Monday, August 31, 2009
Reason not to live in the USA #215,347
Mr English's budget showed his suspicion of science. He has told Sir Peter - and the world - he wants to know what bang he is getting for his buck. In that, English- graduate Mr English is a fitting successor to social history academic Michael Cullen....and following on from Catholic science ignoramus Jim Bolger before Cullen.
The appointment of a Chief Science Advisor was something that should have come out of Labour 5's Knowledge Wave but didn't. Perhaps such visible intelligence would have been a threat to the wishful omnipotence of Helen Clark. A Chief Science Advisor would certainly have put the willies up Bolger. So I'm deeply impressed with the risks of friction and compromise with public opinion that John Key has shown by appointing a Public Spock.
I'm keen to hear what Professor Gluckman has to say in a couple of weeks, when he presents a public seminar on whether science can transform NZ's economy at Rutherford House. I see it as a no-brainer. You only have to consider what refrigerated shipping in 1882 did to save NZ's economic bacon. Of course science will save us, but how?
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Under the weather
# Simon Upton snorts at the banal garden aesthetics of the middle class property boom. S'True. I'm not calling for a wholesale return of the Rose Gardens of UK lore, but what's wrong with a few hebes, for crap's sake? Houses are no longer places to live in but assets to sit on for capital gain, not unlike the bland cars and SUVs they drive, unadorned by bumper stickers or any personalisation that might affect that inevitable sale. It's part of a wider mentality shown by Apple and Microsoft that property is not so much owned any more, but constantly on loan from someone else.
# Jesse's Café Américain posts up why the main economic dogmas of Austrian, Marxist, Monetarist, Keynesian theorists are all wrong. I've been a fan of Mandelbrot for a while. Never underestimate the power of chaos. It sneezes in the face of ceteris parabis. HT Bernard Hickey.
# Andrew Sullivan points to a graphic example of the debilitating effects of torture. Here's former Iranian Vice-President Mohammad Ali Abtahi before arrest and after, at the regime's show trials:
# Thanks to the Dom Post for the story on the Duke of Wellington. Didn't know he'd been sick. Retrospective sympathies. Here's him opening the Fringe Festival in 2006. He got a heap of strangers (including me) off Manners Mall to carry all this baggage to Civic Square. I love Wellington for this. It's a place where you can just trip over random cool shit
like this happening:
# Lewis Holden at the New Zealand Republic blog explains the Duke of Wellington slowly and in small syllables so the fossils at the Commonwealth Monarchist might get a clue on the excellent Duke. Far as I see, we get more public utility from the Duke of Wellington than any royal highnesses way over there in Blighty. You won't see Liz or Phil pulling stunts like this without a copious retinue of expensive pleb-funded flunkies.
# If it's too early to say what the impact of the French Revolution truly was, it's way too soon to gauge the full impact of The Rocky Horror (Picture) Show. The UK Times digs into the strange motivations of Richard O'Brien's headspace. It really put my Daddy Issues into perspective.
# If you want to go bankrupt, divorce an American or get sick in that twisted country. Poor bloody John Cleese in the former, getting dumped by his former wife shrink. There'll be a bit of schadenfreude at Mt Cleese in Palmy over his pain. Much more sobering is the documentary on Bill Moyers Journal this weekend. It looks at the US Health mess in a way that Sicko missed. Directed by Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side and Enron; The Smartest Guys in the Room).
For those going under the knife soon, count your blessings that you live in NZ at not at the mercy of Money Driven Medicine.
# Ever since DPF posted up his holiday snaps of Martha's Vineyard, I've been wondering about the social psyche of this Wanker's Paradise. So much for trickle down theory, sez the Telegraph. The only thing that runs downhill is shit. Similar things happen here in NZ in the off-season tourist areas such as Taupo, Rotorua and Mt Maunganui.
# And finally, New Scientist gives a guide to how to wrap one's brain by counting from 0 to 10 dimensions. My favourites are 1½D and 8D.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Stuff says Key won't support Act's smacking bill but TV3 sez Key "partially supports" it. Is it just me, or is TV3 slowly but surely losing its grip on truth?
My two cents, I agree with Key. I'm sick of the fracking smacking debate. I burnt my referendum ballot rather than answer that nebulous question. And it's so last season anyway. No harm done with the status quo. LITFA (leave it the fuck alone).
One of the reasons behind Key's grand compromise when Bradford's Bill passed last year was to stop the foaming Christian loonies taking over the limelight on the issue. If John Boscowen's interview on the private members bill that was just on NatRad's Checkpoint is anything to go by, we'll be watching One Flew Over the Morepork's Nest for a while yet. And frankly, there are more pressing issues to ponder.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Working like Dickens
In many cases the children are trafficked with the complicity of their parents. They are trained in street crime and placed with unrelated adults to enable fake benefit claims to be paid into accounts controlled by the trafficker.Stupid incentives, stupid outcomes.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Open Govt Barcamp
FREE: Saturday 29th August: Barcamp - registration 9:15am+ / sessions 10am-5pm
National Library of New Zealand (70 Molesworth Street, Thorndon, 6011, Wellington - map
Southern Cross Bar (35-39 Abel Smith Street, Te Aro, 6011, Wellington - map
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Recipe for disaster
A bottle in front of me
Sir Geoffrey still does not get it. Not only should the drinking age be raised, as well as taxes and licensing fees. No, what Sir Geoffrey recommended was arresting people for being drunk in public. Not criminalising per se, merely fining them for existing in public spaces while drunk. And when you're drunk, you're an unreliable witness. Easy meat for a cop's quota.
I'm angry enough at the Labour legacy still drifting through select committee on banning beer and wine from dairies. Although absent from the protest yesterday at parliament, my name is on the petition in support of their and my right to get a fix from the corner shop (Actually, it's a seven corner walk but I digress). I've had a yak with dairy owners from Island Bay to Northland over the years, and if anyone fucks with them, they fuck with me too.
Sir Geoffrey once had his head in the right spot. It's just his guts he left behind when the became PM after Lange. Constitution Act 1986, good onya. Bill of Rights 1990, fucken A. But it was the Sale of Liquor Act 1989 that was the goddamned revolution.
Before that liquor reform, NZ was still getting comfortable with 1967's lifting off the six o'clock swill. The 1970s was one big blur as males slowly adapted to the relaxed evening drinking time of 11pm. Many continued to drink as if it were perpetually nearly 6 o'clock, even when it was actually just after 9. Then they'd drive home, maybe beat the kids, before passing out on the bed.
The 1970s was still a sober time for women. It was only really the 1980s when women were targeted with cafes, brasseries and other antitheses of the traditional drinking shed favoured by the men. As for teenagers of the 1980s, before alcopops finally fulfilled the evolution of the bourbon with coke mixer into a can, the sophisticated Palmerston North yuppie teenager drank wine cooler or Chardon.
Before 1989, booze was sold only in places like Liquorland or the Working Men's Clubs. No supermarkets, no dairies. You could only drink in a pub on Sundays if you signed a little register that said you intended to dine there that night. As the loophole suggests, licencing laws were archaic and complex.
You could only drink in bars if you were over 20. You could drink in a bar if you were 18 and accompanied by a parent. Or you could be any age and wandering anywhere as long as you didn't buy the drinks. Little wonder many of the pubs were run by former cops. Not only for the bouncer work, but also an inside loop into knowing the right handshakes to get the licence.
Back in 1989, there was ample evidence for the Fourth Labour Government to get stern with the boozers. It is with immense gratitude that instead of a justifiable throttling of the rules based on observational models of the time, the Sale of Liquor Act went in the opposite direction.
This time round though, Sir Geoffrey has had second thoughts. Never mind the rights to assembly and expression as mentioned in the elegant Bill of Rights. Never mind the realisation back then that Rome didn't get over its hangover in one day, or that teenagers will be teenagers.
There will be great interest shown at the Law Commission's discussion sessions later on this year. In the meantime, here's Major Colvin speaking to his command in the third season of The Wire. Remember, "the corner is, and it was, and it always will be the poor man's lounge."
(It is just happy happenstance that the clip is subtitled in what looks like Spanish during Languages Week)
Un petit pous
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
A spanner in the DNA database
“You can just engineer a crime scene,” said Dan Frumkin, lead author of the paper, which has been published online by the journal Forensic Science International: Genetics. “Any biology undergraduate could perform this.”How long will it be before someone works out how methylate loci in artificial DNA, the report's one test to spot the difference? Whichever way you slice it though, that's really rooted the DNA crime database idea now. First hackers, now fakers. What next, a plague of worms? HT /.
Aussie cops launch sting and get rooted
In two provocative messages published on anonymous document-sharing site pastebin.com, the hacker slammed the federal police for "making it sound like they can bust 'hackers', when all they have done is busted a COUPLE script kiddies". "Script kiddies" is hacker parlance for novice hackers.The second of these messages contained several links to screenshots allegedly proving that the writer had access to the federal police's server. These included shots of files containing fake IDs and stolen credit card numbers, as well as the federal police's server information.
Monday, August 17, 2009
The Hanged Man
I discovered one shade of this truth when I was 12 years old and almost got kicked out of summer camp for organising a seance. I was fresh out of an Anglican Boarding School, hyped up on daily chapel and divinity classes (This was before I lost my Christianity. Back then, an afterlife still existed).
Nana had died earlier in the year and in retrospect I wasn't handling it well at all. So. At summer camp somewhere on the outskirts of Wanganui, not a hundred miles from James K Baxter's beloved Jerusalem or the township of Ratana, a thought comes into my head to try to contact Nana with a seance.
Now I didn't know the specifics of how to conduct a seance. Google was still fifteen years into the future. I'd read a bit about how Houdini used to go along to myth bust them way back when, so I knew the basic set-up. Darkness was required. It was daytime so the curtains were drawn, a candle lit. A personal belonging was brought to focus, in this case a jersey Nana had knitted. There was a bit of chanting involved, as well as the usual appeal to absent things.
The poor bloody camp leaders probably thought there was some standard hanky panky occurring behind those closed dorm blinds. Quite what they thought when they burst in to break up a seance, Dagg only knows. More metaphysical than physical, they were hard pressed to find any harm done. These things weren't covered in the rules. It was near the end of camp anyway, so they let it slide.
Which brings me to Trevor Mallard.
DPF has laid down the gauntlet: "Almost every blog on the right has said they agree with Trevor. Interestingly I have not yet seen much reaction from left blogs." Allow me to give it a go.
Dim Post has kindly pointed to Stuff's release of the judge's court notes in this case, which helped immensely. Short answer is: Shut up, Trev.
Maybe Mallard is trying to out-brainfart Chris Carter. The title of this ignominious post, "It would have been prison if they weren’t Maori", gives away two points. Firstly, Mallard had not read the court notes, giving him about as much jurisprudential insight as the next talkback caller. It's something Winston Peters might say.
The notes make clear that there is no precedent readily at hand to compare this mess to. White, brown, whatever, NO-ONE had died on the record quite like this before.
Secondly, there are some places I refuse to live. Wainuiomata is one of them. Surrounded by hills, it's a dead end. It's the end of the line. It's not somewhere you go, but where you end up. Maybe it's just the economic reality of cheap labour, sitting on the same low rung all their lives.
But I'm impressed with the stoicism of someone who can live there, let alone keep their family in the neighbourhood. The two main players in this sad drama are working poor. Under other circumstances, these are the very people Labour would once claim to represent.
Judge Simon France gives some discussion to sentencing in paragraph 99. Jail, in the circumstances, would seem the stupidest place to put them. The whole fabric of that prefabricated whanau would collapse. Let's face it, there were more than the accused in that room when it happened.
It's not ritual if you're making it up as you go along. No money was at stake, neither was it an overt power play. Jon Rawiri was already head of the family. It was a unique mixture of grief, desperation, love and tragedy. As if there's ever such a thing as a happy ending in Wainuiomata.
Ten years ago, before the Clark government mucked things up, Judge France would have probably given the accused a suspended sentence. But Helen Bloody Clark came along and got rid of suspended sentences when home detention came in. Little wonder then that Left blogs are having a hard time coming to grips with Mallard's crack. Labour would rather ditch their support for the working class rather than cross the albatross of Helen Clark's legacy.
Until they can exorcise that demon, I'll keep my vote elsewhere. Hell, I might even write to Simon Power asking if he wants to bring back suspended sentences. I'm sure the Nats won't mind repealing yet another Labour initiative.
I miss Helen too. Rob Hosking puts his finger on it:
Helen Clark was a disastrous leader for Labour and until the party’s realises this it will remain mired in low polling nostalgia-land.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
# Stuff looks at the futility of raiding tinny houses. The photo features barely over an ounce worth of weed all bagged up for retail. Would the government like tax on that? Or will they continue to pour tens of millions of dollars every year into that King Canute statute, the Misuse of Drugs Act?
# Oakland Califormia voters have passed a law taxing cannabis:
Oakland residents overwhelmingly voted Tuesday to approve a first-of-its kind tax on medical marijuana sold at the city's four cannabis dispensaries. Preliminary election results showed the measure passing with 80 percent of the vote, according to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters.# Even the suits are getting serious about reform. The Financial Times is calling for an end to the War on Drugs now. The Economist looks at how former drug warrior Bob Barr has had a Road to Marrakech experience.
# Meantime, Obama's Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske has changed his position once again. Now he's saying he won't support legalised cannabis. Earlier in the year he was saying that the War on Drugs is pointless. Which is it, dude? This guy wriggles around more than an agave worm in a cactus.
# Here's a good example of how the War on Drugs is a civil war splitting families:
Alcohol Drug Association of New Zealand chief executive Cate Kearney confirmed truck driver Bernard James Paul Kearney (45), convicted last week on two cannabis charges and sentenced to two years and two months' imprisonment, was her younger brother.# NZ's prison population is the second highest per capita in the world behind the USA. Maybe we should export all those drug crime jailings to the Netherlands, seeing as how they are closing eight prisons. They don't need 'em. Instead, they're being used to lock up Belgium's crims.
Slate goes to a trade show with a difference. HT Andrew Sullivan:
Friday, August 14, 2009
Things to do in Wellington this month
On a more esoteric note, there's an NZ Open Government Barcamp. This informal unconference is free and at the end of August at the National Library near Parliament. Do your bit to help goatse the government. It's got to be public good for ya.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
She said of her proteges: “They didn’t just come off packing bags at Asda. They have been studying, since they were 15 or 16. It takes 10 years.
“They come through the process very slowly. They are introduced into all aspects of it – the works, the diet, the body – the whole 10 years of it.”
The comments echo harsher ones she made last year about young “popera” singers such as Hayley Westenra, 22, a fellow New Zealander, whom she described as “not in my world”.
Attacking similar singers, she said: “They are all fake singers; they sing with a microphone. These people, two or three years and they’re gone. People call them up-and-coming, but they never last. They are the new fakes for the new generation.”
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
More Tales of Interest
# Learning through gaming - Great new edutainment mash up showing up in the media. Read Wired's easily digestible formulae on the economics of Somali piracy OR play Cut Throat Capitalism the Game. Slate looks at what could cause the USA to split apart. I quite like Frank Miller's version in Give Me Liberty. Pick and mix a variety of your own scenarios with Slate's excellent dark little game. What does the hive mind think? Here's the Top 5 doomsdays picked by the internets:
Can't remember what I chose, but it was none of the above but quite self-inflicted nonetheless. It's a pity that the Howard Mark's Smuggling Game is still being rebuilt. That was a good little learner way back when.
# The UK Times asks are MPs born mad or does power drive them crazy? I reckon it's a bit of both. Many if not most jobs have better hours, higher remuneration, greater anonymity, and/or less collateral damage. There's a certain mindset required to run for parliament and self-preservation is not one of them. Not at first, anyway. Then the power sinks in, you start to believe your own press, and then you wonder how the public ever lived without you around to do all the work. It's the old divine rule problem. Even shining gem Singapore is facing quite a dilemma seeing as how great Lee Kwan Yew is mortal. That's why democracy is the least worst option in the long run.
There's an unofficial convention that never again will a NZ prime minister have the finance portfolio as well. Muldoon taught us that much. If there's a rhythm to NZ politics, I'd say a PM should stand two elections before a successor is brought in. It's always the third term that drives them barmy. Barring phenomenal levels of support from the electorate, I reckon that sometime after the 2014 election, John Key should make clear who else will carry on as leader for the 2017 election.
# Steven Price features 6 ways for bloggers to stay out of legal trouble over at Idealog. It's good counsel. There are times I realise I'm jet skiing on the meniscus of the fathomless lake of legal opinion. Wherever possible, I leave enough Uncertainty Principle to hide behind. ie. there's a fast particle of excrement being thrown but I'm not sure of the direction it is travelling in. Failing that, I'll plead diminished responsibility, the fool's prerogative.
# A History of Media - Ethical Martini and Karl du Fresne look into the past and the future of NZ journalism.
# Bernard Hickey's Top 10 at 10 looks at the US Cash for Clunkers scheme, complete with the YouTube death scream of a perfectly good Volvo. It's destruction for destruction's sake, like Iceland's Range Rovers. They'll be burning bridges next.
# Pharm Bashing - The NYT looks at how pharm-sponsored ghostwriters spun bullshit for medical journals on Hormone Replacement Therapy.
Monday, August 10, 2009
I've designed a few leaflets in my time. Usually I hoard other POLS spam that slip through the leash. Usually it's good reference material on design and structure. The Nats and Greens had the best literature out last election. That's stashed. But I've already chucked that useless piece of Goff spam, just like everyone else on today's NatRad Panel. It's that shit.
How shit is it? Firstly, it had no message. Phil Goff is alive. Phil Goff cares about stuff. He can ride a horse. Ummm. It also features a vox pop reply panel so you can post off to Goff what you think in a space fit only for a thumbprint. You might be able to write "the" on it with a sharp pencil. Definitely not enough room for a four letter word. That's probably intentional.
The taxpayer will pay NZ Post 45 cents for each wise missive Goff gets back from this stunt. The only message that Goff spam told me was that Labour have the strategic nous of stoned wallabies, chewing up liquidity and running around in ever decreasing circles. DPF's summary of a Listener story on Goff, citing done deals and the voodoo diplomacy of the H twins, is a sad corroboration of munted marsupial behaviour. They are nowhere near their bottom.
This pains me somewhat, being raised in a house with a picture of Michael Joseph Savage sitting like Godzone Secular Jesus on the wall. I fear Danyl at the Dim Post might beat his brains out on a brick wall of satire before anything gets through to Labour's strategy monkeys.
There is no sign anywhere in Labour that they have learned any lesson from the election. They refuse to disavow the legacy of Clark, dismissing the huge poll gap as the electorate not knowing what is good for it. Indeed, it seems as if she never left for New York. They continue to fight the old war of identity politics (eg Chris Carter's brain fart), instead of grasping at the very working class roots that are screaming for help right now.
Labour and Goff have their kamikaze destiny at 2011 and nothing's to be done about it. After his demise, the hard left will get a grip on Labour and rationalise their next twenty years in opposition. Ye gods. Carte blanche for the Nats.
Friday, August 07, 2009
Ferris Bueller's copyright
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Tom Scott is onto it today. For the record, here's two examples of historical debauchery within the Houses of Parliament during that time.
Former Speaker Gerry Wall was once so tired and emotional during one parliamentary sitting, he called for a vote with "Ring the doors! Lock the bells!" Seems relevant in light of Werewolf III's interview with Speaker Lockwood Smith, which mentions the old pickle.
The second story requires some circumspection. No names, but a certain gathering of MPs spent a long night in a Parliamentary office discussing cabbages and kings. Discussion and drinks flowed, to the point where they had drunk all their own offices dry. As you can imagine this was no small feat, and it was well past 2 am when this point was reached (2 am is the Law Commission's favoured Pumpkin O'clock).
A motion was passed by the members to break into another colleague's room and raid their booze cabinet. Toasting their success, they returned to their deliberations in comfort. Just as they were settling in, one of them notices that the Parliamentary Library is on fire. Much panic ensues and the fire engines are called.
Half a dozen appliances roll up at great haste and ask the aghast members where the fire is. They point out the window at the great flames. The fireman turns to the group and explains that the fire is beyond his control. Dawn had broken and what the diminished members had witnessed was the fiery orb of the sun rising over the building.
Monday, August 03, 2009
Are you entitled?
There's a fine line between being honest and being stupid. While the old man was honest enough to resign his portfolio in sympathy when Lange sacked Douglas, he wasn't stupid enough to quit parliament until the Nine Years Service perks kicked in.
The ninety percent subsidy on airfares was one of these. Dad hated flying almost as much as he hated telephones. Neither were used in excess (I credit Trev's brief phone calls as reason for Telecom's policy of the one minute minimum charge for toll calls). The one real extravagance was when Dad flew to London at short notice when my sister broke up with her partner while she was working over there. While he couldn't be there for us while he was in parliament, at least he could be there for her when it counted.
You can see why I have a bit of sympathy for Roger Douglas' predicament for getting strung out by the press gallery. Getting singled out for his trip to London to visit his grandchildren for using an entitlement that was hard earned in the service of his country to make up for lost time spent in the public arena, both then and now, with a family visit.
This particular perk was traded off in 1999. It wasn't the first perk to get the axe and won't be the last. Up until the Fourth Labour Government, there used to be all sorts of absurd perks in the fine print. Trev's words:
I would rather in retrospect have been under-secretary of finance to Roger Douglas than I would have been Minister of Pies & Ice-cream in the cabinet. There were several reasons for this. The first was financial. Under the Higher Salaries Commission, Ministers and under-secretaries were paid one hundred odd dollars tax-free a day for the time they were not in Wellington. The idea was that they were doing their job elsewhere. I thought this was ridiculous but it rendered my under-secretaries' pay up with a cabinet minister. I didn't have to go down to Wellington on Monday and was paid this $100 for fishing and shooting. That later, on our own instigation, was altered and is not the position now. That was the ridiculous nature however of much of the way of fixing salaries for ministers and under-secretaries in those days. As under-secretary, I also had full access to the LTDs and all the status of other ministerial perks.It is all part of the long, slow process of dismantling the incredible range of perks that help hide the true remuneration of MPs. It would be a lot simpler to front end everything into the pay packet and bulk fund and cap the expenses.
But Roger Douglas' response to press gallery questions was spectacularly poorly worded, what with the belt-tightening, beneficiary-bashing, recession-enduring fug upon the land. While the state sector is being pressed into making across the board cuts of ten percent or more, parliament sits aloof, an exception to its own rules. It's hard to lead by example from the rear.
A police statement on Sunday said a recommendation had been submitted to the office of Menachem Mazuz, Israel’s attorney-general, who will decide whether to go ahead with the indictment. Mr Lieberman could be forced to resign as foreign minister if charges are pressed against him.Couldn't happen to a more deserving guy.
Sunday, August 02, 2009
As Creative Freedom sez, disconnection must be taken out of the scheme at the very least. Then there's the ongoing arguments over what is deemed fair use of copyright. Also the lack of provision for satire and free comment to be made lest any multinational corporation shuts down dissent through copyright threats. And to top it all off you've got the grand daddy of asymetric fights, pitting the bottomless money pits of Sony etc against citizens.
Please let the MED know what you think. The proposal is broken up into morsels of interest, so you can pick and mix 'em as you see fit. Email MED before Friday 7th August.
Talk Show Host
Paul Holmes may not be from Barcelona but I reckon he has a certain affinity for the place. For a real talk show, Real Time with Bill Maher was a doozie this week. Belligerent Brit historian Niall Ferguson, Australian Michael Ware, MSNBC talking head Rachel Maddow talking Healthcare, the beer summit, Palin, the Fed, feminism, Afghanistan. Not a fluffy duck in sight.