Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Kim and Mona on the breadline

Times are tough in the Dotcom household; the Herald reports:

Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom and his wife need more than $200,000 a month to get by, the High Court at Auckland has heard.

Dotcom, facing extradition to the United States, and his heavily pregnant wife Mona are seeking to have some of their seized assets released at a hearing on Wednesday.

Crown prosecutor Anne Toohey told the court that together Dotcom and his wife have requested that $220,000 a month in living costs be released.

Among the monthly costs requested are $24,000 for body guards, $29,000 for staff including nannies, a butler and Mrs Dotcom's personal assistant, $5000 for landline phone costs, $8500 for gas and power, and $6500 for tutoring the couple's four-year-old child.

Costs for the maintenance of the empty $30 million rented Dotcom Mansion in Coatesville, north of Auckland, have also been requested.

Surprisingly, we don't have a lot of sympathy for the Dotcoms' plight. The figures that they have presented to the Court today are absurd, and will be abhorrent to many. They are asking for more than four times as much PER MONTH as the average New Zealander earns annually.

If Kim Dotcom thinks that this is a way to sway public opinion in his favour, we'd suggest that he has been poorly advised.

And if Kim Dotcom hasn't been doing anything illegal, why does he need to spend $6000 per week on bodyguards? Hmmmm....

Angry; outraged; sad

We feel a range of emotions today; anger, outrage and sadness, to name but three. And it's all over this guy: Raurangi Marino has been sentenced today to ten years imprisonment for rape. Stuff reports:
Raurangi Marino drank between 20 and 30 bottles of beer before stumbling into the Turangi campground, assaulting and raping a five-year-old tourist girl.

Marino, 16, was today jailed for 10 years for rape, seven for grievous bodily harm and two years for burglary. The terms were to be served concurrently.

The Rotorua District Court heard Marino had been on a 10-hour drinking binge and smoking cannabis leading up to the attack on the girl in December.

He broke into a unlocked caravan parked at Club Habitat and assaulted the girl while her parents were less than 20 metres away in an amenities block.

Marino had gone to two parties during the day, the second party he left after an argument and wandered into the camp ground where he tried to open car doors.

He found the caravan where the young victim was sleeping unlocked and went in.

The girl screamed and tried to run away but he grabbed her, choking her and hitting her around the head and face.

She was left with four missing teeth and serious internal injuries. He fled when her mother returned.

Judge Phillip Cooper said Marino had a dysfunctional family background involving drug taking, gang connections and alcohol abuse, but this did not condone his behaviour.

"You are responsible for your actions but your whanau and extended whanau are responsible for your upbringing which has involved a young man who has committed a serious crime."

Think back to our post on Sunday morning about Hawkes Bay man Henare O'Keefe, who said that children aren't born bad, but are the products of their upbringing. Whilst it's clear that Marino's upbringing has been very different to ours, it does not for one moment excuse his conduct. However his whanau should be looking deeply inward today.

And Marino's upbringing has been recognised at sentencing; read on:

Judge Cooper gave a starting point of imprisonment of 18 years because of the seriousness of the offending but gave a discount of four and a half years because of Marino's youth, dysfunctional upbringing, remorse and early guilty plea.

We're not quite sure at the maths there; Wouldn't a four-and-a-half year reduction (which we don't have a major problem with) from a starting point of 18 years give a sentence of 13 1/2 years? In addition, there doesn't appear to have been a non-parole period imposed. Does that mean that Marino will become eligible for parole at one third of his sentence?

So yes; we're angry; angry that a young child could be exposed to such appalling violence from a 16 year old. We're outraged that Marino will in all probability be back on the streets by about the time he is 21, whereas the victim will carry her scars forever.

But most of all we're sad; sad that a young, innocent child was robbed of her innocence by a drunk, stoned lout. And we're sad that New Zealnders still treat their children with such violence that they become like Raurangi Marino; a product of his upbringing. Somewhere along the way, we simply MUST break the cycle of abuse, because we're sure of one thing; there are dozens more Raurangi Marinos out there; ticking timebombs, where no-one knows when they will explode as Marino did.

My new favourite cricketer.

Yeah, I know Inv has posted on last night's cricket already, but this bloke deserves a post of his own.

Ladies and Gentlemen I give you Virat Kohli

Four boundaries from four deliveries off the abomination that is Lasith Malinga, consigning him to the worst ODI figures ever for a bowler delivering fewer than eight overs. Beautiful.


NASCAR's Great Race, the Daytona 500 was finnally contested yesterday. The race, at Daytona Beach in Florida was scheduled to run on Sunday (US time), but unseasonal weather intervened; can't we relate to that!

So on Monday night (US time) the race was finally run; Monday Night Football at 200 miles per hour was how one of the commentators described it. There was plenty of action on and off the track, but no-one was prepared for this:

Quite what went wrong with Juan Pablo Montoya's car is yet to be determined, but he spun sideways into one of the mobile jet units used to dry the track during caution periods. The result was a spectacular inferno as 200 gallons of jet fuel went up in flames, and Montoya's car was totalled.

The best news of all though; neither Montoya nor the driver of the jet dryer were seriously injured in a spectacular incident that will surely featured one day on Destroyed in Seconds!

Has T-20 actually helped ODI cricket?

We caught the last few overs of the ODI between India and Sri Lanka in Hobart last night. India needed to chase down Sri Lanka's impressive 320, AND score a bonus point to have a chance to make the Commonwealth Bank Series finals. To do that they had to score the runs in 40 overs, not the normal 50.

In the event, India won the match with ease posting 321 for three in just 36.4 overs. The star of the show was India's best batsman this summer, Virat Kohli who scored 133 not out from just 86 balls. With Suresh Raina, Kohli added 120 runs in just over nine overs of sublime batting.

Kohli has been the one Indian batsman who will leave Australia with an enhanced reputation. He's proof positive that the Indian batting sausage factory will continue to churn out talented players of the ilk of the Nawab of Pataudi, Sunil Gavaskar, Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar for some time to come.

The most impressive aspect of Kohli's innings was that he was playing wonderful cricket strokes; drives down the ground and through the covers, and deft flicks through the leg side. His timing was superb, and one cover drive will live in the memory as the ball flew across the turf like a tracer bullet.

So what part has T-20 played in this? We reckon that it's given batsmen far more experience in pacing an innings, and ramping up the scoring rate when necessary. And there's not necessarily a need for crude slogs through mid-wicket, as Kohli and Raina showed last night. T-20 has become more refined, and it's now starting to benefit ODI's as well, where a batting first score of 250 is meat and drink now for the chasers, as evidenced by AB de Villiers and co on Saturday.

If you get a chance to see Kohli's innings replayed, take it. It was one of the best ODI innings we've seen for some time, and we suspect that Virat Kohli is going to cause heartache to bowlers around the globe - Lasith Malinga went for 96 last night, from 7.4 overs - a whole lot of pain and suffering.

How low has Granny Herald sunk?

Look what leads the online version of the NZ Herald this morning; have a read:

The on-off boyfriend of Keisha Castle-Hughes has been charged with assaulting the Academy Award-nominated actress following an Oscars function in Auckland.

Michael Graves, 22, says he was trying to stop the Whale Rider star, 21, jumping from a moving car during an argument on the way to get food.

The pair spent Tuesday afternoon at an Oscars party at the Pullman Hotel with Castle-Hughes' fellow Almighty Johnsons television cast members.

Castle-Hughes tweeted throughout the party, directing one to Graves: "drunker than you #drunklife".

He replied: "exactly so stop it".

They left about 7.30pm to get food but a "huge argument" broke out in the car, Graves told APNZ.

We won't burden you with any more of the story; we're sure that you get our point! But the Herald used to be the last bastion of journalistic standards; a top-quality newspaper with a proud history of journalistic excellence.

Still; those who are obsessed with our celebrity culture will doubtless buy up large today to read the latest instalment in Ms Castle-Hughes' troubled life. But shouldn't Granny Herald be leaving this kind of dross to her step-sisters; the women's magazines?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Standard gets fisked

Zetetic at The Standard (the blogger who didn't know that Bill Jeffries was a Justice Minister in the 4th Labour Government) thought he had a big story the other day; check this out:

A couple of months after Hekia Parata was promoted to Education Minister (seemingly solely on her showing in Mana, certainly not on the strength of her performance as Acting Energy Minister), her sister has been promoted to a very senior position in the Ministry of Education created especially for her with no open selection process, below only the Nats’ UK import who now heads the ministry having previously championed the failed charter schools programme over there.

It seems a lot of the Parata clan are experiencing good fortune lately – her husband got a sweet gig ‘explaining’ asset sales to iwi, and several relatives got jobs in her ministerial office.

Political appointments to boards are one (undesirable) thing – at least they have a political function. Nepotism in public service roles is quite another.

Still, they say Parata has quite a record of personal grievances taken by staff – maybe her family are the only people who will work for her.

It's a real dog-whistle post, and true to form, the dogs come running at Zetetic's call. Sly and racist digs abound as The Standard's band of loyal followers line up to condemn Hekia Parata, referred to among other things as "This robotic-retoric-reciting plastic woman is a crook" and "A new generation of Plastic Tory Maori."

But then someone comes along and spoils the fun; have a read of this comment:

Brooklyn 19

This Story is a load of kak. Apryll Parata’s former position at the MoE, to which she was appointed during the Labour administration, reported directly to the secretary of Education. She’s been moved sideways to a position where she will not be offering advice to the minister. This is not the only inaccuracy in the Herald article.

Oddly enough, the discussion has rather dried up since Brooklyn set the record straight. It wasn't a great weekend for Zetetic, who also got well and truly fisked by Cactus Kate. Perhaps if (s)he dealt in facts, (s)he wouldn't be such an easy target. The Left must be desperate for supporters these days!

Well done Hekia Parata

The Herald reports:

Education Minister Hekia Parata has launched a ministerial inquiry after a convicted sex offender was hired as a teacher.

Ms Parata said she was "extremely concerned" at the revelation when ministers were informed late last week.

The offender was convicted of a sexual offence against a minor in 2004 and the person was hired at a school as a teacher.

Ms Parata said the school became aware that the offender had multiple identities, and after reporting this to the authorities the offender's previous conviction was discovered.

The offender is now in custody.

"Parents should be able to send their children to school confident that an individual of this type is not part of the school environment," Ms Parata said.

She did not name the offender and said the matter was now before the court.

Former Ombudsman Mel Smith will conduct the inquiry and report back by the end of April.

Hekia Parata should be congratulated for taking swift and decisive action on this matter. The safety of the children in our schools should be paramount at all times.

And it would seem that the person involved has done the rounds; read on:

Ms Parata said the teacher worked at two schools, and possibly a further six schools.

"The schools that were immediately affected have been notified. School communities have been informed and the Ministry of Education is actively working with those schools. It is possible that several other schools have also been affected," she said.

"We have asked the courts to vary suppression orders so that we can work with other schools that may have been affected and they can inform parents."

She said the person was facing charges in an Auckland court for breaching release conditions. She did not comment on whether further charges were expected.

The person was under an extended supervision order.

The inquiry will look at how the offender was able to breach the system and how it can be strengthened.

"Clearly there are weaknesses in the system," Ms Parata said.

The person was registered as a teacher from 2000.

The person had been "working irregularly" in the sector since 2000, Ms Parata said.

"It is clear to us that this person has used multiple identities on multiple occasions."

The Teachers Council undertakes checks when teachers apply to be registered.

"A voluntary vetting is undertaken by police for that individual and with that individual's knowlegde and consent," Ms Parata said.

"I have this morning called in the chair of the Teachers Council and the chief executive of the Teachers Council to ask them to give me an assuarnce of the integrity of the system they are responsible for."

We are sure that the role of the Teachers Council will be a significant feature of the ministerial inquiry. Whilst it would appear that this offender has used different identities, there must be some concern over how the person was able to maintain teacher registration, and whether or not fraudulent documents were used to secure this status.

It will be interesting to see where this matter goes. But Hekia Parata has shown that she will not tolerate anything which puts students at risk, and we are sure that even the teacher unions will endorse that.

So predictable Hone...

Hone Harawira has had a go at the plans announced yesterday for the first stage of reform of the welfare system; the Herald reports:

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira has accused the Government of "beneficiary bashing'' for its sweeping changes to the welfare system.

Under the reforms, teenagers who have dropped out of school, work or training will be able to earn an extra $30 a week from the Government for going back to class or taking budgeting courses; and solo mums who find work before they are work-tested will be able to keep their benefit for longer.

Mr Harawira told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report this morning that the Government was trying to force people off the benefit when there were no jobs for them.

"I'm not saying there shouldn't be serious focus on training and skills, what I'm saying is stop just whacking people and actually lay down the training programmes; stop just hitting the unemployed and create jobs; stop hitting solo mums and create and environment where young mothers are keen to go to work and have the money to pay for their children to go to descent facilities.

"I just don't think it's going to work at all except to take money from beneficiaries and to put money back into the hands of government so that they can give it to their rich mates.

It was entirely predictable that a politician would trot out the "beneficiary bashing" line, and just as predictable that said politican would be Hone Harawira. After all, beneficiaries are part of the target market of the Mana Party.

But Harawira's grandstanding has been quickly dismissed by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett; read on:

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said Harawira's comments were "a load of nonsense''.

"If anyone's beneficiary bashing I would say that it would be him if he thinks that all people are worth is a lifetime on benefit and perhaps that the government can manufacture some job to make people feel worthwhile, which is really quite belittling for people who are trying to do their best and need government support.

"This package is about upskilling those people, getting them the right training and I just love that it's got that incentive element to it so ... instead of being punitive and sanctioning, we're actually saying they can get up to $30 a week extra and I think that is really rewarding and what is needed.''

Ms Bennett said if people could legitimately not find work then the state would not cut cut their benefit.

Ms Bennett's prompt and dismissive response to Hone Harawira is both welcome and factual, unlike Harawira's rant. Significant reform of the welfare system was well signalled before the 2011 election, and as Tracy Watkins notes in this morning's Dom-Post "But unlike the SOE selloffs, the welfare reforms are likely to be more popular than not.".

We concur with Tracy Watkins. There has been little of the hysterical shrieking from the usual suspects this morning because rather than tinkering around the margins or reducing benefit rates, what the Key-led Government is promoting is a significant overhaul of the welfare system over several phases. Welfare dependance is a huge social ill, and most people seem to accept that substantive reform is required. As Tracy Watkins notes:

But if anyone still thinks National is still Labour-lite, they must have been in a cave for the past few months.

National's tiptoe through ideological minefields in its first term has been overtaken by a sense of urgency in its second.

Beneath the populist moves designed to shift young parents off the benefit and into work, and the undoubted attractions of putting an older person in charge of a young person's benefit so it is no longer spent on booze and tobacco, there are more fundamental changes in contracting out more services to the private sector.

The next round of public sector reforms, due to be announced by Prime Minister John Key next month, will probably mirror that approach, which will accompany massive and fundamental change.

It may have taken this Government's change programme a while but all of a sudden it is picking up the momentum of a rolling stone.

The National Party campaigned on change last year, and received enough support to be able to form a government, the only measure of electoral success under MMP. That the Key-led Government is now delivering on its promises is heartening. That the shrieking of the likes of Hone Harawira is being quickly dismissed is even moreso.

Why they're charged with burglary

When we blogged yesterday about the Greenpeace protestors being charged with burglary, regular commenter Quintin Hogg (who is no stranger to matters legal) made this informative comment:

Burglary has as a penalty a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years. Link

For any of the protesters a conviction may make visiting the US problematic

The following is from section 231 Crimes act which describes what burglary is in case there is a question about why the charge has been laid.

"Every one commits burglary and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years who—
(a)enters any building or ship, or part of a building or ship, without authority and with intent to commit a crime in the building or ship; or
(b)having entered any building or ship, remains in it without authority and with intent to commit a crime in the building or ship"

Now the Police have added to the debate; Stuff reports:

Central District police communications manager Kim Perks said burglary was found to be the most appropriate charge for the activists.

She summarised the legal definition of burglary as "to enter property without authority and with the intent to commit a crime," and said that the difference between burglary and trespass was criminal intent.

Illegally boarding a ship is a crime under the Maritime Transport Act.

Port Taranaki security manager Arun Chaudhari said the protesters entered the port through a neighbouring property.

"The breach was a break-in via one of our neighbour's properties. We are entirely satisfied with our security measures and plan," he said.

The Taranaki Daily News understands that Greenpeace used bolt-cutters to hack open padlocked chains on the neighbouring property and gain access.

Chaudhari said that rumours that the activists rammed through a gate or piggybacked on a truck going through security were untrue, and said he had no knowledge of the activists wearing the uniform of port staff to get past security.

So; there you have it. The protesters broke into an area they had no legal right to be in, and then illegally occupied the Noble Discoverer, preventing its departure on schedule from New Plymouth. There is any number of potential "crimes" within that which to our bush lawyer mind would enable a charge of burglary to succeed.

And it seems that Ms Lawless and her mates are suddenly realising that their actions could have ongoing consequences. You makes your bed; you gotta lie in it...

An unlikely ally...

Act's plans to introduce Charter Schools have found an unlikely ally; the Herald reports:

Waipareira Trust chief executive John Tamihere wants the charter school pilot expanded to West Auckland - where he says schools are failing children.

Act's confidence and supply agreement sets out the schools will be set up in areas where educational underachievement is most entrenched.

South Auckland and Christchurch are the first two regions where the Government says that iwi, private, community groups and existing educational providers will compete to operate a local school or start a new one.

Waipareira is in discussions with Remuera's Mt Hobson Middle School to establish a charter school for pupils in years 7 to 10.

Mr Tamihere said Ministry of Education figures which revealed that 30 per cent of students leave the region to attend other schools is indicative of parents' dissatisfaction with educational results in the area.

"We've got a low track record of excellence. All we're looking at doing is bringing the best practice from Remuera to the west."

Education Minister Hekia Parata would be approached for support once details were worked out between the trust and school, Mr Tamihere said.

Ms Parata's office was unable to respond last night to Herald questions about whether the programme could be expanded to Waitakere.

Teacher union NZEI has been critical of the policy saying the overseas experience shows they take students and money away from existing schools, undermine communities and increase social segregation.

We've got a not-inconsiderable level of respect for John Tamihere. Even though he was a Labour MP for many years before committing the unpardonable sin of saying what he thought, he sees the bigger picture. He chairs a trust which is trying to lift Maori achievement in many ways, and he sees the importance of education in that.

The teacher unions will of course demonise Tamihere for dancing with the devil, but that doesn't change the fact the Maori ARE failing in our schools. And just as the point was made by Henare O'Keefe at the weekend in the radio interview we blogged about, Tamihere understands that Maori hold the key to solving Maori problems.

So we hope that his entreaty to Hekia Parata is well received. She too has a vested interest in seeing Maori achievement lifted, and we are sure that she will look favourably on John Tamihere's proposal. Let's face it; the system as it is today isn't working, so what's to lose through trying a new approach? That's especially valid when unnatural allies emerge seeking a solution to a problem which overall affects us all.

A sign of the times

We read some very sad news last night; the Otago Rugby Football Union will go into liquidation on Friday; the Herald reports:

The Otago Rugby Football Union will go into liquidation on Friday.

The decision was announced at a press conference in Dunedin tonight.

The 126-year-old union was due to report a loss of several hundred thousand dollars at its annual meeting in Dunedin today.

New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew and ORFU chairman Wayne Graham were at tonight's press conference.

Tew said there was no way out for the ORFU, which had been saddled with negative equity of more than $2 million and was due to report another large loss.

Tew said the national union had already bailed out the Highlanders, and would not do so again for the Otago union.

However, his "preference" was for the Otago team to compete in this year's ITM Cup.

A final decision would be made at 4pm on Friday, meaning the union had until then if the community wanted to "come together", Graham said.

"Otago has a long and proud rugby history and the union has played a vital role in the rugby community for 131 years so this is a sad day,'' Tew said.

"We fully appreciate how disappointing these events will be for the many people who have worked hard backing rugby in this region. This situation also creates considerable financial pain for many including small and large businesses who make up the union's creditors,'' he said.

Immediate steps being taken included appointing people to run community rugby in the coming week, with NZRU paying their salaries; urgently meeting with clubs to assess their priorities and discuss how to maintain and grow community rugby; and talking to all contracted players and others who are affected.

"The NZRU has consistently funded the Otago RFU by around $900,000 a year which is used to support rugby across all levels and we remain committed to rugby in this region.

"In addition, we will be immediately assessing the viability of entering an ITM Cup team from the region in the 2012 competition. This will need to be self-funding beyond the normal NZRU contribution if any plan is to be viable. We will be urgently discussing this with players and potential sponsors to see if we can achieve this.''

Otago is one of New Zealand's oldest and most proud provinces. Surely, it cannot be allowed to fail, and we are sure that the rugby community, especially in the south will rally around.

But Otago's failure is indicative of a deeper problem. It's a tough world out there, and commercial revenues are not what they used to be and crowds have dwindled, whilst costs continue to increase. The irony is that Otago now has possibly the best facility in the country, and the crowds will return.

It's terribly sad to hear of Otago's financial demise. We are sure that the local community will come to the party, and we will ourselves be making a contribution once arrangements have been made for donations. We do that because Otago is the thin end of the wedge; if Otago fails, who will be next, and what will that mean for the future of provincial rugby in New Zealand?

We daren't even contemplate the answer to that question.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Picket line Caption Contest

Oh dear; whoever chose to make signs for striking MUNZ members to wave on picket lines in National Party blue? They really do leave themselves open to ridicule!

Yep; you know what's coming next, and you know the rules. Keep 'em brief, pithy and on-topic, without being nasty. What might Labour's fourth-ranked MP Jacinda Ardern be saying to former MP Carol Beaumont? Might they be commenting about David Shearer's continued reluctance to back one side over the other in the MUNZ/PoAL dispute?

Give it your best shot; you know you want to...

Oh dear; she'd probably forgotten doing that...

We just spotted this video on YouTube for Shell Ultra petrol

And according to the comments accompanying the video (dated 22/2/2009), the actress on the service station forecourt is none other than a young Lucy Lawless.

Oh dear; the things people do before they become "celebrities"...

That's not a bug...

Idiot’s getting all het up about John Key not knowing where Murray McCully is at the moment, it is apparently “no way to run a Government”.

It may not be the way a sheltered lefty academic thinks a Government should be run, being light years away from the glory days of micromanaging controlfreakery that were the last Labour lot's time in power, but it is the way effective teams in the business world operate.

It’s called delegation, and trusting people in your team to do their job without looking over their shoulder all the time. You could ring my MD, and if he hadn’t happened to speak to me in the last couple of days, he wouldn’t know where I was either; he knows how to get hold of me and knows he’ll hear from me if I need his input. He gets on with his job and trusts me to deliver the results I’m targeted with.

If you want to know where Muzza is, why not try emailing him?

UPDATED: About time too...

NBR reports:

Greenpeace activists aboard the Noble Discoverer have been arrested and are coming down, a Greenspeace spokemsman on the ground Steve Abel says.

The protesters have come down on their own not willing to risk the safety of themselves or police and it was only visual confirmation they had been arrested, Mr Abel says.

NBR is in the process of confirming Mr Abel's account with police.

NBR is wise in confirming a Greenpeace activist's account, because we know that sometimes, where Greenpeace is concerned, the facts get in the way of a good publicity stunt.

But if Lucy Lawless and her mates have indeed been arrested, all we can say is "good job", and now let the justice system take its course.

UPDATE: And now the NBR reports that police have charged Lawless and her co-conspirators with burglary; a slightly more significant offence than they may have expected to be charged with. Whilst jail time would be highly unlike if convicted, it might be harder to explain to immigration officials than a simple conviction for trespass.

Ah well; you makes your bed; you have to lie in it...


That's reportedly the result of the ballot for the leadership of the Australian Labor Party; 71 votes to Julia Gillard and 31 votes to Kevin Rudd. And how do we know that? The ALP caucus room has sprung a leak; already!

Tony Abbott will be delighted. The ALP has confirmed as its leader the person who has only 30% support from the Australian public in a two-horse race.

We doubt that today's vote will do anything to dimish the rumblings within the ALP. In fact, it may only be the beginning of discontent with Julia Gillard.

The Monday Wrap - 27 February 2012

It's been a busy sporting weekend, and it's only going to get busier when the NRL starts next weekend. So we are reinstating The Monday Wrap where we can give our thoughts on the weekend, and you can reciprocate.

If the weekend's rugby results are anything to go by, this could be the most even Super Rugby competition yet. Most of the matches went down to the wire, and those who picked "unders" results in the various picking competitions will have done well. Of the New Zealand teams the Highlanders showed real heart to beat the Chiefs, and the Crusaders again showed that they will be one of the teams to beat. For Hurricanes and Chiefs supporters it looks like being another long year, and already the latter side has major injury worries. The 'Canes hung in against the Stormers in Cape Town, but three yellow cards and a penalty try eventually cost them any competition points. Wheter or not they still have discipline problems, or whether or not it'll take time for the reputation for discipline issues to be shed is a moot point.

The Black Caps were simply outgunned by a full-strength South African outfit. When they had the Proteas at 35 for three early on, with Amla, Smith and Kallis dismissed, things looked promising. But they were unable to exert enough pressure on the South African middle order, and an unlikely win escaped them. There's a lot of work to be done if they are to threaten South Africa on Wednesday in Napier.

It was a busy footballing weekend with the Wellington Phoenix returning to third place in the A-League with a gutsy 1-nil win over Sydney FC at the Sydney Football Stadium. Paul Ifill headed home a beauty in the 12th minute, after which the 'Nix defended stoutly. They've now had four away wins this season; that's a promising statistic. And the mighty Arsenal had a resounding 5-2 win over North London rivals Spurs in the early hours of this morning which takes them back to fourth in the Premiership, and within reach of Champions League footie next season.

What else? Marina Erakovic lost the chance to win her first WTA title, but will hit a career high in the women's rankings later today. Rory McIlroy and Hunter Mahan will go head to head for the World Matchplay golf championship, and as we type this, NASCAR's showpiece Daytona 500 (the Great American Race) is underway at Daytona Beach in Florida; MySky is taking care of that for us!

That's it from us today; how did you see the weekend's results and performances?

High Noon in the West Island

It's quite literally high noon for the contenders for the Australian Labor Party leadership. Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd will go head to head at noon NZ time in what has been a brief but bitter struggle for the Australian Prime Ministership.

Whoever wins today (and we think it will be Julia Gillard) though, the ALP is the loser. When you hear senior ALP figures declaring that they'd "rather be in opposition" than led by Kevin Rudd once again, you get an idea of just how toxic the environment in the ALP has become.

Both the protagonists are calling for unity in the wake of today's leadership vote, but we don't see that happening. Julia Gillard is simply going to have to accept the fact that around a third of her caucus does not support her leadership, and it's only going to take a resignation or two for Australia to have to go to the polls early. It would surprise if Julia Gillard's government lasts until the 2013 election.

We'll have the outcome as soon as it is available.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The definitve word...

Here it is Dear Readers; the definitive word on the Australian Labor Party, in the run-up to tomorrow's bitter leadership spill

Brilliant; simply brilliant!!

Jurassic Park; MUNZ Edition

Matt McCarten strikes up a rallying cry on behalf of the striking MUNZ members at the Ports of Auckland; he opines:

The Ports of Auckland chief executive and his directors have started the final phase of the war they've been planning for a long time. They want to sack their workforce and replace them with cheap casual labour. Like any self-respecting Kiwis with spines, they told their executioners to shove it and have hit the picket lines indefinitely.

This dispute isn't about the privileges of the wharfies. Their negotiators have already agreed with just about every claim the boss has demanded. Their main request is that they keep a third of their jobs full-time and get a 2.5 per cent wage increase.

Their boss will never agree. That's because the real agenda is about readying the port for privatisation. To facilitate that, they need to slash costs and provide a cheap, compliant workforce. The union stands in their way and must be destroyed.

We've heard this argument over and over again from the Left; but repeating something doesn't actually make it true. The employer is actually wanting workers to work at the times they are needed in order to perform their work, and doesn't want to pay staff who are not actually working. As an employer, we see that as a fundamental negotiating point.

That's why David Shearer has to date stayed out of this dispute. He's smart enough to know that MUNZ is fighting a losing battle. We note however that Labour's fourth-ranked MP Jacinda Ardern was tweeting about her presence on the picket lines yesterday, so Mr Shearer might want to watch his back.

Off to Teal Park to support the wharfies. Come join if you're in the city

We've been union members, as recently as six or seven years ago. And oddly, we always felt that a union's prime role was to PROTECT the jobs of its members. But MUNZ seems to have chosen (at non-secret ballots) to embark on a collision course with PoAL which is going to result in wholesale job losses. Of course MUNZ will be able to claim matyrdom status for the redundant workers, but has the union contemplated the downstream effects? We doubt it.

MUNZ is a dinosaur union playing a very poor game. Its members should rightfully feel aggrieved that the union has done nothing but alienate likely supporters, except the likes of McCarten. Surely, when even the Labour Party will not publicly back a union which has made significant donations to the party, you know that MUNZ's position is untenable.

Jurassic Park; Munz Edition; now playing at a picket line in Auckland.

Christian Music Sunday - 26 February 2012

It was an absolutely glorious morning when we first awoke this morning; clear and calm, with the sun just appearing on the eastern horizon. The rain during the week has freshened up the paddocks and hills that surround our whare, and everything looks green and fresh.

There are so many reminders around us this morning of the majesty of God's creation, from the sound of the birds to the sight of Mt Taranaki away in the distance. It's a wonderful day to be alive, And this song immediately came to mind:

Whatever you do today, pause and take in the beauty that surrounds you, and remember that none of it happened by accident; you ARE amazing God!

Have a wonderful and blessed day.

Quote of the Day - 26 February 2012

Deborah Coddington provides today's Quote of the Day in her piece on Paul Holmes' right to express an opinion on Waitangi Day; check this out:

And now some are calling for TVNZ to dump Holmes from moderating and asking the hard questions on the state-owned broadcaster's current affairs programme Q&A, because, they say, there's conflict between his "heated racial tirade" and TVNZ's impartial role.

Some might struggle to remember the days when TVNZ news and current affairs was impartial, but that is another debate.

The column itself is well worth a read, but we couldn't let that one pass!

Wise words from a fine man...

We're not great fans of Paul Holmes. But on his Newstalk ZB programme yesterday, we listened transfixed by one of the best interviews we'd heard for some time.

Holmes was interviewing Henare O'Keefe, a Hastings District Councillor recently awarded the New Zealand Local Hero of the Year. You can hear the interview here.

He talks about his years working at Tomoana freezing works where he "went in as a boy and came out as a man.". He also talks about having earned a PhD in relationships while working there, and that becomes evident in his later comments.

At around the 8m35s mark where O'Keefe talks about his belief that children are the products of the environment in which they are brought up; he says "there's no such thing as a bad baby. Something has happened in that child's life for them to walk around with a chip the size of Te Mata Peak on both shoulders." He then says "Change the home and you'll change the community, in my humble opinion.".

Holmes then asks Mr O'Keefe about his experiences as a foster parent; he and his wife have fostered over 200 children. It's fantastic to hear him talk about children who has thrived as a result of the environment to which they had been exposed in the O'Keefe whanau home.

And then comes the real kicker; he tells of his own childhood, and the lesson he learned from his parents that "poverty is not an excuse to fail". And he's dead right. Earlier in the interview he comments that his goal and prayer is to "get Flaxmere out of grievance mode", and that while communities may have issues "we harbour the solutions as well".

This is a wonderful interview with a man of great wisdom and mana; it's well worth the investment of 15 minutes of your time this morning. New Zealand is a far better place for contribution of the likes of Henare O'Keefe. We congratulate him on being deservedly awarded the title of New Zealand Local Hero of the Year; kia kaha, kia toa, kia manawanui.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A pyrrhic victory?

When we studied Latin many, many years ago, we learned about the origins of the phrase pyrrhic victory. In a more modern-day definition, here's what Wikipedia says:

A Pyrrhic victory (/ˈpɪrɪk/) is a victory with such a devastating cost to the victor that it carries the implication that another such victory will ultimately cause defeat.

It seems that Julia Gillard is about to find out first-hand all about pyrrhic victories. All the stories we are reading out of Australia this morning (and there's a heck of a lot of them!) suggest that she has the numbers to beat Kevin Rudd.

But can the ALP survive the division. Sky News has just released a poll which suggests that Rudd is the people's choice with a 53% to 30% margin over Ms Gillard.

In 48 hours' time, the battlelines will have been drawn, and the ALP caucus members will cast their votes. It seems however the irrespective of the result, the real winner will by Liberal coalition leader Tony Abbott, and that it will indeed be a pyrrhic victory for the ALP.

The ODI's begin

It's the start of the ODI series between New Zealand and South Africa this afternoon. The two teams go head-to-head at Westpac Stadium in Wellington in the first of three ODI's.

This will be a big step up from the T20 series, as the Dom-Post explains:

A week can be a long time in international cricket.

Seven days ago New Zealand swaggered to Wellington Airport, after a clinical dispatch of South Africa in the tour opener.

Since then the blazing blade of Richard Levi in Hamilton and a severe case of the batting yips in Auckland has the mythical umpire calling `advantage, Proteas', heading into today's first ODI. Especially with superbat Jacques Kallis, speedster Dale Steyn and prolific test skipper Graeme Smith donning their new green and yellow shirts, the latter replacing Levi.

You get the impression the longer these games progress, the tougher New Zealand will find it against the seasoned veterans and extreme pace of Steyn, Morne Morkel and company, with three ODIs then three tests to follow. But there should be enough confidence in the home camp to fancy their chances today, considering recent stats and the bounceback from the short format where anything can happen.

New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum, sitting beside coach John Wright, spoke of Wednesday night's collapse as one out of the box, and insisted the switch of formats meant a fresh start. "There's definitely belief that we can beat them."

We hope that the Black Caps have quickly exorcised the demons of the loss to South Africa on Wednesday night; a match which should have been won with some comfort. The South African side they face will be a much tougher beast.

But at least history is on the side of the home team; read on:

In 13 completed ODIs against South Africa in New Zealand, the hosts have won nine, and their recent form at Westpac Stadium extends to seven consecutive ODI victories since January, 2006. Four of those, against Australia, England, West Indies and Pakistan saw New Zealand bowl first and skittle the visitors for a sub-150 total; a year ago Tim Southee took five wickets as Pakistan folded for 124.

There's also memories of the 49-run World Cup quarterfinal defeat of South Africa last March; although Ross Taylor, Scott Styris, Daniel Vettori and Jacob Oram are missing while the Proteas have only legspinner Imran Tahir absent.

The Wellington pitch today is unlikely to be as quick as the excellent Eden Park drop-in where the fast bowlers prospered on Wednesday, so the threat posed by Steyn, Morkel (M) and de Lange may be blunted to a degree. The New Zealand batsmen will still have to be on top form however if they are to win the match.

We had hoped to get down to Wellington for the match today, but work commitments have prevented it. We are however planning a trip to Wellington for the first couple of days of the test match which starts on Friday 23rd March. We are already aware of a few online souls with similar intentions, so we might have to plan to congregate for an ale or two; let us know if you're planning to be there.

In the meantime, we'll be watching today's match with keen interest, as long as we can get our work done and get home on time!

Greenpeace achieves its aim

Whilst Lucy Lawless (by name and by nature) remains on Shell's ship Noble Discoverer, Greenpeace has achieved its aim; Stuff reports (with our emphasis added):

The protest has drawn world-wide media attention because of Lawless. She fielded calls from the BBC, as well as European and United States media.

Her Wikipedia page, which documents her appointment as a climate ambassador with Greenpeace in May 2009, was updated only hours after she boarded the drilling ship to include her activist misdemeanour.

"It is astonishing to be here 'cause I'm not really cut out for this. I'm not an activist per se. I've never done a direct action on anything apart from being part of a protest down Queen St."

Lawless had been invited to take part in the action to gain maximum attention, but said her concerns were genuine. "Everybody here is a true believer in the importance of heading off runaway climate change right now."

This merely concerns our cynicism over the activities of Greenpeace. And is their publicity-whoring any surprise? Of course not; especially when one considers how Greenpeace is now regarded by one of its founding members, Dr Patrick Moore; check this out, via Kiwiblog:

You could call me a Greenpeace dropout, but that is not an entirely accurate description of how or why I left the organization 15 years after I helped create it. I’d like to think Greenpeace left me, rather than the other way around, but that too is not entirely correct.

The truth is Greenpeace and I underwent divergent evolutions. I became a sensible environmentalist; Greenpeace became increasingly senseless as it adopted an agenda that is antiscience, antibusiness, and downright antihuman.

Greenpeace these days seems far more focused on self-serving publicity stunts than on genuine environmental concerns. After all, can Lucy Lawless and her foolhardy mates personally guarantee that the environment was not harmed by the production of the survival gear they are using, the cellphones with which they are communicating with a meek and compliant news media (hang your head in shame TVNZ), and the means of transport by which they made their respective ways to New Plymouth?

Of course they can't, which merely exposes them as hypocrites of the first order, as well as lawbreakers preventing people from going about their lawful business.