocolates and not a pouch of tobacco. All the ashtrays in the family vehicles were full of live .22 rounds, the glovebox crammed with 12 gauge cartridges. No way anyone smoked in Dad's car. Trev was a supporter of ASH way before recovering alcoholic Mark Peck became director of the Smokefree Coalition. It's amazing the ingenuity that goes into the transference of rage. Back to Trev:

"Pop put me on his bike and took me to the Pub where I would sit on the Bar and drink raspberry and lemonade while he drank beer with his mates. "Don't tell your Mother." Mary de Cleene was a "pointer" when it came to flushing Pop out of the Pub. He would take his bike inside the bar but she would still find him and drag him out. We would all bike home.

"When he did cut loose and she could not find him, she would lock him out and he would sleep on the floor of the wash house with its concrete tub and copper. Despite the arguments over it he never hit her.

"I was in the kitchen with Mum one night when I was about 12 years of age and Pop came home to the locked door and attacked it with the axe. She opened the door - took the axe off him and locked him back out. Such was his conscience on the morrow that he would do the lawns, the garden, the house - you name it. About a month later it would happen again.

"On the night of the axe incident, she nagged him in that kitchen while he was in a drunken state. I have always told my Clients in later life not to disagree with their men when the men are drunk. Give it to them in the morning when they have got a sore head and a conscience. On this occasion Pop, completely exasperated, raised his hand to his wife Mary. She just stood there and looked at him. "Bill de Cleene," she said, "You are drunk and you will go to sleep. You hit me and I will boil a kettle and pour it over your balls!"

My mother didn't have Mary's personality and didn't have the skills to put up with my father's shit. She couldn't keep his rages in check. After the divorce, Dad used to take us three kids to the Te Puna Tavern. We'd sit in the Range Rover drinking raspberry lemonades while Dad sat in the pub talking to his mates. One time Randy and my sister, well on her way to becoming Uptight Rodriguez, convinced me to go in and ask Dad when we were leaving. He marched me out the door and kicked me across the carpark while his mates pissed themselves laughing.

There are many out there with similar tales to tell. Good on Taika Cohen for Two Cars, One Night. Donna Awatere-Huata's dad, Lt Col Arapeta Huata, blew a man's brains onto the ceiling after WWII. The wars fought so long ago are still fought today. Which is why I tend to agree with Gregory Fortuin's stance about the reporting of suicide. Everyone knows about it but we just don't want to talk about it. If we don't talk about it, the theory goes, it'll go away on its own. That's what the MPs reckon anyway. Just like the Misuse of Drugs Act, everything is just fine.

By all odds, I shouldn't be here. Apart from the phenomenal odds against my being born in the first place, I have almost got myself killed in one way or another on many occasions. That time in Brisbane, standing on the Storey Bridge weighing up hope and despair. Overtaking that truck on the loose gravel, almost flipping the van into the path of an oncoming truck. Boo-hooing over Emily in high school. That time when I was 11, fearing for my life when we were stranded on a boat off Kapiti Island with next to no provisions and Joe Walding, a man medically diagnosed as being addicted to food. I have since found a new respect for old people, because they are not yet dead.

The freedom to leave is of great comfort. Let kiwis go abroad if they so wish. Matter of fact, I'd make it complusory. None of this military training crap, boot em out for a couple of years to get a real education. Put them on the ground with Volunteers Services Abroad. Give them ten grand and a one-way ticket to London or Mumbai. Earn big money as a guinea pig. Work in Dubai, earn shitloads of cash, then come back here and be your own boss. That's one way to do it.

(Originally posted 9/4/06)

I am a goat

I got my sign name confirmed today. I am 'goat'. Quite apt I reckon. Beats being a troll. The third reading of the NZSL Official Language thing is up in parliament this Thursday after Question Time. It's one of those times where living over the hill and round the bend from parliament really pays off. It'll be good to see this cruise through. For those with access to fraudband, you can witness this via webcast here. I only hope Rodney and Heather change their minds and make it unanimous. Heather's speech for the second reading was unconvincing.

Nice to hear about Gerry's childhood all those years ago. Here's one which is a bit more recent. I spent a lot of time at Nana's house as a child. Nana learned to lipread as a younger woman, even though she had perfect hearing at the time. It is a skill that has proved useful and I'm glad she passed it on to me. However, at the time I was learning all sorts of interesting things like tying my shoelaces. This was just another thing to learn. Nana knew lipreading, therefore everyone knew lipreading. I listened with my eyes as well as my ears in class, just like everybody else did (I assumed). I sat near the front, not because of teacher's pet but so I could see Mrs Gledhill's lips more clearly. I'd be pulled out of class to mope off to the school speech therapy office. They told me to go and I went. I didn't mind because there was a good library there. The Lorax was my favourite. I couldn't say my "shhhh"s and "rrrrr"s like everyone else could. I spent hours spanning years there. My "shhh"s cleared up and the "rrr"s got less worse. Then I changed schools and the whole thing ended.

The first time I first remember something was seriously up was at boarding school, talking to Mum on the phone. I tried putting the phone to my left ear for a change and found Mum's voice much crisper. So this ear was better than that ear. Oh well then. I adapted. Left ear with the phone then. I developed a habit of tilting my head to the right when listening to people or walking on the right of friends or family.

I began experimenting. A few times, I set my shiny new digital watch's alarm to go off in class, in attempts to train myself to hear what others could hear. Bit by bit I worked out I was completely deaf to high frequencies, mainly through classmates' frowns and the teacher threatening to confiscate my watch. It all makes so much sense now. No wonder I did better on the right wing in team sports. I could hear the whistle, barely registering in my right ear, slightly more often with my left. It was just a shame when there was more than one game on. I'd stop play to the neighbouring games' whistle or play on after the ref has blown a breathalyser's worth in ours. I wasn't much of a team player.

As far as I knew, NZ Sign Language did not exist. All forms of signing were actively discouraged in schools until 1979. If Deaf were to communicate with Norms, they must lipread. The exclusive doctrine was Oralism uber alles, a policy dictated exclusively by the Norms. No wonder we have 51,000 lipreaders. It was the only form of communication allowed by the authorities. I put this down solely to that Bwitish stiff upper lip bullshit that dictated that colonists should not move their hands while talking. Everyone must adapt to our way because we are civilised. For evidence of this legacy, look around in a pub or cafe and you'll see what I mean. English people don't gesticulate as much as most others. Look at the Samoan or the Italian.

Deaf people signed anyway, because it was the most natural way for them to communicate. NZSL survived underground, away from teachers and other authority figures. In spite of the best efforts to eradicate it, it endured. According to the 2001 Disability survey, from which Heather quotes, 7700 adults use NZSL. There are roughly sixty translators nationwide to help them, or 1:128 odds. Not good, if you want to get out of the ghetto. Perhaps some of those 51,000 lipreaders might find greater sophistication of communication with NZSL. Judging from the hordes of Norms jumping to learn it at Vic and AUT, I'd say there's plenty of support for them out there. So funding's not a problem. We have the skills.

Nor should NZSL be classified as a non-English language group, unless you want to patronise the fuck out of those 51,000 sympathetic lipreaders, let alone the 7,700 NZSL voters. Mandarin is an official language somewhere. NZSL, at least until the GG gets her hands on it soon, isn't. Making NZSL an official language will certainly raise the profile and legitimacy of this language. One has only to witness the rennaissance of Te Reo since its official recognition in the 80s. Referring to Gestuno is like raising Esperanto as a serious alternative to Kiwi English. What's Gestuno for haka, mate? Language is localised one way or another. It evolves.

Finally, it's a matter of principle. Of all things, I had hoped that Act would vote for it on principle. Act, the party of new ideas and innovation thinks the British or Oz policy is better. Act, the liberal party supporting diversity and little battlers by denying this little thing. If you read it, all it says is that NZSL will be recognised by the courts and that "government services and information should be made accessible to the Deaf community through the use of appropriate means (including the use of NZSL)." Not a biggie. It's a bummer to say this, but it is just one more sad reason that Act deserves to be fortress Epsom.

Here's to shit-stirring autists while we're at it. We reserve the right to be slightly strange.

(Originally posted 4/4/06)

The incompetent leading the blind

Orkland City Council's helpful intersection safety team have laid tiles that point blind pedestrians into the path of oncoming traffic. A "significant" number of the city's 3400 intersections will have to get ripped up, including the three year old Britomart transport hub, at between $3 - 10k a pop. Thanks, Banks. It happened under your watch.

This nicely exemplifies a couple of problems I had with living in Orkland. Firstly, the city is not so much pedestrian-unfriendly as pedestrian-homicidal. Secondly, I got sick of paying rates to a bunch of twits who try to Make Things Better by Making Things Much Worse.

(Originally posted 31/3/06)

Maori Suess

(Originally posted 27/3/06)