Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The grass may be greener but the streets are meaner

Maybe I've been reading too much of Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series, but spring is now ingrained as the opening of Campaign Season. It's that time of year when anything is possible. Let the die fly high.

The festival circuit posters are out. I've already committed to going to the RaggaMuffin gig, come Hell or Helen. Tempted by Kiwiburn, now WOMAD's gone all commercial like Big Day Out. Also pondering requesting a spot in the Speakers Tent at Parihaka. No, not yet. The timing is all wrong. Maybe after a spell at Toastmasters. Yeah, that'll do it. We can't all be teachers or lawyers, used to speaking in public. Gotta kill that "don't fuck it up" mantra thing that keeps happening.

Well, it's about time to settle into a theme I suppose. How about a recap of the previous week? It's been good stuff.

Last Monday, attending the NZ Drug Foundation's AGM. They got the boring crap out of the way pronto, and featured a debate between some university teams debating "All Drugs Should Be Legalised." Charles Chauvel was moderating. Nice to see him continue turning up in all the right places. The audience decided that the negative team proved the most convincing, including me. Great fun for seeing what the lie of the land is. Tricky, but not insurmountable. I seriously rate the choice of chocolate cake served afterwards. It gave a whole new perspective to the definition of drug. Damn that anandamide!!

On Wednesday, attended the march to parliament on the Electoral Finance Bill. Got many beeps walking into town on the way there for my double-sided placard. On one side, "People, not PR and Pledge Card" (I ran out of room for the plural). On the other, it said "Greens! WTF u doing?" Both sides were subscripted with "This electoral advertisement was authorised by me."For the record, the sign did not say "fuck."

I had no idea of the huge drama that a chaotic event like an upturned plane on a runway would cause, even when Stephen Franks kept going on about it when I bumped into him on the way to Civic Square. Here he was, telling me the march was turning to custard, and here's me poking and prodding for completely different information. Inappropriate conversation is my forte. Get me on a roll and I can put both feet in my mouth with ease. It's why I'm gun-shy of influential people.

At Civic Square, I strike up awkward conversation with the grouplets of fellow marchers, managing to alienate one Act supporter with anti-Gary Mallet comments (Honestly, bring back Catherine Judd). Oh, the march has started, thank Dagg. Leisurely stroll down Lambton Quay, a street built for marching down (although the University-Terrace-Beehive route is still the best).

Young Labour turn up wearing John Key masks. I recognise a few of them straight off. Good on them for adding to the limited theatrics. Their antics spark a response in the marchers, who drown out the gatecrashers through necessity. Bump into some guy marching along with an effigy of Winston Peters. Arrive at parliament and a TradeMe of speakers ensues. Fair go to DPF for giving it a go on the mike. Good on Jeanette Fitzsimons for fronting up. You have my respect but still not my vote.

Thursday, lunch with Rick Giles at the Backbencher. Rick is an Almost Disappeared Person and the guy with the Winston effigy. Small world, small march. Off to Wellington Airport to catch a Pacific Blue flight to Auckland. Omfg, they've brought US customs to NZ's laissez-faire air travel. The paranoiacs have taken Joe Bennett far too seriously.

Metal detectors and x-ray machines? Thank Dagg I wasn't wearing my usual belt, the one that gets me spreadeagled at parliament every time. Hasn't anyone told the control freaks that security is an illusion? The best one can hope for is to minimise one's reasons to become a target. Security is therefore an oxymoron.

American security traditions, ripened for decades by the McNamara agenda, have finally burst forth on state departments around the globe. Tasers are the non-lethal stock option du jour. Revenue is soaring! Tasers are the de rigeur non-lethal shock option for cops. During the NZ taser trial, the thing was used 19 times. According to the logic used to justify its use, 19 cop lives were saved due to the taser. What's the Death on the Job rate for cops? Surely it's not 19 a year? N-n-n-n-19? No way.

Taxes may not be rising, inflation may be low, but the price of safety just keeps going up. What's the going rate for a late model taser? How about those goddamned metal detectors and x-ray machines back at the airport terminal purgatory? For my return trip to Auckland, $7.14. Now I paid McDonalds Airways a hundred and something bucks for my flights. $7.14 is a big bite of their margin.

If $7.14 is the price of ensuring that Tame Iti hasn't trained some ninja pilots to take over a 747 and fly it into the Beehive, so be it. However, since this stunt happening is so unbelievably improbable, I strongly resent paying a tuppenny fuck for being treated worse than a towelhead. $7.14 would have bought me a red wine to enjoy on my flight, instead of being heavied by the rubber-glove brigade. Future flying will now be subject to a thirty percent increase in security costs. $9.32 and rising. When will someone say no? I'll second them.

I hadn't been to Auckland since selling up the Shoebox in Wellesley St West back in '04. It was well-timed, before the leaky building clusterfuck really took hold of the body corporates and just before the CBD was so utterly saturated with apartments. Landing at Auckland airport was a doddle. I had forgotten how truly horrible the traffic was.

One hiccupped rendezvous later and we're heading out west, to the Pope of Dope's official residence in the Waitakere Ranges. Two wood pigeons parked up in the bush greet us on arrival. The view is astounding. It's all there, Rangitoto, Sky City (albeit as a prick on the horizon). It's the Auckland I never knew. Wait! What's that sound in the distance? Is it... public transport railway?

Friday day is prep day. Lots of mouths to feed this weekend. Head into town for the 4:20 near Albert Park. Maryjane, the Cannabus is there, up and running after only three years from its inception. After a significant smoke, a crowd heads out on the bus into Auckland Friday night gridlock. I get out while the bus is idling near the Viaduct, heading around the waterfront and across to the North Shore on the ferry.

Head on round to RRB's house, a cigarette's length from the jetty. From there, it's off to the Northcote Tavern, a throwback to the glorious bar and bistro days of my childhood. It's Friday night and there's fuck all people there, for shame. Not trendy enough, eh. RRB and the Northcote's chef share a walking bus connection, spinning a yarn in the garden bar. She cooks up a nice scotch fillet and chips too.

Saturday morning, head out to Prince's Wharf to attend the NORML annual conference on board Te Aroha. It's a good meeting, and my paper on what the latest version of the Electoral Finance Bill means for NORML is well received. Now I'm committed to writing to the Electoral Commission to seek guidance on NORML's response to the EFB.

The AGM is wrapped up quickly, as the party-goers are about to board. It's time for cruising the harbour, relaxation, irie tunes, loads of kai, and the "Show Your Grow" competition (a spin-off from the annual Cannabis Cup). The co-host has provided beer and steaks, as well as other festive amenities. I grab a Steinie and crank up the barbie. Not 200 yards away, a police launch wanders past. It'll pass by discreetly another three or five times during the evening, as bass booms and clouds of smoke diffuse in our wake.

After I've backlogged the buffet for the 70 people on board, I head up to the Auckland's heads in the bowls. After years of tolerating Wellington's bush weed, it was a real pleasure to get to see some fine Auckland skunk again. Aucklanders won't touch bush. It's skunk or nothing. About a dozen entries and there's three outstanding ones. One bud, big as your fist, sits there begging to be scratched and sniffed. I feel like Neil Miller at the Beer Festival, or Jules at Toast Martinborough.

New Zealand is a nation for Epicureans. Our Rieslings are up there with Germany. While our Cab/Merlots have a way to go before we top the Ozzies (Penfold's Grange, Mmmmmm. Sorry Mr Brajkovich!), the Pinots are getting there. Three cheers for Tuatara Pale Ale! Dagg bless that Manuka Honey! Woohoo for Kapiti Foods and Puhoi too! And the lamb... The lamb lies down on Ohakune potato mash and mint jus. New Zealanders are the best growers and seeders of cannabis in the world. We outrank Marrakesh, Amsterdam and Nepal in quality. This is no hashish, dudes. This is the real fluffy thing. Smells sweetish-minty too.

The winner ends up being G. There were many mentions on the night of "hitting the G spot". It's a Northern Lights/White Pearl cross. The dude has been growing hard out for three years and this fine young horticulturalist deserved the win.

The partygoers depart, and the boat straddles the harbour for the night. Sunday is sloth day. Everyone's glad that the conference was done and dusted on Saturday, because it's the Mother of All Stone-overs on Sunday. The clouds burn off early in the day, and the harbour is ablaze in sun.
Farewells in the afternoon. Head off on foot from Prince's Wharf to debrief myself at my bro's apartment in Parnell. The heat coming off the bitumen makes it a stinking hot walk. There's cold beers in the fridge, although Randy is in Tauranga dealing with Family Matters. Refresh, reboot, and up to The Bog, before ferreting back for a kip.

Monday, it's back to reality. Back to Wellington. Normal blogging will resume whenever the fuck.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

For the fun of it

The New York Times pays tribute to the release of the first season of Sesame Street on DVD:

Just don’t bring the children. According to an earnest warning on Volumes 1 and 2, “Sesame Street: Old School” is adults-only: “These early ‘Sesame Street’ episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.”

Say what? At a recent all-ages home screening, a hush fell over the room. “What did they do to us?” asked one Gen-X mother of two, finally. The show rolled, and the sweet trauma came flooding back. What they did to us was hard-core. Man, was that scene rough. The masonry on the dingy brownstone at 123 Sesame Street, where the closeted Ernie and Bert shared a dismal basement apartment, was deteriorating. Cookie Monster was on a fast track to diabetes. Oscar’s depression was untreated. Prozacky Elmo didn’t exist.

Indeed. Back then only Big Bird could see Mr Snuffleupagus. It was a reassurance to kids that direct observation trumps peer pressure every time. It certainly helped me deal with tinnitus. Contrast that with today's pre-chewed pabulum. Jeez, give me another hit of the 70's realism, risk-taking and acceptance:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Quantum effects in Electoral Finance Bill

I have worked out what has happened to the Electoral Finance Bill. It's been put through some form of particle accelerator. Nothing has been created or destroyed, it's just reappeared elsewhere in a different form. Take, for example, the deleted clause exempting government departments from the effects of the EFB (Section 119AA). The souped-up EFB has much the same effect appear elsewhere, in the definition of who can or can't be a third party. Section 4 (2) (e):

14 Persons eligible to be third party
(2) The following are ineligible to be a third party:
(e) each of the following persons or bodies:
(i) the chief executive (however described) of a
department of State or Crown entity: 20
(ii) a department of State:
(iii) a Crown entity:
(iv) a State enterprise (within the meaning of section
2 of the State-Owned Enterprises Act 1986) or a
Crown-owned company: 25
(v) any other instrument of the Crown

If government departments by definition cannot be third parties, then they are exempted. N'est-ce pas?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Apres aujourd'hui, la deluge

Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. I've looked all through my metaphor bag, but I can't find anything remotely apt to compare with the J&E report on the Electoral Finance Bill. A sprig of parsley added to a dog's breakfast? No. Less sensible and illogic than any religious text ever written? Nope. I give up.

Best thing to do is ignore it. Sure, I'm going to the march on Wednesday, but there's no way in hell I'm going to take heed of whatever responsibilities the Electoral Finance Bill foists on me. Am I going to stick posters around town without putting my home address on them? You betcha. Am I going to register as a third party with the Electoral Commission? Make me. Am I going to push the new and untested legal fictions contained in this Bill just for the hell of it? I'll see you in court.

I won't be alone. There's a whole heap of farmers going to be there too. Flush from the Fonterra money fountain, a resurgent rural sector will be keen to express their views come the election. And they don't give a good god-damned buggery fuck what the Electoral Finance Bill says. Over in the corner will be the grass-roots activists whom the Labour administration has done so well at alienating in recent weeks.

Or maybe not. The Electoral Commission has been charged with overseeing the whole thing; parties, candidates and "third parties". And they have, ummm, 42 days to get their infrastructure in place.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Fry Hard

The correct answer is 248, not 42

According to a free-wheeling surfer dude, the Theory of Everything may lie in an elegant mandala discovered back in 1887:

Garrett Lisi hopes to successfully beat string theory to unifying gravity with electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. In between surfing and mountain climbing, he will set about calculating the masses of 30-odd particles which the E8 pattern (pictured above) says should exist. Can't wait for the Large Hadron Collider to go online, eh.

UPDATE: Here's a YouTube of it working:

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Friday, November 16, 2007

Tasers are a cop's best friend

While the shocking snuff video of Canadian Mounites tasering a Polish immigrant to death is doing the rounds, Leeds police are in the gun over tasering a man in a coma back in 2005:

"Mr Gaubert said he was on his way to meet friends when he suffered a hypoglycaemic fit on the bus which left him slumped on his seat clutching his rucksack. Armed police were called to the bus depot in Headingley and when he failed to respond to their challenges he was shot with the Taser. He said as this was happening, another officer was pointing a real gun at his head. He was restrained and eventually came round in the police van."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

How rhetorical is this?

Helen Clark has promised that government departments are not going to cheerlead for them next election. Why then was not only Madeleine Setchell's job with Ministry of the Environment canned, but her replacement was a Labour flunky?

Are all passive-aggressive personalities now terrorists? That would explain the attempt at introducing Anti-Social Behaviour Orders then. Oh, come on... you can't take those transcripts as a serious threat to public safety? Good on the DomPost printing them and all. But seriously, my old man had more guns than the entire Freedom Fighter army, including a semi-automatic .22 fitted with a nightsight. The bunnies never stood a chance.

If I had to pick a winner between wingnut Tame Iti and a squad of stormtrooper Xs, my money's on the Allblackwaters:

Wait! This just in! Police have arrested four Maori men attempting to harness the sun with a flax net. Maybe Tame Iti will prove to be an artist after all.

Now the crayon has dried on the Health Select Committee's report recommending a ban on BZP, how long before the big bangs are banned? And is there anything that the government HASN'T given to the Law Commission to work on? Will Helen Clark inserting the Sim card into the Law Commission deck make any difference to the Misuse of Drugs Act re-write, or will Geoff Palmer put his reputation first? And will Crown Law ever grow a backbone?

Tomorrow is the anticipated date for the J&E committee to report back on the Electoral Finance Bill. DPF reckons that that will provide a six day window to read the latest Rigging Yarn. I have half a mind to wag work and go to this:

Stop the Labour/NZ First/Greens Electoral Finance "Gagging Bill"

What you can do:

Protest March: Auckland this Saturday 17 November from the Auckland Town
Hall at 10.30am (assemble from 10am)

Protest: Wellington next Wednesday, 21 November, for a march on Parliament.

This is to invite you to stand up and be counted.

ACT member John Boscawen is organising marches in Auckland and Wellington
to protest the Labour led Government's attack on democracy.

The Electoral Finance Bill is designed to curb political activity.

Labour and NZ First with help from the Greens and United Future are about to
ram through a law to gag free speech.

This despite vociferous objection from the Human Rights Commission, the Law
Society, Grey Power and concerned citizens from every sector of New Zealand

The plan is to give Labour freedom to say what it likes in election year and
gag everyone else.

Once the Gagging Bill goes through - possibly as soon as next week - it will
be against the law for me to send an email such as this.

That's why the Human Rights Commission talks about a "chilling" impact on

That's why this is a Gagging Bill by any other name and must be stopped.

Join the marches

If you want to help contact

Friday, November 09, 2007

Great Balls of Fire

Wellington's annual Guy Fawkes display was one of the reasons I came back to live here. It goes off, every year without fail. I saw this year's from my street and the scale was all wrong. The noises were off and the lack of awe amongst most of the neighbours was almost palpable. To really get the feel for it, you have to be down the harbour amongst the throngs of Frank Kitts or Waitangi Parks, before wandering off home in the fug of gunpowder that drifts down towards Newtown.

Ah, the sights! The smells! Takes me back to my first terrorist camp:

Five years old and playing with fire. The Soccer Mums would be furious. If you can't take a pram along to displays of large things that explode, well, they should all be banned, right? And this, on the second anniversary of Rod Donald's death. Rod was a strong believer in the right to have fun with gunpowder, yet the Greens say silent.

It's a very interesting yarn between Kathy Ryan and Police Commissioner Howard Broad, discussing "going to the supermarket." It sort of confirms the grapevine stuff, and raises more questions than it answers. What is clear from Howard Broad's circumlocutions is that the threshold of the Terrorist Suppression Act is too high.

It ain't easy being a cop.

As John Ip confirms in the rejoinder, Howard Broad's comments are very disconcerting comment. Howard Broad wanted to prosecute under a law that doesn't exist. The Terrorist Suppression Act has justifiably high thresholds. It was designed in the usual way of platitudinous mumbo-jumbo UN treaty nonsense, hurriedly and for show only. It's not a working model. To ensure that a threat to life, limb or utilities had to be absolutely imminent, two checks were put in place. Both the Attorney General and Solicitor General had to agree to the charges being laid. Michael Cullen abdicated his responsibilites and left the matter entirely in the hands of the Solicitor General, David Collins QC.

Lacking the name of the supermarket, how to get to the supermarket, and what they were going to buy. That's the threshold the cops couldn't reach, even after simultaneous dawn raids, checkpoints, and numerous breaches of innocent people's dignity, reputation and right not to have automatic weapons pointed at them by balaclavaed amoured cops. All those hundreds of pages of inadmissable evidence or illegal wiretapping, depending on how you look at it.

This "early intervention" guff is the stuff that confirms my wildest fears. This is Margaret-Shields-seeing-skulls-in-rum-advertisements crazy. The Police Commissioner would like to see the threshold lowered so he can pre-emptorarily, unilaterally surveil anybody playing silly buggers in the bush and spouting nonsense about taking over the world. Are they going to tap Helen Clark's mutterings on her next Norwegian Wood holiday?

Between the Idea
And the Reality
Falls the Shadow

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Monday, November 05, 2007

Latest Headlines from the "War on Violence"

While we wait for real details to emerge on the Tuhoe Terrorists, we are left with sheer speculation, rumour, gossip and innuendo to base our conclusions at present. On the whole, it's best to leave that cat in the box a bit longer. What the hell, way it looks so far... A few people did some very stupid things. The cops, pushed too soon once the hunters bumped into something, over-reacted.

There's every chance I'm completely wrong. Perhaps the cops will lay out some heinous plan with a veritable cornucopia of inflammatory, incriminatory evidence. Time will tell. What is clear from Peter Wiliams QC getting involved with the Ruatoki locals, is that the cops had better come up with a phenomenally good reason to do what they did up there. The police wouldn't dream of pulling that shit in Remuera. Would they hunt for a panther by roadblocking, photographing and searching the Parnell People? The ends had better justify the means.

Not that this is a big problem for Helen Clark at present. Failing to secure state funding for political campaigns through the EFB beta version hasn't prevented her from achieving the same thing through the Appropriation (Continuation of Interim Meaning of Funding for Parliamentary Purposes) Bill.

Nor is blaming Treasury as the reason for not having personal tax cuts until election year '08 beyond the pale. Cullen remaining as Finance Minister means that Labour intend to hit big. Cullen is already underselling the tax cuts. Under-promise, over-deliver. Expect to see the first $xxxx income made tax-free and rammed through just before the election. Doing so would cost only slightly more than the interest-free student loan thumbsucker, while bringing NZ into line with Oz's tax regime.

I felt a bit of sympathy for the poor buggers protesting outside the Labour Party conference. Sure, the wild-eyed frenzies were a bit full-on, but good on them trying some amateur dramatics for the cameras. I have organised peaceful political protests before, but the media just aren't interested. Peaceful gatherings where nothing happens just isn't good telly. Guantanamo wannabes and army fatigue guy was at least an attempt to tangify the protest in the televisual aesthetic. Whacking someone with a megaphone on camera is also good telly.

I'm looking forward to the fireworks display in the harbour in just over an hour. Regardless of how crap the day of November the 5th is in Wellington, it always clears up in time for the big bangs. Tonight's goona be a corker. It's not just the main display that grabs me every time, but also the entire city's backyards full of light and sound. Pity the tyrant is threatening to ban the whole gig if we don't behave. Pressure valves are there for a reason. Pity there's no way to tell which way the wind is blowing when you're in the House of Representatives.