Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Voting by numbers – a guide for the terminally stupid

For a very long time it has been apparent that a concerted effort has been made to dumb down the population. This is a practice that is not limited to New Zealand; it is alive and thriving pretty much worldwide.

Not mentioning any names, but some countries need less of an effort in this regard to achieve the necessary level of stupidity for their people to become fully compliant with their ruling regime (be it political or religious).

But my point is that for at least the last 30 years there has been a conscious movement to for example, replace commonsense with simplified instructions that appear to have been designed for mentally challenged people.

The more obvious examples would be warnings on electrical appliances to not use them underwater or to try and snip through their power cords while you are using them. Knives often carry the warning that they are sharp and we are also warned that if we allow our children to shove plastic bags over their heads they will face the danger of suffocation.

I am sure there are people out there for whom these warnings would not have been self-evident. However few of them would or should be walking around ‘at large’ rather than securely held in captivity.

But the safety police are not the only ones pandering to our shrivelling grey matter. The catalogue advertisers are coming out with loads of new and useful devices to make our lives easier such as handle tie bags for your kitchen bin. These are in reality simply supermarket bags that some sharp operator has conned people into forking out money for. Another I saw was a memory foam leg pillow, but I am sure you will be able to recall many more of these pointless items that have been designed to solve a problem that doesn’t exist other than in the mind of telemarketers.

Governments in collusion with the media have done their bit by providing us with sound bites and slogans. These have gradually eroded our brain cells so that few can see that they are like pixie dust and contain absolutely nothing of any substance or have any relationship to reality. We have now reached the point where people are completely ignorant of how our laws have been framed or how our justice system works (or doesn’t as is often the case).

Political parties have replaced properly conducted public meetings where they laid out policies and voters were able to ask questions about the implications of those. Admittedly not all people did this and many simply voted what the husband told them to for fear of getting the bash, or what their parents had always voted for fear of being disinherited. But beyond that group there were a reasonable number of people who made their own minds up based upon their assessment of the policies laid out before them.

Today we seem to have reached the point where policies have been shunted aside and replaced by slogans and for the most part, pretty meaningless ones at that.   

A sample I saw while trawling the party sites were:

National - Working for New Zealand. I had to wonder exactly what and who in that party is working for New Zealand as it seems they are pretty keen to work for both China and the USA and don’t give a monkey’s for Kiwis.

Labour - Vote Positive. This isn’t even grammatically correct unless they are telling us to vote for a party I didn’t even realise was standing.

New Zealand First - It’s common sense. What is common sense these days and where do we find any? Certainly not in our Parliament.

The Maori Party -Tu Maori mai (That’s us). Yes; I get that is you, but so what?

The Mana Party - Movement of the people. What movement would that be, then? A bowel movement perhaps?

All these sorts of dumb slogans do is reduce politics to the level of the sound bite and people not knowing what these parties stand for.

So just when you thought it was safe to go back into the polling booth, along comes Vote Compass. This has been heavily promoted by the nice young folks at TV One as the answer to all our problems; apart from confusing a few people by having them think Compass is a new party seeking their vote, that is.

Vote Compass is an app that has been set up on TVNZ’s website to help people reach a decision on who to vote for! It is a sort of vote by numbers set up where you answer a few rather non-specific survey type multiple choice questions and at the end it tells you whose policies align best with your answers.

Now you can call me paranoid – and many will; but if you take the subjective analysis by the individual out of this particular equation how do you know you aren’t being manipulated to vote the way the designers of the app want you to? Nobody knows what agenda these people might be trying to push.

I see that 176,000 odd (some very odd) people have used this app and I can only hope that most of them did it for a laugh rather than out of any real desire to make a decision on who to vote for. However the cynic in me says that most of them probably did take the survey to help them reach a decision on who to vote for.

Is it any wonder the country is going to the dogs? I expect the next election will bring a board game which is a variation on snakes and ladders (called snakes and snakes) where you throw the dice and vote for the party whose square you land on. 

Friday, 15 August 2014

Charlie Segar revisited

Who the hell is/was Charlie Segar I hear many of you ask? Actually, I don’t, but I’m guessing many of you will when you see this title. I know I would have if I hadn’t done a bit of research.

First of all, I should point out that he is no relation to Bob Seger as far as I know, but there is a vague connection. He was a musician; a blues pianist and occasional singer and he wrote a song that many of you will know. It is called Key To The Highway. My own collection of music includes several versions of this song, which to those who love the blues is regarded as a standard.

So what has got me talking about Charlie Segar?

Well, the answer is contained in the title of that song. I feel it is apt as several people have recently found ways to send a certain Key to the highway – possibly permanently.

I haven’t yet read Nicky Hager’s book,but it would appear to be a can that is spilling worms that are all  diving for cover and claiming deafness as well as blindness for their reluctance to come out into the spotlight.

I think most of us had a suspicion that behaviour of the sort exposed in the extracts we have seen was going on, but prior to this week we had no real evidence of it and so it remained a suspicion. Those of us who suggested out loud that it was going on were often regarded as ‘conspiracy theorists’. This of course is usually used as a pejorative term; but what happens when the conspiracy is revealed and it becomes clear that we have been ruled by a conspiracy after all?

There will still be a lot of people around who will try to avoid the ugly truth and counter that ‘everybody does it’.

Well, do they?

If so; then they all need to be outed and following this book, I imagine there could be a lot more revelations if that is the case. Nobody is saying that one side has a monopoly on dirty tricks, but even if everyone is at it, that would still not make it right (small “r”).

In one respect we should not be too surprised about what Hager has revealed because it is an inevitable consequence of personality politics. For far too long we have focussed on individuals. This is largely because they have presented themselves to us rather than their policies. Often it has been hard to determine what their policies are and even when you could identify what a politician stood for you would find out after they were elected to office that they didn’t really stand for that after all.

In short; our political landscape has taken on the appearance of a post nuclear holocaust, strewn with the detritus of broken promises, failed economic theories and secret agenda. The whole thing has been ramped up even more this year with jackbooted responses by the incumbents to any free expressions of opinion, satirical or otherwise. The over-reaction to the likes of Darren Watson’s extremely accurate and funny  Planet Key single, which it appears the electoral commission are trying to ban from all airplay (and possibly more) is not counter-balanced by any similarly robust attempts to shut up the likes of Mike Hosking.

I don’t want either of them silenced. They each have a right to broadcast their views and how it can be considered that Darren might influence the voters and that condescending prick Hosking won’t is bizarre. Surely everyone who expresses a political opinion in public could potentially influence voters. As long as we all know what their motivation is, then why shouldn’t they?

And if the politicians are wondering why we are seeing rallies chanting, “Fuck John Key” and burning him in effigy, then they need look no further than the contents of Hager’s book. The Government of our country (whichever hue they might be) are supposed to be LEADERS! What they are seen to do rather sets the standard for all those people too weak-willed to know how to behave. Unfortunately that group is probably in the majority. Just as people idolise the flawed egotists that grace our TV screens and the pages of women’s magazines, so too do they follow the lead set by the leaders of industry and politics. This gets even uglier when the leaders in politics start idolising the leaders of industry. Many of those industrialists are even more amoral than the politicians, and when they begin calling the tune and the pollies dance to it, the ordinary voter gets even more of a shafting.

Personally I don’t see any need to burn John Key in effigy; I’m surprised they used an effigy when a fireplace would have done the job better. And as for fucking John Key, I reckon I’ll leave that to others, thank you all the same.

I think the release of Dirty Politics will be a turning point in this election campaign. I will be very surprised if the Nats can paddle their way out of this particular pongy creek. It has now got rapids and I can’t see how their canoe can hope to negotiate all of those without the crew getting a serious dunking and many sinking without a trace.

Even if Simon the Pixie was to pour a whole tanker load of that oil he is so fond of on the waters and they actually managed to avoid most of the rocks and reach the dry land of the treasury benches, there will still be a whole flotilla of investigations to encounter after that. We could find ourselves having to go back at the polls again in 12 months’ time.

So thank you Nicky Hagar you have probably sent John Key to the highway and as the song says, (in an opening verse custom made for Key):                 
I got the key to the highway,
Billed out and bound to go.
I'm gonna leave here running;
Walking is most too slow”

Let’s hope he doesn’t dawdle. 

Friday, 4 April 2014

I’m free. (actually I’m much older and wiser than that).

Do I look that stupid? Don’t answer that on the grounds I might have to clip you around the ear for being cheeky.

Apparently a Washington based think tank (has there ever been a better oxymoron?) seems to think so.
The curiously named Social Progress Imperative has just ‘published’ or rather a compliant and gullible New Zealand media has just published for them, a survey that proudly announces I and my fellow Kiwis are the freest people in the known world.

Now if that was actually true it might be something to be grateful for given the appalling conditions that exist in some countries. But much as I don’t want rain on anyone’s parade – oh alright I do sometimes enjoy damping down some of the more ridiculous shows of misplaced enthusiasm – I feel it is important to take issue with this survey/report/PR exercise.

The first thing that strikes me about such a report is that I wonder what criteria went into assessing whatever ‘data’ they might have collected. Closer inspection reveals that basically 12 ‘categories’ were assessed and given scores, which obviously would have to be subjective guesses (educated or otherwise) by those compiling the report. As that much is really a no-brainer it becomes obvious that placing much reliance upon such a document would be foolish in the extreme. After all one man’s freedom is another man’s bondage and any assessment of this type can only be arrived at in the context of one’s own experiences.

So now that I have rubbished the credence of this report, I find myself turning my thoughts to the purpose of it.

Why would somebody want to produce a report like this, apart from the fact that they managed to get paid squillions of dollars to do so? Somebody commissioned/ordered this report to be done otherwise it would not have happened.

My first reaction is to notice that the report has its origins in the USA. This is a country that churns out many millions of reports each year that they then feed to a keen or compliant press most of whom are owned lock stock and gun barrel by large multi-nationals and who have the resources and the infrastructure to disseminate these pearls of wisdom all over the ‘free world’ in less time than it took me to type the last sentence.

My guess is that this was commissioned (openly or otherwise) by a group of multi-national bodies corporate. Anyone even vaguely familiar with human psychology will know that one of the best ways to get people on your side or sympathetic to you is to flatter them and make them feel good about themselves. Success is almost guaranteed if they are aware that your flattery is based upon some sort of ‘scientific data’ that ‘proves’ to them that they are as fabulous as you have been telling them.

The US Government has been a world leader in propaganda for an extremely long time and their influence stretches far and wide. Countries like New Zealand have regarded them as major allies all along and this is even more apparent when the treasury benches are occupied by those from the right of the political spectrum. It is a rare thing indeed for New Zealand to ever oppose anything the USA does and we so often fall over backwards trying to accommodate them with their intelligence gathering activities and by supporting them either physically or morally in their military endeavours. We also ‘enjoy’ a favourable trade relationship with them – although it doesn’t take a genius to work out who actually gets the most favours from that.

Now don’t get me wrong, any of my American readers; it’s not the American people I am talking about here it is the pond-life that occupy their corridors of power. The fact is that much of our own pond-life thinks the sun shines out of their algae encrusted bums.

So what really is the deal here with this report? Why has it come out now?

I think there are two obvious reasons for this report being released now and my diseased and conspiracy addled brain says the timing of this is no coincidence. This is election year and who stands to benefit from a report that screams in headlines that we have never been so free?

Why that must be our benevolent Government of course; the very same one that has expended so much time and energy stoutly defending our right to privacy, freedom of speech and democracy. Now what exactly have they done to move our freedom forward?

Oh yes, that’s right when more than two thirds of those who voted against asset sales in a referendum last year opposed asset sales they publicly announced even before the results that they would ignore our views if they clashed with their own. The there have been the breaches of the rights of the Tuhoe people and Kim Dotcom, the protection of coalition partners who cross the line on matters of trust and then keeping a Minster in power who has created an apparent conflict of interest during a Ministerial overseas junket. And that is just the tip of an iceberg far larger than any encountered by the Titanic.

Of course this is a potentially good election year present for the current Government who coincidentally (thank heavens for co-incidence) sycophantically adores of the US administration.
But it is also a great distraction. It distracts the attention of the masses from more important matters such as that horrendously disempowering document the TPPA which our (same) Government is so keen to sign up to and which the US administration wants us to sign up to as well (more coincidence).

So while we are busy celebrating our new found status as the bastions of freedom our Government is busy trying to sell those freedoms off to multi-nationals via this cheerily entitled Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement which will have us reduced to minor partners in our own resources. This agreement will allow these corporates to dictate what we do in what used to be our country, although even that particular ownership must be under a cloud now. That is because the toothless OIC seems keen to sell up endless tracts of land to off-shore investors while the Government assists morally unsuitable migrants to gain citizenship and buy up properties at ridiculous prices thus making property unaffordable for the locals and the Government keeps selling NZ assets by the pound. The latter is the biggest lie of all when they say they will only sell the majority of shares to Kiwis but then later have to revise that because not enough Kiwis have the dough to buy them.

Oh yes. That sounds like freedom, doesn’t it?

And before I close I should mention that closer examination of the SPI (or spy?) report reveals that all is not quite as good as the screaming headlines might suggest. Our health system is going down the toilet along with our general health and our high suicide statistics and our eco system sustainability is shot to pieces. But we are ‘free’ to experience all that, so it must be alright.

It’s time more people in Godzone woke up and smelled the rat in mi kitchen Come September let’s fix dat rat. 

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Sometimes the little things they don’t tell you can be a big deal

I like to think I am a fairly clued-up consumer. I certainly know my rights, as many a bruised and battered retailer can tell you. I have to confess to not being the most savvy person when it comes to technology, but I do have the ability to work stuff out using what knowledge I do have and applying a good deal of  linear logic.

However I have to say that the retail market today is not as user-friendly as it was ‘when I were a lad’. And I think this is down to more than the fact that I am a grumpy old bastard these days rather than the wide eyed innocent I once was. Yes, I was a sweet little kid once; I know it’s hard to believe today.

My main complaint with the retail sector today is the almost complete absence of ‘service’, never mind service with a smile. When this is added to an abysmal lack of product knowledge (probably due to a total lack of training) the end result can be frustrating and time consuming for those of us who would rather consume their time doing things they enjoy rather than battling idiots.

The reason for my current outburst is threefold; or rather my reasons are threefold.
The first in this fold involves buying a new Television set. Not a big deal, I would have thought, but I was about to learn otherwise.

I considered sparing the blushes of the retailers concerned in this saga, but then I thought," What the hell for?” The whole purpose of a cautionary tale is to caution others and I believe that should extend to the noo-noos who need a slap up the side of their head to adjust their thinking.

So we headed off to No Lemmings and chose a 32” model. Of course these days all the new models come with Freeview decoders already loaded, so we figured it would be a chance to ditch our old decoder. The salesman said the model would suit us well and the sale was made.

We took it home and after lunch I lugged our outrageously heavy old CRT model out to the garage and began to set the new lightweight version up. I should point out here that I differ from many male consumers in that I actually read the manual of any new appliance before attempting to set it up. So by the time I began plugging everything in I had read that little book from cover to cover, which made it all the more puzzling to me when it would not receive any television signals at all.

After a bit of energetic swearing I picked up the phone and rang the tech feller at Low Nemmings and spent the next half hour or so following all of his instructions, but still without success. After I had tried everything he told me there must be a fault with the set and I should bring it back in. By this stage it was too late to get back to the store before closing time, so I lugged my heavy CRT back and hooked it up to the old decoder and boxed up the brand new set ready to return the next day. I was annoyed because my whole Saturday afternoon had been wasted buggering around with this and now I was going to have to go and waste more time down at Snow Leopards getting it changed over.

On the Sunday when I returned the set to the store they plugged it in and ....it worked perfectly well. I was flabbergasted. At first they tried to tell me there must be something wrong with my aerial. I explained there was nothing wrong with my aerial because my old CRT TV worked perfectly well with it.
It was only then that they asked me what sort of aerial I had. ‘Why I have a satellite dish”, I answered. “Do you have a Freeview decoder?” she asked. “Well yes I do, but surely I don’t need it as this set already has one”, I replied.

I then learned that the Freeview decoders that are loaded into these new TVs are only suitable for use with a UHF aerial. I gave the salesperson a piece of my mind over how much trouble I had been put to due to the original dimwit who sold me the set not asking me what sort of aerial I had when I bought the bloody thing. It was just lucky that I had not got rid of my old decoder otherwise I would have been up for a new one of those as well or a UHF aerial and all the costs associated with having that installed. And all because a dopey twat who calls himself a salesman had failed to ask me one little, but vitally important question.

A few weeks later we had to replace a broken shower head. Luckily Might of Ten was running a bathroom special and had all sorts of shower heads on special. We headed down to the store and over to the prominently signposted bathroom section and began looking through the shower heads. A young assistant came over to help and asked us what we were looking for. We told her what we wanted and picked up one that appeared to be the correct size based on the old one I had brought along for comparison.

When we got home I noticed the installation instructions were pretty short on information, but I figured out what went where and set the whole deal up. When I turned it on the water came out beautifully......for about 30 seconds. Then it started squirting out all around the perimeter of the shower head and spraying all over me, the walls and the floor. I turned the water off, dried myself and the walls, disconnected the new shower head and headed back to Mighty Tent with the intention of converting said shower head into a weapon of mass destruction. However I had calmed down by the time I reached the store and realised that one does occasionally strike faulty products, so no need to get unduly wild about it.

This more reasonable approach soon changed, though when I got to Metal Tin and the girl at the returns desk asked me if I was on mains pressure water or not . When I told her I was she said, “Oh you can’t use those ones on mains pressure. If you do it will just blow them apart and the water will spray out everywhere.” We were aware that some showerheads could not be used with mains pressure because we had already rejected a couple of models because their packaging stated that they weren’t suitable for mains pressure. But the one we had chosen bore no such warning.

So once again a cretin masquerading as a salesperson who was fully aware of the choice we had made had failed to ask me one small but vital question and my entire Saturday afternoon was wasted because of it. On the upside the replacement showerhead we picked out turned out to be about $10 cheaper than the one we had originally chosen.

The final in this trilogy of tragedy happened less than a fortnight ago when our Freeview decoder – yes the one that we nearly sold but couldn’t because...well you know the rest; died. We were watching a programme and the picture just started pixilating and finally broke up altogether. At first I didn’t know whether it was atmospherics, the satellite dish, the new TV or the decoder. Eventually I came to the conclusion it had to be the decoder or the dish as the TV worked fine with other media.

We figured we were long overdue for an upgrade in that department anyway and made the decision to get one that recorded as well as received. I saw Narvey Hormone had one that we liked the look of but No Lemons had the same one for a hundred bucks less.

I didn’t want to go back to the useless buggers down there so determined to get the deal of the century I headed off to Hardly Normal with an internet printout of the deal from Know Nothings in my pocket. After getting the salesman to show me all the whistles and bells on the machine I wanted I dug into my pocket and said, “That looks good, but here’s the thing; your competitors half a k down the road have got this same machine at $100 less than you. Can you do better than that?”

The salesman took my piece of evidence with him and consulted with (presumably his manager or possibly himself) and came back and offered me the machine for $1 less than his competitor. I took it and the discounted extended warranty as well.

When I got home I was impressed with how easy installation was and within 10 minutes it was working and I was impressed at how it enhanced the already very good picture. I was looking forward to watching the rugby on Prime later that night (I am too tight to pay for Sky).

However when the time to tune into the footy came around I found that Prime had disappeared from my list of channels along with Trackside and C4 (not that I watch either of those). I tried retuning, but no luck. I rang the 0800 number for the manufacturers because the retail store was long since tucked up in bed, but found they only operate between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday! Imagine that. I would expect most people buying a new decoder would do so in the weekend and then if they have any problems be absolutely delighted to learn they could not get any help until Monday during the hours they are trying to earn a living....NOT!

So I missed the game and took the machine back to Hardy Nomads the next morning. I then spent an unbelievable amount of time arguing with the (alleged) manager of the TV department over what the cause was. He had tried it on their set up and found he got the same results as I had.

He first told me the reason I couldn’t get Prime was because it wasn’t available on these machines and offered to give me my money back. I said I didn’t want to return it; I wanted it fixed and asked him why they would have Prime was on the EPG if it was not available. He said that was because they load that at the factory. I countered that by asking why they would load on a channel you couldn’t get since they didn’t list any others you couldn’t receive and anyway how come it was there when I first set the thing up? He then tried to tell me it was it was my satellite dish that was faulty – but was stumped to explain how I was able to get all the other channels. I said there must be a simple fix and told him he should ring the manufacturers for me on Monday and in the meantime I would take the set home and await results.

I am happy to say that on Monday I got a call telling me to go to the manufacturer’s website, download a fix onto a data stick, insert it into my decoder and follow the instructions and all should be well. I did that and everything worked out fine, but it could have saved me an awful amount of grief if the store had known enough about its own stock to know that a fix was necessary for these machines.

I just hope nothing else breaks down because the next time my whizz-bang new whatever fails due to some lame-brain failing to advise me properly they will find themselves in A&E having said appliance removed from a place where no such appliance 
should ever go.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The good guys don’t always wear white

Just exactly when our society changed from being a caring and fair one to the dog eat bitch free-for-all that it now seems to be, I don’t really know. I guess it was one of those things that ate away at us rather like the increasing sea levels around Tuvalu. The difference being that the water levels might not have originated from man’s inhumanity to man – although there is a body of opinion that might say otherwise to that as well of course.

In any event there are times when it seems that as a species we have descended to a level comparable with the bowels of Satan.

People seem hell-bent on looking after ‘number one’ even when number one by his/her behaviour would be more appropriately described as a pile of number two.

The latest scam to get my undies in a tangle is another example I have come across of a money-grubbing business taking advantage of someone who is less able to fight back.

This sad story begins with an innocent enough exercise of me paying a bill. The bill in questions was for expenses incurred by my elderly father who is currently in a rest home with dementia. The rest home in question is a very good place and like most such establishments they run a ‘care account’ for their residents. 
This is basically a kitty into which I put money to take care of any incidental little expense he might have throughout the month. They have a little shop there where he occasionally buys sweets and they also use the account to cover such things as extraordinary expenditure that he might have to meet.

One such expense that falls under this category is payment for non-subsidised medicines or other pharmaceuticals that he might be getting.

In my Dad’s case his latest reconciliation had some entries described as Non SS Meds: Fish Oil Tabs. I realised what these were of course and would not normally have taken any further notice of them were it not for the fact that there seemed to be an awful lot of them.

There was an entry on 30 November for them – cost $11.10, then another on 6 December – same cost again and then further entries on 3, 24 and 31 January. In all there were 5 lots of fish oil tabs charged out over a period of 62 days for a total cost of $54.00. My first thought was, ‘Why did he need 1000 fish oil tablets – that would be 200 per week.”

So I rang the rest home and asked them to explain. They assured me the charges were correct and had been sent to them by Pharmacy Services as they were non-subsidised and were being dispensed along with the rest of his subsidised medication and put into those cute little bubble packs. I asked why he would need 200 of these a week but they assured me he was only being given one each day and referred me on to Pharmacy Services.

I then rang Pharmacy Services and asked them why my father was being charged for 200 fish oil tabs per week and they told me he was not and that he was only being given 28 every four weeks. I challenged this because at $11.10 for 28 tablets I felt there must have been some sort of mistake as the price indicated that he was being given 200 each time.

The woman I spoke to was adamant that the charges were correct so I did a couple of quick calculations. I knew that he was being given 1000mg tablets and I also knew that a tub of 200 of these was regularly available via the supermarket for $9.99 and yet these people were charging him $11.10 for just 28 tablets.
I said to the Pharmacist that it seemed to be a pretty steep price and how could they possibly justify charging more for 28 tabs than what I would pay for 200. At that point she came over very condescending and explained to me that everybody has to make a living and she was sure that i would not want to work for nothing and that they put these tablets into the bubble packs with his medicine and so they had to charge something for the effort of doing that.

Needless to say I was neither impressed to be spoken to like a little child nor convinced about her argument. I already knew that he was paying a premium along with his prescription charges to have all of his medications put into the pack so why was there a need to charge a premium on the item as well. After all we are not talking about a small extra charge here. My sums tell me that fish oil tablets from the supermarket cost a whisker under 5 cents each and yet these ones which were exactly the same were costing a little under 40 cents each – in other words they were 800 percent dearer.

As you might expect I was unable to convince the Pharmacy that they were a bunch of low down scumsuckers taking advantage of old folks because they could, so the upshot is I told them to leave the bloody things out and we would supply his fish oil tablets in future. The rest home was quite relaxed about my new arrangement and we might all now live happily ever after. Yeah right until the next chancer (or as my spellchecker suggested here, chancre) comes along.

Anyway ladies and gentlemen the moral of this little epistle is: if you have responsibility for the care and welfare of an old person and especially if that person is near and dear to you; leave nothing to chance. If they are sent a bill for anything at all make sure you check it to see (a) if they actually were supplied with it, (b) did they really want or need it, and (c) have they been charged the correct amount for it.

You would be surprised to see how many lowlifes there are out there who think nothing of ripping old people off and many of them wear nice white smocks or flash suits and have shining white-toothed smiles. Beware and be ready for the b swines. 

Monday, 17 February 2014

Power to the people

Congratulations to the Green Party on their excellent proposal to give loans to homeowners to put solar power into their homes. This is an initiative I have personally been advocating for years. Hopefully David Cunliffe and his rather slow moving crowd will jump on board with this as well.

I am not surprised that Jianqi’s government has seen fit to ridicule the whole idea on (FFS) the grounds of expense! For a bloke who is supposed to know about money Jianqi is surprisingly dim when it suits him. Of course he is being ably aided and abetted by Simon the Pixie in his role as Energy Bunny – er I mean Minister.

Russel Norman’s policy involves the government loaning homeowners up to $15,000 to install photovoltaic panels on their houses. I gather that an average house can be set up with an adequate system for about $10,000 so this is a potentially good scheme. The loans would be repayable at the rate of around $900.00 per year via local body rates payments.

The interest rate of 4.1 percent that Russel Norman is proposing is the same as that at which the Government currently borrows money to fund all kinds of wasteful endeavours. The major difference here is that the money would actually be used for something that would bring tangible and worthwhile returns for both the voters and the Government.

Simon the Pixie has argued that the scheme would effectively be a Government subsidy because it involves a lower rate of interest. So what? At least it would be a subsidy which would save the entire country money in the long term.

The Government tells us that solar power is “more expensive than buying power off the grid”. Duhh! Maybe it might be until you have paid for your system, but how about taking a longer term view eh? I would be intrigued to see an argument that showed that over 10 years it did not work out cheaper for a homeowner and then get progressively cheaper to the point where it cost virtually nothing once the loan was paid off.

Simon The Pixie has also said that solar is “not a priority because of the abundance of cheaper renewable energy such as hydro, geothermal and wind”, which is a statement so extraordinary in its stupidity that I can’t believe even he said that.

In the first place hydro involves a lot of messing about with waterways and that can often involve unacceptable disruption to both the land and its natural inhabitants including plants and animals.

Geothermal is fine, but it is not readily available all over the country which means the construction of distribution systems which once again are likely to involve further disruptions to the environment.

Wind is good and even more renewable that the other two, but once again you are dealing with a system that requires distribution on a large scale whereas the very localised nature of solar power makes it much more practical and it poses no major disruption to the environment. Whether your house has an iron roof or a whole lot of solar panels really doesn’t make a lot of difference to the surrounding landscape.

The savings from the scheme the Greens are proposing would begin in the very first year and within a short time they would be providing most of those who took up the offer with free power for most if not all of their needs forever more. So what could possibly be wrong with that?

Well, I think I know ‘what is wrong with that”. It would mean smaller profits for the major energy companies and the industries that support them and ..... oh yes... the shareholders. But not the Mum and Dad investors that Jianqi and his merry men and women told us would buy these power shares, but the people who actually did buy them – those whose annual earnings sit in the top 1 percent of the population, along with major corporations and overseas investors. Boo- bloody hoo. In any case these people are in a position to cope with any loss of expectations they might suffer because of this and instead buy shares in solar technology companies.

There is also a prediction that this could result in 1000 new jobs although I am a bit more wary about that aspect as in my experience whenever politicians predict more jobs they tend to over-inflate the figures for effect. However it is quite clear from the comments made by those whose business it is to analyse these issues for a living that the basic figures regarding savings do stack up, and if you add in the lack of any environmental impact, then it is easy to see that we must go down this path. We should have started it decades ago, and there is certainly no sensible reason not to do it now.

I see the proposed scheme also involves setting up a system where homeowners would be able to sell their excess power to the grid for a reasonable price. But without legislation to compel the energy companies to honour that I suspect you would see very little movement there. However it would be an opportunity for enterprising folk to set up small scale power companies in various locations around the country to buy up and store that excess power to sell back to local bodies for their infrastructural needs such as street lighting and traffic lights.

I say let's power up. Power to the people and let’s see how many of us can short-circuit the power companies.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

NZ Idle – the new series

In the year 2014 our television screens are going to be dominated with much fuss and bother and spin leading up to our biggest ‘reality series’ of the year. This series differs somewhat from the plethora of programmes that fall under that description.

As an aside I find it interesting that the word ‘plethora’ was once used to describe an unhealthy excess and that these days it is often used to denote abundance. I feel that in this context the word should be taken to mean an unhealthy excess especially as i learn that it had a medical connection and was used to describe a condition caused by dilation of superficial blood vessels which was characterised by a reddish face.
However, I digress....

The ‘reality’ series of which I speak differs in that it is a recurring series which takes over our media every three years. Yes; you’ve guessed it. I am speaking of that rag tag bunch of idle self-serving gits who come seeking our approval to keep sucking at the nation’s tit for another three years.

Battle has already commenced with Little Bo Tox and Anne Offhertrolley trying to blow the Greens’ co-leaders house up into a mansion the size of their own dunnies and bitching about how much better she can look in expensive clothes than they both do.

Meanwhile Jianqi is rushing about turning over one stone after another trying to find enough slimy invertebrates to potentially form a coalition with. You’d have to wonder if there are any more possibles left now. Let’s consider those possibilities.  

·         The Acting Party have been pretty much squished out of contention following the demise of their only MP in this current Parliament and it is hard to see how their latest oddball will gain any traction over the next few months. The tea has been chucked out and I suspect that even a case of Red Bull won’t put any wings on that particular slug before November. He isn’t even the party leader so he will have to be operated by remote control from Acting Party headquarters. Mind you that would be less humiliating for him than being operated via Jianqi’s arm up his bum like his predecessor was. Should The Natsis choose to ‘gift’ the Epsom seat to these wallies again, it just might turn out to be the gift that doesn’t even give once never mind the one that keeps on giving.

·         Just what Peter Dung, the man with no real party has in mind this year, I have not heard. I seem to recall he was considering retiring a few months back. Mind you that was when he was still sitting on the naughty step and now that he is being welcomed back into the bosom (can I say that in this column?) of the Natsi Party he might reconsider that. However even if he does, and if the people of Johnsonville and Newlands are still in a coma and he wins; he will be there on his Todd Malone again. Neither of the other party members is likely to get elected and his voter will not be able to vote enough times to get them in on the party vote either.

·         What’s left of the Maori Parting is Te Ururoa Flavell and a couple of spaces where the other two sat. It is more of a comb-over than a parting now. In any case there is no guarantee they would wish to coalesce with the Natsis this time as they have suffered some pretty serious damage through their association with them over the last six years They could only manage to grab three seats after their first term supporting Jianqi and this time they will be starting all over again with a whole new set of candidates to try and support their only leftover from the previous hangi.

·         There has been a lot of talk about the Conservatively Dressed Party and I think that might well be all it turns out to be. These slightly manic types managed to pick up 2.65 percent of the party vote last time, which isn’t all that surprising really when you think about it. There must be at least that percentage of the population with undiagnosed stupidity. Ironically that meagre share of the party vote was still only 0.15 percent short of the combined party vote won by the current three coalition partners. However we must remember that it is still only slightly more than half of what they would need to get a seat unless they could manage to win an electorate seat. As we don’t have any electorates that are comprised of nothing but wacko people I would suggest the chances of that are not terrific. Leader Column Craig is certainly an odd individual and not really the sort who would inspire confidence in most sane people. He has a little of the aura that surrounds that new Acting Party twit. He seems the sort of bloke that might cause babies to cry as soon as they see him and the rest of us panic if we are left alone in a room with him.

·         This then (unless some amazing new party arises and sweeps the political right wingers off their feet) leaves the question of what will Winnie do? Winnie is always a dark horse or a dirty dog depending on how you see him. He plays his cards close to his chest at times like this until he can be absolutely sure which way the wind is going to blow. This way he keeps the door open for a ministerial warrant no matter who is behind that door. If he stays true to his party’s policies he would not be able to form a government with the Natsis without making some demand that would stick in their collective craw. However with the chains of office glinting in the sunlight Winnie could be swayed enough to jump into that big blue waka.
      So what of the opposition? It is abundantly clear the Laboured Party will not be able to do it alone. Although many think that is exactly what they have been doing for some time.
      But I digress again. Or is that regress when you do it for a second time?
      The point is that Laboured will need some friends in the house if they are to warm the treasury benches again as they have again chosen a useless leader who unfortunately will probably make an even more useless Prime Minotaur should they pull this feat off. He has shown an ability of late to launch himself out of the starting gates with a policy headline before his minders have had a chance to teach him his lines.  
      So who are the friends of the Laboured Party?
      I guess the most obvious one is the Greens who have been growing faster than my tomatoes in this climate. They would be the next largest polling party after the Nats and the Labs and a long way ahead of any of the others. Their participation in a Labour led Government goes without saying. The only unknown around them is how many players they would bring to the game.
      However this is where it gets interesting. Outside of the Greens; who would Labour be able to form a coalition with? 
      Unless Winnie goes with them they would probably not have enough seats to be able to do it. They might of course win the support of the Maori Party this time, but how much use that would be given the current state of that party is another matter. It could conceivably add only one seat to the mix.
      There is of course the matter of Hone and his little one-man band. He would never be courted by National and so the possibility exists for him to be asked to be part of a Labour led coalition. However I think he would be the last one picked for the game if he was and I think they would do well to consider what problems he could cause if he became disenchanted or had another of his famous brain explosions.    
      To sum up, I think the Laboured lot need to devise a decent strategy now. If I was in charge of that strategy I would be building a bloody great big bridge with the Maori Party and suggesting to them that a widely advertised intention to form a coalition with Labour would give them a better chance of getting more seats in the upcoming viewers’ vote and I would be offering Winnie some very cool robes of office and advising him to follow the same course of action that I had suggested to the Maori Party.
      It will be interesting (in an academic sort of way). But jeez it will be sickening for the most part. Stock up on bicarb I say.