Wednesday, December 17, 2008

In the Christmas spirit...

Someone (I have yet to find out the provenance behind this event) has left a very nice Christmas cake in our lunchroom.

Normally, a cake might hang around for a day or so and quietly disappear. This one is being eaten - at some speed.

It is very very nice. It is moist, fruity and has pecans and cherries on top.

The tin in which it came says "Collins Street Bakery - Never Sold In Stores".

TF, I believe it comes from down your way someplace? Very, very noice. I recommend...


Monday, December 15, 2008

NZ has TERRORISTS!!! - 9

Is this becoming a Christmas thing? Last year it was the Urewera raids in Ruatoria.

This year, the targets have been some of the more fringe animal rights groups, and Greenpeace.
POLICE TEAMS set up to identify terrorism threats and risks to national security are spying on protest and community groups, including Greenpeace, animal rights and climate change campaigners, and Iraq war protesters.

Police officers from the Special Investigation Group (SIG) have carried out surveillance and used a paid informer to gather information not just about planned protests but the personal lives and sexual relationships of group members.

Now you could accuse Hager of having an ulterior motive for his part in this article. Potentially, he could be a one man terrorism movement all on his own - at least in the eyes of those in charge of such organisations as GCSB otherwise better known as "Waihopai". That aside, there is quite a familiar ring to the story from Sunday Star Times.

That has been followed by this morning's news in the Herald
The Police Minister will meet the Police Commissioner today before deciding if an investigation is needed into police spying on protest groups.

The Special Investigation Group, set up in 2004 to focus on terrorism threats to national security, has been reportedly paying informants to spy on groups such as Greenpeace, animal rights and climate change campaigners and Iraq war protesters.

Police Minister Judith Collins said she would decide whether to launch an inquiry after her meeting with the Police Commissioner, Howard Broad, today.

"I want to find out more information before I say anything more," Ms Collins said.

"I have not been briefed on this issue at all yet and I am also keen to find out what, or how much, former Police Minister Annette King knew about this."

Now that last part is especially interesting. If you look back through the "NZ has TERRORISTS" posts you should find my hints at the possibility of political direction, and the requirement on Police to be the frontline of the anti-terrorism action. Not, you must understand, that I would want that responsibility to fall anywhere else. There are political and judicial controls on the Police force that would easily be hidden from examination if SIS or some other similar bureaucracy were to take it up. The existance of that possibility (SIS and GCSB involvement) is just a little too scary. It raises the paranoia of activities like "disappearances" even in commonfolk like the old probligo.

But tying this particular little event into the larger Urewera debacle does give more credence to the possibilities of either personal paranoia high in the ranks of our police, or (and I suspect this is more likely) there has been political meddling at the highest possible levels. Go back a year and Hager is in print again on a very similar topic to this, again directly connected to Urewera but at the same time giving a potted history of the whole police approach to the "terrorism threat".
On October 2, 2003 World Farm Animal Day a group of young Aucklanders held a protest at the Tegel Foods offices about treatment of chickens. They scattered some hay on the floor of the reception area and 23-year-old school teacher Jesse Duffield delivered a protest letter. Police documents estimate the cost of cleaning up the hay was $111 plus GST.

However, early the next morning, detectives raided Duffield's home. He was arrested roughly and charged with home invasion (maximum 10 years' prison) and intentional damage (maximum seven years' prison). Police opposed him getting bail and later imposed a 9pm-6am curfew. Meanwhile his car was impounded for a week and his house searched by detectives. They seized his computer and mobile phone, plus 100 floppy disks, posters off the walls and a T-shirt saying "GE, you are what you eat." These possessions were not returned for nine months.

The only rational explanation for their actions was intelligence collecting. The police eventually dropped their absurd charges but they'd got hundreds of thousands of emails and texts to build a profile of the animal rights groups. The detective who led the raid, Mike Paki, was not a normal CIB officer, but a police intelligence officer from the Auckland Threat Assessment Unit who was surprise, surprise studying animal rights and other protest groups. It appears police were working their way through activist groups looking for security threats. It's not hard to see where such ideas would come from.

Then yesterday Herald reports the outcome of the meeting between Police Chief and Minister.
Police Minister Judith Collins yesterday said she had been given an assurance by Police Commissioner Howard Broad that police were "meeting their responsibilities" after it was reported that Christchurch man Rob Gilchrist had been paid to supply information from various groups to police over several years.

Police will not confirm or deny Mr Gilchrist's activities, but say they are not targeting peaceful protesters. Mr Gilchrist told the Herald he would like to comment but could not "for all sorts of reasons".
Police national crime manager Detective Superintendent Win van der Velde told the Herald police had no interest in lawful protesters, but focused on individuals where criminal behaviour was suspected.

Last night Ms Rees [the partner of the "spy"] issued details of questionnaires emailed to Mr Gilchrist by the police.

They included questions on climate change groups, animal rights activists, and planned anti-American demonstrations.

Green MP Keith Locke said his party's own emails may have been forwarded to police by Mr Gilchrist, and they would be asking the police whether they encouraged this practice.

That last point was taken up on Morning Report this morning, with Locke being interviewed. (Don't know how long that might stay there but it is worth a listen.)

In the meantime, I suggest that the NZ Police Force should consider a new name -

Well, it was a fairly quiet weekend so y.t. sat down with an idea which came from a radio interview heard late Friday.

The question behind the interview was "Which nationality pilot would you prefer to have in command when you fly?"

The basis for the question was the "Critical Distance Index". A bit of google shows that this comes in part from one Richard Hofstadter, and that name gives another link to the past - Douglas Hofstadter. Any relation? No idea.

The idea behind the Critical Distance Index is the relationship between authority and the cultural ability to criticise those with more or greater authority. So, if for example you were flying Korea or JAL or Emirates, the CDI in the cockpit would be large as Korea, Japan and UAE are all nations with great respect for authority; their culture does not allow for subordinates to communicate freely with their superiors.

So, why the connection to airline pilots? Very simple really. The command and successful flying of a modern aircraft requires communication between at least three people on the flightdeck, as well as the ability to communicate and receive the information coming from aircraft systems.

If the CDI is large, that ability to communicate is curtailed and the risk to aircraft increases.

So that was the general context of the interview. I missed who was being interviewed, which is a shame. But it did have the outcome of putting me on the trail of the idea. It seems that it originally came from Hofstedter's study of the relationships between electorate and politicians, and the stability of the political system in place. The higher the CDI, the less the criticism of government action, the greater the acceptance of those in power, and the lower the available freedom of the electorate.

It appears that the whole idea is in a book Hofstadter has just published. I think that I know what I will be reading on those long warm summer evenings in Opo over the next couple weeks.

Oh, and of specific mention; the two nations with the lowest CDI are (apparently Australia and NZ. Does that say something? Like fly Air New Zealand or QANTAS? Mebbe. It also shows up in our national disrespect for authority and especially unreasonable authority.

Friday, December 12, 2008


This I must bring to your attention.

Earlier this year a New Zealand photographer took some small digital cameras to Addis Ababa. She gave them to 16 homeless children and asked them to record their lives. They were given some tuition, some guidance, but the images are entirely the work of the 6 to 9 year olds.

Most highly recommended.

(Link in header)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Wind-up from Foreign Policy...

of the year, that is.

Out of my mail box, from "Foreign Policy" is their list of "The Worst 10 Predictions For 2008".

1. Bill Kristol
“If [Hillary Clinton] gets a race against John Edwards and Barack Obama, she’s going to be the nominee. Gore is the only threat to her, then. … Barack Obama is not going to beat Hillary Clinton in a single Democratic primary. I’ll predict that right now.” —William Kristol, Fox News Sunday, Dec. 17, 2006

2. Bill Kramer
"“Peter writes: ‘Should I be worried about Bear Stearns in terms of liquidity and get my money out of there?’ No! No! No! Bear Stearns is fine! Do not take your money out. … Bear Stearns is not in trouble. I mean, if anything they’re more likely to be taken over. Don’t move your money from Bear! That’s just being silly! Don’t be silly!” —Jim Cramer, responding to a viewer’s e-mail on CNBC’s Mad Money, March 11, 2008

3. Dennis Blair and Kenneth Lieberthal
“[In] reality the risks to maritime flows of oil are far smaller than is commonly assumed. First, tankers are much less vulnerable than conventional wisdom holds. Second, limited regional conflicts would be unlikely to seriously upset traffic, and terrorist attacks against shipping would have even less of an economic effect. Third, only a naval power of the United States’ strength could seriously disrupt oil shipments.” —Dennis Blair and Kenneth Lieberthal, Foreign Affairs, May/June 2007

4. Donald Luskin
“[A]nyone who says we’re in a recession, or heading into one—especially the worst one since the Great Depression—is making up his own private definition of ‘recession.’” —Donald Luskin, The Washington Post, Sept. 14, 2008

5. The Economist
“For all its flaws, an example to others.” —The Economist on Kenya’s presidential election, Dec. 19, 2007

6. BusinessWeek
“New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will enter the Presidential race in February, after it becomes clear which nominees will get the nod from the major parties. His multiple billions and organization will impress voters—and stun rivals. He’ll look like the most viable third-party candidate since Teddy Roosevelt. But Bloomberg will come up short, as he comes in for withering attacks from both Democrats and Republicans. He and Clinton will split more than 50% of the votes, but Arizona’s maverick senator, John McCain, will end up the country’s next President.” –BusinessWeek, Jan. 2, 2008

7. Walter Wagner
“There is a real possibility of creating destructive theoretical anomalies such as miniature black holes, strangelets and deSitter space transitions. These events have the potential to fundamentally alter matter and destroy our planet.” —Walter Wagner,

8. Arjun Murti
“The possibility of $150-$200 per barrel seems increasingly likely over the next six-24 months.” —Arjun Murti, Goldman Sachs oil analyst, in a May 5, 2008, report

9. Charles Krauthammer
“It starts with the taking over of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which has already happened. It goes on to the destruction of the Georgian armed forces, which is now happening. The third [development] will probably be the replacement of the elected government, which is pro-Western, with a puppet government, which will probably follow in a week or two.” —Charles Krauthammer, Fox News, Aug. 11, 2008

10. Henry Paulson
“I believe the banking system has been stabilized. No one is asking themselves anymore, is there some major institution that might fail and that we would not be able to do anything about it.” —Henry Paulson on National Public Radio, Nov. 13, 2008


Mind you, don't ever look at the prognostications made by yours truly. :D

Monday, December 08, 2008

Person of the Year - 2008

It being close to the end of the year, there is the annual crop of “… of the Year” awards. First out of the blocks (that I have read) is Granny Herald, who gave their (four or five) lists on Saturday.

And, I must say, I fully support their choice for this year for “Person of the Year”. (Read the first three pages at least). It is this time a joint award to two men. Both were involved in actions of the greatest bravery and courage.

Both of the two men did what they thought was right. Both of the two men achieved (at least in part) the objective that they set, which was the preservation of the lives of others.

Regrettably, both men lost their lives in their efforts; one stabbed to death in a public place at 5 pm. as he left his office, the other drowned in a flooded river with a disabled teenage lad strapped to his chest.

And, I have to say, these men epitomise (for me at least) the sacrifice and dedication that is true Christianity. That is not because they lost their lives. It is because (as one relative said it) they are the true Good Samaritans. There are few enough in this world. There are two (pun absolutely intended) fewer today.

How many others who call themselves “true Christians” would have the courage to do the same as these two.

I know that I could not say “I would”.

From the article I have linked above, I want to include just one quote, a letter written by one of the deceased’s sister to his wife. It is actually a quote from Martin Luther King –

And so the first question that the priest asked -- the first question that the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"