Archive for May, 2008

300 km/hr!

May 31st, 2008 at 9:20 am by David Farrar

Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson is under attack for admitting he once drove over 300 km/hr on a public road.

Is anyone surprised? It is classic Clarkson.

He was driving a Bugatti Veyron, which has a top speed of 407 km/hr. That is one third of supersonic speed!

Sadly the fuel tank only lasts 12 minutes at that speed, but on the plus side you can travel 80 km in those 12 minutes! This is not a bad thing though as after 15 minutes the tyres have melted!

The acceleration is very nice – reaches 100 km/hr in 2.5 seconds which is equal to 1.2G. And it can brake at 1.3G. It can go from 400 km/hr to a stop in under 10 seconds.

I wonder how much one costs to buy?

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Bobby Jindal

May 30th, 2008 at 4:02 pm by David Farrar

This is Bobby Jindal on the Tonight Show. Jindal is Governor of Louisiana, aged just 36, and is one of the possibilities to be McCain’s VP nominee.

Jindal’s parents were immigrants from India, and he started using the name Bobby after he watched the Brady Bunch when he was four!

Not sure if he will be VP, but I think he has a good future ahead of him.

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Blog Holiday

May 30th, 2008 at 12:42 pm by David Farrar

From around 3 pm I’m going to be on Great Barrier Island for a holiday, until Monday evening.

The bungalow we are staying at has no phone, no cellphone coverage and only solar power electricity which may not even support a laptop. There is no central electricity supply on the island – it is pretty much all solar and/or generator – no streets lights etc.

So in all probablity no new blog posts until late Monday – a good excuse for everyone to enjoy the long weekend. My plans involve thermal pools, fishing, bush walks and maybe some diving. Oh yes possibly a small amount of 42 below to keep warm :-)

While I will be on holiday, the blog won’t be totally idle. I have done the odd time delayed post which will appear over the next few days.

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The Maori seats

May 30th, 2008 at 11:34 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports on a paper by Canterbury University law professor Philip Joseph (a leading constitutional expert) on the Maori seats, calling for them to be abolished:

Professor Joseph said putting aside the seven Maori seats, the 15 other Maori representatives in Parliament put it a little under 2 per cent short of reflecting the 14 per cent national population.

However, with the Maori seats the current parliamentary representation equated to 22 per cent.

In response Matt McCarten says:

Political commentator Matt McCarten said Professor Joseph’s argument was “ignorantly racist” because it seemed to suggest there was a strict quota of Maori MPs acceptable in Parliament.

“You didn’t see a report when rich, white men were over-represented in Parliament. Now, it’s suddenly become a concern because Maori might soon wield real influence.”

Matt misses or avoids the point though. If there were no dedicated race based seats, then “over-representation” would not be an issue. I would not be at all concerned if New Zealanders elected a Parliament that had a particular demographic over-represented. Absolutely there should be no maximum quota of acceptability.

But the issue is that the rationale for having dedicated race based seats is justifiably called into question when that demographic is over-represented, not under-represented, in Parliament.

In a way it is similiar to the immigration issue. If there are no country based quotas in immigration (which I prefer) then I don’t care at all about the nationality or origin of our immigrants. But if there is a country based quota, it is legitimate to debate whether that quota is necessary or desirable.

There are reasons one can argue in favour of the Maori seats, beyond Maori being under-represented in Parliament (which has not been true for some time). Likewise there are arguments against the Maori seats (and my fear is the longer we retain them, the more we develop a Fiji type constitution). However taking the seats away, without fairly broad agreement from Maoridom is not necessarily a constructive thing to do. There are no easy answers, but it is an issue which won’t go away.

I think the best solution is that of the Royal Commission on the Electoral System which proposed they be abolished, but that the special status of Maori as tangata whenua be recognised by having no threshold (so getting around 0.7% of the vote should ensure representation) for Maori political parties. This would also solve the issue of the Maori seats causing overhang in Parliament which can distort the proportional result you are meant to have under MMP. This could be a big factor in 2008.

Before people react kneejerk, can I suggest people read the excellent Chapter 3 of the Royal Commission report which goes into the pros and cons and history of the seats.

One advantage of abolishing the Maori seats but having no threshold for Maori political parties is you could get more diverse Maori representation in Parliament. The main parties would still I am sure have Maori MPs, but you might have three or four different Maori parties all gaining one or two MPs. There might be a radical activist party for the Hone Harawiras. A urban Maori party for the John Tamiheres. A Iwi rights party for Ngai Tahu and supporters. Having no threshold for Maori Parties would encourage more diverse representation and in my opinion be a more effective way of guaranteeing Maori representation in Parliament without the negatives of having separate rolls and separate seats.

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Will Labour expel Benson-Pope?

May 30th, 2008 at 10:26 am by David Farrar

The ODT notes that while David Benson-Pope has claimed there is no substance to the reports he is considering standing as an Independent candidate, he has refused to publicly rule it out. There will be a reason for that. Plus of course Benson-Pope lost his Cabinet post for his deceptive half truths, so even more reason to think he is planning something.

It would be very easy for David Benson-Pope to stop the speculation by simply saying “I can confirm that I will not be a candidate for the Dunedin South electorate in the 2008 election”.

Now Taito Philip Field was expelled from Labour for refusing to rule out the possibility he might stand for another party or as an Independent. Yes, that;s right – he wasn’t expelled for any of the reasons he is facing trial for corruption (in fact he was defended for his behaviour there) – it was the far more serious crime of potential disloyalty.

So will Benson-Pope get the same treatment for refusing to rule out an independent candidacy? Why on earth would he not rule it out, unless he wanted to keep the option open to him?

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Bush under fire

May 30th, 2008 at 8:29 am by David Farrar

Scott McClellan, George W Bush’s forrmer press secretary, has just released a book which is quite damning of Bush and the White House. This is not some minor official, but the public face of the Administration for many years.

McClellan says Bush’s main reason for war always was “an ambitious and idealistic post-9/11 vision of transforming the Middle East through the spread of freedom.” But Bush and his advisers made “a marketing choice” to downplay this rationale in favor of one focused on increasingly trumped-up portrayals of the threat posed by the weapons of mass destruction.

During the “political propaganda campaign to sell the war to the American people,” Bush and his team tried to make the “WMD threat and the Iraqi connection to terrorism appear just a little more certain, a little less questionable than they were.” Something else was downplayed as well, McClellan says: any discussion of “the possible unpleasant consequences of war – casualties, economic effects, geopolitical risks, diplomatic repercussions.”

This is an honest and useful analysis of where Bush went wrong. It isn’t the moronic “Bush lied” meme,
but shows that they over-hyped the WMDs as a political strategy.

It will be an interesting book to read.

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Gosche quitting

May 30th, 2008 at 7:23 am by David Farrar

Back in February, Mark Gosche announced he would step down as MP for Maungakiekie, but seek a List only nomination. I blogged at the time:

At this stage he says he will seek to go List only – but do not be surprised if, like Tim Barnett, he does not stand at all eventually.

This was confirmed yesterday with his news that he is quitting Parliament totally.

Gosche has had two personal tragedies – a seriously ill wife needing intensive care and the death of a son. I am sure everyone is wishing him well with his future challenges.

He was once talked about as a future Labour Party leader – not a helpful tag, but an indication of the respect he had. He was NZ’s first Pacific Island Cabinet Minister.

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Meaningless gestures

May 30th, 2008 at 7:02 am by David Farrar

What is it with the Greens and meaningless gestures. They think banning smacking will solve child abuse, and photo ops of MPs in Hoodies will do something meaningful for youth:

Earlier, Opposition parties were not invited to a youth event hosted by Government ministers, and Ms Bennett said Youth Week was clearly not a “truly cross-party” initiative.

She said she was not acting under National Party orders, but had not seen the point of promoting a Labour Government thing.

“There are bigger issues for youth out there, and me fronting up and wearing a hoodie is not what I think will fix any of the biggest issues for youth.”

The no-show drew a retort from Green MP Metiria Turei, who said it showed “an inherent disrespect for young people”.

For fuck’s sake, I doubt a single young person in the country could be found who gives a flying fuck about whether an MP poses for a photo opportunity in a hoodie, and that doing so empowers them or whatever rationale there is.

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Bastard

May 30th, 2008 at 6:47 am by David Farrar

Like most, I smiled when I read the headline about William Singhlagah being charged with assault with a weapon – specifically a hedgehog.

But any humour disappeared when I read this:

“He admitted to having been in possession of a hedgehog,” Constable Lyndon Reid said. “He originally claimed that the group had been playing hacky sack with it.”

I hate bastards who torment helpless animals. To throw a hedgehog at someone is unthinking. To play hacky sack with it is simply sadistic.

Of course he may be lying, but regardless not impressed.

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More faked Middle East coverage

May 29th, 2008 at 10:02 pm by David Farrar

There is a vibrant industry in the Middle East. It consists of faking photo opportunities to make Israel look bad. I’ve covered some in the past such as the so called bombed ambulance.

One of the biggest hoaxes has just been confirmed in a French court, as detailed by this excellent article by Piers Akerman.

THE death of 12-year-old Palestinian boy Mohammed al-Durra by “gunfire from the direction of the Israeli” forces, as reported by French TV reporter Charles Enderlin, was huge world news eight years ago.

But it now seems that what we saw was not what actually happened. The dramatic footage of the youngster crouched beside his father as “Israeli” bullets whizzed by him, the scenes of his death and his father’s wounding were ghastly but compelling viewing.

Invocations of the young al-Durra’s death became a regular ritual on Palestinian television, songs encouraging children to join him in martyrdom were written, streets were named after him, mothers were exhorted to encourage their infants to be like him, his image was even used on stamps.

The al-Durra imagery truly became, in the words of one Canadian journalist, “the farce that launched a thousand suicide bombers”.

Okay so this is not some minor footage. This is an iconic video.

Doubts arose about the footage shot by a Palestinian cameraman for the network France 2 when it was revealed the same person had been responsible for faking other news footage.

People need to know that almost all the international media use Palestinian stringers, with little checking for accuracy. Associated Press has been one of the worst offenders.

The independent investigators led by Philippe Karsenty, a director of the Media-Ratings watchdog, went further and said the scenes had been staged and that report was a “hoax”.

He was sued for defamation and lost in the initial court, but has just won in the Court of Appeal. Now wait to see what was revealed in court:

The inflammatory report was essentially destroyed when he ordered the government-owned broadcaster to produce all the raw footage shot of the incident and instead of a few seconds of film, an 18-minute excerpt, still not the complete sequence, was shown to the court.

It revealed staged battle scenes, rehearsed ambulance evacuations – but nothing to substantiate the toxic television report.

No shots were seen coming from the Israeli position, no bullets were shown striking the boy, no blood was seen on the father’s shirt, though he was said to have cradled his eviscerated son in his arms, and the boy is seen to move, even to look conspiratorially at the television camera, when he is supposed to have been dead.

Yes, he looked at the camera *after( he was shot dead. And French TV had this footage but never showed it – they just showed the hand picked segments which supported the story.

More damning evidence is on the Wall Street Journal.

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Greens let off for late donation return

May 29th, 2008 at 3:08 pm by David Farrar

I blogged serveral weeks ago that it appeared the Greens had broken the Electoral Finance Act by not disclosing donations in time.

The Electoral Commission has let them off by accepting their explanation that a temporary administrator was unaware of the requirements for continuous disclosure if aggregated donations from an individual exceed $20,000, and that this was a “reasonable excuse”.

I’m not convinced that having your acting party administrator unaware of the law is a reasonable excuse. Especially from a party that spent months and months campaigning on the need for better donation disclosure laws.

Issues I would have asked if I was the Electoral Commission are whether the Party had provided a written guide to the acting administrator as to his or her duties. It is a standard practice to have a list of duties which include legal obligations. Just saying “Whoops forgot to mention that” isn’t good practice.

The continuous disclosure requirement is well publicised on the Electoral Commission website, and in material provided by the Commission.

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And the EFA strikes again

May 29th, 2008 at 11:36 am by David Farrar

The Electoral Finance Act is the gift that goes on giving.

The NZ Herald today reveals that Labour has had to centralise every single proposed communication by a candidate or MP, with a committee of two head officer staffers and three parliamentary staffers (yes parliamentary staffers approving election material).

So no candidate can put anything out until the weekly committee meeting approves it.

The act had broadened the definition to mean any form of words or graphic that could reasonably be regarded as designed to encourage or persuade someone to support a party or candidate.

The act is not working in the way that Labour had anticipated because it expected that most material its MPs produced under parliamentary funding would not be counted as election expense, whereas the Electoral Commission has no regard as to how material is funded.

It is actually established case law that it does not matter who pays for election adverts, as to whether they are adverts and expenses. Labour and allies tried to subtly change the law, but failed.

New Zealand First’s weekend post-Budget advertising campaign was paid for by taxpayers and carried a parliamentary crest, but was authorised as an election ad.

That means the party can’t be prosecuted if it is found to be an election ad _ but the cost of it will have to be counted against the party’s total election expenses.

This is correct that NZ First has no issues under the EFA. They are authorised and there is no way they will come close to their spending limit.

However I do wonder about The Parliamentary Service approving them, and whether the Auditor-General should be taking a look at them. The NZ First advertisements are blatant advertisements implicitly calling on people to support them if they want lower GST and more money for pensioners (Winston isn’t too hot on the idea of spending less than you bring in). Now Labour, Greens and NZ First passed a special law to make it easier for their election advertisements to be funded by the taxpayer. However even under this new law, the NZ First ads are pushing the boundaries. I really think the Auditor-General should take a look.

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New ODT website

May 29th, 2008 at 10:55 am by David Farrar

A few people have mentioned to me the ODT has a new website, with their articles going up the same day now. Excellent, and I will add them to my daily read, so may start linking more stories from them.

In the interests of fairness, I should provide a link to an column by Assistant Editor Simon Cunliffe, who scrutinises work my polling firm did for Family First.

I am actually working on a dedicated polling blog, where issues around polls and pollings can be discussed in more detail. As that is not yet ready for public release (I am planning some nifty features such a a semi-automated daily update of the public poll average, seat projections, even which candidates will make up the next Parliament – all based on public polls) I include over the break some extracts from an e-mail I sent in response to Simon’s column. Simon has given a pleasant reply by e-mail also. All polling companies get scrutiny, and with my profile on some issues, it is to be expected.

(more…)

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The growth in Ministerial staff numbers

May 29th, 2008 at 9:15 am by David Farrar

I blogged on Monday a summary of the Ministerial staff numbers as of May 2008. They were:

  1. 28 Managers
  2. 45 Communicators
  3. 111 Portfolio Advisors
  4. 35 Political Advisors
  5. 56 Administrators
  6. 286 Total Staff

This was to put into context the nonsense from Winston Peters about National having 36 staff (excluding the parliamentary secretary each MP gets) in the leader’s office to support its 48 MPs.

Now I mused out loud that it would be interesting to compare this to 1999, if someone had kept a copy of an old staff list. Well I am pleased to report that several readers are hoarders of such lists – one in fact having every list back to the 1980s! So I now have a copy of the June 1999 Ministerial staff list.

Now what were staff numbers in 1999 and how have they changed in eight years?

  1. Managers – up from 23 to 28 (22% increase)
  2. Communicators (spin doctors) – up from 26 to 45 (a whopping 73% increase)
  3. Portfolio Advisors – up from 62 to 111 (a 79% increase)
  4. Political Advisors – up from 25 to 35 (40% increase)
  5. Administrators – up from 52 to 67 (29% increase)
  6. Total Staff – up from 188 to 286 (52% increase)

So under Labour they have increased total staff in Ministerial Offices by 52%, and spin doctors by 73%.

Oh and in case you were wondering about numbers in the Opposition Leader’s Office, a handy reader also has a July 1999 staff list for Helen Clark’s office. And Helen had 30 staff for 37 MPs. That is 0.81 staff per MP. While that terrible John Key has 36 staff for 38 48 MPs which is 0.75 staff per MP.

One could argue that as the number of Ministers has increased from 23 to 28, one should look at staff per Minister. First of all even if one accepts this premise there has still been a massive increase in staff numbers.

But the number of Ministers is decided by the PM, and can be as small or large as she wants. The number of MPs is basically set at 120, and if one party gains more MPs, then there are less MPs elsewhere and total staffing numbers tends to stay the same. In fact MPs are bulk funded for most costs (excludes travel and phones) so their staff numbers have to be affordable within a limited budget.

Ministers are different. The Government sets the budget for Ministerial Services in their annual budget so can be as high or low as they want. Vote Ministerial Services has increased $12.7 million from 1999/00.

Hopefully John Key’s freeze on total number of civil servants will include Ministerial staff. 286 seems more than enough. Personally I would have a significantly smaller Executive – but that is a topic for another day.

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Benson-Pope may stand as an Indpendent

May 29th, 2008 at 8:37 am by David Farrar

An ODT story on the NZ Herald site says that David Benson-Pope may stand as an Independent for Dunedin South, campaigning for people to give Labour the party vote and him the electorate vote. It seems the electorate is very unhappy with what has happened:

The Otago Daily Times understands the MP has been telling people in the electorate that under MMP, they had a choice of voting for Labour with their party vote but that they could vote for any candidate.

Inquiries by the newspaper found a high level of discontent in parts of the electorate, particularly centred on the South Dunedin branch, which has the money and the people to mount a campaign in support of Mr Benson-Pope.

A women’s branch has disaffiliated itself from Dunedin South and is considering its options, which include affiliating to the Dunedin North electorate or the party’s Otago regional council.

The South Dunedin branch is now controlled by Benson-Pope supporters, although Labour electorate committee chairman Richard Good said yesterday the public comment from the branch was “nothing but 100 per cent’ behind Ms Curran.

That is a fascinating comment – how the “public comment” was 100% behind Claire Curran. One has to ask then what is the private comment?

Benson-Pope winning the seat could be beneficial to Labour as he would vote with them, and him winning the seat might gave them an extra List MP.

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Ministers under pressure

May 29th, 2008 at 8:27 am by David Farrar

The Herald looks at three new Ministers under pressure.

First is Maryan Street who spent all of Wednesday defending the $65,000 conference at Tongariro Lodge (ably backed by various Labour blogs) to then have the carpet pulled out from under her by the PM who declared yesterday it was totally unacceptable, the Minister was wrong, the Chair had been reprimanded and the CEO should have her salary docked.

Clark’s response, while somewhat over the top, is the one Street should have had from the beginning. I do think David Parker went far too far when he actually said he thought the CEO should have their pay docked – does the man not know anything about employment law and undue pressure? Anyway Clark understands that the issue is the nature of the resort. As I said – hold it at Rotorua Novotel and there would be no issue.

It didn’t get better for Street as it was revealed there was a second plush conference in 2003 at the Heritage Hotel & Spa du Vin. Meanwhile the Hawke’s Bay DHB couldn’t help scoring a point, pointing out their retreat for managers cost only $180!

What is surprising is the Street ignored Clark’s advice not to defend it, but did anyway – and then got over-ruled. Street has impressed many for her abilities to date – it remains to be seen.

Then you have Clayton Cosgrove, as more and more questions are asked about what he did or did not know, and how he has claimed there has been no cases of corruption – directly contradicting answers from his predecessor, Again Cosgrove has generally been astute championing populist issues. Hell even I cheered him on as he deals to elements on the real estate industry. But he does appear to have shown a remarkable lack of curiousity when it comes to a less populist issue – the Immigration Service.

The Herald also looks at Parker dealing with both the power shortage issues and the Emissions Trading Scheme. I have to say Parker baffles me. He came in as a potential star and I was initially a fan as he actually had a sucessful business background and appeared to be quite snesible and moderate on economic issues.

I’m not sure what has happened, but he really is struggling for credibility. He is almost cut out of the decision making process on the ETS, and just does not inspire confidence at all. I’m not saying this because he is Labour. Many of their Ministers are quite competent – I just don’t like their policies. I thought Parker would be one of the better ones, but I remain unconvinced.

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The growing power crisis

May 29th, 2008 at 7:45 am by David Farrar

The Government has spent all year telling us there is no power problem. The reality has been that our capacity has been dangerously low for some years because it is so difficult to get consents for new power plants.

Now consider the latest step to try and stave off power cuts. Workers in breathing gear and protective suits will have to go in to a mothballed asbestos ridden power plant, to supply us with more power.

This comes on top of the lowest lake levels since the 1992 power crisis, big industrial users cutting production (which negatively impacts economic growth) and massive increases in wholesale power rates which will flow through into household bills according to Meridian.

Yet the Government is still trying to say there is no problem. I mean sure it is normal to send workers in hazard suits and breathing gear in to operate asbestos ridden plants.

Again I would ask people to think about whether now is the right time to ban new thermal power plants. Sure do it, after you have made it easier to get consent for renewable power plants, but it would be incredibly reckless to proceed with such a ban- yet David Parker plans to.

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Interest rates already rising

May 29th, 2008 at 7:17 am by David Farrar

The Dominion Post reports on how interest rates have risen around 0.5% since the budget. Home Owners not happy.

The most hilarious part was this:

On Sunday, Dr Cullen accused banks of talking up tax cuts as inflationary out of self-interest …

Is this the same Dr Cullen who for several years attacked tax cuts at every opportunity as being inflationary?

The same Dr Cullen who cancelled the chewing gum tax cuts last year on the basis of them being inflationary?

You can’t have it both ways.

My position remains the same – it is the combination of both government spending and tax cuts which has an effect on inflation – and spending tends to have a greater effect as a portion of tax cuts will be saved.

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Relative Spends

May 29th, 2008 at 7:10 am by David Farrar

Says it all. Emerson in the NZ Herald.

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BSA decisions

May 29th, 2008 at 12:15 am by David Farrar

TV3 tonight reported that a number of complaints by David Benson-Pope against TV3 (over the Dunedin South selection) were all rejected by the Broadcasting Standards Authority. This got me interested enough to go to the BSA website. Now sadly that decision is not yet up, but oh what fun it is to go through some of the other recent decisions. Where do I start?

How about this one, where a Martin Taylor complained about Jeremy Wells on Eating Media Lunch starting the programme by saying:

Good evening, kia ora, fuck your mother.

Now this is classic EML, and you wonder why someone would watch it if they were not going to enjoy Wells in your face offensiveness. But Mr Taylor said:

In Mr Taylor’s view, the comment was equivalent to the host “labelling me a ‘motherfucker’”.

TVNZ responded with the wonderful:

he was not suggesting that the audience literally “fucks their mother”.

Mr Taloyr then wrote to the BSA:

Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s decision, Mr Taylor referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He maintained that “sex with your own mother is not humorous in any context”,

Well personally what I am laughing at is the complaint itself. If all the complaints are like this, I’d love to be appointed to the BSA – it would be great fun.

Then another complaint against EML A Jim Brock complained:

I object to the way an erect penis was waved and whacked about in the forefront of the screen in the item satirising infomercials.

Alas the said penis was in fact only a dildo.

One also has a complaint about a 60 minutes item regarding Jackass imitations.

And finally we have a complaint against South Park. No not the Bloody Mary episode, but the “bi-curious one”. The BSA summarises the episode:

Another character then told Cartman that he was now gay and that the only way to “cancel out the gay polarity” was for Butters to put Cartman’s penis in his mouth. The following scene involved Cartman trying to trick Butters into allowing him to put his penis into Butters’ mouth. Cartman blindfolded Butters and told him that he had a “surprise” for him. Cartman then took down his pants and was about to put his penis into Butters’ mouth when Butters’ father walked into the room and saw what was happening. Butters was still blindfolded and he did not realise what Cartman had been trying to do to him. Believing his son was “bi-curious”, Butters’ father sent him to a Christian camp to “cure” him.

It was a hilarious episode. People either love or hate Southpark. It is crude and offensive but has some very sensible messages underlying it. This one was about tolerance, but anyway onto the complaint:

The complainant argued that the character Butters had been raped while asleep by the “fat child” (Cartman). PB maintained that “the fat child said he was going to give Butters some cough mixture so that he would go to sleep…and the fat child performed oral sex [on Butters] and took a photo”.

I suspect PB has never watched South Park before if he doesn’t know Cartman is not fat, just big boned!

TVWorks responded:

The broadcaster maintained that Cartman’s behaviour was always placed in a context that highlighted his lack of ethics, as opposed to trivialising his lack of ethics. It argued that although Butters was unknowingly suffering abuse at the hands of Cartman, an adult audience would take it for granted that this occurred between two eight-year-olds and not an adult and a child. It considered that while still immoral, this made the item less sinister.

TVWorks stated that “part of the comedy of Cartman’s character was the contrast between his sadistic nature and the innocence he has as an eight-year-old. It pointed out that Cartman was “initially naive to the impression that the photo of Butters’ penis in his mouth gave until his friends pointed out how it looked”.

The broadcaster pointed out that South Park was in its eleventh season and that it was “unlikely that any regular viewers would have been offended by the programme”.

I also note the following:

The complainant maintained that the episode contained rape and scenes of sexual violation, and that the actions of Cartman came under the broad definition of rape on the Wikipedia website.

Hmmn I like Wikipedia, but I’d rather not have it cited as the authority on what constitutes rape – as oppossed to the Crimes Act!

I am going to have to check out the BSA site more often.

And for all those who are offended by Eating Media Lunch and South Park – I respect the fact you find it offensive. I hope you will respect the fact that hundreds of thousands of people like myself find them bloody hilarious, and you of course have the option of simply just not watching them.

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The Mitchell & Dyer mystery

May 28th, 2008 at 6:02 pm by David Farrar

NBR has solved a mystery: An campaign about a supposed new ad agency launch tonight is actually a really about launching a new TV show about an ad agency. Seems like many people fell for it, but NBR worked it out before the launch tonight.

Sounds like a few journalists will not be too happy about being fooled, especially as actual untruiths are recorded on tape.

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The apologies

May 28th, 2008 at 5:46 pm by David Farrar

The apologies and statements started at 2 pm. I have extracts below. First up was the Prime Minister of behalf of the Crown:

The Crown extends to New Zealand Viet Nam Veterans and their families an apology for the manner in which their loyal service in the name of New Zealand was not recognised as it should have been, when it should have been, and for inadequate support extended to them and their families after their return home from the conflict.

Good.

On all sides, strong views were held with conviction. My own party, the New Zealand Labour Party opposed New Zealand involvement in the war, and acted immediately to withdraw the troops on election to office in 1972.

Many others also spoke out, often coming under attack from the government and other establishment voices of the time for doing so.

Oh Good God, get over yourself. This is an apology to Veterans, not an apology to protesters that some people disagreed with their protests.

For too long, successive governments ignored concerns being raised by Viet Nam veterans. It was the emergence of Agent Orange as a serious health and veterans’ issue in the United States which began to change the way in which issues surrounding Viet Nam veterans came to be perceived and then treated in New Zealand.

In 2003 the Health Select Committee undertook its own inquiry into the concerns raised by veterans. It investigated whether New Zealand defence personnel had been exposed to Agent Orange. It also assessed the health risks to defence personnel and their families, and the health services available to them. The Committee concluded that New Zealand personnel who had served in Viet Nam had indeed been exposed to Agent Orange, and that this exposure had had adverse health effects not only for the personnel themselves, but also for their children.

It would have been nice to acknowledge what led to that Select Committee inquiry. Certainly not your own Minister suggesting the map was a fraud.

Today the Crown has offered a formal apology to the New Zealand Veterans of the Viet Nam war and their families. The Crown places on record recognition of the service of those personnel; and acknowledges the many consequences of that service, including the physical and mental health effects. The failure of successive governments and their agencies to acknowledge the exposure of veterans to dioxin contaminated herbicides and other chemicals is itself acknowledged, as is the way in which that failure exacerbated the suffering of veterans and families.

Excellent.

In concluding, the Crown thanks the members of the Joint Working Group who provided a way forward for dealing with these troubling issues of New Zealand’s relatively recent past. This has led to the opportunity for the Crown to put on record its thanks for, and its apology to, those brave service personnel who became the veterans of the Viet Nam war, and to pay tribute to those who never came home. We will remember them.

And a good ending. Just a pity about the first half.

John Key was next:

I rise today to support the apology from the Crown and to offer the gratitude and thanks of the National Party to those New Zealanders who served in the then-Republic of Vietnam. I also offer our apologies to them and their families for the failure of the Crown to properly acknowledge or address the results of their service in a toxic environment in Vietnam.

They have had to suffer the indignity of two reports – the Reeves report and the McLeod report, both of which reached conclusions that all veterans knew to be wrong. These reports were factually incorrect, fatally flawed, and deeply offensive to many veterans.

Good to have the explicit condemnation of those reports which were offensive with their incredibly wrong conclusions.

I also wish to acknowledge the role that John Masters played in reaching the point we are at today. John was the last commander of 161 Battery in Vietnam, and it was his perseverance, and finally the map he produced, that proved that New Zealand service personnel had been exposed to defoliants in Phuoc Tuy Province. Without his hard work, the findings of the inquiry would not have happened.

One gets the feeling his sense of duty to his troops did not end with his active service. A real leader.

Vietnam was a war that divided New Zealand, and the period was one of bitter sentiment from some towards those who served. But the New Zealanders who were asked to serve in this war were not responsible for the decisions taken by politicians at the time, and they should not have been treated as though they were.

A point, some may wish to reflect on. People should have directed their protests towards the Ministers and MPs who made the decision, not the returning troops who had no say in where they get posted to.

So, to the members of Victor and Whiskey Companies of the 1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment; to 4 Troop New Zealand Special Air Service; to the members of the New Zealand joint services medical team; to 161 Battery Royal New Zealand Artillery Regiment; to the Royal New Zealand Engineers; and to those other New Zealand service personnel who served attached to units of the Australian and United States military, we finally say sorry.

Nice to name the units, as they mean a lot to those who served in them.

New Zealand had a responsibility to these people. They were asked by their country to do a dangerous job, and they did so with honour and dignity.

The treatment they received, both in Vietnam and then in the years after their return to New Zealand, was unfair and unacceptable.

I hope that this apology, and the acceptance finally that New Zealanders were exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam, will go some way to making up for our previous failings.

Excellent all round.

Also speeches were made by NZ First, United Future, Maori Party and ACT. Can’t see on Scoop anything from Greens or Progressive but they did speak.

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Cynical Photo Ops

May 28th, 2008 at 2:12 pm by David Farrar

Karl du Fresne has a very good blog post on the photo of the aunt of the dead Kahui Twins kissing their headstone.

My third thought had less to do with Mona Kahui and Stuart King than with the media’s role. The photo at the cemetery was taken by John Selkirk, the Dom Post’s veteran Auckland photographer. I don’t think John just happened by chance to be at Mangere cemetery with his camera gear when the couple turned up. The paper had obviously been tipped off in advance. In fact the couple’s attendance at the cemetery may well have been dependent on the Dom Post turning up too.

Would Mona Kahui and Stuart King have gone to the cemetery and kissed the twins’ headstone if there was no newspaper photographer there to record the occasion? Of course I can’t say. But instinct and experience makes me sceptical.

If the couple were merely intent on expressing sincere grief and affection for the dead twins, there was no reason for a newspaper to be present. So the event was at least to some extent contaminated by a PR motive. I suspect the Dom Post was enlisted as an accomplice in the couple’s plan to get their child back.

I doubt Karl is wrong.

If this was the case, Kahui and King were only doing what politicians, pressure groups and PR firms do all the time – staging what the British journalist Nick Davies calls “pseudo events”, manufactured to generate publicity and therefore advance an underlying agenda.

These are not genuine news events which happen spontaneously. They are publicity stunts, orchestrated to attract media attention.

Greenpeace is an acknowledged master in this field, scoring prime newspaper and TV coverage every time its activists unfurl a protest banner on a nuclear power station or abseil on to an oil rig. Would they do it if the media paid no attention? Of course not.

Photo opportunities are to Greenpeace what sex is to Paris Hilton!

UPDATE: Karl blogs that the Dominion Post have stated that there was no arrangement with the family. They just sent a photographer there as they figured there was a reasonable chance family members would go there. Big ups to the Dom Post for doing it the right way.

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Back Benches tonight

May 28th, 2008 at 2:10 pm by David Farrar

For those in Wellington the line up tonight is:

  1. Sandra Goudie, National
  2. Hone Harawira, Maori Party
  3. Keith Locke, Greens
  4. Louise Wall, Labour

Topics are tax cuts, the Vietnam Vets apology and the power cut.

I won’t be able to make it tonight but those who want to should aim to go down around 8.30 p.m. for a 9 p.m. start.

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Thanks to Judith and co

May 28th, 2008 at 1:12 pm by David Farrar

Later today we will have an official apology to the Vietnam Veterans for their treatment over the years. It is not just overdue, but is the end of some shabby behaviour from both the former National and current Labour Government.

In 1998 a National government commissioned the Reeves Inquiry (headed by Sir Paul Reeves) to look at the effects of Agent Orange on the children of Vietnam Veterans. The Inquiry Report stated that our troops were not exposed to Agent Orange. That untruth was repeated in the later McLeod Report (authored by Dr Deborah McLeod from the Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences) commissioned by Labour in 2001.

In the uproar that followed the release of the McLeod Report John Masters, commander of the last artillery unit to serve in Vietnam, remembered that hidden away at the bottom of an old trunk he had a classified map which detailed the extent to which Phouc Tuy Province had been sprayed. He got  Ross Miller to approach Judith Collins to see if she might be prepared to help. She was (it turns out one of her cousins also served and still has chronic ill health from the experience) and Judith went public with the map.

On the day existence of the map was revealed, the then Minister of Veterans Affairs (Hawkins) went on the 6.00 News and derided the map as a possible forgery. This allowed Judith to persuade the the Health Select Committee to unanimously proceed with an inquiry.

Of particular interest to Vietnam veterans is that the inquiry revealed the existence of a secret file in the New Zealand Defence Force which detailed chapter and verse how NZ servicemen in Phouc Tuy Province were sprayed with just under 2 million litres of Agent Orange. That file was never made available to either of the two Inquiries.

Thanks to John Masters, Ross Miller and Judith Collins, the truth came out. Without them, the Agent Orange story would have never been told.

The ‘Apology’ will go some way to healing the wounds. For then 700 who have died since then, many before their time, it comes too late.  We all owe Judith Collins a debt for taking up a cause no-one else wanted to listen to.

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