Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Key steals her thunder

What a humdinger. Key's State of the Nation speech shows that his skills from merchant banking may be of use in the political arena. Here's a man who knows how to do a trade-off and get on with it. If the Nats continue in this vein, they will sit like a colossus come the election. Once again, Clark has been out-manoeuvred by the Smiling Assassin.

It is evident that Key has not only forced Clark's hand into making a state of the nation speech of her own tomorrow, he has stolen much of her thunder portended by the pre-schooler vetting preambles that appeared earlier in the year. While Jordan Carter has been asking Dude, Where's My Ambulance?, he lets slip that Clark's theme tomorrow is
"It makes more sense to tackle these problems when a kid is a toddler." Clearly, the pre-schooler vetting thing will be a lynch-pin of Clark's speech. Of the two solutions, teen control or toddler dissection, Key's teen control plan is the more sellable position.

Key's speech got Goff on the defensive, who pointing out that while military-type training camps have been successful with unemployed young people, youth offenders are a different story. Annette King accuses Key of wrapping Labour policy in blue ribbon. King is right. Much of the essence of Nat policy is slowly passing through Labour's digestive and consultation tract. There is still a legislative window of ten months before the election. Key would be a moron to posit anything too novel while there is still time for Labour to snafu the policy as their own. Better to tweak stuff that should have already been done by now and save the juicy bits for when they really need it.

But the speech did what it was intended to do, get people nodding to John Key's rhythm. NZ First is neutered by the Nats because of the sensible idea to shift serious juvenile offending by 12 and 13 year-olds from the Family to the Youth Court system. The Spotlight Sentence, allowing Youth Court Judges to pursue diversion-like sentencing contracts with offenders, is also a goer. Ron Mark looked justifiably rattled on the telly, beseeching the Nats to please consult them.

Behind the criminal courts, the Family Court has the largest caseload. Better that the Youth Court, which was designed with rehabilitation foremost in its mind, deals with the nitty-gritty and leaves the Family Court to deal with the matrimonial property and custody disputes. The new policy also hints at the old Law Commission report, Delivering Justice For All: A Vision for New Zealand Courts and Tribunals, which Labour have studiously ignored.

The universal education supplement for 16 and 17 year-olds sews Tim Shadbolt's campaign for the Southern Institute of Technology into the bargain. Even the policy costing is included. At only 0.1 MS (Mallard Stadium) per year, $100 million is a not unrealistic price tag.

Doozy, dude.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Wellington Rocks

Source: TVNZ

Year of the Rat

Auckland Anniversary Day is over, New Zealand is back to work.

Colin Espiner clears his throat. Welcome back, Colin.

Nine to Noon has a long talk on tax cuts. For some reason, tax incentives for KiwiSaver are being labelled as a tax cut. How two three-letter words can be so prone to misunderstanding is beyond me. I blame the tax credit mumbo-jumbo that was the Working For Families package. Let's make this very clear. A tax cut is when you CUT TAX.

Scoop releases a Rocky Road report from The Main Report Group, makers of the TransTasman. Things discussed include the two-edged sword of the China FTA.

Oh, and Monkeys with Typewriters reckons they have proof of a link between John Key and the Illuminati. Heh, I wonder if the Nats ever plugged that hole those Brash emails leaked from.

Bullshit cure for cancer

I'm not surprised to see that particulate bovine excreta (bullshit) may innoculate against lung cancer. My Nana always said one should digest a pinch of dirt now and again. Fight global warming! Inhale moo poo and suck up that methane too!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Please Tell Me Who I Am

Fuck, that came out of nowhere. One moment you're reading about the longitudinal study in Dunedin in the Listener, next moment you're told that compulsory screening of pre-schoolers for criminal or anti-social behaviour will begin this year. Show me the child, they reckon, and I will cure him for you. In contrast, Carl Jung said "Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you."

So, what negative traits are the kiddy experts looking for?
  • Disrupts the play or activities of other children.
  • Tries to get own way by throwing tantrums, e.g. sulking, shouting, swearing or refusing to co-operate.
  • Acts violently towards others, e.g. shoves, hits, pushes other children.
Jesus, I would have been screwed. From primary school reports stating "Does not work well with others", numerous occasions standing outside the Headmaster's office, right through to my chisel-chucking incident in intermediate, it stands to reason I should be in Pare right now, statistically speaking. Yet somehow I have avoided murder, rape and pillage. What's with that?

I blame education. A lust for learning has given me a way to articulate my sentiments in a more civilised way than the inarticulate rage exhibited by beating up on women and kids. A decent education has opened up a world of literature where writers share the triumph and tragedy of the human condition, contextualising things in a bearable or enlightening manner. I blame gainful employment, which negates the need to turn to the feral subsistence of a criminal life.

I fear this whole delinquent diagnosis will turn out to be the Christchurch Civic Creche thing times 911. Not only will the witch hunts begin in earnest (Has your daddy raped you recently?), it seeks to condemn a generation of kids to the deterministic theories of a bunch of quacks. Science cannot and will not ever manage to reduce the soul to some pigeonhole schematic. Nature, nurture and time will forever entwine the lives of people into something beyond the standard deviation.

The new vetting procedure begs some intriguing questions:
"Dr John Church, said trials in Canterbury showed that courses would cost about $4000 for each child involved, and have a success rate of about 80 per cent. In contrast, leaving intervention until a child was aged 12 or 13 would raise the cost to $16,000 to $17,000 and cut the success rate to below 20 per cent.

"By the time they get to jail, the success rate is close to zero and the annual cost is well over $90,000," he said. "We have fairly comprehensive evidence that if children are very naughty, very disruptive and throw a lot of tantrums, that's a good indicator for a lot of conditions to occur - leaving school early, getting into trouble as adolescents, drug use, illegal driving, minor thefts."

Wow, statistics and cost-benefit analysis as argument. Quelle surprise! By Dr Church's admission, the $4000 course on pre-schoolers has a 20 percent failure rate. Even with New Zealand sitting with the second-highest prison population per capita (behind the Land of the Free), we have not got 20 percent of school-leavers locked up. It is disingenuous to present a policy based on the implication that if you fund this thing, we'll end up with less murderers, rapists and burglars. It won't happen. We will always have criminals. We're only human.

Diagnosis is one thing, remedial action is another. What to do with the perenially anti-social? As Russell Brown has discovered recently, best to prepare one's kin for a lifetime of parking trolleys. Welcome to our Brave New World of deterministic outcomes.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Te Papa Treaty Debate Series

The third annual Te Papa Treaty Debate series is back in late January. Thursday 31st has Professor Mason Durie and Dr Matthew Palmer, the following week is Dr Charles Royal and Joris de Bres. They tend to be more lectures than debates, but they're free either in person or on Radio NZ, who are kindly re-blagging it on the air.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Panda, the Bananas, and We the People

The Panda has returned to take another swipe at Labour's House of Bamboo, this time on the risks of ad-hoc banana republicanism. A nibble at the Privy Council thing here, a munch on the bending of conventions there, a caustic piss over MMP in the corner. All of a sudden, the MSM and the Republican Movement are taking this meander as support for becoming a republic. Strange, that.

As Mike Moore points out in this bFM interview, he believes his thoughts have been misconstrued. All he meant to point out was the importance of process on any constitutional change. The implied thrust of his opinion piece was a dig at the Clark administration, not a rallying call to ditch the Queen tomorrow. In the media scrum however, any news is good news, especially on a topic as esoteric as republicanism.

The Ozzies are forming a cross-party consensus on becoming a republic, sez Mike. Inevitably, this will spur the limited imaginations of the New Zealand populace into raising the issue here. The Panda fears that a hatchet job of republicanism will leave the country worse off than the current way of things. A process should be put in place to deal with the matter when the public get around to it, lest some populist twit buggers up the thing completely.

One can have some sympathy for this concern. Witness the outpouring of emotion from Sir Ed's passing, with suggestions of public holidays, mountains and flavours of ice cream being named in his honour. Thing is, all it takes is a simple majority in Parliament or a nod from some quango, and wha-hey, it is. No disrespect intended to Sir Ed. I met the man only once, serving him at the James Cook Hotel a while back. Sir Ed is too big for words (which is more than one could say about the tetchy Dame Kiri). But if one needed an example of the epitome of what a New Zealander could be, then you could do worse than point to Sir Ed.

DPF's post on the lack of royalty attending His Most Beloved member of the commonwealth, Knight of the Garter Sir Ed's funeral has stirred the pot somewhat. I whole-heartedly agree with DPF on this, and it's not just because we are fellow members of the Republican Movement. Listen to talkback, get some feedback.

It seems most Kiwis had a similar idea of what Sir Ed's funeral would look like in their heads, well before the inevitable came to be. He deserved the best, full honours of a state funeral, the works. This is the man on the $5 note for god sakes. It's a fair expectation for the titular head of state on the other side of the scrip should follow the script. If you want to go with convention, a head of state always goes to a state funeral.

But conventions count for naught these days. All power, no responsibility; the role of the eunuch brought to modern times. Which describes exactly the role of Governor-General these days. In the Court of the Crimson Queen, everything is red, right down to the Government House staffers.

Convention has not prevented the Foreign Minister sitting outside cabinet, in essence reporting to Helen Clark only and not the government caucus. It has not prevented the Green party getting ministerial funding without even being part of government. Convention has not stopped the election rules being rigged.

In spite of efforts to constrain the powers of government with MMP, it is obvious that unbridled power is still in effect. The Supreme Court push was the right thing done the wrong way. Lucky for us, Dame Sian has shown sufficient judicial activism to demonstrate a greater check on government than the Privy Council. The jury's still out on whether the Supreme Court will pick up the Bill of Rights ball and do something interesting.

For some, it might be the Anti-Ear Flicking Law that brought things to a head. Others might have seen a line in the sand crossed by the manner and form of how the Electoral Finance Act was enacted (They had so much potential and Labour squandered it. A bit like the economy, really). For me, it was a combination of the New Jew Smoking Laws and the Tuhoi Terrorist surveillance.

I succinctly remember watching that Monday night's news showing the dawn raid on the Abel Smith St house and feeling nervous. They were arresting people willy-nilly. I am involved in a number of causes that might be of interest to the powers that be; Republican Movement, NORML, incendiary blogging, to name a few. Although I'm armed with nothing more than 26 letters and about a dozen punctuation marks, it doesn't mean the powers that be understand that. There was a knock at my door. On TV, cops were busting windows. "That'll be the cops," I thought. I was genuinely spooked when I went to the door. Collecting for Plunket, thank Dagg. No! Go away!

It shouldn't get to this, but it has. Reading the level of state surveillance Tame Iti's Flightless Circus was put under, I have been nagged by the thought of writing to Helen Clark. In her capacity as Minister responsible for the SIS, GCSB and other matters pertaining to civil surveillance, I wanted to ask for some reassurance that my life and habits weren't being monitored like Tame Iti's was. But would the reply be worth a damn?

Throw your mind back to Mike Moore's original Guerrilla Noun Attack in the Herald, when Moore compared Clark with the Muldoon who read SIS dossiers on his opponents. Save Happy Valley was infiltrated by SOE informants. The Tuhoe terrorists had an informant in their midst. I wouldn't be surprised if even NORML has a government spy in the membership somewhere. Maybe I've been reading Gravity's Rainbow too long, but I call it justifiable paranoia. What's stopping the state surveillance octopus sticking its tentacles where they don't belong?

The proposed Organised Crime Agency is something else we never agreed to sign on to, let alone the Neo-ANZUS biometric database from the Land of the Free and Home of the Paranoid. In no time at all, New Zealand will darken under the same security blanket foisted on the UK and US citizenship. If the loss of privacy and personal details is a small price to pay to protect the UK from Islamic Daleks, that's their choice. But since Islamic Daleks do not fucking exist, I strongly resent the unjustifiable intrusions into what is none of the New Zealand government's (or some foreign government's) business.

This is all getting too intense. Time for Spike Milligan as a Pakistani Dalek:

Ah, that's better.

Moore is correct in saying that a constitution is a limit on government, not a treatise of wish-fulfillment. It is not wish-fulfilment to want to keep the right to silence, the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Yet it hasn't prevented the Criminal Proceeds Bill from wending its way through select committee, promising to not only penalise people on balance of probabilities, but make the police a fully-autonomous profit-making revenue stream. It hasn't stopped a retiring QC from describing the right to silence as outdated and should be abolished:

"I did not subscribe to the divine right of silence. Those rules were promulgated years ago in Great Britain when the public were uneducated, most of them illiterate."

These days, of course, we have no uneducated, illiterate people. Everyone is a legal expert.

So, a written constitution is the rights and responsibilities of the structure of government. The closest New Zealand has to such a thing is the Treaty of Waitangi and the Constitution Act 1986. The former was drawn up in a matter of days, a half-arsed ambiguously worded document. The latter outlines the very bare essentials of government. Elections every three years, etc. The Bill of Rights Act 1990 has so far been demonstrated as nothing more than a doormat for the government of the day to wipe its feet on.

I am a Republican because I believe that this country can do better than that. I believe that the citizens of this place shouldn't have to continually battle the state to maintain basic freedoms, freedoms that only require a simple majority in parliament to remove.

I believe in the ultimate supremacy of the people, not the allegedly greater glory of the Prime Minister. I believe in a clear enunciation of how executive government works, seeing as how MMP has smudged the margins of the Westminster system beyond recognition. Coalition-keeping has shifted the power from the caucus to the cabbalists. I believe that the role of Prime Minister needs greater checks and balances beyond the scope of the party caucus.

I believe that the state should only interfere in our personal lives if they have a list of bloody good reasons, not just paranoia, hunches, and latest research findings in the Women's Weekly. If someone ends up before the courts, justice should be swift, fair and open.

And I believe in a head of state that goes to the funeral of New Zealand's favourite son.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Bunfight over at the Fundy Post

Paul sneaks a brioche,
HORansome stands on it.
Russell compares apples,
Anon throws a snit.

Whistling tunes we piss on the goons in the jungle...
Hat Tip Brain Stab.
Now playing: Peter Gabriel - Games Without Frontiers
via FoxyTunes

Tame Iti has created High Art. Intentionally or not, his Flightless Circus has got a lot of people to start thinking about things outside their squares. The legend of the outlaw Tame Iti is assured.

Let's go back a few years, hopefully not too far back so those baby journos might remember it. It's the 1970's and the Muldoon government creates the Waitangi Tribunal. How about the '80s? Remember the '80's? The Lange Labour government backdates claims to 1840. Surely you remember the 90's, when National's Doug Graham signed the Ngai Tahu settlement.

So, here we are back in the present. What has Clark's Labour delivered? The Foreshore and Seabed Act and the Terrorism Supression balls-up. Not content with fucking up everything concerning the Electoral Finance Bill, Mark Burton did the country a great disservice by not doing anything with treaty settlements either. He broke the rhythm.

Little wonder then that the Maori Party has been as vocal as it has about the Ruatoki raids. Although some say this was a misfire, it has certainly proved the mettle in the previously below the radar eloquence of Te Ururoa Flavell. The Maori Party are not seeking the vote from the white bread not short of a crust, but the whanaus still waiting for the Crown to get its shit together so they can get on with things.

So, getting the political implications out of the way, Clark's Labour is not completely without influence in the whole scheme of things. In their small way, they provided a motive, a reason. It's not big, but it's there, in just the same way I hold Peter Dunne's veto on cannabis law reform in 2002 some small way responsible for the death of Tony Stanlake.

On the subject of doing murder, I don't think Tame had it in him. I've met a few murderers in my day:

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Uncut man covered in blood asking if your Dad the lawyer is home.
He really needs to see a lawyer right now.
Can he come in?

I see now know my short-lived career in stand-up comedy was doomed from the start. I should have stuck with the disabled jokes.

If truth be told, I think Tame Iti will even get off the Arms Act charges. Have the police got enough admissable evidence to get a conviction? Can the courts find an untainted jury? I suppose their best chance is in Auckland, where few care about anything beyond their noses. Do you really want Tame Iti sent to prison, what with the mainly Maori captive audience?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Bridgecorp Kiwisaver anyone?

What rotten luck for Michael Cullen. Kiwisaver is turning out to be more turkey than Golden Kiwi, with most default provider schemes actually losing money. And a recession is not on the way, it's just an interim stabilisation measure. Lucky that free money going down the gurgler is the government's and not ours, eh?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Help Me Obi-Wan Kenobi

Bugger me with a porridge knife, the next pop-culture tech release is upon us. Forget the iPhone and check out the mobile phone vid projector. Resolution under ideal lighting conditions of up to 60 inches. No-one will be safe from a Powerpoint presentation ever again. And buggered on how the Electoral Finance Act could scrutinise its use. Hat tip /.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I Want My MTV

Jeez, it's quiet as a mouse's fart at the moment. No news apart from loud tuis, photogenic sharks and nice pussies. It's been a while since I poked my head in the Aardvark, but just as well. Bruce Simpson has an interesting post on Recoverable Proxy voting. I was so impressed with my forum argument, I've reprinted it below:

Nice post on Recoverable Proxy, Bruce. I've been pondering a similar system for some time now, under the working title of Multiple Transferable Vote (MTV). The upshot of which is to increase participation in the democratic process by introducing a scale that doean't spook the punters.

First off, a couple of observations on your post. The main drawback of RP as I see it is in the improbability of unpopular but necessary legislation getting voted through. Imagine every confidence and supply vote determined by the whim of opinion polls and short-term appeal. You'd never get a budget passed. Can't remember who said it but "If the Chancellor of the Exchequer is popular, he is not doing his job."

Secondly, I think you over-estimate the appeal of internet and text participation in elections. I worked as a Census Collector in the last Census, the first to introduce the internet option for submitting a census form. Although I handed PINs out like to approximately half of households, fewer than 10 percent used that option, at least in my Central Wellington area.

Maybe it was just the early adopters doing it, and next time round will be greater uptake. Maybe it was the nature of the data being transmitted. Voting may not be considered as sensitive as personal information as the Census dictates. But I maintain my reservations of some techno-gimmicky tool to increase participation, at least, on national politics. There is no evidence to support increased options as a way of increasing uptake of civic duties.

Besides, the physical act of voting down at the booth is unique. In 2005, I went down to Wellington Town Hall to vote. In the booth with the form in front of me, everything came together. This was it. Hesitation with the marker in my hand. I wasn't alone. I surveyed the booths and saw others staring into space as well. The act of marking and putting it in the box is compellingly different from any text message or internet form.

If technology is to play any role in national elections, it would be in improving the speed of a result through electronic voting. No, not Diebold-style, and no hanging chads neither. I'd favour a triplicate style for transparency's sake. A provisional result gathered through electronic ballot, as well as a hard copy "receipt" which is deposited into ballot boxes (in code as well as human languages) for actual results and recounts.

Ok, enough with the drawbacks! Putting them aside, I APPROXIMATELY agree with your idea. You've got to start somewhere, and if any area of democratic participation is in serious need of overhaul, it's the local bodies. That's where MTV comes in.

Experience in Census collecting gave an interesting insight. Meshblocks; bigger than a household, smaller than a suburb. Non-gerrymander-able due to their size and Department of Statistics control over what a meshblock is. One can eliminate the selfish gene to some degree, congregating ideas on a manageable scale for common purpose (even if it is on a geopgraphic residential basis).

Recoverable Proxy on this scale might work. Say, randomly allocate a meshblock leader every year, who would be responsible for collating the various votes. Pay them an honorarium equivalent of a rates rebate for the term (Cheap!).

Such a scheme has a purpose on a practical level. For example, I live in a cul-de-sac and am pondering a letter drop to see if any other households round the dead end would be interested in seeking funding to plant fibre with a DSLAM at the end. Unfortunately, I don't know where to start. The Digital Funding has not been announced for new projects, and in the meantime I'm stuck in a chicken and egg loop.

As you can tell, the idea is still gestating. The gist of MTV is to provide a tertiary level democratic participation; Low-level transferable voting on local issues, retaining national political structures, at least for now.

BTW, you have my support for your jamming of the EFA.



Saturday, January 05, 2008

Scotch Mist

Radiohead performs all the songs from In Rainbows, most of them live.

Balls to 2-0-8

Ever hear the one about how if all the people in China jumped at the same time, the Earth would change course? Well, 2008 is a leap year. There's a perfect storm on the way.

2008 is going to be the longest ever year in politics, in part due to it being a leap year, but mainly because one can already see the thread holding the Sword of Damocles above the Labour Government has broken. It ends this year. HOW it ends will be the interesting thing.

The Ozzies not only threw John Howard out of government, but also out of his electorate. The recent US nominations shows that all the money in the world cannot buy an election, wherever it comes from. A hope for something different can. Obama's nailed it: Change.

Only a fool walks away from power, and Helen Clark is no fool. Think of the tradition of a reluctant, struggling Speaker being led to the chair. There's a lot less acting required in showing a leader being dragged reluctant and struggling from the throne. They tend to lash out a bit too.

My main concern is the very real prospect of the Greens getting wiped out completely. While the Greens should never be given anything more fuck-upable than Women's Affairs, they play an important role in the parliamentary chamber. Like Act, they have provided the ideas that Labour and the Nats have eventually adapted to. Even the stopped clock of Peter Dunne has been accurate on occasions.

Therefore, I'm utterly blown away at the rumour of a magnanimous Nandor stepping down for his co-leader. It's the right thing to do. We can only hope that Sue Kedgeley will stand aside so Russel can run in Wellington Central. The obvious ticket from there is to do a Rodney. Appeal to the electorate's tactical voting ability and make a real change. Big ask, but do-able. You can donate to the Greens' targeted fundraising for their Campaign Managers here. Go on, it won't hurt.

While the Greens, Act and even Dunne have provided the brains trust in parliament, the same cannot be said for NZ First. Thinking back to all the time Winston Peters has been in positions of power, how has this country benefitted? Supergold card? No, Winston is in power for Winston. His one skill lies in opposition, but he's not content with that any more. Winston is nobody's fool but his own.

Winston Peters is a political werewolf, and only the silver bullet of Grey Power can bring him down. They are unbelievably pissed at the EFA. No pennies for Winston this time. Peters will not regain Tauranga. New Zealand First will finally luck out, not making five percent. We will finally be rid of this beast. If we can be rid of the stoat-like Ron Mark as well, that's a bonus.

Barring inane or bizarre press statements, the Maori Party should grab all the Maori seats. Good on them too. Rodney keeps Epsom but is left dancing with himself. Peter Dunne keeps his seat, if for no other reason than Labour and National splitting the electorate vote. He ends up sitting next to Rodney in the House.

An early election would not help Labour reduce its loses, and none of the minor parties dare bring the current government down before full term. It almost killed Winston in 1999. This time around would be politically fatal to any who tried. Besides, the incumbents need time to martial their forces, time for the Free Trade Agreement with China to sink in, the Electoral Finance and Interim Meaning Acts to start paying dividends.

Labour has long ago ceased to be a team effort, and maintains its continued existence entirely due to Helen Clark's willpower. Helen Clark is not only the Labour government's best chance at remining in power, she is the ONLY chance. Changing leaders is not a goer, even if Helen Clark could gain some cold comfort in getting Phil Goff purged as quickly as possible.

The perils of jumping the gun is why the Nats are sitting comfortably on a double-digit lead in the polls at present. They're not even trying, just ticking it over. Labour is it's own worst enemy anyway, requiring little provocation to lose their rag.

If 2005 was called a two horse race between Don Brash's National and Clark's Labour, this year will be John Key's Opitmus Prime versus Clark's Decepticon fighting on the freeway. NZ First stomped. Greens wrapped around one of Labour's low-emission streetlamps. Rodney's and Dunne's lives are spared due to airbags.

It's National by a landslide. If Labour are lucky, it'll only hurt like 1990. Oh, and Obama will be President of the United States.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Obama Mana

The Iowa Democratic nomination went to Barack Obama. Bill Clinton may have played saxophone, but Obama plays better tunes with his vocal cadence. If Bill is a session musican, Barack is Miles Davis. This dude is exactly what the US needs right now; an intelligent, confident, articulate, open-minded leader. Dagg knows, someone's got to clean up the mess the chimp left behind. Wow. Like, WOW:

Graeme Edgeler gives a vivid outline of how the US Electoral system works. I thought Hunter was using hyperbole when he described the process in Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail. Omfg, what a pan-galactic clusterfuck of a democracy. Little wonder the voter turn-out rate is so appalling, nor the sheer bloody-minded complexity that maintains the duopoly of power between the elephants and the donkeys.

Fuck Huckabee, the Republicans are rightful (righteous?) toast. What Craig Ranapaia said: "As for the Republicans - Huckabee or Romney? Gee, gonnorhea or syphilis?"

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Systemic failure to uphold safeguards

Privacy International has released its "Leading surveillance societies in the EU and the World 2007" report:

New Zealand has "systemic failure to uphold safeguards". Our score was equivalent to the EU average, 2.3. This well behind Germany (2.8 and decaying) and Canada (2.9). While New Zealanders may work the same long hours as the Greeks, we don't share their effort in keeping the tentacles of state out of our affairs. They top the charts with 3.1.

New Zealand scores particularly poorly in Communication Interception. An SOE infiltrated the Save Happy Valley movement. Tame Iti's Flightless Circus was monitored in fascinating detail:
"Officers watched them shop, listened to them talk as they drove to what is alleged were guerrilla training camps, and copied their text messages as they arranged their meetings...

During their investigations, police used sophisticated mobile phone eavesdropping technology and trained covert cameras on suspects' homes, a remote bush path and at vehicle tracks and camp training grounds. They traced new suspects and gained information via computer sites, phone, bank and power records, Trade Me user profiles, passports and birth certificates, as well as from an informant."
In fairness, the Law Commission has released a report slamming the state of state search and surveillance. I've seen it but not read it. The phonebook-sized volumes are more than a little daunting. The headlines have pointed out that the current state of affairs is not good. What would be more constructive is if someone with a mind for such matters can wade through the thing in its entirety and translate it. Where are they aiming this thing?

New Zealand is some way away from the black security blankets of the US, UK and China, but we are not as free as we think. In spite of best intentions, nanny states tend to get kinky.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Reasons to be Cheerful IV

2007 was a good year for movies. Black Snake Moan and Pan's Labyrinth led the pack by some lengths, although other reviewers had their own favourites. Haven't seen The Darjeeling Limited yet... hmmm... Kiwi movies made a splash on Empire's Top 5 lists, with Eagle vs Shark in Best Laughs, and Black Sheep for Best Tagline. Kiwi humour today. Tomorrow, the WORLD!

What does 2008 have in store from the storytellers? Kate Roger says American Gangster and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street are worth a go. All good stories involve blood. If you can throw a musical into a bloodbath and get away with it, then it's worth a go. Paul Thomas Anderson shows that the Western ain't dead with There Will Be Blood. It's about oil.

Roger Donaldson returns with The Bank Job, an anti-authority movie harking back to Sleeping Dogs:

"In September 1971, thieves tunneled into the vault of a bank in London's Baker Street and looted safe deposit boxes of cash and jewelry worth over three million pounds. None of it was recovered. Nobody was ever arrested. The robbery made headlines for a few days and then disappeared - the result of a 'D' Notice, gagging the press. This film reveals what was hidden for the first time. The story involves murder, corruption and a sex scandal with links to the Royal Family - a story in which the thieves were the most innocent people involved."

2008 is brought to you by the number 2. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army. All hell breaks loose. Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. Hopefully, Doogie doesn't. Of course, one can't ignore the return of The Dark Knight. Some particularly bad timing for Helen Clark. Lots of cartoon mileage to be made here:


Yes, it's going to get very dirty. But that is another post.

Fernando Meirelles' follow-up to City of God, City of Men, is the most anticipated of the number 2s. While we're in the ethnic (non-Hollywood) section, best to keep an eye out for Mongol. In the kids' section, there's the classic Where The Wild Things Are. Directed by Spike Jonze with fantastic casting.

Back in the Hollywood category, the studios have doubled 2 and discovered Indy 4, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Rocky 6 proved not only that Sly can't count higher than one hand, Stallone's synapses have stretched his creative talents to calling Rambo 4, John Rambo. This time he's not conspiring with Taleban.

Enough dreck. The most anticipated movie of 2008 is a draw between Burn After Reading and Synecdoche, New York. Burn After Reading is a Coen Brothers spy comedy, while Synecdoche, New York is Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut.

Have a Wonderful Period

Happy New Regulated Period!