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