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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tracksafe tragedy in making

Just watched a TV One News item on 'Tracksafe' for Auckland school kids now there are finally electric trains.  A booklet and singing a naff song are supposed to protect 5 year olds from being killed crossing rail lines?  That is cheaper than fully fencing off the rail corridor and removing all the level crossings, but that is what must be done now the services have increased.  It should have been done before electrification.  Obviously electrification of their trains in their thinking is more important than ending the killing of people by their trains on level crossings.

How many more will be killed before they do this? I bet at least a dozen, maybe 20 or so from the turn of the century.  We've already had people in wheelchairs caught in the tracks on level crossings being hit and dragged along the line by trains and nothing gets done.  Pretty hard to top that, maybe two or three kids taken out all at once?  Still not horrifying enough to justify a $1m pedestrian tunnel or bridge, a $25-$30m road/rail realignment?  

Not to have planned to do this - and all the added expense of foregone opportunities and cost escalation and time delay when these separations are done - isn't just incompetence, it amounts to sabotage.  It is an expense in the design of the system that needs to be dealt with rather than pretend they can operate lines which are going to have trains every five minutes going a across roads without any incident when the traffic impact is already going to be chronic at that frequency.  

There should be no level crossings of any description in the urban area and the whole urban corridor should be fenced off.  It is reckless to encourage children (let alone adults) to cross rail lines by making paths and roads across them - level crossings are inherently unsafe and getting more dangerous over time as speeds and services increase.  The signs etc. provide a false sense of security.  

The Tracksafe team and Auckland Transport are responsible for all those who die on the tracks so long as they remain accessible and unfenced.  If people want someone to blame for each death, blame them.

Mana - Internet deal well telegraphed

There is agreement.  Since Kim Dotcom's address at the Mana AGM in Rotorua in early April a combined Mana and Internet Party list was likely.  I felt at the time that as long as the top of the IP list are acceptable to Mana and there is a range of policy the two can agree on then it would be go.  The potential of rolling the anti-government votes from two different strands into something bigger than their individual parts was just too much to turn down.  

Sue Bradford was quite clear about her opposition to any deal at the AGM and so her resignation was not unexpected, indeed it would have been very odd had she stayed on.  I wonder if her list ranking position was higher, such as John Minto's, would she have reacted in quite the same way?

The document signals a new logo for Mana as well as a combined logo for the list amongst other things.  The list: Mana: 1,3,4,7,9,11... IP: 2,5,6,8,10...  By this we see that at approx. 4.5% both will get three in apiece and so I take this as being the target list vote sweet spot - appropriately ambitious. Both parties bring valuable things to the table and the leverage and how they make that work will be a fascinating case study in time, but right now things look positive, there is momentum.

The component parties and the provisions were all explained at the Mana AGM.  Branches have had time to feed back and most are comfortable with trusting the leadership to assess the credibility of the IP team and follow their judgement.  It is a risk, but one worth taking on balance - that is my feeling and that of most members.  If it gets John Minto in, or Annette Sykes - if she doesn't take Waiariki off Flavell and enter as an electorate MP - then I am prepared to vote for whoever person x is that will lead the IP and take the No.2 slot on the list.  And I state that having no clue who that person is, which indicates I doubt that the Mana team and the Kumar-led IP team would pick someone unacceptable to the wider Mana membership.  

A youthful celeb would be helpful to speak to the digital generation demographic, but they would have to know their stuff on the web side to attract solid support.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Hone rides into town

Who was that masked man?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

RNZ: Clinging colonials

RNZ is a cringing colonial, Wellingtonian wankfest.  Their racism is a cherished Pakeha taonga - the gift of racial prejudice - to be passed from generation to generation of New Zealander as their collective cultural inheritance.  

RNZ is contracted to run just 350 hours of Maori programming per year on RNZ National, less than an hour a day, but last year of reporting it couldn't even manage that (342 hours) and the only under-performing minority quota.  Their annual report shows that basically the only non-European staff allowed at RNZ are the cleaners.  It has always been that way since 1925 and always will be that way.

RNZ's objective is essentially trying to define a New Zealand national identity as exclusively Pakeha, Anglophilic and Euro-centric, a national identity inextricably bound to Europe and the white people of the West.  This is very far from a whole identity.  RNZ is a perfect vision of New Zealand, not of Aotearoa.

When I saw the headline for Leigh McLachlan's piece on the powhiri debate on the RNZ website I was insensed enough to think about writing a blog.  It was the headline - not the article itself - which demanded a response.  The headline "Maori elders cling on to powhiri custom" was pejorative and doubly  inappropritae because it was in contrast to the long and thorough article which canvassed the issues from many perspectives - it did not conclude or start from the premise that keeping a Maori tradition is 'clinging'.  Clinging has pathetic connotations.  The only reason that headline would appear with that article is because, rather obviously, a non-Maori wrote the headline.  Why else would that word have been used if they didn't view Maori elders as pathetic for valuing their traditions?  

And why else would it have been changed when I went back today to blog on it:


Maori elders hold on to powhiri custom

Maori elders say the tradition prohibiting women from speaking in powhiri doesn't have to modernise to suit peoples' western perceptions.

The headline has been changed to 'hold on to' - not 'cling' anymore.  Erase the racism.  It has been 'updated'. 

I wonder who did this and why?  I bet McLachlan would have been particularly upset at the headline for her work being trash like that.  What is the story behind this?

That's what happens when they don't allow non-Europeans to be employed: the Pakeha mentality and their casual racism is their corporate culture and that comes out automatically in every dimension - in this case an offensive editorial error.  It is cheap and ineffective cultural camoflage for the on-air presenters to use token Maori phrases at pre-arranged points on the hour - such tokenism is made all the more gross when editors are hostile and incapable of understanding Maori as demonstrated by such things as this headline swap.

The white folk at every level are above the brown folk and the white folk can just do what they want, be as racist as they want without repercussions.   That is the definition, or symptom, of every European colony and NZ is no different, excepting that it's colonials are more smug and delusional about their situation than just about any other. Just as with RNZ's self-serving audience surveys that justify a monocultural focus, RNZ does not - and never has - represented Maori or anyone other than a Wellington clique. Diversity and fairness to this clique is safely quarantined under the rubric of gender equality - not ethnic inclusion.

...and will we hear about any of this racist bullshit and RNZ's colour bar, about Jon Stephenson's bullshit reporting... or do they have to dress in white robes and burn crosses while Jon Stephenson interviews his tape recorder in front of Broadcasting House before their own ponderous and trivial Media Watch programme calls them on any of this bullshit?

It is time to disestablish RNZ, dissolve the organisation. And don't get me started on TVNZ

Friday, May 16, 2014

The shape of American democracy

districts-03They are calling it crimes against geography, but the most gerrymandered districts in the US House are crimes against democracy.  The insane shapes of these electorates have to be seen to be believed.
Again, the payoff for Republicans is in the makeup of the state's delegations: In those six states, Republicans picked up about 11 more seats than you'd expect from simply looking at the parties' vote shares.
Both sides do this, it's just that Republicans are a little bit better at it from what I can work out in the article.
Crimes against geography.

 Once drawn and the gerrymandered lot get in it tends to entrench the situation.  The effect was put as high as 7 or 8% in some states (?) somewhere that was mentioned, which would be about right - the other side are handicapped before they start and will need huge swings in the other seats to have any chance there.

NZ's Representation Commission has done an excellent  job over the years compared to the districting system in the US.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Schmatistics: lies, damn lies, and David Farrar

David Farrar's partisan sophistry and abuse of statistics is usually ignored on this blog because of the sheer volume - rebutting the nonsense over on his blog means it would be an overwhelming exercise.  But every now and again he just goes off the chart.  And then I get to use this image:

The really funny thing about this is that he runs an opinion polling company so he would have known exactly how self-servingly flimsy this sounds when he wrote it.   His Kiwiblog post in full:

72% against big spending increases

May 15th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports on their Ipsos poll that only 21% of adults said the  should see a big increase in spending, 51% say the current spending levels should be maintained and 21% say spending should be cut.
So 72% are against increasing spending beyond current levels. That’s excellent for those who believe in fiscal restraint and a rejection of those who propose big tax and spending increases.

So, from a poll that is precisely split in half he grabs at his preferred outcome by lumping the neutral number to his side.  Glass half full man, obviously.  Dumbest spin I've seen in ages.  

If you go to the Stuff story you will see there is no "big" spending increases, just increases - in the same way there is not "big" decreases either, so he is fibbing on that point plainly and his headline is just wrong.  Small v. big increase/decrease wasn't asked.  Anyone can just as well say that 72% are against decreasing spending beyond current levels.  And anyone can then conclude that's excellent for those who believe in fiscal expansion and a rejection of those who propose big tax and spending cuts.  

The poll question has a limited merit, but it isn't that useful either, which may be why it was asked and why Farrar is spinning a line with it.  
Q. What should government do for this budget?
The financial books are forecast to return a modest surplus to the New Zealand government.  For the upcoming budget should the government...
* Maintain current levels.
* Increase spending.
* Decrease spending.

The question is really about the surplus so should have been stated as such with the relevant options, eg.
Q. The government is forecast to make a modest surplus in the budget.  How should this surplus be used?
* Reduce taxes
* Reduce debt
* Increase services
* Increase infrastructureassets
[For these answers I have removed the usual pejorative words employed in favour of more neutral terms, eg. would usually classify as: tax cuts, paying off debt, spending on services and investing in infrastructure.]
[UPDATE: Thinking about it again, assets is a better term than infrastructure because Super Fund contributions etc. is included - one of the likely recipients of the surplus regardless of who is in government. Repaying debt is probably the default neutral position in this continuum, in which case to replicate the stuff poll of three options the answer either side of 'pay off government debt' would be 'reduce taxes and charges' and 'increase services and assets']

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Taurima excuse for TVNZ purge

[UPDATE 14/05/2014: The NZ Herald's editorial on party membership and journalism is as perverse and puritanical as Gavin Ellis' defence was (as mentioned below).  The comments coming in are worth reading - they are heavily critical of the Herald for pushing Act and the overt bias of their journos, esp. John Armstrong, Audrey Young and Fran O'Sullivan for their sycophantic pro-National lines. I would say consensus is that it is far better to have card-carrying political party members who are impartial journalists in their output (eg. Shane Taurima) than it is to have journalists with no membership who are frothing partisans whenever they are in front of the mic or keyboard (eg. Mike Hosking).]

Shame on Shane Taurima telling TVNZ he wasn't going to stand for Labour, and shame on TVNZ for    believing him.  Everyone else involved in politics understood that Taurima was going to contest the Tamaki Makaurau electorate and/or would be standing for Labour in 2014.  If it was a secret it was only to TVNZ and this is why I don't have much, if any, sympathy for either of their positions.  This in no way can exonerate Taurima's activities on the company clock, in the company office and on the company's tab, but what has been exonerated is TVNZ executive oversight of managing this conflict -  they are blameless apparently.  The real problem from an employment perspective that seems lost in all the political/Labour headlines is that Taurima was seeking other employment (regardless of whether it was as an MP, it could have been any job somewhere else) and using his company position to help secure it - that is bad faith.  And it can be documented as having started within a fortnight of returning to work after unsuccessfully contesting the Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election in 2013 according to someone who has actually read the report.  I'm just going off the TVNZ press release.

TVNZ executive reaction to the report is what it was from day one: initiate a political purge.  The only refinement to the original concept of an inquisition is that there is to be two classes of political forced confessions and punishments.  

Firstly, the top editorial staff and all political staff at News and Current Affairs Division must declare party membership and political involvement and presumably will be sacked if they hold any membership.  Secondly all the other staff in the division must declare party membership to the management, but will not be sacked.  Does anyone else - apart from the Union obviously - find this chilling McCarthyist bullshit at the state broadcaster utterly intolerable?  The list will be available under the Official Information Act so we can all see for ourselves I take it.

Gavin Ellis, ex-NZ Herald boss was on RNZ saying he thought having party membership was incompatible an a complete no-no.  I found this odd.  What business is it of him as an editor to inquire or demand?  For commentators and opinion writing perhaps, but not for every reporter, editor, producer etc.  If the copy is straight and there are no complaints - as there was with Taurima's output - then there was no question and is no question.  The conflict of interest and bias situation is grossly overstated by Ellis and others.  Following their logic religious reporters would have to be atheists!  And the right wing Sky City shill Mike Hosking is not politically biased because - as far as they know - he hasn't renewed his National Party membership?

Every journalist should be given respect to manage the situation without any need to disclose or any other rule.  Paying a small sum of money to be a financial member of a political party and doing the normal things an ordinary member does would not constitute a high enough level of public engagement and participation to cross any ethical lines.  However getting into the realms of party office holding and positions of public advocacy and having party relationships with the politicians they are supposed to be reporting on would be crossing lines.  The point is the editors should trust the journos to know all this without having to come up with an expensive review and more reports and HR and the unions stepping in. etc. That's the problem with a purge - the basis is hysteria and panic with little consideration of the consequences.  Like... if party membership is admitted... then they are either sacked or they must repent and renounce their party.  How is this acceptable? When is this deadline?  Establishing a staff political register at TVNZ is madness of a fascist variety.

I note that the reporter on One News who read out the ban was wearing a black tie and handkerchief.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Judith Collins: off the estate

John Key is being entangled in Judith Collins' evasionary strategy over her crony Oravida engagements during her trip to China last year whilst on government business as Justice Minister.  Collins herself is already hopelessly bogged down in a swamp of her own making - the PM walks alongside on the firmer ground of deniability, holding her hand but ready to detach if it looks like he will get dragged down with her.  We are at about that point now.  

Banning her from Twitter (to limit her ability to respond) and forcing the self-proclaimed hard-hitter into taking stress leave (to humiliate her by undermining her tough image) is the sort of thing that happens before a total detachment.  Collins has gone completely off the estate and she should not be surprised to find on her return that Key has locked the gate on her.

Rob Salmond at the Polity Blog has constructed a damning timeline and his latest post points out Key has contradicted the documents released by MFAT in order to keep to Collins' wobbly, moveable version of events.  The documents reveal that MFAT diplomats were very, very concerned with that dinner involving a senior border official and after a lengthy 'SENSITIVE' correspondence - in which Collins requests that the NZ Ambassador to China and his wife attend - it was 'squared away' as a 'private dinner'.  This seems to be rather scant camouflage and an uneasy fix as the officials remain deeply concerned, anxious and unsettled.

Collins answered a question in the House on this (as I recall) by claiming: of course it was a private dinner or why did I invite the Ambassador and his wife to it?  This of course underlines it had official intent rather than the other way around - but logic was never Collins' strong suit.  I take it that her chums Shi and Xu of Oravida were the ones demanding the NZ Ambassador's attendance to lend weight to their negotiations with the border official.  The to and fro of agitation over the dinner and the subsequent post-dinner briefing by Collins to the Ambassador (in which she assures him that nothing untoward occurred) means it was being treated as an official engagement of some type.

What the PM needs - given he has lowered standards by accepting so much of her bullshit up till now without consequence - is another, fresh lie of hers to emerge on which he can demand a resignation.  There are probably many lurking beneath the redactions in the email trail.

The PM responded to a question yesterday by saying that Oravida "is a genuine New Zealand company".  How would he know?  The shareholding is disguised behind a wormhole of lawyers trusts, the directors with the exception of Judith Collins' husband are Chinese nationals (who live most of their time in China as I understand) and they do not produce anything as such, just export NZ products to China.  If it could be described as any sort of NZ company it would be a phoney one, a front one.

Ask yourself if the situation was reversed... and the Chinese Premier stands in the Great Hall of the People when defending a colleague of corruption and NZ influence, and he goes on in his claims to say that a company is 'a genuine Chinese company' when he knows that it is owned by NZers who cannot speak a Chinese language and who live most of the time in NZ and who only hold a Chinese passport because they paid political donations, and that the purpose of the company is to operate in NZ as a distributor and the only interaction with China is to source cheap products.  No leader of China would ever say that of course, it would be political suicide; but a NZ PM steeped in cringing colonial subservience does exactly that. So pitiful, so weak. The only national interests being served here is that of the People's Republic of China. John Key has done nothing to refute the overwhelming impression that the Nats are in the pockets of the Chinese and that the rest of NZ under their leadership will soon follow.

Some notes I made from yesterday after going through the MFAT documents:

Shanghai Schedule 23/10/2013 'Business and Law Rountable' engagement at 5:15 but no depart time. 6:15 return to Hotel, 7:00 depart hotel for airport.  Therefore Rountable is less than one hour and fucking around at hotel is pointless.  What are details of this 'Roundtable'?  Who? Where?  What sponsoring organisation? Seems odd - who scheduled this?  Was this put on just so it could be bumped for Oravida visit?

02/10/2013 email "Invite outgoing [redacted] to the dinner in Beijing" p.50/54.  Outgoing who!? Who was outgoing at that time, Oct 2013?
08/10/2013 email invite to Shi and Xu to attend event.
09/10/2013 email of itinerary with Roudtable listed.
10/10/2013 email: Oravida visit request to 'be built into her programme'.
15/10/2013 email: briefings list does not incl. Roundtable.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Judith Collins: stress leave

Judith Collins has been given enough rope to hang herself - that is what I figured the PM's strategy was a fortnight ago.  Key hasn't been covering her so much as distancing himself by his comments.  This has been confirmed by him humiliating her with having to take stress leave (which painted Nick Smith out as mad and from which he never recovered) whilst insisting that she subject herself to the barrage of interrogation that Labour and NZ First will inflict on her at parliamentary question time - the most stressful possible thing that could be devised.

So why put her through it?  Because Key and the other top Nats want to see Collins go down, she has become a liability sinking further into the red every day.  They want her to perform so poorly in the House that they can dump her for presentation issues, saving them from addressing the corruption at the heart of the Oravida scandal.  

Banning her from twitter, as the PM has just done, is far too late for the damage she has done to herself, all it means is she is deprived of a medium to attack when she is cut.  The PM's Chief of Staff has a difficult task ahead.

Key's chief of staff Wayne Eagleson called in Collins' staff yesterday morning to clarify details about the leadup to Collins' visit to Oravida's Chinese offices.
Collins' husband David Wong-Tung is a director of the company that imports New Zealand dairy and other products into China, and she has insisted a dinner with its executives was private. However, her office asked for a briefing from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) - not usual for an unofficial meeting. Collins says her staff made the request in error.
It is understood Eagleson summoned Collins' staff to his office to get to the bottom of who asked for the briefing.
However, Key's office denied this and downplayed Eagleson's intervention, saying he regularly met staff.

Collins position is untenable.  She is an absolute brat, but her behaviour cannot be dismissed as trivial or as a case of he says-she says bravado given the avalanche of evidence already released.

UPDATE: q time 2pm
Collins starts by reading out a statement of clarification about her bullshit answer (to a q that I had posed in my last blog on the issue) about what briefing was given to the Ambassador after the dinner.  At the time in parliament she said she didn't remember.  There were jeers of disbelief at that.   Then she later that day contacted a Herald(?) reporter and said she recalled a later briefing, then she contacted another and said there was also a briefing before.  This was Collins being flippant and dumb rather than being a liar I think to be generous (I mean her arrogance and disdain is such that she couldn't be bothered thinking about it and her failure to recall is actually a refusal to recall), but either way it is hugely incompetent to have not answered it.  This is Collins all over though - careless (and petulant, vindictive etc.)

Robertson asking her if she requested Oravida visit rather than attend a legal forum that was scheduled.  She says this was an early draft itinerary.

Not sure Robertson's batch of q's were that damaging, still a bad look but no King hit yet. It is Chinese water torture.

Questions not asked though is:
Did Collins demand Ambassador Worker and his wife attend the Oravida dinner? Did an Oravida director ask the Minister to put the Ambassador on the invite list to that dinner?
Why did the Ambassador not attend that dinner - what reasons were given?
Why did the minister give a briefing to the Ambassador if it was a private dinner? What other private dinners has the minister attended overseas and then given briefings to the NZ ambassador afterwards?

2:48pm Winston now asking q's. not as effective as Robertson.

4:30pm Reflecting on Robertson's q's - very good. His speech on Maurice Williamson resignation debate was also very effective: Comparison of Collins is devastating as is cumulative effect of the evasions and the revelations. He says it is now three events for Oravida on her trip. No King hit because she seemed to refute that she had personally changed itinerary to visit Oravida, she said it came from her office. I take it all this information, the details of who wanted what is redacted from the released material so we can't find that out. I don't think she has been quite caught in a sackable lie yet because each time she comes back from it with a correction claiming some memory lapse or whatever and the PM keeps accepting it, but at some point the PM will tire, the contradiction will stand and she will fall.

Maybe a more direct question needs to be put again, because who else would have put that on her own trip's agenda when it was supposed to be about the Justice ministry... but herself? Her office didn't put any other exporters on the trip did they - it's all Oravida and it is all from her. Is she going to have to make another personal explanation?

Q. is the PM/Minister satisfied that the recent approval of Oravida's NZ milk products across the Chinese border were a result of an understanding reached at a dinner between Hon Judith Collins, Oravida directors and a high-ranking Chinese border official? Was the Chinese border official at that dinner the same official that recently approved Oravida's NZ milk products for clearance into China?

Q. who owns Oravida?

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Gigaopoly: who wants to be a wigganaire?

The sham of the Telecom split with Chorus - where the basic shareholding is still in the same ownership - looked obvious before Telecom decided to rebrand as 'Spark', but is even more obvious now the hideous 'Giganaire' promotion is underway.

Chorus promotes 'Gigatown' in one TV ad, in the next ad the cringy 'Giganaire' Telecom wiggers are 'all in yo face'.  So, so ghastly.  One head of the Telecom animal runs a raffle to see which town gets proper broadband (instead of using their rorted government subsidy to do the job for everyone); and the other head of the beast piggy-backs a  'giga' campaign to run in parallel to convince the typical Telecom mug punter that their crack-daddy prices mean they too can finally enjoy good coke.  Never believe the hype.