Thursday, June 28, 2007

Ban Ze Pills

I've just settled into the office after attending a press conference in Jim Anderton's office where he advised that BZP will be banned. BZP products are to classified as a Class C1 substance, putting it in the same league as other moderately harmful drugs such as cannabis, coca and khat. Around the country, organised crime must be rejoicing that Jim Anderton has thrown them a new revenue stream to play in.

Jim Anderton thought he was being magnanimous that he wasn't using the Order in Council process to illegalise BZP, a process which involves gazetting the policy for 28 days before ordaining it as law. Instead, an amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act will be put through the select committee which should allow for public submissions on the matter.

More worrying is the prospect of a re-write of the Misuse of Drugs Act. I've been hassling for this for a while, but with the illogical rationale to ban BZP as an example, a re-write at this stage bodes ill for the harm minimisation strategy. For example, the reversal of the burden of proof on supplement manufacturers:
"It is likely that new products with an unknown chemical composition will be introduced to replace BZP. As part of the MODA review, a legislative framework will be considered that places the onus of proof on the sponsor of a new substance that is to be marketed as inducing a psychoactive response, to establish the safety of the substance before it can be sold in New Zealand."
The upshot of this reversal of proof will be that more substances will go straight to the black market without passing any quality control standards whatsoever. That, or more substances will pass through as foods, such as poppy seeds, to avoid such a throttling policy.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Do Not Feed the Animals

There's a veritable media frenzy in the MSM and blogosphere about the new rules to cover how the press cover the Parliamentary zoo. The MSM have declared war with the DomPost showing Tariana Turia with a headache next to Heather Roy. The Herald has a photo gallery dedicated to politician self-ridicule.

Although the new rules loosen the press gallery's leash in some respects, the contempt of parliament charge for depicting MPs in "satire, ridicule or denigration" was a step way over the line. It is a well known constitutional convention that we reserve the right to take the piss. I thought the Speaker had nodded to this ideal by pushing for MPs to be more accountable to the Official Information Act. It was fun while it lasted. Jeremy Wells could be jailed for doing what he does under the new rules.

Colin Espiner's new blog had a go at the story last night. I posted a comment about the Jeremy Wells factor, then refreshed the page to check whether comments were posted automatically or held for approval a la Cactus. It was there. Now it's not. In fact, it disappeared within an hour of posting it last night. And there you have it. Truth is a three-edged sword.

Long before Parliament upped the heavies and installed X-Ray machines, Press House in Boulcott St has been locked up like a nunnery. Unlike Question Time at Parliament, you couldn't just walk in off the street into the typing pool. TVNZ is likewise securitised. Try to satirise, ridicule or denigrate an MSM and they will sic lawyers on you. Don't mistake this for a David and Goliath story. This is fight between Goliaths for the monopoly on truth.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Thursday, June 21, 2007

New Jew Ban

According to guidelines by the UK's leading fostering charity, Fostering Network, smokers will not be able to adopt children under 5:
No children under five years old should be placed with non-related foster carers who smoke - this is because of the particularly high health risks for very young children and toddlers who spend most of their day physically close to their carers."

In addition, the network, which has more than 40,000 members, is to recommend that disabled children who are physically unable to play outside, or youngsters with respiratory diseases such as asthma should never be placed with smokers, regardless of their age.
Obviously, discrimination is in the eye of the beholder.

Two men saying they're Jesus, one of them must be wrong

Associate Finance Minister Trevor Mallard has hinted at tax cuts next budget:

"There is quite a strong view building in New Zealand that at some stage we want to do an income tax reduction," Mr Mallard said. "I've got no doubt that it will be addressed in the next budget."

In the comments - published last week - he said he favoured changes to tax thresholds as the best way to cut personal taxes rather than dropping rates.

But Finance Minister Michael Cullen today said the comments were Mr Mallard's personal opinion.

Adjusting the tax thresholds is not a tax cut, it is an admission of reality. When you have the Reserve Bank buying $USD as a favourable policy as opposed to reducing government spending, you know you have a problem. Get real and cut taxes across the board. Dagg knows, we've earned it.

Let them dangle

You can't fault Jane Diplock and the Securities Commission for giving Fay Richwhite a blat on their malicious damage to the country through insider trading on Tranz Rail. When you've got Russell Brown, Winston Peters and Shane Jones agreeing on something, well, something is up. On the assumption that there is more than one way to skin this kitty, I have set up a pledge:

"I will write to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon Rick Barker, to request Michael Fay and David Richwhite have their New Zealand citizenship revoked under Section 16(b) of the Citizenship Act 1977 but only if 23 other New Zealanders will do the same."

Please sign up to the pledge here.

Why OSH thinking is counterproductive

In the midst of hygiene upselling, we are bullied into buying antibacterial agents to ensure everything is clean. Who could take the ad with the hippy sneezing on the shopping trolley seriously? Soccer Mums, that's who.

Dave Allen once commented on fly spray: " 'Kills 99 percent of household bugs!', they say. What effect does it have on the 1 percent it doesn't kill? Feeds them? Makes them stronger? We're going to end up with superflies, invulnerable superbugs with the strength of a thousand ordinary bugs." Or something like that. Only now are scientists being able to demonstrate what comedians have observed for years. (Hat Tip BB)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Goldilocks govenment

The left wing have come a long way. The First Labour Government instituted policies to ensure schoolkids weren't so thin. The Fifth Labour Government are now instituting policies to ensure schoolkids aren't so fat. What we really need is a government that is just Right. They'd stay out of the tuck shop and concentrate on EDUCATION.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The American Dream

Tony is a closed circle.

Stoppard's utopia cleans up

A toast to Tom Stoppard for cleaning out Broadway by collecting more Tonys than Death of a Salesman. Here's looking forward to the NZ production of The Coast of Utopia. I'm talking to you, Tim Spite!

A very dangerous precedent

For the first time since the dollar was floated back in the early 80's, the Reserve Bank has stepped into the currency markets and sold $NZ. While it seems to have worked, with the dollar retreating 1 cent, it is too soon to tell whether it be enough to stop our helium currency bouncing up again.

There are differences with the 80's. Back then, the NZD was pegged to the USD. Speculators knew that policy meant we had to feed the market to maintain the fiction of parity. This time round, there is no peg. Instead, the RBNZ Governor will only feed the beast when conditions are "exceptional and unjustified in terms of the economic fundamentals." Which, in this case, was US75.25c.

With $7 billion in the bank, Bollard is gambling that this piss in the pond will be enough to dilute the dark currents in the Forex market. If the NZ dollar does bounce back, and judging from current US economic policy this idea isn't too much of a stretch, the Reserve Bank has set the very dangerous precedent. This intervention may set the stage for some very nasty arbitrage. Let's hope the fund sharks don't take the bait.

Must go, am late for an appointment with Tony Soprano.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

TM4FM

Michael Cullen may be on his way out to pasture, and it might be soon. Coupla days ago, Michael Bassett throws out this missive. Just because he's biased doesn't mean he's wrong. Now KiwiSaver is all but launched, Michael Cullen's use to the Labour party is practically nil.

Something has to change, massively, to turn around the polls. And it's not going to be Helen Clark leaving that's going to do it. Helen Clark is still Labour's best chance of re-election. If worst comes to worst, she is loyal and dedicated enough to go down with the ship and pass the reins only after she's given it her damnedest after the election.

Trevor Mallard has shown the necessary stubbornness to become Finance Minister. Just as John Key has swiftly and succinctly re-branded the Nats, a change of Finance Minister would allow Labour to regain the initiative by changing tack on the tax cut agenda, among other things.

Another clear foreshadowing of this inevitability is today's announcement of a $2.9 million government contribution towards the upgrade of McLean Park in Cullen's retirement village of Napier:
“This major project upgrades McLean Park to 21st Century standards. This is important because McLean Park is the only venue in Hawkes Bay which can host major national and international cricket and rugby events," Helen Clark said.
If Brits believe in heaven, it would look something like this.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A Simple Plan

As manager for a long-term accommodation lodge, I've learnt the hard way not to accept WINZ people in. Although in direct contravention of UN conventions on non-discrimination, I don't give a stuff. It seems fair for the government to gang up on smokers and make them the New Jews, so I suppose it's fair game to discriminate against beneficiaries.

This rule of thumb is not entirely due to the WINZ people themselves, although I've tossed out enough useless shits for not paying their rent or bugging the locals (Although there's a few pages of Terms & Conditions, there are two real rules; pay the rent on time and don't hassle the locals). No, if there's any one reason I'd have to say we leave the WINZers to the competition, it's the government departments' fault.

Wellington is at one end of the Heartland. For many, it is not where they go rather than where they end up. The same goes for Cairns in Oz. Both are the end of the line. Wellington and Northland have the highest unemployment rates in NZ, even after you take account of the sleight-of-hand of in-work payments. I'd also say that Northland and Wellington also have a higher than average number of mental patients. Just because Christchurch has the highest per capita consumption of Prozac, doesn't mean they are the strangest city.

Wellington also has a strong charitable base, in large part to the most excellent works of Suzanne Aubert and latterly Des Britten at Wellington City Mission. In days past, I would have also rated the Sallies. However, their Taranaki St Op Shop has gotten snootier, I've bumped into too many abused people from their care, and they sicced a Bell Gully Buddy on me during Friday drinkies one time (Some sins are unforgivable).

So, combined with the largest social housing stock in the country after Housing NZ, and the country's finest policy analysts living there, Wellington seems perfectly equipped to deal with the unfortunate, unlucky, untrained, un-everything. Wrong. The resources are there. Apart from a few novice philanthropists though, the money is stuck in the logjam of bureaucratic hoops and dramas.

It has been three months since I last had to call the cops, six months since the last emergency response CATT team came round. The threat of Race War has passed, for now, but the chance that someone will go off their meds lingers. Things could be/have been worse, touch wood.

Prospective residents have to fill in an application form declaring any mental or medical problems, as well as criminal convictions. This is not so much for obvious discrimination, as the duty of care entailed in looking after the general welfare of fifty or so people. There are still scars in the concrete from the guy who went mental with a samurai sword a few years back (Why is it always a samurai sword?).

There is no way to check that what they fill in is true. The Privacy Act, which I am a strong supporter of, forbids me from checking whether the prospective tenant is a harmless fruit or a full-on nutjob. Sure, we could get a one-page Privacy Act disclaimer included, but that may freak out the less strange applicants. Criminal convictions are even harder to check on. While the cops are keen to come around for forwarding addresses, they are distinctly cagey about reciprocating. Is that a paroled rapist I've just put in next to the two girls from Masterton?

Then there's the money. There's these Special Needs forms with the supposedly unforgeable hologram that the hard up present at supermarkets for groceries (not including alcohol or tobacco). When I first started my job, I thought you'd treat these cast-iron assurances from WINZ as money in the bank. Wrong. What you see is not necessarily what you get. We have been stung by forms which say $756 and end up with only half that going into the bank some time later. If the government promises you something, don't trust them.

Then there's the WINZ redirections. This is when WINZ take the rent money directly out of their benefit. For the wise ones who know they are bad with their money, this seems the logical step. Unfortunately, as with any bureaucracy, things aren't quite so simple. Rent due in one month is not received until the following month. This is because the WINZ payment must, by law, go through IRD in order to pay the bills. According to Sione from David Benson-Pope's office, such payments are subject to Section 157 of the Tax Administration Act 1994. Peter must pay Paul so Paul can pay Mary one month late.

One alcoholic dirtwad I'll call the Irish Rover (I bet you they don't sing Lilly the Pink in primary schools any more) stopped his payments without telling the then manager. After one too many times of asking me for a corkscrew, I figured what had happened and kicked the deadbeat out and threw his porn and possessions into the wheelie bin.

The random disbursements from the Special Needs forms and WINZ redirections leads to one path; the beneficiaries get into arrears with no way of paying it off. Outski and, preferably, no inski in the first place. The Bullshit Detectors are on full power every time someone wants to move in. Suffice it to say I err on the side of caution. There's only one thing worse than a fuck up, and that's a clusterfuck. Let it be Someone Else's Problem.

In light of the Mighty Mercury Muliaga Matter, there must be a great temptation to Fix All Wrongs with a regulatory magic wand. Already, Jeanette Fitzsimons is suggesting progressive pricing of electricity as if that'll fix things. It's like progressive taxation, but for electricity. Not food, not telephone, just electricity. This is because everyone now has a right to electricity. Oh, bullshit (Jeez, I though I'd turned it off). Mercury has already suspended disconnections indefinitely, meaning that there is now no incentive to pay one's electricity but accumulating debt is OK. Thank you Labour V, we are eternally in your debt.

There is talk of, well, all sorts of things. There are times to be fearful with a light Order Paper. The temptation to ram through populist ill thought-out reactionary legislation may be too strong to ignore. The upshot of which will be that energy suppliers will just front-end the fucker, being more cautious about hooking people up to the grid in the first place through credit control procedures. Far as I know, it still won't be illegal to refuse service. For every well-meaning law, there are a dozen ways to circumvent them. Don't be stupid.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Happy Unbirthday, Mrs Windsor

All around the country today, people are not gathering together to celebrate our absentee head of state's unbirthday. Lacking the old pastime of handing out garters, thistles and baths, the NZ Cabinet has compiled a list of worthy people to receive an award from the traditional honours system which has been around for seven years.

OK, that's a bit rough. The Order of New Zealand has been around for twenty years. The ONZ is limited to twenty people at any one time (current membership 25) and established “to recognise outstanding service to the Crown and people of New Zealand in a civil or military capacity.” Current or previous holders of this honour include Jonathan Hunt (Appointed 2004), David Lange (Appointed 2002), Dame Cath (Appointed 2002) - mother of Judith Tizard HPMH (Holder of the PM's Handbag), and Mike Moore (Appointed just after the election in 1999). It is clear that the ONZ is an apolitical list, unless you are closely connected the Labour government.

Perhaps my angle is skewed from recently watching Yes Minister: Doing the Honours. Instead of the GCMG (God Calls Me God), we have ONZ (Our New Zeitgeist? One Noble Zoo?). Instead of civil servants sucking up for a KCMG, we have TV personalities getting awards for just doing their job:

ONZM awarded to Julie Christie for services to reality TV
ONZM awarded to Kevin Milne for services to consumer show Fair Go
ONZM awarded to Ginette McDonald for Lynn of Tawa
ONZM awarded to Tina Cross for being on the telly in the '70s
ONZM awarded to John Kirwan for "television advertisements he fronts which are credited with striking a chord with many viewers, particularly men, affected by depression."

Then there's the sports commendations. Ruben Wiki gets an ONZM for his services to rugby league. Nathan Astle got an MNZM for services to cricket, Susan Bunt for women's golf, Jonah Lomu for rugby, Albert McConnell for cycling, Rod Patterson for rugby, Sharon Sims for lawn bowls. The list goes on. There's even a hat tip to strictly NZ sports. David Fagan received an ONZM for services to shearing, while Bill Evans gets an MNZM for services to woodchopping.

Aha, civil servants! Knew they'd be in there somewhere. Director of Pharmac and Counties Manukau District Health Board member Prof Gregor Coster gets a CNZM. Leon Crosse gets an MNZM for outstanding services to the GCSB, although no-one can really say why. Superintendents Graham Emery and Grant O'Fee receive an MNZM for, you guessed it, services to policing. In fact, there's a whole bunch of cops getting QSMs for being cops.

Head of School at Unitec's Education department, Prof Carol Cardno, is author of many research papers including: Effective Workplace Cultures - The Tension Between Consulting and Workload, Towards a Subsumptive Theory of Distance Education: The Case of Providing Flexible Postgraduate Research Supervision for Distance Learners, and everyone's favourite, Practitioner research: Embracing epistemological diversity and celebrating pluralism in school-based educational management action research. She gets a QSO for her plain speaking services to educational administration and management.

Bugger all this for a laugh. We need some new honours and, since today is also Fred Dagg's unbirthday, it is time to unveil a more appropriate NZ commendations based on what he might have wanted perhaps:
  • The DOOR: The Decorative Order of Overdue Retirement
  • The GUMBOOT: Generally Unorthodox Mate of Bloody Original Objective Thinking
  • The DOG: Distinctive Order of Goodness
  • The WAL: Warrant of Able Larrikins

Sunday, June 03, 2007

A Mighty Wind

It seems as if everyone is tearing at Mrs Muliaga's corpse, hoping to claim it for whatever agenda they wish to reinforce. If Eye to Eye is anything to go by, Sue Bradford is holding the dead mother up as an example of an SOE model that has lost its way. Matt McCarten waved his deceased brown comrade in the ongoing struggle for solidarity. Lindsay Perigo left Mrs Muliaga alone, preferring to swing Ayn Rand's severed head around like a mace.

The Coal Spy story has been overwhelmed by the perfect media storm of Mrs Muliaga's untimely passing. Due to the timing, or perhaps lazy journalism, the circumstances of the former SOE headline has been unthinkingly transferred onto the latter. Unthinkingly? The Solid Energy spook spoke out and the company were caught in the act. The CEO refuses to admit wrongdoing. Contrast this with Mercury Energy, where no obvious fault has been demonstrated. The visibly shaken CEO has visited the grieving family and handed over $10,000.

What a difference a death makes. Sobbing relatives make better telly than snails and smelly hippies. As her family prepares for Mrs Muliaga's funeral, the media circus is gearing up across the road. The lions are being wheeled from their studios to the tent. The clowns are putting on their sad faces. Judy Bailey will probably be there, as well as the entire front bench of parliament.

The truth will go unmourned. No-one knows what killed the 44-year old mother of four yet. It is getting increasingly unlikely that the oxygen tank had anything to do with it. This straw is the single shred of evidence that the power suppliers had anything to do with the woman's death. This has not prevented widespread outrage from the MSM. Mind you, this is the same MSM who turned David Bain into the Britney Spears of psychotic dorkdom.

The much more plausible cause of death is the complication of various diseases Mrs Muliaga was dying from already:
"Mrs Muliaga was suffering from cardiomyopathy - a weakness in the muscle of the heart brought on by a lack of oxygen being carried to the organ. The illness, lung disease and associated breathing difficulties were related to her obesity. She had been admitted to Middlemore Hospital in April and was discharged on May 11."
This was one very sick woman. She was on her way out. Having the power cut off might have led to her taking a turn for the worse in much the same way as arguing with a loved one, or some other bad storm might. As it was, it was some poor bastard with the procedural discretion of an ant sent to cut the power that will suffer the guilt for the rest of his days. Second-guessing the autopsy report, the family's lawyer has declared that the woman's illness was irrelevant. Any lawyer spotting a client with a massive company admitting guilt would have dollar signs in their eyes.

Surprisingly, Trevor Mallard has held off judgment until more details emerge. He appeared in the Agenda interview with a pained expression that suggested that someone had his balls in a vice. Kudos to the Minister for withstanding the pain on principle.

An absence of facts hasn't stopped the more strident agenda monopolisers from rushing to judgment. You can tell that Matt McCarten wasn't thinking on Eye to Eye because he wasn't stuttering. He just rattled off the standard Oppressed Masses litany in much the same way as Brian Tamaki farts out his sermons. Thank Dagg old school chum James Coleman was on the set to provide some rationality. Yeah, he got shouted down by the They-Are-Blameless Brigade for saying "strumming." Good on him for handling that.

Lest anyone think I'm being a racist cunt for all this, hear this. I know enough of Samoan culture to say that the Muliaga family are blameless. Mrs Muliaga died at home surrounded by her family, which is a better death than many. Her children sang hymns and strummed their guitars, instead of ringing an ambulance and having their Mum hospitalised and medicated, dying in the sterile environs of the hospital. But, from the information at hand, so Mercury Energy et al are blameless too. Neither the contractor nor the company did anything bad. Unfortunate timing yes, bad no.

This post was kindly inspired by Dave Gee blogging this.