Archive for February, 2008

Veolia vanquish … their own supporters

February 29, 2008

Oh – my – stars!!! Even by the standards of stupidity that are the hallmark of capitalism, this is dumb!

Auckland rail operator Veolia – a private profit-making company with a monopoly on running Auckland’s rail services – trespasses a rail advocate from their station and trains for the hideous crime of … collecting signatures for a petition to extend rail to Auckland Airport. Words fail me, but not my keyboard 😉

The mechanical moron on the end of the Veolia spy-cam and intercom just reflects the terrified attitude of staff under the conformity demanded by capitalist companies, though. It is notable that Veolia and Ontrack have never openly supported lobby groups working to get better rail funding. Is it any wonder they struggle to keep up with public demand for rail.

Perhaps now ARC will see sense, and take over rail service provision in Auckland (even if as a CCO, like funding agency ARTA). That will cut the profits drained out of public funds by Veolia, and allow greater transparency and control of a public transport system in desperate need of it.

My sympathies to Jon Reeves, who I know to be a friendly, hardworking advocate for rail. Veolia should pay him, not ban him. At least ARC chair Mike Lee is getting onto the idiots at Veolia – may he tear a few strips off. Better still, dock Veolia financially for abjectly failing on customer service standards (Reeves was a customer).

Update:

And now Veolia & ARTA claim their staff mistook Mr Reeves for a fare dodger, yeh right! Credibility of this claim is NIL.

First, wouldn’t the staff have mentioned the unpaid fare when Mr Reeves asked them what was going on via the emergency phone? Wouldn’t the fact that he talked to them on the phone, and showed his ticket to their CCTV camera have discounted this obviously false claim?

Pathetic – Veolia should face financial penalty for this crass dishonesty, and involved ARTA staff should be given formal written warnings on their employment agreements. This shameful incident shows how out of touch Auckland rail agencies are, which explains why people like Jon Reeves are needed to lobby for improved rail. Left to themselves, ARTA and Veolia would do little more than an occassional extra train once every 5 years, which is useless.

Time out in tunnel to Milford Sound?

February 28, 2008

Now a rail tunnel to Milford Sound to replace the accident prone road route is basically a good idea, in my view, but they really need to rethink the idea of people staying in their cars stacked on flatbed rail wagons.

Private cars have no way of signalling to train crew if some half-wit opens the door to admire the view of the tunnel walls rushing by inches away. Better to add a couple of carriages on at one end, and get all people in them. Also more comfortable, as they can move around, go to the toilet, etc.

And if you don’t think anyone would be so dumb, recall the London student who stood up on the top floor of an open roof, double decker bus when it went under a bridge? No prizes for guessing who won…bridge or student?

An isolated rail line is fiscally risky though (as the long closed isolated Nelson-Glenhope rail line proved in the 1950’s), and has higher upkeep, as parts and vehicles for maintenance have to be brought in on heavy load lorries. You have to ask if any thought has been given to rapidly extending such a line to Queenstown at least, to hook up with a possible future rail route from Invercargill or Dunedin.

Rail lines used to exist from Invercargill to Kingston, but only the Kingston-Fairlight section remains for the tourist train Kingston Flyer. Similarly, the Central Otago Line used to run from Dunedin up to Clyde (for the Clyde dam hydro scheme construction), but is now truncated to Middlemarch from the Dunedin end, with the remainder of the line as the Otago Central Rail Trail horse riding-walking-cycling route.

Much of both lines is still in Ontrack ownership I think (apparently all of Central Otago line), and still designated as rail routes, so could be cheaply restored (hundreds of millions). Give an eco-friendly option for the locals as well as tourists for when the oil runs out, and that pesky global warming can’t be ignored 😉

Granny gets her gun, rides shotgun for National

February 25, 2008

Granny Herald has rather debunked her nickname lately. Tagged ‘Granny’ Herald for the socially conservative views expressed in the Auckland-based newspaper, the Herald writers have nonetheless pushed strong social liberal positions in recent times.

The latest is a Herald editorial that demands Kiwis ‘get over it’ on the topic of Green MP Sue Bradford’s anti-smacking Act (text of altered S59).

Lobby group Family First seem to have reached the 300,000 required signatures to force a Citizen’s Initiated Referendum at this year’s General Election. This appears to have sparked concern in the Herald editors that National’s electoral victory may be smothered by a resurgent anti-smacking debate drawing out socially liberal Kiwis to back Labour.

Hence, the apparent contradiction in an erstwhile ‘right-wing’ newspaper and lobby group on opposite ends of the tug-of-war. It should be noted of course, that many National MP’s are socially liberal, and voted for Bradford’s bill to become law (irrespective of the redundant nonsense John Key put in as clause 4 – Police have always had discretion on all laws as to whether they prosecute).

What is shocking, is that the editor makes wild assumptions; “many signatures on the petition were, in fact, gathered before the compromise clause was inserted” and “the anti-smacking law is no longer a matter of substance to the public”. Granted, they cite a survey showing the S59 position of just 4.2% of people would “likely influence their election vote”, but this simply reflects the impossibility in voting on 1 issue in an election. People want to choose a government that aligns with their views on a range of topics, not just a single issue – even if viewed as the most important.

Worse by far, the Herald’s editor notes CIR are non-binding, so claims “there is little reason to think this one [if passed – SD] would lead to the anti-smacking legislation being thrown out”. What a cynical expression of our democracy! Regardless of how MP’s voted for the Act, surely a democratic position would be for them to change their position to represent the views of the people that put them in the Beehive to … represent their constituents? That the Herald does not think MP’s would (or should) change their stance – irrespective of the voting outcome) is horrendously totalitarian in outlook. NZ is not supposed to be a 3-year elected dictatorship!

Recall the late 1990’s saw a CIR on firefighting resources get around 90% support, which saw a partial government backdown. To suggest as the Herald does, that a majority of voters in a CIR should be ignored because “attempts to raise a hue and cry over the law during the election campaign would be misguided” reflects the deeper desire of the Herald to avoid a bunfight on anything other than tax cuts and PPP’s for transport, it seems. Granny has got her gun, and is warding off anything that may distract from the core message of a National government.

Dodgy Doc forces murder?

February 24, 2008

An interesting – and disturbing – comment from one of the women abused by dodgy medical doctor Roman Hasil when he was at Wanganui hospital.

One woman who aborted her child told the Listener: “I basically had to murder somebody because some bastard put me in that situation. It won’t go away.”

So, this poor woman acknowledges her abortion of her unborn child as murder, but (understandably) blames the bungling surgeon whose failed operation allowed her to become pregnant. 

While I feel immense sympathy for her, is it not strange she is so angry over a failed non-lethal (for her) operation, yet was able to – in her own words – murder her own child?

Chilling resonance with the Manurewa tagger murder – the disproportionately harsh outcome (murder in each case) gets little criticism, while the minor event (tagging or bungled gyno op) that triggered the worse event gets slammed.

Make no mistake – Dr Hasil should be struck off and jailed in my view, and was largely responsible for her pregnancy (not wholely, as no such operation can be fully relied upon). What amazes me is her ability to recognise her act of murder, while deflecting most of the attention onto the inept doctor whose actions led to it…

Disturbing that unborn children are seen as so remote from the rest of humanity that they can be acknowledged as killed with no apparent emotion or follow-up.

Even more disturbing is that those who advocate most strenuously for nil violence to children (e.g. Green MP Sue Bradford), are the first to claim a women’s right to kill their unborn children for convenience (not disrupting the mother’s life)…

Horta Shot – blowback against capitalism?

February 11, 2008

Reports just in on NZ Herald say East Timorese President and Nobel Laureate Jose Ramos Horta has been shot and [Update: wounded seriously in the stomach, with one of his guards killed in the conflict. Horta is undergoing surgery in the Australian military airbase.

The report claims rebel leader and former Army officer Alfredo Reinado has been killed as part of the attack; given that Reinado and Horta had opposing political views for Timor which led to the conflict in 2006 and since, it seems probable definite that Reinado is being fingered as the person responsible for the shooting.

Caution applies here though – how could Reinado get into the Presidential compound? (supposedly protected by NZ and Oz troops?)  A Radio NZ National report just in (12:45pm, 11 Feb 2008) indicate Horta may have strayed into talks between Reinado and Timorese government officials. The talks were apparently an effort to resolve differences between Reinado and the government that led to his guerilla campaign from the hills.

Update: Latest TVNZ claims are that Reinado drove up with 2 cars of men and attacked the Presidential compound.

Accidental argument or deliberate coup, this is all part of the ‘blowback’ against the capitalist colonisation of Timor Leste, after the Timorese finally won freedom in 1999 from a quarter century of Indonesian occupation and genocide. Sadly, it is Horta and Xanana Gusmao – former rebel leaders – who have led the charge for the economic colonisation of Timor’s resources (and consequently, people), epitomised by the dodgy Timor Gap treaty with Australia that gives undue wealth to Oz companies. They bear the guilt and shame of betraying their people.

While killing them is not the right solution, they do need to be removed from power, so Timor Leste can build a nation that controls its own resources and is not just a neo-colonial lapdog of Australia or Indonesia. This shooting may have been such an effort at governmental change, that has gone tragically wrong.

Update: Australian troops have been called to the Timorese Preidential compound, so its seems only Timorese guards were at the compound at the time of the attack.

Square driving cricket selectors

February 8, 2008

Just so they can never complain that I didn’t furnish them with my humble views on how to convert the Skoda of cricket teams into a Ferrari (well, maybe an Alfa Romeo will do for a start), here are a few pointers on how to select the NZ cricket team:

  1. Pick team members by the position they play! One keeper is required, and bowling typically consists of 4 pace and 1 spin bowlers, leaving 5 specialist batsmen positions. NZ selectors too frequently deviate and pick the ‘best players in NZ’ at the time, meaning they have at times fielded a horribly unbalanced side with only 2 bowlers capable of topping 130km/hr. 
  2. At least 1, and preferably 2 or more, of the batsmen should be capable of bowling a few overs at international level, e.g. Chris Harris, Scott Styris, Craig MacMillan, Nathan Astle are all specialist batsmen who can bowl several useful overs and often take wickets. By contrast, Paul Hitchcock is a medium pacer who is neither batsman nor bowler – an allrounder.
  3. Set a process for players to follow to get selected, even if they are not aware of it. That is, resist the temptation to look for ‘the next Tendulkar’ or child prodigy – I’m talking to you, Sir Richard Hadlee! Age group players should progress from their club to provincial teams, to the A side, then NZ side. They have plenty of time to prove themselves over a few seasons at these levels, and still have a decade or more in the national squad.
  4. The above point requires NZ cricket and selectors to respect the A side, organise a better schedule of training and matches for it. The basic idea should be to pick a joint NZ-A side squad of 25, train together and play against each other regularly in training – perfect chance for comparisons of rival players for a position. Organise A side matches against other good A sides and as warm-ups for touring national sides. This all bloods the next replacement players (for retirement, injury, etc) without the current ‘sink or swim’ model (what was Daniel Flynn picked for 1 Twenty20 match for?@#$).
  5. Weight your selection criteria to allow for strength of competition the player is playing in. In other words, a provincial batsman with 20 average has an effective average of 30 if playing in a competition you rate as 1.5 times harder than the U-19 competition, say. This means you may pick a player with lower stats in a tough competition ahead of a ‘blazing new talent’ in a weak competition.

All this is a good start – the most important point being the first. At one point recently NZ had 3 keepers playing (McCullum, Vincent, Sinclair), meaning we were weak on back-up bowlers.

Point 2 is also vital – NZ is currently weak in back-up bowlers, so even though we have a good 5 bowler lineup, only Styris of the batsmen can bowl at international level. As even the best bowlers have off days (or overs), there is a need to select genuine batsmen who can also bowl (Ryder may now fill this role – though his short-cut selection may see his inexperience lead to typical Kiwi crumbling).

Incidentally, the point about all-rounder Hitchcock does not mean he is useless, or shouldn’t be picked. Just that all players need to be good enough to be picked at international level in 1 area (batsman, keeper or bowler), with skills in other areas being a bonus to be considered in selection. These extra skills are what lifts a good side to be great (the batting of Chris Cairns, bowling of Harris, batting of Dick Hadlee himself).

Final point – obey the law selectors! Do not discriminate against players based on their age!!! This kind of stupidity has seen the still-talented Harris, Fleming, Styris and MacMillan all leave one form of the game or more (Steve Waugh quit after similar whining in Oz that he was ‘too old’ while still scoring heavily). You’re too old when you body starts letting your performance slip, which is what should be focussed on, not the age.

So, a typical team at the moment might be:

  • Keeper – Brendan McCullum
  • Spinner – Dan Vettori (Jeetan Patel for injury at the moment)
  • Pace bowler – Jacob Oram
  • Pace bowler – Chris Martin
  • Pace bowler – Michael Mason
  • Pace bowler – Kyle Mills
  • Batsman – Lou Vincent
  • Batsman – Matthew Sinclair
  • Batsman – Scott Styris (also bowls)
  • Batsman – Jamie How
  • Batsman – Jesse Ryder (also bowls)

Note 3 keepers again – not hypocrisy – this can be done so long as they (Vincent & Sinclair) are genuine batsmen, and there enough batsmen able to bowl a few back-up overs.

Crystal night?

February 8, 2008

Minor political events are taking a concerning turn. There have been calls from the National Party to have the requirement that political party ads list their financial agents home address changed to a business address or party HQ address.

Pro-National blogger David Farrar reiterates the party call for this, citing safety concerns.

Almost simultaneously, the Green Party Auckland office has it’s window smashed by a brick thrown by the group ‘People Power’. Given Farrar decried the previous ‘People Power’ attack on Helen Clark’s electorate office window, and is apparently in India at the time, it seems exceptionally unlikely he has anything to do with this 😉 Nor is it likely that anyone ‘officially’ in the National party would be so foolish.

However, there is a danger these attacks will allow a chipping away of the Electoral Finance Act provisions. Already Green co-leader Russel Norman has empathised with what seem to be weak concerns of home attacks on those listed on party propoganda. He should resist moves to change things for political parties. Why?

  1. There should be one law for all – wasn’t that National party policy?
  2. The risk of party agents being targetted is very low – real activists know they are not normally involved in the politics of the party.
  3. There is a danger that it will allow the return of mythical addresses being used by parties, as the Exclusive Brethren did in their pro-National campaign.

Let’s hope this isn’t a start of worse behaviour in election year.

McMouthing off

February 6, 2008

It seems Brendan ‘McMouth’ McCullum is a clairvoyant; he said “there is no substitute for getting out…” before last night’s Twenty20 cricket match, and he delivered – with a score of 9 personally, and a few captaincy blunders. Okay, that’s a little mean – his thoughts seemed reasonable, but implementation let him down.

Maligned debutant Jesse Ryder was the only top-order batsman to trouble the scorers to add a second digit to his tally, though he may not care to be reminded that his 22 came behind Jacob Oram’s bludgeoned 61 and … 23 for the extras!

The Kiwi statistics were:

Bowling: K Mills 4-0-43-2, C Martin 4-0-34-2, J Oram 4-0-24-1 (1w), J Patel 3-0-42-1, T Southee 4-0-39-1, J Ryder 1-0-2-1.

New Zealand
J Ryder run out 22
B McCullum c Shah b Sidebottom 9
R Taylor lbw b Sidebottom 0
J How c Pietersen b Mascarenhas 6
S Styris b Mascarenhas 1
P Fulton b Broad 8
J Oram c Bell b Sidebottom 61
K Mills c Anderson b Swann 11
T Southee c Mascarenhas b Collingwood 1
J Patel b Anderson 5
C Martin not out 5
Extras (6w, 17lb) 23

Total (19.2 overs) 152

Fall: 18, 19, 47, 49, 64, 70, 90, 102, 135, 152.

So what lessons can NZ take from this defeat? Perhaps to drop Sir Richard Hadlee from the selectors panel. Hadlee was a clear proponent of pushing young players into the side, and he and coach Bracewell appear to have driven senior players (McMillan, Harris and Astle for a start, and now Styris from tests) out of NZ, and into lucrative ICL hands.

Even former Kiwi wicketkeeper and perennial bad boy Adam Parore has spotted there is something irrational in the latest selections (see ‘maligned’ link above). Even sharper insight is given by recent Black Caps opening batsman Mark Richardson. The verdict – picking young or unfit players and dumping them straight in the national side is dangerous, for both player and team. Let them prove themselves in the provincial competition!

Capsicum Kills

February 5, 2008

News just in (4pm news, National Radio, 5 Feb 08) reports another death in South Auckland – this time at Police hands.

 A 40-year old Polynesian man in Mangere was being spoken to by Police for an alleged assault, when capsicum spray was used to subdue him (along with a baton blow to his arm).

The man is reported to have dropped to the ground and died a short while later. Naturally, Police have launched internal and PCA investigations, but does anyone trust these? Heck, the PCA investigation into Police oppression of Free Tibet protestors took 8 years! And let them change their police operations instructions to ‘legalise’ their illegal actions…

NZ needs a genuinely independent police complaints body – one which has no police involved in investigations or the writing of reports. Let the Civil Liberties Union pick a panel to run it.