Editorials 19 March 2010

March 19th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Three editorials on Waihopai. First the Herald:

Infamously, former Telecom chief executive Theresa Gattung once admitted her company used confusion as a marketing tool. For quite some time, it worked.

A similar strategy employed by three men who broke into the Waihopai spy base near Blenheim in 2008 and slashed an inflatable plastic dome covering a satellite dish has enjoyed equal success. Various wishy-washy defences have proved sufficient to befuddle a jury in the Wellington District Court, leading to the trio’s acquittal. …

The acquittal will not set a legal precedent. That is the domain of judges, not juries. But it will probably encourage others who have attacked public property to mount the same defence.

The widespread disbelief that has greeted this decision means any such attempt will surely fall on stony ground. Clearly, that should have been the case this time, as well.

And the Press:

The question now is whether the decision will set a precedent. Legally, a decision by a district court jury does not create a precedent.

But it is likely that others charged with offences related to a cause which they passionately believe in will attempt to use the Waihopai defence.

An example might be an anti-abortionist charged with damaging a hospital where abortions were performed.

Which is what you get when people think their beliefs put them above the law.

And the ODT:

It is plain fact that state borders do not deter terrorists and criminals in the digital age yet citizens continue to rely on the State to protect both themselves and the nation’s borders. The Waihopai station must be considered to be part of that obligation but it seems hardly ever to be considered that its activities may well be saving lives, including within this country’s borders.

However much some sincere objectors may dislike it and what it represents, can they offer a practical and reliable alternative to hold secure the safety of the nation and its citizens?

That’s disapproval all round.

The Dom Post breaks the pattern and talks about former Auckland Museum director Vanda Vitali:

The not unexpected resignation of Auckland War Memorial Museum director Vanda Vitali on Tuesday raises some interesting questions. Though the parting of the ways between board and chief executive was inevitable after Dr Vitali antagonised the family of Sir Edmund Hillary, the manner of her going led one Auckland mayor to suggest the board, rather than its employee, should go.

Implicit in Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey’s criticism was that, having searched worldwide for a museum professional to bring Auckland’s historical treasury into the 21st century, the board could not manage a woman who, once appointed, stood her ground. …

Editorials 18 March 2010

March 18th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald focuses on the departure of Vanda Vitali:

The trust board was also keen to see the museum throw off austerity and become part of an international trend typified by Te Papa. Part of this was a restructuring that left 46 personnel, many of them senior staff, without jobs.

Amid accusations that this meant core museum displays were being downgraded, the board backed Dr Vitali to the hilt for most of her tenure. Its support began to waver late last year, however, after a series of public relations disasters.

It is questionable who should bear the responsibility for these. Did the board, having appointed Dr Vitali and provided a mandate, fail to give sufficient direction and guidance?

Did it not recognise sufficiently that, as a Canadian, she was operating in an unfamiliar cultural context? Or did the director, like many set on instituting change, not see finesse and heedfulness as part of her job description? …

It must not become fusty and tradition-bound. Dr Vitali’s achievement can be measured by comments lamenting her resignation.

One of the more notable came from Naida Glavish, of the Ngati Whatua Runanga, who said she had brought the museum “back to life”. An initial reservation about Dr Vitali was her sensitivity to the Maori and Pacific exhibitions.

Museums are always seeking a balance. In Auckland’s case, that involves using flair and imagination to attract local people, while also catering for overseas tourists’ major interest, the Polynesian treasures.

Dr Vitali wrought major change in a short time. With a little finesse, the correct balance can be struck.

Is Te Papa still looking for a CEO? 🙂

The Dominion Post is unhappy with Israel:

The timing of Israel’s announcement of a new 1600-house Jewish development in East Jerusalem was the equivalent of a one-fingered salute to the United States and to the peace process.

It demonstrates a contempt for the Obama Administration so withering that it diminishes the American ability to broker any deal. The administration had last year demanded a freeze on Jewish settlements, but eventually got only a partial, temporary halt – except in Jerusalem.

Why should the Palestinians pay any heed to what Washington wants, when the Israelis clearly don’t? It will also raise questions even among those sympathetic to Israel whether its current leadership has any intention of reaching a negotiated settlement.

I am a friend and supporter of Israel, but on this issue I agree they are wrong. They really should stop building new settlements. It makes the job of achieving a peace agreement a lot lot harder, for little gain.

The Press focuses on bad driving:

It is the common complaint of many New Zealand motorists. Truck drivers hog the road and, being oblivious to other road users, are responsible for accidents and near misses, both in urban areas and on the open road.

Those who subscribe to this jaundiced view should be taking a hard look at the video footage on The Press’s website. This footage, which was taken from cameras mounted in Canterbury Waste Services (CWS) trucks and which has created great public interest, has graphic images of other road users behaving recklessly and illegally.

It includes video images of one car overtaking a truck and forcing oncoming traffic to take evasive action. Other footage shows motorists not stopping at red lights or compulsory stop signs, failing to adhere to the give-way rule at other intersections, adopting some appalling driving techniques at roundabouts, and skidding due to a failure to drive to the conditions.

Luckily Wellington drivers are better than that 🙂

The ODT looks at child abuse in the Catholic Church:

It is hard to believe the senior ranks of the Roman Catholic Church, increasingly under siege in Fortress Vatican, have any real appreciation of the extent of the calamity facing them.

For if they did, surely they, and Pope Benedict XVI, would be cutting a radically different course from that now being offered to a confused, disappointed and sometimes angry congregation.

Prominent among the strategies it has adopted in the face of what is beginning to seem like a perfect storm of recent revelations – of sexual abuse cases and “cover-ups” in Brazil, the United States, Ireland, the Netherlands, Austria, Italy, Germany and, periodically, in this country and Australia – has been the time-honoured tactic of attacking the messenger. …

It just reminds me of the South Park episode where a priest calls on the gathered Cardinals to stop priests having sex with little boys, and the response back is that as they can’t have sex with women, if they stop having sex with little boys, then they’ll get to have no sex at all!

Abstinence is not natural in my opinion!

Wikipedia editing

February 21st, 2010 at 11:49 am by David Farrar

The HoS reports:

Auckland Museum’s head of public relations has written a glowing Wikipedia entry for his under-fire boss during business hours.

Russell Briggs omitted the controversy that has plagued Dr Vanda Vitali’s tenure as director of Auckland Museum.

His entry appears to breach Wikipedia’s guidelines, which state that entries should be unbiased and balanced.

I’m quoted in the article, and said to the reporter that Wikipedia is meant to be a neutral point of view, and it is hard to achieve that if you are writing about your boss!

Having said that, creating a page without criticism for your boss, is not as big a “sin” as editing a page to remove such criticism, and I predicted that one the article appeared, other Wikipedians would edit it, so it is a more balanced article.

And indeed, if you go to her article now, it has been edited several times, and is now much more balanced.