Archive for December, 2006

Xmas indeed

December 31st, 2006 at 3:37 pm by David Farrar

A nice Xmas story in the SST about how a family won $100,000 from their Xmas instant kiwi ticket. Their first win in 15 years for the couple who have a chronically ill daughter.

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Why not pay-per-view?

December 31st, 2006 at 3:23 pm by David Farrar

I see NZ TV stations are debating whether to show Saddam’s execution. I recall being shown the Romanian dictator’s execution on TV, and also seeing burnt bodies of westerners in Iraq, killed by terrorists, so not sure why this would not qualify as just as news worthy.

But anyway why not make it a pay-per-view special, with all money made donated to a charity to help his former victims? Hell one could do a Telethon and take pledges also!!

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Distance based road taxation

December 31st, 2006 at 3:05 pm by David Farrar

I generally support road and transport funding being based on actual road usage, as the MOT is now looking at, rather than close substitutes such as petrol tax. Both are way better than property rates though which are a nutty way to fund local roads.

The one big advantage petrol tax has is it simplicity. Four oil companies once a month tot up their sales and give a big cheque to the Government. A lot easier than three million plus car owners getting individual billls based on their road usage.

However sensible road charges can and should lead to more efficient funding and expenditure on roads. I even back congestion charging for peak times etc.

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Auckland City Councillors travel bills

December 31st, 2006 at 2:56 pm by David Farrar

Hmmn under Fletcher $58,000 in three years. Banks was $93,200 over three years. Kind old Uncle Dick can’t say no to the kids and they have ratcheted up $202,000 in just two years!

You know one wouldn’t even mind $202,000 if one saw good results from it. But instead they come back with ideas such as banning billboards from the CBD!!

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New Year’s Honours

December 30th, 2006 at 4:26 pm by David Farrar

No time for a full review, but with no disrespect to Lloyd Geering, what exactly has he done to be seen as one of the 20 greatest living New Zealanders (being granted The Order of New Zealand), except face a heresy trial 30 years ago?

I’m not being nasty – not got a thing bad to say about the man. Just I honestly can’t think of what he has done of national importance since then.

Even though I am not personally familiar with Dr Doreen Blumhardt, I can see why she would be included with her decades of services to the arts at the highest level. I just can’t work out Professor Geering’s award. Sure for any of the lesser awards, but the supreme award i meant to be for extraordinary service which has touched the nation so to speak.

Anyway the full Honours list is here. Comment away on them!

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Saddam dead

December 30th, 2006 at 4:20 pm by David Farrar

Saddam was executed around 20 minutes ago at 4 pm NZDT.

Very sensible to not delay it, once the sentence was final. Hopefully his death will lead to better things, than what he did when alive, but it’s not likely to affect things much either way I predict. One or two other dictators might be having an uncomfortable night’s sleep tonight though.

And for Southpark fans, this may now lead to extra episodes of Saddam and Satan as homosexual lovers!

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In and about Abel Tasman National Park

December 30th, 2006 at 3:49 pm by David Farrar

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The view from the place we’re staying at. It’s not at the beach front so very tranquil.

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We did a modest walk of around 45 minutes into the Wainui Falls in the Park. This is typical path we went along.

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Great views back as you move in deeper.

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What is a walk, without a swing bridge. Halfway across is not the best time to make jokes about how you hope the people who built it didn’t work on Cave Creek also!

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Then the waterfall. It’s the largest one in the park and pretty noisy.

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Later in the day headed to the very remote Totoranui. A golden beach, surrounded with the beauty of Abel Tasman Park.

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And the water was even swimmable!

Very relaxing day. In Takaka now in the Internet cafe, then off to the supermarket to get food for the BBQ tonight!

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No connection

December 30th, 2006 at 3:40 pm by David Farrar

As warned blogging will be very rare for a few days. There’s no Internet connection in Poheno except those ghastly coin operated machines. The Vodafone card can pick up a very faint GPRS signal but no 3G.

Comment moderation is currently on also because the spam is coming in at over 1000 a day. Rather than have it appear and then delete it I’ve got all comments being held. When I get back I’ll look at reinstituting the Are you Human? test. So comment away but may take a while to appear.

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Yay inner-city bypass is open

December 29th, 2006 at 12:26 pm by David Farrar

Yay, after what seems like at least a decade of dithering, the bypass is open. I’ll get to use it later today when I head to the airport.

Of course there were a couple of protesters blocking traffic. Sadly though they were not very committed to theri cause as they only nailed their clothing to the road. If they had nailed themselves to the road, they would have got far more publicity, and it would have taken longer to remove them.

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Well done Ethiopa

December 29th, 2006 at 11:47 am by David Farrar

Who would have thought that where the UN and months of handwringing has failed, Ethiopa has succeeded by marching into Somalia and helping the legitimate Government kick the Islamist rebels out of the capital. The rebels had been introducing sharia law throughout the teritories they had conquered.

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John Edwards declares

December 28th, 2006 at 3:22 pm by David Farrar

2004 VP Candidate John Edwards has formally declared his candiacy for the Democratic nomination for 2008. Edwards has been doing a lot of work with organised labour and will be a serious contender.

This is the first election since 1928 when neither the incumbent President oe Vice-President has sought the candidacy.

So far the following are the official candidates:

Democrats:

Senator Mike Gravel, aged 78, Senator for Alaska from 1969 to 1981. Highly unlikely.
Congressman Dennis Kucinch, aged 60, Ohio Congresman since 1997. Hard left, not electable.
Governor Tom Vilsack, aged 56, Iowa Governor since 1999, Chair of the centrist DLC, one to watch.
Senator Joe Biden, aged 64, Senator for Delaware since 1973! Past his prime.
Senator John Edwards, aged 53, North Carolina Senator from 1999 to 2005. The leading contender so far.

Republicans:

John Cox, aged 51, never held elected office. A nobody.

Of course it will get more interesting as others declare. Will Clinton, Obama and Gore seek the Democratic nomination and same for McCain, Giulani and Gingrich for the Republicans?

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Fine the Rich only

December 28th, 2006 at 11:23 am by David Farrar

The fines system in NZ is somewhat of a sick joke, with an ever increasing number who simply don’t pay. And eventually when taken back to court they get the fine translated into community service at rate of several hundred dollars per hour.

But now to make things even more barmy, the Government is looking at having lower or no fines for poorer offenders. Yes fines will not be based on your criminal offending but your wealth. Park your car illegally and it’s only $10 for Mr A but $150 for Mr B as he is a rich bastard.

Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar said the idea of slashing fines for young and low-income offenders was one of the dumbest ideas he had heard from this “whole warm, fuzzy experiment we are having on crime”.

But lawyer Catriona MacLennan, who works with low-income people, said today’s system was inequitable.

“If you get a fine of $200 and are on a benefit or are unemployed that’s a huge penalty to you, whereas to a middle-class person it is nothing.”

Well I’ve got the solution to the problem – stop making criminals pay fines, but make wealthy non-criminals pay it. It’s very unfair that criminals who are often poor stay trapped in poverty because they have to pay for their criminal behaviour. So let’s add on a 3% surcharge to everyone earning over $40,000 and use that money to pay all the fines on behalf of those who actually break the law. That’s fair and equitable isn’t it?

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The problem with home webcams

December 28th, 2006 at 10:51 am by David Farrar

Heh.

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Snippets

December 28th, 2006 at 10:27 am by David Farrar

Juha has blogged the top “tech moment” of 2006. It has been a big year.

The Ashburton Guardian has an amusing boxing day article featuring fictious novels such as:

* Don Brash’s The DonKey Years and The DonKey Years with All My Emails
* Helen Clark’s A Million Bucks! How the Hell Do We Pay That?
* Brian Connell’s Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow?

“I threw myself, sobbing, at Gerry Brownlee’s feet, clawing his ankle socks in despair. Callously, Brownlee, WHO HAD ONCE BEEN MY FRIEND, signalled to his rottweilers, Smith and Williamson. Seizing me by my flowing locks they hauled me from the room, my fingernails gouging deep tracks in the shag pile, and hurled me into the cold night. As the door slammed I heard cheers and, above all, a single voice (English’s?) crowing ‘who wants Rakaia? It’s up for grabs.’”

And Hawke’s Bay Today has advice for the PM on combating extremism:

Miss Clark says the government is planning “a statement on religious diversity”. Apart from being a noble intent capable of being ignored, what will it achieve? And will it recognise that the very existence of a liberal democracy is enough to incite some within it to try to destroy it? The cure for violent extremism is intolerance: Intolerance of incitement, intolerance of violence, of religion-driven prejudice … intolerance of intolerance.

Those who use a religious imperative for violence are no more deserving of understanding or toleration than swastika-covered meat-heads who smash grave stones by night in Jewish cemeteries.

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Pohara

December 27th, 2006 at 6:47 pm by David Farrar

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I’m off tomorrow to a very small locale called Pohara. You can see Google’s view of it above. It’s a around 15 kms east of Takaka in Golden Bay. Frequency of blogging will depend on frequency on sunshine on the beach, with an inverse proportional relationship!

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Gerald Ford has died

December 27th, 2006 at 6:21 pm by David Farrar

Gerald Ford has died, aged 93. The 38th President was the only one never elected as President or Vice-President. His death was announced around 30 minutes ago.

His original name was Leslie Lynch King, Jr., He lost to Carter by 2% in 1976, but went into the campaign a massive 34% behind.

He leaves behind only three living ex-Presidents – Carter, Bush and Clinton. He is also the last member of the Warren Commission to die. Ford also was the longest lived President, beating Reagan’s record just six weeks ago.

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Climate Change Scepticism is Free Speech

December 27th, 2006 at 2:51 pm by David Farrar

One of the more noticeable trends of recent times has been the attempt to close down any debate on climate change, with those expressing scepticism towards the more extreme scenarios being painted climate change deniers, as if this is on a par with holocaust deniers.

One can accept that human activity is leading to an increase in temperatures, without accepting the that the rate of increase is likely to be a problem in the next hundred years. There is considerable debate about whether the $1+ trillion or so cost of trying to fight global warming would not produce far better results if directed to AIDs or poverty.

Recently there has been a co-ordinated effort to cut off funding of any lobby groups which are sceptical of the holy writ of climate change. The do gooders claim this is such a vital issue we can’t afford to have people confused by messages from evil corporates. Well corporate speech is free speech and we should be worried about this growing intolerance.

Some voices on the political left have called for the arrest and prosecution of skeptical scientists. The British Foreign Secretary has said skeptics should be treated like advocates of Islamic terror and must be denied access to the media.

If climate change skeptics are wrong, then prove they are wrong. Don’t try and reintroduce heresy as a crime!

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Olivia

December 27th, 2006 at 1:16 pm by David Farrar

Congratulations to Jo and Phil on the birth of their first child – Olivia Mary Ashwin who is a healthy nine pounds and ten ounces.

In a cunning move, Olivia managed to hold on until after Christmas so she will still get seperate birthday and christmas presents in future!

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Top ten TVNZ stories

December 27th, 2006 at 11:48 am by David Farrar

TVNZ has announced its 2006 People’s choice Top 10 stories. I’m not sure if these were voted on by the public or chosen by TVNZ with reader feedback.

* Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin dies
* Kahui murder
* Coldsnap freezes the south
* Maori Queen passes away.
* Don Brash resigns
* Trade Me sold to Fairfax
* Beaconsfield mine accident
* Telecom forced to unbundle
* Auditor-General’s election spending report and subsequent legislation
* Auckland power cut

Irwin’s death was one of those cultural moments like the death of Princess Diana – you remember what you were doing when you heard and it was the only topic of conversation for days. Plus of course the jokes.

The Kahui twins murder was very powerful also, and much more tragic. The tragedy of the twins dying from abuse was only beaten by the outrage that the family tried so hard to cover up who did it.

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Who will kill Harry?

December 27th, 2006 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The bookmaker William Hill is taking bets on who will kill Harry Potter in the final book. If Harry survives all bets are returned so seems a good chance to win. Odds are:

* Lord Voldemort: 4-5
* Harry Potter (suicide) 6-1
* Professor Snape: 5-2
* Draco Malfroy: 6-1
* Ron Weasley: 6-1
* Hermione Granger at 6-1

I’m surprised no odds on Professor Dumbledore killing Harry. Also maybe Ginny Weasley has to kill him as the ultimate sacrifice.

The reason so many think Harry will die is speculation that he is the final Horcrux and to ensure that Voldemort dies he will need to die also – hence why he may kill himself.

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Saddam to be hanged by 25 January

December 27th, 2006 at 10:54 am by David Farrar

The Iraqi appeals court has confirmed Saddam’s sentence and ordered the sentence (death by hanging) to be carried out within 30 days.

At least he’ll be reunited with his sons soon.

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The three worse insults

December 27th, 2006 at 10:44 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald has polled people on the worst insults of the year. Helen Clark came second with her unprecedented personal attack on Don Brash as “cancerous”.

In top place was Michael Laws for calling the dead Tongan King a “brown slug” (the Herald for some reason has removed references to the brown part of the epitah). He got 24% and Clark 22%.

Third place was Sir Bob Jones for claiming Anette Presley had driven more men to homosexuality than any other living person.

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A good move, maybe

December 27th, 2006 at 1:10 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports that Helen Clark has “ordered greater Government activity on religious and cultural diversity issues to avoid New Zealand developing the sort of extremism seen in immigrant communities in Britain.”

This is a vitally important issue. Extremism, and let’s be blunt we are talking Islamic extremism, amongst some immigrants is the biggest issue in Europe at the moment, and will be for decades to come.

However I have concerns that this review of religious and cultural diversity by the Ministry of Social Development will at best lead to platitudes and at worse be an attack on free speech.

“And once here, we want people to be able to settle in a way that is respectful of them and their beliefs and to have a reasonable belief that they will be accepted and included,”

Three things about this quote from the PM ring small alarm bells. The first is that it only talks about New Zealanders being respectful of the beliefs of those who move here, and absolutely nothing at all about the need for those moving here to also be respectful of the beliefs and rights of those already here. Country after country in Europe is making clear there are obligations both ways. We need to do the same.

The second is there is a difference between respecting the choice someone makes with their beliefs and respecting their beliefs. I don’t respect the beliefs of Scientology but if a friend of mine was a scientologist I’d respect his or her right to believe in it, and wouldn’t hassle them over it so long as they respected my rights to watch Southpark!

The third is does respecting beliefs mean banning criticism of a religion through hate speech type laws? The PM has already shown with the Danish cartoons that her regard for freedom of speech is low. Ironically the person who has most demonised a religious minority in recent times has been Helen with the Exclusive Brethren!

In summary it is good the Government is recognising that there have been significant problems overseas, and it would be undesirable to have the same problems here. However their solutions could make things worse, not better.

The really good thing though is that New Zealand is perhaps the only Western country which doesn’t have a significant extremist faction in its local Islamic community. The leadership of the NZ Islamic community have time and time again shown wisdom and responsibility in their reactions to events like the Danish cartoons. Not that I agree with them, just that they expressed their opposition responsibly.

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Very smart ad

December 26th, 2006 at 11:50 pm by David Farrar

One can sympathise with the Dad!

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Blog Size

December 26th, 2006 at 8:16 pm by David Farrar

This blog has 6,000 entries and around 110,000 comments. Only a hundred or so photos I guess and they are mostly under 50 KB.

So anyone want to guess how much disk space the blog takes up. It’s in MB not GB.

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