Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Division Bell

Put a Kiwi head of State on hold for the moment. Let cannabis prohibition continue to burn a hole in the soul of these islands. If there's one thing that urgently needs reforming, it is Parliament's bloody division bell.

The division bell is a hellish klaxon which announces to all the Parliamentarians whipped by their parties that their presence is required in the House. Befitting a house of smoke and mirrors, it is pitched like a low frequency smoke alarm. One that no-one can work out how to switch off in no less than five minutes.

It is a sound that cannot be ignored. Part chainsaw, part crying baby, it has all the qualities found in the really great torture classics. It wouldn't sound out of place on the CIA's 20 Solid Gold Hits Rendition Soundtrack.

The division bell also never fails to set off my tinnitus. Dagg knows what it must do to the willingly-incarcerated inmates of that institution. How can anyone be expected to think with a clear head after that racket?

Please, for the love of Dagg, can't they just switch the building lights on and off instead? At a reasonable frequency so as not to set off epileptic attacks, of course.

Charter House Rules

David Farrar has joined the fray in defending the decision to bail-out Wanganui Collegiate after a scathing Dom Post editorial today. He uses the specious argument that to allow the private Anglican school to close would just burst rolls elsewhere:
If Wanganui Collegiate closes, then their pupils will all enrol in other schools, which will also cost the taxpayer $3 million. Trying to say that you would save this money if the school closed is absolutely misleading.
Farrar's conjoined twin Cameron Slater has used the same narrow defence earlier:
Clearly hoping for a greater tragedy than the school being supported by government Goulter complains about the $3.8 million spent to save the school and the $1200 per student subsidy private schools receive.

Either the maths is beyond Mr Goulter (incompetence) or he is dishonest. Some simple and conservative calculations show that Wanganui Collegiate School existing for even the last twenty years has saved the taxpayer in excess of $65 million. That is based on 450 students multiplied by $7500 (the difference between full funding and paying the private school subsidy) times 20 years minus the $3.8 million. Over the full life of the school it is many times that but the picture is already clear.
The defence is so thin, people are blowing holes in it with pea shooters over at Kiwiblog.

There's a lot more fun yet to be had with the newly-nationalised Anglican school. For example, take the school's pig Latin motto, Vestigia nulla Retrorsum. It is a Magic Motto previously used by Moina Bergson Mathers, a mystic of the Golden Dawn (Crowley and his Shit Poets' Society).

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


There's a big stink brewing in Whanganui, and it's not coming from the sewerage plant. Wanganui Collegiate opens its doors to students this week as a state school, after the government nationalised it last year.

While Parata has been red stickering schools in Christchurch, and merging them into unfathomable (and sometimes illegal) clusters, she has bailed out a failing private school in a region with 1407 empty student seats. The government has already thrown millions of dollars at the formerly private high school. News today shows that the decision to bail out the school went against Treasury and Ministry of Education advice. It's not often these people agree with John Minto.

The gross oversupply of high schools places in Whanganui is only getting larger, implying that some other state schools in the area will be liable for the chop. Nor is the buy-out of Collegiate addressing that fat tail of under-achievement that National Standards was brought in to allegedly address.

There's no logic to it. The decision is 100% political, and therefore 100% vulnerable. Good hunting.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What a day that was

Speech from the throne, in the 150 most-used words

Rather than listen to the prime minister attempt to murder the English language today, I read his speech from the throne instead, then fed it into the Mangle-wurzelator. As you can see, the key to a brighter 2013 will consist of "New Zealand Government's progress, continue also better public services, new support Christchurch Government, reduce people next".

I'll be following the roll-out of work in prisons to other incarceration sites. It's good that the inmates are getting more active, rather than seeking apparent redemption in boredom. One large concern bothers me, in that this shouldn't be some cheap-ass scheme to be exploited for slave labour like the US Prison Industrial Complex.

It would be good to think that at least some of their earnings were put aside as savings for their inevitable release from prison. Instead of dumping them on the street and hoping they won't fall back to old ways, perhaps they might just bootstrap themselves to a better life.

I didn't bother reading David Shearer's speech. The reflections of others are dire enough. The auto-cue at Labour's Summer Camp was delving into lampoon-proof self-saucing satire as it was.


Lockwood Smith is getting kicked upstairs to the Brits, following his stint as the best Speaker the House has seen in living memory. Although communications to his office still didn't handle metaphors well. i.e. the small burning effigies of Richard Nixon were never going to incite a riot, Mr Smith. No more than lighting a cigarette would, at least.

It's all downhill from here as the Nat talent tank runs dry and David Carter proves not just reluctant, but outright hostile to the idea of being the big wig and woolly throne Speaker.

Can't say the Greens or Labour are thrilled with the set-up either. The Speaker's choice is a consensus of Parliament by means of a convention that Key has ignored this time. Winter is coming.


The Herald gives a bible basher a pulpit, where she goes on to explain how her Missionary position stopped cannibalism in Papua New Guinea. One antidote to this sermon is the simplistic but nonetheless gripping tale of how Christianity brought guilt and other plagues to Tahiti, in Paradise Lost.


Has Israel jumped the gulag? Evidence that Israel has broken the Nuremburg Laws on forced medication, whilst simultaneously implying a white supremacy eugenic charter. HT Tyler Cowen.

Time to Byrne one down:

This Year's Model

What does Kim Dotcom have in common with Gareth Morgan, apart from wealth and the tendency to over-stretch their public personas? Today, it would happen to be Oatmeal and Dinosaurs.

While fundraising for a Tesla Museum last year, indie webcomic Matthew "Oatmeal" Inman offered to prostitute his blog if anyone donated over 33K. Putting his faith and charity into the wisdom of crowds, he ended up plugging a Dinosaur Museum run by people who wouldn't look out of place in a live-action South Park episode.

Native dinosaur lobbyist Gareth Morgan could learn a thing or two about trusting the people instead of whacking them on the head with hyperbole. Kim Dotcom's latest business model is shown up in stark contrast as merely a dark mirror to Big Media's IP-ploitation model, as Russell Brown has pointed out.

Oatmeal provides a fairer business model than either of these larger than life characters. The future lies in Trust, Tolerance and Toons. And not a corporate pimp in sight.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Feared and loved by the right people

Today's DomPost editorial looks at the Completely Independent Police Conduct Authority, the little black box that watches the watchmen. It highlights the abyss between David Carruthers' tilt for transparency and the reality that no-one actually knows what goes on in IPCA deliberations.

The curious case of a murder/suicide is held up as an example. The police were allegedly told the plot, yet neglected to do anything about it. Plot aspects differ in the case of Stephen McIntyre, although the ending remains the same. McIntyre's crime was not bloody murder, mere alleged medical cannabis supply.

I'm not even certain whether an IPCA complaint has been launched on that injustice. I'm not sure doing so would make a difference, or worse, earn the complainant a nemesis in a blue uniform.

Police mouth Greg O'Connor still quacks louder than this watchdog can bark in the public realm, and that's skew whiff. The cops plainly do not fear the IPCA enough. Perhaps it needs the gravitas of complete independence as an office of Parliament, like the Ombudsman's Office.


Marie Schroff's Privacy Office could do with a similar boost in prestige, power and jaws. Paula Bennett's big backdoor kiosks may just the the tip of an Identity & Privacy Rape iceberg. Note Bernard Hickey's Poli worry, a service used by many government departments.

There is little sign of National wishing to increase funding for Beverley Wakem and her Om Buddies, regardless of how many more complaints against governmental bias are appearing in the Inbox.

Sure as eggs is eggs the Nats don't want more scrutiny on their rickety blueprints, let alone splash cash on self-criticism. Key's government is so thin-skinned to scrutiny, they still won't fund political satire on NZ screens. Even Muldoon put up with Fred Dagg and A Week of It. Every government from there to here has been heckled on screen. Every one until the Intolerable Mr Key.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Thank Dagg I'm a Kiwi Boy

Well life in New Zealand is kinda laid back
Ain't much a New Zealand boy like me can't hack
It's sure to rise, let's give it a crack
I thank Dagg I'm a Kiwi boy

Well I got me a fine pipe, I got me ol' kitty
When the sun's comin' up things ain't so shitty
And life ain't nothin' but a funny funny ditty
Thank Dagg I'm a Kiwi boy

Well a Kiwi kinda life is better than some
Never bumped off a plane for a fashion pun
I mean seriously Qantas, was it hurting anyone?
Thank Dagg I'm a Kiwi boy

Mind you, isn't this the same bunch of Ozzies
Who didn't want men sitting next to kiddies?
And sold Fred Dagg out with boxed sheep prezzies?
Thank Dagg I'm a Kiwi boy

The cops won't arrest you for swearing in public
Or calling for reform or wanting a Republic
But not so all-out nutty as that Yankee Doodle rubric
Thank Dagg I'm a Kiwi boy

The judges here won't sentence you to death
For any crime, by public or private request
Let alone for muling coke or dealing meth
Thank Dagg I'm a Kiwi boy

Here we strive to treat women the same
Gave them the vote, gave them dignity not shame
We don't gang rape them on buses or arrest driving dames
Thank Dagg I'm a Kiwi boy

There's no snakes here at all, and the spiders mostly harmless
The scenery is chewable, although some towns remain charmless
The cost of living also might leave you leg and armless
Thank Dagg I'm a Kiwi boy

When the work's all done and the sun's settlin' low
I pull out the pipe and I goin' with the flow
The cat's asleep and everything's, like, mellow.
Thank Dagg I'm a Kiwi boy

Our House

Housing is shaping up to be one of this year's main political themes, with all parties announcing their reaction to focus group pressure. Labour and Greens have announced complementary policies that would give a certain amount of golden tickets to a few lucky families, possibly in marginal constituencies.

National has bowled Tremain Heatley and in goes Smith, in the nick of time. Bill English has shown his Grave Concern eyebrows on the matter, looking perturbed at zoning regulations and local Councils.

And, like army maneuvers, where there's smoke, there's fire. The cost of housing has reached stupid levels, with no signs of stopping. Regional development has all but given up the ghost as Auckland boils over. Increasingly, households are dividing into those who have family help them into a house, and those who forever rent.

This isn't so bad in some respects. NZ is a new country, and its townships were founded for various reasons, some of which have not stood the test of time. For example, the only reason New Plymouth exists is because a ship load of settlers heading north out of Wellington trying to find a place to set up shop were told by all the Maori from Poneke to Whanganui to piss off. The oil and gas came later. Let those who have their family silver tied up in bricks and mortar, let Otautahi be a lesson to you.

But by and large the outlook is ridiculously bad if you're one of the population who really insists on having a roof over your head to sleep under. Even in some of the provinces, rents are steep for even a house of sticks.

My neighbours invited me over for Xmas drinkies, wherein they explained the history of Pook Farm, its former tenants, former owners. I was stunned at the price tag for the bach, and no longer feel any guilt for the government accommodation supplement. In truth, it's more of a house-sitting fee for someone else's tax free capital gain. I'm just the janitor, keeping it tidy and squatter-free until the real estate market recovers.

And land? How did land inflation go from beads and nails for acres in 1840 to hundreds and thousands for feet a bare 160 years later? It's not as if it's Singapore or Hong Kong.

Among all the bright ideas out there on housing, none is more overlooked than the punk angle. I wish I had had one of these 3D glass printers at the beginning of my drinking career. I could have recycled enough bottles to build a bloody mansion and matching glass house by now. Or how about this Adobe Brick Maker? Some assembly required, but at $US4000 for the parts, who wouldn't chip in for an infinite House of Lego machine?

We've got to look outside the box, and make it for ourselves.

UPDATE: This just in. HT Nandor.

Bye bye buckyballs

It looks like I'll never get the tactile pleasure of playing with buckyballs. NZ has banned the import and sale of the rare earth magnet adult toy after too many orally-fixated hormunculi have mistaken them for M&Ms and gobbled them.

The ban follows a similar one in the vexatiously litigious USA last year, which compelled geeks to wonder what would be banned next. Geeks here are not amused either.

One wonders how we are to snap out of this economic rut when anything novel or slightly risky is banned if it's shown to be unsafe in kindergartens. The idea of progress and the reality seem poles apart.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Good graph, bad graph

Bloomberg has an elegant and thorough interactive graphic looking at the world's top 100 billionaires. You can slice and dice them by nationality, gender, whether the fortunes were self-made or born to silver spoons. You can dig onto detail and rummage through their public personas.

The DomPost has a dismal attempt at information meshing with this stunningly complicated graphic, with a shallow information pool to splash around in. It's as if someone took a perfectly serviceable article, glued it to some cardboard and cut it into 20 jigsaw pieces. Not worth the effort.

Giving the new leaf at Treasury the flick

The jury's still out on the newish head wonk at Treasury, but the evidence is not looking good. In fact, the only leaf of Treasury statements I'll be turning with anticipation will be the ones written on toilet-grade paper. And it's big thanks to selective Welfare Hawk Lindsay Mitchell for pointing it out to me.

Lindsay is upset, as usual, at how much is spent on solo Mums, etc. She has the latest Treasury paper to prove it too. The report is all fire and brimstone for the slackers, even when the figures show that there's not much of a problem. As a percentage of GDP, "Working Age Welfare" is lower now than it was in the 1990's after Shipley's benefit cuts. By all measures, it has never been less attractive to be on welfare.

What about the great grey gorilla in the room though? What about that colossus of welfare that dwarves these Liliputian expenses? What about Superannuation?

Well, it's all peaches and cream for the subjects in the corresponding report, titled The Future Costs of Retirement Income Policy, and Ways of Addressing Them. No moralising or sneering at these welfare recipients. There's lots of furrow-browing over poverty levels in the elderly, manifesting in colourful decoy patterns such as (I kid you not) the Living Standards Framework Pentagon (pg. 9).

The "Working Age Welfare" report didn't waste time discussing any of their subject's poverty levels, polygonal or otherwise.  It's conclusions were all based on historical figures, with few projections. The Super report was the antithesis, all fluffy futures and sweet FA historical context.

The most amazing thing about this panglossian brighter future was that, unlike Lindsay's Bennie Bash, nowhere in this report does it state how much Superannuation costs. It's mentioned obliquely as a percentage of GDP well down in the volume, and that's the last they'll look at that. I thought I must just have been high, so I searched the document for "$" and then "dollars". Apart from mention of the cryogenically-frozen Cullen Fund, no mention of actual dollars.

You have to go to Treasury's Budget page to get a straight answer to compare Lindsay's bad apples to the honest, salt-of-the-earth good old apples. Lindsay's horrified by the $13 billion a year "Working Age Welfare" quoted. For the 2010/11 year, the Superannuation was $8,822 million (not including SuperGold scard spending). The same sworn document says the "Working Age Welfare" budget was $4,878 million.

Even with the Working For Families bloat (which is welfare for the kids, not the working age), these costs are capped. All the indicators on the affordability of Superannuation point the wrong way. Yet it has never been a better time to retire, and that's not counting the other perks like the Gold Card millions or the ginormous chunks of Health dollar.

The game is rigged and the boomers got away with it. And no amount of sophistry and ignorance out of Treasury will change that.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Continuing Adventures of Harry the Bastard

Harry the Bastard must be proving a boon to the Republican movement, repelling people away from the Windsor brainwash. Harry Windsor's latest blurt, where he brags of killing people from the Xbox console of an Apache helicopter, has the establishment so worried, the Torygraph is calling for the young prince to be gagged. And not in the Porterhouse faggot initiation way either.

Little wonder. There's not a mad leap of the imagination to having Harry behind the guns of an Apache gung-ho Collateral Murder expose that would show the little psycho up, upgrading his notoriety to Harry the Fucking Bastard. That's the problem with really good soldiers. They love to kill. The reason no longer matters.

Friendly Fire

It's not arson if you intentionally set off incendiaries during a fire ban. At least, not if you're in the "Defence" Forces. High temperatures and strong winds failed to deter military brass from playing with fire. Dagg knows why. Maybe their interoperability timetable clashed with common sense.

That's now two incidents this summer where unarmed firefighters have cleaned up after stupid uniforms with weapons. It's becoming easier to separate the heroes from the cowards.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Economists Gone Wild

Back in the day, I enjoyed the talking heads orchestra known as The Ralston Group, not least because I could spend some quality time with my father who was an irregular guest on a show full of them. That's how I was introduced to Gareth Morgan, a fellow seat jockey for the show.

Over the years, Gareth Morgan has impressed with his insight and work. The triumphs and his tragedies of policy and sheer bloody-minded kite-flying in the face of a lightning storm of public opinion are part of the package. For every Big Kahuna, there's bound to be a few missable tiddler waves.

Every man and their cat has taken umbrage with Gareth Morgan's latest idea to exterminate all the cats in New Zealand. Not surprising really, seeing how NZ has one of the highest cats per capita rates in the world. Many people prefer cats to people, for example the mad old cat ladies with toxoplasmosis.

At the very least, I expect a Cats that Look like Gareth Morgan meme or something to pop out of the affair. At the most, someone with a lot of petty cash might want to fund a few free cat speyings at the SPCA. It's the single, most direct ways to root out Morgan's alleged problem; lower the cost barriers to kitteh castration.

But that's it. I was going to raise a personal defence for my own cat, Professor Hunter Gonzales. He's an SPCA eunuch, and a feline physicist specialising in the momentum of tossing dead animals and the thermodynamics of dripping taps. And he's taught me a thing or two. For example, no-one else but him has taught me that rats can scream.

There were other defence prongs; the lack of snakes here, the pet snobbery, the ecological Reductio ad Absurdum of Bender's Law (Kill All the Humans). But an economic parable might be the best medicine.

My old man also hated cats. He once swore blind that there was a nest of feral cats living under our house in central Palmy, and set about shooting any cat that trespassed onto the property from his bedroom window with a .22 rifle. All part of his bulleted menu of imported fair game; possum, rabbit, duck, quail, deer. All these pests gave him an alibi to kill.

The circular logic of colonial sporting habits that this presents is not the point. The point is that my old man was responsible for releasing Dagg knows how many kilograms of lead into the NZ bush. In and of itself that mightn't be a problem, but the sheer number of NZers who love shooting things shares the same ground as any other tragedy of the very finite Commons.

Sometimes, it just depends on what you classify as an externality. I attempt to minimise my carbon footprint as much as reasonable. I haven't bred, I don't have a substitute penis and abide the preservation of penguins by vowing never to hoon past them on a custom-made motorbike. Each to their own.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Give Seven Sharp a Chance

I may live to regret it, but I'm trying real hard not to pre-loathe Seven Sharp too much. Sure, the promo is try-hard, contrived and ill-timed, but I'm glad this level of scrutiny wasn't applied to Back Benchers, Media 7/3, or the Court Report when they went through the usual birth pangs of a new format. It's either this or more bloody repeats or reality TV for the Free to Air set, so fair go or else, eh.

My curiosity is piqued with the prospective Espiner/Garner/Watkins bake-off on TV3, the Vote. I'm hoping that drug law reform will be one of the needful issues that the show addresses. If so, I'd be mortally offended if I wasn't invited along to bear witness in person (unsubtle hint).

And then there's the beloved Back Benches, with Sky/Prime holding the purse strings as well as the premier date close to its chest. I'll be there with bells on, guys.

Sanity Dependent on Initial Conditions

The ever-constructive Dim Post takes a look at Garth McVicar's latest mad rant while me and others are reduced to vivid expletives. Danyl points to lead poisoning which, as it goes, has a much larger body of evidence to support than anything spouting from McVicar's fundament.

Here's what QI has to say about lead poisoning, and who the real villain is (edited for relevance):
Stephen Fry: Which human being in history has done the most damage to the environment?

Panel: Various wrong guesses.

Stephen Fry: Thomas Midgely.  He discovered by chance that iodine added to kerosene reduced knocking in cars. So he decided that although it slightly reduced it, "slightly" wasn't enough; he wanted completely to reduce it. So he tried every single chemical in the periodic table until he came up with lead. And as a result, all motor cars for seventy-odd years put lead in their petrol, creating billions and billions of dollars worth of . . . And millions of tonnes of lead into the atmosphere. Harming millions, probably, of people.
What's so bad about lead then? QI has quite a lot to say on the matter, including a recent episode featuring doomed explorers and how lead will make people do completely stupid things, such as:

No-one knows why in 1845 Sir John Franklin led an expedition of 128 men to the Arctic to discover the Northwest Passage, carrying a sled-load of button polish, handkerchiefs, curtain rods and a writing desk. We do know that 35 rescue parties over several decades were sent out to discover what had happened. Eventually, in the 1980s they discovered that they were eating canned food, but the cans used lead-solder. They thus suffered from mass delusions caused by lead poisoning. We do not know why they did it, but we know they did, and no-one from the expedition came back alive.
So, if your environment is poisoning you, can you be still held responsible when bad things happen? Or, as Nick Cave said in O'Malley's Bar, "If I have no free will, how can I be morally culpable I wonder?" The Atlantic had a long form look at this last year with The Brain On Trial.

In the meantime, someone should check Garth McVicar for lead poisoning.

Bats and Boids

Ralph Steadman comes from my favourite branch of the Cartoonist Tree; far from the clean cut monochromatic nests of Disney lies the blotted wonderful world of gonzo art, where Steadman perches along with Gerald Scarfe, Trace Hodgson and a fine fangled line-up of others.

The DomPost uses Cringe #7 (Kiwi Connection) to highlight Steadman's latest work, Extinct Boids. There's a moa in it. I can't afford the book, and I certainly can't afford prints from that collection.

Someone might gift a copy of this to the Republican Movement. I'm saving my pennies for this beauty:

A fine reminder that democracy is a messy necessity.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Children of Meh

Currently failing to give two rat fucks about:

Sports in general, but the Black Caps, Phoenix and Lance Armstrong in particular. I'd rather be listening to Kraftwerk. There's some overseas evidence that cable TV rip off their wider customers to cross-subsidise the sports junkies. I wouldn't be surprised if Sky TV does the same thing here; something Soho subscribers might care about more than I. The sky is my television.

Garth McVicar and his Sentencing Sensible Trust, or Garth McMullah and the Rational Sentencing Institute as they are known on this blog. How this loud boorish cow cockie gets into print, I don't know. They seem to print any old shit these days.

Speaking of old shit, Bob McCroskrie. Don't care. This McHuntly can foam and rage and try to get Go The Fuck to Sleep rated R by the Censor's Office:
The applicant, on behalf of Family First, states as part of their Notice of Submission, "We believe the publication should be age restricted under s3A of the FVPC Act as it contains highly offensive language likely to cause harm to young people and children."

Fat lot of good it'll do him and his zealots. Please fuck off.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Coke Pimp Leaves NZ with Case of Sour Grapes

For offshore readers, the other big item of what passes for news around here (apart from the dead whale) is the departing words of Coca-Cola Amatil's Man in NZ for the last nine years:
The outgoing boss of one of our largest firms has taken a parting shot at New Zealand's attitude towards big business, saying an ingrained anti-corporate mentality is stifling the growth of companies...

He said that while entrepreneurs were admired in New Zealand, big businesses were seen as "nasty and untrustworthy".
Everyone from union leaders, business leaders, business commentators, Plebber and Plebook have been putting the boot into this whining lolly water pusher. If there's one thing that brings this country together in solidarity, it's a little rich suit facing a white man's burden.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, Coke admits its adverts for its new range of "Vitamin Water" are nasty and untrustworthy.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Deconstructing a Dead Whale

There is no clean and tidy way to dispose of a dead whale. Everyone from Greenpeace to Norway knows that. The old man of the sea that washed up at the Pram Boat Club was always going to be a mission to inter.

I'm glad my hunter/gatherer mate went for a rubberneck so I didn't have to. The crowds of gawpers, the tang of cordite and intestines fugging the air that does nasty things to my memory. Ta but na. Even he was stunned by the amateurism and gore that went into digging out the jawbone. He reckoned they should have used a chainsaw and be done with it.

A funny fact about whaling; the Law Commission's Alcohol in Our Lives Report never mentioned it, but the Maori who worked on the whaling stations didn't drink with their European workmates. They socialised, they smoked tobacco, but kept away from the demon drink.

It was only in the 1860's, when converted Christian Maori started preaching to their own, that alcohol became an accepted part of Maori habit. Even then, places like Parihaka sprang up as oasis of socialisation without inebriation. Later on, the same quantum effect of culture occurred in the 1950's with the urbanisation of Maori. The generational fallout from that continues today.

Anyways, the remains of the whale passed by my rented whenua sometime yesterday and is now interred somewhere in Raumati South. The jawbone is getting picked clean by sea leeches or whatever. And I'm finally going to sit down and read Moby Dick for the first time.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

With Malice Toward Some; Julius Vogel Edition

The next time I'm in Wellington, I must remember to go and piss on Julius Vogel's grave. That's the conclusion after a night's research into How Things Change.

Tonight's aspect involved uncovering the roots of New Zealand's first Deaf policy, and how the progressive Vogel got it so horribly wrong. I'm still incandescent with rage, so I'll leave analysis for another time. Except for the paragraphing, occasional bracketed barracking and the bold font emphasis, the following is a verbatim transcript from The Press, October 15th 1879:

Proposed Deaf and Dumb Institution
[By Telegraph]

Sir J. Vogel, on the 18th June, informed the Colonial Secretary that in accordance with instructions he has engaged the services of Mr Gerrit Van Asch, to proceed to New Zealand as teacher of deaf and dumb mutes, 20 pounds being paid as honorarium to Dr. Abbott for assiting in making the selection. Mr. Asch to embark for New Zealand at the latter end of October.

In an enclosure Sir Julius Vogel, Messrs Edwin A. Abbott (presumably, this Abbott, Head Master of the City of London School, keen Francis Bacon fan and fellow sci-fi writer to Vogel), and Walter Kennaway (Secretary for Public Works), report at length to the Premier, under date June 10th, that seventeen applications to the appointment was read, twelve being persons who professed to teach on the combined system, three from persons who had no special knowledge of teaching of deaf mutes, and one a professor of the German system, which teaches pupils to converse by means of articulate sound (sound they can't hear), and understand by lip reading, interpreting the movement of the lips of the speakers to the exclusion of all signs except natural ones.

The introduction of this system has been comparatively recent. Mr Van Asch came over from Holland expressly to teach the system, but its general introduction is, perhaps due to Mr St John Ackers, who travelled with his wife all over the Empire, and part of America in order to find the best system for teaching their child, a little girl who lost her hearing in infancy.

They adopted the German system taught by an American lady, and were so delighted with progress made that they threw themselves enthusiastically into the cause of promoting the system, establishing a college, with a number of influential coadjutors (Curiously enough, no trace of an Ackers Deaf college exists online. The first US college for the Deaf started in 1857, with sign language used from the beginning. Also, no-one ever thought to consider a Deaf adult's opinion on the matter).

Mr Asch had a private school on this system. The German plan discards the system of arbitrary signals as opposed to natural ones to express words, letters, or short sentences, by which deaf mutes are enabled to compensate themselves for loss of hearing and speech. They read and write with facility and read from the lips with astonishing facility, varying with their intellectual ability. It is applicable to all children not idiots.

Others advocate systemised symbols, as the French or Dactyl system, and declare that the percentage of children capable of acquiring the German sytem is so small, and that only the French system is capable of imparting the requisite instruction. The professors of the combined systems attempt to combine the teaching of articulation and lip reading with teaching of dactyology.

The opinions of Messrs. Vogel, Abbott, and Kennaway lies between the two extremes. They think the German system the most beneficent in its result. Under the French system there is danger that deaf mutes should shun the society of those who are not deaf, and by congregating together increase the natural disadvantages of their affliction (Oh, so that's why they didn't ask a Deaf adult. We can't have deaf people forming social groups, can we?).

They are, however, not quite confident that the German system is applicable to all children not idiots, some intelligences being too low to acquire that system. Children under the German system think in words, while under the French or combined system they think in signs (lip-reading is incredibly strenuous and not entirely accurate. It's a bit like teaching a colour-blind person to paint realistic sunsets).

They selected the only applicant under the German system. The general salary paid to teachers under the German system is about a hundred to a hundred and fifty pounds a year. With the exception of one gentleman, none under the French system receive a salary of over two hundreds pounds a year. The exception was a clergyman receiving five hundred. Assuming that the German system may not prove all sufficient for New Zealand, a teacher of the French system could be secured for a hundred and fifty pounds a year.

Mr Van Asch has a thorough knowledge of the German system, and the results of his teaching are astonishing in the extreme. He is accustomed to take entire charge of his pupils, including their board and lodging. He speaks English with perfect accuracy and entire freedom from foreign accent or idiom. By his means the German system will take full root in New Zealand, and the French system, if hereafter required, can be super-added (Sign language would soon be banned entirely. It would finally be allowed to be taught in the curriculum again in 1979).

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Choice, Minister

Everyone's favourite Public Choice Theory sitcom is returning to the screen. Yes Minister returns with the original writers Jay and Lynn. Let's hope the reboot survives the test of time in a way that Reggie Perrin didn't.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Drugs? You're soaking in them, NZ

Contrary to what this article implies, NZ has had a long history of women hooked on prescription stims and tranqs. Here's the Law Commission on the Blake-Palmer Commission from around 1971 (pg. 43):
The [Blake-Palmer ] Committee was particularly concerned at the growing reliance on a range of new hypnotics and tranquillisers marketed as Mogadon, Valium and Librium. A detailed analysis of the prescribing of hypnotics and stimulants by New Zealand doctors between 1958 and 1971, revealed that the use of these drugs doubled over this 13 year period. The analysis also revealed that “married women” (a category which included women who had been divorced or widowed) were by far the largest consumers of hypnotics and stimulants. As highlighted earlier, the researchers estimated that on a typical day in New Zealand in 1971, 8.3 per cent of “married women” took a tranquilliser and 11.6 per cent took a hypnotic, a tranquilliser, or both.
But its main conclusion was that in many instances doctors were resorting to prescribing these drugs because they did not have the time or resources to deal with the underlying patient issues:

Hypnotics being used at double the level of 13 years ago; tranquilisers disappearing down our throats to the tune of $2.3 million a year; what excuse can there be for such a situation in a country like New Zealand? – except shortage of doctors and lack of time to spend on sorting out psychological troubles.
One thing seems to be clear. For many women in New Zealand marriage is a stressful occupation, which is getting worse instead of better. Hypnotics and tranquillisers are not the answer.

The risk of addiction associated with the prolonged use of benzodiazepines such as Valium and Librium was not well understood at the time of the Blake-Palmer review, but the Committee was concerned about both the cost to the health budget and the potential for doctors to be influenced by the “overzealous promotion” of new prescription drugs by competing pharmacological companies. 

The more I research drug use in NZ, the more the laws seem moulded solely due to drug snobbery. Harms, real and imagined, have absolutely no bearing on legal status.

UPDATE: It was a high old time for the generations of Kiwis before that too. From the Law Commission Discussion Document Controlling and Regulating Drugs (pp. 47-8):
It should be noted here also that many of the drugs regulated under the Dangerous Drugs Act had medical uses and, despite the restrictions, were readily available on prescription. Health records from this period suggest that various drugs covered by the Act were liberally prescribed, particularly once prescriptions were publicly funded after 1941. Heroin was, for example, readily available on prescription in an oral dose form and was used widely in linctuses until the mid-1950s in New Zealand. Regulations made under the Dangerous Drugs Act during the 1940s permitted doctors to prescribe up to 16 oral doses of heroin in one prescription. By the end of the 1940s New Zealand was one of the highest users of heroin per capita in the world.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Square pegs and elliptical boxes

I've just been checking out the upcoming Census 2013 details. That old chestnut "What is your religion?" has popped up on the forms again, and I'm pondering my truthful response.

No religion doesn't fit. Everyone has a code. Jedi isn't recognised by the taxonomists to be valid like the more orthodox cults, no matter how many more people ticked that box back in 2001. Neither does Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster seem appetising. Those Pastafarians are too strident and earnest anyway.

I've decided on "It's Complicated." It's a more universally understandable term than the more concise "Tao of the Quantum Holistic Gargleblaster."

UPDATE: I just remembered I've already had this discussion. I'm a Heretic, after being converted by the apostle Freeman Dyson. I can't imagine how being a heretic at home can be worse than what the bible says happens to prophets.

Who's defending whom?

I've got mates trying to squeeze Official Information Act requests out of the Ministry of Defence to no avail. National security, national security, blah, blah, sez the Blue Pencil.  At least one of my mates has written to the Ombudsman for help.

What will the MoD release in the way of information, at least without a waterboarding by the watchdog? Who got a dodgeball to the nuts. This is clearly more newsworthy than how much the Defence Force spends on dubious civilian operations or how much the military is used for domestic police actions.

Friday, January 11, 2013

We are all mutants

I don't have hemochromatosis. My father had me tested. Unfortunately, he did. Such is the dice roll of mutation. My Scanda-Belgian genetics has flared up in other ways; Viking Disease, for example.

But my worries are naught compared with what follows with the Young Ones. Wait until Playstation Claw or iFrequency Earing Loss gain momentum. All those First Person Shooter gamers might just be damaging their DNA as badly as the Instant Whitening of Hair Power that politics bestows on its players, splurging their fight or flight adrenaline supplies for the instant hit.

The same could be said for the stress levels of those caught between the electronic disruptions and the squeeze for higher productivity to feed the corporate grinder. There is a very good chance many of us are all getting older younger.

I'm no fancy big city geneticist, but I would advise a similar strategy to gene pool lineage as to financial investment. Keep as broad a portfolio as you can, because you never know what tomorrow will need.

The High Cost of Cannabis Prohibition

Regardless of your opinion of cannabis per se, have a look at these (referenced) statistics and admit that cannabis prohibition is counter-productive at best, futile and destructive at worst.

* 50,800, 147,800, 204,500 and 385,000 - The estimated number of daily, weekly, monthly and yearly cannabis users in New Zealand, respectively. As a proportion of the population aged 16-64, this represents 1.9, 5.6, 7.8 and 14.6 percent respectively. Source: Ministry of Health Drug Use in New Zealand v.2 Jan 2010, pg. 47.

* $183-235 million - Estimated annual retail market of cannabis (in 2005) Source: Law Commission Controlling and Regulating Drugs Report Part I, pg. 101.

* 453,746 - Kilograms of cannabis seized by police and customs between 2000 and 2006. Source: Law Commission Controlling and Regulating Drugs Discussion Document, pg. 40. This is a daily average of over 207 kg. Assuming all this seized cannabis was sold at $300/ounce, the estimated annual retail market for this cannabis alone would be worth $810 million.

* $116.2 million - Estimated costs to Police of enforced cannabis prohibition in 2005/6 year. Source: Ibid., pg. 29. Vote Police for that year was $1,002 million, making cannabis prohibition enforcement 11.6 percent of the total police budget. Source: Vote Police 2005/6 Treasury document, pg. 1070.

* 333,684 - Police hours spent on cannabis prohibition in the same year. Source:  Law Commission Controlling and Regulating Drugs Discussion Document, pg. 40.

* 20% - Proportion of regular drug users who have bought cannabis off a gang member or associate in the last 12 months. 74 percent had got their fix from a friend, 45 percent from a dealer, and 18 percent from a family member or their partner. Source: SHORE Illicit Drug Monitoring System 2011, pg. 174.

* 23.9% - Proportion of cannabis users who abstain from alcohol when partaking. Source: Ministry of Health Drug Use in New Zealand v.2 Jan 2010, pg. 56.

* 41% - Proportion of regular drug users who can buy cannabis in less than 20 minutes. Source : SHORE Illicit Drug Monitoring System 2011, pg. 172.

* 41% - Proportion of police detainees who admitted drinking prior to arrest. Source: SHORE New Zealand Arrestee Drug Use Monitoring Survey 2011, pg. 43.

* 16 - Mean number of standard drinks before arrest. Source: Ibid., pg. 44.

* 35% - Proportion of arrestees who used alcohol and reported that doing so was "more likely" or "much more likely" to make them angry. Source: Ibid., pp. 51-52.

* 3% - Proportion of arrestees who used cannabis and reported that doing so was "more likely" or "much more likely" to make them angry. Source: Ibid., pg. 94.

* Less than 1% - Proportion of cannabis users in 2006 who were arrested. Source: Law Commission Controlling and Regulating Drugs Report Part I, pg. 65.

* 96.8% - Resolution rate for police in cannabis possession and/or use offences. In comparison the resolution rates for murder, sexual assault, robbery, theft and motor vehicle theft are 82.1%, 55.9%, 42.3%, 30.7% and 11.8% respectively. Source: Police National Statistics 2011, pp. 2-3.

* $20 - The mean price for a tinnie (1.5 grams cannabis). The price has proven inflation-resistant for over a decade. The mean price of an ounce has risen slowly to around $330, although the Wellington mean remains around $300 an ounce. The price for a pound of cannabis remains stable at $3000. Source: SHORE Illicit Drug Monitoring System 2011, pp. 161-2.

* Twice, thrice - Maori are twice as likely to use cannabis than non-Maori, yet have arrest and conviction rates three times higher than non-Maori. Source: Law Commission Controlling and Regulating Drugs Report Part I, pp. 73, 106.

* 0 - Statistical significance of cannabis users' deprivation index. That is, cannabis use is fairly evenly distributed among all income groups. Source: Ministry of Health Drug Use in New Zealand v.2 Jan 2010, pp. 41, 45, 48, 51, 53.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hammerheads and Gunbags

Jon Stewart squeezes laughter out of despair with a look at the arguments against gun control in the US. The Hicksville Cliff remains, and the only question is how long before iPredict takes bets on when and where the next Future Shock Gunbagger goes off. That's Futsie, in Dredd-speak.

Banned Books in NZ

The How Things Change research is coming along well. After tripping over a dead link over at Steven Price legal blog looking for a list of banned books, the Office of Film and Literature Classification promptly returned my query with a banned book dump (I wish all Government Departments were so prompt).

There are two lists available as spreadsheets.

1215 books banned between 1963 and 1993 under the Indecent Publications Tribunal listed here.
89 books banned from 1993 to Jan 2013 under the Office of Film and Literature Classification here.

Among the sea of porn (ranging from the hilariously archaic to the disturbingly violent) is also a handful of gardening books and two cookbooks. The IPT banned 18 marijuana-themed books in 30 years:
  • How to Grow Marijuana Hydroponically
  • How to Grow Marijuana Indoors Under Lights
  • The Advanced Growers Guide to Marijuana Cultivation
  • The Australian Indoor Marijuana Growers Guide
  • Marijuana Growers Handbook Indoor/Greenhouse Edition
  • Australian Handbook for Indoor Growing of Marijuana
  • The Closet Cultivator
  • Marijuana Growers Guide De Luxe Edition
  • The Connoisseurs Handbook on Marijuana
  • High Time Encyclopaedia of Recreational Drugs
  • The Complete Guide to Growing Marijuana - The Culture and Management of Hemp
  • Indoor Marijuana Cultivation
  • The Primo Plant Growing Sinsemilla Marijuana
  • Caretaking the Wild Sinsemilla
  • Ancient and Modern Methods of Growing Extraordinary Marijuana
  • Cooking with Marijuanga
  • Marijuana Growers Guide
  • The Cultivators Handbook of Marijuana
In the twenty years since the OFLC has been around, only 89 further books have been banned. Ten of them were about cannabis:
  • Indoor Marijuana Horticulture
  • Marijuana Botany
  • A Guide to Growing Marijuana in Cool Climates
  • Cannabis Alchemy
  • The Great Books of Cannabis Volume l: Book ll
  • Marijuana Grower's Insider's Guide
  • The Marijuana Chef Cookbook
  • Cannabis Cultivator
  • Marijuana New School Indoor Cultivation
  • The Big Book Of Buds
The allegedly 'injurious to the public good' The Marijuana Chef Cookbook is on sale at I'm pretty sure the other titles can be found elsewhere online, as well as hundreds of similar quality publications.

Suffice it to say NZ's antiquated censorship laws are as useless as a dick in a dyke. And don't get me started on the OFLC DVD ratings system, or Spoiler Stickers as I call 'em.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Quotes from a drug war

Stuff points out one example of a gross injustice in today's drug war:
Justice Ministry figures show a significant amount of court time is taken up by minor drug cases, with nearly as many people imprisoned for possessing a small quantity of cannabis as for dealing...

In the past six years, possession of small amounts of cannabis or smoking utensils, such as a pipe, made up about half of all drug charges laid by police.
Justice Minister Judith Collins is quoted as saying that all drug matters, no matter how trivial, must be processed by the criminal justice system. By saying this, Collins merely follows a long line of ignorant but powerful voices who have rallied against the obvious love affair NZers have with drugs.

Part of my How Things Change study involved re-reading historian Redmer Yska's excellent story of Aotearoa Marijuana, New Zealand Green. I'm saving the stats for another fight, but here's a selection of choice quotes from NZ's drug war:
  • "It is impossible to insert any appreciable quantity of drug into chocolates."
 - Police Commissioner W.B. McIlveney in 1926, responding to a story from the Salvation Army's Brigadier Burton. Burton had heard a tale of a woman found in an Auckland public toilet, insensible after eating chocolates at a garden dance.
  • "Marijuana is the thin edge of the wedge into the vice underworld, a trade that festers deep in the social flesh but leaves little mark on the surface."
- Assistant Police Commissioner R.J. Walton in 1965, fresh from a five-week guided tour of American drug locations.
  • '[Walton] was brainwashed in America and came home determined to enforce excessive concern about cannabis on the rest of us."
 - Dr Erich Geiringer, arguing that the cannabis menace had appeared at a convenient time when police needed an issue to prop up their dwindling status.
  • "Don't be afraid of or awed by the police. They are public utilities like the drains or the telephone."
 - Cock magazine in 1971.
  • "The only drug permissible in the healthy home should be one small bottle of the aspirin for use in an emergency."
 - Lady Porritt, Governor-General's wife, to the Country Women's Institute, 1968.
  •  "Recently a young girl at a sex instruction lecture by a private psychiatrist asked the speaker whether sex with the aid of LSD was a superior experience to ordinary sexual relations without it! In the face of this sort of thinking, a firm and continued deglamourising campaign against drug abuse is necessary to save many young people from a way of life which adds nothing to the community and costs it a lot."
 - Oakley Hospital superintendent and Blake-Palmer Commission member Dr P.P.E. Savage.
  • "Existing legislation made it possible to keep cannabis from becoming generally available."
 - Professor Fred Fastier in 1968, Dunedin pharmacologist and Blake-Palmer Commission member.
They have taken away Maori Johnny,
The horsebreaker from Taumarunui.
A keen pot smoker.
He plucked for us the leaves
Of the tree of life.
  - James K. Baxter, The Ballad of the Junkies and the Fuzz.
  • "It is a dangerous article to print as it is, without laying to rest some of its misconceptions."
 - Dr Blake-Palmer, commenting on a draft article for Moment, a Parnell Christian magazine. The story in question featured Geoff, a high functioning drug user. It is unclear whether the article was published. Media, police and health officials were warned to keep out of the public eye on drug matters while the commission convened.
  • "There was so much nonsense with officials making statements that were clearly untrue. The effect was to discredit those who tried to produce real information. New Zealand is a model of how to mismanage health information over several decades."
 - Christchurch psychologist Dr John Dobson, a vocal critic of the Blake-Palmer Commission, 1969.
  • "A sufficient dose of THC in marijuana is capable of producing all the effects of the more concentrated hashish and even LSD which is conceded one of the most powerful drugs known to man."
 - Hutt MP Trevor Young, 1970.
  • "Much of the senseless crime attributed to teenagers - the smashing of windows, the destruction of park benches, the breaking up of public property, even to some of the gang wars - is caused by the smoking of marijuana."
 - Salvation Army booklet.

  • "These people, often sick, will not volunteer for medical treatment and it is necessary for the police to seek them out for their own good."
 - Police Commissioner W.H.A Sharp, twenty years before the Bill of Rights 1990 made this illegal.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers

In my summertime study of How Things Change, this podcast featuring Cory Doctorow and the Titanium Physicists has proved invaluable. Titled Death and Heat Death, this long-form happy mutant conversation includes Goblin Milk, multiverses, infinity, mortality and identity, and how to explain to a child that their father is dying.

UPDATE: Forgot to note that there's also an explanation that tidying one's room actually increases entropy in the universe.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The Rebirth of Punk

A thought bubble has persisted over the last couple of weeks that just won't budge. The guts seem to be disagreeing with the brains over the Balls to 2013 post, nagging like a double-breasted lobbyist: Rebirth of Punk. Rebirth of Punk.

Of course, no sane paid stooge would ever call for that. And there's no voice in my puku, that's just the brain's best translation of gut dialect.

The rebirth of punk is not about the gobbing, or even the Pistols. It's about DIYing, pitching in, and not having to get permission from government every bloody time you want to do something reasonable and straight forward.

That attitude has been helping kill the hospitality sector, leaving the supermarket barons with clean hands and fat wallets. It has killed the live entertainment circuit, from One Love to Big Day Out to... well, we'll see. Only the high NZ dollar is keeping an Indian summer for some. Once that wave collapses, let's see what's left.

Where protections were most needed (in the mines, in the housing sector), these government approvals have shown to be benign and toothless at best, recklessly fatal at worst. The foundations of the CTV building were built with authorised ambitions and ignorant schemers, and was an unqualified failure in every respect.

Maybe, just maybe, people with knowledge gained from passion not privilege can do a better job.