Monday, July 31, 2006

101 uses for a John Howard

He has to go some time! 101 uses for a John Howard make some suggestions for John and Janette after the Lodge; #27 Dog Whistle.

Rampant political cross dressing

Could it be true that the traditional divisions between left and right, between capitalist and socialist, between conservative and progressive are no longer relevant? Blair says so. Sure seems that way in many places. Hell, we'll have to invent new names to call each other!

How can this continue?

There simply can't be an absolute right or absolute wrong in the current Israeli/Hezbollah fighting. That said, if half of the media coverage of the killing of UN observers and of the 50+ civilians at Qana is right, then I only hope that the temporary halt to Israeli airstrikes is extended.

Over at Larvatus Prodeo, weathergirl quotes some of the most offensive comments about the conflict from around the blogs. Warning, this link contains images that will disturb (and may not be work safe).

Long John Howard

It is all but confirmed that John Howard will not stand aside for Peter Costello to take over the leadership of the Liberal Party or the Prime Ministership. Almost every media outlet in Australia is reporting leaks of a letter Howard sent to senior Libs advising them of his decision. Fairfax are reporting that he'll hold a press conference later today, Monday 31 July.

This will largely put to rest the leadership debate until the 2007 federal election when Labor are sure to revive it and hope to gain some advantage by suggesting Howard won't serve out the term if elected. In a tight race, that will sway some voters but will it be enough? I guess Howard and his supporters think the answer is no; or at least not as many who'd vote Labor if Costello was leader.

Costello must now wonder whether his pre-emptive strike (sanctioned or otherwise) was worth it. At least one commentator, Gerard Henderson (who is close to Howard), speculated that the recent confirmation of a leadership deal between Howard and Costello would likely delay Howard's retirement as Howard would not be chased from office.

If Howard wins a fifth term in government he'll certainly go down in the history books and may even surpass Menzies as the longest serving PM. If he loses, any legacy he'd hoped to secure will be soured.

Interestingly, Howard's last campaign was based on the claim of superior economic management compared with Labor - will this still be true if the Fed Reserve put up the cash rate as expected on Wednesday? A third rate rise in this term of government?

Labor are predictably saying they're happy though I suspect they'd rather the less popular Costello was leading the party in 07.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Bananas drive up Australian CPI

Echoing Paul Keating's famous line about Australia becoming a banana republic, the soaring costs of the fruit have directly contributed to increases in the June quarter CPI figures released today. The Treasurer announced a 1.6% quarterly increase but still talked down the prospect of an August increase in the cash rate (yeah right).

Fruit, particularly bananas, contributed 52% of the increase, and fuel 11.2%.

The price hike on bananas is down to cyclones in Queensland in March this year which devastated production. In 2005, Australia produced 20 million plus cartons of bananas, something like 270 000 tonnes, worth AU$320-350 million but this is less than half of one percent of total bananas grown worldwide... (crasster links to this report on the global trade of bananas).

So you'd think that even in domestic production was down, imports should be reasonably priced? Maybe you could still buy a 'nana for under a dollar; fuhgeddaboutit. More like $2.16 each (Coles online Wed 26th).

Why so damned expensive? Australia bans all banana imports on the basis of the risk of "infestation". Bollocks. It is one of the many dubious non-tarriff trade protections applied to agricultural products by federal Liberal/National coalition government as a sinicure for their supporters.

So when your mortgage payments go up in August, remember that it's for a good cause; it's keeping uncompetitive Liberal/National party donors in business.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Dave Dobbyn live in Sydney

Dave Dobbyn is a remarkably loveable character, a doyen of NZ music, and a fantastically talented muso - still able to rock out at nearly 50!

With family and friends, and lots of other ex-pats, I saw him last night at a great venue in Newtown, Sydney called the Vanguard. Opening with Whaling and closing with Loyal, he played all the favourites as well as stuff from his new album. Highlights for me included Be Mine Tonight, Beside You, Just Add Water, Language and The Lap of the Gods (Dave advises there's only one). Enough to make you want to be home.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Don's superb speech secures spot

Don's speech to the National party conference contained some fantastic lines. Seriously! There are five that really stood out:
  1. When he said that Cullen was the better Minister of Finance. You didn't hear it? Sorry, but surely that's what he meant when he said "if National wants to win next time we have to think of something .... like abolishing GST on petrol."
  2. No? Ok but what about the quote from Boetcker, you cannot establish sound security on borrowed money, that's got to be a rejection of Key's plan to borrow to fund tax cuts surely?
  3. And the English slap-down. You know, remember when English was leader? That's a bit harder I agree, only a very few of you remember that, only perhaps 27 of you?
  4. Then the "bring it on" line. Don was channelling Francis Urquhart with his comment that "A leader is not intimidated by the fact that others will one day have the ability and drive to assume the top mantle." Don't look now Don...
  5. Finally, it's good to see that he's moved on from Orewa with the other Boetcker quote, the one that goes "you cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting [race] hatred".
Great stuff Don.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Don Brash: rappa, sk8tr, hipsta

When was Don's last good media story? Not the walk-the-plank thing, not when he called a press conference to denounce a leaked email but didn't have the damn thing, not the Exclusive Bretherens, not the gone by lunchtime thing either... Nevermind, he's hip now, all is fine.


Hat tip: Keith Ng

I love the Big Lebowski

But this is not work safe... not where I work anyway.

The Big Lebowski: the really f**king short version

Hat tip: browncardigan

Thanks too to Dave and Andrea...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Hoff vs MacGyver

Mellie at Randomcontributionz blogs about who would be the most expensive to insure; Michael Knight, Mitch Buchannon or MacGyver?. NZ's Accident Compensation Corporation ponders the big issues.
  • Mitch's dickstickers are a risk
  • KITT's turbo boost risks head and neck injuries
  • but then again MacGyver works without safety equipment and who knows who is underwriting Phoenix Foundation (perhaps they self insure)?
I wonder how long it will take for the less hmourous trolls to howl about the public service wasting tax payers' dollars?

8 changes to All Blacks squad

Henry's saying it's simply part of the rotation policy, the SMH are focusing on the fact that Reuben Thorne's back in the run on side (and I can't resist saying I told you so), NZ paper's are saying it's slap in the face to a Bok team thrashed by Australia, likewise the UK press.

It makes sense however, if Henry is committed to developing two full squads for the '07 World Cup, and given last week's result.

As an aside, Jake White's criticism of Paul Honnis is ridiculous; even if a few decisions went against the Boks, Honnis was excellent on the day and is clearly one of the best referees on the international circuit. A point well made by Spiro Zavos. I did like Honnis's comment that he must be "the scapegoat of the week".

Update on the Riewoldt "gay slur"

Earlier I blogged on a stupid comment Nick Riewoldt made on radio. Since he has apologised, not to everyone's satisfaction, but I tend to believe he genuinely regrets the comment.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Last to know

My buddy Chris tells me this is a tricky song to play, something about the first stroke (is it up, rather than down, or down, rather than up...), anyways it's one of Neil Finn's finest; last to know and my little girl likes it too!

Muriel Newman should be a talkback host

Grabthar's hammer does a 'number' (a poor pun I know) on Muriel Newman's latest missive. Newman said:
"At the heart of the child-abuse problem is a dependency culture that Maori have embraced."
Another candidate for voxidieological.

NSW State Liberal's corrupt, right wing, uber conservative Christians...

Hardly surprising I know but ABC's episode of Four Corners last night, The Right Stuff, interviewed a stack of former Liberal Party office holders, parliamentarians, as well as a number of members all of whom confirm branch stacking, petty thuggery, and vote rigging.

The alleged goal is to convert the Liberals into a ultra-conservative Christian party, primarily through careful preselection of candidates; it has already cost one Leader his job - former Leader John Brogdon claims he was brought down by an increasingly powerful faction led by David Clarke.

Former federal Liberal Leader, Dr John Hewson says: "It's the hardline right religious element that you should worry about, in my view, 'cause they have no concept of the broader realities in the electorate."

There's even the spectre of Opus Dei... A full transcript is online.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Rebalance: sport, sport, more sport

  1. I'm nervous about the Boks on the weekend, Henry's right to say they can't have two shockers in a row...
  2. Swannies miss out in the last few minutes against the Eagles making two loses in a row, they're still in the top eight (yeah and what was Nick Davis thinking?)
  3. In an interview on 702, Liz Ellis tells of having severe asthma as a child however she still went on to be an elite athlete (I like Liz, but I have to point out that the Silver Ferns, have won won all of their recent encounters against Australia and long may it continue)
  4. Have you seen the footage of Ali Williams 'tackling' George Greegan; priceless (thanks Russell Brown).
  5. Brendon McCullum belts 160 for Glamorgan.
  6. Really must get that bub some baby beige.
  7. Oh dear, The Chaser's in trouble for their parody of Bulldog's fans; a little too close to the truth perhaps?
  8. Michael Campbell launches a new charitable foundation.
  9. I think Mauger will go on to be one of the best second five eighths of all time, John Schuster was one my favourites (the 1987) but is Warwick Taylor still the benchmark?
  10. It's worth remembering that Buck Shelford never lost a game as captain of the All Blacks; 14 tests in four years.

Astroturfing defined

I've been out of the PR/lobbying scene for a while so perhaps "astroturfing" is common parlance, but I'd not heard it until I read this blog by Corporate Engagement.

Astroturfing, a play on the phrase grassroots, is defined as in Wikipedia as:
"a form of propaganda... techniques usually consist of a few people discreetly posing as mass numbers of activists advocating a specific cause. Supporters or employees will manipulate the degree of interest through letters to the editor, e-mails, blog posts, crossposts, trackback, etc."
Not a new tactic, just a new name? Every other political campaign includes an element of orchestrated spontineity; it backfired spectacularly on the National Party Research Unit at the live leaders debate out at Avalon last year.

Another own goal

Cactus Kate points out the ridiculousness of National's latest attempt at scandal. Their wastebuster's website, a list of the most banal examples of government's spending imaginable, was itself funded by taxpayer dollars. The story, rather than being on government expenditure, is now about how stupid National are, or as Cactus Kate puts it, "rank amateurs".

Recalling the Shipley coup

Around the time Shipley was looking her most vulnerable as leader of the National party, mid-2001, I caught up with Colin James on entirely unrelated issues but ended up discussing the prospects of an English coup.

English seemed reluctant to move against Shipley and the media were speculating as to why. James, with his typical perspicacity, suggested that English would want to wait; that he'd move only when he though he could sustain any momentum generated by the change through to the election in 2002. However, James thought English might be forced to act earlier by a caucus anxious to avoid a rout. He was right on both fronts though the routing still occurred.

This is precisely the position Key and English find themselves in now. Brash must go, but when? The polls appear to be turning against Brash, but two years out from an election is probably too far for Key (and he's smart enough to know it) and English won't want to repeat the experience of 2002. So where too from here? Perhaps Brash will do a Captain Oates and force the issue?

Sunday, July 16, 2006


Redletter has the bilefile, an irregular round up of the most bilious of comments from around NZ's blogs, I think I'll start a complementary list tracking the most inane and/or ludicrously ideological commentary; I'll call it voxideological.

My first award must go to Lindsay Mitchell. With a few weeks left in July can Lindsay add to her already impressive list of scandals and abuses? She's wacked welfarism, polaxed prisons, trashed teenage pregancy, dumped on the DPB, flayed father-less-families, stuck it to school exams but championed corporatising school lunches, monstered Maori gambling, beat back breast feeding zealots, attacked addicts for having families, and finally, slapped Sir Bob Geldof back into his box for daring to suggest government might increase their foreign aid.

Ena Sharples would be proud!

Friday, July 14, 2006

What any father might wish for their child

Maia has blogged about her concerns for how a friend's baby boy will grow up. She's copped a fair bit of flack for some of her comments, but it got me thinking about what I'd wish for my girls. This is no definitive list, but it's my top of mind top five (with apologies to Nick Hornby)...
  1. Love. I hope they continue to enjoy the love of a large and diverse family complete with aunties, uncles, friends, mentors & odd, inexplicable others.
  2. Health. I hope my girls enjoy rude good health.
  3. Humour. The world is divided into net energy consumers and net energy producers, all the funny people I know are producers.
  4. Courage. The courage of Katherine Mansfield, please not Ed Hiliary, who once said "I believe the greatest failing of all is to be frightened".
  5. Luck. A little good fortune goes a long way as said John Bradford.

Most Australians are happy with their employment arrangements

83% employed Australians are satisfied with the way they are currently employed, with just 11% saying they are dissatisfied (6% were unable to say) according to a special Roy Morgan survey.

Interestingly, those who believe they are employed under an AWA, report a slightly lower satisfaction rate at 75%. But this cohort, 17% of the sample, is four times larger than the actual number of employees on AWAs - Roy Morgan concludes that there's clearly a lot of confusion about the new IR regime.

Hat tip: catallaxy

Monday, July 10, 2006

Gen XY competition

Gen XY are masters of irreverence. Join in their competition to coin a new phrase for Wellingtonians. As an Aucklander who considers Wellington home but is in exile in Sydney, I couldn't resist though MINTY (Mainly Ineffective Non Taxed Youth) doesn't exactly roll of the tounge. So far my favourite is Boudicea's WASABI (What Another Supercilious Adrift Beehive Imbred).

Liberal's implode...

It's Labor only hope really and it looks like it could happen. After years of simmering rumour and speculation, Cossie confirms there was a deal between him and Howard and Howard's not only lied about it, he's broken it. Will this be the begining of the end?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

32 - 12

Sure the restarts weren't great and there was some sloppy play but 32 - 12 is a great result and we got Kapa O Pango back. Mealamu was superb! Connelly has a lot of work to do. The Bledisloe is almost safe for another year.

Lindsay Mitchell's personal note

I've been commenting on and about Lindsay's blog recently. She's responded here.

I don't agree with Lindsay's approach to social policy, in fact I pretty much completely disagree with it, however I have no desire to offend her.

I hope Lindsay is not implying that by disagreeing with her libertarian politics I am somehow inured to violence against children. I am not.

Greg Combet on IR

Polemica quotes Greg Combet from an interview in the July issue of the Monthly. Combet's a smart operator and this is a very succinct and useful summary of the ACTU's opposition to Howard's ideological reform of IR in Australia.
"I recognise that markets distribute resources fairly efficiently. And you need to harness that," he says. "That's an extremely important recognition, because you can't hold that and believe in a command economy. But what I've also recognised is that the distributional effects of a market economy on working men and women can be devastating, and therefore you need a range of protections and rights for people."
"This is what drives the fundamentals of my work now: acknowledging that markets generate wealth, but in doing so create inequalities. It's these inequalities that governments much address. That's the defining political difference between the conservatives and Labor."

Flipper goes burger crazy

brown cardigan again, more cows, though this time dolphins too in this Salon-hosted animated kids story (entirely work safe unless you work at Sea World)

Friday, July 07, 2006

I liked Nick Riewoldt...

But this is just purile and homophobic. I hope he at least tries to retract the comment formally.

Hat tip: Anonymouslefty

Previewing the Bledisloe

Clup Troppo's regular sports blogger, Patrick Fitzgerald, previews the Bledisloe here and tips the Australian's to win 36 - 20. Patrick's analysis is pretty interesting but I disagree on a couple of points, not least of all because I am as hopelessly optimistic as he confesses to be. I'm picking:
  • Jack and Eaton, as well as McCaw and So'oialo, to compete well against a big jumping Wallabies pack.
  • The ABs scrum to be a real weapon.
  • I agree with Patrick that the battle of five eighths will be interesting and, if Carter does dominate, it'll be becase of the blokes in front of him but Carter's tactical kicking is better than Larkham's and he may well be able to apply enough pressure for the scrum and set pieces to work for the ABs.
  • I think Chisholm's selection will make life hard for George Smith and therefore, I think the ABs will win the loose ball competition (plus McCaw is the undisputed master of the breakdown).
  • Muliana will have a challenge with Mortlock an co, but the ABs midfield is strong enough and I don't see the game being very open.
It's going to be a close game and it'll be a barometer for how both teams are developing ahead of the World Cup. My tip for the result is a good but not big win to the All Blacks, say, 25 - 13.

MacDonald's sponsored schools?

I don't mean to pick on Lindsay, as I've said in my earlier post, she's no troll and her views appear genuine. However, her latest comments on private funding for school education are typical of the simplicity of arguments. Lindsay describes as dingbats the Victorian teachers union who express concern about the potential for a company like MacDonalds to have a funding partnership with a public school. She doesn't elaborate on her dismissal of them, or even address their arguments, nope, they're just dingbats. Classic ad hominem.

I actually think public/private partnerships are a useful device for financing major infrastructure development (though you'd have to wonder which investment firms would want to work with NSW Labor given the cross city tunnel disaster), and I think local industry should have a good working relationship with local schools (Labour's Gateway programme is a classic example, School Based New Apprenticeships in Australia is another) however I can't see how public/private partnerships make sense in the ongoing funding of schools? Besides this, surely there's an obvious risk around conflicts of interest. Do public schools want to promote MacDonalds? What about Rothmans? Or Lion Nathan?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Stumbled across Lindsay Mitchell

I don't quite know what to make of Lindsay's blog. It certainly appears genuine and she's no troll but there's something malevolent about it.

The posts are reasonable in content but repetitive in their cynicism and negativity. I suspect that Lindsay wants to see real improvements in social wellbeing in NZ but her solution appears to be to deny those in need the most basic of benefits, benefits that accrue to all citizens of first world nations, in the hope that they'll pick themselves up by their bootstraps.

Her Prison vs Work post was what clinched it for me. So trite and simplistic; like offenders calculate their meal allowances by forecasting protein quotients and floor space?

Yeah it really did have to happen...

The haka with handbags. It is amusing. I guess.

I hope its not seen as culturally inappropriate; I don't believe it is.

Turning your back on the haka is inappropriate (John Eales regrets that he once did) but this parody, while certainly not reverential, mocks the ABs, not the haka, for the the handbag incident.

I think?

Either way, we'll win on the weekend and that'll be the end of it.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Bledisloe test - will we even see it?

According to the Press, we'll at least be able to see the Bledisloe cup test on the weekend, unlike the Super 14 final...

More on AWAs...

The ACTU campaign against Howard's IR reform has been given a boost by the mining industry. Here's a case of a very well qualified person, sacked for refusing to sign an AWA that required her to give 12 hours notice ahead of taking sick leave or else lose a day's pay and incur a $200 penalty. So much for claiming they have skill shortages!

A full transcript of the ABC 7.30 report item is available here.

The Australian also features the story and quotes the mining employer body, the Australian Mines and Metals Association, as saying the agreement was probably unenforcable.

Newspoll shows support for the Liberal's down to 35%, the worst performance since the October 04 election. Howard's still comfortably ahead of Beazley though.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Gattaca crossover to rugby

Want to own a sample of the combined DNA of the 2006 All Blacks? Nope? Me neither.

(Un)fortunately Craig Waugh, adidas NZ Marketing Manager and vampire, explains how (not why though, that'd be too weird) this year's commemorative All Blacks poster actually includes a sample of the team's DNA. Don't believe me, watch the video; from extraction to print production.

Coming next: Interactive tours of the locker rooms where you can wear Richie McCaw's headgear or Piri Weepu's jockstrap.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Exclusive Brethren expose: Weekend Sydney Morning Herald

The Sydney Morning Herald this weekend includes a significant feature on the Exclusive Brethren church's recent political activities in Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand. The pattern in each country appears the same:
  • an anonymous group publishes its support for right/conservative politics/politicians in the last few weeks before an election
  • the focus is on homosexuality, environmentalism, and neo-classical economic policy
  • despite media enquiries, the true identity of the group is obscured and not clearly identifiable on the propoganda
  • eventually, the group is identified as being members of the Exclusive Brethren but the church claims no role and the activities are described as being down to individuals.
In Australia, the beneficiaries are the Liberal party and John Howard in particular; the targets were Bob Brown, leader of the Greens, and a gay man. In NZ, it was Brash that received the Exclusive Bretheren's support also at the expense of the Greens.