Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A week is a long time in politics...

... not that the current events in NZ are of the kind I would blog continuously - there really is little new in what as been going on. It is just that I have been away for a week, on holiday, taking a break.. down in the 'Naki helping my daughter and s-i-l move in to their new house.

This really starts with comment that I made immediately after the last General Election and this in particular...

The “collapse” of the Christian parties was pointed out during the evening. The fact was not lost on Brash Donnie who, in his closing speech last night referred to the National Party as the party of Catholics, Presbyterian, Methodist, Anglican, and - after a prompt from the audience - Closed Brethren... That is a scary prospect for the next election whether it be three years or three months down the road.

What do I think?

A National government will not be a surprise, especially if the Green vote goes under 4.9%. If that does happen, then I would expect a fresh election within 12 months. I don’t believe that Brash Donnie has the political nous that will be needed to keep a fragile government together.

The Nat's didn't bridge the gap. Brash Donnie didn't get that close.

I touched on the thought again here, with the idea that there is a need to in some way "control" the involvement of "non-political partisan electioneering" (Don't worry, I made that one up for myself) and the potential for abuse of the systems and controls on the funding of elections.

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.

Now that was written as part of the discussion of the election overspending by everyone except the Nats.

Since then, Nicky Hager (investigative reporter and history writer "supreme") has surfaced with his latest book on the political machinations in this country. Left wing - extreme even - he might be, but those of us who still remember "Corngate" will know that he is not at all partisan in his criticism of political misdeeds and mistruths.

And there is quite a story in how this latest book was born as well. Before publication was even announced, Brash Donnie was in Court with an application for an injunction against "John and Jane Doe". The objective of the injunction was to prevent publication, in any form, of a large number of emails "stolen from his computer". That injunction was given by the Court, and there was considerable debate - media and talk-back radio - about who "John and Jane Doe" might be... The accusations of political hanky-panky were not helped by Winnie the Pooh's lot saying that they had destroyed all copies of the emails that they had held. That led to further wails from the Nat's about "destruction of evidence" etc etc... There was (still is) very little doubt that the other parties all have their own copies as well.

Then Hager turns up, with his new book about to be published. Within two days, three or four days only after it was granted, Brash Donnie is back trying to find some way of removing the Injunction so that Hager's book can be published.

Say WHAT!!!?

Brash Donnie was trying to find some way of getting the Injunction removed so that Hager's book could be published.

I have not read the book as yet. The 5000 initial print will probably go down as one of this countries fastest best sellers. There have been extracts and reviews in all of the media.

At this point there are two important things to come out of Hager's book. No, not whether Brash runs free and easy with the truth; that is a given for any politician. It should suprise no one. Not just the involvement of the Exclusive Brethren either. See my earlier posts on that count.

The first is the representation of the political party as organisation and as individuals. Go back to my personal life in local government. There were (should still be - I hope) two principles that governed both inward and outward communication. All outward communication speaks for the Council, its officers and the elected representatives; every person signing a letter had to be certain of the content, its correctness and presentation. Similarly (and this is the point ignored or forgotten by Brash Donnie and his Party) all inward correspondance is not to an individual, it can rightly be considered as being to the organisation.

So for Brash Donnie to "explain" that he did not "see" (or read) all of the emails in Hager's book is really rather ingenuous. There is no denial that the emails were from Nat records. That is the critical point in my mind. The organisation received them - therefore the organisation "knew".

The second, and far more important expose in my opinion, is the clear picture it paints of the machinations that are a part of the operation of politics in this country. As I said in the earlier piece...

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 lear[n]t 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.

The party name or position is immaterial. It is how politics operates. It is the greatest legal con-job in town. It works because so few really "know" that.

Remember this -

... I would expect a fresh election within 12 months... I don’t believe that Brash Donnie has the political nous that will be needed to keep a fragile government together.

And then all hell let loose...

Recommended reading -

The World behind political spin

Tomorrow the National caucus meets to choose a new leader, and the
front-runner is finance spokesman John Key. The caucus will also know there are
troubling parallels between Key and the hapless Brash. Both have little
political experience. In both cases there is a suspicion of a gap between the
image and reality. Key may be much further right than he seems.

The wealthy businesspeople who backed Brash have already signalled that
Key will have to earn their confidence and their financial support. The party
needs the money of the radical right - but they won't grant it willy-nilly. Key
will be caught, as Brash was, between the need to deliver pragmatic, centrist
policies to the voters - and the demands from the right for purity.
Brash has
gone, freeing the party of his clumsiness, his old-guy gaffes, and his
unpredictability. But the same political problems that Brash and National faced
are still there.

Political jargon - useful one this ...

"Inoculation": The PR work that parties do to get embarrassing political issues off the agenda. National had to inoculate itself on nuclear ship visits and Labour's promised fourweek holiday.

"Political hygiene": Camouflaging a political attack on a vulnerable group by expressing concern for their welfare. Brash strategist Peter Keenan said it was "essential that every time we talk tough on (Maori) issues, we also run hard with a compassionate line - otherwise we fail the political hygiene test."

"Lines": The "spontaneous" replies - like actors' lines - designed by spin doctors for politicians. Media manager Richard Long prepared lines for Brash to use when the Exclusive Brethren scandal broke - and he faithfully followed them, right down to Long's instructions "to get mildly irritated".

"Mainstream": A camouflage word to disguise a rightwing policy. It was suggested to National by American neocon Richard Allen, who had used it in the campaign for Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan. "Were we really 'right wing' back in 1980, as the press charged?" he [Richard Allen] wrote in an email to Brash. "You bet we were, but (we) responded only by the flat statement that 'Governor Reagan sits squarely in the mainstream."'

"Framing": Defined by National's controversial Australian strategist, Mark Textor, as "setting a notion not about the issues people think about but giving them a WAY to think about the issues". An example was National putting all discussion of welfare and tax cuts into the frame of "incentives", the book says.

"Bridging": Leading the discussion from the manufactured idea in the frame back to issues that helped National.

I will close this with a quote from Marilyn Waring's Foreword to Hager's book. Waring is an ex-National MP, dumped (as I remember) by Rob Muldoon for threatening to vote against his extremely fragile (and politically corrupt) government. She has, as she says, seen this process from the inside. She also knows that it is not unique to the National Party, but endemic in modern politics...

Of course, many of the events and communications recorded in The Hollow Men were legitimate, written by people going about their lawful business. We mightn't like their ideologies, but they would profess as genuine a love and concern for this country as I do. We just see it in a completely different way. But I don't have their business interests. (There's not too much conspiracy in some of the letters quoted from old politicians. I once wrote to John Banks agreeing with something he had said, but I certainly wouldn't want anything to be inferred about my political ideology from that!) There will undoubtedly be a lot of commentary of that nature, but Nicky has undertaken an excellent systems analysis. You cannot take isolated and separate instances away from the whole, and still make sense of the analysis. The constant build-up of' data and texture means the book must be examined as a whole. I hope the reviewers will see that.

I must admit to a sense of anticipated despair about the treatment The Hollow Men might receive. Most of the people I know (and a number of them sit in parliamentary seats) are disgusted with the sandpit the House has become - and it was certainly this bad when I was an MP. We are desperate for a government and an opposition with policies that have content. We are desperate for intelligent debate about the wrinkles around the shades of grey that are the real choices. There's tremendous impatience from many of us with the present simplistic black/white approach. We feel ashamed that a country with such a basically decent and principled population can be so manipulated. There's a real chance that both politicians and the media, and especially the talkback hosts, will see this book as more grist to the sensationalist mill. The focus may be on looking for and condemning the leakers, as opposed to scrutinising an appallingly mendacious political campaign. This is not the outcome Nicky intends. I am sure, as he notes, that there are unpleasant little stories in the emails of other political parties. They may be best to slay well away from the task that now lies in front of National. There have always been people of integrity, intelligence and liberal disposition in the National Party, and they have often been spurned for the cheap sensation of the poll-driven leader. But the country may now like the look of such a refreshingly different group of people: I always prefer the honesty of politicians who agonise in the grey areas. In March 1984 wrote a piece for the New Zealand Listener on 'Leaving Parliament'. Early in the essay I quoted from Adrienne Rich's writing in Women and. Honour: Some Notes on Lying: 'We assume that politicians are without honour. We read their statements trying to crack the code. The scandal of their politics. Not that men in high places lie, only that they do so with such indifference, so endlessly, still expecting to be believed. We are accustomed to the contempt inherent in the political life.'

It is my hope that the ultimate effect of The Hollow Men will be the return of honour and honesty to our democracy. I thank Nicky Hager for his courage and extraordinary hard work.

Marilyn, I wholeheartedly and totally agree.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A piece of hidden history...

I wrote about the 125th Anniversary of Parihaka. Our week-long trip to the 'Naki was not connected in any way until I wrote that.

So, I took with me a small collection of J.C. Sturm's poetry, including her two poems on Parihaka, with the intent of reading them at the site of Parihaka itself.

Now, the first difficulty is finding the site of the original settlements. There is nothing on any of the maps that we were carrying - there is a map here that will help. There are descriptive locations in many of the various writings. They make reference to Bell Block, to a nearby military outpost, to Pungarehu, Pukearuhe both of which you will see are a fair distance apart.

I thought that a visit to Puke Ariki (source of the map, and an excellent museum and aftgernoon's wander) might have helped solve the immediate problem of "Where...?" We found a couple of the old survey pegs in a case. We found detailed description of the Taranaki Wars through the 1850's. The nearest that we got to Parihaka though was the Declaration of Martial Law by Govenor Gore-Brown in 1860; the proclamation that was repealed 24 hours later. That Declaration was the beginning (20 years prior to) the end of the story at Parihaka. It was the show of power and intent that I believe was a strong motivator for Te Whiti and Tohu Kakahi in their promotion of Maori economic independence, if not political and national independence. To be fair to Puke Ariki, their web-site summary of the story does some justice to the man, if not the events.

There was a second reference in the Maori History section of the Museum, including a brief description of the actions of Te Whiti, the responses of the militias, and of the debt owed to Ngai Tahu for their care of the men who were taken into slavery in the South Island, and the women who followed them there.

We did not find the AA sign. It apparently does exist.

We did visit Pukeiti, and the rhododendron gardens there. The place is important to the story, the rhodos coincidental. Or are they? The original land allocations of the area around Pukeiti could well date from the time of the 1860 confiscations.

All in all, it is a fascinating piece of NZ history. It is a critical illustration of the methods used in building the colony. The actions of the colonial administration differed little from those used in the Waikato in the 1850s and 60s, the Bay of Plenty and Tauranga area about the same time, or for that matter the battles between settlers and British forces on the one hand and the Ngapuhi on the other around Bay of Islands and Hokianga in the 1830s; the battles that led to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

There was a man - JC Sturm

There was a man
preached peace
to warrior chiefs.

He built a pa
at Parihaka.
Soldiers burned it down

robbed the people
of their land
and livelihood.

He preached
to them as well.
They would not listen.

Or history
would be different
if they had.

How much longer
must we reap
their bitter harvest?


Kia ora JC Sturm. Kia Ora, kia mana, kia mana.

From my heart, thank you.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Well, I guess that it must be almost summer...

... the probligo has a week off work, there is a lovely fresh 25 knot NWer blowing outside, it absolutely pissed down about 2 hours back (it is coming up 6 a.m. as I write). Oh, and add to that real live icebergs off Dunedin.

So it must be summer.

Add to that the icebergs - the story in the ODT has the real gas headline of "Flights for Thaw Ice".

Air traffic out to Otago’s celebrity icebergs was so thick yesterday, flight paths were issued by Dunedin’s skyway controllers.

So far, four large icebergs have been spotted off the Otago coast, with one of them in two pieces. By last night, they had drifted about a further 18km from shore.

Helicopters Otago pilot Stu Farquhar was among those ferrying sightseers and he said he had never seen anything quite like it.

“It is flat out, actually,” he said.

"The Dunedin control tower, they haven’t put any rules in place but they have put some suggested routes to keep traffic separated out a wee bit.”

So we are off to the 'Naki. Christmas (a bit early I know) with daughter and s-i-l. Well she is very busy people, and I need to take my hols when I can grab the odd week (not like some who piss off to Old Blighty for a month, huh Col!!)

Oh, the photo of the berg was taken from the top of Mt Cargill, Dunedin. Yeah, the white fly-speck thingie there at the top is the berg...

Oh and a little note for you movie-goers before I forget...

News last evening that two recent NZ films have been sold for the US market.

The first - Number 2 - I can highly recommend. It is the story of the passing of authority within a Polynesian family, and the stresses that causes. Touching and quite funny.

The second - Out of the Blue - is not a film I would personally choose to go see. Those who enjoy the depiction, or recreation, of senseless murder might enjoy. Supporters of NRA can feed their insecurities as they rejoice in "yet another proof of the necessity of keeping a gun by the bed". It is the story of a small rural community that was cut apart when David Gray went berserk with a rifle. It has been consistently ranked 5 stars, so don't let my personal dislikes put you off.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Life, the Universe and Everything... One; the movie

HT Dave Justus. Don't know where the questions come from so I copied then from DJ...


1. Why is there poverty and suffering in the world?

Poverty is comparative. A ni-Vanuatu is poor by ‘western’ measures; by Sudanese standards he would be rich beyond measure.

By American standards, I might be considered ‘middle class’; by Samoan standards I might be rich.

I would consider most Americans to be ‘rich’; I would consider Samoans, or ni-Vanuatu to be rich also, but to a different measure.

I consider myself most fortunate.

Suffering is comparative. A person suffering from terminal starvation in Chad would probably have the same emotions as an American suffering the final few hours of terminal cancer. A person suffering from arthritis in Britain probably has the same level of pain as a New Guinean who broke his leg and was fortunate enough to survive.

2. What is the relationship between science and religion?

Science – the 'religion' of what is; of reality.

Religion - the 'science' of anything we do not understand or know.

3. Why are so many people depressed?

Why are so many people ‘happy’?

One of the very great factors leading to ‘depression’ is the expectation generated by our current culture that everyone must compulsorily be happy all of the time. As a consequence of denial of all of the other (equally valid) emotions, the ability to adequately compare and control states of happiness, sadness, or anger, has been lost. Incidentally, I suspect that is why so many try to find their happiness and solace at the bottom of a bottle, or at the Oz end of a drug-induced rainbow.

So depression, other than clinical depression, can be thought of as a disease of our culture rather than of the mind. It springs primarily from the social myth of perpetual happiness and a consequent inability to cope with reality. It is the anorexia of the soul.

Clinical depression is a much rarer, and a totally different state of mind. It is provably caused by a chemical imbalance within the brain. There are very few who suffer true clinical depression.

4. What are we all so afraid of?

Uncertainty. It is the ‘not knowing’ that has led to science, to religion, to soothsayers and astrology.

5. When is war justifiable?

Is it?

War is two sided. There are never any ‘one-sided’ wars.

Defence is justifiable. Attack and aggression are not.

6. How would God want us to respond to aggression and terrorism?

What God?

I would respond to aggression and terrorism by defending myself using every, and any, means available to me. That might include becoming a terrorist.

I would take great care that my defence did not extend to the point where I became the aggressor.

7. How does one obtain true peace?

Peace of the mind? .

If you are Bhuddist, the question might equate to ‘Peace of the spirit’. If you are American, I suspect that it might equate to ‘everyone else leave us to pursue our own interests'.

But let’s take a slightly different path. The greatest enemy of peace (as in tranquillity) is uncertainty. Generally I am at peace with the world to the extent that I have reconciled myself to all known uncertainties. As and when a new uncertainty arises, I might not be at peace until the uncertainty is resolved. I know that I will die. That is certain. I do not know when. That is uncertain. I will not allow the uncertainty to affect my enjoyment of this life.

Aren’t I a smug and self-satisfied ol’ probligo?

Peace of the world?

Peace between people is far more complex and difficult. ‘Why can’t we all just get along’ does not cut the mustard. Nor do any of the other trite political and religious platitudes.

It is to be striven for, but will never be achieved. Because humanity is not homogenous - see 20. - there will always be individuals and groups who believe they have the right to control or direct others to a particular way of thinking or acting. Enforced change - as distinct from evolution - will always give rise to uncertainty and conflict.

8. What does it mean to live in the present moment?

Ummm, so that is what was next?

9. What is our greatest distraction?

What might be…

Sorry, can't separate those two.

10. Is current religion serving its purpose?

If the true purpose of religion is to ‘justify’ war, then yes it is.

If the true purpose of religion is to provide a path for individuals to a ‘better’ and ‘happier’ life then that is debatable – I suspect that it does not. Certainly my brief and very futile brushes with organised religion did nothing for me. Contrast that with any person who is devout in their religion and you will immediately prove me wrong.

11. What happens to you after you die?

There is no ‘after’.

12. Describe Heaven and how to get there.

Look around me.

Look around you.

13. What is the meaning of life?

Look in the dictionary. It is a word.

Seriously, I can only think of ‘life’ as the total combined accumulated effect of certain, very complex chemicals, attempting to provide for their own replication and perpetuation in an environment which is doing its utmost to wipe out the existence of the complex chemicals.


I am. That is enough.

14. Describe God.

How? I have no concept, knowledge, nor understanding, of what ‘God’ might be.

15. What is the greatest quality humans possess?


Sorry, I can not separate these either.

16. What is it that prevents people from living to their full potential?

Measurement. ‘Full potential’ compared to what? A monkey?

What is ‘full potential’ for a new-born girl in Sudan or Nigeria or China, compared with a new-born girl in NZ or Australia?

See 13.

17. Non-verbally, by motion or gesture only, act out what you believe to be the current condition of the world.

Fetal position if you are American.

Everyone else hides behind something (put your hand over your eyes) so that they can not be seen, and nor can they see.

18. What is your one wish for the world?

Good luck!! You are going to need it!!

19. What is wisdom, and how do we gain it?


(There are three intended meanings in that one word. )

20. Are we all One?

No, we are all individuals. And am I glad of that!! Imagine how boring life would be if we were all like George Bush, or Osama bin Laden, or Auntie Helen or worst of all, like me!!

Yes, we are all one species. Nothing more certain than that.

The truth – somewheres in between.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

On parental responsibility - and that of society...

As an ancillary to my previous post there was a little gem on the news last night which quite literally had me looking for my gun.

But a little background first.

New Zealand has a gambling problem. Well, to be honest we have two gambling problems.

The first is the number of opportunities there are for gambling. When I was a kid you had the races (government controlled through the Totalisator Agency Board), the Golden Kiwi Lottery (again government controlled), and Bonus Bonds. Then someone decided we needed casinos in order to attract tourists to NZ, and to give them somewhere to spend their money. After all, every tourist wants to go to a casino don't they!! So millions were spent on building casinos, including that horrendous phallic symbol in the centre of Auckland. But that wasn't enough. So many locals wanted greater gambling opportunties, particularly for fund-raising for sporting clubs and kindergartens and the like so the Government changed the law to make pokies legal in virtually any and every public space where one or more can be squeezed...

The second is the people who gamble. A number of years back I worked as accountant in a factory with about 25 staff. Come Christmas Eve and the holiday pay (for the next three weeks) was handed out. Fifteen minutes the later the carpark was empty. The boss shook his head sadly and said "All but about three of them will have nothing of that pay left by tomorrow." Come three days later he was back at work, giving out loans to staff who had nothing to live on for the next two and a half weeks. That is not an unusual occurrence. It would be close to a universal.

So,. to the item on the news the other evening... that link will likely expire in the next week. There is nothing on the Herald - yet.

One of Auckland's "poor" areas is the suburb of Otara. It started life as a major government housing scheme. A large proportion of the population are dependants of the state.

A new "games arcade" for the kids was started up about three months ago. Last night's item on the news centred on three new "games" that had been installed recently. Set amongst the shoot-em-up, the hit-and-run, the normal games of the kids of these days were three pokie machines. They were not your casino standard, but were somewhat simplified for the kids to run. According to the reporter there were two different "games", one of which gave a monetary "win" in the form of tokens that could be exchanged for soft drinks or similar. While the camera was filming, one of the players (a kid who looked every day of about 12) won a $5 token. After getting their film, the reporters contacted the regulating agency for gambling in NZ, and the importers of the machine. At the end of the report they returned to the arcade and these machines had been removed. What spoil-sports are they!!


Right, now to fill in a bit more of the background -

Probability one - the parents of these kids were either at work (filmed at about 4 p.m.) or they were in one of the local bars playing the pokies.

Fact one - from the programme. The regulating agency did not know of the import or availability of the "kids pokies".

Probability two - the parents neither knew nor cared where their kids were, nor how they obtained the money for their games.

Fact two - from the programme. The kids playing the machines wanted more of them because "they are easy to beat". They proceeded to show the reporters how to win from the machines.

Now, is anyone getting the feeling that there is something wrong in this picture? No, it is not that the nanny state is responsible here. Well not directly anyhow. It is not the "failure of welfare" because there is equal chance or better that both parents are in paid employment. It is not entirely the failure of the parents as they are (very probably) unaware of what their kids are doing.

But, at the same time, is it right that kids as young as 10 or 7 or even 5 should be getting "training" in the use and "benefits" of gambling machines?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

More thoughts on justice and punishment...

Been a few blogs around that have indirectly (some directly) drawn attention to this article written by Theodore Dalrymple (otherwise known as Dr Anthony Daniels).

Now it is very difficult for me to argue with much of what he says. Once again it is not the "facts" that are "wrong" so much as the additional narrative that is missing.

The first and most important missing fact is that his two week stay in this country was as guest of the "Sensible Sentencing Trust".

Take the two examples that he gives as "instances" of how the NZ justice system "fails", and the sequel to the second;
The first concerned a man with 102 convictions, many for violence including rape. (I should point out that 102 convictions means many more offences, since the conviction rate is never 100 per cent of the offending rate, and is sometimes only 5 or 10 per cent of it.)

This man nevertheless became eligible for parole.


The second case was of a man with many previous convictions, some for violence, who abducted and murdered a young woman aged 24. He was imprisoned and applied for bail. Three times he was turned down, but a fourth judge granted him bail. He was sent to live at a certain address, where he befriended his neighbours, who did not know that he was accused of murder. Eight months later, while babysitting their children, he killed one of them.


Perhaps the most extraordinary twist of this terrible tale is that the parents of the murdered child then had another baby, which the social services then removed from them on the grounds that they had previously entrusted a child to the care of a murderer and were therefore irresponsible parents. The state blames its citizens for the mistakes - if that is what they are - that it makes.

You can find the gory details of two more instances if you wish on the SST page...

Those four have occurred over a period of some 15 years.

I could add another, of a 15 y-o who was convicted of drug related crimes including use of methamphetamine, who was released to the care of his family and given work experience in a local office. He went back to the office one evening, killed two and seriously injured a third with a baseball bat and made off with the day's takings. He is now the youngest person in this country to have been sentenced to life imprisonment (which given NZ sentencing law means he will be eligible for parole when he is about 30).

It would be a perfect world if we could stop all of these killings and maimings. It would be a perfect world if we did not have road traffic deaths as well.

But commentators like Dalrymple, and organisations like SST as well come to the point, really do piss me off more than just a little.

Yes, I have a problem with them, and it is very simple.

Like so many people, they take a single instance or a very small number of instances and make sweeping generalisations covering the whole population. I can not argue against the figures, they pretty much speak for themselves.

What is missing -

* A meaningful and supportable discussion of the causes of increased crime levels.

* A meaningful and supportable discussion of possible and effective measures that would reduce crime.

* A meaningful and supportable discussion of effective crime prevention.

To take the first point - why did serious crime levels start increasing so rapidly in the early 1980's? Were the causes economic? Were they connected to other social or cultural changes? Were they the result of poor education of parents 20 years earlier? There is no examination of that question by SST. There is a good chance that every one of those questions contributed, but not one more than others.

As an instance in the second case. Parliament last night rejected legislation to increase the minimum age for purchasing liquor from 18 back to 20 (it was reduced some 6 years back). I am pleased that it was rejected. Most of the 18 and older people I know are comparatively responsible. There are a small minority who are not. That is the group that society has to minimise. I can suspect that a goodly number of that minority abuse alchohol, or supply it to under-age siblings, because that is what they were given or allowed to do by their parents. Well documented instances exist - the mother grieving for her son killed in a car accident; she had given him a 40oz bottle of vodka to take to a party and he was driving.

This is very much a social problem. For Dalrymple (as just one instance) to characterise it in this fashion in a somewhat differently edited version of the same op-ed as it appeared in the Herald -
For several hours a large number of these young men careered through the streets (of Napier) in their cars with sawn-off exhausts, completely unoposed - as far as I could tell - by representatives of the law.


And I don't suppose that I have to elaborate on the likely future of a society that fears its own children, or at least enough of them to retreat indoors when they come out to play.

Children have parents.

A very good number of those "children" - the boy racers - are in fact driving vehicles either owned by or purchased by their parents.

A very good number of those "children" are in fact in their 20's. A few could themselves BE parents.

That excuses nothing. This is a problem that society needs deal with. It is the kid's "fault"? Or is it the parent's?

What pisses me is that a person (not the term I would like to use) like Daniels can come to a country like NZ as a guest of a group with a political agenda and can then spout off with great authority about what is wrong.


How about some sensible, workable, suggestions on how it can be stopped?

What a hoot!!

Just stuck my nose in neo-neocon's door for a quick gander at what might be happening in her post election partying.

Waddayaknow? She's got trolls again!! (Or is it "still").

The hilarious bit is that it looks like she misses me!!!

Good luck, Neo. Everything you deserve!!

Oh, and there was nothing on the election other than a brief "Democrats will win". It does make me wonder - what will the extreme right of the US blogiverse do now? Nothing to defend, everything to attack.

I guess that the standard of the rhetoric is due to go south by quite a few notches.

Oh, and "Told ya so..." will be a paramount!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Hollywood? Nah! Wonderland!!

There has been a lot of raruraru in the US blogworld these past couple days about Richard Perle’s recant of his position on the Iraq War. Apparently, it is no longer a “good idea”.

Similarly there has been a lot of baying for the blood of Don Rumsfeld in the military press this morning. They are coming to the realization that he is “not the best Secretary of Defence there has ever been”.

But is this really what should be happening?

There was a quiet, somewhat brief, mention in the local news that the National Security Archive had released a paper on “war games” involving an invasion of Iraq. As in “declassified”?

Well, Alice would have loved this one as “curiouser and curiouser” it truly is.

The first reference took me to GWU’s National Security archive. Well, I guess that has some logic to it. The link at the end of their release however was a “404”. Hmm, curious?

Google again… this time for National Security Archive.

Ah Ha!! And there is a piccyture of the said report!! A line banged through the middle of the word "Secret" yet!!

Yep, sho’nuf, there it is again, right there!! Along with these two darling little quotes…
"There was consensus that the United States would not intervene without coalition support except under the most dire circumstances such as WMD use or catastrophic humanitarian disaster."
- Desert Crossing After Action Report, 1999.

"When it looked like we were going in, I called back down to CENTCOM and said, 'You need to dust off Desert Crossing.' They said, 'What's that? Never heard of it.'"
- General Anthony Zinni (ret.), 2004.

That also contained the main substance of the news report that I had heard. But I don’t think that we are quite there yet. One more link and BINGO!!

The Executive Summary on its own makes for interesting reading.

So, why is this “curious”?

Well for a starter, the report date – 1999 – and the declassification date – 2004.

The report dates from Clinton’s Presidency. I suspect that it should have been the foundation stone for any reticence that there may have been at that time for solving the Iraq question by invasion.

That of itself adds a “curiouser yet” when we recall the blame and imprecations heaped upon Clinton for not having taken action. Here is a very primary defence – the National Security Agency were recommending against invasion without some very careful and thorough appraisals of the risks involved. But, never once has it been mentioned... until now.

The second is that the report – see my little quote above – was so “secret” that even CENTCOM knew nothing of it in 2003. Curiouser yet is the fact that only some 12 months later it was declassified. How important and secret is that? So curiouser yet – the highest levels of the US Army knew nothing of it? Even after General Zinni’s phone call to his mates in CENTCOM, it seems that there was very little done with the report prior to the invasion. After all virtually every recommendation in that report was ignored.

Despite all that, the US blogiverse seems happy with the Perle (sorry) that has been cast before them. They are happy to bay at the smiling Rumsfeld or, like the Queen of Hearts, shout "Off with 'is head!!" at every turn.

Sadly, it seems there may be many more heads to fall.

Curiouser and curiouser… not least of which is "Is it a fake?"

Sunday, November 05, 2006

November 5, 1881

Today is the 125th anniversary of the sacking of Parihaka, a Maori township on the west side of Taranaki. This single event ranks as one of the more shameful in the history of this country.

I commend the following as compulsory reading.

Historic Places Trust

New Zealand in History

It is worth reading the Teara account of Te Whiti O Rongomai. It is a brief picture of the man, who led his people, his town, in a peaceful protest of civil disobedience.