Thursday, September 18, 2008

this means nothing to me

Due to popular demand (ALL the voices in my head), more billboards:

Friday, September 12, 2008

you don't have to hide anymore

I've been having a bit o' fun on the National Billboard 2008 site, where you get to make your own contribution to National's election campaign advertising. Because I am completely shameless , here are my own contributions:

Your turn, chumps.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

all that distance reconciled

Amidst all the kerfuffle around Winston Peters' funding arrangements, I thought I'd ruminate on my preferred way of funding political parties.

Being a wishy-washy that socialist it behoves me to be reflexively attracted to the idea of taxpayer funding and disapproving of the possibility of elections being defacto bought by that malign club of dark, smoky businessmen with the largest cheque books. On the other hand I'm not too much in favour of parties being able just to vote themselves an amount of money, which seems to be somewhat a conflict of interest and an enticement to foul corruption. With that in mind, public donation to political parties seems to be a much better system, since funding will follow party support more closely in between elections, rather than being at the whims of the winners of the last election - as long as you have a way of weighting those donations those rich individuals do not have disproportionate power than their citizenship should imply.

And so, naturally, I suggest a compromise - try to combine the best of the two systems - remove the sluggard money-men from the temple of democracy, but make sure to replace it with a democratic alternative.

My proposal would be for each taxpayer (i.e. any single person - no companies - who has paid a positive amount of income tax in the financial year) would get the opportunity to allocate a fixed amount to their party or parties of choice. For arguments sake I'll say $10 per financial year. It doesn't sound a lot, but multiply that by the number of taxpayers involved and the money involved could be reasonably significant. And political parties would have an incentive every year to be on their best behaviour, otherwise it hits them in their campaign budget. And if you really wanted to twist the knife, you could have an option for taxpayers to vote their contribution back to the Treasury - or their favorite government department - as a vote of no confidence ...

I think it is important to make it a flat-rate amount of money that citizens get to donate, rather than some pro-rata arrangement based on your taxable income - it creates an equalising effect, one-man-one-vote style, and it makes sure that political parties aren't pandering just to rich voters for the sake of campaign finance (as opposed to pandering to rich voters because that's the philosophical basis of your politics). And obviously, you would have to ban donations to parties outside of this system, and bolster that with a rigouous, and public, accounting of all party spending. Which leads me to my next point ...

This proposal unfortunately does nothing to solve the really big issue the Labour's EFA was supposed to crack down on - third party campaigning; in fact it would probably only exacerbate the problem, as there would be a lot of special interest groups out there with great gouts of money they would otherwise be giving to National the mainstream political parties suddenly free to float it out to extremists single-issue groups with a greater degree of autonomy and anonimity.

... but I have no smart answers for that issue, and more's to the point, I can't be solving all your fucking problems for you, ya lazy bastards.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

his heart in every line

“Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offense in New Zealand?”

Ahh, the smacking debate. There's a good long rant in there somewhere, but it's late, so I'll just leave you with this:
Where's the age limit?

No, really. Where does the statute of limitations for my parent's ability to smack me run out if this wonderful slice of sadism passes in the referendum next year? 10? 15? 25? Fucking never? Can my Dad still give me a state-sanctioned wallop when I'm 35 and he's 72 if I piss him off*?

What idiot drafted such an open-ended referendum question anyway? And can I give him a smack for fucking it up so royally?

You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
How would the U.S. military fight a zombie army? - I know what you're thinking, and you're right. That is the best question ever asked.

*I should point out that my Dad seldom if every smacked any of us, and my Mum also worked out the error of her ways quite early ... though not early quite early enough for me not to develop a profound aversion to wooden spoons.

sitting in the dark

For comparison with the July 2008 results I posted last week - July 2005, again from TV3/TNS:

July Original Actual # Correct %
Labour 39 333.06 33.31%
National 39 333.06 33.31%
NZ First 7 59.78 5.98%
Green Party 6 51.24 5.12%
ACT 1.6 13.664 1.37%
United Future 1.4 11.956 1.20%
Maori Party 2.2 18.788 1.88%
Alliance 0.1 0.854 0.09%
Christian Heritage 0.4 3.416 0.34%
Progressive 0.4 3.416 0.34%
Destiny NZ 0.6 5.124 0.51%
All Others 2.3 19.642 1.96%
Base: 854
Don’t know/ undecided 12 120 12.00%
Would not vote 3 30 3.00%


The undecided vote seems to stay quite consistent at around the 11-12% mark at this point in the election cycle (cf the period directly after the election when it drops to 3 and 4%). The level of support for Labour is 3 points off now versus then; but National is up 8 points. They don't seem to be taking it off Labour, so where is the support coming from?

The answer seems to be that they are feeding off the parties to the right and to the centre - NZ First, Act, United Future, the Christian parties. They also seem to have picked up the people who last time around said they weren't going to vote (3% in 2005, 1.7% in 2008). The problem for National is that they cannibalising support partners, something that Labour doesn't seem to be doing to their left-of-centre partner, The Greens. But Labour's problem is that their voters seem more likely to just throw in the towel and stay home, versuses a seemingly fed-up right-wing. If the 2005/6 poll results can be trusted, it looks to me as though voters for NZ First believed that Winston would stick with National rather than Labour (the numbers dropped the month after election day by 2.2 points). While you can never trust NZ First to stay down after a rightous kicking, voters may have finally learned their lesson.

Friday, August 29, 2008

high above the golden calf

Well, after all that seriousness, let's wind-down with some funny posters. And since I haven't bagged religion for nigh on 15 minutes ... well, let's just say that there's a theme here ...

... and, because I'm an equal opportunity asshole ...

Now, I hasten to point out that none of these are my work, I've picked them up off various message boards and from For the weak of heart, or faint of stomach, or in fact anyone with more than a modicum of taste, I do not recommend a casual visit there. More than a few of the posters are unfunny, and roughly 98.7% of them are quite, quite offensive. You have been warned.

Finally, a cartoon for Apathy Jack:

panzers in poll-land

Nothing quite annoys me as the presentation of poll results in the media. Specifically, the dishonest presentation of the future make-up of parliament - complete with pretty graphical representations of all the seats in the debating chamber - by ignoring the sizable proportion of the public who have not yet made up their mind. The dishonesty is to my mind blatant and deliberate since no mainstream news source ever seems to mention the undecided when they report the latest poll results; to find out you have to try and find the original polling document. And even then you have to recalculate the numbers to find out the true support proportions.

Once you've done that, it becomes clear that National is nowhere near commanding a majority in the 2009 Parliament, unless you assume that either (a) all the undecideds are not going to vote, or (b) when they do come to vote they will all neatly fit into the patterns of those who have already made up their minds.

Below I've reinterpreted the July TV3/TNS poll. I can't speak to whether it is any better or worse than any other polling company, but they're the only company that I can find their full poll results from Scoop (unfortunately I can't yet find August 08 though).

July Original Actual#
Correct %
Labour 35 302.4 30.24%
National 48 414.72 41.47%
NZ First 4 34.56 3.46%
Green Party 7 60.48 6.05%
ACT 1 8.64 0.86%
United Future 0.3 2.592 0.26%
Maori Party 2 17.28 1.73%
Alliance -

Christian Heritage -

Progressive 0.2 1.728 0.17%
Destiny NZ -

All Others 2 17.28 1.73%
Base: 864

Don’t know/ undecided 11.9 119 11.90%
Would not vote 1.7 17 1.70%


I also ran the median support percentages across the Feb, April, May, July 08 polls and the numbers come up pretty close to the July results - Labour on 30.7%, National 42%, undecideds on 11.55%. It is where the undecideds will fall that will determine the election, or perhaps more importantly whether they go out to vote at all. My money is firmly on those undecideds being made up primarily of previous centre-left voters who have lost faith in Labour coalitions, but don't believe National offers anything better for them (except perhaps vague platitudes).

NB: On reflection, II should expand on the last point about turnout. I don't think it is safe to assume that the people who are undecided are necessarily more likely to not vote. There are a multitude of reasons why people don't vote: for instance, if it's raining on polling day, turnout will be down; ditto if there is a major rugby test. Heck, there are a great number of opinionated people out there who will give you there preference for Government, but won't actually get out of their chair to put there preference into practice (To illustrate, turn-out last year was 77%, but the proportion of undecided will not have been more than 10% the week before polling day); as long as National looks like a clear winner (because of the dodgy reporting on poll-results that are the subject of this post), I suspect the more that National supporters might be lulled into laziness in the belief that other voters will do their work for them. Nonetheless, my feeling is that Labour is the one that will be most damaged by low turnout.

Monday, October 08, 2007

despite your destination

Bad news from the news of Blogs - Span has decided to go offline. I'd like to think that she'll be back, brand-spanking and re-pseudonymed after a short and fruitful hiatus, but in the meantime we'll just have to make our own fun. You can in send those naked photos care of the usual address.

While we're waiting for those to come through, some faintly amusing pictures I stole of the web:

... probably more pertinent to America than here, but still ... yes, this is how the rest of us see christians and the constant whining about how us godless communists are destroying the world. And you know what? Since we stole all the scientists by seducing them with that brazen harlot "Evolution", we now secretly control all the doomsday devices. So shut the hell up or we're coming for you.

Right after we deal with the Scientologists.

Mmmm, zombies ...

... I really, really want someone to make this movie.

You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
Does smoking organically grown tobacco lower the chance of lung cancer? - okay, so before we go after the Scientologists, we'll be coming for the people who equate "natural" and "organic" with "good for you".
Going postal: Are employees of the United States Postal Service more likely to be violent towards coworkers?

I'm all about the Bad Science:
The trouble with herbals

Madeleine McCann, the Observer, and their special magic quantum DNA box (with secret energy source) - I don't know about anyone else but I'm getting seriously pissed off with sloppy journalists who foist the b-grade charlatans of pseudo-science onto the public. Quite frankly this guy with his fucked-up theories sounds like he needs a straitjacket, not public validation of his psychosis by hacks who don't give a rats ass about anything except selling papers.

No one – and I repeat, no one – has ever died for a flag. See, a flag … is just a piece of cloth. They may have died for freedom, which is also the freedom to burn the fucking flag, see. That's freedom. - Bill Hicks

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

put on your new face

From The Culture of Fear: Why Americans are afraid of the wrong things, by Barry Glassner. Excerpt from pages 30-31.
'The myth of Halloween bogeymen and bogeywomen might never have been exposed had not a sociologist named Joel Best become sufficiently leery that he undertook an examination of every reported incident since 1958. Best, currently a professor at the University of Southern Illinois, established in a scholarly article in 1985 that there has not been a single death or serious injury. He uncovered a few incidents where children recieved minor cuts from sharp objects in their candy bags, but the vast majority of reports turned out to be old-fashioned hoaxes, sometimes enacted by young pranksters, other times by parents hoping to make money in lawsuits or insurance scames.

Ironically, in the only two known cases where children apparently did die from poisoned Halloween candy, the myth of the anonymous, sadistic stranger was used to cover up the real crime. In the first incident family members sprinkled heroin on a five-year-old's Halloween candy im hopes of fooling the police about the cause of the child's death. Actually, the boys had found and eaten heroin in his uncle's home. In the second incident a biy died after eating cyanide-poisoned candy on Halloween, but police determined that his father had spiked the candy to collect insurance money. Bill Ellis, a professor of English at Penn State University, as commented that both of these incidents, reported in the press at first as stranger murders, "reinforced the moral of having parents examine treats - ironically, because in both cases family members were responsible for their children's deaths!"

Yet if anonymous Halloween sadists were fictitious creatures, they were useful diversions from some truly frightening realities, such as the fact that far more children are seriously injured and killed by family members than by strangers. Halloween sadists also served in news stories as evidence that particular social trends were having ill effects on the populace. A psychiatrist quoted in the New York Times article held that Halloween sadism was a by-product of "the permissiveness in today's society." The candy poisoner him - or herself was not directly to blame, the doctor suggested. The real villains were elsewhere. "The people who gave harmful treats to children see criminals and students in campus riots getting away with things," the Times article quoted him, "so they think they can get away with it too."

In many of these articles the choice of hero also suggests that other social issues are surreptitously being discussed. At a time when divorce rates were high and rising, and women were leaving home in great numbers to take jobs, news stories heralded women who represented the antithesis of those trends - full-time housewives and employed moms who returned early from work to throw a safe trick-or-treat parties for their children and their children's friends in their homes or churches, or simply to escort their kids on their rounds and inspect their treats.'
You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
Does the average American student have less vocabulary today than in days gone by?

Screw the iPhone, I want one of these:
The Helio Ocean - I don't generally care that much about cellphones, but damn do I like the look of this one ...

God put [dinosaur fossils] here to test our faith!"... I think God put you here to test my faith, dude. - Bill Hicks

Monday, September 10, 2007

should have known I would consume

... property rates have always seemed like a bad idea to me. It's a tax that only falls on a subset of citizens within the council's area (e.g. I, as a renter, pay no council fees, except theoretically through my landlord - though how much my landlord can recover from me depends on the ups and downs of the rental market), it takes little or no account of income (so if your locked-in capital far exceeds your income, you have to liquidate your property and live somewhere else), and if you're a dyed-in-the-wool neo-con, it also ignores your actual usage of council resources.

For my money I'd prefer to abolish rates completely and swap them for a range of targeted usage fees (water, waste water - with appropriate caps or rebates so as to not disadvantage low-income families, development fees, etc) and an increase in income taxes. I haven't run the numbers, but I would expect that the extension of the revenue base would mean that the PAYE rates would not need to be too large to replace property rates income.

This still isn't a perfect solution by any means - once you centralise council revenue under the general income tax take, councils suddenly have lost most of their control over their own finances, and therefore their ability to fund projects of concern to their constituents (of course, some people might see this as an advantage - councils can also no longer indulge in the vanity projects they seem particularly enamoured of. **cough** stadiums **cough**). You also have to work out how to allocate the taxation revenue - as no longer can the money you receive be easily tied back to a geographical area as easy as it was when you were levying the tax on a property which is fixed in space.

What I'm Watching:
The Power of Nightmares, by Adam Curtis. All three chapters (each about an hour long, and 1Gb in size) can be downloaded from here. Bloody interesting, and the kicking-est-ass soundtrack ever (cf the soundtrack to John Carpenter's The Thing).

A great slice of geek legend over at Arstechnica - A History of the Amiga, parts
1, 2 & 3 (it's not finished yet, they've been teasing us by rolling out a new part every 1-2 weeks).

Articles that caught my eye lately:
Reality Bytes: Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked

First kiss can make or break a couple’s relationship - but hey, no pressure ...

Zango tries, fails to sue its way out from under the "spyware" label

Internet use 'can cause insomnia' - colour me surprised. So who should I be suing?

Printer health risk report triggers response from HP, researchers - no really. Who can I sue about this?

See Who's Editing Wikipedia - Diebold, the CIA, a Campaign

Scan This Guy's E-Passport and Watch Your System Crash - Nice. Reeeeal nice.

How do I get myself one of these?
The Great Tennessee Marijuana Cave - I just like secret caverns under houses, that's all. No other reason.

My favorite word today: Algorithm. I've no idea why.

They lie about marijuana. Tell you pot-smoking makes you unmotivated. Lie! When you're high, you can do everything you normally do just as well … you just realize that it's not worth the fucking effort. There is a difference.

Not all drugs are good. Some … are great. - Bill Hicks

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

there's battlelines being drawn

For the fans only: Two Halo 3 trailers. The first is a live action teaser called Halo 3: Arms Race, from Weta and the proposed director of the Halo movie, Neill Blomkamp. Personally, I think it looks right tasty. They have it looking the way it should - in that it looks pretty much exactly like Aliens.

The second clip is the first Halo 3 trailer from back in 2006. That music always puts a prickly chill through my scalp (especially when the trumpets and chorus come in at the end). By the seven gods I hope they release a soundtrack CD.

a bad desire

I want to return to the subject of my post on police car chase policy. For the advocates of unrestricted police action in pursuit of the bad guys there seems to be an unspoken assumption that once you have broken the law, anything that happens to you thereafter is a fair cop, no matter how disproportionate that consequence is to the original crime. And I understand that impulse.

There is a small, dark part of me chained up in the cloisters of my soul that lets loose a hearty cheer anytime a boyracer drives into the side of a bridge and bursts into a ripe ball of flame (I hasten to add - as long as no one else was hurt). But that's because deep down in the cockles of my heart, just like a lot of the population ... I'm a complete bastard. It certainly shouldn't excuse the phenomenon.

Nonetheless. As befits the dirty pinko liberal that I am, I think a society can be judged on how well it treats it's loathsome scum. And by that, I mean that we should not descend to the level of the criminals we revile by treating them as badly as they treat us*. And I am of the opinion that life is singularly precious - as an atheist I only get one of them, and it's safest to assume everyone else is the same (... in only having one life, not in the atheism. Heck, I wouldn't want you buggers joining our little club, you'd drive property prices down). And the bad guys only have one life too, and that fact has to be given some respect, even if they don't.

Now note I'm not delving into the death penalty here - that's a whole 'nother debate for another day, and one I find myself quite torn by. I'm purely just looking at the treatment of people prior to conviction.

Recently there was the case of a farmer who fired upon 3 would-be-thieves who had attempted to convert his farm bike in the middle of the night. As the thieves fled in a truck, the farmer fired at them, hitting one of them in the posterior. The police prosecuted him (as well as the thieves), but a jury refused to convict.

In in cases like this I wish that along with "guilty" and "not guilty" we had a third option of "you did something really damn stupid, and therefore are guilty of breaking the law, but we don't really want to punish you because we might do the same thing in your position" (I'm pretty sure if you gave it a latin name it would sound much, much cooler). Because, really, this guy was an idiot. He fired a gun at a fleeing truck, and could easily have killed one of the felons, or, with a particularly unlucky ricochet, just about anyone close by (admittedly this was a farm in the middle of nowhere ... but it could have killed him). And he was effectively shooting them in the back, which in the books I read whilst growing up constitutes Not Cricket and a Bad Show. And to top it off, he was shooting at them over a farm bike. Is a farm bike really worth a person's life? Heck, do you have any possessions that you would value more than the life of another human being?**

But on the other hand I can understand the guy being pissed off (if memory serves it was the umpteen time he'd be robbed), it being a rural area the police were unlikely to be much help, and heck, if I found 3 thieves on my property after dark I'd be shit scared and not thinking properly to boot. But I still think he did the wrong thing to fire the gun at them.

Now, it seems that police, or the attorney general agrees with me, hence the attempted prosecution of this farmer, and the investigation of another farmer who fired warning shots at some miscreants intent on taking his petrol. The general public, I would hazard a guess, are not so keen on seeing these guys given even a slap on the wrist. And the real shame of it all is that it seems that neither side of the equation is prepared to talk to each. Outside of the slackjawed crackpots scrawling venial letters to the editor there seems to be little debate on the merits of the use of deadly force by Joesph Public in the defense of property. Personally I have but one argument.

We're the Good Guys.

No, seriously, that's my argument.

Alright, I'll expand just a little.

In my world, the Good Guys don't shoot people in the back. They sacrifice their own lives to save civilians; they don't kill civilians, ever, even to get the bad guy, because no one is so bad that it's worth the death of innocents. Torture is not something entertained by a Good Guy. Bad Guys torture - that's how you tell who the Bad Guy is. They always give a second chance; they'll always do their best to get the bad guy back alive and in one piece to face trial by a jury of their peers - because a Good Guy knows he can gendarme, judge, jury or executioner, but not any of them at the same time. Because at the end of the day the Good Guys knows they are as flawed and corruptible as anyone else around them, and it's a constant contention within to do the right thing. If there is anything they are sure of, it is doubt the righteousness of their actions.

Also, the Good Guys are Ninjas.

You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
Is strength of will in fighting illness a factor in whether you live or die?
Are giant sci-fi bugs physically possible? -
yes, we'd all like both answers to "yes". However ....

I'm all about the Bad Science:
Bad Science kicks the Observer's ass about shoddy reporting on autism

Actually, I can't count either:
A transcript of a conversation between a customer and a Verizon rep over a phone bill

- Has to be read to be believed ...

* A raving conservative could agree that a society can be judged on how it treats it's loathsome scum - i.e. a good society would grind them underfoot or use them in lab experiments. And my dark-half heartily agrees.

** Dammit Apathy Jack, put your damn hand down.