Monday, November 29, 2004

Happy days in Paki Paki

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

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

Clean Slate Act kicks in today

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

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

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

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

Chairman Jim gives Time Warner $NZ 3.4 million

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Only fifteen sleeps to go

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Don't Steal; the government hates competition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A strong constitution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bring on the constitutional review!

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Are You Being Served?

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 12, 2004

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

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

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

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Screaming for help

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Backlogged blog

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

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

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

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