Monday, 31 December 2007

The $500,000 New Year's Award

Multi-millionaire expat New Zealander Owen Glenn has been made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year's Honours list. (The "pretend" awards New Zealand gives out, since they dumped knighthoods, damehoods, and other such titles of distinction.)

UK-born Glenn was honoured for his "services to business and the community". In 2005 he donated $7.5 million towards the new business school at Auckland University. However, Glenn is more well known as the Labour Party's biggest backer (half a million dollars prior to the last election).

Mr Glenn's place of residence is listed as "Monaco" on the official New Year's Honours roll. He made his fortune through founding the freight company OTS Logistics Group, which now operates around the world.

During Select Committee deliberations on the Electoral Finance Act, Labour introduced late changes to allow Mr Glenn to continue making political donations as an "ex-pat New Zealander".

News reports note he hasn't actually lived in New Zealand since 1996. Other "foreigners" are now officially banned from supporting political parties in New Zealand.

* NZ Herald: New Year award for Labour's big donor

* 3/1 - UPDATE: NZOM Recipient Owen Glenn has been upgraded to an expatriate "billionaire" in today's NZ Herald... It must have been a good year ;-)

* NZ Herald: Billionaire 'unlikely to give money to Labour'

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Wednesday, 26 December 2007

One week until Ron Paul's first test

The race for the American presidency is about to heat up, with the first Presidential primary elections and caucuses in Iowa and New Hampshire early next month.

Texan congressman Ron Paul seems to be the most interesting of the candidates vying for the nomination for either the Republican or Democratic parties in the United States.

Paul is in favour of a much smaller government, lower taxes, open free markets, and sensible monetary policies. His basic test when deciding whether to vote for or against legislation in congress is whether it is "expressly authorised by the Constitution".

His supporters say the "mainstream media" have been doing everything they can to block coverage about Ron Paul. However the Texan has created quite a buzz online, consistently rating highly in a range of internet polls, and is one of the most searched for '08 candidates for either party.

Paul notes that the United States is a whopping $9 trillion (!?!) in debt, thanks to out-of-control spending by successive administrations... and points out that America's independence (along with other countries) is increasingly at risk because they are relying on the likes of China's Central banks to finance their spending.

Paul is a strong opponent of what's called "fractional-reserve banking", which is basically the flawed theory which allows central banks like the US Federal Reserve to increase the money supply at will by "creating money out of thin air", essentially making every dollar already in circulation worth less.

Trading banks are able to follow a similar practice, lending out "money" which amounts to just a fraction of what they have taken in as deposits. Critics describe this common modern-day practice by banks as a "swindle" and "no better than counterfeiters."

He is certainly an "out there" candidate for the Republicans (some party members aren't happy about him being on their ballot, given how often he differs from the official party line), but it will be interesting to see what level of support Paul receives over the next few weeks, with a third party run also a possibility...

* Official website: Ron Paul 2008 - Hope for America
* Ron Paul's followers aim to stun the pundits
* Ron Paul's support in Iowa: Why to take the Button Poll seriously
* AHN: Ron Paul Keeps Possibility Of Running As Third-Party, Libertarian Open

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Sunday, 23 December 2007

Stupid person wins 'Burger King' complaint

This is why "Standards Authorities" (both Advertising and Broadcasting) need to be Banned...

New Zealand's ASA has upheld a complaint from a very stupid person, who was devastated that their takeaway coffee bought at Burger King did not come in a porcelain cup like in the pretty picture.

A man/woman named "B. Hay" visited the Burger King outlet in Hillcrest (Hamilton) after seeing a poster advertising "Illy Premium Coffee", which featured a branded china cup of coffee on a saucer.

B. Hay was outraged when his/her coffee was served in a "horrible paper cup", and demanded a "decent cup to drink the coffee from". (Thankfully, his/her demands were politely ignored by the Burger King staff!)

The dim/precious complainant told the Advertising Standards Authority they felt it was "grossly misleading advertising", and said they would "certainly not have contemplated even going into the outlet if I had known the coffee was not to be served in a porcelain cup and saucer as on their advertisements."

Duh. This is the same type of person that sits up until 11pm to watch a tv show called something like "Extreme Fighting", just so they can lodge a complaint about seeing an incidence of "violence" on television.

The BK grump is stupid enough, but the ASA showed what little sense they have by upholding (?!?) this bizarre complaint in their recent run of decisions.

As Clint Heine's post label correctly notes, "Stupid Stupid Stupid"!!!

* Stuff: Burger King burned over coffee advertisement

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Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Free Speech banned in New Zealand

It is a sad time for the people of New Zealand, with the Labour Party (together with their mates in the Greens and NZ First) succeeding in their anti-democratic moves to ban free speech.

Labour's 'Electoral Finance Act' was only marginally changed during the last Select Committee process, with sensible suggestions from independent bodies about levels of funding/donations and appropriate time frames being rejected.

The final vote was 63 for the bill (Labour, NZ First, Greens, Anderton), and 57 against (National, Maori, Act, United Future, and Taito). Peter Dunne's United Future changed sides at the last minute, after months of supporting the bill.

John Key didn't mince his words in Parliament. He noted, "History will mark this day. This is the day that Helen Clark arrogantly inflicted upon the people of New Zealand an anti-democratic piece of legislation and the collective focus of New Zealand knew once and for all, it's time for a change."

Key said the bill was being passed solely "so Helen Clark can try to cling onto power", and said a National-led Government would repeal the law.

National's deputy leader Bill English described the law as "all about entrenching the right of Government and the political establishment to use big public money to buy elections and no one will be able to stop them."

The Maori Party's Hone Harawira reflected common public opinion, saying that "despite what Helen Clark might argue, the bill is actually being opposed by people other than those who have millions of dollars to donate to parties."

* NZ Herald: Controversial electoral law passed in heated debate
* NZ Herald: Blow by blow debate on the electoral bill

The Free Speech Coalition have agreed with the NZ Herald's description of the Electoral Finance as an "Attack on Democracy". The group are planning a major advertising campaign against the parties and MPs which supported the bill, and launched a billboard campaign this morning...

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt is also keen to test the new law next year, with a major battle planned by Southland interests against the massive budget cuts to the Southern Institute of Technology announced by the TEC.

Meanwhile, Libertarianz Party leader Bernard Darnton has offered his party as a "flag of convenience" for free speech.

Because the Libertarianz are a registered political party, they can legally authorise spending of up to $2.4 million dollars (20 times what third parties will now be allowed to spend). Brilliant idea!

* Not PC: Darnton offers Libz political party as ‘flag of convenience’ for free speech
* The Free Speech Coalition website
* Excellent coverage also at Kiwiblog and Whale Oil

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Tuesday, 18 December 2007

MP Mallard pleads guilty, convicted in court

Leader Labour bovver boy Trevor Mallard has pleaded guilty in the Wellington District Court to 'fighting in a public place', in an attempt to stop the media focus on his bad behaviour.

Mallard was convicted and ordered to make a $500 donation to the Salvation Army's drug and alcohol programme. The guilty plea followed a compromise where the original charge of assault was downgraded, and other court proceedings against him were dropped.

The Cabinet Minister found himself in court after Wellington accountant Graham McCready lodged a private prosecution against him, following an incident in Parliament's lobby where Mallard whacked National MP Tau Henare.

Mallard then returned to Parliament after his court hearing, where he formally apologised to Erin Leigh (a former employee at the Environment Ministry) for questioning her competence and work ethics.

His original comments in Parliament were made after Erin Leigh went public over political interference by Climate Change Minister David Parker. Leigh revealed Parker hired Labour Party activist Clare Curran on an uncontested and lucrative contract for the Environment Ministry.

(It's since been revealed Curran also won a healthy quarter of a million dollars in contracts for the Otago District Health Board... Former Health Minister Pete Hodgson also happened to be the local MP for Dunedin North.

It's understood Curran's communication company has since been awarded another Government contract, to undertake work for the Corrections Department. Curran is seeking the Labour Party nomination for Dunedin South, the seat currently held by embattled MP David Benson-Pope.)

* NZ Herald: Mallard pleads guilty to fighting, says sorry to consultant

* Stuff: Cabinet minister's day of shame

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Opinion Polls punish Labour and its mates

Two political opinion polls released on Sunday night by the two major TV networks reveal how the public feels about having draconian new laws rail-roaded through Parliament, with little concern for public opinion.

Both the 3News-TNS poll and One News-Colmar Brunton polls put the National Party firmly ahead of Labour, and also showed crucial dips for Labour's coalition and support partners. The result was 51-31% in the 3News poll, and 54-35% in the One News survey.

National leader John Key pointed to the poll results as evidence that New Zealand people want a change of government. He says they perceive the current regime as "arrogant" and holding "no answers on the big issues such as improving people's wages and income."

Crucially for National, Labour's allies who have been towing the party line on the anti-free speech "Electoral Finance Bill" also saw their poll support eaten away.
Support for the Greens - previously the highest polling of Labour's friends - dipped below the vital 5% threshold in both opinion polls. The party doesn't have the backup security of an electorate seat, so would be turfed out of Parliament.

The Greens have been a willing "support partner" for Labour, and have staunchly backed (despite protests from some of their members) the moves by Hillin Cluck and co. to introduce a bill which even former Labour PM Mike Moore describes as "without precedent in the free world".

NZ First is also in danger of exiting Parliament in less than a year, after leader Winston Peters lost his previously safe seat of Tauranga to National's Bob Clarkson at the last election. (Peters is still to announce whether he'll try again in Tauranga, or try his luck elsewhere.)

Other minor parties are polling low, but ACT's Rodney Hide and United Future's Peter Dunne both have the relative security of electorate seats, so will be able to sell their parties as viable options for voters, given that a vote for them is unlikely to be a wasted vote (as could be the case with the Greens & NZ First).

However, the one party that still is being fully figured into the calculations by the major networks is the Maori Party. While it's only polling around the 2-3% mark, the party won 4 of the reserved Maori seats at the last election (creating an overhang in Parliament), and are tipped to win 5-7 of the seats next year.

New Zealand's 2005 election campaign was very presidential in style, which cost the minor parties a lot of support. Look for the smaller parties to try and bolster their stakes over the next six months or so, and seek out points of difference to attract voters back.

* NZ Herald: Government thrashed in two new polls

* NZ Herald: Moore continues attack on controversial Electoral Finance Bill

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Monday, 17 December 2007

UN talks a lot of hot air in Bali on Climate Change

Politicians and scientists are attempting to promote the new Bali agreement on "climate change" as a major win, and a big step forward for the world.

Unfortunately the mainstream media long ago bought into the claptrap about so-called "man-made global warming", and few reported the strong opposition at the conference by a team of over 100 international scientists (including many current and former UN "IPCC" scientists - the 'Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change' bunch that publish those big reports).

In an open letter to the UN Secretary-General, the scientists questioned "the scientific basis for climate fears, and the UN's so-called solutions".

The group labelled attempts to prevent global climate change from occurring as "ultimately futile", and a "tragic misallocation of resources that would be better spent on humanity's real and pressing problems".

The leading scientists (which included NZ UN scientist Dr Vincent Gray, and the "Father of Meterology" Dr Reid Bryson) told the conference, "It is not possible to stop climate change, a natural phenomenon that has affected humanity through the ages."

"In stark contrast to the often repeated assertion that the science of climate change is 'settled,' significant new peer-reviewed research has cast even more doubt on the hypothesis of dangerous human-caused global warming," they noted.

The left wing media and "politically correct" greenies have fallen right into the UN's trap, and seem keen to help the United Nations fulfil its plan of introducing a Global tax to "redistribute" wealth between countries, and ultimately create a one world Goverment.

New Zealander Dr Vincent Gray has published a very interesting report on his visit to the Bali Climate Conference, which should be required reading for the country's journalists, many of whom are unable to understand any story or point of view that hasn't been handed to them on a press release.
Dr Gray writes, "It is still amazing to me, though, why so many people believe in this greenhouse myth, for which there is no sound scientific foundation."

The earth's temperature is not increasing, and is currently falling (as we all know in New Zealand). Sea Levels are not increasing, as shown by the recent Australian study on Pacific Islands. Malaria is not a tropical disease. Polar Bears and penguins are not "endangered". Carbon dioxide is not a "pollutant" but the very stuff of all life.

* DailyTech: 100 Prominent Scientists Warn UN: Attempting to Control Climate Futile

* NZ Climate Science Coalition: A Climate Sceptic in Bali (Dr Vincent Gray)

* What was really agreed to in Bali?

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"Jingle Cats & Dogs" sing White Christmas

Here's a little clip to either get you into the Christmas spirit, or drive you and everyone in your office slightly mad!... ;-)

The Jingle Cats & Dogs orchestra "singing" the Bing Crosby classic song, White Christmas...

And some Christmas-flavoured "Lolcats"... If you haven't discovered the craze that is Lolcats, there's plenty more funny pictures to check out at the original and best site, I Can Haz Cheezburger?

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Sunday, 9 December 2007

Christmas Joke: What If It Had Been 3 Wise Women?

Have you ever wondered what would have happened if it had been three 'Wise Women' instead of three Wise Men that night in Bethlehem?

Women would say... They would have asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and brought practical gifts.

Men's rebuttal... Yeah, and do you know what they said would have said when they left?

"Did you see the sandals Mary was wearing with that gown?"

"That baby doesn't look anything like Joseph!"

"Can you believe they let all of those disgusting animals in the house?"

"I heard that Joseph isn't even working right now!"

"Want to bet how long it will take to get your casserole dish back?"

** Lots more Christmas Jokes to check out here... **


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Friday, 7 December 2007

Millions sample 'Flight of the Conchords'

The stocks of kiwi comedy/music duo Flight of the Conchords are on the rise, with a clip from their reality/sitcom tv show being listed as one of YouTube's top-rated videos.

The song "If You're Into It" (from Episode 4, Season 1 of their HBO TV series) sees Bret singing a unique love song to his girlfriend Coco, with the help of his friend Jermaine. The YouTube clip's scored over 2 million views (at the time of writing), and intrigued many people.

The duo's HBO show has been recommissioned for a second series, although Flight of the Conchords is by no means the "smash hit US show" the New Zealand media has tried to claim.

Reviews meanwhile have ranged from "may well be the funniest thing you've seen in ages" (San Francisco Chronicle) to "feels less like a sitcom than a Saturday Night Live sketch stretched out to about six times its shelf-life" (Miami Herald).

I think the video comments are just as amusing as the clip itself, especially those relating to the kiwi/NZ accent (apparently some US fans think their accent is "made up"! ;-)
- "I've wroten you a song, Coco."
Wroten? Just thought I'd get that out of my system.

- Oh my gosh wroten was getting on my nerves too! Finally someone brave enough to say it lol

- It's "written", but with a Kiwi accent.
We tend to sound like we're saying "fush and chups" when we mean "fish and chips". Same thing.

- lol i remember when i was in fiji how kiwi dudes asked me for a pen ... they said: "hey can i borrow u a pin" lol kiwi accent is cool, but the best is the french one!!

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Thursday, 6 December 2007

New paper to shake up Dunedin market

Two South Island newspaper publishers are joining forces to launch a new weekly paper in Dunedin - the home turf of Allied Press newspapers the Otago Daily Times and The Star.

The new Dunedin paper is being launched early next year by Scene Media - a joint venture between Queenstown-based Mountain Scene and the Ashburton Guardian.

The free weekly paper will be distributed to 45,000 homes in the Dunedin area, and plans to be "more hard-edged and editorially-driven" than Allied Press's community Star newspaper, or the daily ODT. A companion website will also be launched.

Allied Press has held a cosy near-monopoly in Dunedin for many years, and seems privately to be a little concerned about the upstart challenger.

The first major story about the new entrant was published in a Christchurch paper The Press, while Dunedin's local television station Channel 9 (also owned by Allied Press) was banned from running a story on Scene Media's venture.
The ODT (affectionately known in local media circles as "The Oddity") has been published since 1861, while The Star community tabloid came into being after the Otago Daily Times bought out and then closed down its long-running evening competitor, the Evening Star.

Scene Media insist they're not aiming to go head-to-head with the ODT, but admit they are prepared for competitive tactics by Allied Press.

Two newspapers attempted to break into the Dunedin market in the mid-90's - Inside Otago and The Exchange - but both folded after coming under financial pressure, following aggressive behaviour by Allied Press.

It's understood companies who advertised in the rival newspapers were given stern warnings by Allied Press sales staff, who threatened to withdraw any discounted rates treatment, while offering generous advertising deals if companies switched back to the ODT.

The Otago Daily Times also refused to publish tv listings for Dunedin's first local television station Channel 58 (despite publishing other tv channels for no charge), forcing Ch 58 to pay for a daily advertisement in the ODT paper (which wasn't always placed on the TV page).

Around twenty staff will be employed at the new paper, which is sure to be welcomed by Dunedin residents looking for an edgier and more challenging read.

* The Press: Newspaper set to enter Dunedin market

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Sunday, 2 December 2007

Dave's Vacation Part 3: Still NYC

Yeh, I know I got home in November, but I'm still working through all my photos ;-)

Here's a few more good ones from our time in New York (some photos thanks to Anne)...

First there was the Naked Cowboy...
Now a Naked Cowgirl entertains tourists in Times Square

Outside the "Curtains" theatre - the new musical
by Kander & Ebb, starring David Hyde Pierce

Rachael & Anne seeing the sights of Manhattan
from the top of a double decker tour bus (Thanks Robbie!)

Dave on the same tour during a "Summer Shower" ;-)

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New York catch up time

One of the best parts of visiting New York is catching up with some of my old campers and staff from Stagedoor Manor summer camp days...

The always bright & bubbly Caitlin gave us a
guided tour of her daytime CBS soap, Guiding Light

The talented Skylar Astin gave us a quick peek backstage, after we
caught his Broadway hit musical, Spring Awakening.
(He's just returned to the show, after the recent Broadway stagehand
strikes, and taking a break to shoot the movie
Hamlet 2)

Catching up with jack-of-all-trades Robbie Owens,
during the Feast of San Gennaro festival in Little Italy

Waiting for a train, and trying to look like Japanese tourists...

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Cheers, New York!

A Polish catchup... Having a beer with Michal below the Empire State

A visit to Queens to catch up with Radek and Dorota, and their
super-cute daughter Agnes (who did smile after this photo!)

NYPD Kiwis!

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Air New Zealand aims to cut queues

I'm pleased to see Air New Zealand is aiming to speed up the flying process - particularly for domestic passengers - by automating much of their check-in procedures.

From next March, passengers will receive a seat confirmation when they first buy a ticket. Frequent fliers will also get smart card "bag tags" for their luggage, while others will simply print them off from an automatic kiosk at the airport.

Passengers will then be able to drop their baggage straight onto a conveyor belt, which will go through an automatic turnstile to their scheduled flight.

Air New Zealand also want to make more use of mobile phones, with the ability to send boarding information to passenger phones (in barcode form), which can then be scanned at the departure gates.
The automated upgrades will cost Air NZ about $20 million, but the airline claims the new systems won't mean staff redundancies. Limited manual check-in facilities will remain for techno-illiterate passengers, and for international check-ins at provincial airports.

The airline believes their advanced e-ticketing programme will help keep them ahead of their competition, and should mean passengers can walk in 10 minutes before their flight departs, rather than waiting around at the airport.

Airlines around the world are looking at ways of trimming the time passengers have to spend at airports before their flights, but say they have little control over security procedures, which have added considerable time to the journeys of frequent fliers since 9/11.

Air NZ is also considering new domestic routes, as well as improving the frequency of flights to provincial centres. Frequency and more direct routes are also the basis for their international improvements, as their new Boeing 777 and Dreamliners arrive.

(Air New Zealand have also been looking at the long range Boeing 777-200LR aeroplane for a new Auckland to New York route. However, those plans may now be on hold, with the airline confirming it has purchased a further 8 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, and 3 more Boeing 777-300ER planes.)

[ Right now I'm listening to:
^ E-Type - Eurofighter ]
^ Fast Ood Rockers - Song 4 Kylie (I'm In Love With A Girl In A Time Machine)

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