Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Meri Kirihimete!!

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Come Christmas, this is where the ol probligo is going to be.

Perhaps it is appropriate as even in a nation as small as NZ, a community as small as Opononi, an individual such as the probligo is a small fry.

If you want to send in the Predator, the probligo's place is one of the light coloured dots just beneath the second "o" in Opononi.

For those who don't know, the heading is the "translation" of English to phonetic Maori. Happened a lot in the 1800's with the missionarys and all floating about.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas images...

One of the traditional images of Christmas in NZ is the pohutukawa tree, which turns to a blaze of red in the weeks between mid-November and Christmas.

This particular one is at the bottom of our driveway, over the fence on our neighbour's front lawn.

This is a closer of the tree showing the flowers a bit better.

THere is also an element of skite here too, as these were taken with my birthday present, a Panasonic Lumix FZ50. Both photos are unenlarged, unmodified, except for the file size, straight from the camera and in the second photo cropped to fit at 1:1 from the RAW file. The camera produces both jpg and RAW files. The RAW file is amazing, and at 100% you can see the individual stamens in the flowers. That from a photo that frames the full height of the tree.

I like it!! Thanks family, this is one camera that will get USED!

Mind you, the multi-exposure studio work still comes out best on film rather than processed digital. So the Sony is still in demand as well.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A snapshot of our "civilisation"

Featured in Ana Samway's "Sideswipe" column this morning is this offering for "the boy who has to have everything".

When will we see the "real live explosive IED", the AK47 that makes real firing noises, or the funtastic waterboarding kit?

Thanks Ana... I think.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Church and State...

I left the comment at Stern's Rantings that he had illustrated exactly why I believe Church and State should never mix.

Well, I am not going to lie down.

Yesterday, Mitt Romney delivered a speech that artfully blended the centrist Meacham and the conservative Neuhaus.

From Meacham, whose book he has read twice, Romney borrowed the language of America’s political religion. He argued that beneath the differences among America’s denominations there is a common creed, a conception of a moral order described in the Declaration of Independence, and lived out during the high points in the nation’s history. He recounted Sam Adams’s plea for unity in a time of crisis, and how his own father’s commitment to the basic American creed caused him to march with Martin Luther King Jr.

From Neuhaus, Romney borrowed the conviction that faith is under assault in America — which is the unifying glue of social conservatism. He argued that the religious have a common enemy: the counter-religion of secularism.

He insisted that the faithful should stick stubbornly to their religions, as he himself sticks to the faith of his fathers. He insisted that God-talk should remain a vibrant force in the public square and that judges should be guided by the foundations of their faith. He lamented the faithlessness of Europe and linked the pro-life movement to abolition and civil rights, just as evangelicals do.

And yet it might...
The Destiny Church-backed Family Party begins its play for the Mangere electorate today.

The party says the seat, which is currently held by embattled MP Taito Phillip Field, is crucial to its 2008 election campaign.

The perils of investment -

One of the pebbles I tossed into the pool the other day was the latest economic directive from GBW to give some relief to those affected by the sub-prime mortgage financing debacle in the US.

Well, it has been little different here in NZ. As far back as March, commentators were pointing to direct impact on the investment markets and the “supermarket variety” finance houses that were soliciting investments at that time.
A private equity failure is inevitable and one bad deal could be enough to wipe significant value off New Zealand markets, says leading investment manager Arcus.
Arcus - which manages $5 billion in New Zealanders' savings - says the local sharemarket's record highs were substantially driven by the prospect of merger and acquisition activity. If such a merger was to fail, this would create uncertainty and sharemarket volatility.
"It is inevitable that at some stage, a private equity company will encounter difficulties," the company said in its quarterly investment strategy update yesterday.

In the broader definition of “private equity company” – as investor of funds “on behalf of” – must be the finance company. These range from the company that provides mortgage funds to home-buyers to the kind of persistent advertisers on tv who will lend anyone money irrespective of financial status or ability to repay. As a point of comparison this is NZ’s version of the sub-prime market that has been somewhat shaky in the US of recent times starting with the Federal bailout of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

Investors should be heartened by the performance of major finance companies over the past year, and the string of 13 failures in the sector over the last 18 months is a "purging in the process of a return to health," says KPMG.
The failures have to date, put close to $1.5 billion in New Zealanders' savings at risk, with the latest - Capital + Merchant Finance - placed in receivership last Thursday, after KPMG finished its report.
Boyce said while the aggregate results were solid the overall picture was one of "a continued slowdown in asset and earnings growth with the deterioration in credit quality measures suggesting the favourable credit environment enjoyed by the sector since 2000 has ended".
(Empahsis mine)

Now I think that $1.5 billion of private individuals’ savings is a fair amount in any books. It doesn’t quite rank with Enron, agreed, and there are 13 different and unrelated companies involved. But when you factor in that a government guarantee for that amount would cost $333 per person then the value starts to be significant.

As I have said in the item on IRD taking a gander into property trading as a taxable activity, all of those who lost money in these companies have made assumptions, listened to advice with their confirmation bias at full volume, or in the saddest cases been given plain wrong advice.

It is that last group that the regulators are rightfully concentrating on. The “financial adviser” who has a lucrative commission agreement with a finance house MUST be prepared to back his advice with a good share of the risk.

But the mere fact that someone might lose money from taking an investment risk does not in any way mean that the government should step in and guarantee that investment.
PRESIDENT George W. Bush has rolled out multiple measures aimed at preventing borrowers with sub-prime adjustable-rate mortgages from entering foreclosure, but he also blasted Congress for not doing more to help.

"There is no perfect solution," he said. "The home owners deserve our help. The steps I've outlined today are a sensible response to a serious challenge."

The plan seeks to combat a rising tide of foreclosures by making it easier for lenders to freeze the "starter" interest rate for certain borrowers for five years. The initiative includes an agreement, brokered by Bush administration officials, between the loan servicers who would administer a rate freeze and the investors to whom the mortgage debt has been sold.

The agreement sets conditions under which rates on certain loans could be temporarily frozen. It isn't binding, but because it hasthe support of major investors, it is expected to give loan servicers much more flexibility to quickly rework some loans and direct other borrowers toward refinancings.

Now let's just think for a moment what that means. The government is providing controls "...aimed at preventing borrowers with sub-prime adjustable-rate mortgages from entering foreclosure...". In other words, those making the investments are protected from the failure of the borrowers. So, it must be asked, who really benefits?

I submit that it is those who own and invest in the lenders.
Mr Bush said a rise in foreclosures would have a "negative" impact on the economy.

"Yet one reason for confidence is that the downturn in housing comes against the backdrop of solid fundamentals in other areas, including low inflation, a healthy job market, record-high exports," he said. But with close to 2 million sub-prime ARMs scheduled to reset higher by the end of 2009, Mr Bush said initiatives were needed to address such a broad potential problem.

and again -
The big sticking point in the negotiations was getting investors who had purchased the mortgages after they were bundled into securities to agree to accept lower interest payments. Critics have said that even with a deal, there are likely to be lawsuits. But officials representing major players in the mortgage industry said they believed the plan would withstand any legal challenges and would help at-risk home owners avoid defaulting on their mortgages.

...and crying all the way to the bank.

There is little difference here in NZ.

ONE of the major economic growth drivers of the past ten years started with the "get rich quick" seminars that were all the rage (and still are too judging by my mail) back then. "Protect your future by investing in the property market". Highly geared property purchases became all the rage. In the past three years or so 100% mortgages have become commonplace. My daughter and s-i-l have a house in Paraparaumu that they would not otherwise be able to afford.

There has been much talk in the past couple years of the "property market bubble", and when it was likely to "burst". Don't look now, folks but at the moment I think I would prefer to have my money in the bank. That raises the question of "Which one?"
CITIGROUP faces a crisis of investor confidence as one of the world's top ratings agencies warns that up to $US65 billion ($A73 billion) in debt issued by the world's biggest bank is at threat from the US subprime crisis.

Moody's Investors Service said at the weekend that it had either cut or was reviewing its evaluation on debt issued by structured investment vehicles (SIVs) controlled by Citigroup.

Essentially, SIV's are exactly the same as the investment vehicles used by the likes of Capital+Merchant Finance. I suspect that the PIE's being offered by the likes of Rabobank in NZ are little different.
Moody's said in a statement that it had observed "material declines in market value" across SIV holdings during a broad review of dozens of SIVs run by a number of banks.

Since November 7, Moody's has reviewed 20 SIVs worth about $US130 billion associated with various lenders. It has cut its rating on $US14 billion worth of debt, placed $US105 billion of debt on review for a downgrade, and confirmed the ratings on $US11 billion.

And are those scary numbers or what...

Oh DEAR!! How sad...

...never mind.

Amongst all of the bad news stories over the past few months for local investors comes this little piece –
The country's top 1000 property speculators are being targeted in an Inland Revenue crackdown on unpaid taxes.
As part of the campaign, IRD staff are visiting real estate agents with warnings that sales and purchase information would have to be disclosed if requested.

In this year's budget, the IRD got an extra $14.6 million to target tax evasion in the property market.

A Wellington real estate firm, which declined to be named, said it was dismayed that a recent IRD visit warned of possible sales and purchase auditing.

"At the end of the day it shows they can come in here and do anything," an agent said.
IRD assurance group manager Martin Scott said its visits to real estate offices included a presentation on the obligations involved in property transactions.

The 1000 people identified with extremely high numbers of property transactions would be contacted to see if they would make "voluntary disclosures" about their tax returns.

"Some people have a belief you don't have to pay taxes on housing profits but depending on the purchaser's intent it could be taxable."

He declined to say how IRD identified property profiteers but said it used audit powers that required "third parties" such as real estate agents to disclose information about their clients.

"Yes, we do have powers to request information but at this stage these visits [to agents] are more about where we are going and what to expect from us. We would give them [agents] scenarios on what we would consider taxable and what we wouldn't."

By making voluntary disclosures people could limit or avoid penalties, Scott said.
"We are not trying to trap people. We are working to ensure that people have the information they need to do the right thing."

It is not as if the action was being taken without warning. The start came from the last Budget, with some $14 million being set aside for the purpose. It is not as if there has been any retrospective law change; the tax law being used has been largely unchanged since I did the tax law part of my professional qualifications in 1980.

Interesting too that the real estate boys are crying “Foul!”. I suspect that a good number of them will be among the people who will be getting “please explain” letters from IRD. The “invasion of privacy” argument is a total crock. All of the property transactions are a matter of public record through LINZ. It would not be difficult (or expensive) for IRD to tap into that source of information.

Essentially, the tax law distinguishes between trading as a business (which is subject to the tax laws) and the level of “trading” that a person might undertake in the normal course of living. There have been similar “attacks” from time to time in the past. First to come to mind is the people who were trading in motor vehicles; the guys who might buy a car from the local car fair in Paeroa and then sell at a profit the following weekend in Auckland. Good business, but that is what it is. It is not a hobby.

What the IRD is saying, what the law has always said, is that trading through perhaps four or five properties in a year and living in none of them is not necessarily a hobby or incidental transactions. There might even be no “intent” (as Rodney describes it). The fact that there has been both volume of trading and profit made is sufficient for IRD to get interested.

So Rodney Hide is quite wrong when he says, "The IRD has come up with new and novel ideas that have just tipped people over.” Rodney, there are a lot of people out there who have made assumptions, listened to advice with their confirmation bias at full volume, or in the saddest cases been given plain wrong advice. Some of those people might even be the mates who are getting in your ear.


And just to add to their woes...
A mini-boom is about to hit the property market, giving buyers a chance to bag bargains and make money as the market corrects.

That's the advice from Martin Evans, president of the New Zealand Property Investors Federation.

And, according to test-cricketer-turned-mortgage-broker Adam Parore, more deals are likely to come on to the market as homeowners, who have enjoyed low fixed rates for years, have to contend with the current high interest rates.

The Herald on Sunday's search of Trade Me's property website found dozens of properties already going below valuation.

Evans said: "The values have dropped and people are becoming more realistic. The cycle has gone over the top and is on its way back down again."

Interpretation -
Now that the market has topped, I want out and I want to sell to you so that you cop the loss instead of me.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The China syndrome...

In cruising around the various "news" berths that I check on a regular basis I dropped in on the mates at aldaily.

Among the more recent offerings is this from Slavoj Zizek, a quite interesting essay on the history and future of the "China Capitalism". He presents an interesting view of the history of China's economy, rationalising the command economy with the Europe of the early Industrial Revolution, the birth of the economics of Marx and Engels, and the rationale behind the Cultural Revolution.
Modern-day China is not an oriental-despotic distortion of capitalism, but rather the repetition of capitalism’s development in Europe itself. In the early modern era, most European states were far from democratic. And if they were democratic (as was the case of the Netherlands during the 17th century), it was only a democracy of the propertied liberal elite, not of the workers. Conditions for capitalism were created and sustained by a brutal state dictatorship, very much like today’s China. The state legalized violent expropriations of the common people, which turned them proletarian. The state then disciplined them, teaching them to conform to their new ancilliary role.

The features we identify today with liberal democracy and freedom (trade unions, universal vote, freedom of the press, etc.) are far from natural fruits of capitalism. The lower classes won them by waging long, difficult struggles throughout the 19th century. Recall the list of demands that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels made in the conclusion of The Communist Manifesto. With the exception of the abolition of private property, most of them—such as a progressive income tax, free public education and abolishing child labor—are today widely accepted in “bourgeois” democracies, and all were gained as the result of popular struggles.

I might add to that the final stages of that popular revolution, one often overlooked, and not (to my knowledge) one promoted by the MArx/Engels collective. It was a revolution that first started to fruit in New Zealand, although the flowers had bloomed in Britain long before. That revolution was, of course, the emancipation of women; the granting of full participatory rights to a good half of the population that had previously been ignored.

However, it is the Chinese economy that has centre stage here.

It was primarily this statement that pricked my fancy -
Those who see this [the revival of the Marxist ideal] as a threat to capitalist liberalization totally miss the point.

As do most, if not all of those who have commented (one at considerable length) poking the borax at Zizek for "getting it all totally wrong".

As Zizek concludes -
That is what is so unsettling about today’s China: Its authoritarian capitalism may not be merely a remainder of our past but a portent of our future.

He is not alone. Businessweek has similar thoughts -

Without question, China's business class has come a long way since the Deng era. Although the hybrid firms were a big break from socialism, authorities were more willing to shower favors like cheap loans and land on companies in which the state had a stake. That largesse often prevented companies from becoming truly competitive--and fed enormous waste.

Government-owned companies that all but monopolized business a decade ago make up only 47% of the economy today. Meanwhile, the private sector--not counting farms and the operations of foreign investors--accounts for as much as 40%, according to the China Economic Quarterly, an independent journal. In Shanghai, the number of private enterprises exceeds 111,000, according to the Shanghai Private Enterprise Assn.

If those numbers are accurate, then the private sector is making enormous strides--especially since government companies still monopolize such key industries as banking, telecom services, and wholesaling. One factor boosting these numbers is that many companies have ceased to disguise their truly private nature. Until recently, many ''foreign joint ventures'' were controlled by domestic entrepreneurs through Hong Kong shells. Other entrepreneurs felt they had to register their companies as collectives just so local clients would do business with them. ''Now I have thrown away my 'red cap,''' says Zhou Fusheng, founder of $1.2 million signmaker Shanghai Dasheng Industry & Trade Co., who termed his company a ''collective'' in its early years. ''I'm not afraid to be a private businessman anymore.'' Also, a wave of privatizations by cash-hungry provincial and municipal governments has placed thousands of factories and service companies in private hands.

BEST HOPE. The implications for China, where the claim that the state is the core of the economy remains embedded in Communist Party dogma, are earthshaking. Not only does raw capitalism raise new questions about the legitimacy of the party's monopoly--it also underscores the desperation the leadership now faces over the economy. Simply put, President Jiang Zemin, Premier Zhu Rongji, and others recognize that the private sector offers the best hope as an engine of growth. As state firms shed workers and shut plants, new businesses are urgently needed to generate millions of new jobs.

and later -
In many advanced economies, social tensions find some release in democratic elections that allow the aggrieved to oust unpopular or corrupt leaders. China has so far steadfastly avoided that approach. It is instead struggling to find other ways to keep its vast bureaucracy and increasingly unruly businesses in line.

Few people think these trends pose an imminent threat to the Communist Party's hold on power. ... More immediately, there are economic costs that result from the disjunctures, and these could imperil the continued progress of China's economic reforms.

Concluding that -
China's leaders in the past three decades have engineered one of the most remarkable economic transformations in human history. And yet today the country faces tests borne of that progress that are in some ways trickier than those it has already overcome. A nation that started out railing against capitalism now embodies many of its most extreme elements. Like other industrializing economies, it must find ways to guide national ambitions, so they don't ultimately undercut the national interest.

The strength of the China economic miracle lies with the strength of its leadership. Is that something unique?

Hardly -
PRESIDENT George W. Bush has rolled out multiple measures aimed at preventing borrowers with sub-prime adjustable-rate mortgages from entering foreclosure, but he also blasted Congress for not doing more to help.

"There is no perfect solution," he said. "The home owners deserve our help. The steps I've outlined today are a sensible response to a serious challenge."
Speaking at the White House, Mr Bush said a rise in foreclosures would have a "negative" impact on the economy.

"Yet one reason for confidence is that the downturn in housing comes against the backdrop of solid fundamentals in other areas, including low inflation, a healthy job market, record-high exports," he said. But with close to 2 million sub-prime ARMs scheduled to reset higher by the end of 2009, Mr Bush said initiatives were needed to address such a broad potential problem.
Other legislative initiatives included expanding the ability of state and local governments to issue tax-exempt bonds to help borrowers refinance.

And he called on the Senate to pass legislation to reform oversight of government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

He said legislation passed earlier this year by the House to reform supervision of the companies was a "good start".

"These institutions provide liquidity in the mortgage market that benefits millions of home owners, and it is vital that they operate safely and operate soundly," Mr Bush said.

... and so on.

The connection? Well I obviously do not believe that Bush has power of directive over the remainder of the US government. That is simply not so. But there is a strong political voice, and one which is entirely capable of turning to a majority opposition and saying -

"Well, we suggested the solution, you ignored it, so the responsibility is yours. Not that you care..."

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

On turning sixty years...

In some ways it is familiar. Today is little different from yesterday. The memory of a year back has dimmed a little but regular visitors will know that there is a far greater glow to today than then. The memory of twenty years back is focussed on great events, the milestones and achievements of a close and loving family. Even more so are the memories of fifty years ago those that had the greatest impacts.

I can recall -

At the age of eight being ticked off for hitting a tennis ball - quite accurately too - with both hands on the racquet, and for playing what was effectively forehand on both sides. I would never become a keen tennis player, but not for that reason.

At the age of four, standing with my brother and the old man, peering into the cold and damp of an Auckland fog searching for Rangitoto light. Then we went downstairs for breakfast. We were on the Tofua, on one of her first voyages coming back from Tonga.

and so it goes on...

Trying to play tennis at the age of 35, and getting extremely upset at my inability to hit the ball before it went past me rather than after...

Going down to the wharves in Auckland on my own, to see Tofua leave for the last time bound sadly for the scrap yards...

We celebrated this non-earth-shattering event on Saturday evening. We had friends, rellies; from ancient cousins to five month old granddaughter; from Whangamata to next door they came.

That, more than anything else, was the most enjoyable part. The people with whom I was able to share this little commemoration.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

NZ has TERRORISTS!!! - 8

It is not often that I would turn to Nicky Hager as a source for comment and analysis. Not, you understand, because of any major mistrust that I might have in his credibility or truthfulness but simply because his politik and mine are somewhat distant.

I make the exception this time because he has expressed on this occasion much of my continuing misgivings about the “Urewera police raids”, and has also added much from his direct observation and consideration of the available evidence.

Hager starts with the description of events two years ago when a person purchased a pistol holster over the internet. Seriously paranoid police in the "intelligence unit" prepared an affidavit which included what can only be described as "speculative charges" that the man intended to overthrow the government of NZ.

Yeah, right?

OK so the police have used this legal technique before, not necessarily in relation to the Suppression of Terrorism Act (SOTA). Isn't that comforting!

I can just imagine the kind of conversations that might emanate from the Ureweras. When we lived in Te Whaiti it was peaceful, and there was no problem in "intercepting" the private calls of others on the party line. Our line was 4, our call was "U" (ditditdah in Morse) and there were probably another 5 or 6 households on that line at least. Stories abound of the local who keeps up with the affairs of others by quietly raising his/her receiver and listening in.

One only has to listen in the local pub in a place like Opo, or Ruatoki, or Murupara to get a good guage on political feeling in the district. In the regional strongholds of Rangatiratanga and the even more "extreme" Maori political movements the discussion of "war" is not common, but can be heard from the more fuelled of the bar's clientele. Generally it centres on past grievance. In Taranaki it would be strongest about the time that the anniversary of Parihaka is observed. Up north, Ruapekapeka and similar actions figure fairly strongly in the feelings of the locals still.

The point here is though that all of these were more than three or four generations ago. Ruatoki, and its surrounding district, has just last year celebrated the centenary of the police action against Rua Kenana (who was in fact a Christian prophet, much in the same vein as David Koresh). As a result of that action, the government of the day drew a line in the ground and confiscated all of the tribe's land and resources north and west of that line. The fact that the army lined up at that point in the Ruatoki road at the start of Operation Eight is more than symbolic. Sorry, did I say "army"? It should have been "armed constabulary", for that is surely what they were.

And, returning to Hager's article, the whole of that action was authorised, based upon, speculative interpretations of very selective pieces of "evidence". I have no reason to doubt Hager's description of the process; the accumulation of all of the evidence that has "worked" to obtain further authority to take the action another step toward conclusion. If an application for another step fails, then that affidavit dies. Successful, and the next affidavit is built upon that foundation. Hager's point, and he makes it quite persuasively, is that the core of the continuing process is in fact speculative. It is driven by predetermined objectives. It is fuelled by a desire held at the highest levels in our Police force to achieve what are so close to political objectives that the cross-over is almost palpable. [Note that I am adding to Hager's report here, not directly reporting.]

Hager uses the example of "quasi military training camps" to illustrate how this works. ""quasi military training camps"? How much different it would be if they were described in the same kind of glowing terms as some of the Outward Bound courses? Or The Sir Edmund Hillary OTC courses. None of these provide any weapons training but there are some who might see that as a disadvantage to those courses as well. Certainly that is something that I would like to see, and apart from the basic training provided by the army there seems to be quite a gap here in terms of the formal teaching of weapon use, weapon care and the practical use of weapons in the field. However, it now seems probable that any such training course would very soon draw the attention of every copper between Cape Reinga and Bluff, with regular and increasing surveillance affidavits being presented to the Courts.

I have a strong feeling that Hager has another of his books in the mill. Like "Straw Men" and "Corngate", I have little doubt that the political fallout will be considerable. Even if there is no political connection (and I have zero evidence that there is, except for what Sgt Colon would describe as "that feeling in my waters") there will be very serious and justified questions on oversight, responsibility to know and manage, and the level of reporting involved.

No, there should not be the slightest hint of political interference in the operation of our police. Nor, under any circumstances, should the police be seen to be attempting to achieve political objectives. It works like this -

Should there be a person or group in the Ureweras who want some level of independance or even a Tuhoe nation, that belief does not of itself constitute a basis for "terrorism" any more than a secular nation is atheistic or the Exclusive Bretheran should achieve some vague objective of a nation under God. If there is some stupid hothead talking about "taking out" a high personage whether it is the Auntie Helen, or the Jonkey, or even the Shrub himself then the police know enough to keep a quiet eye on both the personage and the hothead.

Having law as vague, and as threatening as SOTA, makes the American's perceived threats to their general freedoms from the Patriot Act look as dangerous as fur-lined handcuffs from the local sex shop. That the police have the power to manipulate truth and objectivity as seriously as they seem to have done (I am basing this on Hager's statement that he has read the affidavit) is only the get-go. That it can take up to two years before the police are required to present their evidence before a Court is an indictment on our Justice system. That it requires our news media to run the gauntlet line of contempt of Court threats and lengthy legal actions of their own to place fact before the public is a strong illustration of the contempt held for the right of the public to know.

That brings in another facet, one examined by Mediawatch this morning. There was similar discussion in the print media this past week or so but a search under "+official+information" turns up nothing in Herald, stuff or Listener. I am sure that I did not imagine the article, with illustrations of the appearance of documents that have been censored under the exclusions of "privacy" and "commercial sensitivity". One instance had one sentence that was legible in the full A4 page. Take a listen to the Mediawatch programme. The relevant bit is at the beginning and makes for fairly chilling reading.

Yes, we can safely conclude that NZ has terrorists. Whether they occupy remote communities in the Ureweras or the halls of power in Wellington is a moot point.

From my point of view, those in Wellington strike far greater fear in my heart than those from Ruatoki;

- if the latter ever did exist.

I think I need go buy me a gun.

Oh, why did I not quote directly from Hager's article? Go read it for yourself.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Five things to be Thankful for...

Al, the Whig, has been talking about this guy and he seems a reasonable kinda guy. At least his Thanksgiving post struck a brief chord...

1 My Family

2 Fresh air

3 Fresh clean water

4 Good food

5 A warm house

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The answer to the abortion debate?

Three priests hold a meeting to discuss where life begins. The evangelical priest says, "No question about it, life begins when the child is born." "No, no," says the Catholic priest, "it all starts when the sperm meets the egg." "You're both wrong," says the Rabbi. "Life begins when the children have left home and the dog is dead."

Got that from here...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Annapolis 2007

The new edition of The Economist has as its cover story "Mr Palestine" with a very formal photo of GWB.

The accompanying story is an interesting, and thorough examination of the possible directions that the coming Annapolis Summit might take.

What is most heartening is that the Economist's writer has penned exactly the scenario for which I would hope. Starting with the idea that all of those involved - Olmert, Abbas, and to a much less extent Bush - have their hands tied to explosive political realities of their own there would seem to be even less likelihood of Annapolis being any more successful than Camp David (remember the new settlements?) or Oslo.

So what is needed? "How is about a new approach?" says The Economist.
...unless George W. Solomon turns up too
In this speech Mr Bush needs to set out forthrightly America's own plan for dividing Palestine. That would mark an historic change. In the past—in Madrid in 1991, for example, and at Camp David in 2000—the Americans asked the Israelis and Palestinians to thrash out their differences on their own. But they can't. The gap is too wide, and even when their respective leaders want to narrow it neither dares move towards the other for fear of the uproar from the ideological bitter-enders at home. The existence of an American blueprint that commanded international support would, however, immediately transform the political dynamic of both societies, fortifying the moderates and pushing the hardliners to the margins.

Although it would be too much to expect Mr Bush to unfurl a map at Annapolis, he could come quite close. For a start, he should make it clear that when America talks of a two-state solution, it has in mind a border based on the pre-1967 line. Three years ago Mr Bush said in a public letter to Ariel Sharon that it would be unrealistic to expect Israel to evacuate all the dense settlement blocks it has planted in the West Bank. Fine. But since most settlers live close to the old border, he can now tell Israel that it cannot keep more than a few percentage points—say 5% or so—of the West Bank, and that it must offer the Palestinians land from its own side in compensation. On refugees, Mr Bush should say, as Bill Clinton did, that their right to “return” should be exercised in the new Palestine and not in pre-1967 Israel: that is a bitter pill but it is the logic of a peace based on partition. And Israel too must accept a bitter potion: Jerusalem, the beating heart of both peoples, will have to be the capital of both.

If Mr Bush gives this speech, Mr Olmert and Mr Abbas will wax furious. They might agree with him in their hearts, but if only for domestic political consumption they will have to accuse the American president of setting an ambush, bullying the little guys, prejudging the final-status issues and riding roughshod over the views and rights of the people most directly affected. These fulminations can be safely ignored. Israel and the Palestinian territories alike are full of politicians who will tell you knowingly but off the record that only a deal along the lines described above stands the remotest chance of bringing permanent peace. It is high time the superpower and the rest of the world threw their weight behind such a plan. The photo-op at Annapolis may be just the place to do it.

I agree.

I also will not hold my breath. The nature of the American electoral lobbies is such that GWB will be too conscious of the possible effects of such a move on the election of a Repub President in 2008.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

NZ has TERRORISTS!!! - 7

In this morning's Herald...

The anti-terror raids of October 15 resulted in the seizure of only four weapons and 230 rounds of ammunition that have led to charges.

The early-morning raids involved more than 300 officers.

The police have not said what they seized in the property searches in Auckland, Waikato, the Bay of Plenty, Wellington and Christchurch using warrants alleging crimes under the Terrorism Suppression Act and have declined a request to do so.

But of 16 people charged with firearms offences, items seized on October 15 are the basis of charges against only two - Tame Iti, and a man who has name suppression.

So, all of this has had so little behind it?

That rat is getting real stinky, and I am still not at all happy that there is just "normal Police intelligence" behind the whole Operation Eight fiasco.

More and more one gets that horridible feeling of political influence...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

NZ has TERRORISTS!!! - 6

Well, it is all over. The Solicitor General has determined that there is insufficient evidence for charges to be laid under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

There are two consequences -

First there is the law itself.

But, while commending the police investigation, he described the terror legislation as "complex and incoherent", and said it should be reviewed by the Law Commission. He said it was almost impossible to apply to domestic terrorists.

Mr Collins told a media conference he had read hundreds of pages of communications and viewed photographs and video footage.

"Regrettably not all the evidence I have been able to see will be made public," Mr Collins said.

"The key reason I am not prepared to authorise prosecutions under the act is there is insufficient evidence to establish to the very high standard required that a group was preparing a terrorist act," Mr Collins said.

He said his decision was not a criticism of the police who had no doubt "put an end to disturbing activities".

We have his word for it... and that of Auntie Helen...

The other side is that of those arrested. Apart from Iti, all that I know of them is the little that has appeared in the news. All of those will live the rest of their lives with the tags of "arrested on suspicion..." and "terrorist".

Well, I want to make it very clear.

Until found guilty in open Court, all of those arrested HAVE NOT COMMITTED anything that is "terrorism".

If my AMerican friends want a point of comparison, they could perhaps consider the FBI action against the Branch Davidian sect at Waco Tx. No one was killed at Ruatoki. No houses were burned down. But in terms of scale, and the effect on the affected communities and individuals, the comparison stands clear in my mind.


Tuesday 13 December...

Today is a day of shame for this little country. Today the Terrorism Suppression legislation was extended in scope rather than limited.

Parliament today voted 108-13 to strengthen terrorism suppression laws, but Parliament was told the bill had no relevance to last month's police raids and the Solicitor-General's ruling against charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

That, given experience over the past year or so from this current government, is very close to a downright lie. As a "truth" it probably is true, in the same way that I might say to the wife that I had stopped at the pub to drop a mate there; that I came home with a skinful three hours later is not included in the explanation.

Exactly the same rationale was used to justify the original law. Exactly the same argument was expressed both inside and outside of Parliament by the same suspects. Exactly the same sentiments were expressed when the first law was used by Police to "suppress" the actions of 17 people who were suspected of plotting to commit acts of terrorism including the assassination of George Bush, Auntie Helen, and the Royal Family.

The Bill that makes the new law has been in the House so the second part is also true. It has been around since long before the Operation Eight hit the light of day.

The Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill was drafted long before the police raids with the main purpose of allowing New Zealand to meet its international obligations in terms of designating terrorist organisations.

But it also creates a new offence of committing an act of terrorism, under penalty of a life sentence, and gives the prime minister responsibility for designating groups and individuals as terrorists.

... and does the prospect of that responsibility being in the hands of any politician scare the proverbial out of me? Youbetcha it does. Whether it is Auntie Helen, the Jonkey, or Rob Muldoon does not matter one jot. This is not a power that any individual in government (as a political body) should have.

It is BAD LAW.

It is unsupportable - on any ground.

And the most fearful thing of all is that 103 of our politicians - from both sides of the House - supported it!!

NZ does have Terrorists, let me list them -

Auntie Helen Clark
The Jonkey John Key
Old Miser Uncle Mike Cullen
Teacher Bill English
Mad Duck Trevor Mallard

and all of the rest of their respective scurvy crews.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

NZ has TERRORISTS!!! - 5

From Herald last Thursday -

* Valerie Morse, 36. Three firearms charges. Name suppression lifted yesterday. Reappears today.

* Emily Felicity Tuhi-ao Bailey, 30. Seven firearms/weapons charges. Name suppression lifted yesterday. Reappears today.

* Moana Hemi Winitana, 53. Two charges. Name suppression lifted yesterday. Reappears December 3.

* Ira Mangaimihi Timothy Bailey, 28. Name suppression lifted yesterday. Was released on bail. Reappears December 3.

* Tame Iti, 55. Eleven charges. In custody until Wednesday, when he will appear in Rotorua District Court to appeal against a decision not to grant him bail.

* Jamie Beattie Lockett, 46. Remanded in custody until November 12 to find out if he will be granted electronic bail.

* Omar Hamed, 19. Three firearms charges. Remanded in custody to reappear today.

* Marama Mayrick, 24. Five charges. On bail. Reappears December 3.

* Rawari Kiyami Iti. Six charges. Remanded in custody. Reappears today.

* Rongomai Peropero Bailey, 28. Four charges. Released on bail last week and did not appear in court yesterday.

Names suppressed:

* A 32-year-old female dancer. Three charges. Released on bail and will reappear on December 3.

* A 59-year-old unemployed man. Remanded until December 3.

* A Manurewa man. Six charges. Remanded in custody until December 3.

* A man, who was released on bail until December 3. Three charges.

* A Swiss national, 23. Four charges. In custody until December 3.

* A man, who was remanded in custody and reappears December 3. Four charges.

Note that none of the charges are under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. They are all "holding charges".

Garth George has come out on Winnie the Pooh's side...
...you can call me a racist until you're blue in the face and I don't give a damn.

I came to live, after all, in the Maori capital of New Zealand.

The fact is that it's not the Urewera raids that have set race relations in this country back 100 years, it's the reaction of the Maori (and some Pakeha) activists and their lawyers, and the dishonest and inflammatory pronouncements of such "leaders" as Pita Sharples and Hone Harawira.

Good on Mr Peters for telling it like it is.

Well, Garth, I think you (like Winnie and so many others) have really missed the point.

There is a far more reasoned discussion here -
When Tamati Kruger of Tuhoe speaks in measured tones of the importance of the Tuhoe nation as his primary allegiance, rather than that of a New Zealander, it seems many people cannot understand the message.

Worse than that, rather than try to understand what mana motuhake or rangatiratanga might actually mean for Tuhoe, critics set up fanciful straw man arguments to dismiss heartfelt pleas for Maori control over Maori resources.

Winston Peters of New Zealand First equates Tuhoe nation with the state-enforced dominance of the majority by a racial minority in South Africa. He overlooks the fact that separate nations do operate within numerous other modern democratic nations.

The Nunanvet and Nishgaa nations in Canada are two of many examples I am aware of for indigenous or First Nations exercising self-determination and autonomy through their own representative institutions in the United States and Canada.

The Sami nation in Norway have their own parliament. Even in Britain the Scottish Parliament legislates for separate rights and separate privileges for Scotland, and of course Scottish law is quite different from English common law.

It is plain nonsense to seize only on the discredited system of apartheid to peremptorily dismiss calls for Maori tribal self-determination in Aotearoa New Zealand. Why can we not see what we might learn from successful examples of indigenous peoples asserting their own autonomy in ways that include the diversity of others living in the same country?

Then an Auckland barrister, David Garrett, goes off into fanciful nonsense about the need for Tuhoe to build an international airport if there is to be secession. Has he read any of the history of Tuhoe? Does he know anything of the autonomous community of Maungapohatu led by the prophet Te Rua Kenana in the early years of the last century?

What they wanted was to be left alone to live their own lives on their own land, but would the Government allow that?

No, a police invasion under the pretext of enforcing racially discriminatory licensing laws saw the pillage of an autonomous community. If Mr Peters and Mr Garrett are so appalled by racial discrimination, what steps have they taken to ensure the Government apologises to the descendants of Te Rua Kenana for the police shooting of his son, his own imprisonment and the destruction of his vibrant modern community on the pretext of enforcing licensing laws of the time that treated Maori and Europeans so differently?

It is not as though Maori calls for autonomy are so new that we are not yet able to comprehend the possibility of positive rather than negative reactions to such calls.
Must it always be that Maori leaders write petitions, lodge claims with the Waitangi Tribunal and make pleas for the rest of us to listen, only to be rebuffed by angry knee-jerk reactions and fanciful arguments?

Surely political debate in this country needs to include reasoned discussions of what are the minimum parameters necessary for the operation of the state while embracing the rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination.


No, that is off the point also.

The very real reason for the protest - it is on my part at least - can be found here

No, I am not suggesting that Auntie Helen will be the Pacific's second Bainimarama, or Masharraf. But therein lies the danger of this kind of law.

MULTAN: Javed Hashmi, PML-N acting president, has said all political forces and people in the country will strongly oppose imposition of martial law or emergency in the country by General Musharraf in order to prolong his rule.

Talking to newsmen here Saturday, he said Pervez Musharraf wanted to convert the army into a political party, however, he will be held accountable for his misdeeds because their support to the military dictator would ruin the country.

Javed Hashmi said that General Pervez Musharraf was pressurising courts for his vested interest and to remain in power by all foul means. He said certain international powers wanted an armed confrontation between the army and the people, however, the people and all democratic forces would foil such attempts of foreign powers.

He said the judiciary was determined to decide cases in accordance with law and constitution and 160 million people as well as all political parties stood behind the judiciary. The PML-N leader said it was high time to save the army and the country from the influence of foreign powers because such situation could prove dangerous for the nation, armed forces and the country.

To a question, he said the ARD and APDM should merge together for removal of dictator, restoration of democracy and supremacy of constitution. He demanded free and fair elections for restoration of democracy and transfer of power to the elected representative. The PML-N acting chief said the masses would never accept martial law, emergency and any move aimed at confrontation with the army.

Musharraf wants to rollback N-programme, says PML-N: Saeed Ahmad Qureshi, a PML-N leader, has said after Afghanistan and Kashmir General Musharraf is now going to take u-turn on the atomic programme of the country to appease the Americans.

Talking to newsmen here, he said it was unjust that America struck a deal with the PPP which started the atomic programme but the PML-N will work hard to win the elections with people support and save atomic programme. Meanwhile, Rana Mahmoodul Hassan, ex-MNA and a leader of PML-N, said elections were near and the PML-N along with other opposition parties would start its struggle against the dictatorship. He was addressing a seminar of PML-N here in Latifabad. Rana Abdul Jabbar, Imran Liaquat, Sharif Rehmani and Rehmat Rehmani also spoke on the occasion.

PPP plans to plunder national wealth: Faisal Mukhtar: City District Nazim Faisal Mukhtar has said the PPP chalked out its programme in America to loot the country because the party leadership found the national exchequer fully filled with wealth.

Addressing a meeting in UC 34 Islampura in NA-150 constituency, he said Punjab Chief Minister Ch Pervaiz Elahi had strengthened the PML and thus created hurdles for the PPP. He hailed the decision of Syed Baradri of Islampura and Haji Ismail Shah s/o Haji Jamaldeen Tarkan, Haji Muhammad Ilyas Shah, Labour Councillor Akhtar Ghouri, Ejaz Ahmad Somro, Muhammad Sultan, Mahmood Khan and Umar Khan to join the PML.

Faisal Mukhtar said now the people had fully awakened and corrupt mafia could not cheat them once again. He said political waderas were now without crowd and there was none to serve them. He said political waderas could not serve the poor people and humanity while in political field politicians had to win the hearts of the people with love and spirit of devotion and service to humanity.

I left in a comment to Dave Justus the fragment -
If George Bush suspended the Constitution...

... the Second Amendment militias would (should) be out in force, all over the USofA.

Now the question -

Would those people be defending the Consitution, or would they be terrorists?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The passing years...

The ol' probligo turns 60 at the end of the month and the family has been putting the acid on to get something presentable together. In an attempt to keep some of the more embarrassing examples well hidden, the probligo agreed to sort a few out.

Of the two, the earlier one is more like me, the second (how gawky can you get) was taken in studio when I was 16 or 17.

Monday, October 29, 2007


The next Parliamentary General Election is due for this time next year. Already, the volume from some of the minor parties is being wound to 8 and beyond. Amongst the loudest is everyone's best friend Winnie the Pooh. From his leader's speech to the faithful at the New Zealand First conference this last weekend... (thanks Scoop)
Now answer this please, which subject about New Zealand has had the most coverage internationally – in all the major media outlets across the globe – in the last ten years?

I’ll tell you, because I saw it unfolding last week. It is an unnerving feeling, to be overseas and to see our country headlined, not because of economic or sporting success, but because of a bunch of malcontents running around the bush with guns.

That was the news that the world heard from New Zealand last week.

The biggest New Zealand story in more than a decade.

The result of behaviour which has been excused, condoned, nurtured and even encouraged over the past twenty years.

What type of country do we live in, when it is not the malcontents with the guns that get turned on by society, but the police?

That is an indictment on our values system.

We had hundreds of people protesting against the police arresting Tama Iti and his mates.

They are marching – not because he is guilty or innocent – they are marching because he is brown.

We once marched against apartheid, now they are marching for it.

We have groups calling for separate nations within our nation and prepared to use guns and violence.

If you don't believe that – watch TV One's Sunday programme tonight.

What is most obscene about this is that these same people who want their separate nation, want us the taxpayer to pay for it.

Just last Friday I was in a helicopter flight overlooking the forestry estate around Taupo.

What I saw were Maori workers, hundreds of them, on tractors and trucks, working hard and being paid for their work.

Not looking for a handout, not prancing around protesting – they were too busy working to pay their taxes and support their families.

What a contrast!

This is where the system is failing – taxpayer sponsored militant separatism.

These groups want separate development – but your money to fund it.

Rejecting all our values except collecting the dole each fortnight.

Get this clear – we are not having people opting out, demanding we pay for it, and then ramming their hymn of hate down our throats.

Fortunately this situation is not without hope.

Most Maori in New Zealand actually want to be part of and enjoy their country.

The overwhelming majority of Maori have jobs and want to raise their children for a better future.

Today we call on these Maori to join the fight against militant separatism...

Now those of right wing persuasion might quite like some of the things Winnie is saying, and that is understandable as he is trying hard to create an impact in that side of his market.

But, there is much in that quote that is just plain wrong as well.

He raves at the protestors who marched in Auckland and Wellington, and that
"...They are marching – not because he is guilty or innocent – they are marching because he is brown.

We once marched against apartheid, now they are marching for it."

That makes for great headlines. It stirs the pot even further into the apartheit corner where he wants it. It might even be good politics.

But read it again. One would imagine that there was only one person arrested - Tame Iti - and that all of the protestors were there in support of his right to justice. Well, it is probable that quite a few of the 1000 or so who marched did have that as their cause.

I suspect that more than a few, likely a majority, were in fact protesting the law and the process rather than the individuals involved. Certainly that was my motivation. Certainly that is my concern.

As a note, I went to Scoop tonight looking for news of the latest releasee from the Urewera 17. She was featured on the news from TV3. It will be very interesting to see what charges she was held on, and whether further charges are laid.

And to that end, the news tonight also mentions that the Police are talking to the Attorney General about the justification and nature of charges to be laid under the Suppression of Terrorism legislation. I will say that the chances of there being more than 6 of the 17 charged are pretty darned slim to zero. More to come over the next few weeks... not least the continuing reaction to Winnie the Pooh.

Piha Rescue

The very short 2007 season of one of my most favourite television programmes has finished tonight.

The programme linked through the heading might last for a couple more weeks before TVNZ wipe it off. It will give you an idea of the quality of the programme.

Tonight's closer was a full hour long programme, instead of the usual 30 minutes. It follows a team of juniors (as young as 15) who are in their first patrol season, and some of whom have been qualified for beach duty less than a week. After a fairly stormy close to the afternoon (quite a neat NZ version of a thunderstorm)a family reports that their father went swimming about 30 minutes beforehand and has not returned. The programme follows the resulting search; I will not tell you the outcome.

See if you can get hold of it on the TV One site - use "Piha Rescue" in google if you must, but it makes a better keyword than search key.

See what the best of NZ youth are capable of, and how they react in extremely stressful conditions.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A question for those Libertarian economists...

...who believe that inflation is the consequence of government interference in economic systems.

If the cost of my weekly food bill rises (as is predicted) by up to 20% over the next 12 months, what is it called if not "inflation"?

If it is "inflation", how is it being caused by government interference in the economy, or the supply of money, or whatever?

First of the big movers are dairy products, slated to increase by up to 45% by March next year. Why? Well it has to do with the fact that NZ is an open economy, where there are no subsidies on internal production, and others are prepared to pay that much more for our products. Simple economics, demand and supply affecting pricing.

Second big mover will be wheat and flour. Why? Because NZ's main supplier - Australia - is suffering its worst drought in many years. Farming production in Australia in general could be reduced by as much as 50% if the worst prognostications are realised.

Meats will increase in price as Americans divert land from agriculture for food to cropping for fuel. Good for our economy, and for the farmers, bad for me because I pay the same price for a leg of lamb or a slice of sirloin as does the supermarket that Al buys his from...

Oil will continue to impact upon my pay packet as well.

But the point is - none of these involve government action.

So, all of you economist experts - is it inflation, or do you have another name for it?

Friday, October 26, 2007


Scoop is an internet newspaper that I tap into quite frequently, and most particularly when there is news about of the more pressing and political kind.

So their slant on the "Terrorism Raids" of a fortnight back is at the least an interesting read - with the "conspiracy theory" filters turned on it can almost make sense.

Scoop has, however, done something that no other MSM outlets has yet given us. Thus far Scoop has given short bio's of two of the Urewera 17.

- Omar Hamed
- Rongomai Bailey

Well, certainly the first just has to be a terrorist. Look at his name for a starter!! And he is proud of the fact that he is half Palestinian!! Terrorist for sure!!

As for the second, well what can you say in favour of a MAori who has a European name!! Yeah, and he's an activist as well. Why else would he be a terrorist!!

OK, so let's take a look at the bio of the head cop in the investigation... Assistant Police Commissioner Jon White. Good cop!! He makes sure that these terrorists can't hide anywhere. Keeps us safe in our beds at night.

OK, that's the fun part over.

Go back and read those three bio's. Go to Wikipedia for Tame ITi's - he is well documented.

The Herald this morning has an outliner of a fourth - one Jamie Lockett. Of all those known of at the moment, including Iti, this guy is the one that scares me the most. He is (has been for some years) a serious loose cannon with no brakes... From the Herald -
The 46-year-old stands apart from his 15 co-accused because he does not have an underpinning philosophy.

Those who know Lockett say he is no anarchist or Maori activist: he is driven instead by a seemingly pathological dislike for police, said to have begun when an officer spat in his shoe while he was being held in custody.

It began a belligerent feud that has become so all-consuming it has left him penniless, seen him fall out with friends, and means few who know him can recall what he was like before it began.

Lockett has spent nearly all his life in Auckland's eastern suburbs, enjoying a comfortable upbringing as son of the managing director of the successful Morgan Furniture.

He was educated at Auckland Grammar before training as a mechanic, living overseas and working at the furniture company.

Not a particularly "spectacular" beginning for a man who is a serious candidate as a "terrorist". None of the expected "disadvantage" and "disenfranchise" aspects that is often promoted as most likely cause for a person becoming a terrorist. Quite the opposite in fact. And to dismiss him as "nutter" is just to simple, too glib, and dangerous.

Tame Iti, let's start with him. He is a hot-head. He does not like the government, or the police. He has been ill-used by both over the years. The people he represents have been ill-served as I have said in the previous two parts of this series. He has whakapohani'd important people, and hupe'd at them. Quite artfully too! He is the thorn in several important sides when it comes to Maori issues in general, and particularly those issues that impinge (however indirectly) on the Tuhoe people.

Iti, let us remember, occupies the same kind of space as Joe Hawke who I have mentioned previously and who was one of the organisers of the Bastion Point occupation in the 1970's. The closure of that event was another sad day in the history of Maori and government. This present government - at least as it is represented by our Police force - seems determined to repeat those mistakes.

Iti also, let us remember, is fighting the same battle that the Harawira family (led by the now rather formidable matriarch Titewhai) fought over the Raglan Golf Club. Her son, Hone, is now a member of Parliament.

So how do three such different people "qualify" as terrorists. There is much debate on just what the motive for these raids might have been. The most suasive is the connect [conspiracy warning] between the raids and the introduction to Parliament for consideration of a Bill to amend the existing, already somewhat repressive, anti-terrorism law. From Scoop's analysis -
Passed in the wake of September 11, primarily to fulfil New Zealand's obligations under international law to seek to prevent terrorism, the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 does a hell of a lot less than a lot of people seem to think.

Unlike similarly-themed laws passed in other countries it doesn't create search or arrest powers. It doesn't allow phone tapping. It doesn't allow extended periods of interrogation or lengthy periods of confinement without charge. It doesn't permit the use of secret evidence in terrorism prosecutions, or prohibit the media from discussing what's going on. Nor are there special powers to set up road blocks, or storm school buses.

In New Zealand, terrorism offences are treated the same as other offences. The same presumption of innocence, the same criminal procedure, the same suppression rules and bail laws. Applications for search or interception warrants follow the same procedure whether the offence is against the Terrorism Suppression Act, the Arms Act or the Crimes Act.

So what does it do? Mostly, it's about terrorist financing: creating consequences for people who fund terrorism, and allowing the freezing and seizing of terrorists' assets. For this purpose, it sets up a regime to designate groups and people as terrorists – so that we know whom we can't finance.

It also incorporates other obligations we have under various international conventions. To enact into NZ law obligations under the Bombings Convention (which pre-dates 9/11) it creates offences relating to terrorist bombing. Fulfilling our obligations under the Nuclear Material Convention, and the Plastic Explosives Convention, sees the creation of offences relating to the handling of unmarked plastic explosives, and the misuse or nuclear material.

The update of this law that is now before Parliament contains all of the "missing bits" -
This Bill amends the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002, seeking to correct inconsistencies of that Act with New Zealand's obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and the United Nations Security Council resolutions on terrorism. It contains proposals on the designation of UN listed terrorist entities, the High Court extension of designations for those entities, the freezing of terrorists' assets, the terrorist financing offences, the offences of committing a terrorist act and participating in a terrorist group. The Bill also introduces new offences involving nuclear material.

The emphasis is where the major part of the debate is centred.

The new law gives the Prime Minister (who by "tradition" has always been responsible for the SIS and GCSB) the sole and unfettered power to declare a person or a group of persons as being "terrorist". There is remaining a right of judicial review but, given the progress [conspiracy warning] of the current secret trials - and as yet the present anti-terrorism law has not been formally invoked - it is likely that the review would be in the fact of undeclared and unchallenged evidence that would never get to the eyes of the Judge let alone any of the individuals trying to express their own views on life and politics in NZ.

To show just how draconian this could become. I mentioned Joe Hawke earlier. If the terrorist law - existing and proposed - had been available to Rob Muldoon, just how long would it have taken him to invoke its provisions against Hawke? Can anyone imagine Dame Whina Cooper as a designated terrorist? OK, so she never took part in "training camps" in the Ureweras. But Hawke was certainly described by Muldoon as "activist" in a way that would equate with "terrorist" in this new day and age.

Those of us who protested against visits by LBJ in the '60's would now be somewhat more uncertain of our right to try and keep the b***** awake all night. We would need to be, given the matters being used to judge the difference between legitimate protest and "terrorist acts". "Likely to lead to public disorder and disobedience" might not appear in so many words. With Auntie Helen the first Prime Minister in a very long time if ever, to suffer the outrage of an act of sedition. It will be very interesting indeed to see if Timothy Selwyn's name crops up among the Urewera 17.

So, I can imagine that names like Nicky Hager, Timothy Selwyn, John Campbell (remember the ambush of Auntie Helen?), Winston Peters, Hone Tamahiri, Animal Action Rescue Team (no I don't agree with their beliefs, tactics or actions, but they should have the right to protest within the limits of existing criminal law), Forest and Bird Society, Greenpeace - the list could cover every aspect of NZ life and political concern - being designated as "terrorist" or "terrorist group". The impact of a designation would remain even though subsequent judicial review might find the designation to be unjustified. It might be "safe" law in the hands of known politicians but we must also look to the future, and the possibility of future abuse of the power of this law by less scrupulous politicians.

By the time they have come to power; by the time they have abused the powers this new law contains; it will be too late.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


On Friday in the Herald and again in the SST on Sunday were parallel stories with potted, and in both instances fairly sympathetic, histories of the Tuhoe people backgrounding the rather turbulent relationship between the "Children of the Mist" and GOvernments in years past.

I have mentioned before that my parents taught in the school at Te Whaiti in the more northern parts of the Ureweras. It is a time that made an indelible impression on me as an eight year old; not least being the fact that I went from being one of a majority of white children to one of a very small minority in what was essentially a "foreign" culture. To that latter end, I recall the old man's reaction when the School Inspectors gave him a right bollicking for allowing the speaking of Maori in the playgrounds, and reminding him that it was illegal for that to happen. As Headmaster that put responsibilities on him to ensure that English was the only language to be heard. The old man's response was to encourage his Assistant Teacher and some of the local Maori community to take Maori cultural activities during school time.

Now that the dust is settling after the raids there are two things to be noted -

First is the very quiet - no, the total absence of any - response from the government to either the raids or the public reaction.

The second is the apparent desire from some sections of the community to have the "terrorist" stories to be true. To that end a "informal poll" conducted by SST showed some 77% of respondants think that the police action was justified. The poll carries the normal warning that it is not statistically accurate as it is the views only of the respondants and not from a random sample of all NZers...

Just because Tame's arse is a fairly terrifying sight does not in any way make him a terrorist. Just because he was tried on charges of discharging a gun in a public place and shooting up on a poor defenseless NZ flag does not imply that he has direct intention to overthrow the rule of law let alone the government. Just because he has the mana and the power to speak truth that is very uncomfortable for the pakeha majority does not mean that they will be his next target.

I only caught this article in the Herald yesterday during a coffee stop and lunch on our way home from Opo. It is not an earth-shattering article, or even all that well written. But it does have a very dark element of truth in it...
It's peak reality du jour; the savvy among us know that nothing is as it seems. If you are intelligent enough, sophisticated enough, or cynical enough, the truth can be uncoiled from the hidden snake of evil political machinations - once you figure out how to charm that sucker out of its basket.

Seeing the political world from an Oliver Stone perspective is easy. Growing up, the Zapruder home movie of the Kennedy assassination was as much a part of my childhood as Kermit the Frog. I'm supposed to get it. But I refuse.

These fractured fairy tales stink. If you are a "sheeple", as Conspiracists would label me, it would be easy enough to laugh off some of the wilder theories with researched fact - but there's a problem.

The pungency of these conspiracy theories is spreading like weapons of mass hate. This is no fringe occurrence, it is worldwide. Today, millions of Americans think that Saddam Hussein was directly involved in September 11 and that most of the 9/11 terrorists were Iraqis.

A Scripps-Howard poll recently found a whopping 36 per cent of Americans thought it "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that US Government officials either allowed the attacks or carried out the attacks themselves.

On the flip side, many in the Arab world believe a myth that 4000 Jews working in the World Trade Centre had been warned to stay home that day. A Pew Global Attitudes poll found that the number who do not believe that Arabs carried out the 9/11 attacks is soaring; 59 per cent of Turks and Egyptians, 65 per cent of Indonesians, 53 per cent of Jordanians, 41 per cent of Pakistanis, and even 56 per cent of British Muslims, as reported in the Washington Post.

What are we looking for when we substitute the simplest answer for some mysterious, more exciting complexity? Is this the ultimate in political sophistication or just mass denial when real answers are loaded with complicated truths that we don't want to see?

It's natural to look for meaning and explanation to give us a sense of control over something that feels bigger than we are. But today we have learned to jettison the obvious truth for the conspiracy du jour - and what do you know - it just so happens to confirm our existing beliefs. Psychologists call that "confirmation bias."

We're fostering a world where the truth can be picked out of a hat. Arabs, Jews or Americans themselves felled the Twin Towers, depending on whether you sit in Tel Aviv, Tehran, or Texas.

We are creating a new politics of hidden agenda, and the biggest irony of all is that it's smothering the simplest truths.

Sociologist Frank Furedi of the University of Kent warns that this simplistic worldview of conspiracy thinking displaces critical engagement with public life and instead replaces it with a destructive search for hidden motives, for the story behind the story as a way of avoiding larger core issues.

Isn't that what this is really all about, our inability to see the ugliness of the world as it sometimes is?

Two children continue shouting about who started the fight because neither is ready to begin the process of figuring out how to play together again.

Sometimes a tragedy is just a tragedy. Maybe it's just as simple as that - at least that's how any lone "sheeple" would see it from this grassy knoll.

What we are blindly refusing to see is how to fix it.

Now I am not certain quite how Tracey Barnett proposes "fixing it". The simplistic, instant gratification (especially for members of NRA and ex-Marines) solutions are rapidly being exhausted. Even OBL seems to be running out of ideas as to how best get his message across to an Administration that just refuses to give up. No, not because they are winning - unless the score is kept in terms of how many enemies you can make during the duration of the game. Her bio gives no indication of her political leanings, other than that she is American and President Bush "owes her" for what America has lost.

As for us NZers, how many are "sheeple" and how many are the conspiracists who try to stoke the fires of the anti-police sentiments; the worthy who believe that Auntie Helen has lost it completely and is using the Police to prop up a failed government; the lost who believe that there are a majority of Police who have motives that would end with a Police Totalitarian State - a bit like Fiji perhap; and how many fall in the ranks of the apathetic who could care less until their beer costs too much. There is a very small number who I would like to number myself among who believe that there is still a system of Justice which believe in innocence until guilt is proven.

And there I must confess to an increasing concern. In some respects it is the consequence of the Rickard affair; this interview with Ross Meurant does not help assuage the concern.

But the most pressing, the most concerning, was this news item and interview...
Tonight, for the first time anywhere, someone who attended Tame Iti's secret training camps in the Urewera's, talks about what took place.

Today, at courts in Auckland and Wellington, all evidence relating to what allegedly happened at these camps, was suppressed.

But we can talk to someone who has not been arrested and charged.

One Whakatane man attended Iti's camps until the most recent one, only two weeks ago.

He says there were two reasons for him going.

One, to train for a high paying security job in conflict zones like Iraq.

Two, to protect Tuhoe land and the people who live on it, although he was not able to explain from whom, or why.

To protect his identity, he wanted to wear a balaclava.

This is his story of what went on in those hills.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


[I make absolutely no apology for only providing links to what I think are the most germaine parts of this story. It is too important for high volume c&p. I leave you to judge the merits of the information provided.]

Seems NZ has hit the headlines as some kind of terrorist state, where quasi-military training camps have been taking students from such sources from eco-terrorist who rescue “rare” snails to the political nutter who makes threats against such persons as Auntie Helen and the Queen (Liz, in case you think it might be Camilla).

I have my skepticism screwed right up high.

First, I listened to Sean Plunkett interview Police Commissioner Broad who managed to say very close to nothing of any import. The strong impression that came over was that there was a fair lump of political influence behind the “anti-terrorism action”. That of course can only mean Auntie Helen is involved somewhere along the line, very possibly at the beginning.

Then I went back and read the Herald report again.

Then I thought hard about the people who had been targeted by the Police in this action…

Tame Iti seems to head everyone’s list in the news world. The best portrayal is this morning’s Herald cartoon. Puts the overall picture into sharp focus. Is Tame a terrorist? The best measure of that is Joe Hawke. He was a terrorist 30 years back; was described so by Muldoon who was PM of the day. He led a group that occupied a piece of land that is one of the most valuable in the central Auckland City. He won. He is now a very highly respected leader of the local iwi; respected by both political and non-political sectors, as a leader with very considerable mana.

The outright maniac - of there is at least one.

The “snail group” in Christchurch. Yes, very embarrassing and awkward politically. A bunch of nuisances on the ground. Not people I can admire other than for their chutzpah. Terrorists? No more than Sonja Davies and her cronies who tried to stop the Nelson railway from being ripped up…

The anti-vivisectionist and anti-battery hens groups. Well they describe themselves as “terrorists”. Perhaps they do deserve what they get. Military hardware and Molotov cocktails is not really their style.

It needs to be said that the area around Taneatua is one place in this country where I would choose not to go. I had (through my father) close association with the Tuhoe community at Te Whaiti which is at the northern end of the Ureweras. I would not hesitate to return to Te Whaiti and Minginui, even though it is over 50 years since we were there. The areas in the northern foothills of the Ureweras are a totally different prospect.

And the area is no stranger to unjustified police action either. Read the story of Te Kooti - who not Tuhoe was able to disappear into the Ureweras after escaping from prison on the Chatham Islands.

Of even greater influence - even as late as the late 1950's - was Rua Kenana. Of all of the links, this is one of the most interesting...

During WWI he was harassed by the police and in a moment of anger he said the Germans would win. This was the moment the Pakeha were waiting for. Rua and 31 others were arrested for sedition during which shots were exchanged between police and his followers. His oldest son Toko and Toko's maternal uncle Te Maipi were killed. A jury found Rua not guilty of sedition and only "morally" guilty of resisting arrest.

I do have, have had for some long while, concerns about some of the more hot-headed of the Maori separatist groups and their leadership. Tame might fall into this category but recent events such as his non-showing at Waitangi this year and last could indicate he is cooling off the ardour somewhat. The concerns do not rank in terms of “potential military conflict”. The very big danger that they pose is that they will alienate the greater part of the Maori people who for the most part are prepared to work through the system rather than by force of arms. Judging by the very narrow path being trodden by the Maori Party, Pita Sharples and Taniana Turia in particular, that fear exists within the Maori community as well.

It will be most interesting this weekend to quietly tap into the feeling of the locals up at Opo. Ngapuhi have been showing two faces – very much depending upon who is talking – for some while now. The Ngawha Prison fiasco did nothing to calm the waters either…

And this is what it is all about -
The Terrorism Suppression Act 2002

* the law makes it a criminal offence to take part in, finance or recruit for a terrorist organisation or terrorist act;

* planning a terrorist act, or making a "credible threat", is also illegal even if it is not carried out;

* unlike other countries the law does not give police additional powers of arrest or detainment;

* the Attorney-General must give the green light to any prosecutions under the Act, but Michael Cullen has delegated this responsibility to Solicitor-General David Collins;

* under the Act groups can be listed as a designated terrorist entity, but so far no local groups have been designated. Those that have been listed are United Nations designated groups.

Thoughts of Perelandra...

The Old Whig has pondered a number of subjects, including his running socks, his finisher’s shirt and medal and then tagged me for my thoughts on C.S. Lewis and the “Perelandra” trilogy.

I have already dipped my toe into the waters of “That Hideous Strength” following Al’s all too brief summary of his thoughts on the lack of any siezable utopia. It is important though to consider the trilogy as a whole rather than as individual stories. As I said in a comment to him, I don’t think that any utopia was intended; far more likely he was presenting the conflict against a terrestrial distopia.

My first thought is that “science fiction” is a misnomer, a miscategorisation, of the trilogy. Now that judgement is purely subjective (as will be most of my thoughts and impressions in this article) and very much subject to debate. I believe that the foundation of that lies not in the presence or absence of “science”, or the presence of religious reference. A good parallel might be found in Tolkein’s “Ring” trilogy which lies very happily in the category of fantasy. That I think is a far more comfortable description of Lewis’ trilogy. Whether political fantasy or religious is not needed – too fine is the line to make that judgement.

As a whole, the three books present an interesting triangle of religious and civilisation status –

Malacandra (Mars) as the aging and wise.
Perelandra (Venus) as the new-born and innocent.
Thulcandra (Earth) as the dark source of evil.

There are perhaps (at a “religious” level) broad parallels between Malacandra and the Ancient Greek mythologies, Hindu and Bhuddism. Perelandra has the most Christian emphasis with the “temptation of Eve” as its foundation. Much has been made (including by Lewis himself) of the sacrifical parallel between the character of Ransom and Christ. That Lewis has crafted that parallel very carefully gives a good part of the religious them in the third book.

I passed the comment that “That Hideous Strength” presented Lewis’ view of the relationship between science and religion, and I would add to that a good mix of his political outlook as well. Certainly N.I.C.E. is as effective presentation of government oppression of fundamental freedoms and religious activity as anything Rand wrote at ten times the length.

Overall, I am quite fond of the Perelandra trilogy. I still occasionally read the three slim volumes (paperback) that my father very kindly gave me as “compulsory reading” when I was 13. Good grief that makes them 47 years old or more! They are still enjoyable reading; though I say that whilst thinking that “Out of the Silent Planet” is the most enjoyable, “Voyage to Venus” is very contrived and pompous in its religiosity, and “That Hideous Strength” still makes me feel ill if only because I can see the real events that parallel its central ideas. Picture the activities of Mengele and his ilk in Germany if I need to point it out with a hammer; the denigrations and methods of the Soviet oppression of religions under the desire to replace god worship with state worship.

Perhaps Al, you missed your utopia. Perelandra as the world where “the first” did not fall to evil should have grabbed you.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Vale - Steve Fossett

One of today's adventurers missing in mysterious circumstances. My thoughts go with his family. Is it too early to mourn?

A very irreverent thought - I wonder if he was a candidate for Rand's utopia...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Yet another "TRAITOR"...

Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez (ret'd).

Well, more power to his arm I say. Speak truth to power.

Utopia - and "That Hideous Strength"

The Old Whig has been reading – and this comment has been picking at my brain since he wrote on 29 September...
Now I'm reading That Hideous Strength, by C.S. Lewis, after having read Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra - all on The Probligo's recommendation. Very enlightening stuff: pretty deep theology, delivered entertainingly. Since I'm not done with the last book of the series, I'm still not sure where there's a vision of a utopia that I'd actually want to aim for in them.

That last comment is the thorn that has been pricking my brain.

First I need to explain, and please I do not need to be told now, that when I first read the trilogy the theological references went over my head. That is until I met up with the Gaia mythology. However I know that Lewis would not have had this in his mind as he wrote. The deeper mires of Christian references I know are there and I (subconciously but perhaps intentionally) find them difficult to pin down.

Leave that aside, because it is the reference to “utopia” that is the very sharp point that I wish to pick up.

I do not believe for a moment that Lewis had a utopian vision in mind. As I read the stories I have a far sharper picture of “dealing with existing realities” than providing an ideal future. Al may like to remember that my recommendation came as a part of a fairly barbed comment about “objectivists”. That was based upon some of the final scenes in “Hideous Strength” involving the “Objective Room” and the attempts to persuade Mark Studdock to denigrate the symbols of Christianity.

I get a far stronger message from the trilogy that, among other things, Lewis was arguing strongly of the relationships between science and religion.

On the wider front, I want to talk about utopias in general.

Yep, I am biased. There is no such thing as a practical utopia. I do not think that “Atlas” presented a practical utopia any more than “Brave New World”. I must go back and read the full “Lilliput” stories (Swift) and refresh my memory for I believe that the same message came clear and strong from him as well.

All of the stories I have read that involve the presentation of a utopia include either or both of –

The seeds of its demise – BNW is based upon the control of the society through drugs and the principle of “man is worth no more than his ability to contribute”. Add to that the element of predetermination and the future of that society does not even need the “thinking man” (in the persona of “the native”) to emphasise the flaws.

The application of a level of exclusivity; the “grand society” – such as “Atlas” and the presentation of the perfect capitalism. On a wider scale, every utopia (and distopia) has a fundamental political theme behind it that reaches into the same parts of man’s psyche as does religion.

I can not escape the feeling that every picture of “perfection” starts to crumble as soon as you put mankind into it. I prefer the reality of living as best one may, with care and with honesty, and with respect for every other person. That is not a utopia; I suspect that I would feel the same whether rich as I am in NZ or as poor as I might be in India or China or Zimbabwe. It is my environment (in what is around me and what is happening around me) that shapes my life more than sweet dreams of religious redemption or political and military power.