Thursday, 27 November 2008

Aussie headlines for Iain O'Brien's Cricket blog

Black Caps fast bowler Iain O'Brien has hit the headlines for comments he made in his personal blog this week. The international cricketer only took up blogging in October, to pass the downtime (outside of training and playing) while he was in Chittagong, Bangladesh.

O'Brien continued to make regular 'diary' posts during his international travels with the team, with his personal observations giving a very interesting insight into the thought process behind a game, what players do to get prepared, and how they keep themselves occupied during the downtime.

It sounds like NZ Cricket bosses weren't aware of his personal blog, which unfortunately made headlines after O'Brien commented last Saturday that he'd been called a faggot by some spectators, while he was fielding on the boundary during the game at the Gabba (Brisbane).
"The crowds here are pretty good, ruined by a few, actually quite a few, idiots who think a day out at the cricket is just to abuse the guys playing any way how. You get called anything and everything.

Embarrassing for these guys really, as a lot of the others around them are cringing. I don't know how many times I've was called a 'fagot' this afternoon!"
New Zealand Cricket team manager Lindsay Crocker says he's spoken to O'Brien, who is keen to continue blogging. He was "staggered the blog had made headlines", but had agreed to run future posts past the team's media manager, John Durning.

Hopefully that won't result in a boring santised and edited kind of diary, of the kind that usually appears on "Official" team websites. Unfortunately Crocker does note that it was "standard practice for any published writing by contracted players to be vetted by NZ Cricket".

As Richard at Sportsreview points out, Iain is "simply writing honestly about what it’s like to play international Cricket. And he writes well."

He does. And hopefully he'll be allowed - and feel comfortable - continuing.

* Iain O'Brien's Cricket Blog

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Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Taxing Flight Plans by UK Labour Party

Gordon Brown has given British citizens a firm reminder that they're living under a Labour government, with a mini-budget for the UK which includes tax increases for those on high incomes, a temporary cut to VAT, bringing forward infrastructure spending, and increasing borrowing by £118 billion.

Brown's Chancellor, Alistair Darling, announced a raft of initiatives yesterday, aimed at providing "a £20 billion fiscal stimulus to help the British economy through the global downturn".

The UK's VAT rate (similar to GST) will be temporarily cut from 17.5% to 15%, until the end of 2009, while National insurance contributed will increase by 0.5%. The top personal tax rate will be increased to 45% (currently 40%), and the tax-free threshold will also be scrapped for people earning over £140,000.

The Conservative Party says Labour's borrowing plans will see UK national debt double to an impressive £1 trillion in just a few years.

As No Minister points out, this is just the kind of mini-budget Dr Cullen and Hillin Cluck had promised New Zealand, if they won the election... Rumoured to have been under consideration by Labour NZ was a increase in GST to 15%, an increased top tax rate, a 10% surcharge on mobile phone bills/prepaid phone cards, and a $1000 funeral fee/death duty.

But the tax announcement from Labour UK that could have a big impact on New Zealand is the plans to massively raise airport departure taxes from British airports. The government is proposing a new 4-tier system (under the guise of an "environmental tax") which will penalise air travellers based on the distance travelled.
That will see travellers flying from Britain to New Zealand charged around NZ$250 in flight taxes by 2010, with Labour using the false religion of climate change to justify the increases, which will supposedly "help offset carbon emissions".

Premium Economy and Business class seats will be taxed at double those rates (because those people obviously cause more carbon emissions per seat?!).

New Prime Minister and Tourism Minister John Key raised the issue with Gordon Brown this morning, concerned that it could have a detrimental impact on tourism numbers here. The UK is currently New Zealand's second largest tourist market, with almost 289,000 visiting from Britain in the year to October.
The huge hike in departure taxes will also hit the 100,0000 New Zealand holidaymakers who fly out of the UK each year. The Pacific Asia Travel Association has labelled the UK government's decision as "short-sighted and self-defeating".

The organisation believes the move could backfire, with travellers choosing to fly in and out of other airports in mainland Europe, including Paris, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt. PATA says that would lead to an increase short-haul air traffic to and from the UK, and "increase carbon emissions".

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Sunday, 23 November 2008

Drawing Spiders doesn't pay the bills

I have been following with interest recently the story of the Australian man who tried to offer a hand drawing of a spider as payment for his utility bill.

Adelaide graphics designer David Thorne apparently owed the (unnamed) company the sum of $233.95. However rather than paying the bill, he tried emailing the company a hand-drawn black and white picture of a spider instead, as full and final payment...

Subject: Re: Overdue account

Dear Jane,
I do not have any money so am sending you this drawing I did of a spider instead. I value the drawing at $233.95 so trust that this settles the matter.

Regards, David.
Unfortunately grumpy Jane from the utility didn't share David's appreciation for original art, and continued to request he submit payment for the overdue bill.

The email exchanges continued over several days, with David admitting along the way that he had made a serious mistake with his original drawing, with the spider having only 7 legs. He apologised to Jane, and sent the company a new drawing with the correct 8 legs...
"I realise with hindsight that it is possible you rejected the drawing of a spider due to this obvious limb omission... but did not point it out in an effort to avoid hurting my feelings.

As such, I am sending you a revised drawing with the correct number of legs as full payment for any amount outstanding. I trust this will bring the matter to a conclusion."
The utility company still wouldn't play ball, but by this time the email exchange had become the subject of a widespread viral email,which led to the 7-legged spider drawing being offered for sale on auction site eBay by a Swedish man.

The drawing attracted 18 bids, reportedly selling for an impressive US$10,000. However, now the winning bidder - one Patrick Munoz of the United States - is refusing to pay up, saying he was "just having a laugh about this".

A spokesman for eBay says the buyer is "obliged to pay because they have entered a legal contract", and the seller could take Munoz to the police for breaking the "contract he made when he won the item"...
"What people decide what they want to pay for items is up to them … it’s a binding contract, even if it’s a picture of a seven-legged spider."

* Read the whole email exchange here...
* ninemsn News: 'Spider man' refuses to pay for drawing

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Global Economics made simple with Cows

As the global economy goes tits up, us lesser mortals are left wondering what the world's financial wizards where doing during their Economics lessons at school.

Financial journalists relay messages of widespread doom and gloom... in fact according to the NZ Herald today...

American business leaders have privately warned there will be "absolute carnage" on world markets if nothing is done to deleverage the US$60 trillion ($113.4 trillion) credit derivatives market in an orderly fashion.
No, I don't really understand what they mean either.
The Apec Business Advisory Council (Abac) told the world's leaders who have assembled in Lima that it "was worried the US credit derivatives market was not fully backed by real assets."

I think, essentially what they're getting out is that financial gurus became adept at creating billions of dollars out of thin air, which was lent out at healthy interest rates to people who had little real ability to pay the money back.

The global credit crunch has sparked fresh debate about the various economic models around the world, including arguments from agitated lefties who are trying to blame Capitalism for the current situation.

For non-economists like me, here's a simple summary of the world's Economic Models, explained with the help of Cows... (I know the basic list has been around for a while, but this one that came to me via Popbitch seems to have a few new twists)...

Economic Models explained with Cows

- SOCIALISM: You have 2 cows. You give one to your neighbour.

- COMMUNISM: You have 2 cows. The State takes both and gives you some milk.

- FASCISM: You have 2 cows. The State takes both and sells you some milk.

- BUREAUCRATISM: You have 2 cows. The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other and then throws the milk away.

- TRADITIONAL CAPITALISM: You have 2 cows. You sell one and buy a bull. Your herd multiplies and the economy grows. You sell them and retire on the income.

- SURREALISM: You have two giraffes. The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.

- AN AMERICAN CORPORATION: You have 2 cows. You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why the cow has dropped dead.

- A SWISS CORPORATION: You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you. You charge the owners for storing them.

- A FRENCH CORPORATION: You have 2 cows. You go on strike, organise a riot and block the roads because you want three cows.

- A JAPANESE CORPORATION: You have 2 cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. You then create a clever cow image called “Cowkimon” and market it worldwide.
- AN AUSTRALIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. Business seems pretty good. You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate.

- A NEW ZEALAND CORPORATION: You have two cows. The one on the left looks very attractive.

- A GERMAN CORPORATION: You have 2 cows. You re-engineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month and milk themselves.

- A RUSSIAN CORPORATION: You have 2 cows. You count them and learn you have five cows. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. You count them again and learn you have 2 cows. You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.

- AN INDIAN CORPORATION: You have 2 cows. You worship them.

- A BRITISH CORPORATION: You have 2 cows. Both are mad.

- AN ITALIAN CORPORATION: You have 2 cows but you don’t know where they are. You decide to have lunch.

- A CHINESE CORPORATION: You have 2 cows. You have 300 people milking them. You claim that you have full employment and high bovine productivity. You arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.

- AN IRAQI CORPORATION: Everyone thinks you have lots of cows. You tell them that you have none. No-one believes you, so they bomb the shit out of you and invade your country. You still have no cows, but at least now you are part of a Democracy.

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Monday, 17 November 2008

Hope for NZ with review of Emissions Trading Scam

Good work to Rodney Hide for getting the Gnats to agree to a 'fundamental review' of the Emissions Trading Scheme, as part of ACT's support deal with National.

ACT campaigned heavily on dumping the current legislation, which would be the best solution for the economy and for all New Zealanders.

Unfortunately National being National campaigned with a serious lack of spine (surprisingly with the backing of Federated Farmers), and only want to "water down the existing legislation", with John Key still keen to pass an amended ETS into law by the end of next year.

The only immediate change will be the lifting of the ban on new fossil-fuel power generation. The NZ Government are not yet planning to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol.

However, the select committee being set up to review Labour's Emissions Trading Scam will have to hear "competing views" on the so-called "science" which claims humans are to blame for climate change, as well as the merits of a carbon tax, and the timing of any changes.

Unfortunately the signals from the National Party aren't all good. Key says he personally believes "human-induced climate change was real", and has just appointed card-carrying leftie and tree hugger Nick Smith as his Environment Minister and "Minister for Climate Change Issues". Aargh!

There is some hope with the appointment of Gerry Brownlee as the new Minister of Energy. As Greenpeace today pointed out in a media release, Brownlee has publicly labelled coal as sexy in the past.

(Then again, this is the same Gerry Brownlee who in 2003 said that "ACT MPs had little respect for ordinary New Zealanders and National Party members who admired ACT should "bugger off" and join it.")

Bully Brownlee aside, the South Island of NZ in particular has immense amounts of natural resources which are not being utilised or explored.

There is huge potential for New Zealand to grow its mineral wealth, with the previous administration ensuring much of it remained buried underneath "Conservation land", areas which were greatly expanded for no real benefit, thanks to the reckless spending of tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds.

However, even ACT seems to have lost some of its balls, with their detailed agreement with National claiming the party...
"is not opposed to New Zealand adopting responsible climate change policies... and if a select committee inquiry establishes a credible case that New Zealanders would benefit from action by New Zealand... ACT would be prepared to support legislation giving effect to such action".
That sounds like a paragraph inserted to pacify National, but I hope it does not mean Rodney Hide and the ACT Party are considering backing down from their stance as against the whole false religion of "Climate Change".

Given that they are about the only sensible heads in the New Zealand Parliament when it comes to questioning the ever-diminishing arguments for "global warming due to CO2" (at least the only ones willing to make their views public), ACT's MPs need to stand firm against the claptrap from the misguided greenies and PC-brigade, who have bought into the myth perpetuated by the "mainstream media".

* NBR: ETS up for `fundamental review' in ACT deal

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Sunday, 9 November 2008

NZ votes against a lurch to the left

New Zealand voters have rejected the Labour Party's bid for an historic 4th term in government, and soundly rejected the lurch to the left trumpeted by commentators like Chris Trotter, if a L/P/G/NZF government was elected.

Turnout was 78.69% (including special votes). That's despite an extra 41,100 people voting, compared to the 2005 election. A record 2,979,366 people enrolled to vote in 2008, but a sizeable 634,262 people didn't make it to a voting booth.

John Key's super-centre National Party did well on the night, but didn't get the outright majority some old-school over-confident party people were hoping for.

National have accepted they need the support of the Act Party to have a Parliamentary majority, and have also adopted the party-of-one known as United Peter Dunne.

Key is also planning to reach out to the Maori Party, who will likely see sense in working with the new government, rather than spending another 3 years on the Opposition benches.

Despite what some of the Maori Party's supporters may think, the party does share a number of similar policy areas and philosophies with Act and National.
Unfortunately, the Maori Party didn't really succeed in raising their share of the party vote, but did gain one more MP (creating an overhang of 2 seats). Wellington lawyer and treaty specialist Rahui Katene managed to snare Te Tai Tonga (the South Island and lower Wellington) from Labour's Mahara Okeroa.

Luckily, the Maori Party's Marxist academic Angeline Greensill didn't succeed in her bid to take the seat of Hauraki-Waikato off Nanaia Mahuta. That may improve the party's chances of being able to work constructively with a National/Act/UF coalition government over the next term and beyond.

Meanwhile, NoMinister blogger Adolf Fiinkensein really owes me an organic lager for disagreeing with my pre-election pick that the Green Party wouldn't get near the 10% that pollsters and the media were tipping ;-)

The Greens vote doesn't tend to hold up on election day, perhaps because of apathy (ie. not voting), or a sense of reality when people get into the voting booth.

The Greens did gain 2 more MPs (still well short of their expectation of a good dozen), and have the prospect of gaining a third (Lecturer Dr Kennedy Graham) after the 200,000-odd special votes come in. The Greens do campaign hard overseas, and tend to pick up a larger-than-average share of the special votes.

The other main contender for an extra seat after special votes is Labour, with defeated West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O'Connor next on the party list.

The electorate tends to support National on the party vote, but O'Connor has previously survived by being a strong local MP, and putting local issues ahead of toeing the party line.

Labour's Hillin Cluck and Michael Cullen have both announced plans to step down from their leadership roles in the party, with a formal transition expected before Christmas.

Defence Minister Phil Goff is still being tipped as the most likely candidate to take over leader, especially after the relatively poor performance by the left's boy David Cunliffe in New Lynn, and his apparent expression of disinterest in the top job.

The Bill and Ben Party did very well for their first election campaign, gaining 0.51% of the party vote. That left them the 3rd highest polling party not to win a seat in Parliament, with only NZ First (4.21%) and the Kiwi Party (0.56%) polling higher.

Bill & Ben proved more popular than the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party (0.36%), Taito Philip Field's Pacific Party (0.33%), Destiny Church's Family Party (0.33%), and political veterans the Alliance (0.08%), Democrats for Social Credit (0.05%), and the Libertarianz (0.05%).

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Thursday, 6 November 2008

Bill and Ben planning to Party on Election Night

The Bill and Ben Party haven't had the highest of profiles this election campaign, but they have managed to attract over 5,000 supporters on Facebook (that's more than John Key and loads more than Aunty Helen!)

TV3's Campbell Live ran a good story tonight, following Pulp Sport's Bill and Ben on the campaign trail. They met up with John Key, and told him they are willing to consider a coalition with his party after Saturday night.

They acknowledge that many New Zealanders find elections and election coverage quite boring, so they have devised a special Election Night Drinking Game to spice up the big night in front of the telly.

It could be a messy night though... You have to take One drink if Helen Clark talks about trust, if John Campbell says "marvellous", if a reporter touches their earpiece, Duncan Garner pauses dramatically, the Maori Party are referred to as "kingmaker", or someone says "we're crossing live"...

Two drinks have to go down when they go live to Helen Clark's house, when a reporter is unaware they are live on air (that's always amusing!), John Key contradicts himself, or anyone says "too close to call".

Consuming is called for in situations like when John Campbell apologises for technical difficulties, or a politician cries (I'd put $10 on Judith Tizard, when she loses Auckland Central to Nikki Kaye ;-)

Blair Mulholland argues there is another good reason to vote Bill & Ben this election... Because they only have 2 people listed on the party list, gaining 5% of the vote would actually create an Underhang in Parliament, reducing the number of MPs! Yay!

The Bill and Ben Party need to get 0.5% of the party vote to get back their $1,000 election deposit. I'd say they're in with a good shot, and it would go to a good cause, with the guys are promising to put the grand "on a bar somewhere"...

* Campbell Live: Bill and Ben gear up for the election (Video)

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Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Ginger tipoff for Rodney's Yellow Jacket

The Electoral Commission this week told ACT leader Rodney Hide that his distinctive yellow jacket could breach Labour's 'Electoral Finance Act'.

The Commission says under the act, the jacket (which features the Act Party logo and the slogan "The guts to do what's right") could be classed as an election advertisement. They told Hide that his canary-yellow jacket needed an authorising statement to comply with the EFA.

The complaint is daft enough, as is the revelation that the complainant was 21 year old Andy Moore, a commerce student at Canterbury University, and chairman of the small but enthusiastic "Gingers for Justice" wing of the Act on Campus group.

The redhead denies he was being "colourist" with his complaint about the yellow jacket, but did it because he was "strongly opposed to the Electoral Finance Act, and just wanted to show how stupid it is".

Moore made the formal complaint to the Electoral Commission, pointing out that Hide wore the jacket in public in Newmarket. He included two photos of Hide wearing it along with a newspaper article.
Hide said was "embarrassed and pissed off at Moore". His tailor saw red over the drama, but has since made an addition to the $1,300 yellow jacket, with a new label which complies with the draconian law.

The Electoral Commission will make a final ruling on the complaint by early December, and says it will take the late authorisation statement into account.

However if it finds Hide committed an "illegal practice", the ACT leader could face a fine of $10,000, along with a $40,000 fine for the party's financial agent.

* NZ Herald: Act supporter canary jacket whistleblower

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Sunday, 2 November 2008

ACT has a message for potential Greenies

Along with the Maori Party, the Greens look like being the major beneficiaries of the protest vote against the Labour Party this election.

(I'd prefer those planning a "protest vote" to support the much more sensible The Bill And Ben Party, who have almost 5,000 supporters on their Facebook profile... That's a few thousand more than Labour Party hopeful Helen Clark!!)

But, despite what some commentators say, I don't believe the Greens will hit the 9-10% some opinion polls have given them. However if enough Green voters overcome their natural apathy, the party will probably still reach the 5% threshold it needs, with the lack of an electorate seat.

The ACT Party is saying what National Party supporters wish their MPs had the guts to say... That the crazy Emissions Trading Scheme should be consigned to the dustbin - where it belongs - not just subject to a minor rewrite like the dodgy Greenie-in-drag Nick Smith is planning.

ACT's latest tv advertisement asks New Zealanders whether they want a country where you can't choose the kind of lightbulb you can buy, how much water you can shower with, or how many children you can have. The party suggests being "Smart Green, not Watermelon Green"...

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Saturday, 1 November 2008

We need the "Phony Flier" stunt here in NZ!

You've got to hand it to the Americans... they're not slow when it comes to new ideas to help their candidates on the campaign trail.

My story of the week comes from Virginia, where a "phony flier" has been circulated, on official-looking-but-fake Commonwealth of Virginia stationery.

The flier informs voters that because of the high turnout expected in this year's US elections, Republicans and Democrats are being asked to vote on different days! ;-)

Due to the larger than expected voter turnout in this years [sic] electorial [sic] process, An [sic] emergency session of the General Assembly has adopted the following emergency regulations to ease the load on local electorial [sic] precincts and ensure a fair electorial [sic] process.

All Republican party supporters and independent voters supporting Republican candidates shall vote on November 4th as prescribed by law.

All Democratic party supporters and independent voters supporting Democratic candidates shall vote on November 5th as adopted by emergency regulation of the Virginia General Assembly.

We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause but felt this was the only way to ensure fairness to the complete electorial [sic] process.
Democratic Party critics are up in arms about the "stunt", and the matter is now under investigation by the Virginia State Police.

It got me wondering whether a similar campaign would work here? I reckon voters gullible enough to consider voting for the Green Party could be persuaded that the day of Sunday 9th November has been specifically set aside to take their votes this election...? ;-)

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