Thursday, October 28, 2004

US Hostie with brain shock horror!

The BBC reports that a Delta attendant has been grounded after writing a blog (with pictures) about her experiences.

Reading the blog, I would imagine that she has contravened at least three ground rules of US airline policy:
1. Being intelligent (able to write!)
2. Being cute (see below)
3. Being nice (when you open the blog it doesn't flash up a message with: will you please f*** off and sit down now - Sir)

No wonder she's been suspended!

(This is an equal opportunity blog - hunky boys were last week!)

Commissioning democracy

No Right Turn comments on the current situation (BBC report) in Europe, where the European Parliament is threatening to reject the new Eurpoean Commission unless changes are made.

It is indeed an interesting situation. The EU has lacked direct democracy since it started. This is not coincidental - most national governments (and the political movements they spring from) want control of the EU in their hands. The anti-EU factions, especially in Britain, although many nominally claim to want EU "reform", are in practice heavily opposed to anything that would actually give the EU legitimacy.

(An interesting aside here - traditionally British Labour was more negative on the EU than the Tories. After a massive success in European Parliament elections in the mid-90s, the party changed its views from broad "scepticism" to broad "support". I believe this is one reason why Bryan Gould (who is/was somewhat anti-EU) left UK politics and came back to NZ).

It is interesting that the MEPs who are opposing the new Commission are doing so against the wishes of their "home" political parties. One interesting scenario would be that one or more Euro-Parties (these are currently alliances of various national parties) establish themselves independently and contest future Euro-elections on a Europe wide policy platform. This could involve a commitment to agricultural reform, for instance. It is conceivable, if unlikely, that a victorious grouping could face up to national governments and demand that their nominee be made Commission President.

Direct democracy would transform the EU. I'd expect it to become much more effective - a directly elected EU administration would be expected to show competence or face electoral defeat.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Saved from the memory hole

No Right Turn comments on an article in the Guardian described as "calling for George Bush's assasination", and on NZPundit's outrage at it. Always keen to read a bit of sedition, I went to look at the article - it was gone, replaced by this apology.

Fortunately, I managed to yank it from the google cache and it appears below for your edification. It is very clearly ironic - it reads rather like some of the rants which Iain Banks created for his character Kenneth Nott, a radio "shock-jock" in his 2002 novel "Dead Air".

Screen burn

Dumb show
Charlie Brooker Saturday October 23, 2004
The Guardian

Heady times.

The US election draws ever nearer, and while the rest of the world bangs its head against the floorboards screaming "Please God, not Bush!", the candidates clash head to head in a series of live televised debates. It's a bit like American Idol, but with terrifying global ramifications. You've got to laugh.

Or have you? Have you seen the debates? I urge you to do so. The exemplary BBC News website ( hosts unexpurgated streaming footage of all the recent debates, plus clips from previous encounters, through Reagan and Carter, all the way back to Nixon versus JFK.

Watching Bush v Kerry, two things immediately strike you. First, the opening explanation of the rules makes the whole thing feel like a Radio 4 parlour game. And second, George W Bush is... well, he's... Jesus, where do you start?

The internet's a-buzz with speculation that Bush has been wearing a wire, receiving help from some off-stage lackey. Screen grabs appearing to show a mysterious bulge in the centre of his back are being traded like Top Trumps. Prior to seeing the debate footage, I regarded this with healthy scepticism: the whole "wire" scandal was just wishful thinking on behalf of some amateur Michael Moores, I figured. And then I watched the footage.

Quite frankly, the man's either wired or mad. If it's the former, he should be flung out of office: tarred, feathered and kicked in the nuts. And if it's the latter, his behaviour goes beyond strange, and heads toward terrifying. He looks like he's listening to something we can't hear. He blinks, he mumbles, he lets a sentence trail off, starts a new one, then reverts back to whatever he was saying in the first place. Each time he recalls a statistic (either from memory or the voice in his head), he flashes us a dumb little smile, like a toddler proudly showing off its first bowel movement. Forgive me for employing the language of the playground, but the man's a tool.

So I sit there and I watch this and I start scratching my head, because I'm trying to work out why Bush is afforded any kind of credence or respect whatsoever in his native country. His performance is so transparently bizarre, so feeble and stumbling, it's a miracle he wasn't laughed off the stage. And then I start hunting around the internet, looking to see what the US media made of the whole "wire" debate. And they just let it die. They mentioned it in passing, called it a wacko conspiracy theory and moved on.

Yet whether it turns out to be true or not, right now it's certainly plausible - even if you discount the bulge photos and simply watch the president's ridiculous smirking face. Perhaps he isn't wired. Perhaps he's just gone gaga. If you don't ask the questions, you'll never know the truth.
The silence is all the more troubling since in the past the US news media has had no problem at all covering other wacko conspiracy theories, ones with far less evidence to support them. (For infuriating confirmation of this, watch the second part of the must-see documentary series The Power Of Nightmares (Wed, 9pm, BBC2) and witness the absurd hounding of Bill Clinton over the Whitewater and Vince Foster non-scandals.)

Throughout the debate, John Kerry, for his part, looks and sounds a bit like a haunted tree. But at least he's not a lying, sniggering, drink-driving, selfish, reckless, ignorant, dangerous, backward, drooling, twitching, blinking, mouse-faced little cheat. And besides, in a fight between a tree and a bush, I know who I'd favour.

On November 2, the entire civilised world will be praying, praying Bush loses. And Sod's law dictates he'll probably win, thereby disproving the existence of God once and for all. The world will endure four more years of idiocy, arrogance and unwarranted bloodshed, with no benevolent deity to watch over and save us. John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr - where are you now that we need you?

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Home "ownership"

Lots of people (including David Skillens (?sp) of the NZ Institute on today's Wire, norightturn and my girlfriend) seem to think it's really important to encourage home ownership in NZ society.

I disagree rather. Firstly, when you buy a house on a mortgage, you don't really own it. Perhaps 90% belongs to a bank, and you're renting that bit. You own 10% (so kitchen ownership is a more apt term than home ownership). Of course, a bank is a friendlier landlord - they can't throw you out if you keep paying, and they won't complain if you paint the living room magenta.

The argument made by the NZI is that people who rent their house don't participate in property inflation (sorry, appreciation) and don't benefit from asset price bubbles (I mean value growth). To me this is an argument for a capital gains tax - why should I be taxed at 39% on money I work for and 0% on windfall earnings from owning a house?

The plan to subsidise housebuying seems to be going in the opposite direction - since the subsidies will have to be paid for, people will be taxed even more for working and at a negative rate for sitting in a house. They money won't even go to the poor deserving first time buyers - more money becoming available for houses will almost certainly just drive prices up and make existing property owners richer.

There are other arguments against forcing up the rate of home ownership:
  • Interest rates are higher than they need be in order to dampen house price inflation, reducing the competitive advantage of the productive sector.
  • People are less mobile, and consequently more likely to have problems finding jobs.

One argument Mr Skillens brought to bear was that home ownership made people more "involved" in society, and I think this is the crux. Modern centre-left parties (like Labour) wish to conscript people into the urban middle class (unlike the Nats, who want to boost the rural middle-class) and home ownership is their big "lever" in achieving this.

[ This reminds me of a spoof election slogan from the 80's - "Safeguard your hovel and pittance - don't vote Labour and lose them! ]

Have a good long weekend!

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Pictures of "les Flics Suisse"

I thought some of you might like to see the photos and story that got Indymedia's servers seized by Blunkett's and Bush's stormtroopers.

The gist of the story is that the smiling chaps below are Swiss undercover rozzers spying on anti-G8 protestors in Geneva.

If you care about free information, you might want to copy these pictures around.

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The offending text:
GENÈVE post-G8 : Vidéos, photos et témoignages ; tout est bon pour remonter la piste des casseurs. Un travail minutieux poursuivi aujourd'hui par deux inspecteurs, et qui a conduit à 200 arrestations à ce jour.

La cellule G8 avait pourtant été dissoute en décembre 2003. Elle a repris du service, en plus petit : deux inspecteurs.

Ces inspecteurs visionnent des films et photos reçu par des balancent et des collègues.

Ils viennent aux manifs sur Genève où ils pensent retrouver des "casseurs"

De plus ils prennent de nouvelles photos afin peut être de constituer une bande de données de photos d'activistes suceptibles d'être les futures casseurs des futures émeutes Genevoises.

Comme le dit l'un des 2 inspecteurs : « J'ai vu deux de mes collègues se faire lyncher pendant les manifs anti-OMC, en 1998, raconte un inspecteur. Je ne l'oublierai jamais. »

Peut etre qu'il y a d'autres choses que cet inspecteur n'obliera jamais ! Car il n'y a pas que le Carpacio comme plat qui se mange froid !

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

PR Cockup of the week

So the Big Day Out lineup announcement is all set up, live radio on bFM , competitions to guess the line up, etc.

The lineup, all this time, can be viewed here. Somehow I don't think that was the idea. Ooops!

Doubt I shall be going. Last year was like you'd imagine a festival in the DDR (former East Germany) would be like. Queues for booze, queues for bogs, checkpoints for booze... And I don't really see the point of a rock show with lights and stuff in bright sunlight.. The Flaming Lips were excellent though..

Hopefully the Chemicals will schedule a side gig somewhere.

(of course the BDO gets excellent media by the simple expedient of isolating the journos from all the crap and giving them free booze...)