Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It's All Gone Pansy Wong

Reluctantly moving on from the car crash investigative journalism of American politics and economics, one must regard also our own domestic Jackson Pollock of an election.

I am surprised at who is and who isn't spitting chunks over Clark and Key's boycott of the parliamentary leaders debates. Key was a fool to agree to such an elitist stance, seeing as he is trying to use the underclass argument to suck up the vote. This veto on multi-party debates just showed everyone where his glass ceiling starts. Very low. Such a deal would do Helen Clark no harm. There's not much of a vote left for her to crumble. Indeed, the control and focus that only head to head debates spin on plays up to her strong confrontational style and encyclopaedic understanding of detail. There's no Rodney to distract viewers from a John Key shifty look moment, should it occur.

It is just not up to politicians to call the terms on who the public, by way of the media, should choose for them to endure. You're in politics. You whatever it takes to get out the vote for your ideas. If it means kissing babies, so be it. If it means attending local school prize-givings or street fairs, so be it. If it means appearing in a panel of 8 party leaders on TV before the election, so be it.

A politician unable to accept the media on their own terms is a very dangerous politician. It is just this variety of setting the rules that set so many alarms off about Sarah Palin, and her limited access to inquisition.

My darkest suspicions on the Act party were confirmed when their Number 5 was announced. The Sensible Sentencing Association of Consumers and Taxpayers, as it may more accurately be described now, has officially replaced NZ First as the refuge of the vicious victims. Act will never get my vote ever again.

This pains me somewhat, as Rodney knows the truth of this argument. He spoke it at TVNZ7's inaugural Kingmaker Debate, when he interpreted the capital punishment poll as an example of the frustration that voters have about crime and justice. He correctly saw this poll result as a symbolic rather than a literal cue. Alas, events (or funding issues) has seen Rodney shift his stance to something that makes me yearn for Stephen Franks to return as a moderating influence.

About now, I should be tempted by the Greens, who have a policy of restorative justice. Well, no. I'm not sure who exactly the Greens are making eye contact with at the moment. I thought dead babies from melamine milk would have them sending out a press release avalanche on food security. It's right up their NZ made alley. Yet Homepaddock and NBR have put out incisive stances more regularly.

While their billboards may be the best thing in political bread and butter, the Greens are at risk of seriously under-capitalising their potential audience. To a degree, the Greens suffer from a sort of environmental Bradley effect when it comes to polling. That is, the polls tend to show a higher score than actual election results. Yet they are skimming 5 percent on rolling polls. Clearly, they need to up their game if they don't want to be dismissed as also-rans.

Speaking of which, Winston Peters is. It's 1999 all over again, but without a seat to save him. David Lewis at the excellent Pundit site reckons otherwise. He points out John Key's wriggle room, where NZ First isn't ruled out even if Winston is. Such a deal isn't beyond the scope of my earlier prediction. I can just imagine Winston Peters retired off to an Ambassadorship, drinking Bainimarama daiquiris as Brian Donnelly's replacement in the Cook Islands. There would be a symmetry in such an outcome.


I'm hoping to write a bit more in-depth on election issues, especially if I can wrangle a seat on the Bloggermobile that Whale Oil and DPF have arranged. I'd like to go the whole tour, but a brief look at my finances may put paid to anything longer than a week of walkabouting. If anyone's keen to sponsor me as an independent on this trip, please drop a line to zippygonzales@gmail.com. All donations gratefully and transparently acknowledged. I reckon $2000 would cover all costs for the whole month.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Gucci little piggy

Thank Dagg Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt helped save some Auckland Island pigs from certain death at the hands of the increasingly oxymoronic Department of Conservation. It turns out that these pigs are the only porkers in the world who aren't infected with porcine retrovirus. Which is quite helpful when trying to develop a treatment for diabetes.

In true Tim-like fashion, Shadbolt knew that the pigs were worth saving. It's just that he didn't have a good enough reason to continue justifying the contingency fund that kept the pigs from death row. Finally, a reason has been found. 350,000 reasons a pig in fact.

I've helped feed around 80 pigs on a mate's farm outside of DanneVegas, so a big thumbs up to Tim Shadbolt who fed over 180 pigs on a regular basis. That's dedication above and beyond the call of public duty.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The League of Humans

MP3s of the New Zealand and Australia's Secular Heritage and its Future speeches, which I referred to back here, are available for download at the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists' website. I had a go at transcribing Prof Lloyd Geering's speech, but have given up after wrestling with crackly audio and proper nouns. Listen to the music, not the song.

Mad GOP III - Beyond Palindrome

Inspired by Chris Rock on Letterman, who described Alaska as Mad Max with snow.

The Beeb on Wall St

The BBC have an excellent hour of debate over the Wall St meltdown. The list of panellists is weighty indeed:

George Magnus, senior economic adviser, UBS
Ken Courtis, former vice chairman of Goldman Sachs, Asia
Terry Smith, chairman Collins Stewart investment banking group
Jim Chanos, founder and president of Kynikos Associates, a dedicated short-selling hedge fund
BBC business editor Robert Peston.

For those who prefer an unsummery summary:

A more realistic pricetag of an effective US taxpayer bailout is closer to US$3 trillion, including Fannie, Freddie, AIG, etc.

New York and London will be replaced by Hong Kong and Dubai as the banking hubs of the 21st Century.

If any readers are paid in US dollars, now would be a good time to change one's remuneration currency. The days of a hard US currency is over for the foreseeable.

There will be a return to strong and sound financial fundamentals in the banking sector, at least until next time.


John McCain is making me look predictable.

He's suspending his campaign! He's not attending the debate with Obama! He goes to Washington to dip his wick in the Wall St miasma! He rushes down to Mississippi leaving the deal in limbo land! He IS attending the debate with Obama!

You know what that means. The Palin-Biden VP debate is still go. Repeat, the Battle of the Jabberwock is go!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Parole speeches

The best of this week's valedictories? Paul Swain. See it at ClearNet's excellent unmetered video dump.

Unlimited Liability

It had to happen. The talks on saving Wall St have failed, as they must. Time summarises the 7 Big Questions left unanswered so far. Bernanke and Paulson did themselves no favours earlier in the week. The economy is in terrible danger, and please give us at least US$700 billion to do with as we see fit on one hand. On the other hand, these worthless junk assets should be taken off the books at maturity valuation and not at current prices.

Clearly, things aren't so bad that there's no room for haggling. It's not enough to ask for a bailout bigger than the accumulated lending of the IMF since 1947. For me, this gob-smacking temerity brought to mind the simplistic ignorance of Yes Minister's Sir Desmond Glazebrook. Anatole Kaletsky at Times Online is less sympathetic:
Until last week, I was in a minority of one in arguing that Mr Paulson was personally responsible for suddenly turning the painful but manageable credit crunch that had been grinding away 18 months in the background of the US economy into a global catastrophe. Mr Paulson's appearances on Capitol Hill, marked by the characteristic Bush-era combination of arrogance and incompetence, are turning my once-outlandish view into conventional wisdom: Henry Paulson is to finance what Donald Rumsfeld was to military strategy, Dick Cheney to geopolitics and Michael Chertoff to flood defence.
I don't think there's any way of avoiding what George Bush describes as a painful recession. What this bailout is supposed to be preventing is a painful depression. Bernanke and Paulson are in no position to haggle.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Counting out time

For all those investors caught in the dilemma of whether to buy gold or art, why not buy both, then give it away to a university? It only tells the time accurately every five minutes, costs around a million quid and has a face of 24-carat gold.

The Corpus clock was conceived and funded by horologist Dr John Taylor, who made his fortune developing kettle thermostats. The Chronophage or 'time-eater' is the vivid monstrous grasshopper at the top that 'eats time' to power the clock. In between correct time tolling, time is shown to be either running fast or slow.

Prof Stephen Hawking has unveiled the Corpus Clock at Cambridge University. It is a clock fit for a physicist. Watch the fascinating YouTube of it here. Hat Tip /.

Weird incentives

Lehman Brothers may have gone under, but at least the suits will still get their bonuses, totalling US$2.5 billion:
The $2.5 billion had been accrued as part of the contribution to Lehman’s group profits for the first nine months of the year. Barclays said there is no obligation to pay it out but analysts say the competitive pressure to keep key staff means he will have to.
Over at the Irish Sunday Business Post, corporate bonuses are inspected further:
Wall Street bonuses hit $23 billion in 2006. On the back of those record performances, huge bonuses were paid to top executives in the US, Britain and elsewhere. In 2006, there were 4,000 bankers in the City of London who received bonuses of over £1 million.

Martin Sullivan, the former chief executive of AIG, which received an $85 billion bailout from the American taxpayer last week, earned $40 million between 2005 and 2006. He received a severance package of $47 million and his resignation took effect from July 2008.This is despite the fact that AIG has lost over $20 billion on sub-prime writedowns after insuring over $57 billion-worth of financial instruments linked to sub-prime mortgages.
It's a funny old world.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bwa ha ha ha ha!

42! 42 regular subscribers! (Cue lightning, thunder) 64! I'm the 64th most popular politics blog in NZ, according to the diligent Tim Selwyn! (Cue lightning, thunder)

The struggle to be more interesting than popular continues...


Thoughts after attending my first barcamp? First thought, will someone please dissolve parliament? Stop all this piss poor law now. You've got your warts and all ETS. Please, no more! Unwind the atrocious Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Act. FFS, please do not enact that freaking gimp law.

On a slightly less hysterical note, it was a shock to realise how useless my questions on server space prices in New Zealand fell down. Alas, NZ is a piss in the ocean of servers. Why would anyone pay $150 a month here when they can get a better deal for a tenth of the price in Silicon Valley? What's more, local de-peering a few years ago lost whatever cost benefit bonus local servers might have had.

Way I see it, data security is a public concern. There's all sorts of aspects of privacy and other law that just stops at the border. Should you care that your bank account details are stored offshore? Do you care where Inland Revenue stores you're details? Are you OK with your passport and biometric details being stored in California, or that wonderful Server in the Sky database that NZ is contributing to? Who is responsible if a large segment of our our population is exposed to the equivalent of identity thieves and Nigerian scammers, or worse, the US Department of Homeland Security?

The Nat plan of introducing fibre to the home lends itself to bringing back peered networks. No point expanding the network traffic through the Southern Cross sphincter, which Telecom has an interest in. Re-peering and sifting broadband traffic prices between local and international bandwidth would also provide a more transparent price structure for consumers.

Re-peering would certainly be a vital bargaining chip to whatever deal has to be made with that devil. Long live the Kiwi Borg!


The last session of Software Freedom Day I attended was an interesting presentation on the One Laptop Per Child programme. From what I understood, New Zealanders will be able to take part in the Give1Get1 program later on this year.

A big thanks to Catalyst IT, Internet NZ and other sponsors for a great day, and CafeNet for the free wifi.

UPDATE: Duh. A big thumbs up to Havana too, for having a free espresso stand there.

Census mashups

I've been accidentally invited to Software Freedom Day 08 at the Wellington Town Hall. Early afternoon sessions on Copyright and the Economics of Open Source depressed the hell out of me. Fortunately, a bloke called Gordon Anderson has been demonstrating his mash-up of meshblock census data and Google Earth. This is one hell of a public policy tool. Behold some examples:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Down and out at the Taniwha Bar

This is the pub with the deerskin wallpaper. This is where the sacred and profane meet on equal terms over a beer, a wine, a spirit. There's a glossolalia of mingled conversations between the hard-luckers leaning at the bar, slurring their sorrows to strangers. Far off in the corner, beyond the pool table and cigarette machine, a smoke-fugged cabal swap secrets and mysteries.

A couple of booths away, by the open fire, I sit with pen and paper in front of me. I ponder a bit, write a paragraph or two. I stare at the mangled thoughts and semi-coherent curses before screwing up the paper and throwing it on the fire. Take a sip of wine, roll a smoke. It'll come.

Over in the bistro, a red LED number 42 squeals for attention. There's a man and a woman having a heated conversation over their spaghetti. It ends with the woman throwing her plate in his face and walking off. The man sits there, strings dripping off his nose and chin, tears and bolognaise mingling.

Jordan Luck is banging a groupie on a pinball machine while yodelling "I don't knooooooow, why does love do this to me?" Paul Ubana Jones is strumming away on stage while Anika Moa and Jacquie Brown pash against a huge carved taniwha. A twinkling from some unseen light source ricochets off the wall, hinting at delights just around the corner.

I stare back at the blank page. I stare at the pen. I stare at the ink inside, a well of wisdom in a superposition of birth and the never born. I put pen to paper once more, but only venom and violence pours out. It sizzles viciously as it dies on the fire, ticking and spitting its defiance helplessly. "Here, stop that," sez Sally the barkeep. "You'll ruin the fire." She chucks a chunk of manuka on and it crackles with exuberant aromatics.

So I fold up the paper for another day. It'll come, but not today.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Realty Check

While Bernard Hickey and Gareth Morgan concede that NZ house prices must drop about 30 percent, I still think that that's optimistic. I reckon 50 percent is more likely. As for the US market, their correction looks to be about 80 percent, if this graph is anything to go by.

Or, if you prefer, why not try the real estate roller coaster again:

Friday, September 12, 2008

About bloody time

Groundhog Day is November 8. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

9/11 Porn

If 9/11 doesn't give McCain a bounce, I'd be surprised. 9/11 is a core strategy for the Republican ticket, as demonstrated by this horrible fear and loathing porn shown at the Republican National Convention:

So today was McCain's day. It wasn't Palin's. The GOP has released the messiah, Sarah Palin, to a soft interview with ABC's Charlie Gibson. Check out the blather:

I want to see this woman on Hard Talk.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Exercise of Vital Powers

This Wednesday, the largest experiment in human history fires its first proton around the racetrack. The world will not end. They've flung protons around in particle accelerators for decades. But this squeezer is the biggest yet, a circle big enough to swallow Waiheke Island.

20 European member states, approximately 2,600 full-time employees, as well as some 7,931 scientists and engineers representing 500 universities and 80 nationalities. Built by humans who have agreed to stop killing one another for long enough, it's the pragmatic United Nations.

And when the pilot physics begin in late October, the whole world will benefit from this collaboration. One hundred years ago, Ernest Rutherford split the atom. This year, humans will split the proton. By the end of the year, we will be wiser.

Imagine if Ernest Rutherford had walked up to you and asked if you'd like to help him with his work. You wouldn't have to go anywhere, no fancy equipment or training needed or, indeed, even any of your time. Are you up for it?

Well, the geeks at CERN need your help. The data spewing out of the Large Hadron Collider is going to be something huge. Over 15 billion Gigabytes of data every year. There are 300 data centres around the world in 50 countries. The biggest of these is at CERN, a server farm of 80,000 PCs.

If you would like to be a participant in the world's largest experiment and not just an observer, get on over to LHC@Home. Download the BOINC screensaver program, which maintains all the number crunching. There's even an LHC New Zealand team already up and running. Donate your PC downtime to a greater cause.

Sunday, September 07, 2008


A short round-up of facts and comedy on Palin:

Vanity Fair covers the parallel timelines of facts and conspiracy theories on the Birth of Young Trig.

Robin Williams sums up Palin in 2 minutes on Letterman.

A fairly comprehensive list of the abyss between what Palin says as what she does.

Baby Trig makes Newsweek story. Palin promises help for special needs families in her speech, in spite of cutting SpecEd funding by 62 percent when she was Governor.

There's no sign of the Republicans letting the press actually interview Sarah Palin. According to Republican campaign strategist Rick Davis, "We’re going to do what we think is in our best interest. If that means access to the press, we’ll give it to you."

Michael Palin for President:

Hat Tip RobiNZ

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Ramsey vs Yanks

This article about Gordon Ramsey's culture shock on arriving in the USA sums up all the very worst in American diners:
“Hardly anyone drinks here,” he announces, with palpable disgust... “You’re on your second glass of wine and they’re like, ‘How long have you been an alcoholic?’ "

‘Do you want that to go?’ I say to them, ‘Sorry? I just had the Caesar salad. What the f*** do I want to take that home for?’ The salad lasts for 11, 12 minutes – you’re gonna take that slimy s*** out of your fridge 24 hours later and eat it? Bollocks!”

[D]iners who insist on customising every order (“Can I have a BLT with no bread?” he mimics)
This was a huge bugbear for me when I was a waiter. The menu is not a fucking list of suggestions. It's the menu. If it's it's not on the menu, then you can't fucking have it!

But then again, the lived-in face of Ramsey is a bit of a shock to the Botox Nation too:
“My first year here, I was staying at the Chateau Marmont and this room-service waitress turned up and she goes, ‘Oh, my God, what happened to your face?’” he recalls, shaking his head. “I said, ‘What do you mean?’ She said, ‘Did you go through a car windscreen?’ ”


There was a loud shudder this morning. I thought nothing of it until I went out to the dairy. The upstairs neighbours hadn't been moving furniture at all:

Hunter inspects the landslide

No-one hurt, one window broken. I just hope those carports stay where they are. A carport in the lounge can really ruin the feng shui.

Billboard. Response.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Perverted Friday

Not content with widespread support of sapphic embraces in Christchurch? How about some panda porn, S&M spiders, transexual fish, wanking kangaroos or homosexual necrophilia in mallard ducks? Have a look at New Scientist's overview of Animals Behaving Badly.

I'll drink to that

Congratulations to the Tuatara brewery for being awarded NZ's best brewer. Tuatara's India Pale Ale is the best beer in the world.

Puppetry of the Palin

Who is behind the puppetry of the Dick Cheney replacement? How does this matter to little old NZ? And why does Sarah Palin scare the bejesus out of me?

First things first. Sarah Palin is a puppet. Former sports newsreader, she makes Ronnie Reagan's actor skills look solid. At least old Ronnie had to his memorise lines. So Palin's speech at the Republican National Convention was just pitch perfect for the audience. Sarah Palin is good at reading with feeling.

At least with Dick Cheney, we knew where he stood. One foot in the grave, the other in oil, with his gun shooting off in his friends' faces. The president-elect for eight years, Cheney fiddled with the government while George Bush slummed out at Crawford, Texas ( W broke the record for the most days off work (879) back in March. The previous holder was Ronald Reagan). And if anyone was going to shuffle off this mortal coil sooner, it would have been Dick before Bush.

McCain will not have the same relationship with Sarah Palin. Sure, she will be in charge of government while McCain is on holiday or having chemotherapy. She's a fan of big oil, and polar bears are fair game. But one could only wish that Halliburton were in the same league as Palin's backers.

John McCain is old. Really old. The oldest presidential candidate in US history. Yes, his Mum is still alive, but I'm unconvinced that a gibbering unpredictable dementia case is a quality of life to induce confidence. These things are hereditary after all. Thank Dagg Margaret Thatcher is no longer in power.

McCain is three years shy of the Average American Male lifespan. Going on the law of averages, Sarah Palin could be President of the Free World in 2012. Not scared yet? Perhaps it is that clean sweep through DC you think she's going to do. Yet her record demonstrates that her solution to cronyism is nepotism.

And what a family. Straight out of a My Name is Earl spin-off; Alaska, the Deep South of the Far North. Unlike Earl, which stars Scientology groupies, this sitcom has much more devoted following. The Assemblies of God is an evangelical group which is founded on the Sixteen Fundamental Truths. Loving thy neighbour is not one of them. The last two "truths" are particularly worrying. They involve the Second Coming of Jesus and the Final Judgement.

This is the big problem with fundamentalists. You could take all the books from all the libraries from all of history and put them on a scale with a bible or a Koran in the balance, and a fundy will still say that their bible contains the one and only truth. In most cases, it's not even the full book, just selected verses.

Sarah Palin reckons she has a destined part to play in all this. She's too young and inexperienced to be VP nominee, after all. God must therefore favour her. Whether it's banning books, having a Downs Syndrome baby or a knocked-up teenager, Palin will bear these trifling burdens. Her self-proclaimed destiny is to hasten the apocalypse, and she has the scripture to back it up. That's the confidence you saw during her speech. She is God's Honeybunny.

I'm not having a go at Palin just because she's Republican. Although there's not a Republican president in living memory whom I've actually liked, I've had the good manners to tolerate them. Even McCain is a relatively nice bloke. It's not because Palin is a Republican woman. You only have to read of Cindy McCain's lonely and painful poor little rich girl life to have some sympathy there (I only hope that Laura Bush has sustained herself with some Ibogaine-like prescription all these years, and doesn't have to steal her meds like Cindy did).

So I'm glad that NotPC, usually one of the louder barkers for the Republican party, is posting his doubts over Palin. Good on him drawing attention to Palin's spiritual guidance and "God's will be done" mantra. If Obama's preacher was considered extreme, Pastor Ed Kalnins of the Wassila Assembly of God is just off the planet:
Pastor Kalnins has also preached that critics of President Bush will be banished to hell; questioned whether people who voted for Sen. John Kerry in 2004 would be accepted to heaven; charged that the 9/11 terrorist attacks and war in Iraq were part of a war "contending for your faith;" and said that Jesus "operated from that position of war mode."
This is serious. This is Third Temple in Jerusalem-grade serious. This is World War serious. It's so serious, I'm just glad Hunter S Thompson isn't around to witness this. Guns are for fun, not fundamentalist crusades.

Sarah Palin is on a mission from God, and we should all be fearful. The current administration has already introduced the US equivalent of Saddam's Republican National Guard in the form of Christian mercenary outfit Blackwater. This Praetorian Guard, separate from the US military, provides the fulcrum for Palin's plans.

These plans are not tempered with experience. Palin only got her passport last year, and has travelled precisely once outside the US. Most of her travel up til then had been domestic, a narrow migratory circuit between Alaska and DC for federal funding grants. If travel broadens the mind, Palin's travels could be written on one side of a Eucharist wafer.

Palin's acceptance speech dripped hatred and xenophobia unseen in US history. Palin favours the oil pipepline as it reduces the reliance on "dangerous foreign powers that do not have our interests at heart." Vicious codewords litter the speech; caliber, faith, catastrophic, bulldog and lipstick. A servant's heart. This is undiluted fear and loathing.

These plans are not tempered with knowledge. Indeed, this is seen as a very big selling point against the Obama ticket, that elitist bookworm. General ignorance of history, politics, and evolution has never been in such high demand. Why be well read when all the answers are in just one book?

So I'm crossing my fingers that Obama is made president. Or at least, if McCain is president, he suffers no Gerald Ford type stunts. That could very well prove fatal for millions.