Brown on synthetic cannabis

April 9th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Russel Brown writes:

With the news yesterday of the attempted arson of a legal highs store in Invercargill, it’s reasonable to ask whether we’re on the verge of public hysteria about synthetic cannabis. The next question would be why it’s happening now, when 95% of retail outlets for such products have been either shut down or forbidden to to sell the products — and those remaining are closely monitored and, for the first time, required to be strictly R18 premises.

What seems to have happen is that the law has been sucessful in closing down most legal high outlets but it has made the remaining outlets more visible.

The list of products deemed low-risk and granted interim approval is a fraction of the nearly 300 legal highs sold in the past few years, before the new Act. It includes half a dozen fairly harmless pill products containing caffeine, guarana, kava, green tea and amino acids, and the rest is synthetic pot. When the full approval process gets underway, all of these will be banned subject to the Authority being satisfied that they present a low risk. It is quite possible that no products administered by smoking will meet the standard.

People forget that prior to the law change there was no regulation at all. Prohibition will not work, so the current law should be given time to see if it is effective.

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Campbell v Brown

October 17th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

I agree with this column by Trans-tasman:

Whatever one feels about the particulars of the show – and we’ll get to this shortly – let us be grateful for one thing: it has been a long time since regular interviews with senior politicians had an impact on political discourse. Certainly Campbell’s 7pm opposition on the state owned television channel is so fluffy and light it makes the Beatrix Potter stories look like Dostoyevsky.

But Campbell did rather let him- self down. Advocacy journalism has its place but when you invite the other side on to put their side, they need to be given space to do so. Campbell’s questions all started from the premise oil exploration is intrinsically the devil’s work and will always produce a Gulf of Mexico spill. He also let it get very personal – but then so did Bridges – even more so.

Unfortunately Campbell followed it up the next night with a cringingly sympathetic interview with disgraced Auckland Mayor Len Brown. While Bridges, who was there to defend a policy decision, was treated like a Mr Big of drug dealing; Brown, whose moral choices have caused huge hurt to people who love him, was treated like an innocent victim of some unfortunate accident.

Advocacy journalism can be done in a professional and dis- passionate way: indeed, to work, it has to be. When it becomes personal, it loses not only integrity but effectiveness.

I think this piece is fair. Simon Bridges did let it get personal and got too heated, but so did John Campbell. And Campbell was incredibly unbalanced who as Trans-tasman says treats oil companies as evil criminal syndicates. I have no problems with advocacy journalism, but don’t be surprised if people won’t go on their show if they think you’re not interested a balanced debate – just pilloring one side of the issue.

And the Len brown interview was disgracefully light. He avoided anything resembling a hard question, such as did Len Brown know who sent the threatening text to Chuang. It was like a NZ version of Oprah.

In a similar vein, Russell Brown has devoted an entire column to the Len Brown issue. Except in his 1,32 words on the issue he spends 1,181 words on the the so called centre-right people involved and just 51 words on the role of Len Brown. That is almost hysterically comical. The most Russell could muster was to say it was poor judgement to bonk at work and he can no longer play the family-man card!

 

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Silly comparisons

July 23rd, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Just noticed a blog by Russell Brown where he basically compares the convention centre deal to the Electoral Finance Bill. This is over a clause in the agreement which says:

In considering the acceptance of bookings for Events to be held at the NZICC, SKYCITY must use good judgement in considering first the type and style of Events that are best suited to the NZICC and secondly Events that would not reasonably be expected to be materially prejudicial to international relations or to national security interests of New Zealand and would not reasonably be expected to materially affect the reputation or brand of the NZICC.

I think people forget how draconian the original Electoral Finance Bill, approved by the Labour Cabinet, was. It would have made it illegal for me to e-mail someone and talk about a policy issue, unless I put an authorisation statement on my e-mail. Any comparison of the Sky City deal to it, is hysterical nonsense.

While I probably should not dignify the nonsense with a response, I will point out three rather pertinent points. They are:

  • National announced the convention centre deal prior to the 2011 election. Labour never mentioned the Electoral Finance Bill prior to the 2005 election and had no mandate for it.
  • National gains no personal benefit from the Sky City deal. The only benefit is jobs. While Labour’s Electoral Finance Bill was designed to stop people attacking them, and help Labour get re-elected.
  • The convention centre is unlikely to be completed and operating while National is in Government, so the hysterical suggestions that the clause above (which is probably pretty standard in most contracts with a Government) is so National can stop Greenpeace having a conference there is ridiculous.

I don’t care whether or not such a clause is there. Any Govt of the future that used the clause to block a legitimate convention would suffer a political backlash.

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The Dotcom case

July 19th, 2012 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

I was going to do a lengthy blog explaining the context of the comments by Judge Harvey which led to him recusing himself from the Dotcom extradition hearing – but Russell Brown has done it for me. The key part:

Tweeting the proceedings is actively encouraged at NetHui, and I relayed Judge Harvey’s lucid observation that:

The problem is not technology, the problem is behaviour. We have met the enemy and he is us. #nethui

At least twice, Judge Harvey smiled and firmly declined to comment when Kim Dotcom’s extradition case, which he was hearing, came up. I complimented him afterwards on the job he’d done. …

It wasn’t quite the end of the day for me. I’d agreed to stand in for Nat Torkington chairing a 6.30pm session announcing the launch of Fair Deal, a public awareness campaign about the potential threat to New Zealand consumer rights posed by the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement negotiations currently being undertaken by New Zealand, the US and several other countries.

Deep unease with the US stance on intellectual property chapter of the agreement is the default view in New Zealand. It threatens to drag us back into issues such as rights to temporary copies (ie: the right to use the actual internet), which have been settled for years in our soevereign copyright law.

My panel – Internet NZ policy lead Susan Chalmers, Neil Jarvis of the Royal Foundation of the Blind, Catalyst IT director Don Christie and Trade Me operations manager Michael O’Connell – discussed their objections. Don noted that the New Zealand officials negotiating on our behalf have thus far taken a pretty solid line.

David Farrar commented from the floor on government attitudes (also fairly sound but the temptation will always be there to compromise on edge issues just to get an agreement signed). And Judge Harvey was there too. He spoke about the US position on something else that has long been settled in our law – the right to own and operate a device a region-free DVD player. I’ll assume Hamish Fletcher’s transcript in his Herald story is roughly accurate:

Under TPP and the American Digital Millennium copyright provisions you will not be able to do that, that will be prohibited… if you do you will be a criminal – that’s what will happen. Even before the 2008 amendments it wasn’t criminalised. There are all sorts of ways this whole thing is being ramped up and if I could use Russell [Brown’s] tweet from earlier on: we have met the enemy and he is [the] U.S.

Fletcher’s story didn’t appear until the following Monday, five days later, – but when it did, it appeared in the lead position on the Herald’s home page, under the headline US ‘the enemy’ says Dotcom judge.

Inevitably, the story was picked up from there by internet news services as Megaupload Judge Calls U.S. “The Enemy”. In making a play on his own words, Judge Harvey had created a perception of bias that has eventually led to him opting to stand aside from the Kim Dotcom case. He has done the right thing. But it bears reiterating that he was not discussing the Kim Dotcom case at the time.

So the comment was a play on his own quote from earlier in the day, and as Russell says was not at all discussing the Dotcom case.

I think it is a pity, for all sides, at the outcome. As Russell outlined Judge Harvey is an expert on both copyright law (he chaired the copyright tribunal) and Internet law. I’m not suggesting the outcome of the extradition hearing will be different with a different Judge, but that public acceptance of the decision would have been very high with Judge Harvey – especially if it was that the requirements for extradition had been met.

Nathan Torkington has blogged on this also, as has Chris Keall at NBR.

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Labour Policy Process

October 18th, 2011 at 2:59 pm by David Farrar

Felix Marwick from ZB tweeted:

Getting releases from unions about Labour’s wages policy before I’ve been sent the material by Labour. Embargo times are different too.

Well at least the unions are getting to release Labour’s wages policy for them, rather than have Whale Oil do it like he did for ICT.

No surprise the unions are doing releases on it, as they of course would have written it.

But in another policy, a key organisation mentioned turns out to know nothing about the policy proposal. This is NZ on Screen. Labour’s policy says:

Labour will consider expanding the role of NZ Onscreen as a broader online content storage facility and will actively encourage new business models where NZ creative content can be distributed online in an affordable and accessible way.

Russell Brown notes:

It’s not clear what content an expanded NZ On Screen would be storing or how a strictly non-commercial public-good service would facilitate new business models.

Exactly. NZ on Screen (a wonderful service) provides content for free, and has no access controls, tracking, charging etc. So touting it as a business model is like touting a foodbank as a new business model for Woolworths.

So it is no surprise perhaps that NZ on Screen has tweeted:

To clarify for those interested, we have had no conversations with Labour about this policy: http://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/digital-living/5794027/Labour-reveals-radical-internet-ideas it’s news to us too!

Oh dear, this is not the sign of good policy formulation.

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Campbell vs Ring

March 1st, 2011 at 12:11 pm by David Farrar

Brian Edwards blogged:

John, Your mindless, bullying, tirade against ‘moon man’ Ken Ring on tonight’s Campbell Live was perhaps the worst piece of egotistical, self-important, out of control, closed-minded, biased, unprofessional  non-interviewing I have seen in more than 40 years of New Zealand television.

I have no brief for Mr Ring or his theories, but after watching your treatment of him tonight, I have considerably more respect for him as the reasonable exponent of an admittedly controversial point of view than I have for you as an interviewer.

What mattered to you in this exchange was not what he had to say, but what you had to say. And since he thought the process was meant to involve his being critically questioned on statements he had made and being given reasonable opportunity to reply, he had every right to complain when you preferred to deny him that opportunity by shouting him down. It was, quite simply, appalling.

This has led to a huge debate with 113 comments to date on Brian and Judy’s blog. Opinion is divided between those who say that as Ring is a charlatan, Campbell did good (Russell Brown noticeably in this camp) and those who say he didn’t let Ring even explain himself.

I like the take of Not PC:

If it’s true that Campbell bullied Ring, the greatest damage done by the bullying is …. that it didn’t give Ring a chance to bury himself in his own words. That’s surely the point of good interviewing. To let your audience see for themselves when a flake is being interviewed.

And in bullying rather than burying his interviewee, Campbell would have allowed Ring to gain his viewers’ sympathy instead of their contempt. Surely not at all what he intended.

Not PC also has some great links and graphs from scientists showing how Mr Ring has predicted earthquakes, well pretty much for every second day.

I didn’t see the interview, but what do people who saw it think?

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Fisking the CTU

October 21st, 2010 at 2:45 pm by David Farrar

The Herald has the statements from Peter Jackson and the CTU here.

I was going to fisk the CTU statement, but Russell Brown has done it far better than I could. And yes, that is not a typo.

I do want to first touch on one aspect, quoting the CTU:

Facts on Hobbit

Helen Kelly, CTU President, said today that it is important that some facts about the union stance on the Hobbit are placed before the public.

• The union is seeking basic terms and conditions such as hours, breaks, overtime payments etc.

• The union has always been prepared to agree those conditions as an industry standard rather than a collective agreement.

This is both false and misleading.

First of all the union is not just “seeking” basic terms and conditions. It arranged a global boycott of the film. This is the nuclear bomb when it comes to negotiations.

And like any nuclear bomb, you can’t lob one into battle, and then say afterwards “Oh we’ll try and pretend we never did that and promise not to do it again”. The damage is done the moment it has happened.

The studios want certainty even more than lower cost. It may actually end up in a country where most actors are covered by a union. That is preferable to NZ, because they actually have certainty.

But a union with only 86 or so members that arranges a global boycott of a film is the opposite of stability. It signals run, run away from these lunatics.

Secondly let me quote from the global boycott:

Resolved, that the International Federation of Actors urges each of its affiliates to adopt instructions to their members that no member of any FIA affiliate will agree to act in the theatrical film The Hobbit until such time as the producer has entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance for production in New Zealand providing for satisfactory terms and conditions for all performers employed on the productions

Now re-read what the CTU says:

The union has always been prepared to agree those conditions as an industry standard rather than a collective agreement.

What bullshit. The global boycott was explicitly got a collective agreement. This is not just spin or distortion – it is a total lie.

Now let me quote Russell Brown:

Instead, since its takeover by the Australian Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, Equity has been so feckless that it failed to file reports for three years, until it was struck off the register of incorporated societies. New Zealand actors have a decent case for greater power and security in their industry. Their union – and the Australian union that was supposed to bring in a new era of professionalism – has failed them.

Eighteen months ago, Equity refused an offer from the Screen Production and Development Association (Spada) to renegotiate the “Pink Book” code of conduct which covers actors’ pay and conditions and has been untouched since the MEAA moved in. Its precondition for any talks with Spada was that the existing system, which does generally work, be scrapped and replaced with collective agreements.

This shows the lies told by the CTU up even more. Not only did MEAA not seek an update to the industry standard, they flat out refused to negotiate such a thing.

There were other things wrong with the union’s strategy, if it can be called that. The way the first meeting in Wellington was run was a disgrace – while anyone who turned up and called themselves a performer was allowed to vote in Auckland, the rules were changed in Wellington after the vote had begun to exclude non-Equity members. One actor trying to read a statement from Jackson (who had been refused permission to address the meeting) was shouted down and couldn’t fnish.

Most notably, statements from organiser Frances Walsh clearly indicated it was seeking to negotiate a national agreement via The Hobbit (why else talk about wanting to negotiate rules on nudity in a film which features no nudity?) and Robyn Malcolm managed to say in successive sentences to John Campbell that they wanted “a fair deal for New Zealand actors working on the Hobbit”, but an agreement that was “not Hobbit-specific”. I’ve explained before why it would have been unethical for Jackson to put himself in that position.

And this is the real game – to try and force all NZ productions to pay the same as The Hobbit.

By the time they’d settled for far less – and finally agreed to talk to Spada without showstopping preconditions — the damage had largely been done. Yes, if Ireland gets the gig, it will be because of its more-generous-than-the-others tax breaks. But the film was going to be made in New Zealand. The door for other countries was opened when MEAA executive Simon Whipp authorised the SAG member alert that brought the production to a halt by banning actors from working on it.

If Warners thinks the industrial relations environment in New Zealand has become too risky and unpredictable, it has some cause for thinking so.

Again, it is not about the lowest cost – it really is about stability. Remember there are two films to be produced – they don’t want to finish one, and then have an unstable union call another boycott or strike to ratchet up demands on the second film.

Some people have a conspiracy theory that it is all about the tax credit, and that this issue is just an excuse. They should consider how much money has already been spent by Jackson and Weta preparing for filing it here – Hobbiton re-established etc.

But it was telling that the CTU’s Helen Kelly said on Nightline last night that the Equity meeting had been called for members to discuss “what they wanted in terms of terms and conditions”.

You’re saying that after all this — you still don’t know what you want?

Amazing.

It’s also generally not a good sign for a union leader, as Kelly did, to refer to the 1000-plus working people who met and marched in Wellington last night, most of them members of their own guilds and unions, as being in a “lynch mob” mood.

So Helen managed to insult hundreds of union members.

None of the other screen guilds have spoken in support of Equity, and they have privately assured both Spada and the government that they are on the side of the producers in this case.

They are the real victims. I’ll be minorly affected in that the NZ economy will take a dive, and that means more debt to be serviced by us as taxpayers. But the 1000s of people who will end up out of work are the ones I really feel for. It’s one thing to lose your job when it is semi-inevitable – in a fading industry etc. But to work in what was a growing healthy industry with a bright future, and to lose your job because of the actions of a few dozen individuals would really piss you off.

Even if the film can be hauled back here – and that’s the state of play – this will have badly damaged relations in the industry. And if the film really is lost, it will damage a lot more than that – the trade union movement included.

This is the part puzzling me. Putting aside ideological differences I have always regarded Helen Kelly as a pretty smart operator, and someone who does try to do the right thing.

But her involvement with this dispute has been disastrous.

Almost everyone involved with this fracas has said that MEAA’s Simon Whipp is the problem – the NZ Actors involved are lightweights. So Whipp is the Aussie bad boy that everyone was blaming (and fairly).

But what Helen has done is change the focus of anger from being the head of an aussie union, to the head of the CTU. She is associating all NZ unions with Simon Whipp’s campaign, and as loath as I am to give advice to the NZ union movement on how to protect their reputation, I have to say that this is a spectacularly bad thing.

The CTU has put out a press release which is factually incorrect and made themselves the target. Why on Earth did they not just assist behind the scenes (where they have done some good I hear), rather than become the de facto spokesperson for the MEAA?

How will the CTU have credibility about protecting Kiwi jobs, if the movies do go overseas?

Oh, and finally, on a related note – I’ve heard nothing on this matter from the temporary and future Labour Party Leaders – surely some journalist has asked Phil Goff and Andrew Little if they support the CTU’s defence of the global boycott against the Hobbit?

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More on Chris Carter

October 7th, 2009 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Before I get into this substance of this, I want to say a couple of things. The first is that I have known Chris Carter for around 15 years, think he has a great sense of humour and has been an effective MP. In fact it isn’t a great secret that I was hoping he would beat Brian Neeson when they both stood for Waipareira in 1996 as I found Neeson just far too conservative for me (and note Neeson in 2002 broke his written pledge to not stand against a National candidate by standing as an Independent in 2002 when he failed to be reselected).

Also it drives me crazy that some people are unable to comment on any issue about a gay MP, without making some dig about his sexual orientation. People really need to get over it. And Chris has had a longer relationship with his partner than most married couples, let alone divorced ones.

Now I blogged on Sunday:

I’ve been musing about whether to post on this topic, because I think Chris Carter was acting with good motives in flying to Samoa, but nevertheless I do question the appropriateness of it.

I don’t think it is the job of the Opposition Foreign Affairs Spokesperson to fly into foreign disasters, any more than it is the job of the Opposition Police Spokesperson to fly into fatal crime scenes, or the Opposition Health Spokesperson to fly into quarantine areas.

Three times I stressed I was not questioning Chris’s motives in going to Samoa, just his judgement on appropriateness. And I still stand by that. I think the motives were honourable.

I got flak from Russell Brown at Public Address and The Standard for my post. The Standard said (and Russell agreed):

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, Winne Laban headed to Samoa to assist her family there. Carter went as her support person, the two are close I understand. He did not go there to be Labour Foreign Affairs spokesperson.

Now I don’t know anyone at all who thinks or has said Winnie going there was inappropriate. And going as a support person for Winnie would be entirely uncontroversial. One could quibble whether it is a good use of parliamentary funding to have an MP go as a support person, rather than say a family member, but I don’t think that is an issue.

This has not been disaster tourism by Carter

I have never used the term disaster tourism, and would not. In fact the blogger I recall using the term is No Right Term who used the label against John Key.

But sadly for The Standard and Russell, Chris Carter himself shoots down their defence f him that he was there solely as Winnie’s support person. Chris blogged:

What a great posting from Winnie. I am so glad she agreed to go with me to Samoa. She was not only a wonderful travelling companion, but her understanding of the appropriate cultural approach and her Samoan language skills meant we could engage with those affected by this terrible natural disaster in the most sensitive ways.

This makes it very clear Chris was going regardless of Winnie going. Later on he says Winnie asked him to go, but that be referring to the specific flight they caught.

It was clear to us that Winnie as Labour’s spokesperson for Pacific Island Affairs, and me as our Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, needed to be there, on the ground, supporting the victims and listening to their plight.

And here Chris makes very clear he was there not just as Winnie’s support person, but as the Foreign Affairs Spokesperson.

And with respect I disagree that rushing into a foreign disaster should be the job of the opposition foreign affairs spokesperson, just as I don’t expect the opposition health spokesperson to rush to medical emergencies.

It was important for Samoans and holidaying Kiwis to know that the Labour Party cared about the disaster and was quick off the mark to demonstrate its concern.

And here Chris says it was about showing the Labour Party cared. Now by his own words that raises the issue of appropriateness. Should the Greens have flown over also to show they cared? I think what was needed is to show New Zealand cared, regardless of political affiliation. And that is the job of the Government – whether that be National or Labour at the time.

It is an important role of the Opposition in a Parliamentary democracy to challenge, push and where appropriate support the actions of the government of the day. It is a legitimate role for Opposition MPs to provide a different voice and often alternatives to government policy or action, whether it be in domestic affairs such as Education, Health, Housing or Welfare, or dealing with issues concerning Employers, Workers, Unions, in International Relations/Foreign Affairs, and even in disaster relief.

That’s our job!

It was immediately obvious to us that what Samoa urgently needed was doctors, nurses, immediate food, fresh water supplies and medical equipment.

Now I absolutely agree Opposition MPs should and must hold the Government to account. But I do not accept that means it is appropriate for the foreign affairs spokesperson to fly into a foreign disaster, any more than you expect the opposition Police spokesperson to fly to the scene of an armed siege so they can comment on whether or not they think the Government or Police handled the siege well.

An Opposition spokesperson can critique the Government’s response to a foreign disaster by reports from the dozens of media at the scene, by talking to non-media on the ground, by asking MFAT (through the Minister) for a briefing etc etc. I’ve never before known an opposition spokesperson to assert they need to fly to the scene. And as I said in my original blog, Helen Clark would I am sure have ferociously denounced a National MP doing the same.

So if Chr ris had gone purely to support Winnie, I would have no criticism. But The Standard clearly invented that as a defence, to have Chris himself contradict it. And I think it is legitimate to have a debate on whether that is the correct role of an opposition spokesperson. Again, I have never criticised the good motives in going, but it is fair to question judgement.

Now Chris also made the TV3 news last night about the fact the published figures showing his spending on international travel over six months to be $83,000 was wrong, and in fact it was $131,000.

Now many will condemn him on that lavel of spending, but I do think people should not rush to judgement until all the facts are known.

I’ve had friends travel with Ministers in the past, and they get back absolutely knackered. One mate(ess) got back from a trip to UK and Netherlands for a week, and apologised for no souvenirs. She had worked from 7 am to 10 pm from when they land to when they took off apart from a two hour break one afternoon which she spent sleeping.

Many Ministers (and staff) do have punishing schedules on their trips. I suggest that the fairest thing would be for the itineraries for the travel in question to be released, so people can judge the value for the $131,000. Duncan Garner blogs that he has asked the Cabinet Office for the travel reports but for some reason this will take at least another week.

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20 years of NZ Internet

May 4th, 2009 at 12:44 pm by David Farrar

I was on Media 7 last week with Russell Brown, Nat Torkington and Colin Jackson discussing 20 years of the Internet in NZ. It was a fun discussion and reminded me of how much we take for granted today, and how different the world was before the Internet.

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Kiwi Foo Camp

March 4th, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

A belated post about the great experience that was 2009 Kiwi Foo Camp.

The first question people have, is what does Foo stand for.  Foo stands for Friends of O’Reilly – that being Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media.

Kiwi Foo Camp is a local version organised by Nat Torkington (and his wife) who works for O’Reilly. It is for “technology industry people and policy makers”.

This was the first one I had been invited to – they are invite only, and I was thrilled to be invited and pleasantly surprised by how many people I knew there – and even more pleased to meet dozens of new people.

There are a number of great things about Foo Camp. The first is that there are no stupid people there. Yes, I know that sounds a bit wanky, but what I mean is everyone there was interesting, and interested. It is a retreat for those who are intellectually curious. You get to have a range of discussions that are stimulating, and fascinating. You also learn how much you don’t know.

The second great things is there is no agenda. It is an un-conference. What do I mean by that? Well when we get there on Friday, we work out the agenda by ourselves. And no not by sitting in a big circle – more like a human Wiki.

There are six classrooms available and around twelve slots on Saturday and Sunday morning. So they have up on the wall the 72 session slots. And any attendee who wants to speak on a subject just writes on a large sticky what their topic is in a sentence, and sticks it in a slot. And eventually you have all 72 slots filled.

But even better, you can change things around. For example there was a session on fibre to the home and on copyright laws at the same time in different rooms. So I just unilaterally moved one session to another time. And other people could and did move sessions about so they could attend the ones they want. And whatever we end up with by end of Friday night is the agenda, so to speak.

There were sessions on everything from highly geekly programming stuff, to digital photography to surviving the recession to ideas for Bill English to grow the economy etc etc.

On Saturday evening we had a great debate with Russell Brown, Rod Oram, Bernard Hickey and others debating “Is New Zealand fucked?”. The debate itself was funny enough, but at the end every audience member could also get up and speak for 30 seconds on their view – but they had to start with “Fucked” or “Not Fucked”. Apart from the hilarity of hearing the F word around 300 times, there was also some great insights into NZ.

I observed a great game of Werewolf, with around 30 participants on Saturday Night. Next time I’ll join in, now I know the rules.

Kiwi Foo Camp wasn’t just a talkfest. It is also where key people came together to further the anti S92A “guilt by accusation” campaign. We had a great session brainstorming ideas (such as the Blackout), and also had a session on the long term issues around copyright law internationally and domestically. Kiwi Foo Camp made a real difference to stopping S92A having come into effect last month.

The Kiwi Foo mailing list sort of got hijacked after the event to co-ordinate the campaign, and at its peak there were 200+ messages a day – almost impossible to keep up – but worth it.

So all in all, a great experience was Kiwi Foo Camp. And big kudos to not just the organisers such as Nate, Jenine and Russell – but also the wonderful catering squad who fed us so well.

Other blogs coming out of Foo Camp are this post by Lawrence Millar (NZ Govt CIO), The Strategist and Artifical Code.

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Interesting aspects to the blackout

February 17th, 2009 at 12:18 pm by David Farrar

Whale Oil notes that thousands of users have blacked out their facebook and twitter pages in protest against S92A.

What surpises me is two of the blackouts on Twitter – TVNZ News and TV3 News.

Netguide also reports:

British humourist, broadcaster, author and technofreak Stephen Fry has added his support to online campaigns against New Zealand’s new copyright legislation, which would require ISPs to disconnect customers accused of downloading copyright material.

Go Stephen Fry.

Russell Brown also makes many great points today:

It is not only that this law denies the accused any due process, it is that it stipulates a penalty that no court would impose in adjudicating a copyright complaint even if infringement were proven. Remarkably, someone convicted in a court of law of handling child pornography via the internet would not suffer such a penalty.

It is quite proper to seek efficient ways of adjudicating legal disputes, but the problem with Section 92(A) is that it places the adjudication of a legal dispute either in the hands of parties who are not competent to make such decisions (ISPs and telecommunications companies), or (in the approach endorsed by RIANZ’ Campbell Smith) in the hands of one party to the dispute. To say this isn’t ideal is putting it mildly.

I actually think a dispute resolution service is the kry to solving this argument.  The system used for .nz domain name disputes (which is basically an intellectural property dispute resolution process) could be used as a basis for a online copyrightdispute resolution service.

Germany and the EU have both rejected the idea as a breach of civil rights, with the German Secretary of Justice observing in a statement that:

I don’t think that (Three Strikes) is a fitting model for Germany or even Europe. Preventing someone from accessing the Internet seems like a completely unreasonable punishment to me. It would be highly problematic due to both constitutional and political aspects.

The UK has rejected it also.

One argument in favour of 92(A) is that the doom is exaggerated, and that rights holders will be visible and responsible, and would not make frivolous complaints. One would hope this would be the case, because a penalty for frivolous accusations was removed from the amendment bill.

Yes they removed the penalty for false complaints.

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Progress on copyright

September 25th, 2008 at 1:18 pm by David Farrar

I blogged last week on the new copyright law, and how the provision about ISPs having to terminate Internet access for repeat infringers was causing huge problems.

The good news is the Government seems to be listening. IT Brief reports:

The government has bowed to unprecedented ICT industry pressure, announcing a four-month moratorium on Section 92A of its new Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Act.

Communications minister David Cunliffe revealed the back-down during the InternetNZ TVNZ7 Internet Debate held on Tuesday night, saying the delay would give the industry and content providers time to come up with an alternative approach to controlling copyright on the internet.

The debate incidentially went really well I thought. Possibly could have been a bit shorter, but we had a good mixture of politics and policy. There was some generally good natured sparring that kept it interesting, but also some useful and interesting policy discussions around broadband, copyright, filtering etc.

From a technical point of view it was pretty seamless as we took questions from journalists, from the studio audience, from the online chat channel and also video questions through Skype. The InternetNZ staff and TVNZ staff and contractors did very well making it happen. Several people said they would like to see more debates with that interactive format.

Damien, Russell and Fran were all good at challenging the MPs, quite aggressively at times.

The funninest part for me was Maurice WIlliamson saying he had no idea why he voted for the new copyright law, as it is such a stupid law. I thought Maurice did very well, but in fact all four MPs did well with strengths in different areas.

You can view the video of the whole thing at debate.net.nz.

Anyway back to copyright. The Dominion Post also reports:

Paul Moreno, a spokesman for Justice Minister Judith Tizard, said a delay to regulations required to put the cut-off clause into force was being considered, and that the delay might be “endless”.

“Judith is of the mind that Internet access is almost a human right now, similar to water and electricity.”

But Ms Tizard then appeared to toughen her stance, stressing that the Government was concerned to protect copyright holders.

And it is important to protect copyright holders. But look at the gap between the possible interpretations:

Ms Tizard would not say whether the intention was that the cut-off threat should apply only to people who had been repeatedly convicted of copyright offences, or to those who had been accused of infringements by bodies such as the Recording Industry Association – indicating it had been left deliberately unclear.

“The intention of this provision is to provide a framework for the ISP industry and rights holders to develop an efficient and effective mechanism that is workable for both parties.”

Telecommunications Carriers Forum chief executive Ralph Chivers said if the former definition was used, that might be one solution.

But Recording Industry Association chief executive Campbell Smith said that would not be acceptable as it would require copyright holders to sue infringers to prove their guilt. “That is just impractical and ridiculous. I don’t think that is what was intended.”

Instead, ISPs should cut off customers who infringed copyright after notifications from rights holders, he said.

Losing your Internet access on the basis of unproven accusations is not a goer for me.

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Russell Brown on Peters

September 25th, 2008 at 11:43 am by David Farrar

Russell Brown is not too happy with Labour on Peters:

The failure of the Labour members of the privileges committee to find with the multi-party majority that Winston Peters had provided “false or misleading information on a return of pecuniary interests” was pathetic, and they know it.

And later on:

I hold no brief for Peters, and I suspect there will be worse to come on his and his party’s affairs. I think Chris Trotter’s comparison of the privileges committee’s action to a lynching (he even has a picture of a man being lynched on his blog) is revolting.

There is an interesting split occurring on the left. There are those who are disgusted with Labour and willing to say so. And there are those who are hugging Winston closer and closer and trying to turn him into a martyr and a hero.

Russell of course also has a go at John Key, linking to the editorial in today’s Herald about him. I have previously blogged my criticism of the Tranzrail responses, along with my relief that unlike Peters and Clark who never admit they do anything wrong, Key did admit his mistakes.

I have said for some time that this election is National’s, unless they stuff up. This is not an impossibility, to put it mildly. It would be an incredible shame if they do stuff up, and we get a fourth term of Clark and Peters. They say we get the Government we deserve but seriously we’re not that bad are we?

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Wikipedia editing

September 10th, 2008 at 7:22 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald has a story on edits done to Wikipedia by Aaron Bhatnagar, highlighted a few days ago by Russell Brown.

Auckland City councillor Aaron Bhatnagar has been caught doctoring the online encyclopedia Wikipedia to paint his opponents in a bad light at last year’s local body elections.

Using the alias of Barzini _ a power-hungry psychopath from Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather _ Mr Bhatnagar created entries for his Action Hobson opponents in the Hobson ward and made unflattering changes to the entry for Mayor Dick Hubbard.

After winning a council seat and watching Action Hobson councillors Christine Caughey and Richard Simpson go down to a C&R rout in Hobson, Mr Bhatnagar tried to remove the Wikipedia entries for his opponents at 3am the following morning.

An unrepentant Mr Bhatnagar yesterday admitted setting up and editing entries against his opponents on Wikipedia, but claimed everything he said was true, such as broken promises on rates. He said Wikipedia was self-regulating and a community where everyone could have a say. There were mechanisms to delete or rewrite entries. …

Mr Brown yesterday said anyone could edit an entry in Wikipedia, but the main barrier was ethical. There was a Wikipedia rule that stated it should not be used as a soapbox. “I think his behaviour is incredibly inappropriate. It was really the wrong thing to do,” Mr Brown said.

I agree that the editing was inappropriate. It wasn’t vandalism (this is vandalism), but it is inadvisable to make questionable changes to topics you have a vested interest in.

This isn’t an absolute. I’ve made some changes to articles on National and the 2005 funding controversy. But when they are political topics, I try and be extra careful that the edits are neutral point of view. Also I try to avoid edit wars by sometimes using the Talk page on a topic to propose a change. For example the debate over whether Adam Hamilton or George Forbes was the first Leader of the National Party (I say Hamilton, not Forbes).

UPDATE: A commenter has pointed to some Wiki vandalism done by IP address 122.57.62.181 and 125.239.124.113, where the author signed a comment on a talk page as philu. The Phil U who posts here has told me it was not him, he has never edited Wikipedia. He has also never commented here from those IP address which are on the Telecom network, and Phil is on Woosh. So I take his word it was not him, and the person who did the edits either signed his name falsely or maybe has the same first name and initial.

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Brown vs Hooton

August 29th, 2008 at 11:26 am by David Farrar

Russell Brown attempted the impossible today – a defence of the PM. To be fair to Russell, he did praise Phil Kitchin and Audrey Young for bringing this all too light, but he offers an explanation for why Clark did nothing:

Perhaps we should deal with that first. Why on earth would Helen Clark have decided not to implicitly trust Owen Glenn when he told her that? One reason is simpler than you might think: Glenn had recently given interviews in which his recollection of the timing and purpose of his donations to her own party was demonstrably off the planet.

Shortly before Glenn told Clark that he had made a donation directly to New Zealand First, he gave an interview to the Dominion Post’s Kim Ruscoe in which he said he had donated his $500,000 to Labour’s 2005 campaign because he was concerned about the “sneaky” influence of the Exclusive Brethren on the election.

This simply could not have been true: the Brethren flap blew up only weeks before polling day 2005. Glenn’s donation was made — and properly declared — in two chunks in 2003 and 2004. It was all cheerily reported in the Herald in June 2005 — four months before anyone outside the Brethren and some people in the National Party knew that the Brethren was involved in the campaign at all.

And yet here he was, in February 2008, giving an account that seemed to have sprung entirely from his imagination. In the same interview, Glenn also made the unlikely claim that Clark had seriously suggested he could be her Minister of Transport if he would but return to New Zealand. Glenn subsequently admitted he’d been big-noting to a lady reporter.

So if you’d been wondering — as Messrs Farrar and Hooton have been doing very loudly — how Clark could possibly have doubted the recollection of a prominent party donor over the word of her foreign minister, that’s it. Glenn, successful businessman and excellent philanthropist that he is, had been demonstrating that he was not necessarily a reliable witness. Clark did, we now know, take the matter seriously enough to place an urgent call to Peters in South Africa. But we can perhaps understand her reluctance to pull the pin by calling her minister a liar.

I was going to do a detailed response to this but Matthew Hooton has done it for me in the comments.

I have wondered no such thing. What I wonder about is why, when Clark was told by Peters that he received no such money, she didn’t go back to Glenn (or get someone else to) and say, “Hey, Owen, Winston says you didn’t give him money. What’s the story here?’

And when Peters held up his “No” sign and said someone was fabricating emails and that Audrey Young was making up stories and should resign, along with her editor, Clark (or one of her staff) never went and said: “Ah, Winston, this is getting a bit hot. Are you sure that he never gave you money?”

Again, when the matter came up again in July, it seems incredible Clark (or her staff) didn’t say: “Come on Winston, what’s the story here, because Owen is adament he did give you money.”

And, Russell, your claim that Glenn was not necessarily a reliable witness should surely be balanced by the fact that the Foreign Minister is hardly a reliable witness either. Remember the Russian submarines he reckoned were operating off Great Barrier Island in the 1980s? Or the ferry that scraped its bottom in Tory Channel. Or that Selwyn Cushing tried to bribe him? Or that the SFO and the IRD were involved in a criminal conspiracy to cover up the winebox issue? Or that he would never serve in a Cabinet with Birch and Shipley?

When it comes to reliable witnesses, it is not obvious to me why you would back one over the other perhaps, but to back Peters over Glenn after a single phone call, and then stay silent for six months while Peters was making such strong attacks on people like Audrey Young seems to me to be an extreme case of “see no evil”. Helen Clark is hardly someone who does not gossip and exchange information very widely.

Also, I have noticed an extraordinary trend by so-called liberals to almost go on the defence for Peters. As usual, the people at thestandard.org.nz are the worst offenders, but I understand from one genuine liberal who attended Drinking Liberally this week that there was alarming levels of support for one of the most reactionary, illiberal and racist MPs we have seen in recent times, and one who has done tremendous harm to the integrity of our political system (and continues to do so this very day).

When are Labour-leaning people going to say no to Peters in the way many National-leaning people, particularly those of us on the socially liberal wing of the party, did some years ago?

I would add on an extra point to what Matthew said.

There is a world of difference between someone being wrong on minor details like dates, exact conversations etc and being wrong on whether or not you wrote out a cheque for $100,000. It defies credibility that Helen Clark could have had a good faith belief that Owen Glenn would not know he had written out a cheque for $100,000. Exactly who it went to he may be unsure on – but not the fact it was made, and who solicited it.

As Matthew says, all Helen had to do was make one extra phone call.

UPDATE: Another key point is this was not a situation where one had to try and work out who was telling the truth, because the truth was a matter of provable fact – was a donation made, and to whom? If Peters and Glenn were disagreeing over who said what at the races, then the PM could well be in the position of not being able to resolve it. But this was a disagreement over a factual event – a donation. Facts are easy to establish – again it would have taken on more phone call. The simple truth is Clark knew Glenn was telling the truth, but did not want to have it proven. She was happy for her Foreign Minister to keep telling lies for six months, when she could have established the facts in a phone call.

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The Veitch leaks

August 26th, 2008 at 1:18 pm by David Farrar

Quite a bit of discussion regarding the ongoing media stories in the Veitch case. Bill Ralston wants an investigation:

What ever happened to the laws of sub judicae? The weekend’s Sunday Star Times and Herald on Sunday both reported at length on the nature and detail of the charges faced by Tony Veitch.

In theory the sub judicae rule bars any public comment on a matter before the courts that is likely to influence the case. Failure to observe this rule means the publisher and anyone else involved in publicising the material could face contempt of court charges.

The reason for the rule is simple: pre-trial publicity can potentially sway a jury.

The Sunday papers had far more information than was made public in Veitch’s first and only court appearance. They detailed the nature of the alleged assaults and the context in which they supposedly occurred.

Steven Price is less concerned:

Some defence lawyers have been getting their knickers in a knot about reporting on the Veitch case in yesterday’s Sunday Star-Times and Herald on Sunday.

Can’t say I share their concerns. Certainly, now that charges have been laid, publishing material that tends to create a real risk of prejudice to Veitch’s trial will be a contempt of court. But there doesn’t seem to be much in these stories to create such a risk.

They essentially summarise the police allegations. It looks like they came from the police summary of facts. The papers reported them as allegations. They note that Veitch denies them. They don’t get into assessing the evidence. They have reported no more than is almost certain to come out in depositions. Any trial is a good long way away, so any possible effect on jurors is almost sure to dissipate.

Russell Brown also thinks the leaks are getting too much:

That’s three weeks by my count. Three weeks of stories being placed with the Sunday newspapers by persons unknown, but — at the least in the case of the last lot — very likely to be playing for Team Tony Veitch. Because, frankly, there aren’t many other people it could be. …

Perhaps I’m being unfair to all three reporters. Perhaps they all came up with the same information through their own initiative and contacts. Maybe both sides are working them (and it may well be that the first media outreach in this sorry business came from the Dunne-Powell side). But it looks a lot more like they’re now allowing themselves to be used in a methodical public relations campaign by one side: that of the celebrity accused. And they, and their editors, should think about that.

I do wonder if this court case will see higher bills from the lawyers or the PR teams :-)

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Quote of the Week

July 22nd, 2008 at 11:05 am by David Farrar

Scrubone comments on a new blog called The Hairy Armpit which is meant to be rather offensive. It is being talked about a bit because Russell Brown was happy to link to it but not happy to link to Whale Oil.

Personally I don’t care who links to who, but I did love Scrubone’s description of The Hairy Armpit:

The irony was that it was a post from Russel at Hard News where he refused to link to Whaleoil. Frankly, if you turned Cam into a women, feminist, cut of a leg or something to make him really mad then removed his remaining inhibitions and decency via a combination of “P” (Ice for you foreign looking types :P ) and acid then you’d get the Hairy Armpit.

I now have a visual image of Cameron as a one legged woman high on P and acid!

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McCully on Music Month

May 2nd, 2008 at 3:26 pm by David Farrar

People may have noted over time how Labour seems to try and turn every Government opportunity into a partisan event for Labour. One disgraceful recent incident was the attempt to have a medal ceremony for bravery awards in the Labour Party Caucus room.

Murray McCully points out in today’s newsletter the Music Month launch this week:

New Zealanders are now familiar with the sense of entitlement that has become the hallmark of the Clark Labour Government.  Another little reminder of this most unlovely characteristic came this week with the launch of New Zealand Music Month.  Most would consider such an event an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the New Zealand music industry.  But for Judith Tizard and her colleagues it was merely another opportunity to utilise taxpayers’ funds to undertake a bit of gentle marketing for the Labour Party.

The New Zealand Music Commission receives over $1million a year from the taxpayers of New Zealand.  Some of these funds, no doubt, were used to host this week’s Music Month launch event in Wellington.  And a small clue as to the political character of the event may lie in the fact that the National Party spokesman on Arts and Culture, Christopher Finlayson, was not invited to an event hosted by a taxpayer-owned body – the NZ Music Commission.  Never mind.  We are sure that Mr Finlayson as a scholarly and courtly individual will most certainly not harbour a grudge if he finds himself as Minister for this body in six months time.

Stung by her shameful exclusion from the group of prime female vocalists who entertained the Labour Party Conference (the various nicknames for which do not bear repeating in a newsletter with such a cultured readership)  Ms Tizard was apparently determined to make amends.  She climbed onto the stage to accompany musician Chris Knox (yes, the same one you would have seen performing at Labour Party conferences). And witnesses report that she would indeed have made a valuable addition to the Labour Conference quartet.

Towards the end of the Knox/Tizard number, she was apparently joined by completely non-political and dispassionate media commentator Russell Brown (yes, the same one used by state television on channel 7), at the same time as Knox could be heard by the video microphones making a disparaging remark about National MP Katherine Rich.  All in all, another day in the life of the New Zealand Music Commission branch of the Labour Party.

This is not an isolated incident. People will recall the disgraceful behaviour towards Don Brash a couple of years ago at another government funded arts event.

The Dominion Post also has an article on the launch and reports on Judith’s response upon being told she failed music quiz (to be fair I am sure I would fail it also):

“I don’t know the details, honey; I just write the policy and ask for the money.”

Indeed. And very successful at it also – the asking that is.

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Debate on Absolute Power

April 30th, 2008 at 11:17 am by David Farrar

Poneke has blogged a review of Absolute Power, and there is a vigorous debate in the comments section, including author Ian Wishart, Keri Hulme, Russell Brown and even Kay Goodger who is featured in the book. My favourite point is when Ian Wishart labels Danyl M as “slippery”. The tag is catching on!

Incidentally I suspect the book is selling well. Both times I have been in book stories in the last week, and people ahead of me in the queue were buying a copy.

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Blog Comments on National’s Fibre to the Home Plan

April 23rd, 2008 at 3:30 pm by David Farrar

It has been interesting to see the various posts and press releases on National’s Fibre proposal. I’ll try and cover most of them:

Phil at Whoar labels it as “what could well be an election winning policy.

Bomber at Tumeke calls it a “Bloody good idea”. Heh shouldn’t that be damn good idea :-)

Mike at Morphyoss says:

“good on you National for releasing a good policy that will massively benefit New Zealand should they win the election. Now it is up to Labour to respond, remember fibre is extremely important to our economy and it is important that labour do something about that or they will lose the election”

David Slack at Public Address is unimpressed with some of the arguments against:

Here’s my response to the snide folk who have been saying: faster downloading for your YouTube and your porn and your pirated movies. I spend thousands on hosting in the USA because no-one here can set me up with a fast enough server and a big enough data allowance. That money could be being spent here. Ask Rod Drury what it could mean for the Software As A Service businesses he’s involved in.

It’s becoming trite to say it, but it’s nonetheless true: internet infrastructure is as important to us as roads, railways and refrigerated ships. Why not have it in abundance, rather than relatively scarce and expensive? Let a thousand e-commerce sites bloom!

Business NZ says

National’s plan to speed up provision of broadband to most premises is welcome, says Business NZ.

Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly says a public-private partnership is a logical way to spread the cost of such a huge undertaking.

“The challenge would be in working out just how the partnership would operate to ensure as many investors as possible could contribute, and in finding an appropriate regulatory regime.”

The EPMU is also reasonably supportive:

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union says John Key’s policy of rolling out fibre optic cable to 75% of New Zealand homes is a step in the right direction, but is concerned the task may be impossible given the current skills shortage.

“We really want to see this sort of project happen as any investment that will increase productivity in New Zealand is good for our members but until we see details on wages and training around this it’s hard to see how fibre roll-out will be possible.”

In terms of the issues the EPMU raises about skills and capacity, I don’t think it will be a major barrier (but certainly is a factor). When InternetNZ met with David Skilling of the NZ Institute last week to discuss his fibre proposal, one of the issues we raised was whether there was enough capacity to physically get fibre laid out by 2018 (note National is proposing 2014 as a target). Off memory Skilling indicated that they had talked to two separate engineering firms and their advice was there was enough people and and capacity to do it within 10 years, and even within five years if you really pushed it.

Now that is second or third hand so it doesn’t mean there may not be issues, but it does show some work has already been done looking at the capacity issue. One reason it is important is if supply can not meet the demand, prices could go up significantly. This has been an issue in the roading sector.

Jordan Carter is also pleased:

I am pleased that with John Key’s policy proposal, launched yesterday at a Chamber of Commerce lunch in Wellington, the debate about New Zealand’s broadband future has shifted from “whether” to do fibre to the home, to “how and how soon” to do it.

Professionally speaking, I am pleased there is now a political commitment from one major party to putting money into this. I am looking forward to assessing the various plans that come forward, and I’m sure that InternetNZ will be looking to persuade all parties to invest in this critical infrastructure.

As a Labour person I am quite sure the Nats’ proposal can be bettered, and that Labour will do so. David Cunliffe’s comments have critiqued what the Nats have proposed – the specifics of it, such as they are – but he has not criticised the goal. That’s good, because it is important for New Zealand to get on with it.

As Jordan says, the ball is in Labour’s court. A win-win will be as many parties as possible commited to the goal.

Final point, I ended up next to Williamson at the launch lunch. His zeal for this is impressive, given his record in government. It’s nice to see a genuine change of view and broad, cross-party acknowledgement of the importance of this kind of technology.

I was at the same table, and it is generous of Jordan to note Maurice’s enthusiastic advocacy of this proposal. Some have suggested he would have problems with it, but far from that – he has helped John Key with a fair bit of the research going into this.

In fact I joked to one person, that Maurice was now so enthusiastic about this type of intervention, it was a bit like how a smoker who gives up smoking becomes the most passionate anti-smoker :-)

Also somewhat amusing was that a fellow guest at our table (not knowing Jordan’s political background I think) stated his view that Labour had done an awful job in this area. Now the last thing one wants is a big political debate over lunch, so Jordan was being very tactful with his response. I actually interjected into the conversation and praised most of what Labour and David Cunliffe has done in this area, and said the work they had done to date built a good base, but this was really about taking a big step up from that base.

Anyway I found it amusing to be defending Labour’s record in this area, in front of National’s IT/Comms spokesperson. I must say though I was disappointed with Cunliffe’s response to the policy, but I suppose he didn’t have much choice unless he could convince Michael Cullen to lend him a quick $1.5 billion :-)

Finally on the luke-warm but positive side we have Russell Brown at Public Address:

National’s new $1.5 billion broadband spending proposal — it’s a bit soon to be calling it a “plan” — is nothing if not ambitious: 75% of homes with fibre connectivity in by 2014 is not a goal that has been envisaged as realistic before.

It is ambitious.

The initial step is a doubled of the Broadband Challenge Fund to $48 million, and there’s a very welcome commitment to “open access” (whether that means dark fibre or open access on the operator’s terms isn’t clear). There’s no indication as to whether National is talking about a monolithic FibreCo-style operator, or multiple providers whose interconnection is subject to regulation.

They are critical details, and that is why it is not planned any actual digging and laying will start until 2010. One has to get the structure and policy right and you really need time to do that. However while those details are being worked out there are things one can do in the very short-term which will make the task easier – such as ensuring duct or fibe is laid every time a current road is dug up. Some firm guidance (or instructions!) to local government can help reduce the cost a lot, as can environmental regulations.

What benefits would this massive investment bring over new DSL technologies via the existing residential copper network? For a start, it would work as advertised: 24Mbit/s DSL is more a theory than a reality for most users (although Telecom’s programme to bring the fibre closer via cabinetisation will help) and it’s extremely asymmetric — much fast down than back up. The problem of long cable runs basically disappears when you install fibre. You’d be doing it eventually anyway: when the existing copper expires, there’s no point in replacing it with more copper.

Absolutely. Fibre to the Home is inevitable. It is just a matter of timing – do we want to wait until 2040 and be last in the OECD, or try and secure some advantages by being early, to counteract our geographical disadvantage.

Russell also points some credit my way for “tireless advocacy”. While obviously I am an advocate, and have been for some time, I don’t think anyone should doubt this came about because of John Key’s personal belief and commitment to this infrastructure investment. I understand he has spent scores of hours in talks and discussions on the issue, and probably knows the ins and outs better than most industry specialists now.

Two others who are influential and helped make it happen were Maurice WIlliamson and Bill English. Jordan Carter has already noted Maurice’s passion for this plan. Bill has had a bit of stick for his comments a year ago which were sceptical of crown investment. The role of the Shadow Minister of Finance is to be sceptical and hard nosed on colleagues spending ambitions. I wouldn’t quite say his or her initial response should always be no, but hey it’s a reasonable negotiating position to start from :-)

I am not Bill’s spokesperson (for which we are both grateful :-) ) but I think people will find he is fully behind the initiative (in fact I understand all of Caucus is quite wildly enthusiastic about it) and his job is to help make it happen as Minister of Finance. If anyone thinks there is some violent behind the scenes struggle about this policy, I think they will be sadly disappointed.

Now of course not everyone has been positive, and for those who want a libertarian critique I refer you to Liberty Scott who labels it as Think Big Mark II and argues in favour of leaving it to the market.

Also against is NZ First (they just whine about Telecom) and Kiwiblogblog which claims it will be wasteful government spending as we will never need home Internet speeds faster than Telecom’s ADSL2+ rollout.

Sounds to me a bit like the infamous “640K ought to be enough for anybody” statement in 1981, attributed to (and denied by) Bill Gates. I am very confident they will be wrong by similar levels of magnitude!

UPDATE: The Standard has also come out against it.

I think it is has been extremely enlightening that basically all the left wing blogs where the authors use their real names have been supportive of the policy, while the left wing blogs where the authors are anonymous are against. I’ll leave it to others to draw conclusions on whether this is a coincidence or not, and what this may indicate about who the authors are.

UPDATE2: I missed a couple of comments. No Right Turn labels the policy as good at first glance. And since I wrote the blog post, Dancer at The Standard has labelled the policy as a good thing.

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Climate Change Censorship

April 18th, 2008 at 10:40 am by David Farrar

A lot has been written about the Listener’s dumping of “Ecologic” columnist Dave Hansford and whether it was linked to a complaint by Bryan Leyland – a prominent sceptic.

John Drinnan covers it in the Herald.

But Listener editor Pamela Stirling is insisting that the two events are unconnected and that she is losing a staffer because of budget cuts.

Wellington freelance journalist Dave Hansford has been the ecological columnist since November.

He has had differences of opinion with Stirling during much of that time and on occasion was asked to changed the tone of the column.

Hansford would not be the only staffer who has had differences of opinion with the Editor.

Stirling says Hansford was only ever hired as a short-term position for two months and the column was now being written by a staffer.

But it’s clear that Stirling’s approach to the eco-column – like her approach to the Listener – has been a lot more right of centre than the line of the old days.

Stirling took over in 2004 and she says that for a long time the Listener had been the house journal of the Alliance Party.

Stirling says the magazine is more centrist and allows everyone to express a view.

It was indeed the Alliance house journal. not that I had a problem with that – if enough people want to buy the Listener as a left wing magazine, good on them. And if enough want to buy it as a centrist magazine also good on them.

Poneke blogs on the issue also. Likewise Russell Brown. And the issue was first raised on the very good Hot Topic blog.

Meanwhile in Australia they have the opposite issue with Earth Day. The Melbourne Age is known to be a very left wing paper. I doubt more than 5% of their journalists vote Liberal/National. But even they have protested about the editor forcing them to write supportive material for Earth Day. Read this story in The Australian:

In a statement accompanying the resolution, staff said the Earth Hour partnership placed basic journalistic principles in jeopardy: “Reporters were pressured not to write negative stories and story topics followed a schedule drafted by Earth Hour organisers.”

Andrew Bolt points out:

In a statement of protest last week, 235 Age journalists confirmed that their coverage of last month’s Earth Hour had been, in effect, propaganda.

“Reporters were pressured not to write ‘negative’ stories and story topics followed a schedule drafted by Earth Hour organisers,” they said. 

That confession came after the ABC’s Media Watch released an embarrassing email sent by the green group WWF to Age editor-in-chief Andrew Jaspan under the creepy header Re: Any last requests?.

In it, WWF staffer Fiona Poletti replied she indeed had more requests, and told Jaspan to run three more puff pieces for Earth Hour, a stunt in which readers were told to help save the planet from global warming by turning off lights for an hour.

Here’s one: “We would love the fashion story to get a good run. This has been given to Orietta and is about the fashion industry’s unified support for Earth Hour.”

WWF ordered, Jaspan obeyed. The Age dutifully ran that story, under the headline: “Fashionistas no dummies when it comes to be switching off.”

WWF’s request for a second story on businesses backing Earth Hour? Also obeyed. On cities around the world joining in? Obeyed. In each case Jaspan had journalists writing, albeit unwittingly, to a green group’s script.

Bolt also observes:

The joke is most Age journalists are so green they don’t need to be pushed to preach this gospel. But their bosses’ prodding changes everything.

What a reporter may freely write as news becomes propaganda if he or she is not free to report all the relevant facts. So all Age journalists writing about Earth Hour, or global warming, must for now be considered propagandists.

Too harsh? Then consider: after all that pushing of the green line by Age bosses, which staff writer would dare write that global warming in fact may have stalled, with oceans cooling and the planet not heating since 1998? Indeed, none has.

Which Age staffer would dare write that Earth Hour actually saved so little in greenhouse gases that just eight cars will make good those emissions in a year? Again, none has.

And finally Bolt uses his own situation as an example of how editorial independence should be preserved:

Responsible newspapers at least try to ensure their staff know they are still free to dissent and report inconvenient truths, which is why I’m still here, writing as I do, even after our boss Rupert Murdoch last year said it was time to “give the planet the benefit of the doubt” with global warming.

Yep, that is how it should be.

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Poneke on Meningococcal B

April 16th, 2008 at 12:50 pm by David Farrar

Poneke has his usual trademark lengthy and well researched post on the Meningococcal B immunisation campaign and laments that the media treat actual doctors and scientists with more scepticism than the fantastic claims often made by alternative medicine promoters.

The comments are interesting with Russell Brown explaining his views and involvement, and also a supportive comment by David Cunliffe for the post. Excellent to see Ministers making comments on blogs.

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Copyright changes

April 11th, 2008 at 11:48 am by David Farrar

Been meaning to blog on this since the changes to the Copyright Act were passed on Tuesday with all but the Greens and the Maori Party against. It would be a very very close call, but if I was a (non whipped) MP I would probably have voted against as the law is so inconsistent. The major points:

  • One can now legally format shift music (say from a CD you purchase to an Ipod), but music labels can opt out of allowing this in their sale conditions.
  • However you can not format shift other works, such as a movie from a DVD to your laptop or to a Video Ipod.
  • It is legal to record a TV programme to watch it later, but you can only legally keep it for as long as is reasonable to have viewed it at a more convenient time.
  • ISPs have been given an exemeption for their technical operations, such as caching files, which in theory can breach copyright.
  • Content Hosters though have only limited liability for material uploaded by their customers. If they receive a complaint alleging a copyright infringement, the ISP becomes liable unless they delete the material. This means in the case of disputes, the ISP has to act as Judge and Jury or risk being sued, and there is some evidnece from overseas that (for example) the Church of Scientology uses such copyright laws as a way to silence critics.
  • A “notice and notice” regime was rejected in favour of the US style “notice and takedown described above. The NaN regime would have meant that if a content hoster receives a complaint, they must pass it onto their customer. If the customer does not respond or agrees to remove the material, then it is taken down. However if the customer disputes they are infringing copyright, then the ISP is not held liable, but merely provides the customer’s details to the complainant so they can negotiate or sort it out in court directly.
  • The law enshrines special protection for technological protection devices, even though they can sometimes restrict people from legal actions such as making backup copies, or format shifting. TPMs are hugely unpopular and most of the music industry are dropping them.

Has been lots of comments in various areas. First of all Canadian Professor Michael Geist (a expert and advocate for fair use copyright laws) says the law isn’t great but a lot better than what was planned for Canada. He thinks the parts dealing with circumventing TPMs are pretty good.

Steven Price has an excellent post on the notice and takedown regime, its strengths and weaknesses.  I think the Minister, Judith Tizard, has also indicated they will look in future at stronger fair use provisions, which could help.

Russell Brown blogged on the law also.  InternetNZ (I chaired their working group on this issue) calls it a missed opportunity, which it is.

On the bright side, the MPAA is looking a movie download site in NZ, where people can purchase movies. This is a laudable idea, as it is important that people are given legal avenues to access material. We have had the situation in the past where one could not purchase music legally for your Ipod in NZ, and where popular TV shows are not available here for months and months after they show overseas.  The world is a global market, and making works available globally for legal purchase and download will help reduce illegal downloads.

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Blog Bits

March 3rd, 2008 at 6:32 pm by David Farrar

Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic blogs on the numbers showing how tough it will be for Hillary Clinton to pull back Obama’s lead. He finds that even a rosy scenario has Clinton only reducing Obama’s lead by 60 – 80 delegates.

Colin Espiner blogs on the latest polls.

Keeping Stock blogs a quote from Helen Clark on the sacking of the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board:

“But my view is that I don’t really care what the rights and wrongs of what was going on within the board are – I don’t believe that you can run a decent health service for the people of Hawke’s Bay while that is going on.”

I should think the PM should deeply care about the rights and wrongs.  The members of the DHB whose reputations are affected by this sacking certainly care.

Russell Brown comments on his blog on the context around the photo of him at the Hero Debate.

Whale Oil has a video on Labour’s health problems.

Paul Walker has a hilarious video on economics.  Yes seriously it is funny.

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Friday Photos

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

A couple of fun photos people have pointed out to me. First do you remember how hard Helen worked not to be seen with Owen Glenn last week. I don’t think the media managed to get a photo of them together. But good old Owen has put the photo below on his website.

UPDATE: The photo it appears is from 2005 when he first announced the donation. Still it’s a photo the PM doesn’t want seen I bet :-)

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She still doesn’t look happy though!

And then we have (hat tip: mccully.co) this photo from the Hero Debate.

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I hope they are on commission for any membership money they raised. And hey as Winston says you can get up to $158,000 from lots of small donations.

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