Johanna Sigurdardottir is a left-wing lesbian environmentalist. No doubt she’ll destroy the Icelandic economy and they’ll have to elect a right-wing, free-market government to get things back on the right track.
January 31, 2009
I’ve been day-dreaming about a book project for a while now (more about this later) and this week I did some preliminary research at the National Library, reading through archives of New Zealand newspapers on microfiche. I started in the late 70’s and scanned through microfiche of the New Zealand Herald, Auckland Star, Evening Post and Dominion, skim reading through into mid 1981. As a consumer of news I found the differences between the papers then and now fascinating – there’s easily a Phd’s worth of analysis to be done here but here are a few random observations:
- Stories back then are a lot shorter than they are now – typically they’re a tenth the word count, with very short sentences written in a much larger font and there were a lot more stories on each page.
- No gory details. Crime stories have few if any descriptions of the crimes; court stories omit most of the evidence.
- As far as I could see there was no political analysis at all, with the exception of the Auckland Star. There were a couple of stories about academics or lawyers commenting on political matters but none of the insight/palace gossip we get from the current gallery.
- Political stories rarely had balance – with the exception of the Auckland Star they were basically press releases for the government of the day. The Star was highly critical of the Muldoon government so they still didn’t have any balance but they did have some measure of accountability.
- Nobody got a byline – stories were attributed to ‘Staff Reporters’, ‘Agrictultural Reporter’ ect.
- In every newspaper I read NZPA ‘wrote’ nearly everything (I suspect most of the stories were networked from other regional papers). They had reporters filing from Hong Kong and Moscow!
- There were far more rural/regional stories than there are in today’s national daily papers which are basically urban in their outlook, (except for murders and massive scandals).
- There were more good news stories, less human interest.
- The huge issues of the day seem amusing in retrospect. In the late 70’s/early 80’s people were wringing their hands, writing thunderous editorials and demanding government action over our ‘wheat dependancy on Australia’. Desperate measures were proposed to end our wheat dependency. I’m pretty sure we now import 90% of our wheat from Aussie and the rest from the US and Canada.
- Extending the five day shopping week was the other divisive issue of the time; the death of New Zealand society was confidently predicted as the most immediate consequence. (One letter to the editor in the Herald protested that in sixty years the author had never needed to buy groceries in the weekend and couldn’t imagine why anyone else would either. Most New Zealanders now do their grocery shopping on Saturday or Sunday morning.)
- British politics is covered in some detail; American politics hardly at all.
And most importantly:
- There were classified ads. Dozens and dozens of pages of them. On Wednesday’s and Saturday’s I’d estimate about 80% of the newspapers consisted of classified ads and it’s no exaggeration to say that the papers basically existed as a medium for the communication of those advertisements.
The conventional wisdom (in the blogosphere at least) is that the media are in trouble because they’ve abandoned their once high standards. A quick trip back into the past shows that the standards of journalism today are so much better than they were a generation ago that there’s really no comparison.
The newspapers were better in some ways but in terms of balance, analysis and commentary they are now light years ahead. They’re partly in trouble because they’re owned by corporations that are managed by incompetant sociopaths but even if that weren’t the case they’d still be dying because they’ve lost their main source of income. Of course I’d heard that the decline of the classifieds were hurting them but its not until you go back and see what a huge deal they were for the papers that you realise what they’ve lost.
January 29, 2009
This is . . . weird (actually weird is an understatement). The Opal File is a ‘secret history’ of New Zealand from 1967 to 1987. It also references the Aussies but seems focused on NZ politics and finance. It can be found on various conspiracy sites around the internets. The author is listed as ‘Anthony Pollock’, the ‘Opal File’ references the well known Gemstone File conspiracy theory.
Here are some typical excerpts, the complete file is over the break. (If anyone knows who wrote this – is it a joke? Are they for real? – I’d love to hear from them.)
According to CIA sources, Kirk was killed by the Trilateralists using Sodium Morphate. Rowling’s first act as NZ Prime Minister was to withdraw Kirk’s Anti-Monopoly Bill and the Petroleum Amendment Bill.
Later, Rowling was to be rewarded with ambassadorship to Washington. Incidentally, the Shah of Iran was murdered the same way as Kirk on his arrival in the US.
New Zealand politician D. Lange meets Ray Cline in Wellington and agrees to go on the Mafia payroll for monthly fee of $UA40,000 paid into account number 5263161 at Commercial Pacific Trust, New Hebrides.
24th May, 1984:
Four-man CIA team coordinated by Ray Cline arrive in New Zealand to begin installation of equipment for subliminal television advertising at five sites:
- Mt Erin
Sophisticated equipment can be installed within one kilometer of TV relay arrivals and all linked to one IDAPS computer bureau in Auckland.
January 28, 2009
I defy you to walk into a bookshop, read the opening three pages to The Forever War by Dexter Filkins and walk out without buying a copy.
January 27, 2009
Cactus Kate holds forth on the shooting of Hailatau Naitoko in another brave attempt to tunnel her way to the moral highground:
The Pinko blogsphere went further. Without even knowing the victim they assumed naturally because he was driving a courier van that he was “hardworking”. If a banker got shot no one would have said he was “hardworking”. How do they know Halatau was hardworking? They turned it into a racial incident, assuming of course the Policeman who shot him was a man and not many of the Maori or Pacific Islanders on the New Zealand Police force. Also forgetting the reason that Halatau was shot in the first instance was that a Maori had gone on a mental rampage putting lives at risk.
Thirty-nine years after meeting his “sweetheart” at university, Lockwood Smith has finally got around to popping the question.
The Speaker of the House and one-time television quiz master proposed on Christmas Day to his long-time girlfriend, Alexandra Lang.
I’ll be fascinated to see if Mr Wishart is willing to go there – and what the reaction from the right-wing blogosphere will be if they do.
January 26, 2009
I/S argues that the AOS officer responsible for the death of Halatau Naitoko should stand trial:
Look at the precedents: hunters kill their mates in tragic accidents fairly frequently. They are usually made to stand trial for careless use of a firearm, or in cases where there is clear negligence, manslaughter. Some are discharged, some are convicted, some end up on home detention, some (in very serious cases) end up in jail. We do this, despite the tragic circumstances, because we as a society have decided that people who play with guns need to exercise the utmost care and responsibility when doing so.
The same rules should apply to the police. Otherwise, it looks awfully like there is one law for them, and another they enforce on us. And we’ve had quite enough of that already.
The problem with this analogy is that the police are legally required to place themselves in harms way in order to protect the public and they’re authorised to use deadly force in such circumstances. In this case there really is one law for the police and another for everyone else.
If the investigations into the incident reveal the police were acting in an irresponsible manner then I think there should be a prosecution – but based on the dramatic account in today’s Herald that doesn’t sound like the case:
Herald inquiries to police yesterday revealed that armed offenders squad members on the side of the motorway fired towards the truck and the centre of the road.
The van, in which Halatau Naitoko was sitting, was in the line of fire. Altogether the police fired five shots, one by an officer with a Glock pistol and four by two armed offenders squad members with M4 rifles.
One of the M4 bullets killed 17-year-old Halatau. Other shots hit the truck and shrapnel wounded driver Richard Neville and the pursued gunman.
Last night, an emotional Mr Neville was in no doubt that the police had saved his life. He said the 50-year-old gunman had moments earlier stood in front of his truck and pointed the gun at him to stop him.
Mr Neville, 40, said he tried to run the offender down but the man ran to the side of the truck and leaped on the back in an apparent hijack attempt.
The gunman then aimed his .22 sawn-off Ruger rifle at him through the cab window, he said.
As armed offenders squad members shouted orders to the offender, Mr Neville hit his brakes in an attempt to slam the man into the back of the cab.
The next thing he knew there was a series of shots, with glass and bullet fragments flying everywhere.
Obviously the police shouldn’t be shooting when there are civilians in their field of fire, but if they hadn’t opened fire they may have been in a position where they were being held responsible for Richard Neville’s death instead.
January 25, 2009
Deborah Coddington takes her column to its logical conclusion and complains about people going to the toilet more often than they used to. Apropos the Leonard Cohen concert:
And what has happened to the modern Kiwi bladder? People were going in and out, back and forth, from 7.30 when Hunt came on, until 11.30 when Cohen finally allowed the cheering crowd to let him retire. Ban the ubiquitous water bottle.
If men and women can’t last four hours without a toilet stop, then they’ll have to go thirsty.
Bill Ralston has entered the ‘It’s-Friday-afternoon-so-I-guess-I-better-churn-out-something-mildly-provocative‘ phase of the newspaper columnist life cycle. A shame, his articles were some of the best in the country for a while there. His latest brain-child is that politicians should simply abandon our adverserial style of democracy and just work together:
Of course, Goff and Labour aren’t doing themselves any favours by constantly whingeing about virtually everything the Government does. To quote Obama again, they need to realise, “The ground has shifted”.
In the current climate the public don’t want to hear the same old stale political arguments.
Both parties would earn far more brownie points if they worked more co-operatively together and only chose to maul each other when there was a really vital issue at stake.
I don’t remember Ralston being this concilatory two months ago when Labour were in power. Maybe he’s had a road to Damascus moment.
Strange that there’s no by-line on this Herald political story:
Most people call John Key “Prime Minister” – but Max Key, aged 13, has taken to calling his dad “Captain Tubbs”.
A rueful Key, 47, admitted yesterday that (what with elections and economic crises and whatnot) he had put on a few pounds over the course of the past year.
“It’s Max’s to speak to, but I’m growing in stature in more ways than one,” he said yesterday.
Well, maybe not so strange.
Bernard Hickey – the lazy finance journalists best friend – has a column up about economic conditions in the US with some fascinating historical titbits :
A Democrat-controlled Congress may actually be more troublesome than a Republican one. We all hope it can avoid the mistakes of the Democratic Congresses in the 1930s, which embarked on a wave of trade protectionism that deepened the Depression.
As anyone who with the slightest knowledge of US political history knows the trade protection policies – the most famous of which was the Smoot-Hawley Act – were passed by a Republican Congress during the Hoover administration of the late 20’s. I’d recommend Mr Hickey read Jeffrey Frieden’s Global Capitalism for a pretty good overview of 20th century financial history, although he also might want to take a look at Phillip K Dick’s Man in the High Castle . If you’re going to write alternate history fiction you might as well do it right.
I miss Agenda.
I might be wrong but I think this is the first time the police have accidentally killed a civilian; the fact that they came clean about it so quickly when they could have spent a few weeks dissembling or simply falsified the evidence and blamed the subject of the pursuit actually does a lot to restore my confidence in the force.
The TV coverage was pretty creepy; the journos were all high on adrenalin and – with the exception of Lisa Owen – unable to hide their glee at having such a great story land on their laps during a serious news drought.
Even more horrible was Greg O’Connors performance; a demented rant about how the Police had a difficult job and had done no wrong. They killed a guy! I realise O’Connor’s audience are the members of his union and not the general public but I suspect a lot of cops who watched that also felt pretty sick. The guy has no perspective and only serves to make the police look arrogant and cruel. It would be hard for them to find a worse spokesperson.
Concerns are growing for the safety of newly elected Prime Minister John Key who has been missing from Parliament for three days and is set to spend his third night in the open. With a cold snap coming in, officials have called off the search this evening and it will resume tomorrow morning. Senior National MP’s admit they still have no clue as to their leader’s whereabouts.
Security guards have discovered a hastily dug hole beneath a security fence near the Beehive and a $400 Turnbull and Asser tie tangled in the bushes close-by, indicating that Key is no longer on parliament grounds.
Finance Minister Bill English has accepted responsibility for his leader’s absence.
‘I usually let John sleep at the foot of the bed,’ a visibly distraught English told reporters at an afternoon press conference. ‘But lately he’s been whining and scratching at the door every ten minutes so last night I made him sleep in the laundry. We were up late reading Pacific Forum briefings so it was only for a few hours.’ ‘
But when English woke at 6 AM and went to feed Key the Prime Minister was gone. English alerted the Diplomatic Protection Squad who have spent much of the last three days searching the streets around Parliament, calling Key’s name and shaking a tin of the Purina Glossy Coat biscuits the Prime Minister is known to favour.
Cabinet staff have assisted in the search, some have re-tasked a satillite to scan the Wellington streets while others glue crayon drawings of the Prime Minister up on area lamp-posts. Many of those involved in the search reject the suggestion that English is to blame, claiming that it is in Key’s nature to wander.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Simon Murdoch also faults himself for Key’s disappearance. In a statement released to media Murdoch described a recent incident in which Key interupted a roundtable discussion with Canadian trade delegates to clean his gentials.
‘I made my displeasure known to the Prime Minister just as I did when Ms Clark engaged in that sort of behaviour,’ Murdoch said. ‘I was very harsh and that seemed appropriate at the time. But now I’d take it all back just to have him trot into my office and rest his head on my knee.’
‘Maybe he knew he was getting wormed tomorrow,’ suggested Health Minister Tony Ryall. ‘We kept it secret but the sneaky little bugger has a sixth sense about these things.’
This is the second time in two months that the Prime Minister has gone missing; a spokesperson for Key theorised that Wellington’s high winds cause him to become agitated and afraid. Witnesses have also sighted the Harvard educated millionaire chasing cars, birds and other politicians; Dr Stephen Levine, a political scientist at Victoria University suggests that Key may have followed an animal or rival MP and then been unable to find his way back to the Beehive.
Thordon residents have been advised to check their toolsheds or under their house for the missing head of state. Key is skittish but good natured and is not dangerous to approach.
Speaker Lockwood Smith has speculated that the Prime Minister is safe and well. ‘He’s probably just charmed some old lady into giving him a place to sleep and three meals a day. He’ll be living it up.’
‘It won’t last though,’ Smith predicted. ‘He’ll wake up one morning and decide to reshuffle the cabinet or sack the CEO of Corrections and show up back here smiling and happy with his tongue hanging out all covered in grass stains. You’ll see.’