Friday, August 31, 2012

His First Shit

Fevered speculation broke out among the Whanganui press pack today as rumours circulated that after eighteen years on the inside Stewart Murray Wilson (known as the Beast of Blenheim to the impartial members of the New Zealand media) was about to take his first shit as a free man.

Speculation centered on the colouring and density of the shit in question. With clear lines being drawn between the Fairfax reporters (deep brown, hard and stodgy) and the APN News and Media reporters (brown with a green tinge and a runny mud like consistency).

Mediaworks staff were spotted negotiating with the local sewerage company to try and get exclusive access to the shit, while Mark Sainsbury helicoptered in from Auckland in the hope his considerable charisma and moustache (not to mention his prodigious pooing ability) would secure the first live interview.

A Corrections source confirmed that Wilson had been shitting regularly while in prison (often twice a day) and while the consistency had fluctuated early on, a change to his diet had produced a browner and more solid excrement.

An outraged Michael Laws demanded that Corrections build a separate sewer system as he did not want his shits associating with Wilson's.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What's been happening of late?

Last night Parliament voted 80-40 in favour of Louisa Wall's The Definition of Marriage Amendment Bill. It was expected to pass easily but the margin of victory was something else.

It still has to go through select committee and then another two votes, however I find it hard to imagine it not passing now. If anything I would expect it to pick up more votes as MPs start to think about whether they wish to be on the right side of history or not. So hurray!

In other news the Dowse Art Museum has been coming under a bit of criticism for having a women's only exhibit. Personally I don't see the big problem. The women in the photographs allowed them to be taken, in the understanding men would not see them. Men are not banned from the Dowse itself, rather they are not allowed in one tiny curtained off area. I can't help but wonder if the person complaining to the Human Rights Commission even wants to see the exhibit or is just miffed that he is excluded.

NZ film maker Summer Burstyn made some insensitive and inflammatory comments on Facebook about the death of the three New Zealand soldiers in Afghanistan. Now I don't agree with their presence in Afghanistan and you can quite easily argue that they lost their lives for no reason. But Summer Burstyn is a complete muppet and while some of the responses to her comments were over the top she was never in any real danger.

I have also just come across a fantastic new show. It's called Bored to Death and has all the hallmarks of a comedy classic. It stars Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifinakis and Ted Danson. Schwartzman plays a writer who has recently broken up with his girlfriend and begins to pose as a private detective. I call it a new show, however it has already broadcast three seasons in the states. You can catch it on Soho as reruns or download it for viewing when you want.

Finally, tonight MPs will vote on whether to raise the Alcohol purchase age. Let's hope the common sense from last night flows on and they keep it 18.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A vigorous Fourth Estate

The standard of journalism in this country is often of concern. Our major news websites are little more than light entertainment. But all is not yet lost...

It is with a sense of great relief that I discovered today. In the words of Bernard Hickey: is a not-for-profit trust dedicated to supporting and building public interest news, analysis, comment and debate.

We aim to gather a group of supporters able to fund, build and flesh out a community of journalists and the platform they need to report, analyse and publish the news that matters. That means investigative, probing, enterprising and explanatory journalism, rather than celebrity-driven churnalism and PR.

New Zealand needs a strong and vibrant fourth estate that challenges, probes, questions and holds to account those people, institutions and forces that affect the lives of all New Zealanders.
Bloody brilliant!!!

The Right to Die

I have previously been in support of voluntary and legalised euthanasia. However in Saturday's DomPost Sean Plunkett had a piece on a public meeting he chaired recently on the issue.

And one paragraph in particular caught my attention:
If we are happy to have a justice system which allows one guilty person to walk free to minimise the chances of the innocent being convicted, I cannot see how we can condone a system that might kill one unwilling patient so that others might exercise their "right to die".
I had never had it put to me like that before and it has made me consider my previous support for voluntary euthanasia.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Richard Dawkins vs Bill O'Reilly

Rage Against Paul Ryan

Last week Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan as his Vice Presidential running mate. Paul Ryan is a colourful character to say the least. But one of the more interesting facts about him is that one of his favourite bands is Rage Against the Machine.

You know Rage Against the Machine, the anti-capitalist, avowedly socialist band who represent everything Paul Ryan stands against. So it seems a bit odd. Rage guitarist Tom Morello certainly thinks so, as he explains in this op-ed for Rolling Stone:
I wonder what Ryan's favorite Rage song is? Is it the one where we condemn the genocide of Native Americans? The one lambasting American imperialism? Our cover of "Fuck the Police"? Or is it the one where we call on the people to seize the means of production? So many excellent choices to jam out to at Young Republican meetings!
Morello also thinks Paul Ryan has a lot of rage, but maybe his rage is directed against other issues and people than Rage Against the Machine's.
Don't mistake me, I clearly see that Ryan has a whole lotta "rage" in him: A rage against women, a rage against immigrants, a rage against workers, a rage against gays, a rage against the poor, a rage against the environment. Basically the only thing he's not raging against is the privileged elite he's groveling in front of for campaign contributions.
This election could be a lot of fun.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How piracy kills NZ films has an opinion piece from New Zealand producer Tui Ruwhiu: How piracy kills NZ films.

It is a little bit of a "poor me" piece and is really just about how hard it is as a producer to make money from films.
If we do have to forego fees then the only opportunity for producers to be rewarded for their work is through a slice of the revenues generated by box office, television, DVD, Blu Ray, video on demand, in-flight entertainment and other existing revenue streams. But producers' chances here are meagre if not non-existent. Promotion and advertising costs, international sales agent and distributor fees, deferments, financing, equity recoupment, profit shares with investors, creatives, cast, and the myriad other entities and individuals who get bites of the backend must be paid first.
I was really interested to see his take on how piracy kills NZ films. But despite the title (a little misleading I now think), he doesn't offer any reasons. Just this short paragraph at the end.
For producers who choose a path where revenue streams from content sales are vital to pay for the film's production and distribution (and hopefully give them and their investors some kind of pay day), piracy snuffs out that light. It takes the money away from those who have earned it-often with blood, sweat and tears-and puts it in the pockets of those who have no claim whatsoever.
This suggests to me that Tui Ruwhiu doesn't have a clue about modern piracy. Nobody I know would pay anyone for a pirated movie, they just download them for free. (Unless he means ISPs?)

Again this is the film industry looking for someone to blame. Maybe if they (and the music industry) hadn't had their heads in the sand at the dawn of the digital age they wouldn't be in this position.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Anonymous Donations

The Herald on Sunday's editorial speaking clearly and sensibly on campaign finance:
But it is time to go further and stop anonymous donations altogether. Nobody expects disclosure of the source of each coin thrown into a plastic bucket at a meeting. But it is fundamentally inimical to the idea of democracy that people can donate large amounts of money to political campaigns without voters' knowing about it. Generous donors don't give money to politicians without expecting something in return, and we should know who is giving what, not for the hell of it, but so that politicians' behaviour can be assessed in the light of the largesse.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Amazon Redesign?

Has anyone been on lately? And does it look like this?

A New Cold War?

Co-founder of Pacific Fibre Rod Drury has revealed the super power politics also played a part in the failure of the Pacific Fibre international cable.

As reported by the Herald:
Drury said yesterday that during negotiations the company discovered a "whole lot of political stuff", including tensions between the United States and China over investment.

Asked if the United States had security concerns over potential Chinese involvement in Pacific Fibre, Drury replied: "What I will say is you start connecting cables and those are the sort of national concerns that all governments would have.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A good opportunity for a Public-Private Partnership?

The Government is spending $1.5 billion dollars on setting up ultra-fast broadband around the country. Unfortunately while it is a great idea the benefits are set to be limited for a couple of reasons.

First, data caps in New Zealand are so absurdly low that you will be able to use up all your available data in a few days and be paying enormous excesses for the rest of the month.

And second, the price of broadband in this country is incredibly expensive. At my flat we currently pay $75 a month for 60GB of data from TelstraClear. Contrast this to the UK where I was paying £13 a month for unlimited data with O2 (This included a £5 discount for having my mobile with O2).

New Zealand is miles away from where the vast majority of the content is produced (the US and the UK) and our population is relatively small, so we may never see the sort of deals offered in the UK. But the major problem is the Southern Cross Cable which limits capacity as it is used for all international communications out of New Zealand (data and phone) and as the only international cable has a monopoly.

What New Zealand needs is a second international cable to increase capacity and competition, and in turn bring down prices. But as the DomPost reports:
Pacific Fibre, backed by big-name entrepreneurs including Sam Morgan, Stephen Tindall and Rod Drury, launched in March 2010 aiming to build a 13,000km high-speed fibre-optic cable connecting New Zealand and Australia to California.

But this afternoon, chairman Sam Morgan said Pacific Fibre had failed to raise the required US$400 million ($490 million).
This is bad news for consumers and innovative businesses in New Zealand. Which leads me to ask?

Isn't this a great opportunity for a public-private partnership? Something the Government could use to sell the idea to New Zealanders?

(P.S. I see now the broadband plan I had in the UK is £12.50 a month, whether you have an O2 mobile or not.)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Freedom of Speech

The UK has had a problem recently with a number of people being arrested for sending racist messages on Twitter. While I don't agree with what they have said, I don't think they should be arrested unless they are inciting violence (i.e. hate speech).

However the Guardian now reports that the British Police have gone further. They have arrested and issued a harassment warning to a teenager who insulted British Olympic Diver Tom Daley on Twitter.

The teenager tweeted (After Daley's failure to win a medal in the 10m Synchronised Dive):
You let your dad down i hope you know that.
Tom Daley's father died from cancer last year.

I think we can all agree that the message is reprehensible. But there is no way on earth he should have been arrested for it and I don't understand how it constitutes harassment.

The response of other Twitter users had already forced him to apologise and that is where it should have eneded.

These curtailments of freedom of speech are just one aspect of a police force in the UK that is clamping down on civil liberties. Others include the shooting of Mark Duggan, the response to the G20 protests in London and the death of Ian Tomlinson and Police infiltration of environmental groups.

And then there is this: the UK Police arrested 182 cyclists during the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. They were part of the Critical Mass monthly cycling event and had nothing to do with the Olympics. They (including a 13-year old boy) were arrested under the Public Order Act:
Some of those arrested have told the Guardian they were kettled and detained through the night in a windowless police "garage" and single-decker buses.
I can imagine it will only get worse before it gets better.