Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

May and Hammond stay with Clarkson

April 2nd, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

James May and Richard Hammond are out of contract with the BBC, after declining to sign new deals to present the next series of Top Gear.

The pair are now free agents, meaning rival broadcasters can approach them with job offers.

 

The three of them together will be a very lucrative package.

It won’t be called Top Gear, but a motoring show with them will appear somewhere.

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General Debate 2 April 2015

April 2nd, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Pros and cons of killer robots

April 1st, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Yahoo reports:

We’re on the cusp of the next generation of warfare, with killer robots to be discussed at Canterbury University this week.

A forum will assess pros and cons of robots’ involvement in conflict, ranging from drones to foot-soldiers.

Hitlab doctoral student Sean Welsh told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking one advantage robots have over humans, is they don’t feel emotions.

“If you send a robot over the top it’s not going to care about being shot, so it can wait to be shot at before shooting back, which is not what humans are prepared to do.”

Experts are discussing views on robots’ involvement in conflict at Canterbury University this week.

Welsh says it goes beyond just war, and technology may have prevented co-pilot Andreas Lubitz steering the plane into the mountain.

“Would’ve been nice if the plane had said to the pilot, ‘I’m sorry Fritz, I can’t let you do that’.”

Should the auto-pilot be able to over-rule the pilot?

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Fast food ban fails

April 1st, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Atlantic reports:

The national discourse about health and obesity has never been a particularly cordial conversation.

In 2008, it hit a tendentious peak when a ban on new fast-food restaurants in South Los Angeles brought the term “food apartheid” to the table. The ordinance, which was implemented in a part of the city that is both disproportionately poor and obese, came as a response to the idea that there are two different systems for accessing food in Los Angeles, one with more limited options in an economically depressed part of the city that is predominantly black and Latino, and the other with more variety in more affluent neighborhoods.

We often hear that if you ban bottle stores, fast food outlets etc that it will reduce alcohol abuse, reduce obesity etc.

The ordinance didn’t shutter existing restaurants, but it did block construction of new stand-alone fast-food restaurants in an area with 700,000 residents. (That’s a population that, if separated from the rest of Los Angeles, would still make one of the U.S.’s 20 largest cities.) The effort also dovetailed with an initiative to encourage supermarkets and stores with presumably healthier fare to move in.

So how did this ban on new fast food outlets go?

On Friday, the ban got a dose of bad news: A study released by the RAND Corporation revealed that the ordinance had “failed to reduce fast-food consumption or reduce obesity rates in the targeted neighborhood.” In fact, obesity rates in the area had grown at a faster clip than elsewhere in the city. As NBC News reported, the percentage of people in South Los Angeles who were overweight or obese in 2007 was 63 percent. By 2011, that figure was 75 percent.

The solution to obesity is education, parenting and determination, not bans.

Note that the increase in obesity in this area was faster than the rest of the city.

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Why do myths and misinformation drown information, facts and science?

April 1st, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by John Hughes of The Norwood Resource:

Why do myths and misinformation drown information, facts and science in the seismic surveys and marine life debate?

The public deserves an open, transparent and honest debate on the issue of seismic surveys and marine life and the unfortunate issue of cetacean strandings.  However, possibly as a result of the major “vacuum” left in this subject area by the offshore petroleum industry, regulator and scientific community, the “green” activist groups like Greenpeace NZ feel free to mislead the public in pursuit of their objectives.  But what are their objectives, when they so blatantly ignore information, facts and science and instead peddle myths and misinformation?  Before providing a possible answer to that question, let’s have a look at some of the outrageous claims made by organisations such as Greenpeace NZ and their supporters:

  1. The constant “noise” from Greenpeace NZ and its supporters is “eloquently” represented in the extremely misleading opinion piece published in the Otago Daily Times on 23 January 2015 (http://www.odt.co.nz/opinion/opinion/330803/oil-search-puts-dolphins-risk#comment-67018) entitled “Oil search puts dolphins at risk”. There is very little, if any, valid evidence amongst the emotive but very inaccurate terms used by Ms Penwarden (and Greenpeace). For example:
  2. The article says Ms Penwarden “links seismic testing for oil and gas with serious harm to whales and dolphins”. How can this be so if no credible documented cases of harm to cetaceans exist in over 40 years of seismic surveying (note the correct term “surveying”) using compressed air as the seismic source?;
  3. Her description of seismic acquisition is so unrepresentative, using terms such as “detonators” and “blasting,” that are surely meant to mislead a caring and giving community. “Velcro” has done a good job of presenting a factual description of seismic surveying in an online comment rebutting her article so I will not repeat what he/she says.  However, I’d like to add that Ms Penwarden’s statement that seismic arrays “reach about 260 decibels (dB) on a logarithmic scale on which it is known that anything above 170 dB disturbs marine organisms.” is incorrect.  Firstly, she has used a theoretical value (of 260dB) for the sound level of a seismic array.  This would only be achieved if all the 20-30 elements (compressed air cylinders, commonly called “airguns”) in the, say, 10m x 15m array occupied the same location.  This is clearly impossible!  The actual decibel level within 1m of any part of the array would be between 220 and 240dB, depending on the type of array.  Due to attenuation with distance, there would be NO sound levels received from the array that are greater than 240dB.  Secondly, given sperm whales and bottlenose dolphins vocalise at 236dB and 225dB respectively (a lot more than 170dB), how can Ms Penwarden claim they would be disturbed, letalone “seriously harmed” as mentioned elsewhere in her opinion piece?  After all, these cetaceans (or others in their pod) would receive these sounds at close to their emitted levels whereas any received levels from the seismic array would be lower than their own vocalisations;
  4. As a matter of interest, sperm whales and bottlenose dolphins use their vocalisations (clicks) to echo locate – just like the furry bats mentioned by Ms Penwarden. One is left to consider why she did not use this analogy – perhaps she is aware that sperm whale and dolphin vocalisations are at similar levels to seismic pulses?  See figures 1 and 2 in the linked article, which discusses whether seismic surveys prevent cetaceans from communicating.  It is obvious that sperm whales and dolphins continue to vocalise during seismic operations.  Why else would Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) be required by some regulators? (http://thenorwoodresource.org.au/2013/10/26/do-seismic-survey-sounds-prevent-cetaceans-from-communicating/);
  5. She perpetuates distorted claims that the mass stranding of the melon headed whales in Madagascar was caused by a seismic survey. The Independent Scientific Review Panel (ISRP) concluded that they “systematically excluded or deemed highly unlikely nearly all potential reasons for the animals leaving their typical pelagic habitat and entering the Loza Lagoon (an extremely atypical area for this species). This included the use of seismic airguns in an offshore seismic survey several days after the whales were already in the lagoon system, which was originally speculated to have played some role but in the view of the ISRP clearly did not.”  Surely this says the ISRP concluded the seismic survey “CLEARLY DID NOT” cause the stranding, even in Ms Penwarden’s language!;
  6. She further strongly implies the 100-tonne blue whale washed up on Tapuae Beach in Taranaki was caused by a seismic survey. This is inconceivable given the levels at which blue whales vocalise (188dB – which would be equivalent to the received levels less than 500m from a seismic source).  Furthermore, extensive and detailed monitoring carried out in 2003 in South Australia (http://petroleum.statedevelopment.sa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/27149/epp32report_bluewhales.pdf) showed that blue whales are relatively unaffected by seismic surveys.  This is not surprising given true blue whales spend their summer months in Antarctic Waters where the sounds from calving/cracking/colliding icebergs have similar levels, frequencies and periodicities to seismic sounds. (http://thenorwoodresource.org.au/2013/10/18/the-antarctic-waters-are-certainly-not-quiet-and-yet-many-whale-species-feed-there-throughout-the-summer-months/);
  7. Finally, she and Greenpeace claim that the unfortunate stranding of 3 Gray’s beaked whales on Whatipu Beach near Auckland in January was caused by a seismic survey, which I understand was 200km away. Given that strandings in NZ are very common and there is NO correlation between stranding events and seismic surveys, why are they ignoring the readily observable facts?  How do they explain strandings that occurred in the absence of seismic surveys, either before seismic surveys were invented or in seasons when seismic surveys did not occur?

Prior to this, during late 2014, the campaign waged by Greenpeace NZ was at best hysterically misinformed and, at worst, deliberate deception.  Greenpeace’s claims about the impacts of seismic surveys were and still are, so wildly incorrect, it surely leads most thinking people to conclude the latter (ie that they are perpetrating deliberate deception in the pursuit of donor funds).

Let’s have a brief look at some of their more outrageous claims:

  1. Greenpeace claim: “These blasts are nearly as loud as the nuclear bomb dropped over Hiroshima“.  This is surely a deception of the most serious form as it ignores the facts and science.  As can be seen in an article already published on the TNR website, drawn from readily available information, comparing seismic sounds with typical sounds in water (and air), a typical seismic source is approximately 230dB whereas an atomic explosion is 248dB in air BUT 310dB in water.  Thus, an atomic explosion such as Hiroshima, is more than 8192 times louder than a typical seismic pulse. This is very different from Greenpeace NZ’s claim that seismic pulses are “nearly as loud” as atomic explosions.  Furthermore, seismic sounds are no different from many common natural sounds in the ocean, including humpback breaching and the sound of calving/colliding icebergs.
  2. Greenpeace claim: “…even if it were dramatically quieter, the sound alone would be enough to kill a human“.  This is also totally false!  A human has never been killed by the sound from a seismic survey.  Humans work, relax and sleep on seismic vessels while the seismic source is activated.  If a sound as loud as the Hiroshima nuclear bomb occurred every 10 seconds near the seismic vessel surely humans could not withstand such noise impacts, letalone work, relax and sleep.
  3. Greenpeace claim: “…whales and dolphins can’t hear one another or find food and in extreme cases, it could lead to strandings and death.” Again, this is totally false.  In over 40 years of using compressed air to generate seismic survey pulses there are no credible examples of whales and dolphins stranding or being killed.  However, this is not enough evidence for Greenpeace – they still prefer to believe it “could” happen, even if it has not.  Similarly, it is inconceivable that whales and dolphins cannot hear one another in the presence of seismic surveys as i) those species that do vocalise (eg sperm whales, dolphins, blue whales) are generally identifiable on passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) systems run during seismic surveys and; ii) many species spend the summer months in very noisy soundscapes, such as the Antarctic waters that, due to calving/colliding icebergs, have similar sound frequencies, periodicities and levels to seismic surveys.  Furthermore, species such as sperm whales use vocalisations (clicks) as loud as 235dB in their foraging for prey.  Thus, how can seismic survey sounds significantly lower than this sound level at the location of the animals (and their prey) prevent them from feeding?  For example, at just 128m from a 230dB source the received level would be 188dB, significantly lower than the 235dB at which sperm whales vocalise.
  4. Finally, after some obvious hesitation, as presumably even their scientific advisers could not possibly suggest there was a link, they finally asked the question on their Facebook page if seismic surveying contributed to the very unfortunate stranding of over 140 pilot whales at Farewell Spit: https://www.facebook.com/greenpeace.nz/photos/a.417987320774.213959.11870725774/10153088845845775/?type=1&theater

In their response to some critical comments about their credibility, Greenpeace responded saying “We’re not saying that seismic testing caused the stranding but we are saying there is evidence that it could be harmful to whales and dolphins – and more importantly that there has been no research done by the Govt to determine whether or not that is the case.

Again, this demonstrates how Greenpeace misleads the public.  The facts tell us that there have been NO credible cases of adverse impacts on whales and dolphins from the sound of seismic surveys in over 4 decades of seismic surveying using compressed air, and the science explains why this is so.  Thus, the so called claims by Greenpeace that seismic surveys ‘could’ harm whales and dolphins must surely be highly selective and ignore a 40 year track record plus the facts and science.

In summary, organisations like Greenpeace NZ surely have a responsibility to ensure that their claims are factually based and verifiable.  “Truth in campaigning” should apply equally to lobby groups in the same way as “truth in advertising/reporting” applies to businesses.  Unfortunately, at best, these lobby groups are either displaying a high level of ignorance or, at worse, they have deliberately chosen not to display the same high level of honesty that they themselves demand from others.

Thus, in answer to the question posed at this beginning of this article: “why are organisations drowning information, facts and science with myths and misinformation?”  It is as simple as the blatant pursuit of the donor dollar!

John Hughes
The Norwood Resource

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Teaching by phenomenon

April 1st, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Quartz reports:

Finland is considering itsmost radical overhaul of basic education yet—abandoning teaching by subject for teaching by phenomenon. Traditional lessons such as English Literature and Physics are already being phased out among 16-year-olds in schools in Helsinki.

Instead, the Finns are teaching phenomena—such as the European Union, which encompasses learning languages, history, politics, and geography. No more of an hour of history followed by an hour of chemistry. The idea aims to eliminate one of the biggest gripes of students everywhere: “What is the point of learning this?” Now, each subject is anchored to the reason for learning it.

Sounds intriguing.

Pasi Silander, Helsinki’s development manager, says the world has changed with the spread of technology and many of the old ways of teaching have no practical purpose. “Young people use quite advanced computers,” he told the Independent. “In the past the banks had lots of  bank clerks totting up figures but now that has totally changed.”

Many teachers in Finland, many of whom have been teaching single subjects their whole careers, oppose the changes. It is not hard to see why. The new system is much more collaborative, forcing teachers from different areas to come up with the curriculum together.  Marjo Kyllonen, Helsinki’s education manager and the person responsible for reforming the system in the capital, calls this “co-teaching” and teachers who agree to it get a small bonus on top of their salaries.
Could be a good area for the new Education Council to look at.
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General Debate 1 April 2015

April 1st, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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The push starts for plain packaging of fast food

March 31st, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

AOL reports:

Aaron Shultz, an Australian health campaigner, is calling for plain packaging featuring health warnings for junk food. He has posted a picture on Facebook of what he believes the packaging could look like – dropping the branding in favour of a picture reminding people of the price they could pay for a junk food habit.

Shultz is a health campaigner, who runs an organisation called Game Changer. It has a broader aim: to halt the promotion of alcohol, junk food and gambling through sport. He argues that by associating sport with these unhealthy brands, it normalises junk food, and contributes to the growing obesity problem in Australia.

Why not just have the Government decide what food is acceptable to buy?

The expansion of plain packaging beyond tobacco products has been something that analysts have talked about since plain packets were first proposed. An Adam Smith Institute report by Christopher Snowdon recently claimed: “The extension of plain packaging to other products is not just possible, it is highly likely.” He added: “What happens to tobacco today tends to happen to other ‘unhealthy’ products tomorrow.” He cited sin taxes, advertising bans and health warnings as proof that “we can be confident that the temperance lobby and the diet police will fight for it to happen with plain packaging.” Snowdon is a pro-smoking author and journalist, so the idea of extending plain packaging brings him concern, but it will cheer health campaigners.

This is indeed the problem. One can have a view that due to its nature, tobacco should have all these additional regulations. But the problem is these campaigners then try to expand these regulations to everything else they disagree with. It never just stops at tobacco.

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General Debate 31 March 2015

March 31st, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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General Debate 30 March 2015

March 30th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Year 10 smoking survey by ASH

March 30th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

ASH do an annual survey of smoking behaviour with Year 10 students. And the good news is the latest results continue a trend of fewer Year 10 students smoking than previously. In fact the change over the last 14 years (since it started) has been massive, and also very significant for the last six years.

Changes since 2008

  • Daily smoking rate down from 6.8% to 2.8%
  • Regular smoking rate down from 11.9% to 6.1%
  • Never smoked rate up from 60.7% to 76.9%
  • Female never smoked rate up from 58.3% to 76.0%
  • Maori daily smoking rate down from 17.2% to 7.2%
  • Maori never smoked rate up from 34.6% to 56.7%
  • Maori female daily smoking rate down from 21.5% to 8.8%
  • Maori female never smoked rate up from 27.4% to 51.1%

There’s still a long way to go. No kids should be smoking. We still have 49% of Maori Year 10 girls who have smoked at least once. But things have improved dramatically. If we go back to 2000 only 12% of Maori girls had never smoked. Now it is 51%. And again in 2000 only 35% of non Maori girls had never smoked, and today it is 82%.

These are changes worth celebrating. They save lives. It’s one things for adults to decide to smoke, but another for 14 year olds to be doing so. If you stop them starting, that is the best solution.

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General Debate 29 March 2015

March 29th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Dear pilots, please don’t crash my flight because you got dumped

March 28th, 2015 at 10:32 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Two different pictures of Andreas Lubitz emerged yesterday.

First there was the Lubitz who never appeared anything but thrilled to have landed a pilot’s job with Germanwings, according to those who helped him learn to fly as a teenager in Montabaur, a town in the forested hills of western Germany.

Then there’s the troubled man who suffered from depression and was struggling to come to terms with a relationship break-up.

French prosecutors yesterday said Lubitz, the co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525, “intentionally” crashed the jet into a mountain on Tuesday in the French Alps.

I’d really much rather that pilots didn’t deal with breakups by crashing fully laden planes into mountains.

But German newspaper Bild reported that Lubitz took a break from flight training and received psychiatric treatment for a year and a half. He was diagnosed with a “major depressive episode”. There were also reports he was recommended to be examined by a doctor before flying but passed all his psychological assessments and was later considered fit to fly.

Well that was a pretty bad call.

Lubitz had continued to receive mental health support up until this week’s crash, the Daily Mail reported.

You don’t want to say pilots in counselling should not fly, as it may then discourage them from counselling. But there does need to be a review of policies in this area.

So very sad for families and friends of all the dead. Some plane crashes are unavoidable accidents. This one was not. It was murder.

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No Auckland, no Team NZ funding

March 28th, 2015 at 10:18 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Team New Zealand’s future in the America’s Cup is in serious doubt after the Government confirmed the loss of the qualifying round in Auckland would mean zero funding.

Cup organisers told media this afternoon that Auckland would not be hosting a qualifying round after Team New Zealand opposed a move to smaller boat sizes yesterday.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce told the Herald that without a presence in Auckland, there would be no money.

“We are interested in being involved as a sponsor as a much lower basis than last time, and on the basis there is a qualifying series in Auckland,” Mr Joyce said. “If that was to change then we could not be involved.”

 

Good.

Note there is a by-election on today so please refrain from comments that could breach electoral law – ie encouraging a vote for or against a candidate.

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General Debate 28 March 2015

March 28th, 2015 at 8:00 am by David Farrar
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The BurnOuts at the Beeb (TopGear & Clarkson)

March 27th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by Kokila Patel

By John Stringer

bbc1

I really likeTopGear, Jeremy Clarkson and James May (and the other good-looking one from The Monkeys). I watch it on rainy sunday afternoons, or with beer and dogs while Her WithinDoors is away and I have the man house to my rule-breaking self.

The three (plus The Stig) have a chemistry and a lad-ishness that gives me hope as a 50-something white flabby male. It’s either that, or take up Himalaya trekking and swimming. I’m not a petrol head, but once had a Jag (well, actually a Daimler Series ii , but everyone thinks it was an XJ6 and it’s made by Jag) and a 1939 Austin Minx (which I reminded everyone was born while Hitler was driving into Poland).

It was about the characters and the writing; May’s dry wit and Clarkson’s gorgeous turns of phrase. The three irresponsible petrol gurus take no prisoners, they are not beHOLDEN to corporate auto conglomerates who pay mega amounts to have their cars castigated and belittled. They are also passionate about driving, cars and on road awesomeness.

They’ve drawn millions like me, into a stupid car geek programme and made it thrilling, funny, entertaining, and made The Beeb millions (TopGear is their star programme). 12 seasons.

And so this debacle with Jeremy Clarkson, the tallest moai on this Easter Island, was like a very British spinster stoush unfolding on Coronation Street.  Auntie Beeb and that tart Mrs Clarkson going at each other with handbags and hair nets. The Mirror reported Clarkson had made an “expletive-laden rant at a charity event” against BBC exec.s earlier in the week, later qualified as “meant in jest.”

http://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-news/jeremy-clarkson-claims-joking-criticised-5379678

But May was right, it was initially a fairly small private meltdown that became way bigger than it should have which was a “tragedy.” See here.

James May has done a series of on camera reactions from the front door of his modest Council-style flat (ya gotta love those Brit celebrities and their humble ‘ostentation’).

So initially I played this as a case of Political Correctness gone mad.  Yes, there was the off camera ‘N’ bomb (which you can hear endlessly by any Black comedian and Rap artist over and over again, including in films) and the “slope” comment, which was obliquely racist but a really funny pun in the context of the sloping bridge. (Let’s be honest, EVERYONE does that behind closed doors; all human groups nick-name other groups).

But the Beeb – as May said on the clip – probably had their hands tied. It was not really about blokey Blokiness standing up to oppressive Stalinesque modernism that is hand wringing political correctness.  No, it seems Jeremy is suffering from MANopause and went too far.  As May says, “He’s a Nob.”  The Sydney Morning Herald  said he was a victim of his own behaviour. Brilliance and hubris; like that myth that all artists are manic depressives, their genius stalked by a converse.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/motoring/news/67509500/top-gears-jeremy-clarkson-a-victim-of-his-own-behaviour

But you have to give The BBC credit, they’ve handled this pretty well.  Sure, it got away from them, but like a honed working-class British greyhound, they hauled in that runaway fluffy bunny and mouthed it several times. Tony Hall conducted a thorough investigation, and spoke to both parties about the incident.  It was reported Clarkson had turned up at the producer’s house to make an apology,  but was cold-shouldered.

Seems to me Clarkson was a bullying oaf; a 20 minute tirade of abuse against an innocent victim based on perceived elevated celebrity status and not getting special treatment (prima donna stuff) and then some sort of ‘handbagging’ incident.  Various reports about a punch or not.  Probably just some middle-aged man shuffling.

Reading Halls’ explanation (in full here below) you have to accept The Beebs position and actions. Clarkson is brilliant, loved by millions for his irreverence (note his Twitter count) and Britishcock a snoop, but was a bully and lost control.  Tony Hall initially stepped in to delay an immediate sacking. Pproducer Oisin Tymon (opposite) was attacked and endured a sustained superiority tirade, in a work context. Unacceptable. Bullying is bullying, and no one should have to endure that, especially at work.

“First – The BBC is a broad church. Our strength in many ways lies in that diversity. We need distinctive and different voices but they cannot come at any price. Common to all at the BBC have to be standards of decency and respect. I cannot condone what has happened on this occasion. A member of staff – who is a completely innocent party – took himself to Accident and Emergency after a physical altercation accompanied by sustained and prolonged verbal abuse of an extreme nature. For me a line has been crossed. There cannot be one rule for one and one rule for another dictated by either rank, or public relations and commercial considerations.

“Second – This has obviously been difficult for everyone involved but in particular for Oisin. I want to make clear that no blame attaches to him for this incident. He has behaved with huge integrity throughout. As a senior producer at the BBC he will continue to have an important role within the organisation in the future.

“Third – Obviously none of us wanted to find ourselves in this position. This decision should in no way detract from the extraordinary contribution that Jeremy Clarkson has made to the BBC. I have always personally been a great fan of his work and Top Gear. Jeremy is a huge talent. He may be leaving the BBC but I am sure he will continue to entertain, challenge and amuse audiences for many years to come.

“The BBC must now look to renew Top Gear for 2016. This will be a big challenge and there is no point in pretending otherwise. I have asked Kim Shillinglaw [Controller of BBC Two] to look at how best we might take this forward over the coming months. I have also asked her to look at how we put out the last programmes in the current series.”

Right result.  Oisin Tymon will stay on, Clarkson has gone for unacceptable behaviour after a final written warning.

What next?  Well, channels will be falling over one another to hire Clarkson for mega gazillions. Netflix is already a rumoured suitor. A successful rival may buy-up James May, Richard Hammond lock stock and barrel and parallel a similar show, or something new. The fans will slide and wheel burn over, and it will make the new company tonnes of money. But they’ll have to pay high, as Hammond and May also have other BBC shows they are involved with.

And I suspect Hammond and May without Clarkson will not work, like The Two Ronnieswithout sexual innuendo. But I hope they all work together to complete a successful 2015 series, perhaps with a funny focus on Clarkson’s departure. That would have class.

I like Clarkson, we need brigands like him, irreverent, Churchillian bulwarks against namby pamby, metrosexual hand-creamy politically correct 1984-ness. They give us hope. Clarkson is a kind of Beowulf epic hero, clad in furs with a dripping metaphoric battle axe of wit, double entendres and scathing put-downs.

So, Clarkson has been bumped on a pedestrian crossing and rushed to ER, where he’ll revive, arise as an anti-Beeb phoenix albeit somewhat shattered on a fast ferrari windscreen, and get paid even more. And as admirer Tony Hall director general  of the BBC admits, “continue to entertain, challenge and amuse audiences for many years to come.”  Like a revered but slightly naughty vintage classic that leaves too much oil on your driveway.

This was a very British debacle. The issues were all traversed through the tabloids, no one got too hand-wringy, the issues got put, there was perspective, and values, and a hard call (worth several gazillion to the BBC) taken in the interests of fairness, equal treatment. We got an actual outcome (Clarkson got sacked) , the victim was reassured and cemented in his employment (as the innocent in all this, he was). Clarkson was cut adrift with respect and acknowledgement today to slew new speedways, but without covering up or failing to acknowledge his offending Nob-ishness.

We await the next lap with petrol-heady expectation.

~ John Stringer

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Death by pilot

March 27th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A young German co-pilot locked himself alone in the cockpit of a Germanwings airliner and flew it into a mountain with what appears to have been the intent to destroy it, a French prosecutor says.

The 28-year-old German co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 4U 9525 has been identified as Andreas Lubitz.

However, prosecutors are currently not calling the crash a terrorist act, nor a suicide.

The co-pilot repeatedly turned a dial to override the plane’s autopilot, sending it in a steep descent into the Alps, after the plane’s captain had left the cockpit to go to the toilet.

If correct, this is one of the worse acts of mass murder we have seen.

I thought after MH370 the protocol was that another crew member must enter the cockpit if a pilot wishes to leave – so that there is never a sole person in there?

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Let Russell become an Aussie!

March 27th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Crowe, 50, was born in Welington, but his family moved to Australia in 1968 when he was four. He first raised the issue in 2013, claiming that “apparently I fall between the cracks”.

Those cracks are a section of immigration law that demand that he must have been resident in Australia on February 26, 2001 (he wasn’t) or have spent 12 months here in the preceding two years (due to filming and promotional commitments for Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind, he hadn’t). 

I call on all patriotic NZers to support Russell in his quest to become an Aussie, even if it needs a law change.

However, the Department of Immigration has told Fairfax it has no record of either Mr Crowe’s applications or its alleged rejections.

“According to Departmental records, Mr Crowe has not submitted an application for a permanent visa or for Australian citizenship,” the department said in a written response to questions.

“Should Mr Crowe apply for and be granted a permanent visa, there are a variety of options that he may use to meet the eligibility requirements, including the residence requirements.” 

It would help if he actually applied, but again I think he deserves a special dispensation to be made Australian, even without an application.

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General Debate 27 March 2015

March 27th, 2015 at 10:23 am by David Farrar
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Australia needs a three strikes law

March 27th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

One of Victoria’s most notorious criminals – the man who brutally raped and murdered Jill Meagher in 2012 – has been found guilty of raping three other women after being released on parole for a string of other heinous crimes.

He was on parole?

Two of the victims, a Dutch backpacker and a St Kilda sex worker, were raped just months before Bayley raped and murdered Meagher. At the time he was out on parole after serving time for a string of sex worker rapes in 2000.

Bayley now has more than 20 convictions for rape.

Incredible. No one should ever get the chance for more than three convictions. He did at least 10 rapes over 12 years.

Now in NZ a third rape would get 20 years with no parole, or preventive detention.

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King Richard III

March 26th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A villainous Plantagenet monarch was transformed into the People’s King – for a few days at least – as thousands witnessed Richard III turn in his graves.

They were respectfully solemn, with only muted cheering and applause along the winding 20km route through verdant middle-England countryside as Richard’s recently unearthed mortal remains were transported with military-timed and detailed pomp and ceremony behind two armoured medieval knight outriders for his public reinterment in a 2.5 million ($5 million) cathedral tomb.

His story, and bones, had come full circle. Richard now lies in repose barely 50m across the lane from where he was found, famously twisted and evidently buried with scant ceremony, beneath a Leicester carpark, more than 500 years after he was slain at the battle of Bosworth Field.

His body was ripped asunder by 11 ferocious blows as his crown was torn from him that August day in 1485 by Henry Tudor’s forces after trusted allies, prudently sensing which way the wind was blowing amid the melee, deserted him at a key dynasty-changing, Machiavellian moment.

Good to have a King of England no longer buried underneath a car park.

Richard III is not one of the great kings of English history, but he was a formidable warrior. He killed many in the battle in which he was slain.

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General Debate 26 March 2015

March 26th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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General Debate 25 March 2015

March 25th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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General Debate 24 March 2015

March 24th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Seattle’s minimum wage law

March 23rd, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Western Journalism reports:

In a few weeks, Seattle’s new, highest in the country, $15 per hour minimum wage will go into effect. Like many liberal policies, it was passed by City Hall with the best of intentions. The only problem is, in the end, it may do more harm than good for many.

Private businesses, unlike government entities (which, in theory, can always raise taxes or borrow), must make more than they spend in order to pay the rent, make payroll, keep the lights on, pay their business taxes, and, heaven forbid, have some left over for the owners and investors who are taking the risk and putting in the long hours.

Earlier this month, Seattle Magazine asked, Why Are So Many Seattle Restaurants Closing Lately?:

The magazine went on to report that one “major factor affecting restaurant futures in our city is the impending minimum wage hike.” Anthony Anton, president and CEO of Washington Restaurant Association, told the magazine, “It’s not a political problem; it’s a math problem.” He estimates that restaurants usually have a budget breakdown of about 36 percent for labor, 30 percent for food costs, and 30 percent to cover other operational costs. That leaves 4 percent for a profit margin. When labor costs shoot up to say 42 percent, something has to give.

Restaurants can take actions to adjust, such as raise their prices, acquire cheaper ingredients, and cut their operating hours and labor force. However, all those actions generate reactions from the public which can still lead to lower revenues for the restaurant and, for some, the decision to close their doors.

This is no surprise.

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