Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mailbox etiquette

Just how does one manage the sovereignty of one's residential letterbox? What's the proper mailbox etiquette for letters, advertising and newspapers? As a former newspaper deliverer, envelope stuffer and pamphleteer, here's a rough guide of how it works in Wellington.

NO CIRCULARS / NO JUNK MAIL - Direct mail, political messages and newspapers. No boxshop/supermarket distributed advertising. Rule broken by home businesses and real estate agents.

ADDRESSED MAIL ONLY - Direct mail only. No newspapers or politics. Rule broken by real estate agents.

Frankly, I can't wait til I get all my correspondence online and can throw the bloody mailbox away. With the paper boy and milkman jobs now extinct, it's only a matter of time before it goes courier only and the postbox is rendered obsolete. It will be the only way to stop those pesky real estate agents.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Wild wild life

In light of the recent Kea kleptomania down south, now might be an opportune time to raise tourist awareness on another danger of native fauna. I'm talking, of course, about moreporks:

Hooray for Turei

Congratulations to Metiria Turei succeeding Jeanette Fitzsimons as Greens co-leader. For once the Greens chose the right Regina.

Super Gorilla finally uncloaked by budget

It's not often I bump into Landlord Jim, so seeing him at the flat the day after Bill English's first Budget was some good fortune. I harangued him on how it was in his interests to get that underfloor insulation done, seeing as how it'll only cost a third of the standard retail to do it from July 1. But get in quick, that'll be one oversubscribed scheme.

I had just got back from listening to Andrew Geddis overview the principles of electoral finance reform down at the Railway Station campus. There was a good thirty odd people in attendance, but nowhere near the level of interest that the one up at Kelburn a couple of years back returned. It was a choice presentation, MCed by a jocular Jonathan Boston.

But the big shock was overhearing something before the gig. A scythe of retirements is cutting through the politics department in Wellington. Margaret Clark, Elizabeth McLeay, Nigel Roberts, Dr Bob (Gregory) and others are leaving the game for good. Some might have returned in a part time capacity, but the paperwork was so complicated as to make the idea academic.

Yeah yeah, I know that Margaret Clark was long overdue. But Lloyd Geering is still speaking heresies and he's pushing the century. And for them all to depart at once is some sort of brains trust mass suicide for the university department. Then again, given the diminished responsibility of a politically ignorant student base represented by the deteriorating narcissism of the VUWSA body politic, add a tightening noose of budgetary constraints from Treasury, and there's little joy in remaining.

And as far as Bill English's Budget goes, it's a holding pattern. Law and Order election campaign Band Aids have been nailed down and that's it. The insulation is good, but since Labour were going to do it anyway, and it is a bit of a recession easer, fair go. But everything else is on hold while deeper plans are forward planned. The Big Switcheroo is coming, but not today.

So what's with the Vic Uni politics department? Were they ahead of the curve? Well, there's no Baby Boomer to take over the Head of Department. The succession goes directly to Gen Xer Jon Johannson. For the rest of us, we've got ten years to get our shit together:
By 2019, Generation X — that relatively small cohort born from 1965 to 1978 — will have spent nearly two decades bumping up against a gray ceiling of boomers in senior decision-making jobs. But that will end. Janet Reid, managing partner at Global Lead, a consulting firm that advises companies like PepsiCo and Procter & Gamble, says, "In 2019, Gen X will finally be in charge. And they will make some big changes."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Bob Jones Clock

Thumbs up to Sir Bob Jones for installing a public clock outside his Sybase House on Lambton Quay:

"The rationale was solely to donate an ambience feature perhaps not terribly imaginative or quirky, but still grist to the mill vis-a-vis enhancing the CBD," Jones said. The Wellington City Council will own and operate the clock, which cost about $23,000, of which $20,500 was provided by Jones.

It goes beyond ambience and well into the realm of public good.

In one's many walks around Wellington's CBD, it's been yonks since I've spotted a proper clock. There's a little one on the wall of a timepiece shop on Lambton Quay, but you've got to heading towards parliament to read it. The T&G building has a big one, but Dagg knows when the last time it told the time accurately.

The Wellington City Council and Library exteriors are bereft of temporal information. The ticker tape LEDs on the waterfront building will tell you that company X has dropped one cent, but it won't give you the time of day. Matter of fact, the only publicly available Big Clock now resides in the Botanical Gardens and that's a sundial. Lacking sun for the better part of last week, even this would have been out of order.

So it's good for Sir Bob to have a decent chronometer available for consumption in a public space. Although far from the beauty of this time teller, it's better than what's available at present, and it's not bloody digital neither.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A second opinion from a QC

There's a very interesting take on Simon Power's court reform suggestions by Robert Lithgow QC, on 9tN with Kathryn Ryan this morning. There's a good public interest angle on the role juries I hadn't been thinking about, in that citizen participation in civic process is important.

But what really donutted my deliberations was Lithgow's examination of Power's Lawyers' Rort suggestions. The minister's announcement on how lawyers are rorting the system perplexed me somewhat, as Legal Aid pays lawyers a measily $150 or so an hour. It may seem big beer for you and me, but in the usual lawyer rates it's rubbish. When the majority charge in 6 minute slices of billable time, fools, ambulance chasers and baby lawyers perform the bulk of Legal Aid cases.

However, Lithgow QC hints darkly at the role of crown prosecutors in the billables. Unlike Legal Aid, private law firms which perform prosecutorial jobs for the state pass largely below the political radar. It's these people who decide whether to bring a case to court, based on the police's evidence. Perhaps Power is preparing to yank the chain on the legal gravy train of frivolous prosecutions.

He could do worse than follow the plan laid out by the Law Commission's Delivering Justice For All script. If you're looking for a recession buster that uses a one shot wonder of cash for reform, courts is where I'd start. Split the district court into a Community, Criminal and Civil courts. Just leave the High Court alone. It doesn't need that much tinkering upsatirs.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Thursday, May 21, 2009

DNAFYI

I've finally gotten around to reading Justice Minister Simon Power's reply to my various qualms over the DNA testing regime, the use of DNA samples for familial testing in particular. In fairness to the haranguing I've had over this law, here's the one page official reply:

DNAFYI
I wouldn't use the term "happy", but my vast concerns over the portability of DNA testing is somewhat sated. There's still the possibilities of data security to furrow the brow, but Marie Schroff at the Privacy Commission is advocating strongly over this anyway and on a wider front.

Jim Bolger to become next Governor-General

John Key announced today that Jim Bolger will replace Hon Sir Anand Satyanand as Governor-General. Opponents are calling it Jobs for the Boys, whilst Key maintains Bolger's choice was not based along party lines.

"Mr Bolger has served this country for many years under a wide variety of governments," John Key said. "Helen Clark thought he had excellent governance skills, appointing him to several SOE boards including KiwiRail. Sir James will make an excellent contribution in this new role."

Leader of the Opposition, Labour leader Phil Goff, is not so sure. "This is just one more example of Jobs for the Boys," he said in a telephone interview with Radio New Zealand from a helicopter above Mt Albert." This is more rank than Spankin' Rankin's baubles of office," Goff shouted.

National candidate for Mt Albert Melissa Lee defended Bolger's appointment as well, saying that Bolger represents some of the rich diversity of New Zealand heritage. "We haven't had an old white guy as Governor-General since Keith Holyoake," she said from a safe house somewhere in the electorate.

When it was pointed out that the last old white guy head of state was Sir Michael Hardie Boys, who then prime minister Jim Bolger had suggested in 1996, Lee refused any further questions stating that talking was interfering with her campaign strategy for Mt Albert.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Polite cough from the Super Gorilla



Statistics NZ have released the latest Life Expectancy figures for March 2009. Newborn girls can expect to live an average of 82.2 years and a newborn boy 78.2 years:
These levels for 2006–08 represent longevity gains of 1.1 years for females and 1.9 years for males since 2000–02. Since 1975–77, life expectancy at birth has increased by 6.8 years for females and 9.2 years for males.
Assuming the National Super remains at 65, a newborn female can expect an average of 17.2 years on the taxpayer, while males average 13.2 years. Note: free off-peak public transport, Health dollars and other Golden Oldie giveaways not included in costings. Assume also that the average working life is around 40 years (very generous assumption), it won't take long for the affordability of the current scheme to break down.

No welfare system can afford to run a "work two thirds of your life, get one third free" scheme. The required tax take would be too horrendous to contemplate. That's the best case scenario too. Because in all probability, life expectancy will continue to rise faster than the eligibility for National Super. No government wants to bring the hammer down on this powerful and vocal voting bloc, yet something's got to give. Fun and games eh.

Simon Power and the court of public opinion

Back before I was even a glint in the old man's 7 oz glass, Trev was invited to become a judge. He turned it down on the grounds that he would have to stop going to the pub and having a yarn with his mates. You are your job. Doctors diagnose only sick people, dentists judge a person by their teeth, and Dad suffered for it enough as a lawyer. He was known as the Baddies' Buddy in the local scene. He didn't yearn for the rarefied isolation that comes with the territory being a judge of one's fellows.

That's what hunting and fishing is for. Even then, the ducks and rabbits had a reasonable shot at it. Two chances was what you had with the 12 guage, not the semi-automatic lunacy these days, that turns the sky into an AA battery-sized cloud of steel hail. Any fuck-knuckle duck hunter can kill these days, but they'll be spitting pellets at the dinner table.

Which brought up another problem for the old man with taking up a judgeship. While there are many misdemeanours that can go under the radar, poaching is not one of them. While a firm advocate of property rights in general, the old man considered himself an exceptional poacher.

All this is a very roundabout way of getting to Simon Power's kite flying on last Sunday's Q&A over court reform. Power set out a trifecta of ideas on how to right-size the justice system; abolish the right to jury trials for offenses punishable by three years or more in prison, weighting sentencing of no-show court appearances towards guilt, and reform of legal aid to stop lawyers from milking the system.

When I heard about the change to jury trial elligibility, I got a loud ping on the Law Commission's Delivering Justice For All report that has been gathering dust since 2004. The report, which I covered for NORML News, went further than Simon Power, arguing for cases below TEN years imprisonment to be heard by a judge only:
In Delivering Justice For All; A Vision for New Zealand Courts and Tribunals, recommendations are made to replace the District Court with a Community Court, Primary Criminal Court and Primary Civil Court. The Community Court will hear most, if not all, cannabis offences. Offences with sentences up to a maximum ten years imprisonment will be heard in the Community Court by a judge. There will be no option for jury trials in this court.

At first glance, this is bad news indeed. For over a century, Kiwis have been entitled to trial by jury for any offence punishable by at least three months' imprisonment. This was affirmed in the Bill of Rights Act 1990. Jury trials are essential for 'Trojan horse' jurors to express their repugnance of stupid prohibition laws by finding cannabis offenders not guilty regardless of evidence. Check out the related news blurb to see another attempt at jury-tampering. Thankfully, the Law Commission report is painted on a broader canvas.
I'm not sure whether this report was the germ for Mr Power's idea, but if so he took the edge off this report by some margin. Either way, some 1000 potential jury trials a year are facing the chop. I was a bit shocked when No Right Turn pointed out that this was 60 percent of the total jury trials to be done away with, at a miserly saving of $20 million a year.

Now any schmuck who ends up before a court will pick jury over judge any day. Better to throw yourselves at the mercy of one's peers than the peerless whim of a bewigged one. Maybe they have a golf appointment to meet, or they just don't like your shoes, but it's fair enough to seek the law of averages with the average Joes.

At least with the Law Commission report, there was some quid pro quo. To balance this change, the Commission looked at introducing a minor offence regime to take the small fry out of the court as well, while formalising the police's Diversion scheme into a more constitutionally applicable framework:

The biggest bud of hope is in Recommendation 32 of the report, which states: "The minor offence regime should be examined to be determine whether some minor offences should be reclassified as infringement notices, or removed from the statutes and regulations altogether."

Minor offences are classified as punishable by a fine of up to $500, which is the maximum fine for possession of cannabis under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

The Law Commission strongly pushes for the Police Diversion scheme to be replaced with a formal caution system. Concern is raised that the current process oversteps the police's constitutional power, empowering them to instigate both arrest and punishment proceedings. In short, that means the Legislative arm of government is buggering with the Judiciary. Workplaces are covered by a verbal and written warning process that provides intermediate stages before the big guns are brought out, but an equivalent system for minor offenders does not exist.

Either police let you off or you are charged and risk a criminal record. There is no middle ground.

A formal caution scheme would use the police's existing powers of discretion to determine whether less serious offending is really worth all the paperwork and wasted time.
Then again, this is not a million miles away from the Anti-Social Behaviour Orders I've come to oppose. If the bar is to be raised, make the threshold for crimes punishable by over one year, and decriminalise the small stuff.

For the rest, I defer to FE Smith in this Kiwiblog thread, as well as
Robert Lithgow, Queens Counsel.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A warning against Rosemary

Rosemary is a woody, perennial herb with fragrant evergreen needle-like leaves. The name derives from Latin, roughly translated as foaming sea froth. Forms range from uptight to sprawling along the ground. From above, the leaves look broad and green, but underneath appear white with dense short woolly hair.

Since it is attractive and tolerates some degree of drought, Rosemary is used for landscaping, particularly in salt-air environments. It is not fond of acid, preferring anodyne soil. Nor is it partial to waterlogging and may not respond well in frosty climates. It is easy for beginner gardeners to grow, requiring little soil preparation and will root easily from clippings.

Rosemary in culinary or therapeutic doses is generally safe; however, precaution is necessary for those displaying allergic reaction or prone to epileptic seizures. Rosemary essential oil may have epileptogenic properties, as a handful of case reports over the past century have linked its use with seizures in otherwise healthy adults or children.

Rosemary essential oil is potentially toxic if ingested. Large quantities of rosemary leaves can cause adverse reactions, such as coma, spasm, vomiting, and pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs) that can be fatal. Avoid consuming large quantities of rosemary if pregnant or breastfeeding.

And now, here's Rosemary McLeod.

Friday, May 15, 2009

You and whose army?

No Right Turn has been asking questions over the use of the Light Armoured Vehicles in the Napier Siege. While it's a common expression in NZ to "call in the army", there are very serious and explicit rules limiting the use of the armed forces in civilian situations. Search and Rescue this wasn't.

The NZ constabulary has many tools at its disposal, the Armed Offenders Squad and the Special Tactics Group among them. Calling in the army a la Sleeping Dogs requires the approval of the Prime Minister or a vote in parliament. According to the reply I/S received today, neither occured. The police under National have broken a big constitutional separation:
The Prime Minister did not provide a written authorisation under section 9 (4) of the Defence Act 1990, as he was not requested to do so by the Commissioner of Police.

Prime Ministerial approval is only required under section 9 (4) in cases where an emergency cannot be dealt with by the Police without the assistance of members of the armed forces exercising the powers that are available to constables.

The situation in Napier was dealt with by the Police and at no time were members of the Armed Forces required to exercise powers available to constables. Accordingly, there was no need for the Prime Minister to provide authority.

LAVs were called in. I doubt anyone outside the NZ Army is allowed to drive one of those things, for third party insurance reasons if nothing else. The NZ Army had set up base in Napier to oversee its deployed arsenal. I would be very interested to know what the chain of command looked like over the period, especially since the Independent Police Conduct Authority will not be investigating.

All at sea

It's Friday and bang smack in the middle of NZ Music Month. Seeing how the entire contents of the Tasman Sea seems to be falling on Wellington this morning, it seems a good time to showcase some of NZ's finest sea shanties.





Thursday, May 14, 2009

Last Exit to Mt Albert

or How to Lose a By Election in 7 Days. This must set a new record for political suicide.



If you can't read the image properly, it sez there's been 1,136 blog posts and news articles in the last week featuring the Keywords: melissa lee criminals.

4:20 News - Dakta Green Special


With all the major party fireworks going on in the Mt Albert by-election, I have overlooked the plight of Dakta Green in yesterday's 420 News edition. As ALCP's candidate for the seat, as well as knowing Dakta's reverence for the number 420 (a bit like the feeling mathematicians reserve for the set of prime numbers), Dakta Green gets his very own 420 News special.

I met Dakta Green a couple of years ago on a boat. I met him again last year, when he was touring the country on Mary Jane raising civil awareness through 42 towns in 42 days. He came across as an articulate, outspoken, dramatic, peaceful, passionate advocate for marijuana law reform. He does what I'm not brave enough to do.

The only real way to get this prohibition thing taken out of the political Too Hard basket is for civil disobedience. The scales of political economy brought to bear from enforcement costs on massed citizens, whether it's in a park, a coffee shop or a festival, neutralises most threats of force. Common practice trumps asinine law every time.

Dakta Green put that into practice, opening the Daktory out in West Auckland:




Back when the Dutch coffee shops first opened, there was no law change to support them. They just did it any way they could. And it worked. Dakta is trying to maintain a code of practice on the NZ prototype, like a real manager should:

The "Daktory" was set up in an old Auckland warehouse last November and quickly become a haunt for dope smokers and dealers. About 1500 people paid a $20 membership fee to join up. Organisers say police knew what was going on but never bothered them.

On the tour last year, Dakta organised a world record attempt at hot-boxing a bus, and turned up at John Key's Jobs Summit with a few ideas earlier this year. Jeez, what I'd give for $50 million to set up a coffee shop franchise. That would be a tourism spinner alright. Then Dakta Green turns up on the BBC radio with a very grumpy Ross Bell from the NZ Drug Foundation about a month ago. Straight after this, Dakta Green gets arrested three times in one week.

Note the police did NOT arrest everyone at the Daktory. No other arrests were made at J Day in Auckland, just Dakta. Idiot Savant at No Right Turn calls it disturbing. I'm hoping that this harassment is just one of Auckland's handful of fascist pigs doing a bit of over-enthusiastic foot stomping.

The cops have managed to avoid every other goddamned political shenanigan under the sun. Paintings, speeding tickets, overspending. And don't get me started on who almost caused a diplomatic incident in the States not so long ago. If I get so much as a whiff of political heavying on Dakta from on high, I will be most upset.

If I was a Mt Albert voter, I'd be ticking Dakta Green next month. Show that wussy muscle a thing or two. If you're a Mt Albert voter, why not back the only West Aucklander standing for the seat? Tick Dakta Green for ALCP and REALLY give the politicians a message.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

4:20 News



Time has a photo gallery of 420 Day turnouts from around the USA last month.

Time also looks at how drug decriminalisation in Portugal is working out. TVHE reviews another article on the Portuguese experiment.

Former US drug czar John Walters gets his arguments trashed on CNN by Harvard senior economics lecturer Jeffrey Miron (Hat Tip Boing Boing):


Boing Boing also points out a Zogby poll showing the majority of Americans favour legalising marijuana.

Even Karl-i-for-nyah Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to legalise it, if nothing else to help dig his state out of deficit with grass tax.

The Germans are even growing it in shopping mall basements.

And finally, Andrew Sullivan canvasses the Buds and the Bees conversations that go on between parents and their kids about smoking pot.

Picking fights with knights

I've never met Great Uncle Colin and I'm not much of a rugbyhead, but congratulations are in order to Pinetree Meads becoming a knight.



Studying this picture of the responsible good bloke and his missus, I'm bemused at the state of pint glasses in the foreground. Not long ago, BERL defined binge drinking as just over two pints of beer equivalent a day. I dare BERL's economists to go up to Sir Colin and call him a binge drinker to his face.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Stihl Life with Peckerwood

What sort of crazy messed up world is it, when hundreds of thousands of NZers can't get one damned prohibition bar lifted, but any po-faced sad sack can get some humour pulled off the media? Seriously, what is offensive about this chainsaw ad?



It's about as funny as the very similar Stella Artois ad not so long ago, reaching a Heh on the laughometer from me. But since the advertisers weren't aiming at me, being neither a chainsaw nor lager enthusiast, that's OK.

At no time did I get the urge to write to the Powers That Be and insist that the offending thing should be removed right now. No, not tomorrow, now. Nor do I expect anyone to get paid for listening to such nonsense. That's what blogs, or at a push talkback, are for. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened with the Crunchie ad, featuring 10 out of 9 dyslexics who like Crunchie Bars.

Therefore, by the powers invested in me by the start of the Wellington International Comedy Festival (proudly sponsored by Crunchie makers Cadbury not Peckerwood from Taihape), I declare open season on uptight fuck-knuckles. Grow some levity.



If there's one show I can scrounge the entry fee for, it'll be Radar's ode to the school of hard knocks, Te Radar's Eating the Dog at Bats. The first show started ten minutes ago. Runs til Saturday.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A dog called Hutch



Back in the late 70's, Dad was on the lookout for another dog. Kaiser was still a sprightly gun dog but he lacked a companion to give him a bit of competition in the pointing department. Not that his pointing was going off the boil. It was only a few years earlier that he ranked at the Australasian Gun Dog champs. But Kaiser was a German short-haired pointer played by Alec Guinness. He lacked a Han Solo.

Kaiser was so civil and gentle that he would lead visitors around the house, guiding them by gently holding their hand in his mouth. Here's the fridge, where all the food comes from. Here's the possum skin rug I like to doze on. Here's the gun cabinet. Here's the door to the outdoors. Here's the boss' waka.

Cobber didn't work out, nor did Blue. Then two choices presented themselves at once; Starsky, a chocolate Labrador, or Hutch, the golden one. Both were Alsatian/Lab crosses. After a short trial with both, Dad kept Hutch.

Kaiser and Hutch worked well together. Hutch made Kaiser a bit more persistent in difficult terrain in flushing out the prey. Hutch, being of thicker hair and 90 percent muscle, jumped into water, forests and gorse bushes with equal abandon. Kaiser usually followed these paths of destruction placidly until Hutch had lost the scent.

Then Kaiser would step on in with the fine nose work, his history of smells sifted by wind direction and terrain. Inevitably, Kaiser would steer the scare so the rabbit/duck/deer/etc was flushed out towards the killing field. Hutch found his niche in the family pecking order, a friendly family guard dog.

To prove the point, we were at a friend's place in Tauranga one summer. The dogs were outside entertaining themselves, while we were in the lounge telling stories (the family did without a TV and weren't worse off for it). Dad was in the middle of one of his anecdotes, which required one of his piercing dog whistles.

There was this god almighty crash as Hutch appeared at Dad's side. We had forgotten that the ranch slider was closed, just as Hutch had ignored the quarter inch thick plate glass as he came to Dad's siren. Once he saw it was a false alarm, Hutch unbristled, unbloodied and scratchless.

Increasingly, it became clear that Hutch might have liked hunting, but he loved Dad. At least, his loyalty knew no bounds. I discovered this one afternoon as Dad was dozing in his offices. Hutch was minding the back door step. As I walked towards the step, Hutch let out this rumble from within. Reassuring him, I stopped at tried to pat him. He was having none of it. Incisors were bared.

I retreated to our house through the gate in search of dog biscuits. They failed to deter him from his post. I even threw a couple of sausages into the deal, but Hutch ignored these in favour of throaty growls in my direction. Oh well, it can wait.

My father's law partner, Tim Loughnan, wasn't so wary. Another of Dad's dozes locked Tim out of the office with Hutch on patrol. As Tim reached for the door, Hutch lunged for his arm. One bloodied retreat and nine stitches later, it was clear Hutch had to go. He ended up down at the vets with a lethal injection.

It wasn't the first dog that had got a taste for blood. Dad's very first German short haired pointer turned out to be a sheep worrier. That career was cut short the next day as the old man slit the dog's throat. Although only 4 at the time, I remember it clearly. We had lamb that night.

Friday, May 08, 2009

A bloody fucking chance

"No man alone now has got a bloody fucking chance." - Hemingway

There are reports that the Napier siege has ended in the only way it could. Jan Molenaar has apparently shot himself. So ends the tragedy. What a clusterfuck.

It's not the cops at fault. Their response to this has been pretty damned good. The LAV was inspired, both as a defensive retrieval as well the the psychology of it. The guys driving the LAV would have been people Jan Molenaar could have related to, him being a former Territorial.

The journos covering the siege have also been pretty good. If ever there was a story fit for live crosses, it is this. But a pox on the subeditors at the Herald and Stuff. If MacDoctor can diagnose Spam Journalism, I call dibs on this strain I call Subjudging. This is where headlines completely misrepresent an otherwise balanced story.



Unable to portray as a gang member, brown or Young Feral Teen, Jan Molenaar is a "loner". Who lived with his partner. His "short fuse" resided in a calm, collected person. A neighbour referred to him in the TV3 report as an "average normal father".



Stuff has gone for the Rambo angle, from the money quote:
"The guy is a total Rambo, OK? I've never met another person that's fitter than him. He's a very good marksman, he's just the wrong person. Wrong person, wrong place, wrong time, the police should have f...ing known. That's their business."...
That's from Molenaar's friend and business partner Arthur Hyde. This was Rambo the peaceful honourable one from First Blood, who gets pushed once too far by the cops, not the one shooting down helicopters from all the other movies.

It's bloody awful that Senior Constable Len Snee is dead. Family man, friend and good keen rugby player to those who knew him. Much like Jan Molenaar. Both were in their early fifties, both took good care of themselves and the ones they cared for.

These points had better not get lost in the media trying to force a good guy/bad guy narrative on this. It doesn't fit that mould. Give this "Man Alone" a bloody fucking chance.

The most expensive plants in NZ

No-one in the MSM is asking, so I will; how many cannabis plants did the cops find in Jan Molenaar's house when they broke in? How much would they be worth on the market? How much harm was prevented by their interception, BERL?

The War on Drugs is Civil War.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

It pays to be slightly mental

Tony Hancock comes off stage with the audience's cheers and laughter ringing in his ears. It's his best night ever. He goes to the dressing room, sits down with his head in his hands, despondent. His agent says, "Tony, why are you so upset? The audience loved it!" Hancock replies, "I know. How can I top that?"

The Independent looks at the link between madness and inspiration:
Mental illnesses have been around for thousands of years. Evolutionary theory suggests that in order for them to be still here, there must be some kind of survival advantage to them.

Silver bullet ricochets



Michael Laws should not be allowed on TV. I'll tell you where you can stick your silver bullet, Mayor of Where. One more dead cop in a gang shoot out today. Whether this gang drugs bust was supposed to be a PR sting to show the Gang Insignia Bill in good stead (or not), it's all gone wrong in Napier. The Mexican stand-off continues.

Two dead cops in the War on Drugs in 12 months. If you include the cop that dropped out of the sky whilst searching for cannabis crops, that's three dead cops in five years. FFS, please look at repealing prohibition. It will all end in tears otherwise.

UPDATE: Police Minister Judith Collins is "extremely shocked and concerned." But not surprised.

Around the blogs

Homepaddock goes to town on busybody townies lording it over the farmers.

Gordon Campbell considers Labour's reshuffle, with a telling point on the Local Government spot.

Matt Nolan, wearing his green chequered Infometrics hat, inspects the opportunity costs of productivity over at RatesBlog. The trade-off between fairness and simplicity continues.

Eric Crampton continues gnawing at BERL's booze report. Here's a taste:
So [the definition of] hazardous drinking is 1.41 ounces of alcohol per day, which is about 35 ounces of normal beer. So two pints of regular beer, 32 ounces, puts you just below the limit for "hazardous drinking".
To paraphrase Bill Maher, what BERL calls hazardous drinking, Russians call "drinking."

I've really enjoyed Bryce Edwards' history of the Act party over at his liberation blog. Maybe I was too close to the action to see it at the time, but Bryce makes sense of it all. He's about to launch into a history of the Labour party. Can't wait.

We're gonna need a bigger boot camp

Last night Rodney Hide, John Boscowen and David Garrett sowed salt into any chances of me voting Act ever again. Maybe Boscowen's trying to suck up to this Mt Albert voter, pharmacist David Baird:
"They are very difficult people to deal with. They don't spend any money. I don't see that they bring any money into the country. Another problem is their English is very bad."
Baird could be describing any number of Scots. Some of those tight arses need subtitles, and their purses could do with some CRC on the hinges.

But gang patches will be the least of the foaming lynch mob's problems soon. Everyone's putting the boot into National's boot camp. Household Labour Force Survey information, due to be realeased today, foreshadows a youth unemployment rate we haven't seen for some time. Numbers like one in five teenagers unemployed and bored. Fence that.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Casino Capitale

Sky City's keen on a casino in Wellington. So am I. If it's good enough for Hamilton, it's good enough for Welly. However, I am not keen on Sky City having a bar of it.

Back in the 90s, Casinos Austria sank something like $10 million into a Wellington casino proposal. Possible sites included the old Odlins building on the waterfront (a shattered shell of a building at the time) and the Old BNZ Centre on Lambton and Willis. Then Ginger Wine enthusiast Phillida Bunkle comes along and blanket banned the whole thing.

If any casino was to open in Wellington, it would only be polite to give Casinos Austria first dibs. It would also be good to have some competition in NZ apart from the near monopolistic Sky City chain. The cultural and diplomatic centre of NZ would not welcome the glitzy barn of excess that Sky City inherited from Harrahs. Something upmarket, styley and discreet is what we're looking for. Like the place in that Clive Owen movie.

So that means a severe curb on pokie machines. I can't recall what the current ratio of table games to pokie machines is in the Gambling Act, but it's a generous allocation. Screw that down tight for Wellington. No more than 2 pokies for every table game. The focus is on human interaction. Roulette, Baccarat, Blackjack, etc. Many pubs already offer Texas Hold 'Em nights. Consider this an extension on that theme.

Such a venue would also provide a respite for older drinkers, seeing as a gambling licence is the only way to discriminate against teenagers with its rigorously enforced R20 status. Between that and a dress code, such a casino could well add to the variety of entertainments available in Wellington.

UPDATE: The perfect venue, Remiro Bresolin's old Il Casino!

You ain't heard nothing yet

Trent Reznor is not happy with Apple. The company banned his iPhone app because of the faint possibility of a swear word being heard once. TRez sez:
“You can buy ‘The Downward Fucking Spiral’ on iTunes,” he continued, “but you can’t allow an iPhone app that may have a song with a bad word somewhere in it … Hey Apple, I just got some spam about fucking hot Asian teens through your e-mail program. I just saw two guys having explicit anal sex right there in Safari! On my iPhone! Come on Apple, think your policies through and for fuck’s sake get your app approval scenario together.”

Monday, May 04, 2009

Supreme Court Idol

If you think choosing by-election candidates is tricky, consider the minefield Obama faces in replacing outgoing Supreme Court Justice David Souter. Regime change at the White House is onerous enough as it is. Every favour has to be remembered and rewarded, applicants and supplicants line up for positions as the ancien regime is removed and replaced. Tax returns and titty bars have come back to haunt prospective placements in the new administration.

Hell, it makes the Beehive's hiring of purchase agents look spectacularly uncontroversial by any measure. But these administrative positions are transitory. Eight years maximum, then you're out. The Supreme Court is for life. Or as long as it is wanted. Consider it like a royal perogative with a non-fatal exit strategy, bounded by the sum of historical charters with which one gets to write in the margins.

So, who are the prospects? Obama sez he's looking for empathy with people's hopes and struggles. Fair enough, Democrat presidents have always gone for diversity compared with the GOP's old white man syndrome. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wants to look beyond the current judiciary for real life experience.

Not that there's a dearth of talent in the Court of Appeal Circuit. Judge Sonia Sotomayor ticks a lot of boxes:
Of Puerto Rican descent, Sotomayor grew up in a housing project in the South Bronx, just a short walk from Yankee Stadium. She was diagnosed with diabetes at age 8. Her father, a tool-and-die worker with a third-grade education, died the following year. Her mother, a nurse, raised Sotomayor and her younger brother, who is now a doctor, on a modest salary.
On face value, that's great. The problem arises from the Catholic upbringing that goes with the Hispanic territory. Sotomayor attended Cardinal Spellman High School, which was equipped with segregated teaching and a full set of priests and nuns. Thing is, the Supreme Court does not need yet another Catholic. One more would present a two thirds majority.

Charlie Savage in the NYT mentions Judge Kim Wardlaw. The notable judgements listed on Wikipedia give a generally liberal flavour. For example, here's Roe v. City of San Diego:
In dissent, Wardlaw wrote that a police officer selling videos depicting himself engaged in sexually explicit conduct is not a constitutionally protected activity of public concern, and was properly grounds for termination. The Supreme Court agreed with Wardlaw, and reversed the Ninth Circuit majority in a per curiam decision without hearing argument.
On the other hand, there's one little hiccup, Card v. City of Everett from last year:
Wardlaw, writing for the court, held that a monument displaying the Ten Commandments on city land did not constitute city's establishment of religion in violation of First Amendment.
Too much God in this one too?

Another frontrunner is Diane Wood, who sits in the Seventh Circuit, Obama's home turf. Wood was raised as a temporary replacement for the Supreme Court after Ginberg announced she had pancreatic cancer. The Chicago Sun Times mentions a some of Wood's activism:

Wood clerked for Blackmun after he authored the 1973 Roe v. Wade case mandating that abortion be legal. She has cited that case in three opinions taking the pro-abortion-rights side of cases that came before the 7th Circuit:

• She wrote in dissent against bans on "partial-birth abortion" in Illinois and Wisconsin. The Supreme Court OK'd such bans in 2007.

• She ruled that Planned Parenthood could use the "RICO" anti-mob law to sue anti-abortion protesters -- a ruling ultimately reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

• She wrote in dissent that an Indiana law requiring in-person counseling before a woman could seek an abortion should be blocked.

If they're looking outside the judiciary, Stanford professor Kathleen Sullivan is another contender. Janet Napolitano is cosmopolitan enough, being of Italian Methodist extraction. Big enough cajones to hassle right wing extremists in her position as Secretary for Homeland Security too.

Here's Wikipedia's list of these and other contenders. Rule out the blokes. Apart from Ginsburg going, there's a woeful lack of women on the bench. The next two appointments are almost guaranteed to be women. From my position of ignorance, I'd say Diane Wood's the one. Kathleen Sullivan might get the next nomination when the time arises.

Renoir for the plebs

The season of Monet & the Impressionists is winding up its run at Te Papa. Before it goes, Wellington City residents too poor to score the entry fee get in for free this Thursday 7th May. Little small print:
To gain free entry, Wellington City residents must present proof of their residential or ratepayer status, such as their library card or a rates invoice showing their address. This offer does not apply to people who live outside of Wellington city.

This is a low

For most of last year, TradeMe's job listings hovered around the 10-12,000 mark nationally. Listings never recovered from the holiday break this year, parking at around 5500. Today it's 5202. How long before it drops below 5000?

Dislabelled

A couple of the lady bloggers have been discussing the subject of disability. Homepaddock commemorates Dan whilst calling for the destigmatisation of people with disabilities. Meantime, Lindsay Mitchell complains of the excessive fawning over the "disability-isation of people". In reply to both, here's the gist of a conversation between an employment consultant and me from a few years back:

Employment Consultant: How deaf are you?
Me: My right ear only picks up Drum & Bass and my left ear can't hear anything over middle frequencies.
EC: Any other prevailing conditions?
Me: Well, it's not officially diagnosed, but I'm also a bit Aspie.
EC: You don't act Aspie to me. Best not to mention that. One disability is hard enough to swing with employers. Two makes it practically impossible to get a job.

Friday, May 01, 2009

As above, so below

Gordon Brown is facing mutiny in the senior ranks. Not surprising, seeing as how livid Tony Blair was with the budget, mainly the tax increase on the wealthy. Just where Labour expects to get campaign funds from is anyone's guess. Short of a Britobama, Labour faces faction infighting and electoral suicide in 2010. David Blunkett is trying to restore calm:
"We cannot afford civil war," he told The Independent. "Both those on the old Left and some of my old colleagues who are described as Blairites, must not look backwards. Those are in the past and we must make our own way. After the last couple of weeks, we need to regroup and have a vision. We cannot afford to wait until after the summer elections. The public are still not convinced by the Tories."
It's brown trousers time for the Gordfather.

Although Helen Clark mined the Third Way media mantra from Blair, Clark remained a steadfast Social small d democrat at heart. But only a fool walks away from power, and neither Blair nor Clark are fools. Blair's footprints are all over the Labour Brits, just as Clark's keystrokes continue to fiddle with Labour NZ here.

Blair the pragmatist knows there'll be no pennies from the trenches in an economy as bad as Britain's. Only the wealthy have the funds to spare, but their purses are firmly squeezed enough from the financial collapses without doling out some dosh to a bunch of income strippers in Westminster. They can't sell peerages like last time. That scam's been done in.

Clark the pragmatist made clear what direction she intends Labour to follow, and she's learning from Britain's harsh lessons. If Labour had got in last year, I can guarantee you the budget would not only have cancelled future tax cuts. There would have been another top tax bracket added, with a rise in GST as a possible side order.

Unlike Brit Labour, Clark was not looking for private funders for Labour. She burnt off future donors with the Owen Glenn crucifixion. Whipping the well-off wouldn't hurt the vote she would have been aiming at. The money can come from the unions.

The party list had embedded Clark's Wish List of future leaders and favourites, an albatross which caused all sorts of strife for a certain by-election. Clark's quickie resignation on election night knee-capped Goff from the get-go. By installing an outward bound Annette King as deputy, Labour all but stamped a Best Before date on Goff's centre-left leadership.

2011 will be unto Labour what 2002 was unto National unless something happens soon. Inventory2 at Keeping Stock makes an interesting observation on who has been sizing up the Leader of the Opposition's seat:
After Phil Goff led off Labour's contribution to the debate, he left the House, followed by many of his caucus. A few remained, mainly those who were speaking in the debate. But Goff's seat did not remain vacant for long.

Yes indeed dear readers, Shane Jones delivered HIS speech in the General Debate (Labour's second speech) from the Leader of the Opposition's seat. And we have to say; he looked very pleased with himself.
So which is it? A Goff cough in 2011 or a genuine reboot in time for a fight? Shane Jones makes a credible alternative, and he's dry enough for the crucial middle vote. H1 and H2 aren't getting any younger either.

April meta-analysis


Top ten posts in the last 30 days, according to Feedburner:

1. Microdemocracies of bacteria
2. Law Commission favours Black Market alcohol model
3. BERL releases more meaningless statistics
4. 4:20 News
5. Marilyn Chambers is dead
6. Back to Box
7. Lest we forget
8. What a cute little- Argh, the pain! Get it off me!
9. Hong Kong welfare
10. A short diversion into meta-analysis

Capitalism in a time of pig flu

There was never an outbreak of contagious virus featured in Atlas Shrugged. More's the pity. I would liked to have read how objectivist theory saved the world from pig flu. Or, better yet, an outbreak of avian flu from Ayn Rand Battery Farms, leaving John Galt dying by the invisible hand of H5N1. Alas, these things never happen in utopias. Atlas Shrugged does away with the unworthy with all the logic of a train wreck.

The real world is more random and unknowable. The Black Death afflicted the peasants, the gentry and the clergy with disregard for material disposition or alleged divine protection. Fear and misinformation led to cats being slaughtered, trade barriers erected and minority persecution legitimised. All of which led to the plague becoming all the worse.

Although some centuries wiser than the Dark Ages, human nature hasn't changed one bit. In Egypt, they are killing all the pigs. Never mind that these animals are raised almost entirely by the Christian minority in this Muslim country. Many other countries are blocking food exports from affected countries. Mexico has handed out paper face masks willy-nilly, creating the illusion of action with very little actual gain.

The masks are all but useless at preventing contagion. If you can smell farts through it, you can expect a determined (or is that random?) droplet to get through too. The better quality masks should be saved for those who actually have confirmed pig flu, to minimise spread of infection. And the really good quality ones, with micro mesh that prevents exhalation and inhalation of droplets, are sold out at Amazon.com.

You've got chaos in Mexico and out-of-order capitalism in the US. In NZ from today, the almighty dollar will determine who gets to buy Tamiflu, now it has come off prescription and be sold to any middle class hypochondriac with a runny nose. NO OTHER COUNTRY DOES THIS.

Screw the flu, won't somebody think of the economic implications? The allocation of scarce resources, whether masks, Tamiflu, or medicine men and women, clearly has to balance need with supply and demand. And what place has copyright in this pandemonium? What would have to happen before Roche open sourced Tamiflu to its competitors for the greater good? And why the big fuss over the marketable name of this thing? It's not Mexican flu. It's not swine flu. It's... H1N1. Even that's a misnomer, but I digress.

It's not that I'm cheering for the tinpot dictatorships. It is no coincidence that, apart from the Mexican source, the incidence of pig flu so far has appeared only in the developed nations. Wherefore art thou, Guatemala?



The political implications in Mexico could well see the return to power of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, thereby replacing a corrupt, ineffectual government with a despotic, corrupt, ineffectual government.

Anyway, enough of the pig flu from me. There's a good panel discussing everything fluvian on this week's Media 7.