Archive for December, 2008

Bigot Alert

December 31st, 2008 at 2:25 pm by David Farrar

Adam Smith does a great public service by scanning in most days the more nutty or idiotic letters to the editor. Today’s one is simply bigoted.

Talking of the Middle East, Little Green Footballs highlights a Jerusalem Post column where Caroline Glick states:

Both Iran and its Hamas proxy in Gaza have been busy this Christmas week showing Christendom just what they think of it. But no one seems to have noticed.

On Tuesday, Hamas legislators marked the Christmas season by passing a Shari’a criminal code for the Palestinian Authority. Among other things, it legalizes crucifixion.

Now this has not been reported in any media outlet, so maybe Ms Glick has it wrong. But one would hope all those reporters and journalists are checking out the veracity of the claim that Hamas has voted to legalise crucifixion.

TV Meme

December 31st, 2008 at 12:58 pm by David Farrar

From Uroskin:

  1. Name a TV show series in which you have seen every episode at least twice: Fawlty Towers; Blackadder, Yes Minister, MASH, West Wing
  2. Name a show you can’t miss: Battlestar Galactica, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,
  3. Name an actor that would make you more inclined to watch a show: Ricky Gervais, Anna Paquin,
  4. Name an actor who would make you less likely to watch a show: Paris Hilton
  5. Name a show you can, and do, quote from: West Wing, Yes Minister, Star Trek
  6. Name a show you like that no one else enjoys: The Big Bang Theory
  7. Name a TV show which you’ve been known to sing the theme song: The Simpsons
  8. Name a show you would recommend everyone to watch: Dexter
  9. Name a TV series you own: West Wing, Battlestar Galactica
  10. Name an actor who launched his/her entertainment career in another
    medium, but has surprised you with his/her acting choices in television: None
  11. What is your favourite episode of your favourite series? The final episode of Blackadder II – Flossy. Baa.
  12. Name a show you keep meaning to watch, but you just haven’t gotten around to yet: Third Watch
  13. Ever quit watching a show because it was so bad? First Monday
  14. Name a show that’s made you cry multiple times: MASH
  15. What do you eat when you watch TV? Coke
  16. How often do you watch TV? Most days
  17. What’s the last TV show you watched? Brothers & Sisters
  18. What’s your favourite/preferred genre of TV? Comedy
  19. What was the first TV show you were obsessed with? Faulty Towers
  20. What TV show do you wish you never watched? None
  21. What’s the weirdest show you enjoyed? Coupling
  22. What TV show scared you the most? Dr Who as I was six.
  23. What is the funniest TV show you have ever watched? Yes Minister

Speed Limiters for cars

December 31st, 2008 at 12:34 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports from Reuters:

Cars should be fitted with devices to regulate their speed to cut fatal accidents by a quarter, a UK government advisory body said.

The UK Commission for Integrated Transport and the Motorists’ Forum said the voluntary use of so-called intelligent speed adaption would cut 40,000 road deaths over a 60-year period.

The proposed system would automatically slow the engine and apply the brakes to keep a car within local speed limits, although the driver would be able to override the limiter.

It said the limiters would also reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 6 per cent on roads where cars go at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour.

The commission called on the UK’s Department of Transport to start building a database of road speed limit maps which would be needed to operate the system.

Are these people stupid? Every GPS vehicle device in the UK already has a database of speed limit maps. MY GPS has it for UK, France and NZ. So if they are ignorant of this fact, how much can we trust them on anything else?

Also note the 40,000 road deaths are over 60 years, so that is 667 a year out of a population of 60 million or around 1 in 100,000.

Personally I think the future will have GPS fitted in almost every car, and a cruise control option so that it can cruise at the maximum speed. The anti-collision technology is some way off, but we already have parts of it with the beeping as you reverse if you are about to hit something.

Press hails a decisive start

December 31st, 2008 at 12:24 pm by David Farrar

The Press says:

After three terms in the Beehive, a tired Labour administration had limped into election year. The Helen Clark-led Government was hurt by its association with New Zealand First, by claims of excessive political correctness and by the odious Electoral Finance Act. And as the election neared the reality of recession hit home with voters.

The Clark-led Government lost its judgement in a serious way.

Undoubtedly the political figure of the year was Key. He won the election, then moved with speed to enter confidence and supply agreements with ACT, the Maori Party and United Future.

His agreement with the Maori Party might seem to have the potential for future instability. But the Maori Party has impressed with its commonsense and its direct approach to issues and this augurs well for the cohesiveness of the new Government.

Key has been decisive since election day. Aside from the supply agreements he has delivered the first part of his promised 100 action days and was also a forceful advocate of free trade at the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation meeting in Peru.

As New Zealand heads into 2009 the combination of stable government and a prime minister prepared to take firm action will be essential as the nation braces itself for more months of recession.

If Labour had been re-elected, I wonder if they would have put up taxes by now?

Scoring the Dom Post’s predictions

December 31st, 2008 at 12:19 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post every year make 20 or so political predictions. Big kudos to them for doing so, as politics can be very hard to predict. At year’s end they report on how they did:

1 It will be the most litigious election year yet as one after another lobby group flouts the letter and the spirit of the contentious Electoral Finance Act so they can drag it through the courts.

4/10 There were some challenges ACT’s self-imposed testing of the propriety, if not elegance, of Rodney Hide’s canary-yellow jacket, for instance but not as much nose-thumbing as we expected.

Yeah, about right. Most law breaches in the end were accidental ones from the parties that passed it.

2 Speaker Margaret Wilson will announce her exit from politics, probably for an academic post.

10/10 Totally in order.

Right on both counts.

3 Labour’s chief whip, outgoing Christchurch Central MP Tim Barnett, will opt not to go on the party list and will leave Parliament.

10/10 Even under the most liberal interpretation.

Also a good call, especially as publicly Barnett kept his options open.

4 Labour will announce tax cuts worth about $25 a week to most taxpayers, but National will go several steps further by unveiling a programme of tax cuts.

7/10 Labour announced a programme too, but National’s were bigger overall.

A fair score.

5 Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons will wait till after the election to announce her retirement date.

10/10 And we are still waiting, but it shouldn’t be long now.

Can’t fault that one.

6 Labour will hold just two Maori seats after the 2008 election.

10/10 Sorry, Mahara Okeroa, but we were on the ball.

Or that one.

7 Clem Simich, Richard Worth and Eric Roy will fight it out for the Speaker’s job if National wins office, but they might all miss out to Peter Dunne if National needs his vote.

2/10 Dunne may have been in line but turned it down and they did not need his vote. Worth was keen, Roy was in line but Lockwood Smith was a bolt from the blue.

You could argue 0/10 as Lockwood not even mentioned, but to be fair I doubt he would have been a contender had it not been for the blooper on the election trail.

8 Another senior Cabinet minister will announce their retirement at the next election and it won’t come as much of a surprise.

8/10 And it’s goodbye to Michael Cullen and Steve Maharey … though marks off because no one could say Helen Clark’s resignation came as no surprise.

This one I found confusing as it isn’t clear what was meant. Is it retirement before the election results are known or after? I took it as announce before the election and retire at it. Also retire as a Minister or an MP?  Cullen did not retire as an Minister – he lost office. And he has yet to confirm 100% he will go before the next election.

9 For the second year in a row, National will go the whole year without any leadership speculation.

10/10 Blush we really don’t deserve any points for that one.

I will be interested to see what the 2009 predictions have to say about Goff’s leadership.

10 NZ First MP Brian Donnelly will finally announce his departure for a posting as high commissioner in the Cook Islands.

10/10 Sadly Mr Donnelly later died.

An easy call with a sad ending.

11 His leader, Winston Peters, will fail to win back his old Tauranga seat but his party will be back in Parliament after it scrapes past the 5 per cent threshold.

5/10 Right. Wrong.

That’s a bit generous as Peters was never in the frame for winning it back – the key question was will NZ Fuirst make it back either way, and they didn’t. I’d give 3/10.

12 Mr Peters will get another term as foreign affairs minister whichever party forms the next government.

0/10 Even if he had made it back, he would not have been offered the post. Typical media, never get it right …

Bloody Meerkats 🙂

To be fair to the Dom Post, their prediction would probably have come true if Peters hadn’t lied over Owen Glenn’s donation. National was moderately keen to do a deal with Peters until Owen Glenn revealed how blatantly Peters had lied to everyone.

13 A scandal bubbling below the surface will be made public in 2008.

10/10 Winston Peters and his donations/secret trust funds brought the man down.

A safe prediction to make any year, but deserves a 10/10 as it was Owen Glenn’s NY gong which started it all off.

14 The economy will be the major theme of the election, despite the current benign conditions, as growth slows, interest rates stay high and home owners feel increasingly squeezed.

8/10 Mostly on the money, but interest rates were sliding by election day.

8/10 about right.

15 National will stand Richard Worth in Epsom again as clear a signal as the good voters of Epsom need that it’s got no interest in wresting the seat back from ACT leader Rodney Hide.

10/10 Cynical, yet accurate.

No surprise.

16 Finance Minister Michael Cullen will deliver a boring Budget that outlines tax cuts but the big bang and big bucks will be saved for the election campaign.

4/10 We got the tax cuts, but by the time the election came around no one could afford to spend up large.

They were saved up, but then were unaffordable.

17 Outgoing Labour MP Steve Maharey will stay on till very close to the election because Prime Minister Helen Clark won’t want to risk governing with one vote fewer.

9/10 He stayed the distance.

Yeah one point off as he actually stayed literally until the election.

18 Labour will revive its 2005 “don’t put it all at risk” campaign theme for John Key, but it’s unlikely to have the same bite as it did against former National leader Don Brash.

6/10 The trust theme and the attack on Key’s experience were variations on a theme, but not close enough.

I’d only go 4/10, as the attacks on Key were very different to Brash, and much more personally focused.

19 The Greens and the Maori Party will get increasingly cosy in the lead-up to the election as they see the benefits of pooling their votes for more negotiating muscle.

4/10 They tried on and off but there were some rocks in the road and in the end they went their own way.

I’d do 2/10 as really the Greens were rebuffed at every turn, and in fact there was friction when the Greens suggested Party Vote Green and Electorate Vote Maori.

20 Finally, after extensive research including the time- honoured consultative method of sticking a wet finger in the air, we feel we can confidently predict that National will win the most votes on election night. But the vagaries of MMP (see 11 and 19 above) mean it may be weeks before we know whether that will be enough for National to form a government.

1/10 Mr Peters’ demise made a monkey of this prediction and Mr Key rubbed it in by forming a government before the ink was dry on the election results.

One could argue higher than 1/10 as they got National winning the most votes, but that was always the case so we’ll stick with that.

We scored
138/200 in a result that was independently (and harshly) audited by a rival office.  We might blame Winston Peters for most of the lost points.

Last time I disagreed quite a bit with their scoring giving them 127 to their 145. This time I only have it six points less at a very credible 132/200 to their 138/200, so sounds like I am in tune with their auditor.

Once again lots of kudos for risking making predictions at all, and we look forward to seeing the 2009 ones tomorrow.

Labour’s last Honours List

December 31st, 2008 at 10:29 am by David Farrar

The New Year Honours 2009 List was approved by the previous Government, as is traditional.

A rare appointment has been made to the top run of the NZ Order of Merit – Principal Companion. This is equal to the old Grand Cross Knight, and it goes to Professor Ngatata Love. Few would disagree – he has been the voice of Maori in Wellington for many decades.

There are four appointments to the Order as Distinguished Companions, equivalent to the old Knights and Dames. They are:

  1. Dr Claudia Orange
  2. Professor David Skegg
  3. Murray Wells
  4. Margaret Wilson

Mr Wells is possibly not as well known as the other three. Some may not like Wilson’s appointment, but it used to be traditional for the Speaker to be knighted, and she has been given the equivalent.

Some of the CNZMs are:

  • Brian Corban
  • Steve Maharey
  • Mark Prebble
  • John Werry
  • Mike Rann (Premier of South Australia)

Congratulations to all those granted honours.

A cost benefit analysis

December 30th, 2008 at 5:30 pm by David Farrar

A couple of months ago I was invited to a lockup at an economics company for a study they were releasing. However on the day in question, it was the most filthy weather so I piked. As I’m deleting old e-mails, I found my e-mail to them giving a cost-benefit analysis of my attendance. It said:

I’m sitting at home calculating the cost/benefit ratio of attending the NZIER survey lockup in person and getting soaked to the bone in the three minutes it would take to run from my place to your office, and the alternative of staying warm and dry, having a huge mug of coffee and waiting for the information to be released online.

So far my calculations of benefits for each approach are:

Attend in Person

  • Get to be first to blog the survey results as can write story during lockup
  • Can ask staff questions
  • Get to see your offices

Wait for online release

  • Will not resemble a drowned puppy
  • Will not have to then change clothes once back home
  • Will not risk laptop getting wet
  • Will get to watch last night’s TV while drinking hot coffee

I did consider possible mitigating strategies

Mitigating Strategies

  • Drive to NZIER offices – but have lent car to flatmate to attend a funeral
  • Get a taxi to NZIER offices – taxi driver would probably beat me up for ordering a taxi to take me one block!
  • Have my private chauffeur pick me up and drop me off – I don’t have one yet
  • Use an umbrella – will probably get destroyed by the wind, as my previous 20 umbrellas have been

So having failed to identify a mitigating strategy, sadly I conclude the risks of drowning outweigh the benefits of attending!

This is probably the most convuluted “no” I have ever sent to an RSVP!

Maharey on climate change

December 30th, 2008 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Steve Maharey is blogging at Pundit, and is upset over climate change policy.

One night in 2007 I found myself at an official dinner in Brussels seated next to a man who advised the German government on climate change. We chatted about the role countries could play in the shift to sustainability.

He noted that what New Zealand did would have little impact on the overall problem. Our small size, however, did not excuse us from making a practical contribution. In addition, he said, New Zealand had a very special and more important role to play. “You”, he argued animatedly, “need to be a symbol to the rest of the world of what is possible”.

This now explains why the last NZ Government was so keen to “lead the world”. Because a German Government advisor said so over dinner. That beats stuff such as a rational cost benefit analysis.

I felt proud that New Zealand was seen as so important to the world’s efforts to address climate change. I came home even more committed to being a part of advancing New Zealand’s leadership role.

It’s a pity though that emissions under Steve’s Government increased higher (percentage) than almost all other Kyoto countries – even more than USA under George W Bush.

Then Steve turns to the awful Nat/ACT agreement:

Evidence from competing points of view will be heard by New Zealand’s elected representatives. This evidence is to be treated equally. Public officials will be asked if they have been impartial. Those who advance the position that human activity is contributing to climate change are to be set against those who oppose this view – as if they are equals.

Oh my God, how dare they. This is the end of civilisation – NZ’s elected representatives will hear competing points of view. This must not be allowed.

Lest we think this does not matter because it is just one of the things that is done in an MMP system to appease the smaller parties and no one will take it seriously – think again. The news of such hearings will go around the world. The country that has been a beacon on the hill will find itself reduced to holding a candle in a wind of its own creation.

No, no, no – an Australian radio station has mentioned the agreement. Our international reputation is destroyed. We can never recover.

Maharey demonstrates what many of the left focus on – saying the right things instead of actual progress. He thinks that everyone globally will be aghast as NZ having had a select committee inquiry. They won’t be – most won’t give a damn or be interested – except academic politicians like Maharey.

Here’s what they will actually care about – the actual level of emissions. That si what counts – not whether “deniers’ might be allowed to have their say at a select committee. Maharey’s Government had one of the worst records in the world for emissions growth.

This to me is the true tragedy of any attempt to reconsider the evidence on climate change. While we should be leading the way to a world that is different to the fossil-fuel burning, automobile-centred, throwaway economy we currently have, our elected representatives will be weighing up the evidence.

Once again Maharey wants NZ to lead the world, no matter how much damage it would cause.

I’m all in favour of sensible measures to reduce emissions, that keep us in line with our major trading partners. But this hysteria about how  the world is doomed if we not act within the next 12 months is ridicolous.

If they talk too long New Zealand’s reputation for leadership will not just be a candle in the wind it will be snuffed out.

Oh no, ACT and National have killed Prince Diana!!

The Press on Gaza War

December 30th, 2008 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial says:

Hamas said several days ago that it would not extend a ceasefire that was due to expire about now and rocket attacks on more or less defenceless Israeli towns had been stepped up considerably in the last few days. But the fact that the escalation of violence in the region had an air of inevitability about it does not make it any the less depressing.

It’s not two steps forward and one step back but 1.01 steps forward and one step back, in terms of making progress in the Middle East.

With more than 1.5 million Palestinians crammed into an area the geographical size of a small city civilian casualties would be impossible to avoid no matter how carefully targeted the raids were. The Palestinian gunmen make those casualties all the greater by placing their military units and equipment in civilian areas.

Sad but true.

Even if the casualty numbers are exaggerated for propaganda purposes, as there is little doubt they are, the air raids undoubtedly kill and injure many innocent people.

Also sad and true.

The immediate aim is to stop the missile fire from Gaza. According to Israel, hundreds of rockets had been fired into the southern areas of the country near Gaza in the last few days, adding to the thousands that have rained on to the country in the last eight years. Only one death from the missile fire has been reported recently but the fear of the residents of the towns under attack, and of the Israeli Government, is that if left to carry on unhindered the militants will acquire longer-range, more accurate weapons along with greater expertise in their deployment, leaving ever-larger areas vulnerable to random bombardment.

I find it amusing that some argue Israel should not try and stop the missile attacks, because few of them actually hit their targets. I suggest they try living in a neighbourhood where rockets explode about them every day, and then re-evaluate their stance. Also worth remembering that they are firing these rockets into territory that is not disputed (such as the West Bank, Jerusalem).

This military action will no doubt end at some point, after much death and destruction, leaving a few Israeli towns perhaps a little more secure than before but with a longer-term peace for the region as far off as ever.

And this is why I regret Israel has responded this way, even though I understand why. It does make the longer-term peace harder.

But Hamas will continue to hold sway over a more or less lawless militia-run land and will refuse even to recognise Israel’s basic right to exist. The militiamen will continue to be armed and financed by Iran, which also refuses to recognise Israel’s legitimacy in the area indeed, both the present military engagements in Gaza, and the earlier one on the radical Hizbollah militia in southern Lebanon, may be seen as part of a wider proxy war between Israel and Iran.

While Israel’s actions in the region are hardly blameless, and are often unnecessarily brutal and provocative, so long as that situation continues to prevail it is hard to see any longer-term improvement at all.

What has been nice is to see a balanced response from the new Government, instead of just blaming Israel.

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully describes the attacks as “a day of tragedy”.

Mr McCully says it is pointless to fingerpoint about who is responsible, or debate what is proportionate versus disproportionate response.

He has endorsed a call by the United Nations for an immediate ceasefire and says that could provide the breathing space that’s needed to broker a solution.

The ceasefire needs both sides to agree to it. That may be difficult.

Petrol prices

December 30th, 2008 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

On Sunday Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee called for petrol prices to come down, and on Monday they did come down.

What is your explanation of these events:

  1. It was a coincidence
  2. The energy companies wanted to please the new Minister
  3. Gerry’s staff worked out that petrol prices were about to drop, and thought if they got in first calling for them to drop, they would get the credit.
  4. Other ____________

I’m going for No 3 🙂

A promising biofuel

December 30th, 2008 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports on Jatropha:

Jatropha is widely viewed as the perfect biodiesel crop because it is pest and drought resistant. Jatropha trees are productive for 30 to 40 years, grow up to 3 metres high and can be grown on challenging arid land so do not compete with food crops.

It needs at least 600 millimetres of rain annually to thrive, but can survive three years of drought by dropping its leaves. More than 800 million hectares of arid and non-arable land around the world is suitable for plantations.

Seeds in the first year after planting. After five years typical annual yield of a single tree is 3.5 kilograms of beans. Oil pressed from 4kg of seeds needed to make 1 litre of biodiesel 1 hectare should yield an average 2.5 tonnes of oil.

In India, where it is widely used as biodiesel to run motor vehicles, the average cost of 1kg of seeds is 6 rupees (NZ2 cents). Refining jatropha oil into biodiesel costs less than NZ$216 per tonne.

The part that I care most about is:

Only a few years ago biofuels were regarded as uneconomical for aviation because they froze at the low temperatures encountered at cruise altitudes.

However, testing has shown that jatropha has an even lower freezing point than current jet fuel.

Personally I prefer my plane’s fuel supply not to freeze in mid flight!

Ten best swimsuits in film

December 30th, 2008 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff has a story from the Sydney Morning Herald’s Maggie Alderson on the ten best swimsuits in film.

But alas they only provide a photo of one of them. That’s like listening to a compilation of Beethoven’s best, with no actual audio.

Luckily Google is our friend, and Kiwiblog is happy to provide the article as it should have been:

1. Ursula Andress in Dr. No

Not just the greatest bikini moment on celluloid, this is one of the most arresting moments in the history of film. It’s not just her glorious Amazonian body – the flat stomach, the curving waist to hip, the silken thighs, the just-big-enough bosoms – it’s her skin, the way she holds her shoulders, her entire demeanour.

Like the character in the original book (I’ve actually read it), Honey Ryder, Andress is a creature of the sea, as at home in her bikini as a turtle in its shell. She wears it with total ease, like it’s part of her, completely comfortable in her body. As this is diametrically opposite to how most of us feel in swimwear, this is awe-inspiring to observe.

This is also one of the great bikinis, with the combination of feminine constructed bra-style top with the rugged belt below (large knife optional), a style that has been often revived (see Halle Berry at no. 9).

2. Bo Derek in 10

Ursula may have had a body of pulsating feminine allure but I think Bo Derek had the official Perfect Body, in a dog show, best of breed kind of way. Long, slender legs, high boobs, stomach like a surfboard, strong shoulders, round bum, golden skin. Tick dem boxes. But the really striking thing about this scene is how flimsy that skin-coloured one-piece was, with not a hint of support.

In the running-along-the-sand dream sequence, the more cuddly Dudley Moore wisely wears a grey tracksuit but even through the thick fabric his man boobs have more bounce than Bo’s girly ones. Fascinating to observe. I’ve no idea if they were real and I don’t care. They’re marvellous. But it remains a miracle how she avoided blinding herself with those stupid shell braids flying around.

3. Grace Kelly in To Catch A Thief and Grace Kelly in High Society

Cary Grant, the Riviera, the open-top Sunbeam Alpine, Grace Kelly’s nose … To Catch A Thief is such an elegant film but the bathing scene is pure camp, as she stalks through the hotel lobby in something you don’t see very often these days – a full matchy-matchy beach outfit.

There’s a black high-neck backless halter cossie and matching capris, worked back with a white split-front overskirt with a black swimming cap tucked underneath a large straw hat, all finished off with a white tote, white cats’-eye sunnies and classic wooden-soled slide mules. Priceless.

By contrast, in High Society Kelly gives us one of the most elegant swimwear moments on screen. She drifts poignantly to the pool (this is long before she gets squiffy and snogs Frank Sinatra) in a white halter-neck cossie with a demure integrated skirt with side slits. It’s divine – but even better is the floor-length, white silk-jersey, Grecian-style robe she wears over it. Pure class. And the languid way she undoes the silk cord belt is very, very sexy.

4. Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C.

Who could forget this bikini made of furry chamois car-wash leathers? Who knew that Stone Age Man – or rather, Woman – had such a knowledge of underwiring? I would really love to see the cantilevering inside that top, as it is quite a triumph of engineering stacking up Raquel’s impressive boobature almost to chin level. I’ve secretly always wanted a bikini like this.

5. Sacha Baron Cohen in Borat

All hail the mankini. Utter, utter joy. There are just so many ways to love this moment, not least of which is all the glorious outrages it has subsequently inspired.

These include a very large and hairy man wearing a mankini offering free hugs a la Juan Mann – and getting loads – and British football fans threatening to wear mankinis en masse when their team played a friendly against Borat’s national team of Kazakhstan, at Wembley in October. So disappointing that the wowser organisers issued a warning that anyone turning up in this most athletic of garments would be barred from the stadium.

By the way, if you don’t already have one, mankinis are still widely available on the internet. Oh, go on, give us all a laugh on the beach this summer. Pleeeeease.

6. Deborah Kerr in From Here To Eternity

Probably the most famous sexy surfside moment in film – but what a shocking cossie. I must confess that I had never seen the whole film until commissioned to write this piece, when I duly watched it to put the big beach pash moment in context. I’m afraid it rather destroyed it. When Burt Lancaster, playing sleazy, old seducer 1st Sergeant Milton Warden, suggests a dip, Kerr coyly replies: “Well, I’m already wearing a costume under my dress …” Actually she’s wearing another dress under her dress.

She whips off the wraparound skirt to reveal a buttressed swimsuit with a skirt longer than anything Venus Williams would countenance. It is one of the unsexiest swimsuits I have ever seen – and clearly designed to be that way, so the censors would pass the steamy scene.

In the novel the film is based on, it’s clear the characters get it on for real among the crashing waves, so this highly upholstered cossie is nothing more than a celluloid chastity belt. But clearly Burtie boy – sporting a pair of sturdy waist-high jersey shorts himself – didn’t think so. His biographer claims Lancaster and Kerr became “romantically involved” during filming.

7. Jude Law in The Talented Mr. Ripley

Filmed while he still had an unchallenged thatch atop his beautiful head, Jude Law is the male equivalent of Bo Derek in this film, as he hops about boats, beaches and terrazzos, completely at ease in his cool 1950s trunks. And his cool 1990s body. A male perfect 10. Sigh.

8. Daniel Craig in Casino Royale

Unlike most of my female pals, I don’t really “get” Daniel Craig in a hose-me-down-sister kind of way but when he walked out of the sea in these trunks I admit it was the most arresting beach landing since Ursula, all those Bond films before.

I instantly loved him because he looked so homo. Gay trunks and a total body wax – what’s not to love? That’s the kind of guy I like to lie on a beach with. He won’t judge my body and I won’t distract male attention from him. Beach blanket bingo, baby. Pass my cocktail, would you?

9. Halle Berry in Die Another Day

Some people reckon Halle was the best Bond girl of all time. Clearly they have only seen the one film. That orange bikini with its wide, white belt was a witty tribute to Ursula’s classic and did inspire a whole new generation to embrace the cargo bikini style but for me the naff nylon triangle top just doesn’t cut it.

So, yes, Halle’s got beautiful skin and a great figure but I don’t think this is an Oscar-winning coz. But what do I know? Last year it was featured in an exhibition at London’s Imperial War Museum, to celebrate Ian Fleming’s centenary.

10. Jessica Alba in Into The Blue

I’ve spent a lot of time on Google researching this piece (did you know there are websites for people with a fetish for wooden slide shoes as worn by Grace Kelly – as mentioned earlier? I didn’t) and it has become clear that Jessica Alba has the most-admired bikini body of the moment. Golden skin, flat stomach, slim legs, just enough booby action – and a gorgeous Latino butt.

And boy do we have plenty of opportunity to look at it in this film. In one particularly gratuitous moment we see her casually crawling up the bed on hands and knees to chat to her chap, wearing just flimsy undies, while the camera virtually gives her a colonoscopy.

So both wet and dry, on a boat and underwater, Alba’s body is mighty fine. Shame it’s wearing such a dull bikini. Just a boring bit of old, blue nylon. The only good thing about it is the unmatching top and bottom scenario, inspired by the mix-it-up trend started by Kate Moss. Now there’s somebody who looks great in a bikini.

I wonder how many hours of research it took the journalist to write the article!

NZ Herald editorials

December 30th, 2008 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald counts up the editorials this year.

There were nine editorials backing decisions of the Labour Government, and 18 criticising it. National fared little better with 19 editorials criticising it, and 11 supporting it (five since the election).

14 editorials were on the credit crisis, 10 on the Electoral Finance Act and 10 on Winston Peters. The problems around the last two have been solved anyway 🙂

General Debate 30 December 2008

December 30th, 2008 at 9:11 am by David Farrar

Annette stole our embryos

December 30th, 2008 at 9:05 am by David Farrar

Inaugural Health & DIsability Commissioner Robyn Stent writes in the Herald that then Health Minister Annette King changed the law in 2004 to allow the storage of body parts or bodily substances without the consent of the patient they came from, if it is for the purpose of approved research.

I’m all in favour of embryo research, but only if the parents give consent. It is shameful that Annette King nationalised their embryos to allow embryos to be stored without parental consent.

The final Colin James article in the Herald

December 30th, 2008 at 8:44 am by David Farrar

The Herald has dropped Colin James after ten years, so today is his final column. If you want to receive his weekly column by e-mail, contact him directly.

In his final column, Colin looks at all the reasons why NZ can still prosper, despite the credit crisis and its aftermath.

PMs pays

December 30th, 2008 at 8:40 am by David Farrar

The Herald runs an AAP story on what different PMs are paid.

The Russian salary is so low, it is inevitable that they enrich themselves through the state unofficially.

The US salary is also set very low, for the job. In fact many US presidents will leave office with greater debts than when they entered, due to the cost of private legal advice. But ex-presidents traditionally can then make millions through lectures and books.

Streaking on Sports Cafe

December 29th, 2008 at 9:29 pm by David Farrar

A reader sent this to me a while back. It was a mate of his who did it. I love the looks on the face of the guests.

Blog Bits

December 29th, 2008 at 4:20 pm by David Farrar

Poneke is in Brisbane and has discovered it has the buzz of prosperity:

On the surface, the prosperity can be seen in the world-class infrastructure of roads and electric rail lines that Auckland in particular has not been able to achieve despite decades of talk; the very high standard of housing, commercial buildings and public facilities; the wages that really are stunningly higher than at home; the many job vacancies in the papers even on the Saturday after Boxing Day. Australia has not had a single quarter of negative growth this year while we have had three (though the Aussies fret about it and fear recession might still happen). I could go on.

MacDoctor shares some first hand experience of emergency clinics:

An article in the Weekend Herald (not yet online) entitled “High cost stopping Kiwis visiting the doctor” tells us that over two thirds of New Zealanders over 20 have avoided visiting a doctor because of the cost. I didn’t need any research to tell me this is true, because these people pitch up to emergency departments throughout the country with the line, “I couldn’t afford to go to my GP”  or it’s alternative “I owe my GP too much money”. …

I view these two excuses with a great deal of cynicism. Many who use these lines are drunk or have nicotine stains on their fingers (or both). They drive up in expensive cars and sport MP3 players (many are genuine iPods). They typically arrive not long after the GPs have all closed for the evening, or over the weekend. These are the “milkers of the system”  – They know how to work the health system to their advantage and they use Emergency Departments like a GP clinic. …

I suspect most of the two thirds of New Zealanders who said that they do not go to a doctor because of cost, are really saying that they would rather spend their time and money on something other than their health. It has nothing to to with lack of access and much to do with lack of interest. Until we, as a society, start to see that health is important and worthy of investment, this problem will not go away, regardless of the amount of money governments may throw at it.

Hear hear. I think all bar the very poorest should pay something towards their healthcare.

Bernard Hickey recommends a Kim Hill interview with JJ Joseph – a man who used to beat his wife. It’s a very moving interview that shows people can turn their lives about.

And finally Lynn Prentice at The Standard manages to link Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme to National’s planned repeal of the EFA. The hilarious part is:

based on recent experience of their autocratic, arrogant, and undemocratic behavior in the house, we will probably see some opaque, badly written, and badly thought through legislation pushed through under urgency.

What does he call the EFA if not badly written and badly thought through? And he ignores of course that unlike Labour, National has said it will consult all parties over the replacement legislation. It was Labour that tried to use bipartisan electoral law to screw over its enemies.

Nukes away

December 29th, 2008 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Now this is fun. Pick a destination, and a type of nuke, and see on Google Maps the impact. The four zones pictured are:

  1. Black – Conflagaration – all dead
  2. Purple – 3rd degree burns
  3. Pink – 2nd degree burns
  4. Orange – 1st degree burns

I’ve been nuking Palmerston North all afternoon. If you pick a big enough bomb, you can also get Shannon, Levin and Fielding as a bonus!

War in Gaza

December 29th, 2008 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The sad thing about the latest conflict in Gaza, is that the land was returned to Palestine as part of a so called peace package. It provides little incentive to Israel to trade land for peace, when in fact they trade land and in return get rocket attacks.

Predictably sooner or later Israel responds, which plays into the hands of the militants. However not responding to rocket attacks is not much of a strategy either, after Hamas ended the ceasefire a week ago.

Peak Manure

December 29th, 2008 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Gwynne Dyer looks at peak oil projections, and notes:

London in the 1890s had 11,000 horse-drawn taxis and several thousand buses, each of which required 12 horses a day.

Add all the private carriages and the tens of thousands of horse-drawn carts, wagons and drays delivering goods, and there were at least 100,000 horses on the streets of London every day – each producing an average of 10kg   of manure. Two thousand tonnes of manure a day. There were flies everywhere, and if you didn’t shovel the manure up quickly, it dried up and blew into your eyes, your hair, your nose, your clothes.

As the cities grew, even more horses were needed and the problem grew steadily worse.

One writer in the Times in 1894 estimated that in 50 years the streets of London would be buried under 3m of manure.

The first peak manure projection 🙂

Herald on Owen Glenn

December 29th, 2008 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Today’s Herald Editorial:

The events that were to keep him in the news this year are too fresh in the memory to need mention here. But one element of the saga has gone too little noted and the year should not pass without it being observed. The lengths to which Owen Glenn went to ensure the truth became known were a testament to a commitment to this country that is truly remarkable in someone who left it all of 42 years ago and made his fortune and several homes in the wider world. …

When his word was challenged before Parliament’s privileges committee he cared enough to come back to the country with telephone records and allow us to compare his candour and consistency with that of Mr Peters. It was no contest. He probably does not appreciate the full scale of the good he has done for New Zealand’s public life. …

In the 42 years since he lived here he has been far from a stranger to the country and its politics. But the particular poisons that Mr Peters preached when it suited him, the language he used and postures he took to pretend he was uniquely honourable in New Zealand politics, would not have been as evident to the occasional visitor.

Mr Glenn would be less than human if his attachment to his country has not been soured somewhat by his experience of its politics this year. His year-old medal probably feels a little tarnished but he should be assured it is not. He has repaid the honour a hundredfold, not so much by discrediting a political poseur but by simply demonstrating how much this country can still mean to someone who has been gone so long and done so well.

New Zealand agonises these days about the numbers of its young who migrate for larger incomes and wider opportunity. We probably worry too much. Owen Glenn was an extreme example of the attachment that many, probably most, expatriates share. It is something we must honour and nurture. We need to let him know.

New Zealand does indeed owe Mr Glenn a lot. I say arise Sir Owen 🙂

Is there a way forward for Fiji?

December 29th, 2008 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

There is a very easy way for the travel sanctions against Fiji to be lifted, and that is for the interim Fijian Government to keep its word and take credible steps towards democracy. In fact the NZ Government has offered significant help and assistance if the interim Government takes these steps, as former High Commissioner Caroline McDonald reminds us.

Whether or not one approves of the Commodore’s professed aims, his mandate comes from the fact he has lots of guns. That is not a long-term mandate.

So when there is an easy way to get the travel sanctions lifted (keep your word) and a near impossible counter-productive way to get them lifted (threaten the NZ Govt), what does it mean when Fiji chooses the latter?

Either it means the Commodore is not acting on good advice, or it means there is a deliberate strategy to lower expectations that Fiji will even restore democracy.

General Debate 29 December 2008

December 29th, 2008 at 7:44 am by David Farrar