Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Double, double, toil and trouble...

One of my occasional correspondents, that bastion of personal human industry and frequent flyer miles, the Hon. Judith Tizard, has had a rough time of late.

Poor Judith. It's bad enough that she has to cope with the combined stresses of being an associate arts minister and minister of consumer affairs. In addition, Judith has the considerable responsibility of being patron of the Auckland gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transsexual communities, and Helen Clark's closest personal friend. While Judith doesn't have to put up with the drudgery of living in the Prime Minister's home anymore, she does have to put up with taunts from the National Party about her work ethic. That kind of workload is enough to drive anybody to tears.

This is simply not fair. In almost eight years of ministerial, sub-cabinet office, Judith has been nothing if not loyal to Helen Clark. When other Labour MPs have shown disloyalty, Judith has been there to comfort the Prime Minister.

It just isn't on for Jonathan Coleman to refer to Judith Tizard's broomstick. While Coleman galavants around in the knowledge that his medical knowledge was acquired through a legitimate public learning institution, Tizard is correct that it is sexist and mean to bring up the vexed issue of the Minister's domestic duties. Judith wants the world to know that since becoming a minister outside cabinet, she has not touched a vacuum cleaner, a dust-cloth, made the bed, scrubbed the toilet, or done anything close to operating a broomstick.

On the other hand, Judith Tizard is an excellent cook. Being the quintessential entertainer, and as one of the unofficial hostesses at Premier House, she has developed a reputation for fine dining and food. Take this recipe of Judith's for French onion soup, a favourite in the Labour Party caucus:

1 large black pot (if a pot is unavailable, a cauldron will suffice)
6 large brown onions, sliced thinly
2 gallons of dog stock
6 legs of toad
The hair of one albino monkey, or alternatively, one of Darren Hughes' eyebrows
3 fenny snake skins
Salt and pepper to taste
Babboon's blood optional.

Friday, June 22, 2007

EXCLUSIVE: Local Government Conference Announced

I am delighted to announce this afternoon a $15 million conference to take place at Waitangi, on the Chatham Islands, in the week of 5 October 2007.

The conference will be the largest ever gathering of local authority politicians and employees ever held in the Southern Hemisphere. The gathering will draw together some 1,200 local authority politicians across the 86 territorial local authorities in New Zealand, as well as some 25,000 people directly employed and contracted to local government.

Local government in New Zealand spends some $6 billion of ratepayers’ money annually, and consumes approximately 4% of GDP. The summit will bring together interested parties to discuss some of the most pressing issues of modern local government.

The three day conference will include keynote speakers of an international calibre on such innovative subjects as:

  • How to Eliminate the Last White Straight Male from your Workplace—Local Government New Zealand Chair Basil Morrison
  • The RMA, And How It’s Just Too Permissive of Sensible Development—Mayor Bob Harvey
  • How to Railroad, and then Withdraw from, Massively Expensive Projects that the Public Doesn’t Want—Hon. Trevor Mallard
  • Ministerial Vetoes: Why Judges are Bastards when they Overturn Them—Chris Carter
  • How To Rort Ratepayers With Water Charges When You’ve Promised them Otherwise—Dr Bruce Hucker
  • Ratepayers Views and How to Sideline Them—Open Panel Discussion
  • Resisting Local Government Reform—Your Job Is More Important Than Their Money

The all expenses-paid conference will be free to all local government interested parties in New Zealand. The conference will take place the week before local government elections this year. Sponsored by a group of interested ratepayers, the $15 million summit will take place in the idyllic surroundings of Waitangi, on Chatham Islands. Conference attendees will be provided with free airplane transport to Waitangi, free airport transfers, outstanding conference and accommodation facilities, and fittingly sumptuous food and beverages on a local Chatham Islands theme.

Attendance by all local government mayors, elected councillors, community board members, senior management, middle-senior management, middle management, middle-junior management, senior-junior management, middle-junior management, associated management and related support staff is compulsory. Prospective candidates for local authority representation in 2007 are strongly invited to attend.

Conference organisers state that it is their desire to thank all the people involved in local government for the outstanding work that they do in guarding and maintaining ratepayers assets, and for the stellar work they do every year in adding value to the towns and cities in which they operate.

Conference organisers report that on the final day of the conference they will be holding a special fireworks display, of a kind never before seen in New Zealand. Following negotiations with Yuritkin Abdurakhmanov, the Associate Director of Black Market Sales in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, the conference organisers have announced a particular treat for attendees. “We have spent some $25 million in addition to the conference expenses for some of the most eye-wateringly brilliant pyrotechnics available in the world today,” says Geoff Rateful, the chairman of the conference organising committee. “Some ratepayers might consider this to be an unnecessarily extravagant move. We believe, however, that local government members in New Zealand deserve every luxury we can provide for them.”

In unrelated news, the International Atomic Energy Agency has disclosed that an anonymous customer has recently spent $25 million on a “suitcase nuke” device in Tashkent. The vessel transporting the device was last spotted heading East from Lyttleton, New Zealand.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Just Good Friends

I have eleven Sarahs in my cellphone contacts list. One of them I vaguely remember as a former boss’ wife, who brought her husband meat rissoles into work one lunchtime. I ate the rissoles, got her number, and texted her every week for the next six months asking for more of the rissoles. She never delivered again. I don’t know why I still have her number.

The others I have known more intimately at various stages in the last couple of years. They never cooked me rissoles, and probably never will. With the exception of all but two, whom I have been seeing recently, I don’t think I will see them again. I would delete all their numbers, but I can never remember which ones are meaningful numbers, and which ones need to be trashed.

I am always suspicious of the proclivities of guys who claim to be straight, and yet have lots of chick friends. It has always occurred to me to be a total waste of time. Chicks, in the main, are not very smart, not very good at sport, overly emotional, frequently cranky, and really rather dull. They are, as a gender, prone to blaming others for their many errors, are incapable of taking responsibility, and refuse point-blank to continue a thought to its logical conclusion.

I have come to the inevitably stunning conclusion that chicks make passable girlfriends, good housemaids, and excellent mothers. But with few exceptions, not as friends. Which is why I have devised a system to classify the chicks I know into these three categories:

  1. The older woman. Being an orphan, I have no shortage of women over the age of 35 who mother me. I send them cards on Mother’s day, and in return they cook me dinner when I am hungry. I expect them to scold me when I misbehave or speak rudely to others. I don’t expect them to tell me about their sex lives, because, frankly, thinking about your mother having sex is just sick. I’ve found that if I don’t forget a mother’s day, I can maintain long-term, platonic relationships with these maternal surrogates.
  2. The housemaid. In this category I include secretaries, receptionists, waitresses, airline hostesses, nurses, and retail shopgirls. These are all jobs that a chick does best. In one of my local bars recently, a male waiter, whom I have nicknamed “Spike”, asked me what I wanted to drink. I looked at him sulkily, and then texted the three hot waitresses who were otherwise occupied with other customers, demanding that they look after me instead. I really don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect if I am paying exhorbitant prices for drinks in a bar with hot chicks that I will be served by them, rather than the spotty guy with stupid hair. These chicks exist in part for me to flirt with them, which I do excessively. But they also exist to serve, and in that respect, it is unwise to have sex with them.

    In my experience, the only possible consequence of shagging a chick is that at some point in the near future she will become extremely cranky with me. Since I have never taken to saliva-laden beverages, I’ve never thought it appropriate to seriously hit on a waitress. If I did start shagging a chick who worked in one of my bars, either she would have to stop working at the bar, or I would have to find a new one to drink at. I don’t like going to new bars, so that rules that option out. In that sense, these chicks are not friends. They are hot acquaintances who serve my immediate needs. I do not keep their cellphone numbers so that I can spend time with them and learn interesting things about their otherwise inane lives. I mean, really. If they were such terribly interesting human beings, what would they be doing working in a bar?
  3. Girlfriends. I do go through a lot of these, often concurrently. It never ceases to amaze me why I am not on better terms with many former girlfriends. Some of them, to be fair, have been purely psychotic . More have demonstrated that they have no sense of humour. Such was the case with all of the dour chicks I have dated in the last few years who showed no sense of humour when I didn’t call them back. Still more have demonstrated a variety of social problems, ranging from vegetarianism to owning too many cats to not being willing to iron my shirts. The latter point is really pretty critical to me. If my charm is no longer strong enough to encourage a girlfriend to iron my shirt, then in my view the relationship is irreparable, and I am only delaying the inevitable, and making it harder for them by pretending otherwise. But do you think I get credit later on for dumping them?
My main fault as a man, I suppose, is not my lack of modesty, but that I am just so bloody good looking, and charming to boot. I acquire female acquaintances very quickly. I don’t need to hear a chick’s perspective on the world to understand how a chick thinks. A chick’s thinking is invariably inferior to mine, and no matter how many times I listen to her jabbering, I am not going to become a more intelligent human being for listening to her.

With only a rare few exceptions—primarily chicks who I went to university with, and have cunningly, and surreptitiously turned into mother figures as they’ve aged and I haven’t—I don’t delude myself into thinking I can be friends with chicks.

There are some guys I know who go out of their way to be friends with chicks. Even ugly ones, which I have always thought as particularly pointless. They consider themselves to be more evolved species, and even make such absurd claims as being able to understand that futile, incomprehensible beast that is woman better.

I mean, really. What the fuck kind of point are they trying to prove?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Power Games

I never cease to be amazed at the distances that the Left will travel to spin in their favour, at the expense of truth and human dignity. The death of Folole Maliaga is the case in point.

Let’s look at the facts now in the public domain. Folole Maliaga was morbidly obese. She was suffering from critical respiratory failure, as a result of that morbid obesity. She was released from hospital, with a stiff cocktail of drugs and a breathing machine, to deal with that respiratory failure, and was told that her death was imminent if she did not dramatically change her lifestyle.

Instead of taking the drugs, Mrs Maliaga rejected them in favour of “traditional Samoan medicines”, while continuing to use a very non-traditional oxygen machine. It has also become clear that that machine was not designed or expected to support life.

Mrs Maliaga did not pay her power bill. She also did not pay her telephone bill. What tends to happen, when people do not pay their utility bills, is that they get cut off. There really is little point in having chargeable utility services if nothing happens when people don’t pay them.

When the power to Mrs Maliaga’s home was disconnected, Mrs Maliaga’s family sat around and sang hymns for a period of three hours.

Mrs Maliaga died.

This is a story that can be interpreted in several different ways. The mass media-driven hysteria, emphasised in the blogosphere and among left-wing activists with barrows to push, is also becoming more subdued with a critical eye being cast on what really happened. The "Mercury are Murderers!" brigade is looking more ridiculous as the other contributory factors in Mrs Muliaga's death come to light.

There are already far too many players in this absurd scenario.

When the story first broke, SOE Trevor Mallard called for calm, requested that the public wait for a police investigation into the affair, and refused to comment on the situation. Ducking for cover? Well, not quite. It’s difficult for a Minister without the information to make a useful comment without appearing heartless.

Doug Heffernan from Mercury didn’t help his own career prospects by wading into the argument as soon as the news broke, defending Mercury. When you’ve got an hysterical family member making accusations against the company, it simply isn’t wise for a CEO to even attempt to counter the accusations immediately.

His response should have been: “We are extremely sorry that Mrs Muliaga died. We will be conducting a full investigation into what we did, will cooperate with any police inquiry, and will take full responsibility for any consequences that occurred as a direct result of Mercury’s actions. Our thoughts are with Mrs Muliaga’s family, and we will do anything we can to help them.”

Easy press release to write. It doesn’t accept culpability for her death, doesn’t suggest Mercury will dodge responsibility for it, and gets rid of the beat-up for a bit. The PR guy who thought otherwise should be fired, and Heffernan’s own head will probably roll for his naivety in failing to do just that.

But the two most troubling aspects of the case concern two of the most vocal self-appointed Mercury critics, and the media’s blind, uncritical acceptance of what they have said.

Brenden Sheehan, who has variously been described by sloppy journalists as Mrs Muliaga’s nephew, her son-in-law, and “relative”, is not a media novice. He is the chief shit-stirrer for the Public Service Association. In recent times, he has led PSA strike action against TVNZ, Radio New Zealand, and the Public Trust.

Sheehan is head of the PSA in the Hawke’s Bay. With his very calculated usurping of Mrs Muliaga’s spotlight, and particularly given the nature of some of his public comments, it’s not certain whether Sheehan is pursuing the interests of the Muliaga family, or his own political interests.

It is understandable that when a person dies in tragic circumstances, that family members may seek outside parties on which to scapegoat their grievances. What is astonishing is that the media can allow a seasoned political manipulator such as Sheehan to use the tragedy for downright opportunism.

The second unforgivable personality is Helen Clark.

Clark’s potential choice of targets was broad. They included:

  1. The hospital that discharged a critically ill woman with an oxygen machine at home, reliant on her continuing to use a complex cocktail of drugs to assist her to breathe. Hard for Clark to take this option, at it would undermine public faith in a public health system that she has poured billions of dollars into.
  2. The social welfare system that was sufficiently inflexible as to provide the means for a critically ill woman to pay either her power bill, or her phone bill. Again, Clark has championed how much better social services are under Labour, so this isn’t viable.
  3. Annette King, who as health minister began a vastly expensive anti-obesity campaign, which in Mrs Muliaga’s case, hadn’t filtered through. Difficult to criticise her own Minister.
  4. Mrs Muliaga and her family, who chose not to call an ambulance when the power was disconnected. Hard for a Prime Minister to make that call without appearing heartless. Given Clark’s historic reputation for warmth and tenderness towards other people generally, it would be out of character for Clark to take this step.
  5. Mercury Energy. A subsidiary energy retailer of an SOE. Potentially a big, callous, corporate beast that Labour voters love to hate. The risk of criticising the energy retailer is that it will lead to massive shareholder value, but given the public’s general loathing towards utility companies on the whole, it’s much harder for the energy retailer to look good.

Of course, the PM could have simply stayed out of the debate completely, allowed the police to conduct an investigation, and for the facts to rule, but the chance of the media exposure when she needs it most became too good to miss.

She did it with a style that only she can manage: she refused to acknowledge Mighty River Power executives outside Mrs Muliaga’s home, and has pointedly ordered Mighty River to apologise for their role in Mrs Muliaga’s death. By doing so, she has effectively jeopardised Mighty River’s legal position before an autopsy has been carried out, and by sanctioning the blame against Mercury before a police inquiry has been carried out, has led to a massive loss in shareholder value in the state-owned company.

For what benefit? A couple of photo opportunities at a time when she needs them most.