Friday, August 31, 2012

"Nor an effective use of public money"

The Auditor-General has ruled out conducting an inquiry into fracking; check this out, from the A-G's office:

Auditor-General will not inquire into fracking operations in Taranaki

31 August 2012
After a petition was hosted on the website on 25 July 2012, the Auditor-General received a number of requests to investigate concerns about regulating and monitoring of drill sites, production stations, hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations, and land farms in the Taranaki region.
The Auditor-General has decided not to inquire into this matter for the reasons set out below.
As the public sector auditor, the Auditor-General focuses on financial, governance, management, and organisational issues. All inquiry requests are therefore assessed to see if they raise systemic issues of this kind and involve questions of significant public interest.
The concerns raised in the petition are predominantly environmental.
In March 2012, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment announced an official investigation into fracking in New Zealand. As the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has the technical knowledge and legislative mandate to conduct a thorough investigation of this contentious issue, a further inquiry by the Auditor-General is neither necessary nor an effective use of public money.

We are delighted to see that the Auditor-General is cognisant of using public money effectively. However we wonder if the repetitive carping of the Greens for inquiries into just about anything that might help New Zealand progress is "an effective use of public money". 

Certainly the hiring of students to collect signatures for a politically-motivated petition with money allocated to the party to run its operations in Parliament might well be something for the Auditor-General to get her teeth into.

They're kidding; right?

From the WTF? department, the BBC reports:

Workers arrested at South Africa's Marikana mine have been charged in court with the murder of 34 of their colleagues shot by police.
The 270 workers would be tried under the "common purpose" doctrine because they were in the crowd which confronted police on 16 August, an official said.
Police opened fire, killing 34 miners and sparking a national outcry.
The decision to charge the workers was "madness", said former ruling ANC party youth leader Julius Malema.
"The policemen who killed those people are not in custody, not even one of them. This is madness," said Mr Malema, who was expelled from the ANC (African National Congress) earlier this year following a series of disagreements with President Jacob Zuma.
"The whole world saw the policemen kill those people," Mr Malema said, adding that he would ask defence lawyers to make an urgent application at the high court.

This really does beggar belief; the guys who were getting shot at have been deemed responsible by the SA Police, who were the ones doing the shooting.

And quite by coincidence, we stumbled over this story this morning, courtesy of a South African Twitter friend; the Daily Maverick reports:

Some of the miners killed in the 16 August massacre at Marikana appear to have been shot at close range or crushed by police vehicles. They were not caught in a fusillade of gunfire from police defending themselves, as the official account would have it. GREG MARINOVICH spent two weeks trying to understand what really happened. What he found was profoundly disturbing.
Of the 34 miners killed at Marikana, no more than a dozen of the dead were captured in news footage shot at the scene. The majority of those who died, according to surviving strikers and researchers, were killed beyond the view of cameras at a nondescript collection of boulders some 300 metres behind Wonderkop.
On one of these rocks, encompassed closely on all sides by solid granite boulders, is the letter ‘N’, the 14th letter of the alphabet. Here, N represents the 14th body of a striking miner to be found by a police forensics team in this isolated place. These letters are used by forensics to detail were the corpses lay.
There is a thick spread of blood deep into the dry soil, showing that N was shot and killed on the spot. There is no trail of blood leading to where N died – the blood saturates one spot only, indicating no further movement. (It would have been outside of the scope of the human body to crawl here bleeding so profusely.)
Approaching N from all possible angles, observing the local geography, it is clear that to shoot N, the shooter would have to be close. Very close, in fact, almost within touching distance. (After having spent days here at the bloody massacre site, it does not take too much imagination for me to believe that N might have begged for his life on that winter afternoon.)
And on the deadly Thursday afternoon, N’s murderer could only have been a policeman. I say murderer because there is not a single report on an injured policeman from the day. I say murderer because there seems to have been no attempt to uphold our citizens’ right to life and fair recourse to justice. It is hard to imagine that N would have resisted being taken into custody when thus cornered. There is no chance of escape out of a ring of police.
Other letters denote equally morbid scenarios. J and H died alongside each other. They, too, had no route of escape and had to have been shot at close range.

The truth of what happened at Marikana may never been discovered. But it seems a simply extraordinary decision to cast the blame by way of murder charges on the shootees rather than the shooters. 

Things are seldom as they seem in South Africa. But this is just bizarre.

Harry starts a trend...

Prince Harry's naked antics in his Las Vegas hotel have started a trend; the Mail Online reports:

When military strategists talk about a frontal assault, this isn’t quite what they usually mean.
Thousands of British soldiers have stripped off in a show of support for their comrade Prince Harry, currently in trouble over nude photographs taken in Las Vegas.
From the scorching frontline in Afghanistan to rain-swept barracks in the UK, troops and supporters of the Armed Forces have followed his lead – and then posted the results on the internet, infuriating the top brass.
Many of the servicemen and women are completely naked, using their hands or strategically placed guns, caps or rucksacks to protect their modesty.
In one photograph, men from D Squadron The King’s Royal Hussars posed nude in front of two Mastiff armoured patrol vehicles in Helmand. In another, a naked soldier salutes in front of an Army vehicle with only a plastic bottle to preserve his modesty.
Despite protests that the troops are merely joking around to ease the stress of battle, senior officers are understood to be unimpressed with the near-the-knuckle pranks. By last night more than 16,000 people had joined the Facebook group ‘Support Prince Harry With A Naked Salute!’.
We're not sure that Buckingham Palace's occupants will be especially amused by this latest turn of events, but the military traditionally support one of their own when he is in strife.

And the Facebook group supporting Prince Harry now numbers over 30,000 strong; social media has swung behind the Naked Prince with an outpouring of support, or in some of the photo's on the Mail's website and the Facebook page, a decided lack of support!
So we salute both the brave men and women of the military for their solidarity with Prince Harry. But we'll keep clothed; you wouldn't want to see us otherwise!

The State of the City

Gerry Brownlee has made a State of the City address this morning in Christchurch. And we suddenly clicked; it's almost two years since that rude awakening that Cantabrians received on a frosty Saturday morning; how time flies!

The full text of Brownlee's speech is here, but this is how he began:

We’re now just a few days shy of the second anniversary of the first earthquake, when we were so lucky that no one was killed.
I want to provide you with an overview of the recovery process to date and the significant progress that we are making.
But first, I want to thank the rest of New Zealand for the incredible level of support and assistance that the Canterbury region has received over the last two years. From all ends of the country, New Zealanders came to our aid and continue to support us.
And we can all be proud of what we have achieved to recover from this adversity. Everyone has had to make sacrifices, to do things differently and to cope with the strain that these events have caused.
The shared experience since then has come to define the lives of this generation of Cantabrians.
Our challenge is that, in five years’ time, the event that by then defines the lives of this generation of Cantabrians is not so much the earthquakes, but being part of the recreation of the magnificent new Christchurch.
Out of the tragedy comes the opportunity to create the best small city in the world, and there are extraordinary opportunities for anyone who wants to be part of it.

Christchurch has indeed been presented with an opportunity to undergo the kind of transformation that few cities in the world have achieved in times of peace. And Gerry Brownlee provided a reminder of just what Christchurch has been through; read on:

More than 10,000 earthquakes and aftershocks have been felt in this region since the 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit early on 4 September 2010.
The 6.3 magnitude earthquake on 22 February 2011 killed 185 people, injured 11,432 and caused widespread building and infrastructure damage. The impact of these earthquakes and further damage caused by events in June and December last year has been internationally unique. Every part of the Canterbury community has been affected.
Following the February 2011 quake it was clear that a timely, focused and expedited recovery process was required. The Government, with broad political support passed legislation – Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011 - to ensure we could step in when required to remove barriers to reconstruction.
And we established a dedicated government agency in Christchurch, for Christchurch – the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) - to provide leadership, quick action on urgent priorities and coordinate the recovery efforts of local authorities, businesses and the wider community.

The response from CERA and EQC has not always been to everybody's satisfaction, but that is entirely to be expected. This was a natural disaster of the magnitude of nothing that New Zealand had ever experienced. The Government, CERA and EQC may not have done everything right, but they have faced an incredibly difficult job as Mother Nature continued to rattle Cantabrians. There is no template for dealing with this kind of series of events.

We love Christchurch. She Who Must Be Obeyed is Cantabrian born and bred, we have many friends and family there including our Darling Daughter who is completing post-graduate studies, and we do business in Christchurch. We visit the city with some frequency. And as we have blogged on a number of occasions, we are constantly impressed with the resilience of the people of Christchurch. 

That was encapulated in a sign we saw outside Knox Presbyterian Church on the edge of the red zone. Despite the fact that the interior of the church has been gutted, and just the skeleton of the walls remains standing, the church for many months displayed a sign that read "We're damaged but not broken.".  

Christchurch will rebuild, and a modern and vibrant city will emerge from the dust and rubble of the last two years. And it was fitting that Gerry Brownlee delivered his speech today at the Ibis Hotel in Cathedral Square which reopens for business on Tuesday, having been closed since 22 February 2011. The message is clear; Christchurch is open for business

We sat in the restaurant there just after New Year 2011 watching the activity in the square on a warm Sunday lunchtime. Little would anyone have known what nature had in store for Christchurch, even after the September 'quake. But every day now brings the new and improved Christchurch a step closer.

Kia kaha Christchurch!

Josie seeks immortality

We've blogged about the venom that has been shown towards Labour candidate Josie Pagani by those on the left who despise her support of David Shearer over his welfare comments. And Ms Pagani has written a column in the Listener in which she invents a few new words; check this out:

Someone on the internet says I’m a “post-modernist twit”. How would you text that insult? “U po mo”? I’ve also become an “ism”; Pagani-ism. I’d rather be a “nomics”. Do I have to destroy an economy to be known for Pagani-nomics? Those insults appeared on left-wing blogs after I defended Labour leader David Shearer when he said, and I paraphrase: “Someone who shouldn’t be on the dole shouldn’t be on the dole.” The political left needs to argue a principled case for welfare reform. People have a right to be looked after when they can’t provide for themselves, yet today if you are on a benefit, you live in poverty. You get stuck.
I’ve lived in a family where joining a gang was a way to make something of yourself. But by equating any reform with beneficiary bashing, the left has allowed the expression “welfare reform” to be owned by people who neither believe in welfare nor want to see it last another century. Postmodern Pagani-nomics stresses respect for responsibilities as well as rights.

Now we don't know quite how David Shearer will feel about Ms Pagani trying to claim immortality for her description of his welfare speech, unless of course Josie Pagani wrote it! And somehow, we don't think that that the name Pagani-nomics will catch on.

But given the revelation yesterday that David Shearer invented the story of the roof-painting sickness beneficiary, and given that Josie Pagani is inventing new names ought we be calling this affair Paintergate? Oh; wait. That's already been claimed by Helen Clark! 

So how about RufusPayntergate; might that catch on? 

Turning tragedy into something good

We read earlier in the week of the tragic death in Vietnam of New Zealand grandmother Julie Ferne. Ms Ferne died when she tripped and fell seven metres from a balcony whilst holding her newborn grandson Carter, who is seriously ill in hospital.

The family of a New Zealand grandmother killed when she fell nearly seven metres while carrying her baby grandson at her son's Vietnam home say they have been comforted by the generosity of people who have donated to a trust in her name.
The Julie Ferne Memorial Trust has so far raised $7500 for the Ho Chi Minh Children's Hospital, where Carter Preston, now 1 week old, is recovering after the tragedy.
Ms Ferne toppled over a railing with Carter in her arms at her son's home in Ho Chi Minh City last Friday.
She had been in the city to celebrate the birth of her son Phil Preston's first child with his partner, Chau Nguyen.
Carter remains in a critical condition but has been showing signs of improvement since he was rushed to hospital with bleeding on his brain.
"There's been no change since yesterday, so we're taking it as a plateau before he has another leap in the right direction," Mr Preston said yesterday.

It is hard to imagine the emotional rollercoaster that Phil Preston and Chau Nguyen must be on at the moment. Mr Preston has lost his mum in tragic circumstances, the couple is dealing with the seriousness of their son's condition, and yet they can think of the needs of others. That's humanity at its finest. 

Mr Preston and Ms Nguyen decided to set up a trust in Ms Ferne's memory after seeing the paucity of equipment in the hospital where Carter is being treated. It was reported yesterday that they have witnessed other children being hand-ventilated by their parents because there are not enough machines to go around. And they have made a personal commitment to ensure that funds go to where they are intended; read on:

His brother Sean said the money raised so far through the trust would contribute to new equipment at Ho Chi Minh Children's Hospital, which is desperately short of some basic equipment.
"From all the tragedy and the sorrow of the last few days when I clicked open the bank account to see how it was tracking it really choked me up seeing the support from all over New Zealand," Sean Preston said.
"We just really want to thank everyone for their generosity, it means so much to us and it has really helped us in terms of getting through this."
He said he had made a personal commitment to ensuring the money was spent appropriately.
"We're going to see exactly what the hospital needs and then physically deliver it because a lot of money gets lost in black holes here."
People wishing to donate to the Julie Ferne Memorial Trust can deposit funds in ASB account 12-3198-0065427-00.

We will most certainly be making a donation to the Julie Ferne Memorial Trust, both individually and from our business. We would urge readers to consider doing likewise. In the meantime we extend our thoughts, prayers and aroha to the family; we cannot even begin to comprehend what they must be experiencing at present. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Of David Shearer, Rufus Paynter and the truth

David Shearer's cover (and his credibility) has been blown. He has had to concede on radio that Rufus Paynter, the roof-painting sickness beneficiary does not exist, and that his roof-painting exploits were but a parable.

Blogger Giovanni Tiso at Bat Bean Beam questioned the existence of the roof painter last week. He blogged his suspicions thus:

It’s as if he had forgotten he was the leader of the Labour party. It’s as if a Tory mole had swapped the speech he was going to give but he went ahead and read it anyway.

How many times might you have played this little game? This is a familiar story because it happens everywhere, all the time. It is the story of a great and continuing political shift, of centre-left parties buying into conservative orthodoxy throughout the Western liberal democratic universe. Adopting the language, the strategies, the tics of their traditional opponents. Losing the ability to decline social-democratic ideals except as a ritualistic preamble, or to huffily reaffirm that of course theirs is the party of the working people, the oppressed minorities, the welfare state. Or,
in the most extreme cases, reimagining neoliberalism as the condition for socialism: a new equality based on the removal of safety nets and of all barriers to the circulation and accumulation of capital.

Douglas, Blair, Clinton: they were the first generation, brash and self-assured. Now, twenty years later: the exhausted groans of third-way politics. 

When David Shearer woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found that he had forgotten he was the leader of the Labour Party. He didn’t forget that he was a politician altogether, or he wouldn’t have reached the Auckland headquarters of Grey Power in time for his scheduled appearance. He just forgot which party had elected him leader. All this could have been prevented had he resorted to tattooing, like the guy in Memento. YOU ARE THE LEADER OF THE LABOUR PARTY. THESE ARE THE THINGS YOU STAND FOR. 

And Giovanni Tiso now reports that on radio, Shearer has been forced to back away from the yarn that he fed to a recent Grey Power meeting, to the chagrin of many diehard Labour supporters and activists. Here's part of the transcript:

Hawkins: To quote a famous Labour politician, 'I've been thinking' about this constituent of yours in Mt Albert that you have used to illustrate fairness and responsibility to society, this sickness beneficiary who's up painting his roof, and I have to ask on behalf of Giovanni Tiso, who has been campaigning now bilingually to get a straight answer from you for ten days now. Did that actually happen? Is that a true anecdote from your time... [Shearer interrupts]

: Yeah, yeah, I was going around the streets before the last election, knocked on a guy's door, he walked out on the lawn with me and pointed over and said this guy supposedly - I think he said he had a bad back or a bad something or other - and the point was, I mean, wasn't actually... whether this guy was right or not I don't know, but the point is, what I was trying to make is the point about fairness and the way New Zealanders feel about fairness. They don't want... this guy in particular said look I'm working hard, I pay my taxes, I'm doing all the right things and this guy - in his opinion, and that's what I said in my thing - is ripping the system off. Now I don't care if you're a millionaire not paying his taxes or somebody on the benefit who shouldn't be getting one. The way that New Zealanders see that is that it's not fair when somebody is not doing the right thing. That's the point of what I was saying.

: So you don't know if it's true, at no point did you go talk to the beneficiary in question?

No, the point was Aaron - the point was how people perceive others not playing by the rules, that's all I was saying. So I mean that's a story - the account of this guy, if what he was telling me is true, but I didn't do a police investigation on somebody, but the point was how do people perceive others, and I think overwhelmingly in New Zealand we don't like people who are not playing by the rules, in a sense not adhering to what I call the social contract.

: I don't think it's the equivalent of a police enquiry to simply fact-check an anecdote that you are going to turn into a political platform.

It's not a political platform, the whole point of it as I keep saying to you is illustrating how people feel about others. That was all it was saying. It was somebody relating something to me and I was relating that on. It is about how people feel about others not playing by the rules. And we have a very highly developed sense for that in New Zealand, for good or for bad, and I actually think it's good. But what does happen is that if people have that perception it means that everybody who legitimately receives a benefit - and overwhelmingly New Zealanders support that as well - they actually get tarred with the same brush. It's really important that we make sure that the system works well and that people have confidence in it.  

This is damaging stuff for the Leader of the Opposition. Not only did he adopt a policy position that many in his caucus and support base vehemently oppose, but it was based on an untruth, and he knew that it was based on an untruth.
David Shearer needs to clarify this whole mess, and make a public statement confirming what he told Aaron Hawkins at Radio One, which is not the most widely listened to radio station in the land. And once he's dispensed of sackcloth and ashes, he needs to call in whichever of Labour's strategic genii planted this fantasy in his brain, and give them a bollocking for dropping him in it.

And all the while, a clean shaven David Cunliffe sits on the sideline, bides his time, and smiles a self-satisfied smile. It's only a matter of when, not if.

An Afghani perspective

New Zealand and Australia have a new Ambassador from the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Nasir Ahmad Andisha recently visited New Zealand for the first time, and got an immediate first impression. Under the heading A mission still worth the commitment he writes:

Arriving at Auckland for my first visit as Afghanistan's new Ambassador to New Zealand, I immediately noticed the half-mast flag flying over a building at the airport.
The half-mast flag was to honour the services of three brave soldiers, Lance-Corporal Jacinda Baker, Private Richard Harris and Corporal Luke Tamatea, who had been killed by a Taleban roadside bomb in the northeast part of Bamiyan province in Afghanistan.
These brave soldiers - two young men and a young woman - and seven other service personnel killed since 2001, left the comfort of family and friends and decided to provide security and extend their helping hand to their fellow human beings over thousands of kilometres away in a remote region of central Afghanistan.
Every single day, since the removal in 2001 of the Taleban regime and their al Qaeda supporters in late 2001, the Afghan people, our National Security Forces and the international contingent of which New Zealand is a member, have been serving shoulder-to-shoulder in a very challenging environment. Their mission is to protect the world from the menace of al Qaeda and violent extremism and to make sure that Afghanistan will not fall back to the dark days of the Taleban regime which took the country and its people hostage and deprived them of basic human needs and rights.  

Nasir Andisha has correctly identified the primary role of the NZDF in Bamiyan. They serve as part of an international contingent convened by the United Nations, not the USA. And their role is to protect the people of Afghanistan, and free them from the oppression of the Taleban regime.

The Ambassador continues (with our emphasis added):

This is a noble cause and this, for anyone who is still not clear, is the real reason why the presence and sacrifices of the people and government of New Zealand are for the good of peace and security and democracy in Afghanistan and peace and security in the region and the wider world. And that’s precisely why we the Afghan people honour the dedication and sacrifices of the Kiwi soldiers and acknowledge their exemplary bravery in action, devotion to service and love for fellow human beings. Specifically, New Zealand’s support for the  mission in Afghanistan and its PRT in Bamiyan have contributed to stability and the provision of humanitarian assistance as well as access to health care, education and clean water for thousands of vulnerable people living in the rugged valleys of central Afghanistan. It is the true spirit of good citizenship demonstrated and seen in practice.
Over the past 10 years we Afghans have gained a tremendous amount of experience and trust in working together with our international partners in a very challenging region of the world. We had remarkable successes in dismantling and degrading the terrorist networks, taking away their planning and executing capabilities and removing their top level leadership, including Osama bin Laden who was killed in an operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan in May 2011.
These 10 years have been a truly unique chapter in the history of our country. After decades of strife and violence, we took steps re-build state institutions, create a vibrant civil society, nurture and expand freedom of media and ensure the basic rights of women and men. We have sought to lay the foundations of a young democracy.  Our social and economic accomplishments have been remarkable, greater by comparison than in any other period in our country’s recent history. The progress we are making is undoubtedly the result of tireless efforts by brave man and women of our two great nations and many other international partners. 

Those who accuse New Zealand of war-mongering and sucking up to Uncle Same should read Nasir Andisha's words carefully, then read them again. NZDF personnel have done much to IMPROVE the lot of the Afghani people. Their role has been primarily a humanitarian one, not a combat one. But when they have been pressed into combat service to repel incursions from Taleban insurgents, they have done so in the professional manner for which they are trained.

Nasir Andisha continues and concludes, referring to the timeframe for an orderly withdrawl from his country:

After almost a decade of a joint effort, at the NATO summit in Lisbon in November 2010 we agreed on a time table for orderly withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF). We have also agreed that the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF) will gradually take over responsibility for securing the country
The progress we are making is undoubtedly the result of tireless efforts by brave man and women our two great nations and many other international partners. Though the recent upsurge of violence and terrorist attacks on Afghan cities and villages, including yesterday’s brutal killing of 17 men and women by the Taleban at a wedding party in Helmand, have tempered the sense and pride we feel at our achievements, we remain firmly committed to realising the aspiration of the Afghan people for a peaceful and prosperous lives.
The people of Afghanistan have suffered from too much violence and too much despair over the past decade since the Soviets invaded our peaceful and stable country in 1979. We have seen too many of our young men and women lose their lives as a result of war and conflict. Our people crave and deserve sustainable peace, stability and security not only 'til 2014 but for many years to come.
New Zealand has given us a strong helping hand in our journey so far since 2001 for which we’re ceaselessly and genuinely filled with appreciation and gratitude. Our close partnership over the past decade and our shared sacrifices have also laid down the foundations of long-term, enduring friendship and cooperation between our two nations. We keenly look forward to sustaining this spirit of friendship, partnership and cooperation for many years to come. 

We thank new-found commenter Missy for alerting us to this opinion-piece from Nasir Andisha. It is thought-provoking, factual, and should leave no-one in any doubt that the efforts of the PRT in Afghanistan are deeply appreciated by the peace-loving Afghani people. Having been freed from the tyranny of Taleban rule, they are discovering freedom, but they also understand that freedom comes with a price.

Ten NZDF personnel have paid the ultimate price for the freedom of the Afghani people. That is deeply regrettable. But as Nasir Andisha notes, his people "and genuinely filled with appreciation and gratitude". We should feel proud of what has been done to free Afghanistan from oppression.

And although Nasir Andisha represents the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, somehow the words spoken by Jesus more than two thousand years ago are a fitting epitaph to all those from the ISAF, not just the New Zealanders who have died in service there:

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:13 (New International Version)

Trotter on Barbara Sumner Burstyn

Veteran protestor and activist that he is, you'd expect that Chris Trotter might have an opinion on the Barbara Sumner Burstyn (BSB) furore. He doesn't disappoint, but it's not what you might expect; check this out:

Is social media use making us crueller?
Dr Bruce Perry, an American neuroscientist touring New Zealand, argues that the explosive growth of communications technology is diminishing our capacity for empathy.
By undermining face-to-face relationships and weakening the intimate and ethical bonds that hold communities together, claims Perry, social media are changing the way our brains work.
A challenging thesis, but Perry's disturbing ideas received almost instant corroboration.
In an extraordinary outburst on Facebook, the New Zealand film-maker, Barbara Sumner-Burstyn, delivered the following, scathing, "testimonial" to Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker, the young New Zealand soldier killed in action in Afghanistan on August 19: 'Oh, so fallen soldier Jacinda Baker liked boxing and baking - did they forget she also liked invading countries we are not at war with, killing innocent people and had no moral compass. She 100 per cent does not deserve our respect for her flawed choices. We are not at war. We are helping America invade another country for their oil. No more than that.'
It is difficult to know where to begin with this thoroughly obnoxious piece of writing. 

Chris Trotter obviously found a starting place, because he continues thus:

Perhaps with Sumner-Burstyn's simple errors of fact.
Corporal Baker did not invade Afghanistan, she was posted there as a serving member of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) which was in Afghanistan at the behest of the New Zealand Government, which had agreed to supply the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) with a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamiyan province.
The ISAF is in Afghanistan by virtue of a UN Security Council resolution authorising UN member states to aid the creation of an effective and democratic Afghan government.
Baker, far from 'killing innocent people' was a medic - duty-bound to assist all those wounded in combat or injured by enemy munitions - regardless of status or nationality.
When she was killed, Baker was escorting an injured comrade to medical assistance. It is extremely difficult to reconcile these facts with Sumner-Burstyn's charge that Baker 'had no moral compass'.
Sumner-Burstyn's final claim: 'We are helping America invade another country for their oil' is similarly false.
Afghanistan possesses no oilfields worth expending US blood and treasure to secure.
The Americans are there for only one reason. Because the Taleban Government of Afghanistan had offered safe haven to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda: the terrorists ultimately responsible for the murderous attacks of September 11, 2001. 

Ouch! OK; that's any factual basis for BSB's rant gone out the window. Trotter now turns to the outburst itself, and its unpleasant consequences:

Natural reticence, not to mention fear of instant retaliation, would almost certainly have prevented Sumner-Burstyn from uttering such false and hurtful accusations in front of people who did not share completely her opinions on the Afghanistan conflict.
The classical injunction "De mortuis nil nisi bonum - Of the dead speak only good" invokes a simpler world in which people confronted one another face-to-face.
By placing a computer screen between herself and Baker's family, friends and comrades, Sumner-Burstyn lost the inhibitive effect of close human proximity. Without its protection she had nothing to shield her from the full emotional and practical consequences of her actions.
These followed with terrifying speed and intensity.
Sumner-Burstyn's comments appeared on her Facebook page on Friday, by Saturday a new Facebook page - Sumner Burstyn Give Back Your NZ Passport! - had attracted more than 15,000 followers.
Reading the comments posted on this new page, Perry would no doubt suffer an embarrassment of evidential riches for his diminishing-empathy thesis.
If Sumner-Burstyn's comments were ignorant and insensitive, the response was nothing short of homicidal.
The reactive firestorm's flames leaped across the Pacific Ocean to Canada - where Sumner-Burstyn is working - and she hurriedly took down her Facebook page and changed her email address.
Too late.
On the internet everything is recoverable - including screen-shots of Sumner- Burstyn's original comments.
By Sunday, family members had been driven from their homes by the public fury.
Threatened with rape and murder, Sumner-Burstyn fears to return to New Zealand.

And Trotter delivers one final cyberswipe at BSB's outburst, whilst acknowledging the over-the-top responses it drew; he concludes thus:

A recent photograph of Sumner-Burstyn shows a middle-aged woman posed in front of a large bookcase filled with academic literature.
Studying her face, and reading about her many awards for documentary film- making - many of them on 'progressive' themes - it is difficult to fathom how Sumner-Burstyn could be capable of such casual cruelty.
As a clearly gifted artist and feminist, it is extraordinary that she was so utterly unable to empathise with Baker - the first female member of her generation to lose her life on active service.
By the same token, it is profoundly depressing to read the spittle-flecked responses of her detractors.
Baker lost her life on a mission to rebuild and heal a damaged province in a ravaged land.
Her empathy merited a much more generous memorial.
This is an excellent if somewhat surprising column by Chris Trotter. But it's interesting that even someone like him from the far Left of the political spectrum acknowledges that our presence in Afghanistan has a positive impact on a much-troubled land. It's just a shame that Barbara Sumner Burstyn didn't think for a moment as Trotter has before starting this ugly battle.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Same-sex marriage is a step closer. Louisa Wall's Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill has passed its First Reading by 80 votes to 40.

The Bill will now go to select committee to allow for public submissions. Given that the Bill is a Members' Bill, its progress now will be a slow process, with the limited time allocated to Members' Bills.

And from all reports we've seen, the tone of the debate tonight was dignified and respectful. If only Parliament was like that all the time.

Tweet of the Day - 29 August 2012

Winston Peters is planning to vote against keeping the age for purchase of alcohol at 18 years. He has told reporters that "Young people had their chance and blew it".

That's prompted a response from one of our Twitter friends which is deserving of a Tweet of the Day award; check this out:

It's hard to disagree with Joel's logic. Well done that man!

Economics for Dummies

Oh dear; Clayton Cosgrove has displayed his lack of economic literacy; Ele from Homepaddock blogs:

Clayton Cosgrove reckons Mighty River Power’s annual result as evidence the state owned company was in no fit state for sale.
But Dene Mackenzie in the ODT (not online) points out Cosgrove’s made a major error:
The inability of Labour SOE spokesman Clayton Cosgrove to read a balance sheet is a breathtakingly sad indictment of the arguments surrounding whether or not the Government should partly sell down its electricity companies.
Mr Cosgrove, who in a previous life worked for a Perth-based mining company, issued a statement yesterday saying Mighty River Power’s $60 million profits plunge was yet another reason for the Government to stop its uneconomic asset sales programme.
“Mighty River profits have almost halved. That will have a real impact on their share price if the Government rushes ahead with the sale. Listing a struggling company in a market like this is economics for dummies,” the MP said. . .
However he wasn’t reading the announcement properly.
. . . In fact, Mighty River Power’s operating earnings – what it makes before any interest payments, tax, depreciation, amortisation financial adjustments (the true reflection of a company’s profitability)  – came in at $461.5 million, up 4% on the previous corresponding year.
The company had fair value adjustments of $92.8 million which did take the reported profit down to $68 million, mainly reflecting a significant fall in interest rates in the first half of the financial year.
That resulted in the recognition of an adverse change in the non-cash fair value of financial instruments . .

Is Mr Cosgrove truly the economic brains of the Labour Party? Oh dear; and these people want to occupy the Treasury Benches. It must be time for a Tui...

FB Status of the Day

It's not often that we have even a modicum of agreement with Martyn Bradbury. But he poses a very interesting question with this status update on Facebook:

Is Bradbury right? Certainly Michael Laws has been at the forefront of the Stewart Murray Wilson furore, which won't have done his radio ratings any harm. We'll let the blogosphere be the judge.

How the army says "Goodbye"...

If you spend a bit of time on the internet, the chances are that you've already seen this video. But we're embedding it in this post nonetheless.

At times we suffer from haka fatigue, never moreso than when the likes of Dave Currie led a haka for a swimmer finishing fourth at the Commonwealth Games. This is a REAL haka though, as personnel from 2/1 Battalion of the RNZIR at Burnham Military Camp honour the lives, the service and the death in combat of three of their colleagues in an emotional tribute:

Rest peacefully Luke Tamatea, Jacinda Baker and  Richard Harris - Ake! Ake! Kia kaha e; arohanui.

Let's have a civilised debate

Louisa Wall's Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill will have its First Reading in Parliament today. It seems likely to pass that hurdle, and go on to select committe.

Whatever the outcome today, we hope that Parliament holds a civilised debate. This is an emotional and polarising issue, and both those who are for and against the Bill are strongly so.

There has already been a degree of labelling and name-calling surrounding this debate. The vote will be a conscience vote, and every MP should vote as they personally believe they should, without the risk of either being accused of changing the world as we know it, or being a bigot or homophobe, depending on whether they file into the Ayes or the Noes lobby.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Secret Diary of Rufus Paynter and his mate David

Steve Braunais has excelled himself with his latest Secret Diary, although David Shearer might not share our enthusiasm; check this out:

I was chatting with one of my neighbours by the letterbox this afternoon after work when he flew into a sudden rage.
I'd seen him like this before. I admired it; social injustice always made his blood boil.
“See that guy over there?” he asked, and pointed across the road. I turned and saw a sickness beneficiary painting the roof of his house.
I could tell he was on a sickness benefit because he was in a wheelchair on account of the fact that one of his legs had been amputated. Also, he was coughing blood.
My neighbour continued, “That bastard's been up there all day painting the roof of his house when he could be looking for a job. It's not bloody fair. Do you guys support him?”
I said, “I have little tolerance for people who don't pull their weight.”
He said, “What are you going to do about it?”
I couldn't believe my eyes when I got home from a hard day's work, looked across the road, and saw the sickness beneficiary painting his roof.
I'd really dealt to him last night.
I'd waited till it was dark, went to his house, crept up the ladder, tipped him out of his wheelchair, and gave him the bash. By the time I finished with him he was lying in a bloody, coughing heap, legless.
But there he was today, sitting in his wheelchair, painting his roof as though he didn't have a care in the world.
The neighbour came out to the letterbox.
“Would you look at that,” he said, and spat at the ground.
I said, “I still don't know how he manages to get up the ladder in his wheelchair.”
He said, “No, not him. Him.” He pointed at a man walking along the street.
I said, “Is he a sickness beneficiary, too?” He said, “Probably. The point is that he's a Maori youth. What are you going to do about it?” 

The story of David Shearer and Rufus Paynter isn't going to go away any time soon, and the Leader of the Opposition is just going to have to grin and bear it.

In the meantime, Steve Braunias continues to have a field day at David Shearer's expense, and we recommend that you read his entire piece. Be warned though; this is not a story to be read whilst drinking tea or coffee!

When you're in a hole...

More evidence of why Rod Emmerson is our favourite daily cartoonist:

Great stuff; and the old maxim "when you're in a hole, stop digging might well apply!

Is Citizen Liu about to be de-citizened?

It would seem that our old friend Bill Liu may not have seen the last roll of the dice in his citizenship furore; Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key is not ruling out stripping Chinese fugitive Yong Ming Yan of New Zealand citizenship.
The Office of the Auditor-General is investigating why former Labour minister Shane Jones gave Mr Yan a New Zealand passport in 2008.
Mr Yan, a wealthy political donor - also known as Bill Liu - was red-flagged by Interpol as a fugitive.
He was wanted for fraud and identity theft in China and Internal Affairs officials advised Mr Jones that his application should be declined.
Mr Jones, who was stood down from his shadow portfolios in May, says he gave Mr Yan a passport on humanitarian grounds, and that he had been told Mr Yan would be arrested, executed and his organs harvested if he were sent back to China.
Yesterday, Mr Key said Mr Jones has some "big questions to answer". It was difficult to comment until Auditor-General Lyn Provost had finished her investigation, he said.
However, citizenship could be revoked if "[a minister is] satisfied that they obtained the citizenship by fraud, false representation or wilful concealment of relevant information or by mistake". 

This is a welcome statement from John Key. Even though Liu was cleared of criminal charges, the Judge who heard the case was strongly suspicious of the documents used by Liu in his citizenship application.

It will be interesting to see what the Auditor-General finds in this case. And in fact we wonder whether the release of the A-G's report is imminent, given a recent flurry of activity and interest in the case.

Revoking Liu's citizenship would meet with widespread approval. And it would immediately distance the current government from its predecessor, and from the allegations that Bill Liu received a New Zealand passport more by way of political patronage than by his suitability under the law.

Photo of the Day - 28 August 2012

Lydia Ko; New Zealand is incredibly proud of you!

What to do with Wilson?

Wanganui's attempt to stop Stewart Murray Wilson being dumped here has failed; the Herald reports:

A judge has dismissed Wanganui District Council's bid to stop serial sex offender Stewart Murray Wilson from being paroled to the region.
Wilson, dubbed the "Beast of Blenheim", also failed in his bid to have his strict release conditions eased.
After the two hearings in the High Court at Wellington yesterday Justice Ron Young released the outcome but not his full decision.
He told the Parole Board to work out a plan for Wilson's reintegration into the community after his lawyer Andrew McKenzie said there was no timeline in place.
The council says it will continue to fight the decision to move Wilson, 65, into its community. It will hold a meeting tomorrow, open to the public, to discuss its next moves.
Wanganui Mayor Annette Main said yesterday she was "frustrated and disappointed" with the outcome of the hearing.
"We have legitimately put the concerns of our community at the heart of our decision to pursue legal action and whilst that has not produced our desired outcome, we will continue to listen and support the Wanganui community in an overriding and powerful desire for a safe community.
"I have said this many times and I reiterate - Stewart Murray Wilson will never be welcome in our community or any other community in New Zealand."
Ms Main said Wanganui held Corrections and the police responsible for ensuring Wilson, who will be released this week after serving 18 years of a 21-year sentence for crimes against women and children, caused no harm to the community.
"This is a significant responsibility and one which they cannot hide from," she said.

Whether we like it or not (and for the record, we don't!) Wilson will be released from prison tomorrow. Quite where he will go is anyone's guess; the Wanganui District Council is yet to approve a consent for his house to be sited in the grounds of Wanganui Prison, so it will be several weeks until his house is ready for occupation.

In the meantime, all we can do is to call for sanity. As tempting as it may be to deal to Wilson, violence is not the solution. He is a thoroughly unpleasant fellow who has reportedly shown no remorse for his serious offending, but giving him "the bash" is not the solution. 

Annette Main is quite right; Corrections and Police have a big responsibility to keep the Wanganui community safe. And if Wilson violates his parole conditions, they have a responsibility to lock him up quick-smart.

Stewart Murray Wilson is a dilemma that is not of Wanganui's making. But from tomorrow onwards, he will be Wanganui's problem. That is not something which we relish.

Monday, August 27, 2012

How good is Lydia Ko?

Lydia Ko has once again made history. Not content with having been the youngest ever winner of a professional tournament, and not content with being the world's best female amateur golfer, she has blitzed the field at the Canadian Women's Open on the USLPGA Tour. In doing so, she has become the LPGA's youngest ever winner, and the first New Zealnder to win on women's golf's toughest and most competitive tour.

And Ko didn't just win today. She shot a 5 under par 67 in the final round, equaling the low round of the day. That gave her a three-shot margin over the chasing pack which might have been even more had Ko not bogeyed the closing hole. It was an emphatic victory against a field of seasoned professionals.

So just how good is Lydia Ko? Right now, at 15 years and four months of age she has shown that she can compete with the best in the world, amateur or professional. Perhaps the question we should be asking is this; just how good can she become? Her work ethic is reported to be enormous, and yet she retains the youthful exuberance of a teenager, and seems to have a fantastic temperament and attitude.

We congratulate Lydia Ko warmly on her latest triumph. She is going to provide the likes of Valerie Adams and Lisa Carrington stiff competition when it comes time to hand out the 2012 Halberg Awards. 

We can't help but wonder...

The Herald on Sunday had a deeply concerning story yesterday; check this out:

The Taleban says Kiwi troops are easier targets than other Coalition forces because of their inferior weaponry.
After the New Zealand armed force's bloodiest month since November 1951, the Taleban's Zabiullah Mujahid promised more bloodshed for Kiwi troops.
"We will find them and kill them, there's no safety for them," the Afghan militia's spokesman said.
The Taleban had extensive knowledge of New Zealand weaponry and movements, he said in an authenticated telephone interview with a Herald on Sunday correspondent in Kabul.

So we can't help but wonder; why is a major New Zealand newspaper running propoganda for the Taleban? Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman feels likewise; read on:

Dr Coleman said the Government would not be swayed by his words.
"There is a war of words and propaganda, and naturally the Taleban would want to unsettle the public and the Government of New Zealand with statements like this," he told TVNZ's Q + A programme today.

Dr Coleman is dead right; the Taleban's propoganda will unsettle people. So why is a New Zealand publication giving them the chance?

Where is the UDRS?

The Black Caps have predictably been beaten comprehensively by India in the first test match at Hyderabad. Mike Hesson's reign as coach has begun in the worst possible fashion.

But if one thing has emerged from this match, it is the need for the ICC to man up, and either demand that India adopts the Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS), or scrap it altogether.

Let's be frank; New Zealand got the rough end of the stick in this match, especially in the second innings when they were following on on a wearing pitch. Martin Guptill was given out LBW by umpire Ian Gould when not playing a shot; always a dangerous thing to do, or not do! But replays clearly showed that the ball from Indian spinner Pragyan Ohja was turning past the off stump.

Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson batted resolutely through the morning session. But their defiant stand was cut short by Australian umpire Steve Davis soon after lunch. McCullum got a huge inside edge onto his pads, and was mortified when given out LBW. This is precisely the type of umpiring howler that the UDRS is designed to detect, but it quite literally changed the course of the match.

We are not making excuses for the New Zealand batsmen; the Indian bowlers were simply too good for them. But the one productive partnership of the match for New Zealand was sawn off by a very poor piece of umpiring.

The ICC cannot put this in to too-hard basket any longer. Either every cricketing nation endorses the UDRS, or it should be scrapped. But the current impasse between the ICC and the India Board of Control cannot be allowed to continue and fester; it is destroying the great game of cricket.

Citizen Liu

Guyon Espiner reopened the Bill Liu cash-for-citizenship scandal last night on 60 Minutes. And he has summarised what he has discovered from official documents released under the OIA in this blog-post:

It’s not often that you put an item of nearly 20 minutes to air and still feel that there was plenty more of the story still to tell.

60 Minutes Producer Chris Wilks and I spent a month digging deep into the story of Citizen Yan and had access to documents giving us an enormous amount of detail.

But we still feel there is plenty we don’t know.

In fact all the things which, for most people are very simple, in Yan’s case, are opaque.

Like what’s his name? Yong Ming Yan, Yang Liu, Bill Liu, Wiremu Liu and William Yan are among his monikers. The search warrant for his Metropolis apartment also seeks documents in the name of Yong Ming Run.

Because of the time constraints that a programme like 60 Minutes imposes, Espiner had to pack a lot into what became a very fast-paced story. You could say that Bill Liu is the epitome of the International Mystery Man.

But what was most noticeable was the reluctance of his former Labour Party mates to shed any light on Citizen Liu. Espiner's last comment is probably his most telling:

The greatest mystery to me is why Jones approved the citizenship application and did so without documenting his reasons.

He says he made a file note of an official telling him that Yan would be sent to his death and his organs harvested if he returned to China.

Jones hasn’t produced the note and says he didn’t put it on the file. Why not? There are hand written notes from Jones on Parliamentary notepad paper in the file we saw. But not that one.

He says he’s glad he didn’t put it on the file because the file “leaked”. But if you were a Minister making a controversial decision against the advice of officials wouldn’t you want your reasons to be there in black and white when the scrutiny came on?

The Auditor General will now pick over these bones and be asking many of the questions we, and many journalists before us, have been asking.

The biggest question for Shane Jones is, does he have a political future?

Recent activity on a certain stock at iPredict suggests that Shane Jones' political future is far from secure, irrespective of what the Auditor-General's inquiry finds. He has been hung out to dry by his former colleagues.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Christian Music Sunday - 26 August 2012

This one's for Neil Armstrong, who had a far closer view of the universe than most of us will ever have:

Enjoy, and apologies for the lateness!

A Clayton's apology

Sumner Burston has apologised to Jacinda Baker's family. You can read her "apology" here.

We use inverted commas, because Ms Burstyn devotes two paragraphs to the apology itself, and nine paragraphs to justifying what she said. That her justification is more than four times longer than the apology suggests makes it a Clayton's apology in our ever-humble opinion.

And she can't even spell Jacinda Baker's name right, repeatedly referring to her as Jacinta. So much for her ability as a writer!

So we've re-written the apology for her; never say that we're not helpful! Here it goes, in just one paragraph:

It’s been a difficult few days. I made a comment on facebook. A thoughtless comment for which I unreservedly apologise to the family, friends and loved ones of Jacinda Baker.

Job done.

RIP Neil Armstrong

It was a cold July afternoon in 1969. And our third form maths class huddled around a radio as Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. Our teacher was one of the senior masters at the school and not normally given to frivolities in the classroom, but even he knew that this was history in the making.

This morning, news is emerging that Armstrong has died, at the age of 82; CBS News reports:

Neil Armstrong, the Apollo 11 astronaut who became the first human being to set foot on another world, has died. He was 82.
In a statement his family said Armstrong had passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.
The family described him as a loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend, and also as "a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job."
That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.
When Armstrong set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, he fulfilled the goal that had been set by President John F. Kennedy just eight years earlier.
It was a long, long way from Armstrong's birthplace near tiny Wapakoneta, Ohio in 1930.
Armstrong's fascination with airplanes began with his first flight at age six, and that fascination never abandoned him. He left Purdue University in 1950 when the Korean War broke out, and flew 78 combat missions as a naval aviator.
After the war, he became a test pilot and flew the hottest aircraft around, including the sleek X-15 rocket plane. He took the powerful craft to 207,000 feet - almost 38 miles - and the edge of space.
He was in the first group of civilian astronauts, and made his initial flight in 1966, aboard Gemini eight.
The mission almost ended in disaster when a thruster on his craft stuck open, sending the ship whirling through space. With his trademark coolness, Armstrong used a back-up system, stopped the one-revolution-per-second spin and made an emergency landing in the Pacific.
The preparation for the moon landing included learning how to fly the ungainly lunar module, which would descend vertically to the moon's surface.
Armstrong had another brush with death when the training vehicle rolled to its side, and he was forced to eject just two hundred feet from the ground.
And then, finally, after years of training, the moment arrived: On July 16, 1969, a giant Saturn V rocket lumbered off the pad at the Kennedy Space Center, carrying the thirty-eight-year-old Armstrong and crewmates Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins.
Armstrong later said that the landing itself was the high point of the mission for him. He coaxed the lunar module past craters and boulders as Aldrin called out speed and altitude.
"Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."
After almost a day there, the astronauts lifted off, rejoined Collins in the command module and began the long journey home. 

Neil Armstrong will forever be known as the first man on the moon. But even the immortality that history brings could not prolong his mortal life. We salute him this morning.

Robbie's last stand?

For the first time since 1962, the All Blacks beat the Wallabies to nil last night. Both sides improved significantly from Sydney, but if anything the 22-nil scoreline flattered the Wallabies. David Long from Stuff sums the match up in three paragraphs:

So much for a World Cup hangover, so much for second test syndrome, so much for trans-Tasman rivalry, so good are the All Blacks.
The 22-0 win over Australia at Eden Park was yet another emphatic win for Steve Hansen and his men and one that will leave the Springboks, Pumas and the rest of the rugby playing world shaking with fear.
This was the first time since 1962 that Australia had failed to score a point against the All Blacks in a test, the score that day at Carisbrook was 3-0. 

Australia didn't even look like scoring last night. The All Blacks' discipline was much improved from Sydney, and Berrick Barnes didn't have a single shot at goal during the match.

And late in the match, the TV cameras turned to the respective coaching boxes. Robbie Deans had the look of a condemned man. Perhaps the camera angle and the shot through a glass window was unflattering, but he almost looked ill with stress.  And who would be surprised with that?

Australia loves a winner. But over at the Sydney Morning Herald, rugby correspondent Greg Growden outlines Deans' dilemma:

WALLABIES coach Robbie Deans admitted he expected the ''wolves to be at his door'' after suffering yet another humiliating loss to the All Blacks last night.
Deans, somewhat croaky after experiencing his 14th loss in 17 encounters with the All Blacks, said he was not thinking about his future.
When asked if he felt safe in his job, Deans replied: ''It's not about me. It's about the team and what we do. We are at the front end of the Rugby Championship, and we now reset our sights on South Africa and Argentina. It [his future] is the last thing on my mind at the moment. It's about the team. We have to now pick it up and carry on.''
Later in the media conference, a clearly dejected Deans was asked if there ''would be now more wolves at your door in Australia?'' and that he would be subjected to more criticism and scrutiny - especially with the Bledisloe Cup gone for another season. ''No doubt,'' he said. ''We're not the No.1 side in the world, and it's pretty evident who is.''

The next few days will be tough on Robbie Deans, but the pressure is mounting, and he knows it. He may survive the Rugby Championship, but we suspect that Deans' tenure as Wallaby coach is nearing an end.