UK and NZ commit to a FTA

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister Bill English would have been entitled to feel quite cock-a-hoop when he rolled up to 10 Downing St for his meeting with Theresa May early this morning.

The Times newspaper has run a joint opinion piece from English and May in which they pledged their troth to one another by vowing to sign a free trade agreement once May had triggered Brexit and removed Britain from the European Union.

The speed with which New Zealand pelted up the aisle the minute the UK announced it was to be single was almost unseemly. But it paid off.

The opinion piece talked up the possibility of a Commonwealth trade area as well as committing to a bilateral New Zealand – UK agreement.

In it the leaders say that, as Britain prepares to leave the European Union, “we are determined to open a new and exciting chapter in the close friendship between our two countries”.

That will involve working towards a “bold” new UK-NZ Free Trade Agreement. And, while the UK is part of the EU, it will continue to support an EU-NZ FTA.

Would be great to have FTAs with both the UK and the EU. I suspect we will get a far cleaner FTA with the UK.

Little scared off Rongotai

Stuff reports:

Labour leader Andrew Little is to run as a list-only candidate in this year’s election, opening the way for councillor Paul Eagle to win the party’s nomination for the Rongotai seat.

His decision means the leaders of the two biggest parties – Little and Prime Minister Bill English – will not contest constituencies although the leaders of all the other parties in Parliament have signalled they will be standing in electorates.

Little has previously been defeated in the New Plymouth seat twice by National backbencher Jonathan Young but it was long rumoured he may seek to stand in Deputy Leader Annette King’s Rongotai seat, where he lives, if she stood down – a decision she made late last year.

There can be little doubt Little wanted the seat. He has lived in Rongotai for many many years and it is a rock solid seat for Labour – a seat for life. And as Andrew wants a long career in politics, of course he wants it.

But he wasn’t assured of beating Paul Eagle who has long been Annette’s favoured replacement. It says something that the Labour Deputy Leader was not willing to support the Labour leader to take over her seat.

Four of Labour’s top six MPs are based in Wellington. That shows how isolated they have got.

Also of interest is that if Labour do worse in 2017 than they did in 2014, Little might not even get back to Parliament as a List MP!

Is Obama the worst President since World War 2? – Part 1 Electoral legacy

With the second term of President Barack Obama about to end in five days’ time on January 20th, it is appropriate to look back on his Presidency and determine the success or otherwise of his terms in office. This analysis of the Obama Presidency will be broken into 3 sections over the next few days:

1 – Electoral impact of his Presidency on his own party’s electoral fortunes.

2 – His Domestic Policy legacy

3 – His Foreign Policy legacy

Back in December 2014 just after the disastrous 2014 midterm elections where the Democrats lost control of the Senate, I posted this producing charts from renown University of Virginia Political Science Professor Larry Sabato comparing the losses of Congressional seats, State legislators, seats and Governorships under each 2 term President since World War 2. On the strength of results up to and including 2014, Obama had been the worst post war President in terms of the losses his party suffered under his Administration.

With the 2016 Presidential Election seeing the defeat of his Democrat Presidential successor Hillary Clinton and Republicans remaining in control of the both the House and the Senate, it is time to revisit the sum total of how his party has fared under his full 8 year Presidency. Please note that the last table is my work but I have tacked it underneath Larry Sabato’s previous tables and used his numbers for the previous elections (except for the 2008 Democrat senate numbers because for all of 2009, Obama had filibuster proof majority of 60 in the Senate until the Democrats lost the Massachusetts senate seat of Ted Kennedy in a special election in January 2010).


As you can see, Obama has presided over higher losses at EVERY level of government and, in the case of State legislatures (and their members), the losses have been staggering and close to twice as much in percentage terms as the average losses for a 2 term President.

By any electoral measure, Barack Obama’s Presidency has been a disaster. He has left his party out of power and bereft of a substantial bench of replacements at all levels of government. A final indicator of the dire plight the Democrats find themselves after 8 years of an Obama Presidency; in 2008 Democrats had what is called the trifector (control of the Governorship and BOTH State legislative chambers) of 16 states. This has plummeted to just 5 (California, Hawaii, Oregon, Connecticut and Rhode Island)!

Anti-smacking law still unpopular

Family First released:

Almost a decade on from the passing of the controversial anti-smacking law, a poll has found continued widespread rejection of the law and an admission that 2 out of 3 NZ’ers would flout the law if they believed it reasonable to correct the behaviour of their child. …

In the independent poll of 846 people undertaken by Curia Market Research, only 23% of respondents believe a smack that is reasonable and for the purpose of correction should be a criminal offence – similar to levels in a 2014 poll. 72% disagree with the current law (72% – 2014) and 5% were unsure / refused to say. Opposition to the law was highest in provincial and rural areas, amongst current parents of children under 18, and National and NZ First supporters. 

In a further question, 65% of respondents say they would smack their child to correct their behaviour regardless of the anti-smacking law. 28% said they wouldn’t, and 7% were unsure or refused to say. NZ First supporters were most likely to flout the law. 

Curia did this poll for Family First and we have done similar ones for many years. What is interesting is how consistent they are. You may have thought over time there would be less disagreement with the law, but in fact it has remained at around 70% since at least 2010.

Argy Bargy Part 7: Doing Nacion Argentina 2017

By Senor John Stringer – formerly “coNZervative” (and perhaps again).

FINAL: I mentioned in earlier posts about the famous May Square where Argentines protest (where that Athenian style Catholic basilica and the French revival architecture is). This of course is where ‘The Mothers’ still gather to protest “The Disappeared” under the military junta of Juan Peron. On the ground now around the square are these painted templates of the bonnets of the mothers commemorating their decades long vigil (and lack of justice).

The only Russian Orthodox church in Buenos Aries. The cross faces a different way that normal; that is because Russian church crosses always face Russia.

I loved the public sculpture of Buenos Aries everywhere, commemorating everything or just art for arts sake. This enriches Buenos Aries and I hope we emphasise this a lot more in Christchurch as part of the rebuild: extravagant; quirky; fun; inspiring. Here are some samples.

This stunning Donatello-style door

A fountain with bronze sculptures of bull-rushes

An modernist eagle; and this seat is very cool; they have lots of them scattered throughout the city – it is sold metal but looks soft and comfortable

I guess it dissuades the homeless sleeping on them so pedestrians can sit.

Argentines are really in to the gaucho culture (cowboys) of the pampas and you’ll see sculptures along that vein quite a lot like these two; one a brightly painted horse the brown one is covered in glitter. This was an idea taken up in Christchurch using giraffes and Sydney did it also but with Rio Christs.

Below is “The First Murder” and shows Adam and Eve with Abel. It is truly beautiful and worked in marble. It amazes me how anyone can capture such softness and fluidity carved from a lump of marble (I really admire good sculptors) . The faces and fingers and feet are exquisite

Above:  The Monty Python foot?

Below: Typical street scenes in Buenos Aries

Off the streets some of the malls are opulent – much more attractive than NZ malls which seem utilitarian by comparison. Others are cheaper and have rows of small shops (above right) where smaller traders can operate. In some cases they have erected an atrium roof between two buildings to create a mall but not just any roof – a facsimile in Italian or French or Classical style.


You can see above (right) how a glass partition separates two Corinthian columns and spans across to another building to enclose the mall; quite clever.

There was also this enormous Christmas tree still up and the ceiling mural is painted in the style of Diego Rivera (Frida Kahlo’s husband).  Argentines are quite open about male and female nudity and we were surprised to see murals of full frontal female nudity where kids pass through with their parents.

You can see here the French influence in this mall mural. There were other more riské murals which you’d never see in a NZ mall.

There are obviously all sorts of restaurants in BA of varying quality and cost to suit your taste like this posher restaurant below. But on our last evening we selected this pirate bar with really cool pirate sculptures in-the-round inside the restaurant and fixed to the exterior. I liked the pirate bandannas of the waiters.

Food costs are comparable with NZ; taxis are cheap ($5 approx) so use those to go everywhere; I recommend the three-hour city bus tour (max 12); we felt perfectly safe and coped perfectly with zero Spanish.  The archietcture and arts museums were my highlight and from BA you can skip easily over to Uruguay to see the spectacular ‘Niagara’ falls there. Now that AirNZ flys directly I think Argentina is a great option for a getaway from NZ.

As we sat in our pirate lair on beer and burgers a dramatic electric storm without thunder (like that storm in War of the Worlds) came in like a fireworks display or a rolling menace out of Mordor. The sky flashed blue and purple-pink every few seconds as it rolled up the avenue. A fitting conclusion to our visit.  ~ J.



Langdon charge is the right thing

Stuff reports:

New Zealand police say they have laid charges against yachtie Alan Langdon.

Langdon left Kawhia in December on a six-metre catamaran with his six-year-old daughter, Que. He told Kawhia residents they were headed to the Bay of Islands, but wound up in Australia 25 days later.

Search operations failed to locate the pair. They arrived in Queensland on January 11.

“A 49-year-old man is due in Te Awamutu District Court on 25 January 2017, charged with taking a child from New Zealand,” Detective Sergeant Bill Crowe said on Sunday.

Pleased to see this. Having one parent effectively try to steal a child so the other parent can no longer contact them is hideously wrong.

538 says US murder rate up 25% in last two years

Jeff Asher at 538 writes:

Murder almost certainly increased substantially in the U.S. in 2016, one year after it rose at its fastest pace in a quarter century.

The government won’t release official 2016 crime statistics for another nine months. But data from individual police departments indicates that murder rose in most of the country’s biggest cities in 2016, in some cases dramatically. Because a large share of murders take place in big cities, a substantial increase there means that the country’s overall murder total almost certainly rose as well.1

Using a combination of official police data and local media reports, I was able to collect murder counts through at least November 2016 for 73 of the 83 U.S. cities with populations above 250,000, and partial data for all but one of the rest.2 The counts are preliminary and could be subject to change before they are submitted to the FBI for inclusion in the Uniform Crime Report that will be published in September.

This year’s rise appears slightly smaller than last year’s dramatic increase. The big cities experienced roughly a 11.3 percent increase in murder in 2016, which is down from the same group’s 14.8 percent increase from 2014 to 2015. Still, the figures suggest that big cities have seen murder rise by more than a quarter in just two years, likely the biggest two-year increase since 1989 to 1991.

Crime and homicides specifically has generally trended down for some decades. This two year reversal looks to be significant.

So does Oxfam think wealth should be confiscated?

Stuff reports:

Two New Zealanders are worth the same as the poorest 30 per cent of the adult Kiwi population, Oxfam research says.

Research also says the richest one per cent of New Zealanders own one fifth of the nation’s wealth, while 90 per cent of the population owns less than half of the country’s wealth.

The findings are included in a study of inequality in a global Oxfam report to be released on Monday and it cites the two wealthiest Kiwis, Richard Chandler and Graeme Hart.

So what?

Does Oxfam think it is terrible Chandler and Hart are wealthy?

Oxfam would have you think wealth is finite and if Chandler and Hart have all this wealth, then they have stolen it from the poorest 30% who don’t have much. Oxfam is basically a socialist campaigning organisation.

Chandler has made almost all of his money overseas. So how does a NZer being successful overseas harm people in New Zealand?

Maybe Oxfam thinks we should do what has failed in every country that has tried it and confiscate wealth (not income) and redistribute it. So take the $13 billion Chandler and Hart have and give it to the poorest 1.5 million New Zealanders. They would then each have $10,000 wealth – hardly life changing.

Plus of course it would never happen. Hart and Chandler can choose where to be domiciled and sure won’t be any place that listens to Oxfam.

Peters gets more desperate

Stuff reports:

Peters said he did not want a Government review.

“We’re not interested in anything other than to ensure that advice that you’ve got that you can go in is in fact followed. The only people that can do that is the Government. They’ve got to do what they promised to do. Not line up behind excuses.”

So Peters is saying that no matter what the advice or the risk if, nothing is acceptable except entering the mine. What a callous disgusting stand to take.

He said he wasn’t motivated by garnering votes in an election year. 

Yeah right.

Yule to seek Tukituki nomination for National

Stuff reports:

Hastings’ mayor Lawrence Yule turning his attention to national politics.

On Friday he announced he was planning to seek the National Party’s nomination for the Tukituki electorate, after 15 years as mayor or Hastings. 

He is also the president of Local Government New Zealand.

Craig Foss, who currently holds the seat for National, announced in December he would be retiring from politics. 

A large number of locals, along with members of the National Party had encouraged him to run, he said. 

“I did not expect Craig Foss to resign, now I have to deal with that opportunity. I have been pretty humbled by the number of people who have approached me to stand.  I think I can make a difference in Wellington, for the people of Tukituki, and for the National Party,” he said. 

Yule will not make a decision on whether he will stand down as mayor until the National Party decide who the candidate is in February. 

“If the National Party and its members want and choose me as their candidate then subsequent decisions will be required and I intend to involve fellow councillors in these.”  

“Until that point I will be saying very little more while the selection process is underway.” 

In 2016, Yule led the district through the gastro outbreak which saw 5000 locals struck down with campylobacter after drinking water became contaminated. 

Despite the crisis, he was re-elected mayor in last year’s local body elections with a lead of more than 3000 votes over his closet rival Guy Wellwood.

Labour’s Anna Lorck has a high profile and I expect Tukituki will be a hard fought contest. If Lawrence Yule is National’s candidate that will help National’s chances of keeping the seat.

Should there be a limit on how many goes to get a drivers licence?

Stuff reports:

The New Zealand Transport Agency’s latest figures show one Kiwi driver took 13 attempts to pass their full driver’s licence test.

Almost 10,000 people who received their full driver’s licence in 2016 had failed at least once, four of them failed ten or more times. 

The additional amount paid by people to re-sit their test, not including their first attempt, was at least $739,106. The person who took 13 attempts forked out about $820 in order to get their full licence.

Should there be a limit on how many goes to get a licence? If someone failed 12 times and finally did well enough, are they really a safe driver? Would you want a surgeon operating on you who had failed medical school 12 times before passing?

However you almost need a licence to be able to function in many parts of society, so probably unfair to limit the number of times you can sit. What I would do though is make all drivers resit the test every five to ten years. Just because you passed once at age 18 doesn’t mean you are a safe and competent driver for the next 45 years or so.

5 post-Trump rule changes

Ronald Klain at Politico writes about how five golden rules of politics have changed post-Trump. They are:

  1. Old Rule: Never explain
    New Rule: Always arm allies with an explanation
  2. Old Rule: Apologize and move on
    New Rule: Never apologize and double down
  3. Old Rule: Get your facts straight before you comment
    New Rule: Go with your gut, quickly
  4. Old Rule: Don’t feud with people who buy ink by the barrel
    New Rule: You can score points by going to war with the media
  5. Old Rule: Drive a consistent message, consistently
    New Rule: Adapt constantly, disorient your opponents and the media

Not sure the new rules will work for everyone, but they certainly did for Trump.

EU talks up NZ free trade deal

The Herald reports:

European Union leaders have talked up the prospects of a free trade agreement, saying it would send a strong political signal as protectionism takes hold elsewhere. They have even suggested it could be completed within three years.

Bill English arrived in Brussels today on his first official overseas trip as Prime Minister.

After meeting English, European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said they expected formal negotiations for the long-awaited free trade agreement between the EU and New Zealand to begin soon.

Tusk said it would further strengthen relations and made an apparent reference to the election of US President Donald Trump, the Brexit vote in the UK and the rise of Marine Le Pen’s Front National party in the looming presidential elections in France.

“Such an agreement would not only boost sustainable economic growth, investment and job creation on both sides, it would also send a strong political signal of economic openness and trade at a time of protectionist pressures are on the rise not only on our own continent but also round the world.”

Juncker also said he was “very eager” to conclude a trade agreement, but pointed to “difficulties” within the EU and globally.

“At least we are hopeful we will be able to make the progress we need. There are remaining difficulties, but we will solve these problems, like others, because New Zealand is a very strong ally of the European Union and we want to continue in that vein.

Despite that, Juncker was optimistic a New Zealand-EU deal could be finalised in three years – half the time it usually took and less than a third of the 10 years it took for Canada. He said it usually took between 5-10 years.

That would be amazing if it could be done in three years.

Argy Bargy Part 6: Doing Nacion Argentina 2017

By Senor John Stringer – formerly “coNZervative” (and perhaps again).

The largest dinosaur ever known, found in the 1970s, is the massive Titanosaur Argentinosaurus Huinculensis, at 96.4 metric tons (106.3 short tons) and 39.7 m (130 ft) long.

South America is known for its dinosaurs so we had to visit Buenos Aries’ Bernadino Rovadavia Natural Sciences Museum that has an awesome collection. One of my childhood dreams was to visit the Le Brea tar pits after reading about them in a magazine; so I made a bee-line there on my first ever trip to LA (amazing place). Thus Rovadavia while in BA. (I’ve never understood why we don’t have better dinosaur displays in NZ – we could easily trade facsimiles of our unique moa skeletons for dinosaur skeletons from other museums ??).

Above: Sabre-Tooth Tigers (Smilodons) cavort outside the entrance to the Bernadino Rovadavia Natural Sciences Museum. Known in numbers at the Le Brea tar pits in LA these large lion-tigers (Napoleon Dynamite’s Ligers?) clearly roamed much of the Americas before going extinct along with the other mega fauna of these continents.

A huge Redback climbs out of a window at the entrance way opposite the Smilodons.

The BA museum is not that well lit and some of the displays are a bit nineteenth-century however their collection rivals Te Papa or Canterbury Museum (our best regional museum in my view alongside Waiouru Army and the Auckland War Museum). BA will cost you $40 pesos ($3.61 NZ). There is no cafeteria and it is very hot inside with no air-conditioning so take a water bottle.

Great collection for study but some halls need curation – a bit nineteenth-century.

A cave bear; many of the displays are really well articulated such as this raptor.

This was weird a Cyclops lamb perhaps a hoax or a real mutant: there is one in formaldehyde either to extend the hoax or prove it was a real deformity.

Below: Only one of the six images below is a ‘dinosaur’ – can you tell which one?  

DINOSAUR? Left to right clockwise: Seal; Hippo; Hippo; Dinosaur; Equus (horse). The latter died out in the Americas only to be reintroduced by the Spanish and taken up by select tribes of Plains Indians; the short Siberian pony was almost extinct on those Steppes too but a collector had some and now wild herds have been re-established on the Mongolian Steppe.

A dinosaur foot?  Nope – elephant!

There was actually a real “taniwha.”

Some of the dinosaurs were truly gargantuan.

Some old guy checking out a “ground sloth.” Personally I don’t think they inhabited the ground – too easy as prey (built for climbing not running) and their feet don’t suit walking; I believe they lived most of their lives up in the titanic prehistoric trees like sloth do today and just ate and crapped up there safe from predators. Beware below of golden rain.

In the central dinosaur hall is this very cool sand pit with buried dinosaur bones that kids can ‘excavate’ as budding archaeologists.

The mammals in the museum are beautifully displayed and there are some great animations such as the leopard and hyena wrestling with a dead warthog; the leopard in a tree the hyena pulling from the ground.

Below: I really liked this display that shows the birds of Buenos Aries with a photographic backdrop. The bird dioramas at the Canterbury Museum and its famous bird hall are painted so I’m not sure which I prefer photos or painted backdrops.

Plenty or creepy crawlies and this majestic Condor the largest wingspan of any bird and famous to Argentina.

Humans appear amidst the prehistoric animals and there is this great diorama that equals those of the Moa Hunter and archaic Maori dioramas at the Canterbury Museum.

The museum is great and cheap and well worth a look. I recommend you go on the weekend as ringing it are these 200-300 crap stalls selling everything from an old fencing hat to a dried armadillo to a stuffed duck.

Next Post: FINAL thoughts ~ J.



Dom Post on Waitangi

The DP editorial:

Bill English is right to turn down the invitation to go to Waitangi for Waitangi Day. It is not acceptable to ask the country’s leader to such an event and then ban him from speaking.

This is a simple matter of good manners as well as fundamental democratic rights.

Of course.

Sad to see Andrew Little so desperate to score points that he declares he will attend even if not allowed to speak.

Trump appoints a Kennedy

USA Today reports:

President-elect Donald Trump asked Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental activist and skeptic of vaccines, to chair a presidential commission on vaccine safety, Kennedy said Tuesday.

The two have questioned whether vaccines cause autism, a claim consistently debunked by medical professionals across the board.

The commission will be designed “to make sure we have scientific integrity in the vaccine process for efficacy and safety effects,” Kennedy told reporters after the meeting with Trump.

Oh dear. One vaccine skeptic appoints another to head up a commission to decide if they are safe.

As much as I enjoy seeing the celebrities in the US have meltdowns about a Trump presidency, this reminds me that he has many appalling beliefs and policies.

Corbyn wants pay caps

The Guardian reports:

Jeremy Corbyn has promised Labour would introduce a maximum wage for executives at companies with government contracts, but backed away from proposing the nationwide pay cap he had mooted hours earlier in broadcast interviews.

Kicking off a long-planned relaunch, the Labour leader said companies would have to stop executives earning more than 20 times the wage of their lowest paid worker if they wanted to bid for public sector work, which he calculated would set a salary limit at about £350,000.

But the pledge, made in an afternoon speech, did not go as far as Corbyn had in morning interviews where he said he would like there to be ““some kind of high earnings cap, quite honestly” and suggested it could cover star footballers as well as highly paid CEOs.

If only some other country had tried this – having the Government set the pay rates of all employees, so no one is too unequal.

Wasn’t there some country that did try this? It was quite well known up until around 1990. Had an abbreviation.

Fake news from the Washington Post

Glenn Greenwald writes:

In the past six weeks, the Washington Post published two blockbuster stories about the Russian threat that went viral: one on how Russia is behind a massive explosion of “fake news,” the other on how it invaded the U.S. electric grid. Both articles were fundamentally false. Each now bears a humiliating editor’s note grudgingly acknowledging that the core claims of the story were fiction: The first note was posted a full two weeks later to the top of the original article; the other was buried the following day at the bottom.

Too little too late.

The second story on the electric grid turned out to be far worse than I realized when I wrote about it on Saturday, when it became clear that there was no “penetration of the U.S. electricity grid” as the Post had claimed. In addition to the editor’s note, the Russia-hacked-our-electric-grid story now has a full-scale retraction in the form of a separate article admitting that “the incident is not linked to any Russian government effort to target or hack the utility” and there may not even have been malware at all on this laptop.

But while these debacles are embarrassing for the paper, they are also richly rewarding. That’s because journalists — including those at the Post — aggressively hype and promote the original, sensationalistic false stories, ensuring that they go viral, generating massive traffic for the Post (the paper’s executive editor, Marty Baron, recently boasted about how profitable the paper has become).

After spreading the falsehoods far and wide, raising fear levels and manipulating U.S. political discourse in the process (both Russia stories were widely hyped on cable news), journalists who spread the false claims subsequently note the retraction or corrections only in the most muted way possible, and often not at all. As a result, only a tiny fraction of people who were exposed to the original false story end up learning of the retractions.

So when people decry fake news, worth remembering it sometimes comes from mainstream media sources. In fact it is due to growing distrust in traditional media, that fake news has exploited an opening.

Argy Bargy Part 5: Doing Nacion Argentina 2017

By Senor John Stringer formerly “coNZervative” (and perhaps again).

Today we decided to do the biggest flea market in Buenos Aries -the outdoor markets in Recolata.  This is right next to the famous cemetery so you could combine both and make a day trip of both. To get there catch a cab. This will cost you about 40-70 Arg pesos ie $2-5 US dollars (1/15). It’s dirt cheap; so don’t worry about grabbing cabs anywhere. A radio cab (fitted with radio) will cost an additional $14 pesos (ie 93c US).

There are about 150-200 outdoor booths selling mainly crafts. I even find a guy selling wargames models. There is art and food and jewelry. I buy some original Argentinian art (three small pictures) signed by the artist. These cost me about $8 each – excellent value. There is no bargaining as such in BA; the price is the price (as in NZ) but at markets you can always negotiate and I am offered a nice discount to buy two and further when I negotiate for three.

Below: older Argentinian men shooting the breeze together – I like the man dressed as a South American dictator or Mafia boss. A famous tango dancer and flamenco guitarist is playing under an ancient rubber tree (about 250 years old) which has those horizontal branches which the municipality has creatively propped up with sculptures such as this metal Hercules (below).

Below: old cobblestones around the market and one of the 250 year old rubber trees that provide much needed shade as BA gets really hot and under which people busk Tango and Flamenco.

There is lots of food and mobile lemonade stands with real fruit and tango fills the air. It is incredibly (burning) hot so I recommend a good hat and sunglasses are a must. Wear loose cotton or you’ll be overwhelmed on hot days. Below some of the Frida Kahlo cacophony at the market – a very popular cultural meme.

Above: where ever you go in the world graffiti seems the same. And here are what the Argentinian police look like.  We went in to a Mall and were constantly asked for money or pitched scams every few metres – which was a pest – and this mall area is patrolled by police. You will also get approached to exchange money at good rates but this is illegal so don’t accept – the money may be counterfeit. I recommend you use your hotel (at approx. 15/1 US) as we noticed long queues at the ‘bureau de change’ booths in public (ie at the malls).

Over all we were not taken with the food in Argy; lots of plain burgers and chips but Argentinians do take a herbal tea. These are served in an ornate hollowed out gourd and sipped through a silver straw implement with various ornate filters at the bottom (like a hookah). We had never seen this before. Note the prices $400 pesos ie $26.6 US approx.

Below: more Argentine architecture and a pirate restaurant we eat at on our last night at which I try not to order the #1 one blackboard special.

Tomorrow: South America is known for its dinosaurs and I’ll post on those as we visit Bernadino Rovadavia Natural Sciences Museum. ~ J.


Lee seeks Maungakiekie

The Herald reports:

An Auckland councillor who has politics “in her bones” has put her hand up to replace Maungakiekie MP Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga.

Centre-right councillor Denise Lee (formerly Krum) told the Herald she will seek the National Party nomination for the Auckland electorate.

The selection process is expected to be outlined in the next couple weeks.

Lee was elected in October for her second term as the Maungakiekie-Tamaki councillor.

New Auckland Mayor Phil Goff included her in his “Cabinet” as deputy chair on the planning committee that has responsibility for issues including housing and transport.

The 46-year-old said Lotu-Iiga’s announcement in December that he would not seek re-election came as a surprise.

“The timing is not ideal. Had I known that Sam was going to announce this I would have been more than likely to not have run for council.”

I think it is a different scenario when a vacancy for a parliamentary seat comes up as a surprise, and a Councillor decides to go for it, and when they seek a term on Council at the very same time as seeking a nomination for Parliament. Basically you can’t control the timing sometimes.

Whoever National selects, they will face a tough fight against Labour candidate Priyanka Radhakrishnan, a policy analyst and advisor for the party, who has previously worked for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs.

I expect Maungakiekie to be a very close race and the quality of the candidates will count.

Roof sentenced to death

The Herald reports:

Dylann Roof was sentenced to death today for killing nine black church members during Bible study in a racially motivated attack, the first person to face execution for federal hate crime convictions.

A jury deliberated his sentence for about three hours, capping a trial in which Roof did not fight for his life or show any remorse. At the beginning of the trial, he addressed jurors directly, insisting that he wasn’t mentally ill, but he never asked them for forgiveness or mercy, or explained the crime.

Surprised it took that long.

Roof told FBI agents when they arrested him a day after the June 17, 2015, slayings that he wanted the shootings to bring back segregation or perhaps start a race war. Instead, the slayings had a unifying effect, as South Carolina removed the Confederate flag from its Statehouse for the first time in more than 50 years and other states followed suit, taking down Confederate banners and monuments. Roof had posed with the flag in photos.

So it backfired, which is the only good thing out of this.