Thursday, 27 September 2012

Sorry

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

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

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

Madonna - Confessions On A Dance Floor, 2006

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Spanish Bombs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Clash - London Calling, 1979

Twisted

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

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

Emphasis is mine.

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

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

Strawpeople - Vicarious, 1996

Friday, 21 September 2012

Op. 84

From the photo archive
Sunrise (or thereabouts)

Sunset

Ludwig von Beethoven - 1787

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Voices

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

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

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

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

Split Enz - See Ya Round, 1984

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Touched By The Hand Of God

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

New Order - 7", 1987

What Jail Is Like

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

Afghan Whigs - Gentlemen, 1993

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

If I Could Turn Back Time

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

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

Cher - Heart of Stone

Courage

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

The Bats - Silverbeet, 1993

Monday, 17 September 2012

Galop Infernal

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

Offenbach - Orpheus In The Underworld, 1858

Something In The Way

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

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

Nirvana - Nevermind, 1991

Circular

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

Able Tasmans - Somebody Ate My Planet, 1992

Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Debt Collector

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

Blur - Parklife, 1994

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Ugly Day

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

The 3D's - Hellzapoppin, 1992

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

You Forget Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verlaines - Bird Dog, 1987

Monday, 3 September 2012

Out of Touch

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

Hall and Oates - Big Bam Boom, 1984

Dialling a Prayer

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

Straightjacket Fits - Life in One Chord, 1987

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Hold On

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

Exponents - Something Beginning with C