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.