Sunday, June 28, 2009

Governor's Counsel

The latest newsletter from the NZ Republican Movement is out, criticising the return of the title Queen's Counsel as a retrograde step. As a Republican and a supporter of the title of QC, how do I reconcile these seemingly contradictory stances? Easy. Not enough mana.

I was fortunate enough to bear witness to the ascension of Mike Bungay to Queen's Counsel in 1986, celebrating at La Normandie restaurant in Cuba Mall with Dad, Rhonda and Bungay QC. It was all my sixteenth birthday wasn't, right down to a howling drunken rendition of Blue Moon in the taxi home with the old man (La Normandie isn't there any more. The Matterhorn exists in the same spot).

The way I understood it, Queen's Counsel was a venerable title indeed. Apropos to nothing, I took Queen's Counsel to mean that the learned member was fit enough to represent the monarch in court, if ever the need arose. The old man, an imperialist right down to his Churchillian roots, sought recognition as QC to his dying breath. Hard earned, the title proved elusive to Trev due to politics. But there was no doubt, if the Queen ever got into mischief with the courts, the old man could have got her off the hook.

So when Helen Clark's Fifth Labour Government ripped its moorings and replaced Queen's Counsel with the new title of Senior Counsel, no wonder the lawyers were upset. It was just the same with the Dames and Knights, reduced to the lame emptiness of Principal and Distinguished Companions in similarly bland fashion.

The titles lacked context and dignity and, in the case of Senior Counsel, sounded more like they were fit only to be hired by old retired wealthy people, hardly an auspicious moniker, regardless of how much truth it belayed.

If only the taxonomy gave similar stature in some form. Hence the title Governor's Counsel. The solution to the QC quagmire also illuminates the answer to the Head of State debate for NZ. We don't seek a president, we seek a Governor, a Kawana.

More interesting

A wet weekend's worth of links:

Pop goes the Michael - Best read on the death of Michael Jackson comes from Andrew Sullivan, with Germaine Greer as runner-up.

Where is persiankiwi?

Arts and Letters Daily points to FDR's alternative to Churchill's post-war imperial Iranian solution with the Hurley Plan.

Dry Dry Cleaning - A cloud of beads from the University of Leeds may be the future of laundry washing. The process uses 90 percent less water than conventional washing machines.

When accusations are based on bad evidence - One of my old Auckland haunts, Cafe Cezanne, is taking a hammering after TV3 consumer show Target wrongly accused them of faecal coliform contamination, the culinary equivalent of sodomising baby seals. It will probably be replaced by a Starbucks and be one more distant memory of diversity, like Brazil in K Rd.

Losing Las Vegas - No town is recession-proof. Meet the Dubai of America.

Bad travel experiences - While Cactus Kate has her passport and bag stolen in the City of Angels, John Key gets stood up by Jetstar.

And finally, as seen at the Wellingtonista, an Emo's Ode to Manners Mall:

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Back in the days, you could tell where a man came from by the beer they drank. Aucklanders drank Lion beer, primarily Lion Red. Hamiltronians drank Waikato. Anywhere north of Taupo in the provinces was either Lion Brown, Lion Red or Waikato country. South of Taihape to Wellington, Dominion Breweries reigned. The Mainlanders drank Speights and Dagg knows what else. Canterbury Draught for all I know.

It went without saying, of course, that your own provincial piss was the very best and all the others were complete shit. No-one in Palmy, not even the nine year olds, drank Lion Red. DB Draught yeah, Double Brown, yeah. Lion Red, ya fucken' Aucklander. The main lager was Leopard, and that would go only if there was absolutely nothing else to drink.

That was up to the early 80's anyway. One strange side-effect of the Rogernomics period was that lager became popular. People stuck in the 80's drink Steinlager. This morphed after the share market crash of '87, when the height of sophistication was to drink any other lager but Steinlager. Sol Bar sold Sol Beers, Coronas with mandatory lime wedges were everywhere. Even Budweiser had a short but slight impact on the scene. OE cred was enhanced by the Euro chic of ordering a Heineken or a Stella Artois.

Up until around '94, all Heineken was imported along with the rest of them. Then a licence was obtained to make the stuff up in Auckland. The retail price dipped only a little, but essentially the public swallowed the huge change in product quality. Instead of drinking Dutch water, you were drinking a mainly NZ facsimile. Stella Artois wasn't too many years behind til that too was made here, licensed at a premium that the label conscious happily ignored.

So, what's the point? Stella Artois is an Auckland wank drink. There's a fine to and fro between Deborah Hill Cone and Barnsley Bill elsewhere, and I'll go with the 'Cone on this one. If you must drink real beer grown for local conditions and not some cheap knock-off, go for an Epic or Tuatara. They make more of the local combo of hops and water than any of that derivative shit.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Siemens Stains

"Notions like human rights, equality and civil liberties did not come from documents. They came from struggles. Anyone who is aware of the feminist movement in this country can see such a struggle taking place; a struggle that has yet to succeed but that probably will in time. Struggles cannot be fought from the outside; they must occur internally. What struggles will take place within the community of Muslims I would not hazard to say. Nor would I venture an opinion as to whether the Muslims of the twenty-first century will follow the direction of the West in their controversies over political and social norms, or whether they will find unique solutions to unavoidable contradictions. Either way, conflict, diversity and evolutionary change seem inevitable despite the powerful appeal of a traditional core of norms and values."
- from Columbia University's Richard Bulliet, cited in Nader Hashemi's article The Relevance of John Locke to Social Change in the Muslim World, in Iran: between tradition and modernity.

I have been fascinated by the challenges modernity poses to the various Muslim nations for some time. The House of Saud has genuflected mightily to preserve its illusion of Wahhabi puritanism whilst introducing TVs and mobile phones into their homes. In Iran, similar tensions prevail. As the Wall Street Journal has uncovered, the clerics and the corporates have a special agreement on modernity:
[I]n confronting the political turmoil that has consumed the country this past week, the Iranian government appears to be engaging in a practice often called deep packet inspection, which enables authorities to not only block communication but to monitor it to gather information about individuals, as well as alter it for disinformation purposes, according to these experts.

The monitoring capability was provided, at least in part, by a joint venture of Siemens AG, the German conglomerate, and Nokia Corp., the Finnish cellphone company, in the second half of 2008, Ben Roome, a spokesman for the joint venture, confirmed.

Siemens, Siemens, where have I heard that name used in association with violent dictators before... Ah, that's right; in Cracked's Five Popular Brands the Nazis Gave Us:

Siemens was the major player in the Nazification of Germany. The company, run by Werner's son, Carl, and then his grandson, Hermann, struggled in the wake of World War I and the Great Depression and had to earn some dough fast. When Hitler rose to power in the 1930s, it was the signal for the Siemens executives to start building factories, and nowhere was the real estate better than near the homey neighborhoods of Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

Hundreds of thousands of slave workers were employed to build all sorts of goodies for the German military to use on both the western and the eastern fronts. Though they weren't the only company at the time supplying the German war effort, they were certainly the most prolific. Siemens was in charge of Germany's rail infrastructure, communications, power generation ... the list goes on. If the Reichstag was the brain behind the war, Siemens was definitely the right hand that stroked Hitler to ecstatic glory.

And y'know how I said last week that what happens in Iran, happens everywhere? Back to the WSJ:

Countries with repressive governments aren't the only ones interested in such technology. Britain has a list of blocked sites, and the German government is considering similar measures. In the U.S., the National Security Agency has such capability, which was employed as part of the Bush administration's "Terrorist Surveillance Program." A White House official wouldn't comment on if or how this is being used under the Obama administration.

Last time I buy a Nokia, that's for sure.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


What I've been browsing this chilly weekend:

Boing Boing covers NZ's Alan Gibbs' art collection.

Peter at Dub dot dash points out that Oz gyms may be reduced to playing Elvis Presley and Beethoven, as licensing fees for playing music in businesses goes stratospheric:
"Cafe and restaurant patrons could soon be eating in silence, after a proposal by Australia's largest record labels to increase the cost of background music by up to 2000 times."
On a related note, a solo mother in the US is fined almost $2 million by the copyright holders of 24 songs she shared online. The Independent lists the 24 songs that were worth so much. Top of the list is Gun N Roses' November Rain and Welcome to the Jungle. Axl Rose managed to swindle the original band members out of their copyrights dues then, so it's all business as usual here.

Jetstar Airlines gets off on the wrong foot in their opening week with rugby fans and DJs alike grounded at Auckland Airport instead of getting what they paid for.

Tony Wall digs a bit on the two men at the centre of the Napier Siege, Len Snee and Jan Molenaar.

And finally a bit from Kiwianarama on NZ, where men are men and so are the women.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The marginal utility of birthdays

No BERL economists were invited to Mr Pink's birthday party last night, and it was probably just as well. They would have been shocked at the zero-function drinking that went on, and Internal Affairs might have had something to say about the marathon poker game that it fuelled. It was the first time I've had a glass of port since Labour put that ludicrous tariff on it many years ago. Nevertheless, no-one was hospitalised, skipped work or went home and beat their wives.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Food for thought

Y'know how you count 7 dog years for every human year? The way things are set up in the States (and probably Mexico) these days, one human year equals six chicken lifetimes. Hormones and crap that makes one yearn for the simplistic barbarity of fois gras. In order to bring you the best tasting product with the cheapest shittiest ingredients, check out the HD movie trailer for feature length documentary Food, Inc.

I'm a green banana:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Word to the wise

In light of a man lighting up a joint in the Public Gallery at Parliament, might I draw your attention to NORML's Principles of Responsible Cannabis Use:
3. Set and Setting
The responsible cannabis user will carefully consider his/her mind-set and physical setting, and regulate use accordingly.
Go out to the steps of parliament and do it, preferably with a few hundred other smokers. There's safety in numbers. Ask an Iranian.

What happens in Iran, happens everywhere

Can't find a bigger version. This one's nicked from The Australian.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Das BERL report ist Krap

Eric Crampton and Matt Burgess have performed an in-depth defrag of BERL's harms of alcohol and drugs bullshit report, concluding that the logic is about as over-leveraged as a sub-prime lender:
“What we found shocked us. BERL exaggerated costs by 30 times using a bizarre methodology that you won’t find in any economics textbook,” Dr Crampton said.
As Blaise Drinkwater informs us, BERL founded their facts on more esoteric polemics, namely Karl Marx's Das Kapital:

UPDATE: You know it's gotta be good when one of the footnotes is this:

Marx, Karl H. (1867), Capital: Volume One: A Critique of Political Economy

Evidently, they've picked up on something amazing: BERL uses the Labour Theory of Value. That's +5 ouch-points.

The Law Commission's got a bit of work ahead of it, what with wide-ranging reports on Drugs and Alcohol due to be released any day now. It seems much of the rationale behind Sir Geoffrey Palmer's speeches on these matters is discredited. Indeed, Crampton and Burgess have not only undone BERL's harms index credibility, they have proved what everyone already knows but lacked the numbers; the government makes a very tidy profit off alcohol and tobacco.

Here's hoping Graeme Edgeler's Legal Beagle blog on Public Address gets picked up by the Law Commission in their revamp of online participation. That's the sort of informed public debate the Law Commission needs more of. Daggs knows, the Law Commission could get better advice than at present.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Our SAS doesn't do war crimes

Attack of l'esprit d'escalier on yesterday's post on the ex-CIA spook (does one ever leave the CIA? I imagine it would be a bit like the mafia) who has come over to preach to the NZ Police some of their steampunk intelligence (part modern, part medieval, complete fiction).

While Mark Lowenthal is in the country, Defence Minister Wayne Mapp might find it a good time to bend his ear about the treatment of prisoners of war captured by our SAS forces. After all, we have our good reputation to uphold, and we wouldn't want our international standing tarnished by their war crimes.

There's also the little matter of those dairy subsidies the USA has plagued us with. The welcome return of our stretched military forces at a time when our national income is hit by US protectionism, might also be an appropriate response to wave under their nose. Any people taken prisoner with the help of NZ's SAS are subject to the Geneva Convention. No ifs, no buts.

Ta to No Right Turn for the heads up.

Lost my lunch

Back when I did my Purgatory of Dilbert at Telecom's now-defunct call centre on the flood-prone riverbanks of Lower Hutt, the only viable food source apart from BYO and the onsite vending machine was a KFC. Years after walking out of that asylum, it's a rare thing for me to go to a KFC any more.

But following on from last week's Burger Wars post, I tripped over another franchise bunfight today, this time between KFC and the small but plucky El Pollo Loco. Read all about the new beef-flavoured chicken, or, more intriguingly, read what goes into KFC's secret recipe. It's not so much to prevent trademark infringement, but more to prevent customers from throwing up:
You can find the secret, though, by perusing the company's "ingredient statement" (pdf), where we learn that, besides chicken and beef, there are more than 20 other ingredients in the grilled chicken and its marinade. The top one: salt. Near the top: monosodium glutamate. KFC advertises the product as having "less sodium than our Original Recipe chicken," which is a little like saying that a donut has less sugar than a candy bar.
It gets worse. Here's the recipe for popcorn chicken, from that pdf:
Diced Chicken Breast Meat Fritters with Rib Meat, Seasoning (Soy Protein Concentrate, Salt, Modified Food Starch, Food Starch, Carrageenan, Onion Powder, Dehydrated Chicken Broth, Spice Extractive), Sodium Phosphates. Breaded With: Enriched Wheat Flour (Enriched with Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Salt, Rice Flour, Spices, Wheat Gluten, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Monosodium Glutamate, Corn Starch (with Tapioca Dextrin), Garlic Powder, Citric Acid, Maltodextrin, Flavorings, Sugar, Corn Syrup Solids, Gum Arabic. Predusted With: Enriched Wheat Flour (Enriched with Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Modified Food Starch, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Salt, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Monosodium Glutarnate, Garlic Powder, Spices Dehydrated Chicken Broth, Maltodextrin, Citric Acid, Sugar, Flavorings, Corn Syrup Solids. Battered With: Water, Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Enriched with Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Modified Food Starch, Modified Wheat Starch, Rice Flour, Garlic Powder, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Salt, Dextrin, Sodium Caseinate (with Soy Lecithin), Modified Cellulose Gum, Spices, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate), Mono and Diglycerides (as emulsifiers). Breading set in Vegetable Oil. Contains Milk, Soy and Wheat.
Now I know why only poor people and teenagers eat that crap. Anyone literate would lose their lunch. Here's some more banned comics:

Monday, June 15, 2009

Happy Free-from-divine-tyranny Birthday!

Today marks the 794th birthday of the first human rights declaration in the world, Magna Carta. OK, it was 1558 that it was really tested in law as such, but still. While Iran is erupting in chants from rooftops, thereby keeping things non-violent and beyond the reach of the most determined riot police, it is worth noting that while some things take time, all things are inevitable. Whoever thought that a revolution was nigh, and it would be brought about by Twitter?

4:20 News

The Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party can claim victory of sorts with Mt Albert candidate Dakta Green coming 6th= in the weekend's by-election, ahead of United Future's former MP Judy Turner.

Outrageous Fortune's resident control freak character, Loretta West, blogs her support for legalising drugs after the fifth season debut episode featured a de-fanged, loved-up Loretta no-one knew existed.

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Nicholas Kristof has an Op-Ed in the New York Times claiming that the War on Drugs is over. The drugs won.

Further up the political food chain, Obama's new Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske, has called for an end to the War on Drugs.

Finally, Slate features the worst anti-drug movie ever:

Politics, analysts and operators

There was a fascinating and slightly unnerving interview with Kathryn Ryan and former CIA analyst and the head of US Intelligence and Security Academy, Mark Lowenthal this morning. OK, I wasn't expecting a lovey dove, but the claws on this hawk are sharp. His argument in favour of rendition, or "rendering a suspect to Justice" as he calls it, to avoid all that messing about with extradition is a jaw-dropper.

This spook is in the country to talk to the NZ Police.

If you're looking for a brief history of CIA hi-jinks, take a look at Bill Moyers' Secret Government, which was produced to provide context to Reagan and HW Bush's Iran Contra scandal in the 80's:

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Headline of the week

Tasers safe despite death, says Police Association

Age is no limit for tasers either, as this cop who can't subdue a 72 year old lady without some help from his taser shows:

Lord it's hard to be humble...

... when Wellington City Council follows your advice almost to the letter. In my submission on whether to allow buses through Manners Mall, I argued in favour of the plan with a few observations. One was to "encourage" private road traffic onto the Dixon/ Victoria/ Wakefield/ Taranaki loop, leaving Manners St for buses only. As a trade-off to opening up Manners Mall to buses, lower Cuba St should be fully pedestrianised.

Well bugger me with a police baton, that's what's happening. It makes sense if you look at this map, which shows that by extending Cuba Mall down to the Michael Fowler Centre, you can link it up with the Waterfront walkway. This stands in contrast to the status quo, where "Manners Mall links Cuba Mall to ... nowhere for pedestrians." There's even my cunning plan for making Mercer St (between the Civic Square and Willis St) more pedestrian friendly, thereby formalising a link to Lambton Quay that plainly doesn't exist at present.

Here's hoping the expansion of foot traffic down lower Cuba will entice the building owners in that part of town to dolly it up a bit more. It's a bit shit, but nothing a lick o' paint can't fix.

Live blogging a revolution

A flock of seagulls has hit the fan. Nico Pitney at Huff Post is live blogging the fallout from the Iranian elections. Gripping stuff. No word from Murray McCully on whether NZ is accepting the result. Nothing from Labour either, but that's probably unsurprising as all the foreign affairs wonks in Labour have hangovers this morning.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

At home with the Black Hats

Inventor of the term "lateral thinking", Mild cigarettes (those tiny little holes around the filter? That was him) and all-round shit-stirring genius Edward de Bono is visiting our shores.

Kathryn Ryan has a word with him the other day on NatRad, while David Cohen is drooling over the anticipated mind meal in person at the Human Resources Institute gig. Fair point too. De Bono reckons the best thing NZ could do to help the Middle East situation is to export a few tonnes of Marmite to them, seeing how they need to zinc up their unleavened bread a bit.

But no-one has a monopoly on wisdom. This was apparent when Ryan basically asked him to the answer to the ultimate question and got a variation on 42. NZ are well-known Black Hats. In de Bono's Six Hats scheme of things, we are a nation of knockers. If there's a hole, we'll find it. If you need a cloud for your silver lining, come to us.

There's a quote I've been saving up for bloody ages. I was going to use it to start my never never novel, Kiwianatopia. It's from Richard Feynman when he came to Auckland University for the Douglas Robb Memorial lectures in 1979. It's about 20 minutes into the first lecture:
"I've been here three days. It's beautiful, there's not too many people. I thought you'd be happy here. But everyone talks themselves down. I dunno, something must have happened to it. At least you had Rutherford, so it's OK."
If only we spent a few more hours worshipping ideas and not bloody rugby, we might generate an easier way of life. Here's an idea, fresh off the lobe. Get people interested in science by hauling this guy from Oz across here one summer and have him perform with his Tesla coils down at the waterfront. That'll impress them.

Free and fair or flee and fear?

One day we shall call
Together all human beings
With their (respective) Imams:
Those who are given their record
In their right hand
Will read it (with pleasure),
And they will not be
Dealt with unjustly
In the least - Section 8, 17th Sura, The Qur-an

While the petit election in Mt Albert settles into its own fait accompli, less passe elections in Iran are happening. With record turnouts around the country on Friday, expectations were for a rally in the vote for the un-Ahmadinejad candidate, Mir-Hossein Mousavi. So reports that Ahmadinejad has received 65 percent of the vote with 80 percent counted, the provisional result of the grand election in Iran is raising eyebrows.

Mousavi is trailing at 32.6 percent, leaving Ahmadinejad the "definite winner" and avoiding a run-off in a week's time. The result also means that the other two candidates, former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezai and former Speaker Mehdi Karroubi got less than 4 percent of the vote between them.

Compare this with the much more fractured first ballot from the 2005 elections:
While pre-voting polls mostly favored a run-off between Rafsanjani and Mostafa Moeen[citation needed], the actual vote counts from the Ministry of Interior unexpectedly put Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mehdi Karroubi in second and third places. Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad led with respectively 21.0% and 19.5% of the votes, and were followed by Karroubi (17.3%), Moeen (13.93%) , Ghalibaf (13.89%), Larijani (5.9%), and Mehralizadeh (4.4%)
The election is run by Iran's Interior Ministry. Not sure what access party scrutineers have in polling booths, but international observers are banned from reporting on the transparency of election results. RealClearWorld has a list of ways the vote could be rigged, y'know, if one was tempted. Memri has more.

The Huff Post has a good round-up of the current shape of things:

Mousavi appealed to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to intervene and stop what he said were violations of the law. Khamenei holds ultimate political authority in Iran. "I hope the leader's foresight will bring this to a good end," Mousavi said.

Mousavi said some polling stations were closed early with people still waiting to vote, that voters were prevented from casting ballots and that his observers were expelled from some counting sites.

Authorities "should not assume that by manipulating people's vote and staying in power for a day, for a year or two, (they) can win people's satisfaction," he said.

During the voting, some communications across Iran were disrupted. Internet connections slowed dramatically in some spots, hindering the operations of news organizations including The Associated Press. It was not immediately clear what had caused the disruptions.

About a dozen Ahmadinejad supporters pelted a Mousavi office in Tehran with tear gas canisters, but no one was injured, said Saeed Shariati, head of Mousavi's Web campaign. The attack could not be independently confirmed.

It's not over til the Ayatollah signs. There's got to be a recount. The human record cannot be dealt with unjustly, otherwise you might as well do away with elections. If they're not free and fair, what are they?

Friday, June 12, 2009

What buggered the buggies?

How does a supposed NZ export dream go so wrong? Mike Booker at Idealog looks at why the wheels fell off Mountain Buggy. Read of distribution agent nightmares, brand dilution and what is rising from the ashes of the old company. There's lessons for everyone from small business start-ups through to Fonterra in there.

I don't think research that came out last year showing that "children benefit from facing and interacting with the person pushing them (usually the parent); that children facing forward may be emotionally impoverished and isolated" would have helped either.

Return of the stump speech

If any good has come out of the Mt Albert by-election, it's that of an interested and galvanised political spirit in the greater Auckland region. If one were to find one event that summed this all up, it was the Backbenchers episode at the Neighbourhood Brew Bar the other day. There was many a sleb and media personality locked out, let alone the teeming masses of plebs who came along for the hell of it, stuck on the footpath as fellow outsiders. It was like a Telethon up there.

Next time, we're gonna need a bigger pub and Wallace needs a bigger bell. Screw the booing. Get that floor manager setting the rules of engagement a bit clearer beforehand. We don't get this crap at the Backbencher in Wellington. And please, champagne flutes not corflutes in a pub. Don't block other people's light.

Same same but differently, Colin Espiner pointed to an audience with John Key he helped organise down in Christchurch earlier in the week. This is a fine example of Being There media, away from the spin and bullshit of soundbite platitudes, away from the painted pantomime of studio interviews and back in front of an audience.

If the Press continue video coverage of events like that, they'll be giving the network news and current affairs shows a run for their money soon. Any NZ on Air funding available for that kind of stuff?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Blame it on the 80's

Paul Krugman reckons Reaganomics has a lot to answer for, if the question was "Who really caused the Great Recession?" Me? I blame uninspiring US economics teachers in the high schools and their bored, uninterested students. Take note of this clip from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. All this seems horribly relevant now:

"If they don't cheat, Mousavi will win"

Foreign Policy has an excellent photo essay on this week's elections in Iran:
More than 450 Iranians registered to run for president, but the 12-member Guardian Council only gave its seal of approval to four, pictured above. Clockwise from top left, they are: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the current president; Mir Hossein Mousavi, a reformist who was prime minister from 1981 to 1989; Mohsen Rezai, a conservative and former commander of the Revolutionary Guard; and Mehdi Karroubi, a moderate and former speaker of parliament. According to Iran's Constitution, candidates must be politicians or clerics, hold Iranian citizenship, and be Shiite Muslims who believe in the principles of the Islamic Republic.
It looks like there's a strong Mousavi Green scene in the students and urban middle classes, but it's not over til those votes are counted.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Burger Wars

There's a food fight brewing over the increasing role of attack ads in the franchises, according to The Economist. Pizza and sandwich makers are trading insults, Maccas is getting snarky with Starbucks. Take this example of soup stirring:
Campbell’s, for example, launched a campaign last autumn for a new line of ready-made soups. These asserted that a rival, Progresso, used monosodium glutamate (MSG). Progresso responded with an ad saying that Campbell’s also used MSG. In the end, many analysts say, both firms suffered.
And now, here's some old school banned comic strips:

Heh. One man's 2T-FRU-T is another's H1N1.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Misanthropic Principle

Just having one of my turns. Here's some of the medicine I've been taking:

Arts & Letters Daily points to an existential explanation from John Gray as to why I am having difficulty getting out of bed at the moment.

A few gems from Boing Boing. Spatial gymnastics of Julia set transformations:

And ten things you don't know about orgasms, including differing opinions on the Upsuck Theory and how (and why) to titillate a pig:

On the subject of pigs, how to make homemade bacon and a business scheme where one can delegate the spadework to bring home some organic bacon.

Bernard Hickey saves the taxpayer spending truckloads of dosh with Treasury, Tax Reform oligarchies and special consultants by listing ten ways to clean up the tax code and stop Industrial Disease. All good points, but am curious about the Hong Kong property tax as opposed to a capital gains. Neville Bennett goes on about it a bit over at Ratesblog too.

And oldie from MacDoctor, but a telling chart of how residential electricity prices have been trending ever upwards since 1984, while commercial and industrial users have remained relatively flat. I write this literally crouching over the 1kW oil column heater gripped between my legs. Can't wait for that insulation, eh.

In as much as it could be compared with the change in residential and commercial rates differentials in local council budgets, both trends show households taking over the burden of infrastructure and social spending, whilst businesses get their tax deductible rates bill cut. Time for some quid pro quo, and something to keep in mind over the Super Auckland plans.

Whose favourite punchline is "I didn't do it, no one saw me do it, you can't prove anything"?

a) Bart Simpson
b) Richard Worth
c) David Bain

And finally, everyone else is doing it. Here's the results on the latest Political Compass meme doing the rounds, as well as the Facebook schema:

My Political Views
I am a left social libertarian
Left: 3.65, Libertarian: 5.37

Political Spectrum Quiz

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Worthy Irony

It's not a good look for an Associate Minister of Justice being investigated for perverting the course of justice. One law for all, except when slebs beat up plebs. Not good at all.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Key agrees to Goatse on Government

Word just in from Audrey Young, John Key has felt the breeze and agreed to look into making Parliament subject to the Official Information Act. With the Greens playing good politics and leading by example on providing expenses details, as well as the British clusterpluck continuing to denude the UK legislature, Audrey Young concludes Key may not have had much choice in the matter.

US and Them again?

Bernard Hickey has posted up a vicious and eloquent economic argument on why NZers should fall out of love with President Obama. Here's a sample, but go read the whole thing:
It’s clear to me he is a liar and a fool. New Zealanders should protest his economic and trade policies at every step. Our Prime Minister John Key should use one of those precious few minutes on the phone with the gilded one to tell him to rack off with his protectionism and his bailouts. They damage America and they damage the rest of the world. The honeymoon is over.

He is a liar because he promised a change to the status quo in Washington and he promised not to make the same mistakes from the 1930s that helped turn a recession into a depression. Yet he has done just that. He is a fool because he appointed exactly the wrong people to run his economic policies and has not intervened to stop them doing even more of the ruinous things started under Bush and Cheney.

There's increasingly smaller differences in the political management between the Bush/Cheney years and the Obama regime. Bush put up steel tariffs. Obama is protecting the sacred cows of US Dairy and the dogs of automobile manufacturing:
Mr. Obama and his advisers expect G.M. to emerge from court protection in a few months as a new, radically smaller company owned by the federal government, the United Automobile Workers union and its bondholders.
The economic damage is going to be painful enough, but there is little hope or change elsewhere either. Airport security continues to devise more circles of hell, from naked body scanners to fingerprinting outgoing Americans. Wiretapping of US citizens is continuing. There's talk of rape photos from Abu Ghraib being suppressed by the White House, on the grounds that they would "further inflame anti-American opinion" and "put our troops in danger."

Israeli PM Netanyahu has ignored Obama's call for a halt on new settlements on Palestinian land, favouring "natural growth." You'd think that with America's budget worries, there would be justifiable pressure brought to bear on Israel, seeing how Israel relies on the US for money just like Cuba used to with the Soviet Union.

Because only Jews are allowed to criticise Jews, here's Jeffrey Goldberg summing up the settlers' logic:
The settlers are arguing that their human rights would be violated if they were made to move to Israel. That's right. It used to be that a person could fulfill his Zionist destiny in a place like Petah Tikva, but no more: Now, it's a sin against God, apparently, to live anywhere but in a government-subsidized trailer on a barren hill in the mountains of Samaria.
Is Obama's hand constrained by Chief of Staff Rahm "son of Irgun" Emanuel at all? His brother, Ari Emanuel, is the inspiration for Jeremy Piven's Ari Gold character in the TV series Entourage. Clearly there's enough Cheney-like arrogance in the family to get what they want:

So I'm with Bernard Hickey. President Obama, the love has gone. I'm looking forward to hearing Terry Michael, founder and executive director of the Washington Center for Politics and Journalism, at the inaugural American Politics Appreciation Society meeting tomorrow. The subject is Obama's first 100 days. Should be fun.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Happy Three-weeks-til-Solstice holiday!

Today's national day off recognises that Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, is only 21 days away. In less than a month, the days will start getting longer. Hooray for Three-weeks-til-Solstice holiday! I must admit, Matariki might roll off the tongue better...

Oh, and Happy Unbirthday Freddie Mercury: