Friday, September 29, 2006


Ok. The old probligo address is dead.

Long live the_probligo and his letterbox is still kept by yahoo but now it is

So add all of that together and you get.....

the_probligo ...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Why, Newsweek?

What is Newsweek doing?

The cover for Europe, Latin America and Asia.

The US cover this week.

Oh, BTW the article on Afghanistan is gripping reading too.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The election that wouldn't die - 2

Herald this morning has a detailed and objective summary -
What do Parliament's rules say?

MPs and parties can receive taxpayer funding for advertising if it is deemed to be part of their parliamentary business, but not for electioneering.

Parliament is guided by its own rules, and the prohibitions are more relevant in this case. Explicitly, the rules say that parliamentary business does not include a) soliciting subscriptions or other financial support for a political party or a candidate at an election; b) party political, promotional or electioneering material for the purpose of supporting the election of any person or party; and c) any work undertaken as a minister of the Crown and member of the Executive Council.

How was this interpreted?

Parliamentary Service, Parliament's bureaucrats, have paid out on virtually every invoice that does not explicitly ask for support for a person or party.

How did the rules change between the 2002 election and the 2005 election?

The late Green Party co-leader Rod Donald was the driving force behind a review of the rules after the 2002 election, mainly because of perceived breaches by National. Some of the rules changed: before 2002 only individual MPs were covered by the rules, afterwards political parties were covered too.

Previously, either the parliamentary crest or the MP's contact details had to be included on the material. The review insisted that both be included. Labour argues that these are not material changes and that Parliamentary Service approved its expenditure.

National argues that the key change was a willingness to stick to the rules and that the key change between elections was a clause saying that parties and MPs themselves, not Parliamentary Service, were responsible for what is produced. Leader Don Brash says he followed the rules and managed not to incur any findings of unlawful expenditure from the Auditor-General.

Were parties warned that things would be any different for the 2005 election?

Labour is correct in saying there was no explicit instruction by the Auditor-General to be especially careful, but the Auditor-General believes that he forewarned them with the report he issued three months before the last election entitled "Government and parliamentary publicity and advertising".

The inquiry began because of concerns over increasingly blurred lines between departmental, ministerial and political advertising, mainly prompted by the Working for Families advertising campaign. The report concluded with a chapter on advertising in the pre-election period. But the foreword points to there being a look at the rules after the election.

Who is responsible for approving MPs' advertising expenditure?

This is a major point of contention. Not only does National - and the rules suggest it is up to each party - but the Government's own lawyers, Crown Law, argue that Parliamentary Service has no discretion in a private legal challenge being taken by the Libertarianz party against taxpayer funding of the pledge card. Labour and other parties say that the practice has been that Parliamentary Service has approved advertising.

What about Labour's pledge card?

It is probably the biggest item that Parliamentary Service has ever approved. The is no way of knowing, because it is a secretive organisation accountable only to the Speaker and other MPs on the Parliamentary Service Commission. Parliamentary Service pays the invoices the parties present. Legal papers from a private case challenging the pledge card suggest that Parliamentary Service refused to pay a bill for $70,000 for the distribution of the pledge card and its accompanying brochure. But after a strongly worded letter from the Prime Minister's chief of staff, Heather Simpson, it coughed up in January this year, four months after the election.

How do Parliament's rules intersect with the Electoral Act and its definitions of election material?

There is no explicit link. But what complicates Labour's defence is that two weeks before the election, the Chief Electoral Officer wrote to Labour saying he believed it was party election advertising (his concern was not actually who funded it but that it did not have party authorisation on it). Three days before the election Labour agreed under sufferance to include the pledge card in its return as with other electioneering material, but the following day it submitted its first pledge-card-related invoice to Parliamentary Service (for $313,008).

What if spending is found to be outside the rules?

The rules state that the Speaker may require an MP or a party to pay for material deemed to be in breach of the rules. So why are the parties screaming about paying back this money? Partly because under National's attacks of corruption, paying it might denote "guilt".

But it is also such a huge amount, for Labour anyway, that it would severely dent its ability to fund the next election campaign.

What is the Auditor-General doing?

Auditor-General Kevin Brady is examining whether the money paid by Parliamentary Service for party advertising in the three months before the election is within the limits of the expenditure as passed by Parliament in the 2005 Budget. Three months was chosen because that is the period within which statutory spending limits are applied to campaigning. In his draft report, he found most parties had been funded for advertising material unlawfully.

Could he find them corrupt?

No. That is a legal term under the Electoral Act being used in a political way by National. Time has run out for any prosecution under the Electoral Act.

Labour says the Auditor-General's draft findings are unfair because previous such expenditure had been ticked off by the same Auditor-General in 2002.

The comparison is not valid. The processes in an annual audit are different from an in-depth inquiry. An annual audit does not involve examining every transaction, whereas an inquiry involves looking at every transaction within the scope of the inquiry. The comparison would be valid if the Auditor-General had been aware of similar material having been ticked off as lawful in 2002. But you can bet your bottom dollar that the A-G was not only shocked that Labour's 2005 pledge card had been funded from taxpayer funds, but also gob-smacked to discover the card had been similarly funded for the past two elections. One could take an educated guess and suggest the revelation that the pledge card was publicly funded was the catalyst for the current inquiry.

Can the Auditor-General make parties pay back money?

No. He has explicitly said that in his final report he will set out problems but not remedies. He will not recommend legislation or suggest the money be repaid. That is for Parliament to decide. As Controller he could stop money being paid, but in this case, expenditure has already occurred. If he reports as Controller rather than as Auditor-General, the minister responsible, in this case the Speaker, would report to the House on any breach and what remedy was proposed.

Would paying back the money be a legal remedy to unlawful expenditure?

No. Technically, any breach would have occurred when Parliamentary Service actually paid the invoice or reimbursed a party outside of the Speaker's rules. Paying back the money wouldn't technically correct or cancel the breach. That would be a political remedy. It is entirely within Parliament's power to decide what action to take, if any, after the Auditor-General has reported. It might be to take no action because money had been "repaid", or to pass validating legislation, or both or none. The problem that faces Labour, United Future and New Zealand First is a political one, not a legal one.

Where to next?

Political parties are completing their representations to the Auditor-General and he is due to report to Parliament by October 10. His findings are open to judicial review

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Quotable quotes -

"John Howard has got his tongue up Bush's clacker that often the poor guy must think he's got an extra haemorrhoid".

"Australian mates and good blokes have been replaced by nervous wrecks, metrosexual knobs and toss-bags."

Mark Latham - past Leader of the ALP.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The election that wouldn't die...

I have tried, several times, to write on the recent political shenanigans that have plagued all of our houses over the past three weeks, three months, even three years. The most recent goes some way toward backgrounding one part – that of election funding – of what has become a quite disgraceful tossing of toys and knotting of knickers.

So, now I am sitting here listening to Fat Freddy’s Drop, trying once again to collect the thoughts and marshall them into something that might have meaning for an interested bystander or three.

To illustrate this, I can give a personal perspective. I read this past week a blogger who had just registered for voting in his new State. The State he had shifted from had required him to show an “affiliation” as part of his voting registration. That, to me, is totally foreign; it requires explanation; and if I can get back there I have a whole string of “dumb and dumber” questions to ask. So I can imagine that for another person looking in, the perigrinations behind NZ politics over the past while might need explanation. Please, it has gotten to the stage where there will probably be several books being published over the next few years making the analysis and giving explanations; please don’t expect me to write them here...

Who are the characters? Well it involves all of the usual suspects. Each of them could justify small books on their own, if not a lengthy chapter or three. As one should expect, the media players feature prominently, the major political parties must be there, along with their respective figureheads, and the rules of the game. But there are others involved as well, the referees, the points scored for and against (in the form of voters), and then there are those who stand in the shadows; the vested interests both individual and group.

So first to declare my own hand. I want to be non-partisan in this discussion. Where blame is due I will give it. Where praise is warranted likewise, not that there is much if any that would. I have little reason to support Auntie Helen; I gave my party vote to Labour primarily because I did not believe National’s tax cuts were the right thing to do, nor was it the time to give tax cuts. That topic remains closed for now – it is a few books of its own. I have little reason to support National; the reasons I have debated in past posts around the time of the elections, and recent events have confirmed that view.

In this morning’s Sunday Star Times, Chris Trotter opens his line on the situation with the comparison between two different reactions to the same situation – the difference between a quiet “I think you are wrong, mistaken even” and shouting “You’re a bloody liar”. Trotter also tracks the start of this most recent donnybrook to a speech that Brash Donnie gave to Christchurch Central Zonta Club...
”Corruption is not a word you use outside of Parliament without being very sure of your ground. But I feel very safe, if rather sad, in pointing out that Clark’s government is quite simply the most corrupt in New Zealand history”.

The reasoning behind Brash’s statement is quite simple. The Electoral Act, the “Rules” for this particular game, states that certain acts (like spending outside of the limits set by the Act) are “corrupt practices”. So, if Labour has stepped outside of the Rules it can be accused of “corrupt practice”, shortened as only politicans can to “corruption”.

The other side of the catfight goes back to the Election, and the interpretation of the Rules. I covered that in part in my earlier commentary.

One of the “events” of the last elections has been called, by none other than National Party MP Katherine Rich in today’s SST, “the reason that National lost the election”. Towards the end of the campaign, a pamphlet was distributed over quite a large part of the country (I recall seeing it in my letterbox and in the outgoing recycling rubbish) calling for the defeat of the Labour and Green parties as "they represent a major danger to the country”. The pamphlet carried no party attribution, nor “notice of approval”. As such it is a direct parallel with the “Swift Boat Veterans” campaign against Kerry in the last US Presidential election. The absence of attribution or approval puts the cost of that pamphlet – now accepted as being in the vicinity of $1.2 million - outside of the limits imposed by the Rules.

Don’t worry, the Labour Party has its equivalent in the form of the labour Unions. Right from the formation of the party, there has been a very strong link between Unions and Party. The differences are that Party has always recorded the assistance from the Unions as part of their electoral “costs”, and the amounts involced are comparatively small – no more than $200,000 in total for the past elections.

To make matters even worse, the interim report on the elections (it is prepared following every election) from the Auditor General got leaked. By whom is still a mystery. As one would expect, an auditor’s report is a cold, bloodless, objective and emotionless thing. It lists, in bald cold numbers, the “over-spending” of each of the parties and the parts of the Rules that each has breached. In the normal course of events, the interim (draft) report is released to each of the parties for comment – that process is part of the NZ penchant for “fair play and natural justice” – prior to the formal report being presented to parliament. As I said earlier, that report is the basis for Brash Donnie’s accusation that “this government is the most corrupt...” because it lists Labour as having “overspent its limit” by some $420,000. That sum represents the cost of the “Pledge Card”, a feature of Labour’s campaign in each of the past three elections. Also in the first two of those elections, the Card and its cost fell within the Rules. Labour based its actions this last time around on the Rules being unchanged. Except that it seems they have not, there having been subtle changes made in 2003.

It gets even worse if we just follow the timeline of the election funding raruraru.

When the first pages of the AG’s report were leaked through the media, Auntie Helen’s response went through a series of different phases.

First, as one might expect, there was denial. Then, obviously after having read the report, that changed to anger directed at the premature release of the report. Then there was denial again – “Everything Labour has done has been in accordance with the Rules”. That became anger directed (very unwisely) at the AG – “He is wrong”. Then came her final crowning glory – “Simple – the Rule is wrong. We will change it. Retrospectively.”

If ever there was a call to corruption, it is there. But regrettably that is not the end of the sad tale...

Tuesday and Parliament opens its working week with “Question Time”. Now there was a time when this was taken fairly seriously, even by such monumental avoiders of Parliamentary responsibility as Rob Muldoon. “Comparatively” is a good word to use if you make the comparison with recent times. What is intended as a means for monitoring Ministerial responsibility has degenerated to a game. Questions have become statements and one-sided debate. Ministerial replies are now non-answers, avoidance of the point of the question, essentially mind games and playing with logic.

Ministerial responsibility to Parliament (and consequently to the electorate) is now non-existant. Taito Phillip Field is a case in point. There is a broad parallel from the Kirk government – was that 25 years ago? – with a Minister of Agriculture caught giving preferential treatment to family members and specifically to his son in law and daughter. Not only was he removed from office, he was removed from his seat – no more MP.

What makes this government even worse is that Field is not the first. Tennis=ball Benson Pope, John Tamihere both went through the hoops without the ultimate penalty. So too with David Parker.

Don’t get this wrong, this avoidance of Ministerial responsibility to the House is not just a failing of this current government. Jim Bolger’s lot were expert in the “non-answer” as well. It is just that Auntie Helen and the current government have taken it to new lows.

Now please, do not get the impression that I think Auntie Helen is blameless – far from it. There was a georgeous little cartoon recently – Auntie Helen and her glove puppet, Steve Maharey.

Let’s face it, hit someone frequently enough with abuse and they are going, eventually, to react – probably violently. I know. I have done it in response to continual references to “the kiwi sheep joke”. As I have said recently to Dave, my “right whinger” tag is a personal response to the continual use of “liberal” as a pejorative. Yes, there is a limit to my patience.

So has it been with the Labour Party as well. Promises of “dishing the dirt” in the House do nothing to improve the average Nzer’s opinion of our political representatives

The next step is to understand that quite apart from the formal Rules – the Statutes covering elections etc. – and the Rules that cover the proceedings of the House – Standing Orders, there are also the unwritten “rules”, the conventions of “polite behaviour” within the political system. Among those conventions is the prohibition of personal attack against the families of Members.

So when Maharey and Hodgson start heckling Brash Donnie in the House with promises of “dirt to come” in response to the continual use of the “c” word, they are truly running the brink. When it transpires that the “dirt” is a long rumoured but previously “unmentioned” extra-marital relationship between Brash Donnie and a leading business-woman, the fur truly starts to fly.

Again, this is all being done at arm’s length. It is the news media’s disgraceful part in this whole sordid business to publicise, to (as SST said in its exculpatory editorial today ) “sterilise with the light of day”, and to make money from the resulting sales and ratings. So the rumour of Brash Donnie’s affair gets a front page run in most of the major dailies. Obfuscation and prevarication follows, and the media publish the name of the woman involved after Brash takes time off to “attend to private matters”.

Then one of these small, nasty little weekly tabloids puts out that its next issue will have confirmation of rumours that have been circulating for a long while about people close to the PM. The SST (this was its last week issue, for which the “apology” followed today) broached the subject by revealing the intended revelation was that the PM’s husband is gay.

The basis for the accusation? A short video and series of photos of Mr Davis (who is NOT gay) being embraced by a supporter who definitely is gay. The source? News footage and photos taken the night of the last election!

Flashes out of the smoke and fire have revealed –

The source of the confirmation of Brash’s extra-marital activities was a private detective hired by an un-named Labour supporter. The PD has made it clear that while he can not for ethical reasons reveal who his contract was with it was not a leading or parliamentary member of the Labour Party.

The source of the little weekly tabloid’s story was a sad little man who has been a member of some six political parties, who looks like a sad little man, and who has for reasons only known to himself has several very large axes to grind. An example of his rationale (or is it rationality) from todays article in SST (I haven’t yet cancelled my subscription after last weeks article)
The first key date is 1981, when B’s marriage to a kiwi woman (nine years, two children) fell apart acrimoniously. “I was angry at everything”.

He visited his local member of parliament, a newly elected Labour MP called Helen Clark.... he remembers Clark’s response. “We had a bit of a row and she wasn’t very sympathetic... men are bad everything...”

At some point in the 90’s B’s concerns at the ill-treatment of men blurred with another anxiety: the threat of AIDS.

The connection is confusing... but in essence B believes that the Aids Foundation and Ministry of Health are more concerned with affirming homosexual lifestyles than protecting public health... A small minority of homosexuals are determining the country’s sexual health policy.

“Not all homosexuals are a problem”, says B. “Just the left wing ones.”

“I did a little research [ in 1995] and found the militant homosexuals and the militant feminists, many of them lesbian, work closely together. It was around that time that I switched my political allegiance [from Labour ] ... and became less liberal in regard to homosexuals.”

As was pointed out in a letter to the Editor of SST today, if two men – two women for that matter – hugging in public is a sure sign of homosexuality, then my son and I, my wife and daughter, and virtually every sportsman who has ever played in a winning team, we must all be homosexual...


Truly mind-boggling!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Reflections of history...

The current anniversary of the Suez War 1956 has reminded the world (if not just me) of how much things have changed. Wandering about in the blogiverse has been interesting for a start given the range of opinion that seems to be frothing at the moment with comparisons (on both sides of the political fence) between Suez and Iraq.

ALDaily put in a strong link to the debate which ended up in me following through to (eventually) Eisenhower’s papers.

What I began looking for was the actual wording of a letter from Eisenhower to Eden that was the core of one of the second links from ALD. I found it, but the comparisons and analysis that it has already led to in the blogiverse has outstripped any puny contribution I might make.

However, reading back and forth from that point led to some interesting sidelines, including this one, an instruction to John Foster Dulles on US action given the situation developing between Britain/France/Israel on the one hand and the potentials that Eisenhower foresaw. The instruction itself, the impact that it had, is of lesser import to me. What grabbed me was the rationale.

The first objective of the United Nations should be to achieve a cease-fire because this will:
(a) Keep the war from spreading.
(b) Give time to find out what each side is trying to gain.
(c) Develop a final resolution that will represent the considered judgment of the United Nations respecting past blame and future action.

The United States must lead because:

(a) While we want to do all the things in 1 above, we want to prevent immediate issuance by the United Nations of a harshly worded resolution that would put us in an acutely embarrassing position, either with France and Britain or with all the rest of the world.

(b) At all costs the Soviets must be prevented from seizing a mantle of world leadership through a false but convincing exhibition of concern for smaller nations. Since Africa and Asia almost unanimously hate one of the three nations, Britain, France and Israel, the Soviets need only to propose severe and immediate punishment of these three to have the whole of two continents on their side; unless a good many of the United Nations nations are already committed to something more moderate that we might immediately formulate. We should act speedily so as to have our forces in good order by 5:00 p.m. today.

(c) We provide the West's only hope that some vestige of real political and economic union can be preserved with the Moslem world, indeed, possibly also with India.

Unilateral actions now taken by the United States must not single out and condemn any one nation--but should serve to emphasize to the world our hope for a quick cease-fire to be followed by sane and deliberate action on the part of the United Nations, resulting, hopefully, in a solution to which all parties would adhere by each conceding something.

Most of the “analysis and debate” (that I have come across) centres upon Eisenhower’s “appeasement” role, the part played by Dag Hammarskjold and the UN, and the subsequent economic punishment meted out to Britain as a means of stopping the action against Egypt. As I said at the start, interesting but not the real point that I want to pick up as being the major difference between Suez and Iraq (and potentially Iran).

The two paras I have highlighted well illustrate the mechanisms within the global politic fifty years back. It was not directly the Cold War. It was the potentialities created by there being two powers of (as thought then) equal strength and capability. It was not the direct mutual threat that was the danger.

The rationale, the driving force behind Eisenhower’s diplomacy, was the potential for Soviet Russia to gain influence, and for the US to correspondingly lose influence, in Asia and Africa.

That balance between US and Russia was the great moderator of the 1950’s and ‘60’s. It waned during the ‘70s right through to the collapse of the Soviet Republic.

It is the lack of that balance or moderator, in any form, that lies in large part behind the development of the stresses between Europe/America on the one hand and Middle East on the other, between Christianity and Islam if you want to look at it in that way. The care that Eisenhower had for the US’s sphere of influence has been replaced by the arrogance of “We don’t give a stuff what you think. You are either with us or against us. If you don’t like what we do, too bad. If you try and stop what we do, then you just made our day, punk.”

To put it in a more slightly kindly fashion -

"The US no longer needs the potential influence of Soviet Russia to reduce the effectiveness of its own relationships with the rest of the world. It is quite capable of doing its own irreparable damage in its own interests."

Parts of the trail -

The ALDaily link to Boston Globe
Book review
BBC historical view
Another British perspective
...and the American Right.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Exactly why politics and religion MUST not mix...

Benedict, you ___ing stupid old git!! Nobody needed your ___ing stupid, ___ing senseless, ___ing unwarranted, unnecessary stirring of the ___ing pot!!

Things in this world are ___ing bad enough after the ___ing ___-ups by ___ing politicians without you making it ___ing worse.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A propos of nothing much at all...

I was digging in search of something else when I turned this up. I know nothing of it history other than what is here...
-Ardjukk Afraid-of-His-Cats

There once was a Kingdom that swallowed a LIE
I don't know why they swallowed a LIE......
Perhaps they'll die!

There once was a Kingdom that swallowed a RULE
"The King's Word is Law" (We learn it in school!)
They swallowed the RULE to hold up the LIE
I don't know why they swallowed the LIE
Perhaps they'll die!

There once was a Kingdom that swallowed some BULL
"The knights run the Kingdom, they have all the pull!"
They swallowed the BULL to back up the RULE
"The King's Word is Law!" (We learn it in school..)
They swallowed the RULE to hold up the LIE
And I don't know why they swallowed the LIE
Perhaps they'll die!

There once was a Kingdom got screwed by the CROWN
Bent over, and down, they got screwed by the CROWN
They got screwed by the CROWN 'cause they swallowed the BULL
(etc as above)
I don't know why they swallowed the LIE......
Perhaps they'll die!

There once was a Kingdom that wrote to the BOARD
They wrote to the BOARD in great disaccord
They wrote to the BOARD they'd been screwed by the CROWN
Bent over and down, they were screwed by the CROWN
(etc as above)
And I don't know why they swallowed the LIE......
Perhaps they'll die!

There once was a Kingdom that took up the SWORD
'Cause they didn't get s*** when they wrote to the BOARD
They took up the SWORD when they wrote to the BOARD
They wrote to the BOARD in great disaccord
(etc as above)
I don't know why they swallowed the LIE......
Perhaps they'll die!

There once was a Kingdom that threw up the LIE
Right in their eye, they threw up the LIE
They threw up the LIE and they changed all the RULES
Opened Crown Tourney to all but the fools,
They opened Crown Tourney to sweep up the BULL
And let in the People, a real Miracle!
They swept up the BULL and laughed at the BOARD
And every man-jack of 'em joined the Dark Horde!
And so they lived happy, and wealthy and wise
And if this is treason, then it's all a LIE
Can YOU see why?

Hmmm, treasonous almost. :D

A moral conundrum -

A small country town, population about 1000, has a sole charge policeman.

It is his day off. He plays a round of golf with his mates, has a few beers, a couple of rum chasers...

The local Volunteer Fire Brigade siren goes, and word comes through of a serious traffic accident about 8km up the road. The policeman has "second level" (ambulance) first aid equipment and is the only person with training to use it.

So he sets out for the scene of the accident. He is effective in his work. One of those killed in the accident is a mate with whom he had played golf not three hours previous.

The Serious Accident team turn up 30 minutes later. One of them notes that our policeman has been drinking and breath-tests him. He is over the limit.

Our policeman is now in Court and pleads guilty to the drink driving charge.

How should the Court find? Guilty, loss of license, and costing our policeman his job - DUI is a criminal offence. Guilty but not convicted - the Court can do that, but it would still likely result in the policeman losing his job. Not guilty because of extenuating circumstances.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Thoughts on an alternative history...

Over at the Donklephant, the suggestion has been made that Islam would have been better served had they had “a Ghandi or a Martin Luther King”. Monica continues –
Those two men and their movements advanced their cause peacefully and with huge successes. Those are my expectations. Those are the people that I and other civilized people of the world would bargain with and listen to. I don’t excuse terrorism because people have grievances.

I am taking up the line here because my rather brusque rejoinder of “Where was Ghandi or MLK on 9/12/01?” does not really do the thought behind Monica’s comment the justice it deserves.

So to try and make amends for the reaction, I want to think on about it just a little. The idea has merit, and I want to see where it might lead.

OK, so let’s take a look at Ghandi. He is probably the modern epitome of the pacifist. His principles of civil disobedience were in large part ineffective against the British. His responses to injustices such as the Jallianwala Bagh massacre did much to weld Indian and specifically Hindi nationalist sentiment behind him. Yes, truly a great man, who achieved great things and who deserves his honour. We must remember him for creating the foundations of a new India, from which grew the successful independence of that nation from its colonial power. But the question must be asked – Did Ghandi succeed, or did he plant the seeds of Hindi nationalism that grew through the INA in WW2, and that also grew through the nation from 1942 onward. For Ghandi himself took little part in the post-WW2 revolts against the Raj, his health was too poor and he spent too much of the time in British prisons.

Ghandi was the inspiration for Martin Luther King, and it is little wonder that he too was able to achieve great strides in advancing the rights of African Americans during the 1960’s. He too was a charismatic leader. We must remember him for not yielding any of the fundamentals of human rights in return for the recognition of the principles of equality at law. Looking at the history of the law behind racial equality in the US, it had always been there; the problem lay with individual states (eventually five I believe) who were determined to prevent the application of those laws by any means possible.

Monica could also have mentioned Steve Biko. He did not succeed. He died in police custody in circumstances that are inexplicable to say the least.

She might also have mentioned Aun Sang Su Kee. She has been in state custody now (from prison to house arrest to extreme restriction on her rights ) for some thirty years or more. Thus far, she has not been able to succeed.

I could add to that list Te Whiti, who predated Ghandi's birth by about 60 years or more. He led his people in peaceful disobedience to protect their land from confiscation by the state, and then by armed militia acting illegally but with tacit state consent. He and all of his male followers were taken into custody and sent to Dunedin literally as slaves working on road construction.

OK, so Monica rightly holds up King as a successful campaigners of peaceful protest and pacifism. Ghandi, was the seed for Indian nationalism using pacifism, but the eventual goal of independence was attained by non-peaceful means. Biko, Aun Sang, and Te Whiti followed the pacifist road and were not at all directly successful. Biko became a beacon for the international isolation of South Africa. Aun Sang and Te Whiti achieved little to nothing.

So the best we can conclude is that pacifism (as much as it hurts me to admit it) has at best a 50/50 measure of success, and 25/75 might be a better reflection. That conclusion is further supported by the continual contention from the American Right that the alternative to war is appeasement, with their echo of Chamberlain reverberating down the hallway of history.

So, let us return to the successful stories of pacifism – Ghandi and King.

There is a second level at which both of these succeeded. It was not the clarity of their cause – that helped, but was not the next most important factor after the charismatic leader.

Both Ghandi and King succeeded because those who needed to be persuaded were willing to listen. In the case of Ghandi, his message was to his own people. The British dealt with him as America has with many of the jihadis. It took a massacre to awaken the Indians, and the resulting violence to sway the British. Perhaps, Monica, there is a lesson in that which is too late to learn.

In King’s case he had an equally charismatic leader in Kennedy who was prepared to further the cause against discrimination because he personally believed in it. King did a magnificent job, he succeeded, but he was the final aria rather than the whole opera.

That leads to the third – the clarity of the message. Both Ghandi and King succeeded because they carried a clear message, a simple message, in fact a common message –

“This is not right”.

So, how might this apply to the “war” between the US and Islam? Who and where might be the Muslim Ghandi or King?

To be positive about this, there could be several contenders for the post. One could choose from senior clerics in Indonesia, in Egypt, even perhaps from Philipines. There is no doubt in my mind that from each of those comparatively moderate nations, each with their own comparatively moderate versions of Islam, there would be leaders who could act a intermediaries between Islam and the west.

Let us assume that such an Imam exists, and that he is prepared to act. How might he persuade all of Islam, from US to Saharan Africa and beyond, that he has the right, the power and the charisma to lead all of Islam to peace? There is nothing surer than he would have to be a very great man. There is nothing surer than he does not live at the moment. And there is nothing more sure than if he did live there would be several factions in action to prevent him from being effective. That man would be the Ghandi of Islam.

Even if we had such an Islamic saint (and that is not intended one iota as sarcastic at all, because saintly he would have to be), who might there be to listen to him? As you process that thought, cast your mind back to the reaction of America’s political leaders on 9/11/01, and 9/12/01, and in the weeks that followed, and then into 2002, and into 2003… Is it likely that the US Administration would have listened to our saint in the same way that Kennedy listened to King? Is it likely that those of Islam who committed the crimes of 9/11 would have listened to their saint?

What would have been the response from the US Administration, had a small slender robed gentleman wearing an Arab headscarf turned up on the doorstep, no make that the outer gates of the White House on 9/13/01? Even if he was not shot on sight at the outer gate but was admitted to the Oval Office for an audience with the great man himself, do you think that the American electorate at large would have been in the mood to accept the President himself appearing on tv with this Islamic saint alongside of him saying “We are brothers in God who understand each other. We will work together for peace.”

Do I imagine that is what Monica had in mind in her comment? Well only she can answer that directly. I leave it for her to reply. If there are others who want to add or subtract from the line of thought – be free.

Monday, September 11, 2006

"The Path to 9/11"

There is an interesting little clip over at "Not the Country Club" reviewing a CBC documentary entitled "Why We Fight". Read it, and the comments, then come back.

Right -

I did NOT watch Part 1 of "Path to 9/11".

I will NOT watch Part 2 of "Path to 9/11".

There is a very simple reason why not.

It is a dramatisation.

Why waste my time with this 2 or 4 hours of potential bullshit when it is hard enough determining how much of current news is fact, and how much of it is bullshit!

To be very clear about this, I would say - WILL say - the same thing about a programme entitled "The Path from 9/11" if it is also presented as a dramatisation. I think that I would probably not watch a totally factual, unmodified clips, as it happened, documentary on the same topic. It would be just too depressing.

Imagine for the moment, seeing Powell's address to the UNSC again. It is still vivid in my memory, if only because of the minders there at the podium with him. I still wonder what Rummies reaction might have been had Powell stood there and said,
"Well folks, its like this. We reckon this guy Saddam has got 90% of the way toward a viable nuclear weapon. We reckon this guy Saddam has close links with AlQaeda. We reckon that Saddam is a direct threat to the US, and will probably have ICBMs within the next few weeks. The CIA keep telling us we are wrong, that there is no evidence for this, but we - I mean the boss and co - still reckon we are right."

This is not a case of the media "getting it wrong" at all. In fact substantial and significant members of the global media community reported very correctly and accurately.

The bullshit was accurately reported.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The kind of "American" story that I like...

An important person, reportedly in the American film business seeing that this story is told by a Kiwi producer, rang Whitestone Cheese who are a principal sponsor of the film producer.

"Can I please speak to the head of the company?"

"Who?", was the Kiwi reply. "Oh! You mean Bob. Hang on, he's right here. Bob!! Phone for ya!!"


So it has a name - "financial literacy"...

Something I have rabbited on about from time to time is the importance of teaching kids the value of money, leading to the development of budgetting skills....

Here is how important it is!!

Enterprise New Zealand Trust wants to see financial literacy included in teachers' "achievement objectives" - bureaucratese for the things children must learn.

The trust's Lyn Morris said the inclusion of financial literacy as a "critical" competency in the new draft curriculum, released in July, was a step forward for financial literacy, which is currently taught in only a quarter of secondary schools.

Morris said that meant tens of thousands of kids would continue to leave school with little or no idea of how money, budgeting, debt, saving and investment worked.

The trust holds out little hope of an upgrade for financial literacy given there are so many competing interests, including environmentalists, and Maori and Asia 2000, wanting subjects like Chinese, the Treaty of Waitangi and green issues included in the curriculum.

Oh well, roll on retirement. PERHAPS this is where I can make a small difference.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Political decadence...

I have written several times on the actions and attitudes developed by politicians in their frantic quest for and to retain power.

It is a universal, so trying to select individual instances to prove the point are meaningless; Blair in the UK, Bush and the Republicans in the US, Howard in Australia, Ortega in Nicaragua, and Clark and Brash in NZ.

I fringed around the debates that came out of the last US Presidential elections and the “Swift boat files” in particular, but wrote fairly extensively on the parallel here with the Exclusive Bretheren (despite their religious prohibition on voting) spending a fairly considerable sum in supporting the National Party campaign.

The “Rules” relating to the funding of electoral campaigns in this country are quite extensive, are “agreed” between the political parties rather than being directly imposed, and have always led to vigourous debate post-election.

But there has never been anything quite like this last election.

There are essentially two opposing arguments with sotto twitterings from the piccolos backstage.

The accusations of “illegality” centering on the Exclusive Bretheren in support of the National Party are likely paralleled by other like minded organizations. Everyone knows who they are; the amounts contributed are comparatively small; the electoral support given is considerable. Primary instance – much less visible these past two elections it must be said – is the Business Round Table. This think-tank was very active in supporting the Nats, not in monetary terms but in media visibility and open statements. As I said, there are other like-minded organizations.

On the other side of the House, the strategists helping Auntie Helen and her mob have made a definite and very serious blunder.

Every political party with representatives in the House is paid from taxpayer funds for Members Allowances and a separate grant for operation of their individual Parliamentary offices. The accusation against Labour is that “they misappropriated $400,000 of taxpayers funds” for electoral purposes. The rationale behind this is fairly complex, but I must say at this point that Labour do appear to have got it very wrong.

First, the party that is “the government” is permitted to use taxpayer funds to “explain and publicise government policy”.

Second, the application of that is clouded by constraints upon “the use of Parliamentary funds for electioneering”. This constraint operates particularly in the six months prior to an election.

The subjectivity of that is the continuing business of government right up to the election, and the distinction of government “business” from “electioneering”. There were volcanic rumblings of this in the run-up to the elections, with Ministers making the usual patsy photo-ops that they are reknowned for...

Third, and this is the heart of their blunder, Labour issued a “Pledge Card” under the first point, it was printed and all outside the six months barrier, but it was delivered to households/taxpayers/voters inside the six month limit.

Fourth, and Auntie Helen can blame no one but herself for this, the Labour Government has been denying the “illegality” accusations and trying to avoid by every and any means, any debate on the matter preferring the old tried and true “Let’s just change the Rules retrospectively, and move on” trick. As a government, Labour is not alone in that. It has been the standard practice for many elections past; and will probably continue as a practice well into the future.

Now to pick up on “supporting cast” matters, Labour has always had the labour unions behind it – as one might expect – and the actions of those groups are in much the same vein as those supporting National. As a shade of difference Labour has always acknowledged the existence of that support and has been scrupulous in revealing the extent of the monetary donations from unions to the Party.

And that, conveniently, leads us to the next level of election campaign funding. A very large part of the funding for National, less so in Labour, and probably for the minor parties as well comes through “trusts”. These are not accepted as charitable trusts – no way are they that. They are a legal “filter” to protect those making large donations. They are the serious fund-raisers.

Legally, all donations in excess of (I think) $1000 must be declared by the recipient party. So, heading the list for Labour would be the unions, generous individuals and several “Trusts”. Same applies to National, though without the union support. The rationale behind the law is obviously to try and limit the possibilities of bribery, treating and corruption. If H makes a substantial contribution to B’s election funds and subsequently is awarded very valuable government contracts… join the dots.

The question being raised – and it is a very valid one – is this. What is the source(s) of the donation from ‘A Trust’? Who might there be included as an undisclosed donor expecting a substantial future return upon a substantial current investment?

But it is not just the parties. The individual candidates also have their “budgets” and their “limit”. The accounting for that gets mighty fine as one might imagine. A candidate who has a leaflet printed and delivered is expected to account for the total cost. No problem with the printing cost, unless of course the printer is a mate and does it as a favour. No cost of course, but a donation received “in kind”. Or is it? It can be as detailed and tedious as “If I have kept the timber from the advertising hoardings from the previous elections, does that cost count for the current elections as well?”

There is a funny side to all of this. There are some ridiculous situations that arise from time to time. Such as the Nats this time round “misinterpreting” one small part of the election campaign cost law. It involves the liability for GST which if not properly returned results in an illegality (tax law). However, if they do correctly return the tax, they will breach the electioneering law. Is that Catch 22 again or is it?

There is a secondary raruraru going on at the same time which has its impact in this area of election funding. It began completely outside of the election and any thoughts of illegal or corrupt election spending. It centres on Taito Phillip Field - Associate Minister of Immigration, his desire to help people (which let's face it is an important part of any politician's job, a Thai tiler, and a series of houses in South Auckland and Samoa. Another instance of political stupidity as much as anything. Even the Nats agree, "He probably did nothing wrong. But it is the appearance of the dealings that creates the doubt."

The Maori have a traditional practice of koha; for the Samoans it is lafo. They differ somewhat in the detail so my explanation relates to koha only as I have some (small) knowledge of it. If I were to give an entirely independent example, it would be the Japanese practice of giving of gifts when meeting someone for the first time or at an auspicious event. Koha can be a straight donation, the value based upon the donor’s regard for the person, the group represented, or what they represent. Koha can be given in expectation, as well as payment. It can be used to create an obligation, or to repay an existing one. So, for example, if I take a couple of fish and give them to my neighbour I might have no direct expectation of any return, it is a gift. To my neighbour it is koha, accepted with respect and with the knowledge that my gift may have created a small obligation in accordance with my mana and the size of the gift. Is this sounding familiar? It is important to note that koha is opportunistic as well. My two fish may have been given to that particular neighbour because he mowed my lawn one weekend while I was away on holiday; that might have been two years back, but having the fish creates the opportunity to repay. There should be no expectation of return in the giving.

So, a Maori candidate might attend a hui, during the course of which several people come up to him and give him (small) amounts of money, tuck it into his pocket…. That is koha – because they want to support him, they wish him well, they support the party he represents. Most candidates are scrupulously honest and return the koha as donations. There is little doubt that is the correct thing to do. But as Taito Phillip Field is finding out, koha (in his case lafo) can be very tricky. It is not always a public matter. The secrecy is for anonymity rather than for ulterior motive. It can be very public, especially when the size of donation is directly connected to personal mana. But when accepted in circumstances that might imply some secrecy then it can give totally the wrong impression to an accidental observer.

I must say that in general the traditional practices (not in just this limited area) have adapted very well to the operation of NZ (English) law.

There is one thing certain in all of this. Once again Auntie Helen has one hell of a lot of ‘splainin’ to do. Her public credibility as an effective and honest leader is shrinking fast. It is not just Taito Phillip Field… add in Tennis-ball Benson Pope, a Minister of Justice caught with the very common practice of short-cutting the law on declarations (not as Minister but in private life before becoming a politico), John Tamihere, there are quite a few including “Arty-gate” and the signing of art works by Auntie herself… Auntie has not handled any of this well. She has ignored (denial doesn’t get a look in) the obvious. She has excused the suspicious. It is getting to the stage where some people are looking at events – such as Appeal Court decisions – and wondering at the coincidences that might be involved.

Caesar’s wife… ahhh what a beauty she was! As chaste as a new-born babe. As honest as the new day!!


Let us also be clear about another form of “election buying”. The next round that we will see here in NZ is with the next local government elections. Some of the groundwork is already being laid with the recent “100% increases in rates” experienced by some ratepayers.

Obviously there is going to be fertile ground there for those local reptilesentatives who promote themselves for “lower rates” and “separate city” and all of the other little hobbyhorses that suddenly explode out of the nursery walls like a baby Hitchcockian nightmare.

I have worked in the fringes of this kind of movement about 30 years back Spent my time planning “strategies”, “campaign progressions”, and all of the other paraphernalia associated with floating a political idea. About the only thing I leart was that none of the leading lights were interested in fact or logic. Only the outcome mattered. That outcome had nothing to do with the community, or the cause being promoted. They were only the vehicle for keeping the leader in the public light, as active and proactive, and in power.

On the national scale, we have the new perennial of tax cuts. It really is laughable – that people will be bribed by their own money.

Let’s be honest here. I earn quite a margin over the average wage. I think the statistics put me in the income 8th decile. How much would I have gained if National had won the Treasury benches and Jonkey had put his tax cuts in place? About a 5% increase in take home pay – about $175 per month. The guys downstairs on the lines? About 2% - or roughly $10 per week. The CEO? Well he would pocket a measly increase of only 8%, perhaps as much as 10%.Something over $1000 per month.

Let’s talk health insurance for a moment. My personal policy was costing me about $1600 per year; I am now provided with health cover by my employer for which I will remain grateful for the time being. If I were to leave this job, my health insurance premiums would now be around $2300 p.a. And that was one of the Nats primary targets for “privatization” – our health system.

That folks, is what tax cuts are all about.

That is vote buying at its worst.

This will be the last term of this Labour government. There is now quiet debate on their ability to see out the full term. There are deep political stirrings with the minor coalition partners already seeking to create brand difference to limit the fallout damage should the worst happen to Labour.

This will be the last Labour government until the Nats start getting too big for their boots, too arrogant to listen, too close to the margins that we the voters will accept; then perhaps we will welcome back the new blood.


Final note –

I just love Jam Hipkin’s - “reptilesentatives”

Oooo!! Yes! Fits the bill very nicely. Thanks Jim.



This should warm the cockles of the Old Whig's heart.

High profile Auckland QC Tony Molloy is spearheading a legal claim against Prime Minister Helen Clark and 50 Labour Party MPs over the alleged unlawful pledge card spending.

Molloy, who represented boxer David Tua in his battle against former managers and was an adviser in the Winebox inquiry, is perhaps best known for taking on one of New Zealand's most powerful law firms, Russell McVeagh, over its role in failed bloodstock ventures.

Molloy is now representing Libertarianz leader Bernard Darnton in the pledge card case, which was filed in June and names the MPs as first respondents and the Parliamentary Service second. Labour spent $446,000 on the pledge card and accompanying brochure before the 2005 election.

Molloy is seeking a court declaration that the spending was wrong but said it was not his role to dictate whether a win would force Labour to pay the money back

More interesting to most is that it shows how the political process can run. Updates as they come to hand...