Thursday, June 28, 2007

Vive la Revolution

Politics is a strange racket sometimes. It sort of goes without saying that, by and large, your average politician (and most of them are distinctly average) is a fairly thick skinned creature. It's not the sort of career one chooses if one is easily hurt by criticism. For most politicians a personal attack slides of their hide like mud off a basking hippo.

But when it comes to the media it seems to be a different story - at least as far as their behaviour in the sacred precincts of the debating chamber is concerned. Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen is selling the new broadcasting rules as a liberalisation give that TV cameras will be allowed to show reaction shots. And, to be fair, that is a relaxation from current practice. However not extending the same liberty to still photographers is somewhat perplexing. the argument a single moment can be taken out of context has limited merit when newspapers can quite freely take a still from a broadcast agency.

But this is all a sideshow when compared to the fundamental issue. Blocking the use of TV footage for satire and banning any images that might denigrate an MP's image.

It's skewed from the beginning. A cartoonist, such as Tom Scott, is free to lampoon and a radio journalist is free to describe what they see in whatever terms they choose. Yet a TV journalist, or a still photographer, is not allowed to show what anyone in the public gallery can see. Doesn't this strike you as a little out of kilter?

If anyone in the public gallery can see what an MP is up to then so too should any other member of the public elsewhere in the country. However MP's are canny beasts. They know the power of an image and there's no way they''ll allow the public to see them as they really are. The behaviour in the Debating Chamber in Parliament regularly borders on the farcical and MP's would prefer that not become common knowledge.

Michael Cullen made the claim this week that Parliament is for debate, not theatre, though how he managed to say it with a straight face is beyond me. Theatre outstrips debate by a country mile in our Parliament and the Right Honourable Dr Michael Cullen is one of the practice's most well known exponents.

It's been gratifying to see the media thumb their noses collectively at the rules this week. Kudos to TVNZ, TV3, Prime, the Dominion Post, Newstalk ZB and others for taking a stand against the self righteous, self-serving, and hypocritical line taken by our country's elected members.

(oh and if anyone's interested Auckland Issues Minister Judith Tizard managed to sleep through most of Question Time today. She only woke when prodded by Dover Samuels who noticed the Press Gallery had their eyes on her)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Nice Work If You Can Get It

Well the rumour mill is bubbling about the salary being paid to TVNZ's new communications manager Peter Parussini. The word is it's around $250,000 which is a hefty sum and more than what some of the presenters actually get.

It's also equivalent to the salaries of five intermediate level journalists - do you think the 30 odd news staff that have just been axed in TVNZ's cutbacks might be a little pissed off?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Week in Politics

Sheesh, what a week it's been. The corridors of power have been flat tack with spin, innuendo, and the truly inane.

Lets start with the last first.

Inanity of the Week.

This has to go to the minor parties (Greens, Maori Party, United Future, and ACT) for their proposed code of conduct. To see Rodney Hide and Peter Dunne talk about the need to remove personal attacks from the House was ludicrous given some of their past behaviour. Rodney Hide (now known as the recently reformed Rodney Hide) is noted for his sharp tongue and scathing with during Parliamentary debate. In fact it's a strength of his and by signing up to this code he's effectively emasculated himself. And as for sensible Peter (setting aside some of his past diatribes against the Greens) wasn't he the one that all but accused Labour of being political adulterers just a few weeks back?

Wally of the Week.

Gordon Copeland by a country mile. Gordo, if you're going to commit your vote to one party make sure you name it correctly when you do your interview with One News. Naming the wrong Party makes you look like a bit of a dick. And as for supporting the Government on confidence and supply and National on everything else, well that's just bizarre. It's not often that I find myself in agreement with Whaleoil but this time I think he's hit the nail on the head.

King Hit of the Week.

This goes to the Ombudsmen and their scathing report on the Department of Corrections and it's prisoner transport procedures. The bad news just keeps coming for Corrections Minister Damien O'Connor who is by now a dead man walking. The smart money says he loses the portfolio at the next Cabinet reshuffle. The question then becomes who will be the next minister? One can't really see people queuing up for this job as Corrections is where Ministers go to die. If I had to make a pick I'd posit Ruth Dyson, Lianne Dalziel, and Shane Jones as potential candidates.

In O'Connor's defence I have to say his performance in Question Time on Thursday was a marked improvement. For the first time in 18 months he actually took National MP Simon Power head on and fought fire with fire and came out of the debate with some credit. Though one has to ask; why hasn't he done this earlier? It seems like it's too little too late.

Bizarre Diplomacy Award.

The hands down winner here is Fiji's Interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama over his regime's expulsion of NZ High Commissioner Michael Green. It seems the marching orders stem from Mr Field getting a better seat at the rugby than did Frank. No wonder Bainimarama is known as Coup Coup Frank in some quarters.

Mind you Foreign Minister Winston Peters didn't exactly cover himself in glory in the way he handled the matter. The media were aware of the situation shortly before 10 am Wednesday morning but could they get a comment from the Minister or his office on the situation? Not likely. Peters was intending to release the information at a Select Committee hearing after midday (if one was cynical one might suspect he intended to grandstand on the issue) and there was no way he was letting anything slip. In fact he went so far as to have the media booted out of the hearing when he briefed the Committee. The end result was that National Leader John Key was the first politician to comment on the development - not a good look for the Government.

The other bizarre thing about the Select Committee hearing was that for an hour and half not a single MP asked a question about Fiji. The biggest issue of the day and they stayed mute throughout. National also did itself no favours by not being there. They'd walked out in a huff earlier.

Junket Award.

I'm awarding this one to Trevor Mallard. It seems our Sports and Recreation Minister is heading back to Valencia again for the conclusion of the America's Cup. It seems being there for the Louis Vuitton Cup was so appealing he's felt the need to go straight back again. Mind you his presence there could explain this outburst from Ernesto Bertarelli about boorish Kiwi fans. Trevor "Heineken" Mallard does have a certain reputation.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Human Touch

This is one of a series of videos produced by a group of young Iraqi men. They're attempting to show what it's like for civilians living in Baghdad. I seriously recommend you take the time to watch it. It's a side of the Iraq story we don't get to see through the media and it's a perspective we need to see.

Friday, June 08, 2007

How Not To Leave a Country.

Again I'm being lazy and blogging something I recently posted on a discussion group. But given the length I really can't be arsed typing it out twice (even if it does blow my semi-anonymous blogging status). It's yet another tale from my multitudinous fund of OE stories - enjoy.

Back in 1990 and 1991 when I was in my late teens I was living and working in Japan looking after a showjumping team. Initially I was all official and had a working holiday visa. All was sweet with the wonder that is Japanese bureaucracy. However after my first six months getting an extension proved to be a difficult task and I had to resort to some unorthodox tactics to stay in my country and in my job. The solution was simple - every three months I'd quickly flit out of the country and come back in getting a tourist visa.

Not strictly legit' but it achieved my aims.

So things progressed along this path for some time but unfortunately for me things changed. You see I wasn't the only Kiwi in a certain area of Hokkaido working in the horse industry and eventually the immigration department wised up and decided to check matters out.

Learning this I made efforts to make my status a little more legal and endeavoured to get my paperwork in order. Unfortunately the system decided not to play ball, in fact it decided to lodge said ball squarely in my fundamental orifice. I ended up in the situation where, not only did I not have a working visa but I also had no tourist visa either.

Matters got worse when immigration rang my place of work and a receptionist (long on looks but short on guile) blithely told them how long I'd been working and exactly how much I had been paid. At this point I decided a strategic retreat to New Zealand was necessary and this is where things began to get a bit tricky.

There I was at Narita Airport plane tickets in hand going through immigration when I struck up a conversation with an Australian. He like me had visa issues and was heading home to rectify matters. He was just ahead of me in the queue, presented his passport at the immigration desk, and a kerfuffle ensued. Two of the largest Policemen I'd ever seen promptly turned up and hauled him off for questioning.

I'm now slightly apprehensive.

I roll up to the immigration officer and hand over my passport. He looks at it, then at me, then calls for the police. Off I'm hauled to a small room and the interrogation, and the bizarre nature of Japanese bureaucracy, begins to unveil. Because I have no visa I'm told I can't be in the country. However without a visa I also can't leave it.
"Simple" says I, "give me a visa and I'll go".
"Not possible", says the not so friendly official,"a visa can only be issued by the Japanese Embassy in NZ"
"OK let me on the plane and I'll apply for one when I get home" says me.
"You can't leave Japan without a visa"


Anyway while all this was going on files had been checked and my somewhat undercover work history was sprung. In no uncertain terms I was told I could face 6 months in jail and/or a hefty fine. Fairly heavy duty stuff for an 18 year old to handle. Suffice it to say I was shitting bricks.

The official sternly tells me I'm in big trouble (btw all this conversation was going on in Japanese), tells me to stay where I am and heads out the door. I. of course, do the complete opposite. As I still had my passport and plane tickets I was on my feet in a flash, out through the other door, past immigration and heading for the boarding gate at a great rate of knots.

Luckily for me the flight was boarding and I scuttled on and wedged myself into a window seat taking care to ensure there was at least one octogenarian between me and the aisle.

Five minutes later there's a commotion at the front of the plane. Very foolishly I look up to see what's going on and there's the immigration official I'd escaped from not 15 minutes before. His eyes meet mine and down the aisle he strides shouting angry imprecations and calling down all sorts of nasty curses upon my head.


A number of options were flashing through my head as he's screaming at me (in Japanese) to get of the plane immediately. I did what any other baka gaijin would do in such circumstances and stared blankly at him pretending I couldn't understand him(despite our prior fluent conversation). The poor man is now a bright shade of red, and heading for purple, as he speaks through clenched teeth in strained english. Again he orders me off the plane.

Time for plan B and in my best 3rd Form German I said;
"Einen bien auschlander. Nicht spechen sie englisch. Sprechen sie Deutsch?"

Now I won't say his face was reminiscent of Hiroshima revisited at this point, but it was pretty close. Veins throbbing his rage was approaching incandescent status.

And this is when my saviours intervened. God Bless Air NZ hostesses who will come to the aid of a Kiwi boy in distress. Pleading schedules, fuel loads, baggage priorities, and other such aviation priorities they efficiently whisked the protesting official off the plane and onto the airbridge. The poor bugger didn't know what hit him. Before he knew it the door was closed and yours truly had flown the coop and was home free and clear.

Needless to say when I applied for a visa when I got home it was turned down. I've never been back to Japan since - I'm still slightly worried about what might happen if I did.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Which One?

Ok go here and take a long hard look at these health representatives both appointed an elected.

Then take a guess - which one is the internet dater?

Monday, June 04, 2007

How RNZ Broke the Muliaga Story

I've just figured out how RNZ got the scoop of the year.

I'd been wondering why the name of the Muliaga family spokesman, Brenden Sheehan, was so familiar. The fact he was a unionist was well known but what I'd forgotten was that his union represents RNZ. It turns out I've even blogged about him before.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

What if Tintin was A Scouse?

Here's how Tintin might have turned out if he was a Manchester United fan.

[this is most definitely not workplace friendly]

The Scottish Gangsta

Have you ever thought about what might happen when rap music mixed with Scottish culture?

Here's the result.

Bizarre - yet kind of catchy.