A Brand idiot

October 26th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

UK comedian Russell Brand said people should be “open-minded” about the view that the US government was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. 

People should also be open-minded about the view that Russell Brand has an IQ of 45.

In an combative and at times cringe-worthy interview on BBC’s Newsnight, the author and actor said he found the relationship between the families of former US president George W Bush and al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden “interesting”.

And next Mr Brand will declare how interesting it is that his brain cells are lonely.

He should stick to comedy – something he is very good at. Politics, less so.

Why the BBC thinks his views are newsworthy just because he is an entertainer – I do not know.

Hadley Freeman at The Guardian sums it up well:

Whereas last time Brand had the laconic ease of a man who knew he was starting from a place of low expectations, this time around he displayed the kind of ecstatic hypomania you’d expect of a celebrity who long ago exceeded the outer limits of his knowledge on this particular subject and is now coasting on the adrenaline of his own messiah complex. Watching this interview reminded me not of a firebrand in his full pomp but of the 1971 Woody Allen film Bananas, when the president of San Marcos has been overthrown and replaced with a hirsute revolutionary leader. This leader promptly goes mad with power, which in this case is expressed by changing the official language of San Marcos to Swedish, and ordering all citizens to change their underwear every half hour.

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Quito

October 26th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

We had two nights and a day in Quito. I’d never even heard of the city until we started planning the trip, but so glad we came here, as it is one of the most beautiful cities around. It is also the highest capital city in the world, at 2,800 metres above sea level. They city has a population of 2.7 million and is narrow and long – 8 kms wide but 60 kms long.

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Our hotel was a small but lovely boutique hotel called Boutique Portal de Cantuna. The rooms are quite small but the common areas are beautiful.

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The 1st floor conservatory.

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This is the Church and Monastery of St. Francis and the Plaza de San Francisco. Our hotel is 20 metres from it, and wonderfully central. The church was constructed between 1534 and 1680.

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The amount of gold in the church was staggering – but not as much as another church we went into.

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This is the Plaza de la Independencia or Independence Plaza. It is the heart of the old city. On one side is the presidential palace, another the cathedral, the third is the city hall and the fourth is the old Archbishop’s Palace.

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This French designed monument was unveiled in 1906 as a symbol of independence.

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The Cathedral of Quito.

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We also went into the Church of the Society of Jesus. You can’t take photos inside, but this photo of a jigsaw of the interior gives you an idea of what it looks like. Possibly the most magnificent church I’ve been in apart from the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.

Quito has 27 churches just in the old city. There is almost one on every corner.

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The streets are quite steep!

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Finally on the church front we went to the imposing Basílica del Voto Nacional.

The basilica remains technically unfinished as local legend is that when the Basílica is completed, the end of the world will come.

Incidentally a huge proportion of properties in Ecuador are unfinished with the start of an extra floor on the roof, or painting not completed. This is because you pay more tax on your property to the Government when your home is complete, so many simply never finish their home! Shows how people respond to incentives!

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A state of Juan Pablo II outside, known elsewhere as John Paul II.

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The interior from the 2nd floor view.

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One can take a number of staircases up to the sanctuary and tower. A total of 211 steps and the final climb is on a narrow exterior near vertical ladder. You are as high up as the clock towers.

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A view of some of the city from the top. Note the structure you can see at the top of the hill on the right.

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That structure is a 45 metre tall stature of the Virgin Mary, or Madonna. It can be seen from miles away.

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A view from the hill, El Panecillo, which the statue is on.

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We then headed north, where we had lunch. I ordered corn and cheese, not realising rather than a dish, it would simply be a cob of corn and a slice of cheese!

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Then we went to the Museo Etnográfico Mitad del Mundo, which is a museum at the Middle of the World, on the equator. This monument is on the actual equator – not to be confused with the larger one which is 240 metres north of the equator.

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Your shadow here is much shorter than anywhere else.

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We then headed back to Quito and dined at this rooftop restaurant – Vista Hermosa Cafe Mirador Restaurant. Good food and stunning views. Our guide recommended it, and glad we took his advice.

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A photo of the San Francisco Church at night, as we headed home.

 

 

 

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General Debate 26 October 2014

October 26th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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A moving standing ovation

October 26th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Canadian Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers receiving a standing ovation in the Canadian House of Commons.

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Galapagos Day 6

October 25th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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Our last day in the Galapagos, and a rainbow as we arrive at San Cristobal Island. We were meant to fly out just after lunch, so were not expecting to see much today.

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However the place we went to was packed full of breeding birds and sea lions. Here you can see a new born booby under their father or mother (they take turns)

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Here you see Mum, Dad and two chicks.

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And a close up of the two chicks.

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Just five metres from the boobies, were scores of sea lions and cubs.

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The cub on the left having a feed.

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And some play fighting.

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We then headed into the main town, which is also the political capital.

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Had to laugh at this. This was designed as a slide for children into the lagoon, but the sea lions colonised it.

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And they have taken over this bus shelter also.

Now we were meant to leave around now, but our flight was delayed by three hours so a guide took us to a local beach.

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There we saw two iguanas having a fight for domination. They butted heads constantly for ten minutes or so.

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A sea lion cub born that day.

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And this cub is just a couple of hours old.

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I love this shot – people sub bathing at the beach, along with a few dozen sea lions.

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You can see how close you get to them.

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They are quite large, as you can see.

After that we headed to the airport which was five minutes away and flew back to Quito.

Was an amazing six days. Photos can’t do it justice. The variety, the quantity and the closeness of the bird, land and sea life was amazing. The Galapagos have a place in our history helping Darwin On The Origin Of Species, which is the cornerstone of evolution today. But even 185 years on, it is still a unique and incredible place to visit.

 

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Falling for Labour spin

October 25th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Hipkins also pointed out the irony of National MPs enjoying a leisurely 90-minute break for dinner during debate on the Employment Relations Amendment Bill, which takes away the statutory entitlement to … a meal break. You can set your clock by the time MPs rise for dinner – every sitting day at 6pm, stretching it out till 7.30pm. National hoped to pass the legislation this week but ran out of time.

Good spin by Labour, but falls short on numerous grounds.

First of all that is only the time during which the House is suspended. That does not mean it is a 90 minute break for MPs who do nothing else during that time. Almost every day of the week there are seminars, speeches, events they get invited to. Also most have a quick dinner in their office and carry on working on their correspondence, reading etc. Being present in the House is a small part of what an MP does.

Secondly I would note that that few jobs have you working from 9 am to 10 pm – a 13 hour day instead of a eight hour day.

Thirdly the law change does not take away an entitlement to a meal break – it merely restores flexibility in what they are. This was the situation up until around ten years ago when Labour decided to pass law mandating inflexible breaks, which caused chaos in industries such as air traffic controllers.

One size fits all statutory requirements tend to be stupid, and Labour’s one was. 99.9% of employees will be unaffected by the law change.

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ISP stats

October 25th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stats NZ has done its annual ISP survey. Some changes over time:

  • Dialup connections have dropped from 13% in 2011 to 3% in 2014
  • Fibre connections up from 13,000 in 2013 to 46,000 in 2014
  • Broadband download speeds of under 8 Mb/s down from 33% in 2011 to 14% in 2014
  • Broadband download speeds of over 24Mb/s up from 2% in 2011 to 16% in 2014
  • Broadband upload speeds of under 1.5 Mb/s down from 80% in 2011 to 38% in 2014
  • Broadband upload speeds of over 10Mb/s up from 0% in 2011 to 16% in 2014
  • Plans with no data caps up 2% to 8%
  • Plans with a data cap of over 50 GB up from 2% to 39%
  • Monthly PBs (million GBs) used up from 13.4 in 2011 to 53.1 in 2014
  • ISPs that are IPv6 capable up from 30% in 2011 to 52% in 2014

Really good to see the growth in plans with no data caps, and also the quite significant speed increases.

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A bad look for Hone

October 25th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

3 News reported:

As Northland faces its latest high-profile sex case, 3 News can reveal the alleged offender had been working for Hone Harawira and paid by the taxpayer.

Leaked Parliamentary documents show he’s one of three men hired by Mr Harawira who have either been convicted of, or ended up accused of sexual offence charges.

Patrick Rivers, who goes by the name Mangu Awarau, is one of Mr Harawira’s closest friends. He was part of the Internet Mana campaign and spoke at Mr Harawira’s election night function, just days after being charged with raping a girl younger than the age of 12.

“There he was on election night standing as the pillar of society giving a mihi, and yet everybody there – the whole community knew – a couple of weeks in advance that he was facing these charges,” says Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis.

Neither Mr Harawira nor Awarau would talk to 3 News today – they did not reply to questions via email or phone.

Hone can not be faulted for hiring him before the charges. But to have him speak at your election night function, after he had been charged by Police was a massive error of judgement, and sends an awful message out to the community.

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Galapagos Day 5

October 25th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

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On Day 5 we sailed around Isabela over to Santiago Island where we did our first wet landing from the zodiacs.

Spent around 90 minutes walking around, including through this area which looked like a movie set.

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We then got this view from higher up.

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Back down below, this is a lagoon during the wet season.

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This is where a sea turtle has dug a hole to lay her 100 to 120 eggs. Once she has laid them she takes off, and they are left to the warm sand to hatch them after 90 days.

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Had a nice walk along the beach, and then went swimming for a while. I had a pelican fishing just three metres from me in the sea.

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Lots of Ghost Crabs around. I love how they scuttle sideways.

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A Galapagos Whimbrel enjoying the sea

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This Galapagos Hawk landed in a tree next to us and stayed there for an hour or so, despite us being metres from it.

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After lunch we went to a different bay and this is where we landed. I love the sea lion, iguana and crabs all in the same picture.

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These sea lions are in a pre-mating ritual. He seems keener than her.

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This picture is from just two metres away. This is the amazing thing in the Galapagos – the birds allow you to get so close.

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A Yellow Crowned Heron.

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American Oystercatchers.

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A Plover

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We saw some fur sea lions also but this is a Galapagos Sea Lion cub.

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I wanted to take him home!

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And a newly born cub feeding off Mum.

After this we went snorkelling again. I saw two white tipped sharks, and also got accidentally (well I think it was an accident) rammed by a large marine iguana.

When I got back on shore after seeing the sharks, I noticed my knee was bleeding from where I had been thrown against some rocks. In hindsight following sharks while bleeding may not have been the best idea!

 

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Part 5 GANGNAM Style: Visiting North & South Korea 2014

October 25th, 2014 at 9:00 am by Kokila Patel

by John Sringer

Before we get to the intensity of the Joint Security Zone, some more humourous Engerish.  Off Springs 2 and 3 outside the ‘Sodomy‘ restaurant or is it “Soda Me”? Then there’s Kolon Sport and the Gimpo Bridge.

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North Korea sponsors about 9000 carefully managed tourists a year from the north side through China.  To visit North Korea from the South side, the only way is at Panmunjeom via the Dorasan loop and Imjingak (see Part 3 & 4) facilities “on the road to Panmunjeom.”  But to actually go in to North Korea other than through Tunnel 3 in the DMZ, you have to visit the Joint Security Area and Camp Boniface.

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Here’s a map that helps get your head around the set up.  We are in the DMZ that bisects North & South Korea along the 38th parallel.  We’ve travelled by bus from Seoul to the Dorasan Observatory, Imjingak and through Tunnel 3 inside the DMZ.

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Now we’re off to the Panmungak (complex) at Panmunjeom. There are lots of names, and it’s a bit bewildering how they all inter-relate.

New Zealand was a signatory and founding member of this initiative, so, like the UN, our flag flies onsite and we occassionally have personnel posted here as part of the joint initiative, ie, the West verse North Korea.  NZ was of course active in the Korean war. Camp Boniface is the military base and its slogan is “In Front of them All.”

We pull in to the parking area of the Panmaungak. This is the Joint Duty Office (JDO) of the KPA/CPV in the JSA.  The UN and military obviously love acronyms. We are taken into a briefing auditorium.  There is a clunky propagandist short war movie that explains the essential facts, and then we are told, in no uncertain terms, that as we go into the JSA we must never point at the north side or the soldiers, be respectful, not make sudden movements, and stay strictly within the clearly designated areas.

At one point SkyGoddess is sternly told to stop gregarious gesticulation by HusbandOfAppropriateMoments (akaHeWhoMustBeObeyedThisOnce). A woman who wandered outside these areas was shot and killed by the North Koreans and there have been other incidents involving death. Soberly, we are then given this form to sign.

It’s not every day you waive responsibility for personal “injury or death“…as a result of a “hostile enemy act.” There are one or two spelling mistakes, which I circle before I sign.

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We are escorted the whole time, and our guide is a delightful American Sgt from the midwest.  He is armed, and answers all our appropriate questions. I have a long chat with him afterward about what its like working here. He briefs us that if we run towards North Korea, he will do his best to grab us and pull us back, but if we get across, we are on our own and will have to make the best life we can in North Korea.

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We enter a polished marble hall and there are helmeted UNCSB-ROK soldiers stationed about in a Tae Kwon Do pose, fists clasped.  They stand like this on four hour rosters and are immovable and impervious. They are armed; all we have are special red or blue plastic badges to allow us inside. I surmise blue is for wisdom, red is for ‘Gen Y. can I have some more money.’

Then we’re out onto a dais area where most people view North Korea across a short distance.  Many famous people have some to this point, including the Clintons, Helmet Kohl, Margaret Thatcher, Barack Obama etc.  We are allowed to take photos at certain points. I am on the left, and a bus passenger steps too far to the left and a Tae Kwon Do arm immediately flings out to create a rigid human barrier through which he cannot pass.

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We get a few seconds each to take photos in front of the line.  Its a scary place. You can see this from the expressions of the TwentySomethings who are kinda freaked out by Panmungak.  I tell them their red badges are targets. Panmaungak is like a zoo and we’re looking at the North Koreans.  Except they have guns and can shoot us.  They watch us through binoculars. I wonder if they were befuddled by my Dr Who shirt?

Tomorrow: we cross the line.

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General Debate 25 October 2014

October 25th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Guest Post: Smart green rhetoric but dumb dirty policies

October 25th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by a reader:

During the 2014 election campaign both Labour and the Greens told us how they want a ‘smart green’ economy that takes advantage of new technology to produce higher value products and lower carbon emissions. In addition, they want an economy that discourages speculation in housing, reduces inequality and puts more people in work.

These are admirable goals and not new. However, the irony is that the policies put forward by Labour and the Greens (and most of the other parties to be honest) are not smart or particularly green. Rather, their polices are dumb and dirty.

For the most part, both Labour and the Green’s economic policies rely on the assumption that the private sector is dumber than government officials. They assume the private sector is holding off investing in innovative green ventures or productive research until the government assists by giving a grant or tax incentive.

Their economic policies require a bureaucratic money-go-round. Some taxpayers pay more tax in order that other taxpayers pay less tax or receive grants in return for undertaking the deemed beneficial activities. Or it may be the same taxpayer paying less tax on income from favoured activities and more tax on other income! Such schemes are more likely to create a drag on the economy than boost it. That is unless you believe government officials are masterminds! Sam Morgan recently pointed out that if officials really had a superior record in picking winners, he’d hire them.

If one accepts the need for the government to raise more money, substantially raising the top rate of income tax for a small group of higher income taxpayers is not smart. People don’t like paying more tax, particularly a huge 40% of any extra income they earn as the Greens propose, so find ways to lower their taxable income. Raising the top tax rate inevitably raises less revenue than the relatively small amount mathematically possible.

The tax avoidance encouraged by higher rates of income tax also distorts investment. For example, the huge growth in tax loss generating rental properties in the 2000s was driven in part by taxpayers avoiding the fifth Labour government’s increase in the top rate tax to 39% for any income over $60,000.

However, a capital gains tax would do little to discourage the middle class from continuing to invest in rental properties. A capital gains tax is not payable until way into the future, if ever, in their minds so would cause them little immediate concern. Furthermore, with Labour’s version the CGT rate would only be 15%.

A more effective way to make residential property less attractive and raise revenue would be to impose a tax that immediately hits the pocket and is impossible to avoid. A land tax set at a small percentage of the value of land owned, payable annually or maybe quarterly, would do this. A tax free threshold of around $200,000 could exempt the land occupied by the average family home while discouraging the pouring of more money into low yielding property.

A land tax would be better at reducing inequality and do less to discourage productive activity than a CGT or raising income tax. Other taxes on the stock of capital such as inheritance and gift taxes have similar advantages. Such taxes were used in the past to break up big estates and reduce inequality. Any party serious about reducing inequality needs to consider using them.

On the supply side, if we really want innovative businesses and individuals to bring their ‘smart green’ ideas to New Zealand then we should stop trying to tax them on their worldwide earnings. New Zealand has to be more attractive than alternative destinations, and not trying to sweep all residents’ offshore income into New Zealand would be a good start.

The Greens would have us believe that a large increase in public transport spending at the expense of building new roads would also somehow be good for the economy and the environment. The reality is that it would largely be a waste of money and likely increase pollution.

The Greens are keen on ribbons of steel snaking across the land to support massively heavy and expensive rail carriages. Even so called light rail, which they also like, is still heavier, far more expensive and less flexible than buses. Unless there are constant large volumes of freight or passengers, rail never comes anywhere near paying its way.

Even using buses for public transport is efficient only for busy and peak-time routes. Having off-peak buses run around nearly empty (which is very common) is actually worse for the environment than everyone using cars. A bus puts out at least four times the carbon emissions of a car. Given buses follow a less direct route, it is likely that every bus with less than 8 passengers on board is emitting more carbon than if all those passengers were driving one car each! Electrified buses or trains, and all the infrastructure they require to operate, are substantially more expensive so even less viable. Anyway, a material amount of electricity generated in New Zealand comes from the burning of fossil fuels.

Those people who rely on off-peak public transport could easily be transported more efficiently in shuttle vans or cars. There are apps such as Uber that make taxis easier to use and more efficient. Software to efficiently route transport picking up multiple people going to the same location has already been developed. The conditions are therefore ripe for the development of new, innovative, cost effective off-peak public transport solutions that use small vehicles and technology – solutions that really would decrease carbon emissions.

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Galapagos Day 4

October 24th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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On Day 4 we went to Fernandina Island which is the only major island with no introduced species. This Great Blue Heron greeted us as we came ashore.

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The marine iguanas and sea lions sunbathe next to each other.

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On this island are 250,000 marine iguanas. It is basically their island. They are everywhere  and you have to be careful not to stand on one.

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This is the current alpha male sea lion. He spent quite a bit of time bellowing at us. If you bellowed back he might take it as a challenge and attack.

The alpha male doesn’t eat while he is the alpha, as he spends his time protecting the territory. Hence on average they last only 20 days in the job until they get defeated by someone else.

However not all bad, as once defeated they go to a separate island with all the bachelor males, and single females and enjoy themselves there.

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Cute – a baby iguana looking out on top of an adult.

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The rare Flightless Cormorant. This is their nesting area.

These birds can’t fly but they have adapted as they can dive up to 25 metres under thewater to hunt fish.

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More marine iguanas.

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A lava lizard.

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A baby Flightless Cormorant under his or her mother.

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An Iguana swimming in the water. The next day when I was snorkeling I had one swim into me!

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They look like they are posing for a rugby photo!

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These two baby sea lion cubs playing in a rock pool.

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The Galapagos Hawk, up a tree some distance away.

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We did three water activities today, after the walk. Two lots of snorkeling, and also went kayaking. This is a couple of our shipmates.

The snorkeling was great – in the morning we got to swim with some very playful sea lions. We are told to go no closer than six feet, but no one told the sea lions that. They hovered all around us and followed us for ages.

In the afternoon snorkel, we had some penguins swim past us, barely a metre away. Also a great experience.

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Got this photo of the pelican while out kayaking.

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We then headed up top to go whale watching. No whales, but some rays doing jumps and flips, and lots of sea lions and turtles.

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The sun setting.

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And we crossed the equator from South to North at 7.16 pm, as you can see from this GPS on the Bridge.

 

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Air NZ does it again

October 24th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Another viral smash video from Air New Zealand. Really well done.

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Remember the manufactured manufacturing crisis?

October 24th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

I’m sure readers recall the inquiry by Labour, Greens, NZ First and Mana into what they called the crisis in manufacturing. They traveled up and down the country trying to dredge up stories of doom and gloom.

Well today the Herald reports:

Whatever the attractions of the virtual economy, manufacturing is the star in New Zealand’s high-tech sector this year.

The annual Technology Investment Network TIN100 report was launched on Wednesday, and TIN managing director Greg Shanahan says one of the strongest trends has been the resurgence of the manufacturing sector, with strong growth seen this year as well as a number of manufacturers making it into the two Top 10 lists.

In perhaps the most positive year seen since the TIN100 report began in 2005, manufacturing, ICT and biotech are all on the rise.

The success of manufacturing is a strong indicator that the tech sector in general is recovering from the effects of the global financial crisis, as manufacturing has been an area of concern over the past few years, with the sale or closure of companies such as Navman, Provenco and VTL resulting in significant job losses, and major companies including Fisher & Paykel Appliances moving manufacturing overseas.

This year, however, manufacturing is the success story of the three sectors with revenue of $5.1 billion, helped by larger companies including Fisher & Paykel Healthcare with revenue growth of 12 per cent, BCS Group (revenue up 68 per cent) and NDA Group (32 per cent). The smaller TIN100+ manufacturing companies have also been helping boost this trend, with growth of 7 per cent overall, and companies such as Metalform, RML Engineering and Escea all feature in the Hot Emerging Companies list.

This has all happened, without the Government having to try and waste billions of dollars in forcing the level of the NZ dollar down.

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Interest rates may hold for another year

October 24th, 2014 at 11:02 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Economists now expect the Reserve Bank to keep interest rates on hold until September next year after inflation in the September quarter proved even more benign than it had forecast.

The consumers price index rose 0.3 per cent in the quarter, when the median market forecast had been 0.5 per cent and the Reserve Bank’s 0.7 per cent.

Westpac and ASB have pushed back their forecasts of when the Reserve Bank will next raise the official cash rate to September 2015.

That will be welcome news to everyone with a mortgage.

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As this graph from the Reserve Bank shows, home owners have had the longest period of relatively low interest rates in 25 years.

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The last splurge

October 24th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Departing and defeated MPs went out with a splurge on the taxpayer tab, the latest expense details show.

The latest release of MPs’ and ministers’ expenses covered the entire election campaign period and the 10 days after the election.

It shows that most MPs spent less than usual during the election period.

In all, MPs spent a total of $1.5 million between and July 1 and September 30, compared to $1.7 million in the same period in 2013.

But a few MPs were not as frugal.

Mana leader Hone Harawira was the biggest-spending MP. In the last three months before he lost his Te Tai Tokerau seat he racked up $54,020 in expenses.

This compared to $44,737 in the same period last year.

MPs in Maori seats often had big travel bills because their electorates were larger than the general electorates.

Disgraced National MP Claudette Hauiti was again one of the bigger spenders.

Although she was not running for re-election, she spent more than $23,000 in three months – the second-largest bill for a National MP.

I wonder how much money Mana has left from Kim Dotcom? Will he keep funding them? The coalition agreement between the Internet and Mana parties will end next month. Will it be renewed?

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Galapagos Day 3

October 24th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

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On Day 3 we sailed to the West of Isla Isabela and went ashore at Punta Moreno.

It is lava basically everwhere.

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A cactus in the lava.

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And slowly life is returning, including this flower.

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Some of the lava. This type is almost in sheets.

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While in other areas it is very rocky.

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Growing in the lava is of course a lava cactus.

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And a Galaneau living in a lava tube.

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And who would have thought, but a family of six flamingos have settled in the middle of the lava, in a little lake that has formed there.

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A close up of a pink flamingo.

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A lava lizard.

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Out on the rocks, the penguins and iguanas happily share.

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A blue footed boobie giving us the stare.

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While in the zodiac, we had some bottled nosed dolphins turn up!

It is quite rare to see them, so we were lucky.

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This pelican guarding his rock.

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This time penguins and crabs on the same rock.

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In the afternoon we did a zodiac (they call them pungas) trip through the mangroves.

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Love these trees.

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A Great Blue Heron.

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That is a sea turtle underneath the water.

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A pelican flying alongside us.

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And back to the boat.

We also did snorkeling in the late morning and that was incredible. I shot some underwater video but don’t have the cord with me to transfer the files. But masses of fish, and a couple of dozen giant sea turtles. Getting to swim alongside or above a majestic sea turtle was so cool.

 

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General Debate 24 October 2014

October 24th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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The $800,000 man

October 24th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

An unnamed ACC employee – understood to be investment manager Nicholas Bagnall, who oversees almost $27 billion in taxpayer funds – got over $800,000 in pay last year, likely making him our highest paid public servant.

The breakdown of staff pay in ACC’s annual report yesterday reveals its highest paid received between $810,000 and $820,000 in the last year.

Some may be surprised that a manager may get less than a CEO, but I’ve seen this before with IT Managers getting paid more than their bosses.

The Herald understands the ACC employee is not ACC chief executive Scott Pickering but a member of the state-owned injury insurer’s investment team, as was the corporation’s second highest-paid staffer, on just over $700,000.

Mr Bagnall has led ACC’s investment team for the past 15 years. He would not confirm he was the employee referred to in ACC’s report but said he was “very well paid”.

I don’t have a problem with Mr Bagnall being paid that much, if he is performing well enough to justify it.

The ACC Annual Report shows ACC has financial assets of $27.6 billion and they got a 6.3% return on investment which is $1.6 billion of income. Paying someone $800,000 a year to manage $27.6 billion of assets seems reasonable. A 0.1% improved return of investment of those assets is worth $27 million.

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US Mid-Term Elections : Latest Senate Races Polls

October 23rd, 2014 at 11:18 pm by Lindsay Addie

Here is the latest numbers using as before the Real Clear Politics average of polls data and Nate Silver’s numbers. A reminder the current numbers in the Senate are Democrats 55 – Republicans 45.

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In Colorado a state which Obama won in both 2008 and 2012. Nate Silver and the Washington Post think that Democrat Mark Udall is now in real trouble. His campaign based around women’s issues hasn’t hit the right spot with the voters. Iowa remains close with Joni Ernst (R) holding on to a slender lead. Iowa is always a bell weather state on election night.

Georgia has got a lot closer with Democrat Michelle Nunn making David Perdue (GOP) work very hard. Some polls have Nunn ahead. Kansas is still pretty much a dead heat between Orman the independent and Roberts the GOP candidate.

So based on these numbers the Republicans look like they may pick up 8 seats (Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Iowa, Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia). But are not guaranteed to win Georgia and Kansas just yet.

So it’s definitely advantage to the Republicans with less than 2 weeks to go.

[UPDATE] The web link to the Washington Post article cited that discusses the Colorado Senate race was broken and is now working.

[UPDATE 2] The Louisiana and Georgia Senate Races are run under the 50% plus one vote rule. So if no candidate achieves this a run off is held. If required the Louisiana runoff is scheduled for 6th December 2014. The Georgia run off would be held on 6th January 2015. Hat tip to Kiwi in America for reminding me of this.

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Galapagos Day 2

October 23rd, 2014 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

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We moved overnight to Isla Isabela.

The second day was amazing in terms of what we saw, in just the one day.  It started with a zodiac ride out to the White Tipped Reef Shark Canal. On the way there we saw out first sighting of the Blue Footed Booby.

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Waiting for us on shore was a Sally Lightfoot Crab.

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And also on shore were lots of marine iguanas. This one has a young one on its back.

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Down in the water were the white tipped reef sharks.

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A beautiful brown pelican.

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An American Oyster Catcher.

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You may have to look twice here to see the dozens of iguanas!

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This sea lion gave birth not long ago to her cub.

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As we walked back along the beach, the iguanas were everywhere. You had to literally step to get around them.

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Then after lunch we headed back into the main settlement. This sea lion had decided one of the boats makes a good sleeping spot.

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While this sea lion caught a fish.

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We then did a two hour return trek up the Sierra Negra Volcano. The view at the top was fantastic. We were very lucky to manage to do it on a day with no clouds up there.

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The crater (which is active) is 7 kms long and 11 kms wide.

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A typical landscape on Isabela.

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Back at the waterfront, a pelican at home on a roof.

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Some Galapagos Penguins swimming.

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An Eagle Ray under the water.

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This photo is from an amazing scene which lasted 20 minutes or so. A school of fish came into the waterfront area, and the boobies were dive bombing the area like kamikaze pilots. They fly straight down into the water, and can descend to five metres below, to try and catch a fish, and bring it up. They can even steer and swim under there.

Seeing dozens of boobies dive bombing nearly non-stop was amazing.

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Then we went to the lagoons and saw a pink Greater Flamingo.

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After that we went to the second of the three land tortoise breeding centres where we saw Grant Robertson, Andrew Little and David Parker, with David Cunliffe heading off in the background.

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Some of the smaller tortoises all bunched up together, and even walking over each other.

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A Galapagos Yellow Warbler.

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This is a two month old baby tortoise. You can see how vulnerable they would be in the wild to predators.

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A Great Frigatebird overhead.

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We then had a spare hour in the town, with this lovely beach.

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The iguanas are not just on the isolated islands, but these two were just sunbathing in town.

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This sea lion enjoying the park bench.

We saw an incredible variety of creatures, and all in just one day.  Apart from the density and variety of them, what is perhaps unique is how unafraid of humans they are.  Nothing runs away from you – to the contrary many of them come over to you to show off.

 

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The 51st Parliament Select Committees

October 23rd, 2014 at 3:47 pm by David Farrar

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The composition and chairs of select committees has been decided. Well, almost decided. NZ First seem unable to decide as quickly as other parties which MPs go on which committees. Ironic as they have just 10 MPs.

National has a clear majority on 10 of the 14 select committees.

On Finance and Expenditure the swing vote is ACT’s David Seymour. If Labour are smart (unlikely) they’ll look for issues they could get him on board with such as an inquiry into corporate welfare.

Government Administration is tied between National and Labour/Greens and chaired by Labour MP Ruth Dyson. That is normal for this committee.

Justice and Electoral could be tied with five Nats, two Labour, one Green, one NZ First and one Maori Party. But chaired by National’s Jacqui Dean so unlikely to have issues.

The Maori Affairs Committee has eight MPs on it – three National, two Labour, one Greens, one NZ First and one Maori Party. So National can be outvoted, but if Maori Party vote with them, it is a tie and new National MP Nuk Kurako is its Chair.

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A Little hyperbole

October 23rd, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Former union boss Little’s message seemed to resonate well with the audience, which included a strong union presence.

He also attacked the employment law making its way through the House.

“We have never had a more niggardly, nasty National government than the one we’ve got now.”

I guess he has to try and win over the union vote, but this is a ridiculous statement. The Employment Contracts Act of the early 1990s was a magnitude more radical than anything currently in the law, or proposed.

And is Andrew really saying the John Key led Government is more “nasty” than the Muldoon Government?

Such hyperbole may be good red meat for the unions, but they won’t resonate with the voting public.

He said Labour was the only party that took work seriously and balanced the rights of employers with workers’ rights to be protected.

Actually Labour basically has the unions write their industrial relations policy. I’d assert National is the party that gets the balance right.

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NZ won election on the first round

October 23rd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Now I’ve had time to check the detailed voting results, impressed that not only did New Zealand beat Turkey to win a spot on the UN Security Council, we also got more votes than Spain, and made the two thirds majority in the first round of voting.

To be elected you need 129 votes out of 193 member states, and NZ got 145 in the first round. Spain was on 121 and Turkey 109.

It then took two further rounds to elect Spain, as the normal pattern followed of states slowing peeling off the lowest polling candidate.

A win on the first round, scoring more votes than Turkey and Spain is truly impressive. Especially when you consider Turkey starts with almost all the Muslim countries on side, and Spain starts with almost all of Europe and the Spanish speaking countries. NZ stars with basically just Australia!

It would be interesting to see how each country voted, but I can’t find this online.

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