Thursday, January 31, 2013

Gareth gets hacked

It was bound to happen; check this out, from the TVNZ website:

Gareth Morgan has gone out of his way to make himself unpopular in the last ten days, so this is no surprise at all; apart from it having taken ten days! 

The warning is there loud and clear for any politician who ever considers the madness of banning cats.

Tweets of the Day - 31 January 2013

So much for gravitas and respect for the institution of Parliament. Labour is clearly trying to score political points with this announcement; how else could you explain these tweets?

The mere thought of Trevor Mallard presiding over Parliament is bizarre. He is second only to Winston Peters as the most-ejected MP. Mr Mallard would make the choice of Tau Henare look like an inspired decision.

Fortunately, Mr Mallard will be defeated. But whoever has advised David Shearer to proceed down this path has ensured that the Labour Party can rightly be accused of turning the election of the new Speaker into a joke. Is it any wonder that politicians are so poorly regarded by the public?

UPDATE: Congratulations to David Carter on his election as Speaker of the House. He'll be hoping that Trevor Mallard is not a bad loser!

But, but... it's encrypted!

Oh dear. Mega hasn't even been in business for two weeks yet, but already there are problems; the Herald reports:

Kim Dotcom's new website has received around 150 notices for copyrighted content allegedly being hosted on the service since its launch 10 days ago.
The file-sharing and storage business, Mega, went live on January 20 with the internet entrepreneur's extradition case for alleged copyright violation concerning his previous business Megaupload still hanging over his head.
While Megaupload was taken down by US Government this time last year, Dotcom has claimed a team of lawyers scrutinised every aspect of the his new business and are convinced it won't suffer the same fate.
One of the key protections that Mega believes will keep it safe is that all files uploaded to the service are encrypted and its team cannot see what users are sharing or storing.
As Mega can claim to have no knowledge of what is being shared, the argument is that the website is legally shielded from responsibility for any swapping and copying of copyrighted material by users.
As well as this, Mega provides a system for rights holders to request for content to be taken down if they think their copyright is being infringed.
According to an intellectual property lawyer acting for Dotcom, Rick Shera, the website had received around 150 notices alleging copyright infringement as of yesterday.

So how do those people who are alleging copyright breaches by Mega know that their copyright has been breached? Is Mega's encryption service less secure than Mega's founders have boasted. Is the encryption nothing more than smoke and mirrors?

When it comes to Mega, and its predecessor Megaupload, nothing would surprise.

Emmerson on museum-pieces

Herald cartoonist Rod Emmerson looks forward to a future museum-piece:

Might snail-mail be headed for oblivion?

A Whip of a Caption Contest

Taupo MP Louise Upston has been elected as the National Party's senior whip, replacing Michael Woodhouse who has been given a ministerial role. And from Facebook, here's the ceremonial handing over of an actual whip. New junior whip Tim McIndoe looks on:

It's a natural for a Caption Contest, so you know the rules; keep' em short, pithy, on-topic and amusing, and don't get unnecessarily personal. Other than that, you're only limited by your imagination.

Go on; have a crack. You know you want to...

Well done Mark Brown

Kiwi golfer Mark Brown has an important date in July; Fred Woodcock reports on Stuff:

New Zealand golfer Mark Brown has produced one of the rounds of his life to set a course record at Kingston Heath in Melbourne today and qualify for this year's British Open.
Brown was tied for 27th at even-par heading into today's second and final round at the International Final Qualifying event, and knew he needed to go low to have any chance of claiming one of just three spots available for Muirfield in July.
He stood on the first tee just wanting to have fun, and that's exactly what he did, firing in eight birdies and an eagle in a flawless round of 10-under par 62 to finish at 10-under for the 36-hole tournament and top the 72-strong field.
Australians Stephen Jeffress (nine-under) and Stephen Dartnall (eight-under) claimed the other two spots.
In setting a course record at the famed Kingston Heath layout, which has played host to some of golf's best over the years, the 37-year-old has booked his second British Open start.
He failed to make the cut in his only other appearance, at Turnberry in 2009 when he was playing on the European Tour.
"It was an awesome day, it looks like I'm through which is great," Brown said soon after his round.
"I was even-par yesterday so I had to go out today and just blaze away and have some fun. I managed to get off to a pretty good start.
"I am lucky enough to have played in The Open before so it's nice to be able to have another crack. These qualifying days are pretty hit or miss, there are only three spots for 70-odd guys, so it was always going to be tough. It's just a great thrill." 

Qualifying events are notably fickle; far more players leave the course disappointed than in celebration mode. In Brown's case the odds were definitely against him.

And Mark Brown can take heart; when Michael Campbell won the US Open in 2005, he did so from qualifying in the UK, so the precedent has been set.

But if nothing more, Mark Brown has a very special week already marked off on his 2013 season calendar. We hear that Muirfield in lovely in the Scottish summer!

Quote of the Day - 31 January 2013

Here's what Judith Collins has said of the legal action taken by David Bain's legal team yesterday:

Ms Collins said the compensation application fell outside Cabinet guidelines and was entirely at Cabinet's discretion.
"I have taken steps to ensure the process is fair and proper throughout.
"Put simply, it would be unacceptable for Cabinet to base its decision for compensation on an unsafe and flawed report. That would not have resulted in justice for anyone, let alone Mr Bain.''
She said Mr Bain's request for the Government to put the compensation application on hold while a judicial review went ahead would only result in a further delay.
Ms Collins would not comment further while the matter was before the Courts.

We remain of the view that Judith Collins was absolutely correct to take further advice on the Binnie Report. As the Minister responsible for making a recommendation to Cabinet, she would have been remiss in her duty to the people of New Zealand had she made that recommendation based on questionable advice.

Doubtless this will result in further delays to Bain's quest to be compensated, as well as further delaying Joe Karam's pay-day, based on whatever agreement he has reached with David Bain. Perhaps the Bain legal team now does not want the matter determined before the 2014 General Election; they may be pinning their hopes on a change of government, and the appointment of a Justice Minister who won't let facts get in the way of the chequebook.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Straight talking on housing

We didn't see or hear any of the proceedings of Parliament yesterday, given that we were dashing around the Mid North. We'll be doing more of the same today, so once again, Parliament will have to do without us.

But whilst the focus was on various party leaders preening and gloating, there were apparently some excellent speeches from less high profile members. A reader kindly e-mailed and suggested that we catch the speech by the Hon Maurice Williamson on houses and housing. Williamson is one of Parliament's better debaters, and we'd actually prefer to see him rather than Hon David Carter assume the role of Speaker of the House. That however is another debate for another day.

So here's Maurice Williamson's excellent speech, which we suspect was not warmly received in the Leader of the Opposition's office:

Labour offers much rhetoric with regard to housing, but little tangible, achieveable policy. And credit to Maurice Williamson for a factual rebuttal of Labour's affordable housing rhetoric.

Is this the perfect woman?

Stuff reports on a novel proposal from a visitor to Wellington:

It sounds too good to be true - an attractive, single woman looking for a man who likes rugby and beer.
Kelley Wigton describes herself as a "perfectly sane and fun California girl", but she has a unique dilemma. She has just landed in Wellington with two tickets to this weekend's Hertz Sevens in her hot little hands and she has no-one to go with.
So in an attempt to find someone who knows rugby - and who doesn't mind dressing up as an alligator - she is taking applications to be her sevens date through Trade Me.
The 26-year-old from San Francisco says her ideal companion would be a man aged 26 to 35, who "loves the Sevens and will drink beer and dress up with me".
She wants to attend with a guy because, in general, they tended to know more about the game, she says.
"And I want to go with someone who's just super-enthused and knows the way the game is played. I don't know a whole lot about rugby myself."
The only price would be two days' worth of friendship.
"But then, who knows? I'm single, 26 years old. Maybe I'll meet my future husband this way."
The lucky fella will have the choice of dressing like a sailor or in some type of animal costume, she says.
"I saw some alligators at a store on Cuba St that looked pretty cool."
She got the tickets while in Fiji last week, when a man in an All Blacks shirt offered them to her after she mentioned that her next stop was Wellington.
Her Trade Me advert had attracted just over 300 views by 8pm last night and had generated a few replies, but none had "fit the bill" just yet.
She was now a bit desperate to have a friend sorted in time for the teams' parade down Lambton Quay tomorrow.

As the very first Speight's advertisement noted "She's a hard road finding the perfect woman boy". Perhaps that advertisement needs to be refreshed!

Herald on the exchange rate

We're by no stretch of the imagination economists, which given Gareth Morgan's utterances over the last week is probably a good thing. But we find it hard to disagree with the Herald's editorial on the exchange rate this morning; check this out:

Times are very tough in manufacturing. The global recession has merely contributed an additional woe to a sector whose share of economic activity has been declining for more than two decades. An inquiry run by Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First has provided manufacturers with a platform to express their anguish over this state of affairs and what they see as the reasons for it. Virtually as one, they have highlighted the current high dollar. They want the Reserve Bank to be forced to focus on the exchange rate, rather than just inflation control. This is a recurring plea when the dollar is riding high. As in the past, it should go unheeded.
That will happen not only because the National Party is not part of this exercise and, indeed, blocked an official parliamentary inquiry. There are more fundamental issues related to the reality of this country's economy. The dollar has a marked tendency to rise and fall with world prices for our export commodities. When it is high, it makes non-commodity exporters, including manufacturers, and firms that compete with imports, less profitable.
But the reliance on commodities and a floating exchange rate means there will also always be periods when they also benefit from a low dollar. That situation will change, and greater currency stability will ensue, only if the economy is strengthened and substantially transformed, partly through New Zealand becoming more of an exporter of high-value products.
Despite this cyclical reality, the Greens, for one, support the call for the exchange rate to be part of the Reserve Bank's mandate. After all, they note, its Australian counterpart has multiple objectives. In practice, however, this notion is far from straightforward. Any attempt to orchestrate a lower exchange rate would be inimical to the sole focus on price stability of this country's Reserve Bank. It is extremely difficult to reduce the external value of the dollar without also lowering its domestic value, letting inflation loose.

Inflation is at historic lows. We reckon that far more people would be affected if inflation was suddenly allowed to run rampant, and that would cause far more damage to the domestic economy, especially for those on fixed incomes.

The Herald continues:

There is nothing to suggest that New Zealand's present approach is wrong. The dangers of inflation should never be under-estimated. Nor should the fact that it penalises the poor and savers most. Lowering the external value of the currency would also make New Zealand assets cheaper to overseas buyers. The consequence of these assets being for sale at bargain prices is unlikely to be relished by those listening to the manufacturers' appeals.
Those MPs also know that when Labour was in power, it initiated several reviews of the monetary policy arrangements. These included the 2001 Svensson Review and a select committee inquiry which reported in 2008. Both recommended only minor changes to the status quo. The MPs also know that the multiple objectives listed in the Reserve Bank of Australia's mandate have not prevented the Australian dollar from becoming extremely strong. Indeed, that strength, in New Zealand manufacturers' biggest market, has been a significant offset to their struggles in other areas. That situation reflects the Reserve Bank of Australia's view of where its real priorities lie.
The outlook is not all bleak for manufacturers. Many will get a boost from the expected surge in construction activity over the next few years. The positive factors supporting the dollar now - relatively high commodity prices, especially, and higher forecast growth than many developed countries - will also pass. Manufacturers need to amend their long-standing view that the working of the Reserve Bank is responsible for their plight. Other factors, not least the emergence of China, have been far more significant. They need also to recognise that a low dollar will never be the catalyst for a higher standard of living.

Whilst we are sympathetic to the plight of exporters, we agree with the Herald leader writer's assessment. It's not that long ago that the New Zealand dollar was around $0.50 to the US dollar, and exporters were making a killing. These things are cyclical in nature. And though those advocating a cut to New Zealand's exchange rate cite Australia as an example, let's not forget that the Australian dollar is at historic highs against the Greenback.

The level of our exchange rate is cyclical in nature. Sure; at the moment the cross-rate in uncomfortably high, but intervention by the Reserve Bank as proposed by Labour, the Greens and NZ First will be a stop-gap measure at best. New Zealand's economy is small-to-microscopic compared to the economies of the countries we trade with.

It is hard to see this "inquiry" as anything more than political grandstanding by the Opposition parties. In this case however, the "cures" that they advocate will cause the patient far more grief in the long term than the underlying condition. We need to accept that we are but a small fish in a large pond, and understand that the interventionist policies proposed by the Left are a relic of a bygone era, such as that presided over by the late Sir Robert Muldoon. Do we really want to go back there?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Emmerson on affordable houses

Rod Emmerson has been inside David Shearer's head for his offering today; here 'tis:

Note the Apologies to Jimi Hendrix label at the foot of the cartoon. Mr Shearer may play the guitar, but Hendrix he ain't!

Now; about those $300k homes...

David Shearer launched Labour's affordable homes policy in a blaze of publicity last year. We said at the time that the devil would be in the detail. And the devil for Labour is that $300,000 affordable homes won't happen in Auckland, unless you like living in a shoebox; the Herald reports: 

Labour leader David Shearer has conceded his party's affordable housing policy will only be able to deliver small apartments or terraced housing in Auckland for the $300,000 price tag - while standalone family homes are more likely to cost up to $550,000.
Labour's policy to deliver 100,000 affordable homes over 10 years was the centrepiece of Mr Shearer's State of the Nation address yesterday, aimed at setting out his new "hands-on" approach and priorities for the year.
When he announced the KiwiBuild policy last year, Mr Shearer said the aim was to put "Kiwi families" into their first homes at a cost of less than $300,000. Labour has repeatedly defended that figure despite National's attempts to say it was dishonest because it promised the impossible.
After his speech yesterday Mr Shearer said the $300,000 figure Labour had quoted was the average price of KiwiBuild homes nationwide rather than applying to every house under the scheme. "In some places it will be more."
He said it was possible to build small homes for $300,000 in Auckland, including in Massey, Papakura and Manurewa.
"They are apartments, they are terraced houses. For a three- or four-bedroom standalone house it will be more."

Oh dear. It hasn't taken long for Mr Shearer to have to retreat from a policy that was created in haste, without any detailed planning. How embarrassing, especially with Parliament due to resume this afternoon where the policy will doubtless by shredded by opponents.

Perhaps Mr Shearer had been taking counsel from the Monty Python team:

There was 150 of us livin' in a shoebox in t' middle of t' road.
Cardboard box?
You were LUCKY!

Photo of the Day - 29 January 2013

Sir Paul Holmes is generally regarded to be on his last legs, and his family has requested privacy.

So look who turned up yesterday, splashing his photograph around social media and the papers, all the while making sure that the helicopter was visible in the background:

Kim Dotcom's ego seems to know no bounds.

Expensive horse flesh

The Karaka Yearling Sales are off to a flying start thanks to the colt above; the Herald reports:

Don't ever underestimate the strength of the Irish gypsy blood.
Tom Magnier displayed it when he paid $1,975,000 for a Fastnet Rock-Celebria colt at the New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Yearling Sales in South Auckland yesterday.
The sale eclipsed the $1.7 million top-of-the-sale price for a Fastnet Rock colt at last year's sale.
But Mr Magnier showed plenty of grit in an electric bidding duel with Black Caviar's Australian trainer, Peter Moody.
Mr Moody stalked Mr Magnier all the way from when Te Akau's David Ellis dropped out at $1.3 million.

There was a bit of Irish logic on display as well; read on:

But when Mr Moody got to $1.9 million, Mr Magnier had the chance to go to $2 million and put Mr Moody into the less comfortable psychological situation. Why didn't he?
"Well, you have to try and buy horses as cheaply as you can."
The $1,975,000 compared to $2 million - economy or Irish logic.
During the bidding, Mr Magnier was on his cellphone to his father - tough, astute Irish businessman John Magnier. John Magnier would have been impressed.

The Karaka sale is the marquee event for New Zealand's bloodstock industry. It's also something of an economic barameter.  Last year's sale showed signs that the big-spending buyers were returning to the market after a subdued time due to global economic issues. The sale of the colt above on Day One is a real boom for this year's sale, and that has to be good news for everyone involved in this important industry.

Monday, January 28, 2013

UPDATED: Heading North

UPDATE: We reached our destination safely, and have just got back in after going into town for a kai. Puhoi to Wellsford was negotiated safely, but if ever there was a part of State Highway One that needs urgent and major work, it's Puhoi to Wellsford. The new toll road is brilliant, and a continuation further north would provide the people of Northland with much superior road access. Get those 'dozers rolling please John!


We're off to Northland this morning, where our business is about to expand. Traveling north on Auckland Anniversary Day might not be the best idea we've ever had, but hopefully with the fine weather people will stay down Coromandel a bit longer today, and we'll get across the bridge before the worst of the city-bound traffic.

It's more than 20 years since we last visited Northland, and we're looking forward to it. It'll also be the first time that we've traveled on the upgraded highway north of Auckland, but be assured; like most people who use that highway regularly, we're not going on holiday. Labour and the Greens' gratuitous use of the "holiday highway" label angers people in the North, for whom that road is an absolutely vital link.

Enough pontificating; it's almost time to hit the road. There's a bit of pre-loaded content, and we'll blog when able over the next few days, between meetings.

Have a great day!

Little on Morgan

Paul Little pokes the borax at Gareth Morgan in his HoS colum. He opines:

Unicef goodwill ambassador Gareth Morgan is known for combining an adventurous spirit with a commitment to original thinking. He seems to be forever riding up the Andes or down the Amazon, while still finding time to prove global warming is man-made and work out how to fix the health system.
But never has he undertaken a project more daring than his plan to eradicate cats from these islands.
He would have had a better chance of success and received a more open-minded hearing if he had advocated arranged marriages or compulsory veganism (for both of which there's a lot to be said).

We're not so sure at all about compulsory veganism, but we guess that if the Green Party was ever to govern, we might have to reconsider. But he continues, extolling the virtues of the humble moggie:

Cats are unusual beasts. Unlike all other domesticated creatures, they do nothing of use for humanity - they can pull only the lightest of farm machinery, they produce inferior wool - besides being a bastard to shear - and they make for very scrappy eating. So not only are they highly evolved and efficient predators themselves, they are also parasites who prey on the humans to whom they pretend to attach themselves for food and shelter.
Predictably, the proposal unleashed a terrifying tsunami of cat and pussy puns alongside a torrent of personal abuse. "Gareth Morgan sanctimonious old poop with bad facial hair - discuss" was one of the more temperate early comments on Facebook.
Then the debate took a turn for the worse. The SPCA's Bob Kerridge came across like a foaming-mouthed member of the US National Rifle Association, telling Morgan to "back off" and stay out of New Zealanders' lives. The state has no place in the cat baskets of the nation as far as the animal advocate is concerned and if Morgan wants to have his way, he will have to take Kerridge's pussy from his cold dead hands.
Yet, for an economist, Morgan has shown himself surprisingly unaware of the Law of Unintended Consequences. If there were no cats, for example, the number of YouTube videos would be cut by about half.
And, as we know from our dismally ineffective drug laws, when you make something illegal you create a black economy and a whole new bunch of criminals. The spectre of little old ladies, desperate for a feline fix, turning up at gang-run kitty houses with ready money to buy a kitten hardly bears thinking about. Super can only stretch so far and before long they would be stealing to pay for the cat biscuits - by now only available on the black market - to feed their habits.
Meanwhile, synthetic drug entrepreneur Matt "The Cat" Bowden would be genetically modifying cat DNA to create legal equivalents of the banned versions.

And in closing, Paul Little refers to the one area where Gareth Morgan can't use economic theory or logic; the cute factor:

What Morgan has failed to acknowledge is that cats are cute. You can't take on cute and expect to win. And, although they have no economically practical use, they do serve one important function. For many people living on their own cats are their only companions.
The core of the argument between Morgan and his opponents, therefore, is a perfectly balanced one between emotion and reason. The overwhelmingly negative reaction demonstrates that when you put those two head to head, emotion will always win.

Gareth Morgan was always going to be on a hiding to nothing with this campaign. And although Paul Little has looked at the whole furore with a degree of levity, he is dead right when he says that emotion  will win out.

Disclaimer: Ours is a three-cat whare. She Who Must Be Obeyed's blood pressure went through the roof last week, and Gareth Morgan had best stay away from Whanganui for a while.


Young Labour Caption Contest

The caption on the Facebook photo below read thus:

Grant Robertson and Morehu Rei open Young Labour Summer School 2013. Really good numbers gathering on the outskirts of Wainuiomata. looking forward to a weekend of working with this great group of young people determined to make a difference.

We're sure that you can do better than that, and the normal rules apply. Keep 'em short, to the point, pithy and amusing, and don't get unnecessarily personal, although references to baldness will be tolerated!

Come on; you know you want to!


Photo of the Day - 28 January 2013

Young Hunter Scott is never going to forget this:

That's the one that DIDN'T get away; all 133.4kg of it. It's a heck of a fish for anyone, let alone a seven-year-old boy!

Quintuple vision

From the Men Behaving Badly department, the Dom-Post reports:

Police have cast doubt on claims by Terry Serepisos that he was attacked and kicked in the head by five Wellington Cup racegoers.
Hutt Valley area commander Inspector Mike Hill said witnesses interviewed by police said only the bankrupt former property developer and another man were involved in the fight at Trentham Racecourse on Saturday.
Other people intervened, including several young women in Mr Serepisos's entourage who pushed the other man away, but there was no evidence anyone else laid a blow.
"It was a one-on-one situation," Mr Hill said. "Around the kicks in the head, that was not information that was given by anyone at the scene."
Yesterday, the other man involved in the fracas, who repeatedly refused to give his name, disputed Mr Serepisos's claim that he was jumped by five men.
"It was me and only me. He hit me, and I defended myself."
Mr Serepisos's version of events was designed to garner sympathy, he said. "It's a better read than he got beaten back by a 50-year-old man."
At this stage, police were not looking at laying charges, Mr Hill said. "If the information had extended to kicks in the head, we would have treated it differently."
He confirmed both men had been drinking, but only Mr Serepisos was ejected by racecourse security. The other man remained at the races and did not cause any further problems.
"It would appear that this incident wouldn't have happened if the people weren't affected by alcohol. It gave the bravado to say certain stuff, and the bravado to get in people's face." 

It was clearly the demon drink that gave Mr Serepisos quintuple vision. It's a bit hard to maintain credibility when even the people in your own group back your opponent's version of events.

Still, it could be worse for Mr Serepisos; he could be Gareth Morgan. Or ought that be the other way around?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Entitleitis; UK style

Entitleitis doesn't just exist in New Zealand; check this out, from the Sun in England (with our emphasis added):

A SKIVING couple told last night how they claim £17,680 a year in benefits — and don’t even bother looking for work because it would leave them worse off.Danny Creamer, 21, and Gina Allan, 18, spend each day watching their 47in flatscreen TV and smoking 40 cigarettes between them in their comfy two-bedroom flat.
It is all funded by the taxpayer, yet the couple say they deserve sympathy because they are “trapped”.
They even claim they are entitled to their generous handouts because their hard-working parents have been paying tax for years.
The pair left school with no qualifications, and say there is no point looking for jobs because they will never be able to earn as much as they get in handouts.
Gina admits: “We could easily get a job but why would we want to work — we would be worse off.”
Danny’s father, 46, even offered him a job with his bowling alley servicing company — but could not pay him enough.
Danny’s mum, 45, works as a carer, while Gina’s mum, 46, is a teacher and her dad, 53, is a manager with a security company.
Yet their parents’ work ethic has not rubbed off on Danny and Gina. Instead, they claim they are entitled to benefits because of their parents’ tax contributions — and even complain they should be given MORE.
Gina, flaunting fake tan and perfectly manicured nails, said: “I don’t see that we’re living off the taxpayers, we’re entitled to the money our parents paid all their lives.
“They’ve worked so hard since they left school and I’m sure they’d rather it went to us than see us struggle. They pay a lot of tax, and although they’d rather we weren’t in this situation and one of us had a job, they understand why we are where we are. We can’t help it, we’re stuck like it.”
Danny, who quit his job as a supermarket shelf-stacker after eight months, admitted: “I could easily go and work for my dad. He’s got a job for me, but could only afford to pay for my travel and accommodation because I’d be going around the country.
“After that he wouldn’t be able to afford to pay me a wage, so I’d be worse off.
“The same would happen if I was to work somewhere like a supermarket. If I was earning less than £26,000 a year, there wouldn’t be any point. I’d be no better off. Who in their right mind would do that?” The pair spoke after we revealed last Sunday that Lithuanian Natalija Belova, 33, branded Britain “a soft touch” for giving her £14,408 annual benefits. Mum-of-one Belova told how she lives a life of luxury in Watford, Herts, thanks to our “strange system”, adding: “I am not going to work like a dog on minimum wage.”
And yesterday Gina agreed. She said: “The only way we’d ever be better off is by both working. But then childcare would probably be one of our wages gone, and put us back in a more difficult position.
“We don’t feel ashamed for being on benefits. Neither of us have the slightest bit of guilt towards the taxpayers as both of our parents have been paying into the tax system for the last 30 years.
“So we are just getting back our parents’ huge contributions. My dad earns £65,000 a year so he’s paid more than his fair share of tax, so I don’t see what the problem is. The fault lies with the system, not us. There’s just no incentive to find work when we’ve got a better lifestyle than if we were to go out and work for 35-40 hours every week. Why would we give this up?”

The mind boggles! But Danny and Gina sound like perfect candidates for the Greens' housing scheme announced earlier in the week. 

Perhaps they could be the poster children for the scheme; if they could tear themselves away from the 47-inch telly for the photo-shoot that is!

It's a cold day in Hell...

We very seldom agree with Fairfax business journalist Rod Oram. But today is one of those rare days where ice is forming in Hell, as he strips away the veneer surrounding Kim Dotcom. Under the title Mega world of fantasy Oram opines:

One day, hopefully, we'll benefit from the ultimate internet. Then we'll be free to share information and knowledge widely while we reward its creators fairly.
We have a long way to go. Globally, governments are trying to curb internet freedom; and existing intellectual property laws and business models are thwarting progress.
We also have some local problems. We're failing to generate enough internet activity to justify investment in far bigger, cheaper cable connections with the rest of the world.
If we could help solve the global issues and overcome our local constraints we would revolutionise our society and transform our economy. Our businesses would be truly global, ingenious and creative people would earn a decent living and our communities would connect and thrive.
We have few leaders rising to these great challenges. But we need more and bolder ones.
Dangerously for us, however, Kim Dotcom has plunged into this gap. The man and his business models are the absolute antithesis of what the internet and this country need.

We agree wholeheartedly with that final statement. Dotcom's business model is based around greed and dishonesty; and getting others to do the dirty work for him.

And it not going to get any better with Mega in Oram's opinion; read on:

He dangles a glittering prospect others have offered before: he says we could generate jobs, wealth and taxes if we turned ourselves into one of the world's great data storage sites. After all, we have abundant, cheap and renewable electricity to power the servers. All we'd need is bigger cables to connect us with the world and a change of laws to make us the Switzerland of data secrecy.
He claims his new services, if they were based here, would within three years generate more traffic than the rest of NZ online activity combined. But everything is wrong about this proposition, from the economics to the practicality and morality.
A week ago he launched his first service, Mega, for storing and sharing files. It looks and works very similarly to his Megaupload site, which the US government closed down a year ago. The US is seeking Dotcom's extradition to face charges that Megaupload was a tool for the theft of US$500 million of pirated films and music, which generated US$175m of criminal proceeds.
Mega has one main difference: all data on it will be encrypted automatically as users load their files. Mega's owner and staff, not to mention governments and copyright holders, won't be able to check what might be pirated.
Dotcom believes this will keep law enforcers off his back and his service running. After all, he insists, many technologies have dual purposes - they can be used for legal and illegal purposes. He makes scant effort, though, to support the good and stamp out the bad. He is escalating, not winning, his fight with copyright holders.
He is also causing trouble for himself by getting offside with some in the international tech community. Within days of Mega's launch, encryption experts exposed numerous weaknesses in its systems. Dotcom has pledged to fix them. But given his history he will find it very difficult to make his service credible to legitimate users and acceptable to copyright holders.
In coming months he will launch his next service, Megabox, for music. Users will either pay for downloads or agree to download Mega software. This will displace ads on other websites with ads on which Mega will collect revenues. Either way, Dotcom says, artists will get money for their music. Google will certainly test the practicality and ethicality of this, since Dotcom is targeting 10 per cent of its ad revenues. He will find it, and other ad services, formidable enemies.
The third in his trifecta of new internet plays will be Megavideo. He's said very little about it yet. But given his view of the world, it will certainly be just as damaging to the cause of true internet progress as his other ventures to date.
Even if these businesses were successful, Dotcom's claims that he can create significant economic value for New Zealand are pure fantasy. Data storage of the type Dotcom peddles is a commodity business with wafer-thin margins and minimal value generation, in either jobs or other activity.
So Dotcom would never invest in server farms here. Even if we offered him fabulous connectivity at dirt-cheap prices he would do as he does now - scour the world for the cheapest storage he can rent from others. We would always be underbid.

Kim Dotcom is, in our ever-humble opinion, a taker and a user. In the long term, his business activities in New Zealand will do more harm than good. To his credit, Simon Power saw through the facade when he refused permission for Dotcom to be the "mansion" at Coatesville due to his questionable past.

And he has already caused his share of issues, as Oram notes in his conclusion:

Worse, we have become deeply entangled in Dotcom's legal problems. Our Government's stupid decision to give him residence here, and its incompetent surveillance and arrest of him, is dragging it and the country ever deeper into Dotcom's murky world.
We will find it very hard to get rid of Dotcom. If he wins his case against extradition to the US he will be too scared to travel abroad for fear the US will have another go at him. If he loses his case, appeals and delays will drag on for what will seem like eternity.
Meanwhile, he clearly loves life here as he plays the role of internet hero to local and global audiences. New Zealand's reputation can weather this. Every country has its share of such comic fantasists.
Anyone with a bit of sense knows true internet pioneers brilliantly devise and deliver valuable services for others, as have the founders of companies such as Apple, Google and Facebook; or fight heroically for principles, as Aaron Swartz did - as his recent obituary in The Economist testifies.
While many in our internet community can spot the difference, some of them are far too enamoured of Dotcom for their own good or the country's. They acknowledge his fatal flaws but think he can help fast-forward New Zealand's internet development.
We have a lot of things to offer the internet, including integrity. But hosting Dotcom is not one. 

Rod Oram may just have provided the most apt description of Kim Dotcom yet; a "comic fantasist". We may not agree with Oram's politics, but we commend his for not falling under the seductive spell of Dotcom as others in the New Zealand media have; most notably David Fisher from the NZ Herald and John Campbell from Campbell Live. Both of them have been seduced by the Dotcom machine, and are incapable of objectivity.

Well done Rod Oram. Here's hoping that more in New Zealand's media will actually read this piece, and ask themselves honestly whether Herr Dotcom is the real deal, or whether his is simply the latest smoke and mirrors salesman, running a decidedly dodgy business model which is parasitic towards the intellectual property of others.

Read all about it!

What does the Herald on Sunday want you to read about today? How about David Shearer's dog; check this out:

The name of Labour Party leader David Shearer's dog, Tino Rangatiratanga, might seem to better befit the family pet of a Maori Party politician.
But the schnoodle's handle is more about a play on the word tino or "tiny", Shearer says, coupled with the February 6 date his daughter spotted the adorable schnauzer-poodle cross on the internet.
February 6 is Waitangi Day.
"Calling him Tino seemed like a good idea at the time."
And so the affectionate, fluffy Tino has grown to become a firm favourite of his master, despite reservations about having a dog.
"He's a lovely little dog. He's generally well-behaved and he loves swimming."
He has even been known to follow Shearer into the surf until forced back to shore by breaking waves.
Shearer says they had to put Tino in kennels during previous camping holidays, but this year he accompanied them to their new Far North bolthole - a piece of land with a caravan and long drop.
There, he could chase rabbits in the paddock and swim in the nearby stream to his heart's content.
Shearer expects the house dog will have returned to Auckland a few pounds lighter, thanks to a summer holiday filled with non-stop action.

The Herald on Sunday; focusing on the things that matter since, like maybe next week!

Christian Music Sunday - 27 January 2013 (Parachute Festival Special)

Parachute Festival 2013 is underway at Mystery Creek near Hamilton. 20,000 punters have rocked up under clear skies and sunshine to enjoy some of the creme of the crop of Christian artists from around the world.

Here's a clip from the last Parachute Festival we went to as Hillsongs Australia worship leader Darlene Zschech joins Atlanta, Ga. rockers Third Day on Mainstage on the Sunday night to worship under the Aotearoa stars:

We'd love to be there this year to hear the likes of Switchfoot and the Newsboys, but we're otherwise committed. Blessings to all who are there though, and don't get sunburnt!

Life without Jesse

Jesse Ryder has made himself unavailable for the upcoming England series in New Zealand; Stuff reports:

Former Black Caps batsman Jesse Ryder has made himself unavailable for the upcoming tour by England.
The talented 28-year-old has been one of the form domestic players of the New Zealand summer, prompting speculation that he could return to the Black Caps set-up following their just-completed tour of South Africa.
Ryder fuelled the rumours in a radio interview two weeks ago when the Wellington batsman said he was still considering his options for the tour.
But his agent, Aaron Klee, confirmed to the Sunday Star-Times yesterday that Ryder would not be available for New Zealand selection for any of the games against England during February or March - and hinted that a return to the Black Caps may still be some time away.
"Jesse has decided he is not ready to return to the Black Caps yet," Klee said.
Ryder last played for New Zealand in late February 2012, in a one-day international against South Africa in Napier. Following the game, he and seamer Doug Bracewell went out drinking, breaking a team protocol, and were stood down for the next tour match in Auckland. 

Ryder's decision is unsurprising. What does surprise though is how intent Jesse Ryder is on sticking to goals that he has set for himself; read on:

Ryder, who has struggled with alcohol-related issues in the past, set in place a plan last June for the following 12 months, which featured a number of on and off-field goals. One of those was to not play international cricket for a year.
Klee, who wished to keep Ryder's off-field goals private, said the batsman intends to stick to his plan - which could see him miss the Black Caps tour to England in May and June.
"All his thinking at the moment is to keep to his original plan, which was to take 12 months out of international cricket," Klee said.
"That decision was made last June, so it's unlikely he's going to deviate from his plan. I think we need to respect that Jesse has made some really good decisions over the last 10 to 12 months.
"The first decision he made was he was going to make decisions for himself, and not do things because people want him to do them.
"He's continued to do that and has been making very good decisions. He has goals that he wants to achieve, and achieving those would be difficult while playing international cricket, especially given the schedule in the coming months."
Ryder's camp, who informed New Zealand Cricket of the decision last week, still intend to meet Black Caps coach Mike Hesson and manager Mike Sandle on Tuesday to discuss his plans for the upcoming six months - though Klee said a return for the England tour was never on the agenda. 

We wish Jesse Ryder every success in getting his personal life back on track. The work that he's been doing with inspirational boxing coach Billy Graham has clearly paid off. Whilst Ryder is never going to be a lean, mean batting machine, he's looking physically fitter than we've ever seen him, and that has shown in his form at domestic level this season.

Ross Taylor got a half-century against Canterbury yesterday, so he is on track for a return against England. It's a bit of a worry that there is little news about Tim Southee at the moment, but with competition for bowling spots in the test side and the work Shane Bond is doing, his absence could be absorbed. And as far as Daniel Vettori goes, his test days are, in our ever-humble opinion, behind him. That he has taken so long to recover from his latest injury suggests that a glut of cricket has taken its toll on his slender frame, and that he would be better to focus on ODI and T-20 cricket where his control is as good as anyone in the world. It's been a long time since Vettori has taken a bag of wickets in a test match, and we reckon that Father Time has overtaken him.

So it'll be life without Jesse against England. Here's hoping that New Zealand can carry over some of the fight and determination shown in the last week, and start the slow ascent from the nether reaches of the ICC rankings.

What about those Breakers?

The NZ Breakers have had a busy post-Christmas schedule. They've played eight matches in the last four weeks, but remarkably, they've won the lot, including six matches on the road. Last night they were simply too good for the Wollongong Hawks, winning 91-74 at Wollongong, less than 48 hours after beating Sydney in Auckland.

Add to that a win in their last home game before Christmas, and that's nine straight wins; a club record for a team that seems intent on beating every record that there is. They now lead the ANBL table by three matches over their nemesis, the Perth Wildcats; the only team to have beaten the Breakers twice this season, and the only team that the Breakers have not beaten in 2012-13. We reckon that they'll put that right in Auckland next weekend, and further extend their dominance at the top of the table.

Andrej Lemanis has built genuine depth in his side. CJ Bruton has become largely a bench player this year, although we have no doubt that he'll make a clutch three-pointer or several when the play-offs beckon. Cedric Jackson is the best guard in the league, but when he had a quiet game against Sydney on Thursday night, Darryl Corletto stepped up with the first 14 points of the game, including four three pointers in just a few minutes. Tom Abercrombie is back to his best, and Alex Pledger grows in stature each week. And bench players like Leon Henry are slowly growing in confidence as Lemanis gives them more court time.

We've blogged in the past about the strength of the organisation behind the Breakers. They are setting the standard for New Zealand teams playing in Australia, and Gareth Morgan could do worse than spend a few days with Paul and Liz Blackwell to find out what successful team owners do.

And they are pulling in the punters. Friends are off to Auckland next weekend for the Perth double-header; the Breakers at Vector Arena, and the Phoenix at Eden Park. It's the Breakers game that they are most keenly anticipating. Business will see us spend a bit more time in Auckland this year, and a Breakers game is certainly on the agenda; they've become the hottest ticket in town.

Well done to the NZ Breakers. A third successive ANBL title looks like a distinct possibility.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Did one ball make a difference?

South Africa scraped home to a nail-biting win against New Zealand in the final ODI in Potchefstroom this morning. A six to Ryan McLaren off the final ball of the match gave the Proteas a thrilling one wicket victory after they had almost managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory again.

But the Black Caps can feel hard done by. Here's how Cricinfo recorded the penultimate over of the New Zealand innings.

Yes Dear Readers; the local umpire Adrian Holdstock mis-counted the 49th over of the New Zealand innings. And in a match that went right to the wire, who can say what a difference that extra ball may have made?

It's water under the bridge now, but you'd think that third umpire Aleem Dar, one of the most senior umpires on the ICC panel might have sent the on-field umpires a message.

Still; New Zealand emerges with an ODI series victory. David White, Chris Moller, Mike Hesson, Brendon McCullum and the NZC board will be deeply relieved. In the euphoria of having unseated the team that was ranked #1 in the ICC rankings at the start of this series, let's not forget the events that preceded this tour, and this disasters of Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.

We won't dwell on NZC's failings today; that can wait. Congratulations to the Black Caps for playing the kind of cricket that we expect from them in the ODI series against South Africa; fighting and scrapping all the way. Here's hoping that form carries over into the home series against England, and especially into the test matches.

Courting the Ratana vote

At least you have to give David Shearer credit for his honesty, regardless of his naivety. He's now on record as saying that Labour will do whatever it takes to win back the Maori vote from the Maori (and presumably from Mana) Party.

We reckon that'll go down a treat with Waitakere Man (not), and even if David Cunliffe is out of the running for the leadership, the anti-Shearer rhetoric is still flowing thick and fast from the Labour Party's rank and file as Pete George notes.

And with regard to the photograph below; did Mr Shearer take his guitar to Ratana, or will he march to the beat of Ratana's band?

Armstrong sounds the warning bells

John Armstrong opines:

National's opponents beware. This week's shock sackings of Phil Heatley and Kate Wilkinson from the Cabinet provided instant and ample proof of one surefire thing: the authentic version of John Key is back and very much in charge. The Prime Minister most definitely means business in 2013.
Utterly unapologetic about axing steadfastly loyal colleagues, Key displayed no discernible symptoms redolent of the occasionally out-of-sorts, at times seemingly indifferent and abnormally memory-challenged character who occupied Premier House through 2012.
This week witnessed the return of the composed, confident, communicative and assertive Key who, before last year's string of calamities, had carried all before him.
At times during 2012 - particularly with regard to his and his officials' farcical stumbling over Kim Dotcom - Key seemed to be playing something akin to Russian roulette with his prime ministership.
He seemed to deliberately dig himself into ever deeper political holes in order to test his wherewithal in extracting himself from them.
The conclusion drawn from this ultimately self-destructive behaviour was that he was bored or tiring of the job and its unrelenting demands.
That would no longer seem to be the case. This week's Cabinet reshuffle was clearly the product of some considerable thought over the summer break by Key and his advisers.
There was a sharp intake of breath by journalists at Tuesday's press conference as they realised the expected minimalist reshuffle necessitated by the change in Parliament's Speaker was something more akin to a Night of the Long Knives.
Heatley and Wilkinson never saw the axe coming. But then there was no reason for them to be wary.
Even a Prime Minister as openly scornful and mocking of ministerial incompetence as Helen Clark never sacked anyone for failing to do their job for fear she would make unnecessary enemies.
While hardly setting the world on fire, neither Heatley nor Wilkinson was making a mess of their respective portfolios.

We certainly weren't expecting as much change as Key delivered. But it is change for the better, and change delivered with 2014 in mind. New Cabinet Ministers Simon Bridges and Nikki Kaye will bring energy to the Cabinet, and with a solid background in health management, Michael Woodhouse will be a safe pair of hands. Woodhouse has the opportunity to press for elevation to Cabinet when the inevitable round of pre-election retirements is announced next year.

We're especially pleased with Nikki Kaye's promotion.  Our Auckland business will soon be relocating to premises within the boundaries of the Auckland Central electorate, and even though we are not residents there, we will welcome the opportunity to consult with her where necessary. Ms Kaye made her name by speaking out against a policy that she disagreed with, and it says much both for her ability and for John Key not being hamstrung by "conventional" political thinking that she will take a seat at the Cabinet table next week.

But what of Hekia Parata? Armstrong continues:

Unlike Hekia Parata. The Education Minister, however, has an important ally in Bill English. Key has also invested a fair amount of political capital in her ultimately being a success in her extremely challenging portfolio.
The highly dysfunctional and teacher union-driven Ministry of Education has instead become the scapegoat within National for her mistakes. Add the dynamic of Parata being one of the few high-ranking Maori within National and it becomes clear why she survived.

We reckon that although Key has lauded Ms Parata in public, he will undoubtably have left her in no doubt that she is running out of chances. Kate Wilkinson and Phil Heatley have been fired after four years in their roles; Hekia Parata has held the Education portfolio for little more than one year. If there is not a significant improvement in her performance once a new Secretary for Education is appointed, we reckon that John Key will be as ruthless towards her as he has been to the sacked Ministers. Key's placing of Steven "Mr Fix-it" Joyce alongside Ms Parata as Associate Minister may yet prove to be her salvation.

And as Armstrong concludes his piece, he notes a significant advantage that governments enjoy:

On that score, Key's economic scene-setter speech in Auckland yesterday focused on the need to attract investment - local or foreign - as the necessary precursor to creating jobs.
National's argument is that while Labour and the Greens talk about investment creating jobs, those two parties do their utmost to block it.
Key also cheekily flagged significant alterations to the modern apprenticeship scheme. Labour views the scheme as very much its territory. Key's speech was thus designed to spike at least part of David Shearer's address tomorrow to Labour's annual summer school.
Like Key, Labour's leader had sought to get his political year off to a flying start. The latter also views the mid-term year as the critical time to make Labour relevant again to a wider cross-section of voters than was the case in 2011.
But - as yesterday's announcement by Key on apprenticeships showed - National has one advantage. As one Beehive staffer puts it: Governments can do things. Oppositions can only talk of doing things.
Expect National to be doing lots of things this year. One thing is for sure: the unhappy fate of Heatley and Wilkinson serves as a gruesome reminder to the rest of the Cabinet of what will happen to ministers who do not pull their weight.

This is a critical year both for the Government and for Opposition parties. David Shearer may have built some momentum towards the end of 2012, but John Key seems to have grabbed the advantage in the week before Parliament resumes.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Chart of the Day - 25 January 2013

NZ Truth editor Cameron Slater gives NZ Herald journalists a quick guide into providing media coverage of Kim Dotcom:

Many a true word is spoken in jest!

Good on you Dura!

Andrew Durante, Wellington Phoenix captain is sticking up for the team's fans; the Dom-Post reports:

Wellington Phoenix captain Andrew Durante says he has endured a month of trying to justify club part-owner Gareth Morgan's assertions, and has given up. 
Durante, speaking after today's training session at Newtown Park, said he and his team-mates will no longer comment on any of the football-related views aired by Morgan.
But the skipper was prepared to go into bat for the club's loyal fan base, whose expectations and understanding of football have been questioned by Morgan. The Phoenix host the Newcastle Jets at Westpac Stadium on Sunday afternoon and Durante urged any wavering supporters to stick with the team.
''If I can say my part to the fans, get out there, support the team, you'll see a much better performance from us and we don't want to let them down regardless of what Gareth said,'' Durante said, in reference to last weekend's shocking 7-1 loss to Sydney FC.
''As players, we want you guys out there and Yellow Fever and everyone involved at the Cake Tin. You are very important to us and if we're going to get out of this, we kind of need everyone pulling in the same direction - fans included.
''I love the fans, the fans are great. We're not much of a football club without fans so, like I said, I hope you all get out there and support us because we need it.''
The Phoenix are last in the league, with 10 rounds remaining, but Durante is adamant that the side can lift itself from the bottom of the table and into the top-six playoffs. 

This is great stuff from the 'Nix skipper, even if it gets him offside with the club's owners, and Gareth Morgan in particular. And it's great to see that Durante is not making excuses; read on:

Their slide down the ladder has coincided with Morgan's public call for more creative football, but Durante believes the team have to rise above the disruption that those comments caused.
''I refuse to let this formation [change] and everything be an excuse for us. It's almost an easy way out.'' 

Unfortunately, we have a meeting on Sunday afternoon, otherwise we would be heading down to Wellington to support the 'Nix against Newcastle. Here's hoping however that Dura's statement this afternoon will mollify the fans who have taken umbrage at Morgan's intemperance.

Come on you Phoenix!