Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wishful thinking

We've just been alerted to this, via Gotcha

Is Clayton Cosgrove having withdrawl symptoms after two-and-a-half years in Opposition? Is he experiencing delusions of grandeur? Should Phil Goff be worried about a new contender emerging for Labour's leadership? Or is this just wishful thinking on Mr Cosgrove's part?

As this gaffe appeared in an e-mail, it doesn't quite qualify as a SMOG (Social Media Own Goal), but it's close. Perhaps this is part of a campaign of positive thinking instituted by Labour's new campaign manager, who is, of course, no shrinking violet himself!

Crisis? What crisis?

FIFa is an organisation in crisis. But at the moment, the only person who doesn't see that is FIFA President Joseph "Sepp" Blatter - Reuters reports via the Times of India:

ZURICH: FIFA president Sepp Blatter may have come across as being out of touch with the fan in the street at his astonishing news conference on Monday, but the 75-year-old Swiss had another audience firmly in his mind.

Flatly denying there was any crisis at FIFA amid a room of heckling reporters, he still delivered a message that the majority of the ruling body's 208 member countries wanted to hear.

He admitted the sport's ruling body was facing "difficulties" but the members should be assured that their strong leader would take care of business as he has done for the last 13 years.

It is not the fan in the street that keeps Blatter in what he described himself as "his privileged position" but the presidents and chairmen who vote to have him in power.

On Wednesday, they will not even have to do that as the man who was planning to stand against him, 62-year-old Qatari Mohamed Bin Hammam, was banned from all football related activity on Sunday following an inquiry by FIFA's ethics committee into bribery allegations.

But wait; as they say in the infomercials; there's more - read on:

So Blatter took centre-stage in FIFA's auditorium, standing behind a lectern with artificial flowers in containers at his feet to add a touch of colour to the otherwise sombre grey and black decor.

His mood also seemed to veer between steely grey and black as he ran through his usual repertoire of buzz-words and phrases like "football family", "devils in football" and "I used to be a journalist".

After one vociferous English reporter demanded the answer to a shouted question despite not having the floor microphone, Blatter responded: "Listen gentlemen, I accepted to have a press conference with you, alone here, I respect you, please respect me and the procedure of the press conference.

"Don't intervene, we are not in a bazaar here, and we are in the FIFA House, in front of a very important FIFA Congress."

Blatter later responded to another journalist who laughed openly at one of his answers.

"You can laugh," he said. "But that is also an attitude, elegance is also an attitude and respect is also an attitude.

"I have learned this in my life."

There's one important thing that Sepp Blatter has learned in his life; how to feather his own nest. We have no doubt that Blatter is well aware of what his underlings have been up to; he would have had to be devoid of sight and hearing not to.

Corruption is endemic in FIFA. One need only have read investigative reporter Andrew Jennings' excellent 2006 book
FOUL! The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote-Rigging and Ticket Scandals to know that there are few too many questions and hardly any answers when it comes to allegations against FIFA. Vice-president Jack Warner, now suspended by FIFA for alleged corruption has been at the heart of things, and it defies belief that Blatter was unaware of what one of his most senior counterparts was up to.

Blatter's performance at today's press conference has merely added fuel to the fire. The FIFA Ethics Committee cleared Blatter at the weekend of anything unethical, but that was an entirely predictable result; turkeys don't vote for an early Christmas. But the same committee has neatly sidelined Blatter's rival for the presidency of FIFA at this week's election.

There are now calls for a boycott of FIFA's congress this week, so that there is no quorum, and Blatter's re-election as FIFA President cannot be rubber-stamped. A few interesting days await.

Kindred blogger Robert Winter at Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow has been following the FIFA debacle. His posts are well worth a read and whilst we may disagree with him on matters politic, we strongly agree with him as regards FIFA. His latest post describes FIFA as "a basket-case".

FIFA is indeed in crisis, despite Blatter's platitudes and state of denial. The organisation cannot begin to clean up its act until Blatter is sidelined.

Caption Contest - Vertical Planking

If ever evidence was needed as to why John Key enjoys unparallelled levels of popular support, even from some of his opponents, the Herald provides it. But the photograph below also cries out for a caption contest.

You know the rules; keep it brief, pithy and witty, and don't get nasty; leave that to the Left. Give it your best shot!

If it ain't broke ...

There's nothing wrong with the jersey worn by the Highlanders, the Otago/Southland based Super Rugby franchise. So why is the Highlanders board so determined to press ahead to change thwe team's colours?

We can't answer that. The Otago Daily Times reports:

The Highlanders' new playing strip is not an insult to past teams, as the side does not have a tradition, the Highlanders boss says.

Highlanders general manager Roger Clark said the new strip was a part of the change throughout the franchise which had to happen as it was both "broke and broken" at the end of last season.

The Highlanders announced yesterday they would be wearing a new playing strip on Friday night in their last game at Carisbrook, and would make a permanent change to the strip next year. They would wear their usual playing strip for the two final games of the year, both away from home.

The new strip will not be seen by the public until the side runs out on Friday night.

Although Mr Clark declined to say what colour the strip is, the Otago Daily Times believes it is a light green with flashes of dark blue on the jersey.

Mr Clark said to attract fans and continue the impetus of change, research had shown a new jersey would be an appropriate move.

"We needed to change everything and that includes the jersey. We are really conscious we are going into a new stadium next year and we want to help showcase it to the world," he said.

"We want to signal that we are changing right across the board.

There are only three words to describe this decision; dumb, dumb and dumber. The Highlanders have as much of a "tradition" as any of the New Zealand Super Rugby franchises having almost completed their sixteenth season. The team consists predominantly of Otago and Southland players; both those unions have long histories, and one quality associated with both is loyalty. The Highlanders are coached by former Otago stalwart Jamie Joseph who bleeds blue and gold. Sheesh, even Speight's beer comes in blue and gold cans!

The Highlanders board runs the risk of alienating an already-dwindling fan base in the deep south. That would be as huge shame, as the Highlanders team has shown this year that it can foor it with anyone in Super Rugby, and a measure of pride has been restored in the blue, gold and maroon jersey.

The old saying goes thus - If it ain't broke, don't fix it. We hope that the Highlanders board has a rethink, and we'd like them to ponder the song that follows:

Monday, May 30, 2011

Game On!!

Cameron "WhaleOil" Slater blogs:

Update on the challenge.

I have accepted Trevor Mal­lard’s chal­lenge. He has rejected step­ping in the ring (gut­less) but has agreed to a re-match at Sport­ing Clays though that will have to be after the elec­tion. He needs to learn how to shoot and his shoul­der is busted.

I don’t really care because I am going to kick his arse in the cycling on August 15 and he will have wrecked him­self try­ing to man up in the cycling.

This promises to be an interesting diversion from mundane things such as the General Election and the Rugby World Cup. But there's also a serious side.

Over at Kiwiblog, DPF has blogged that he is prepared to put up $1000 to charity for this challenge; to CCS if Trevor Mallard wins, and to the Mental Health Foundation if the Whale is the victor. We can't quite match DPF's largesse, but we are good for $100 to the winner's charity. If you'd like to help out, we're sure that either of the nominated charities would be very happy.

WhaleOil started training at the weekend. Although Trevor Mallard has the cycling pedigree, he hasn't been able to ride since his unfortunate accident a couple of months ago, and may be some way from getting back on his bike. This could be a very close contest.

Lastly, we note that Trevor Mallard was last week confirmed as Labour's campaign manager for the 2011 General Election. We can't help but wonder what will be getting the lion's share of his attention in the weeks and months between now and September; Labour's election campaign, or a quest for honour. We wonder what Phil Goff makes of it all; we just hope that Trevor hasn't been blinded by SMOG!


We accidently coined a new acronym last night in an e-mail to a kindred blogger - SMOG. SMOG stands for Social Media Own Goal. And surprise; it's the Labour Party who has scored.

Last week, Labour launched it's animated Let's Not game last week. It wasn't the success that Labour was expecting, as can be seen from the comments in this post on Red Alert. Even Labour supporters were unconvinced.

That's not the SMOG though. Also late last week, Labour launched an attack on National list MP Paul Quinn over comments about drunk girls made on the Backbenchers TV programme. Labour, and in particular Trevor Mallard claimed that Quinn had implied that drunk girls were in some way responsible if they get attacked or raped. Quinn has denied that his comments were meant that way.

Yesterday we stumbled across Capitalism Bad, Tree Pretty. In a post entitled Let's not tell rape jokes. blogger Maia says:

The Labour Party's Let's Not game has been out for a few days.* I'm not linking to it, for reasons that will become apparent, but I do want to discuss one of the offensive parts of it.**

If someone puts their finger in someone else's anus without their consent then that is sexual assault. This is still true if the two people involved are on a rugby field.

Ten years ago John Hopoate puts his finger in three other players anuses during a rugby league match. Apparently the people who were making this flash game thought "You know what we should do? We should animate this in an amusing way. That'll help us win the election and be awesome." Apparently people being violated without their consent is kind of funny if it's men on the rugby field.

One of the basic rape-myths that help uphold a culture where sexual assault is endemic is that sometimes consent doesn't matter. If you ever say that some people's violation doesn't matter - if you ever set some people up as unrapeable - then you, or in this case the Labour Party, are upholding that rape myth.

Oh dear. One one hand the Labour Party condemns the comments of a National MP on the issue of rape. On the other hand, the Labour Party makes a joke out of sexual assault in a sporting context.

Labour's record with social media campaigns over the last few months has been woeful. This latest SMOG, brought to public attention by a blogger who is normally no friend of the Right adds fuel to the fire.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


The first post-Budget polls are out, and the news is all bad for Labour, and for Phil Goff. National's Budget has not been Labour's friend.

One News has National at 52% and Labour at 34%. On that basis, National would have 65 seats in the 50th Parliament, and Labour would have 42.

The 3News poll is even worse for Labour. National scores 53% and Labour is on 32.8%. Labour has made a gain from the last 3News poll, but the gap is still yawning. Again, National would have 65 seats, and Labour 41.

There's not even any comfort for Goff in the Preferred Prime Minister stakes. He fails to make double figures in either, whereas One News has Key at 53% and 3News at 48%. Goff's scores are 8% and 7.6% respectively.

Wither goest Phil now? Surely, the Budget was Labour's last chance to get traction before the election campaign begins in earnest. Will the spectre of electoral defeat be the catalyst for change? Watch this space ...

Christian Music Sunday - 29 May 2011

Whoops; the day is nearly done, and we haven't come up with a song for today...

Fear not! We wanted to do something different today. Radio Rhema is running a song-writing contest for New Zealand Music Month, and it's down to the final two songs. You can vote at the link here.

But one of the two remaining contestants is a friend of a friend, and he's come up with a very moving song. So if you're going to vote, please consider voting for Richard Dawson's song Veronica; our friend and his friend will be delighted!

Phil's last straw?

Is the clock ticking for Phil Goff? Matt McCarten opines:

I can't see how Labour can keep whistling in the dark over its dismal public support.

I don't know how its leader, Phil Goff, can keep pretending he has a chance of winning in November.

Two polls this week showed the gap between National and Labour remaining at a yawning 20 per cent. When was the last time a government polled consistently so far ahead of its opposition?

Every poll these days seems to tell the same story: John Key and his party can rule alone. People like Key and trust him.

We have a prime minister whom two out of every three New Zealanders prefer.

That means even voters of other parties support him over their own leaders. Extraordinary but true.

Goff, in contrast, can muster a derisory one in nine voters who support him for the job.

McCarten raises a really interesting point here. This week's Herald Digipoll had John Key at 67% in the Preferred Prime Minister stakes, with Goff at 12%. But on the party votes, National had 54% support and Labour 33%.

That means that almost TWO-THIRDS of those who said they would vote Labour do NOT rate Phil Goff as their preferred choice for Prime Minister. It also means that John Key is drawing support from right across the politcal spectrum.

Labour's continued poor polling must be hugely troubling to the party, especially to those on the lower reaches of Labour's list. MP's facing unemployment could soon be voting with their seats as the election nears, and Labour gains no traction.

Is the axe about to fall? The next round of polls is going to be hugely interesting.

Shock blogger or MP?

Red Alert has been on the scene for some time now. It carries the logo of the New Zealand Labour Party, and carries these words:

These are the voices of Labour MPs on issues that we care about - and we'd like to hear what you think too. What you’ll read are the individual opinions of MPs. We won’t always agree with each other and sometimes our opinions may change.

A range of Labour MP's have posted on Red Alert, from Phil Goff down. Trevor Mallard is the most frequent contributor. But Red Alert is clearly a Labour Party blog, sanctioned by the party.

There have been some "interesting" posts on Red Alert in the last wee while, to say the least. All of these have carried Trevor Mallard's name. He carried out a personal campaign against Simon Lusk, a person outside Parliament with National Party links, and the posts included a number of photographs copied and pasted from Lusk's and others' Facebook sites. On Friday, he got into name-calling in a post about Cameron "WhaleOil" Slater, calling the blogger "blubber boy". We've seen how THAT post has developed!

Late yesterday the image above appeared on Red Alert. In a post entitled Penguin campaign cover and tagged as "humour", Mallard is again into peurile name-calling. But that's the least of our concerns. Look at the last item on the page; is Trevor Mallard alleging that David Farrar has been involved in corrupt behaviour over National Party fundraising? That would be a serious allegation, akin to the smear perpetrated by Mallard, Pete Hodgson and Chris Hipkins over the BMW's, and Bob McMillan's donation to the National Party.

Remember; those allegations were made in the House under parliamentary privilege, have been refuted, and not repeated outside the House. Red Alert may be Labour's official blog, but parliamentary privilege does not apply in the public domain, and we reckon that it would be interesting for DPF to get a legal opinion as to whether Mallard's comments are indeed actionable.

Trevor Mallard also fails to see the irony in his allegations. Has he forgotten Helen Clark's visit to the grief-stricken Muliaga family? Has he forgotten Owen Glenn's largesse to Labour and New Zealand First, and the attendant "cash for Consul" allegations. As for rigging polls; National has no need to rig polls at the moment; Labour is its own worst enemy, and stunts like this show why.

But the biggest question raised by this story in our opinion is whether this is the kind of behaviour that should be expected from an MP of 24 years standing; the man who is the Shadow Leader of the House, and who has just been appointed as Labour's campaign manager for the 2011 election campaign. We don't believe that it is, and we'd be interested to know what you think. We'd also love to know what Phil Goff makes of all this, and whether this is conduct which he has sanctioned, given that it was he who announced Mallard's appointment as campaign manager just days ago.

We suggested at the time of the Simon Lusk posts that Trevor Mallard trod a fine line between MP and shock blogger. We reckon that over the last 48 hours, he has well and truly crossed that line.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Blog Wars part deux

Further to our post yesterday on the Blog war between Trevor Mallard and Cameron "WhaleOil" Slater, there's been a development today - WhaleOil blogs:

Trevor Mal­lard has issued a chal­lenge. As is usual for the crip­ple he has picked the one sport he is good at it (if you can all it a sport) and he has also picked on the wrong per­son for a challenge.

So Trevor, I accept your chal­lenge, how­ever some things need to be sorted before we go head to head.

Firstly, I need a bike, not just any bike the same bike you use. We have to race using exactly the same equip­ment. It is only fair. The only dif­fer­ence will be the rid­ers. A Crip­ple vs a Whale.

Sec­ondly, the race will be on August 15 and I pick 60kms for the dis­tance, if you are going to go, go big.

Thirdly, since you picked a sport that you excel at, it is only fair that there be a counter-challenge and I choose box­ing. You men­tioned your “fear” of my exces­sive bulk. I cur­rently weigh 105kg. You stated in the com­ments on Red Alert that if I got train­ing then I would lose 30kg and you’re are prob­a­bly right, there­fore there should be no rea­son other than your cow­ardice for reject­ing a box­ing match 8 weeks after our cycle race

We will be watching for Trevor Mallard's response. We don't know what has prompted Slater's change of heart over the cycling component, but we wish him well as he prepares for the big day. Blogosphere bragging rights will be at stake here, and doubtless the winner will dine out at the loser's expense. On that basis, it could be argued that Trevor Mallard has more to lose.

Watch this space for the next episode; this will be waaaaaay better than reality TV!

Armstrong on Key

When John Key first assumed the role of leader of the National Party, there were many references to his nickname from his business days; the Smiling Assassin. In his opinion-piece in this morning's Herald, John Armstrong suggests that not much has changed - check this out:

To watch John Key have Parliament eating out of his hand is to catch glimpses of Helen Clark in her heyday and, dare one say it, even David Lange in his. Just glimpses, mind you.

He's not shy of using sarcasm, though it has less impact than Clark's acid rain.

He falls well short of replicating what was her brooding and intimidating authority. While he has learned much from observing Clark, her style is not really his.

Still, there is good reason for placing him alongside such exalted company.

During one question time this month, Phil Goff asked Key what responsibility he took as Prime Minister for the forecast deficit ballooning out from the original estimate of $2.4 billion to a whopping $16 billion.

For once, Key's guard dropped. The House got some rare, undiluted passion from the prime minister.

Yes, he took full responsibility. He took full responsibility for helping the people of Christchurch.

He took full responsibility for preserving social programmes that helped people get through the economic recession.

And he took full responsibility for keeping unemployment low, unlike in other countries hit by the global downturn.

What was apparent was that Key had instantly and effortlessly shifted up a gear - one rarely witnessed in public and which left Goff trailing like flotsam in his wake.

Key's post-Budget speech has been widely dissected. The right applauded it; the left dismissed it. But the confidence that Key exuded on Budget day should be worrying to those who dismiss him as a political novice.

Armstrong continues:

Labour should be afraid, very afraid. Behind Key's affable facade lurks a politician as utterly single-minded, focused and merciless as Clark was and Lange wasn't.

Any other leader enjoying the seemingly invincible poll advantage over his opponents that Key does may well have ignored Goff's release (finally) of some new policy at Labour's election-year congress last weekend.

But Key takes nothing for granted. He's determined the coming election will be fought on his terms - as Winston Peters discovered in February when Key declared he wouldn't work with the New Zealand First leader.

Now Labour is likewise finding out to what lengths Key will go to spike its guns, even though they are largely firing blanks.

There can be no doubt that John Key is an incredibly popular Prime Minister. No PM in our memory (which goes back as far as Keith Holyoake) has enjoyed such an advantage, with the possible exception of Norm Kirk in his first few months. As recently as yesterday, the Herald Digi-poll had Key at 67.7% in the preferred Prime Minister stakes, which means that even some left-leaning voters endorse him!

Labour's strategists must endure sleepless night after sleepless night wondering how they can turn Key's popularity around. Nothing that Phil Goff says seems to resonate. The smears dished out since well before the 2008 election have had no benefit whatsoever for Labour; if anything, Labour's desperation has rebounded on it.

And Armstrong concludes that Key is playing a long game:

In short, Key's strategy is to keep squeezing Labour so hard it's struggling to retain what's left of its core support. But it is not just about wrecking Labour for this election. That already looks to be in the bag. It's also about leaving Labour in poor condition to fight the next one.

Labour may well regret its obsession with John Key.

A sad sight

All is far from well at Christchurch Cathedral - Stuff reports:

The "twisted and shattered" Christ Church Cathedral is more damaged than first thought and the timing of its rebuild uncertain.

The February 22 earthquake cracked pillars, twisted walls, shattered stained glass, collapsed buttresses, fractured masonry and toppled the tower.

The Rose Window on the west wall, the tower, the north wall and the south wall will have to be dismantled and rebuilt, engineering reports say.

Security footage has also emerged showing people were on the balcony at the top of the tower just three minutes before the quake struck.

Cathedral administration manager Chris Oldham said the true extent of the damage became clear only after staff returned to the site.

"The pillars inside have cracked and the whole building is actually in quite a sad way," he said.

"The building is twisted. It has moved. The buttresses have stones coming out of them. If you look at the wall on the south side, you can see how the top half of it has moved one way and the bottom half of it has moved the other way.

"The stained-glass windows are all twisted and shattered on that side.

"When you go inside, the Oamaru stone blocks have come away from the wall and are loose and at unusual angles."

The west porch has moved away from the west wall by about three centimetres. The top of the transept walls are offset by about 4cm and the north buttress of the west wall has collapsed.

The Rose Window has been shored up with a steel gantry.

This is indeed sad news. We first visited the cathedral 30 years ago on our first-ever trip to Christchurch. Family down there have attended services, funerals, recitals and concerts there. As recently as New Year, we sat in the cafe hidden by the pile of rubble to the left of the photograph above enjoying a coffee, chatting and people-watching.

We hope that the cathedral can be rebuilt, but it will be a long, tortuous and expensive process. We reckon though that some buildings are worth saving, and given that so many of the churches of Christchurch, some of which were historic buildings in their own right, have been suffered irrepairable damage, the cathedral and its Catholic counterpart deserve special treatment. Like the Arts Centre, which we heard yesterday could take up to 15 years to fully rebuild they are buildings of significance to the people of Christchurch, be they religious or not.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Blog Wars

We blogged a couple of weeks ago about the Transtasman's rather colourful comment regarding Trevor Mallard - the writer mused:

When did Trevor Mallard decide his life’s ambition was to be a Labour version of right wing blogger Cameron Slater?

The abovementioned have been at one another's throats for a while now, but it's all got very public today, with this post on Red Alert; under the heading A whale of a challenge, Trevor Mallard blogs:

Whaleoil has been less than complimentary on my rate of recovery.

In fact he now refers to me as a cripple.

Well let’s get the challenge out there.

Trevor v blubber boy 50 – 60k bike race, no motorbikes, on a course to be set by the peoples champion Gordon MacCauley in Auckland between 15 August and 15 September.

We will see whether the actions match the words – or in his case his fingers.

I bet he is too chicken, and if he accepted he wouldn’t have a chance.

It must be a slow news day, as NBR has picked up the story - read on:

Bikes and boxing gloves are the duelling weapons of choice as Labour MP Trevor Mallard and blogger Cameron Slater seek to settle an online spat.

Mr Mallard today challenged Mr Slater to a bike race after taking exception to posts on the Whale Oil blog that mocked his rate of recovery from a bike crash in March.

The MP has to use crutches or a wheelchair to get around Parliament after he broke his right thigh bone and right shoulder blade in the accident.

In a post on Labour's Red Alert blog today, Mr Mallard referred to Slater as "blubber boy" and challenged him to a 50km-60km bike race in Auckland. "We will see whether the actions match the words -- or in his case his fingers," he said.

"I bet he is too chicken, and if he accepted he wouldn't have a chance."

Slater responded to the challenge on Twitter, suggesting they instead took the dispute into the boxing ring.

"Unfortunately Trevor I don't own a bike, the sport is a bit too g.a.y. for me...happy to step in the ring for 3 rounds though," he wrote.

The blogosphere and social media has gone all a-Twitter over this, and we suspect that in the best fashion of the duels of days long gone, honour is going to need to be satisfied. We're awaiting developments with interest, but the boxing match would definitely be worth the price of admission! We do wonder though at the wisdom of Trevor Mallard, Labour's third most senior MP indulging in name-calling on Labour's official blog. Given that Mr Mallard is Labour's campaign manager, is this a sign of things to come?

And we'll leave the last word with Trevor Mallard's close caucus confidante and blogging buddy Clare Curran:

Labour MP Clare Curran on Twitter described her colleague's challenge as "bullshit blokey stuff" and Mr Slater's response as "pathetic".

This Sporting Life - 27 May 2011

It's Friday again, and another week is ending. Winter officially starts on Wednesday of next week, not that you'd know it from the weather of the last few days.

Rugby dominates the sporting landscape this weekend by default. The English Premiership season has ended, and the Warriors have a welcome bye in the NRL. And even New Zealand participation in Super Rugby is less than full; the Blues and the Chiefs both have the weekend off.

In the games that are being played, we expect the Hurricanes to turn on their best performance of the season tonight at Arena Manawatu. Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Piri Weepu and Corey Jane will all have some form of input, whether starting or from the bench. In contrast, the Force side will be well below full strength; Eddie Jones raised the issue of Australia's depth in Super Rugby last week, and the Force prove his point.

The Highlanders should take another step towards a play-off berth at Carisbrook tomorrow night. It's their final match ever at the House of Pain, and the locals should be far too good for the Lions. A win will take them ahead of the Waratahs or the Sharks in the race for the three "best non-conference winner" spots unless the match in Durban is drawn.

The match of the weekend will take place later tomorrow night when the Reds take on the Crusaders in Brisbane. This match should be an absolute ripper, and we're tipping the Crusaders to win, and to win well. The business end of the season is approaching, and the Crusaders have an annoying habit (annoying to their detractors and their opponents!) of playing their best rugby at the business end of the season.

We'll also have an eye on Indianapolis on Monday morning. Scott Dixon starts from the front row of the grid in the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500, the Great American Race. Dixon has had a wretched start to the Indycar series, but the Target Chip Ganassi team seems to have got the car just right for Indy, and it would not surpise us one iota if Scott Dixon is drinking a pint of milk sometime midway through Monday morning NZ time.

That's it for today; the floor is, as ever, yours ...

An early election warning

Six months from today, we'll have a pretty good idea of who is going to be running the country for the next three years. Before then though, there's the small matter of an election campaign leading up to Saturday 26 November.

And the Electoral Commission is on the ball - the Herald reports:

Twitter and Facebook users face $20,000 fines if they use their accounts to campaign for their favourite party or leader on election day.

Chief Electoral Officer Robert Peden said material posted on social media websites was covered by strict rules which prohibit electioneering on election days.

"People should be aware that if they tweeted on election day to influence how somebody votes they will be breaching the [Electoral] Act and the [Electoral] Commission will take action."

He said while people could leave websites with campaign material up on election day, they could not add further material or advertise the website.

"For a long time, the law has allowed for campaign-free election days, and my sense is that New Zealanders like it that way and so it's not really in people's interest to do things like tweet and breach the rules."

The sites would be monitored on November 26, and people caught breaking the rules could face fines of $20,000, Mr Peden said.

We've taken note of what Robert Peden has said, and we'll comply. Last time around we monitored Keeping Stock pretty closely, disabling comments for Election Day, and not adding any new content until the polls had closed. We will do likewise this year. We don't use Twitter a lot, but if we do, we'll be very careful in our use, and that of Facebook.

Elections are the cornerstone of the democratic process. We'll certainly be doing everything that we can to ensure that we comply with the Electoral Act. Social media has advanced so quickly since the 2008 election that the Electoral Commission is sensible to be firing a warning shot now, and alerting pweople to the potential for breaches of the legislation.

Young heroes

Lest we upset Jane, who dropped by to comment yesterday on the Mr Whippy thread, here's a good news story about young men. It's not "crime porn" as we've been accused of blogging in the past; nor are there any religious overtones. It's simply recognition of three young men who stepped outside their comfort zones and made a difference - Stuff reports:

Three Hastings schoolboys rescued a 12-year-old girl by threatening to attack two men who were trying to drag her away.

"The other boys told them that if they didn't go away right now they would get a hiding," Hastings Boys' High School pupil Liam Mataira, 15, said yesterday, describing the rescue he had made with friends Ben Hayllar and Tama McKenzie.

"We just jumped in front and pulled her away. The men were over six feet tall. I was taller than them, but they were quite stocky.

"They just started swearing. They looked like they had been taking drugs – they were all twitchy and stuff.

"It happened fast. They could have retaliated and attacked us, but we had to do something to get that girl away before something happened."

The rescue took place in busy Karamu Rd on Wednesday morning, as the boys were on their way to school.

The girl was going to Hastings Intermediate and the boys escorted her there afterward, before continuing on to their own school.

"She was pretty shaken up; she was crying," Liam said.

Not surprisingly, there are gang overtones to this event as well which cannot be ignored - read on:

Ben, also 15, said the men had used language indicating that they were affiliated to the Mongrel Mob, but he had not felt scared.

"They towered over me but I just felt an adrenaline thing. It all happened at once. I told them to go away and leave her alone."

The bravery that these young men showed is being recognised in a number of ways:

Yesterday, Hastings Intermediate put on a morning tea with pizza for the heroes, attended by the girl they had saved.

"She was all smiley and jumping up and down," Liam said.

Boys' High principal Robert Sturch said he would make a fuss of the boys at morning assembly today.

Sergeant Eden Sewell, of Hastings, said the boys had done the right thing.

"They did real well," he said. "It took a bit of courage on their part and prevented something a lot more serious from happening."

The police would make sure the boys received recognition for their bravery.

We have nothing but admiration for Liam, Ben and Tama. It would have been all too easy for them to blend into the crowd and not intervene. That they put themselves at risk to quite possibly save the life of a young woman is an act of selflessness and bravery. They deserve all the acclaim that is coming their way.

Kia kaha Liam, Ben and Tama; you really are young heroes.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lost luggage

We've done a bit of travelling, but by the grace of God, we've never been faced with the dilemma of lost luggage. But Christchurch Airport has some explaining to do - Stuff reports:

So that's what happened to the luggage - it's off to the dump. Kind of.

A video showing baggage handlers at Christchurch Airport tossing bag after bag into a rubbish truck this week has created a stir.

The clip, posted on YouTube on Tuesday, shows piles of luggage being loaded into a dump truck from an Air New Zealand trolley on the tarmac.

The footage claims the "unclaimed baggage" was being destroyed and has attracted thousands of views and comments from distraught flyers since it was uploaded.

Viewed for the first time, it certainly makes you wonder what's going on - check this out:

The Christchurch Airport wallahs have gone into damage control mode, claiming that there is an innocent explanation - read on:

Communications manager Monique Oomen said the bags had been part of a trial of the new baggage handling system installed at the facility.

"We asked locals to donate any old luggage they no longer wanted, and to fill it with old books or newspaper," Oomen said.

"This luggage was then tagged and used to test the system over a period of weeks. At the end, we decided the bags were not good enough for charity and that they had to go out."

Oomen said the video had upset the baggage handlers and the airport wanted to get the word out about the truth behind the video.

Air New Zealand said though the airport was using one of its trollies, the incident had nothing to do with the airline.

We'll give Christchurch Airport the benefit of the doubt, although anyone who has lost luggage there recently will probably not be so charitable. But between this, and the fiasco over the Wellywood sign, it hasn't been a good week for airports!

Hey Mr Whippy

Mr Whippy has been a part of the landscape for a very large part of our lives. We won't use the "icon" word, but the ice cream van coming down the road playing "Greensleaves" is a memory we have from way back in the day, and we understand that the franchise has been running for 47 years in New Zealand.

Now we read that even Mr Whippy isn't immune to crime - the Herald reports:

A Mr Whippy icecream truck driver was beaten and robbed after refusing to hand over a free cone.

The driver was selling icecreams in Kawerau, 32km southwest of Whakatane, when a young man among a gang of several youths approached him and asked for a free icecream.

It is believed to be the first attack on a Mr Whippy driver in the franchise's 47 years of trading.

But when the driver refused and hopped in the front seat to drive away, the man leapt in through the service window and threw a bottle at him, Detective Darryn Gabb of Kawerau police said.

The driver was then punched repeatedly, leaving him with cuts and bruises to his face and head.

Edgecumbe franchise owner Steve Wright told the Herald his employee was hit in the face by the flying bottle and then held down on the floor as a youth stole about $600 from the till.

As crimes go, this is pretty low and mean-spirited. But we reckon that two things make it even worse; that the offender was part of a gang of youths roaming the streets, hoping that there would be safety in numbers, and that the assault happened because the vendor wouldn't give the offender a freebie.

This typifies everything that is wrong with New Zealand compared to the New Zealand we grew up in back in the days when Mr Whippy first hit the streets. No-one expected to get something for nothing. We made our own entertainment; we didn't mooch around with gangs of similarly disaffected youth, threatening violence when we didn't get what we wanted.

And it's highly probable that there were gang overtones to this crime - read on:

Police investigating last Wednesday night's attack are still hunting the youth, described as a Maori of thin to medium build aged about 16 to 20 years old and wearing a red scarf covering his face, a dark hat and dark jacket.

We Googled "Kawerau gangs" and the first link of the first site which Google threw up read "However, in the Mongrel Mob stronghold of Kawerau" - one doesn't have to be Sherlock Holmes to conclude that the offender almost certainly had some affiliation to the Mongrel Mob, whose colours just happen to be red.

Those who visit us regularly will be well aware of our loathing of gangs. We live in an area that has been Black Power territory, although gang activity has been far less evident over the last two years. Like him or loathe him, Michael Laws' move to ban gang patches in Wanganui made a visible difference.

Now not even Mr Whippy is safe from gang violence. Surely, it's time to call "time" on gangs.

In a Wellywood of a pickle

The Wellington City Council has got itself into a bit of a Wellywood pickle. Having awarded a resource consent for the Wellywood sign, the WCC has now come out strongly against said sign - the Dom-Post explains:

Wellington City Council has come out against the Wellywood sign, even though it was its officers who gave it resource consent.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown successfully moved a motion at last night's full council meeting asking Wellington International Airport to reconsider its decision to put up the sign. It passed by 10-4.

Councillors claimed it was tacky, would be continually tagged, and would damage the city's image as being creative and cutting edge.

The point made in the last paragraph is the essence of the issue as far as we are concerned. Some wonderful films have been produced in Wellington, or have used the visual effects perfected by those involved in Wellington's film industry.

Those films have been highly creative and cutting edge. Wellington's reputation in the global film industry now is one of innovation, originality and excellence.

The proposed Wellywood sign is none of the above. It's a direct steal of an idea from Hollywood; the signwriter's equivalent of a pirated movie. Unless it's guarded 24/7, it's bound to meet some sort of unsightly fate.

So we add our voices to the chorus of those calling on Wellington International Airport Limited to reconsider this decision. The Wellington City Council doesn't want your sign; the public of Wellington doesn't want your sign. Think again, before Wellington becomes a laughing stock.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Knock it down and start again

Planning is underway to start the demolition of the biggest casualty of the Christchurch earthquake; the Hotel Grand Chancellor - The Press reports:

Earthquake recovery minister Gerry Brownlee has announced that construction giant Fletchers has won the contract for the 10-month demolition of the unstable hotel at a media conference inside the central-city red zone.

Brownlee said the hotel's deconstruction would be "the largest demolition ever carried out in New Zealand".

While it could take up to a year, Brownlee said it should be safe to re-open the central city area around the hotel within five or six months.

The 27-storey building has been on a lean since the February quake, with authorities labelling it the most difficult demolition job in Christchurch.

Deconstruction of the building from the top down would start in a "few weeks'' once a full engineering assessment was done.

Brownlee said the demolition was "hugely symbolic" for Christchurch.

"It's very important to get these big demolition jobs going because the sooner these buildings are down the faster we can move to reopen areas and get on with rebuilding,'' said Brownlee.

"As the hotel comes down in height it will mean that safer access will gradually be possible to nearby buildings and streets."

The leaning Hotel Grand Chancellor has become symbolic of the February 22nd earthquake. We've seen it, and the external damage is easily visible. It's been an absolute blessing that none of the many aftershocks since February 22nd has caused it to tumble, because the damage potential doesn't bear thinking about.

But tumble it will, albeit in a controlled manner. Having stayed there in the past, it willl be sad to see it go, but as Gerry Brownlee has noted, its continued presence stands in the way of in the way of the rebuild, and a significant area of the CBD cannot be reopened until the site has been made safe.

It also illustrates just how slow and painstaking the rebuild of Christchurch is going to be, and what a challenge Christchurch, the government and everyone involved faces. At least the people of Christchurch can be secure in the knowledge that the government has legislated the provision of a huge sum of taxpayer funds towards the rebuild in the wake of last week's Budget.

Christchurch will rebuild, but the sight of the Hotel Grand Chancellor on the city's skyline will soon be just a memory of the way things were before Frebruary 22nd.

Saint Richard

The worst-kept secret in New Zealand sport is out; Richie McCaw is staying in New Zealand after the Rugby World Cup.

McCaw has signed on with the NZRU through to the 2015 Rugby World Cup. If there is a player who could still be around in four years time, it is McCaw. He could name his price overseas, but his loyalty lies with New Zealand rugby, and in these materialistic days, that is highly commendable.

Richie McCaw was still a relative novice in leadership terms at the 2007 RWC, but has since become one of the outstanding All Black captains. He leads by example, has huge mana within the team and the international game, and is a genuine matchwinner. His record of 50 test wins from 57 tests as captain speaks for itself.

We applaud Richie McCaw's loyalty to New Zealand rugby and to the All Blacks. If he is well managed, there is no reason why his international career should not continue for a few seasons yet. His new contract includes provision for time away from the game if he so desires, and this will help his longevity.

All hail Saint Richie; he's on the verge of greatness!

The Irish President

Irish-Americans have a rich tradition in USA politics, and the list of Presidents with Irish ancestry is lengthy. The current President has, of course, discovered the Celt within in the last few days, as Stuff reports:

Beaming before an exultant sea of people, President Barack Obama revelled in his distant Irish ancestry, offering spirited thanks from tens of millions of Americans who trace connections to Ireland.

Far away from divisive Washington politics, Obama stood with his wife, Michelle, and said: "We feel very much at home."

In a speech devoted as much to personal pride than overt politics, Obama told roughly 30,000 people gathered in central Dublin that he had come to reaffirm "the bonds of affection" between the United States and Ireland. "There's always been a little green behind the red, white and blue," he said to cheers.

Obama's buoyant trip to Ireland, however, was to be even shorter than planned. Concerns over a dense, shifting ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano were prompting him to fly to London instead of spending the night in Dublin.

On a busy day of stops, Obama got splashes of rain and sunshine as he soaked in the kind of atmosphere more familiar from his first days as president.

Obama's speech came after he had downed a pint of Guinness in tiny Moneygall, the small Irish village where his great-great-great grandfather once lived and worked as a shoemaker. It was an improbable and memorable pilgrimage for America's first black president into his Irish past, and Obama soaked it in.

It's been a pleasant diversion from President Obama, although with the tragic tornado in Joplin, Missouri, he's probably looking forward to getting home as quickly as possible, having dined with the Queen this morning (NZ time).

But it makes us wonder; in the wake of all the publicity over Obama having finally discovered his birth certificate proving him to be American-born, is he suddenly going acknowledge his Irishness and change his name - to President Barack O'Bama?

Good news

There's some really good news for motorists this morning - Stuff reports:

Petrol prices dropped again tonight, with BP leading the way.

The company announced it had cut the price of petrol and diesel by 3 cents per litre. It was the second decrease in the past three days, and the fourth price drop in three weeks at BP-owned stores.

Z Energy, the New Zealand company which owns the Shell retail network, quickly followed suit, with an immediate 3c a litre cut.

BP managing director Mike McGuinness said 91 and 95 unleaded petrol, and ultimate diesel, had now fallen 16 cents a litre since May 9.

Petrol prices at most BP-owned service stations were 91 octane unleaded 205.9 cents per litre, 95 unleaded 213.9c, ultimate diesel 148.9c.

Z Energy said its prices were 205.9c a litre for Ultra (91), 212.9 for V-Power (95) and 147.9c for diesel.

''We have been able to reduce our retail prices again tonight as a result of the New Zealand dollar continuing to strengthen against the US dollar,'' Mr McGuinness said.

''International refined fuel prices have also continued to soften.''

With household budgets already stretched, this is terrific news. Fuel peaked here in Wanganui at 222.9 a litre a couple of weeks ago; we'll be watching the sign outside the local BP station closely when we drive by in an hour or so.

Let's hope that international oil prices continue to soften as the Northern Hemisphere heads towards summer. 91 octane fuel at under $2.00 a litre might not be the pipedream that it seemed at the beginning of May.

Frustration; part deux

Blogger dropped out again last night, which is a pain in the proverbial when you're wanting to blog. It's the second significant Blogger outage in less than two weeks.

We're now even more motivated to consider a migration to another blogging platform such as Wordpress. If someone with more technical nous than the technical neanderthals who blog here can give us a link to a "how to", we'd be most appreciative. With an archive of 4500+ posts, we'd like to move holus-bolus if that's possible, so any offers of help or advice will be gratefully accepted.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Of Phil Goff and his friend Roy Morgan

The latest Roy Morgan poll has been released, and it will have given Phil Goff a nasty dose of dyspepsia - check this out:

The latest New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll shows support for Prime Minister John Key’s National-led Government is at 57.5% (up 1.5%). Support for Key’s National Party is 53% (up 0.5%), the Maori Party 2% (unchanged), ACT NZ 2% (up 1%) and United Future 0.5% (unchanged).

Support for Opposition Parties is at 42.5% (down 1.5%) — Labour Party 28% (down 3%), Greens 10%, (up 2.5%), New Zealand First 3% (down 1.5%), Progressive Party 0.5% (unchanged) and Others 1% (up 0.5%).

If a National Election were held today the National Party would easily be returned to Government.

Now it would be remiss of us not to point out that poll was taken BEFORE last week's Budget, but after changes to KiwiSaver, Working for Families and Student Loans had been foreshadowed by John Key. But the continued collapse of Labour's vote as seen in the chart below must be deeply troubling to Phil Goff and his new campaign manager Trevor Mallard.

Interestingly though, the timeframe during which this poll was taken coincided with Labour's attacks on John Key over his use of helicopters, his wealth, his protection by the DPS, his holidays in Hawaii, BMW's and donations to the National Party. As we predicted at the time of the DPS "exclusive" (leaked to One News by the Goffice), the smears have backfired, and National gets more popular at Labour's expense.

We can't help but note a surge in support for the Greens as well to 10%, also at Labour's expense. With the Greens now with 18 percentage points of Labour, it would only take a ten point swing from one to the other to see Russel Norman and Metiria Turei become Co-Leaders of the Opposition. Russel Norman was far more impressive than Phil Goff in his response to the Budget last week, and it's not far off the point where it's not inconceivable that the Greens could be the main opposition party after the election.

Labour cannot help but be worried by this poll. It's only six months and two days until we go to the polls. If Labour does not get a significant post-election bounce, the party is electoral toast, and campaign manager Trevor Mallard is likely to be holding lots of meetings with MP's who are worried about their futures post-26/11/2011. Phil Goff's leadership is still far from secure.

Of Winston Peters and reds under the bed

In the finest traditions of Senator Joseph McCarthy, Winston Peters is back to his xenophobic best - the Herald reports:

A Chinese takeover is being predicted by New Zealand First leader Winston Peters with a warning that if our energy companies are partially sold power prices will go through the roof.

Mr Peters has told a Grey Power meeting they had better start buying more clothes and blankets because they won't be able to afford the rising prices if the Chinese or the Australians move to buy the power stations.

He also warns that Chinese are hungrily eying our dairy farms, saying it's our main source of wealth and should remain in New Zealand hands. He says they're also a major source of protein in a world running out of food and China is one of the only countries with any money.

This is entirely predictable stuff from Peters. It's the same argument with which he has wooed his beloved Grey Power audiences since New Zealand First was first formed in 1993. There is a small constituency with which this xenophobia resonates, but as we saw in 2008, it has dwindled to less than 5% of the electorate.

Peters' loathing of immigrants is long-known, dating back to a speech in Howick in 1996 when he made the infamous "rows of ostentatious houses" quip. We always found it somewhat ironic that throughout the time from 1996 to 2008, one of Peters' most loyal lieutenants was Peter Brown, himself an immigrant. This put NZ First's anti-immigration rhetoric into context; some immigrants were ok, just not those from Asia.

And there's another irony here. In 2002, Winston Peters claimed that Maori shared the same gene pool as a mainland Chinese tribe. He later claimed that he was only joking (we don't know if he used a placard!), but the joke was on him when he was briefly nicknamed Won-Ton Peters! But now, as the election looms, he is again playing on the fears of the elderly, and dissing those from whom he once claimed to have decended!!

Regular readers will know that we have little time for the senior citizen from St Mary's Bay. We were delighted when NZ First exited Parliament in 2008, and believe that the House has been a better place for Peters' absence. An undercurrent of racism runs through NZ First's policies, and it is not something that we believe has a place in New Zealand.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Good on you Mum!

Blood may be thicker than water, but it's nice to know that there are still parents out there with a sense of public duty - the Herald reports:

A drunk driving teenager who fled from a crash which left a 16-year-old boy fighting for his life was later dobbed in to police by his mum.

Waikato district road policing manager, Inspector Leo Tooman, said emergency services were called to the scene of the crash at the intersection of Moore and Burns Streets in Leamington, near Cambridge, on Saturday about 8.35pm.

"The crash is currently under investigation by the Waikato Serious Crash Unit however it appears alcohol was a factor in the incident that saw a blue Toyota Corona hatchback fail to give way and collide with a Mitsubishi Legnum station-wagon," Mr Tooman said.

"The 16-year-old suspended driver of the Toyota fled the scene of the crash that left three of the five people travelling in the Mitsubishi injured, including one 16-year-old male who is in a critical condition in Waikato Hospital's Intensive Care Unit."

Mr Tooman said the offending driver's flight did not last long as he was handed in to police by his mother, and subsequently failed an evidential breath test.

It can't have been an easy decision for this mother to make, but it is undoubtably the right one. Let's hope that the critically injured youth recovers fully from his injuries, and that the youth dobbed in by his mum learns a huge lesson. Sheesh; one day, he might even thank her for getting him on the right track.

Good on you Mum!

The Monday Wrap - 23 May 2011

Well, contrary to predictions, we managed to watch a little bit of sport over the weekend; and there were highlights and lowlights

We said on Friday that the Blues "should" beat the Stormers, and indeed they should have, but they didn't. The Blues went right off the boil in the last quarter of the match at Eden Park, and managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It's a result that may come back to bite them later in the season. The Crusaders, by contrast, were efficient against the Chiefs, and the final margin probably flattered the Chiefs. Dan Carter and Richie McCaw look better with each match that they play, but the most noticeable feature of the match was the way that the Crusaders' scrum dominated after Brad Thorn entered the game at half-time; Thorn will be the rock of the All Black scrum again this year.

The Warriors won their fifth straight match yesterday against Souths. It was a below-par performance from the home team, but it was a win nonetheless. The Warriors have a welcome bye next week, which looks as if it is coming at just the right time after a busy month with a lot of travel.

The Queensland Firebirds were just too good for the Northern Mystics in the ANZ Netball championship decider. The Mystics looked good early on, but fell away in the third quarter when the Firebirds ramped up the pressure. Still, it was an excellent end to the season from the Mystics; the surprise packet of the play-offs.

What else is there? The French Open is underway, and Marina Erakovic plays her round one match tomorrow night. Sebastian Vettell is the runaway leader in the F1 World Championship after his fourth win in five GP's, and Danny Lee has taken another step towards a PGA Tour card with a third place finish on the Nationwide Tour. Lee is now firmly entrenched in the top 25 on the Nationwide Tour money list, in 10th place. If he can maintain the top-25 position for the rest of the season, he'll be playing for big money in 2012.

There's bound to be something we've missed, so feel free to fill in the gaps; the floor is yours...

More on Labour's minimum wage bribe

We noticed this comment, complete with links on Kiwiblog last night. It's succinct, it's backed by evidence, and more than anything, it provides a convincing argument AGAINST Labour's plan to raise the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour within a year of taking office - check this out:

  1. slightlyrighty (1,856) Says:
    May 22nd, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    In 2006, when Labour were in government and reviewed the minimum wage, when the unions were asking for an increase to $12/hr, and settled for an increase to $11.25/hr, citing “considers that Option 3C ($12.00 an hour), which is above the rate needed to maintain relativity to the average wage, would increase the likelihood of constraining potential employment growth;”


    In 2007, a further Labour led revue contained the following……

    option 5: $15.00 per hour (or $520 per week):

    1.5.1 this would very strongly improve relative levels of fairness, protection, income distribution, and work incentives;

    1.5.2 this option could affect 452,900 workers;

    1.5.3 if it were to be pursued, there could be a potential constraint on job
    growth of up to 0.6%, the national weekly wage bill could increase by
    3.74%, and it would have a potential inflationary impact of 1.63%;


    This proves 2 things:

    1. That Labour actually do know the flow on effects of their policy decisions

    2. They don’t care about the flow on effects of their decisions.

    They recognise that raising the minimum wage beyond the ability of the economy will constraint job growth and raise inflation, yet they are happy to go ahead with it if they can remain in power. This is disgusting behavior.

We couldn't agree more. The New Zealand economy is still very, very fragile. A 15% increase to the minimum wage is not only unsustainable in our ever-humble opinion; it's economic sabotage. If an increase of half of that magnitude could not be countenanced in 2006 when the economy was stronger, how can Labour even consider inflicting double the damage now?

The answer is simple. It is nothing but a desperate election bribe.