Sunday, January 4, 2009

Words to live by

“We dare not trust our wit for making our house pleasant to our friend, so we buy ice cream.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson (via Cheap Healthy Good)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Excerpt from the maiden speech of National's new Taupo MP, Louise Upston

"Let's not be mistaken. The police are good. The criminals are bad. It's that simple."


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Oh, so THAT'S what the police are "there for"!

From today's Sunday Star-Times, this story from Nicky Hager and Anthony Hubbard:
"Anti-terror squad spies on protest groups"

Police teams set up to identify terrorism threats and risks to national security are spying on protest and community groups, including Greenpeace, animal rights and climate change campaigners, and Iraq war protesters.

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

The police informer, Christchurch man Rob Gilchrist, whose activities are revealed in today's Sunday Star-Times, was a key member of various community groups during the past decade. He helped arrange protests and was close friends with leading campaigners, and advocated radical and illegal activities by the groups.

The Police are saying they "will neither confirm nor deny the identity or existence of any informant within any group" - and I think you can work out what that means.

What really struck me in this article, though, was the response from Police Minister Judith Collins. Collins says, "This government wants to ensure [the police] have the tools and the support they need to keep the public safe." So far, so good - one does hope the police have the resources they need to keep us all safe.

But she goes on to say, "From time to time it may be necessary to use paid informants. I think most New Zealanders would find it reassuring that the police are out there keeping a watch on the whole community. That's what they're there for."

Hey Judith, I don't find it AT ALL reassuring that the police are monitoring the political action and personal lives of political activists. And having informants "advocat[ing] radical and illegal activities by the groups" is NOT what the police are there for, and sounds awfully like entrapment to me.

I think I might write a wee letter to our Police Minister this afternoon, and if you'd like to do the same thing you can freepost it to:

Judith Collins
Parliament Office
Private Bag 18888
Parliament Buildings
Wellington 6160

Friday, December 12, 2008

Turns out it's not just the disgruntled losers of the left

If you're feeling just a tad uncomfortable with the new government's first steps in power, you're not alone: notoriously Tory paper The New Zealand Herald has an editorial and an opinion piece from the political editor decrying National's methods.

The editorial, "Drug decision should be left to Pharmac", addresses "the ad hoc funding of Herceptin":

"National's decision to disregard Pharmac creates several problems. In the first instance, the Herceptin extension sets a difficult precedent. It suggests the Government is open to the sort of pressure that prompted the coining of the rule of rescue. Other small groups of sufferers may impose just as strong an emotional pull. Wisely, the previous government was content to leave such tough decisions to Pharmac, a body tasked with, and experienced in, making them.

... Ironically, a National government established Pharmac in part to prevent just this lobbying."

Meanwhile, political editor Audrey Young sez, "New Government wrong to ram through legislation":

Legislation is being rammed through the House without going through the scrutiny of select committees. Five bills are to be put through all stages this week and next.

... It might be okay for National to push one bill through all stages under urgency but there is no excuse for so many to be - other than to give the perception that the Government has ''momentum''.

Pushing bills through all stages without such scrutiny should be reserved for exceptional circumstances.

... National argued strongly before the election that Labour's changes to the emissions trading scheme bill warranted a return to select committee scrutiny.

In the words of Steve Maharey, perhaps that was just one of those things you say in Opposition."

On a related note, I created what I hope might serve as a hub for people organising political discussion and activism here on Facebook. Please pop over and take a look!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I love it that you can decide you want to watch or listen to something, and then go online and do just that. For example, YouTube contains a treasure trove of old cartoons, like these classsics from Disney's Silly Symphonies series.

Silly Symphonies was a series of 75 animated shorts produced by Walt Disney Productions from 1929 to 1939. Unlike the more famous Mickey Mouse sister series, Silly Symphonies did not usually feature continuing characters. The original basis of the cartoons was musical novelty, and the musical scores of the first cartoons were composed by stone-cold legend Carl Stalling. "Skeleton Dance" was (I think) the first in the series, and is unbelievably creepy cute:

(Click through here if the embedded player doesn't work)

After Disney secured exclusive rights to a new three-strip, full-color Technicolor process (replacing the previous two-tone process) in 1935, a 60 percent complete Symphony, "Flowers and Trees", was scrapped and redone in full color. The short was a phenomenal success, and within a year, the Silly Symphonies series became just as successful (if not more so) than the now-far-more-famous Mickey Mouse cartoons.

(Or click here)

Finally, from the Mickey Mouse series, this (quite literally) trippy masterpiece, also from '35:

(Or here)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

ACTing up on the news pages

Cartoons later today, I promise, but first I have to share this rage-inducing tidbit with you.

From today's Dom Post article, "Setback for Hide on climate study bid", the dancing canary has this to say: "The previous government took it that human-induced climate change was a sort of fact. It isn't a fact, it's a theory the evidence doesn't appear to support."

And this guy is now very near the top of the political food chain.

However, Peter Dunne, who will chair the committee studying changes to the emissions trading scheme, was surprisingly reassuring. "A variety of international bodies have done the ground work. It's not the competence of a parliamentary select committee in New Zealand to go and completely revisit all of that."

The upshot of the article is that the committee will not be looking at whether human-caused climate change is taking place. Wodders is claiming a victory for the "sceptics" because the committee can "look at the accuracy of climate change predictions." This ridiculous fight ain't over!

Also of note in the news pages is an NZPA story from Stuff last night, "Tax cuts debated under urgency", which quoted three people: Finance Minister Bill English introducing the Taxation (Urgent Measures and Annual Rates) Bill; Labour's finance spokesman David Cunliffe arguing that the Bill was badly designed because it delivered benefits for upper and middle-income earners while low income families were the losers, it was undermining Kiwisaver, and cutting the R&D tax credit is folly for a government "targeting productivity and supposedly innovation"; and ROGER FREAKIN' DOUGLAS!!!

"ACT's new MP Sir Roger Douglas said it was 'a small step in the right direction' in marked contrast to anything Labour had done over the past nine years.

Sir Roger said core government expenditure increased by $18.2 billion above inflation during that time.

'This increased expenditure cost every New Zealander, on average, $1000 a month or $12,000 a year,' he said.

'And Labour spent that extra tax. . .on dubious programmes and failed social experiments that have not benefited New Zealand households by anywhere near the $1000 a month they took off them.'"

Why is this guy getting press parity with the Finance Minister and his opposition counterpart, especially when no other MP is? Is the press going to go running to Douglas for authoratitive comment on every economic issue? Key may have blocked Douglas from taking any formal position, but the press is certainly presenting him as a Very Important Politician, not one of many list MPs.