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Saturday, January 31, 2009

SH20 - Waterview tunnel buried

Would NZTA just stop tunneling once they get to the Pt Chevalier interchange? Geo-technical problems might preclude a harbour bridge to Pt Chev. tunnel, but I am convinced that is the long term - and undisclosed - concept that underpins the move to take the motorway there rather than to the West, up Rosebank Rd.

It was the "Waterview connection" it was never the Avondale or Rosebank connection.

Now the new Transport Minister thinks that the expensive set of planned tunnels - coincidentally through Helen Clark's electorate - is too much. Three years ago the cost was going to be $1.15 billion.
If the government wants to dig tunnels they should start in town where links to the main railway station have been planned since the 1920s. Here's my updated version of a possible loop (Melbourne scenario):I walked down the Oakley Creek path last month - it runs from the intersection of Gt North and Blockhouse Bay Rd to the Pt Chev interchange. It was tranquil, there was bird life, even rabbits, there is a waterfall about halfway down. Unitec is on one side and parkland alongside Gt North Rd on the other. It would be a nasty impact to have a motorway above ground in that area.

Tolling scams

In other systems around the world - and previously in NZ - there is a toll booth where the toll charge is paid, usually in cash without the need to alight from the vehicle. As I understand it this does not exist on the new Puhoi-Orewa section of SH1. The motorist must pull over to a petrol station, walk inside, and pay at a terminal. From the toll website above:

Free-flow tolling does not use toll booths, instead motorists drive on the road with tolls automatically calculated as they pass beneath our toll point. You don't have to stop to pay or hunt for loose change on your journey.

That design is not to make it easier for the motorist, it is to maximise revenue and minimise the costs for the state tolling agency. They want the motorists to fly through so they can be pinged extra when they fail to pay within the three days. The ridiculous placement of the terminals is set up to discourage cash payments and induce motorists to set up an account. They should be accessible from a vehicle. What they have done is inconvenience motorists by deliberately making it more difficult to pay than it has to be.

So easy to drive through, but that saved few minutes will be taken up dicking around with the internet payment won't it. Far from the toll site's insinuation that looking for change is a hassle it is often the best way - the most practical and efficient way - to pay small one-off or irregular payments.

The tolling system makes it super-easy to go through, super-easy to forget to pay afterwards and then gets you super-stung:
If it was such a marvelous concept why not for parking meters? There are enough cameras in most shopping and CBD areas already. Just park anywhere - don't bother "hunting for loose change" - and the pay on the internet up to three days later. If you really want to be difficult and insist on paying in actual cash you can drive to an office somewhere and pay before you park. No? Exactly: people don't want to be forced into playing games with the council/transit/Wilson's or whoever, especially where the failure to remember the rules of the game results in fines and the ridiculous have of the "dishonour fee". It's $2 FFS - can't they have a few lanes off to the side where you just throw a $2 coin (or a combination of coins) into a machine from the car? It doesn't have to be manned.

Not everyone will be using it.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Gononomics 101.1

In July I profiled the self-appointed "Doctor" Gono, Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and his insane monetary policies:
To retain value and certainty people will switch to the Rand - despite the regulations the regime has against it. As noted in an earlier post, it is widely suspected that the RBZ has been looted by the regime.
He has sent in the police to arrest businessmen for failing to reduce their prices. On one occasion, he roamed the streets of Harare personally threatening shop owners.

Talk about your heavy hand of regulation.

It's taken six months since then but the regime has finally buckled in the face of reality and eased currency restrictions. BBC:
Zimbabweans will be allowed to conduct business in other currencies, alongside the Zimbabwe dollar, in an effort to stem the country's runaway inflation.The announcement was made by acting Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa.
BBC southern Africa correspondent Peter Biles says the Zimbabwean dollar has become a laughing stock. A Z$100 trillion note was recently introduced.
Until now only licensed businesses could accept foreign currencies, although it was common practice.

I noted at the time what a currency abandonment may mean:

A regime fails when it cannot pay the security forces' wages. Their loyalty suddenly changes. Since they are the instrument of oppression and power the regime relies on, when they fail to meet their salaries and they start going broke and their families go hungry that signals the critical threshold for unavoidable regime change. This has happened in Africa many times.

Why should Zimbabwe be any different?

If the rank and file demand to be paid in Rand - the show is over. At the moment it's the elite group that has maintained their standard of living through exchange rate rorts operated by the RBZ.

I note the main Frequently Asked Questions on the Zim police site are all related to how suppliers get paid, which is telling. It's when the cops don't get paid either that things will change.

RBZ website is down... unlike the inflation rate - now in the gonillions.

BBC again:
A Harare resident said even street vendors were refusing to accept Zimbabwean notes.
Last year, the Central Bank was forced to slash 10 zeros from the local unit in an effort to make the currency more manageable.
Correspondents say that although the local currency will still be printed, all prices will be set in US dollars, making the Zimbabwe dollar irrelevant.

And the troops and security forces - the lower ranks - will be paid in what? If they can't buy anything with Zim dollars they will demand Rand (or any other currency than the Zim dollar) and this will put even more pressure on the Zanu-PF government to find foreign currency.

Newsweek interviewed "Dr" Gono:

Q. In November you shut down Zimbabwe's stock exchange. Will you open it again?
A. The stockbrokers were creating a money supply that wasn't there. I printed Z$1.5 quadrillion, but the exchange was operating with Z$100 sextillion. So I said, "Who is doing my job?" Unless there is more discipline and honor, the exchange will stay closed. I can't be bothered. I don't know when it'll open. It's a free market, a business which must be allowed to succeed or fail.

Q.So will 2009 be a year of improvement or disaster?
A. It's got to be a good year. What keeps me bright and looking forward to every day is that it can't be any worse. And those who have studied the history of economies know that we are down, but that the only thing that can happen is we will move up. That is a certainty.

Q. Do you view your term as a success?
A. It's a mystery to many how I have survived. I am modestly credited with the survival strategy of my country. The issue is if you want to break Zimbabwe and want it to fall, just deal with one man. You deal with Gideon Gono.

All Africa:
The decision making body of the MDC, the National Council, is widely expected to agree in favour of joining a unity government, as outlined by Monday's SADC summit on Zimbabwe.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has reportedly agreed in principle to join the inclusive government, subject to the resolution of outstanding issues that he described as 'work in progress.' Negotiators from the three parties were expected to meet late Thursday to resolve some of these issues.

The coalition power-sharing scenario has been in limbo so long it's surprising the pole isn't covered in vines. Mugabe and his Zanu-PF network has played the MDC like a violin and kept them out of power through intimidation and murder during the elections and now through endless negotiations. If Mugabe and his henchmen - like "Dr" Gono - put as much thought and skill and effort into improving the economy as they have in destroying the MDC Zimbabwe would be in clover again.

'Tsvangirai could be asking himself, will these people throw away their 28 year-old culture of flouting the rule of law, of abusing human rights or disregarding the constitution,'

Basildon Peta, a Zimbabwean journalist based in South Africa, told us Tsvangirai said the three issues on which Mugabe had conceded ground were the appointments of provincial governors, national security legislation and passage of constitutional amendment 19, giving legal effect to the September 15 unity agreement. There are reports the appointments that have already been made of the Reserve Bank Governor and the Attorney General will be reversed, and then dealt with by the inclusive government after its formation.


Davos: Stimulate! Stimulate!

Turkey's state-run Anatolian news agency quoted Erdogan as saying to Peres: "When it comes to killing you know very well how to kill. I know very well how you killed children on the beaches."Sparks flying at Davos already.

Al Jazeera:
Peres told Erdogan during the heated panel discussion that he would have acted in the same manner if rockets had been falling on Istanbul.
Moderator David Ignatius, a Washington Post columnist, then told Erdogan that he had "only a minute" to respond to a lengthy monologue by Peres.
Erdogan said: "I find it very sad that people applaud what you said. There have been many people killed. And I think that it is very wrong and it is not humanitarian."
Ignatius twice attempted to finish the debate, saying, "We really do need to get people to dinner."
Erdogan then said: "Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. I don't think I will come back to Davos after this."
Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League and former Egyptian foreign minister, said Erdogan's action was understandable.
He said: "Mr Erdogan said what he wanted to say and then he left. That's all. He was right," adding that Israel "doesn't listen".

Davos - the World Economic Forum. They have that meeting every year in the alps and it's all very serious and let's solve the world's problems and so on. The biggest of which is the financial apocoleptic death spasm since Lehman Bros went arse up in September. And the dominos haven't stopped falling on Wall Street either. So I was amused to see the The Future of the Global Financial System; A Near-Term Outlook and Long-Term Scenarios report from the forum was co-chaired by the sacked now ex-"President of Global Banking, Securities and Wealth Management, Bank of America Merrill Lynch," (as described in the report) John A Thain, as described by Wikipedia:

the last chairman and chief executive officer of Merrill Lynch before its merger with Bank of America. Thain was designated to become president of global banking, securities, and wealth management at the newly combined company, but he resigned on January 22, 2009. Bank of America lost confidence in Thain after he failed to tell the bank about mounting losses at Merrill in late 2008. The Associated Press identified him as the best paid among the executives of the S&P 500 companies in 2007. On December 8, 2008, Thain gave up on pursuing a controversial bonus of $10 million from the compensation committee at Merrill.[2] Thain also decided to accelerate payments of bonus to employees at Merrill, giving out between $3 billion and $4 billion using money that appeared to come directly from the $15 billion Bank of America and Merrill Lynch had received from US government taxpayers (via the Troubled Assets Relief Program). Thain has additionally become infamous for spending $1.22 million in corporate funds to decorate his office, even as he was asking the government for a bailout of his troubled company.[3]

So fuck Mr Davros and his ilk. Obama's Treasury Secretary was on the New York Fed through all the mistakes too. They don't have any answers beyond the orthodox path they have followed thus far. The report.

Economic gloom hangs over Davos:

On the second day of the World Economic Forum in Davos, business and political leaders are turning their attention to financial regulation, trade and global security.
On Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund said global growth was set to fall to its slowest pace in six decades.
In a sharp downward revision of its November forecasts, the organisation said world growth was projected to fall in 2009 to "its lowest rate since World War II", reaching just 0.5 per cent.
The Chinese and Russian prime ministers also used their opening speeches at the Swiss ski resort to obliquely criticise the US for helping to precipitate the financial crisis.

Told off by the commies. The American web of crony capitalism has proven much weaker than the Eastern brands and they want it known they mean business. Wen Jiabao, the Chinese prime minister - perhaps with an eye to a nascent Yuan zone that they are trying to establish in East Asia - to that end sent a message that they are taking this forum seriously:

"Political leaders must be forward-looking. They should be responsible to the entire financial community as well as to their own countries and people".
China has sent one of its biggest-ever delegations to the forum, which some analysts interpreted as a sign of Beijing's desire to engage with the rest of the world in finding a way out of the crisis.

A battery of daleks.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, described the international economic crisis as the "perfect storm".
He said: "There is the notion of the 'perfect storm' when the natural elements come to a point and multiply their destructive capacity. This crisis looks exactly like this perfect storm."

How cherry.

Economic meltdown denial over now is it and where the hell is National (they do know they are the government right?)

IMF warning: It's going to get a lot worse
How much more the Reserve Bank cuts interest rates will depend on how much worse the world economy gets, Governor Alan Bollard says - and the International Monetary Fund is warning that it is set to get a whole lot worse. The IMF yesterday slashed its forecast for global growth this year to the weakest rate seen since World War II. It expects the advanced economies, which include most of New Zealand's major trading partners, to shrink by 2 per cent, and to claw back only half of that next year. And with growth in China and other developing countries expected to fall sharply, overall world growth is forecast to be a scant 0.5 per cent this year, rather than the 2.2 per cent the IMF expected just two months ago. The International Labour Organisation said that global unemployment and poverty are set for a dramatic increase in the coming year. The UN agency added that in a worst-case scenario, recorded unemployment could rise by more than 50 million from 2007 levels to 230 million, or 7.1 per cent of the world's labour force, by the end of this year. The IMF's downbeat view found agreement among the elite financiers and economic thinkers gathered at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Nouriel Roubini, professor of economics at New York University, said: "There is nowhere to hide. We have for the first time in decades a global synchronised recession. This is not your traditional minor recession."

“This is not your traditional minor recession” – okay so can we dump the denial that there is no economic meltdown now can we folks? Apparently not on Close Up, I just watched tonights promo and it’s about a cat that traveled a long distance to get home to its owners – incredible isn’t it, we face an economic catastrophe that has been growing for some time partly because of our total denial about a consumer culture of SUVs, plasma TVs and cosmetic surgery all paid for on credit cards from money borrowed from the developing world and partly because the entire banking industry in America formed Enron-esq financial structures in an unregulated greed cluster fuck that has collapsed, yet Close Up have as their main story tonight a cat who traveled a long distance. Add a property speculation bubble where middle class NZers pretended they weren’t and politicians too frightened to step in between the trough and the greedy little piggies with a capital gains tax and we get an equation that promises a ‘correction’, but you wouldn’t know that from the bullshit we are fed from the mainstream news media.

I remember debating with some of my right wing friends that a global economy focused myopically on growth was simply unsustainable, and that at some point we will run out of credit to keep buying stuff that we are consuming faster than can be replaced, their response was that I was a tree hugger who needs to accept that capitalism is never wrong and stop spoiling the gang bang, followed by a rousing USA! USA! USA! Well those right wingers are a wee bit quieter now, but I still see Governments focused only on trying to reboot the entire consumer credit cluster fuck by trying to goad NZers into spending more with credit cards already maxed out. How is this a strategy, well none of us are sure because National have been AWOL while the economy sinks. They assure us they haven’t been on holiday and Paula Bennett broke up a fight and John Key broke his arm and…………….and fucking nothing else. Look I know it’s terrifying National, but you’re kinda the Government now and promising big speeches and a conference NEXT MONTH doesn’t really telegraph the deep, deep, deep urgency required to tackle this. We are looking to double our unemployment rates within 18months, the social cost of that alone is going to be immense and I argue that the unemployment rate will be much higher as Australia goes through its own environmental and economic crises which will drive many NZers to flee back home, bloating our unemployment rates even higher.

Does slashing the interest rates help? We were one of the few Governments who had such high interest rates, won’t this move aimed at helping homeowners simply start a run on our currency as investors leave us, won’t that put pressure on our credit rating leading to a downgrade meaning that mountain of debt NZ has acquired will explode uncontrollably putting us on the slippery slope of Iceland? Bernard Hickey has little time for the move, he clearly points out 5 reasons why the cut was a bad idea and it seems National are simply trying to look after their electorate of well to do NZers who are now facing poverty for the first time in their lives with an interest rates cut will lower Mortgage repayments as those previously well to do NZers have to gear shift down in living standards. That’s neat for National to look after their lot, but there are a lot of other NZers hurting and that hurt is going to be reflected in a crime rate that will start to soar.

Bottom line is that we are fucked, fucked so bad we are still in denial how badly fucked we are, the entire game plan has to be reviewed, sustainability has to be the touchword in every industry and those skills will become more valued than any good we export, those skills will be the future and there has to be a paradigm shift in what we expect as standards of living and there has to be change in how we pursue those standards of living.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Media as corporate prostitution

Gordon Campbell proves once again why he is one of the best commentators in NZ, a recent column by him gives an eye opening reality check of mainstream news media…

Gordon Campbell asks whether TVNZ and TV3 should be tutoring the spin merchants
Should shepherds be in the business of selling the secrets of how they guard their flocks? I know, that’s an awkward and not particularly accurate analogy - but it was the one that came to mind when considering a two day conference called MediaBiz-09 due to be held at the Sky City Convention Centre in mid February. Here’s how the ads go :

“The nightly news - a friend or a foe to your organisation? At Media Biz 09 a stunning line-up of professionals will share the secrets of getting your message across positively, in all forms of the media. Media Biz 09 brings you Mark Sainsbury, Mike McRoberts, Kevin Milne, Fran O’Sullivan and the country’s top consumer affairs media law and communications experts.

…if the news media are giving coporates the opportunity (at over $2000 per person for the conference) to show them how to manipulate the willing news media into twisting negative stories about those corporates into positive stories, why should the rest of us trust anything those bastions of media tell us? Shouldn’t we be deeply concerned that the mainstream media are actively touting for influence in the news?


Initial reaction - as expected. Our dollar has tanked with the news that the Reserve Bank has slashed 1.5% points off the OCR - now at 3.5%.

Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard commented that “the news coming from our trading partners is very negative. The global economy is now in recession and the outlook for international growth has been marked down considerably since our December Monetary Policy Statement.

“Globally, there has been considerable policy stimulus put in place and we expect this to help bring about a recovery in growth over time. However, there remains huge uncertainty about the timing and strength of a recovery.

“The extent of the decline in global growth prospects and the ongoing uncertainty has played a large part in today’s decision. We now expect the impact on New Zealand of these developments to be greater than we did in December, as a result of a more negative outlook for the terms of trade and exports, and tighter credit conditions.

“Inflation pressures are abating. We have confidence that annual inflation will be comfortably inside the target band of 1 to 3 percent over the medium term.

“Given this backdrop it is appropriate to take the OCR to a more stimulatory position and to deliver this reduction quickly.

“Today’s decision brings the cumulative reduction in the OCR since July 2008 to 4.75 percentage points. Lower interest rates will have a positive impact on growth, alongside a lower exchange rate and fiscal stimulus, provided firms and households do not unnecessarily contract their spending.

“To ensure the response we are seeking, we expect financial institutions to play their part in the economic adjustment process by passing on lower wholesale interest rates to their customers. This will help New Zealand respond flexibly.

The banks failed to pass on the RBNZ's cuts last time. Gareth Morgan on RNZ predicted 4% mortgage rates by the end of the interest rate cutting round - sometime this year. I posted previously on how our Aussie-owned cartel of retail banks have not passed on the cuts and instead used the opportunity to increase their gross margins. Take Kiwibank - the best - 6.49% on 1yr fixed mortgage, before the last cut in early December, now 5.99% on their site. ASB 6.45%. They play this game whereby they cut a tiny bit in advance of an OCR announcement and pretend that they are ahead of what is going on rather than a laggard.

Dirty filthy secret spying piggies

Spied on since she was 10
You are never too young to be regarded as a potential subversive, a Security Intelligence Service file shows.
Maire Leadbeater, now 63 and a long-time activist on peace issues, was an early target because of her Christchurch parents, Elsie and Jack Locke, who were prominent members of the New Zealand Communist Party and community activists. Elsie Locke left the Communist Party in 1956 when the Soviet Union invaded Hungary, but her husband stayed. One of Leadbeater's siblings is Green MP Keith Locke, a former Trotskyist and member of the Socialist Action League who has also received his SIS file. Leadbeater's file, which she received late last year, begins when she was 10, with a note that she delivered the Communist Party newspaper, the People's Voice, to the mother of twins in Bangor St, in central Christchurch. The next item refers to her membership of a junior drama group that the file says was connected with the William Morris (a Fabian socialist) Group, regarded by the SIS as a front for the Communist Party. Elsie Locke performed in the group. The file continues to track Leadbeater's life, although the SIS lost track of her when she married and took her husband's name. "They lost me for about 13 years," she said. Her file, like most of the others released, contains material from private meetings.

Dirty and filthy isn’t it, spying on children as young as 10 years of age in our own dear little NZ? One would hope that our security intelligence forces have become a lot more mature and less paranoid, but when you look at the Urewera 17 fiasco where an utter over kill by Police blew any credibility they had at identifying a possible threat posed by dungeons and dragons enthusiasts practicing with semi-automatics and the absolute disgraceful way Ahmed Zaoui was framed by the SIS when they knew he was innocent (can you believe we took the word of the French who instigated the coup against Zaoui that he was a terrorist when the French are the only country to have carried out a terrorist attack on NZ soil), and let's not forget the disgusting way Police have been handling their latest nark (payment in cash or drugs or both) to find out about the sex lives of activists, when boiled down one can only find a secret Police intelligence force devoid of any intelligence.

John Key to create billions in offshore revenue by auctioning off arm cast

PM plans to auction his cast for charity
Prime Minister John Key will auction the cast on his broken right arm to raise money for a charity for the blind in the Solomon Islands.
Mr Key told members of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomons yesterday that he would put the cast, signed by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, up for sale on Trade Me. He would ask wife Bronagh to make a bid of "$1000 bucks or so" to kickstart the auction. Mr Key broke his arm when he fell leaving a stage at a Chinese New Year function in Auckland this month. The cast comes off in two weeks and has been signed by other leaders as well as Mr Rudd. Mr Key said it was suggested he should sell it to raise money for a local charity by the Kiwi police contingent in the Solomons. The broken arm has sparked headlines around the world, including one in a British newspaper that read: "NZ Prime Minister gets plastered."

Unless Mr Key intends to make about $10 billion from selling his arm cast, could the Hawaii Kid please get back to fixing the god damned economy?

Capitalism goes pop

World economy 'may lose 51 million jobs'
Up to 51 million jobs worldwide could disappear by the end of this year as a result of the economic slowdown that has turned into a global employment crisis, the International Labour Organisation says.
The ILO said that under its most optimistic scenario, this year would finish with 18 million more unemployed people than at the end of 2007, with a global unemployment rate of 6.1. More realistically, it said 30 million more people could lose their jobs if financial turmoil persists through 2009, pushing up the world's unemployment to 6.5 percent, compared to 6.0 percent in 2008 and 5.7 percent in 2007. In the worst-case economic scenario, the Global Employment Trends report said 51 million more jobs could be lost by the end of this year, creating a 7.1 percent global unemployment rate. "If the recession deepens in 2009, as many forecasters expect, the global jobs crisis will worsen sharply," it said. "We can expect that for many of those who manage to keep a job, earnings and other conditions of employment will deteriorate."

Who woulda thunk that a global economy based on Enron-esq financial house of cards structures where debt was wrapped up and sold to allow easy cheap credit from the developing world to feed first world credit card tastes of SUVs, plasma TVs and cosmetic surgery wouldn’t be sustainable. We have been in denial about the pop and we are still in denial, at some point people will have to accept that we are in a massive and dramatic decline and only then will there be a real examination of unsustainable capitalism. Humans really have to feel pain before being motivated to change their consumer habits.

(In)Fanterror milk scandal

The melamine minutes
Fonterra says it has minutes from phone calls with SanLu that prove it told the Chinese dairy company the only acceptable level of melamine in its products was zero.
"The ongoing handling of this crisis was phone call after phone call after phone call," chief executive Andrew Ferrier said. "And we kept minutes of all these phone calls." However, the cooperative would not make the minutes public while there was a possibility that SanLu chairwoman Tian Wenhua might appeal against her life sentence. Fonterra owned 43 per cent of SanLu the Chinese dairy company at the heart of the melamine-in-milk scandal that resulted in the deaths of six Chinese infants. Tian was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Chinese court last week while two of the owners of independent milk collection stations that put the melamine into the milk received death sentences. During the trial it was revealed that one of the Fonterra directors on SanLu's board gave Tian a document stating the European Union's permitted levels of melamine in food.

I don’t think for one second that Fonterra intentionally suggested that SanLu try and hide the melamine, but what I do think is that SanLu desperately reached out to use an EU report that suggested adult exposure to melamine was acceptable up to 20mg/kg indicates how pathetic Fonterra’s management relationship with the SanLu board was. Fonterra’s incompetence and greedy hope to tap into China’s massive market long term led to Fonterra ending up being SanLu’s bitch, they blew $200 million and poisoned 300 000 babies (killing half a dozen in the process). Hardly a sterling example of international partnership and good economic management. Fonterra’s incompetence at managing the relationship is the damning problem and their fear at annoying China during the Olympics exacerbated that management incompetence.

Farmers not happy

Unemployment could exceed 7pc
New Zealand's unemployment rate could skyrocket past 7 percent as the world recession bites, with little the Reserve Bank can do this morning to mitigate the distress that households will face.
Kiwis will be increasingly at the mercy of an economic whirlwind this year that has severely damaged Northern Hemisphere countries despite central bank rate cuts there. The wider economy yesterday took a $3.1 billion king hit through global dairy giant Fonterra's reduced forecast payout of $5.10 a kilogram of milksolids, well below last year's record payout of $7.90.

I’m picking that the unemployment rate is going to be much higher than 7% because it will be exacerbated by an influx of Kiwis from Australia as that country goes through its own an economic and environmental meltdown. Economically NZ is about to get pounded, my co-blogger has been pointing out that if we drop our interest rates any further then it could lead to a run on our currency as the global economy flees from our market, especially with the massive level of debt we are carrying this could be crippling and I think all the flag waving for an interest rates cut seems remarkably shortsighted. The impact of the reduced Dairy payout will have negative effects to the environment as Farmers increase the amount of cows on their farms trying to lift productivity, so the insidious damage dairy farming vomits out on the environment will actually become much more intense.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cast lead - burning phosphorus

This blog was one of the first to state that Israel was using phosphorus in Gaza and to reject the notion that the IDF could use the excuses of technical exemptions for their use of chemical weapons in urban areas.Al Jazeera:

Al Jazeera has learnt that a total of 53 installations used by the United Nations Relief and Works agency, Unrwa, were damaged or destroyed during Israel's Gaza campaign including 37 schools - six of which are being used as emergency shelters - six health centres, and two warehouses.

White phosphorus - a high-incendiary substance that burns brightly and for long periods on contact with the air - is often used to produce smoke screens.

But it can also be used as a weapon producing extreme burns when it makes contact with human skin.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz has reported a brigade of paratroop reservists fired about 20 white phosphorus shells into the built-up area of Beit Lahiya on January 17, which landed in the UN-run compound where the two Palestinian children were killed and severe burns were inflicted on 14 other people.

Amnesty International, the London-based rights group, has accused Israel of war crimes over its use of the munitions in heavily populated areas.

Right into a school. A UN school. They knew exactly where the school was. The school containing hundreds of refugees from Israel's scorched earth policy in Gaza.

Police motorway shooting in Auckland

Bernard Hickey (of all people) reporting:

Last Friday afternoon I was driving my family on to the Auckland motorway junction from the Auckland CBD. My six-year-old daughter was in her child booster seat in the back seat, right behind my wife in the passenger seat next to me. We stopped at the traffic lights going on to the Southern Motorway just off Pitt Street.
It was a tight corner with just two lanes. Our car was stuck behind another car at the red lights and there was an empty lane beside us on the left. I heard police sirens and then looked in my rear vision mirror to see a grey Nissan Skyline barrelling down the road towards us followed by a stream of police cars. It had obviously been in an accident already. Its bonnet was pushed up and the driver looked like he could barely see past it.

That's right past the block where the Auckland Central Police Station is. FFS. They blocked off traffic - we can see that from TV3's pictures - and directed the offender down the streets they chose. Now he might have escaped that and headed into town, or the police directed him into the CBD - either way the handling of the pursuit is open to as much criticism as the hail of deadly police gunfire that ended it.

Fonteera accused of Sanlu cover-up

Convicted Sanlu boss blames Fonterra
The chairwoman of the Chinese dairy company that sold fatally contaminated infant milk formula says she acted on information supplied by Fonterra. Former Sanlu chairwoman Tian Wenhua, 66, sentenced last week to life in prison, says a Fonterra-appointed director gave her a document stating the European Union's permitted levels of the industrial chemical melamine. Fonterra chief executive Andrew Ferrier confirmed to the Herald yesterday that Tian had been given a document by a Fonterra board member. China's state news agency, Xinhua, has reported that Tian intends to appeal against her conviction for producing and selling false or substandard products. Three other company executives received 15, eight and five-year sentences respectively. Two men were sentenced to death. Xinhua said rather than stopping production of tainted products after the contamination was confirmed on August 1 last year, Sanlu decided to limit melamine levels to within 10mg for every kilogram of milk. "Tian said during her trial that she made the decision not to halt production of the tainted products because a board member, designated by New Zealand dairy product giant Fonterra that partly owned Sanlu Group, presented her a document saying a maximum of 20mg of melamine was allowed in every kg of milk in the European Union," Xinhua said. "She said she had trusted the document at that time." Mr Ferrier told the Herald a Fonterra representative had given Tian the document soon after the board was advised of the contamination on August 2.

Doesn’t this get more and more filthy, Fonteera hide the contamination during the Beijing Olympics and the story was only forced to the top when Helen Clark forced it out into the open, at no time did Fonteera take leadership on this issue and we now hear a claim that Fonteera advised Sanlu that the acceptable amount for an adult was 30mg of melamine per kilo and the actual amount found was 2563mg/kg. So Sanlu certainly followed the advice, the question was did Fonteera mean for that advice to be followed or was it given as a scramble of information once Fonteera understood the size of the issue and simply sent it as a package? There has to be an inquiry now.

Government seek to censor the internet

Govt rejects calls to alter internet law
Calls to repeal a law that could mean Kiwi internet users have their connections cut if they are accused of breaching copyright have been knocked back by the Government.
The new "guilt by accusation" law would result in internet service providers (ISPs) being forced to take on the role of gatekeeper by blocking online access to anyone accused of flouting copyright laws and illegally downloading films and music. Telecom, Vodafone and TelstraClear have spoken out against the law, joining calls by Internet NZ for the Government to repeal section 92A of the Copyright Act, due to come in on February 28. The law says ISPs must disconnect internet service to anyone "repeatedly accused" of accessing copyrighted material online. Communications and Information Technology Minister Steven Joyce acknowledged concerns about the law's implementation, but stopped short of saying it would be reviewed. "We will keep a close eye on how the new law works in practice. We are prepared to look at further changes if they prove necessary." Internet NZ executive director Keith Davidson said ISPs would play the role of "judge, jury and executioner", and the law would negate the assumption that users were innocent until proven guilty.

Well shutting down blogsites that copy news material is certainly one way of censoring criticism of any Government, especially when that ‘system’ only needs guilt by association, there is no way to counter accusations that you’ve used copyright material you just get cut off. Initially National were against this draconian law, but after being spoken to by the corporates pushing this law, National folded like gutless wonders and we will see this stupid piece of legislation added, expect the corporate news media to use this against bloggers as soon as it is passed into law, this isn’t just about ‘piracy’ of music or movies, this is a means to control information as well.

Solution to Truancy $3000 fine?

Minister orders action on truants
The Government is demanding urgent action on truancy amid revelations that officials have little or no idea how many thousands of children cut class each day.
Education Minister Anne Tolley is instructing staff in her ministry to survey schools immediately to gauge national truancy rates and brief her on the fight against non-attendance. Officials admit the latest national truancy figures up to 30,000 children each week are nearly three years old.

There are various reasons why truancy is on the increase, on the one hand schools are less safe, we had a report out at the end of last year that showed we are one of the most bullied school populations in the OECD and this adds with the schools trigger happy view towards suspending kids at the first sniff of trouble to protect their precious reputations. National’s kneejerk dog whistle solution to this problem was rammed through Parliament under their misuse of urgency in their first 2 weeks by shockingly pushing the truancy fines from $400 to $3000.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

nz blogosphere rankings : December 2008 summary - supplementary

nz blogosphere #1-19 in Alexa traffic graphs for mid October - now (27/01/2009).

Put a line down the election date, 8th November. The traffic builds across the blogosphere to that peak and suddenly drops - some blogs like the Hive and Policy.net.nz ceased operation shortly after the election. The holidays are a seasonal lull - some in the #15-19 group flat-lining in Alexa terms: c.200 (or less) unique visits per day.


NZ Unemployment to hit 10%?

Currently we are looking to double our unemployment rate within 18months, the social impact of that alone is enough to keep you up at night, but I suspect the unemployment rate may be well over that when you consider so many of those NZers who have moved to Australia during the boom will be looking to flee back to NZ during the bust as Australia’s goldmine of digging anything out of the ground for China to melt ends abruptly. That desire to return for many NZers in such unstable times will be replayed globally as we face up to the reality that the banking community took Enron accounting to a new level of corporate greed and a first world consumer culture of SUVs, plasma TVs, cosmetic surgery and 3 rental properties all paid for on credit from the developing world may not have been the most stable of economic plans.

A flood of expats might offset a property collapse, but they may also swell unemployment to much higher levels as well.

Pandora's box

NZ Herald reporting that the cops just don't get it and will never admit they were wrong or did a poor job:

One of the group, who did not want to be identified, said it wasn't initially obvious that the woman was a police officer. All they could see was a naked man bent over a screaming woman, leading them to think she was being raped.

As they got closer they saw the woman was actually being punched in the face. The witness said the teen hit the policewoman about 60 times.

"She had her arms up, trying to deflect his punches and protect her face."

How about grabbing hold of him and preventing that occurring? He's a "skinny" 16 year old remember.

While one of the friends rang 111, another ran towards the woman and yelled at the teen. "He wasn't phased, he just kept belting her. I suppose he was in panic mode.

"It was just a torrent of punches, it was unbelievable."

When the group member got close, the teen ran off.

One person approaching (after witnessing 60 blows!) causes him to run off. Maybe he was tired after bashing her for two minutes?

He made a mess of her. When she did get to her feet her face was all [covered in] blood. She was staggering and falling."

Police, who had heard their injured colleague's screams over the radio but didn't know exactly where she was until the witness called 111, were on the scene about a minute later.

So with all of her screaming and shouting she never gave her location!? Two minutes worth and she never said : "I'm in the park off Pandora"? It took the witness to give the location.

The policewoman, who suffered scratching to the cornea of her eyes and substantial bruising, and her partner had turned up to the teen's house after he allegedly robbed a dairy twice in six minutes. The teen, who had been in the shower, ran off wearing only a towel.

He was chased by the officers, who split up as they ran. When the policewoman tried to stop him he allegedly started attacking her.

The witness said the policewoman, who is believed to have only been in the job a few months, was incredibly brave and hoped the severe beating wouldn't deter her from pursuing a long career with the police.

"She's got balls, she's got the makings of a bloody fine officer."

No, no, no - epic fail, lady, epic fail. Only the police! She's off to the most shocking start - I'm sure it's a nasty experience, but she should quit given the descriptions of what happened. She can't hack it. It's pretty obvious... unless you are a police spokesperson.

The policewoman was discharged from hospital and was yesterday visited at home by Police Commissioner Howard Broad. She is not expected to suffer any permanent injury. One of the police officers who came to the policewoman's aid was stung by bees.

Stung by bees. FFS. This is a farce.

A commenter, upset that my co-blogger was giving the cops a hard time over the shooting of innocents in the motorway incident on Friday (he was not - he let them off lightly, we are yet to ascertain all the facts), has directed me to this NZ Herald report (in the image):
They then received a tipoff about where he was. When the officer and a male colleague arrived at his house, the boy was in the shower. He fled wearing only a towel.

They chased him, splitting up as they ran.

When the policewoman tried to stop the teen, he whacked her many times in the face.

She suffered severe injuries, including to her eyes.

Police communications staff heard her screaming over the police radio for about two minutes as she was being pummelled.

Put the fucking RT down and control the offender. FFS. Comms doesn't need a blow-by-blow account - hit him with the bloody radio if you're going to use the radio.

Some 16 year olds are quite big (see below), but if a police officer can't get the better of a 16 year old, dressed only in a towel, then they should not be a police officer. It doesn't matter if they are female or male, if a 16 year old can "pummel" a police officer for two minutes - no mention of a weapon here let's be clear - then that person should not be a police officer.

Three people nearby also heard her. "She was yelling, 'Please don't hit me... please help'," one said.

"The guy was straddling her, just beating her face - left, right, left, right."

After yelling at the boy to stop, one of the three advanced on him. He fled.

FFS. This person is a police officer?

Weak cops, as my co-blogger has said before, are more likely to resort to weapons because they are not physically equipped to deal with violent offenders - thus more shootings and taserings and pepper sprayings etc. It sounds as though the police officer could have used something in this incident - other than a radio, though if you can get overwhelmed by a 16 year old you would probably have your weapon taken off you by them as well. But cops don't make mistakes, or get it wrong:

Senior Sergeant Millie Whear said the officer was incredibly brave for holding on to the attacker while she was being hit.

"Brave"!? All cops are brave according to the Police. Ahh, no, "holding on" - if indeed that is what she did - probably caused her injuries. Was it brave? Did he want to hit her or attack her eyes for the hell of it - no, he wanted to escape most likely. She failed to control the offender effectively. He escaped. This police officer didn't achieve anything by "holding on" - if indeed that is what she did - because he ran off:

Police dogs caught the boy, who was by then naked, in a property neighbouring a reserve at the end of Pandora Place.

So she managed to "hold on" to his towel perhaps.

In the process I suppose he must have gouged at her eyes, the little bastard. It is serious and it sounds like a horrific injury so I am reluctant to criticise too harshly what happened, but it does raise issues of who they recruit into the police. Is this just a female thing - no - there are very short (shorter than me!) police officers, male and female, whose physical stature is on the lesser side of average. In the old days they were all 6 foot + cavemen. Not so now days:

She was very grateful for the public's help in stopping the attack. One of those who ended the bashing said the officer "would have been a lot worse off if the fight had lasted longer".

Fight? Sounds like she got the bash more than any fight. Is it right to send out police officers who cannot take down a 16 year old - a skinny one - in a one-on-one?

Ms Cohen said she was surprised by the injuries the attacker inflicted, considering he was "a skinny guy. He must have been an angry young man."

Gross tonnage

There's a glimmer of light for NZ. Shipping costs are likely to remain low. The Ports of Auckland cut a big channel down the shipping lane to cope with this new class of monstrous, ugly (that image is the best angle possible) vessel. 366 metres long. Wall Street Journal on the future of "ultra-large" container shipping:

With overcapacity and a drop in trade, the bottom recently fell out on shipping rates. The rate for shipping a container from Asia to Europe, the world's busiest trade lane, has fallen to around $300, one-tenth the cost of a year ago, even as some shippers cancel regular runs. Some ships have gone so far as to take containers free. The only cost to the shipper is roughly $500 in fuel and transit fees, which are assessed on all containers.

That's an astounding drop. How much was oil price a factor?

According to the most recent data available, the U.S., Japan, China and the European Union all suffered 10% declines in exports in November, auguring a bitter 2009 for global trade. Yet shipping companies aren't expected to cancel any orders for new ships, allowing the global fleet to increase by over 12% -- way ahead of expected demand.

The big guys are going to force all the smaller ones out by their super-fleets of ultra-large container ships charging ultra-cheap rates. Once they are all eliminated the cartel will start.

Two European billionaires are leading the move to supersize ships. Gianluigi Aponte, owner of Geneva-based Mediterranean Shipping, has ordered 48 ultralarge vessels, including the Daniela. . His strategy is to gain market share by building bigger ships and aggressively recruiting customers, said people familiar with the company. MSC is the second-largest container shipper in the world, with 450 vessels, behind Denmark's A.P. Moeller-Maersk, with 500 ships.

Mr. Aponte's rival is Jacques Saadé, the 71-year-old founder and director of Marseille-based CMA-CGM, which has ordered 37 ultralarge ships. The two tycoons, who've been battling each other since the 1970s, study each other's moves like chess players. "We're not shrinking anything in our organization," Mr. Saadé said in a rare interview. "If we need to, we'll order more big ships, for economies [of scale]."

Shipping Times:
The biggest containership ever classed by Germanischer Lloyd (GL) was delivered in mid-December at Samsung Heavy Industry Shipyard in Geoje, Korea. The newbuilding named MSC DANIELA has a capacity of 13,800 TEU, a length of 366 metres and a width of 51,2 metres.
- Containerinfo.

[Quick calculation: deck space is about 1.7 hectares (4 acres).]

National scream “More of the same please” while NZ gasps at their unblinking creation of more slum lords

National eyes land to ease home crisis
Plans to urge councils to free up land for development should ease the housing affordability crisis, the Government says.
A survey published yesterday shows New Zealand is the second most expensive of six selected "housing bubble" countries in which to buy a house, just behind Australia with median prices 5.7 times the average national income. Housing Minister Phil Heatley said yesterday that the Government planned initiatives to make home ownership more affordable, including:
Working with councils to remove planning restrictions on Maori-owned land for housing developments.
Ensuring councils planned for a "forward supply" of suitable land zoned for new housing.
Boosting the Housing Innovation Fund which provides money for community housing providers to $20 million.
Introducing a "Gateway" housing project, which would provide first homeowners the use of a ready-to-build leased section. They would later have the first option to buy the land at its original capital value, plus 3 per cent for every year they lived on it.

Wow. Wow. Wow. Incredible huh, our property prices aren’t the problem of middle class speculators who all wanted to get rich quick in an overheated market with no capital gains tax in a banking environment where the banks were throwing cheap cash around to everyone with a pulse (and that entire cheap credit bubble has imploded) has nothing to do with our house prices being high, oh no, apparently Councils haven’t raped enough greenbelt land and National are going to throw out any rules that force land developers into being more humane and not the running hyenas of capitalism they usually are. Won‘t this new environment just help out property developers and the eventual slum lords they’ll end up selling these properties to, indeed won’t this just aid in the creation of more slum lords, because 'cheap' or not, what bank will lend by the end of the year with less than a 20% deposit? How many first home buyers have $70 000 for their deposit? This is a wet band-aid at best.

Monday, January 26, 2009

NZD :(

It was about ten to midnight and I got this odd feeling as I was going through the rss feeds. Just reading the snippets of news and blogs and so on. Then I came across this from Roar Prawn about bad agricultural news (esp. Fonterra as turns out). And I felt compelled, before I had read it to go straight to the exchange rate because I had this odd feeling.The US dollar and the Yen were all spiking down seriously in the last few hours. We have an interest rate announcement from the Reserve bank on Thursday, so it may be factoring in a big rate cut, or it may be reaction to the nation's bad economic outlooks. We are vulnerable at this point structurally, balance of payments-wise (we have been for some time), and we seem to have been kept afloat in large part because our big trading partners, Australia and China, have not gone into recession... yet. the Economist is all gloom.

Prices are collapsing as demand contracts in wake of the credit implosion which was created by the banks when they had to own-up to not having any money. Which was incredibly embarrassing for all involved and resulted in the partial loss of some executive bonuses not already paid out, the complete destruction of orthodox market theory as they knew it, cataclysmic economic and monetary realignments and the continued popularity of self-help books.
*** DON'T PANIC ***
[end Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy narration].

Maybe we just had another credit downgrade?

Reading the article from agridata I copy and paste a graph of the falling wool price from their site - a reflection of the other falling commodity prices affecting producers other than Fonterra shareholders. Earlier in the week from an NBR story:

We share the economic stresses of the world with the notable exception that our major retail banks have weathered the crisis so far. I note Slate saying today that "Washington Post leads with word that Congress is likely to give the Federal Reserve broad new powers so that it can regulate the nation's entire financial system. The move would allow the Fed to demand information from a wide range of companies to make sure no one is taking on excessive risk that could imperil the financial system." I've posted before on my suspicion that many of these last minute mergers in the finance sector were dodgy:

I suspect that some mergers occuring recently may have been methods of disguising both firms' bad books - it buys them some breathing space, it means they can reward each other with bonuses for a successful merger, and they have a better argument that they are a salvageable pillar like AIG, rather than an expendable side-show like Lehman Bros. when it comes to the Treasury Secretary's cheque book - and I'm talking about the UK here too.

Economist reporting on Bank of America's deal to buy Merrill Lynch. Heads are now rolling as the problems are revealed.

Dim Post has a graph of the baseless capitalisations of some of the the world's big banks.

Bolivarian constitution

The new constitution has been approved by about 59% according to early accounts. There is great expectation that this will change the lot of the poor indigenous population.
I love Google's English translation of this editorial from a government portal linked media outlet:

The hope and optimism should be the north of all Bolivians, feelings that can be expressed on this day dedicated to the millennium of Man desire to achieve abundance, prosperity and happiness, through the traditional festival andalusia Aymara god called Ekeko, "which was officially opened on January 24 of each year in the city of La Paz.
The legend was founded during the prolonged siege that was the city of La Paz in 1781, of Tupac Katari, scarce food, they were replaced by horse meat of mules and donkeys, in addition to boil leather straps were in the mule and elsewhere.
So, it is said, was a small man, looking pudgy and cheerful, in Spanish and indigenous features, which began distributing food to the people, relieving, thus extending the hunger in this capital.
No doubt a legend, which also has an Aymara tradition and represents the god of fertility, but that is rooted in the conscience and tradition of Bolivians, especially the paceños, the prevailing belief, which moves in the acquisition of thumbnails you want to own property, they are "challadas" on behalf of the god symbolic. An anthropologist noted [...]

On the eve of the constitutional referendum, make for an examination of conscience, with our vote, guaranteeing the future of our country.

A resurgent tradition. Bolivia: The whites in the East don't like the indigenous revival because it is, as Morales has said, the end of colonisation. Their feudal land holdings the Spanish colonists built up (Indians not getting the vote until 1952) have been exempted from the new law established by the referendum (max. individual land holdings), and more autonomy for their regions means it is not the end of the world for the remnants of empire. Bolivia however does have a history of being scythed off to its neighbours, so the independence of the Eastern portion (where the neighbouring Brazilians have interests in the gas fields) is not unthinkable. Acre split off from Bolivia and was annexed by Brazil early last century.El Diario
"The present constitution was born under the principles of the Bolivarian Constitution of 1826, from there, the rule was at least 17 amendments, most of all, not substance. The rule will be considered by the Bolivians on Sunday is completely different in form and content, "said Antezana.
But in 1880 the Constitution was amended several times, but without changing the essence of the original Constitution of 1826 which was written by Simón Bolívar.
For the lawyer, throughout this process remains a tendency "semi-colonial, semi-feudal," which comes to the formation of the Constituent Assembly in 2006 where he discarded all previous constitutions and drafted a completely new look.

Land tenure is a big issue for colonial countries. Here is a description of the issue from La Razon:

The question on the ballot reads as follows:

Do you agree with the proposal for most of the Constituent Assembly to Article 398 of the draft Constitution of the State is read?. Prohibits latifundio and double qualification for being contrary to the collective interest and development of the country.

Latifundio means the holding of unproductive land, land that does not meet a social economic function, the land that applies an operation servitude or semi-slavery in the employment relationship or the property that exceeds the maximum zoned that exceeds the amount set by law. The maximum may not exceed 5[thousand] hectares, 10 [thousand]hectares.

The people elected by the choice of 5 [thousand] hectares.

The results issued by the network ATB were as follows.

Bolivia 100%
10 thousand hectares: 21.6%
5 [thousand] hectares: 78.4%

Other reports say the large land holdings already in existence are not affected by this. An attempt to break up the big estates. From Wikipedia:

There are also racial overtones to the autonomy movement, quasi-fascist groups such as the Nación Camba and the Unión Juvenil Cruceñista use violence and intimidation tactics against indigenous groups, using autonomy as a tool to subvert the elected government. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, also published a report on the situation in Santa Cruz following a visit in December 2007 and observed that the political climate had give rise to ‘manifestations of racism more suited to a colonial society than a modern democratic state’.
Four departments, Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Pando, announced in December 2007, shortly after the proposal of a new Bolivian constitution, that they would seek more autonomy and self-government. Santa Cruz and Beni called referendums on autonomy to be held on May 4, 2008 and June 1, 2008 respectively. However, the autonomy statutes which they have proposed have been declared illegal and unconstitutional by the National Electoral Court of Bolivia.
The racist elements of the autonomy movement came to the fore in the city of Sucre on May 24. Peasants from settlements outside Sucre came to the centre of the city to participate in a ceremony with President Morales. Instead they were accosted by an aggressive group of young people and marched to Sucre's central square. There they were made to strip to the waist and burn their ponchos, the flag of the MAS party and the wiphala (the flag of the Aymara). While they were doing this they were forced to shout anti-government slogans and were physically assaulted. Present in the square at the time were Jorge "Tuto" Quiroga, former president and leader of the opposition party Podemos, opposition Senator Oscar Ortiz and Prefect of Cochabamba, Manfred Reyes Villa. After these events the government declared it to be a "day of national shame".

Israel to hide and protect war criminals

Israel to protect troops from prosecution
International calls to investigate Israel over alleged war crimes in the Gaza Strip prompted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to promise military personnel state protection from foreign prosecution.
"The commanders and soldiers sent to Gaza should know they are safe from various tribunals and Israel will assist them on this front and defend them, just as they protected us with their bodies during the Gaza operation," Olmert said. Last week, the military censor ordered local and foreign media in Israel not to publish names of army commanders in the Gaza war and to blur their faces in photos and video for fear they could be identified and arrested while travelling abroad. Israeli media reports said the military had been advising its top brass to think twice about visiting Europe. Speaking at a weekly cabinet meeting, Olmert said Israel's justice minister would consult the country's top legal experts and find "answers to possible questions relating to the Israeli military's activities" during the 22-day war. Some 1,300 Palestinians, including at least 700 civilians, were killed, medical officials said, in the offensive Israel launched in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip with the declared aim of ending cross-border rocket attacks.

When the Vatican faced media attention over their child abusing Priests, the Vatican quickly hide as many as could be identified and secretly moved them around so no one could easily be prosecuted. Israel seems to be adopting a similar tactic, by hiding the identities of those involved in claims of war crimes Israel is trying to cover up its shameful incursion with blankets of legal suppression aimed at hiding the truth. The truth is that these claims of war crimes are quickly becoming identified now that the media are able to witness the utter destruction visited upon Gaza, should NZ hold any IDF members identifiable with war crimes in custody if visiting NZ?

Paula ‘Soprano’ Bennett (Herald on Sunday writes from the gutter)

PM expresses support for MP with gangster link
Prime Minister John Key has expressed "full confidence" in Social Development Minister Paula Bennett after it was revealed a violent street gang member was bailed to her house while he awaited trial. But a spokesman for Mr Key today said he had "full confidence" in Ms Bennett and ministers' and MPs' private lives should remain private. A spokesman for Ms Bennett said it was a "family issue". The man, Viliami Halaholo, has been jailed for causing grievous bodily harm, but his girlfriend - Bennett's 21-year-old daughter Ana - visits him once a fortnight in Mt Eden Prison. Their daughter Tiara-Lee is aged 2.

Ugh, what an ugly little rag the HOS is, remember that dreadful Carolyne Meng-Yee having the awfulness to ask Peter Davis if he liked having sex with Helen Clark? God how despicable to have your sex life asked about during an election that should have a media focused on asking what the fuck they intend to do if in power, not a media focused on how they fuck. How yucky, how trashy, how Herald on Sunday, the Sunday Newspaper you pick up after a sleazy night on the town and don’t want people seeing you reading at the café the next morning. Here we have an ‘exclusive’ where Paula Bennett is put on trial for her daughter having a relationship with a young guy whose been in trouble and Bennett having the compassion to put him up for a while. Is this really journalism? “Minister’s life with gang thug” screams the headline - WTF? Isn’t this just an example of how both political parties have fed the angry dogs of the electorate so much raw meat policy on law and order that the mere connection with that most despised cancerous tumour of society, da yuff gang, is enough to suddenly be the centre of attention with a “news” story from the HOS that sounds more like a late night Sensible Sentencing press release personally written by Garth McVicar after a couple of bottles of cheap sherry.

Da Yuff gang the “thug” was a member of was the “Thugs of Canal”, which sounds more like some sort of Venetian porn than organized crime, the HOS breathlessly informs us that the “TOC” reportedly has a “history of violence and intimidation, creating the risk inappropriate pressure could be brought to bear on the senior minister and her decisions”. Are you fucking kidding me, the TOC “reportedly” have a history of violence and intimidation and this yuff gang might threaten the Senior Minister Paula Bennett, isn’t “reportedly” journalistic euphemism for “anonymous bloke down pub told me”? This sounds more like a fantasy story dreamed up by the more royal blue bloods within the National hierarchy concerned someone of Bennett’s Westie class gets to be a Minister than any real security issue, didn’t we all see Paula kick some butt in her own neighbourhood last week, you think that woman would put up with some half-arsed yuff gang wannabee threaten her for one second? Pfft, there are questions the new Minister should be answering, but they sure as hell aren’t to do with who her daughter is in a relationship with by a sleazy news story aimed at capturing the media inspired loathing of da yuff gang cancer and injecting it via association into a Cabinet Minister. The questions Paula Bennett should be asked are what is Rodney Hides razor gang going to cut from welfare spending and has she been set up as a patsy to soft sell those deep welfare cuts? Who the Ministers Daughter dates pales within context of the real issues that confront the welfare issues of NZ, and it is those issues the media should be focused on asking.

Innocent man shot and killed by police

Motorway shooting officer 'should be tried'
Former police inspector Ross Meurant says the armed offenders squad member who fired the shot that killed teenage courier driver Halatau Naitoko should be tried before a court.
A 50-year-old man at the centre of Friday's police pursuit on Auckland's Northwestern Motorway will appear in Auckland District Court today. He was released from hospital yesterday and remains in police custody. The man will face numerous charges relating to incidents during the 40-minute chase through Auckland City and west Auckland suburbs. The pursuit ended when the offender, allegedly armed with a sawn-off .22 calibre Ruger rifle got out of his vehicle and apparently tried to get into others, including Mr Naitoko's, while allegedly firing shots at police. Mr Naitoko, 17, was shot dead by police as they fired at the man. Another man at the scene was also wounded.
Mr Meurant, a former MP, told Newstalk ZB he was particularly concerned about what he called the police public relations campaign which jumped into action in the aftermath of the tragedy. He claimed the Police Association moved into overdrive to protect police at the expense of upholding the law.

Oh come on, Greg O’Conner cheerleading for the Police??? I’m shocked, I’m horrified, I'm sarcastic, let’s get off the high horse, name one time – I dare you – name one time when O’Conner WASN’T cheerleading for anything cops get accused of, remember those cops caught on tape of beating the living crap out of Rawiri Falwasser in that Whakatane police station in 2006, remember that? The beating Rawiri Falwasser received in the police cell during his psychotic episode and the nearly 15 minutes of gassing Rawiri with pepper spray while other cops hung around watching and joking until they entered the cell with shields and battons and beat him with blows to the head. What was O’Conners response to that? To decry that the Police were even charged in the first place despite the beating clearly caught on tape – so let’s not put too much mock surprise that the Police are ultra-anal-defensive, name one time that they haven’t been ultra-anal-defensive.

This tragic loss of life that has seen an innocent young dad killed has one silver lining and that is that NZers can have a real faith that the utmost scrutiny will be cast over this episode to see where responsibility lies because of the advance and creation of an actually Independent Police Complaints Authority and that the findings will not hide any evidence of any mistakes made.

What do I think about the tragic loss of life by a Police bullet? The NZ philosophy towards Policing has always been to contain a situation and then attempt to negotiate leaving the use of lethal force as a last resort. In this case we had a bloke who was being chased by cops who then opens fire on the police, at that moment the seriousness jumps to critical and the options left open to the Police are suddenly diminished by that seriousness, if someone is prepared to shoot at cops, they are prepared to do anything and as such pose an immense and immediate risk to the public. The tactic to create a moving bloke was the right one to do in an attempt to contain the situation and hopefully negotiate a way out of it.

I think an exacerbating factor in this was the fact that this bloke, while in Police pursuit, does a victory lap for Christ’s sake of the Auckland Central Police Headquarters, he’s sending a message to the cops which is suggesting that the escalation potential here is immense, and escalate it does. With the motorway blocked ahead of him and behind him, the offender clicks the other side of the motorway hasn’t been contained yet and does a runner in an attempt to hijack another vehicle and endanger another member of the public, it is only when the offender is aiming the gun at Truck driver Richard Neville that the Armed defenders squad are suddenly confronted with an armed offender who has been shooting at them now pointing his gun at a member of the public, in that moment they decide they have no option but to act immediately and in the fluid rapidness of real time actions, Halatau Naitoko tragically drives into the line of fire behind the target and is shot dead.

In such a situation, I find the Police action was not only responsible but the right one to make in a real time crises, and that this tragedy really does extends to everyone involved, the Police ultra-anal-defensive reaction with themselves held on par with the victims family of course is just the usual, ‘He ain’t self-defensively paranoid, he’s my brother’ style of NZ Policing we’ve all become tediously accustomed to.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Rwanda-Congo border: Seigneur de la Guerre arrested "without a shot"

Pictured with his girlfriend at a military review of one of his child battalions.

NY Times reports the notorious warlord in Congo has been taken into Rwandan custody:

The surprise arrest could be a major turning point for Congo, which has been mired in rebellion and bloodshed for much of the past decade. It instantly strengthens the hand of the Congolese government, militarily and politically, right when the government seemed about to implode. But it could also empower other, even more brutal rebel figures like Jean Bosco Ntaganda, General Nkunda’s former chief of staff, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for war crimes.

Still, analysts and politicians say they hope that General Nkunda’s capture at the hands of Rwanda means that the proxy war between Rwanda and Congo is finally drawing to a close.

A United Nations report in December accused high-ranking Rwandan officials of sending money and troops to General Nkunda, a fellow Tutsi who claimed to be protecting Congolese Tutsi from marauding Hutu militias. This cross-border enmity has been widely blamed for much of the turmoil, destruction, killing and raping that has vexed Congo for years.

John Prendergast, a founder of the Washington-based Enough Project, which campaigns against genocide, called it a “massive turn of events. [...] Finally the two countries are cooperating,” he said.

Kikaya bin Karubi, a member of Congo’s Parliament, said General Nkunda’s arrest “could be the beginning of the end of all the misery. [...] Look what happened at Kiwanja,” he said, referring to a small Congolese town where United Nations officials said General Nkunda’s forces went door to door, summarily executing dozens of civilians in November.

Rwanda have him in their custody, he is their proxy agent in Congo that was as rogue as the other armed non-state combatant powers in the unstable corridor from Eastern Congo to Darfur.

Though General Nkunda never controlled more than a handful of small towns in eastern Congo, he was Congo’s No. 1 troublemaker. His troops have been accused of committing massacres dating back to 2002. General Nkunda recently began cultivating national ambitions to overthrow Congo’s weak but democratically elected government, which threatened to draw in Congo’s neighbors and plunge central Africa into a regional war, something that has happened twice before.

I think it was the current Congolese ruler, Kabila - and his father whom he succeeded - that swept to power in Kinshasa having raised an army against Mobutu in the Eastern Congo.

General Nkunda’s confidence may have been his undoing. On Thursday night, hundreds of Rwandan troops cornered him near Bunagana. Congolese officials said he refused to be arrested and crossed into Rwanda, where he was surrounded and taken into custody. It is not clear how many men he had with him at the time, but it appears he was taken without a shot.

Just a few days ago, Rwanda sent several thousand soldiers into Congo as part of a joint operation to flush out Hutu militants who had killed countless people in the 1994 Rwanda genocide and were still haunting the hills on Congo’s side of the border.

Few expected the Rwandan troops to go after General Nkunda. Not only is he a Tutsi, like Rwanda’s leaders, but he had risen to power by fighting these same Hutu militants. Several demobilized Rwandan soldiers recently revealed a secret operation to slip Rwandan soldiers into Congo to fight alongside General Nkunda. He had been trained by the Rwandan Army in the mid-1990s and was widely believed to be an agent for Rwanda’s extensive business and security interests in eastern Congo.

But it seems that the Rwandan government abruptly changed its tack, possibly because of the international criticism it has endured for its ties to General Nkunda. Several European countries recently cut aid to Rwanda, sending a strong signal to a poor country that needs outside help. Rwanda may have figured the time was ripe to remove General Nkunda, analysts said.

Earlier this month, some of General Nkunda’s top commanders split from him, saying they were fed up with his king-of-the-world brand of leadership.

That's what makes him Lord of the War. He's a psychotic war criminal.

One of those commanders was Mr. Ntaganda. Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court have accused him of building an army of child soldiers, a war crime.

But Mr. Ntaganda suddenly switched sides, denouncing General Nkunda and saying that he and his men were now eager to join the Congolese Army, which they had been battling for years. Many analysts believe that the Congolese government promised to try to protect Mr. Ntaganda from being sent to The Hague.

According to Jason Stearns, an analyst who recently served on a United Nations panel examining the conflict: “It’s fairly clear that Kigali and Kinshasa have struck a deal. Kinshasa will allow Rwanda onto Congolese soil to hunt down” the Hutu militants, “and in return Rwanda will dethrone Nkunda.”

What does "hunt them down" mean? Does that include civilians? We have a history, a recent one at that, of genocidal violence from the army, now we have a Tutsi government in Rwanda given a free-hand in Eastern Congo to eliminate the Hutu forces. It sounds like a breakthrough, this arrest, but what of the power vacuum it leaves? Will Rwandan forces occupy the areas of Congo that Nkunda controlled? Kinshasa certainly seems to have no effective control whatsoever over this region - a vast area it purports to govern.