Friday, July 18, 2014

One Thread

There is at least one fundamental thread woven through the fabric of recent scandals that seems to have been left out of the dialogue so far.

Whether it's the GCSB shitmagnet, the rape culture flavours of West Auckland's Roastbusters, Wellington's diplomatic thrusts, or other examples of official intransigence, such as the recent night raid on children in a Taranaki marae, there is at least one common thread.

I don't know if there's a Latin name for the principle, but it runs thusly: Citizens can do whatever they like as long as there's no law or regulation prohibiting their actions. The benefit of the doubt lies on the side of the citizen. Reasonable doubt, for example.

Conversely, government officials (military, police or bureaucrat) can ONLY do what the law or regulations permit (acts and omissions, blah blah). The onus is on them to prove they stayed within those regulated margins.

It's a concept that frequently eludes the powerful as well as the powerless. For instance, police union mouth Greg O'Connor regularly spouts that the cops can bend and break rules with impunity for the greater good. He's talking bollocks with a side order of smeg.

It's a lesson that might have to be learned the hard way. Beware the political backlash. Such things tend to over-compensate.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Dogs of War

Back in the dawn of the 1980's, my old man tried his hand at running kiwifruit on a farm out west of Tauranga. We lived in caravans next to the shed, right across from the neighbour's battery chicken farm.

The neighbour's dog, a mangy beast with something short of a full Labrador in him, used to wander onto the farm and hassle our dogs, two German short-haired pointers called Kaiser and Rommel (like another certain disruptive entrepreneur, the old man liked his Germans). Kaiser was a 12 year old former gun dog champ, brown-coated and freckled with white patches of hair. Rommel was not even three, dark liver hair and whippet thin.

After a week of skirmishes between men and dogs, where the dog kept coming across the fence and my old man kept telling the neighbour he'd put a .22 bullet behind its ear, the day of the final dogfight arrived.

The old man was out on his tractor working on one of the nearer blocks. The dogs were with him, and it wasn't long before the neighbour's dog caused trouble. It had caught Kaiser unawares and had latched onto the old dog's throat. Out of nowhere, Rommel zipped in and nipped the dog firmly on its arse. The dog yelped out of pain or surprise, giving Kaiser his escape. It turned to see the source of counter-attack already halfway across the block.

Nor did the dog see the bullet that hit him. It yelped in receipt of it and retreated to less painful territory, limping badly and leaving the old man wondering whether the wound was mortal or merely a winging. Rommel and Kaiser preceded the old man on his tractor back to the shed by a good minute, seemingly none the worse for wear.

The old man put the rifle away and went across to tell the neighbour the news. The neighbour accepted the dog's fate, and we all went out searching the borders of both lands looking for the missing hound. I found him, curled up on a corner section under a tree as if sleeping. The neighbour took the dog away, to a grave or an offal pit is uncertain.

Kaiser and Rommel lived largely happy lives until they died. Kaiser was put to sleep aged 16 years after his legs gave up. Rommel went walkabout off the farm a few years after this summer skirmish, presumably ending up with a short life span in the illegal dog fighting circuit. He was always a better runner than a fighter.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Sex and Agriculture

The old man and I were walking along Mayoral Drive in the Auckland CBD one afternoon back in the '90s. Another even older man had just walked out of the Pan Pacific Hotel and headed towards us. My father, aged sixty-mumble, did something I'd never see him do before.

He lost the expression of a man wearied by sixty-odd years on the clock, and reverted to a mumbling child as he praised former child actor Mickey Rooney in person. This crinkly polite Yank - accosted on the streets in a strange land by some quixotic stranger in the three piece armour of an attorney - had brightened my Dad's day considerably.

Needless to say, Mickey Rooney's golden days of Hollywood were a bit before my time. Growing up two generations prior to my existence, the old man grew up on tales of conquest by proxies of the British Empire in books, as well as the pulp fiction churned out by Hollywood, leeched as it was of reality by the censors and purveyors of moral rectitude.

The Ten Commandments of Hollywood back then, summed up in one picture, were:

An artifact of this celluloid puritanism popped up last week, nicely raising the profile of Eva Green and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For in the process. In America at least, nipples are still considered Satan's cherries.

In contrast to the old man, all my heroes were outlaws. I grew up with '70s cinema and early '80s auteurs, the golden era of the film director. Years before the blockbuster killed the independent studios' diversity with superheroes and cloned plots, it was all Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Bugsy Malone, the Blondini gang from Goodbye Pork Pie, Bruno Lawrence, Sam Lowry in Brazil, Buckaroo Banzai, David Lynch, etc.

Moral ambiguity, anti-heroes, irony and pathos were main ingredients. Ultra-violence was used as allegory or hyperbole (A Clockwork Orange, The Evil Dead), as opposed to today's serious yet CGI carnage purely for the sake of it.

But I digress. The Mickey Rooney intersection came into mind on Thursday, as John Banks walked out of court a guilty man. My old man shared airtime with Banks on Radio Pacific. Of all the things Banks could have said as Michelle Boag quietly photobombed away in the background, Banks had to come out with an esoteric 1930's song about standing in puddles. A man so pole-axed, the child came out.

Three days later, John Banks announces he is exiting the political stage once more. Up until this afternoon, it looked like he was blithely looking at hanging around in Parliament, upstaging the election theatre cast from Jamie Whyte to John Key, before crashing through the footlights head first into the orchestra pit.

Farewell then, John Banks. You will be forgotten. Cannabis will be legalised. Look who's stupid then. Auckland will one day reverse your rates poll tax (aka the Uniform Annual General Charge), as well as your puritanical Brothel and Commercial Sex Premises bylaw. Charter schools will be folded back into the integrated schools system, where state accountability sits in judgement over religious schools.

Everything John Banks did will be dirt.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Dirty Wars and Ignored Laws

Toby Manhire pointed out in Friday's NZ Herald that the country seems to have sleep-walked into a war. No-one appears to have noticed a New Zealander getting a collateralised death sentence by US drone. Not the prime minister, who has all but given up the ghost of an independent foreign policy for gimp status that would make Reek flinch with recognition. Not the public, which seems inured against war crimes or seem indifferent as long it doesn't affect their day-to-day grind.

As the Snowden NSA papers come closer to our shores, threatening to wash up all sorts of dirty security laundry, NZ may well have to face their complicity in atrocities. As a thought experiment, imagine John Key appearing before The Hague for aiding and abetting war crimes.

It's not such a mad proposition after reading this transcript from today's The Nation between Paddy Gower and Dirty Wars author Jeremy Scahill. Whether Key & Co know it or not, they're donkey deep in a very dirty war. A morsel (vid here, interview transcript here):
I can’t disclose specifics on this but what I can tell you is that I have seen dozens of top secret documents that the New Zealand Government has been provided by the United States, because of the Five Eyes status of New Zealand, that indicate that New Zealand is extremely aware of the extent to which the United States is engaged in drone strikes around the world and is briefed fully on the infrastructure of that programme. And the fact is that New Zealand through signal intercepts is directly involved with what is effectively an American assassination programme. People can say ‘oh well we are just giving them intelligence on terrorists’. The fact is that the world – most countries of the world – view what the United States is doing as rogue actions.
Never mind the fluff of polls, PR and show ponies, this stuff is important. It goes to the guts of sovereignty and statehood. NZ was one of the founding members of the League of Nations after WWI. It was a founding member of the United Nations after WWII. John Key's government has blithely swept all that precedent away by including NZ materiel and labour in these many crimes against International Law, including the Geneva Conventions.

The Nats have sold our century of pacific soul to Hollywood. Do you feel horribly short-changed yet?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Hanging Out with Beck, Whodini and Queen Camilla

Please pardon my break from blogging. Although I've been following the headlines, watching the gossip on Twitter, and occasionally popping into the House to witness some absurd theatre, I've really been preferring the company of chickens.
Kapiti Gothic; Beck and Queen Camilla. Whodini AWOL, as usual.
Sartre was wrong about a lot, but not Hell being other people. If the Psychoactive Substances donut wasn't bad enough, here's a sample of righteous puritanism from today's headlines alone:

One (vanilla) farmer gets fined $7500 for gross animal cruelty, while another farmer (with a Maori name) gets fined $15,000 for stubbornly refusing to wear a quad bike helmet on his land. Don't quibble the obiter, the law is still an ass. Actual harm > potential harm.

The coronial inquest into the Masterton balloon tragedy continues, with cannabis still being the whipping boy for the mess. Never mind an almost identical accident occurring in the US (wind changes, balloon hits power lines). Never mind testimony saying there's no evidence cannabis played any role in the balloon failure, the government is welcoming drug testing in the tourism industry.

NZ I love you but you still really piss me off.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Do Focus Groups Dream of Synthetic People?

April was one of those months. Vanilla skies with no news, followed by a vanilla religious holiday, concluding with a vanilla hailstorm of moral panic complete with pitchforked lightning and a flood of recanting politicians.

The Easter shopping anomaly went to 11 this year, with everything open in Wanaka over the mandated religious period except the pubs. Apparently the town was tipped off that there would be no enforcement of the archaic law against Easter trading (unless you were a pub or an unsuccessful special event applicant, in which case there would be). This fickle absence of enforcement gave Wanaka an excemption reserved in legislation only for Taupo and other listed 'tourist towns'.

Alcohol was still available at the traditionally excempted premises. If you were middle class enough to afford to dine in licensed premises, you could drink booze uninterrupted over Easter. This exclusion is an artifact from before the Sale of Liquor Act 1989, when every Sunday was Easter Sunday and all the pubs were closed. Churches could still serve booze (to minors!) in the Eucharist, Synagogues could still serve booze (to babies!) at circumcisions / genital mutilations. For the secular Gentile others, we had to stockpile booze at home over Easter like a survivalist.

Survivalism sounds like what is increasingly a pastime for the residents of the Flockton sinkhole. The recent rains have washed away more hope from them, with the balance between fight and flight swinging inexorably towards the latter. Winter is coming, and there may be more once-in-a-century floods on their way. There's no sign of help from King Gerry, who has kicked the problem firmly into the city council's realm to deal with.

Not entirely dissimilar to the buck-passing bug in last year's visionary Psychoactive Substances Act, which led to hicksville mayors around NZ landed with responsibility for a new and complex regime they knew absolutely nothing about. The upshot of this led to the government siding with vigilante arsonists in banning legal highs outright last week.

In retrospect, all the signs were there. Nationwide protests that looked like a working class Sensible Sentencing Trust lynch mob took place. Associate Minister of Health (and temporary drug czar while Dunne was in the naughty corner last year) Todd McClay agreed with a Rotorua crowd that legal highs were bad. Labour party shadow drug czar Iain Lees-Galloway appeared in Palmy saying legal highs were bad. Only Peter Dunne was singing the Act's positives until last Sunday night, when Dunne finally capitulated and agreed that legal highs were, as they say, bad.

Blame for this vanilla victory rests firmly with National and Labour. National for under-funding the project to the point of sabotage, and its ignorance of what was at stake beyond "The focus group said no." Labour for the inane local government authority bug they inserted into the Psychoactive Substances Act, demonstrating that they have learned precisely nothing from the local government fallout over the Prostitution Reform Act. Secondly, Labour's populist crusade ran counter to their support for the original bill.

It shows bad faith from both main parties. A lack of imagination from the Nats is to be expected, but Labour's faults are unforgivable. Thank Dagg for MMP and third party software, because there's too much salt sown in the fallow fields of Team Blue and Team Red.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Why I Joined the Green Party

Week four of the news drought and still the muse is unamused at the menu. Instead, here's something off the menu from last year. It is the introduction note I sent to the Greens after I joined the party:

I recently joined the Greens on Winter Solstice, after Russel Norman's realpoliltik dropping of the QE policy. That showed political bravery and pragmatism from the Greens, both in suggesting new policies, and dumping old ones that can't be sold to the public. Next year's election is pivotal to the long term future of New Zealand. Booting QE clears the deck for a clear and concise platform to take to the people next year and seek their mandate.

The Greens MPs have shown to be an outstanding Opposition to the Key government, with a better bang for buck ratio than the rest of the Opposition parties combined. Putting aside a few speed wobbles, the party is changing up and consolidating its base, without losing its purpose. I can well imagine expanding on that success, eating into the Maori and Blue Green voting blocs, as well as Labour's bloc and the General Enrolled Non Vote.

But enough flattery. Let me introduce myself. My name is Will. I was born in Palmy on a political animal farm. My first political battle was when I was eight, accidentally leading the faction of Labour Party kids on a school playground at lunch time on Election Day 1978, as a plane flew overhead trailling the banner "Labour is Winning!".

Labour didn't. The old man's Labour lost the Manawatu electorate contest to National's Michael Cox, although Labour's Joe Walding regained Palmerston North after the narrow loss to National in 1975. The lesson here? Every seat is marginal, given the correct circumstances.

Since then I have scrutineered, stuffed envelopes, leaflet dropped, petitioned, databased, policy wonked, and generally volunteered across part of the political spectrum. In chronological order: Labour, Act, Libertarianz, Act, Labour, ALCP and now Greens. If that seems a bit messy, it makes more sense when mapped to my position on the Poltical Compass, which defines me as a Left Libertarian. In short, Ayn Rand was a nutjob (Please excuse the perjorative term. I just wanted to annoy the NSA/GCSB).

I voted Greens in 2011, partly as a protest to Labour's disarray, but mainly because the Greens offered a better alternative team and platform. As a Half Deaf, I was especially pleased to have helped Mojo Mathers enter the House. There is still a long way to go for Disability Rights, especially as National mimics David Cameron's welfare crackdown on the sick and infirm in the UK here in NZ.

I intend to not only vote Greens next year, but hope to encourage others to do so as well. Now more than ever, there needs to be a party that stands with the people, not just giving them lip service such as the main two parties continue to do.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Gated Reverb and Other Sounds of the '80s

One of the great tragedies of the NZ Left is that they have swallowed whole the myth of the Fourth Labour government. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Lange is still revered as a saint instead of the dithering Billy Bunter he was, and Rogernomics is still vilified as voodoo economics.

The Douglas revolution was all but air-brushed out of the Labour Party narrative at the 90th anniversary party at the Beehive, and at other times it is passed off as an aberration. In reality, old Labour MPs such as Joe Walding supported Rogernomics whole-heartedly.

Alas, the false narrative has become the accepted history. This may or may not explain why the party is currently resorting to circling its ever-decreasing wagons.

The tragedy can be summed up in one day; December 17th 1987. Here's Mervyn Wilkinson Hancock's take on it, from the excellent The Sixteen Members of Parliament for Palmerston North 1871-2005, Chapter 15, pg. 511:

Lange broke Cabinet collective responsibility and cancelled the package with his cup of tea. It was clear enough that Lange was exercising a veto power that he did not have, but what can you do? Lange pulled a Muldoon v Fitzgerald where the courts could not go to enforce it, in Cabinet.

Fast forward to today, where Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn complains that the Greens are the only party with a Universal Basic Income policy. If you throw that Rogernomics promise of $370 a week in 1987 dollars into the Reserve Bank's Inflation Calculator, it comes out in 2014 money just shy of $700 a week. That's a reasonable sum for a subsistence family to live in some dignity.

Instead, we're stuck with this hopelessly complex bewilder-beast of WINZ which dribbles out far less to scrape by on, enforced by pains in the forests of paperwork and performance art.

NZ, I love you, but you piss me off.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

News Drought

We're into the second week of news drought here in NZ. Nothing continues to happen. In lieu of news, mirages are common. They look like news at a distance, but upon closer inspection are nothing but the shifting sands of time.

For example, a Kiwi Sleb's Lear jet joins the search for the AWOL MH370. It looks like a match made in clickbait heaven, but turns out to be less than the sum of its parts. Traces of the missing Malaysian airplane continue to elude the search team over the South Indian Ocean, who have only found an ocean full of unrelated human flotsam and jetsam so far. Alas, the man-made Plastic Gyres of inorganic refuse are not news either.

Another cyclist is dead. Police are considering whether to press charges against a 70 year old truck driver who ran over and killed a 22 year old student nurse cyclist.

Sharla Haerewa was wearing a reflective vest and bike lights for Africa, as well as apparently riding in the designated cycle lane. If the police don't charge this truckie with careless driving causing death, THAT would be news.

It would be even better news if the Dutch way of law was introduced here, where the burden of proof always lies with the person in charge of the multi-ton speeding hunk of metal. Fair trade for the freight-friendly Roads of National Significance, eh.

The thinking person's gym bunny, Rachel Smalley, Punk'd herself with a live mic, inadvertently setting off a wrestling match with some self-identifying heifers. It's a fight as old as nerd versus jock but, like alcohol and other drugs, it is a cleavage that feminism has yet to resolve to its satisfaction.

It looks like I picked the wrong week to join Twitter. Just as I join in search of news and novelty, Herald journo David Fisher calls it quits. I can see his point. The signal to noise is so lopsided, I get an idea what SETI must feel like. It's like being in a Kakrafoonian Pub.

At least Towel Day is only a month away. A hopeful thumbs up til then. You're never lost as long as you know where your towel is.

Friday, March 21, 2014


The NZ Problem Gambling Foundation has been effectively defunded after a Ministry of Health review recommended dumping Gambling Foundation services in favour of the Salvation Army. The membrane between state and religion grows ever thinner, and there's a weird funk in the air.

Let's get this clear at the get go. It's not that I wish to pick a fight with the Salvation Army. I have had their Bell Gully law jockeys pissing in my ear on a Friday afternoon when I'm getting my drunk on before. Captain Buzzkills, for sure.

I'd just like to know why the Problem Gambling Foundation was dropped after a long and respectable history, and whether it was the Sallies' tax exempt status that helped undercut the tender for rehab and support services. Unfortunately, the only evidence being presented so far is a series of black boxes.

When casinos were first legalised in NZ, the Casino Control Authority set many conditions on licences. One of those was a gambling levy, which would be funnelled directly towards NGOs funded to be the casinos' nemeses. Some kind of watchmen duality would keep the system in check for the public good.

The NZ Problem Gambling Foundation was a product of this levy. Over the next 20 years, it provided a secular national service for problem addicts, and provided the Problem Gambling literature that casinos must by law have visibly displayed in their premises. The advocacy was separately funded through donations, and worked to minimise problem gambling at the source, through supply control of the gambler crack of pokie machines.

In contrast, the Salvation Army is a more generalised provider of government welfare services; a bit like Serco, the private company behind the Auckland Remand Centre and new Wiri prison, but tax exempt through religious status (The Seventh Day Adventists do the same thing with Sanitarium. Don't get me started on Jesus Freaks and breakfast communions. Suffice it to say, coffee and cigarettes is my rite).

So, after twenty years of internationally recognised excellence in treatment, research and lobbying (Sinking Lid? That was them), why have the NZ Problem Gambling Foundation lost their meal ticket? Well, no-one's saying.

The independent report by the Ministry of Health hasn't popped up. Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne did, on Checkpoint, where he failed to illuminate the why of it either. Nor did the Sallies, who weren't going into specifics. There was unfinished contract haggling to be had yet, and the whole deal was commercially sensitive (My paraphrase, not a quote, m'lud). Unfinished business indeed.

The Ministry of Health is feeling pretty damn sure that the God botherers can improve on the precedents set by the Problem Gambling Foundation. Faith-based even. And which secular NGO is the next to get gobbled up by the Salvation Army's market share and scales of economy?

It's a new monopoly. Pass God. Collect $200.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Born to the Purple

Congratulations to Lewis Holden for becoming the Nat candidate for Rimutaka. I first met Lewis during the NZ Flag campaign, and later got to know him on the occasional times I'd turn up to Republican Movement meetings. Nice choice, Nats. Lewis goes head to head against Labour incumbent Chris Hipkins. Skippy and me crossed paths at Vic Uni, so this election marks the first occasion where Facebook mates square off against each other for a seat.

Labour's candidates Rob McCann and Tony Milne are also known quantities. Rob McCann is an old school mate from way back, who ended up in the public service. He's the true Labour heir to the Otaki electorate, after Darren Hughes pulled the wrong pin and Mitchell jump-seated the last election. I hope Rob unseats Nathan Guy there. Doing so would raise the IQ of both Labour and National caucuses.

Tony Milne was (former Labour Chief Whip and current Labour Party Secretary) Tim Barnett's Mini-Me back in the early 2000's when I began learning the art of lobbying the hard way over drug reform. I met them for a short consultation in Auckland, where I was informed that Peter Dunne has rooted the numbers after the 2002 election (after the worm, which was after Corngate, which was after everything else). Tony Milne is well-suited to run for Christchurch.

But it becomes evident that Labour's Got Talent is picking from an ever-decreasing puddle. The student activists and broad union base has dried up, and Labour is resorting to fellow travelers in the political or media classes; career politicians and bleeding heart journos. It could be, it might be worse. Lacking any unifying principles beyond autocracy, NZ First and the Maori Party have reached for weather presenters in the search for Beta demagogues to keep up appearances.

If Labour can't stop Spinal Tapping around in the wilderness and disappearing in a raspberry cloud of self-indulgent alienation, this fate or worse awaits. They're already onto their third lead singer in six years, and their fifth drummer, Matt McCarten, has joined the band after the last drummer exploded in shingles. Matt McCarten's drum solos are known for their originality, not their longevity.

It's academic as far as I'm concerned. I joined the Green Party last Winter Solstice. While I might not agree with all the ingredients that go into the Green Party sausage factory, what comes out at the other end in the way of policy doesn't make the public violently ill. Take their latest policy to get kids to school without SUVs, for example. The NZ Herald yummed it up, Hooton reckons the Nats will probably grab the idea, and there's not a squeak from the Soccer Mums. Anyone who can defuse a Soccer Mum has my respect.

The Greens aren't looking to be a minority coalition partnership with Labour. They know that if Cunliffe had a choice to rebuff the Greens and go into government with NZ First, he would do so. Longer term, the Greens are aiming for a majority. The Greens equivalent of Labour's Rob McCann, Wellington's James Shaw, has been likewise pushed up the provisional Green Party List. McCann and Shaw are both organisers. They make shit happen.

So Labour and the Greens both know what's ahead and what's at stake. In the adaptability stakes, my money's on the Greens.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Intersection of Ford and Cribb

If you enjoyed The Luminaries, Top of the Lake or True Detective (or, at least, its unmined potential), you'll enjoy this 80 page sequel of sorts from the Independent Police Complaints Authority, involving the framing of 17 year-old Maori Shane Cribb by Alexandra Police. The innocent are punished, the guilty walk free, and at the end, nothing changes.

Follow the exploits of Constable Dairne Cassidy, the token female in a cast of cocks. Convicted in court of attempting to pervert the course of justice, she is but one of two anti-heroes. The other being belligerent shit stirrer Stephen Potter (Cribb's girlfriend's Dad). It is Potter's nagging of the IPCA that eventually sees this miscarriage of justice seen to.

It's a sad state of affairs when the best conclusion that the IPCA can produce late on a Friday afternoon is that they found no evidence of police conspiracy. Almost as sad as the vacant recommendations, seeing how the the Policing Act 2008 apparently fixed everything.

If you prefer the audiobook version of the main plot points, tune your ears to Mary Wilson's cross examination of Stephen Potter, or the carefully chosen words of District Commander for Southern Police, Superintendent Andrew Coster.

There's a beer token waiting for ex-cop Dairne Cassidy and bush lawyer Stephen Potter here. Valid at the local Raumati pub. No expiry date.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Mojo's Fulcrum

If it were possible to send a soundbite back in time to myself as a child, it would sound something like "You're Deaf! You're Deaf! You're fucking Deaf!" This cryptic advice, if heeded, might have saved a lot of soul-searching along the way, as well as a considerable amount of collateral damage.

Alas, pretensions of normalcy demand otherwise, even now. Consider simpleton Sym Gardiner, who insists his cochlear-implanted daughter not learn a second language because it will mess with her head:
"Their identity is all wrapped around the (NZSL) language."

"The reality is, it's probably not really a living language."

"We have no desire for my daughter to particularly identify with the deaf community."

"Our desire is that she's completely mainstreamed and she's just like any normal kid."

The best cure for stupid shit like this is the Four Deaf Yorkshiremen joke.

Katya is one of mine; born Deaf in a world of Norms. She differs from other tribal Deaf, such as those who go Deaf from occupational hazard or illness such as Otosclerosis, or old age. There used to be an informative Brit vid on YouTube pointing out the subtle differences between these tribes, but it was taken down for copyright reasons (possibly for the use of execrable '80s pop song AEIOU).

Regardless of what Sym says, his daughter will have a rich and well-stocked interior monologue. Her eyes will grab what her bionic ears cannot. She will be better read than her father, and probably less subtle in her opinions.

Thank Dagg Mojo is in the House, trailblazing through the many barriers still in place to Deaf participation. Even the Nats have u-turned on their ACC policy to the newly-Deaf, as well as expanding aids to children.

But the big ask is yet to come. You can have disability employment services out the wazoo, but if the employers are still too timid to hire, nothing changes. There still needs to be a shock to the system.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

The Westminster Duality

Big ups to Arts & Letters Daily for throwing a link to this discourse on the genetic differences between liberals and conservatives. A few observations:

The monkey that used the first weapon in 2001; A Space Odyssey was a liberal.

Somewhere in the dark distant past, at least one of Colin Craig's ancestors fucked a Neanderthal.

The Act Party should stick to third or fourth cousins at least for the greatest genetic diversity.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Bush Toasts Police Cannabis Conservation Efforts

RNZAF's Green Hornet, fresh from seeding the Waitakere Ranges

Police Commissioner Mike Bush today praised Police efforts in their annual cannabis seeding project.

"Every year, the NZ Police spends millions of dollars in an attempt to conserve the endangered cannabis plant. In association with the NZ Air Force, Police locate fertile female cannabis plants, uproot them, and fly them over dense bush land, in an attempt to spread cannabis seeds over as wide an area as possible," said Commissioner Bush to an assembled group of police and selected members of the media.

"The NZ Police has a long and proud history of planting things," said Commissioner Bush as he set alight a Wicker Man full of cannabis. "Normally, possession of cannabis seeds is a criminal offence. There is no statute of limitations on the growing of cannabis. It falls to the NZ Police to fulfill this duty."

"We sow the seeds. Nature grows the seeds. We seize the plants. And so the circle of life is complete," chanted Commissioner Bush from amidst the smoke.

After a few minutes, Commissioner Bush re-appeared.

"I have spoken with TolleyMachus. This year's budget will be bountiful," Bush concluded, before retiring to the lunch buffet and finishing off a platter of sausage rolls.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Birth of Gonzo

Just as Kroc didn't invent McDonald's (he was a milkshake maker salesman), Hunter S. Thompson didn't invent the term Gonzo. That honour belongs to Eichhorn:

And now, here's National's Jack Marshall posing in front of some subversive comics he wanted to ban:

This post is dedicated to Deborah Hill Cone and all the other writers, comics and blogsters fighting to keep the NZ in gonzo. Keep calm and keep creatively self-destructing on behalf of the public good.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Careful What You iPredict

David Farrar pumps up Kiwi Poll Guy's look at iPredict stocks that back another term of National Government. Conveniently, they specifically highlight the odds of a post-election National PM:
Kiwi Poll Guy looks at what has been happening on iPredict:

iPredict is running a contract on National winning the 2014 election.  It was originally launched on 26 October 2011, a month before the 2011 General Election, and has been floating around between $0.40 and $0.60 since then.  It’s only in the last month that the stock has moved significantly beyond $0.60, so it’s worth taking a quick look.

It is convenient because I took a screen shot of the Buy/Sell in this category back in late January:

Note how someone has flooded the market, almost guaranteeing that the stock won't fall beneath 60 cents. You can't see it at iPredict now, as they only show the Top 10 orders.

Media beware. It's bad enough creating self-fulfilling prophesies with polls. It is quite another to invent futures based on asymmetric gamblers.

Unforced Errors

Justice Minister Judith Collins gets caught pimping her husband's milk in China during an official visit. Cabinet rules expressly forbid ministers endorsing products for advertorials. Not a good look, what with former National Justice Ministers Jeffries and Graham courting public disdain and all.

David Cunliffe once again proves he is his enemy's best friend by admitting to hidden donations. For someone who spent years planning his ascent to the top of the Labour party, he seems to have spent bugger all time on logistics.

According Labour IT spokesperson Clare Curran, whose office data dumped policy ideas to National's IT Minister Amy Adams, Labour will be going to the election with a range of KKK platforms.

How to articulate the awfulness of it all? Describe the plot lines of these first season episodes of Family Guy only by their titles:

Death Has a Shadow
I Never Met the Dead Man
Chitty Chitty Death Bang

Sunday, March 02, 2014

A Statement from TWAT

Taxpayers Who Aren't Thieves would like to apologise for any offence taken by members of the public by a spokesperson over a Deaf MP's parliamentary expenses.

Yesterday, the NZ Herald contacted a Taxpayers Who Aren't Thieves spokesperson seeking comment on a story regarding an alleged misuse of taxpayers' funds. The reporter reported that they had a report purporting to report that an Opposition MP (and an admitted MMP supporter) had rorted inexplicable expenses with taxpayer funds.

After confirming that no fellow golf club members were involved in the rorting, the spokesperson released a statement that may have been misconstrued by non-members.

TWAT is an equal opportunity lobby group dedicated to publicising gross inequalities in government spending. The TWAT spokesperson on duty at the time of the NZ Herald enquiry has been diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome, and anything he says should be considered with this in mind.

We admit that the $510 expense incurred to attend an interview is part of the normal duties of parliamentary business for a Member of Parliament does not qualify for such TWAT scrutiny. If we really were this petty, people might draw attention to the massive hypocrisy involved in persecuting such trifling sums.

In order to distract you from the stupid mess caused by this TWAT, please raise your pitchforks and light your torches for Michael Hill Jeweller, who didn't get some taxpayer money he asked for.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Three Whyte Stripes and the Weakly Interacting Massive Particles

It didn't take long for Richard Prebble's massive gravity to be noticed on the Act party's subatomic body politic. Only last Sunday, new leader Jamie Whyte was announcing a new dawn for Act. Nek minnit, it's three strikes for burglars.

David Seymour has been left alone by the media pack, leaving him the plodding work of door-knocking around Epsom and introducing his unknown mug to the electorate. Seeing as he's hoping to be the third local Act MP in as many elections, he has his work cut out for him. This could well be Epsom's third strike.

Act's apparent leader has had no such luck. Fresh from clawing his way out of the bleedingly obvious snare of the Incest Pit earlier in the week, Jamie Whyte has recanted last week's pledge that he "backs tough deterrents but law and order is now not one of the party's policy priorities".

Audrey Young reports from Act's annual conference today that the reason for Whyte announcing this backslide into the hard right was because his Mum was burgled and the culprit shat on the floor.

Let's count off a few of the inherent idiocies.

1. Burglary, like buggery, loosens the bowels. Any police who attend burglaries will tell you it's not uncommon to find a ripe crime scene. Home invaders have also been known to piss on an innocent person's rug.

2. Burglary is one of the most under-reported crimes. Official police records show the resolution rate for burglaries hovers around the same rate as GST, 15 percent. 7/8 of reported burglaries go unresolved. The only people who report burglaries are the hopelessly naive or those with insurance, who need the police paperwork for their claim. There is no target market here, only poor signalling.

3. Never bring your Mum to a gun fight. Don't use your Mum as a body shield either. Use John Banks' corpse instead.

4. It sounds remarkably like policy by anecdote, a remarkably bad way to make law.

5. There's nothing new with Act at all. We've had flat tax, three strikes and cousin hopping in the last week. With a bit of luck, they'll try talking up charter schools and education vouchers next week.

It will be interesting to see if anti-Prebble, the McCarten Particle, will have a similar effect on Labour. Will we be seeing the return of some old Alliance policies (or existing Mana policies, take your pick), such as Jim Anderton's Financial Transactions Tax?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Bennett of the Doubt

The Faceborg has informed me that it is 2000AD's birthday. To blithely say that the sci-fi comic was an influential aspect on my world perspective is as understated as it is moronic (Take that, Chris Finlayson's style guide). So, happy new revolution around the sun, Tharg. Glad you haven't barfed yet.

Back in 2000AD's golden years, from around 1981 to 86, grand idealists abounded. Among Alan Moore's Twisted Times and Dredd's Wagner/Ezquerra ultimately black comic fascism, it was Nemesis the Warlock (via Script Robot Pat Mills) who pointed out the plain facts out of the fiction, with great truths such as "What's the point of having dark arts if you don't meddle with them?"

With this is mind, might I try to tie various disparate popular themes together into one elegant political equation?

The tl;dr is this - a tolerable level of chaos.

We used to have the principle of the "reasonable person" embedded in Law, courtesy of the British system of justice. Beyond reasonable doubt and all that. The Crown used to bestow the benefit of the doubt where facts were disputed. In recent years, this foundational principle has been eroded by the lower threshold endorsed by the civil courts; the balance of probabilities.

You can see this point of reference in all points of popular culture these days; from the hectoring mobs of cyber-bullies virtually lynching people for just the wrong level of tolerance, to the Cam Slater's outbursts such as NZ politics is a hateful zero-sum business.

There is more to heav'n and earth than is dreamt of than all those philosophies. As a nation, our comparative advantage lies in being small and nimble. In a post-agrarian, post-industrial world where intellectual property comes into its own, we are not being as innovative as we should. I believe that this is mainly because of the recent baby boomer prohibition on people fucking around. They reckon there's too much fucking around. I say we're not doing nearly enough.

As Nassim Taleb points out in Antifragile, most technologies didn't appear from formal methods such as Big Pharma. They come from interested people fucking around with shit. From Goodyear to Dirac, from Marie Curie to Pasteur, Fleming, Watson and Crick, or even Feynman observing spinning dinner plates, all the big jumps come from smart people meddling with shit.

For example, back in the day when Mother Meri Aubert ran the Homes of Compassion in Island Bay (where Matt McCarten would later be raised in captivity), explosions would regularly be heard from the back shed as Mother Mary fucked with shit.

As a wise girl once told me, "It's not what you've got, it what's you do with it."

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Charlotte's Web

The MSM has spent the last thirty years dismantling the stoic yet informative NZBC formula and dosing up on tabloid sensation and fripperies. Reality TV, slebrification, native advertising. Instead of encouraging the best out of people, it has pandered to the basest elements of the public psyche.

Now that it has conjured up this ravenous, insatiable consumer of content - with all the lack of scruples that an advertising-led agenda entails - the MSM don't get to whine about the hatemail by-product.

Garbage in, garbage out. If you set the level of debate at grunt level, grunting is all you'll get. Change up or shut up.

Onya for the insight, Deborah Hill-Cone. Rebel without applause.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Colin Craig Admits to Transvestism in Bid for East Coast Bays

A New Zealand-based Polynesian Ice Skating duo competing at the Sochi Olympics today announced that they were in fact a pair of screaming queens who love to dress up in women's clothes. The Winter Olympics Committee is reported to be shocked by the announcement.

Colin "Hudson" Fa'afafine and Craig Halls, who go by the moniker Colin Craig, today admitted that they were long-time practicing members of the North Shore Transvestite community. Their flamboyant Olympic act, involving Ed Wood references, moon aliens and a medley of songs themed around chemtrails, admitted today that their Sochi performance was semi-autobiographical.

"I've always felt uncomfortable wearing a suit," said Craig at the press conference. "They never seem to fit right. Frankly, I feel more comfortable in angora sweaters and a padded bra," he said.

Colin Craig has reached the ice skating quarter-finals at Sochi, and are expected to go head to head against Russia's Sugar Plum Fairies this Thursday.

Craig added that he would raise awareness for the rights of LGBT by standing for Parliament in this year's election, in his home electorate of East Coast Bays.

"We're not just going for gold," said Colin, who has agreed to be Craig's campaign manager and primary campaign donor once the Winter Olympics are over. "We're saying whether you're a New Zealander, a Polynesian, an Afrikaner, or even an uptight delicate flower with a Messiah complex, you reserve the right to wear the clothes you want."

Colin Craig says they have the required 500 members to form a party, and expect a party name and policy platforms to be announced soon.

"The S&M sub-committee has had some very robust discussions on smacking," said Craig. "For example, opinion is still divided on whether cat o' nine tails or the riding crop should be the standard unit of discipline. However, there was unanimity that no-one should ever smack children, only consenting adults."

This just in from Andrew Geddis.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

National and Labour's Too-Hard Basket is Full of Pissed Off Voters

Good on Colin Espiner making an eloquent plea for NZ to revisit this futile and destructive War on Drugs.

The National government has ignored the Law Commission's first review of the Misuse of Drugs Act since the law's inception, even with its mild conclusions and Jim Anderton rooting its terms of reference with a conservative reading of the United Nations Conventions. Not altogether unlike National ignoring the recommendations of the Electoral Representation Commission on MMP, which they themselves commissioned.

In fairness, Labour is rooting the hamster on both the War on Drugs and MMP reform as well. Labour MP for Palmy, Iain Lees-Galloway, should have presented his private member's bill on MMP reform with the MMP Commission's findings intact, not cherry-picked to Labour's flavour. The party has learned nothing from their Electoral Finance Act fisting.

Lees-Galloway is also Labour's shadow drug czar, and there's no sign of ceasefire in the War on Drugs from him. He's no different from the general ignorance of current drug czar Todd McClay. Vanilla? Don't get me started on vanilla.

Power before public good, eh. And still the main parties wonder at the rise of the micro parties and the enrolled non-vote. The fish are not apathetic. They're just not going to swallow the same stale bait that these anglers are dangling any more.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Fast Times at NatRad High

There's a lot of shuffling going on in NatRad's deck right now. The new NatRad Mad Hatter, Paul Thompson, has declared that everyone change places. Once the music stops and all the bums are on the new seats and settled in, we might just be looking at a new dawn of relevance for the public broadcaster.

Morning Report is losing the two Geoffs and getting back to the original good cop/bad cop formula. It's uncertain how much social media feedback influenced the decision, but the pairing of Susie Ferguson with Guyon Espiner is inspired. Espiner's talents especially have been buried far too long by the burdens of TV, where soundbites and greasepaint rule the stage.

The same formula is being used to re-invigorate Morning Report's post meridian twin, Checkpoint. Old Himbo Jim Mora moves from Afternoons to balance out the slashing scalpel of Mary Wilson. Second Geoff Simon Mercep is moving into the Afternoons show, where he should prove capable of renovating the slot into something worthwhile that doesn't require a dose Prozac or some similar hypnotic to bear listening to.

Likewise, I'll be tempted to tune in for more than just Mediawatch on Sunday mornings once Wallace Chapman gets in Chris Laidlaw's old seat and makes his own groove.

Fortunately, no changes have been announced for the parts of NatRad's schedule that work fine currently. Nine to Noon and Saturday Mornings have the right people with Kathryn Ryan and Kim Hill respectively. The Arts segment has been reformatted but Lynn Freeman is kept on.

As well as the new youth-oriented venture The Wireless, NatRad is finally aiming more squarely at that crucial under-65 years old demographic. The baby boomer's grip on the media narrative is slowly fading.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Shane Jones and the Fast Moving Consumer Goods Sector

Shane Jones has come out swinging against the NZ supermarket duopoly, using Parliamentary Privilege to accuse the Countdown supermarket chain of blackmailing NZ suppliers.

For once, the Labour Party is timely in its exploitation of this old rort. It comes as the Oz supermarket chains launch an aggressive Buy Australian campaign, excluding NZ suppliers out of spite at times, as Rod Oram points out. Apparently, Jones even has the support of ex-Nat Katherine Rich on the matter.

This shit has traction. There's all sorts of muck lurking in the dark world of supplier/wholesaler/retailer relations. Monopolies are flying below the radar of even the Commerce Commission, one of the gems of the much-maligned Fourth Labour Government. One easy policy would be to grunt-up the Commerce Commission and give it fierce teeth. A small economy such as NZ needs a certain regulatory gravitas.

Confidence and Paranoia

Seven Sharp grows up with a mature look at Medical Cannabis. It's a strange world we live in where NZ doctors can prescribe opioids out the wazoo, but the doctors still can't prescribe cannabinoids (In the 1950's, the UN complained that NZ had the world's highest per capita use of prescribed heroin).

If only the MSM can transfer that maturity to other areas of news. Violent crime, for example. In the 1950's, NZ had an imprisonment rate of around 56 prisoners per 100,000 population, while Finland had a rate of 189 per 100K. By 2008, the countries had swapped places. NZ now has an imprisonment rate of around 200 per 100K, while Finland has quartered its prison population.

Ours is the second highest rate of imprisonment in the Western World (Never mind David Farrar muddying the waters. I will slap him with a wet bus ticket next time I spot him in the pub). Here's Roger Brooking explaining the details of imprisonment rates (starting at 15:40):

Roger Brooking on Prison Reform from Will de Cleene on Vimeo.

How did Finland drop its imprisonment rate? As Roger Brooking explains around the twenty minute mark, one thing was that politicians and media agreed not to sensationalise violent crime any more. Hope would get airtime, not hate. For instance, more space was given to stories of successful rehabilitation of prisoners on their own terms. One of the final Court Report programs that went out to air on TVNZ 7 was a good go at this angle.

I know this is a big ask, people. My old man was one of the original shit-stirrers who sensationalised crime for political gain back in the 1980's. It went full bloom at the beginning at MMP, when all the fresh messiahs were staking out their turf on the new political landscape. No party could be too tough on crime.

For the journos, crime is easy news that writes itself, comes with its own graphic appeal, and is the cheapest clickbait this side of the latest poll results. Pandering to the crowds' need for vicarious blood is a cheap trick. It takes writers of sterner stuff, investigative journalists for example, to challenge the status quo and improve the public good.

True discoveries are seldom glamorous.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Leaving Las Vegas via New York

The Year of the Horse is off to an inauspicious start with the apparent death by heroin overdose of Philip Seymour Hoffman. The autopsy report has yet to be concluded, let alone released to the public, but this hasn't stopped the NYPD hunting down and arresting four suspected heroin dealers.

Using the same Salem Witch Hunt logic, the cops should also detain the car dealer who handed the keys to the Fast and the Furious' Paul Walker. Alcohol brands would have their assets seized if screenwriters stockpiled their product and drank themselves to death with it.

Such is the weird world of prohibition and liability in the US, this does not happen (although some states do allow drink driving victims to sue the last tavern, usually because they have more insurance money than the drunk driver).

Tests on the heroin found at Hoffman's apartment have reported it to be high quality, free of adulterants and contaminants that have blighted other parts of the North West states. The cops might have just increased the market share of dodgy horse in NYC.

Apparently, dozens of bags were found at the scene. It isn't noted whether this was accumulated stock or a bulk purchase - a horse cellar or a shopping spree at the yearling sales, so to speak. Without going into too much speculation without evidence, I ponder what drove this character actor's motivations in his final act.

Either way, this current witch hunt will end up burning the wrong people. If you live your life in a burning house, you may end up dying of smoke inhalation. No point arresting the real estate agent.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Died So Jung

So long, Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Thanks for Happiness.

Thanks for Magnolia.

Thanks for The Big Lebowski.

Thanks for Synecdoche, New York.

Thanks for kindling a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Black Flag, White Flag

John Key has seized the flag debate from apolitical limbo and made a run once again into Labour's unguarded territory.

He's taking a gamble on it, taking fire from the more conservative elements of National's wide church, such as the RSA curmudgeons. But their numbers are small, and where else can they go? Even Winston Peters has been making positive noises about the subject.

Key has stolen the march on Labour with one of Helen Clark's old electioneering prongs of National Identity. Just like last week's Super Teacher announcement, it's as if National has sifted through Labour's policy remits and nicked what they could live with. The Nats are pre-emptively neutralising all of Labour's potential in-roads. The body politic have their hearts and minds fed with the illusion of incremental progress.

If you didn't know, I'm all in favour of a real NZ flag, as opposed to one hastily patched together by British seamen. For that matter, I reckon every household should have its own flag. United Tribes indeed.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Found it, pinched it, spent it

Dim Post joins the Press Gallery in a Greek Chorus of asking Cunliffe how he's going to fund his new child policy. I hope this just for the sake of theatre, because I'm pretty sure the money is coming from the new progressive tax on incomes over $150,000 Labour wants to introduce, or a new capital gains tax. Both will contain enough loopholes to keep accountants salivating in anticipation.

Between Labour and National policies, you'd have imagined that the 1980s and 1990s never happened, and we've slid back into the 1970s through some wormhole. Goodbye Tomorrow's Schools, hello Incentivised Super Teachers. Goodbye clean low-churn tax system, hello horribly complicated bribe scheme. I hope the ageing IRD mainframe doesn't have a meltdown.


Back in the late 1990's, National MP Roger Sowry was the Associate Minister for Health who launched NZ's first National Drug Policy. The document was partly a response to NGO pressure groups, from drug counsellors through to NORML NZ, hassling for a more mature policy framework to deal with NZ's love of drugs than just the blunt tools of the Misuse of Drugs Act and the liquor laws.

This comprehensive document was reviewed in the 2000's, when Jim Anderton put his spin on it. John Key's government has finally got around to reviewing the National Drug Policy, presumably under the guidance of Associate Minister for Health Todd McClay.

A discussion document has been released seeking feedback on the latest incarnation of the National Drug Policy. This paper is notable for two things. Firstly, it doesn't once mention cannabis. There's no mention at all of the global legalisation trends.

Secondly, there is a not so subtle swing away from addressing direct drug harms:
Traditionally, the NDP mostly focused on minimising harm to the users of alcohol and drugs, by controlling drug supply, dissuading use and providing users with access to treatment.
However, families, communities and society are also impacted by these substances and the children of drug users are at greater risk of growing up to become drug users themselves.  Breaking this intergenerational cycle requires a whole-of-system response, including an emphasis on how whānau, communities and settings such as schools can be supported to minimise drug-related harm.
You see what they did there? Adult drug use is now all about the kids.

The Greens' Jan Logie points to a similar hollowing out of intents with protection orders by National as well:
This government has shifted the focus from domestic violence to vulnerable children despite domestic violence being one of the most significant risks for children in NZ.

Domestic Violence was not mentioned once in the white paper, despite a large number of submissions raising this issue. There is nothing in the legislation to progress our response to Domestic Violence. In fact it may well move resources away from domestic violence.
It looks a hell of a lot like sweeping problems under carpets. And if Colin Craig becomes Minister for Families and brings back the belt, the return to the 1950's pavlova paradise will be complete.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

State Schools and Free Lunches

The NZ Herald's latest meta-campaign is drawing attention to the high cost of 'voluntary' school fees in Auckland. It's far from the most expensive state school in NZ. Thanks to the National government, that honour belongs to one of NZ's newest state schools, Wanganui Collegiate:
The former private school is asking $10,900 a year for day students and $21,850 for boarders, about 10% more than it charged last year.

The privileged are always first in line for a free lunch at National's buffet. Meanwhile, the Greens have just announced free lunches and a range of welfare measures aimed at the poorest schools.

Cake for the wealthy or bread for the needy. Your choice, NZ.

4:20 News - Countdown to Election 2020 Edition

President Obama recently admitted in an interview that cannabis was no more harmful than alcohol, indicating that he won't be bringing the federal hammer down on the state experiments with legal cannabis sales in Colorado and Washington any time soon. Many miles south of his border, Uruguay has become the first country to legalise cannabis growing and sales.

Meanwhile in NZ, the War on Drugs is alive and well. Our lawmakers continue to remain wilfully ignorant of the high cost of cannabis prohibition, while claiming the moral high ground. Take aspiring Act party leader John Boscawen, for example (HT Lindsay Mitchell):
"We had Don Brash come out and promote the liberalisation of marijuana and while that may have had the support of five per cent of the population..."
According to the Ministry of Health, twice as many NZers use cannabis daily than who voted for the Act party last election (50,800 compared with 23,889). The same source says that 14 percent of the population use cannabis at least once a year. Boscawen knows as much about cannabis prohibition as Katrina Shanks knows about the internet.

Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party's misguided missile, Fred MacDonald, has turned up at Ratana and was savaged by Shane Jones. He's not the most subtle activist, but Fred was on message. Labour's most prolific wanker can only throw a tissue of insults in riposte.

Mac may have broken protocol, but I'm sure he would have had a parlay/korero to explain his actions with the locals later on.

Last election, the ALCP received 11,738 votes, around half the Act party's haul. But can the ALCP get MSM airtime along with the other political minnows? Like hell. ALCP aren't welcome at the TV minor leaders' debates. The MSM can lavish attention on spanners like Colin Craig or Dotcom, but Cannabis Law Reform is the butt of every joke.

Off the record, I have personally yet to meet a journalist who doesn't like to get loaded and have a good time. But put them in a TV studio and on the record, they vomit the tabloid puritanism of prohibition. The mainstream hypocrisy came to a head at Waitangi some years ago when a Close Up crew exploited the hospitality of cannabis law reform activists for a slot they ended up calling Reefer Madness.

I hold high hopes that this media perversity will wane as the baby boomers are replaced by Generation Xers. Conservative or liberal, few Xers share their forebears' pavlova conditioning. The transition has already begun and should be complete by 2020, when the last Muldoon groupie leaves Parliament.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Publish and Be Damned

There doesn't seem to be any sign in NZSL for bloggers. I suggest two fists with middle fingers extended, pointing downwards and jabbing as if typing, followed by a swift slap with the right hand (mimicking an old manual carriage return).

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Noises Off!

The NZ Left are secretly in love with Robert Muldoon. Vocal proponents of the NZ Left spit tacks against Rogernomics in a way that they don't rally against Muldoon. This is because they are in love with Muldoon's autocratic conservative interventionist style, noting that he only made a few bad gambles. Muldoon's means justify their ends.

Pablo's critique of the NZ Left keeps throwing up core problems involved with this love affair, even as he pines for its return to power. Take the Left blogs, for example. Red Alert, The Daily Blog and The Standard love playing censor to the free thoughts of their commenters. This isn't about weeding out trollers or spammers, but silencing divergent voices.

Pablo wasn't even allowed to comment on Chris Trotter's reply to Pablo's post. He had to republish it on his own site. Giovanni Tiso's comment was also refused permission for publication. Here it is:
"I must vehemently protest you drawing Gramsci into this. Firstly, the sentence you quote means the exact opposite of how you're presenting it. ‘Sono pessimista per l’intelligenza, ottimista per la volontà’ comes from one of the prison letters. As he explains it, it means that he has taken to be utterly pessimistic and bleak in his analysis of any given situation, in order to muster the strongest possible will to change it. And by change Gramsci always meant radical change. He hated reformists. To suggest otherwise is deeply offensive to his memory, seeing as his refusal to compromise and soften his stance is what led directly to his imprisonment and ultimately to his death.

There is very little doubt in my mind – as there could be in anyone who had read his work – that Gramsci would have nothing but contempt for the contemporary New Zealand political class. To suggest otherwise is frankly bizarre."

There, that wasn't so bad now, was it? It wasn't offensive or worthy of censure, surely? How many other valid but improper thoughts have been thrown down the memory tube for the greater good of the collective?

Divergent voices are not welcome with the true NZ Left. They have no need for outside influences. They already know everything. There is no dialogue in their dialectic.

And still they wonder why the voting public won't trust them. The old man always said that the Labour Party are experts of rationalising defeat, because they've had so much practice at it. Some things never change. They just die out.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Taxing Times with Sticky Housing

David Cunliffe has re-announced old news about Labour dropping two tax policies that never took off. Labour has now officially dropped the income tax free threshold, and the proposed GST exception for fresh fruit and vegetables.

It's unfortunate that no-one could manage to sell the tax-free threshold in Labour. The policy would have largely benefitted Labour's alleged core constituents, as well as gone some way to repealing Bill English's paperboy tax, and more closely alligning with Oz's tax-free income threshold. Labour has moved away from a central part of any Guaranteed Minimum Income policy, throwing all its eggs into the unions' Working Living Wage campaign.

The fruit and vege GST loophole was never a winner, and should have never been approved by the Labour Council. All the policy did was confuse the audience, and show up Labour's brains trust to be fiscally illiterate. It was so poorly designed, it made Working for Families look relatively elegant.

More substantive tax policies are hinted at being foreshadowed in Cunliffe's State of the Nation speech next week. The progressive tax hike for high income earners is still in the mix. As is a capital gains tax on housing, excluding the "family home". Some changes at Working for Families are hinted at. It wouldn't be a Labour party that didn't whip the working classes with more sin taxes on booze and smokes too. No-one in Labour understands the term Tax Churn.

There's a simpler solution to tax reform which is now available to Labour which previously wasn't, due to severe internal consistency flaws. It doesn't require mucking about with entirely new tax regimes and all the grifting and upheaval that requires (Just look at the grief caused by the LVR restrictions). It would take some heat out of the housing bubble, while removing some incentive for short term investment property flippers.

Make all (residential and commercial) property sales subject to GST.

Monday, January 20, 2014


The silly season has laid out the plans of this year's political minnows. Colin Craig has come out of the closet as a smack dealer. Dotcom screwed the pooch showing he couldn't organise a party at Vector Arena. For all the serious contenders yet to show their hand, here's three free policy platforms that I reckon would go down well with the body politic right now.

1) Make it a criminal act for any New Zealander NOT to punch George W. Bush in the face, if introduced to him.

2) Rename NZ dollars bucks. Ten bucks, Twenty bucks. Dollars is so last century.

3) Legalise squatting. These house prices are ridiculous.

And now, here's Pablo at KiwiPolitico wondering what the FUCK has happened to the NZ Left.

Wahine Meanies, Maori Modernity

It has been interesting watching the clash between Maori tikanga and modern etiquette over the silly season. Late last year, the Speaker sought to alleviate sexism on Parliament Grounds by no longer forbidding women from sitting in the front row of the wharenui. Outrage and umbrage followed.

Skirmishes such as this are happening all around the place, such as the law-breaking women drivers of Saudi Arabia. Traditional mores and ways of conservatism are blown by the winds of change. What will remain and what will evolve?

The illusion of progress informs us that culture disgards the archaic when something better comes along. Take the wharenui, for example. Not long after colonisation began, Maori stopped lashing their walls together and began using nails. After the missionaries passed through, stained glass windows let the light indoors. Later on, corrogated iron replaced the raupo roof. Paints provided a wider palette that the traditional range of pigments.

Some things are more tikanga than others, eh. I'm not convinced by the justifications of protecting women from taniwhas and bad atua for hui seating arrangements. My theory is that it's a face-saving gesture to the old male kaumatua. Men go deaf more readily than women, and the old geezers sit in the front seats to better grasp what's going on. The sharper eared whaine can hear just fine from further back.

Mind you, if we're talking about ditching archaic mumbo-jumbo from Parliament, the Speaker could fire Black Rod and the pseudo-Beefeaters that open Parliament.

Better Late Than Never

The second time I quit the Act party in disgust was over the party's unquestioning support for the Second Iraq War in 2003. So it is some small comfort to read then-Act MP Deborah Coddington's second thoughts while visiting Vietnam.

And now, here's America's smartest idiot on Vietnam, Robert Strange McNamara.

Friday, January 17, 2014

How Much Reality Can You Take?

The global brains trust formerly known as the Reality Club has asked 176 great wonks to answer the following question: What Scientific Idea is Ready for Retirement?

There appear to be two main prongs to the 174 responses; the limits of maths and problems with misanthropism.

Firstly, there is quite a lot of hate out there for hammering everything into a bell shaped curve. Nassim Taleb crucifies standard deviation, which removes all the natural harsh spikes of chaos and rounds them down to meaningless but elegant shapes.

Gregory Benford applies much the same scalpel to the idea that maths can describe nature. There's way too much chaos in the system. And every system is dependent on intial conditions, feedback loops and whorls. There's rounding errors again.

Dean Ornish presents a practical example of this wedge issue, mooting that large randomised controlled trials are not a gold standard without bias. Observing changes outcomes. I call it Lab Rat Psychosis, and it explains everything from some anxiety disorders through to the non push-polling that passing for opinion polls these days. An opinion freely expressed is better quality than one squeezed out, but they don't graph so easily.

Bart Kosko looks at statistical independence and the probability of white noise. Beyond Markov chains, there lies a future dependent on past (initial?) conditions as shapers of the present.

Then there's other theme, the human misuse of the Anthropic Principle.

Andrei Linde takes a chainsaw to universal uniformity, noting that the cosmological constant may only be constant to our part of the universe, at this particular time. If the multiverse is a 10500 sided dice, our reality is merely a finite probability.

Amanda Gefter takes on the taxonomy of universe and snorts derisively. She does this by way of describing black hole inside/outside flow, before throwing entangled cats either side of the event horizon. Nasty.

Nina Jablonski looks at the myth of Race, which appears to be a Christian Slaver construct to justify their inhumanity to man. See also The Oatmeal on Christopher Columbus.

Julia Clarke, paleontologist, gets annoyed with people conflating birds with flying. Here in NZ, we are pretty attuned to concepts like flightless birds. Black Swans are a native species here too.

Martin Rees channels Richard Feynman, taking an axe to the supremacy of human intellect (e.g. statistics). He appears to be preparing the public for the fact that there may be no simple answers to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything, and that it may be onions all the way down.

Two critiques of misanthropy stand out. In light of Karl du Fresne's vivid story of his late brother-in-law, this extract regarding mental illness as a holistic condition including environment, not as solely a brain disease, bears mentioning:
The central form of psychosis, schizophrenia, is the psychiatric brain disease par excellence. But schizophrenia interacts with the outside world, in particular, the social world. Decades of research has given us robust evidence that the risk of developing schizophrenia goes up with experience of childhood adversity, like abuse and bullying. Immigrants are at about twice the risk, as are their children. And the risk of illness increases in a near-linear fashion with the population of your city and varies with the social features of neighborhoods. Stable, socially coherent neighborhoods have a lower incidence than neighborhoods that are more transient and less cohesive. We don’t yet understand what it is about these social phenomena that interacts with schizophrenia, but there is good reason to think they are genuinely social.

Secondly, Helen Fisher calls for the abandonment of Addiction. Love IS a drug, according to the rules of addiction, sez Fisher.

There's other rallies against forcing reality into narratives, how cause and effect may not always exist and how humans turn harmless orcas into killers through behaviour modification. Good contrary brain food all round.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Little Fish Finger and the Dotcom Proxy

Whale Oil and his spy network have attempted to piss on Kim Dotcom's parade by leaking the newly-launched Internet Party's strategy plans. If the evidence presented on his blog is correct, three things become immediately apparent.

1) There's good money in puppetry these days. The Malcolm MacLaren of NZ Politics, Matthew Hooton, has refused the role as Act's lead singer, preferring his current lucrative and relatively anonymous run in the dark arts of ventriloquism. Martyn Bradbury's imminent candidacy for the Internet Party in Auckland Central must have jumped him up the ranks of New Zealand's Highest Earning Socialists with his $8000 a month contract. He might be in the Top 100 now. I really should wax my muppet up.

2) The IT crowd and unions don't mix well. Innovation and adaptivity are not terms unions are familiar with. Failing Dotcom coming to the party armed with some Vorsprung Durch Technique and the history of German business union relations, I see strained alliances ahead for Bradbury. It's the old Left problem of "the enemy of my enemy is also my enemy".

3) First Len Brown's laundry, now another opposition party exposed in a war of attrition and asymmetric transparency. The public now knows more about the workings of the Internet Party on its day of launch than they know about the National Party. It's going to be a very dirty election.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Balls to 2014; Expect the Un-

Time is an illusion. 2014 doubly so. We're still looking at the arse end of '13 with relief, not realising that it is sewn to the mouth of 2014 like a human centipede.

The Snowden NSA revelations keep tumbling out, rumbling along like refluxing burgers. Google continues to cripple the functionality of Blogger, possibly harbingering the curse of fatal death that Reader succumbed to last year. Not to be out-Gollumed by the ad-ring, Facebook continues to have privacy issues with its users' raw and private data.

It has all left this author a bit stunned and disoriented, and it's not all down to the cattle prodding to the fresh pastures of Google Plus. I fully grok where Morozov is coming from with his lusty schtick against the Silicon Valley Genii, with their flowchart philosophies, Ayn Rand fetishes, and legions of tax lawyer monkeys that lay waste to the public purse.

In some attempt to regain control of my shit from the ad pimps and idea grinches, I have resorted to drafting recent posts in txt files offline. More research intensive stuff is pencilled in notebooks, and all the really important stuff is memorised. Changing up by changing down, but it's hardly gonzo.

This still leaves the problem of publishing platforms. If Google does kill Blogger in 2014, I will not be moving to Google Plus. No matter how much they prod, I will not give one company sole access to my OS, browser, email client AND social networks. That's far too many eggs in one bastard.

If it all goes Pete Tong at blogpsot, I might try jumping to Ruminator if they will have me. Mainly because rebuilding a new platform from scratch does not appeal muchly. Lord Sutch's sweary New Year's rejoinder holds hope that I might find shelter there. Any port in a storm eh.

If any site would like to pay me to write for them, I would also appreciate that opportunity too. My email is on the website. CV available on request, but this blog is my real legacy.

Sorry, no more predictions for 2014. Halfway through reading Nassim Taleb's Antifragile. Predictions are for schmucks. This year is a good time to believe in six impossible things before 4:20.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Cannabis and Conservative Exceptionalism

Silly season continues in NZ, where all the jaded journos are on holiday and the MSM mastheads are manned by toddler news hounds. Little wonder that the headlines are full of uncritical reprints of police press releases. If I had a budget of $1.6 billion a year, I'd be spamming the press with happy clappy goon tunes too.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, recreational cannabis has been legalised. Local authorities report no signs of apocalypse, but it's still early days. The federal government has yet to stick its oar in.

Conservative exceptionalism is alive elsewhere, as always. The Vanilla Prince of the New York Times, David Brooks, penned a column where he distilled the white privilege down to its raw ingredients:
[M]ost of us developed higher pleasures.
Therein lies the snobbery. Sure, some may move on to other pursuits; private golf clubs, charity gigs and other pissing competitions between trust fund babies, for example. Whatever floats your boat.

But not everyone desires such aristocratic inanities. Brooks not only pulls the ladder up behind him, but then tries to beat everyone else below his lofty perch with it. Good on Brooks' old stoner buddy calling his bullshit.

NZ has its own parrots of privelege here as well. Rosemary Macleod is a reliable squawker, with her monotonous cry of "Tried it, didn't like it, don't make it legal."

A few politicians have admitted historical usage (eg. Goff, Dunne, Groser), giving them similar sanctimony to continue this civil war on drugs.

It just goes to show that wealth, power and privilege can be more harmful and addictive than any plant from the wrong side of the Magnolia family tree.

UPDATE: This just in from Matt Taibbi.