Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Improved Subprime!

Now that many Americans are living in their cars after losing their unaffordable houses, GM and GMAC are now providing unaffordable loans for their obsolete stock:

Through January 5, GM will offer zero percent to 4.9 percent financing on loans of up to five years on some 2008 model-year vehicles, and 3.9 to 5.9 percent on some 2009 vehicles. Many of the vehicles also carry cash discounts of $500 to $4,250.

GMAC, meanwhile, will extend loans to retail buyers with credit scores, known as FICO, of 621 or higher. In October, it had restricted loans to borrowers with scores of 700 or higher. Many analysts consider borrowers with credit scores of 620 or lower to be "subprime." The median U.S. credit score is 723, according to Fair Isaac Corp's myFICO unit.
OK, it's a smaller market in some respects to the housing meltdown. But with the US government picking up the tab one way or another, there's Fool's Gold to be had. It's madness like this that puts me off writing a Balls to 2009 post. The worst case scenario keeps getting worse.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Alternative Xmas programming

Here in NZ we'll be missing the secular programming of a new Wallace & Gromit adventure and a Christmas message from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the UK has to look forward to. While the kiddies are engrossed in a Pixar marathon on TV2 and the crinklies have passed out in front of the Queen's Message on TV1, I have prepared some alternative amusements.

The Economist has Credit Crunch, the board game as a free download. You too can be like Ben Bernanke and print money! Live life by the toss of a coin, just like hedge fund managers! Hours of fun, hegemony and tears with this one.

Bush, Putin, Merkel, Sarkozy, Blair, Brown and Ahmadinejad sing Silent Night.

And the main feature, George Carlin's 2005 show Life is Worth Losing.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Hymn from him

Hippy holidays, have a high old time, catch you in 2009. Here's Kevin Bloody Wilson singing my favourite Christmas song:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Weekend at Bernie's

If 2007 was when the sub-prime meltdown caused the US economy to crap its pants, and 2008 was when it turned into explosive diarrhoea, 2009 could be the year the US shits out its intestines. The fuck-ups are snowballing and there's a long way to go yet before it hits bottom.

It was years between the dot com bubble popping and Enron pustule bursting. These days, it's difficult to walk down Wall Street without seeing the latest pin-striped giant dominoes falling. Bear Sterns, Lehmans, AIG, Fannie, Freddie, Citigroup, Chrysler, General Motors. It's keeping graphic artists busy coming up ways to get one's head around these ginormous numbers flying about. Slate has a nice onion of debt.

And that's just the federal bailout costs so far. There's the Fonzie of Ponzi Bernie Madoff, the man who jumped the $50 billion dollar shark. The story makes engrossing reading. Here's the latest in the NYT, the Financial Times has in-depth coverage, or you could try any of the 56,364 stories (and counting) on Google News. That's roughly $1 million of disappeared money per story. Madoff is now in danger of getting killed by Yiddish ninjas, as there's so many people who want to throw Star of Davids at him. I'd hate to be his food taster.

The institutional and personal losses from all this have spread well beyond US borders. While Iceland went under the waves months ago, Britain and the EU are sloping down into recessions. Russia's currency reserves are taking a hammering and is sickening quickly as the price of oil stays resolutely below what was budgeted for.

While China's growth is slowing and its manufacturing sector is facing less overseas demand, its massive foreign currency reserves leave it healthier than most. If you haven't already read it, I highly recommend this Q&A in the Atlantic with Gao Xiqing, who is responsible for managing one tenth of China's dollar holdings, some $200 billion (Hat Tip TVHE):
The simple truth today is that your economy is built on the global economy. And it’s built on the support, the gratuitous support, of a lot of countries. So why don’t you come over and … I won’t say kowtow [with a laugh], but at least, be nice to the countries that lend you money.

Talk to the Chinese! Talk to the Middle Easterners! And pull your troops back! Take the troops back, demobilize many of the troops, so that you can save some money rather than spending $2 billion every day on them. And then tell your people that you need to save, and come out with a long-term, sustainable financial policy.

It is a sign of the strange times that we live in that this IMF-like advice is being given to the US by a Chinese representative. But he's spot on. The "balance of financial terror," a variation on Mutually Assured Destruction but using financial instead of nuclear instruments, will only handle so much strain. And there will be more strain. The dramatic! sensational! new policy of Quantitative Easing, otherwise known as printing money, runs the very real risk of causing a run on the dollar. And if that happens, well, that's the intestinal enema we should all be worried about.

Cuckoo Cocoon

Spying is not all the Life of Reilly, and look what happened to him. Nor is it the pulp fiction world of James Bond, the spy who never dies, never loses a limb. Such is the disdain in which spies are held, the last capital crime in New Zealand was treason. To betray one's own people was recognised to be worse than murder, worse than rape. The sentence for treason now is life imprisonment. Double agents can thank the Declaration of Human Rights for that reprieve. So when Matt McCarten says that Gilchrist was lucky he hadn't caught him, I can see what he means.

But spies are only pawns, and the police pwned Gilchrist. They used him and he enjoyed it. After all, he was living a dream. As Neil Gaiman pointed out in A Game of You, little boys dream of their secret identites. Gilchrist had his alter-ego paid for and approved by the state. He could play the agent provocateur with impunity and immunity. Never mind that his little dream was poisoning other people's dreams, he was validated.

Then Rochelle Rees woke up and the reality became the nightmare. For in the real world of espionage, it's hard to tell the smoke from the mirrors. As Paul Buchanan notes, there may be more to this than meets the eye:
The fact that the Mr. Gilchrist did not practice electronic security in his emailed reports to his Police handlers (as easy as establishing remote accounts on large internet providers), then asked his computer technician girlfriend to fix a minor technical problem on the home computer he was using to send his reports is evidence of supreme stupidity, amateurism, or perhaps something else. It was a very convenient way of “outing” that particular individual, who then expressed remorse for his actions.
Armed with a bullshit detector and not a smoke detector though, I'm hoping it's just stupidity or complacency that blew Gilchrist's cover. Likewise, I'm hoping that Gilchrist was the only cuckoo in the village. But I'm not putting money on it. The Winstons that Howard Broad told on Monday had been disproved by Friday. If this thing isn't quarantined and exposed to light soon, we may very well have a virulent form of cuckoo flu on our hands.

Now for some Monkey Dust, dedicated to Nevil Gibson:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

In defence of Muntadar al-Zaidi

Let Muntadar al-Zaidi go. In the eyes of the billions of witnesses who saw what happened, he is innocent. It is punishment enough that government stooges beat the shit out of him while the press conference went on. But withholding habeus corpus on the guy brave enough to sum up the Bush Doctrine in two size 10 shoes and a string of curses is a gross injustice. To charge him on trumped up charges of terrorism or insulting a foreign leader is proof that the US has learned nothing.

Never mind that the insult, like the shoes, went over Bush's head. We don't need any more proof about the Bush mindset. The man is as thick as a Soviet-era condom and about as diplomatic. His own party has disavowed knowledge of him, his country hates him, world leaders snub him. So he then decides that it would be a good idea to have one final tour of his mission accomplishments. Jane Young bitingly sums up that plan.

Not that prime minister of Iraq al-Maliki can afford to snub the man who has destroyed his country. Not with the US building the biggest fuck-off Embassy, 104 acres of Freedom, on the banks of the Tigris. The Embassy will be so god-damned huge, it will be completely self-sufficient. Baghdad, Iraq could burn and nothing would change inside Baghdad, USA. Troop withdrawals notwhithstanding, the US isn't leaving Iraq any time soon. Al-Maliki's hands and tongue are tied.

So it was left to a journalist to give Bush a more appropriate send off. The man responsible for untold deaths of Iraqis and Americans flies home scot free, while the guy who threw a couple of shoes at the unimpeachable war criminal gets the Gitmo treatment.

The Iraq Ambassador to the US is already noticed growing resentment towards al-Zaidi's treatment and incarceration. And if the crashing of Boing Boing's post on the virals inspired by his actions are anything to go by, you'd be hard pressed to find an international jury to convict him. Whether you got them to swear on a bible, a Koran or a copy of the God Delusion, the people's court has spoken. Let him go.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gumboot terrorists

There are few things more awkward than trying to run in gumboots, but the police getting caught spying on protest groups is one of them. Bill Ralston's right, in that the immediate response to the decade-long spying career of Rob Gilchrist has been somewhat slack. But I think this one's a slow burner. It's not going to go away.

A line was crossed when Gilchrist informed on the Greens. It was very similar to the line crossed in the UK, with a front bench opposition MP arrested and his offices getting raided by police. Parliament is some sort of hallowed ground. The rules of police operate differently there than elsewhere. An immunity of sorts, a suspension of the usual rules applies, in a way that used to operate for churches, universities and maraes. The police, by convention or speaker's ruling, are forbidden from going on fishing trips there.

Another line was crossed when the enthusiastic Rob Gilchrist narked on anti-taser rallies. There's national security and then there's protecting your patch, and the police are now tarred with spying for their own ends. It is every citizen's right to speak out peacefully on any subject. It does not require police permission or agreement. It certainly does not include police informants actively undermining that expression just because the police may disagree with their opinion.

Yet another line was crossed when Gilchrist's police minders, one of them a Brit, didn't give him any parameters on how to mine information. It was open slather on sexual details of activists, political party correspondence, protest planning on anti-taser rallies. Any information, however dubious, is better than nothing. Such a level of intimacy, without just cause, says more about the voyeuristic proclivities of the data gatherers than anything they were hoping to "manage".

And I'm sure Nicky Hager hasn't finished with this by a long chalk. Those emails that Rochelle Rees copied and pasted will be dynamite. Operational details, lines of interest, juicy soundbites of embarrassment spread out over the silly season. And it serves them right. What use is your body armour, your semi-automatic rifles, your tasers, when faced with ridicule? The pen may be mightier than the sword but, as George Bush found out, the shoe can be mighty powerful too.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Swedish Chef Opera

Oh this is great fun. Muppets doing classical music on YouTube, including Ode to Joy with Beeker and Habenera from Carmen, with a Bork Bork bassline from the Swedish Chef:



Hat Tip Boing Boing.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Smells like unemployment

You might think spinning chicken shit into money was a laudable goal, but you'd be wrong there. Over 160 people will be losing their jobs in Morrinsville soon due to the smell of mushroom food. NZ Mushrooms, which uses the compost to grow its crop, has been ordered to close:
[Matamata-Piako Mayor Hugh] Vercoe said a composting site about a kilometre out of town was the root of the complaints, as opposed to the long-established growing operation in town. He said the composting site had been where it is for longer than some of the residents on lifestyle properties nearby.
The forced closure comes over a year since an Environment Court precedent that ruled that olfactory pollution is bad. The simpler solution by far would have been to rule against lifestyle properties being owned by townies with delicate noses instead.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Heil de Heil

It says something of the Nazi mind when Hitler gave the go-ahead to build a fascist holiday spa for the masses. Welcome to Prora, a 20,000 bed, 4.5 kilometre wall of concrete:



Here's what it looks like from space:



Truly, it is a site fit only for Scandinavian Death Metal video shoots and atomic bomb testing. Which is why it's so surprising that there are plans to re-open the Teutonic masonic to tourism. Evidently, the beach is quite nice:
"Prora has one of the most beautiful beaches on the island of Ruegen. With its fine, white sand, Prora is like a Caribbean beach," says Kerstin Kassner, a local councillor. "It isn't nice to have such a large, empty property on the beach, so we have to bring life back to this area," she adds.

Developers have a new vision. They want to build hundreds of holiday apartments, with cafes, discos, hotels, sports halls and swimming pools in order to attract thousands of visitors.

Good luck to them. Compared to the Big 3 bailout, this plan is completely rational.

Supermoon

Lunatics and Full Moon Drumming Circles will be celebrating the biggest moon since 1993 tonight. It will look 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than any time this year. Tides will be around one inch higher than normal.


Nicked from NASA.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Jitterati saves the world

Scientists have found a cheap way of making biodiesel from used coffee grounds:

[T]he scientists collected spent coffee grounds from a multinational coffeehouse chain and separated the oil. They then used an inexpensive process to convert 100 percent of the oil into biodiesel. The resulting coffee-based fuel — which actually smells like java — had a major advantage in being more stable than traditional biodiesel due to coffee's high antioxidant content, the researchers say.

Hat Tip /.

A list of lists

Wired lists 10 amazing animal videos, followed by a Readers' Choice Top 10 too. The classics are there, the lion human reunion, chickens breaking up a rabbit fight, ninja cat and Battle at Kruger. Best new discoveries were Spider Beagle and dolphin art.

Not really a list, but a damned interesting video showing how ants invented air conditioning.

Top 50 drug trips in movies.

On a similar subject, Top 6 Trippiest Simpsons on Drugs scenes. You can't get better than Lisa's freakout at the Fermentarium.

Time does a Top 10 of Everything for 2008, right down to a Top 10 of Sarah Palin spoofs.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Evil Santa

The argument over the annual evil Santa on the corner of Wellesley Victoria and Queen Streets in Auckland reminds me of the Kiwi that used to sit on the PDC building in Palmerston North. As a boy in Palmy, the rotating kiwi wasn't an advertisement for Kiwi Bacon. It was a daylighting donuting diurnal sculpture at its finest. Mind you, there wasn't much else of interest to look at in the flat bland lands of Palmy, a city too young to have a history.

While living in Auckland, I saw the Evil Santa as one big in-joke. To the kids, it is the biggest representation of a human they have ever seen (No-one builds Wicker Men any more). To the adults, well, they know better. Perhaps Mayor of Newmarket Alex Swny is right about how the offending finger could be modified. With that squint, maybe it should be changed to a rubbing of thumb against forefinger, the universal sign for cash.

Don't shoot!

There's something disconcerting about the Fire at Will Bill, but I don't think it's personal. The Fire at Mike Bill doesn't have the same ring or salience as Fire at Will. Still, it's disconcerting. But I suppose that's what you get for having a name that's also a verb and a noun.

As far as post-election labour reform goes, the Employment Relations Amendment Bill is a pretty tame beast. In my youth, there was a more wild variation on this theme. Every time there was a change of government, unions oscillated between being compulsory and voluntary. The daddy of the current amendment, the Employment Relations Act 1990, killed this argument stone dead.

The only truly strong unionists left these days are the ones representing the police (Police Association), public servants (PSA), the lawyers (Law Society) , the doctors (Medical Association) and the accountants (Institute of Chartered Accountants). What little life and legitimacy that still exists in blue collar unions largely resides with the large institutional employers; nurses & EPMU. So by targeting the small and medium enterprises, not only does National throw a bone to small and medium businesses during straightened times, it avoids mobilising legions of directly affected pissed off unionists. It's too early in the term to have rampaging mobs of placard-weilding pram-pushers on Lambton Quay.

On the subject of pram pushers, it's an interesting precedent that Tony Ryall has set on the Herceptin decision. Funding drugs from the main Health budget and not from the Pharmac one is a novel solution to the problem. I wonder if Ryall is keen to go beyond the Pharmac model for access to medicinal cannabis too.

But I digress. I don't think that the threat of marchers antagonised by the effects of the Fire at Will Bill is the reason National has put it under urgency. The Act itself won't come into effect until April 1st 2009, but the implications and certainty of its start date will give many employers food for thought over the summer barbecues. Instead of bunkering down for the hard landing, they might think twice about not hiring staff if they have little to risk.

I'm cautiously supportive of the bill for personal reasons too. As an unemployee, I might even start looking for work again. The realm of the unemployed is growing quickly, and the range of skills and experience on offer at the slave market is already flooded. It's a hirers' market for team players, upsellers, 3D CV bearers and superlative interview sitters. Alas, my list of references is shorter than a bee's toenails, my work history a Jackson Pollock. Colourful but useless. There's not much demand for an army of one.

But by guaranteeing a low risk opportunity for employers, I might just be able to swing all that. Maybe. It couldn't be worse than the patronisingly slow torture of the Workbridge or Mainstream government programmes, which have been nothing more than false hope.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Little Napoleons of Auckland

When central government gave local government the powers of "general competence" with the Local Government Act 2002, a strange control freak genie popped out of the bottle. If there's any reason why central government has never given the power of arrest to local government, this is one of them. Licensing. Buskers.

Give a local council the ability to micro-manage with clout and they'll go to it with obsessive-compulsive zeal. I had first hand experience with this under John Banks' first reign of error, when the obscene Brothels and Commercial Sex Premises Bylaw was launched. I found the Auckland City Council to be almost completely composed of sour-faced moralisers whose ancestors probably led major sorties on behalf of the Spanish Inquisition.

Paul Goldsmith is no doubt a distant relation of Ghengis Khan. Mad Mongols galloping over the Russian Steppes must have been echoing in his head when he came up with his final solution to the homelesses problem in central Auckland. To paraphrase Edward Pearce, if you were hanging from a ledge by your fingers, Paul Goldsmith would stamp on them.

As someone who has slept rough, as well as lived and worked in halfway houses and temporary accommodation ghettoes, I can speak with some understanding for the plight of vagrants. There's a certain safety to be had sleeping in the Queen St company of strangers. Goldsmith may wish the unsightly beggars to bugger off to somewhere off K Rd, where there's fewer suits to offend, at least until late one night when they can get discreetly murdered.

Punitive measures don't work on people with nothing of pecuniary value to lose. So go ahead and fine Bagman X up to $20,000 and see how far you get. Some street people cannot deal with a roof over their heads. They don't trust 'em. Forcing them inside isn't going to do any good. The best you can do is leave a door open for them and hope they come in.

I hope someone can find the money to donate Paul Goldsmith a weekend to Wellington at the Museum Hotel, where he can read the story of Robert Jones, the Man with the Bucket. Maybe get him to sit down with Blanket Man and a peace pipe. Or better yet, can someone kick this guy out at the next local body election?

Buskers, as opposed to the homeless, do not live on the street. They work there. If they haven't talent, they'll eventually see the cost benefit analysis of not returning until they do. Or, if they're desperate or crazy enough to be bad and performing, there's always the same option available as the homeless. Local businesses or passers-by could over-ride their Someone Else's Problem field and pay them to bugger off if the price is right. The everlasting lightning storm of the credit crunch will be with us for a while yet. It behooves us all to remember that there but for Fortuna, it could be you.

The Pope of Irony

While the Wall Street Journal and New York Times commemorate the 75th anniversary of the repeal of alcohol prohibition in the US, NZ's deputy police commissioner Rob Pope has opinion piece on getting tough on drug runners. With only a few hundred million dollars more in public resourcing for police, and increased data sharing between government departments and a gullible public, he can get tough on organised crime and, presumably, wipe it out.

The Independent quotes HL Mencken on prohibition: "The human suffering that it [Prohibition] entailed must have been a fair match for that of the Black Death and Thirty Years War." Over thirty years of drug prohibition here in NZ, and what have we got to show for it? Record levels of incarceration, addiction and anguish. What will you accomplish with all your strength, Mr Pope?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Hunterville Welcomes You

In previous times, NZ towns welcomed travellers with a simple sign paid and maintained by the various badges affixed around the kia ora. Lions, Jaycees, Rotary, etc. These have largely fallen by the wayside now. The more likely welcome most places now will be a Road Transport sign featuring a car accident. Welcome to Taihape! Don't die here! So, I'm trying to keep an open mind on the proposed Hook of Maui idea for the entrance to Wellington.

It's almost good. I dig what it's getting at, but I'm not convinced that it's the right place for it. There's stuff all images to go off, just the two included with the DomPost story. Curiously, I can't find a damned thing about it on the City Council's website. The only thing that pops up from Receding Waters and Hook of Maui seems to conclude that the most appropriate place for the sculture is at Red Rocks, with the laser pointing to the South Island. It could also double as a light house and an observatory for geologists to meausure in real time the distance between the two islands. However, the seals might get pissed off with the night light. Somehow, the seals' sleeping patterns would be considered more important than the humans who will have to put up with it in the harbour.

There's also the matter of scale. Motorway travellers won't be in a position to appreciate the Hookiness of the sculpture. To them, it will be a set of jaws in daytime, a Sky Tower-like light prick at night. It's hard to tell accurately from the shot, but the best sightlines to appreciate the true effect seem to be in Khandallah, waterfront offices, high rise office blocks and Oriental Bay. In short, it seems a bit like the rich putting their garden gnome on everyone's back lawn. Try to sticking that hook in Oriental Bay and see how far you get.

Arriving in Wellington is one of the best dramatic flourishes in NZ topography. Down the gullet of Ngauranga, under the railway bridge that unintentionally lowers one's expectations, a slow bend that unveils the entire harbour in all its glory. It is its own story without the embellishment of a bloody great hook along the way.

As for the Terrace Tunnel, there's less harm done there. It's watercolours on a pig's arsehole, so anything is better than nothing but concrete. But if there's going to be large-scale virtual waterworks, the Council should get more public toilets around the place. New arrivals will have an urgent urge to pee, and diurnal urinals are hard to find.

I'm looking forward to what Eye of the Fish can add to the debate!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Doctors able to prescribe handgun on prescription

If the assault rifle with the chainsaw bayonet wasn't too out there for you, how about a new determination by the US Food and Drug Administration that classifies a gun as a medical device, available on prescription?
We thought you might be interested to learn that the FDA has completed its “Device/Not a Device” determination and concluded the handgun will be listed as a Class I Medical Device, exempt from 510(k) Pre-Market Notification in accordance with 21 CFR 890.5050 “Daily Activity Assist Device.”

We have now submitted an application to the CMS contractor Noridian for a DME (Durable Medical Equipment) Coding Verification in order to be assigned an HCPCS code. Once assigned , physicians will be able to prescribe the Palm Pistol for qualified patients who may seek reimbursement through Medicare or private health insurance companies.
Hat Tip /.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Where Westies come from

A somewhat unscientific poll has been conducted on what music mothers play to babies to put them to sleep. The most popular bedtime tune is Take That's Patience. The Top Ten features other pop ballads such as GnR's Sweet Child o' Mine and Oasis' Wonderwall. Where's all the traditional lullabies? "The poll also revealed 13% of mothers thought lullabies were too old-fashioned, while one in 10 said they could not remember the words to any of them."

I'm no baby expert, but the whole point of lullabies is to lull the sprogs to sleep. Words, no matter how inspiring, don't matter to babies. Otherwise Rock a Bye Baby would have more psychologically damaging consequences. When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall? Guaranteed anxiety in youngsters. A bassline and rousing chorus might go down well with the chav Mums, but something more ambient is better for the wee blighters. If you must play pop music at them, try the range of twinkling rock and pop covers from Rockabye Baby (Hat Tip Spare Room).

Hercules Returns

For the best in-flight announcement since the Newmans "Good morning, this is your cleaner speaking" ad, have a read of Grumpy Gill.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Whistleblower Overture

While we have to wait for January 20 2009 to kick start the litany of constitutional abuses that occurred under the Bush regime in the US, the lies, deception and deceit of Helen Clark's Labour administration are starting to become apparent.

The $1 billion underfunding of ACC's budget, which officials have known about since May, somehow managed to avoid a mention in the pre-election fiscal update. John Key is launching a Ministerial Inquiry into how $1 billion managed to fall off the balance sheet. "But my top priority is to offer an assurance to those who rely on ACC that their services will be maintained, despite warnings that the Non-Earners Account will run out of money by March."

Meantime, the Chief Ombudsmen's annual report shames but does not name some sectors of the public service who have taken great liberties with Official Information Act requests:
Beverley Wakem says the Office has observed an increasing tendency by a few government departments and Ministerial offices to ignore the provisions of the Official Information Act over the timing of responses to requesters.
Here's a list of the major offenders:



Here's a list of their major mistakes (pdf). Roar Prawn supports this statement, adding:
Poor old govt prawn says he had to write an answer for a fairly innocuous OIA request. He gave a good full answer but the Ministerial co-ordinator for the Ministry changed it and edited it back. He told government prawn that there was no need to provide full answers.
This is why Labour lost the election. They had completely lost sight of who the hell they were working for. For Labour's sake, there had better be no more unexploded grenades left lying about. Otherwise next year's Question Time is going to be a minefield for them.

And it was good to see Beverley Wakem on the telly having a go at the state of the mental health services in prison. Coming so soon after the damning literacy and numeracy prisoner statistics (Hat Tip Big News), hopefully someone in the MSM can find a story in this mess.

Monday, December 01, 2008

1000 words for $15

A few years back, my best mate was made redundant from his well-paid job in London. Head office was moving to Istanbul, largely due to the competitive price of the labour market there. Telecom's call centre is now based in the Philippines. Take this trend to the nth degree, and what do you get? Maureen Dowd writes about the outsourcing of local stories in Pasadena Now to India. At US$7.50 for 1000 words, that's value for money that few NZ writers can live with.

Selling one's soul to Santa

While the Falun Gong were successfully banned from the annual Farmers Santa Parade once again, the NZ Herald has a slideshow of yesterday's Auckland parade. Witness the true meaning of Christmas: SpongeBob Squarepants, Ronald McDonald, Homer and Bart, Wall E, rugby league players, cheerleaders, Popsicles and Tyson the outreach therapy cat. For that unique blend of consumption and compassion, you can't beat the Farmers Santa Parade.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Meme Theme

Dave Gee has tagged me with that meme, and I've been trying to figure out what to write all day. Here goes:

1. In a nod to Roar Prawn's White Ribbon day story, I have had family members point loaded guns at me twice. On both occasions I was unarmed, not dangerous, under 18 years old and not "asking for it". The first time ended up with me getting shot in the leg with a slug rifle. The second time, I was almost mistaken for a burglar and had a shotgun trained on me.

2. I haven't been able to drink whisky, rum or most other coloured spirits since an unfortunate incident with a walk-in wardrobe of a liquor cabinet when I was 15.

3. Unlike Winston, I have never ridden in a helicopter. But I to used to have a Chopper bike. Neither helmets nor bike pants had been invented then. It was in the days when it was fun to have the wind in one's hair and only Bob Wigglesworth, the PE teacher, shaved his legs.

4. The first time I met Ruth Richardson was as a seventh former on detention. I hadn't done my economics homework, and Ruth was touring the schools prior to the '87 election. Deputy headmaster Errol Brookie showed her through to D1, although he waited until after they left the room to point out why him and I were exchanging funny looks.

5. A district court judge once called me a wanker. Off course, he was drunk as a lord at the time.

6. When in Oz, I stayed at a backpackers in Cairns where 90 percent of the occupants were Irish. There were so many Emerald Islanders, I picked up a lilt in my accent and ended up travelling with three wonderful girls; Emer, Bebhinn and Dierdre.

7. Osama Bin Laden personally ruined my OE. I went to Oz to seek my fortune in the F&B trade, to use that work as a springboard to travel overland around the world. I was arranging an interview for a waiter's job at Hayman Island. That's where Judge Judy, the Chili Peppers and other big tippers went for their breaks. Two days before the meeting, it was Sept 11, 2001. All the US celeb bookings cancelled. The management weren't taking on any more staff because of it. I was reduced to picking bananas for enough money to return to NZ.

Whew. OK, the rules are:

* Link to the person who tagged you. Check.
* Post the rules. Check.
* Share seven random or weird facts about yourself. Check.
* Tag 7 random people at the end of the post with their links.

So here's tagging llew at SunnyO, Blair at Mulholland Drive (just to piss you off), anyone at Pundit, as there should be more than a few anecdotes to draw on there, Homepaddock for all the linky love, anyone at Wellingtonista, Bomber or Tim at Tumeke, just so you guys can lighten up for once. Speaking of which, final tag to WhaleOil, who at least is occasionally open to new ideas. Next year, look out for the WhaleOil Full Moon Drumming Circle in East Auckland.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Safety Nazi headlines

Calls for seatbelts on tractors
Calls for helmets on skateboarders
Drinking beer can cause blindness

UPDATE: Joe Bennett is injured in the name of safety.

Talking points

Much linky love to Lyndon Hood for John Key's victory parade. Yes, it was good and funny, and you could glimpse just how much time and thought went into showing the culmination of Key's campaign season. The Winston-skin that Rodney wore was particularly good. As a novice Photoshopper, I had to admire the love and attention that went into gutting and skinning Winston, hanging him up to dry, and moulding him to fit over Rodney's crusading pate.

It's time to vote in the Wellingtonista Awards. Still waiting for the Aucklandista awards. No pressure.

Agenda dead, wtf? It had an audience, it had a format, it broke stories. Of course you kill it. So what of the dissonance in Richard Harman's support of Nat broadcasting policy? Is a Front Page phoenix to arise next year? Whatever happens, can someone PLEASE bring back the Ralston Group?

McDonalds is trying to patent sandwich making.

Still thinking hard on NZX and Tyler Cowen points on economic reform.

Current US bailout costs more than Marshall Plan, Louisiana Purchase, moonshot, S&L bailout, Korean War, New Deal, Iraq war, Vietnam war, and NASA's lifetime budget combined!

Wired has excerpts from a new book, Sex and War. If you want to know what's at stake if we mess this recovery up, have a read of the future of war.

Obama chooses War on Drugs nut as attorney general. Where's the Change?

Why does James Bond never travel to NZ? Whatever happened to Molesworth & Featherston? Is the fear of rhymes homophonophobia?

Off to blogger drinks at the Backbencher today. If you want me to stay, you can bend my ear for the price of a beer. On non-sport subjects anyway. Poverty breeds sobriety.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tapu

One morning in 1984, my stepmother woke me with the news that parliament had been dissolved. Never being a morning person even then, I wondered what it had been dissolved in and why my stepmother was so happy at the news that the place where my father worked had been liquidated. They must have used a hell of an acid bath, or maybe an American warship had lost its load in Wellington's harbour.

The grin became less malevolent as she went to say that the old man was to be in government shortly. He had lived. I found out the details in drips and drabs later that week. The only part of parliament that had been bombed the other night had been Muldoon. But it was the first of many rude awakenings as Trev ascended into the lofty heights of government and public awareness.

As a fourth former at Palmerston North Boys' High, I became reluctant spokesperson for Trev. I was confronted one morning by school mates asking whether the old man kept a shotgun under his bed. The Dominion had a story quoting from a speech he had given the previous day. From that day forth, the Chemistry teacher (Dr Furness, as I recall) referred to me as Buckshot. In order to keep ahead of the curve, I scoured newspapers and television for signs of Trev. I saw more of the old man on the TV than I ever got to see him in person.

Thankfully, media saturation wasn't at the same level as today. My stepmother was spared the level of intimacy sought by some hacks from Peter Davis. I was spared the ethically elastic angles of a papparazzi hanging out in front of the house on election night. I didn't have a Google News section in my name.

The families of MPs have enough shit to deal with as it is, without the media sticking their nose in too far. Leave them the hell alone.

Bush's last burp

I've been wondering for some time who Bush might pardon. Slate conveniently goes through the possibles. With the outgoing president being so unpopular, how much damage could pardoning the Enron executives do to his legacy?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Squaring the Pentagon

Forget Hillary, forget the $700 billion dollar bailout. Obama's next big challenge is how to reform the US defence department:
The Pentagon is used to getting what it wants, as evidenced by its recent spending spree. The "base" defense budget, which excludes the expense of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has grown 40 percent since 2001 to an estimated $518.3 billion requested for fiscal year 2009. But this doesn't tell the whole story. If you figure in other military expenditures, such as those incurred by the departments of Homeland Security, Energy, Veterans Affairs, and the numerous defense "supplemental" bills that the Bush administration has relied on to fund its foreign adventures, US defense spending stands at a staggering $863.7 billion. This exceeds the collective annual defense spending of the world's militaries combined.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What goes around

It's payback time from the world leaders at the G20. They all refuse to shake hands with George W Bush. You can almost see Merkel thinking, thanks for the backrub, moron.



Hat Tip BoingBoing.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A shot over the bow

Gudday Margaret,

Can you please remove this email address from all Act databases, email address lists and other forms of correspondence forthwith. I am sick of repeatedly receiving messages from Act, in spite of repeated attempts to unsubscribe from them. I am no longer a member of Act, and would rather seek sexual favours from alligators than support Act again. If further correspondence from the Act party continues, I may be forced to lay a complaint under the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act.

Cheers,

Will de Cleene

My god's bigger than your god

New Humanist does God Trumps. Collect the set!



Hat Tip onegoodmove

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Greater hopes, greater expectations

Here's Simon Dallow interviewing John Key, our prime minister.

Quote of the day

"In the last week, I've spoken with a gaggle of experts, some of them in finance, some in real estate and some in just plain investments. I've interviewed media magnates, both foreign and domestic, an investment banker, a manufacturer, and a former banker. This is what I have to report: Economically, we're in a recession. Psychologically, we're in a depression. The reason: None of these experts knows what to do."
From Richard Cohen at Real Clear Politics. Meantime, Stiglitz lists the Seven Deadly Deficits.

A book of holocaust poetry, complete with pictures

As I mentioned over at SunnyO a couple of weeks back, one of my favourite books when I was eight years old happened to be an illustrated book of assassinations. The other two books were the Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Life at War.



Life at War was an uncomfortable coffee table book that would make some people lose their lunch. It was a graphic account by war photographers from the Spanish Civil War through to Vietnam and the Arab - Israel conflicts. If any book made me who I am today, it is this one.

So it's great to see TimeLife collaborating with Google to have these images and more available at this photo archive (Hat Tip /.) There is one image that struck me in this harrowing book then that reverberates for me still: the young German boy outside Belsen concentration camp.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why isn't Agenda funded by NZ on Air?

I am both gobsmacked and pleased by Richard Harman's latest post on his Agenda non-RSS blog. I am gobsmacked because Agenda turns out to be funded by the Charter. "We are not eligible for NZ on Air funding because they currently do not fund Current Affairs programmes." Is this the same NZ on Air who gave one million dollars to the makers of Sensing Murder last year?

I'm pleased that the appointment of Jonathan Coleman as Broadcasting Minister has met a good reception. Harman reckons National's policy of opening the fund to all players is a good step. Now is a good time to get rid of uneccessary duplication. And woe betide any government who tries to cancel Agenda!

Eat Drink Journo Blogger



The video of Colin Espiner "eating" his blog post on the chances of a National Maori party coalition, is up here. Not sure if you eat a smoothie rather than drink it, but good on him for doing it anyway.

Monday, November 17, 2008

May you live in morally hazardous times

I am utterly fascinated by this graphic. One picture sums the entire US economy over the last ninety years:



I haven't meditated on a single image this long since I got rid of my Tarot decks. Every time I look at it, I'm drawn to the thick red line of US national debt, and compare it with the grey block that represents GDP. Both are adjusted to real 2007 dollars. Even from the thumbnail image above, three distinct phases of their relationship stands out.

Between 1920 and 1950, the relationship is fairly steady. The narrowing of the gap over the 1940s is easily dismissed as the inevitable cost of WWII added to the accounts. These were the days of the massive Marshall Plan investments in Europe and Japan, so the glitch is justified.

Between 1950 and 1980, national debt remains level at around 2 to 2.3 trillion dollars, while GDP over that period triples. These are the golden days that baby boomers constantly refer to, and rightly so. Then there's 1980 to the present, where the lines remain parallel. All GDP growth has been derived from national debt. The only time the gap widens is during the 90s and the Clinton administrations run of surpluses, but otherwise it's pretty much constant.

Then take a look at the note below the globe: "The federal government doesn't follow the same accounting practices it requires corporations and state and local governments to follow. If it did, the actual national debt would be $59.1 trillion."

That's about six times the US GDP. Now would be a good time to give Roger Douglas, Ruth Richardson and even Michael Cullen a hand for getting and keeping NZ out of a similar situation. Even with the figures haemorrhaging out of Treasury or the Reserve Bank these days, they still pale in comparison with what the US is now facing.

Consider the $700 billion bailout plan. Where has the first $350 billion gone and at what price? No one seems to know. Have the banks inserted that money into the system or are they hoarding it? Seems like the latter. Should the car makers get a hand out or should two and a half million jobs reliant on them be put on the block? Maybe the over-excited Ashton Kutcher was right on the last Real Time with Bill Maher for the year. Maybe the oil companies should bail out the car companies, not the government. Vested interest and all.

And before the Republicans get too high and mighty over this dilemma, they might want to eye up that other inefficient job factory known as the military industrial complex. Or the war in Iraq. Suffice it to say, the US is inevitably facing a massive readjustment, the likes of which will make Rogernomics look painless.

Consider the state governments, facing massive blowouts due to declining revenues from sales, income and property taxes, face some hard choices. Say what you will about Colorado's experiment with TABOR, Gordon Campbell, but at least Colorado's budget shortfall is a puny $20 per capita. It's miniscule compared with California's $711 per capita, and that was before the bushfires.

Call me a pessimist, but things is the US are facing a god-awful crunch. This crisis isn't over by a long chalk. And just because there won't be identical images of 1930s soup kitchen lines, doesn't mean that a depression might not be on its way. It would look different, as Drake Bennett at Boston.com says:

Most of us, of course, think we know what a depression looks like. Open a history book and the images will be familiar: mobs at banks and lines at soup kitchens, stockbrokers in suits selling apples on the street, families piled with all their belongings into jalopies. Families scrimp on coffee and flour and sugar, rinsing off tinfoil to reuse it and re-mending their pants and dresses. A desperate government mobilizes legions of the unemployed to build bridges and airports, to blaze trails in national forests, to put on traveling plays and paint social-realist murals.

Today, however, whatever a depression would look like, that's not it. We are separated from the 1930s by decades of profound economic, technological, and political change, and a modern landscape of scarcity would reflect that.

...[A]bove all, a depression circa 2009 might be a less visible and more isolating experience. With the diminishing price of televisions and the proliferation of channels, it's getting easier and easier to kill time alone, and free time is one thing a 21st-century depression would create in abundance. Instead of dusty farm families, the icon of a modern-day depression might be something as subtle as the flickering glow of millions of televisions glimpsed through living room windows, as the nation's unemployed sit at home filling their days with the cheapest form of distraction available.

In other words, life would be the soul-crushing isolation of the unemployed trapped at home, the supposed nirvana that some right wing blogs describe as bludging. Welcome to my world. Believe me, it's not that glamorous.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

It's got to be god for you

It was seventy years ago today that psychotropic genius Albert Hofmann first synthesised LSD. Unfortunately, trips to Freakout City are still illegal, whilst pharm companies spend more time researching how to give old men better artificial erections. Sigh. This is what happens when you leave impotent control freaks in charge of drug morality.

Invisible Ulysses

The SST gives a backgrounder to National Man of Mystery, Steven Joyce. Very interesting.

Pissed as a Garrett

Matthew Hooten can rest easy. His performance on Eye to Eye earlier this year was sane and moderate compared with the slurred rantings of new Act MP David Garrett:
"Paedophiles, like homosexuals, 30 years ago homosexuals had, according to experts, a disease and they needed to be cured and it was a spectacular failure because homosexuality is a sexual orientation, so we decided that because there were 10 per cent of people who were homosexual it was no longer a disease."
Can't wait for his maiden speech in parliament.

UPDATE: You can view the episode here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Colony Collapse at The Hive

A year ago, The Hive burst onto the net and things were never the same again. Its professional commentary added intelligence and gossip to the local circuit, and deservedly reached a wide audience. Alas, today the Hive has been abandoned. The Hive's raison d'etre has expired. Winston has wilted, the petit ancien regime has rotted away.

There is hope that some bees will rise from the comb sometime next year, once the loathed Electoral Finance Act has been democratised. Here's hoping they find new pastures to plunder soon.

Clinton for SoS?

If Obama was looking for a Madeleine Albright surrogate, he could do a hell of a lot worse than hand former primary rival, Hillary (Rodham) Clinton, the Secretary of State position. The prior frontrunner, John Kerry, seems destined to replace Biden as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
[Clinton's] confidant today suggested that the role of Secretary of State, with its clearly defined parameters, might be a "better job" than that of vice-president. Bringing Mrs Clinton inside the tent would have the added advantage of removing her from the battlefield should Mr Obama's administration, constrained by economic crisis, begin to go back on campaign promises such as introducing universal health care coverage.
While Obama's support for protecting the endangered car factories is an early mis-step, the advice he's getting on putting together his administration team is top-notch.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sermon on the bumper

Steve Bell is on the money:

Help Me, Obi Wan Sainsbury

Ripped straight from John Drinnan's Media column:

A gay old night in Gore

Eating Media Lunch host Jeremy Wells has found Gore folk have long memories, a television industry source said.

Wells was in the Southland town for One News election coverage on Saturday night and found some locals had not forgotten his last visit 10 years ago when he and Mikey Havoc lampooned it as the gay capital of New Zealand.

I hear that after the election broadcast Wells and Hugh Sundae were accosted by a group of 20-something males at a Gore petrol station, taking offence to his last visit. "They followed them to their motel and harassed them and wanted a fight, said the source.

The police were called, said the source, adding that Wells had managed to appease the Gore locals but they had been hassled around 90 minutes, during much of which Wells had been trapped in his motel room.

"He even called Mark Sainsbury saying he needed help," the TV source said.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Unorthodox solutions

BBC profiles Nir Barkat, the new secular mayor of Jerusalem. Barkat made his money in IT, and is promoting Jerusalem as an investment and tourism hub. He replaces ultra-orthodox mayor Rabbi Uri Lupolianski. Hopefully, Jerusalem can turn the fighting monks into a regular event, a bit like Pamplona's bull run.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mana Mana



Judging from the expression on Maori Party president Whatarangi Winiata's face, it looks like Key has offered them a mana-enhancing offer they couldn't refuse. The hui will have the final word, of course. But from those smiles, there's something solid to sell their constituency.

Meantime, the Greens are locked out with their high maintenance hang-ups preventing them from being anything more than a bookmark for disgruntled Labour voters. As eredwin says in the same thread, the Greens are taking a narrower definition to the consensus politics that Rod Donald saw in MMP. Instead of investigating what, if anything, was on offer from the trader and taking it back to their members, the Greens can sit in puritanical isolation.

Here's some other muppets:

Carmageddon

Boy, am I glad NZ no longer has a car industry. Oz car manufacturers getting A$3.4 billion, US car makers are asking for around US$50 billion so far with a little help from Obama. In the UK, General Motors' car assembly plant at Ellesmere Port could be driven over a cliff.

Mind you, it gets even weirder when you see companies like American Express asking for a US$3.5 billion bailout too.

Auckland to become slightly more unlivable

If there's one thing that might kill the religion of rugby, at least in Auckland, it could very well be the Rugby World Cup in 2011. Just as London is experiencing an Olympic sized migraine in light of the world financial (soon to be economic) crisis, so too with the city of sails.

John Banks is taking a chainsaw to Auckland City Council capital expenditure. Faced with breaking some election promises in order to fulfil others, Banks hopes to avoid ratepayer robbery by cutting council spending. Some chops are readily excusable. Buying new park land is a 'nice to have but not at the moment' project, and no harm it being shelved.
"I have a good grip on the money and I'm going to be careful. I know I am going to make mistakes and I know there is going to be quite a lot of disappointment about pet projects," [Mayor John Banks] said.
Pet projects to be cut include cleaning up literally shitty beaches and maintaining footpaths (does anyone walk in Auckland any more?). No mention is made on how many council gnomes are in for the chop. But the one pet project that will bankrupt the city, that big and increasingly hungry rabbit known as the Eden Park refit, is left unscathed. Nice stadium, shame about everything else.

Sure as hell, John Banks is no Key-nesian.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Goff Doctrine

A big congratulations to the new Labour opposition line-up. Well done, Phil Goff and Annette King. It was smart of the Labour caucus to choose unanimously to support Goff. It's too early to have leadership challenges manifesting themselves, so a sign of unity is a great start. In Labourthink, it was Phil's time anyway. He has patiently waited his turn, therefore it's his go. However, there are more important points to consider for the Labour left beyond seniority and obvious skill.

It had to be Phil, because any other choice would have left the possibility that Helen Clark sat in the backbenches twiddling with a Universal Remote Control and an RFID chip in, say, Cunliffe's brain. The best thing for Labour is for Helen Clark to depart with graceful yet great haste. Nice of John Key to oblige with support for an international posting for her. Real Helen can then re-emerge from behind the PR gloss that increasingly constrained her and play a mana-enhancing role for NZ overseas.

Regime change is necessary in Labour, and with Goff's political baggage, he'll need to take a more truthful stance than would be possible with Clark hanging about. Just as Clark had changed the political ball-park for the Nats, so too with Key. His style will influence the style of future government challenges. A shift to the far left would not only step on the the Greens vote, one third the strength of Labour's seats, but it would also leave Labour out of the running for at least two terms by alienating that middle electoral vote. Quite simply, Goff will have maintain the centre and reconcile his support of the Rogernomics era. Goff will have to out-Key Key with a Labour compromise.

It all reminds me of the old Khrushchev letters:

Leonid Brezhnev, upon taking office found the two letters and a note Khrushchev had attached:

"To my successor: When you find yourself in a hopeless situation which you cannot escape, open the first letter, and it will save you. Later, when you again find yourself in a hopeless situation from which you cannot escape, open the second letter."

And soon enough, Brezhnev found himself in a situation which he couldn't get himself out of, and in desperation he tore open the first letter. It said simply, "Blame it all on me." This Brezhnev did, blaming Khrushchev for the latest problems, and it worked like a miracle, saving him and extending his career. However, in due time Brezhnev found himself in another disaster from which he could not extricate himself. Without despairing he eagerly searched his office and found the second letter, which he tore open desperate for its words of salvation. It read thus:

"Sit down, and write two letters."

Ceasefire

The next person to suggest war had better have a phenomenally good reason. Here's Siegfried Sassoon:

If I were fierce, and bald, and short of breath,
I'd live with scarlet Majors at the Base,
And speed glum heroes up the line to death.
You'd see me with my puffy petulant face,
Guzzling and gulping in the best hotel,
Reading the Roll of Honour. 'Poor young chap,'
I'd say - 'I used to know his father well;
Yes, we've lost heavily in this last scrap.'
And when the war is done and youth stone dead,
I'd toddle safely home and die - in bed.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Blue Monday



Damnit. I spent all day working on this, then Rodney goes and settles for minister outside of cabinet with no Roger.

New blood

While it was sensible for Helen Clark and Michael Cullen to announce they are standing down from the Labour leadership after Saturday's election results, what's in store for the other parties? Tariana Turia and Jeanette Fitzsimons have both announced that they won't be standing next election. Pita Sharples, respected co-leader of the Maori party is a couple of years older than Tariana. Will 2008 also be his last election?

With 5 MPs in the House, will the co-leadership remain or will the Maori party choose one leader to lead them all? Since Angeline Greensill missed out winning Hauraki-Waikato, it leaves Rahui Reid Katene as the only other woman in the Maori party caucus aside from Tariana Turia. Maybe the co-leadership will disappear and Hone Harawira will emerge as the heir apparent.

As for the Greens, there will be an interesting contest between Sue Bradford and Metiria Turei for the co-leadership. My money's on Met.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Thumped

The Standard is calling it a damned close election. Let's compare Labour's previous thumpings with last night's.

1975 Rowling thumped by Muldoon. National 47.6 percent of the vote, Labour 39.6
1990 Moore thumped by Bolger. National 47.8 percent, Labour 35.1
2008 Clark thumped by Key. National 45.5, Labour 33.8

As a percentage of the vote, Labour's 2008 result was the worst in a long time. Aside from 1996, when Labour received only 28.2 percent as the vote splintered with all the newbie minor parties, it is the lowest percentage of the vote since 1928.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Hoover Manoeuvre

BBC has Obama's first press conference in full. Along with the transition government website, already there is a change in attitude towards the press. No more Gollum/Cheney secrecy. Roll on Jan 20 2009.

Vote

Vote. Where? See here.

Every which way but moose

The Hive reckons that the media were too hard on Palin, referring to that bastion early-adopter technology, CNN. These are the guys who brought you the hologram, right? Sarah Palin got what she deserved; scrutiny, followed by mutiny. Four years hence is too soon to bear the thought of Sarah's second coming.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Putting the poll in pollution

Only one more poll to go and it's the only one that counts. If only the MSM had spent as many column inches on the "battle of ideas" as they have on bloody polls, we'd all be a lot wiser. Alas, the polls are more important than the principles.

Just the other week, during Helen Clark and John Key's debate (for airtime) with John Campbell, was a great example of this. Just as either Key or Clark got in their stride, JC would interrupt to remind people to vote on TV3's poll on who was the better debater.

Outside the MSM, things have been a bit better. Alt TV has been one of the better sources of information, as opposed to the cootchy-koo spoon-fed pabulum from primetime. Rough as guts and no bloody polls. Good onya.

Soothsayer 2008

Here's my guess for tomorrow, courtesy of the Virtual Election Calculator (Click image for largification).

Down in flames

Is Winston Peters the McCain of net etiquette? Direct mail with websites made with the recipients' names in the address has sent out around the country. Not content with pissing off the Electoral Commission, the police and the SFO, Peters is so desperate for attention, he is risking the wrath of the Privacy Commissioner too.

Will Winston Peters be the first ever NZer to be sued to death?

End of an error

Is New Zealand ready a male prime minister? We haven't had one this century yet. It's been over eleven years since the last minority gender leader, and many voters have no recollection of a time before the matriarchies.

Prior to the feminist ascension, I was quite looking forward to a matriarchy for a change. While I wasn't quite expecting the historical precedents of Amazonian princesses and temple courtesans doing it for the goddess, I was hoping for at least some balance to the Muldoon-Lange-Bolger trifecta of phonies (Muldoon pretended he knew what he was doing, Lange pretended to know what he was reading, and Bolger pretended to be good at mimicking foreign accents).

Unfortunately, we didn't get a Bodiecea. We got Supernanny Shipley and Maximum Discipline Nanny Helen Clark instead. We sought warrior queens and ended up living with our Mums. So I think NZ is ready for a go with a male prime minister, if for no other reason thank to get the drunk-on-power nanny off to rehab.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Midnight Penguin

Opus has gone.

Thanks Berkeley Breathed for everything, especially this immortal quote:
"I'd be a Libertarian, if they weren't all a bunch of tax-dodging professional whiners."

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Guy Fawkes webcam

Shouldn't really be letting on, seeing how the site is overloading already, but the MetService has its weather webcam focussed for the Wellington City Council's Guy Fawkes display. Fireworks on in 15 minutes.

McCain concedes

Just watching McCain's concession speech now. He begins by paying his respects to President-elect Barack Obama. Loud boos ensue and McCain damps them down with a hand. Not a minute in, TVNZ chop back to Paul Henry. Commentary takes precedent over McCain's speech, which is cut short during an important moment. If McCain can't get those rednecks under control, it bodes ill for the future of the Republican party.

Captain's log 1519.05.11.08

Palm Beach to Miami Dade in Florida is solid Obama, outstripping McCain by 10 - 25 points. Miami Dade and Broward reporting 19 percent of the vote counted with huge leads for Obama. New Hampshire's Senatorial race has counted 20 percent, with Shaheen leading Sununu by 10 points.

CNN's Vote Prediction drumroll and graphic, as well as the pop-up box ping that goes off like Vista are both really starting to get on my tit. Almost glad to return to Brian Paul Henry in the studio.

Captain's Log 1436.05.11.08

Republican Senators falling like flies. Virginia a sea of blue.Will the Dems get to 60 percent of the board? Probably. They reckon Pennsylvania has gone for Obama, according to CNN. NY Times says 0% of the vote has been counted. Is it an exit poll, projection or actual count? Who knows, but the vibe is GOP has hit its ground zero.

Captain's Log 1331.05.11.08

McCain is showing early leads in the swing states of Florida, Virginia and Indiana. All are around 51 - 55 percent in McCain's favour, but this will swing back to Obama. Why? A closer look at Florida, for example, shows the large Democrat bases around Palm Beach have not finished counting yet. Early days still.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

President Obama

For the record, I'm calling it with over 300 Electoral College Votes to the Young American and 54 percent of the popular vote.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Suffrage and suffering

"Once is happenstance. Twice coincidence. Third time is hostile action."

It should be Obama by a landslide, but there's the very real possibility that rigged electronic voting and other forms of disenfranchising could still land the Loose Moose in the White House. Gordon Campbell's worried, and he's mentioning the half of it.

OK, so what do you want to hack, Diebold or Sequoia? How about taking people who have lost their homes off the roll? How about preventing people without photo ID from voting? Hurrah for the Dept of Homeland Security's plan for Real ID, not. Tim Robbins made an impassioned plea on Real Time with Bill Maher last week to not take this vote for granted. Vote. If you're told you can't vote and you know you're registered, vote anyway. Vote with a "provisional ballot."

Over here in NZ, our voting process is much more honest. It's transparent, like a used KFC napkin.

Boomer bashing

(Click to embiggen)

From the excellent Grant Buist

Outside the parallelogram

  • After the attempted assault on the PM yesterday, police have taken the Riccarton Mall food court floor in for questioning. Charges of being part of an organised gangway are expected to be laid later today.
  • Following a tip-off from an anonymous source, Mike Williams and a team from the Labour Parliamentary Research Unit have flown to an obscure hospital outside Rome to investigate a lead. Leaked details suggest that a baby swap occurred many years ago and the person known as "John Key" is actually the Anti-Christ.
  • Popular street mime Mr Lichen has been contacted by the Electoral Commission after a complaint that his act used words or graphics that constituted an electoral advertisement. Mr Lichen has defended himself, stating that his work is not an attack on Helen Clark and Winston Peters, but a silent re-enactment of the final scene in Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid.
  • The National Party has unveiled their Tough on Crime policy. In addition to DNA testing all arrestees, Guthrie cards of all New Zealand-born citizens will be added to the DNA database as well. Police spokespeople responded positively to the move, saying that if people have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Eco-tourism paradox

"What we once thought we had
We didn't
And what we have now
Will never be
That way again." - Nick Cave

Parts of the world are disappearing, and Fromer's has compiled them in 500 Places To See Before They Disappear. This Stuff article doesn't mention any particular NZ items on the endangered list, but Oz has 21 listings.

Cane toads can take a bit of the blame for the demise of the Daintree Rainforest and Kakadu National Park. There's the poor Tazzie Devils dying out because of some weird facial sex cancer, while Tasmanian islands get Loraxed by logging and mining.

But ecotourism is taking its toll on places such as the Great Barrier Reef and Fraser Island. Whole boatloads of concerned middle-class Greenies go out to see the Reef every day of the year. They drop shit overboard, they leak diesel exhaust all over it, hassle the local wildlife and generally act contrary to what one would expect for concerned preservationalists. On Fraser Island, 4WDs run up and down the beaches, ripping the dunes up and eroding it worse than any horse could cause.

So be a good Greenie, and don't go there if you really care. Unless you can develop some form of cure for facial sex cancer or a neutron bomb for cane toads, just stay away. Your presence there is not helpful.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Porsche trims $20bn off hedges

Porsche have made a deft move against the "locusts" of Mayfair. Porsche is set to grab up to US$20 billion off hedge funds after secretly buying up a majority of VW stock. The losses may drive some hedge fund companies into bankruptcy.

From the commentary:
"Porsche was secretly raising its stake through derivatives and options to a smidgen under 75 per cent... More than 30 per cent of the VW holding is in the form of options, or commitments to buy the shares at a later date for a particular price. As a result, Porsche is the only major holder able to satisfy the hedgies' need to close their positions. Porsche stands to make more out of a few weeks of speculating on markets than it could in years of selling cars."
Evidentially, it all seems above board and perfectly legal, although the German regulator is investigating to see if there was any evidence of insider trading. And who wants to fight on the side of a hedge fund right now? They're pond scum. If it's all legit, the move will give a nice little profit to all those German pension funds who started buying into the car company earlier in the year.

The hedgies aren't safe, and Boards of Directors all around the world are realising that they're employees just like everyone below them. Here in NZ, the recent Contact Energy AGM was our own version of out-playing the players. Welcome to a new form of economic warfare. Anarcho-capitalist shareholders.

Garbage in, garbage out

I've done the Nats, I did the Greens. Time for Labour:




Labour misleading the public, again

While Labour may have gotten away with their orange propaganda, they flew the wrong side of devious according to the Advertising Standards Authority. The Two Johns attack ad has been deemed misleading.

$150k to pimp Kissinger as Yoda

Maureen Dowd plots a brilliant, and hopefully prescient, script on Sarah Palin going AWOL:

"Does McCain know the maverick’s maverick has gone all mavericky on him?"

Friday, October 24, 2008

Vote for your imaginary president now

Got an irresistible urge to vote and can't wait til November 8? Head on over to the President of New Zealand website and VOTE NOW on who you would choose as New Zealand's first president. The vote closes on October 31st, one week from now.

The nominees, who YOU CHOOSE the order of preference of are:

James Belich
Jim Bolger
Claudia Orange
Kiri Te Kanawa
Wilson Whineray

Profiles of the candidates are available here. Get to it, people!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pope admits he is Catholic

Land Transport Minister admits bike helmets may put people off cycling.

Balancing the books

Unbelievable. A headline in today's DomPost says that the Wellington City Council is looking at ways of shaving around $50 million from their spending. This is fair enough, what with Dunedin City Council facing lending shortages, it is prudent to look at where pennies can be pinched.

The aim is to cut between 3 per cent and 5 per cent a year from council's operating expenditure. Saving $3.5 million a year over the next decade will save the council $52 million after compound interest is calculated.

Kerry Prendergast sez, "But it is not a fiddle around the edges. Staff have been told to go back and look at everything, and just because you think it is a sacred cow, it isn't."
Ms Prendergast said she "was determined to keep rates increases to the level of inflation" but did not want to see the indoor sports centre or upgrade of council flats affected. "They would both contribute to the health and wellbeing of Wellingtonians, so I would put those as a higher priority than the others."
I can understand the reluctance to cut back on the council flat upgrade, seeing as WCC funding is part of the deal to secure even greater central government funding for the project too. However, the Cobham Park project fits into the $50 million ballpark comfortably. Don't think of the park project as a sacred cow. It is a white elephant that is threatening the local environment. It needs to be put down.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ms Bob Roberts



If you haven't watched Sarah Palin's debut on Saturday Night Live yet, have a look.

Opening sketch:



Closing sketch:



Most of the actors avoid eye contact with her completely. The last time I saw friction like this was in Bob Roberts, when Tim Robbins' candidate appears in a SNL-type show called Cutting Edge.

The Independent concludes, "Though her performance will no doubt increase her skyrocketing celebrity, a cynic might venture that it has come to something when a person seeking to become vice-president of the most powerful nation on earth celebrates being an object of derision."