Waiting for Winston – NZ Politics

nz-queenmaker-winston-petersElection-weary Brits should spare a thought for New Zealand where the recent general election has the nation Waiting on Winston Peters as the politician who will decide the outcome.

Peters’ NZ First party holds sway over the close result as the only party that could give either of the mainstream parties (right-of-centre National or left-of-centre Labour) the right to form a government. This could be as a direct coalition or a confidence-and-supply arrangement akin to the Conservatives of Theresa May and their agreement with the DUP in the UK.

Milking it ?

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Panorama : The Big Bank Fix – LIBOR and the Bank of England (2017)

Fascinating – if flawed – stuff from the BBC Panorama team. The Big Bank Fix is an investigation by Andrew Verity which asks “if the right people” were prosecuted for the “biggest financial fix of all time”. The programme discusses LIBOR – the inter-bank interest rate set in London for loans between banks which is a key lever controlling the flow of capital between financial institutions. This rate is set by reporting between the banks of the average loan rate they are charging or being charged. It is important as this forms the basis for the cost of money. Ultimately, LIBOR influences what interest rates consumers pay for loans.

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Run : Hide : Tell

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley appeared on BBC Breakfast today to push the message onrun-hide-tell public vigilance and assistance in the war on terror. In the wake of city attacks by – more frequently – radicalised loners seeking individual victims and notoriety in knife attacks – Rowley is in charge of Special Operations at the Met and makes frequent media appearances seeking community support. As he says, the British culture works against reporting anything suspicious – don’t want to disturb, make a fuss, stand out, waste police time and so on. He emphasised that the current 500+ ongoing investigations frequently rely on public input – to spot at-risk people before they are radicalised, to report on any public situation that instinctively is out of the ordinary without fear of falling foul of the law themselves.

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The Great NZ Dairy Ripoff – Fonterra Fess Up

A Corporate W-Anchor ? Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings

Theo Spierings, CEO, Fonterra

The market to grow and New Zealanders to consume more milk, that’s our aim. So we price what the market can bear, we follow inflation and we don’t follow highly volatile commodity markets” says Theo Spierings, Fonterra CEO, speaking on TVNZ OneNews today.

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Google and the European Court of the Absurd

English: The three biggest web search engines

English: The three biggest web search engines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The recent ruling by the European Court which requires Google to remove links to (technically, to de-index) content related to privacy claims is more than baffling, it is bloody stupid. The ruling requires the search megalith to unpick paths to material which is out of date and refers to individuals who have sought legal redress.

The Court of Just Bloody Stupid

This is not a defence of Google. The monopoly search provider has enormous market power, and a close eye should be kept on how it wields it. However, the tax-averse internet giant is an indexer of the web, not a builder of its content (in this case, at least). The ECJ ruling typifies the ignorance of technology that pervades politics and lawmaking.


The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) upheld the complaint of a Spanish man who objected to the fact that Google searches on his name threw up links to a 1998 newspaper article about the repossession of his home.

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Longitude Prize 2014 – A New Search

Horizon, 2001

Horizon, 2001 (Photo credit: archiveatthebbc)

Until Dava Sobel’s 1996 book, and Charles Sturridge’s wonderful dramatisation, the process of solving one of the most intractable scientific problems of the 18th century was a story unknown. Building a Better Clock was not the stuff of Boys’ Own Adventures, yet the details of how country carpenter-cum-engineering genius John Harrison produced a highly accurate marine timepiece is a worthy read. The closest Harrison had come to popular attention was in the classic Only Fools and Horses episode “Time On Our Hands” which sees Peckham’s finest discover a Harrison timepiece in their lockup. Sturridge’s 2000 production, starring Michael Gambon and Jeremy Irons, cleverly wove Harrison’s story with a narrative from post-wartime Britain whereby ex-naval officer Rupert Gould re-discovered and re-built the original working clocks as part of his writing of the history of Harrison’s masterpieces and kind-of winning the Longitude Prize.

This prize was offered by Act of Parliament in 1714 with the promise of up to £20,000 to whoever could solve the problem of determining a ship’s longitude whilst at sea. In these TomTom times, it can be a tad hard to imagine the sheer scale of the problem facing sailors, particularly during the advance of Britain as a significant naval power almost a century before Trafalgar was won. Yet the Act of Queen Anne promised a prize sufficiently grand to tempt a long line of nutters, fraudsters, astronomers and innovators all eager to snaffle the prize. Harrison eventually received the bulk of the fund, albeit after a lifetime of difficult dealings with the committee responsible for awarding the money.

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New Statesman: Paul Dacre and The Daily Mail

Paul Dacre by Ralph Steadman

Paul Dacre by Ralph Steadman

Whilst I despise the Daily Mail and its editorial embodiment, Paul Dacre, as everything embarrassing about the British Press, there is no denying the paper’s popularity. It is worth checking out this informative piece on the rag’s editor-in-chief. Well balanced, the article by Peter Wilby – himself a former editor of both The Independent on Sunday and The New Statesman – is a great source for helping to understand why the Daily Mail is so popular, and how its online ego – MailOnline – became one of the world’s most popular news websites. An interesting read.



The Curse of Hell Pizza – Whale Oil and Matthew Blomfield

Whale Oil - blog of Cameron Slater

Whale Oil – blog of Cameron Slater

Our chums at Hell Pizza are back in the news again, obliquely through a series of articles allegedly defaming former franchisee and discharged bankrupt Matthew Blomfield which appear on New Zealand’s Whale Oil blogsite. What is it about Hell that attracts so much online opprobrium ? Cameron Slater – the blogger behind Whale Oil – is being instructed by the court to reveal the source of a series of emails to/from Blomfield which were used as the basis for un-flattering articles on the serial entrepreneur. Seems Blomfield was something to do with marketing for the Hell Pizza franchisor too – any connection with our old friend and scourge of “dorks” everywhere, Warren Powell ? As a blog site, Babble Talk is obviously interested in the court’s assertion that blogging is not a news medium and has no right to protection of source identities. It’s a hair yearning to be split. Blogs tend to contain opinion pieces and frequently publish strong and controversial individual comments. It is natural that blogs are not taken seriously and attract copy that is unresearched, provocative and disposable. However, if a blogger solicits anonymous ‘tips’ – as Whale Oil does – and actively researches its articles then does this lend the site credibility as a news source with the attendant protections in law that this offers ? Frankly, whether any publication is relevant or entertaining is up to the readers to determine. The fact that blogs are indeed publications means that they should enjoy the same legal basis as any other. Its a fine line, however, as this puts an emphasis on the blogger to tread gently between the exercise of free speech, libel and reporting opinion as fact.

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Facebook Videos Remove Restrictions On Violence

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO

A disturbing state of affairs at Facebook is announced today in a BBC story on how the company will allow video clips of decapitation (and presumably other violent acts) to be published on its site. Worth noting that Facebook allows – indeed encourages –  users from the age of 13. In responding to concerns from the public, these fools attempt to defend their non-stance as a contribution to debate:

“… users should be free to watch and condemn such videos …”

Nice to see that Facebook can look into the minds of its users and understand their reactions, motives and feelings. This is nasty stuff,  and an absurd response from an organisation which clearly has no sense of the community which made and supports it. Facebook remain opposed to nudity, of course, but are quite happy to ensure that children can watch violent and bloody execution, ignoring any psychological damage that may result. I am a fan of both the Facebook service and a balanced approach to internet censorship, but such a position from a family-orientated and leading internet site is more than just incredible. The policy shift on Facebook videos by Zuckerberg’s troupe of idiots is frankly dangerous. I have written to them – not a simple exercise as their contact options are limited to reporting offensive content. Go figure ! – and will post up any response received.

Folks …
Please can you explain today’s story on the BBC that Facebook is allowing decapitation videos to remain on its site ? See the details here:
I would appreciate a response from you on how such a policy can be defended.
Thanks and regards

Those Terror Alert Levels In Full

John Cleese as a civil servant in the halls of...

John Cleese as a civil servant in the halls of the Ministry. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This ditty on terror alerts has been doing the rounds but well worth another post ….. John Cleese has it about right:

“The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent events in Syria and have therefore raised their security level from “Miffed” to “Peeved.” Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross.” The English have not been “A Bit Cross” since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from “Tiresome” to “A Bloody Nuisance.” The last time the British issued a “Bloody Nuisance” warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

The Scots have raised their threat level from “Pissed Off” to “Let’s get the Bastards.” They don’t have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.

The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from “Run” to “Hide.” The only two higher levels in France are “Collaborate” and “Surrender.” The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France ‘s white flag factory, effectively paralysing the country’s military capability.

Italy has increased the alert level from “Shout Loudly and Excitedly” to “Elaborate Military Posturing.” Two more levels remain: “Ineffective Combat Operations” and “Change Sides.”

The Germans have increased their alert state from “Disdainful Arrogance” to “Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs.” They also have two higher levels: “Invade a Neighbour” and “Lose.”

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from “No worries” to “She’ll be alright, Mate.” Two more escalation levels remain: “Crikey! I think we’ll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!” and “The barbie is cancelled.” So far no situation has ever warranted use of the last final escalation level.

— John Cleese – British writer, actor and tall person

Investing in Tech : Who Needs A Business Plan ?

English: Cover for the Sustainable Business Book.

English: Cover for the Sustainable Business Book. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A recent group question on LinkedIn caught my eye – the argument over whether a business plan is really needed. Fuelled by dotcoms which have thrived on sizzle and presence alone – as opposed to revenue and/or margin – it is the constant barrage of high profile startups getting snaffled by the big TechCo’s for huge bucks which suggests the path to business riches is through luck rather than business-smarts. People get lazy, perhaps, and rely on daring and panache; avoiding the basics and letting their site talk for their idea. It is difficult to fault but for mere mortals, a plan remains a sensible approach. As well as a decent description of the proposal, a realistic prediction of how the business will ‘work’ over time is extremely useful.

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Spanish Pining for Rock

Map in English of Gibraltar

Map in English of Gibraltar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With the London Olympics well passed, a resurgent South America and a new Latin Pope,  the Spanish clearly feel that  sympathy for all things British is on the wane. Time, then, to take another pop at Gibraltar. The dispute over sovereignty is back on the front pages, with the unwelcome prompting of the Daily Mail to turn up to full its jingoistic editorial fever and slag off  anything remotely hispanic. (Why on earth do people still read this rag ?). Aside from this cooling of Britain’s international rep, it is not clear what kicked off the latest round of spite from Madrid. Returning to their usual trick of slowly searching every vehicle which crosses between Gib and La Linea, the Spanish have also fired shots in UK waters around the promontory and undertaken provocative overflights. These are not idle acts of petulance but most likely an orchestrated build-up to some diplomatic effort to wrest the territory back from the UK. If the pace is kept up then it is likely we will also be treated to parallel actions regarding the Falkland Islands, with Argentina and Spain working closely together in diplomatic, press, territorial and covert circles.

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Fun : Bob A Job At Barclays

You gotta laugh …

Corking advert for Bob A Job Week at Barclays

Corking advert for Bob A Job Week at Barclays

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Tim Served Up Apple’s Cash Pie In Diet Slices

Tim Cook, Apple COO, in january 2009, after Ma...

Tim Cook, Apple COO, in january 2009, after Macworld Expo keynote. Picture by Valery Marchive (LeMagIT) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There had been a bit of a build-up in the press, looking forwards to Apple’s 19th March announcement of how it intends to spend its cash mountain of $250+ billion. Nice problem to have and the media had some fairly whacky suggestions for how the Cupertino coffers might be flushed onto a grateful world. These included giving every employee a Cessna, paying it’s Chinese workers a bonus, building “another Internet” or delivering cutting-edge research. All charming stuff but the announcement from CEO Tim Cook and CFO Peter Oppenheimer went down the expected path (released 30 minutes before the press call on March 19th anyway) and offered up something tasty to the shareholders.

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Rugby World Champions 2011 : New Zealand Win On Every Count

New Zealand national rugby union team

The New Zealand All Blacks - Rugby World Champions 2011 Image via Wikipedia

A nail-biting finish to this year’s Rugby World Cup saw the All Blacks hold off a determined French side to secure the 2011 Championship – their first since the inaugural competition back in 1987. The final in Auckland was a fitting climax to a wonderfully executed and exemplary tournament from the Kiwis. It never ceases to amaze how friendly Rugby crowds are – and never more so than in New Zealand for this competition. From smaller, provincial stadia such as Rotorua to the iconic Eden Park, fans of every nation mixed with humour, respect and friendship. The organisers went to great lengths to involve the locals in the build-up for the games and fostered support for all the incoming nations as local schools and clubs ‘adopted’ countries. Some feat given the depth of feeling here for the All Blacks, and a real testament to New Zealand hospitality. A significant (European and Asian) ex-pat community obviously helps but you could see everything from polite encouragement to overt banners, make-up and kit for all of the teams, with especial cheering given to the smaller nations such as Tonga. It remains to be seen whether the tournament was an economic success for New Zealand (apparently, the IRB – owners of the global Rugby Union ‘brand’ – have coined it in already !) but, apart from the opening night hiccup and its transport chaos in downtown Auckland, RWC2011 has run like clockwork.

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Concorde 1969-2003 and perhaps beyond

Concorde on takeoff

Image via Wikipedia

It may seem a daft idea in these straightened times but there is a group working hard to bring Concorde back to life. The aircraft – or more properly the original project to create a supersonic transport, or SST – represents possibly the financial and political equivalent in the 70’s of the Suez crisis in the 50’s. Born from an occasionally grumpy and grudging trans-manche alliance – bettered only by the Chunnel – it came of age during a worsening global economic outlook. Poo-pooed by the Americans and challenged by the Soviets, it remains a wonder how this political hot-potato ever took flight. Since its demise in 2003, the current global financial meltdown is a singularly bad time to be talking about putting money into its resurrection. Concorde is certainly the least eco-friendly transportation system ever launched, accessible only by the privileged and an economic failure. However, a dedicated group of engineers, pilots, celebs and plain old enthusiasts are working to preserve and even to fly one of the remaining 12 airframes. It is a tall order. Most were brutally decommissioned and left rotting outside.

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LulzSec Takes A Pop At The Sun And Hacks Website

LulzSec's hacked version of The Sun's website

Image by flashboy via Flickr


And yet more on the UK phone hacking scandal paralyzing the global media – still managing to divert attention away from the Euro meltdown and the US budget fiasco. Hacking fraternity LulzSec, which  allegedly hacked websites belonging to the UK Serious Organised Crime Agency, the US Public Broadcasting Service, Sony Corp, the CIA, NATO and several FBI-affiliated groups, has now turned its attention to News International. Visitors to TheSun-co.uk – website of the UK’s Sun tabloid owned by the Murdoch stable – now get re-directed to the @LulzSec Twitter feed.

We have owned Sun/News of the World – that story is simply phase 1 – expect the lulz to flow in coming days

Far from “RIP LulzSec” , it is  “Viva La Revolution” for the hackers. Whilst it is never quite clear what is the motivation for very public security exploits, it seems general antipathy towards Murdoch and his minions shows no sign of abating. Collateral damage is escalating too with the resignation of the UK’s most senior copper Sir Paul Stephenson (at least the muppet in charge of the original, flawed investigation,  John Yates, has gone. Not before time. ). It is going to get worse – watch out for the attacks on other newspapers (the Mirror is already being targetted by the BBC) and Britain in general, as our national reputation – always a favourite for foreign nose-thumbing – heads down the toilet once more.

Wall Street Journal Threatened By NoW Hacking Probe

Rupert Murdoch

Image via Wikipedia

It took a while but the USA is waking up to the fact that the News International hacking scandal afflicting its UK estate may also be present in its American titles. The backlash against the Murdoch empire is gathering pace as US senator Jay Rockefeller weighs in. The BBC reported today that the chairman of the US Senate Commerce Committee has called on the “appropriate authorities” to investigate whether any American citizens have had their privacy violated.

“The reported hacking by News Corporation newspapers against a range of individuals – including children – is offensive and a serious breach of journalistic ethics. This raises serious questions about whether the company has broken US law,” he said.

With the UK parliament now likely to debate a non-partisan resolution calling on News International to withdraw from its bid for British Sky Broadcasting, the scandal is far from disappearing – in fact, it is escalating. Former spin-doctor for UK prime minister Blair – Alistair Campbell – has remarked publicly and loudly about how Murdoch has mis-read the situation and that his usual tactic of “flying in” to resolve an issue in a flurry of publicity is actually making matters worse. With determined Murdoch lackies like incumbent PM David Cameron now going decidedly off-message, it is looking increasingly dodgy for the Dirty Digger.

Laugh ? I nearly bought my own beer !


News of the Screwed

The Last Ever Edition of the News of the World

The front page of the last ever edition of the News of the World is all over the internet, accompanied by quotes from staff bleating about the injustice of the paper’s closure by Murdoch management on the back foot. I did feel a touch of regret that a supposedly crusading paper fell victim to the actions of a dodgy few.

Not for long. Remembering the culture at News International which encouraged the cynical and illegal access to voicemails of murdered teenagers whilst their poor parents knew nothing of the fate of their children makes me ashamed of the British press as an institution (and not for the first time).

However cynical an attempt this is to preserve the other NI titles, good riddance. I hope people will continue to boycott the predicted “Sunday Sun” when it materialises.


Bankers – Osborne’s Statement

The Bank of England in Threadneedle Street, Lo...

Image via Wikipedia

Check out Uncle George’s Banking pitch to the Commons this week :

Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement. The near-collapse of the British banking system more than two years ago still generates today deep feelings of anger and cries for retribution.

I completely understand that.
For the link between risk and reward that underpins our free market was completely broken. Bankers who had made the most catastrophic mistakes walked away with huge payouts and pensions. Those entrusted by us to regulate those bankers and run our economy washed their hands. Meanwhile the rest of the country is left paying every day for their failures. The government has to pick up the pieces. Let me set out how we will do that.

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