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Three phases or fewer | Oct 20, 2005 11:21

Let's be geeky about something else for a change: the IRB's Tri-Nations 2005 Statistical Review and Match Analysis is online (PDF) and it's fascinating. Foremost among its findings: 100% of tries scored in this year's Tri-Nations games were preceded by three or fewer rucks or mauls. That's huge.

The analysis, of course, makes easier reading than last year's because New Zealand won the tournament. It says the All Blacks scored a try for every five minutes in possession, and were notable among the three teams for the fact that they scored tries from all facets of play - set piece possession, opponents' errors, opponents' kicks, tap penalties - and from all parts of the pitch.

The commentary further observes:

The possession source of tries fluctuates from year to year. This year's change was quite dramatic. Eleven of the 26 tries came from opponent errors and much fewer from set piece possession. Last year 62% of tries came from set piece possession - this year was just 38%, with only two tries out of 26 coming from scrum possession.

Also, the number of penalties awarded continues to fall, but just over 40% of penalties continue to relate to "ground offences at ruck and tackle." There's heaps more in there. Well worth a read.

Meanwhile: I have just heard Greg Fleming from the Maxim Institute being interviewed on Nine to Noon, dismissing Chris Banks as "an activist with an agenda" (pardon!?) - and repeating an allegation that Paul Litterick, who exposed Bruce Logan's serial plagiarism, is guilty of similar acts of plagiarism himself.

Fleming offered no evidence that this is the case (it's based on the claim of one notably eccentric blogger with respect to one report that Paul actually cited as a source in something he wrote). Paul is considering going to the lawyers over this, and I think he at least deserves a right of reply on the radio.

HEY! I've just noticed that the new Radio New Zealand site is up today - I've had preview access for a week or so and I'm very impressed with the volume of programming now being put online. So you can actually listen to the Chris Banks and Greg Fleming interviews and a further interview with Paul Morris on the meaning of Maxim. (I've found the WMA streams slow to connect on the Mac, but you can change format to MP3, which is connecting instantly for me.)

Dubber, naturally, is first with a critique.

To contine: being caught accidentally using the words of others is a modern peril. But Logan's acts went further than that. And they weren't committed in a blog, but in essays presented as original and serious work for publication. You make certain guarantees when you give copy to an editor and Logan repeatedly flouted those guarantees.

My bFM interview from yesterday with Paul Litterick is now online here. And you can also listen to my interview with Computerworld editor Paul Brislen on recent developments in the broadband Internet sector, which the radio listeners seemed to find pretty useful.

Speaking of dealing with wealthy and unpleasant religious organisations, the Church of Scientology is still trying to intimidate critics - in this week's case, the New Zealander who is running ScienTOMogy, a website devoted to "exposing Tom Cruise's moronic behaviour in his relentless crusade to promote the cult church of Scientology."

NZBC has Andrea Malcolm's report on scrutineering for Labour in Mt Roskill.

No Right Turn discusses the news of a Doctor Who spin-off featuring Captain Jack. Is he gay? Or just a 51st century flirt?

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Dour, suicidal, etc | Oct 19, 2005 10:05

Having noted Paola Totaro's love letter to New Zealand this week, it seems only fair to also acknowledge Douglas Davis's unintentionally hilarious account for The Spectator of "visiting Auckland the other week" and finding it "even more dour and dull than I remember" from 30 years ago.

Good grief. So it was all for nought? We should have stuck with Muldoon after all? How alarming.

It gets worse: according to Davis, since his last visit, our "remoteness has turned to resentment. Back in the Seventies a social commentator described his fellow citizens as a 'passionless people'. No longer. Kiwis have acquired passionate hatreds for Americans, for Israelis, and for anyone else who is not 'aware' - of nuclear issues, globalisation, the environment, ecology, animal rights."

Um, animal rights? We kill the little buggers for a living, don't we?

Davis continues:

An indication of the difference can be found in their immigration policies. Australia is seeking to attract the sharpest pins in Europe and Asia; New Zealand, which suffers a persistent haemorrhage of its best and brightest, is looking to Tonga and Western Samoa."

Presumably the Aussies know how to deal with the darkies hammering down the door: ship them off to remote Pacific Islands. Oh, hang on …

Onwards …

Domestic policy appears to be informed by an overarching guilt complex about supposed historic wrongs done to the indigenous Maoris, who make up 15 per cent of New Zealand's population. On cue, the chattering Pakeha classes quickly lapse into bizarre jargon - 'acculturative stress', 'material deprivation', 'colonial trauma', 'collective grief' - to describe the angst.

It seems a little odd for someone who makes a career out of taking exaggerated offence to perceived slights on Jewish history to be dismissing someone else's "supposed historic wrongs", but never mind. But the rest of it? I can honestly say I have never had a conversation which has featured the phrase "acculturative stress", but, then, I'm not the varsity sort.

Indeed, I submit that Davis did not in fact visit New Zealand, but instead Googled this Ministry of Health report which contains his accursed phrases, and is also clearly the source of his penetrating observation that suicide is "a significant cause of death" in New Zealand (although he might have read on to note that we've been topping ourselves steadily less since 1998, and do so at a lower rate than the citizens of quite a number of more impressive countries).

"Kiwis excel at rugby, but in most other endeavours they barely touch mediocrity," Davis further declares. Goodness. No wonder we're killing ourselves on every streetcorner.

I think the source of Mr Davis's dyspepsia may be that he visited Australia and New Zealand to plug his book and nobody noticed. A Google News search reveals that the sole fruit of his entire, arduous journey through the colonies was a paragraph in the Sydney Morning Herald's trivia column which concluded: "At least he didn't visit Melbourne."

And, lo, Maxim's Bruce Logan has issued an apology for passing off tracts of other people's writing as his own in columns for various New Zealand newspapers. Well, actually, he has apologised for, um, not being "as precise as I should have been." But it was alright, apparently, for him to present the writing of commentators such as Melanie Philips and Peter Hitchens as his own because, he, er, once spoke to them. (Crikey! I've spoken to some top journalists in my time - does that mean I can stick my name on top of anything they've written?) I actually find myself feeling a little sorry for Logan, who is now " taking time off from his Maxim duties and having a rest." This is a rather wounding way for Maxim's intellectual hollowness to be exposed.

But as Paul Thompson, the editor of The Press, observes: "I suspect few editors would now touch them with a barge pole. While this looks like an extreme example of what can go wrong, it does show how vulnerable newspapers are to this type of bad faith from contributing writers. It is no longer enough for newspapers to accept that their material is sound. Our checking systems will need to be vastly improved."

NB: Public Address reader Jim McAloon has a further observation:

It's a bit disingenuous of Paul Thompson to play the innocent victim of Maxim machinations with regard to the Logan-Stuart plagiarism firm. Back in March after a particularly obnoxious piece by Stuart a reader enquired of the paper as to her qualifications and background. The Press's pompous and tautologous reply was that she was a freelance writer who writes for the Press. I then wrote a letter suggesting that a little more disclosure might be in order and noted her association with Maxim and ACT. For the which I was roundly berated by one Vincent Orange, who accused me of having a closed mind. I took some delight in pointing out to Orange that as a former history lecturer of mine he should know about careful scrutiny of sources. I was too polite to remind him that he had, or should have had, a painful lesson in this inasmuch as he supervised Joel Hayward's notorious piece of Holocaust-denying fiction. Given that Thompson was less than frank with his readers about Stuart's provenance I have little sympathy in his present embarrassment.

I'll be talking to Paul Litterick, who exposed this rum business, at 12.30 on my 95bFM Wire show today, and Paul Brislen will be discussing the latest movements - or lack thereof - in the broadband Internet market at 1pm. Listen here.

PS: I'm looking forward to seeing how the Holmes-Hosking news quiz show Out of the Question washes up on Prime tonight, given that I've signed up for a creative role in it. My guess is that like National Radio's Off the Wire it will take a little time to settle in to its own identity, but the writing has been quite fun.

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Anger Management | Oct 18, 2005 10:02

There are some angry Greens over on Frogblog. In the heat of the moment, some of them seem inclined to turn on their leaders and go hostile on the Left: to do an Alliance, in other words. I don't think that would be too smart.

On the face of it - and according to all the news reports - the Greens don't get a lot in hard terms. But they didn't ask for a lot. They made a virtue of going into negotiation without an array of bottom lines, and the agreement they now have, for no promise of support on confidence and supply (just a promise not to vote against the government), is the same one they had already negotiated in return for their active support of a Labour-led government.

Their agreement actually allows Rod Donald and Jeanette Fitzsimons to front some Green policies as government policies without agreeing to support the government, as well as guaranteed ministerial access, some ringfenced funding in the next three budgets, regular Prime Ministerial meetings and a "no surprises" undertaking on major policy announcements.

What's missing is ministerial positions, and they were subject to a silly and hypocritical veto from both Winston Peters and Peter Dunne. Things might well have been different had the Greens washed up with an extra 1246 votes, earning them an extra seat at National's expense. Had that been the case, Labour-Progressive-Greens would have had a majority had New Zealand First agreed only to abstain. And that would have been different.

Did the Greens shed votes to Labour as a result of voters' anxiety about the prospect of a National win? Of course. There will be recriminations about that. But imagine what would be being said now if the Greens had hauled in, say, 7.5% of the vote, leaving National a hair's breadth ahead of Labour - and cheerily forming a nightmare government with United Future and New Zealand First.

But it's hardly Labour's fault that some voters made that decision, and perhaps if the Greens had more seriously entered some electorate campaigns they'd have hauled in 1246 people who didn't end up voting at all.

The Greens could have spurned their agreement yesterday and gone into full Opposition, voting against the government alongside National and Act (it appears that even the Maori Party will back Labour on the first confidence vote), which might have been good for pride but would have achieved precisely nothing in practical terms.

As No Right Turn points out, the Greens still get to be the Greens; Labour's conscience, and to some extent the conscience of the whole damn Parliament. They might be getting tired of that role after nine years, but self-destructing from underneath would be disastrous.

New Zealand First, in recognition of its crucial bargaining power, got more than anyone else: more money for the elderly, more cops, possibly meaningless "reviews" of the carbon tax and the security (but, apparently, not the general policy setting) of immigration laws. It will also get introduction (but no guarantees of passage) of the Electoral Integrity Act (why?) and a proposal to lower the age of criminal responsibility to 12. That last one will be interesting: it would be opposed on a vote by Labour and the Greens and would be defeated if it was also opposed by the Maori Party - it could turn out to be a highly revealing test of the social instincts of that party.

On the other hand, two of New Zealand First's policy wins also feature in the Greens' agreement: a "buy New Zealand made" campaign and a gradual increase in the minimum wage. The commitments on free healthcare for children won't exactly upset the Greens either.

The embrace of United Future leaves a nastier taste for me: they get their pissy little vetoes on cannabis law reform and a "hate speech" law (which wasn't going to happen anyway). I think they're in the tent for two reasons: one, the obvious one, is that if UF hadn't been it would have spent the next three years developing a relationship with National. The other - directly relevant to Dunne's appointment as Revenue minister - is that it allows the government to work towards a cut in the business tax rate (this also features in NZF's policy agreement) without Michael Cullen having to back down of his own accord. Intriguingly, UF has also negotiated two Green-friendly undertakings of its own: work towards enhanced public access on private land around lakes and rivers, and on curbing agricultural run-off. So it's not quite as simple as a lurch to the right.

As I said before the election, I really think the Greens deserved a shot at government. The depiction of them by the political right as flakes and crazies was meritless (face it: no Green MP has ever been remotely as odd as, say, Paul Adams or Muriel Newman). But it hasn't worked out that way.

The strangest and most potentially damaging facet of the new government is the appointment of Peters as Minister of Foreign Affairs; both because it's a post outside Cabinet, and because it's Winston Peters. We now have to wait and see how that works out.

And onto yesterday's other big announcement: Rosita is the new New Zealand Idol. It wasn't too much of a surprise: the woman has a hell of a voice. The problem is that the Idol format demands that she now has about a week and a half to make a debut album. Her advantage here is that she comes into it with 10 times the natural talent of Ben Lummis, and the potential to make something a bit better than a manufactured pop quickie for your mum and your kid sister. If I was her new management, I'd be on the phone to Dawn Raid this morning. And I'd also be looking to cut a barnstormer of a house diva track, even if it doesn't appear on the album itself (Ellis: you're gay - go with that.)

And Nik? I didn't like him at all at first, but I've come around. I think he's a highly talented young man, albeit in genres you'd normally have to pay me to listen to. He should be put to work on an album that is a great, steaming slab of cheese. I'm thinking a Bread cover would work, whilst reserving the right to withdraw confidence and supply if they go anywhere near 'The Pina Colada Song'.

In general, the irony of Idol's failure to match last season's ratings is that the talent on offer was vastly better than that in the first series. Steve the Christian lasted a lot longer than he had a right to, but Teresa should go and find a band and get on with her thing. So yes, I like Idol, not because it's a global franchise (I have never watched an episode of either American or Australian Idol and I wouldn't wish to), but because it's a matter of motivated young New Zealanders arising from the cauldron. Tears and triumph. A bit like the rugby, really.

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The detail on the detail | Oct 17, 2005 09:27

There you go. I finish a blog explaining why Winston Peters was never going to countenance the cantilevered coalition allegedly offered him by National and the Herald puts it beyond doubt by leading today with the news that New Zealand First party president Doug Woolerton has resigned in protest at Peters' impending decision to not only support Labour on confidence and supply, but to accept a post as Foreign Minister outside Cabinet; a surprising job for Peters and, perhaps, a valedictory one.

But before that, let us tarry briefly. You may have seen my post last week about the dismissal last week of Press columnist Alexis Stuart, on grounds of her plagiarism of her father (and Maxim Institute director) Bruce Logan. Well, that got Paul Litterick rolling, and he has just published an amazing Fundy Post.

It turns out that not only is Mrs Stuart fond of using tracts of other people's work in her writing, so is her father. You can read the Fundy Post and marvel that it has happened for so long. The editors of The Press, the Northland Age, the Otago Daily Times and others will presumably be very interested to see what they have been publishing. And that sound you hear is Maxim's credibility going down the gurgler.

And now, on with the coalition show …

It's the detail. And then it's the detail on the detail. That is why Labour's support negotiations with New Zealand First have not been quickly concluded. Winston's policy requirements are also surprisingly wide-ranging, taking in issues that have not even been spoken of in the media.

While you might be inclined to bag Winston for wanting everything (at least as a starting point for negotiation), you cannot fairly accuse him of playing king-maker for going to National for a better offer - for the simple reason that he didn't go to National.

The written offer from National that commanded the newspapers on Saturday morning was only forthcoming after Peters said on Morning Report on Friday, when asked whether he was considering offers from National, that he hadn't had anything in writing.

And what was he offered that afternoon? A very brief letter implying a process deal: an undertaking as to how he and his party might be consulted in the event of a National-led government.

Well, duh. If it was a simple as a process deal, Helen Clark's title would not currently include the word "caretaker". Peters didn't accept such a proposal when he delivered National into government in 1996, and it would appear that he hasn't accepted it from Labour.

Therefore, short of an inexplicable change of approach, a credible offer from National would have to include a similar degree of detail. It would take another three or four weeks to hammer out. Would Winston really want to keep the country waiting as long again as it has already? Having promised before the election that things would be done and dusted within about three weeks of polling day? I think not. He does value his reputation.

We haven't even got as far as thinking about National's apparent offer to the Maori Party to review the foreshore and seabed legislation. That's an act that was passed only with New Zealand First's votes, one which Peters publicly promised to promote on the marae, and one on which he had a direct influence. Is he really going to enter an arrangement premised on a private promise by National, to the Maori Party, to scrap it in favour of an unspecified solution? I guess nothing's impossible, but I find it really hard to picture.

And then you've got someone with the mana of Dr Ranginui Walker publicly warning the Maori Party that an agreement for it to support National "doesn't bear contemplating" and accusing Tariana Turia of acting on a "personal grudge". Then unhappy National MPs describing the idea of going into government relying on Maori Party support as "political dynamite" and "madness".

Oh, and two of the parties whose support National claimed to have sewn up to gather the numbers necessary for government telling reporters they had made no such agreement and were negotiating with Labour.

It starts to add up a bit, doesn't it?

So National's apparent bid to form a government was never anything but a spoiler. You'd be rash to predict exactly when Helen and Winston might have a photo-op together, but I think it will be this week.

If the Greens don't get any kind of ministerial post - for want of the 1246 votes that would have tipped the balance - they will be grumpy, but really have little option but to reap as much as possible on a policy agreement (and frankly, the Greens pet policies cost lunch money compared to Winston's) and get on with it.

They might well be extra sour if, in order to get him and his silly party in the tent, Labour offers Peter Dunne some sort of ministerial post. It could happen.

And then, yes, the Maori Party will have an opportunity to negotiate its own agreement: assuming it can actually manage to negotiate competently. It doesn't have to all be done at once. Remember, the agreement with the Greens three years ago wasn't settled until a couple of weeks after Labour had secured its ground with United Future.

What we have to worry about now is how much all this is going to cost, especially given the Reserve Bank governor's grim warnings about inflationary pressure. Well, even Peters has admitted he won't get GST off petrol (frankly, I think Michael Cullen would rather resign. And the cost of that superannuitants' Gold Card would depend on the extent to which it was actually gold-plated.

I guess we'll find out. And very soon it will be summer, and we won't care so much for a while. We will think, for good reasons, that it's good here anyway. Sometimes, of course, it helps to see ourselves as others see us. They might really like us: the Sydney Morning Herald's Paola Totaro absolutely loves us to bits (right-wing bloggers note: this story may act as an emetic).

On my journey back from the airport last week, my Indian immigrant taxi driver told me how much he liked Auckland: especially the fairly manageable level of traffic on the roads - much better than back home - and the not-too-hot summers.

But it was my Fijian Indian immigrant driver on the outbound trip who really said something lovely. It was still dark in the morning and teeming with rain - but, he pointed out, it was better to have a bit of this than to be like some places in Australia that didn't know where their water was going to come from in the next few years. Summing up, he said:

"One doesn't know how lucky we are."

I really like that sentence. I imagine it as the catchphrase of a character in Bro' Town, in homage to Fred Dagg. And we should all be so positive.

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