The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'new zealand'
Another horrible example of public transport privatisation gone wrong, this time from Auckland, where the efficiencies of the free market have produced a system that's expensive and inconvenient, and encouraged the public to drive:
City planners impose various pseudo-quantitative performance indicators on the contractors, such as sophisticated GPS systems to monitor on-time performance. But even this minimal nod to public accountability produces unintended consequences. Bus companies fear being fined for missing schedule targets, but are driven by the profit motive to ruthlessly minimize outlays on equipment and staff. The resulting pressure is intense on drivers (some of whom don’t even get paid overtime) to meet unrealistic timetables – a media exposé last year showed this often requires breaking the speed limit. Several times, we’ve watched an awaited bus race by without stopping, the driver shrugging helplessly and pointing at his watch.
Yet Aucklanders still pay for transit – three times over. Once through taxes – subsidies to private transit consume half of all property taxes collected by the regional government. Then again at the fare box. And finally a third time through inconvenience. No wonder Aucklanders take transit one-quarter as often as Torontonians.The article is written by a Canadian journalist resident in Auckland, and is in response to a debate about privatising Toronto's (fairly highly-rated, by all accounts) public transport system.
After publishing a best-selling crime novel detailing a gruesome torture and murder, Polish crime novelist Krystian Bala has been charged with a similar murder which happened a few years earlier, the victim having been a friend of his ex-wife:
The case was broadcast on Poland’s version of the BBC television programme Crimewatch but it produced no serious leads — only some strange e-mails sent from internet cafés in Indonesia and South Korea, describing the murder as “the perfect crime”.
The first break for the police came when they discovered that Mr Bala, a highly experienced diver, was on a diving trip to South Korea and Indonesia at the time that the e-mails were sent. Then they discovered that he had sold a mobile phone four days after the body of Dariusz J was discovered. It was the same model that the victim was known to have owned, but that police had never found.
Mr Bala offered to take a lie-detector test to prove his innocence and passed. When the transcripts were read out in court, the judge was struck by the very long pauses taken by Mr Bala before answering, a technique that may allow a suspect to mask the physical signs of lying.Of course, that doesn't mean that he did it, though it does start to look somewhat suspicious.
Meanwhile, some light has been shed on another murder mystery, the whereabouts of Lord Lucan; some people, including a retired Scotland Yard detective believe that the disgraced peer, who may have bludgeoned his family nanny to death, is living out of a car in New Zealand, with a cat and a pet possum, no less:
Neighbours say the man has an upper-class English accent and a military bearing like Lord Lucan, who was educated at Eton before serving in the Coldstream Guards.
He is said to have arrived in New Zealand about the time Lucan disappeared and is also understood to be receiving money from property he owns in Britain.
The BBC News has a piece on the Exclusive Brethren, who, aside from their love-in with te Tories in Australia, have been trying to get into bed with New Zealand's conservative National Party:
The group was then accused of seeking to influence post-election negotiations by aggressively lobbying minor political parties to form a coalition with Mr Brash's centre-right National party.
Most disturbingly, private detectives claimed they were hired by the group to dig up dirt on the private lives of senior politicians in the Labour party, including the Prime Minister Helen Clark and her husband.Apparently their political allegiances arise not just from the theocratic hard line they take (after all, if they isolate themselves from sinful worldly society, what's the point of electing governments to punish and straighten this sinfulness among the nonbelievers? It'd be like, say, an Orthodox Jewish group lobbying to ban pork or something.) as from their business interests:
Like all small business people, they need a world of de-regulation and lower taxes, he says, adding that their interests in the agricultural sector would naturally pit them against the Greens.Ominously enough, Australia's right-wing Prime Minister John Howard is on record as saying that he has no problems with the Exclusive Brethren's values, and that they're a lot more in line with mainstream Australia than a lot of other groups (by which, I'm guessing, he means those latte-sipping SBS-watching inner-city socialist cosmopolitanists).
A New Zealander is attempting to sail around the world on a boat powered by human fat. Peter Bethune, a former oil exploration engineer turned biofuels advocate, is asking overweight people to donate spare body fat, to be extracted by liposuction, which will be refined into biodiesel and used to power his trimaran.
More details have emerged on the arrest of US peace activist Scott Parkin: it turns out that the government is holding him in solitary confinement, and billing him for it, until he renounces all claims against the government, a similar tactic to that used against asylum seekers. Also, it appears that he is being held on national security provisions, rather than character provisions, which entitles the government to block the hearing of his case. Meanwhile there have been protests outside the Australian embassy in the US, and Victorian Premier Steve Bracks has protested the decision.
Which demonstrates a reemerging ugly side of the Australian Way. The legal principles of Joh Bjelke-Petersen's Queensland are alive and well. The government's message here is: if you don't conform to our model of relaxed and comfortable Australia, we have the means to make things very uncomfortable for you. The principles of pluralism and democratic debate are about as relevant in John Howard's Australia as they are in Mahathir's Malaysia.
And it looks like Australia is establishing itself as a global centre for the exporting of hard-right ideology; the New Zealand Labour party claims that Australian Tory strategists and a hard-line Christian sect are involved in campaigning for the conservative National Party.
I call bullshit on... the story about the New Zealand government fining a restaurant for not updating its website. Which all sounds like interventionism gone mad, except when you read the story and discover that the web site in question contained an outdated, inaccurate price list, and they got done for false advertising.
Since it happened, a big fuss has erupted on the internet, with mostly anti-interventionist libertarian types going on about the Big Brother socialist nanny-state poking its nose into what people do with their websites. Which sounds to me like the publicity that gets raised around ridiculous lawsuits (i.e., urban legends about toaster manufacturers being sued for millions of dollars for not having warning labels telling people not to use their toasters in the bath and such), much of which, I heard, is planted by lobby groups wanting corporate product-liability laws to be relaxed to make it harder for consumers to sue.
Similarly, here, I smell astroturf.
A computer in New Zealand exploded in flames whilst downloading music. Rumours of it having been a test of a new active copyright-enforcement technology have not been confirmed or denied.
Self-declared geeks in New Zealand are calling for the establishment of a geek.nz domain, under which self-styled geeks, nerds, dorks, trekkies and penguinheads can set up their own domains, celebrating their unique and vibrant culture. If it is approved, geek.nz will follow maori.nz, which is already established. Though some are skeptical of the whole thing:
"My opinion of geek.nz is (is that it would open) the way for other poorly-defined groups like muso.nz, boyracer.nz, dopehead.nz," argues a critic in the online discussion.
The problems with that I see are is that who determines who's an eligible geek. Will it be run on a for-profit basis, with anyone being able to buy a domain? Will status in the "geek community" be taken into account? If so, could this lead to a clique running the domain and denying access to people they don't like, and a resulting schism, with a rival "nerd.nz" domain (or "therealgeeknz.net" or something) being created and competing for allegiance? Will we also see a "jedi.nz"? (It's an official religion, or it would be if the authorities didn't ignore the overwhelming results of the last census?) And then the goths will want a "goth.nz", and the people standing with clipboards by the railway lines will want a "gunzel.nz", and so on, until we see "progressivedrillandbass.nz" or similarly ephemeral niche domains?
When the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra sent out a promotional CD recently, they were horrified to discover the song titles replaced by pornographic descriptions of sex acts. It appears that this occurred when some helpful volunteer uploaded their version of the track listing to commercial CD database cddb.com. Yes, the same cddb.com which took a free, volunteer-collected database, fenced it off and locked out free clients, and which relies on unpaid submissions from users to build up its proprietary database. As they say, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
Apparently the New Zealand police are looking into it, and various parties are crying "hacking" and looking for someone to prosecute. Is it a crime to volunteer incorrect data to cddb.com?
Upon being told that a mandatory cat registration programme was too expensive, a New Zealand councillor has suggested that the council encourage people to eat cats to save the native bird population.
Mike Cotton told the meeting that while living in East Borneo he experienced what they called a "dog day" when locals went round shooting all the strays. "Maybe we could look at a cat day here," he said.
Tomorrow night there is a census in New Zealand, and some bozotic penguinhead types are planning to list their religion as Jedi. Via Slashdot, of course. Then again, I put mine down as Discordian on the last few censi (at one stage causing my parents to suspect I was involved in a cult of some sort).