Friday, 12 October 2012

Holiday In Albania

Well, maybe not Albania, but somewhere kind of vaguely like that.  So, for a couple of weeks blogging at ETS will be intermittent at best, unless I can work out how this "blogging by email" thing works.  I hope Telecom don't screw me with massive charges for data.

Attila the Stockbroker - Cautionary Tales for Dead Commuters, 1985 and Live at the Rivoli, 1990

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Don't Look Back

One day we will stop pointing the finger at everyone else and start solving the problems of leaky buildings.  Meanwhile the problem will continue to grow bigger, as it did today when the Court of Appeal confirmed that a Council's duty of care is not limited to ordinary residential dwellings.  It's a huge problem, it's cost a fortune already, fixing it will be an enormous burden and at the moment only lawyers are making any money out of it.

The Church - The Blurred Crusade, 1982

Effect and Cause

It's been obvious for a while now that this whole Kim Dotcom thing will roll on and I'm picking it will be the undoing of the government in one way or another.  If a catastrophic failure doesn't pull the government down (and I reckon it's 50/50 at present), attrition over the next two years will.
Looking at the trends on the Roy Morgan poll out today, attrition will leave a terrible result for National.
New Zealand GCR

This graph, which I copied straight from the Roy Morgan website (go read it) shows confidence in the National Party dropping to levels that it took Labour eight years and a coalition with NZ First to reach.  National have achieve the same dire result in four years and what they claim was a strong mandate from the last election.  Yeah?
Care to test that mandate?  Now, before the next election turns to 2002 all over again with Bill English as leader after Regular John quit while he was behind (because, typical gambler, he forget to quit while he was ahead) and in the aftermath the caucus couldn't choose between Judith and Steve?  Stranger things have happened.

Back on track - the whole "blame the spooks" approach seemed flawed to me.  Here's how Stuff describe it:
Key has lashed the GCSB for a series of bungles over the Dotcom case which have left him politically exposed.

In the same article on Stuff the head of the GCSB, Ian Fletcher, says suggestions that a video was taken of Mr Key mentioning Kim Dotcom before the critical date of 17 September are false.  As proof he says the system has been searched and no such video found.  The suggestion was that the video was recorded on one or more cellphones; in which case it probably never made it on to a server.  However it seems unlikely a video would be leaked as it would be fairly easy for GCSB to work out who shot the video.  Audio is a different story.
If Mr Key had not dumped so heavily on the GCSB he would have not caused nearly as much resentment amongst the rank and file.  But his political nous has deserted him; a smarter politician would have found a creative solution.  But that understanding of effect and cause is absent.  Is the GCSB's pride injured enough to leak the audio?  Again, stranger things have happened.

White Stripes - Icky Thump, 2007

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Up & Down & Back Again

The government have updated the budget figures. Mysteriously, Bill English is out of the country.
Keeping Stock thinks this is good news, to which I can only ask how bad do things have to get to be considered bad news?
The figures make for a sorry sad tale, and the days of "it's worse in the rest of the world", "it's the GFC's fault" and "it's Labour's fault" are gone.  Questions of when we will have a budget surplus are begging to be asked.  "In three years" was always a joke, however I doubt the updated answer will be any better.

Powderfinger - Odyssey Number Five, 2000

Smile

As the aftershock rolled us around late yesterday morning, and it really did roll, and we all sat looking at each other wondering how long it would last and what to do next, a colleague who is renown for not saying much, ever, looked up and said "Gerry's back".  Black humour.  Then back to work.

Elastica - Elastica, 1995

You Can't Always Get What You Want

Our Prime Minister has been reduced to an object of widespread ridicule, he's a joke.  Joe Bennett's article this morning exemplifies the contempt in which he is held.
As their best asset, John Key's main value to the National Party was his electability, rather than intellect, leadership skills, political nous, management style or knowledge of anything practical, all of which can best be described as adequate.
If I were a National MP in a marginal seat (what's he swing been like since the election?) or a list MP ranked  low on the list (and in case it isn't obvious, I'm not an MP, National or otherwise) I'd be seriously concerned about my job prospects after the next election.  My guess is the main reason there is not mass panic is the dearth of talent in National's senior ranks; there is no one electable to replace John Key.  So as long as John Banks doesn't completely self-destruct, and no one else is found to have a trouser problem, drug addiction, difficulties with the truth, or a penchant for dipping into someone/everyone else's pocket, Key will remain our unhappy PM.
However, it seems unlikely that things will return to normal.  As time passes the disquiet amongst National's vulnerable MPs will continue to grow.

Rolling Stones - Let It Bleed, 1969

Let The Train Blow The Whistle

I blogged about Manu Caddie, a councillor at Gisborne District Council, when I first started blogging (at the start of the year).  This week I came across him again, on the radio, trying to raise funds to challenge KiwiRail's decision to mothball the Napier-Gisborne railway.
Manu's blog details the progress towards funding the review.  $10,000 was needed in a couple of days and the target was surpassed in time, so the review will proceed.  Well done to the team who organised it.
It is difficult to fathom why the government is allowing yet another revolt to develop; the cost to avoid this one pales in comparison to the Rena clean-up or the South Canterbury Finance bail-out.

Johnny Cash - American Recordings, 1994

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Tender Shoots

Money doesn't grow on trees, or so the proponents of the government's opposition to quantitative easing would have us believe.  It's true, money doesn't grow on trees, at least not directly.  Indirectly?  Well that's a different story.  It does grow on trees, in a sense.  It looks like this:
-- In Central Otago --

-- In Hawkes Bay --

-- In the Bay of Plenty, well, hopefully --

-- In the central North Island --

-- In Northland, I am reliably informed --

-- In Marlborough --

-- In Canterbury, and plenty of other places --

Horticulture (aka growing money on trees) is an ingrained part of our economy, society and culture, and not necessarily in that order.

Stephen - Radar of Small Dogs, 1993

Beat On The Brat

I doubted that National could do anything more dumb than what they've been doing since the asset sales fell to bits.  But they sure are trying.
Mr Parker produced a graph on departures to Australia, and Mr Winter blogged on the subject.  I suspect Mr Parker knew what was coming this week, because National announced the reintroduction of youth rates.
I have used the graphic from Mr Winter's blog, which he attributed to Mr Parker, and added to it.
So there it is - most of the people leaving for Australia are in their twenties.  National have identified that people in their late teens could be encouraged to leave at the same rate and implemented policy to suit.
Regular John tried, over the weekend, to spin this as "brain exchange".  And yet it's not.  The net loss was 40,000 people, with almost four departures for every arrival.
Are we better off, as a society, for having this emigration?  Back in 2008, when it was 750 people per week (and bad), it was a problem, but now it's 1,000 people per week (worse) it's not, according to Regular John.

Ramones - Ramones, 1976

Friday, 5 October 2012

Reena

$27 million towards the $47 million cost of cleaning up after the Rena was smashed across Astrolabe Reef.  For a government that thinks the RoNS are a good idea (and on Planet Key they are) I suppose this is par for the course.  Kudos to the negotiators for getting more than was legally required, though it did occur to me that the $27 million represents what the shipping company would have been liable for if any government since about 1996 had bothered to update the law.  And to the shipping company who, after their initial mistake (where there ship ended up polluting someone else's beach) behaved responsibly.
I thought I heard a minister, while explaining what a good deal it was, say that the whole thing was not foreseeable.  Which would explain why the oil Pollution Fund has been run down.
As for being unforeseeable it's not like ships have come to grief around our coast before, well:
except the General Grant
 or the Pacific Charger, which I remember seeing stuck on the rocks
and the Mikhail Lermontov.

A sensible government would accept that it's bound to happen again, and would plan both to deal with it and to fund the response.

Spelling Mistakes - 7", 1980

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The Fallen

On Moorhouse Ave, 3 October.
On Barbadoes Street, also 3 October.
A cherry blossom tree, by streetlight, on Lichfield Street, 3 October.
All photos taken by and copyright of Armchair Critic.

Franz Ferdinand - You Could Have It So Much Better, 2005

Memory

Kim Dotcom sure does make people forget a lot of stuff.
John Banks forgot a donation to his mayoral election campaign from Dotcom, and forgot visiting Dotcom'ss house in a helicopter.  Lucky he remembers he never had sex with Dotcom.
A GCSB officer had a brain-fade, and not in my words but in Regular John's, late last week.
"I expect better and I'll be getting better out of them in the future. But the simple facts of life are that they suffered what can only be described as a massive brain-fade by one person who actually reviewed the file.That's wrong and it shouldn't have happened but people do make mistakes."
Fair enough, people do make mistakes.  A whole lot of finance company directors made mistakes over the last few years.  They were held to account.
And now Regular John has been found to have had brain-fade too.  From National's website:
The Prime Minister visited GCSB offices on 29 February for a briefing on the broader capabilities of the bureau, and to meet the staff. A paper prepared as talking points for the staff member conducting a presentation contained a short reference to the Dotcom arrest a few weeks earlier, as an example of cooperation between the GCSB and the Police. The presentation was an electronic slide presentation. The cover slide was a montage of 11 small images, one of which was of Mr Dotcom.
and the PM says:

“I have been clear from the outset that I received no briefing on the operation from GCSB prior to 17 September, and this review confirms that,” says Mr Key.
“While neither the GCSB Director nor I can recall the reference to the Dotcom matter being made during my visit to the bureau back in February, I accept that it may well have been made.
“Given the public statements I have made in Parliament and in the media, it is important that I take this opportunity to provide this additional information.
“I will be correcting my answers to the House when it resumes on Tuesday 16 October.”

Don't correct your answer to the House, John, go and tell the Governor General.  Then ask him to dissolve parliament.  Think of it as an opportunity to confirm that mandate you got to sell asset.

Elaine Paige - Cats, 1981

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Turn

Regular John was anything but calm, composed and nice for TV3 this morning.  He tossed his toys quite openly under what could only be considered to be mild questioning.  That cup of tea before the election really did signal the end of the media honeymoon.
At least he is consistent with his "hands-off" approach to his job.  He asked very little about national security, and now he expects to be asked very little about his failings on national security, in return.  And apart from making him look (much less be) completely unsuitable to be PM, that's not a bad approach.

Therapy? - Troublegum, 1994

North by North

The Napier-Gisborne railway will not be repaired.  At least, not while National are in power and while KiwiRail focusses on the short term.
I'm trying to see the positives in this, but it is difficult because the repairs should have been made, the line should have been reopened and KiwiRail should have continued to develop their business on the East Coast.

About the best I can say is that it will make an issue for the next election, especially when people like Alan Dick (mayor of Napier for twelve years and now a regional councillor) are asking questions about the decision.

The Bats - Daddy's Highway, 1987

Monday, 1 October 2012

Caught By The Fuzz

Urewera Raids, Kim Dotcom and now this.  Since it's before the Court it would be unwise to comment much further.  The Police do seem to be set on pursuing some silly prosecutions, recently.

Supergrass - I Should Coco, 1995

Franz Kafka at the Zoo

What with the next election not due for at least two years, what the polls say means very little.  It's always the trend.
Ever since I've been hanging around political blogs (I think that's back to mid-2009) the polls have said "National".  Except recently, when they have said "Too Close to Call".
And then, late last week, the Roy Morgan poll said:
If a National Election were held today this New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll says a combined opposition of Labour/ Greens & New Zealand First would be favoured to form a new Government.
Which is nice news for someone who has had a goal of "seeing National out of government" since, well, probably 1981 when I opposed the Springbok Tour.  Well, as much as you can when you are under ten.
The next step is to see the words "...& New Zealand First..." omitted.
What I find telling is the Government Confidence Rating.  I've copied the graphic from the Roy Morgan website.
New Zealand GCR
It shows that the government, up to the start of last week, is inspiring about as much confidence as Labour did in their last year in government.  And that was a pretty awful year for Labour.  National have two to go, if they go to full term.
Meanwhile I'm still wondering two things:
first, for Labour, the gift begs to be taken, the lucky find is waiting....
and second, for National, when will the desperation will surface, and like 1998, when the rats will start leaving.  Can't be long now.



The Clean - Unknown Country, 1996

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Sorry

One day I hope to explain to my grandchildren that once upon a time our hapless PM was completely out-witted by a funny-looking and funny-sounding German (or Finn, even Justice Neazor who really should know, isn't sure) who made his millions, or billions, by helping people share files on the internet and as a result was wanted by the FBI..  The problem is I doubt they will believe me, because it is too ridiculous to be true.

It's such a SNAFU that the apologies are flying.  Here's a link to the Herald article where John Key apologises to Kim Dotcom, and here's a quote taken directly from the article:
"Of course I apologise to Mr Dotcom, and I apologise to New Zealanders."
I've added emphasis to the quote because I am a New Zealander, the apology is in part to me and it leads me to a very important question - where does the buck stop?
President Truman knew the answer, it needs only four words.

The PM's role, because the PM is almost without exception responsible for oversight of national security, is to ensure proper oversight.  It's time to stop blaming the staff, the police and the spooks.  It's time for a resignation.

Madonna - Confessions On A Dance Floor, 2006

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Spanish Bombs

I've not thought much about graffiti.  I've not had it inflicted upon me, though that might be because I have a six wire fence and hedging trees on my front boundary, hardly a great canvas.

It's easy enough to get all serious about graffiti, especially if it is considered to be a problem, rather than a symptom of a pervasive problem.  My understanding of Julie Anne Genter's speech on the Hutt City Council (Graffiti Removal) Bill was that of all the parties in parliament, the Greens understand that graffiti is a sign of a deeper malaise.  So painting over it, both literally and figuratively, won't make the problem go away.

There is a line between graffiti and art, and it's more difficult to define than it appears.
For example, this is considered to be graffiti by some, and a mural by others:

This was conceived as a mural, but the original is now considered to be a work of  art:
and it has been copied as murals around the world, some of which are also considered to be graffiti.

The meaning of both examples is now well understood.  Their purpose was to raise our consciousness of issues we need to be aware of.  As does ordinary graffiti. I suspect the reason for the unqualified support for the Bill expressed by most of parliament and to a small extent in the blogosphere is symptomatic of a strong reluctance to acknowledge the message.  And that resolving the problem will be more difficult to solve than the Spanish Civil War, or The Troubles.

I will eat my words if, as a result of the enactment of the Bill, there is no more graffiti in Hutt City.

On a related note, how long will it be until real estate agents are tagging buildings they are about to list for sale, in order to get a council-funded make-over?

The Clash - London Calling, 1979

Twisted

A few weeks one of our broadcasting stars left his car unlocked and consequently he had it stolen.  Luckily for him it was quickly recovered and returned to him.  Here's some of what he told the Herald:

"It was a wonderful piece of policing and I'm very grateful to the Hastings and Napier police. I got the car back with no damage. [] Everything in it was gone but nothing too valuable.
"It had all my heart operation records in the car but I can get duplicates of that. The best part is, I have a free full tank of gas."

Emphasis is mine.

Except it wasn't a free tank of gas, it was more like a tank of gas that he hadn't paid for.  Someone else paid for it.

Perhaps next time he's in contact with the police he can ask them to try and locate his conscience.  Or, even easier than that, just go and pay for the tank of gas.

Strawpeople - Vicarious, 1996

Friday, 21 September 2012

Op. 84

From the photo archive
Sunrise (or thereabouts)

Sunset

Ludwig von Beethoven - 1787

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Voices

Auckland is causing one of its former residents trouble, due to its excessive influence.  So an alliance of the mayors of the South Island is to be formed to counter Auckland's influence.
For a couple of years I've found it bizarre that Auckland has 18 MPs, and one mayor.  Only electorate MPs, no doubt there are List MPs that are from Auckland too.  As I see it, local government in Auckland is too big (and thereby undemocratic).  Contrast that to the South Island where there are 16 electorate MPs and 23 mayors.  That's a whole lot more people to exert their influence on the government than Auckland has.  But I don't accept that it's solely down to population.

My guess is that the difference comes back to some more basic politics.
South Island electorates are safer than Auckland electorates.  So the MPs can happily ignore their constituents, safe in the knowledge that they will be re-elected.
Other countries have governance at both national and state level, with the states giving the national government power.  Voters tend to let the two operate with a level of tension, by electing governments from opposing parties at the state level.  Recent Australian history has had state Labor governments (until they started selling assets) and a Conservative/Liberal national government.  NZ is unusual in that the powers granted to the closest thing we have to state government devolves from central government.  Regional and local government is not as overtly party based and the two levels of government often are political bedfellows, which results in lower levels of tension and a reduced willingness of MPs to listen to their constituents or their local government representatives.
So there are two solutions for the South Island.  Short term, vote against the incumbent, reduce their majority and get them listening.  Long term, the trends towards efficiency as the sole measure of good government needs to be broadened and local government reformed, to make it more local.

A talk-fest as an excuse to collect Airpoints won't achieve much.

As a footnote, Auckland will not always be the biggest city in NZ.  Building a city on an active volcanic field is outright dumb, it's a disaster waiting to happen.

Split Enz - See Ya Round, 1984

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Touched By The Hand Of God

Footbridge over the Avon.  Copyright in this image is owned by the author of this blog.

New Order - 7", 1987

What Jail Is Like

Private prisons are a bad idea because it is the Crown's right to deprive individuals of their liberty.  Delegating that right to a contractor treats the issue lightly, when freedom is a fundamental right.  Which is a long way of saying I don't like the idea of private prisons.
So it brought me little pleasure to see that Serco have made a hash of running Mt Eden.  They've failed to meet 8 of their 37 measures of performance.  If I'd needed another reason to object to private prisons, this would be it.

Afghan Whigs - Gentlemen, 1993

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

If I Could Turn Back Time

Today, in parliament, the PM acknowledged that the reason John Banks was not prosecuted was that the time in which a prosecution could proceed had passed.  That's all.
The bounds of credibility have been stretched to their limits.  Mr Key and his National Party will inevitably suffer the consequences of supporting Mr Banks.  They may manage to put the day on which the consequences are faced off until the next general election, but the longer they wait, the higher the cost.  To all of us.
Robert Winter asked if Mr Key was unaware that no one likes a liar.  I'm certain that he is aware, and has failed to do the right thing for an unknown reason.  There is speculation that Mr Banks "knows where the bodies are buried" and rumours of extra-marital affairs, drugs and stolen motorbikes, but that is more likely to come to nothing than lead to a giant implosion that destroys the right wing as a political force in New Zealand.  The simple explanation is that Mr Key has lost touch.  Even his cheerleaders are half-hearted these days.

Was Mr Banks aware, when he signed his return, that he would comply with the law once the statute of limitation passed?

Cher - Heart of Stone

Courage

There was a powerful interview on the radio this evening, with Bryan Guy the father of murder victim Scott. Guy.  It contrasts starkly with the retrospective, punitive and vengeful streak that is often appealed to.

The Bats - Silverbeet, 1993

Monday, 17 September 2012

Galop Infernal

It did occur to me that my suggestion that John Banks must resign might have been a bit premature, and he may, in fact, have a role to play, as a minister.
Right now the Minister for Revenue is Peter Dunne, but I've not seen him do much except mumble platitudes.  It occurred to me that John Banks knows a bit about getting the money rolling in.  His unsuccessful campaign for the mayoralty of Auckland cost a bit.
Maybe he could redesign the tax system along the lines of his campaign fundraising plan.  He didn't fund it by getting lots of little donations from every individual, he targeted a select list of people who he thought could afford, instead.  Sounds very efficient.

Offenbach - Orpheus In The Underworld, 1858

Something In The Way

A quick re-read of the link to the Radio NZ article in the previous post has these couple of quotes that I'd almost forgotten:

Local Government Minister David Carter says the law change is a direct result of the John Banks controversy, which highlighted failings in the current law."(The law) had not been reviewed since 2002.
Spot the National Party minister taking the piss?  Twice!
The John Banks controversy did not highlight failings in the current law.  Thousands of candidates managed to comply with the law.  What the controversy highlighted was the failings of John Banks.  Well, some of them.
The fact that the law has not been reviewed since 2002 is irrelevant.  What Mr Banks did was wrong before 2002, it was also wrong between 2002 and 2012 and it will be wrong after the law is updated in an attempt to prevent Mr Banks repeating his moral gymnastics.

Nirvana - Nevermind, 1991

Circular

This whole thing with John Banks is untenable.  John Key's three wise monkeys act is farcical and I have high hopes that some clever questioning in parliament tomorrow will cut further into the fading life of this government.
John Banks welcomed the upcoming changes to electoral law that he has used as a convenient excuse for his immoral behaviour.  "The law is an ass", he quoted Charles Dickens as writing.  At which I nearly choked for two reasons.  First was that I doubt John Banks has ever read Charles Dickens, at least not beyond the first few pages.  And second because the correct quote is "the law is a ass".
I was thinking about a hypothetical situation where the law around donations to candidates for local government elections was not "a ass", and where a candidate had behaved as Mr Banks had behaved.  There is no doubt that they would not be a government minister and they would probably not be an MP any more.
I suppose in the hypothetical situation, Mr Banks would have "met the minimum requirements of the law".  Which is kind of like appealing to the lowest common denominator.  I don't want representatives, at local, regional or national level, that scrape through on the edges of the law.  That's not leadership, it's the insidiously corrosive mentality that eats away at the fabric of our society.
Mr Banks must resign his Ministerial portfolios.

Able Tasmans - Somebody Ate My Planet, 1992

Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Debt Collector

Residents of the old Manukau City area face a 41% increase in wastewater charges. I recall Mr Hide promising that water rates would not increase under the reform of local government. Something to do with economies of scale, bigger being more efficient etc.
Obviously that wasn't true, let's be kind and call it "salesmanship", not "lying". And this is wastewater charges, not water, so while it's semantics, technically he was correct. Finally, Mr Hide is no longer an MP and he can't be held accountable. Who is the Minister for Local Government these days?
Back to the increases, Mayor Brown says they are not due to undercharging, pre-amalgamation, and he's correct. Rodney District and North Shore City are getting increases too, though not as large as Manukau. Whereas the old Auckland City area gets a decrease. All in the name of fairness.
It's actually a cleverly hidden subsidy for the ratepayers of the old Auckland City. Being the oldest part on town their sewers are the oldest, leakiest and most prone to spilling. Before the amalgamation they had to fund it all themselves. Now they can, and will, dip into the pockets of their neighbours for the funds. Even though their neighbour's sewers work just fine.

Blur - Parklife, 1994

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Ugly Day

Spring Creek, Tiwai Point and NI Mussel Processors.  I'd ask if the 170,000 new jobs includes the loss of these jobs, or is in addition to them, but I expect a good proportion of the soon-to-be-unemployed will not contribute to the unemployment rate in NZ, by emigrating.
I'd suggest that the managers responsible should hang their heads in shame, and tender their resignations.  But their role is to maximise the return to shareholders, not keep people employed or contribute to the communities they are based in.  Which leads to the question, is the version of capitalism we have the best solution?  Surely we can come up with something better.

The 3D's - Hellzapoppin, 1992

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

You Forget Love

There's this idea being bandied about at the moment that five weeks of consultation will suffice, then assets sales may proceed.

I expect that anyone who has given this blog any more than a cursory glance will know my opinion of asset sales.  Nothing in recent days has changed my opinion.  I disagree with the idea that five weeks of consultation is enough, for two reasons.

Firstly, consultation is not enough.  Maori and the Crown are partners, according to the President of the Court of Appeal.  It is not partnership for the government to say "we intend to sell up to 49% of state owned power companies" and then proceed to sell up to 49% of state owned power companies.  Even listening to the responses, having said "we intend to sell etc.", and making changes based on the response received might not be enough; agreement needs to be reached.  If no agreement is reached on what is to be done, then nothing is to be done.  In short, consultation is not enough.  The government have, to some extent, recognised this.

Abraham Maslow is credited with the idea that:
"...if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail."
The inferences of violence and overkill are interesting and often referred to in commentaries on blogs I read (which maybe says more about blogs I read than anything else).  In this instance it is the suggestion of narrow and short-sighted vision; the inability to see what is apparent to others that I like.  Which leads to my second reason for disagreement.

The proponents of assets sales describe the dispute as being about water rights.  They describe water rights in financial terms and use this as a dog-whistle with a "greedy Maori" tune.  My understanding of pre-contact Maori culture is not strong enough for me to comment authoritatively (I'd like to ask martymars, but I'd also like to get this posted), so I'll go out on a limb and say that money wasn't that important.

Pre-contact, Maori were the only possible candidates for ownership of water.  By definition it cannot have been anyone else.  No subsequent government has nationalised water, hence John Key's early suggestion that "no one owns water".  Therefore water must be one of the taonga referred to in the Third Article, of which Maori retain the right to undisturbed possession.

The proponents of assets sales have a very black and white view of the world.  It is all made up of dollar-based assessments of value, and exchanges of anything are transacted in dollars.  So maybe it would be better to say their perspective is black and red, because it comes from a ledger.  Where I'm trying to get to is that the advocates for and supporters of the asset sales program tend to understand the issues before the Waitangi Tribunal as an issue of ownership and from a monetary perspective, whereas the only candidates for the ownership of water have developed their understanding of their relationship with water from a cultural background in which money barely featured.  That's quite a gap.

It is unfortunate that the government appears to be full of people who do not understand either that:

  • the water is not the government's to sell, or
  • the only people who could own the water view the issue of ownership quite differently to the way the government does.  That difference might be so great that saying that anyone "owns" water, in the sense the government speaks of when they talk of selling it, is at best misleading, and in all likelihood highly flawed.

Worse, it seems the government is being advised by an overly optimistic lawyer:
The Herald understands legal advice to ministers was that the Government odds of winning a court challenge by the Maori Council were about even. However, David Goddard, QC, also advised them that further consultation with affected iwi would demonstrate good faith that would be regarded favourably by the courts and significantly increase its chances of winning any subsequent litigation.
source: NZ Herald

I've previously pointed out that claims over water have been a long time coming (you've no idea how much I agonised over saying "in the pipeline").  The Waitangi Tribunal have only issued an interim finding, not a full report.  I can only think of two National Party MPs with the mental acuity to understand the issues that this government faces.  Neither are in parliament today, and one has discredited himself to the extent of being convicted of a range of crimes.  Maybe his brother, an MP in the current parliament, can help instead.

In summary, it is obvious that there is nothing of consequence that can be achieved in five weeks.  The gulf between the treaty partners is too vast.  Five years is an ambitious timeframe.  Anything less is an open invitation for trips to the Courts and ongoing appeals, injunctions and claims to the Waitangi Tribunal.  Worst case, though it is very unlikely, could see the government prosecuted in international courts.

It seems to me that the government has failed to line its ducks up, and will be forced to add further delays to the sale of water-related state assets.  Whether they bring forward other assets for sale is a separate matter.  Either way, this is a significant loss for what is looking like an increasingly ineffective government.

There have been discussions about mandates.  John Key has said a separate referendum on asset sales is unnecessary because the 2011 election gave National the mandate to sell.  The opposition campaigned against asset sales and lost.  The next election will most certainly include the discussion of asset sales.  Any sales that have gone ahead will be subject to the judgement of the electorate and if it is found that they were not in accordance with what the electorate wanted, National will be dumped.  Rather like the asset-selling Labor Party in Queensland.  I'd like to see John Key show the strength of his belief that the 2011 election gave his party the mandate to sell by including a clause in any legislation that required any assets sold to be returned to their original owners if the next election disproves his "2011 mandate" theory.  Though more than that I would like to see National support the referendum, and agree to abide by its outcome.  And funnily enough, I think they do support it.

There have also been discussions on the changed economic environment, and how it is less favourable for share floats.  I doubt it will have changed much in six months, at least not for the better.

While I think there is never a good time to sell the proverbial plumbing and wiring (which are more essential to life than the proverbial family silver), the referendum/mandate issue and the economic climate issue pale in comparison to the claims made by Maori over water.

I suspect the government announced the six-month delay because the enormity of the task they face has dawned upon them.  The delay allows them some breathing space to develop reasons to further postpone the sales process, and a referendum or the economic climate are usable reasons.  Which leads to my apparently bizarre suggestion that National do support the referendum; it might be their best hope for snatching an unlikely victory.  I sincerely hope that NZ politics has not sunk that low.  It is disappointing to see that none of Labour's MPs have managed to post anything about the delay to the sales at Red Alert, even 24 hours after the announcement.

Verlaines - Bird Dog, 1987

Monday, 3 September 2012

Out of Touch

It has been suggested by one of the locals that Colin Craig should stand in the Helensville electorate, because John Key is "too gay".  Does Colin Craig even live in the electorate, or will that not be a problem?
I don't often have something nice to say about John Key, but I do like how he has supported the repeal of s59 of the Crimes Act, and marriage equality.
As for Colin Craig, he is a joke.  If he didn't have the money to fund his political fantasies of imposing his version of sharia law on NZ, the media would not care a jot for his thoughts.  The only reason he gets any coverage is because publishing his views generates advertising revenue.  His party might make the threshold in an election, once, but it seems unlikely.  And they would be a terrible coalition partner - imagine a National/Conservative government facing the marriage equality or asset sales issues.  It's almost a shame that the bill legalising adoption by gay couples has come up in the ballot, I'd love to see Mr Craig's opposition to that as an MP in a National-led government.

Hall and Oates - Big Bam Boom, 1984

Dialling a Prayer

For a while I have pondered what is wrong with the Labour Party, and where it went wrong.  Today I saw a new twist in the traditional "blame Roger Douglas" and "First ACT government" meme, in a comment at The Standard.
As a polity we badly need some bravery from our elected representatives to stand up for something, anything but “managing” a bad lot better than the other side. There is a paucity of vision and a vaccum of purpose in Labour. Such is the strange legacy of Palmers managerial reforms. Maybe that is more damaging than the legacy of Roger.
The first two sentences I completely agree with.  We can not manage our way out of the state we are in, neither party has shown they can capably manage their way out when they have been in government, and in opposition.  Labour appear to be adrift and I couldn't bring myself to vote for them, at this stage.
The last two sentences are speculative and I don't have the information to prove or disprove either.  They are certainly worth considering.  Thanks Bored.

Straightjacket Fits - Life in One Chord, 1987

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Hold On

Ha! After today's cabinet meeting the asset sales program is to be delayed. Woohoo!
There are only two things that worry me. Most obviously is that the asset sales are delayed, not postponed indefinitely or stopped.  The other is that Mr Key might have rediscovered his political instincts.
Fingers crossed that Labour, or (more likely) the Greens can successfully paint the "wheels falling off" narrative.

Exponents - Something Beginning with C

Friday, 31 August 2012

Territorial Pissings

Hilary Clinton's advisor on innovation was interviewed in-depth on National Radio after the ten o'clock news last Thursday. I recoiled in horror at some of the things he said the US government was capable of doing. In the wrong hands the technology they have available to them could be used to create immense damage and misery.
Belatedly - here is the link to the Radio NZ website.

Nirvana - Nevermind, 1991

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Run Sheep Run

$12 billion on roads. From the back of my cigarette packet, that's about a third of the national infrastructure spend, private and public and everything between, on roads.
That shows some pretty warped priorities; there are more efficient and sustainable methods of transporting goods and people around the country, and better infrastructure to invest in, than roads. If only our government had a bit of vision.

Headless Chickens - Stunt Clown, 1988

The Gentleman Soldier

Louisa Wall's bill to create marriage equality came up for its first reading this evening. I've just looked outside and while it is quite dark, there is nothing to suggest the sky has fallen. My relationship with my partner is much as it ever was, maybe slightly better than usual.
Winston Peters was amusing with his speech about how conscience votes are an anachronism, and issues of morality should be decided by referendum. Firstly, no thanks to referendums on morality. And secondly, this is not an issue of morality, it's about equality.
Imagine if the law compelled someone who wanted to be married to choose based on gender. Wait, there's no need to imagine, it already says that. Louisa Wall and Bruce Logan, who wrote an op-ed in the Herald today, have something in common; neither of them wanted to be compelled to marry a man. Solution, let them marry whoever they want and don't discriminate on gender grounds. I honestly couldn't care less, it concerns me more that the government would stand in the way of people's happiness and the resultant consequences.
It's heartening to see that the bill passed its first reading 80 for to 40 against.

I had not thought much about polygamy until it was raised by opponents to this bill. I've not formed an opinion, but I have noted that many adults manage to carry on relationships that are similar in nature to marriage with several people at the same time. And it's not for me to judge them, and it doesn't affect my relationship; again I don't care if others choose to do it. Personally, I identify with the sentiment expressed in the song that I've used for the title of this post:
"Two wives are allowed in the army, but one's too many for me". Maybe not "too many", more like "just right". I have quite enough to worry about to consider polygamy to be a good thing for me.

The Pogues - Rum, Sodomy and the Lash, 1985

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Rushing

It took about 100 years for the Waitangi Tribunal to be set up.
It took a couple of decades for the claims around water to reach the front of the queue for a recommendation.
It took several months to consider the claims and prepare recommendations, and that was the cut-down preliminary version.
Yet the government has indicated that it will take only a week to provide a response.
It is perfectly clear that the response will be ill-considered, under-prepared and in all likelihood predetermined. How could it be otherwise, given such a short turn-around?

Moby - Play, 1999

Monday, 27 August 2012

Monsters in the Parasol

One of the sad results of the demise of the ACT Party is that they can not be held responsible for the mess they made of local government in Auckland. As a party that was founded on principles such as personal responsibility, it would be gratifying to see Rodney Hide admit that he got it wrong.
A couple of examples of how dysfunctional the new council is have come to light recently. The first was the significant payouts to several senior staff who had resigned after being bullied by a tier three manager. With the secrecy around the payouts there's only so much I can say, however it is clear that the management culture at a senior level is poor. I'd put that down to having a booze baron with no local government experience chosen by Hide et al as the CEO at the new council.
Then there was the $12million loss at POA. The lack of personal responsibility by the Board and management, most of whom were hand-picked by Hide and senior figures in the National party, is common to the otherwise separate employment issues. Unions don't strike on a whim, or for fun. In this instance they went on strike to protect existing conditions. The Board and senior management should resign, or be sacked. If the council laacks the wherewithal to sack the board, they should resign too.
National would like to apply the "bigger government, more bureaucracy, less democracy" model to local government across the country and are prevented mostly because the most competent minister for local government they have is the disgraced Nick Smith. Which doesn't say much for the rest of cabinet. It looks increasingly like reform of local government will have to go on the backburner, because it is the least of the government's problems. Apart from the reform of marriage laws.

Queens of the Stone Age - Era Vulgaris, 2007

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Trying to Get By

The Voice of National wrote an opinion piece in the Herald asking "should beneficiaries get the in work tax credit?"

I'd like to know why benefits are taxed.  Why are benefits taxed?

The Feelers - One World, 2006

Friday, 24 August 2012

The Drinking Man's Curse

Alcopops are a bit of a new thing for me, I kind of missed out on them because I was too old.  When I drank lots, if you wanted to drink something sweet it was cider, or wine cooler.  The good old days sometimes don't sound that good.

There was some discussion about minimum pricing and limits on alcohol content, and it is disappointing that the government has walked away from both these options.  It occurred to me that it's not just the change to the age at which alcohol can be purchased that has lead to much of the recent angst about young people drinking.  It's also that alcohol is much more palatable.

The companies that sell alcohol have appealed to the sweet teeth of the young, and built on the marketing success of soft drink companies like Coca Cola Amatil.  The result is a staggering array of bright and bubbly bottles filled with sugar, alcohol and the promise of good times.

It's not that I'm a saint when it comes to alcohol.  And it's not that people in their late teens and twenties have not been drinking themselves into a stupor for, well, ever.  But it's not that long ago that Paul Kelly sung:
"...like a ghost I walked the streets of Temple Bar.
And all the bright young things were throwing up their Guinness in the gutter..."
A prize (internet cookies) for anyone who can complete the couplet without following the link to youtube.  Caution for tender soles- song contains rude words.  Not suitable for work.

Note that it's Guinness.  Not some vodka premix.  The song was written in the late 1990s.  There's been a real cultural change.  And the situation is quite new, our previous alcohol culture revolved around drinks that suited a mature palate.  The generation born after about 1980 are the first one to have to deal with the combination of highly processed sweetened drinks and sophisticated marketing that supports alcopop/RTD business.

So here's my solution.  Tax based on alcohol content.  Previously there have been proposals for a sugar tax. I'll not debate the merits of that, in general, in this post.  In terms of alcohol sales, and in addition to taxing the alcohol content, tax the crap out of the sugar content.  That should reduce the appeal of RTDs, reduce their consumption and since consumption and harm are correlated, it should reduce the harm caused by alcohol.  And because beer, wine and spirits aren't sickly sweet like RTDs, they'd not be subject to the sweetness aspect of the taxation, keeping the old soaks happy.

Goblin Mix - The Birth and Death Of, 1985.

Deeper Water

The Waitangi Tribunal has issued a preliminary report on Maori interests in water, in accordance with the government's request (cough) timeframe and it's not full of surprises. Maori do have a proprietary interest in water, akin to ownership (as it is understood from a eurocentric perspective) and the issues around water should be resolve before asset sales proceed.
Stuff is reporting that John Key will consider the report. Given that he doesn't understand that euthenasia in hospitals and hospices is quite rare, I expect he will struggle with something as complex as the relationship between Maori and water. He's out of his depth.


Paul Kelly - Deeper Water, 1995

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Smoke 'em

British American Tobacco have launched their campaign against plain packaging.

It's quite retro, especially the print media stuff.  There's also some video (for TV maybe - I've had a TV free week), audio and a website.  I heard yesterday that they were planning on taking out full page advertisements and it reminded me of the 1990s.  Who does that kind of thing these days - it seems like yesterday's response from yesterday's industry.

The argument runs that requiring tobacco to be sold in plain packaging equates to the confiscation of intellectual property rights.  Greater minds than mind have already blogged about this, Scott for example.

And the Herald have been remarkably consistent in their support for the right to display branding.  First it was gang patches, now it is tobacco.  The government was pretty keen to ban gang patches.

Robert Winter blogged on an interview on the radio this morning, on the subject of the regulation of alcohol.  I heard most of the interview too, and it was remarkable the effort that the sellers of alcohol go to protect their profits.  The interview included Prof. Jenny Connor from Otago University, who noted that the way to reduce the harm caused by alcohol is to reduce the amount sold.

I've no doubt the same applies to tobacco.  If plain packaging was not going to affect the sales and profitability of tobacco, British American Tobacco would not be taking out full page advertisements, or having advertisements produced and broadcast, or publishing websites.

I don't mind the website itself.  The "Our View" bit is all scare tactics until the seventh point, where the motivation is laid bare.

All that remains for me is to identify whether there is a good reason to prevent tobacco companies displaying branding on the exterior of the packaging of their product - which is not quite the same as "confiscating intellectual property".  I'd say that the unique combination of:

  • being legal,
  • being addictive, and
  • being injurious and often fatal to all users even with moderate use

is enough to justify plain packaging.  There are plenty of other things that are one or two, but if there is anything else that is all three I'm too tired to think of what it is.

The simple solution is to just make it illegal, but often simple solutions do not work.  Banning tobacco would not prevent its consumption, and it would be unfair to addicts.  Though if banning it in prisons worked.....
But no, I don't mind people smoking.  I do mind people making money from selling addictive and destructive products.  That leaves me at leaving tobacco legal, as long as it is home-grown for personal use.

Fun Lovin Criminals - Come Find Yourself, 1996

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

This Train

Recently I've heard the "I haven't seen a train running to the local dairy/supermarket" argument, or variants thereof, mostly from supporters of the trucking lobby.

I haven't seen ultrafast broadband yet, but that doesn't mean it's not a good idea.  But I digress.

As much as I am not a fan of big-box retail, it is a trend.  It's a trend because some people, many people, like it enough for it to be profitable.  The principles are fairly simple, lots of customers, low paid and quite transient staff, high turnover and mass produced goods.
Supermarkets are the same.  Most of what people spend on food is through the supermarket.  The staff ask how your day has been because it's their job (the supervisor is watching) and they are not going to make their fortune at the checkout, or stacking shelves.  The food is pretty much the same wherever you go.  A cauliflower from one is the same as a cauliflower from the one down the road, same goes for wine biscuits, toilet paper or vanilla icecream.
For these businesses it's about volume; getting as much through for the lowest cost possible.  When I started my career it was called economies of scale.
It doesn't apply to dairies so much, the higher cost is a reflection of the convenience of not having to travel to the supermarket.

As much as you might sense disdain in my writing, it's meant as an observation, not a criticism of or argument against bulk retail.  If the mood takes me, I'll make that the subject matter of another post.  For the purposes of this post I'll run with the idea that bulk retail holds some virtue.  And it's an increasing trend.

Another trend we can see is the decline of the CBD.  It's a corollary to the rise of bulk or big-box retail.  Christchurch's CBD, for example, was wrecked by earthquakes.  While it is to b rebuilt (and I have already written about the plan to rebuild it), it was widely acknowledged to be in decline before the earthquakes.  A selection of suburban malls had popped up all over the city.
Similar debates have occurred in Hamilton, with the CBD competing for customers with The Base in Te Rapa at the northern end of town.  And in Hawkes Bay there has been the conversion of railway land in Napier and of Nelson Park in Hastings.

I hope that's a reasonable case that as a society we have expressed a preference for bulk retail.  So I'll move to the case for bulk transport to the bulk retail outlets.  Sure, it's a step removed from the retail customer, but the principle remains the same.

Originally the question was framed:
"have you seen a train running to your local supermarket?" - implication is it has to be supplied by truck.

Maybe the question would be better expressed as:
"why doesn't the railway run to my local supermarket?", or
"why isn't my supermarket built somewhere where it can be supplied by rail?"
After all, if the trend is to bigger volume and lower cost per sales unit then the future is not looking good for the trucking industry.

As a footnote, the Hamilton CBD, The Base at Te Rapa, the old railway yards in Napier and Nelson Park in Hastings are all within a stones throw of a rail line already.  Only the Christchurch CBD isn't, and while they are rebuilding it and confiscating land is the ideal opportunity to create a multi-modal transport facility, not just a bus station.  The best reason not to is that it doesn't suit the present government's ideology.

But what if bulk retail is not the long-term direction?  If the cost of transport fuels rose significantly for some reason, we would be looking at a future where people and goods travelled less often and shorter distances.  We would have to make more of the things we wanted locally, using local resources, and accept that doing stuff like importing tropical fruit and cheap sneakers from Asia, or exporting cowards to Ecuador, was just not viable.  Unless they went slowly.
Stretching to an extreme, if most things we used had to be sourced locally, within about 100km, farmers would have to move away from their monocultural approach to agriculture, retailers would know their customers by name (and because their would be more of them CBDs would come back to life, and there would be more competition for customers - sounds terrible I know) and as a society we would be sure to use the most efficient means of moving things around.  Which isn't trucks.

The last scenario fills me with horror (no coffee! - aarrrrrrrghh).  But it is similar to the shape of the society that my grandparents grew up in.  And I'm not convinced that the cost of transport fuels will remain stable in the next five to ten years.  After that, it's difficult to say.

Verlaines - Some Disenchanted Evening, 1989

They'll Soon Discover

A couple of times in the last two weeks, National party ministers have shown their ignorance of the basics around data in response to questions in parliament.  Essentially they have confused day to day changes in a measure with longer term trends in those measures, and used that as an excuse to avoid the question before them.  The two examples I have are:
Paula Bennett, one of my perennial favourites for saying stupid stuff, in Question 4 on 16 August 2012.

Jacinda Ardern: Does she agree that today 20 percent of New Zealand children live in poverty?
Mr SPEAKER: The Hon—[Interruption] Order! I have not even called the Minister. Can I encourage the Minister to settle down.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I have not measured them today.
and Gerry Brownlee, in Question 8 today.
JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green) to the Minister of Transport: Will he reconsider the Government’s motorway projects, in light of the impact that record high petrol prices may have on motorway usage; if not, why not?Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Transport) : No. Petrol prices do fluctuate and they do spike, but that would be no basis to abandon an infrastructure programme that will deliver intergenerational positives for the economy and the environment. The inputs to pump price these days are somewhat different. It is noticeable that Z Energy is leading the way at the present time. Last weekend it had a supermarket deal arrangement that saw discounts of 10c a litre for a $100 spend, up to 50c a litre for a $400 spend. It is clearly evident, then, that the pump price is an extremely irrational input into the consideration of strategic transport policy.
Both those answers are those of intellectual bankrupts. Gerry Brownlee's is a bit more difficult to spot, because he is so verbose.
I do like the bit about supermarket discount vouchers, and the implication that supermarket vouchers will save us from high fuel prices. For starters - ministerial responsibility, anyone? And secondly, they are not a particularly good market mechanism. They might help make a particular brand of petrol distributor more profitable, but they do nothing for the efficiency of the market.
Julie Anne Genter has clearly frightened Gerry Brownlee, too. Later on in Question 8 we got this exchange:
Julie Anne Genter: So what specific evidence does the Minister have that shows that these motorways are the best value-for-money way to improve economic productivity?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: We are a very long way from the original question, but what I would say is that where there is a reduction in congestion, there is an economic positive—no question about that. If the member wants further proof that New Zealanders think these are good ideas, she needs look only at the electoral returns from 2011.
Straight to an appeal to the authority of the Speaker.  Followed up with a truism, and finished with a half-hearted gloat.  All up it scrapes through as a C- of an answer.


The Shins - SpongeBob SquarePants Move Soundtrack, 2004

The Coalminers Song

With no good basis I suspect the brakes are going on the asset sales and privatisation programme.  It's good to see Solid Energy off the list of assets for sale.  I'd like to think it's in disarray, though that might be an exaggeration at the moment, I have no doubt that National MPs are under substantial pressure over asset sales.  While that can't be pleasant, I have no sympathy for them.
The interim Waitangi Tribunal report on Maori proprietary interests in water is due out on Friday.  I am certain it will confirm the presence of a spanner in the works of the government's plans.

It's nice to see that National have their website up to date, and Solid Energy is off the list there too.  Not so many months ago their website was an anachronism and a mess.  There's this lovely quote from Bill English on asset sales:
"....the Government gets to free up $5 billion to $7 billion...to invest in other public assets like modern schools and hospitals, without having to borrow in volatile overseas markets.Our political opponents need to honestly explain to New Zealanders why it would be better to borrow this $5 billion to $7 billion from overseas lenders at a time when the world is awash with debt and consequent risks."
And that contrasts beautifully with the government's decision to allow transport infrastructure, through NZTA, to be loan funded, as explained by Phil Twyford in a question to Gerry Brownlee:
Phil Twyford: Is the plan to allow the New Zealand Transport Agency to borrow—the new plan, that is, not the existing power to borrow merely for cash-flow purposes—a response to the projected $1.5 billion shortfall in the National Land Transport Fund by 2020, or the scenario of a $4.5 billion shortfall from 2021 to 2030?
So it's not OK to borrow to fund investment in schools and hospitals, but it is OK to borrow about the same amount to fund investment in roads?

The conspiracy theorist in me sees a link between the donations made by the Road Transport Forum to National's election campaigns and contrasts it to the relative lack of support for government policy in the health and education sector.  But surely that's just a figment of my imagination.

The Gordons - The Gordons, 1981

The Other Side

How many of the 20% of children who are living in poverty (according to Paula Bennett's green paper) are also part of the 1 in 5 children (according to my estimates 1 in 5 is about, ummm, 20%) that the education system is failing?
To be fair, the meme that the education system fails 1 child in 5 is a myth, but since they are numbers that National have bandied about, let's see if they can back them up.

Morphine - Good, 1991

The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

John Roughan, normally a supporter of National, was not that impressed with Lockwood Smith's refusal to grant Russel Norman's request for an urgent debate.  Mr Roughan goes as a far as to say that if the circumstances outlined in the request for an urgent debate were insufficient, it is hard to imagine any circumstances that will justify a request being granted.  Too right.  I listened to the request and immediately thought we would be up for an urgent debate.

Meanwhile Keeping Stock was mortified at the request.  It takes all sorts.

The Pogues - Rum, Sodomy and The Lash, 1985

Real Friends

I overheard half a telephone conversation, between my father-in-law (though to be true to my "relationship status is not confirmed" I reiterate that he may or may not be my father-in-law in a legal sense) and my partner.  He must have asked my partner who we vote for, and was told that we usually vote for Labour or the Greens.  Or both, now that we get two votes.  I guess he asked why.  "Because we are working class" my partner explained.  And that gave me cause to think.

  • I sit at a desk all day, and breath air-conditioned air.
  • I wear work attire.  Leather shoes, linen, silk.
  • I cultivate my appearance.
  • My work involves brains, not brawn.
  • I am well rewarded

but:

  • I am a small part of a very large machine.  If I break I will quickly be replaced.
  • I get the same pay every time.  The increase and decrease of profitably of my employer (a publicly listed company) has no impact.
  • I have no say in or control over the direction my employer takes, beyond "take it or leave it".
  • I have no say in my conditions of employment, beyond "take it or leave"
  • I have no other form of income, such as shares or rent, or through the direct sale of the fruits of my efforts
  • I struggle to pay my mortgage on my home and I am in the thrall of an Australian bank
  • I have no inherited wealth.


In short, I am a wage slave.  That might not make me true working class, in terms of the original meaning, I have more in common with the working class and my interests are most closely aligned that way.
Quite a revelation for me.

Later I came across the Communist Party USA (I didn't know there was such a thing) definition of working class, on wikipedia:
The Communist Party USA's Constitution defines the working class as a class which is "multiracial, multinational, and unites men and women, young and old, employed and unemployed, organized and unorganized, gay and straight, native-born and immigrant, urban and rural, and composed of workers who perform a large range of physical and mental labor–the vast majority of our society."
The emphasis is mine.  I guess they think I am working class, and I'm OK with that.

Mint Chicks - Crazy? Yes. Dumb? No, 2006

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Slug Song

Brief thoughts on our troops in Afghanistan.
Start with the conclusion - bring them back to New Zealand as soon as is feasibly possible, and with as many as possible alive and unwounded.
We are lucky to have armed forces that respect the direction of the government, and do not overthrow the government every few years.  As an institution, they know that their role is to defend the country, and do this by doing the government's bidding as best they can.  And they are very good at their job.  I supported the deployment of the Provincial Reconstruction Team, and its mission is nearly complete.  Any concerns I have over the rights and wrongs of the deployment are best directed to the government, because the armed forces work at the government's behest.

The suggestion we need to stay the course is not justified.  As I see it, there is a flipside to the idea that the troops are there to protect us.  That flipside is that we, in return, must protect the troops.  Our ability to do so lies in the ability to appeal to the government.  When continuing a deployment is likely to result in more death and injury in return for very little, the course of action is obvious and our duty is to avoid more losses.  It is time to protect our soldiers.

The Clean - Great Sounds EP, 1982

This Guy

The left seemed, last week, to have been overcome by a strange desire to find something to fight about.  Not a good fight with the government, an internal fight.  The battle grounds selected were Julian Assange and David Shearer's leadership of the Labour Party.

On Julian Assange:
He's accused of rape.  He's actively avoiding extradition to the country where he is accused of rape and is wanted for questioning.
That's it, for me.  The rest is a side show.
The thing about sideshows is that they are ephemeral, and illusory.  The discussion at The Standard reflect this in spades.  Extensive threads of people with entrenched positions that they will never budge from.  It makes for dull reading.
What I saw in the sideshow is:

  • Wikileaks is not Julian Assange, nor vice versa.
  • "I'll get extradited to the USA and will face the death penalty" is just "the dog ate my homework" on amphetamines.
  • Ecuador have offered asylum on the principle that "my enemy's enemy is my friend".  More often than not this is wrong.
  • Britain must respect the Ecuadorian Embassy, under the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
  • Avoiding the justice process on outlandish pretexts is cowardice, not the actions of a freedom fighter.

I really don't care how the sideshow turns out.

On David Shearer:
I'm merely someone who votes for Labour, occasionally.  Usually the electorate vote, in a rural electorate where the National candidate regularly wins by more than 10,000 votes.
The issues that are beguiling the Labour Party seem to be complex.  And Scott at Imperator Fish helpfully compiled a list of what to do about it.
Since I'm not nearly as clever as Scott, I'm tempted to leave it at that.  But I can't, so I'll observe that the Greens seem to have got themselves together and are working coherently, without frightening the horses.  I think that copying the Greens or stealing all their policies is not a good idea for Labour.  But maybe asking them how they do it might be a start.  And it's a lot more palatable than asking to be a junior coalition partner with the Greens in a few elections time.

The Clean - Odditties, 1982

Three To Get Ready

Yesterday I mentioned, in passing, the recent questionable behaviour of three  current ministers; Paula Bennett, John Banks and John Key.  In a spare moment I took the opportunity to compare their actions:

John Banks had a fit of pique over the recommendations of the Electoral Commission, which include some minor changes to the MMP system.
I have a little empathy for John Banks.  He senses a threat to his seat on the gravy train (though it seems obvious that he will be off the gravy train at the next election, I reckon I can count the number of people who think otherwise with a few fingers and thumbs to spare), the increasingly bizarre ideals he stands for are at risk, and he is doing his best to defend them.  No problem with that.
His inability to comprehend that his actions, and those of his ACT predecessors in the last parliament are the best and most recent example of what is wrong with MMP.  Their behaviour has been a model for many of submissions to the Electoral Commission's review and as such this is like a case of contributory negligence.  The bronze for bad politics goes to John Banks

I'd like to try to defend what Paula Bennett did, even as an intellectual exercise.  Play the devil's advocate.  But I can't.  There are only a limited range of circumstances where the government should use information it holds on a person against that person, and this is not one of those circumstances.  Otherwise the information must be held securely.  End of story.
The only bright light I can see is the suspicion I have that some form of confidential settlement was made.  It's not much of a bright light, then, especially when you consider that the issue involved the government intimidating people who criticise government policy.  At least it stayed out of court.  With that bit of grasping at straws done, the silver for bad politics to Paula Bennett

Which means the winner of the gold is John Key, for going to the game, and not going to the funeral.
Ultimately it is the Prime Minister who decides to deploy troops to combat zones.  It is therefore beholden upon the Prime Minister to do the right thing by these troops.  When they are killed in action the PM must attend the funeral.  It's that simple.
I do understand that politics is hard on families, especially children.  But like the duty to the troops, it's part of the job.  Anyone who thinks politics is easy has not had much to do with it.  And it's been that way for ages, anyone who is not up for putting their duties to the country ahead of their family should not run for public office.  It's that simple.
I have a guiding principle - you should always attend funerals.  Because the dead only die once; it's not like you can attend their next funeral.  Whereas the living will, in all likelihood, be here tomorrow.

Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out, 1959

Monday, 20 August 2012

Gutter Black

Puddleglum wrote an excellent post on the blueprint for the redevelopment of Christchurch's CBD.  Here's a link, I recommend it.  The post has been widely linked to from several prominent websites and has a good comment base, by quality and quantity.  Great work Puddleglum.
The overall theme of Puddleglum's post is that the Blueprint is a Christmas present.  Having deliberated, I think it is more like an easter egg.  A pretty shell, with a hollow centre.

The Hollow Centre
The anchor projects include a rugby stadium, a cricket oval, a convention centre and a sports facility.  Most of the time these will be empty.  More accurately, the people who come to these places will be transient, coming for and at a fixed time for a narrow purpose.  Outside these times and purposes....did you hear that echo?
What the CBD needs to bring it back to life is people.  Not only people passing through, also people who are there because it is their place.  To its credit the Blueprint does allow for this.  There's the health precinct. But that required very little brain power - the hospital was there already and it doesn't take a genius to figure it was best to leave it there.  The justice precinct - no great gain there, the police and courts were always in the middle of town.  And the innovation precinct.  I'm ambivalent as to whether it is a good idea or not, but I'll give it the benefit of the doubt.  So, why have it in the CBD? Access to fast internet where and when it arrives it Christchurch? No. Near other centres of innovation like the university? No. Near businesses that are interested in and supportive of innovation? No, they are spread out across the city and there's no certainty they will reconcentrate in the CBD.  Near transport hubs and links?  There's the bus exchange, I suppose, but no, not really.  Near where the people who do the innovating live (to make for a shorter trip to work)?  Hard to say.
What will bring people back to the CBD is somewhere to live and something to do.
The "somewhere to live" bit is addressed, nominally, through the demonstration housing.  Except of course the amount of housing actually provided is minimal.  There's no serious discussion of who the housing will be targetted at, though the proximity to the stadium suggests it won't be the elderly, families with young children or anyone who could afford to buy somewhere else.  Which leads to the idea that it might just be a roundabout way of saying we are going to build a slum.  If it were to be built between the justice precinct and the health precinct, it might make sense....
The something to do isn't really addressed at all.  Not living in the CBD, and not intending to, like many other residents I will have two or three reasons to go to the rebuilt CBD.  To work, to shop and to show visitors around.
My employer isn't moving back to the CBD.  It's too expensive compared to the suburbs, and my colleagues don't want to work in multistorey buildings.
I never shopped much in the CBD, and I doubt that will change much.  I tend to shop locally around where I live and work.  More and more I get things over the internet.  The whole idea of a CBD as a place to shop may well have had its day.  Cashel Mall is great, and more of that kind of thing will attract visitors.
As for showing visitors, what is there to show them?  The police building, the hospital, the sports complex, the innovation centre?  Without some inspired architecture, it's really just the earthquake memorial and whatever happens with the cathedral.

The Frame
I'd love to say something nice about the frame.  It's been lauded, generally, but I'm not convinced.  Latimer Square and Cranmer Square are often empty.  The frame just makes more empty space.
Christchurch is already well served for parks and open space.  There's nothing in the Blueprint that says why the frame is any different from the local park.  Why will people use the frame?  There are plenty of reasons why they might, but the Blueprint does not appear to have considered any of them.

That's where my concerns lie.  The Blueprint is vague, it lacks detail and substance.
Back when I started out a blueprint wasn't a collection of random things scattered about, apparently thoughtlessly.  Rather, it was a precise description, down to the finest detail, of what was to be done.  It was enough to create what was to be built.  According to that description, what we have is nothing like a blueprint.  I can only conclude that the meaning of the word has been co-opted to give the impression of completeness, while providing much less.  All we have is a glossy covering, a shell.
I want to be convinced of the why and the hows.  I want to know and believe that CERA know what they are doing.  But the Blueprint not only fails to convince me about the whys and hows, it completely omits them.
In part I think that this is due to the timeframe allowed.  The firm that did the work are competent and deserve their good reputation.  But this is not their best work.  The timeframe was arbitrary, and politically driven, to provide an illusion of action and hide a year of inaction by the government.  I can only imagine the outcome if the firm who did the work had a reasonable time and worked to a quality standard, i.e. if they focussed on getting it right, rather than getting it done.
As it is, it seems a lot of the work went into amending the District Plan.  If the District Plan had proven to be a good tool for sustaining and growing the CBD, then this would have been worthwhile.

And then there are the two missing pieces, funding and transport.
Questions in parliament since the announcement have clarified the question of funding.  The government expects CCC to sell assets to fund the plan that the government has foisted upon it.  Like a pirate being asked about prisoners who walked the plank, the government are suggesting that the council has options, and what they do is their choice.  Tui run a series of billboards about that.
Transport is just not there.  With the rebuild under way it's the ideal time to get multi-modal transport integrated into the city.  That means feet, bikes, cars, buses and something with rails.  I'd like to say why it's not there, but I can't figure it out.  And there's no good excuse for leaving something so fundamental out.

Hello Sailor - Hello Sailor, 1977

In the Lowlands

I went to see the annual Hopkins Lecture, hosted by Canterbury University and IPENZ (the Institute of Professional Engineers NZ), last Wednesday evening.
The subject was building resilience to disasters into societies, with an emphasis on how to do this as part of development an specifically development funded through aid.  I found it fascinating, partially because of my general interests and my day to day employment.  It's  bit of a dull subject, and I intend to not write about it, at least not here.
The speaker was the head of the UN Development Program and an ex-PM of New Zealand, Helen Clark.  It's the first time I've heard her speak.
Here's a link to the video, for those who are interested in the subject.  I've not watched the video (because I was there) but be warned, it's at least an hour long so unless it is edited down...

On the way home the news was about Paula Bennett and the seriously overdue findings from the investigation into whether she breached privacy by publishing personal details of an individual who criticised government policy.
This was hot on the heels of the violent reaction from John Banks to the proposed changes to MMP.  John Banks who solicited donations to an electoral campaign and then declared them as anonymous.
And John Key, going to watch his son play baseball instead of attending the funerals of two soldiers, killed in a fire-fight.

It occurred to me that there are three significant differences between this government and the last one.  The underlying intelligence, wit and sense of a moral compass are all absent.  In their place we have a venal bunch with a "can we get away with it" attitude.

Crowded House - Temple of the Low Men, 1988