Monday, January 31, 2011
We've done our study. Mrs Inventory and I have each just finished reading Stieg Larsson's most excellent Milennium trilogy, so we feel well acquainted with a land that we hope to visit one day.
The time to be hospitable is almost here, so I'd better concentrate on dinner ...
Adam notes that the letter-writing has begun already; he opines:
The xenophobes, hysterics and nutters are having a field-day at the moment on the issue of asset sales
Adam cannot believe the amount of rubbish and blatant nonsense being peddled by Labour, some of the media and those peculiar people who live in a parallel universe. The virulent dislike of so many for business makes Adam wonder just who do they think provides the jobs for so many New Zealanders and pay taxes for the excessive welfare state.
Now those who visit Adam's excelllent blog with any frequency will know that he has a "From a parallel universe" series occurring from time to time. But we suspect thathe reckons that the writer of the letter than follows comes from a universe beyond even that! He continues:
This extract from a letter to the Editor of the DomPost is an excellent example of the tripe being offered up as a reasoned contribution to debate:-
‘Obviously the Government is planning to sell the majority of the shares overseas to either the Americans or the Chinese.
If power companies go to the Americans, how long will it be before some smart boy in Wall Street does an Enron and figures that more money can be made by not making electricity?
If the companies go to the Chinese, how long will it be before elements of the Red Army are sent to New Zealand in order to protect their asset? How long before coal or oil, destined to power a thermal station here is diverted to China?’
This bizarre piece of xenophobic rubbish and out and out mis-information was apparently penned by one Colin Wilson of Lower Hutt.
This, of course, is just the beginning of a campaign of misinformation and fearmongering that the parties on the left (including the xenophobic New Zealand First) are happy to see take place, even though it is unlikely that any of them will admit to encouraging it. John Key's decision to put this on the table at the start of election year, rather than during the hustle and bustle of the campaign proper seems to be eminently sensible.
To his credit, Key has already indicated that National will campaign on the issue regardless of opposition to it from a noisy few purporting to represent the many. As we said yesterday, let's have the debate. The left is already rolling out the hackneyed phrases such as "hocking off the family silver", when what is proposed is far less of a sell-off than the sales initiated by the Lange Labour government, which included a youthful Rogernome by the name of Phil. Phil Goff may claim the the leopard has changed its spots, but he cannot change history.
Hat-tip: The Inquiring Mind
Mundine, father of Williams' trainer Anthony Mundine, said he should think long and hard about making boxing his primary occupation following this year's Rugby World Cup.
"I said to (Williams) in 12 months time he could be the second Ali. He could be anything," Mundine said.
"I saw him about 12 months ago, I really thought he moved like Ali.
"He needs more fights ... If he keeps on boxing seriously, he will be the second Ali."
Oh yeah? Williams might be a reasonable rugby player, but as a boxer, he's not good enough to tie Ali's shoelaces; unless, of course, Mundine Snr was referring to Ali Williams, in which case he might have a point!
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Former All White Billy Harris writes a weekly column in the Sunday Star-Times' sport section. He writes today about Muscat's penchant for violent conduct, opining thus:
That description appears the more appropriate. In 1998, Muscat ended the professional career of Matty Holmes, who Kiwi fans will remember played for Miramar Rangers in the 1980s, with a tackle which left Holmes requiring four operations on his ankle. Muscat was forced to pay nearly $2 million.
Accidents happen, especially when Kevin Muscat's around. The same year he scuppered Holmes' career, he broke the leg of Welsh star Craig Bellamy. Three years later he seriously injured French international Christophe Dugarry in a "friendly", with a tackle from behind that the French coach called "an act of brutality".
Aston Villa and England wing Ashley Young recalls the time he made his professional debut for Watford. Before the game, Muscat told the nervous youngster he'd break his leg. Given Muscat's track record, there was every chance it was no idle threat, but fortunately for Young, by the time he took the field as substitute, Muscat had already been sent off.
In 1999, England striker Ian Wright called Muscat a "low-life". The following year, Birmingham's Martin Grainger called him "the most hated man in football". Certainly he's one of the most ill-disciplined. Muscat amassed more than 80 cards during his time in England – six of them red – and then, just to show that not everyone mellows with age or learns from their mistakes, he's collected another five reds and 40 yellows while playing in the A-League.
His most recent transgression will hopefully be his last. A week ago, while playing Melbourne Heart, Muscat nearly snapped Adrian Zahra in two with a tackle as violent as any seen on a football pitch. Muscat was later to describe the tackle as "badly timed", but in reality it was perfectly timed to achieve the goal of taking Zahra out.
Had Muscat even a shred of decency, he's have been instantly remorseful for having badly injured an opponent. But no. He tried to claim to have played the ball, which, as intended, he'd missed by a mile. Then, on being shown the red card, rather than hang his head in shame, he let fly with a string of verbals at the referee, raging to the last.
Billy Harris is spot on. Football will be a much more Beautiful Game in Muscat's absence, and a safer place for his opponents. And in case you missed it, here's what all the fuss was about ...
On yer bike Kev!
Dumped SKY rugby league caller Jason Costigan has broken his silence after finally being told officially of his sacking – seven weeks after it was revealed by the Sunday Star-Times.
The Star-Times broke the news on December 12 that after a decade commentating on Warriors and Kiwis matches for Sky Sport, Costigan would be replaced by Stephen McIvor.
But Costigan wasn't formally told the news until he took a call from Sky's executive producer for league, Tui McKendrick, last Tuesday.
And while he knew his "professional death warrant" was coming, Costigan was still shocked and hurt by the news.
He refused to offer details of his conversation with McKendrick, whom he doesn't blame for the confusion, but said Sky's handling of the decision had been "very poor".
As you can probably guess from the title line, and opening to this thread, we're not fans of Costo, the King of the Cliche. In all honesty, our life will be enriched if we never hear the rugby league ball referred to as "the Steeden" again, halftime called "oranges" and a pair of ugly frontrowers described as "book-ends".
We wonder how many complaints Sky has taken over Costigan's commentaries over the years, but we reckon that it's probably one too many. Apart from the fact that having an Aussie commentate on all the Warriors games is decidely unKiwi, it must cost Sky a bomb flying Costigan backwards and forwards.
All we need to hope for now is that the Warriors will play well this coming season, and that Costigan hasn't handed his book of cliches to Stephen McIvor!
The leaders of the country's two main political parties have painted starkly different pictures of the road ahead.
Labour is preparing to fight the election along old-fashioned class lines as it attacks the Key government for policies benefiting the rich over the poor.
But National is backing itself to win on economic management as it prepares for more belt-tightening and mounts an argument for selling off a stake in the big state-owned power companies.
Pundits say Labour failed to deliver an election game changer with its $1.3 billion, $10-a-week pitch to the low-paid and beneficiaries, but Key's big call on asset sales has raised the stakes as Maori Party ructions threaten to put his election prospects on the line.
Amid new rumblings about a left-wing party falling in behind Hone Harawira, National can't count on the Maori Party giving it the numbers to govern.
John Key has taken a bold approach in setting out National's election-year agenda. Given that his former occupation was no place for faint-of-heart, that's hardly surprising. Key now has ten months to see the rationale behind the partial privatisation of a small number of assets, which is already being portrayed as the Second Coming of Ruth Richardson.
Key though has drawn praise (of sorts) from an unlikely quarter - read on:
National's opponents say Key deserves plaudits for putting his re-election prospects on the line when, riding high in the polls, National could have just played it safe. Instead, Key signalled further upheaval ahead, including radical welfare reforms and a fresh round of belt-tightening that could see public services squeezed.
Left-wing activist and former Green Party MP Sue Bradford said Key was at least being honest.
"I'm sure it's just the beginning of what they really plan to do but at least people know that after the election this is the plan ... it's going to be real interesting if they still vote for him, because I'm sure there are people who voted National last time who don't want privatisation."
Key also deserved plaudits for pressing ahead with policies he believed in, even when he knew they might be unpopular, Bradford said.
"Labour, with or without Goff, needs to paint a much more radical and courageous picture and, from a right-wing point of view, that's what Key's done.
"He's said `this is what we're going to do, we're going to put our colours out there'."
We've had plenty of time for thinking and reflection this week, but putting our thoughts into words hasn't been an easy task. But on balance, we reckon that Key's announcements this week are a step in the right direction. Signficantly, the government will retain control over all the assets in which it is offering people the opportunity to invest. Assets such as Genesis (or whom we have been a customer) and Meridian are solid performers, and provides a product which will always be in demand. We are not share players (too much Scottish heritage) but we would certainly consider investing in assets such as those.
To their credit, National has signalled this policy well in advance, and we are in agreement with those who say that it is time to have the debate. Both the Labour government of the 1980's and the National administration which followed it sold assets WITHOUT a mandate from the public.
We do not believe that partial privatisation of key assets is necessarily evil, nor do we believe that the mere mention of the "P" word should send fear and trembling through the population in general. We are more concerned with Phil Goff's vague plan to tax the "rich" (in whose number we are not presently included); we believe that governments should be providing incentives for people to get ahead and achieve financial success rather than putting barriers in their paths.
And through it all, John Key continues to be full of surprises. As Bradford has noted, whoever would have expected a politician to be open and up-front about his agenda so far out from the election? Once again, the fact that Key has not lived a lifetime of politics and activism is as refreshing as it is surprising. Perhaps that's why the left despises John Key so much; they can't pigeon-hole him, because his life story is so different to theirs. But conversely, it also explains Key's popularity; he's broken the mould of what people thought a politician should be
An interesting year awaits us. By all means, let us have the debate. But let's base it on reason and not rhetoric.
POSTSCRIPT: Fran O'Sullivan's piece in yesterday's Herald is also well worth a read, and we agree wholeheartedly with this:
Key's decision to float the prospect that National will sell down the Government's 100 per cent stake in a raft of blue chip state assets if it wins the election is long overdue.
It is high time more tangible steps were taken to build an "ownership society" and slay the ideological dragon that says private ownership of major companies is wicked.
So we won't be there tonight to sing along with Chris Tomlin, one of our favourite singer/songwriters. From Austin, Texas, Tomlin is one of a new breed of worship leaders who has transformed contemporary Christian music. As we've mentioned before, we do a bit of worship leading (although not for a while now), and Tomlin's songs of praise and worship feature prominently on our rotation. They are simple songs, without the complex chord structures which some delight in (and we struggle to play!), but more importantly, they are right from the heart.
So this morning, because we won't get to see Tomlin in person tonight, please indulge us while we enjoy two of his signature songs - here's the first:
And although this second song wasn't penned by Tomlin himself, it's a song he's made his own with the blessing of the writer, Laura Story; we just love the revelation that the God who created the heavens and the earth is the same God who loves us at a micro level; it really is Indescribable:
If you're at Parachute today, have a blast. We wish we were there ...
Saturday, January 29, 2011
So anyway, because we won't be there this weekend, here's a Christian Music Sunday special, on Saturday! Headlining Mainstage tonight will be the 2009 Australian Idol winner Stan Walker. We watched his progress that season, and he was far and away the best of the bunch. Born and raised in New Zealand, Walker has talked of a tough upbringing, of abuse and of alcohol addiction. At 15 he made a decision to follow Jesus, and his life hasn't been the same since.
This track is from one of his Idol performances, singing the Leonard Cohen classic Hallelujah. Whilst he hasn't got the gravel in his voice that Cohen has, we reckon that this is a stand-out song. We'd love to be down at Mainstage tonight, but this will have to suffice - enjoy:
And to all those attending Parachute; have an awesome time, and remember; if it rains EARLY in the weekend, at least all your gear has time to dry out! There's nothing worse than packing up a wet tent!!
In the wake of Martin Devlin's bout of publicity this week, the Herald dissects the TVNZ game show Game of Two Halves - check this out:
Convictions, addictions and disorderly conduct all par for the course for these big egos, says one television industry insider
They were applauded for being "laddish" and outrageous on screen - but no one is laughing after a fifth panel member of the sports show Game of Two Halves got himself into trouble.
The story then goes on to detail the respective falls from grace:
This week, Radio Sport broadcaster Martin Devlin, 46, admitted he had acted like a "right plum" after sitting on the bonnet of his car during a row with his wife in Quay St, Auckland.
Devlin was originally charged with disorderly behaviour, but was granted diversion.
He had fought to keep his name suppressed but later changed his mind.
His brush with the law follows high-profile scandals involving four of his cast mates on the top-rating TVNZ show - broadcaster Tony Veitch, comedian Mike King, and former All Blacks Matthew Ridge and Marc Ellis.
Ridge was the first to meet the long arm of the law in 2003 when he was fined $1500 for driving while disqualified.
Three years later Ellis was named in a so-called celebrity drug ring and convicted for possession of five Ecstasy tablets.
In 2008 allegations surfaced that Veitch had assaulted his former girlfriend and in 2009 King revealed his 10-year addiction to cocaine
That's all well and good, and as we have previously noted, the Devlin escapade was at the low end of the scale. It would have attracted little attention, but for the name suppression mystery. But we are just a trifle concerned to read the next bit; is this what the state broadcaster should be doing?
A former Game of Two Halves insider was not surprised with the turns the mens' lives had taken.
"They were all such big egos. Part of the culture or premise of the show was to let those egos go crazy, to push the boundaries. They were allowed to be a bit risque and they pushed the boundaries as much as possible every week," she said.
"It doesn't surprise me that they have fallen from grace the way that they have because they lived their lives that way too. They are all very opinionated, outspoken and strong personalities."
She said while on the show the five panel members thought they could get away with anything.
At least one of the men had to be told to tone his behaviour down on screen, while another was reprimanded for throwing a chair across the studio, damaging the set.
"They think they're above the law. They have this celebrity code of conduct that they think what they're doing is okay.
Let's turn our thoughts back to the Paul Henry saga. When Henry made his initial comments about Anand Satynand, there were dismissed as just "Paul Henry being Paul Henry" by TVNZ PR boss Andi Brotherston. And after Henry resigned from TVNZ, he revealed that he had carte blanche to be a shock jock, telling a women's magazine:
"They did capitalise on me," he told New Idea.
"I was the performing snake with the sting in its tail. The better the performance, the greater the encouragement. And then when I turned around and bit someone's head off, they were happy to see the demise of the snake."
It would seem that the same sorts of attitudes have prevailed around Game of Two Halves. TVNZ appears to have given free reign to the "lads" who front the show, and it seems that it's all now coming back to bite TVNZ in the bum.
It leaves us with one question though; was Martin Devlin's description of himself as a "right plum" his own words, or did his statement get written by the PR manager for TVNZ?
Friday, January 28, 2011
Clarity of thought has been in short supply, and we figure that if we can't say something coherent, it's best to stay silent. Hopefully we will turn the corner in the next few days, at which time normal business can be resumed.
But we've also had some time to do some thinking, and there are a couple of ideas germinating away, particularly with an eye on the election later in the year. We'll continue to process them as our addled brain permits, so watch this space.
Thanks to those who have shown concern for us, either by comments or e-mails; it's much appreciated. To paraphrase Mark Twain, rumours of our demise have been grossly exaggerated!
How the guard is changing in the tennis world. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have both been eliminated from the Australian Open, and if Andy Murray is EVER going to win a slam, the door is open to him here. David Ferrer obviously benefitted from his time in Auckland at the Heineken Open, and will be a match for Murray today. But Novac Djokovic, the 2008 champion must now be the favourite; he looked in commanding form defeating the Fed Express last night, and best of all, he has a day off today; we love this quote from the Herald:
Instead, after Nadal was eliminated by fellow Spaniard David Ferrer in an injury-induced straight-set loss Wednesday, and now Federer heading home, it will be Djokovic in the final against either Andy Murray or Ferrer - they play their semifinal on Friday.
"I'm looking forward to watching that match tomorrow from my bed with some popcorn," Djokovic said.
Advantage Djokovic!! In the women's draw, Kim Clijsters goes up against Li Na of China in the final, with not a Williams in sight. It will be interesting to see if Clijsters makes good her promise to her coach to shave her head if she wins another grand slam title!
Cricket has been a bit of a non-event this week, but hopefully there will be some action this weekend. In the meantime it's Delhi 2010 revisited as Eden Gardens in Kolkata, India's most famous cricket ground has been deemed unfit for play in the ICC World Cup which is now just 23 days away. Is anyone surprised?
What else is there? The Phoenix had yet another away loss on Wednesday night, but can move into the top six with a win at home tomorrow against Newcastle, and the Breakers continue to lead the Aussie NBL, having had a week off. Michael Campbell has had another horror start to a tournament in the European PGA, and another cyclist has been found to be a drug cheat; plus ce change!
That's all that we can think of this week; it's over to you ...
PS - we've just seen that Kevin Muscat has been banned for eight weeks for his thuggery in the Melbourne derby at the weekend; so he should have been!
Jami-Lee Ross is the National Party candidate for the Botany by-election, and even Labour Party president Andrew Little concedes that the seat is his for the taking - the Herald reports:
Auckland councillor Jami-Lee Ross was selected last night as National's candidate for the safe seat of Botany - beating four contenders including gardening guru Maggie Barry.
The by-election for the seat in East Auckland, forced by the resignation of former Cabinet minister Pansy Wong, will take place on March 5. Mrs Wong's majority in the 2008 general election was more than 10,000 votes.
Botany has the highest proportion of foreign-born people (49 per cent) of any NZ electorate. One-third of Botany residents are Asian.
Mr Ross has been a National Party member since 2003 and said he was humbled by the victory.
We are not at all surprised by Cr Ross' victory. He is local to the electorate, and relative to his age, a long-standing member of the National Party. We've heard nothing but good reports from people who have come into contact with him.
Maggie Barry would have been good from the point of view of public profile and name recognition, but she ought to cut her teeth on National Party politics first.
If nothing else, this selection shows that the way that National selects its candidates is superior to the manner in which Labour does. One need only cast one's mind back to the brouhaha over the selection of Kris Fa'afoi in Mana a few months ago. The wishes of Mana LEC delegates were overriden by Phil Goff's office, who bussed in Goffice staffers and union members to ensure that Mr Fa'afoi got the nomination.
Many pundits were tipping Maggie Barry as a shoo-in for selection in Botany, and claimed that she had been hand-picked by John Key's insiders, and would therefore prevail. Not so; local democracy prevailed.
There will be other opportunities for Maggie Barry, be they an electorate nomination or a placing high enough on National's list. But first, she needs to demonstrate that her road to Damascus conversion to the National Party is enduring. In the meantime, we have every confidence that Jami-Lee Ross will mount a strong campaign in Botany, and that he will become a very competent member of the National caucus after the by-election on March 5th.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
The 29 Pike River miners are likely to have died within three to five minutes after the initial mine explosion, an inquest into the tragedy has been told.
Superintendent Gary Knowles told the inquest today expert evidence from Dr Robin Griffiths, of Otago University, said gases present in the mine after the blast would have been similar to cyanide, and caused an immediate lack of consciousness and death within three to five minutes.
This news is hardly earth-shattering, but authorities will see it as vindication of their decision to conduct the rescue operation with the utmost caution. The two men who escaped from the mine after the initial explosion were, it seems, exceedingly fortunate. Had rescuers rushed headlong into the mine, it is likely that the toll would have been even higher.
Today's inquest however is a mere procedural exercise when compared to the upcoming Royal Commission. The inquest is limited to establishing the identities of the deceased miners, and the time and likely cause of death. It will be the Royal Commission that delves fully into the cause of the disaster, and issues of liability.
In the meantime we again extend our sympathy to the whanau of the Pike River 29. We hope that they are in some way comforted by the knowledge that death came quickly to their loved ones.
Labour Leader Phil Goff said the plans were a recipe for disaster.
"Hocking off our assets to foreign buyers and slashing spending is vintage National. It doesn't have an economic plan so it's simply rehashing the failed policies of the past."
Now pardon our bafflement, but wasn't Phil Goff a member of Cabinet in the Lange/Palmer/Moore administration, when copious quantities of assets were hocked off? He may have renounced his membership of the Sir Roger Douglas Appreciation Society, but we reckon it's a bit rich for him to be trotting out the "vintage National" line when assets such as Telecom were flogged off by him and his colleagues under a Labour administration.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Meet Trent Owen Ngaruhe Hapuku. Hapuku appeared in the Hastings District Court yesterday facing a charge of manslaughter. Interim name suppression orders lapsed yesterday. Stuff reports:
The man accused of killing a five-month-old boy was found trying to play a PlayStation game as the baby was dying on his shoulder.
Mikara Ranui Jarius Reti died on the evening of January 11 after his mother found him alone with her partner, Trent Owen Ngaruhe Hapuku, 21.
Hapuku, who has been charged with manslaughter, appeared in Hastings District Court yesterday and was remanded in custody without plea until March.
The baby lived with his mother, Jamie Reti, two-year-old brother and Hapuku in a sleepout behind a house in Kingsley Drive, Flaxmere.
Hapuku had been in a relationship with Ms Reti for three to four months and she was three months pregnant with his child.
These details are all too familiar. A young, defenceless child has been brutally bashed by an adult who was not his parent, but who had been brought into his life by his mother. The "couple" had been together "three to four months", and the woman was three months pregnant, despite already having a five-month-old baby to another man. Hapuku's Court appearances so far have been marked by suppport from Mongrel Mob members and associates.
The Stuff story then publishes details from the Police summary of facts. Be warned; it's not a pretty story, and if you find these kinds of details distressing, you may wish to stop reading at this point. It is however a story that must be told - read on, with that caveat:
The police statement of facts alleges that, about 6.30pm on January 11, Jarius's brother needed to be bathed and was taken to the main house by his mother.
Hapuku was left in sole charge of Jarius and proceeded to feed him but he did not drink the normal amount and became sleepy. Hapuku burped him and put him in his cot.
Fifteen minutes later Ms Reti returned and the baby appeared to be in good health. She returned to the main house for 45 minutes to complete tending to her other son and to eat her dinner.
Police allege that nobody else went into the sleepout and Hapuku somehow caused critical blunt-force injury to the baby's liver, severing it, and fracturing four of his ribs.
The injury to the liver probably resulted from it being crushed internally against the baby's spinal column, police say.
He would have been in severe pain and he vomited over Hapuku's shoulder while being held.
It is alleged the baby continued bleeding internally and rapidly lost blood, which caused his face to turn pale. Massive bleeding caused him to go into shock and lose consciousness.
When Ms Reti returned to the sleepout, she found Hapuku trying to play a PlayStation game while holding the boy over his shoulder.
She saw the baby's pale face and decided to take him straight to Hawke's Bay Hospital. The baby was wrapped in a blanket with Hapuku monitoring him on the way.
Hospital staff found he was not breathing and were unable to revive him.
The Playstation revelation, and Hapuku's alleged indifference to wee Jarius' distress as his life slipped away are shocking. It seems that a five-month-old child's life was of far less importance to Hapuku than getting his thrills on his Playstation. One can only wonder; what game was Hapuku playing? We have little doubt that it was something brutal; a game where the objective is to cause as much death and destruction as possible, with no consequences for the perpetrator of the violence. Hapuku is about to learn that in real life, there ARE consequences, and that prisons are not nice places for people who abuse children.
And just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, the Stuff story ends thus:
Hapuku told police he knew he would get the blame because he was the only person with the baby. He said he did not know how the injuries happened.
A pathologist's report found the baby was also suffering from healing fractures to his ribs that were estimated as being between a week and a fortnight old.
The report found that the injuries were likely to have been caused as the result of a front-to-back crushing injury.
Yes, you read it right; this was not the first time that Jarius Reti, aged 5 months, had been the victim of violence. That is yet another revelation about this case that has sickened us.
Now, difficult as it may be, let's be fair; Trent Hapuku has not been convicted of anything yet, and is entitled to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. The evidence against him however is damning.
The TV advertisements tell us that domestic violence is not OK, and they're right. And violence against children is absolutely wrong. We would hope that CYFS and other social agencies become involved with Jarius' mother to ensure that her yet-to-be-born child does not suffer a similar fate.
Writing this post hasn't been easy. But let's be honest here; New Zealand has an appalling record in the area of child abuse. Yes, Maori are over-represented in the abuse figures, but this is not simply a Maori issue, and the overwhelming majority of Maori parents don't abuse their children. It is a New Zealand problem, and presents an enormous problem for ALL New Zealand political and social leaders.
We don't pretend to have any answers. We do know this however; Jarius Reti deserved a damn sight better than what was dished up to him in his five months on this earth.
Today is Australia Day, and the Aussies certainly know how to celebrate. There'll be fireworks, BBQ's, beer, wine, an ODI at Adelaide (where it's almost always 40* on Australia Day) and lots of Ocker bonhomie. Good on them; they've had a rough start to 2011, so they deserve a break, and we wish them well.
We wish all Australians well today on their big day. Here. to mark the day, is Sam Kekovich, the Australian Lambassador, with a short message on just what it takes to be Australian ...
Happy Australia Day cobbers!
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
He's also foreshadowed a policy whereby the first $5000 of everyone's income is tax-free. That sounds great, until you look at the detail of the proposal; there isn't any, as Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn notes (our emphasis added):
Phil Goff gave his "state of the nation" speech today, aimed at launching Labour during election year. Last year, he targeted inequality, focusing on the need to narrow the gap between rich and poor. Today he gave some details about how Labour plans to do that. Their first step? A $5,000 tax-free bracket, to be paid for by cracking down on tax avoidance and restoring the top tax bracket. It's good, redistributive, left-wing policy. The problem is that Goff's numbers on how to do it don't add up.
According to Treasury's 2010 tax model data, a $5,000 tax-free bracket would cost $1.58 billion (10.5% of all income in the zero - $5,000 range). Reintroducing a 39% top tax-bracket on "incomes comfortably into six figures" would claw back only $290 million if the threshold is $150,000, or $558 million if it is $100,000. Which means that 60 - 80% of the threshold will be paid for by reducing avoidance. Goff's statement thatNo one knows exactly how much is lost by people dodging their tax - but it’s been estimated in the billions.is carrying an awful lot of weight here.
Oh dear! How is Phil Goff going to win the hearts, minds and votes of those who DON'T support Labour when the shortcomings of his policy are so blindingly obvious to those who do? It's going to take more than a makeover Phil ...
He wasn't doing any waving, but boy, was Phil smiling! He was positively radiant, regardless of the camera angle, and even when the latest Roy Morgan poll was mentioned, the beaming continued.
We suppose that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Henceforth, Phil Goff will be known at this fine blog as Smile 'n' Wave II!
UPDATED: Courtesy of WhaleOil, here's pictorial evidence of Smile 'n' Wave II's attempt to turn back the sands of time ...
If there is a bigger meathead than Kevin Muscat playing in the A-League, we'd hate to be on the receiving end of one of his studs-up, knee-capping tackles.
Kevin Muscat; you ARE the biggest loser!
UPDATE: It's Muscat's second red card in the space of three matches. We wonder if Vinnie Jones was his childhood hero ...
Dick Tayler's time for the 10,000m that day, 27:46.4, has never been beaten on these shores. It was one of those "out of the box" moments. It was also the first major sporting triumph that New Zealanders ever witnessed on colour TV, with the necessary technology introduced just in time for the Friendly Games, as Christchurch became known.
Arthritis robbed Dick Tayler of his athletics career not long after the Christchurch games. He will be long remembered however for a day when New Zealanders roared with delight as he beat a world-class field to kick off quite possibly the best Commonwealth Games of all time.
So it was with some surprise that when we checked the Metservice website this morning, Wanganui was #1; the wettest city in New Zealand yesterday! The rain finally stopped around midday, but not before another 37.6mm had fallen since midnight Sunday!
There'd clearly been a lot more rain up-country, as the mighty Whanganui River threatened to spill its banks at high tide yesterday afternoon. We made a brief escape from captivity mid-morning and headed down to the end of our street from where we could watch the river and the Tasman Sea meeting, and it was an impressive sight.
Today the sun is shining, which will be great to encourage parched pastures (and fairways) to recover. With more rain forecast for this weekend, it's safe to say that the threat of drought is over.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Lance Armstrong is one of the iconic sportspeople of our generation; testicular cancer survivor, seven-times Tour de France winner, author and all-round American good guy; that's the public face of Lance Armstrong. But is it all based on a lie?
This week, Sports Illustrated magazine will publish what is claimed to be an expose of Armstrong's drug-taking during his cycling career. An online preview of around 5000 words in length has already been published ahead of the main story; it begins:
Around 8 p.m. on Nov. 11, 2010, Italian police and customs officials acting at the behest of agents of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pulled over Yaroslav Popovych as he drove on a roundabout in Quarrata, a quaint Tuscan village of stucco facades and colorful shutters between Pistoia and Florence. The officials had been looking for Popovych, one of Lance Armstrong's Radio Shack teammates, to execute a search warrant. Italian authorities say the Ukrainian cyclist was startled but cooperative. He led them through olive groves to his house beside a cemetery. There the officials found drug-testing documents, medical supplies and performance-enhancing drugs. They also found e-mails and texts that, they say, establish that as recently as 2009 Armstrong's team had links to controversial Italian physician Michele Ferrari, with whom the Texan had said he cut ties in 2004.
This new evidence is now part of the FDA's investigation, directed by agent Jeff Novitzky, into whether Armstrong was involved in an organized doping operation as a member of the team sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), an independent agency of the federal government. In light of this criminal inquiry involving the greatest Tour de France rider of all time, SI reviewed hundreds of pages of documents and interviewed dozens of sources in Europe, New Zealand and the U.S. Because the case could potentially involve accusations that are more than a decade old, SI also examined doping allegations against Armstrong throughout his career as a pro cyclist, discovering information that is reported here for the first time.
The federal inquiry focuses on the period from 1999 to 2004, during which Armstrong won six of his seven Tour de France titles and the USPS team received more than $40 million toward sponsorship of the squad, which was managed by Tailwind, Inc., according to documents reviewed by SI. Through his attorney, Armstrong claims that he "started at USPS as a low paid, regular rider" and "was never the boss, director, the owner, or the doctor." But because government sponsorship is involved, if evidence suggests that Armstrong was directing illegal doping activity, the inquiry could result in charges against him of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, racketeering, drug trafficking and defrauding the U.S. government.
Sports broadcaster Martin Devlin has outed himself as the "celebrity" in the Auckland disorderly-behaviour name suppression case.
Devlin, 46, a sports talkback host on Radio Live, had his name suppression lifted in the Auckland District Court today and released a statement saying he had acted like "a right plum" during the incident.
And Devlin is at least upfront enough to put one thing to rest - read on:
Devlin said he had been described in the media as a "household name".
"I think we all agree that description is totally inaccurate.''
All we can say is that it would never have happened to an Arsenal supporter ...
The extent and pace of gains for Maori under the National Party's coalition with the Maori Party will take centre stage when political leaders address Ratana followers at the religious movement's annual celebrations near Wanganui today.
The coalition has looked increasingly strained in the last week as Maori Party leadership moved to discipline outspoken Te Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira who yesterday confirmed he would attend the gathering.
Maori Party co-leaders Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia - herself a Ratana morehu (church member) - will attend as part of the Government delegation with Prime Minister John Key.
A spokesman for Mr Key said the Prime Minister would speak "off the cuff" but would probably cover "the Government's aspirations for New Zealanders including Maori" and also the $2.7 million Ratana housing upgrade announced before Christmas.
It will be interesting to see how the various parties and individuals are received today. Marae protocol dictates that manuhiri (guests) are given a warm and formal welcome, or powhiri, but once the korero starts, it's a different matter altogether. Marae-speak is frank, and punches are not pulled.
We will be especially interested to see how Hone Harawira is received, especially as he will be quite literally in Tariana Turia's back yard. Will the maverick Maori Party MP be lauded for his outspoken views, or will those who kai korero take him to task? All will be revealed later today.
In the meantime, John Key made a good point on his first Breakfast appearance of the year. He said that the Maori Party has achieved far more in terms of policy by virtue of supporting the Government on confidence and supply than it would have from the Opposition benches. It's impossible to argue against that logic, and we wonder if Harawira has considered the practicalities of his bloody-mindedness.
Lastly though, there is one thing that we would like to see come out of Ratanaappalling rate of child abuse in New Zealand, in which Maori are overrepresented.
this week; a universal condemnation by Maori of the
An old Maori saying goes as follows:
He aha te mea nui?
(What is the most important thing? It is people, it is people, it is people.)
It is time for Maori politicians from whichever party they come to put that proverb into action. The lives of tamariki are infinitely more important than individual or collective political aspirations.
We've had more than a month's worth of rainfall in the past 24 hours, so it's probably time to say "enough is enough". Metservice recorded 98.6mm of rain between midnight Saturday and midnight Sunday, and it has rained steadily since, so we're probably approaching the 120mm mark; that's getting close to 5 inches, which is a whole lot of rain! The best bit though is that most of it will stay in the ground, thanks to a gentle beginning to this rain episode; right where it is badly needed.
Not that we're complaining. We are pretty much confined to barracks, and it's been quite therapeutic to lie on the side that doesn't hurt and listen to the rain. But it IS a holiday weekend for those of us lucky enough to live in the lower North Island, and it's put the kibbosh on a few events around these parts. Doubtless the sun will be shining when the populus returns to work tomorrow; but at least the grass will be greener!
Sunday, January 23, 2011
How will Daniel Vettori be remembered as a captain? If he wins the World Cup, he'll be rated as one of the greats but right now, at the conclusion of his test reign ... uninspiring.
Flippin' heck. At midday yesterday the doom and gloom merchants were reminding us that the Black Caps had a streak of 11 consecutive defeats to overcome. A lot has changed with one victory over a hapless Pakistan team.
Back to Richardson; after a frank assessment of Vettori's captaincy career, he takes a hugely positive position:
Can he become the first New Zealand captain to win a World Cup? He sure can.
The World Cup will be won by boundary hitting and attacking slow bowling through the middle overs. In our team those are two boxes I can tick.
Re-jigged batting orders or not, I believe there is enough hitting power in the New Zealand batting to score enough runs. The form over the past few months is nothing more than a collective form slump.
Vettori is one of the finest bowlers in ODI cricket and, what's more, when there is a necessity to score off him, he becomes a genuine wicket taking threat. Defence, defence, defence must be his motto when organising those bowling around him - a mindset that should sit well with him.
When batting, it should be attack, attack, attack. He has the tools so maybe we finally have the real acid test for Daniel Vettori's captaincy.
We liked what we saw from the Black Caps yesterday, but even the eternal optimist is us isn't prepared to rate them as potential World Cup winners just yet. There were a few things that impressed us though. The Black Caps got on top early, and never took their foot off the Pakistanis' throats (figuratively speaking, of course). The bowling was sharp, the fielding was good, apart from a couple of dropped catches, and the intensity was maintained throughout. And when it came time to chase a small total, it was done with great intent. Ryder and Guptill took the attack to the Pakistani bowlers, and the match was won with ease.
We wonder if yesterday's team will be the #1 lineup going in to the World Cup. If that is the case, Kyle Mills has a battle ahead of him. Southee, Bennett and Oram all bowled very well yesterday. Bennett offers pace, Southee swung the ball prodigiously, and Oram's bounce, especially against shorter-statured players is an asset. Mills may be little more than a drinks-runner at the World Cup.
There are still five more matches to be played against Pakistan before the World Cup begins. We'll be looking for the Black Caps to build on yesterday's performance so that they can take form and cinfidence with them to the sub-continent. And who knows; Mark Richardson's positive thinking might just become a self-fulfilling prophesy!
Blessed Be You Name has become Matt Redman's signature song. It even spawned a song by Matt and his wife Beth on the whole angle of worshipping God when you have every reason not to.
We're feeling a bit low today, but we'll recover. But our situation pales into insignificance with that of a close friend who is terminally ill. Each time we see him, we leave wondering if we will see him again. Yet through his illness, his faith in Christ has magnified.
That kind of faith inspires us. Our friend has chosen to praise God, even though he has a battle on his hands for his earthly life. So even though we feel today that we're on "the road marked with suffering" and that "there's pain in the offering", we choose to say this - Lord, blessed be Your name!
Have a blessed day!
We'd blogged before Christmas about the unseasonably dry late spring we'd experienced here. We got some relief at that time, but we've had very little rain since, plenty of sunshine, and a fair bit of wind. The green tinge that accompanied Christmas is a memory.
Metservice suggests that most of the North Island is going to get a really good drenching today. Whilst that's bad news for anyone who's organised an event this weekend (especially down our way, where it's Wellington Anniversary weekend), it's good news for those who rely on moisture from above. It won't do the golf course any harm either ahead of the Masters Games in a couple of weeks, not that we will be swinging a club for a wee while.
We're not going anywhere much other than the couch today. We'll be quite happy to listen to the rythym of the falling rain all day!
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Sheesh. We can remember the days when a GALLON of petrol and a jug of beer were roughly the same price; about 45 cents. We even have memories of drinking in some pubs where the latter tasted rather like the former; can anyone else remember Leopard beer?
It's a long time since we've bought a jug of beer; one pint after golf is about our limit these days. So we're not sure if the prices are still comparable. We're just glad that the car we drive these days is fuel-efficient!
This is a very important match and series for the Black Caps. The 15-man squad for the ICC World Cup has been selected, and John Wright now has six dress rehearsals left in which to fine-tune his team. The XI picked to play today offers the prospect of a whole lot of runs. There is plenty of experience in the batting line-up, and we are far more comfortable with Brendon McCullum batting at #6 than opening. Martin Guptill and Jesse Ryder will open, followed by Ross Taylor, Scott Styris, James Franklin, McCullum, Jacob Oram and Daniel Vettori. On their day, any of those can prosper, and if the top order fails, there is a solid look to the middle and lower order. We have little doubt too that Tim Southee's batting will improve further under Wright's tuition; he is a devastating hitter, and with a little more maturity in his choice of shots could be a real asset at the World Cup.
The bowling attack worries us a little, although the pitch at Wellington today will not be fast and bouncey. Much will depend on the ability of Vettori and Nathan McCullum to contain and frustrate the Pakistani batsmen who are prone to brain explosions when they get tied down. Hamish Bennett has potential; this series will be important for him especially as he returns from an injury break. And the acid will be on Jacob Oram to play to his potential. In top form, he is as good as any all-rounder in the game; sadly we have seen far too little of Oram in top form over the last few years. This will surely be his last World Cup; let's hope that the big guy can leave his mark on it for the right reasons.
Form is against the Black Caps going into today's match. A run of 11 successive defeats must end soon, and preferably today. More importantly though, John Wright's team must play the kind of cricket that we all know that they are capable of playing, and they must do it match after match. Only then will we be able to get a heads-up on New Zealand's prospects at an event in which they have been perrennial underachievers.
New Zealand's first World Cup match is on 20th February, when they take on Kenya. New Zealand's World Cup campaign however begins in Wellington this afternoon.
We're glad we did. He took one glance at the red lesions on our trunk, and uttered one word - "Shingles". In quick succession we visited the chemist and had a blood test before heading home to rest.
It would seem to be one of those condition where you have to get worse before you can get better, but time will be the great healer. We're reflecting on our lot; there's a heck of a lot of people out there worse off than us. We'll try and keep our pity party to a minimum, but it's not the start we had planned for 2011.
Friday, January 21, 2011
You know the rules; there aren't any. Just put your thinking cap on, and give us your best interpretation. We'll kick it off;
Flippin' heck; it's not fair. They're not just cops; they've got better tatts than me and all!
Oh dear. Bugger! Flippin' heck. Break out whatever expletive you like, but this is the worst possible start to election year for Phil Goff and his Labour Party comrades. Take out NZ First which on these figures is consigned to the political wasteland, and support for "opposition parties" falls to 36%. Yes, dear readers; little more than a third of New Zealanders polled by the Roy Morgan organisation want a Labour/Greens government. That is an absolute spanking for the left.
The latest New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll shows support for John Key’s National-led Government has risen to 59.5% (up 6%). Support for Prime Minister Key’s National Party is 55% (up 6.5%), the Maori Party 2.5% (unchanged), ACT NZ 1.5% (unchanged) with United Future 0.5% (down 0.5%).
Support for Opposition Parties has fallen to 40.5% (down 6%) with Labour Party 29% (down 6%), Greens 7%, (unchanged), New Zealand First 4.5% (up 1.5%) and Progressive Party 0% (down 0.5%).
If a National Election were held today the National Party would be returned to Government.
So where does Labour go from here. Will Annette King become a caretaker leader up until the election? Might they go for a completely new team; maybe Shane Jones or David Cunliffe and Maryan Street. Or does Labour suck it up, and accept that this election is quite likely to be unwinnable, and focus on stemming the bleeding and limiting the carnage.
Whatever Labour decides, it's not the news they wanted to start election year with. Oh dear; how sad; never mind; anyone for a BBQ?
There's been a few sporting issues of interest this week, especially on and off the cricket field. The Black Caps may not have won the second test at Wellington, but they put up a much improved performance, especially in the batting. Then again, it would be hard to have turned in a worse batting performnace than the second innings at Hamilton.
The match also marked Daniel Vettori's last test match as captain, and his place in the test team must surely now be far from certain. The bottom line now that Vettori is no longer a selector and a coach as well as being captain is this: is he New Zealand's best spin bowler? On the evidence of the fifth day at Wellington, where he had ideal spin bowling conditions, the answer to that is this; probably not. Sure, his batting is an asset late in the order, but he simply doesn't bowl teams out. In the shorter version of the game his variations in pace and flight are invaluable, but we reckon that the selectors should be looking elsewhere for a test match spinner.
We also have mixed feelings over the World Cup squad. We would have preferred to see a second wicketkeeper picked in the form of Peter McGlashan. The buzz doing the rounds though is that the selctors have put the acid on Brendon McCullum to front up by not picking a specialist deputy. It's an interesting piece of reverse psychology; time will tell if it works.
There's a bit of sport to enjoy over the weekend, but not a feast. The Black Caps will be looking to break their losing sequence at the Cake Tin tomorrow night in the first of six full dress rehearsals for the World Cup; it really is crunch time for them. The Australians and the English do battle tonight today in Hobart and on Sunday in Sydney. The Breakers continue to lead the Aussie NBL and look to be the real deal, and the Wellington Phoenix can edge closer to the top six with a win over the hapless Perth Glory.
That's about it from us this morning, as work beckons. What say you?
Deputy police commissioner Rob Pope was told not to reapply for his job – prompting his decision to "retire".
But then there's a VERY interesting revelation:
The contract of the 36-year veteran is due to expire on April 3 and he had wanted to stay on until August 2012 to make the most of his superannuation scheme.
But Police Minister Judith Collins declined – and told him that to agree would make her "a corrupt minister".
One can only concur with Judith Collins' decision here. Rob Pope may indeed have had a long record of service with the police, but to work the system to ensure he maximised his superannuation would have been completely wrong.
And it seems as though Collins is determined to have a cleanout at the top of the New Zealand Police, bringing in a new adminsitration untainted by the issues which have dogged police for some time. The story continues:
The Dominion Post reported in July how his boss, Commissioner Howard Broad, was also told by Ms Collins that he would not be reappointed. He then issued a statement saying he had not sought to extend his tenure and would leave in April.
Mr Pope was promoted at the same time as Mr Broad, in April 2006, both on a five-year contract.
Ms Collins hinted about Mr Pope's future this month when she said creating a culture change would be a key element in her decision on whom to appoint deputy commissioner.
It is also thought new commissioner Peter Marshall did not want to work with him.
Peter Marshall will need to build his own team, and for that team to be effective, it will have to be comprised of people who enjoy his confidence. Clearly Rob Pope did not fit that category. On that basis, Judith Collins' candour towards Rob Pope is both understandable and, in our ever-humble opinion, absolutely right. There could yet be hope for "Bullshit Castle"!!
Thursday, January 20, 2011
The three strikes law for violent or sexual criminals has been used on 132 offenders since last June, mostly in cases of aggravated robbery and indecent assault.
The new law was backed by the National and Act parties as a way to punish the worst offenders, but was vehemently opposed by Labour and the Greens as taking away judges' discretion in sentencing and potentially punishing criminals too harshly for minor offences.
The Sentencing and Parole Reform Act imposes a graduated scale of harsher penalties for repeat criminals who are convicted of one of 40 violent or sexual offences.
An offender receives a normal sentence and a warning for strike one, a sentence without parole for strike two, and the maximum sentence for that offence, without parole, for strike three.
The act came into force on June 1 last year. At December 6, there were 132 offenders who had been convicted of a strike offence and given a first strike warning.
No second or third strikes have been issued.
It's far too early to judge whether or not this policy is working. Given that most of those issued with a strike will have also have been sentenced to a period of imprisonment, few if any will have reoffended.
Reducing reoffending is, of course, one of the intents of the law, hence the graduated scale. It gives offenders the opportunity to ponder their future conduct, with the knowledge that Courts can throw the book at them if they reoffend.
We don't have any difficulty with that. Just as the car-crushing legislation has had a deterrent effect on boy-racer activities, we would hope that the propsect of s sentence without parole next time around would defer a significant number of offenders. We're not so naive as to expect that the Three Strikes policy will deter all offenders, but there is some comfort in knowing that recidivist violent offenders will be off the streets for a long time if they continue to offend.