Friday, November 26, 2004

Secret intelligence

An interesting article on Scoop regarding the SIS and it's role. The author, Paul Buchanan, an academic in the security / foreign relations field, makes a number of interesting points and suggestions:

He describes SIS as: " organization that has over the years seemingly taken on "rogue" characteristics - it does what it pleases, as it pleases, for reasons not of State, but of its own, or those of its immediate political masters."

I would agree with this - I'd also argue that all intelligence and policing bodies promote a "security agenda" where threats of any nature are played up to justify the expansion of the security apparatus.

He suggests stripping SIS of its internal intelligence role and giving this responsibility to the police. I'd wholly concur with this - a police force is both subject to an oversight procedure and has a clear focus on prosecuting and convicting those attempting or committing crimes.

I disagree with his suggestion that we need to develop an overseas spying capability. We don't have one at the moment, and it doesn't seem to do us much harm. I can't see that the number of spies we could deploy would enable us to find out anything particularly useful, unless by some lucky fluke. The current facilities of SIS to analyse "intelligence" and open-source data could be moved to Foreign Affairs, or kept in a residual agency.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Red-light for rev-heads

The V8 racing in Auckland has been denied resource consent. As an inner-west Auckland resident, I think this is good. The race would undoubtedly have made a lot of money for the organisers, and for the hotel and hospo industry in Auckland.

I can't quite see how the rest of us would benefit, though, and I think the idea of the council part funding the race was a cashflow in the wrong direction - if they were going to pay all Auckland city residents $500 to take a weekend in the country, or even give us free tickets, I might have been a bit keener. Or maybe Holden and Ford could sling us some money - after all the V8 race is brilliant marketing (in the UK Vauxhall cars (i.e. Holdens) are among the least sought after transportation - most of their production goes to companies who are too tight to give their sales reps BMWs).

There must be lots of places around Auckland they could hold a motor race without as much disruption as the CBD.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Phishing guide

I occasionally, when I have nothing better to do, read through the emails that Xtra have rejected as spam. This one is particularly good, and I thought that as a service to the phishing community I'd provide some help with their English. If anyone wants to help with better descriptions of their grammatical errors, feel free to comment.

Dear Sir/Madam,

You have got [ "You got" or "You have received" ] this email because either you or one of your household member has [ missing indefinite article ] credit/debit card account. As a unite [ should be "united" ] work in [ superfluous] between Co-operate [ should be "Co-operating" ] Governments of different countries , we have developed a new System [ nouns do not take a capital in English ] which will help all bank customers to protect their identity from theft and provides [should be "provide" ] complete protection.

[Missing article] Governemnt [ do you own a spell-checker ] Authority is kindly requesting [ no! ] to fill out the form completly and you will not have any privacy problems with your credit/debit card details in future.

You will be free to shop [ possibly the word "for" should appear here ] anything anywhere you want without getting any problem of [ not "of" - "with" ] your identity and it will make your shopping safe and secure. In case if [ what? ] you do not provide your billing information, you will not be applicable to our System as a kind of service to all bank customers. [ they're all words, but they don't have any meaningful relationship ] Kindly provide your information by following the link [ removed ]. We will be happy to hear from you. [ My god! An entirely correct sentence! ]

Providing the information will let you to [ you don't need that 'to" ] shop instantly anywhere you want with total safety and security.

Co-operate Governments Bank Security Services
9800 Savage Road,
Suite 6740 Washington,
20380 United States
[ You do know that the Americans torture and execute fraudsters, don't you? Using a US address probably gives them jurisdiction. Wouldn't it be better to use an address in Nigeria? People everywhere in the world have a high regard for Nigerian financial institutions and are much more likely to reply to spam emails with a genuine Lagos address ]

I suppose I wouldn't do better at writing spam in German, say.

Donna gone

The judgement of the Supreme Court in the Donna Awatere Huata case has been issued - this is the first case the NZ Supreme Court has heard.

I must say, that (as a non-lawyer) it struck me as sensible, professional and competent. I couldn't detect any bias (as the right imply) or incompetence (as Trevor Mallard seems to perceive). Now if the judges would stop complaining about office arrangements (in public at least) then I'd be happy for one.

I can't disagree with the judgment (not paying your dues seems to be to be a fairly clear cut way of leaving an organisation to me), but I do think it's a good think the waka-jumping legislation is going to lapse. Selecting someone like Awatere Huata as a list MP doesn't seem to show much judgment and I think political parties should have to live with their bum decisions.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Cambridge High?

No Right Turn comments on this NZ Herald article claiming that police have been told to "go easy on P labs" in favour of dishonesty offenses.

There's some truth in the argument that making public services perform to a statistical target can distort they way the operate in favour of creating "good" statistical outcomes, I'd argue that this isn't happening here - or at Cambridge High.

In the latter case, the "traditional" education methods at the school were failing, as they usually do, with students of below average academic abilities. With School Cert, etc. this would show up less, as low ability students would be expected to fail. A more sophisticated system of examination, NCEA, made this problem more obvious. Instead of changing the methods of teaching, the principal chose to fiddle the assessment process.

With the "P" labs, the police are faced with the thankless task of enforcing drug prohibition. In conventional crime, success in enforcement does not increase the rewards for undetected crime - if the police arrest more burglars, it doesn't mean that those remaining are able to steal more or sell their stolen goods for more money. With drug dealing, the more drugs the police interdict, the higher the price goes and the greater the profits for those still in the business. So it's quite reasonable that the cops should concentrate on victimful crimes rather than drug enforcement.

So, in my biased opinion both NCEA and the model of police performance assessment are working - they are just throwing up unpalatable results to some (e.g. believers in drug prohibition or 'traditional' education).

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Monarchy and the right

Why is republicanism (in the Commonwealth) often seen as a left-wing belief, while most rightwingers (with honourable exceptions such as Lewis & less honourable ones such as Rupert Murdoch) tend to be monarchists?

For a snapshot of right-wing attitudes to government, I found this quote from Chris, a typical right wing bloggist:
"It is scandalous that the government continues to thieve off us like this and no amount of bullshit third way labour spin neo-keynesian nonsense will justify it".

In say, 17th Century Europe, this would have made perfect sense. The government was essentially the monarch and their cronies, and the main application of state funds was to enhance the personal lifestyle of the court (and very often to expand the realm through conquest).

In a modern (social) democracy, this isn't the case - the government is the entity by which the people provide themselves with services on a collective basis. The quantity and quality of such services, the mechanisms of provision and the detail of financing are a matter of collective decision, but the government *is* the people - it can no more "thieve" from the people than I can steal from myself.

Keeping the remaining vestiges of a monarchy blurs this. In NZ, we refer to the entity of government as the "Crown", maintaining the pretence that our government is not us, but an overlord beyond our control. This helps the conservative argument that a tax surplus (for instance) is not our money being squirelled prudently in a big bank account somewhere, but is somehow being spend by politicians on Louis XIV style amusements.

Hence, monarchy is a great way to keep people isolated from and distrustful of government...

Monday, November 08, 2004

"This is another Hue city in the making"

Confident, then...

(Hue was captured by the North Vietnamese in the Tet Offensive of 1968. It was recaptured with the loss of 482 men on the US side and 7,500 NVA/Vietcong. Although regarded as a military victory, it turned the tide of US public opinion against the war and set the stage for eventual US defeat).

But you knew that.

(quote by Sgt Maj Carlton W Kent, the senior enlisted marine in Iraq)

Questionable Alliances

There is a good article in today's Guardian suggesting the abolition of Nato. While I don't have any faith in this happening, I do think its a good idea! Equally, I think that NZ should be thinking of leaving any remaining (military) entanglements we have with the US/UK/Aus "alliance". Leaving the UKUSA agreement and abolishing the SIS would be a good start.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Do we need governing?

The Herald reports that Sir Wilson Whineray, a former All Black captain, is hot favourite to be the next Governor General. Apparently the key requirements for the job are to be male and not to be a judge.

Why do we need a G-G anyway? They seem to have two main jobs:

Make personal appearances
Assuming the event doesn't require the PM to attend, there are a whole bunch of people that can do this - cabinet ministers, ambassadors, sporting and cultural identities. There doesn't seem to be a need for a specific job of attending parties that the PM doesn't want to go to.

Umpire disputed election situations
The only time an Australasian G-G has needed to intervene in politics (the Whitlam dismissal) they didn't exercise their powers in a particularly impartial or judicious manner. Not having a Senate, NZ is unlikely to experience the same situation - however it is quite possible that a future election could lead to an impasse. I'm not sure why a former rugby player would be expected to be up to resolving this - we should have a clear procedure and a Constitutional Court.

As a republican, I realise that many people have an emotional attachment to the Queen - but why not keep Brenda for a few more years and just dispense with the G-G?