Thursday, April 19, 2012


An email came in today, through the probligo’s letterbox, from a person calling herself “Estelle Schumann”. I have no idea of who this virtual person might be, but the email was a request that I allow her to write a piece on education to this noble establishment; “a blog post which discusses educational reform, learning theory, and its intersection with the state of standardized testing today could be of some potential value to your readers.”

The attraction for the request was apparently, this post from a long time ago..

Don’t bother going read it, unless you really want to; it centres on a post from another blog and relating to the Iraq war and the blind rantings of a simple American mind who was led to a belief that everything America wants and does is right.

I suspect, and I am not going to try and confirm the suspicion, that the writer of the email has exactly the same motivations in writing to me. Ah… yeah, right!! I suspect that anything he/she/it might leave on my site would be very educational for those coming behind.

The second grin comes from the postscript –
"We only truly learn when the future has become history; when we're leaping forward, turning mistakes into achievements." ~Anonymous

Since when has America ever learnt from their mistakes? When has any aggressor nation ever learnt from their mistakes?

One thing certain, this old guy is not falling for it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A nexus in political stupidity...

Just when you thought that Dr Nick Smith would indicate the depths of political stupidity in the current government, nek minit you find someone else has an even worse case of foot and mouth.

Background -

Nick Smith was Minister in charge of ACC (for the furriners that is Accident Compensation Corporation). A good (woman) mate of his had been having a long-term stoush with said ACC concerning the Corporation's rejection of an application for compensation (that is about as simple as I can make it).

He wrote a letter to the Corporation; a sort of personal reference if you like. Unfortunately it was sent on Ministerial letterhead.

The raruraru really got under way when the woman concerned approached the media claiming that she had received from the ACC an email which included a file with the names and details of a good number of compensation claimants. Herald has a reasonable summary of things here.

There is a parallel which has unfolded over the past couple of days.

This second one started with the Acting Prime Minister Jerry Brownlee in a Parliamentary debate describing Finland as
which has worse unemployment than us, has less growth than us, can hardly feed the people who live there, has a terrible homicide rate, hardly educates its people, and has no respect for women."

The best rebuttal probably comes from Finland's equivalent of Laws or Limbaugh. Take a look; it is hilarious...

But the point here is the nexus.

Smith, darling little lad that he is, claimed that the context of the two letters he wrote without revealing personal conflict of interest were such that the Ministerial letterhead would have been on little to no effect.

Sorry Nick, but does sound rather like the shepherd boy who tried to claim that "the shadow over there did look rather like a wolf".

Put it this way -

If Smith had remained as a Minister, how would any Ministerial Directive have been received? Is this Smith with his personal knickers knotted again? Or is it for real? We had better check...

Brownlee's claim, post fact, that his comments "were made in good humour" could have - I believe should have - similar consequences to Smith's indiscretion. His Jonkey boss has had to make direct apologies to the Finnish Prime Minister, a galling thought indeed.

Are we to take Brownlee in the House with any seriousness at all when any he makes statement can be simply dismissed as "in good humour" (irrespective of the consequences)? Is it enough to apologise "if anyone took offence", rather than apologising for his statement that quite a number of people - and at least two European governments other than Finland - thought was offensive? It is less that 150 years since a Parliamentarian in this country was challenged to a duel by another for less. Heaven forfend that Jerry should ever step on the toes of Julia Gillard.

For sure, the Jonkey has a problem; no, make that quite a number of problems. Who is going to shove foot in mouth next? Collins? Sharples?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Justice, late...

It has taken roughly four and a half years.

It has left a thick trail of slime through many of the presumed foundations of NZ's justice system.

It has resulted in yet more legislation intended to limit the rights of NZers to their freedoms of expression, freedoms of thought, and presumption of innocence.

The sorry saga of the Urewera 17 has come to an end, with only four of those originally arrested in Operation 8 appearing in Court, and with only half of the firearm charges against them being proven to the satisfaction of the jury.

The "belonging to an organised criminal group" charge could not be agreed by the jury on a majority (10:1) basis leading to -
Crown prosecutor Ross Burns said the Crown will consider a retrial on the lead charge of belonging to an organised criminal group, which the jurors could not reach a decision on.

"Ordinarily the Crown would proceed to a retrial but it will have to consider it carefully in this case."

Yes, I can well imagine very careful consideration. The aroma of political urging still hangs heavily in the air.

Granny Herald, in an editorial on March 24 opines that -
It is worth recalling the words of the Solicitor-General when he decided the evidence did not support a charge under the Terrorism Suppression Act. He was critical of the act ("unnecessarily complex, incoherent and almost impossible to apply") not the police. They had "a sufficient and proper basis" for concern about what these people were doing.

The video shown at the trial has confirmed that much. If people are going to play games with real guns and explosives anywhere in New Zealand, they had better ensure they are authorised in law. The police may have an apology to make for some of their actions at Ruatoki, but not for their concern about paramilitary activities. On the evidence the public has now seen, they had to act.

Now I will agree with the sentiment, the police may well have had to act. But as the editorial has suggested there are many questions to be answered.

First in my mind is "Why did NZ's Police decide to undertake the raid on Ruatoki in a manner that would have done proud the Para's in Northern Ireland, or the US's best in Iraq?" This is not a country so large that an individual, let alone a group, can be out of sight for too long. This is not (yet) a country at war with itself.

Second, there was very obviously a major police resource sunk into the "investigation" prior to the conclusion of Operation 8. So, the question must be asked, "Why is the same resource not concentrated on resolving other well-known criminal threats within our society?" There are several, self-confessed, organised criminal groups running illegal activites that range from car theft to manufacture and/or import of illegal drugs. Yet the numbers appearing on those kind of charges are very small.

Third, the Herald (along with a lot of other people, I suspect) bewails the cost of the trial - over $2.8 million in legal aid for a start - as "the most expensive in NZ history. Less than $1 million was spent on the prosecution. I for one certainly do not begrudge the legal aid. The outcome of the prosecution is sufficient explanation.

So, those in addition to the questions asked in Herald's editorial...
The public still awaits the Police Complaints Authority's report on that operation. Many wait for that side of the story as anxiously as they have awaited the trial of those arrested that day.

Initially, charges were laid under a new Terrorism Suppression Act until the Solicitor-General ruled that the evidence, while "very disturbing", was not sufficient to establish that any of the 18 people arrested had been planning a particular terrorist act.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

On Intellectual Property Rights and copyright...

To all of those who believe that it is their right to steal, take, or copy the work of others there are a couple examples in the news (well, came into my ambit) in the past two days.

First was an article in AP magazine. Oh, you will find this on the 'net but it is a real live paper type version that I have borrowed from the library.

It concerns an English photographer who saw one of his images being used in a magazine and he new darned well that he had not given permission for its use. He enquired and found that the "right" had been purchased from Flikr.

So, there is the first warning. If you are using Flikr for image storage, their "Terms and Conditions" retain the right to use any image and to sell that right to others. It does not limit the "owners" right in any way, but the "owner" does not retain a sole right to his IP.

All of that is quite legal, proper and above board. But how many really sit and read all of the fine print?

The second centres on a young(ish) guy from down south a-ways. Known as "the nek minit" man. He made a quick video which went viral, making "nek minit" the latest in inter-galactic patois.

He has been selling t's with "Nek Minit" on the front in Wellington, proceeds going to his work in reducing bullying in schools. He has (apparently) a detailed and intimate knowledge of that subject. Just down the road, one of the national shop chains in selling t's with "Nek Minute" on the front, proceeds to the chain and an Australian t maker.

There is another NZ company which has registered "Nek Minit" as a trademark. As of last night they had agreed to sell those rights to the man provided he comes up with the cost (a couple of hundred) to reimburse the cost.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A quiet reflection on history...

It is not quite 5 years since the blogger known as "Riverbend" signed off her "Baghdad Burning" blog with a final post from Damascus, Syria.

At that time she was soundly lauded as a beacon of hope and democracy through here cronicaling of events in Baghdad following the deposing of Hussein. In more recent times there have been doubts cast on the truth and validity of both her existence and her record of events.

I have thought of her a number of times over the past few weeks. What is she thinking now of her beautiful new home?

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

On occupying, occupation, and the morality of wealth...

There must be an interesting psychology lying behind protest and public disobedience on the one hand and the more general acceptance and approbation of the protest in wider society… or is the ol’ probligo getting just that little more reactionary in his old age?

F’rinstance –

Forty years ago, the prospect of giving a number of very important people a sleepless night and to inform them of contrary opinion was not only supported in spirit but in fact. The main person to be kept awake – if that were possible – was one LBJ, then Vice-P of the USofA. He was spending a night or three in Auckland in the course of a junket round the world drumming up support for a military action that was going rather sour in a remote and previously ignored little slice of land somewhere down and to the right of China.

That was considered to be all in good fun. It was “right” to protest the military invasion of a nation – whether by invitation of the government or not – irrespective of the validity and justification of the rationale behind the action. To have the figurehead of the military action at hand and within protest range was a prospect far too good to miss. Oh, and I can not help wondering how many marriages resulted from the protest – I know of one certainly; a very dear friend whose response to the toasts at his wedding breakfast included the observation that his marriage was LBJ’s fault, that he had met his wife in the gutter outside the Intercontinental Hotel when they were both about to be arrested.

Similarly, there was the occupation of Bastion Point by Ngati Whatua. That one lasted for over a year (507 days to be precise). The objective of the protest was the land itself; its ownership; the means by which that ownership was obtained; the right of the protesters to regain what they considered to be their manawhenua – ownership – of a piece of land that had gone from disputed to extremely valuable over a period of some 120 years. Long time readers might recall my rather jaundiced view of the disputes of “right of domain” (I think that is right) in the US. The Bastion Occupation coloured thinking here a very deep colour of red.

But something seems to have changed.

The “Occupy…” protests in NZ have seemed futile from the start. On a global scale, the validity of the point being made had some strength as my previous post acknowledged. I wrote that some 3 months after the “occupation” of Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington. In recent times – these past four weeks – there has been increasing activity by “the powers that be” to clear the protests from the respective central city sites. As this has been happening, the nature of the protesters has changed; there has been quite a clear acknowledgement from the movement that began it all that their message had been infiltrated and converted by others with other agendas.

In Wellington, the coincidental death in hospital of a local character known best as “Blanket Man” had become the central point to the protest. In Christchurch, the protest against “the 1%” had morphed into a local issue – the pay increase granted by the City Council to its Chief Executive. The Auckland protest had become more about “the right to occupy” rather than the figmental 1% with which it had started.

So, I guess, the ol’ probligo has joined the ranks of the reactionary. No longer is there much point to the protest of “the 99% against the 1%”. And that raises the sad question of “Why?”.

One of the fundamentals of “capitalism” relies upon a small number of people controlling a large proportion of total wealth and a large number of people relying on the owners of that capital to provide them with something approaching an adequate living. From the time of Adam Smith to Friedman and Samuelson that division has existed and been recognised. It is not going to vanish in the twinkle of a tax-man's eye; it depends from the "natural human instinct" (TFS might call it "God-given instinct"?) of advantage, possession and greed. The real point to remember here is that "corporate greed" is nothing more than "human greed" in a pin-stripe suit and briefcase.

On the other side - as well illustrated by all the "occupy" movements - is the opposite emotion of envy; the "natural human instincts" of disadvantage, of dispossession, of not having.

As I started, the connection of these mirror images would likely make an interesting study. For my part, I can sit back this evening and reflect that I have as much as I need, that in large part I have as much as I want, and the best part of all is that I earned the best part of it for myself.

How smug. How self-satisfied. How selfish...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

This is what the 1% argument is about in the US...

From Sydney Morning Herald -
Mitt Romney, one of the richest men to run for president, says he "probably" pays an effective federal income tax rate of about 15 per cent - little more than most American workers struggling to make ends meet in the toughest economic conditions for 70 years.
Capital gains in the US are taxed generally at 15 per cent; likewise earnings from investments, such as dividends. Individuals earning up to $US34,500 a year fall in the 15 per cent federal income tax bracket, then pay 25 per cent to $US83,000. The top income tax rate is 35 per cent. (Americans also pay state and municipal taxes.)

Unlike investment earnings, wages are subject to Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes.

Tax breaks reduce the effective rate for most people. According to the Tax Policy Centre, in Washington, the average US household would pay 9.3 per cent in federal income tax in 2011 - but 19.7 per cent in all federal taxes once imposts were included.

Even this old bugger can see the point here.

Harking back to the 1% debate in this country, the difference in income taxation depends not on the type of income but on the ability to employ a good tax accountant.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Dropped in old me old mate Al...

... and his latest post featured pictures of his family Christmas. I promised him I would set up the probligo's moko's. So, in order of age -

Alexia and Mikaela...

Emily, Blake, and Hannah.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Road Safety...

Clive Matthews-Wilson (of dog and lemon guide fame) reckons that median barriers will save lives on our roads.

Yes of course they will, idiot. Simply because there will be no opportunity for overtaking, for travelling any faster than the slowest vehicle ahead...

His comment about children in 100 years not believing the present opposing traffic conditions on our roads? Those children will probably not believe that ordinary joe-in-the-street people were permitted to control lumps of metal travelling at 100kph anywhere.

I left a comment over at Karl Du Frene's place that I treat every other driver as having the intelligence of a 6 year old. Tis true! Sober or not, there are individuals out there with no more intelligence than that. They can be seen driving anything from bicycle to SUV, but are far more apparent at the latter end than the former.