Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Why I Joined the Green Party

Week four of the news drought and still the muse is unamused at the menu. Instead, here's something off the menu from last year. It is the introduction note I sent to the Greens after I joined the party:

I recently joined the Greens on Winter Solstice, after Russel Norman's realpoliltik dropping of the QE policy. That showed political bravery and pragmatism from the Greens, both in suggesting new policies, and dumping old ones that can't be sold to the public. Next year's election is pivotal to the long term future of New Zealand. Booting QE clears the deck for a clear and concise platform to take to the people next year and seek their mandate.

The Greens MPs have shown to be an outstanding Opposition to the Key government, with a better bang for buck ratio than the rest of the Opposition parties combined. Putting aside a few speed wobbles, the party is changing up and consolidating its base, without losing its purpose. I can well imagine expanding on that success, eating into the Maori and Blue Green voting blocs, as well as Labour's bloc and the General Enrolled Non Vote.

But enough flattery. Let me introduce myself. My name is Will. I was born in Palmy on a political animal farm. My first political battle was when I was eight, accidentally leading the faction of Labour Party kids on a school playground at lunch time on Election Day 1978, as a plane flew overhead trailling the banner "Labour is Winning!".

Labour didn't. The old man's Labour lost the Manawatu electorate contest to National's Michael Cox, although Labour's Joe Walding regained Palmerston North after the narrow loss to National in 1975. The lesson here? Every seat is marginal, given the correct circumstances.

Since then I have scrutineered, stuffed envelopes, leaflet dropped, petitioned, databased, policy wonked, and generally volunteered across part of the political spectrum. In chronological order: Labour, Act, Libertarianz, Act, Labour, ALCP and now Greens. If that seems a bit messy, it makes more sense when mapped to my position on the Poltical Compass, which defines me as a Left Libertarian. In short, Ayn Rand was a nutjob (Please excuse the perjorative term. I just wanted to annoy the NSA/GCSB).

I voted Greens in 2011, partly as a protest to Labour's disarray, but mainly because the Greens offered a better alternative team and platform. As a Half Deaf, I was especially pleased to have helped Mojo Mathers enter the House. There is still a long way to go for Disability Rights, especially as National mimics David Cameron's welfare crackdown on the sick and infirm in the UK here in NZ.

I intend to not only vote Greens next year, but hope to encourage others to do so as well. Now more than ever, there needs to be a party that stands with the people, not just giving them lip service such as the main two parties continue to do.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Gated Reverb and Other Sounds of the '80s

One of the great tragedies of the NZ Left is that they have swallowed whole the myth of the Fourth Labour government. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Lange is still revered as a saint instead of the dithering Billy Bunter he was, and Rogernomics is still vilified as voodoo economics.

The Douglas revolution was all but air-brushed out of the Labour Party narrative at the 90th anniversary party at the Beehive, and at other times it is passed off as an aberration. In reality, old Labour MPs such as Joe Walding supported Rogernomics whole-heartedly.

Alas, the false narrative has become the accepted history. This may or may not explain why the party is currently resorting to circling its ever-decreasing wagons.

The tragedy can be summed up in one day; December 17th 1987. Here's Mervyn Wilkinson Hancock's take on it, from the excellent The Sixteen Members of Parliament for Palmerston North 1871-2005, Chapter 15, pg. 511:


Lange broke Cabinet collective responsibility and cancelled the package with his cup of tea. It was clear enough that Lange was exercising a veto power that he did not have, but what can you do? Lange pulled a Muldoon v Fitzgerald where the courts could not go to enforce it, in Cabinet.

Fast forward to today, where Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn complains that the Greens are the only party with a Universal Basic Income policy. If you throw that Rogernomics promise of $370 a week in 1987 dollars into the Reserve Bank's Inflation Calculator, it comes out in 2014 money just shy of $700 a week. That's a reasonable sum for a subsistence family to live in some dignity.

Instead, we're stuck with this hopelessly complex bewilder-beast of WINZ which dribbles out far less to scrape by on, enforced by pains in the forests of paperwork and performance art.

NZ, I love you, but you piss me off.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

News Drought


We're into the second week of news drought here in NZ. Nothing continues to happen. In lieu of news, mirages are common. They look like news at a distance, but upon closer inspection are nothing but the shifting sands of time.

For example, a Kiwi Sleb's Lear jet joins the search for the AWOL MH370. It looks like a match made in clickbait heaven, but turns out to be less than the sum of its parts. Traces of the missing Malaysian airplane continue to elude the search team over the South Indian Ocean, who have only found an ocean full of unrelated human flotsam and jetsam so far. Alas, the man-made Plastic Gyres of inorganic refuse are not news either.

Another cyclist is dead. Police are considering whether to press charges against a 70 year old truck driver who ran over and killed a 22 year old student nurse cyclist.

Sharla Haerewa was wearing a reflective vest and bike lights for Africa, as well as apparently riding in the designated cycle lane. If the police don't charge this truckie with careless driving causing death, THAT would be news.

It would be even better news if the Dutch way of law was introduced here, where the burden of proof always lies with the person in charge of the multi-ton speeding hunk of metal. Fair trade for the freight-friendly Roads of National Significance, eh.

The thinking person's gym bunny, Rachel Smalley, Punk'd herself with a live mic, inadvertently setting off a wrestling match with some self-identifying heifers. It's a fight as old as nerd versus jock but, like alcohol and other drugs, it is a cleavage that feminism has yet to resolve to its satisfaction.

It looks like I picked the wrong week to join Twitter. Just as I join in search of news and novelty, Herald journo David Fisher calls it quits. I can see his point. The signal to noise is so lopsided, I get an idea what SETI must feel like. It's like being in a Kakrafoonian Pub.

At least Towel Day is only a month away. A hopeful thumbs up til then. You're never lost as long as you know where your towel is.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Problems

The NZ Problem Gambling Foundation has been effectively defunded after a Ministry of Health review recommended dumping Gambling Foundation services in favour of the Salvation Army. The membrane between state and religion grows ever thinner, and there's a weird funk in the air.

Let's get this clear at the get go. It's not that I wish to pick a fight with the Salvation Army. I have had their Bell Gully law jockeys pissing in my ear on a Friday afternoon when I'm getting my drunk on before. Captain Buzzkills, for sure.

I'd just like to know why the Problem Gambling Foundation was dropped after a long and respectable history, and whether it was the Sallies' tax exempt status that helped undercut the tender for rehab and support services. Unfortunately, the only evidence being presented so far is a series of black boxes.

When casinos were first legalised in NZ, the Casino Control Authority set many conditions on licences. One of those was a gambling levy, which would be funnelled directly towards NGOs funded to be the casinos' nemeses. Some kind of watchmen duality would keep the system in check for the public good.

The NZ Problem Gambling Foundation was a product of this levy. Over the next 20 years, it provided a secular national service for problem addicts, and provided the Problem Gambling literature that casinos must by law have visibly displayed in their premises. The advocacy was separately funded through donations, and worked to minimise problem gambling at the source, through supply control of the gambler crack of pokie machines.

In contrast, the Salvation Army is a more generalised provider of government welfare services; a bit like Serco, the private company behind the Auckland Remand Centre and new Wiri prison, but tax exempt through religious status (The Seventh Day Adventists do the same thing with Sanitarium. Don't get me started on Jesus Freaks and breakfast communions. Suffice it to say, coffee and cigarettes is my rite).

So, after twenty years of internationally recognised excellence in treatment, research and lobbying (Sinking Lid? That was them), why have the NZ Problem Gambling Foundation lost their meal ticket? Well, no-one's saying.

The independent report by the Ministry of Health hasn't popped up. Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne did, on Checkpoint, where he failed to illuminate the why of it either. Nor did the Sallies, who weren't going into specifics. There was unfinished contract haggling to be had yet, and the whole deal was commercially sensitive (My paraphrase, not a quote, m'lud). Unfinished business indeed.

The Ministry of Health is feeling pretty damn sure that the God botherers can improve on the precedents set by the Problem Gambling Foundation. Faith-based even. And which secular NGO is the next to get gobbled up by the Salvation Army's market share and scales of economy?

It's a new monopoly. Pass God. Collect $200.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Born to the Purple

Congratulations to Lewis Holden for becoming the Nat candidate for Rimutaka. I first met Lewis during the NZ Flag campaign, and later got to know him on the occasional times I'd turn up to Republican Movement meetings. Nice choice, Nats. Lewis goes head to head against Labour incumbent Chris Hipkins. Skippy and me crossed paths at Vic Uni, so this election marks the first occasion where Facebook mates square off against each other for a seat.

Labour's candidates Rob McCann and Tony Milne are also known quantities. Rob McCann is an old school mate from way back, who ended up in the public service. He's the true Labour heir to the Otaki electorate, after Darren Hughes pulled the wrong pin and Mitchell jump-seated the last election. I hope Rob unseats Nathan Guy there. Doing so would raise the IQ of both Labour and National caucuses.

Tony Milne was (former Labour Chief Whip and current Labour Party Secretary) Tim Barnett's Mini-Me back in the early 2000's when I began learning the art of lobbying the hard way over drug reform. I met them for a short consultation in Auckland, where I was informed that Peter Dunne has rooted the numbers after the 2002 election (after the worm, which was after Corngate, which was after everything else). Tony Milne is well-suited to run for Christchurch.

But it becomes evident that Labour's Got Talent is picking from an ever-decreasing puddle. The student activists and broad union base has dried up, and Labour is resorting to fellow travelers in the political or media classes; career politicians and bleeding heart journos. It could be, it might be worse. Lacking any unifying principles beyond autocracy, NZ First and the Maori Party have reached for weather presenters in the search for Beta demagogues to keep up appearances.

If Labour can't stop Spinal Tapping around in the wilderness and disappearing in a raspberry cloud of self-indulgent alienation, this fate or worse awaits. They're already onto their third lead singer in six years, and their fifth drummer, Matt McCarten, has joined the band after the last drummer exploded in shingles. Matt McCarten's drum solos are known for their originality, not their longevity.

It's academic as far as I'm concerned. I joined the Green Party last Winter Solstice. While I might not agree with all the ingredients that go into the Green Party sausage factory, what comes out at the other end in the way of policy doesn't make the public violently ill. Take their latest policy to get kids to school without SUVs, for example. The NZ Herald yummed it up, Hooton reckons the Nats will probably grab the idea, and there's not a squeak from the Soccer Mums. Anyone who can defuse a Soccer Mum has my respect.

The Greens aren't looking to be a minority coalition partnership with Labour. They know that if Cunliffe had a choice to rebuff the Greens and go into government with NZ First, he would do so. Longer term, the Greens are aiming for a majority. The Greens equivalent of Labour's Rob McCann, Wellington's James Shaw, has been likewise pushed up the provisional Green Party List. McCann and Shaw are both organisers. They make shit happen.

So Labour and the Greens both know what's ahead and what's at stake. In the adaptability stakes, my money's on the Greens.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Intersection of Ford and Cribb

If you enjoyed The Luminaries, Top of the Lake or True Detective (or, at least, its unmined potential), you'll enjoy this 80 page sequel of sorts from the Independent Police Complaints Authority, involving the framing of 17 year-old Maori Shane Cribb by Alexandra Police. The innocent are punished, the guilty walk free, and at the end, nothing changes.

Follow the exploits of Constable Dairne Cassidy, the token female in a cast of cocks. Convicted in court of attempting to pervert the course of justice, she is but one of two anti-heroes. The other being belligerent shit stirrer Stephen Potter (Cribb's girlfriend's Dad). It is Potter's nagging of the IPCA that eventually sees this miscarriage of justice seen to.

It's a sad state of affairs when the best conclusion that the IPCA can produce late on a Friday afternoon is that they found no evidence of police conspiracy. Almost as sad as the vacant recommendations, seeing how the the Policing Act 2008 apparently fixed everything.

If you prefer the audiobook version of the main plot points, tune your ears to Mary Wilson's cross examination of Stephen Potter, or the carefully chosen words of District Commander for Southern Police, Superintendent Andrew Coster.

There's a beer token waiting for ex-cop Dairne Cassidy and bush lawyer Stephen Potter here. Valid at the local Raumati pub. No expiry date.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Mojo's Fulcrum

If it were possible to send a soundbite back in time to myself as a child, it would sound something like "You're Deaf! You're Deaf! You're fucking Deaf!" This cryptic advice, if heeded, might have saved a lot of soul-searching along the way, as well as a considerable amount of collateral damage.

Alas, pretensions of normalcy demand otherwise, even now. Consider simpleton Sym Gardiner, who insists his cochlear-implanted daughter not learn a second language because it will mess with her head:
"Their identity is all wrapped around the (NZSL) language."

"The reality is, it's probably not really a living language."

"We have no desire for my daughter to particularly identify with the deaf community."

"Our desire is that she's completely mainstreamed and she's just like any normal kid."

The best cure for stupid shit like this is the Four Deaf Yorkshiremen joke.

Katya is one of mine; born Deaf in a world of Norms. She differs from other tribal Deaf, such as those who go Deaf from occupational hazard or illness such as Otosclerosis, or old age. There used to be an informative Brit vid on YouTube pointing out the subtle differences between these tribes, but it was taken down for copyright reasons (possibly for the use of execrable '80s pop song AEIOU).

Regardless of what Sym says, his daughter will have a rich and well-stocked interior monologue. Her eyes will grab what her bionic ears cannot. She will be better read than her father, and probably less subtle in her opinions.

Thank Dagg Mojo is in the House, trailblazing through the many barriers still in place to Deaf participation. Even the Nats have u-turned on their ACC policy to the newly-Deaf, as well as expanding aids to children.

But the big ask is yet to come. You can have disability employment services out the wazoo, but if the employers are still too timid to hire, nothing changes. There still needs to be a shock to the system.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

The Westminster Duality

Big ups to Arts & Letters Daily for throwing a link to this discourse on the genetic differences between liberals and conservatives. A few observations:

The monkey that used the first weapon in 2001; A Space Odyssey was a liberal.

Somewhere in the dark distant past, at least one of Colin Craig's ancestors fucked a Neanderthal.

The Act Party should stick to third or fourth cousins at least for the greatest genetic diversity.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Bush Toasts Police Cannabis Conservation Efforts

RNZAF's Green Hornet, fresh from seeding the Waitakere Ranges

Police Commissioner Mike Bush today praised Police efforts in their annual cannabis seeding project.

"Every year, the NZ Police spends millions of dollars in an attempt to conserve the endangered cannabis plant. In association with the NZ Air Force, Police locate fertile female cannabis plants, uproot them, and fly them over dense bush land, in an attempt to spread cannabis seeds over as wide an area as possible," said Commissioner Bush to an assembled group of police and selected members of the media.

"The NZ Police has a long and proud history of planting things," said Commissioner Bush as he set alight a Wicker Man full of cannabis. "Normally, possession of cannabis seeds is a criminal offence. There is no statute of limitations on the growing of cannabis. It falls to the NZ Police to fulfill this duty."

"We sow the seeds. Nature grows the seeds. We seize the plants. And so the circle of life is complete," chanted Commissioner Bush from amidst the smoke.

After a few minutes, Commissioner Bush re-appeared.

"I have spoken with TolleyMachus. This year's budget will be bountiful," Bush concluded, before retiring to the lunch buffet and finishing off a platter of sausage rolls.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Birth of Gonzo

Just as Kroc didn't invent McDonald's (he was a milkshake maker salesman), Hunter S. Thompson didn't invent the term Gonzo. That honour belongs to Eichhorn:



And now, here's National's Jack Marshall posing in front of some subversive comics he wanted to ban:



This post is dedicated to Deborah Hill Cone and all the other writers, comics and blogsters fighting to keep the NZ in gonzo. Keep calm and keep creatively self-destructing on behalf of the public good.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Careful What You iPredict

David Farrar pumps up Kiwi Poll Guy's look at iPredict stocks that back another term of National Government. Conveniently, they specifically highlight the odds of a post-election National PM:
Kiwi Poll Guy looks at what has been happening on iPredict:

iPredict is running a contract on National winning the 2014 election.  It was originally launched on 26 October 2011, a month before the 2011 General Election, and has been floating around between $0.40 and $0.60 since then.  It’s only in the last month that the stock has moved significantly beyond $0.60, so it’s worth taking a quick look.

It is convenient because I took a screen shot of the Buy/Sell in this category back in late January:


Note how someone has flooded the market, almost guaranteeing that the stock won't fall beneath 60 cents. You can't see it at iPredict now, as they only show the Top 10 orders.

Media beware. It's bad enough creating self-fulfilling prophesies with polls. It is quite another to invent futures based on asymmetric gamblers.

Unforced Errors

Justice Minister Judith Collins gets caught pimping her husband's milk in China during an official visit. Cabinet rules expressly forbid ministers endorsing products for advertorials. Not a good look, what with former National Justice Ministers Jeffries and Graham courting public disdain and all.

David Cunliffe once again proves he is his enemy's best friend by admitting to hidden donations. For someone who spent years planning his ascent to the top of the Labour party, he seems to have spent bugger all time on logistics.

According Labour IT spokesperson Clare Curran, whose office data dumped policy ideas to National's IT Minister Amy Adams, Labour will be going to the election with a range of KKK platforms.

How to articulate the awfulness of it all? Describe the plot lines of these first season episodes of Family Guy only by their titles:

Death Has a Shadow
I Never Met the Dead Man
Chitty Chitty Death Bang

Sunday, March 02, 2014

A Statement from TWAT

Taxpayers Who Aren't Thieves would like to apologise for any offence taken by members of the public by a spokesperson over a Deaf MP's parliamentary expenses.

Yesterday, the NZ Herald contacted a Taxpayers Who Aren't Thieves spokesperson seeking comment on a story regarding an alleged misuse of taxpayers' funds. The reporter reported that they had a report purporting to report that an Opposition MP (and an admitted MMP supporter) had rorted inexplicable expenses with taxpayer funds.

After confirming that no fellow golf club members were involved in the rorting, the spokesperson released a statement that may have been misconstrued by non-members.

TWAT is an equal opportunity lobby group dedicated to publicising gross inequalities in government spending. The TWAT spokesperson on duty at the time of the NZ Herald enquiry has been diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome, and anything he says should be considered with this in mind.

We admit that the $510 expense incurred to attend an interview is part of the normal duties of parliamentary business for a Member of Parliament does not qualify for such TWAT scrutiny. If we really were this petty, people might draw attention to the massive hypocrisy involved in persecuting such trifling sums.

In order to distract you from the stupid mess caused by this TWAT, please raise your pitchforks and light your torches for Michael Hill Jeweller, who didn't get some taxpayer money he asked for.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Three Whyte Stripes and the Weakly Interacting Massive Particles

It didn't take long for Richard Prebble's massive gravity to be noticed on the Act party's subatomic body politic. Only last Sunday, new leader Jamie Whyte was announcing a new dawn for Act. Nek minnit, it's three strikes for burglars.

David Seymour has been left alone by the media pack, leaving him the plodding work of door-knocking around Epsom and introducing his unknown mug to the electorate. Seeing as he's hoping to be the third local Act MP in as many elections, he has his work cut out for him. This could well be Epsom's third strike.

Act's apparent leader has had no such luck. Fresh from clawing his way out of the bleedingly obvious snare of the Incest Pit earlier in the week, Jamie Whyte has recanted last week's pledge that he "backs tough deterrents but law and order is now not one of the party's policy priorities".

Audrey Young reports from Act's annual conference today that the reason for Whyte announcing this backslide into the hard right was because his Mum was burgled and the culprit shat on the floor.

Let's count off a few of the inherent idiocies.

1. Burglary, like buggery, loosens the bowels. Any police who attend burglaries will tell you it's not uncommon to find a ripe crime scene. Home invaders have also been known to piss on an innocent person's rug.

2. Burglary is one of the most under-reported crimes. Official police records show the resolution rate for burglaries hovers around the same rate as GST, 15 percent. 7/8 of reported burglaries go unresolved. The only people who report burglaries are the hopelessly naive or those with insurance, who need the police paperwork for their claim. There is no target market here, only poor signalling.

3. Never bring your Mum to a gun fight. Don't use your Mum as a body shield either. Use John Banks' corpse instead.

4. It sounds remarkably like policy by anecdote, a remarkably bad way to make law.

5. There's nothing new with Act at all. We've had flat tax, three strikes and cousin hopping in the last week. With a bit of luck, they'll try talking up charter schools and education vouchers next week.

It will be interesting to see if anti-Prebble, the McCarten Particle, will have a similar effect on Labour. Will we be seeing the return of some old Alliance policies (or existing Mana policies, take your pick), such as Jim Anderton's Financial Transactions Tax?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Bennett of the Doubt

The Faceborg has informed me that it is 2000AD's birthday. To blithely say that the sci-fi comic was an influential aspect on my world perspective is as understated as it is moronic (Take that, Chris Finlayson's style guide). So, happy new revolution around the sun, Tharg. Glad you haven't barfed yet.

Back in 2000AD's golden years, from around 1981 to 86, grand idealists abounded. Among Alan Moore's Twisted Times and Dredd's Wagner/Ezquerra ultimately black comic fascism, it was Nemesis the Warlock (via Script Robot Pat Mills) who pointed out the plain facts out of the fiction, with great truths such as "What's the point of having dark arts if you don't meddle with them?"

With this is mind, might I try to tie various disparate popular themes together into one elegant political equation?

The tl;dr is this - a tolerable level of chaos.

We used to have the principle of the "reasonable person" embedded in Law, courtesy of the British system of justice. Beyond reasonable doubt and all that. The Crown used to bestow the benefit of the doubt where facts were disputed. In recent years, this foundational principle has been eroded by the lower threshold endorsed by the civil courts; the balance of probabilities.

You can see this point of reference in all points of popular culture these days; from the hectoring mobs of cyber-bullies virtually lynching people for just the wrong level of tolerance, to the Cam Slater's outbursts such as NZ politics is a hateful zero-sum business.

There is more to heav'n and earth than is dreamt of than all those philosophies. As a nation, our comparative advantage lies in being small and nimble. In a post-agrarian, post-industrial world where intellectual property comes into its own, we are not being as innovative as we should. I believe that this is mainly because of the recent baby boomer prohibition on people fucking around. They reckon there's too much fucking around. I say we're not doing nearly enough.

As Nassim Taleb points out in Antifragile, most technologies didn't appear from formal methods such as Big Pharma. They come from interested people fucking around with shit. From Goodyear to Dirac, from Marie Curie to Pasteur, Fleming, Watson and Crick, or even Feynman observing spinning dinner plates, all the big jumps come from smart people meddling with shit.

For example, back in the day when Mother Meri Aubert ran the Homes of Compassion in Island Bay (where Matt McCarten would later be raised in captivity), explosions would regularly be heard from the back shed as Mother Mary fucked with shit.

As a wise girl once told me, "It's not what you've got, it what's you do with it."