Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pot, kettle, etc.

Another youth-bashing article about kids gone bad. Yawn.

Except this one is so remarkably smug and arrogant about the whole issue that it was worth me breaking out of my torpor and writing something down.
More than 1500 Facebook users, most of whom appear to be students, say they plan to attend the "Castor Bay Beach Party 2!" on Auckland's North Shore in December.
Students! Here we go:
On the Facebook page, posters do not appear to care about the residents of the area, the police, the illegality of their actions, or grammar.

Adam Ellington, whose profile picture appears to show someone throwing up, is defiant.

"This is win. We will win. Cops wont win [sic]," he wrote.

Laura Petrova Isaac also intends on going.

"ha ha went to the first one... and the next day it was all over the news and i was watching it with mum and she goes 'some children these days! im glad u dont do stupid things like this' lol... uuhhmmm.... [sic]" she wrote.

Weird! These kids are paid professionals, right? I can't believe they submitted that writing to the Herald without fixing such simple grammatical and spelling errors. Don't they have a subeditor to pick up on this?

So it was already unintentionally ironic enough that this article got published in a newspaper that is regularly riddled with the sorts of grammatical mistakes that would make a gardening society newsletter editor blush. Until...

Finding that sentence really made my day, like a ray of sunshine bursting through the self-satisfied smog that is the rest of this piece of 'journalism'.

Also, everyone knows that 'maybe attending' is polite code for 'not attending'.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Trick or.... threat! (sorry)

A new candidate for most outrageously overblown headline and story - "Kids' threats shatter Halloween night". The whole thing is atrocious:
Children trick or treating in South Auckland - some younger than 10 - took the "scary" side of Halloween too far last night by threatening people who did not give them sweets.

Police dealt with more than half a dozen cases of children swearing, intimidating and being aggressive towards people who refused to give them lollies.

More than half a dozen! What, seven? Eight?
One Herne Bay resident told the Herald the inner-city area also had problems with terrifying trick-or-treaters, with up to 150 flocking to the suburb for Halloween. "There are even some shipped in from Glen Innes for the better pickings."

Mr Alofa said police had not received any reports of people being "shipped in".

People from Glen Innes visiting Herne Bay? Christ, why didn't you say this was serious??

Oh wait, you did.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Thanks, South Island affairs correspondent.

The male bird, known as Aragorn, this weekend attacked Dian Edmondson while she was kayaking.

The attack was so fierce she had to fend it off with a paddle.

She says she was told of other attacks on the same day.

When she first passed by the swan to say hello "he had his head down, tucked under his wings and I just thought he was being shy".

But later, as she passed a bridge, she heard a yell: "hey, he's going to get you" - and then the feathers began to fly.

"He actually physically got out of the water on top of my kayak, at the back. He had his wings stretched out ... attacking my kayak with his beak. All I know is my boat's shaking ... and I was screaming and carrying on."

I'm sorry - Aragorn?

On second thoughts, maybe we should let The Hobbit go overseas until we have a firmer grip on reality.

EDIT: Just saw that the swan made the front page of the print edition. Well done, big guy.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New Zealand's Next Top Fish

The National government's recession spending cuts have given public research organisation Niwa a chance to reconsider their scientific priorities - or, at least, that's the impression I got from this piece on A5:

"Deep sea fish take ugliness to new level, says Niwa"

"says Niwa"

Actual quote from Niwa in the article:

Niwa fisheries scientist Peter McMillan said the discoveries revealed how little we knew about the ocean's riches - less than 0.002 per cent of the deep sea environment has been sampled.

"The deeper we go, the less we know. Our knowledge of fishes decreases with increasing depth."

Quotes from or attributions to Niwa about how ugly/monstrous/gross/icky the fish are: 0

Truth to power: sports edition

It ain't easy being a journalist, and sometimes you have to make the tough calls. At some point you have to stand up to the powers-that-be and say, "No! I will not be your lapdog! I will not feed your lies to the people any more!"

Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward risked their careers to expose the seedy underbelly of political corruption and uncover the true scale of Watergate. Meanwhile, several journalists of the independent, anti-Putin Novaya Gazeta have been murdered in the last decade. But it's good to see that journalistic courage exists on these shores too, as Herald sports columnist Chris Rattue puts his press box World Cup tickets and accompanying chicken nibbles on the line to call out the New Zealand rugby hierarchy and call them 'boofheads'. Controversial!

"Idiotic drivel from the rugby Kremlin"

The All Blacks' assistant coach Steve Hansen has made a bold bid for Boofhead of the Year.

His suggestion that the New Zealand media co-operate with a later timing for All Black team releases by opting not to leak any earlier information they may glean on the selections is bizarre.

Hansen has been pilloried by other commentators, and rightly so.

He has already put the rugby media in an unfortunate situation, because public suspicions about past and future reporting will be raised.

Now, I appreciate the sentiment. I'm all about freedom of information, and the idea of newspapers acting as some sort of censors for governments terrifies me. I mean, what if the mainstream media in New Zealand more or less reprinted government and corporate press releases instead of analysis? I know, it's too shocking to bear thinking about.

Unfortunately, Rattue goes on to get a little carried away.

The need for press freedom and the right of the public to as much genuine information as possible in our society are among the many reasons to mock Hansen's plea.

To even suggest that the New Zealand media would enter into such agreements is an insult. The media should operate in an arena of competition, not collusion.

What a closed and boring world those rugby-heads must live in for drivel like that to come from their lips. They are, as I have said often, control freaks to a level that dulls and thus harms their sport.

They mistakenly believe that an entire country should be - and even is - in a Kremlin-style rugby camp.

All journalists face tricky situations at times, and may choose to withhold a story knowing there will be a better payoff down the line. This can be a grey area of no hard and fast rights or wrongs.

But a blanket agreement such as Hansen is suggesting is totally unacceptable.

The rugby media, a thin line in this country, will fight such trends to the bitter end and cop the consequences if any. The rot must stop here.

Then again, maybe a Kremlin-style rugby camp is exactly what the All Blacks need to give them the discipline to beat the bed-wetting liberals of France this time.

To quote Rattue himself: "What a closed and boring world those rugby-heads must live in".

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The more things change...

I've mentioned before that Beck Vass isn't actually the name of a reporter working at the New Zealand Herald; instead, it's a code phrase for a press release that's been jammed into the newspaper. So, from the newspaper that brought you the story about how great Foodtown rebranding to Countdown would be for consumers, here's a page A3 story about how great C4 rebranding to FOUR will be for indiscriminate television watchers aged 18-39.

Fans of America's Next Top Model and The Simpsons, which now screen on TV3, will no longer be pressing "3" on their remotes from early next year.

The channel changeover is part of a rebranding by Mediaworks, which owns TV3 and C4, as the broadcaster tries to attract older viewers.

Ok, so what effect do some big industry players think this will have?

Mediaworks TV chief executive Jason Paris announced yesterday that the network was giving the mostly music C4 channel a shakeup, making its content more mainstream and renaming it "Four".

"Four will be a channel which appeals to anyone looking for great entertainment," Mr Paris said.

"Everything the channel does will be entertainment. No news, sport or information, just pure escapism."

Unlike C4 previously, which was so chocka with news and information there was barely any time for booty-shakin' hip-hop videos. Information such as 'what happened this week on America's Next Top Model'.

At this point, any pretense of actually being a newspaper article stops.

New programmes include Community, in which comedian Joel McHale plays a lawyer forced to go to community college to get a real qualification after his degree was found to be fraudulent.

Also included is drama series The Gates, set in a neighbourhood with a "dark and delicious" secret, and Top Chef: Just Desserts - a spin-off of the Emmy-winning Top Chef series.

Oh good - because I can't wait to see what happens to all my favourite characters from Top Chef.

Anyway, this was actually the second, and least bad, Herald article about this Mediaworks change. The first appeared yesterday on the website. It's allegedly written by the implausibly named 'Hugh Sundae' - nice one - but I'll give you one guess as to who actually wrote it:
C4 will be re-branded as FOUR, in a statement Mediaworks said it would "become broader in its appeal, with programming which attracts a wider, and more mature audience."

[...] C4, which currently targets the 15-39 year-old audience, will refocus on the current TV3 key-demographic of 18-49. In turn TV3 will now target 25-54 - currently TV1's key demographic.

[...] "It's very good news for viewers," according to Martin Gillman, partner at Mitchener Gillman Communications.
Well, except for viewers aged 15-17.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Headline of the day: 'Muslims are people too' Edition

From page A6:


It's Friday, and Garth still hasn't appeared. Dead, or just in hibernation? Answers on the back of a pie wrapper.


Meanwhile, at stately Herald Manor...
Editor: ...Right, next story. What's this one about?

Journalist: Well, it's about pests getting through customs. Apparently snakes aren't the problem at all, but-

(Editor turns and looks out window. Fingertips touch, C. Montgomery Burns-style.)

Editor: Snakes, you say....

Thursday, July 1, 2010

SuperCity Race: Parallel Universe Edition

That is, the parallel universe where John Banks isn't right-wi... sorry, "business-friendly" enough to be mayor. Take it away, Fran O'Sullivan, as usual on her knees (pun most definitely intended) before the Business Roundatable:

Wanted: A new mayoral candidate with plenty of verve, business smarts and charisma to sharpen the leadership contest for the new Auckland Council.

That is the clear message sent by a big swag of Auckland's business power-brokers in the Herald's 2010 CEO survey.

Oh, by the way, I've downloaded this amazing new piece of software to help with my blogging: it's called 'Euphemism-O-Detector', and it automatically bolds any use of euphemism in blog text. I thought I'd see how it went on this article.

"Most Aucklanders were expecting a tough challenge for this role," said Auckland Regional Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett. "So far they have been disappointed."

[...] Neither main candidate achieved a particularly high rating from the respondents on whether they had the "vision, drive and execution skills to ensure the Auckland Council succeeds".

[...] "If Auckland isn't efficient then growth aspirations won't be met," commented a the [sic] head of a professional firm.

[...] A law firm head described Banks as a "proven performer" in managing complex change and demonstrating vision and leadership. But others noted that he polarises opinion. "The first mayor needs to be a consensus builder so that the various factions can move towards common ground," said Foodstuff's Tony Carter. "Balancing that, the mayor needs to be a consensus builder as a weak person won't achieve anything."

[...] Another said both Banks and Brown were much more politically interested than policy-oriented, and, questioned whether either would have the pragmatism to deal with critical commercial issues like the Ports of Auckland shareholding.

[...] The new candidate should be "someone with guts, who can take some hits (and has taken some hits), someone who understands business, someone with good relations to Wellington, but not someone who is a career politician," said a finance CEO.

[...] Given the lack of overwhelming confidence in either Banks or Brown, it's perhaps not surprising that more chief executives say the Auckland Council's CEO, rather than the mayor, will be more important to the Super City's success.
Can someone please untangle the logic of that sentence? Given that I don't like any vegetables, it's not surprising that I think I'll satisfy my nutritional requirements by dipping streaky bacon in chocolate.
[...] Setting a clear vision for Auckland was important if the new council - which wraps together the present eight local authorities of Auckland into one structure - is not to become bogged down in factional fighting and local concerns.
[...] Among comments were: "too many of the existing crop have declared their interest in standing"; "the democratic structure does not allow for selection on skill matched to job requirements"; and "even C&R has too many has-beens who never were". A clear majority - 56 per cent - believed there were "too many retreads" at the expense of new blood; 40 per cent were unsure.
Presumably leaving 4% who thought there were "not enough retreads". Sounds like a great survey.
[...] Just one-third of chief executives think the new council-controlled organisations will have sufficient independence to do what's best for Auckland.
Leaving just... everyone else in the region upset that CCOs will be largely unaccountable to elected representatives.

Well, that worked quite nicely, didn't it, valued readers?

Party on, Garth


I haven't written about Garth for a long time now. This is partly because I'm lazy, but also because he's just been boring. I really can't be arsed when he writes - again - about how climate change is made up by an international conspiracy of environmentalists and financiers.

Today's column bugged me though. Not (just) because he's back bagging the availability of abortions. It's the terrible excuses for arguments that he puts into his column, and that are therefore sanctioned, if not endorsed, by the New Zealand Herald. The column is even entitled, "Murder of innocents behind closed doors," as if Garth would prefer them to be filmed in front of a studio audience and put on Youtube.
While the compulsive-obsessive nico-nazis celebrate depriving our jailbirds of their perfectly legal tobacco, a gullible Minister of Corrections, Judith Collins, makes what will turn out to be an unsupportable rod for her own back. Meanwhile, a group of our so-called high-powered citizens get together to push for tougher laws on another perfectly legal product, booze.
Let me explain it, Garth. Whenever you make a law banning something, it's usually on a product that is legal - albeit often something that, like alcohol, is already restricted. If it weren't legal, you wouldn't have to ban it.

Smoking contributes to the deaths of a few thousand people a year; excessive alcohol consumption to a few thousand more.

But what about the more than 17,500 potential New Zealanders who were vacuumed into oblivion in abortion clinics round the country in the 2009 calendar year, most of them illegally under the provisions of the law supposedly administered by the Abortion Supervisory Committee?

Ok, neither the time nor place to get into a debate about whether the foetus is a person, or can meaningfully be described as 'a potential New Zealander' - but at least I'm willing to point to a debate. And don't worry, Garth: a lot of those women were probably immigrants.
Once again, all but a handful (2 per cent) of the 17,550 abortions performed last year were on the grounds of serious danger to the mental health of the mother - a ratio that has been constant since 1977 - which means there must be a hell of a lot of mentally unstable women in our land.
Well can you blame them? Look at the state of newspaper columnists.
In the United States, increasing use of ultrascan has led to big reductions in the number of abortions as women who seek counselling see the perfectly formed little human being moving in their wombs.
Yes, and it's been a massive, politically-motivated battle led by religious groups which is being fought out in the courts. In everyday parlance, we call it a 'guilt trip'. To be consistent, I'd like everyone who wants to eat bacon and eggs to have to watch someone slaughter their pig, and then grab the eggs from the battery cage.

Nevertheless, some of last year's abortion statistics are more chilling than others. For instance, last year nearly 6500 women had repeat abortions: 19 had their seventh (or more), 63 their sixth, 136 their fifth, 441 their fourth, 1364 their third and 4423 their second. What does that tell us about the effectiveness of "counselling"?

Depressingly, 3952 teenagers, and children as young as 11, had induced abortions last year. Of them, 592 had had a previous abortion and 67 girls were on to their third or more. What does that tell us about the effectiveness of "sex education"?

Nothing, Garth. It tells us nothing. That's just how statistics works. Now, what do rising teen pregnancy rates in conservative US states during the Bush Administration tell us about abstinence teaching?

But the most sinister aspect of all this is that the Abortion Supervisory Committee, which is supposed to administer the abortion law as passed by Parliament, continues to act illegally.

In a High Court judicial review of the committee in 2008, sought by Right to Life, Justice Forrest Miller said in his judgment: "In my opinion, the statistics and the committee's comments over the years ... do give rise to powerful misgivings about the lawfulness of many abortions. They tend to confirm [the] view that New Zealand essentially has abortion on request."

Yet nothing has changed. The alleged threat to the mental health of the mother remains the grounds for nearly all the abortions granted.

I'll help you out with this too, Garth. The reason that the government isn't doing anything about it is that it is working as intended. The only reason that women have to go through the ridiculous charade of applying for consideration under the mental duress condition is that it is a sop to grumpy old people like you. For better or worse there's not many of you left, and your cigarette, alcohol and pie-binging ways aren't helping matters. Well, not for you.

You can rail at the alleged illegality if you like, but, like it or not, the day that some court rules that these abortions are illegal is the day Parliament introduces legislation legalising abortion properly. This is because most people in New Zealand like the fact that abortions are available. I'm sorry but that's just how democracy (usually) works. Here's a list of countries you may be interested in moving to:
  • North Korea
  • China
  • Pakistan
  • Vatican City
  • United States of America

The members [of the Abortion Supervisory Committee] up for reappointment are Professor Dame Linda Holloway, of Dunedin, as chairwoman, Dr Rosemary Fenwicke, of Wellington, and the Rev Patricia Allen, of Christchurch.

There is growing pressure being put on Mr Power, by Right to Life and others, not to reappoint Dr Fenwicke on the grounds of conflict of interest. One of the duties of the committee is to supervise abortion certifying consultants, who are empowered to authorise the disposal of unborn children, yet Dr Fenwicke is herself a certifying consultant.

Oh, a conflict of interest. Sure, perhaps. Or, then again, maybe (and I really have no idea here) Dr Fenwicke is actually an expert on abortion and, given that it's not going to be banned before Judgement Day, she might have some valuable knowledge about best practice in providing them.

How about instead considering the conflict of interest of Rev Allen, whose title is a bit of a giveaway as to where her sympathies lie. I thought not. Frankly, I suspect Garth's main problem with the committee is that they're all women.

It is only to be hoped that Mr Power will have the guts and the nous to use this as an opportunity to clean up the whole illegal, closed-shop abortion industry.

God, you're right! Maybe I was wrong about you! Let's clean it up! Let's make sure that women don't have to be made to feel ashamed about their choice, let's make sure they're not literally told you are crazy, or at risk of it as a condition of getting an abortion.

Otherwise, the annual slaughter of the innocents will remain our most dreadful and heartbreaking tragedy and disgrace.

Oh. Sorry, my bad.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Fun with headlines

So the government is making noises about banning smoking in prisons. You'd wonder why they feel like they need a fag when they can just take a dip in the heated pool, shoot a quick nine holes on the golf course or watch Gossip Girl on their MySky HDI blah blah blah...

Anyway, supposedly the main motivation for the change is the health - and, of course, future litigation prospects - of prison guards and non-smoking prisoners. Fair enough, although good luck making it stick. So quite why anyone feels the need to make this ridiculous point is beyond me - "Prison smoke ban could reduce crime":
Banning smoking in prisons could reduce crime, says a Northland mayor, amid warnings that guards and inmates would face added pressures and need more resources to cope.

[...] Whangarei Mayor Stan Semenoff, who has been advocating smokefree prisons since March, said crime rates could drop as a result of the policy.
Since March! Anyway, this is New Zealand and we have a fine tradition of small town (sorry) mayors coming up with ridiculous bollocks: Tim Shadbolt's Invercargill International Airport, Michael Laws' ... erm, Michael Laws. Now why does Mr Semenoff believe this to be the case?

A smoking ban at a prison on Britain's Isle of Man had become a deterrent for reforming criminals who couldn't face prison terms without smoking, Mr Semenoff said.

The drop in crime has been reported by British media, including the Telegraph, which said the crime rate on the island had fallen by 14 per cent and burglary by 35 per cent.

For a start, the Isle of Man isn't really part of Britain - but that's hardly the most misleading thing here. It seems like Mayor Semenoff has been reading this article from the super-reliable Daily Mail, which combines the correlation of a (relatively) massive new prison that happens to ban smoking with anecdotes about potential crims hating the prospect of not smoking, and finds causation. Interestingly, this piece from the IoM Today doesn't mention the smoking ban, and puts the drop down to effective community policing, which seems perfectly plausible on an island of 80,000 people with already-low rates of crime. In fact, while the Telegraph article mentioned in the Herald mentions a one-year drop in crime, the IoM Today article claims the massive crime drop began three years ago - before the prison was even built.

Obviously I can't expect a Herald reporter to do the five minutes of googling it took to find that information. And I realise that in the brave new world of 'objective journalism', the journalist's job is to accurately report what famous people have said, rather than finding out if it's true or not.

What I don't understand is why the crazed ramblings of a minor public official on an issue of no direct relation to him have been reported, and then bigged-up until it forms the headline of the piece (the only part of the piece most people will read before heading to Your Views). Or why the Herald is suddenly interested in an evidence-based approach to reducing crime, rather than just phoning up Garth McVicar and asking him what he thinks.

But the worst part is the headline. The article itself, while certainly being an utterly banal recounting of what various interest groups have said, with no weighing up of the issue at all, at least samples different views, only one of which - Mr Semenoff - considers the putative drop in crime noteworthy. Nonetheless, there's the headline: "Prison smoke ban could reduce crime".

Sometimes I cry at night.

EDIT: The headline has changed now that Crusher has announced the policy. But you get the point.

I've banned the Herald... oh wait

On Page 3, there's an article about the Australian Government 'banning' "ultra-skinny" models, which the Herald helpfully illustrates with a picture of an "ultra-skinny" model in a bikini. Nice.

"Aussie bans ultra-skinny fashion models":
Australia has moved to ban ultra-skinny models from catwalks and magazines under a new code of conduct announced yesterday.
Code of conduct, huh...

The initiative encourages those in the fashion and beauty industries to refrain from using super-thin models on the catwalk and digitally-enhancing images in magazines to make models appear even skinnier.

The code, which is not compulsory, also calls for fashion magazines to stop advertising rapid weight-loss diets and cosmetic surgery.

[...] The Australian code also encourages only using models aged 16 and over, with retailers and brands also being urged to provide a greater variety of sizes in clothing.

So not really a ban at all, then. I realise that these voluntary codes are often the result of compromises between government and industry lobbies, but it seems to me that "Aussie does not go through with ban on ultra-skinny models" is a more accurate headline here.
[Australian Federal Youth Minister Kate] Ellis said the move would let those in the fashion and beauty industries know customers "no longer want to see already thin models who have great chunks digitally removed and cut out of their thighs and waists to appear even thinner.
Sigh. I know that neither the Herald nor the original source of the story made up such a ridiculous quote - if people (or, more to the point, advertisers) didn't want, or think they wanted, to see these images, they wouldn't exist. (Perhaps you could argue that advertisers are forcing these models on people who don't want to see them, but I think that would be a stretch.) But part of the problem is that the media will report any such banality from a politician without question, let alone criticism. Where's the journalist asking the obvious question here?

Oh that's right, they all got fired and are working in ministerial press offices. Nothing to see here.

You're not even trying anymore

I knew I shouldn't have looked at the front page of the Weekend Herald:

Yes, here's that front page article about a fictional character from an advertising campaign, something that evidently passes for culture - sorry, culcha - in New Zealand:

After more than 10 years and 60 commercials, retirement is looming for ASB Bank's Ira Goldstein.

The bumbling banker and his grumpy New York boss are viewer favourites, and their television ads for the bank have won many industry awards.

But the ASB has dumped advertising agency TBWA Whybin, which created the campaign in 1999.

The bank won't discuss the change, but it seems Goldstein could soon be on his way back to New York after his decade-long investigation of ASB's merits.

To be fair to John Drinnan, he writes about this type of stuff all the time and probably didn't mean it to end up on the front page.
ASB pulled the Goldstein advertisements for several weeks after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in September 2001, out of respect for those killed and for fear of causing offence with the image of a bumbling New York banker.

Anyway, I trust the same thing struck you as struck me when I looked at the picture above. the story about the ASB advertising campaign appears on the page right above... the ASB advertising campaign. Now that's what I call synergy!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The true cost of Bieber Fever

Bored of parliamentary expense scandals, but gagging for news of wasted taxpayer money? Don't worry, the Herald has you covered.

Interesting headline: the only reason the police are tallying the cost is that the Herald put in an OIA request.

It took 30 policeman working a total of 161 hours to look after pop sensation Justin Bieber during his day-long New Zealand visit.

The resources were used for the 16-year-old Canadian heart-throb's visit on April 27 and 28.

[...] Security was beefed up in New Zealand after excited fans caused chaotic scenes in Sydney which prompted police to cancel his show at the Circular Quay.

Ok, so I'm not sure what the Herald's angle is here. I don't like to see my tax money spent on protecting tween pop stars any more than APN does - or would do if they made a profit and therefore had to pay tax - but I suspect that 161 hours of police time is cheaper than the aftermath of the riot that happened in Sydney. I don't understand it, but some people want to see this Bieber character, and I don't think I want to live in a country where we say people can't visit in case they are too popular.

But that's not the fun part of this article.

Garth McVicar of the Sensible Sentencing Trust said that over the years several victims had had trouble getting police to respond when they had reported a crime so the police decision to help with crowd control for Bieber's visit was shocking.

"There seems to be a huge lack of resources, lack of man-power to actually react to real crime.

"It just appalls me. Shouldn't these pop stars be organising their own security at their own cost? It shouldn't be a cost that the taxpayer's paying for. The police are a crime-fighting agency and that's what they should be limiting their resources to."

So... Garth McVicar - who, oddly enough, looks in my mind's eye like Garth George - is Speed Dial 1 on the Herald phones. I suppose that if he's willing to work for nothing but some Old Testament-style testosterone he's cheaper than a journalist.

  • Garth McVicar on the World Cup: "South African authorities took four days to try, convict and sentence to 15 years in prison men who stole from World Cup journalists. That's three days too many! SOFT ON CRIME."
  • Garth McVicar on television listings: "What? They cancelled Crimewatch? SOFT ON CRIME."
  • Garth McVicar on the horoscopes: "Mars has moved into the third house, and Uranus is ascendant, which means... YOU'RE SOFT ON CRIME."


To paraphrase every schoolkid who ever had to give a speech in primary school...

The Oxford English Dictionary defines news as:
2. The report or account of recent (esp. important or interesting) events or occurrences, brought or coming to one as new information; new occurrences as a subject of report or talk; tidings.
The New Zealand Herald defines Page 2 news as:

It is also widely known as Midwinter's Day, and from today, the days will begin to get longer and the nights shorter as summer draws closer.

There are 162 days until the first day of summer, on December 1.

Today, the sun will rise at 7.30am and set at 5.11pm - giving nine hours and 41 minutes of daylight.

Investigative journalism at its finest.


Sorry about the weak efforts at posting, by the way - the World Cup is really eating into my sleeping time, which means that sleeping eats into my work time, which means that work eats into my blogging time. So it goes.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010


I've always believed deep down, that any MP - or at least any MP who makes it to their second term - has to be a bastard. To paraphrase South Park, every election is between a giant douche and a turd sandwich, because they're the only ones who make it that far.

So I don't particularly begrudge the Herald their big story here, especially considering I've bagged them for not making a deal of MP expenses in the past. If anything, it's taken too long, and it's a black mark against the media that John Key had to willingly release the data himself.

The 'seven deadly sins' metaphor might be pushing it - Len Brown is 'envy' because he's admitted another personal purchase on his card, apparently because he felt left behind by the Labour caucus.

Some of the focus on Shane Jones is a bit prurient. I understand that he's not going to be Mr Popular among the female members of the caucus, and that perhaps it is worse that he watched porn rather than, say, romantic comedies, simply because a large number of taxpayers are opposed to pornography. (Although I would hope that plenty are also opposed to romcoms.) But this?

"...a pizza called Prawnographic...". Nice one.

The trouble is, of course, that the rightful damning of wankers rorting the system is that it conflates quite different things:

I assume that the inclusion of Helen Clark on the list is a joke, although you can never tell with the Herald. Michael Cullen is on the list for spending money on a fancy dinner - but, as the Dim-Post pointed out, that dinner was while he was Minister of Finance, and it was with the Australian Treasurer, and it's hard to argue that that's not some sort of government business. It hardly compares to taxpayer money being used by MPs as petty cash.

The final point is that, without defending the MPs accused here, there is another difference between some representatives and others. In 'the old days', MPs weren't paid, as it was considered a public service (not to mention that working for a wage was considered vulgar). This was one reason, of course, that working class people didn't become MPs - they couldn't afford to. Nowadays they are very well-paid, but a divide still exists. Of course John Key doesn't need to charge things to a ministerial credit card: he has $50 million. This is one reason why it's not a good idea, as the Herald was slyly suggesting yesterday, to scrap these cards and expenses altogether. The problem isn't that MPs can bill (as can so many private sector employees) for work expenses; it's that they clearly don't know, or refuse to acknowledge, what is business and what isn't.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lazy/busy linking

Busy morning at work, oddly enough - thanks a lot, University of Auckland Law School. So here's something funnier and more relevant than I would have come up with anyway, and which half of you have probably seen already because it's not like The Onion is obscure.


Boston Globe Tailors Print Edition For Three Remaining Subscribers

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


The Metro 'Section' (aka 'Page') of the paper, focusing on events of particular pseudo-relevance to people in the Auckland metropolitan area, is the result of the Herald's understandable desire to broaden their base beyond the city itself, and into the entire region and, indeed, the whole country.

That said, I never read it. The red ink-bedecked Metro page conjures up images, for me at least, of the most banal and boring news in Auckland - let's face it, anything important that happens in Auckland will, or should, be in the main news. (Sorry, rest of New Zealand.) To me, the Metro page is planning permission disputes, reports on council meeting minutes, residential zoning debates, 'waves' of burglary and that fascinating column where people, and God knows who, write in to ask about roads. But I found out today that it's not only that.

It's also news about notable cats from the metropolitan region:

Interestingly, it's the same reporter who wrote about the crabs (below). This is a bit confusing; I know times are tough at the Herald, but I'd thought that the demand for animal news would have meant separate reporters for vertebrates and invertebrates.

There's not much point quoting from an article about a cat, but I'm going to do it anyway:

Mr T, whose name is short for Tango after the police team that rescued him, was found as a kitten, soaking wet in a storm, his head popping up from behind the moving barrier on the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

Three years on, he's a healthy 6.1kg and "rules the roost" at his Helensville home.

[...] "He indicates what he wants so if he wants you to feed him, the paw comes out and hits you. And if dinner isn't on time - at six at night - you get a whack and if you ignore him, he goes around, he'll start ripping the furniture. If you still ignore him, he goes under the TV set.

"If that doesn't work he'll climb on top and dangle a leg so you can't watch the TV.

Awww. It's almost enough to make you wish for a controversial zoning permit.

Most Tortured/Tortuous Headline 2010

Page A6 today: "Fancy a feed of fancy crab? Sorry, there's a catch... well, no catch"


Oh, the article is also awful and unnecessary. The big news here is that stocks of Alaskan king crab in Auckland have run out:
Simon Gault, who owns the Jervois Steak House in Ponsonby and the Viaduct restaurant Euro, said stocks of Alaskan red king crab - subject of the television series The Deadliest Catch - ran out two weeks ago.

[...] The crab sells at Jervois Steak House at $26 for a 200g entree, and $80 for a 600g main.
Thanks for that important consumer news, consumer affairs reporter, of relevance to that large slice of society that purchases $80 restaurant mains. Christ, no wonder the rest of the country sees Aucklanders as effete layabouts.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Erection News, Part II

Also on the front page, some decidedly less sexy news:

A sexual abuse trial was aborted after a juror revealed he became aroused while listening to evidence from the alleged victims.

The elderly jury member was one of 12 people hearing a case in an Auckland Court this week about the sexual abuse of two teenage girls.

[...] On Wednesday, Judge Mary Beth Sharp questioned the jurors about how they were coping.

It is understood she was told the male juror had confided to his fellow jurors that he had been sexually aroused by the victims' evidence but had coped on Tuesday by wearing a condom in the courtroom.

Right, well that's pretty rough. From here, however, the article gets a bit odd.

The man also told the other jurors his views on the trial in case he ended up being taken off the jury.

As a result of that, the trial - which was supposed to run until yesterday - was aborted and the case rescheduled for a new trial date.

The premise of the whole article seems to be 'gross old pervert means rape trial has to be re-done'. But the two sentences above seem to imply that the actual reason for the abandonment of the trial wasn't that a man got an erection, but that the rules around communication among jurors were broken. Of course, I'm no fancy big-city lawyer, and perhaps the reason was indirectly the erection. Typically, it's impossible to tell from the article itself. All I know is that 'Trial cancelled because of breach of jury rules' is a less exciting headline than 'Trial cancelled because of pervert's erection'.

Moving on:

Neither the police nor the Crown would comment, saying the case was still before the courts.

But one source last night told the Herald the alleged victims would now have to go through the ordeal of giving evidence again at another trial.

Another source said this was not the first instance of a juror acting inappropriately.

"While these sorts of events are certainly uncommon, this sort of conduct is not without precedent."

Sources said the aborted case was yet another reason to have sexual abuse trials heard by judges only.

What the shit is this? Writing like this wouldn't survive on Wikipedia, let alone a proper, self-respecting newspaper. This isn't Watergate, people - we don't have to protect Deep Throat. Why do you need an anonymous source to tell you whether the victims will need to testify again? Couldn't you just contact someone at the University Law School, or... any trial lawyer? Oh, and in other breaking news - this isn't the first time a juror has acted inappropriately, in the history of New Zealand jury trials. Then we'll just put a quote in from this anonymous whistle-blower, even though it exactly paraphrases what the previous sentence already said. But the last one is the best. What you really mean is, "people who think sex cases should be tried by a judge only, but for some reason want to keep that fact secret, think that sex cases should be tried by a judge only." I'm going to slip an anonymous note onto my boss's desk saying, "Sources say that James Coe deserves a big fat raise," and I'll see how far that gets me.

There have also been concerns that juries do not always accurately represent society as they often are drawn from people who have the time to do jury service.

The accused's lawyer, Adam Couchman, said what had happened was not a common enough occurrence to seek change in the system.

"This is a once in a 20-year experience, so we have got to be careful of falling into that knee-jerk sort of reaction we all seem to have when something bizarre or significant occurs."

More rubbish weasel words. Honestly, it's like a tired satire of Fox News. Despite the concerns, the only person actually quoted in the article does not seem to share those concerns at all.
It is understood police are looking into the matter.
Oh Christ, just stop it!

Erection News, Part I

The News Week Ends Here:

Sacked for being too sexy, eh. Let's turn one page, to A3.

I see they've just reused the same picture. Speaking of which, the caption:
Managers told Debrahlee Lorenzana that her high heels drew attention to her body in a manner that was upsetting.
That's interesting, because in this photo Ms Lorenzana is wearing a halter top and a lei. Presumably not what she wore at work. Christ, why didn't you just photoshop her head onto a porn star?

Workplace discrimination is, of course, an important issue - even if these are just allegations at this stage. However, I suspect that the large majority of, say, women fighting gender discrimination aren't going to find themselves on the front page of the paper.

Even more interestingly, I suspect that the kinds of attitudes that have got Ms Lorenzana, and most of Ms Lorenzana's breasts, on the front page of the paper are the same attitudes that led to the alleged discrimination in the first place.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


During my most recent absence, I used my time on all sorts of esoteric creative adventures. One of them was the short-lived but legendary DOG NEWZ. A masterwork of ultra-concise satire, I skewered the liberal media with cutting wit, etc. etc.

Anyway, obviously the Herald would never do anything like run a front page report on a dog - certainly not after the savaging they would have got on DOG NEWZ...

Dum de dum.
Oh, a free glossy magazine, the Red Bulletin - aka a 100-page advertising supplement for Red Bull. John Key's nether regions. Something unimportant about Israel.

Oh, what's that on the bottom left?

Choice quotes:
"She's well kept, she's clean and she smells good," Mr Eagles said.

"Funnily enough, it's the second dog I've found at the top of the Harbour Bridge."

"I thought, 'How the hell would a penguin get up here and nobody see it until it's right at the top of the bridge?"'

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Clutching at straws

Have a look at this picture:

Now have a look at this picture:

Now let's look at them together:

Bland and nondescript or strikingly like an image used to good effect in another election campaign?

A picture of Auckland Super City mayoral contender Len Brown in a campaign advertisement is being compared to posters of Barack Obama used during his successful bid for the White House.

Well let's do a comparison, shall we?

  • One is in a striking colour scheme, one is in black and white.
  • Len Brown is smiling and looking at the 'camera', while Obama comtemplates the heavens.
  • Obama is very stylised, while Brown goes for a more 'warts and all' depiction.
  • Obama's picture features the word 'HOPE', while Brown's has nothing.
  • They are both pictures of political candidates.
  • Both wearing ties?
Ok, so not much there. So where did this story come from? Let's have a look at the text.
A picture of Auckland Super City mayoral contender Len Brown in a campaign advertisement is being compared to posters of Barack Obama used during his successful bid for the White House.
Right - the sort of Fox News-style weasel words that I really shouldn't have to expect. Who is doing the comparing? The only 'characters' in the story are the Brown campaign, the Banks campaign and the reporter herself. Let's imagine it as a CSI episode - you know, there are only about three characters in the episode and it has to have been one of them. It's probably not the 'victim', which means that it's either Banks's people or a lazy journalist.

Either way I'm bored and don't care.

Mr Brown's main rival for the super mayoralty, Auckland Mayor John Banks, did not want to comment. However, his campaign strategist, Auckland City councillor Aaron Bhatnagar, described the ad as "bland and nondescript".

"Our campaign's about talking about the issues of the people, not just showing off a big photo."


Shock horror

Wow - it's great to be back! I hope you enjoy the fruits of the massive site redesign that's kept the blog out for a couple of months.

In one of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide books - don't ask me which one - Arthur Dent finds himself living on a primitive planet where he becomes renowned as the inventor and finest practitioner of the sandwich. Also on this planet are birds - again, the name escapes me - that are stoic and unruffled in the face of stampeding wildebeest-creatures, but shocked by something as common as the sun rising, or a falling leaf.

The lead story in today's Herald reminded me of these birds:

Shock, you say? Did the building arise overnight? Were the plans for it a secret?

A $218 million prison development towering over the Southern Motorway and casting a shadow across Mt Eden has horrified residents, principals and community leaders.

They are appalled by the project at Mt Eden Prison, and one city councillor believes the new block has grown higher than initial plans indicated it would.

One councillor? Do the others agree? Did anyone actually look at the initial plans, which I assume are in the public domain, and check to see if it has grown higher? Can I write this whole post in rhetorical questions? Perhaps one of the two journalists assigned to this 'breaking' story could have had a look to confirm.

Many of the cells will be above the level of the adjacent motorway.

That is of concern to Mayor John Banks, who last night blasted the new-look jail as a "an architectural monstrosity".

"For people coming into the city, it says: 'Welcome to the aspirational capital of New Zealand, where you jail people ... and it's great'," he said.

"I can only hope that we are not going to see people with their noses pressed against the bars.

"It just should not have happened and I railed against it before it rose from the ground."

Of course, NIMBY-ism about prisons is nothing new. In fact, it's one of the classic mainstays of local politics. Unfortunately for Mayor Banks, the upcoming supercity means that he can't just claim anymore that we should bung a prison in Manukau or Henderson - or even Rodney. Where does he propose we should put them? Oh, I don't know. Maybe we could bury them underground - then we wouldn't have to be offended by seeing people's FACES through the BARS. Christ.
And God forbid that the Auckland Central Remand Prison be located in Auckland Central - you know, near the courts where remand prisoners will be attending. Remand prisoners who might be on their third strike. Under the legislation passed by the National Party two days ago. The National Party in which John Banks used to be a minister.
However, the Corrections Department said last night that windows would be frosted and inmates would not be able to see through them. There would also be "acoustic buffering" to dampen noise created by rowdy prisoners.
Oh good, because I'd hate to be driving in my car along the Southern Motorway and have to hear a rowdy prisoner.

Now here's the best part of the article:

Neighbouring Auckland Grammar is also worried by the development. In a letter to Corrections chief executive Barry Matthews, board of trustees chairman Jeff Blackburn raised three issues over the "scale of the redevelopment" on the site.

These were the security risks posed by a shared boundary fence, the prospect of shade ruining sports fields and the potential for prisoners to look onto the school's grounds and for sound to carry from the new tower.

"It will add a degree of shading which may make the provision of winter sports fields impossible," Mr Blackburn wrote.

[...Councillor Fryer said,] "It is a well-attended school and the fields are really important. And if it's being overshadowed, it means that grass isn't growing properly. They [the fields] become more muddy, and that isn't good for sport."

Disclaimer: I attended Auckland Grammar School, and to this day I receive (unsuccessful) pleas for donations for such worthy causes as a new sports pavilion for one of the most privileged schools in the country. So this part of the article made me chuckle. The shared boundary fence is nothing new, even if the article implies it is; kids would regularly kick or throw balls too hard, and they would end up in the prison. Sometimes they would be thrown back, and we liked to imagine some grizzled con taking pity on us, wry smile on his face as he returned our prized sports equipment.

The next 'issue' is even more cringeworthy: "the potential for prisoners to look onto the school's grounds". Christ on a bike! Prisoners (some of them probably poor too) looking at Auckland Grammar students! Surely they could have faced the windows towards St Peter's instead.

But it's the sports fields that really cap it off. For one thing, it's only one of the three large sports fields at the school. For another - it's sports! It's not as if the students can't learn maths (possibly because they're put off by the noise of rowdy prisoners?). I particularly like Cr Fryer's "well-attended school" euphemism. What do you mean exactly, councillor?

The principal of nearby St Peter's College, Kieran Fouhy, said the prison redevelopment was "a crazy waste of money".

"Philosophically, it seems crazy that you're paying $100,000 a year to fund one prisoner when you could fund 20 rugby teams across the road, you know, or two teachers."

Well now I'm confused. This seems like something of a non sequitur - less a critique of the development and more of our current penal system. Or is the principal just confused? It reminds me of a letter I chopped out of the Herald a while back:

In other news, I've decided that the Herald should only cost about 5c to knock together every day so I don't know why I'm paying more than that.

Speaking of non sequiturs:

Newmarket Business Association chief Cameron Brewer was a lone voice of support for the project. He said the $250 million-plus being spent on upgrading the site "is arguably going to improve the area aesthetically".

"What [the] block rising from the ashes does is clearly remind people travelling through Spaghetti Junction in particular that there is a prison in the neighbourhood."

Well, that's a truly bold 'voice of support', especially from a man whose professional responsibility it is to have a massive hard-on for anything happening in the vicinity of Newmarket. If there's one thing I'm sure potential Newmarket shoppers want, I imagine it's a reminder that there's a prison in the neighbourhood.

What a bizarre article. I don't know what angle I love the most: the 'shock' at a development that's been ongoing for months; the barely-concealed cap-doffing to local elites; the contradictions about the penal system; the confused trailing off at the end of the article, presumably once the two journalists realised the story was complete bollocks.

Oh Herald. How I've missed you.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Up to five percent - or more!

"Almost half of the 500 firms surveyed say they intend pushing up prices by up to 5 per cent or more..."

Has anyone ever written a less meaningful sentence?

Anyway, some people might think that 11 per cent (the businesses 'planning' to raise prices by 5%+) is "a small number" - but then we have no idea what the ratio of people putting up their prices by 5% and those lowering prices is, because the Herald hasn't bothered to tell us the latter percentage. Meanwhile, later on in the article - entitled, of course, "Shoppers face GST price-rise rort":

Westpac economist Dominick Stephens said small firms could struggle to get away with large price rises on the back of GST changes.

"I would suggest that sort of thing will be very short-lived. Exactly the same sort of competitive pressures and market conditions that have got prices and profit margins to where they are now will prevail after the GST increase," he said.

So nothing to see here then.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


What on earth are they trying to imply?

"Police are looking for two 70-year-old retirees with a bone to pick."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Doncha think?

On the death of the motorcyclist in the Waikato:

A police officer who made a fatal u-turn in front of a motorcyclist was left so badly shaken by the man's death he could not key in an emergency call on his cellphone, says a witness.

In an ironic twist, the allegedly speeding motorist who the officer was about to pursue when he made the u-turn may have been the motorcyclist's best friend.

The Oxford English Dicitonary defines 'irony' thusly:
2. fig. A condition of affairs or events of a character opposite to what was, or might naturally be, expected; a contradictory outcome of events as if in mockery of the promise and fitness of things. (In F. ironie du sort.)
Let's ignore that fact that, even if this situation were ironic, pointing it out - an "ironic twist"? - in the second sentence of an article about a man's death, as if we were watching an M. Night Shyamalan movie, might be considered a wee bit too wry.

"A condition of affairs or events of a character opposite to what was, or might naturally be, expected". Now we can probably accept that you wouldn't expect that, when a man is killed after a police car sideswipes him during a U-turn, the policeman happened to be about to pursue someone who may have been the victim's best friend. That much is certainly true, in the same way as it's true that one might find it unlikely to meet the man of one's dreams and then, in short order, meet his beautiful wife. But it's hardly the opposite of what was expected, is it?

It's not even "a contradictory outcome of events as if in mockery of the promise and fitness of things". Now, if the policeman had been about to go and rescue the victim's friend from a burning car, that might have been ironic - he's ended up saving one, but harming the other. Unfortunately for the English language he was only about to give the man a speeding ticket.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Kids: DON'T do the funky chicken

For fans of Chris Morris's legendary series Brass Eye - "Deadly game reaches NZ children":

Education authorities are warning of a deadly choking game that has reached New Zealand.

The fad, which has plagued America and Britain for years, has now made its way to Hawke's Bay playgrounds, Hawke's Bay Today reported.

[...] Campaign group Games Adolescents Shouldn't Play said up to 458 children in the US and 86 in Britain had been killed this way.

It was known by several names including "space monkey" and "funky chicken".

Right. In other news, when will politicians take seriously the epidemic of CAKE?

Meanwhile, headline of the day:


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

1990: Herald and freedom for Mandela

Now, I wonder which bits of this page A3 article - "Herald and supplies dropped to rower" - were written by NZPA, and which by the Herald staff reporter?

Transtasman rower Shaun Quincey had drinking water and two copies of the Herald dropped to him yesterday.

Quincey has been 42 days on the water, trying to become the first solo rower to complete the voyage between Australia and New Zealand.

A shortage of drinking water threatened to scupper his bid until Taupo rescue pilot John Funnell came to his rescue.

He flew a fixed wing aircraft on a nine-hour round trip from Taupo with emergency provisions including 38 litres of drinking water, coffee, two Heralds and a toothbrush.

Quincey had been in radio contact with them after the drop and was "delighted with it", said Mr Funnell. "He said to us 'You guys don't know what this means to me."'

[...] He was running dangerously low on water, with only four litres left. He said it was critical for supplies to be dropped to him if he was going to finish the mission.

- NZPA, staff reporter

Yes, it was good timing; he was also running low on toilet paper.

Wait - who's gushing?

From the front freaking page:

Was it the heat, the heavy uniforms, or the presence of the star?

Maybe it was all of these that left a journalist at the New Zealand Herald light-headed and on the verge of fainting yesterday as the Prime Minister opened a Lower Hutt school's new science and technology block.

It was a hot, muggy morning as John Key was greeted by about 620 school girls and several hacks singing the national anthem.

One overcome reporter was led away to get some water and then seated at the back, away from all the excitement.

Later, as the pupils broke into song again, one of the journalists had to be led to a table at the back for a glass of water.

He was soon joined by two others unable to continue standing.

Mr Key went inside to inspect the building, but later returned to meet and greet the reporters.

"He's such an inspirational role-model," gushed one. "He's so cool," was another star-struck accolade.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

For those of you doing your shopping at Shell

"Service station convenience comes at cost," says the Herald on page A5. An "unscientific survey" has discovered that it's almost certainly cheaper to do your weekly shop at a supermarket rather than a service station.

Convenience or low prices?

That's the choice you have to make when you choose your local service station over the supermarket.

An unscientific survey conducted by the Herald yesterday showed that buying grocery items from the local supermarket could save you about a quarter of your bill.

A purchase of eight items, including milk, bread and toilet paper, revealed savings of $11.13 if customers took the time to go to the supermarket.

Other places that are more expensive than a supermarket:
  • the local dairy
  • going door to door offering people cash for the food in their cupboards
  • Tokyo
On the other hand, it is considerably more difficult to fill up your petrol tank at the supermarket, so it's not just one way.

But Bev Frederikson, who conducts supermarket surveys for Consumer NZ, said service stations were not doing anything to mislead consumers.

[...] The bargaining power of the supermarkets was greater than that of smaller service stations and they could get better deals from suppliers.

Ms Frederikson said the fact that supermarkets were selling a broader range of products in greater volumes than service stations also meant that they could afford to make less profit on each item - in some cases selling "loss leader" items at less than cost to draw people in.

So... no story here then. It's as if a Herald reporter went to a service station, worked out they were paying more than at the supermarket, and decided this was an outrage. By the time someone sat them down and patiently explained that there was nothing interesting about this discovery whatsoever, it was too close to deadline to come up with anything else.

But at least we get to hear from industry types on the social role performed by our duopolistic supermarket chains:
Murray Jordan, general manager retail sales and performance for Foodstuffs Auckland, which owns the New World stores, said supermarket owner-operators were focused on offering customers a "great range of fresh foods and grocery products and a high level of customer service for a good price".
What a nice guy.