Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Searching with my good eye closed

having some serious technical difficulties. hoping to have them resolved in.a few days.

soundgarden - Badmotorfinger, 1991

Friday, 27 July 2012

You're Gonna Get Done


I'd like to say I shook my head in disbelief when I heard John Banks would not be prosecuted for his actions around his return on his 2010 mayor campaign.  But to be fair, I expected that he wouldn't be prosecuted, and that shows a deep vein of cynicism on my part.  I have a deep and seething anger over this.

So let's lay out the facts.  John Banks received almost $100,000 in donations where he knew who the donor was.  That's almost two years pay at the average wage.
An assistant filled out the declaration on the donations to the campaign.
Bank's probity extended only to asking the assistant whether the declaration was correct.
Once he had been told the declaration was correct, he signed it as being true and correct, without any further checking.
And apparently that satisfies the letter of the law.

We are asked to believe that Banks knew the law very well and ensured that he obeyed the letter of it, if not the spirit.  And that's despite the obfuscations that resulted from the initial questioning of the declaration; all the claims from Banks that he could not remember.  And we are asked to believe the fault lies with the law, not the man.  But there are too many problems.

Declarations should never be made lightly.  They deserve and require thorough reviews and checks to ensure their veracity and consistency, their accuracy.  When they are declarations relating to the institutions of our society, elections and democracy in this instance, they are even more important.  A properly made declaration shows the person making it means what they say, and says what they mean.
In stretching the law to its limits, in meeting the letter of the law but avoiding the spirit of it, Banks has shown himself to be contemptuous of the institution of democracy; a petty egotist.

Blaming the law is weak.  ACT have trumpeted the idea of personal responsibility, in the past.  Banks could accept personal responsibility in this instance, if he had any courage in his convictions.  But apparently he has none, and it is my hope that his lack of courage will bring the final curtain down on the disgrace that the ACT party is today.  His credibility is blown; the right will need to start a new fringe party.

Primmers - AK79, 1979

The Belle of St Mark

Another shot in the dark, this time of bare trees outside St Marks church in Opawa.


Sheila E. - The Glamorous Life, 1985

Thursday, 26 July 2012

I Wait Around

Comment taken directly from the Stuff website:

Brent and Shirley Cairns   #13   03:44 pm Jul 26 2012The launch of the 100 day CBD plan, is one week away from the 100 week anniversary for TC3 homeowners, thousands living in broken leaking homes, those with uninhabitable homes, pay mortgages, increased insurance, rates, inflated rents, now suffer further, waiting 5-8 years for a repair or rebuild. An Insurance Dispute Resolution service was suggested to cabinet in June 2011 yet ignored. Statutorily the government had to set up a Community Forum providing a citizens perspective to decision makers, meeting virtually every fortnight, no minutes have been published, their input muzzled or ignored. The purposes of the CERA legislation states that Communities must be enabled to participate in the planning of affected communities...yet that has been ignored CERA financial review and a recent Human Rights Commission workshop highlighted the lack of community involvement in decision making. Roger Sutton said because our home was in a red zone it wouldn't be worth much, is that why we are ignored?
Brownlee must meet groups like WeCan to develop Community focused solutions. Families are at breaking point and tired of being ignored.

The government's ideology of leaving problems to be solved by that mythical creature "the market" does not always work, and post-earthquake Christchurch is a prime example.  The government could, undoubtedly, help more.  That's not to say it isn't helping, but that only leads to the idea that they could do better with what they are doing.
So why aren't they helping more and doing better?  It's their ideology again, if they make an exception for Christchurch they bring the rest of their program into question.  The attitude, even if it is subconscious, is appalling.

The Clean - Vehicle, 1990

Nightmares

To be fair to Labour, they did manage to take a patsy question in parliament yesterday and turn it into an embarrassment for the government.  It all started off fairly simple, with Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi asking the Minister of Commerce about legislative changes intended to "protect NZ's reputation".

It occurred to me that this may be a way of keeping Russian gangsters, South American dictators and various terrorists and fraudsters from stuffing up National's plans to steal everything it can, but I couldn't find my tinfoil hat.

It all went wrong pretty quickly, with Trevor Mallard asking about how John Banks helped NZ's reputation, and it ended up here:


Grant Robertson: In light of his desire to maintain New Zealand’s reputation as a trusted place to do business, is he satisfied that the Hon John Banks has the required ethical standards to be his Associate Minister of Commerce?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: I do not appoint Associate Ministers.
Grant Robertson: In light of his desire to maintain New Zealand’s reputation as a trusted place to do business, is it his intention to withdraw the delegations of the Associate Minister of Commerce, John Banks, in light of the revelations that he solicited donations from Skycity, Kim Dotcom, and a third party, and then signed a donation return that could not recall those donations?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: These reflections reflect pretty badly on the questioner. I have no responsibility for the delegations or any of the roles. That is at the will of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You know, and I know, that that Minister signed those delegations—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Trevor Mallard: —not the Prime Minister. It is just not true.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, order! The member is now questioning the answer. The Speaker has to take the Minister’s answer as it stands. I cannot question whether or not Ministers are giving correct answers; I can only assess whether or not they have provided an answer, and the Minister has certainly provided an answer.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Did he sign the delegation for John Banks as an Associate Minister?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: Yes; the member is correct that this Minister does sign those delegations in consultation with the Prime Minister.

Yes, in the end Mr Foss had the choice of lying to parliament or admitting he was wrong.  I was pleased he chose the latter, however in parliamentary terms this was a Minties moment, and almost as good as when Gerry Brownlee forgot to object to a proposal to urgently debate Stephen Joyce's tertiary qualifications.

The Bleeders - As Sweet As Sin, 2006

Is There Something I Should Know?

Question 4 today sounded very interesting.  Many of the answers were in te reo, and as my knowledge of te reo is too poor to have kept up with the comings and goings I was looking forward to reading the transcript. It seemed to me that Ms Turei had Dr Sharples on the rocks for a while, there.  So I was disappointed to find this kind of thing:

Metiria Turei: Does the Minister, then, also agree that the human right of Māori children to decent housing is breached by the Government’s cuts to State and social housing provision, which currently condemns 28 percent of Māori children to living in overcrowded homes?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES:
  • [Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
  • [Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to clarify with you. It could be an issue to do with translation, but during question time it has been very clear that Ministers are answering on behalf of the Government, not on behalf of their individual political parties, and twice in question time, in the interpretation—I do not speak Te Reo Māori, so I just want to check that I am correct here—the Minister has indicated he is replying on behalf of the Māori Party, not on behalf of the Government.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is quite correct that Ministers are replying in their role as a Minister, as part of the Government. However, they are at liberty to introduce into their answers other material if it helps them answer the question asked. The risk they face in doing that is if they bring into their answer material to do with their party, they can then be asked about that, when normally they cannot be asked about that. The Minister is not normally answerable in this House for matters to do with the Māori Party. However, the Minister has, as the member points out, on a couple of occasions introduced the Māori Party into his answers, and, therefore, the Minister can be asked about those matters that he has covered in his answers.
Te Ururoa Flavell:
  • [Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
  • [Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES:
  • [Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
  • [Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]

Surely it is possible to get a translation and transcript out in an hour or two, or is te reo not really an equal language?

The Green Party have shown that they are very good questioners.  I've also noted that they rarely resort to points of order, relying instead on the strength of their questions.  Sadly, Winston and Labour are being shown up, day after day, by the (rela

Duran Duran - Arena, 1984

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

On A Plain

I'd like to write about what a disaster Gerry Brownlee is, and the overturning of his decision on land rezoning to the west of Christchurch could be an opportunity.  Certainly it indicates that he went about things the wrong way, though it doesn't say what he did was wrong.  And since I don't know enough about it, I'll not go there.  Yet.

What caught my eye was the companies involved in the court action around zoning.  One of them was Christchurch Airport, who opposed the development approved by Minister Brownlee.  You would expect that the board of the airport kept the shareholders informed of their opposition to the approval, and that the shareholders would support the board's opposition, or they would sack the board.

The shareholders, there are three, are Christchurch City Holdings (the investment vehicle of Christchurch City Council), the Minister of Finance and The Minister for SOEs.

It seems wrong that they would let the matter go to court.

Nirvana - Unplugged in New York, 1993

UPDATE - sorry, I had a bit of a case of thoughts in the middle of the night there.  It seems wrong to let it go to court because the ministers involved are all part of the cabinet, and at least two are what is known as the kitchen cabinet, i.e. the select group of ministers that actually make the decisions.  Avoiding this kind of dumb stuff ending up in court seems much more productive than increasing class sizes, selling off control of our energy supply or ruining ACC.  And let's not forget ECan, who are appealing the decision, are run by government appointed commissioners.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

I Stare Out

As if it wasn't bad enough, on principles, to be selling assets.

We have the dubious financial benefits, the fees to Regular John's mates to sell the assets and the uncertainty around iwi claims around water.

And finally, the loyalty scheme.  Treasury are reported to have estimated the cost of the loyalty scheme at $500 million, or $112 per person.  That's a subsidy from the 90% or more of citizens who won't buy shares, or can't afford to, to those who have both the means and the lack of morals desire to buy the shares.  A wealth transfer from poor to rich.  Trickle up.

Regular John doesn't know how much it will cost.


David Shearer: Did he announce the loyalty scheme to the National Party conference without being aware of the cost?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I announced the intention to have a loyalty scheme. I do not know the exact cost at this point, but what I do know is that there may be no cost. I was taking this morning to listen to Morning Report. On Morning Report this morning, if I can quote from a stockbroker heavily involved in the Queensland Rail float, which had the loyalty bonus, he said that the amount the Government receives for its 49 percent may actually increase, and that the incentive increase for the float from locals and paid by itself is driving up the price institutions may pay—

It was only last week National were avoiding answering hypothetical questions, on the grounds they are hypothetical, and yet today we get this tripe about "...I was talking to a stockbroker and he said there were fairies at the bottom of the garden that magically make money appear..."

Opportunity lost with the Queensland Rail reference, too.  If only Mr Shearer had had quick enough wits to ask "Has the Prime Minister seen any reports on what happened to the government that sold Queensland Rail at the next elections?"  Hint - they were annihilated.  Annihilated.  Partially because people don't like asset sales.

Rod Oram talked about loyalty schemes on the radio today.  Evidently buyers who are not eligible, and share offers that do not have a loyalty scheme have about 40% selling within a few months, and for those that are eligible that rate drops to below 10%.  After the bonus shares are issued and there is no incentive for retaining the shares, the selling rate for those who participated in the loyalty scheme is 38%.  And this shows that loyalty schemes work.  Really?  40% for the ineligible and without loyalty schemes versus 38% once the loyalty scheme expires is pretty much the same rate, in my book, and is an indicator of the same self-interested behaviour.  The best it can be said to achieve is a delay in the time taken to sell 49% of our electricity generation capacity to overseas interests.

And let's not beat about the bush - this is not really about asset sales, or paying back debt, or building new infrastructure, or mum and dad investors.  Nor are arguments about the timing of it.  This is about selling the control of our electricity generation capacity.

"Hail the dauntless pursuit of the pointless."

Verlaines - Way Out Where, 1993

Saint Nick's Last Kick (part two)

Questions in the House today, on the issue of Nick Smith and the chance of there being smoke without fire.

Like Gerry Brownlee last week, Regular John seemed to have a disconnect with reality when questioned, but he did have the decency not to be too churlish.

He did completely miss the point of the questioning, which related to probity, rather than the nature of the work.  Another indication of mental prowess, perhaps.

The Hasselhoff Experiment - Christmas on the Rocks, 2001

Asleep At The Wheel

National oppose Monday-ising Waitangi Day and ANZAC Day, when they fall on a weekend.


Prime Minister John Key said he did not know what the party's position was.
Other Ministers said they would not comment until caucus had made a decision on the issue.
Deputy Prime Minister Bill English said the Government would veto the legislation.

So the PM "doesn't know" and the Deputy PM says it will be vetoed.  That's hardly singing from the same song sheet.  The Bill is to be debated tomorrow, so it looks like the PM is asleep at the wheel.

But wait, there's more.

Not so long ago (a little under 100 days, in fact), the government and CERA announced a 100 day plan for the CBD of Christchurch.  Now it's the 103 day plan - 3% over its time budget.  Why?  Today the Press quietly reported:
The blueprint needs Cabinet sign-off before it is released publicly, but ministers are not scheduled to meet again until Monday morning.
How long have Cabinet met on Monday?  Ages, so it's hardly a surprise, and it's hardly a surprise that Cabinet would have to sign the work off before Regular John had his next photo opportunity.  So basically the government didn't know what it was doing - asleep at the wheel again.  It's hardly like the CBD of the second largest city in the country is a minor issue either, it's the kind of thing I expect the government to take seriously and be organised for.

In researching this post I found a blog at the Press asking "what happens next?" and at the bottom there are a few comments.  Matt at #5 says that any consultation on the plan is unnecessary, because most of the land in the CBD is privately held.  Which is true, but this government has not had much respect for trivialities like fundamental rights like democracy (hence the take-over of ECan), or property.  I understand, having read the brief via the government tenders website, that there is no need to respect property rights in the Christchurch CBD, and confiscations are allowed.

Bloodhound Gang - One Fierce Beer Coaster, 1996

Monday, 23 July 2012

Luna

Jim Mora interviewed Alan Gibbs this afternoon, in what was a bizarre and, at times, uncomfortable discussion.
Apart from finding that the world is, according to Mr Gibbs, terribly underpopulated, and that everything that has ever gone wrong is the fault of "the socialists" (whoever they are, evidently they were the last Labour government), the overwhelming message was that if Alan could do it, anyone can.  And if we don't, and if we can't blame the socialists, it must be entirely our own fault.
I didn't sit there and wonder why I my success is yet to match Alan's, I just wondered why anyone would give his political and philosophical views any air time at all.

Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream, 1993

Saint Nick's Last Kick

Where there's smoke, there's fire, right?  It wasn't so long ago that the smoke was streaming out of ACC, and the fire consumed the minister responsible.

Here's some more smoke.  Nick Smith signing off on $180,000 of expenditure to a consultancy run by one of his mates.  Regular John might look into it.

The Hasselhoff Experiment - Christmas on the Rocks, 2001

NOTE - any comments on the theme of "the other lot did it too" will not be published, unless they are accompanied by other exceptionally useful commentary.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Shivers

Regular John's most ardent fan has become openly critical.  Not scathing, yet, but openly critical.

The comments from the acolytes of Fran and John are numerous, and have a common theme of "it's ours, we earned it and you can't have it".

There's a theory that the government is a few months away from collapse.  It's possible, but I'm not convinced.  However, ignoring the truism that a week is a long time in politics, National have lost the next election.  Labour can sleep-walk to power.  And that's not a good thing.

Hallelujah Picassos - Hateman in Love, 1992

Friday, 20 July 2012

Water

A brief thought on the subject of whether or not water is capable of being owned.

Water is a physical compound and can be found in gas, liquid and solid forms.  Just today I found the gas form evaporating off the top of my coffee, and I often find the solid form over the windscreen of my car before I leave for work.  The liquid form is everywhere, it even pops out of taps.

It is well accepted that things that are much more abstract can be owned.  For example, things that are yet to come in to existence may be owned, and traded on a futures market.  Things that will never have physical form, such as ideas, may be owned via patents under intellectual property and copyright law.

I am certain that water can be owned.

PJ Harvey - Dry, 1992

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Sleeping During The Day

The government have budgeted to spend another $200million on investigation and design for roads in the next four years.

Back in 1996 the then National Government approved the sale of the old Ministry of Works for an estimated $108million.  Of that, about $45million was for the part that does investigation and design for roads, amongst other things.  Skip ahead 16 years and what became of that part is listed on the sharemarket, worth about $100 million and returning around $20million a year on the investment.


In the spirit of the Mixed Ownership Model, the government must be considering a 51% stake.  Surely.


It's not like the work disappears, there's an average of $50 million a year.  Coincidentally that's about the same price for the aforementioned 51% stake.  Sure, the companies that are contracted to do the work change from project to project.  But the truth is that companies get very little done; all the work is done by people.  When a company runs out of work, its staff move to a company that has work.


That is to say, it's pretty much the same people doing this work.  They spend a few years training at university, and decades getting the experience, and they can't and don't just go and do something else when their company can't win enough work.  They go to the company that won the work.


Or they go to Australia, and we lament the loss of skilled people overseas.


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


FOOTNOTE
In one of the links above, the Ministry of Works was described, in a letter to the Herald in 1996, as follows:
"… an organisation that was instrumental in building an infrastructure second to none for a country of this size, and the envy of overseas agencies…No more will we have an agency able to respond immediately to natural disasters with the technical resources to cover anywhere in the country; provide apolitical advice to Government ministers free from any vested interests; provide the standards and technical advice for other departments (including the Department of Conservation), local authorities and the private sector; provide a first-rate training ground for technical personnel; and maintain a workforce in all rural areas that are part of the overall national scene."
Would the response to the earthquakes in Christchurch have been better with a Ministry of Works?  We can only guess, so I will.  It is my opinion that it would definitely have been better.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Mysterex

On Wednesday it was the turn of another Green MP to help a National MP look dumb.  In Question One, Russel Norman took on Regular John, on the subject of prices for houses.

Again I was astounded by many of the answers, though unlike Mr Brownlee yesterday, I am sure the PM understands that he showed all the depth of a swimming pool with a "No Diving" sign, and no plug.  The best exchange was this one:


Dr Russel Norman: When will the Prime Minister stop blaming the last Government and accept that we have a housing affordability crisis right now in this country, that young people are struggling to buy their first house and are leaving the country to get better opportunities somewhere else, and that his Government has a responsibility to do something about it, rather than just blame the Labour Party?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: If that member really thinks that we have a housing bubble at the moment in the way that we had under the previous Labour Government, then, firstly, he is deluded and, secondly, he might want to ask the then Labour Government why it bothered to commission a whole report on housing affordability, of which it followed very little.
I understand that's what's called "caught red handed".  Or maybe blue handed.

Though the most amusing moment of the day happened in Question Six, in an exchange between the Speaker and the Minister Impeding Social Development.  In response to the primary question:
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development) : I am pleased that the first 50 of 149 extra social workers in schools will begin as schools start back this term. The first 50 additional social workers will cover 95 schools in Northland, South Auckland, and Hawke’s Bay. We announced the expansion of Social Workers in Schools to all decile 1 to 3 schools last year, expanding the coverage from 285 to 675 schools by mid—[Interruption] Hey, are you done? [Interruption] A bit more? Let us go. [Interruption] Are you ready?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I would ask members to be just a little more respectful, please. The Minister is only feet away from me, and I struggled to hear her answer. I just ask that interjections be a little more reasonable. I call Scott Simpson.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: No, I just thought I would take a moment to—I have not quite finished my answer.
Mr SPEAKER: But the Speaker determined the Minister had.

I laughed loud enough to alarm some of my colleagues.

Scavengers - AK79, 1979

Memories In Future Tense

A few things have happened in the last 24 hours that have taught me a lesson about trying to be too clever.

I wrote a post about water, and specifically whether it is capable of being owned, and I scheduled it for a few days time.  My instincts say, even now, to leave it to post as scheduled.

Meanwhile, Puddleglum has gone a step further and identified what lies behind the current discussion about water.  I'll not steal his thunder, it's a hell of a good post and you should read it.  Even Bryce Edwards thinks so.

And in the end I got back to where Every Tiny Straw started - back in June last year when wildcrafty said:

wildcrafty said...
Wish you had a blog AC.

"I reckon the whole "the land belongs to me" concept is a failure. I much prefer the idea that "I belong to the land". As such, I am its property and thereby I am responsible for looking after it."

There's a conversation I'd like to see NZ having more of.
June 14, 2011 11:38 PM
over at Cr Guyton's blog.  Gosh, that feels a bit weird, quoting someone who was quoting me.  However, that's kind of where it all started - a seminal moment, if you will.  If you read this blog, wildcrafty, thanks.

So, and acknowledging that this pre-empts a post that is already written and scheduled for publication, but is as yet unpublished.  I've fallen back to a principle I explained a year ago:

I reckon the whole "I hold water rights" concept is a failure.  I much prefer the idea that "I belong to the water, and the land".  As such, I am its property and thereby I am responsible for looking after it.

The concept of ownership, as we understand it in our culture, may be too simplistic to allow us to manage water properly.

The Church - Of Skins and Hearts, 1981

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Hideous Twinge

Back from recess, and question time was pretty dull. Unusually so.  Which is a bit of a shame; I'd wanted something to blog about.  The highlight was Question Six.

Gerry Brownlee, as Minister of Transport, was unnecessarily belligerent with his answers to this primary question from Julie Anne Genter:
6. JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green) to the Minister of Transport: How much was spent on investigation, design, and other preparatory work for the now cancelled Otaki to Levin expressway?
The questioning elicited a few bizarre and un-ministerial answers,this exchange being the most obvious example:

Julie Anne Genter: Will he admit that spending most of the transport budget on building a few expensive motorways is not the best, most cost-effective way to improve safety and move more people and freight around the country, as we have seen with Ōtaki to Levin?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No. Of course I will not.

Seriously Gerry, you wouldn't admit it?  What if it was demonstrably true?

The nest supplementary was just as revealing, but it left the obvious follow up unasked:

Julie Anne Genter: Will further low-value roads of national significance projects be cancelled, such as the $1.7 billion Pūhoi to Wellsford project, which has lower traffic volumes and a worse benefit-cost ratio than the now cancelled Ōtaki to Levin expressway; and if not, why not?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No, because we think it does have the potential to carry a lot more traffic in the future—far more, in fact, than the tunnel through Auckland for the train with nobody on it.

 I'd like to know what basis the minister has for expecting more traffic on the Puhoi to Wellsford road, given the static or falling traffic counts across the country.
The subtlest bit was the minister revealing his ignorance.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: [...] What I will instruct the New Zealand Transport Agency to do is to stop paying for reports like that on the impact of urban form on economic performance, Valuing Urban Design, and Business cases for walking and cycling, all compiled for the New Zealand Transport Agency by the member, at a huge cost—a jaw-dropping cost, in fact.
As I read it, this says that the minister is lacking the intellectual capacity to understand some of the reports his ministry has commissioned.  I doubt a glossary would have helped, and a larger font or more pictures can only go so far.  It seems we need a smarter minister.

Tufnels - Lurid, 1994

Come Together (Again)

A little "told you so", if I may.

More than two months ago I blogged abut Pete George and his behaviour at The Standard.  Not much had changed in the interim, until the last day or two.  I suggested some form of collective action and it appears to be under way.  Not quite what I suggested, but who cares, as long as it works.

Go Standardistas!

I'm a little disappointed that I've not followed the action closely enough to see the cause of the action, and I'm not motivated enough to go looking for it.  Something to do with something RedLogix said.

Anyway, with Pete George gone, and following the advice darkhorse gave me, I will head back to The Standard and comment more frequently.

The Beatles - Abbey Road, 1969

Monday, 16 July 2012

You're So Foolish

Amongst my research for my post on the Auckland Central Rail Loop I came across more of Jim Hopkins' work.  At least he tries to be topical.  There, I've said something nice.  Now...
I couldn't help but read the comments thread, because I was so overawed by the stench of stupid that emanates from Hopkins' writing.  And this one, from a Paul Andersen, rung true:
Is this rubbish masquerading as humour?
That seems to be the most likely explanation.


Essentially Hopkins' argument is that water is transitory, and we can not own transitory things.  It's a weak argument.  Stock animals are transitory too, both by nature (without fences they wander, and graze) and by the customs of our society (we move them around, including onto land we don't hold title to).  Neither instance automatically results in transfer of ownership.


I'm tempted, at this stage, to take the easy way out and say I don't know who owns water.  I believe water is capable of being owned, and I believe that on 5 February 1840, water in New Zealand was not owned by the Crown.  I understand that there has been no legislation passed, in the interim, that explicitly alienates the pre-Treaty owners from their ownership rights.  As such, that leaves the owners of water, as at 5 February 1840 with the ability to assert their ownership rights.


I look forward to seeing what wiser heads than mine think.


And while I haven't worked out all the answers for myself, I do know who doesn't have the answers, and whose column and thoughts need not be consider - and that's Jim Hopkins.


Heavenly Bodies - ...But I Can Write Songs Okay (Compilation), 1996

The Hardest Button To Button

Sometimes words fail me.  Like now.  But I know someone is thinking about what I want to say when I read well written words.  And yesterday I did that.

Darkhorse writes the howdaft blog.  I am genuinely in awe of his writing, and evidently others are too because his posts are republished at The Standard and linked to from The Herald.

Rather than link to a whole post from howdaft, I've decided to highlight a couple of sentences that really resonated as being fundamentally true and a reflection of the essence of society.  They are;

'...the wisest long term investment strategy for both retirees and for future taxpayers is to build an essentially debt free society. 
We need to be building an investment in the future.  Instead we have loaded our children with debt. We have either run the assets we inherited from our parents into the ground or sold them off and we have not prepared ourselves, or our children for the future.'

While I am normally quite pedantic about quoting in context, I believe that these few words are so universal that they can stand independent of their original context.

The political blogosphere tends to be awash with negativity, and people who are prepared to knock, or waffle, or not understand the fundamentals of their positions.  I can do this with the best (or worst) of them.  So it is refreshing to see someone who can express something constructive, definite and honest.

Cheers darkhorse, please keep writing.  Change has to start somewhere.

White Stripes - Elephant, 2003

I Started Something I Couldn't Finish

The Herald reports that $200 million or so has been spent on consultancy fees for the Roads of National Significance, with the underlying message that this is not a good use of public money.  James Henderson at The Standard picks up on the underlying message, and runs with it.  Both rely on quotes from Phil Twyford, Labour's Transport spokesperson and, from what the discussions we have had, a very good bloke.

I think the analysis is a bit shallow, although James Henderson does get some of it.

On my point of disagreement - good planning always pays off.  As such, I have no problem with money being spent on making sure we will do the right thing, and the right way.  If that involves spending $200 million, which is an eye-watering sum, then so be it.

As I see it:

  • the requirements to plan for roads and other major infrastructure can be enormous, and this is a crude way of making sure that projects that are a bad idea do not go ahead.
  • as a direct result of the point immediately above, and as noted by James Henderson, spending this much money on roads that should not and mostly will not be built is ridiculous.
  • the procurement model for planning and design services for roads is fundamentally flawed, in that in only allows for competition from within the private sector, when doing so (and exacerbating this by enforcing the same model for the construction) allows price gouging, can stifle competition, and reduces the control that the funder (that's you and me, via our government) has over the process.

The alarmist approach of saying "gosh, that's a lot of money" is overly simplistic.

The Smiths - Strangeways, Here We Come, 1987

Saturday, 14 July 2012

I Keep Coming Back

Another milestone reached a few days back, though one where I'll keep the news to myself and smile on the inside.  And more note-worthy, perhaps, is what stands out for me from the 200-odd posts I have written since starting this blog in January.

There's one post that, for some reason, keeps getting read by people from all over the world.  It was one of the off-the cuff, whimsical ones that I never expected to be read by anyone.  Ever.  It's about learner plates on cars, for goodness sake.  What is so interesting about this post?

My favourite post is about asset sales.  It was inspired by one of my favourite critics, Shunda Barunda, who I like and respect a lot more than he suspects.

The most read post is this one, on Hekia Parata's folly.

The rest don't really surprise me.  I'm open to suggestions on topics for future posts, too.

Afghan Whigs - Gentlemen, 1993

Friday, 13 July 2012

Before Too Long

...before too long, the words will be spoken, I know all the actions by heart...

In a week or two, John Key and Gerry Brownlee will be in Christchurch to announce the outcome of CERA's 100 day blueprint for the CBD.

They will, of course, provide fulsome praise for the plan, hail its visionary nature, enthuse over the multitude of opportunities it provides, emphasize the need to progress with haste and spill over with so many truisms and so much hope for the future.  But then ,they have to, it is not just what is expected of them, it is necessary, there is no alternative for them.

What will it really be like?  Fiona Farrell wrote an opinion piece in The Press and I think she hits the nail on the head.  The scope of the brief was limited, and the outcomes will be, in her words, hollow.

Christchurch will, by definition, head down the right path, in the fullness of time.  The plan that will be released in two weeks time, with full support from the PM, could easily turn out to be expensive and irrelevant.  As often things can be when central government stray beyond their areas of competence.

Paul Kelly - Gossip, 1986

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Slave

Puddleglum has written about unemployment and motivation.

As usual, it's a comprehensive, thought-provoking piece.  Have a read.  I'll be there to comment once I can get my head together and (hopefully) make a comment worthy of the post.

Silverchair - Freak Show, 1997

Coming Up For Air

Recess is usually either exceptionally dull or exceptionally lively.  This recess has been dull, though I have enjoyed a discussion with the next Earthquake Recovery Minister.
I'm still waiting to hear back from my local MP in response to the terse letter I sent him about asset sales.  I'd say he's busy, and in any case it's the fourth letter I've written to a National MP in ten years.  Given the terrible response rate (I've had one reply, and it appeared to be a form letter), I have low expectations.
To provide balance, Labour have a 100% strike rate (two from two, both quite comprehensive).
---
The main excitement this recess has been with the Maori Party; they are stamping and snorting about the slight made upon the Waitangi Tribunal by the PM.
It's all for nought.  Tonight John Key is "totally confident" that the Maori Party will continue to support the government.  And I agree with him, that's exactly what the Maori Party will do, because there's nothing else they can do.  Theodore Roosevelt's advice to speak softly, and carry a big stick, could well be heeded by Mr Key.  Once again I'm in awe (and not in a good way) at Key's command of the language.
We'll hear the "we think it is better to remain at the table" line, but that's not even faint praise of the government.  The question is "what are you doing at the table?", and the answer is painfully obvious.  Mrs Turia and Dr Sharples, as the faces of the Maori Party, are in the unenviable position of having no positive influence in government, and no way of contributing to an effective opposition.  They are between Scylla and Charybdis.
The perception that they have prioritised a couple of years with ministerial perks over following their principles will continue to gain traction, and contribute to the end of the Maori Party.

Able Tasmans - Shape of Dolls EP, 1993

UPDATE - My MP sent me a thorough and considered reply.  Not considered enough to change his mind, or his vote on the asset sales legislation, but credit to him.

Now Like Then

I took up a subscription to the Herald again, recently, for a few reasons. One was because they offered a trial free subscription, another was because we could use the paper to light the fire (I usually read it online before the paper version is delivered).
The third is that the experience with a newspaper is different to a news website. I find viewing news on websites allows me to look only at the extremes; news I strongly agree with and news I strongly disagree with. I suppose that's to do with the self-selecting nature of websites. Somehow with paper news I find myself compelled to skim every item on every page and decide whether to read it based on the first paragraph or two, rather than the title of a hyperlink.
Enough musing.
---
What struck me is the strong and consistent anti-rail tunnel campaign the Herald is running. Clearly I've not read Auckland Transport blog enough recently. In the last few days there has been a cartoon and on Saturday two opinion pieces, taking a full page, with anti-rail loop sentiment.

The cartoon first. Credit to the creator, Emmerson. It shows two people in a Jetson's style aircraft (at some stage in the future) commenting on the rail loop funding being approved, with a rejoinder of "whatever 'rail' is". The clear message is that rail is obsolete.
That's a fundamentally flawed message. Flight, especially flight for individuals in a car-like manner, is most certainly not the way of the future until at least two fundamental problems are solved. The first is the ability of people to fly personal aircraft. We lack the culture to do this en masse (the flight rules we have at the mpment rely on uncrowded skies and extensive training), and we don't yet have the automatic systems needed to take the human factor out.
More importantly, we don't have the energy required to power the aircraft, and with energy likely to become more expensive, the scenario put forward in the cartoon is fantasy. Without removing the human factor, and much cheaper energy, rail is much more likely to be the future of urban transport than personal aircraft.

In his opinion piece, Jim Hopkins also suggests that rail is obsolete. The first thing I asked myself is "how would Jim Hopkins know?". As far as I can see his claim to fame is, well, once I find something, anything, I'll post on it.
His opinions are fatuous at best, it would be fairer to say they are baseless.  I looked at the ten most livable cities (Auckland is tenth, at present) and found that what the nine higher placed cities have in common is better public transport than Auckland.  At least five of these are completely or, like Auckland, partially underground systems.
But evidently hydrogen powered driverless cars will save us, and be ready before the rail tunnel can be built. I won't beat about the bush - that's not just wishful thinking, it's fantasy.

The last opinion piece was Michael Barnett's. He suggests that the Auckland - Manukau Eastern Transport Interchange, or AMETI, should be a higher priority than the rail loop. As the head of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, he has undoubtedly had more opportunity to consider the issue than feather-weights like Jim Hopkins, but that merely means his views deserve more respect, not that they are correct.
The basis for Barnett's argument is that freight volumes from Auckland's port to the inland port at Onehunga are expected to double in the next twenty years, from one movement every 14 seconds to one every seven seconds. It's a subtle variation of the "think of the disturbance to the lawyers and bankers with homes overlooking Hobson Bay" argument. On that basis, and accepting that lawyers and bankers are our equals (not our masters), it's not a bad argument.
I'm yet to see a good mode argument on the AMETI, though. If its benefits are for the movement of goods by truck from the sea port to the inland port, surely rail would be more effective. If it's more complex than that, and it seems likely, then another motorway is too simple to be the solution.
However, I'm happy to reduce it to a funding argument.  Ratepayers can fund the rail loop out of general residential rates. Commercial and industrial ratepayers can fund AMETI from commercial and industrial rates, too.  Yeah?
---
Meanwhile we see KiwiRail doing the wrong thing, with the spectre of Stephen Joyce ever present in the background.  Rail is popular and being expanded around the world.  I don't mind going against trends, leading the world, but this  is a step in the wrong direction.

Exponents - Something Beginning With C, 1992

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Keine Lust

The clusterf*ck that is the Kim Dotcom case rolls on relentlessly.  And its such a charade.

Kim Dotcom is not a freedom fighter.

The government are in this up to their necks, and if they had any sense of loyalty to the citizens of New Zealand they would be doing their utmost to set things straight.  It would at least make a good distraction from the whole assets sales mess they have worked their way into.

The Police have done a terrible job, acted illegally, and I suspect, on no good grounds, that the main reason the government are not acting is that they are scared of Kim Dotcom, and don't know how to manage the situation.  That's a nice way of saying it's out of control.

About the only party to come out of this not smelling of something vile is the judiciary.

It's unfortunate that it's the NZ taxpayer will be the loser, when the government is sued for an enormous sum.

Rammstein - Reise, Reise, 2004

Disgracelands



Therapy? - Nurse, 1992

Never Enough

At The Standard there's a post up that asks, in its very first line:
Are you keen to buy shares in Mighty River Power with a dividend return of 4% pre-tax?
No, I'm not, but that's not the point.  Once we get into the comments, "Tom Gould" has the sense to ask:
...where does the 4% pre-tax come from?
And it appears the answer is an opinion-piece by Vernon Small.  My googling skills have proved inadequate for the task of finding the article, but that's because I want to get a few posts written and also maybe sleep before work starts again tomorrow.

So I'll carry on, on the suspicion that the 4% is either a red herring, or irrelevant because it's nowhere near what investors expect to make.

One of the companies I expect will be interested in buying shares in almost everything the government is looking to sell is Infratil.  According to their website, Infratil is:
Infratil is an owner and operator of businesses in the energy (mainly renewable), airport and public transport sectors.
Their strategy involves working with the public sector.  From their website again:
Infratil prefers to invest alongside community interests (City Councils and Community Trusts).
One of the community interests they invest alongside is Trustpower, which is what became of Tauranga's electricity department.  Trustpower is listed on the NZX stock exchange, just like Mighty River Power is proposed to be, and it generates most of its electricity from renewables, just like Mighty River Power.  The difference is Infratil owns 50.5% and Tauranga Energy Consumers Trust owns 33%, with the remaining sixth being held by other parties.

I hope I've established that Infratil are the type of company that will invest in the sale of assets under the MOM Act.  So how much money do Infratil expect to make?

What blows the 4% suggestion out of the water is the first sentence in the About Us section of the Infratil website.  They are quite explicit in saying:
Infratil’s primary goal is to provide its shareholders with a consistent return of 20% per annum over the long term.
20%.  OMG, that's massive.
Trustpower customers are paying enough for Infratil to return 20% to its investors.  20%!  Does that mean their prices could be reduced by 20%?  And why shouldn't we expect the privatised electricity generators to do pretty much the same?

Which only leaves the question of how the 20% will be achieved.  The usual suspects are price rises, deferring maintenance and asset stripping.  I'm picking a mix of all three will occur.

The Cure - Mixed Up, 1990

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Out On The Streets

Out and about, around town last night I found a well lit tree, and a headless mannequin in a doorway behind the cordon.  These are for you, Cr Guyton.


Space Waltz - Space Waltz, 1975

The Best

The Herald has covered the reaction on the more serious political blogs to three Labour MPs wearing vests to a meeting.

Much sharper and better connected minds, including Danyl McLaughlin, Jane Clifton and Lew Stoddard have all has their say.  I think they've over analysed the situation, it is my opinion that what Messrs Shearer, Robertson and Lees-Galloway have done is (sorry, I can't resist) simply the vest.

Tina Turner - Foreign Affair, 1989

Undone

mickeysavage has an excellent post on the claim being put to the Waitangi Tribunal regarding the ownership of water.

The political aspects of the claim fascinate me.

Mr Key's claim that no one owns water is one that will strike a chord with many, because that's what we've been taught.  To some extent that is supported by English common law, though the Americans take a somewhat different approach.  The "no one owns water" idea was batted about on The Standard today, with prompt replies of "how come I pay Watercare for it?" and "it costs money at the garage/cafe/supermarket."  The argument is flawed in that the sellers will tell us the payment is for dams/pipes/pumps/maintenance or bottles/bottling plants/transport/marketing, while the water itself is free.  It's difficult to argue with, because in the case of dams/pipes/pumps/maintenance especially, the convenience they provide is enormous.
It seems that we may have been mislead.  While New Zealand law is based on English common law, this is not England.  It is quite possible that someone does own water.

Oh yeah here we go again, shaking.

The conflicting statements from the Prime Minister today, as reported in the Herald:

But speaking to reporters in Hamilton this afternoon, Mr Key said he had never suggested he wouldn't listen to the Tribunal's findings.
"I've said we'll take on board what they're saying but..."
is totally at odds with
"...the Government's not bound the Waitangi Tribunal findings, and neither have any successive Governments been bound by their findings, nor are we bound to give a response."We're going through a process, we'll be interested to see what the Waitangi Tribunal says, we're acting in good faith. We take the tribunal very seriously but that doesn't mean we're bound it, and that's the law in New Zealand."

If he'd stopped before the "but" he'd be on some mighty solid ground.  Explaining that the government is not bound by Waitangi Tribunal rulings at such an early stage is a threat, because the principle that the government is not bound by the Waitangi Tribunal is well established, everyone who has had some involvement is aware of the fact.  And however many times he says otherwise, it's not good faith to threaten someone.

National have not found their way out of the mire they created when they proposed asset sales.  It looks increasingly likely that they will have to either put the process on-hold or draft legislation as brutal as Labour's hated Foreshore & Seabed Act.


Stellar* - Mix, 1999

A Head With Wings

Out and about the centre of town today I came across this topiary stag on Cashel Street.
He's lovely, with all the presence of the bulls on Madras Street, but much more approachable.

It's the first time I've been right into the centre of town since February.  With the reduced cordon, the cathedral is an outstretched arm away, it's just out of reach.

I've not looked at the new plan to save the cathedral in detail, but it really struck me that most of the structure is still standing.

The comments I made on thepoliticalscientist.org where I supported the diocese's decision to proceed with demolition of the cathedral may have to be revised, pending further information.

Morphine - Cure For Pain, 1993

Monday, 9 July 2012

Vicarious

After Robert Guyton alerted me to them, I went to see the bulls in the middle of Christchurch.

They are captivating.  Life size, and spooky in the evening light.

So I captured them myself, on a memory card.  It says so much about the changes that have happened in Christchurch that bulls on pianos in an empty lot seems like a good idea.

The first photo I took is of the interior of a building on the corner of Lichfield and Madras.  It didn't seem that red at the time I took the photo, and the white glow through the windows facing Madras Street was not apparent at all.  It amazes me what cameras see.  There is a car in the fifth photo, and all the camera caught was the headlights.

Strawpeople - Vicarious, 1996

Gouge Away







Photos one to five by the Armchair Critic 9 July 2012.  Photo six is a screenshot of the area, taken as a screenshot from the Google Maps website.

Pixies - Doolittle, 1989

Strange World

The BSA have decided that what Michael Laws breached good taste and was offensive.

After the teapot tape saga first broke Laws called the Herald on Sunday journalists "mad" and said that if he had a gun he would shoot them.  He also asked why no one else had done so yet.  And he followed this up by saying they should be poisoned.

One of the four members of the BSA dissented and said that what Laws said was acceptable.  There must be a very high threshold for incitements to commit violent acts against a specific and identified group of individuals to be acceptable.  When Laws said:

"...[I have] no idea why somebody just hasn't taken a shotgun there and cleaned out the entire news room."
or
"This is the reason why, if you see a rabid journalist, you shoot them straight away, and then the infection doesn't spread.

it's more than the use of violent metaphors or analogies.  It's a direct call to arms.

A principle of justice is that the response should be proportional to the events causing the response.  Calling for journalists to be shot dead is totally out of proportion to the fuss over the teapot tapes.  If anything the journalists in question were insufficiently bold and should have incurred more of Laws' wrath by publishing.  However the BSA's response is also out of proportion to the magnitude of the breach of broadcasting standards.  The chosen punishment is the proverbial wet bus ticket, but without the water.  And without the bus ticket.  Their course of action, in this case, raises some serious questions about the suitability of the members of the authority.

Iron Maiden - Iron Maiden, 1981

UPDATE - Yay, Brian Rudman agrees with me.  He says:
"The Broadcasting Standards Authority made an ass of itself this week, slapping Mr Laws with a wet bus ticket for breaching radio's "good taste and decency" standards..."