Friday, August 31, 2007

One card to rule them all?

Brian Rudman has had a bloody good idea. It's called user-pays. But why stop at an Auckland Card? There are so many possibilities:

Devonport Card - Shaped like a wine tasting glass. Discounts on chardonnay.
Parnell Card - Optional razor blade for cutting up fine powders.
Manukau Card - Discounts on solvents & aerosol paints.
New Lynn Card - Free dozen Lion Red with every Lion Red pallet purchased (Limit 6 dozen).
Otara Card - Converts into emergency back-up dialysis machine/ colostomy bag /pacemaker/ liposuction pump.
Remuera Card - discounts on blue hair dye, Home & Garden subscriptions; rebate on ports and sherries.
Piha card - One free taxi fare per year to any Auckland address.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The KGB Ball

It's all go in the capital right now. Here am I bitching and moaning about not hearing JRS speak, when I'm off the the annual KGB Ball at the Overseas Terminal tonight. $1050 cheaper and it's all good. Haven't been back to the old OT since I worked at Si Ristorante back in the 90's. Should be interesting. See you on the balcony.

JRS on bFM

Mikey had a good yak with John Ralston Saul the other day. Discussion on the obligations of humanity, otherwise known as citizenship and culture. Niiice!

Bitchfight at NatRad

Limited thermonuclear weapons were deployed yesterday afternoon on NatRad. Dick Griffin and Chris Trotter joined Jim Mora. Then Jim called Mike Moore. One of the best episodes ever.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Knives Out

Mike Moore has thrown a Molotov cocktail in amongst the pigeons. Oh, to be the tea lady in the Labour caucus room right now. This looks like it could get very nasty. Good. Politics is supposed to be a blood sport. While Audrey Young ponders what rationale Mike Moore had for declaring war on his old party (was it the clumsy attacks on Key, was it on behalf of an old mate?), it's pretty clear what the catalyst for this swipe at Helen Clark is. The Electoral Finance Bill.

Although it's difficult to pinpoint exactly when the Labour administration began diverging from the public good per se, the Electoral Finance Bill conclusively demonstrated how far gone wrong it all is. Appropriate words to describe how mind-gawpingly bad this self-serving slice of shite is is a challenge. I had to call in the professionals. The day the Law Commission released its comprehensive trashing of the Police Search & Surveillance practices, I sent this off to the Commission:

Good on the Law Commission for its constructive criticism of the police search and surveillance laws. Will the Law Commission be releasing a public statement on its position on the Electoral Finance Bill? Due to its constitutional ramifications and severe impact on the Bill of Rights Act, it is in the public interest for the Law Commission to form a view on the issue. If the police laws can be described as a mess, I'd be interested to see what metaphors Sir Geoff can come up with for this Bill.


Will de Cleene
A week later, this pops in Tuesday last week:
Will De Cleene

Thank you for your endorsement of our recent comments on the need to reform search and surveillance powers. Our comments on this followed release of a very substantial Law Commission report (NZLC R97) on the topic, which is available on our website,

The Commission's principal work is on major law reform projects, such as the search and surveillance one, and we do not normally comment on Bills introduced to Parliament. I note that the Crown Law Bill of Rights vet of the Electoral Finance Bill can be found on the Ministry of Justice website.

Law Commission staff provide a template report on all new Government legislation for the Legislation Advisory Committee (LAC) based on the LAC Guidelines. These relate to technical legislative standards rather than the policy or political content of new legislation. LAC may choose to take any matters further.

Thank you for your cheerful message.

Margaret Thompson
Special Projects Adviser
By Friday, Sir Geoff had been roped in to sacrifice his reputation for this godawful Bill. Or had he? I credit the man with enough intelligence to stand well clear of this craptacular Bill. I like to think I did my part in the whole thing.

The Crown Law Bill of Rights vet thing is cunningly neutral, not even a link. This is probably the same Crown Law Office that would see no Bill of Rights issues if a Bill to prevent Americans from emigrating to NZ whisked past their rubber stamp.

So, I am glad that Mike Moore has joined Michael Bassett and others to give this Labour administration a few well-deserved slaps across the face. I am a Labour man born and bred, but I cannot abide the willful destruction of so many hard-earned footholds on this land just to preserve the power of this Labour Government.

The choice open for Labour is to lose graciously or lose badly. Everything spewing out of the Beehive points to the lose badly path. Cullen's mouthing off over suspending monetary policy points to a complete disregard of common sense. The Finance Minister, like the Reserve Bank Governor, is supposed to smooth the waters of economic management, not jitter the fuck out of the currency markets. We've got enough external shocks to cope with without having a malicious clusterfuck of a Finance Minister spooking the horses.

Labour's attempted strategy to smear Key has been obvious and clumsy. And, in the case of the Air NZ Aussie troop transporter debacle, bordered on self-mutilation. You wanna get personal? Sure, we'll get personal. Know this, Jim Anderton. I will dance on your grave. See? It's easy. But this is what Oppositions do, not Governments. Govern, Labour, govern!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The day they banned the penguin

This just in from the land of freedom, etc:

"The Opus strips for August 26 and September 2 have been withheld from
publication by a large number of client newspapers across the country, including
Opus' host paper The Washington Post. The strips may be viewed in a large format
on their respective dates at"

So, what was the fuss about? Sex? Violence? Swearing?

Hat Tip /.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

No LOLcats in Customs

I've been searching in vain for a new Masterpet cat scratcher. Y'know what I mean, the corrogated cardboard with the little baggie of catnip. Hunter has worn the old one out and is starting to take his claws to the carpet. None of the vets have the cat scratchers in stock and don't know when they'll be available. Today I found out why. The cat scratchers are imported from the USA, and Customs have held up the importation due to those risky catnip baggies!

Thankfully, catnip has not yet been classified as a Class C1 restricted substance, like BZP, and a new batch of scratchy mats are being distributed to anxious vet shops as we speak.

Small deity to speak in Wellington

One of the minor gods of this household, John Ralston Saul, is in town next week. He is one of the keynote speakers for the the NZ Society of Local Government Managers conference. Registration fee is $1090, a bit beyond my means. If anyone gets word of an extra-curricular talk by JRS while he's around, please drop a line. How about a YouTube of the man's speech, then? Radio NZ audio? Anything..?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Self-inflicted gun shot to the head

What with Labour sitting in the poll doldrums and all, you'd think that Labour's strategists would realise that it would be a mortal mistake to introduce a really, really unpopular piece of legislation right now. What vote were they trying to court? Is there anybody who isn't pissed off with the Electoral Finance Bill?

I have been wading through the Electoral Finance Bill for some small time now. I'm about half way through. After a paragraph or two I have to put it down and make a cup of tea. I once read two pages at one time. I was almost overcome by the urge to fly up to Orkland put an axe in Helen Clark's electorate office door. Alas, it has been done before and it wasn't that effective the first time.

Where does one start? The loaded verbiage of 'third parties', as if NGOs are hoping to grab a seat on the Treasury benches? There's the first party, the second party and the third parties. Bollocks to that.

The idea that somehow the cops are going to go around busting Amnesty International for not filing an election return? Like fuck. The Chief Electoral Officer has a hard enough time getting returns from the political parties as it is. Can't find a link, but from memory the Libertarianz party was amongst a handful of parties who were late filing expense returns last election. As we saw last election, the police are justifiably averse to interfering in the political process. No-one was charged for a late return, or for that matter, spending more than the law permitted. More people to police is not going to encourage the cops to follow through.

I just checked my old LAWS 101 book to check that the police are officers of the Executive. If this bill is passed, Montesquieu would be spinning in his grave so fast, he'd be an infinite source of renewable energy.

Audrey Young has pointed out that with 158 clusterfucked clauses to work with, Bill English can bleed press statements on an almost hourly basis pointing out how bad this Bill is. I'd seen DPF's link to the Law Journal, but I didn't know that legal eagle Bernard Robertson had declared an 'any time, anywhere' duel 'with Labour on the matter until Audrey said so. Jeez, Labour sure know how to pick their enemies.

There is also the element that the Bill was deliberately poorly drafted, so a compromise on the essence would make us feel grateful for what freedoms were eventually authorised. This has not happened. There is a growing chorus to throw out the Bill in its entirety and start from scratch.

John Key has given an impressive speech laying out the scale of this flawed bill. It's been a while since I've seen such elegant speech-writing. It's all there, in words that anyone can grasp. If anyone videoed this speech, please put a link in comments. This is Winston's style; Churchill not Peters. It's that big.

The speech gives a calculated dig at the Greens' support for the Bill. Truly, this Bill is a poisoned chalice for the Greens. At the Electoral Symposium, Russel Norman sounded like the smartest guy in the room when he accurately detailed how the Canadian Citizens' Jury manifested support for proportional representation.

We covered this thing in Prof Elizabeth McLeay's post-grad course on the Democratic Audit last year. It wasn't the most efficient ways of garnering change, but it certainly was democratic. So I have some respect for Russel Norman, in that he knows what he is talking about. If you'd been at the Symposium you'd know what I mean. Every other political hack was talking out their fundament. Only Norman engaged. So it's fair to say that Russel Norman knows what is at stake by supporting the Electoral Finance Bill. Is this payback for the smacking bill? How feral is the hard left vote going to get?

Dr Helena Catt from the Electoral Commission came along to talk to the post-grad class one time. She was pushing the Canadian model, where parties are paid by the state at a rate commensurate to their vote. This is reflected in the Electoral Commission report on the 2005 election, where the public funding model was strongly pushed:

Clearly, the government was informed on the options. Clearly, they are aiming at the best of all possible worlds, where 'third parties' are goatse'd but political parties remained shrouded in vagarity.

When referring to the UK system of electoral campaigning, the Electoral Commission report does not mention the campaign time limits at all:
"UK parties do not receive any direct state funding for the election campaign. Each candidate is entitled to send an election pamphlet or letter to every voter in their electorate free of charge of postage. Each party is allocated time for ‘party political broadcasts’ on all TV channels simultaneously. The broadcast allocation reflects their size in parliament. Parties must report all donations in excess of £5,000 to the Electoral Commission on a quarterly basis, and on a weekly basis during elections. Third parties that wish to spend more than £10,000 in England, or £5,000 in each of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland supporting or opposing a party or group of candidates must register with the Electoral Commission as a recognised third party. There are limits on campaign expenditure by each candidate but not by the party."
John Key's speech was on to it, as he demonstrated how poorly Sellotaped together the Canadian and Westminster systems were:
"This cherry-picking of rules doesn't reflect the internal logic of either the Canadian or the UK system, and has resulted in a muddled and incoherent proposal."
I could go on, but it's been a very long day. There's more to come about what electoral reform should eventuate, why and how to get it.

Show me the way to go home...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Losing My Religion

Physicists are the contemporary philosophers. Blessed are the physicists. And damned, if Einstein's comments on watchmaking, and Feynman's bitter realisation that reasons aren't always constant, are anything to go by. A big ta to RobiNZ for pointing me towards Freeman Dyson, thereby giving me the impetus to invest in reading this, which in turn was kindly brought to my attention by Arts & Letters Daily.

Accordingly, I hereby renounce my Jedi faith and declare myself a Heretic. I believe in counter-intuitives. I believe in doubt. I believe in everything, nothing is sacred. I believe in nothing, everything is sacred. I believe in the Higgs Boson, taniwhas and monetary policy. I believe in Tane, Thor and God. I believe in mathematics. I believe in art. I believe in beauty.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Non-Running Man

Back on ANZAC Day, I decided to run for local council. With a week to go before the candidate deadline hits, I'm pulling the plug. Too many bad omens, too much enjoyment of life, too much fun doing exactly this.

Death on Two Legs

Saturday, August 18, 2007


Trans-Tasman has drawn attention to a pretty pickle:

"United Future is now UnitedFuture. It’s part of a “revitalisation” process ahead of next year’s election, says leader Peter Dunne. It’s got a new logo as well, looks like a purple cup with a blob of avocado in it."

Is it a smiling cyclops? Is it a squeezed boil? No, it's the perfect logo for Peter Dunne's party. It means whatever you want it to mean.

Meantime, Colin Espiner may be the the first journalist to use the words 'sober' and 'Winston' in a nice way. See for yourself.

It's good to see Guyon Espiner bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on Saturday morning's Agenda. He had a good smack at John Key the other week, and this morning's go at Pita Sharples got some good work done.

Mike Moreu's cartoons have been a joy to behold. It's a big bonus have him blogging about it all too. Blessed are the cartoonists. Bromhead said on Agenda a few weeks ago that if a politician bought his cartoon, he had failed as an artist. This is not true. Below is a selection of stuff the old man bought.

Unfortunately, the one cartoon I want to prove the point is not there. It might have been a Neville Lodge, and it depicted the old man in a Gestapo uniform leading old people into a gas chamber. Maybe politicians buy the art to keep them grounded. Having a fool on the wall helps. Perhaps it turns them into narcissists. Jim Anderton's got quite the collection in his office. Greater love hath no man, than to lay down his family for his life, eh Jim.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Hunting of the Sharks

Back in the late '90s, in a Marketing lecture up at Vic, we were fortunate enough to have Consumer Institute dude David Russell along for a yak. He was pleased that he had seen through some good pieces of consumer legislation; the Fair Trading and Consumer Guarantees Acts. During question time, I asked what other legislation he would like to see. He replied that a tightening on the availability of credit would complete the trilogy.

Damned straight. The rot set in back in 1979, when Zip! Zap! National Bank Visa! appeared on the scene. Up until then, debit cards Diners' Club and Amex were the only plastic on the scene. These acted to streamline expense accounts for rich people. For the poor, there was lay-by. But Visa popped up, quickly followed by Bankcard and Mastercard, bringing instant unsecured loans to the masses.

For those who had maxed out the plastic, hire purchase agreements provided another way to accumulate crap of planned obsolescence. Can't afford that new shiny bauble? Oh yes you can! Living beyond one's means has never been easier. So what if the adrenaline kick from spontaneous purchases due to unearned wealth wears off when the monthly payments are due? For fuck's sake, don't miss a payment or the late payment fees will kill you.

Not so long ago, I recall reading that it was not a Labour government priority to regulate credit availability. Not their job, eh. Good to see that has changed. Sure, the No Asset procedure is a band-aid. The criteria seems quite stringent, and seems aimed as triage for the very worst examples of people stuck in a rut. More interesting will be what measures are proposed to counter the money lenders.

Even better to see Lisa Owen popping up exposing loan sharking at Sky City. Now there's a girl who doesn't mind getting her hands dirty.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Helen Clark and the Regulated Period

A press release from the Prime Minister’s office today announced that menstrual cycles will be strictly regulated in future. Instead of the usual five to seven days out of 28, women will be considered to be having their period continually from January 1st 2008.

Women will also have to provide proof that they are entitled to FHPs, and will need to appoint a gynaecological agent who will responsible for keeping track of them.

Women seeking Feminine Hygiene Products (FHP) will have to register with the Ministry of Menses, and are limited to 60 FHPs per year. An FHP is defined as any rag or implement which encourages, or is perceived to encourage, retention of menses.

Women’s groups around the country are up in arms. Prude Brewer, of advocacy group Glad Rag, says “This is a gross invasion of our rights. It is an affront to the dignity of women everywhere. There is blood on the government’s hands.”

Monday, August 06, 2007

You have the right to remain strange

After one particularly smoky afternoon session back in the Green House on Adelaide Road days, the flat got into a discussion on where evolution would take humans of the future. Three of them concluded that we would learn to use our existing brains more efficiently. Then there was me, who argued volubly and voluminously that humans would grow bigger heads. I foresaw generations of mothers too posh to push creating a long line of hydrocephalic bouncing babies.

Perhaps it will be a schizophrenic that saves the day, or a Tourette's Syndrome Field Marshall who wins the war, or a motor neuron cripple re-writing our understanding of physics. Oh wait, we already have one of those. Thing is, no-one knows what's going to be useful in the future. We are mutants. Our children are mutants. Their kids will be mutants. And so on.

Our parents were mutants, but they would be reluctant to admit it.

The old man's OBE is up for grabs tonight at the Hustle for Autism gig. "Are you sure?" says the Pead chick. Lest any assume there is some pre-cognitive dissonance in this decision (that's 'doubt' for non-beltway types), I'd better explain my rationale. A couple of reasons followed by a story.

The first reason is beauty. There's a symmetry in hocking off an Order for a disorder. As for the paper signed by Liz and Phil, it will mean more to the successful bidder than to this Republican. The second reason is that it will remove the lingering temptation to sell it off and blow it on strippers and drugs. This is a much better reason. Now for a story.

Dad shouted us a feed in some restaurant in Tauranga in the summer of '78. There's brother Randy Gonzales and sister Uptight Rodriguez too. Somehow, the family repartee had got us onto the subject of kids with disabilities. I'm not sure how an 8 year old, a 12 year old and a fourteen year old got onto the subject. Maybe it was Randy. Randy had come out as Deaf, but I hadn't. The exact reason is lost in the mists of time. Trev says:

"A guy came to me once for advice. He was married, had a couple of kids. The third one pops out and has Down's Syndrome. This guy asks me what he should do. So I say, 'You are happily married with two normal kids. The third one is a lost cause. The time you normally accorded your two kids will be sucked up with this child. And for what? It will never be of use to society, just a burden. I say, kill it. And he did."

See you at the gig.

Friday, August 03, 2007

VUWSA are not the only muppets

I wish I hadn't slept in yesterday morning. I was supposed to be up and down at Wellington City Council Committee Room One on Thursday morning to witness how Council puts together its serious program on the Strategy and Policy Committee. If one is serious about running for Council, one should be prepared to do the research, put in the hard yard. After all, one of these important strategic meetings must cost ratepayers thousands of dollars to run. You wouldn't want it run like a muppet show.

If I were a bad camper I would say Lose the Rube and Ditch the Ritchie.