Thursday, March 31, 2011

McCully: Which Hat Will I Wear Today?

I'm out of my depth...
Murray McCully has again shown what a weak NZ Foreign Minister he is.
Since Fiji's 2006 military coup, NZ sanctions have prevented military and regime officials from entering our country. This ban has stopped some members of the Fiji rugby side coming here, and last year coup leader Frank Bainimarama said he wanted to lead his country to the Rugby World Cup.
Earlier this week Muddling McCully said NZ would be prepared to relax its sanctions (!!) if Fiji gave "a pretty clear indication they're headed for the polls within an acceptable time frame". He reckons the *yawn* Rugby World Cup may provide the right motivation. "The NZ govt has never wanted to exclude Fijian people coming to the Rugby World Cup, but the sad fact is members of their administration and military are on the banned list."
Ok, Muzz, but think about this. We go soft on sanctions because Frank promises an election soon. Happy little Fijians troop in for the rugby. Then ol' Frank says "Elections? Yea...naaaaaarrrrrrrrrr!" After all, he promised to hold 'em in 2009 but reneged. There's also concern that the ones promised for 2014 won't be fair and open, coz Frankie's said no party or individual associated with the guys he overthrew will be allowed to seek office!
Fiji has faced diplomatic pressure since the coup, suspension from the Commonwealth and the Pacific Islands Forum, and sanctions... but nothing has changed! So why does McCully think a bloody rugby tournament will make any difference? Aaaahhhhh, because McCully, wearing a different hat, wants bums on seats!
Maybe Muddling McCully should re-read his job description: no, not the bit about being Minister for Sport and Recreation, nor the part about being Minister for the Rugby World Cup. Forget those conflicts of interest for a moment. Please refresh your memory on 'How To Be A Foreign Minister 101'...

PS: 09 Nov.2011 - Just as I predicted, a Fijian rugby player/soldier, who resigned from the army to play in the now back in the Fijian Army!!! And McCully is puzzled, saying: "But...but...we had a diplomatic agreement!" Muzz, you are such a gormless pillick!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Faster Than An Inbound Cruise Missile!

Talk about quick off the mark!
The missiles' exhaust fumes still drift over the Libyan desert, and the scammers have already sent out this diatribe from one General A.A.Bin-Zafar (from a supposed Libyan email address, but with the reply address based in China)!
"Greetings fellow.
First, I want to solicit for your absolute confidence and assurance that this transmission is of mutual benefit and do not mean any harm as it is strictly risk free.
I am General Ahmed Abdullahi Bin-Zafar of the Libyan Military. I am sorry I have to put this story short because of time. I and my colleague General of the oil wells chief and security of Libyan crude oil, have watched the incumbent president stash away over US$140billion through relatives and few friends abroad during this ongoing political crisis in Libya, please watch or other media telecast covering the invents and present happening in Libya.
With my position I need not to be told that I have to use this opportunity to secure my family future. I am contacting you to assist me because I came in to one of the west African country through the diplomatic channel with a consignment worth of US$45Million which I want you to take hold of in your country as I will soon resign from this work and war going on in Libya.
Contact me immediate by email so that I can introduce/link you to my attorney who knows where I am deposited the consignment funds because I having to return to Libya as soon as possible. The attorney will guard you through all the legal process and to protect our both financial interest. You shall be entitled 20% of these funds on completion of transfer to your bank account.
Be rest assured that this communication is totally free from all risks. Above all I want you to keep this tightly confidential, if you feel you can't do it please delete this letter for good.
Allah Bless You.
Gen. A. A. Bin-Zafar."
Oh absolutely, fellow! Be rest very assured, General, I am being certainly keep this most tightly confidential! Bloody pillick!!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Keira Goes Coco

Keira Knightley's mini-movie advert for Chanel's Coco Mademoiselle fragrance was released last week - fairly smouldering if you're into skinny women with strange jawlines!
The movie starts with our heroine waking up in nothing but Coco Mademoiselle perfume, before zipping-up her beige catsuit and heading off on a vintage motorcycle for some racy driving around the streets of Paris.
She arrives at a studio where she meets a handsome photographer. The pair get down to the business of photographing KK, then the brazen bint unzips her catsuit and - with one look - tells him it's now a 'closed set'...!
You'll have to watch the mini-movie to see how it all turns out but, needless to say, Mademoiselle Knightley comes out on top. Nice to see she's put a bit of weight on since the last Pirates Of The Caribbean movie, in which she was so thin that she had to wear specially padded pirate jackets! Mind you, a few more kilos yet wouldn't go amiss...
Still, gotta say: the motorbike was hot!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Die On Your Feet? Or Live On Your Knees?

Recently Aussie schoolboy Casey Haynes turned the tables after three years of being bullied: he snapped and slammed the bully into the ground. The cellphone clip went viral...
And last week here in NZ, a 15-year-old schoolgirl was savagely attacked, after she told her deputy principal that her attacker had threatened to stab her. Wanganui Girls College student Robin de Jong suffered 24 punches and a head stomping. The vicious beating was captured on cellphone...
With schools hog-tied by mamby-pamby PC "rules of engagement", there's little they can do to halt the escalating tide of school violence. Indeed some schoolkids, harassed by bullying, have even been driven to suicide.
Some folk maintain "Never back down to a bully" (easy to say, when you're not the kid getting beaten up daily), while others criticise the adulation of the Casey Haynes' video.
A possible solution: reinstate corporal punishment in schools. For those who grew up without experiencing this, a quick thumbsketch: corporal punishment was official punishment for misbehaviour. It involved striking the student across the buttocks, legs or hands with a cane or a leather strap. This was often in full view of classmates, for humiliation and as an example. Parents who sent kids to such a school did so with full knowledge and consent of the system. Supporters argue it gives an immediate response to indiscipline and that the student is back in class rather than being suspended. Opponents believe other disciplinary methods are more effective. Some regard it as tantamount to abuse. It was banned in NZ by the Education Amendment Act 1990.
There is no denying school violence is growing alarmingly. The sort of behaviour associated with US schools - assaults on teachers, knife and pistol attacks - is now permeating our schools.
As these attacks grow, so does support for corporal punishment. In March 2010, a Curia Market Research poll asked 1,000 people: "Do you think a school should be able to choose to use corporal punishment, if the Board, Parents and Principal wish to have this as an option for school discipline?" 50% responded yes, 44% said no, and 6% didn’t know. I'm sure support for its return has grown by now.
I was strapped in primary school, and caned in high school for infractions. I was also bullied in high school and told to just "tough it out". I didn't turn into a violent sociopath. I haven't dissected neighbours' cats live. But I do believe in law, rules to obey, lines to be toed - if corporal punishment is the only system that can restore safety and order to our schools, then bring it back.
Kids should return from school each day with knowledge, not bruises! For those who say other methods are more effective, please show me some proof. Right now, I'm nowhere near being convinced...
PS: 29 March 2011 - PM tells schools to take action against bullies.
PS: 01 April 2011 - ...and so it continues...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Whalers Put To Good Use

A very quiet homecoming last week for the Japanese whaling fleet...
The Nisshin Maru factory ship crept into Tokyo Bay amid speculation that this year's Antarctic whaling season may be its last. Considering the recent tragedy in Japan, the disgrace of the whaling fleet was not much of a story. NM and the rest of the whalers were still at sea when the earthquake and tsunami struck, and they would have slipped into port almost unnoticed by the general public.
However Japanese authorities immediately commandeered the ship to deliver aid supplies to northern Japan. As NM is such a large vessel (at 8,000 tons), it is ideally suited for this. NM will be taking charcoal, rice, kerosene, instant noodles and other supplies to the northern coastal communities hit hardest by the tsunami - a far more positive role than slaughtering whales!
Come to think of it, NM could fairly easily be permanently converted into a humanitarian aid vessel, with its rear slipway (up which whale carcasses are dragged) modified for roll-on/roll-off use.
Let's face it, the new rules from the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO) starting this July will make it illegal for it to operate below 60° south (the area where all the Japanese pelagic whaling is done), so it cannot sail to Antarctic waters again. Unless it's used for whaling in other oceans, or broken up, a conversion to an aid ship seems an admirable idea!
This recent disaster may well be the final nail in the coffin lid for whaling: the economic hit taken by Japan will make further massive whaling subsidies very unpopular.
Of course, there's the possibility Japan may again see whale meat as a cheap food for a nation in crisis (just as the whaling fleet was organised in 1946 by US General Douglas MacArthur to provide cheap protein for post-war civilian populations). But such a move would be blatantly commercial and therefore illegal. Japan may appeal to world sympathy for justification, but it would be unlikely they'd get it.
However I have no issue with the distribution of Japan's huge whalemeat stockpiles: there's no likelihood the record 6,000+ tons will ever be consumed under normal circumstances. However Japan faces major problems currently, and those embarrassing stockpiles could be put to good use.
After all, it's already been paid for by the Japanese people (through excessive government subsidies used to prop up their dieing whaling industry) so why not use it to sustain those very same people? 
PS: 18 Aug.2011 - And it's not just whalers that can be 'recycled'. The retiring Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior II will serve out its days as a hospital ship in Bangladesh.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ain't Politics A Beach!

As they say, it's all over bar the shouting. But the shouting continues...
Despite too-late tirades from the extended Harawira clan, the Marine and Coastal Area Bill is now law... and yet the government is worried it'll clog up the courts for years to come! Minister of Courts Georgina te Heuheu says the govt is crossing its fingers that wouldn’t happen, but acknowledges the possibility. Well, hello! Surely the government considered that, when planning this bill? "Crossing fingers" is not generally a recommended political solution. What ever next: some makutu/witchcraft in conjunction with its Maori Party allies?
But seriously, let's be realistic. A maori tribe has to prove continuous exclusive use/occupation of a particular coastal area since 1840, in order to stand a dog's show of gaining the property deed. I'd be amazed if there are even half a dozen that might - just might - have a leg to stand on. Then factor in costs of a prolonged legal battle, and concerns of coastal claims clogging courts crumble.
The bill restores the rights of indigenous brethren to go to court, but they'd need to be rock-solid in their claims or only the lawyers will benefit.
Opponents of the legislation say it ain't over yet: the Greens promise they won't let the issue die as the election looms. Ooooooooooooo, the Greens as the nation's rottweilers - I'm trembling!
Former Maori Party MP Hone Harawira (remember him?), despite his fierce opposition, forgot to vote on the bill's second reading and nearly missed his chance on Reading No.3! The wally on principle cast his vote in maori, the translation took it as "a view, not a vote", so it was ruled invalid. Only after National intervened, was Hone-bro able to get his vote counted...but to no avail!
According to Harawira, 89% of maori opposed the bill. Really? 89%? Impressive figures - yet, at best only 200 marched to parliament to protest!
Hmmm, I'm pickin' the rest were down at the beach...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Stalking? Or Just Caring?

Launched this week in NZ - a homegrown product that lets parents monitor their childrens' mobile phones.
Sally Rae and Steve Herstell have launched MyFone, which allows parents to see all activity on their kids' phones, via a protected website. Yeup, all numbers in and out, and all texts too!
They say it's designed to help parents save their kids from becoming victims of bullying, sexting and grooming. But NZ Council of Civil Liberties spokesman Batch Hales calls it worrying: "A lot of parents are very controlling, and I can imagine they'll really control their kids by listening in to their conversations." Ms Rae says she knows this is going to be controversial "but what's more important - our children's civil rights, or their safety and protection?"
To me it's a no-brainer: safety first. That is part of a parent's job description. If you talk to your kids about why you're doing this, there shouldn't be a problem...unless they're doing things that they don't want their parents to know about. And if parents are that concerned, then taking away kids' cell phones certainly decreases the opportunities to misbehave. I may sound, like, old-fashioned but, like, many kids today, y'know, have forgotten how to talk like face-to-face...? Gay. Totally. Bogus. What??!!
Mind you, these products are not new. There's one in USA called Trustbust which secretly takes photos of anyone snooping through your phone... although setting a trap like that almost feels like it would be a false admission of guilt. Another to be wary of is FlexiSpy which captures call logs, text messages and mobile Internet activity, among other things. Some security firms have labeled it a malicious Trojan program which may be able to ring up phone charges to your cell. A Pro version also lets the user call a target cell phone and listen in on what's going on in the background.
The danger is that parents using these sorts of programs, with the best of thoughts, unintentially become the phone-stalkers they've warned their children about!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Will To Win Wimps Out

No sooner had the kick-butt of Libya started, than the UN coalition's wheels started to wobble.
The Arab League's support of the no-fly zone was hailed as an extraordinary development. But as soon as reports emerged of civilian casualties, the Arabs were demanding to know what had happened to the no-fly resolution: "This differs from the no-fly zone objective – what we want is civilian protection, not more civilian deaths." They seemed not to notice the killing of Libyans by
"Oh shit, here comes another
cruise missile...!"
Qaddafi's troops.
So (paraphrasing the old adage) the West threw a war, but no-one from the Arab world came.
Though there was meant to be direct Arab military participation (from Morocco, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates), their aircraft are conspicuous by their absence. The counties who've come to play include Italy, Belgium, Canada, UK, Denmark, France and Spain.
Yet if those Arab states analysed the 1992 Bosnian no-fly zone, they'd see that overwhelming air power alone cannot win a war. And once the skies have been controlled, that airpower needs to be directed against ground elements. You can't let a tank continue to fire on civilians simply because it doesn't have wings!
What's clear is that, with pressure now off their backs, the rebels are advancing again. Unclear is the response from Qaddafi, with no-one knowing where he actually is. It's also unclear where this kick-butt will end. All the players are now singing from the same songsheet - that Qaddafi must go - but the UN resolution doesn't actually extend that far, and a no-fly zone by itself will not topple him.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Eroding The Memory

That word reminds me of the near-legendary 1975 5,000-strong protest march from the Far North to Wellington, led by 80 yr.old Whina Cooper. To call the current protest gaggle a "hikoi" is to belittle that effort.
Ngapuhi leader David Rankin has labelled it "an embarrassment". He says the protest over the Marine and Coastal Area bill will have no impact on the bill's passage through parliament: "Instead of wandering around the country to satisfy their own egos, these protesters should be in Christchurch helping their fellow NZers." Rankin feels the low turn-out reflects the level of maori support for their flagwaving rantings.
The Marine and Coastal Area bill replaces the Foreshore and Seabed Act. Attorney-General Chris Finlayson says it restores maori rights to seek customary title through the courts, while guaranteeing the rights of all NZers in the marine and coastal area. In other words, if a tribe can't prove exclusive use and occupation of the foreshore and seabed since 1840, then everyone regardless of ethnicity can freely enjoy that beach. As it should be.
Rabidity in their DNA?
Protest organisers John Junior Popata and Wikatana Popata complained bitterly that the bill was being rushed through, before they could get their 15 minutes of fame in Wellington. And then coincidentally a bomb scare cleared Parliament Buildings last week, delaying proceedings for a day. Curious... as it gained the "hikoi" extra time to get down there!
These nephews of Hone Harawira have a glowing track record:
Feb.2009 - assaulting the Prime Minister at Waitangi.
Jan.2010 - occupying private land, the former Taipa motor camp.
Oct.2010 - occupying council-owned Taipa Reserve.
Nov.2010 - boarding a tourist bus, to bitch about grievances.
March 2011 - leading the current protest march.
Ngati Kahu's Margaret Mutu once described the Popata bros as "good boys". Check the video in this NZ Herald story to see how "good boys" behave...!
I'll let Wikatana Popata have the last word in this post: “This is a clear message to the Government – we’re coming down and we’re going to take over this country.” Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.....
PS: 24 March 2011 - And for a good giggle at the Popatas' expense, have a read of Alf Grumble.
PS: 18 July 2011 - The Popatas are being "good boys" yet again...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Hook Of Repetition

Been listening to a bit of Sky's music Channel 63 lately.
Just playing in the background, but it's high-rotating a song that's so catchy I actually had go to the tv and watch the video.
It's called Rill Rill by an American group Sleigh Bells. Ok, it's lyrics are not clever (actually more "a little disturbing") but its repetition actually hooked me in, a bit like Rihanna's Umbrella (Ella Ella) did a few years ago.
The video, shot in the Californian desert, has an undercurrent of knives, tattoos, black ravens, "the number of the beast" 666, and pentagons (though unless she's singing about the military, I guess she really means "pentagram" - a 5-pointed devil-worship inverted-star symbol, whereas a pentagon is a 5-sided polygon).
And I couldn't help but notice a continuity error as well: he's leaning against the car, she walks towards him, he throws her the keys...but the car's still idling with a plume of exhaust chugging out the back. Hmmmmmmmm. the clip a couple is driving through the desert (loved the car: a classic Pontiac Firebird). She's behind the wheel singing, his head is hanging down - you assume he's asleep. He slowly flops against her shoulder...awww how sweet. But as she pushes him away against the side window, you notice he's sporting a bullet hole through his temple! Then she opens the car door and pushes his body out! Lovely!!! Good to know that after rolling out of the car, Dead Dude still keeps his cool Ray-bans on.
Anyway, if you wanna see what I'm rambling about, here's the clip.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Own-Brands Have Value

Ok, I admit it: I sometimes buy supermarket own-brands.
*Shock! Horror! Probe!*
In these troubled economic times, it makes financial sense. Often the budget products are produced in the very same factories as the branded versions anyway: we're just not paying the same advertising and marketing costs.
Brand decisions are emotionally driven - "mum always fed us X brand" - and our emotions get pulled every which way but loose by the advertising industry. That's their job: they're adept at tapping into our core values and pushing our buttons...fighting at school over whether a Vegemite kid was superior to a Marmite kid; "you''ll always be a kiwi when you love our Wattie's sauce"; "kiwi kids are Weetbix kids" (imagine my chagrin when I heard Oz had the same jingle singing "Aussie kids..."!!); discovering when you're overseas that nowhere in the world makes better icecream than Tip Top; etc etc. They use extensive research into product placement on shelves, paying supermarkets a premium to have their brand in a certain position, and of course these costs are passed on to consumers in higher prices.
I don't shop by reading ingredient labels, though I can appreciate some people must - like celiacs buying gluten-free products, or parents avoiding certain food colourings for their children. But there are some products I'll never buy eg: budget tinned spaghetti is totally inferior to Wattie's. Who would dunk a gingernut biscuit if it's not a Griffin's? And is there any Indian sauce to beat Patak's?
That's not snobbery, just good taste - literally. I'll sometimes choose a more expensive brand if the flavour is vastly superior. However, so often similar products do taste very much the same, so why pay a premium? eg: Pak'n'Save's 2L budget standard milk costs $3.59... while Woolworths own-brand standard milk 2L is $4.15 and Meadow Fresh Lite homogenised 2L is $4.79.
Yeup, there're definitely times when budget brands do have value.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Comet-ee Comet-ee Corry Corry...?

The All Blacks have the official "ok" to do the haka.
Ngati Toa signed a deal with the NZ Rugby Union, allowing the ABs to use the haka - yeup, the very same one they've been performing for over a century without any problems!
The All Blacks, telling the world they don't
want female genitals on their heads...
But over the years, Ngati Toa has smelt a few bucks and wanted intellectual property rights. A bit cheeky really, given this haka has been in the public domain since the 1800s!
Still, the deal now confirms the ABs can continue using the haka, while the tribe gets formal assurance it will be performed with respect. Maori were concerned the haka was "used in a belittling and culturally offensive way". (Don't know where that idea came from: I've never seen any NZ sports team perform the haka disrespectfully...but I've seen overseas teams take the piss out of it. Let's face it: when your team crouches out in front waving arms, chanting, poking tongues out etc, you've gotta expect some back-lash. But that's a completely different issue.)
Most NZers were told the haka was a war cry used to belittle one's opponents anyway! But the story of the haka is far less dramatic. In much abridged form:
warrior chief Te Rauparaha was being chased by some bad guys. He hid in a kumara (sweet potato) pit while the local chief's missus sat on top. The baddies cast spells to find him, but he was saved by the female genitals plonked on his head! Yeup, maori believe "girlie bits" have the power to ward off magic!! Te R was so thrilled to be saved, and to get the "girlie bits" off his head (maybe he was gay?), that he burst into song. The haka's inspired lyrics are:
I die! I die! I live! I live! I die! I die! I live! I live!
This is the hairy man who fetched the sun
And caused it to shine again.
One upward step! Another upward step!
An upward step, another.. the sun shines! Hee!


PS: 20 Sept.2011 - After all the hoo-hah about granting the ABs permission to use the haka, a maori leader is now claiming it's been "hijacked by rugby people for commercial purposes"!!! Duuuhhhh...hello!!!!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Libya: Too Little Too Late?

The UN must have read my blog.
It finally voted yesterday to authorise a no-fly zone over Libya, plus "all necessary measures" (that's UN-speak for military action) to protect the civilian uprising. But just when will this aerial umbrella open?
The good ol' US of A says "no immediate action" is expected. I dunno how long it will take to actually organise the enforcement of a no-fly zone: last week the Pentagon said it could do it "within a couple of days", but yesterday the US Air Force Chief of Staff reckoned it could take "upwards of a week".
Also yesterday Qaddafi bombarded Misrata, the last big opposition stronghold in western Libya, with heavy artillery and tanks. So you think he gives a damn about a UN resolution? You think he's going to stop? Think again! Jeez, it'll be all over in the next few days, let alone "upwards of a week"!
Yet the bulk of Libya's air force is obsolete by Western terms: about 80 operational aircraft - helicopters, transports and fighter jets - with technology behind the times. Surely no real challenge?
USAF F-16 kick-arse
So how hard can this "slam-dunk" be? Well, they're talking about surveillance and aerial refueling planes, satellite comms and jamming gear, logistics, all to assist strategic strikes by bombers and fighters.
Do they need to roll in every conceivable piece of military might before hitting the "go" button? I'd have expected a carrier fleet to be steaming to the Mediterranean long before now, so it was ready at a moment's notice...or maybe the redeployment of some planes from the Middle East to bases in Italy. It can't be too hard - after all, the UN has watched this coming for three weeks. But as I've blogged before, the UN seems to have no balls, no drive to be the global peacemaker it's supposed to be.
The sooner this is started, the sooner it's all dealt with...but leave it for another week, and there'll be no bloody point!
PS: 20 March 2011 - Qaddafi gets a taste of his own medicine...and not before time!

Friday, March 18, 2011

No Rush Over Libya

As Qaddafi's noose draws tighter around the civil uprising, the West's response has been pathetic. It's done little more than evacuate its own people, and then just talk...
"Don't worry, buddy,
we'll cover your back!"
For years, it's wanted to topple the Libyan leader. At the start of this month, USA's Obama announced Qaddafi "must go"! Now, more than a month after the uprising began, the tide of war is very much in Qaddafi's favour and still every proposal (from aid to rebels, to recognition of a provisional government) has been stymied. And it seems to be USA that's put the brakes on.
At least the Brits sent government men into Libya with some SAS to make contact with the rebels... even if they did get arrested by shepherds! Still, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague says Britain is prepared to impose a no-fly zone without UN authority...while the UK, France and Lebanon press for a fresh UN security council resolution. US secretary of state Hillary Clinton still maintains there're "other ways" to help the opposition...without saying what.
Could it be a case of "the devil you know..."? Yes, Qaddafi is a bad guy, a bit of a nutter in fact. But he quit the terrorism business a decade ago and paid compensation to the families of victims of the Lockerbie bombing. He surrendered his nuclear programme in 2003. He co-operates with the EU in stopping illegal migration into Italy. He's a good customer for Western companies and a reliable oil supplier. Ahhhh yes, with USA involvement there's always oil in the equation somewhere, isn't there!
citizens fight to the end...
So what we're seeing is a brutal suppression of the uprising, no doubt to be followed by summary executions of the leaders. Then the West can deplore the loss of life, offer humanitarian assistance and impose some sanctions on Qaddafi – at least until the fuss dies down.
After all, we can't have an Islamist takeover of Libya, can we: that just wouldn't fit with the ideal global picture as painted by the Pentagon.
So the end is nigh for the citizens' uprising. And the West is still talking. Too little, too late...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Good Example For Junior

Recently I saw something that bolstered my faith in mankind...and in particular young parents.
I was in a fast food outlet and watched a nearby young couple with babe in highchair. As was typical behaviour for a lad of that age, he was depositing on the floor at least twice as much food as he consumed! But mum and dad weren't making any fuss: they were enjoying their family outing.
When they'd finished their meal they packed up the vast amount of products seemingly required these days to maintain a young toddler, put the highchair away in the corner...and then got down on their knees and cleaned up all the mess that'd been dropped on the floor!
Y'know, so many people eating in such places would just leave all the food remains and packaging scattered across the table, and walk off with the attitude: "The staff can clean it up. After all, that's what they're paid for!"
I suggest the staff - paid the bare minimum wage - are there to cook, serve, sweep and clean, but not to have that servitude abused by lazy consumers.
However this couple was quite prepared to clean up after their wee son, no questions asked. I was impressed.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Old Church Lives Again

Until 2007, when driving out to Auckland International Airport in Mangere, you may have seen an old landmark church on the approach road.
Westney Rd Methodist Church and its cemetery sat for 151 years on the corner of Ihumatao Rd and George Bolt Memorial Drive (which used to be called Westney Rd).
This sweet little wooden church (built in 1856) was extended by 12ft in 1887 to accommodate a growing congregation, and a vestry was added in 1918.
But with preparations starting for the construction of a new northern runway, it was one of several buildings that had to be removed in late 2007. The stained glass windows were removed before it was shifted, so they would not be damaged. And the graves around the church also had to be relocated, many of them to Mangere Lawn Cemetery.
The church was initially moved to a temporary site, all costs met by the airport. Another old house nearby couldn't be saved, but materials from that'll be used in the church's renovation.
The airport's been working with the Historic Places Trust to relocate and restore the building. Those plans are now approved, and just last week (March 2011) the church was moved to its new home near Nixon Road.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Culture Beats The Law?

Dozens of shorebirds have been slaughtered in Northland's Kaipara Harbour.
More than 100 godwits, knots, endangered dotterels and other shorebirds were illegally "harvested" at the end of February.
Normally this sort of gutless action happens out of sight of anyone...but this time it was witnessed. A resident says people boated into the isolated bay and began blasting with a shotgun. The Herald on Sunday reports the shooters threatened the man, that if he reported what happened his house would be burned down. Then they collected dead birds and left, leaving at least half a dozen wounded behind.
Collecting the birds indicates the shooters were going to eat them, and knowing where the witness lived shows local knowledge. Thus the finger points to local maori as being responsible (even if they're NOT). Traditionally maori used to catch these species, and there've been illegal ''cultural harvests'' in the Far North in recent years. The local maori trust says the shooting was not a "sanctioned cultural harvest", and wants them caught as much as DOC does.
Department of Conservation says both dotterels and godwits are protected species, with heavy fines up to $100,000 and a jail term up to six months for harming them. However, the dotterel shootings are particularly worrying as there are only about 1500 in NZ, and that area has a breeding colony.
endangered dotterel at Waiwera
So there're two issues here:
(1) the obvious - illegal shooting of protected birdlife, and
(2) one from the "let's not talk about it" box - "cultural harvesting" of protected birds.
The PC Brigade will fight that the Treaty Of Waitangi enshrines maori rights to consume this wildlife. But on the other hand, we have strict laws to protect these very same birds.
And who gave local maori trusts the power to "sanction" their killing anyway? We're not talking common-or-garden mallard ducks here! Surely any such approval must come from DOC! But if local maori administration can "sanction a harvest" of protected birds, then it logically follows that our conservation laws apply only to white NZers!
As long as that contentious manipulated divisive Treaty is held up as some sort of sacred tome, NZ will never be a happy multi-cultural partnership with one set of laws for all. That maori can "sanction the harvesting" of endangered birds is a shocking situation:
"Hey, bro, me and the cuzzies fancy a kiwi casserole this weekend. Any chance of giving us the ok? Chuuuurrrr!"
[ courtesy of Wendy Cain Photography]

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ring Of Truth?

Whether you're a skeptic or not, Ken Ring’s words on Valentine’s Day were eerie.
The mathematician is a long-range weather forecaster who bases his predictions around the moon, sun and other scientific activity.
He publishes Ken Ring's Predict Weather Almanac and Isobaric Maps and is the author of The Lunar Code: How the Moon affects our Weather on Earth, Ken Ring's Predicting the Weather by the Moon and Moon and Weatherlore. All are based around his theory that the Earth's weather is caused by the moon's gravitational effect on our atmosphere, and therefore the weather can be predicted by observing the position and movement of the moon. And these weather predictions can be written 'twenty or 200' years ahead (it's the same methodology used for thousands of years in the past by our ancestors).
But it’s his earthquake calls that have got people buzzing.
On February 14th 2011 Mr Ring made this tweet: “Potential earthquake time for the planet between 15th-25th, especially 18th for Christchurch, +/- about 3 days.” As we know, the 6.3 magnitude quake struck four days from his 18th assessment, just one day outside his margin of error.
For some, that forecast - while not absolutely precise - was too accurate to discount. However, on the other side of the fence (and there's plenty of opinion on the internet) his ramblings have no basis beyond the minds of the mad.
Last September though, Ken Ring said that another big one was on its way: "The (Sept.4th) Christchurch earthquake was predictable. And there's another coming in 6 months."
TV3's Campbell Live interviewed Ken Ring - and so verbally mauled him that John Campbell apologised on-air the following night, after many complaints. TV3 has not found a single scientist, geologist or seismologist who believes Ken Ring, however they've found members of the public who say they joined his site and knew the latest big quake was coming.
Ken is now saying another biggie will strike on March 20th!
For the sake of Christchurch, Ken....I'm sure you'll appreciate the sentiment when I say I really hope you're wrong.
PS: 17 March 2011 - As the date draws near, many Chch people are growing terrified...
PS: 20 March 2011 - Ken Ring "softens" his prediction...
PS: 21 March 2011 - Chch had a 5.1 quake over the weekend. Scientists were very quick to say there was no link to Ken Ring's predictions. The big question is: BUT - HOW - DO - THEY - KNOW???

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Yet They Parted "The Best Of Friends"...

Didn't take long for the acrimony to emerge, did it!
And now let's play the family game:
"Odd Man Out"!
The agreement between Hone Harawira and his previous pals in the Maori Party, not to attack each other, seems dead before the handshake's even cooled.
Party co-leader Tariana Turia's labelled him an embarrassment for missing the second reading vote on the Marine and Coastal Area Bill. That follows Hone-bro calling his former cohorts lapdogs, for supporting the bill.
Hone says the party reversed a deal to leave him in decent offices *awwww!*. It's also surfaced that a member from the Maori Party caucus requested Harawira be taken off the Maori Affairs Select committee - but because his appointment was approved by Parliament and because he was no longer a member of the Maori Party, the request was denied.
So now the Maori Party is ready to stand a candidate against Hone if he breaches their divorce deal. They agreed that, at the general election, he'd stand in Te Tai Tokerau as an independent or a member of another party and in return the Maori Party wouldn't contest his seat. They also agreed both sides would focus on the issues and not publicly criticise each other. But HH reckons the party's calling him names *sob* and so he won't rule out standing candidates against the Maori Party if he gets a new party running in time *nyah-nyah!*. The Maori Party says "Bring it on, bro!"
HH doesn't want a war, but he's still going ahead with meetings to gather support for a new political party anyway. So far, a truly stunning turn-out in Auckland: 20 (yesterday's NZHerald editorial thinks he shouldn't even bother)!! Yet he reckons there's wide interest and he's talked to several former MPs "and all sorts of other people" about forming it.
Wonder if he's caught up with Rangi at the Ruatoria Kai Cart yet? He reckons he's the next Minister of Economic Development. Easy.
Yea...good luck with that.
PS: 04 April 2011 - The Maori Party is reviewing its "non-aggression pact" with HH, after his continued criticism of the party. Yes, those pacts rarely work: didn't Poland sign one with Hitler in '34?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Rugby World Cup No Go For Christchurch

The government, Canterbury and rugby fans need to face a harsh reality: there's just no way Christchurch can host Rugby World Cup matches.
Even if AMI Stadium could be repaired in time, the city itself is too unsafe for the International Rugby Board (IRB) to send teams and thousands of fans there. Sucky though it is for the Canterbury region (which needs every cent of financial support it can get), it's impossible to guarantee there won't be another überquake.
Prime Minister John Key says no decisions have been made yet, and Rugby World Cup Minister Muddling McCully awaits engineering reports on the stadium damage this weekend.
Chch is supposed to be hosting five pool matches and two quarter-finals, but I feel the IRB must move those seven games elsewhere in NZ. That decison better come pronto, Johnny: teams and tourists scheduled to stay in Christchurch are in limbo, waiting to see if the city is able to host the tournament...and if their hotels will still be standing!
Civil Defence announced just yesterday that the 27-storey Hotel Grand Chancellor in Chch will definitely be demolished (so say goodbye to those 176 rooms).
Hell, I'm no expert/fan of rugby, but even I could see that before the quake the city didn't have enough beds to meet demand. Now the challenge is insurmountable. I'm rather surprised the speculation (even talk of using cruise ships as accomodation) has continued over these past few weeks since the quake.
I know the battered and bruised people of Christchurch need all the morale-boosting we can give them, but to keep on dangling this particular carrot in front of them is - to me - cruel.
PS: 16 March 2011 - As I predicted, it's officially "game over" for Christchurch.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Is Bigger Better?

As the world experiences increasingly more and more huge natural disasters, the reporting too has become larger than life.
Perhaps media feel their reports might be lost among the plethora of others, so they need to hype them somewhat. A good (bad) example was the way global media illustrated Southland girl Lydia Ward's fending off of a shark in Feb.2010 (a 1.5m broad-nosed sevengill shark ended up with accompanying images of makos and jaws-gaping-wide Great Whites!).
The wires are abuzz today with the story of an Oz man in mortal combat with a crocodile! reports: "Todd was being dragged to his death, for two long minutes his new mate Kev battling a tug of war against the croc with Todd in between."
The Herald Sun's headline reads: "Weipa fisherman Todd Bairstow battles 4m crocodile for 15 mins"
But let's not let the facts get in the way of a good story, as UK's Telegraph headline screams: "Australian fisherman survives 40-min crocodile attack".
See the problem? "two long minutes" (feeling like eternity with your arm in a croc's throat) grew to "15 minutes" and finally it nearly was an eternity: "40 minutes"!
So what really did happen, and for how long? Do readers really care? Is it just the headline they're interested in, that they can chat about over lunch? When did standards of journalistic accuracy begin to slide so badly?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

HIV Stats Worst Ever: WHY?

Record numbers of gay and bisexual men were diagnosed with HIV in NZ last year.
Otago Uni’s AIDS Epidemiology Group found 90 new infections among gays/bisexuals in 2010, but record low rates of new infections among heterosexuals.
NZ Aids Foundation director Shaun Robinson says the HIV epidemic has never been worse for the gay community: "Not even in the early days of the 1980s were rates of infection this bad in NZ." He’s called for more HIV testing to make sure the disease is diagnosed while still in its early stages. "These men may have had HIV and been sexually active for a long time before they were diagnosed, which means they missed out on treatment and were also likely to be more infectious. This situation could have been avoided by regular HIV testing."
Sorry to nit-pick…but regular testing alone could not have changed this situation one iota! Tests will only deliver bad news to someone – but they won’t stop someone infecting others. Only common sense, basic decency and contraception will stop someone killing someone else, through unprotected “I don’t give a damn about you” sex. Either that or total abstinence.
HIV/AIDS is preventable through correct use of condoms. We all know this. So why did record numbers of gays/bisexuals contract HIV last year? While they're not the only ones transmitting HIV, they are in the high-risk category. Do they feel they’re bulletproof? Or do they just not care when they’re bedding someone?
We rarely hear anything about HIV in the news these days. I wonder if people think it’s been cured or that there’s some cheap and easy magic treatment to hold it at bay?
Obviously the situation requires more education and publicity than it currently gets.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

From Curry To Hangi

New fragrances that could soon be prevalent around Government House in Wellington will reflect the change of guard.
From August 31st., former Defence Force head Jerry Mateparae becomes NZ's new Governor-General, replacing incumbent Sir Anand Satyanand.
Mateparae's a good sort - a highly-regarded military man who's been in the Green Machine since '72 and risen through the ranks to become Lieutenant-General. He stood down just months ago to be spy boss at the top secret Govt Communications Security Bureau.
Mateparae was the first maori Defence Force chief, and will be just the second maori Governor-General (after the Rt.Revd.Sir Paul Reeves). He'll also receive a knighthood - being elevated to the Chancellor of the NZ Order of Merit, and made an additional Knight Grand Companion of the Order - so he'll be Sir the Right Honourable Jerry Mateparae.
Sir Anand's term ends on August 23, with a state farewell for him on August 17.
So now, let's see: a maori, educated, served his country in the military, family man, fit...ya can't get more kiwi than him really!
Remember Paul Henry's racially-slanted flippancy of last October to the Prime Minister regarding the next Gov-Gen.: "Are you going to choose a NZer who looks and sounds like a NZer this time?"
Well, this appointment should keep the giggling fool if anything really could!

+ ...and speaking of racially-slanted loudmouths, Hone Harawira - that rabid/radical ex-Maori Party MP and purveyor of separatist flags - yesterday missed voting on the very subject he was so incensed about!
The second reading of the bill to replace the Foreshore and Seabed Act passed through Parliament but Hone-bro FORGOT to vote! Under the Maori Party umbrella he formerly sheltered beneath, his vote would have been cast for him, but now the reality of being an independent MP means he has to do everything for himself.
Not an auspicious start to this latest stage of his career: things won't be as easy as Hone thinks they might be...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Hmmm, Ask Yourself....

A 572-pound/40 stone/260kg (!!) spokesman for a Phoenix restaurant that unashamedly runs an unhealthy high-calorie menu, died last week.
29-year-old 6'8" Blair River was the larger-than-life spokesman for Chandler's Heart Attack Grill. There, waitresses dress as nurses and the owner wears a doctor's lab coat, but the menu is quite the opposite of health-conscious: it offers meals in excess of 8,000 calories! They feature huge hamburgers, milkshakes and fries cooked in pig fat. A sign in front of the building reads: "Caution. This establishment is bad for your health." And wow, here's a selling point: if you're over 350lbs/25 stone/158kg (!!), you can eat free there every day!
The owner says: "Yes, we're absolutely guilty for glorifying obesity, it's what we do." Even some diners agree - it's your choice to eat there or not.
When Blair River signed up to his contract last year, he said he felt healthy and had no regrets about the way he lived his life. He felt the Heart Attack Grill gig was all in good fun.
The owner wants him to be remembered as a gentle giant and not someone who represented poor eating habits. Hmmm, wonder how the young daughter he left behind will remember him...?

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Choice At Breakfast Again

TV3 returns to the breakfast table again. This morning the network launches its latest tilt at the early-morning news market with 3News Firstline.
More bran needed
at breakfast time?
The show goes to air 11 months after poorly-rating Sunrise was pulled, and airs from 6-8.30am weekdays. It'll be straight news, a point of difference from TV One's Breakfast which degraded to little more than a vehicle for departed Paul Henry's immaturity and, even now - with fresh blood Corin Dann and Petra Bagust - is taking time to return to a more informative level.
The 3News Firstline show had been planned to coincide with the Rugby World Cup *yawn* and November's general election, but has been brought forward after the Christchurch earthquake.
As news is the focus, it's right to have a seasoned journalist - Rachel Smalley - fronting the show, instead of previous light-weight Sunrise presenters Carly Flynn and Oliver Driver. A former Sky News UK news anchor, Smalley has fronted TV3's Nightline since returning to New Zealand from Britain. She's excited about the challenge, saying TV3's absence from the morning news market has impacted on the network's news and current affairs department.
I enjoy starting my day being well-informed news-wise, so will be watching with interest as the show settles in...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

History And Twistery

The other day I watched a re-run of Oliver Stone's 1986 Vietnam War classic Platoon (with Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe and quite a few other recognisable faces in cameo roles).
Every time I've seen this I've been struck by how, when Dafoe’s character Sgt.Elias is gunned down by enemy fire, he memorably throws his hands in the air as he collapses in death. You may be familiar with the scene: it was used to promote the movie.
There is history and "twistery" to this image.
History: It's a near-exact replication of a 1968 photo taken by Arthur Greenspon during the Battle of Hue, part of the Tet Offensive (the moral turning point in the war). We see a US paratrooper standing among his wounded comrades in the jungle, arms raised to the sky. It's been voted in the Top 100 most powerful war images of all time.
"Twistery": However it does not capture a split-second of death at all (although the movie director used it that way). The original shot was of a soldier raising his hands to guide a medical helicopter to a safe landing.
Everyone involved in a battle has his own different "version" of the same events but, on this occasion, Vietnam veteran/director Stone carefully constructed a Hollywood version that's ironically far more recognisable than the reality it's based on!

Oh, and the haunting instrumental under the end credits was not written for the movie: it is Adagio For Strings composed by Samuel Barber in 1936.
[For more on media manipulation of images, click here...]