Tuesday, August 25, 2009


We're all blogged out.

Maybe it was Barnsley Bill's post the other night that got us thinking, or maybe that merely confirmed something that we've been thinking for quite a while. But the bottom line is that we've realised that we have neither the time nor the energy to keep going with Keeping Stock. And like Barnsley Bill, we've suddenly realised how insular we have become; and that's not a healthy scenario.

Our business has been going gangbusters this year, and there's a heck of a lot more that we'd like to do. But lately, we've been spending way too much time and energy blogging, while the piles of work build up around us. Something's got to give, and it can't be the business.

We've had a blast over the last couple of years. We've "met" some great people, had plenty of robust debates, and broadened our horizons considerably. But it's come at a cost, and it's a cost that we can no longer justify. We contemplated taking a "blog holiday", but we don't think that's going to be an answer; then next six months are going to be manic, and who knows what 2010 will bring. We're also well aware that we have an addictive personality, so it's best to make a clean break.

So this will be our very last post. It's also our 2535th! And that represents a lot of "work avoidance", or wasted time that can never be recovered But like Helen Clark, we're leaving with no regrets; we're simply looking forward to the challenge of getting caught up on things which should have had our attention some time ago.

If anyone would like to take over from us, we'd be happy to pass over the baton and the access code. Leave your e-mail in the comments section, and we can talk; it's a going concern after all.

In closing, we just want to say a big "thank you" to everyone who has encouraged us with positive feedback, and all those who've taken the time and effort to comment - you're the ones who have made Keeping Stock successful. We'll miss you all, but that's the way it's got to be. We might pop up on some of the blogs we follow from time to time, but for the moment we'll be taking a complete break while we get it together.

Goodbye from all of us (me, myself and I), and God bless you all - it was fun while it lasted!

Jackson overdosed

Whilst it's unlikely to come as a surprise to anyone, Stuff is reporting that the Los Angeles County Coroner has found that Michael Jackson died of a drug overdose. The story says:

The Los Angeles County coroner has ruled Michael Jackson's death a homicide, a finding that makes it more likely criminal charges will be filed against the doctor who was with the pop star when he died.

The coroner determined a fatal combination of drugs was given to Jackson hours before he died June 25 in his rented Los Angeles mansion, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the findings have not been publicly released.

Forensic tests found the powerful anesthetic propofol acted together with at least two sedatives to cause Jackson's death, the official said.

Dr Conrad Murray, a Las Vegas cardiologist who became Jackson's personal physician weeks before his death, is the target of a manslaughter investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department.

According to a search warrant affidavit unsealed in Houston, Murray told investigators he administered a 25mg dose of propofol around 10.40am after spending the night injecting Jackson with two sedatives in an unsuccessful attempt to get him to sleep.

The warrant, dated July 23, states that lethal levels of propofol were found in Jackson's system.

As we said above, it's hardly earth-shattering news. Jackson was known to be addicted to painkillers, and his drug abuse has been widely reported. Whilst Jackson's "personal physician" will doubtless have been on a very healthy retainer, we can't help but question the ethics involved in continuing to pump powerful drugs into an addict. We guess that only underlines what a bizarre "bubble" Jackson lived in.

In the meantime, we're currently reading a book entitled Be Careful Who You Love by investigative journalist Diane Dimond. If we had any doubts whatsoever that Jackson's interest in young boys was unhealthy, they have been totally dispelled. It's well worth a read; we found a copy in the local library.

Emmerson on Maori seats

Rod Emmerson reminds us why he's our favourite local cartoonist with his pictorial depiction of the Auckland Supercity Maori seats issue this morning - enjoy ...

Stats Day

It looks like it's Statistics Day on Stuff this morning! Of the five leading stories when we loaded up the page this morning, three report various statistics (60%), and now we know that:

That's all very interesting, but it made us wonder - what percentage of Stuff's journalistic resources was involved in giving us statistics overload this morning?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Buying time?

Has John Key tried to buy himself a bit of time over the S59 referendum today? That's the conclusion that we are drawing from the measures that Key has announced post-Cabinet today. The Herald reports:

Mr Key said he would not ignore the referendum and Cabinet had agreed to ask police and Child Youth and Family to review their procedures to ensure good parents were treated as Parliament intended.

An independent person would assist in the review which would be completed by December.

A report on the effects of the law would be brought forward from the end of the year to late September/early October and the police would continue with their ongoing reviews of the law.

Instructing the Police and CYFS to "review their procedures" is a good start, but it is at best an interim measure. For a start, it's not a good precedent for the government to set - directing agencies to overlook breaches of the law. If S59 of the Crimes Act warrants being circumvented, then surely it warrants change; that's our humble and considered opinion.

We now hope that the reported "report on the effects of the law" will indeed demonstrate to the government that change is not only desirable; it is essential. In the meantime, the timing of the review affords an opportunity for those who feel strongly about this issue to lobby MP's, Ministers and John Key himself.

We can only hope that they are listening.

Balance or hyperbole?

Our friends over at The Standard are up to their old tricks. There's a post over there today under the title First they came for Spongebob - which is actually quite clever - but which has "bad loser" written all over it. It's all about Focus on the Family; an American organisation which strongly promotes family and Christian values. It begins thus:

One of the most powerful conservative Christian fundamentalist groups in America is Focus on the Family. This group has an impressive organisation, income, media presence and influence (summary). They also have an agenda which has been colourfully described as follows:

Focus on the Family A christian organization based in Colorado Springs that was founded by Dr.James Dobson. … Typical of other large christian organizations based in CS (see also: New Life Church) they mouth the words of peace while teaching hate and intolerance. Dr. Dobson has been featured on various national news programs usually spreading his narrow minded views on (pick one or more) homosexuality, atheism, how satan is real, drug use, pre-marital sex, how the republicans are truly the blessed of god, how democrats are spawn of satan, pro-life, how killing abortion doctors is ok etc. etc. Focus on the family is responsible for pumping millions into republican coffers, doing slander ads against their opponents, all as a “non-profit” company …

Now it's fortunate that the "guest poster", a chap or chappess by the handle of r0b left the hyperlinks in, because if you follow the one on the word "colourfully" you'll find that r0b drew his (we'll make that assumption, for the sake or brevity) quote from a website called Urban Dictionary which goes by the by-line "Urban Dictionary is the slang dictionary you wrote. Define your world.". We found that interesting, so we dug a bit further, and found this on Urban Dictionary's Wikipedia entry:
Urban Dictionary's chief definition of "Urban Dictionary" reads: "A place formerly used to find out about slang, and now a place that teens use as a "burn book" to talk about celebrities, their friends, let out their sexual frustrations, show off their racist/sexist/homophobic/anti-(insert religion here) opinions, troll, and babble about things they know nothing about, etc."

We found that even more interesting!! It seems that r0b is happy to use "a place that teens use as a burn book" as a reputable source of information to slag off an organisation whose views he doesn't agree with. We don't think that that's particularly ethical; in fact it borders on outright hypocrisy. But at least, to his credit, r0b has disclosed his source; even though it delivers a fatal blow to the credibility of his argument!

The ghost of Billy Murdoch

On the left is former Australian cricket captain William Lloyd (Billy) Murdoch. On the right is current Australian test cricket captain Ricky Thomas Ponting, walking away from the trophy his team lost overnight to England.

What's the connection? It's quite straightforward really. Ricky Ponting is the first Australian captain since Billy Murdoch to lose two Ashes series in England. Murdoch's record was established in the 19th century, and is one record that no Australian captain would ever have wanted to equal.

We feel for Ponting. At the peak of his powers, he is one of the very best batsmen in the world today. We do not believe however that he will be remembered as one of Australia's great captains. He inherited an Australian team from Steve Waugh which was chock-ful of superstars - Hayden, Langer, Gilchrist, McGrath, Warne and Lee to name just a few. Sure, the guts has been ripped out of the Australian team, but the fact remains - Australia is no longer the arrogant, swaggering nigh-on-unbeatable force which Ponting first captained.

Ponting has been a conservative captain. That was never better illustrated than in his declaration in the first Ashes test at Cardiff. Australia batted on too long, and England was able to survive the last eleven overs with Panesar and Anderson to go to Lord's on level terms, not a game down. Ponting didn't back his bowlers, and in with the benefit of hindsight, that was where the Ashes series was decided.

Ponting is now almost 35, and he has been playing test cricket since 1995. No-one would criticise him if he pulled the plug right now on his cricketing career. We believe that it is inevitable that he will be relieved of the Australian captaincy, and that Michael Clarke will be appointed as Ponting's replacement. Doubtless Ponting will do some soul-searching in the days and weeks that follow Australia's series defeat, and we will not be at all surprised if he makes the decision to end his career on his own terms, not on a selectorial whim. We hope that he chooses the former course, and that in his retirement, he can exorcise the ghost of Billy Murdoch.


The All Black victory on Saturday night was a tonic, but still has to be looked at in the context of the season overall; and as of Saturday, the All Blacks still only have a 4 win/3 loss record. So whilst we were delighted with Saturday's win, we're still on Henry-watch.

Chris Rattue writes provocative opinion-pieces for the Herald, and he's been a trenchant critic of Henry this season, but even he is cutting the All Black coach a bit of slack this morning. He writes:

For this punter, Saturday night's test match was gripping and contained almost everything a fine test match should. Maybe it was the mood I was in. There is sometimes an indefinable rationale to these things.

You could analyse Saturday night's match to death and still end up in a dead end. One of the post-match interviewers talked about it as a return to running rugby. Yes, there was a lot of running around, but with all the botched moves - and this is an ideal point to suggest that Luke McAlister's reintroduction has done nothing for the All Blacks' cohesion - it certainly wasn't running rugby in its pure form.

While the term "running rugby" focuses on the legs, it's only relevant if everyone is also catching the ball with their hands. Running rugby actually means passing and catching rugby.

Yet the occasion, the significance, the transtasman rivalry and closeness of the score, meant it was gripping.

What do you need for a memorable test match? Tension. Rivalry. A massive and packed stadium. In the absence of much icing, the cake can still be excellent.

Well said. We love the "nice cake but no icing" analogy, and reckon that sums up Saturday night's match pretty well. The quality of rugby wasn't always that crash-hot. But the quality of the occasion was top-drawer. As our old mate Bill Lawry would say, courtesy of the Twelth Man "It's all happening - the tension, the drama, the buzz". And indeed it was.

And Rattue even pays the All Black coach a small and conditional compliment:

As an ardent critic of the Henry reappointment and regime, I gladly admit here that he deserves praise for keeping a struggling team in the Tri-Nations hunt and retaining the treasured Bledisloe Cup. You can't scoff at that, and sometimes, at this level, winning is indeed enough.

Henry has handled a lot of pressure and may still emerge victorious out the other side. His side has not dropped its bundle and may indeed be starting to pick it up.

We agree. The return match against South Africa in Hamilton, and the Bledisloe Cup match in Wellington will be a guide as to whether the 2009 edition of the All Blacks has turned the corner, or whether the team was just not quaite as bad as the Wallabies on Saturday night. We will be watching both matches with much interest.

The Monday Quote - 24/8/2009

Jane Clifton's column in last week's Listener lampooned Labour's bus trip, so she wins the prize this week for this effort. Under the headline The bus ride from hell she wrote:

It's hard to see any joy in Labour's penitential road trip.

There's a whiff of penance about Labour's big bus trip. There's no place for a higher concentration of depression, vengefulness, regret, mribid plotting and sheer despair than the caucus room of a recently defeated government. Why put that show on the road?Making those poor MP's sit together on a bus for hours on end concentrates the misery to inhuman levels. Sing-songs only underscore the pathos. (A bottle of the finest socialist chardonnay from Bellamy's to the MP who leads a round of Kumbaya.)

Phil Goff is exposing the still-wounded to further explanations from the country at large as to why they lost the election. As hair-shirt gestures go, it's completely convincing. Labour must be truly sorry to put itself through this. The only other credible theory is that the bus is covertly lead-sheilded so as to deflect the incessant texts from Helen in New York.

Sheesh, we couldn't have put it better ourselves!

Are they listening?

Tracy Watkins writes in this morning's Dom-Post that MP's are being deluged with e-mails in the wake of the S59 referendum result. - she says:

MPs are being bombarded with emails from angry voters as Prime Minister John Key resists a law change in the wake of an overwhelming vote in the smacking referendum.

Mr Key will today outline measures aimed at reassuring parents that they will not fall foul of authorities for giving their children a light smack. But pro-smacking campaigners are demanding the Government change the law or risk a massive public backlash.

Mr Key said yesterday that he was confident the law was working, but signalled changes to the way police and Child, Youth and Family staff dealt with smacking cases.

Though that would not involve a law change, it would give parents "a higher degree of comfort that the law as it's passed ... that good parents shouldn't be criminalised for lightly smacking a child ... is being adhered to".

We sincerely hope that the proposals that John Key is suggested are INTERIM proposals, until such time as the law is changed. That would, in our humble and considered opinion, be an acceptable compromise. Not legislating, in the face of an overwhelming referendum result is not good enough. We have previously suggested that the government adopt John Boscawen's Bill, or draft its own legislation based around Chester Borrows' 2006 amendment.

This is a real test of John Key's leadership. We simply hope that it is a test that he passes.

England's Ashes

England regains the Ashes with a 197 run win over Australia.

Australia slips to #4 in the ICC test cricket rankings.

'Nuff said?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

How many ...?

We were looking for a different angle on last night's Bledisloe Cup game, and we reckon we've found it! We found this story in Sydney's Daily Telegraph lamenting another loss for the Green and Golds. And as with online stories, it has a comments section, which was where we found this gem from Ems of West Sydney:

Sounds like the Wallabies lost the game again instead of NZ beating them. How many losses can a Koala bear?

That's gold - and green! But it does raise an interesting point. Aussie Bob Deans is now one from six against Graham Henry, and the Wallabies have now lost three straight games and are winless in the Tri-Nations. The third Bledisloe Cup match in Wellington in four weeks' time is a dead rubber, but the match now has huge importance for the Wallabies. How long will it be before our Australian neighbours start calling "Time for a Change"?

Calling it as he sees it

Mark Richardson writes a provocative colum in today's Herald on Sunday with which we agree wholeheartedly. And it is refreshing to see a sports columnist who is prepared to be as frank as Richardson is - he writes:

There is no easy way to put this, no soft way to broach it, so here goes - Muttiah Muralitharan is throwing the ball.

I know he's been tested, re-tested, tested again and cleared. And I know, with the special makeup of his limbs to the naked eye, his action looks worse than it is.

But, for goodness sake, half of cricket is now not watched with the naked eye, thanks to the invention of super-slow-motion cameras, hot-spots, snicko and hawk-eyes.

Many of the slow-motion replays I've seen of Murali have only strengthened my conviction he is exceeding the 15 degrees bending and straightening allowance. Is it not meant to be the other way round? Isn't the hi-tech equipment meant to alleviate my fears?

Big ups to Mark Richardson for his refreshing honesty about Murali. The Sri Lankan is a very good cricketer, but he gets, in our humble and considered opinion, and unfair advantage. And Richardson lays the blame for this firmly at the door of the ICC:

Many of his deliveries may fall around the 15 degrees but, in my opinion, too many. In particular his faster deliveries appear well beyond it and since the introduction of the 15 degree allowance his action appears to have deteriorated.

The problem lies with the inappropriate way in which the ICC has decided to police throwing. A player is suspected of throwing and then, for want of a better term, tested in a laboratory.

We've all seen the pictures of Murali lit up with bulbs. To his credit he volunteered for this. Apparently he proved he wasn't a chucker.

But did he really? What he proved is that he can bowl within limitation, not that in the heat of battle he actually does.

Cricket is not played in a laboratory. On the field it matters where and how the ball gets to the other end. In a laboratory it doesn't, all that matters is how you delivered it.

And unlike some who merely complain, Richardson suggests a way forward for the ICC, using the same technological advances which they home will improve the standard on on-field decisionmaking - he says:

Because of the way the ICC has gone about dealing with this situation, too many bowlers now appear to have suspect actions and can operate for too long before there is any reaction. Now is the time for the ICC to amend procedures to reflect how it is introducing technology.

We can use technology to access where the ball pitched, where it may be heading, how much it bounced, turned, seamed and yet we can't use it to access the most important thing - how it got there in the first place.

Surely the technology exists for the match referee or third umpire to assess, during the game, bowling actions and take appropriate action when someone is operating outside the laws of the game.

We've got a lot of time for Mark Richardson. He is a thinker, he loves the game of cricket, and he has shown again today that he's not afraid to voice his opinion, even when it might not receive universal acclaim. But more importantly, he has stood, bat in hand, 20m from Murali watching the arm come over and watching the ball being delivered at an incredible rate of revolutions. He's been in the perfect position to make a judgment call on the legality of Murali's action.

As former cricket umpires, we've always had grave doubts over the legitimacy of Murali's action. The ICC not only decided he was legitimate, but also changed the law to allow Murali and many others to continue to chuck with impunity. Therefore, his status as the game's greatest wicket-taker is written in stone. It won't stop us debating the subject however, and Mark Richardson makes an outstanding contribution to that debate today.

Laws on the S59 Referendum

Michael Laws' column in the Sunday Start-Times today is unsurprisingly on the S59 referendum result. And he completely and utterly nails it in his very first words, when he says:

IF THERE is one thing that Friday's anti-smacking referendum will never influence it is those morons who believe that a corrective smack on a child's bottom constitutes child abuse.

The country has rejected this absurd correlation. But it remains a favourite of liberal pressure groups who agitate that any physical punishment equates to assault. The Plunkets, Barnardos and Greens honestly think that preventing white middle-class parents from smacking their kids on the bum for being naughty will somehow save poor, brown kids from being killed by their feckless whanau.

As all the child beatings and deaths of 2009 prove, the anti-smacking legislation has failed. It hasn't stopped one beating, one abuse, one death. And it never will. You can't reason with drugged, drunk, violent parents, acting out their inadequacy, with an act of parliament. If you could, we would all be living in Utopia.

Absolutely! We couldn't agree more. Although the easily-offended won't like what Laws has to say, that's tough, because what he says today is true. We won't re-hash vast tracts, but we suggest you take a few moments to reads Laws' piece today.

Declaring war on P

It seems to be the open season for open letters to the PM. We published our one on the S59 referendum outcome yesterday, and we have seen several similar ones. There's another one in the Herald on Sunday this morning - from Paul Holmes - but as you can probably guess, it's about a much more destructive subject - it begins:

Dear Prime Minister:

The recommendation to you from your science adviser, Sir Peter Gluckman, that the Government could ban over-the-counter, non-prescription sales of cold and flu medicines containing pseudoephedrine, one of the precursors to the manufacture of pure methamphetamine or P, is a good one. To do so would be a step in the right direction. If nothing else, it would be a positive signal that the Government is intent on getting a real handle on the P problem.

As you observed at your news conference this week, P is a huge problem that tears lives and families apart. Especially prone to P addiction are vulnerable young women, as we have seen in my own family. But P does not discriminate. It affects the young and the middle-aged. It affects the rich and the poor.

We've never been a huge fan of Holmes, but it is hard not to be moved by the plight that he and his extended family find themselves in. P is evil, plain and simple. Addiction comes quickly, and users become slaves to the drug; but more significantly, slaves to those who profit from it.

And that is where the real challenge for the government lies. A ban on over-the-counter sales of pseudoephidrine is commendable, but it's only the beginning. Most of the P made in New Zealand is cooked from imported precursors, and it is only cutting off that supply that would lead to a genuine dent in the P trade. But at least John Key's government is doing something, in contrast to its predecessor.

Holmes goes on to say:

You acknowledge that there is a real desire amongst the New Zealand community for something to be done about the P epidemic, an industry you suggest could be at a value to those involved of $1.5 billion. If this is true, then the problem is huge. I think there is more than a real desire to see something done. I suggest the desire is passionate. But we have not only a desire to break this industry. New Zealand, as a nation, must break it. P has declared war on our communities.

We reckon he's right. P, and the gangs who profit from it HAVE declared war on our communities. There is anecdotal evidence that the potential profits from P have been enough to break down some of the hatred between rival gangs, who now take a more coordinated approach to manufacturing and selling the drug. It is not just a government problem,; it's a community problem.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. As a community, we might just have to accept that the police and other authorities need far-reaching powers. There may indeed be the need for us to tell the civil libertaraians to pull their heads in when they squeal about rights being trampled on. Because we reckon that once you start to manufacture and distribute P, you forfeit many of your rights.

So we support Holmes when he calls for communities to rise up against P. And we will support John Key, Judith Collins and co if they make good on their pre-election policy to toughen up on gangs and to wage war against P. We hope that you'll join us. In the meantime, we commend Paukl Holmes' piece to you.

Fair enough too

We went to bed last night feeling reasoanbaly good after an All Black victory - Saturday finished well. We awoke this morning to good news as well - we've just read that the Broadcasting Standards Authority has "Not upheld" a complaint against Paul Henry over Moustachegate - the Herald reports:

The Herald on Sunday has learned the Broadcasting Standards Authority has not upheld a complaint - finding that TVNZ had already taken sufficient action.

In March, Henry mocked Greenpeace spokeswoman Stephanie Mills' appearance after an interview, saying "that is a moustache on a lady".

The BSA's refusal to condemn Henry has angered Greenpeace, which may now boycott the top-rating morning television show.

What? Greenpeace is going to boycott Breakfast? Goodness - our day is getting better by the moment. Though we wouldn't go as far as some and label Henry a national treasure, he is a breath of fresh air. He says what he thinks, and he pushes the boundaries. But surely that's an improvement on the clones that TVNZ and its rivals constantly churn out. And so, for your viewing pleasure, and because we can, let's relive the moment ...

Christian Music Sunday - 23/8/2009

Rich Mullins was one of the early leading lights of the contemporary Christian music scene. We say "was", because he was killed in a motor vehicle accident at the age of just 42. But by the time of his death, he had already left an indelible print on the music landscape.

Mullins' Wikipedia listing describes the songs that he wrote thus: "Mullins' compositions were distinctive in two ways: unusual and sometimes striking instrumentation, and highly poetic lyrics that usually employed complex metaphors.", and today's choice of song is no exception - you can find the lyrics here. But of far more significance was this statement of Mullins' faith which we also found. Mrs Inventory and I have ministered for a number of years in a poor community, and we can really relate to Mullins' words:

His faith can be understood by a quote he gave at a concert shortly before his death. He stated that:

Jesus said whatever you do to the least of these my brothers you’ve done it to me. And this is what I’ve come to think. That if I want to identify fully with Jesus Christ, who I claim to be my savior and Lord, the best way that I can do that is to identify with the poor. This I know will go against the teachings of all the popular evangelical preachers. But they’re just wrong. They’re not bad, they’re just wrong. Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in a beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken....(concert recording cuts off at this moment, losing any further context for this particular quote)

Anyway, on to today's song. As you watch this video, the words of this song, especially those of the chorus will be sung in churches throughout the world. Mullins' simple reminder of the awesomeness of God is his legacy - enjoy Awesome God

Saturday, August 22, 2009

All Blacks vs Wallabies - live scoring

Live blogging of the Bledisloe Cup match is about to commence! And as a bonus, when we flick channels over to the Ashes test, we might toss is some scores from that as well!

Is there anybody out there?

First comment - why can't they play God Defend New Zealand at a decent tempo??!! And no Waltzing Matilda!

2min: McAllister to the blood bin; Nonu on, and Carter kicks a 35m penalty NZ: 3-0
6 min: Giteau a 20M penalty - 3-all
10 min: Giteau kicks another penalty - Aus 6-3
No further scoring, but the All Blacks are starting to get some physical domination now...meantime the England lead is now 245 with seven wickets remaining
25min - excellent AB attack - McAllister kicks ahead but Giteau wins the race
30min - the All Black scrum is smashing the Aussies, and Deans subs Al Baxter off - Baxter's not happy!!
35min - Penalty to Australia on halfway, then Thorn chips Kaplan at the penaly goes forward 10m - Giteau goals - Aus 9-3, against the run of play
Half-time: Dumb play by the All Blacks trying to keep the ball alive after the siren, and another penalty is conceded which Giteau converts - Australia 12: New Zealand 3

We've ducked over to watch a bit of cricket during the half-time break. England has progressed to 92-3, and the lead has grown to 264. The body language and facial expressions suggest that the Aussies are starting to get worried. Australia must be relly regretting not playing a front-line spinner.

Back to the Bledisloe - the All Blacks dominated large sections of the first half, but have made too many mistakes, and conceded too many penalties. The Australians are not without problems, and the depth of their bench will be tested. But they lead, and the All Blacks are going to have to play a lot better in the second half. The players will be back out in a moment...And Nonu's on - for Conrad Smith who's icing a leg strain. Ryan Cross is on for Australian, for Berrick Barnes

Time on!

42min - Aussie #8 Richard Brown gets sin-binned for a dangerous tackle - Carter misses from 45m
44min - Sivivatu launches an attack from deep, Nonu is prominent, and the All Blacks get a penalty near the line - Carter goals - Aus 12-6
47min - Giteau replies - 15-6
49min - McAllister is down for the count after a second head knock - replaced by Donald. Brendon Leonard is warming up as well
50min - Carter crosses in the corner, but the pass is ruled forward - whooooooo
51min - Cowan crosses, but Kaplan again overrules - obstruction APPARENTLY (caps, 'cos we're not convinced at all!) - how much longer can the Wallabies hold on?
57min - the AB's launch another attack, and the Wallabies concede a penalty on their 22 - Carter goals - 15-9
63min - Yes! The All Blacks cross for the third time, but this time Kaplan can't find a reason to disallow it! Nonu to Reid to Sivivatu to Nonu on the wrap-around. Carter converts from wide out and it's NZ 16 - 15
66min - Australia swarms back onto attack, and the All Blacks concede a penalty - Giteau goals, and it's 18-16
Meanwhile, over at The Oval the English lead is now over 300...
70min - Stout defence from the All Blacks and they get a defensive penalty - it's not a high-quality match, but it's a thriller nonetheless!
72min - Drew Mitchell kicks dead from well back in his own half - the AB's get an attacking scrum
75min - the AB's set up a drop kick, but Carter's attempt is a shocker
77min - Carter kicks into the corner, the Aussies hold on, and it's a penalty, 12m in from touch. Carter kicks, and it's dead-centre! All Blacks 19-18
What a finish! The Aussies attack, the All Blacks hang on grimly, the siren goes, the Aussies attack again, then drop the ball 5m out - Kaplan blows time, and the All Blacks retain the Bledisloe Cup in a thriller!
Richie McCaw is doing the obligatory interview, and he looks, like Peter Jones in 1956, absolutely buggered - so are we!! George Smith looks buggered too, but is gracious in defeat.
On balance, it was a deserved victory, given the two tries ruled out, and at least the All Blacks showed some guts and determination. They're still a long way from being the best team in the world, but tonight they played with heart and spirit.

Time for bed now, but to rub salt into the Aussie wounds, England is 157-4 - Strauss has just gone for 75 - and now lead by 329 with six wickets in hand. The Ashes seem headed back to England - the Bledisloe Cup will stay in New Zealand!

Battle for the Bledisloe - 22/8/2009

We haven't found too much to get bexcited about with the international rugby season to date, but we're actually looking forward to tonight's match in Sydney. Maybe it's the return of Dan Carter to the All Blacks; maybe it's the must-win aspect if either side ids to have a chance of winning the Tri-Nations; whatever, this is a match with a real edge to it.

It's essential that the All Blacks start well. If they can dominate the early stages of the game and take the ANZ Stadium crowd out of the equation, the All Blacks will have gone a long way towards winning the match and retaining the Bledisloe Cup. We do have reservations over the pairing of Carter and McAllister, but we're hoping for the best. If nothing else, the All Blacks' kicking game should be better tonight. But with the Australians missing Stirling Mortlock, their defensive rock, there is an opportunity to break the Australian midfield. We hope that Nonu gets game-time, and reckon that Mortlock's replacement, Berrick Barnes, will have slept easier last night knowing that he wouldn't have Nonu running at him from the kickoff.

We would expect the All Black forwards to dominate, especially with the out-of-form Tialata having been dropped. We reckon that Owen Franks is going to be an outstanding international player, whilst the other "hard men" of the All Black pack - Tony Woodcock and Brad Thorn - seem to reserve their best for matches against the Wallabies. If (and as always, it's a big "if") the All Blacks can get lineout parity, the forward pack should be able to dominate, and give the backline a platform. And wouldn't it be refreshing to see Sivivatu, Rokocoko and Muliaina unleashed?

The weather forecast is good - a warm, dry night is expected, and there will be a near-capacity crowd at ANZ Stadium. And in Jonathan Kaplan, we finally have a Southern Hemisphere referee! There would be no better sight for us than to see thousands of stunned-mullet Australian supporters after the final whistle, having endured a comprehensive All Black victory - especially when they then have to go home and watch the cricket!

Go Black!

Memo to John

Hi John

The people of New Zealand spoke clearly on 8 November 2008 when they ousted Helen Clark's government, and allowed you to become Prime Minister.

The people of New Zealand have also spoken clearly over the last three weeks in the S59 referendum, and those who voted have sent you and your colleagues a message. We are heartened to read this morning that Cabinet will discuss the outcome of the referendum as early as next Monday. We are less heartened to read that you have told reporters from Sydney that you do not think a law change is necessary.

Perhaps you have other things on your mind today; matters of state, and matters of sport. But on the way home, and over the next few days we respectfully ask you to think again. New Zealanders, hundreds of thousands of ordinary New Zealanders have told the government that this is an issue which matters to them.

Please consider putting this issue back to Parliament John. If the government were to adopt John Boscawens's Bill as a government measure, we could have the debate again; but this time in a calm and rational manner, following a proper legislative process.

John, we support your government, and we want to see it prosper. We urge you to take the initiative here and amend Section 59 of the Crimes Act, continuing to protect our children from physical abuse, but just as importantly. not making criminals out of parents who are trying their very best.

England's day

We didn't realise that Keeping Stock was quite so influential. When we made a rather flippant suggestion a couple of weeks ago that the groundsman at The Oval turn off the sprinklers and prepare a dry, turning pitch, we had no idea that someone would pass this on to him, and that he would do just that. But after a day when 15 wickets fell and only one batsman reached 50, the Ashes decider is going to be just that - a decider. Barring weather interruptions, there is sure to be a result in this match. Cricinfo reviews a sensational second day - if you're English!

With a lead of 230, and seven second-innings wickets in hand, England has turned the form-book on its head. 330 in the first innings did not seem enough, especially when the Aussies put on 73 for their first wicket. Since then though, it has been all England, with the last nine Australian wickets falling for a paltry 87 runs. Snaring key batsmen Ricky Ponting, Mike Hussey and Michael Clark for a cumulative total of 11 runs was a key for England as Stuart Broad ripped the heart out of the middle order.

This match is England's to win. The match is a sellout for all five days, but Day 5 ticketholders should already be queueing for a refund, as there is little chance of the match going that far. Our only sadness is that the first session tonight will clash with the All Blacks taking on the Wallabies, so both MySky and the remore control will get a workout tonight in the Inventory whare!

In the meantime, we have no doubt that the Barmy Army will be in full voice tomorrow, as they were at the Basin Reserve little over a year ago ...

Bradford's mathematics ...

... Add the "Yes" vote, the "invalid" votes and the "did not vote" votes together, and it's a victory for Sue Bradford - so she reckons!

We have a few words for Ms Bradford - you lost, however you try to spin it. In fact you didn't just lose; it was an anihillation. If your science is as bad as your mathematics, little wonder that so many of us are Climate Change Sceptics!

Friday, August 21, 2009

"No" landslide

Breaking news - the results of the s59 referendum have been announced, and a resounding 88% of respondents have voted "No".

From the Herald website:

New Zealanders have voted strongly against making smacking a criminal offence.

In response to the national referendum question 'Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?', 87.6 per cent of respondents voted 'No'.

The 'YES' vote accounted for 11.81 per cent of the vote.

Informal votes (spoiled ballots etc) accounted for 0.6 percent of the vote.

In total 1,622,150 votes were cast. Voter turnout was 54.04 per cent.

The current results are still preliminary with the final result being declared at midday on Tuesday August 25.

We'll update this post as more comes to hand ...

Be careful Cunners

The Herald reports that no less a personage than David "Cunners" Cunliffe has made public his thoughts on the much-overhyped brawl in Auckland schoolboy rugby last weekend. The Herald story says:

The New Lynn MP, whose electorate includes Kelston Boys High School, wants to know why Kelston's penalty was so much tougher when "both teams were widely involved in the melee".

"There is no excuse for brawling on the rugby field, but it takes two to tangle," Mr Cunliffe said. "So why did the 'least guilty' Kelston boy get a sentence far greater then the worst offender in the Auckland Grammar side?"

We reckon that Cunners ought to be very careful in commenting about judicial matters and sentences. After all, there's the small matter of the Bill Liu "cash for citizenship" in the queue down at the Courthouse, and there are certain aspects of that case which don't reflect favourably on the aspiring Labour leader.

Free Me

Students, whose number include both Inventory tamariki, got good news yesterday. The Private Member's Bill sponsored by Sir Roger Douglas, the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill was selected from the ballot, and will be debated by Parliament next week. The intent of the Bill is to clear the way for voluntary membership of Students' Associations. An overview of the Bill can be viewed here.

Not surprisingly, there has already been considerable comment and debate on social netwroking sites. Doubtless, this will continue up to and after next Wednesday. We totally support the Bill, and have joined the Facebook group Free Me, which will be one of the focal points for supporters. We encourage anyone interested to do likewise.

In the meantime we will be interested to see how support for this Bill pans out. We sincerely hope that National will at the very least support the Bill to Select Committee, as it surely represents the ethos of the National Party - doing away with compulsion, and legislating for freedom of choice. We doubt that there will be much support from the Left, and it will be interesting to hear what arguments are advanced in favour of compulsion.

We wish the Bill's proponents every success.

The Friday Forum - 21/8/2009

It's Friday again, and a fine weekend beckons - hallelujah! It may even by time for the golf clubs to come out of the boot, and get used for their intended purpose!

But we digress - it's time for the Friday Forum, so get stuck in - the floor is yours ...

More on Wilson's folly

This morning's Herald suggests that more light is about to be thrown on Margaret Wilson's parting shot to the New Zealand taxpayer which we blogged about yesterday. The Herald story advises:

Former Speaker Margaret Wilson says retiring MPs lobbied her in the lead-up to the 2008 election to drop a provision that would have stripped them of some of their generous retirement travel perks.

Ms Wilson had included a clause in her 2007 Speaker's Directions that froze at 2005 levels the travel discounts MPs elected before 1999 would get when they left Parliament.

However, it was removed in a subsequent set of rules a week before the 2008 election, when it would first have had any real effect.

Yesterday, Speaker Lockwood Smith asked his officials to provide him with details of the freeze after the Herald revealed it had been put in place but then removed.

Now bear in mind that this move by Wilson only benefitted MP's who had been elected prior to the 1999 election, so she is NOT a recipient of her own largesse. So here's our challenge for today, as suggested by Adolf yesterday in the comments thread; who are these troughers? We'll start with a few from our casual research; note that the date in brackets is the year when said trougher was elected to Parliament:

Jill Pettis (Labour -1993); Winston Peters (NZ First - 1978); Paul Swain (Labour -1990); Peter Brown (NZ First - 1996); Mark Burton (Labour -1993); Clem Simich (National - 1992); Steve Maharey (Labour - 1990)

Feel free to add to the list. We do note that Clem Simich was the only National MP retiring last year who will benefit from Wilson's Folly, so you can draw your own conclusions as to where the impetus came for the former Speaker to change her mind.

UPDATE: Here's another trio of names:

Doug Woolerton (NZ First - 1996); Tim Barnett (Labour - 1996); Dover Samuels (Labour - 1996)

UPDATE #2: Three more for the early afternoon:

Harry Duynhoven (Labour - 1987-1990; 1993); Ron Mark (NZ First - 1996); Marian Hobbs (Labour -1996)

Is anyone starting to see a trend developing here?

UPDATE #3: Here's the next batch, and we can EASILY imagine that at least one of these MP's was amongst those who lobbied Margaret Wilson - can you guess who?

Jim Sutton (Labour - 1984-1990; 1993); Mark Gosche (Labour - 1996); Judith Tizard (Labour - 1990)

Note too that we have NOT included Helen Clark and Michael Cullen in our list, as both "retired" this year, not 2008!

And for those who are wondering, the full list can be gleaned from this page on the Parliament website.

How good is he?

Is Usain Bolt the best sprinter of all time? He has shattered his own world record for the 200m at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin this morning, blitzing the field in the process and clocking a staggering 19.19sec. BBC Sport carries the story.

I guess asking if Usain Bolt is the best sprinter of all time is better than aslking the other question that we sadly seem to have to ask so frequently - "what's he taking?". Bolt is a freak; an incredible athlete. We simply hope that he is the beneficiary of a God-given talent, rather than of man-made substances. But it's sad that that we even have to ask the question.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Ashes decider

Whilst a good portion of our attention will be on the performance of the Black Caps' batsmen in Galle early this evening, London is where the eyes of the cricketing world will be trained. With the five-match series tied at one-all, England and Australia will go head-to-head from 10pm tonight (NZ time) for cricket's oldest trophy.

As it stands, England must make all the running in this fifth test. Even though the series is level, England must win it to win back the famous urn. But at the risk of upsetting some of our English friends such as Barnsley Bill and Rakaia George, we have to say - with sadness - that an English victory is unlikely.

Australia was totally dominant in the fourth test at Headingly, Leeds. Bowling the English out for a paltry 104 inside two sessions was a hugely significant psychological blow for the Ockers, and we have doubts over England's ability to recover. An Australian team playing with confidence and momentum is a fearsome beast.

In England's favour is the fact that this will be Andrew Flintoff's test cricket swansong. Flintoff is a streaky, emotional player, and if he can harness his emotions and enrgies as he did at Lord's, he is a potential matchwinner. England will need Freddy Flintoff at his absolute best for the next five days if they are to have any chance of beating the Australians.

Cricinfo, as always, provides comprehensive coverage. If you don't like our assessment of England's chances, you can read Andrew Millar's preview here. It promises to be a fitting conclusion to one of sport's oldest and greatest rivalries.

Why we voted "No" ...

We've held this post back until today - partly because we didn't want to open ourselves to accusations of trying to influence the S59 referendum, and partly because we only just got around to voting!

But vote we did, as we believe that participation in the electoral process is a right to be exercised, and we (me, myself and I) have voted "No". Here's why:

  • We are the proud father of two children, each of whom is now making their way in the world, and of whom we are immensely proud. There were however occasions when a smack was both required and administered. That appears to have had no lasting effects.
  • We strongly believe that it is the right of a parent to decide how to discipline their children, within the confines of the law. The previous law adequately covered the rights of parents. It is unfortunate the a few "extreme" cases were viewed by politicians as an excuse to impose a socialist political ideology on ALL New Zealand parents.
  • We do NOT condone child abuse. Regular readers of Keeping Stock will be aware that we have in fact condemned child abuse, and the actions of a few. We acknowledge that the vast majority of New Zealanders think likewise. And ironically, the repeal of S59 has not stopped the horrific tide of child abuse in New Zealand - even today there's a new report.
  • We abhor the dishonesty of the anti-smacking lobby, especially its political arm. From Helen Clark's blatant untruth when interviewed by Bob McCoskrie prior to the 2005 election to the well-chosen but inflammatory language used by those advocating the reform of S59 - the repeated references to violence, beatings, thrashings and the like - we believe that there was a concerted campaign by Labour and the Greens to turn the debate in their favour. This was based on hyperbole and untruths, and was, in our opinion, gutter politics. It is especially ironic that Sue Bradford made her name and built her reputation in the protest movement by way of often-violent confrontations with the Police!
  • We were disappointed that National supported the passage of the S59 repeal, although John Key was able to gain some minor compromises. We would have been comfortable with the Chester Borrows amendment.
  • We feel deeply for parents who have been traumatised by the reform of S59, especially those who have had to endure intervention from CYFS as a result of external complaints. Good parents should not be punished for doing what they think is right.

It appears as though the referendum will be an overwhelming victory for the No lobby. We have no association with those who have pushed for this referendum, and the views expressed here are ours alone.

We call upon John Key and his government NOT to ignore the message which the electorate is sending Parliament. At the very least, we ask that the Government considers adopting John Boscawen's Private Member's Bill as a Government measure, given that it is similar in intent to the Borrows amendment. But please John and National; do not ignore the wishes of ordinary New Zealanders such as ourselves in the manner which Helen Clark's government did - to its peril.

Gender confusion?

It was interesting to read and hear this morning about the South African athlete facing gender verification tests. Caster Semenya won the Women's 800m Gold Medal at the World Athletics Championships in Germany. Stuff reports:

Facing questions about her gender, South African teenager Caster Semenya has easily won the 800-metre gold medal at the world championships.

Semenya's dominating run came on the same day track and field's ruling body said she was undergoing a gender test because of concerns she does not meet requirements to compete as a woman.

Semenya took the lead at the halfway mark and opened a commanding lead in the last 400m to win by a massive 2.45 seconds in a world-leading 1 minute, 55.45 seconds. Defending champion Janeth Jepkosgei was second and Jennifer Meadows of Britain was third in 1:57.93.

But wait; there's more! It appears that this issue had been raised BEFORE the commencement of the world championships - read on:

About three weeks ago, the international federation asked South African track and field authorities to conduct the verification test. Semenya had burst onto the scene by posting a world-leading time of 1:56.72 at the African junior championships in Maruitius.

Her dramatic improvement in times, muscular build and deep voice sparked speculation about her gender. Before the race, IAAF spokesman Nick Davies stressed this is a "medical issue, not an issue of cheating." He said the "extremely complex, difficult" test has begun but results were not expected for weeks.

The test requires a physical medical evaluation and includes reports from a gynecologist, endocrinologist, psychologist, internal medicine specialist and gender expert.

South Africa team manager Phiwe Mlangeni-Tsholetsane would not confirm or deny that Semenya was having such a test.

"We entered Caster as a woman and we want to keep it that way," Mlangeni-Tsholetsane said. "Our conscience is clear in terms of Caster. We have no reservations at all about that."

This is something which we haven't heard about for many years. We have memories from our childhood of Russian and East European athletes having to undergo sex tests; primarily shot-putters and discus throwers. For some reason the name Tamara Press came to mind, so we did a quick Wiki search, and came up with this:

Tamara Natanovna Press (Russian: Тамара Натановна Пресс; Ukrainian: Тамара Натанівна Пресс, Tamara Natanivna Press) (May 10, 1937 in Kharkiv, Ukraine) is a former Soviet shot putter and discus thrower in the 1960s. She competed for VSS Trud. Together with her younger sister Irina Press, who was also a track athlete, she was half of the "Press Sisters", a duo who won almost everything that there was to win in track and field, except for distance running.

Questions regarding gender

It was said of both sisters that their gender could not be determined. Some even thought that they might be hermaphrodites - still another opinion was that they were being injected with male hormones in order to make them stronger. Detractors called them the "Press Brothers".[1] After gender verification for all international sporting female events was made mandatory in 1966 (curtailed in Sydney in 2000), both vanished from the sporting scene. The Western press took that as a confession by the Soviet Union. Russian newspapers deny the allegations to this day.

Ah well, at least our memory can still be trusted! But it is interesting to read above that mandatory gender verification is no longer used. Perhaps that can be put down to other dubious "performance-enhancement" methods having become so prominent, especially drug-taking and blood-doping. We wonder if there will be a rethink should Caster turn out to really be a bloke!

Prime Minister Ryall

We doubt that even in his wildest dreams, Health Minster Tony Ryall ever REALLY thought he'd one day be Prime Minister. But for a few days, beginning this afternoon, that's just what will happen. Martin Kay from the Dom-Post reports:

He is No 5 on the list - but today Tony Ryall will be in charge of the country.

The health minister will add Prime Minister John Key's job to his workload as close to half the Cabinet heads across the Tasman.

Mr Ryall's elevation occurs between 4pm today and midnight on Saturday, while Mr Key and seven other ministers are in Australia.

It is thought to be one of the few times the acting prime minister's role has been held by a minister outside the top three.

It means he will technically be in charge of the country and be guarded by the armed police who usually accompany Mr Key everywhere.

Mr Ryall was promising not to let it go to his head, ruling out a sneaky Cabinet reshuffle while his colleagues are away.

"I don't think it's going to be that much different because of course the prime minister will still be in very close quarters in Australia, but I'm going to be available for acting prime ministerial duties at a moment's notice.

"It's going to be a great privilege and I'm quite honoured that the prime minister would trust me to look after the country."

Good on you Tony! It may only be "acting", and it may only be for 50-odd hours, but Ryall has achieved something that very, very few New Zealanders ever have or ever will. And that should make the relentless teasing on Breakfast this morning over his fashion sense a little easier to bear!

Margaret Wilson's folly

We've just seen an interesting story in this morning's Herald, and we'll let Clare Trevett give you the details before commenting:

A ruling days before last year's election restored lucrative travel perks to 23 MPs, 12 of whom were not re-elected.

A freeze to stop the retirement travel perks of some MPs from building up was quietly reversed.

In 2007, the Speaker at the time, Margaret Wilson, put a limit on subsidised travel for former MPs so the level of discount for those who were still in Parliament halted as at 2005.

This would have meant MPs elected in 1996 could get a maximum subsidy of 60 per cent.

The reversal means they will be eligible for a 90 per cent discount after the 2011 election.

The subsidy would have halted at 75 per cent for those elected in 1993, but those MPs who left at the last election now get a 90 per cent discount.

Ms Wilson gave no reason for removing the freeze days before the election.

We reckon that this revelation says much about Labour's whole attitude to the 2008 election. By the death throes pof the campaign, despite their bravado, Labour's ruling elite knew that their days in government were fast running out. Could this have been just be another decision by a senior Labour politician designed to increase the burden on her successors?

The dollar amount involved as a consequence of Margert Wilson's decision is small in the overall scheme of things. But it's the principle of the whole thing which troubles us - especially when one considers that Margaret Wilson retired at the last election. Or is that merely co-incidental?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Have they forgotten?

What is it with the All Black selectors? They seem to be taking a HUGE risk against Australia this weekend pairing Dan Carter with an out-of-form and low-on-confidence Luke McAllister. Even Wynne Gray, writing in this morning's Herald is bemused when he says:

Trying to find the rationale is difficult. The selectors will have talked it through and made a reasoned call for Luke McAlister's return to the All Blacks.

Discussions will have been extensive and the choice tailored to the gameplan the All Blacks want to produce against the Wallabies on Saturday in Sydney.

It could be as much about what McAlister, who sat out training yesterday with a back injury, can do compared with what Ma'a Nonu has been unable to produce this season. It may well be a lot deeper than that.

But on the surface McAlister's selection appears an unusual choice.

Had McAllister returned from Sale refreshed and raring to go, and had he produced the goods on the field since his return from "up north", we wouldn't have had a problem. The left foot/right foot kicking option is good, and McAllister is a strong defender. But he has looked woeful playing for North Harbour in the Air New Zealand Cup so far, although that might also be a reflection on North Harbour's fortunes. Personally, we don't think that he has shown enough yet this season to justify selection ahead of Ma'a Nonu, whio was devastating OUTSIDE DAN CARTER (our emphasis) last year.

And have the All Black selectors forgotten that the last time that Carter and McAllister were paired in midfield, this happened?

They may well have. But we haven't! And we can tell you now, we will be VERY grumpy bloggers if this gamble backfires on Saturday night!