Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Mike Moore & Chainsaws

It is not often that an opinion piece gets itself an advert on the front page. I suppose it helps if the writer is a former Prime Minister and the object of his wrath is the current incumbent. I like Mike Moore's writing. I always like the way he writes (well constructed sentences, development of a theme etc.) and usually like what he writes.
His piece today is well worthy of the plaudits it is already getting; it even made the 0600 News. Any one laying into the Damned Woman is going to get a favourable audience with me whoever he is. Moore's summary of what Helen has turned into well encapsulates ideas that have been obvious for ages. It also reinforces what I have thought for a long time - she is very good at it. The fact that 'it' is so totally loathesome is the big problem. He also puts much better an idea I floated yesterday. What do the other memebers of the government actually do? The current Labour Government is such a one man (sic) show that it is not funny. Mike Moore puts it wonderfully in the quote of the whole article. He opines that the Ministers outside cabinet and the consort Judith Tizard manage to be 'self important, expensive, trivial and irrelevant' all at the same time - marvellous.
He also gets into a section of 'great command of the bleedin' obvious' mode for a while. These facts are worth repeating. We are the most overgoverned country in the western world with more government departments per head of population than anybody else. We have the highest proportion of GDP siphoned off into bureacracy than anybody else and so it goes on. Mike Moore is well worth a read this morning.
His point about over governance is well illustrated elsewhere in the rag this morning. The rates review was published yesterday and the headline number is that councils should spend less. There could not be a better example of this than the spat going on down at the airport at the moment. The Manukau Council is having a row with the ARC over some land for expansion of the infrastructure to surround our gateway to the real world. Manukau want to do all sorts of sensible things like increase light industry around the airport. The ARC have said no to a piece of the land Sir Barry wants because it is an 'undiscovered gem' (give me a break) of natural heritage. Perhaps it is undiscovered becasue it is best left that way. If we have got this far without discovering it perchance we could actually progress (instead of regressing back to the times of nikau whares and bark capes) by putting a freight forwarding shed over it. Oh no, the ARC says we must preserve it as an untouched wetland within a prisitne and unique volcanic cone (I made that bit up by taking three phrases from the looney 'leave everything untouched forever' phrasebook, but it is near enough to serve the purpose) so that future genrations can enjoy our natural heritage (that bit was from page two of the phrase book - very useful tome) in perpetuity (you don't even have to know what quotes from the phrase book mean to use them). OK so you do that, no one goes to enjoy any natural heritage - well they haven't up to now have they, it's undiscovered - and the freight is handled in Tauranga. This is two tiers of council bureacracy arguing with each other over the same piece of land. Two separate bodies of plonkers so far up themselves they couldn't find their way back to the real world with inertial guidance systems.
And the bottom line for all this council farting around is? It is all ferociously expensive and you and I pay for it.
Out with the chainsaws and get stuck into central and local government - there is far to much of both and it is all of the wrong flavour.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Life without Helen

I am even more mystified than usual by the mind of the great unwashed. The lateset poll puts the Nats a pleasantly long way in front of Labour. All well and good but it is early days yet, remember. Then in the same paragraph Bloody Helen is still reported as preferred Prime Minister. Will those who are entrusted with a vote please be a bit more careful with their thought processes. You are approaching this government business from completely the wrong angle.
At the moment Labour is Helen Clark. Just think about it. What would the Labour Party be left with if our Dear Leader were to be run over by a bus this morning? (Don't tempt me) There would be but an empty shell. Phil Goof is touted as the next leader but is he even remotely PM material? Of course not. You have to approach this government lark from a policy standpoint and not a personality stance. Quite what part of Helen's personality appeals to anyone is quite beyond me but that has nothing to do with it.
There is nothing going on at the moment. Cavers and red moons are front page news and that gives a fair indication of the level of activity on the news front. John Armstrong gives a comment on the apparent short term failure of Labour's smear campaigns but points out that strategy may well be that all this needs some time to take full effect. I don't know about that but we are in desparate need of something to actually happen.
When does Philip Field go to trial?


Well there you go Mr RH, you are not trusted and you are to be controlled under the guise of being made accountable - its everywhere.
Do you reckon that everything in the Poeples' Republic of Aoteoroa is all tickety boo at present? Nothing much amiss? All running smoothly? The health sector, for example, is delivering all it should in an efficient manner with a smile on the faces of the contented workers? Patients waiting for a couple of days in corridors on trolleys for a proper hospital bed is a thing that only happened in Victorian workhouses? No? Surely not. Well if things are not as they should be the New Zealand way is to insist that 'the government' do something about it. A bit like Albert's dad in Albert and the Lion 'Someone has to be summonsed'. Who in the government should have his nose araldited to the problem of the parlous state of the health service at present? The Health Minister would be a good start and that would be Pete Hodgson.
Well don't expect too much action from him on the coughs and colds front anytime soon as he is very busy, you see. Busy at what? Busy at trying to pin dirt on John Key for things he might have done twenty five years ago. This administration is desparate to hang on to power and the only resource they seem to have left is the personal smear campaign they are currently waging. It is pathetic and we should expect more of a government. They should be out governing and not wasting their time and my money on this sort of crap.
On second thoughts if it is a Labour government doing it I would prefer they carry on and not foist more of their odious ideas upon us. What's a year of wasted time in the overall scheme of things.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


I am told some people read my semiregular drivel and for those who are interested I reproduce below one of my favourite pieces. It was brought back to me by Helen's rather disgraceful view of acountability I mentioned earlier this morning.
The following is a transcript of the third Reith Lecture from 2002. It is by Onora O'Neill, Professor of Philosophy at Essex University and Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge. It is quite long (well it is if you have the attention span of an earthworm) but stick with it - it is very good (ignore the obvious UK references they don't detract from her arguments at all).
1. Is Trust Failing?
Like many of you here at Addenbrooke's hospital in Cambridge this evening I live and work among professionals and public servants. And those whom I know seek to serve the public conscientiously: and mostly to pretty good effect. Addenbrooke's is an outstanding hospital; the University of Cambridge and many surrounding research institutions do distinguished work; Cambridgeshire schools, social services and police have good reputations. Yet during the last fifteen years we have all found our reputations and performance doubted, as have millions of other public sector workers and professionals. We increasingly hear that we are no longer trusted.

A standard account of the supposed 'crisis of public trust' is that the public rightly no longer trusts professionals and public servants because they are less trustworthy. But is this true? A look at past news reports would show that there has always been some failure and some abuse of trust; other cases may never have seen the light of day. Since we never know how much untrustworthy action is undetected, we can hardly generalise. Growing mistrust would be a reasonable response to growing untrustworthiness: but the evidence that people or institutions are less trustworthy is elusive.

In fact I think there isn't even very good evidence that we trust less. There is good evidence that we say we trust less: we tell the pollsters, they tell the media, and the news that we say we do not trust is then put into circulation. But saying repeatedly that we don't trust no more shows that we trust less, than an echo shows the truth of the echoed words; still less does it show that others are less trustworthy.

Could our actions provide better evidence than our words and show that we do indeed trust less than we used to? Curiously I think that our action often provides evidence that we still trust. We may say we don't trust hospital consultants, and yet apparently we want operations -- and we are pretty cross if they get delayed. We may say that we don't trust the police, but then we call them when trouble threatens. We may say that we don't trust scientists and engineers, but then we rely on hi-tech clinical tests and medical devices. The supposed 'crisis of trust' may be more a matter of what we tell inquisitive pollsters than of any active refusal of trust, let alone of conclusive evidence of reduced trustworthiness. The supposed 'crisis of trust' is, I think, first and foremost a culture of suspicion.

2. More Perfect Accountability?
The diagnosis of a crisis of trust may be obscure: we are not sure whether there is a crisis of trust. But we are all agreed about the remedy. It lies in prevention and sanctions. Government, institutions and professionals should be made more accountable. And in the last two decades, the quest for greater accountability has penetrated all our lives, like great draughts of Heineken's, reaching parts that supposedly less developed forms of accountability did not reach.

For those of us in the public sector the new accountability takes the form of detailed control. An unending stream of new legislation and regulation, memoranda and instructions, guidance and advice floods into public sector institutions. Many of you will have looked into the vast database of documents on the Department of Health website, with a mixture of despair and disbelief. Central planning may have failed in the former Soviet Union but it is alive and well in Britain today. The new accountability culture aims at ever more perfect administrative control of institutional and professional life.

The new legislation, regulation and controls are more than fine rhetoric. They require detailed conformity to procedures and protocols, detailed record keeping and provision of information in specified formats and success in reaching targets. Detailed instructions regulate and prescribe the work and performance of health trusts and schools, of universities and research councils, of the police force and of social workers. And beyond the public sector, increasingly detailed legislative and regulatory requirements also bear on companies and the voluntary sector, on self-employed professionals and tradesmen. All institutions face new standards of recommended accounting practice, more detailed health and safety requirements, increasingly complex employment and pensions legislation, more exacting provisions for ensuring non-discrimination and, of course, proliferating complaint procedures.

The new accountability has quite sharp teeth. Performance is monitored and subjected to quality control and quality assurance. The idea of audit has been exported from its original financial context to cover ever more detailed scrutiny of non-financial processes and systems. Performance indicators are used to measure adequate and inadequate performance with supposed precision. This audit explosion, as Michael Power has so aptly called it, has often displaced or marginalised older systems of accountability. In the universities external examiners lost influence as centrally planned teaching quality assessment was imposed; in the health services professional judgement is constrained in many ways; in schools curriculum and assessment of pupils is controlled in pretty minute detail. Schools, hospitals and universities are then all judged and funded by their rankings in league tables of performance indicators.

Managerial accountability for achieving targets is also imposed on institutions although they are given little institutional freedom. Hospital Trusts may be self-governing, but they do not choose which patients to admit or what standards of care to provide. School governors and head teachers have few discretionary powers: they may not select their pupils or expel those whose exam performance will damage their rankings. Universities are supposedly still autonomous, but they have little choice but to cut or close departments with lower research ratings who lose their funding. We are supposedly on the high road towards ever more perfect accountability. Well, I wonder.

3. Accountability and Mistrust.
Have these instruments for control, regulation, monitoring and enforcement worked? Their effects are certainly pretty evident in the daily lives of conscientious professionals and administrators. Professionals have to work to ever more exacting-if changing-standards of good practice and due process, to meet relentless demands to record and report, and they are subject to regular ranking and restructuring. I think that many public sector professionals find that the new demands damage their real work. Teachers aim to teach their pupils; nurses to care for their patients; university lecturers to do research and to teach; police officers to deter and apprehend those whose activities harm the community; social workers to help those whose lives are for various reasons unmanageable or very difficult. Each profession has its proper aim, and this aim is not reducible to meeting set targets following prescribed procedures and requirements.

If the new methods and requirements supported and didn't obstruct the real purposes of each of these professions and institutions, the accountability revolution might achieve its aims. Unfortunately I think it often obstructs the proper aims of professional practice. Police procedures for preparing cases are so demanding that fewer cases can be prepared, and fewer criminals brought to court. Doctors speak of the inroads that required record-keeping makes into the time that they can spend finding out what is wrong with their patients and listening to their patients. Even children are not exempt from the new accountability: exams are more frequent and time for learning shrinks. In many parts of the public sector, complaint procedures are so burdensome that avoiding complaints, including ill-founded complaints, becomes a central institutional goal in its own right. We are heading towards defensive medicine, defensive teaching and defensive policing.

The new accountability is widely experienced not just as changing but I think as distorting the proper aims of professional practice and indeed as damaging professional pride and integrity. Much professional practice used to centre on interaction with those whom professionals serve: patients and pupils, students and families in need. Now there is less time to do this because everyone has to record the details of what they do and compile the evidence to protect themselves against the possibility not only of plausible, but of far-fetched complaints. We are now told that officers on the beat will have to record what they take to be the ethnic background of anyone whom they stop and search. I think that the mistaken ethnic classifications will offer a very rich source of future complaints. Professionals and public servants understandably end up responding to requirements and targets and not only to those whom they are supposed to serve.

Well, are these thoughts just accomplished professional whinging? Those who are bent on ever-improving standards of performance and accountability generally think so. Professions and public service they remind us, serve the public. If life is less cosy, if familiar shortcuts are abolished, if everybody is made more accountable, if old boy networks are undermined, if poor performance is detected and penalised, isn't this exactly what we want a revolution in accountability to achieve? If the revolution of accountability has yet to deliver the goods, should we not prescribe more of the same?

But I'd like to suggest that the revolution in accountability be judged by the standards that it proposes. If it is working we might expect to see indications -- performance indicators!-- that public trust is reviving. But we don't. In the very years in which the accountability revolution has made striking advances, in which increased demands for control and performance, scrutiny and audit have been imposed, and in which the performance of professionals and institutions has been more and more controlled, we find in fact growing reports of mistrust. In my view these expressions of mistrust suggest that just possibly we are imposing the wrong sorts of accountability. The new systems of control may have aims and effects that are quite distinct from the higher standards of performance, monitoring and accountability that are their ostensible, publicly celebrated aims. We can see this by asking to whom the new audit culture makes professionals and institutions accountable, and for what it makes them accountable.

In theory the new culture of accountability and audit makes professionals and institutions more accountable to the public. This is supposedly done by publishing targets and levels of attainment in league tables, and by establishing complaint procedures by which members of the public can seek redress for any professional or institutional failures. But underlying this ostensible aim of accountability to the public the real requirements are for accountability to regulators, to departments of government, to funders, to legal standards. The new forms of accountability impose forms of central control-quite often indeed a range of different and mutually inconsistent forms of central control.

Some of the new modes of public accountability are in fact internally incoherent. Some of them set targets that cannot be combined without fudging: for example, universities are soon to be told to admit 50% of the age group, but also to maintain current standards. Others are incoherent because they require that targets be achieved by following processes that do not dovetail with targets and can't be made to dovetail with those targets. Again, universities are to treat each applicant fairly on the basis of ability and promise: but they are supposed also to admit a socially more representative intake. There's no guarantee that the process meets the target. Hospitals are to treat each patient on a basis of need and prioritise emergencies, but they are going to be criticised if they postpone non-urgent operations. That might be legitimate grounds for criticism if they could build in spare capacity and do the non-urgent as well as the urgent operations. But the NHS has been made tightly efficient in its use of resources, so it cannot build in spare capacity on the necessary scale. Schools are to prevent classroom disruption: but they are not to exclude disruptive pupils (here some changes are underway). Incompatible or barely compatible requirements invite compromises and evasions; they undermine both professional judgement and institutional autonomy.

In theory again the new culture of accountability and audit makes professionals and institutions more accountable for good performance. This is manifest in the rhetoric of improvement and rising standards, of efficiency gains and best practice, of respect for patients and pupils and employees. But beneath this admirable rhetoric the real focus is on performance indicators chosen for ease of measurement and control rather than because they measure accurately what the quality of performance is. Most people working in the public service have a reasonable sense not only of the specific clinical, educational, policing or other goals for which they work, but also of central ethical standards that must meet. They know that these complex sets of goals may have to be relegated if they are required to run in a race to improve performance indicators. Even those who devise the indicators know that they are at very best surrogates for the real objectives. Nobody after all seriously thinks that numbers of exam pass levels are the only evidence of good teaching, or that crime clear up rates the only evidence of good policing. Some exams are easier, others are harder, some crimes are easier to clear up, others are harder. However the performance indicators have a deep effect on professional and institutional behaviour. If a certain 'A' level board offers easier examinations in a subject, schools have reason to choose that syllabus even if it is educationally inferior. If waiting lists can be reduced faster by concentrating on certain medical procedures, hospitals have reason so to do, even if medical priorities differ. Perverse incentives are real incentives. I think we all know that from our daily lives. Much of the mistrust and criticism now directed at professionals and public institutions complains about their diligence in responding to incentives to which they have been required to respond rather than pursuing the intrinsic requirements for being good nurses and teachers, good doctors and police officers, good lecturers and social workers. But what else are they do under present regimes of accountability?

In the end, the new culture of accountability provides incentives for arbitrary and unprofessional choices. Lecturers may publish prematurely because their department's research rating and its funding requires it. Schools may promote certain subjects in which it is easier to get 'As' in public examinations in those subjects. Hospital trusts have to focus on waiting lists even where these are not the most significant measures of medical quality To add to their grief, the Sisyphean task of pushing institutional performance up the league tables is made harder by constantly redefining and adding targets and introducing initiatives, and of course with no account taken of the costs of competing for initiative funding.

In the New World of accountability, conscientious professionals often find that the public claim to mistrust them-but the public still demand their services. Claims of mistrust are poor reward for meeting requirements that allegedly embody higher standards of public accountability. In ancient Troy the prophetess Cassandra told the truth, but she wasn't believed. Like Cassandra, professionals and institutions doing trustworthy work today may find that the public say that they do not trust them-- but (unlike Cassandra) their services are still demanded. The pursuit of ever more perfect accountability provides citizens and consumers, patients and parents with more information, more comparisons more complaints systems; but it also builds a culture of suspicion, low morale and may ultimately lead to professional cynicism, and then we would have grounds for public mistrust.

4. Real Accountability?
Perhaps the present revolution in accountability will make us all trustworthier. Perhaps we shall be trusted once again. But I think that this is a vain hope -- not because accountability is undesirable or unnecessary, but because currently fashionable methods of accountability damage rather than repair trust. If we want greater accountability without damaging professional performance we need intelligent accountability. What might this include?

Let me share my sense of some of the possibilities. Intelligent accountability, I suspect, requires more attention to good governance and fewer fantasies about total control. Good governance is possible only if institutions are allowed some margin for self-governance of a form appropriate to their particular tasks, within a framework of financial and other reporting. Such reporting, I believe, is not improved by being wholly standardised or relentlessly detailed, and since much that has to be accounted for is not easily measured it cannot be boiled down to a set of stock performance indicators. Those who are called to account should give an account of what they have done and of their successes or failures to others who have sufficient time and experience to assess the evidence and report on it. Real accountability provides substantive and knowledgeable independent judgement of an institution's or professional's work.

Well have we begun to shift? Are we moving towards less distorting forms of accountability? I think there are a few, but only a few encouraging straws in the wind. The Kennedy Report into events at the Bristol Royal Infirmary recommends more supportive forms of inspection for Health Trusts and the abolition of the clinical negligence system. There are murmurs about achieving a lighter touch in auditing teaching in those universities that are demonstrably doing it reasonably well. The Education Bill now before Parliament proposes slight exemptions from monitoring for top-performing schools. But these are only small signs of changing ideas. Serious and effective accountability, I believe, needs to concentrate on good governance, on obligations to tell the truth and needs to seek intelligent accountability. I think it has to fantasise much less about Herculean micro-management by means of performance indicators or total transparency. If we want a culture of public service, professionals and public servants must in the end be free to serve the public rather than their paymasters.


In the absence of any news we are obliged to rehash old stuff. In the case of the Electoral Finance Bill this is no bad thing as it needs to be kept in the public eye and be shown up for what it is until it is kicked into touch. The Editor of the Law Journal got stuck into it yesterday and the Headmistress very predictably got stuck into him. The level of paranoia that this woman suffers from is bordering on pathological. Dare criticise anything she says and does and she is onto you. She wades into the literay doge accusing him of writing a right wing diatribe that is consistent with his propensity to attack her Government at any and every opportunity. She fails to point out that his editorials have been critical of sitting governments when indicated for over ten years which predates the time we have had to tolerate the Wicked Witch of the South and her bunch of sycophants.
Thursday is Garth George Day and even he has to rehash some of last weeks news as subject matter for his piece. But at least he uses the Aussie troops to Kuwait story to good purpose. He points out that people calling this Labour administration 'Centre Left' are quite wrong. They are that in economic policy - well maybe. But in all else they are snuggled up in bed with Trotsky. They will control everything in everyone's life if you give them half a chance. They certainly want to dumb down everything to a level of bland mediocrity, they want to control what you think, they want to control how you spend your money and so it goes on. A lot of people who are too stupid or lazy to read the small print of finace agreements (or more likely don't understand the concept of risk because Helen wants to take all risk out of everything) have been burnt when a couple of finance companies have gone tits up recently. Government reaction? More regulation to protect the great unwashed. Bollocks. We need less regulation in our lives not more. If people come a gutser through their own stupidity or greed (9.25% vs 8.75% - give me break) well tough - look after yourself.
Garth also uses the peurile reaction of SHWBO, Mallard and Goof recently over the charter business to illustrate another truly terrifying mindset we have the opportunity to get rid of one Saturday morning next September. Bloody Helen was quoted as commenting on the lack of communication between her senior civil servants and her ministers. To paraphrase it went something like ' Ministers cannot be held responsible for the mistakes of their civil servants'
Now if that doesn't scare you I'll send you a copy of 'Nightmare on Elm Street'

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The EFB and strip clubs

You really don't expect this succession of semiregular ramblings to spend time on the stripclub nonsense do you? I will only pause to highlight one Labour MP who claims his only foray into such an emporium of carnal offerings was to accompany an eighty year old bishop into a gay strip club because the man of the cloth 'had always wanted to go to one'. I can only applaud the MP for taking the piss out of the question. My only worry is that he might not have been and was deadly serious and as it was Tim Barnett this may be the case. Enough of this crap. In the absence of real news (as correctly pointed out by RH - vide supra) we should be concentrating on this Electoral Finance Bill and not conducting straw pollls as to who has ever walked past a TAB shop.
The EFB does get a little space this morning but the overall thrust of the paper is more eco-nonsense. Jeanette Yellow Teeth is apalled (or devastated to learn or mortified or.........) that the running of the carbon credit market will be out of the control of Parliament. The decisions on this crock might be made by Cabinet or, shock horror, unelected bureaucrats. Let us leave aside the fact that there should be no carbon market in the first place, we've been through all that before and the arguments remain unchanged. Botox Woman is showing her lack of grip of reality again. She is proving that in the Coromandel humans really do mate with vegetables. She really thinks that as a list MP she should have more say over what goes on in big decisions than the the woman serving her down at the tofu bar. She seems to think that if a decision is made in that totally skewed so called representation of the people that masquerades as Parliament things are hunky dory. The parliament we have got under MMP New Zealand style is a complete travesty. Minorities are given far more prominence than they deserve. If it were not for MMP we would be saved the embarrassment of a Parliamentary Green Party altogether. Jeanette Wrinkle Chops wants big item decisions back in Parliament becasue that is the only forum in the whole land where she and her ilk can exert their totally unjustified sway over our lives.
Hurricane Dean has brought its greatest wrath onto a largely unihabited portion of the Mexican coastline thank God, but has done further damage outside of the Yucatan peninsula by encouraging the Herald to print a syndicated article suggesting my Landcruiser and my Jag are the reasons that we are getting more and stronger hurricanes. Bollocks. We won't go through all this again even for the benefit of slow learners, but the whole thing falls down, yet again, on the lack of proper evidence. Evidence that is free of bias and is reproducible. I was going to post a few of the hurricane tracking links on another part of this website last night but couldn't in the end be bothered. The reason to do this was to illustrate the totally random accuracy to which even short term (like twelve hours short term) forecasting of big ticket items like sodding great tropical cyclones is prone. Four different websites had Dean coming onshore at six different places with a spread of three thousand miles - and this was in eight hopurs time. I think one of them was right, well rightish. Remember climate is a collection of bits of weather. In maths if you mutliple one error by another the resultant error is always much larger than the sum of the parts. etc. etc. Yawn
All this crap in the Herald is pure obfuscation to take our minds off the Electoral Finance Bill. Bill, no William to avoid unintentional aliteration, English tries to keep those who can do joined up writing abreast of what bloody Labour wants to foist on us. He points out that the proponents of the bill admit that the wording will have to be 'fine tuned' - more of the legislative panel beating that was pointed out last week. THis BIll has to be stopped. English points out that wit its current wording even political blogs will run foul of the law's provisions as of 01/01/08.
So maybe there is some good in all of this - 'Granny Herald this morning' will be forced to shut down or I'll be forced to skirt lures with BA looking over my shoulder.

Monday, August 20, 2007


Moving on from the superbly aimed vitriol of Mr Whaleoil with a reminder to myself not to forget him again. A very talented chap. A bit of a one trick pony to be fair but it is a good trick.
A small landmark in the obald lifespan with my leaving the realm of being a parent to teenagers. Youngest daughter is twenty today. I mention this merely as it gives a sort of lead in to Wellington as both my daughters live there. SWMBO and myself go down for the weekend as often as we can and I hate the place. This has nothing to do with the denizens of our capital but everything to do with the place itself. There is no marlin bearing water for hundreds of miles and that is just for starters. The weather is crap with a capital K and this is not just a rumour. The city is constructed on the side of innumerable hills and I'm sure that was fine when it was built and the motorised conveyances were all of one or two horsepower and had tails.
And this is my biggest beef about the place. It has to be the worst city in the solar system in which to own a proper car. The streets are too narrow, they are all on an incline and the garages. Have you seen them? Brick affairs with pitched roofs and wooden doors that have long ago tried the patience of their hinges to breaking point. I've often thought that the largest car you could get into any domestic garage in Wellington would be an A35 - not even room for a Morrie Minor.
But I was wrong. There is an absolutely marvellous picture on the back of the Herald this morning of a Smart car in a domestic garage in Kelburn. Smart cars are such an antithesis of what a car should be that I would almost consider buying one. Just for fun. I wouldn't actually do anything with it (because there is nothing you could usefully do with it) but would take it out of its matchbox at dinner parties as a conversation starter. But a bloke in Wellington has thought that he might get one so that he could actually sit in it and drive around and then put it in his apology for a garage when he got home. Well when he arrived back at his maison he finds he has had to cut notches in the door jambs of his garage to get the wing mirrors to fit through. This is for a car that you can park sideways in your average street parking spot.
Cofirmation that Wellington is a basket case. It was either designed for and by smurfs (and I have seen some walking down Courtney Place - but it was the Sevens weekend) or was not designed at all and this non design happened when the most advanced form of transport was a pair of stout boots. I have heard rumours that Wellington was designed in Britain as 'Colonial Large Town, Overseas for the use of, Mark2' and came out of the 'To be built on flat land' box. When they got the plan to Wellington and found there was the odd hill around and bits of the countryside were likely to fall into the harbour at the merest seismic hoccough they just said 'Sod it' and used the plan anyway.
Sounds very believable to me.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Member for Cambodia

But the boxes 'only cost $20 each', RH, so that's alright. To misquote George Gregan 'Thirteen more months, boys, thirteen more months.
Righto, who is the maddest man in the land? Keith Locke by the length of the straight. Coming up on the rail are Sue Bradford, Sue Kedgely, Jeanette Fitzsimmons, Nandor Ropehead and the Norman bloke. See any connection? Look up 'Keith Locke Khmer Rouge' on Google and the servers start to melt down. Our Keith is so out of touch with reality that I had to find out why. He was born into a rabid family of Communists and things have got worse from there on. His support of Pol Pot in the mid seventies is well known and gives an early insight into the man's judgement and ability to sort out the idealistic wood from the pragmatic trees. Wood - the Khmer Rouge were an adjunct of the Vietnamese communist forces, trees - the Khmer Rouge were a bunch of genocidal maniacs. And you would want his opinion on anything more complex than in which hemisphere the sun was going to rise?
Air New Zealand are making a bit of dosh from the charter side of owning a few very expensive bits of capital i.e. airliners. Fine by me. If they want to ferry the Timaru Cat Strangler Society to Burkina Faso for a fair price I have no problem with that. But taking Aussie troops to Kuwait does not sit well with our government policy. The Member for Cambodia is quick to jump on this partiicular bandwagon telling us all that courtesy of this one action Koru Lounges around the world will be filled with men in luxuriant black beards carrying ticking briefcases. Good on you Keith, at least you are consistent in your insanity. If you didn't spout such errent nonsense on a regular basis Larry Williams would have no excuse to have you on his show at 4.45pm most days for the specific purpose of taking the piss out of you. This is the best entertainment on radio and I don't want it to stop.
This Air NZ charter stuff has the potential to get very messy. If handled properly it will expose the truly dysfunctional way in which this administration works. It will highlight the lunacy of having Winston as the Foreign Minister but outside cabinet. It will expose the total lack of information that filters up from a ministry to its minister. We will have a whole raft of people accpeting responsibilty for nothing and covering their backsides. And, again if played right, this government will come out of it looking awful.
Yum, yum - bring it on.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Glass bricks

Had no time yesterday but Mr RH is keeping this on the boil nicely. He is absolutely right. Hooten's piece in the SST was the one that focussed my ideas after first spotting Burton's totalitarian crap a week or so back.
John Armstrong writes his second good piece in a week this morning - are things looking up in regard to making Granny worth reading; I doubt it. He wonders as to the purpose of select committees and likens their current function to that of panelbeaters of lousily worded legislation. This should not be so. Legislation should be worded by peple who are good at it and not by a ragtag and bobtail selection of MPs who, as we all know, are good at or for nothing. Key scored a rare debating point off SWMBO yesterday. This is an event so rare it should make the headlines of the Six O'clock News. Remember that the bloody woman is by the length of the straight the best politician in the country - a bit like Rasputin, an evil genius. Clark: 'That the wording of the Bill (Electoral Finance Bill) will need rewording is obvious' Key: 'Which parts need rewording?' Clark: 'That has yet to be determined' Key: 'If it is obvious why is it yet to be determined?' Clark: 'Duh'. For the only time I can recall I wish I had been in the Nut House yesterday to witness this - can someone please put it up on YouTube.
Armstrong is at odds with himself quite where this odious legislation will go. It obviously (well to me) cannot be allowed through as it is. Armstrong (and I) on the one hand thinks that Burton might have tried to slip it through and hope no one would notice the implicatins. On the other hand he thinks no one could be that stupid. Oh, come on John, Burton is a Labour politician.
That they as a tribe are stupid and possess the individual thinking abilities of sheep (or more aptly lemmings) is amply illustrated by the picture that is just below Armstrong's commentary. This is take in the House and shows the Government sitting in the comfy chairs behind the advertising hoardings that the Headmistress has told them they must all take to work. It is pathetic and another example of this damned government treating us, their paymasters, like kids. Every Labour MP now has to front up to the House and put a uniform red box with the Labour logo the right way up on their desk infront of them so they can be read on the TV cameras. They'll be being told to wear bloody uniforms next - Mao jackets perhaps.
A couple of council things this morning. Easy one first. Sir Barry Curtis is giving the Manukau mayoralty away after twenty four years at the helm. So? I don't care if every one of his ideas over that time had been an absolute ripper but that is wrong. There should be no body of governance or government that remains unchanged anywhere for a quarter of a century. That amounts to tenure and tenure in any job breeds inefficiency, staleness and complacency. All those things are bad anywhere but are potentially disastrous when applied to government.
If I were an Auckland reatepayer I would be demanding blood at the moment. Who is accountable for how councils spend their money? The answer is probably no one. Well, who is going to fess up for this stupid $250,000 glass stream in Queen Street and then lose his job over it? The answer is definitely no one. Big Ears has already says it is wonderful and he finds it inspiring. 'I need some inspiration, dear, and I'm just popping down to Queen Street to scrape a dog turd off a glass brick so I can tackle urban redevelopment with renewed vigour' Who would want the potential of twenty four years of people who can say things like that? How can you spend a quarter of million on five lengths of glass bricks stuck in the pavement? Well you spend $25,000 on a prototype for starters. I want to see the itemised invoice for this. You then spend $5000 on a Maori poet (what a surprise) to pen a Japanese poem. Eh? Has the recent fall in the value of the Kiwi dollar priced real Japanese poets out of the market? And what has a Japanese poem got to do with a lump of glass in the pavement in Auckland? I can't remember how much the lighting came to but it was an awful lot more than I have ever spent in Dick Smith. The price of LEDs has plummeted over recent years but I'm sure councils get a 'special price' - fifteen times what anyone else pays. And then we come to the killer blow. Construction of five glass blocks to be set in the pavement comes to $178,000. How? Tell me? Barrie, tell me? Somebody, anybody, tell me how much glass you can buy for $178,000.
I bet you can get enough to make a hermetically sealed box in which you could place the entire Auckland City Council.
'But they wouldn't be able to breathe, Fawlty'
'They could try, Major, they could try'

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bob Dylan & the EFB

The Herald is virtually unreadable on a Monday. Unless Earth has collided with Saturn over the weekend (when, to be fair, producing a third rate newspaper would not be possible) there is usually no news per se to report. Granny has at last realised this and has resorted to all sorts of ploys to compensate. We have the Green Pages which are fortunately advertised by the hue of the paper and the pictures of dolphins - so there's two pages you can avoid right there. Then they have introduced an ersatz 'society' page that would have the Tatler squirming - another page not worth looking at. We must find some news so there is a quarter page on someone returning John Gallagher's World Cup winning jersey to its rightful owner who is not John Gallagher apparently - or Serge Blanco; read the riveting piece to discover the entire fascinating story. Deary me. The bourses around the world are in for a rough day after stuff like this.
What else can we find. A review of the Bob Dylan concert. I actually considered going to this but sent number two daughter to fulfill the Obald family obligatons instead. Her mother was not even a speck on the Obald horizon when The Times They Are a Changin' came out (as I recall Christine Lymer from Wimbledon Girls Grammar was the current pash) but she reported Bob to be all good if a little old. At sixty six he is entitled to look a little old I would think. My daughter's review of Bob is however a lot better than the tosh the Herald reporter comes up with. If Private Eye was still going this review would romp into Pseud's Corner without a worry.
Rudman? Why put oneself in a bad mood so early in the week. Sideswipe? Hugh Laurie (Blackadder) on US$300,000 a week - nice little earner. A comment on the swimming pig in Whangarei harbour that should be on the green paper but not much else.
Try the editorial. At last something of substance that I got briefly agitated about yesterday but which had slipped my mind. The Electoral Finances Bill. This is a ripper. This is the response the Politburo has come up with in the wake of the Exclusive Brethren affair and getting roasted over the pledge card. Remember that? The time they got caught with their hand in the till. We are now to have draconian constraints on any spending in the public domain of pretty much any kind in any year that conatins a general election. As these are usually held in September or October in New Zealand this means an effective nine mionth gag on any publicity for anything that they (i.e. the governmant bureaucracy) see to have any polical over tones. Stand up and advocate a free market and you fall foul of the law as that can be construed as supporting a National policy. Save the whales? In the slammer - Green Party policy. There is sure to be a loophole whereby public infomation campaigns promoting government initiatives are not regarded as Labour policy. Exemption for Forest & Bird is I think rumoured.
Like most things emanating from this government it stinks.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Phil Goff catches fire

What a disappointment. Thursday is Garth George day, a little oasis of right wing common sense in a desert of marxist looneyism, a breath of fresh air amongst the foetid odours that emanate from the Beehive - and he ain't there. Ill? I hope not. Struck down with an ice pick? Surely not. On his hols? Let's hope so and also hope he is not on the Pacific Star.
So that's one avenue of subject material gone and the other obvious topic is still off limits. Hell I would love to have a few hundred words about Buchanan but as I still require employment for a little while yet commonsense dictates that I desist.
John Armstrong then. He is normally the driest of dry sticks but gets almost jocular when writing about Phil Goff and his potential spontaneous combustion in the Nut House on Tuesday. John Key had a go at rebutting some of the peurile antics of the day before when it was his turn at bat yesterday. I really wish he wouldn't bother and encourage the blathering idiots whose only remaining ammunition is personal attack. Key quite rightly opined that the general public has had a total gutsful of this mob and they probably don't care about the nonsense that we have been subjected to over the last couple of days.
Politics New Zealand style has been dragged down to a level that is even lower than that in other countries. We should really be choosing our representatives on matters of substance and not this childish mudslingin. Let Pond Scum, History Man and Spontaneous Combustion Man rant and rave and ignore them. We the intelligent voter can see through it all, can't we.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

NZ Inc - not

The primary brief of any Government to my way of thinking is to run the country for the benefit of its citizens. This should ensure that the place is well defended and prosperous. That's it. No farting around with telling us which chocolate bars we are allowed to buy from vending machines at work, telling us how to bring up our kids, whether we are allowed to prune trees and all the other crap this mob gets involved in. Not only involved in but pursues at the expense of its core business.
A well defended country? We could probably fend off a single front assualt from a batallion of Plunket nurses but beyond that we would be pushed. Prosperous. Well they are doing their best to kick that in the guts as I type. I am not shy at lauding the way Singapore is run as a country. This is done in a very pragmatic and business (with a capital B) type way. Zero natural resources and so it makes itself work by recognisng that you can't do anything if you don't have cash flow. Attract investment by running the place like a business and working bloody hard. Make surre money floods into the country by making it an attractive place to invest. Once you are prosperous then you can start saving whales, building concert halls and all the other extras. And extras they are - you have to put food on the table first.
What does our mob do? History man Cullen says we should be all trying to make things all prosperous like and should invest in the share market and stop being obsessed with buying houses. Then his mate Goff wipes a quarter of a billion off the Auckland Airport share price at the weekend just so he can score points at the marxist City Vision meeting in Auckland. The bloody headmistress then endorses his comments before saying that this was Labour Party speak and not Government speak - there's a difference? In somantics maybe but not in substance surely. We then get some crap about decisions about influencing a trading company is not government policy. However matters in this quarter (interfering with trading companies) are left to the Minister of Land Information (David Parker) and the Minister of Something Else (Pod Scum) who must have deliberations outside the earshot of cabinet ministers incase any decision be later subject to legal appeal - or something.
Spare me this crap. Auckland Airport is either a proper trading Company or it isn't. If the rag heads from Dubai (and most of the ones that came here looked to be sharp western businessmen) had any sense they would steer clear of New Zealand as a sound investment destination. The big ticket numbers in this country are being controlled by people who shouldn't be in charge of a corner dairy. Do the Sue Kedgelys of the world really think that Dubai (or anyone else) is going to invest billions in Auckland Airport and then downgrade it to an airstrip for cropsprayers? Does Phil Goff (whose experience in the business world you could document on the back of a postage stamp with a builder's pencil) really think Auckland Airport is ever going to turn into a feeder for Sydney? The worry is that they might. Why don't we stop all the pretence, call the place Venezuela and get our Banana Republic badge right away?
I got a truly terrifying piece of news yesterday. The Headmistress is visiting my place of employment on Friday arvo. She is coming to unveil a macracarpa phallus that has appeared ouside of the main entrance to the farm in the last week or so. It is called 'The Seed' and is symbolic of something - the profligate waste of money and loss of focus on core business that typifies the mob that runs the farm to my mind. Who runs my place of employment? Well it ain't a conglomerate of overseas business men, I'll give you the tip. I will ensure that I am not on the premises on Friday afternoon as vomiting on the Prime Minsister is not a good look. I have asked my secretary to ensure that the PM is wearing a fluoro safety jacket for the ribbon cutting as this will make her immune from injury should a ton of macracarpa topple over and scone her - now wouldn't that be nice?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Fluoro safety jackets

Garth George has been logging on to again. I admire his taste and wonder when he is sending his first batch of hooks off to Roddy for sharpening.
The headmistress has recovered from her disappointingly trivial ailment to be out and about amongst the proletariat agian and she has cranked up the nausea meter to warp factor twelve. Her appearance yesterday has all the ingredients that make her such a blot on my personal landscape.
She was grandstanding. Yuck. She was promoting some naff petrol that will supposedly save the planet. Yeah right and yuck. The chances of me putting any of this crap into my fine example of the automotive engineer's art are approaching zero. But to really get me mainlining the antiemetics the hideous woman was filling up punters' cars wearing a fluoro safety jacket. All the head honchos and accountants of Gull were also similarly attired. Who in their right mind thinks anyone needs to wear a fluoro jacket to gas up?
I am starting a competition. I want people to post pictures of the most stupid instances of the wearing of fluoro safety jackets they can find. Working on roads at night doesn't count but standing at the bottom of the terraces at Eden Park in broad daylight does. As does walking through a hospital carrying a sheet of GIB; you get the idea. There will be a prize to the winner. This has yet to be thought of by me and will be awarded in a totally arbitary and probably unfair way; I will be in sole charge of this. Closing date not yet known but this will also be decided by me when I feel like it. Bribes will be accepted if large enough.
So, come on you lot. Post pictures of stupid people wearing those daft coats in totally stupid places 'cos the Safety Jacket Police says you must.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

NZ off the planet

Best we leave New Zealand this morning. Granny full of same old, same old. Global warming makes an unwelcome return with an article lauding a new book written by some academic who resides in a nikau whare living off the land in Otago. Idiot. Claims NZ will become the 'lifeboat of the world' when the polar ice caps melt. He is constantly being contacted by friends (carrier pigeons presumably bring these missives) who ask him when is the best time to return to Aoteoroa so as to be safe from the ravages of climate change. You see NZ is relatively safe as we are surrounded by the South Pacific ocean which will keep us cool. Idiot. He looks forward to the days of wine clippers delivering pallet loads of Chardonnay to Europe a la Cutty Sark and even supplies a picture of a freighter with a kite surfer entangled in its bow to illustrate his point. Idiot. He advocates stepping up possum eradication so that forests will regenerate to offset our carbon footprint. Idiot.
Speaking of idiots there is a picture of Nandor Rope Head. He claims the Nats who are refusing to go on the junket to Melbourne are guilty of dereliction of duty. The bottom of this totally forgettable piece tells us that MPs are entitled to business class travel but can ask to be downgraded to economy. Yeah right. As an aside (and he is certainly worth no more) old hemp trousers fronted up at my daughter's (the art history student daughter, not the dentist) undergraduate class to talk to them about stuff. I will be onto the curriculum unit of Victoria University as soon as they are open to ask what the hell is going on but that is besides the point. Any way #2 daughter texted me in high dudgeon after his session saying why should he be allowed to go around telling people he is part of an oppressed religion because smoking dope is illegal. The most sensible question my daughter has asked since she enquired as to why our tongues were wet - and that was seventeen years ago. And, yes, ladies and gents, you and I pay his salary.
No best we get out of New zealand altogether. There is a syndicated piece just to the south west of Tapu Misu that tries to put a bit of perspective on the world is going to hell on a handcart view of life. You know the stuff - opressed people, the satan United States, climate heading inexorably towards being a clone of Saturn. Usual stuff. The truth in fact is very far from that. History - proper world history - is a litany of pestilence, war and destruction. We haven't had a world war for over half a century and there is very little prospect of ever having one again. In general world economies are in a better shape than they have ever been and the main problems are just wee blips on a generally rosy landscape. Most of these blips are George W but his use by date is nigh and proper thinking developed man can soon continue his march towards proper broadband andoverpowered motor cars for all.
Beats worrying about delaying a motorway extension because they have found some buried charcoal and shells under a pohutakawa tree. Oi, World, can New Zealand please get back on board?