Friday, May 05, 2006

Sideswipe

It takes guts to park your car so close to Paul Holmes' 2006 Bentley (L), Movers & Shakers salt and pepper shakers.

By Ana Samways

Think global, ignore local? Starbucks Coffee, the purveyor of homogenous coffee outlets around New Zealand and the world, would like to raise awareness of its new Fairtrade Certified coffee, Caf Estima Blend from Latin American and East African beans. Coinciding with Fair Trade Fortnight the PR noise is an effort to "bring attention to critical social and economic issues facing coffee farmers", says a story on AP. And conveniently, their ubiquitous brand. Meanwhile, the very same Starbucks pays its young workers some of the lowest wages around.

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Battle of the ostentatious car brands: A Porsche driver writes: "With regard to the silly antics of a yellow Ferrari driver in the eastern suburbs, reported in Sideswipe last year, seems Mr More-Money-Than-Brains is at it again. City-bound traffic is queued at a red light at Mission Bay. Mr MMTB takes the left turn lane, pauses, then accelerates straight through the intersection against the red light. Hope he got to work that 30 seconds earlier ... If you are the Ferrari owner in question, are you not aware how conspicuous your vehicle is? I hope it doesn't get vandalised by someone who really objects to your idiotic driving!"

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Quotable: Said by a skanky contestant, after being booted off season seven of find-yourself-a-rich-husband reality show, The Bachelor: "There is such a racist against beautiful people in this country."

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Anne Martin was amused by these reasons given by pet-owners in England for handing their unwanted pets in to the RSPCA.

1. The cat's fur doesn't match the new carpet.

2. I thought chinchillas only lived for two years. I don't want a pet that lives for 20.
(Source: Medway News)

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Movers and shakers: Salt and pepper shakers for the very, very lazy: Slashfood.com says, "I find Movers & Shakers (Picture above) , the self-shaking salt and pepper shakers, to be ridiculous. To operate you pull the cord at the bottom of the shaker, invert over your plate and they vibrate, shaking out as much or as little seasoning as your taste buds desire. The only thing that they don't do is hold themselves over the plate."

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China's Ministry of Public Safety has issued new guidelines for baby names that exclude thousands of rare Chinese language characters. The rules are tied to the introduction of electronic identity cards. Authorities say they cannot write rare characters on ID cards anymore and they will register only names included in the official database. (Source: reason.com)

John Armstrong: Rattled by unprecedented and malicious leak

While maintaining an air of composure, the Government will be rattled by the leaking of confidential Cabinet papers to Telecom.

Understandably so. On the scales of political and commercial sensitivity, this leak is right off the dial.

There appears to be an enemy within. That is worrying enough.

While Labour has not been damaged so far, there is the other worry that the State Services Commission inquiry confirms the leaker is a public servant or political adviser working in a ministerial office in the Beehive, rather than some anonymous official based inside a large Government department.

That would be highly embarrassing for the affected minister - and could even raise the prospect of resignation if procedures for handling sensitive documents in his or her office are deemed to have been lax.

National is demanding Communications Minister David Cunliffe resign because the Cabinet paper went out under his name. That is a pretty harsh call, given the paper was in the hands of all ministers last Friday and was not received by Telecom until Wednesday.

However, the Opposition is right in underlining the serious nature of this leak, which is thought to be unprecedented.

Sir Roger Douglas offered to resign as finance minister in 1986 after his office mailed Budget documents to news media organisations ahead of Budget day. That was a bureaucratic botch-up. This leak was malicious.

The closest comparison may be the 2001 case of a consultant working for the Treasury who leaked potentially sensitive information about the business plan of the yet-to-be-established Kiwibank to Act's Rodney Hide.

However, the current case is more serious for involving Cabinet papers, which are deemed sensitive by definition and whose circulation is subject to strict rules.

The Telecom paper was doubly sensitive for being Budget-related. Moreover, it contained information of the highest commercial sensitivity which was bound to impact negatively on the share price of one of the country's largest companies with tens of thousands of shareholders.

There is the question of motive. Was it some official who believed opening Telecom to more competition was bad policy?

Or was the leak an effort to sabotage the Budget?

Or was there a financial motive which saw the perpetrator benefit personally through insider trading?

If the leak was politically motivated, the perpetrator would more likely have handed the document to the Opposition in order to embarrass the Government.

The Prime Minister is said to be running the full gamut of emotions from fury to apoplexy, demanding the leaker be caught post-haste and summarily sacked.

The list of ministers and officials who would have had a copy or access to one are thought to number around 50.

There seems to be no obvious reason why a minister would have leaked the paper as that would have cut across Labour's Budget strategy.

Helen Clark is not so worried that the Government's decision to boost uptake of broadband has become public earlier than planned as the announcement has had plenty of positive exposure. But she hates leaks. She is a stickler for discipline. Leaks are a sign of lax discipline. Leaks of this scale help the Opposition paint a picture of a Government at war with itself and not in control.

The Prime Minister was already on the warpath following a couple of recent minor leaks from the Labour caucus.

Whatever the State Services Commission uncovers, you can guarantee there will be some stern lectures to the troops from on high.

Editorial: Telecom must accept new reality

When, in a symbolic act, a statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled in central Baghdad, it was tempting to assume the battle for Iraq was over. A malign influence had been removed, and peace, prosperity and freedom beckoned. Now, three years on, we know it was only the beginning. It is not stretching too long a bow to wonder how, three years hence, we will regard the Government's momentous decision to end the tyranny of Telecom and open its network to competitors. Will the euphoria that followed the announcement of the unbundling of the local loop have been justified? Or will this country remain burdened by expensive high-speed internet access and a slow uptake of broadband?

The answer lies, first, with the Government's fortitude in pressing ahead with, and overseeing, the changes. But it also rests, more importantly, with Telecom's response. It is unlikely to be mature cooperation. But will it be resistance or insurgency? The company's history is not encouraging. Since its birth, legal haggling over alleged anti-competitive practices and formidable lobbying, in which it portrayed itself as a Kiwi battler assaulted by giant overseas rivals, have become its stock in trade. Millions of dollars have been garnered in the process. The defence of this last vestige of its monopoly has been no less zealous.

Now, Telecom will be considering whether to persevere with that policy. It knows that the more it can stall, the longer its profits will continue unimpaired. It can also draw inspiration from across the Tasman, where the long-running obduracy of Telstra, the incumbent, has meant that only some 3 per cent of broadband connections have been supplied via the unbundling of the local loop. Telstra's competitors claim it has prevented greater penetration by charging ridiculously high sums for hooking up to its network.

But if Telecom is tempted to mimic that obstinance, it should consider where it has led. A feature of the Government announcement was the absence of even a smidgen of compensation for the company. The botched privatisation of 1990 meant Telecom could claim a property right, and, in return for the opening of its network, could expect, say, a leavening of its Kiwi Share obligations. But all it got was a warning from the Communications Minister that if it did not play ball, the structural separation of its retail and lines operations would be next in line.

The strength and scope of the Government's decision suggests its patience has been exhausted. It will no longer countenance New Zealand being ranked 22nd out of the 30 OECD countries for broadband uptake, unlike the National spokesman and Telecom's chief appeaser, Maurice Williamson, who argues we are poor and that explains poor broadband rates. The Government may also have recognised the situation is the product of its own gullibility.

As long ago as 2000, a ministerial inquiry recommended unbundling. Yet since then, Telecom has persuaded, first, the Telecommunications Commissioner and, then, Cabinet, to reject it. In the second instance, in 2004, even the advice of Paul Swain, then the Communications Minister, was ignored. Now, and most worryingly, Telecom's reach has been re-emphasised by its receipt of confidential Cabinet papers within hours of the unbundling verdict being signed off. There could be no clearer illustration of the company's proximity to the seat of power. This breach must be investigated rigorously: the papers were official Budget secrets.

Telecom's suspicious omniscience has not stopped this decision, however.

The message is clear. Telecom's best response, for its shareholders, consumers and the economy, would be to accept the new reality and put all its energy into competing for customers. Its huge presence and profile are significant pluses, and have already been used to advantage in the likes of the cellphone market. Telecom is being asked no more than to compete in what, internationally, is the telecommunications norm. It is about time.

Brian Rudman: Council's proposed inner-city parking bylaw a dead-end idea

Street-side parking in the inner suburbs has always been a perilous business. First you have to find an empty spot near your house. Then you have to leave your car to the tender mercy of those who park by touch, and to any passing rat-bag trying to break in.

Now Auckland City wants the power to tow my vehicle away if it hasn't moved in seven days. Parking officials want to add an anti-garaging by-law to the existing abandoned vehicle legislation they already employ. It thunders: "No person may ... park or keep continuously any vehicle, or part of a vehicle on a road, roadway or public space for a period exceeding seven days."

It's part of the council's campaign against congestion. But what causes more congestion? My little car tucked quietly against the kerb minding its own business, or me revving it up and taking it for an anti-garaging bylaw spin around the neighbourhood?

Luckily, council's legal advisers Simpson Grierson have warned the city to back off.

A report to a recent transport committee meeting explained that Simpson Grierson is concerned that "the proposed bylaw could be challenged as unreasonable in that it invades the common law right for passage on the road" and "without real evidence of an actual nuisance or problem, the bylaw could also be found to be unnecessary or unjustified".

The bureaucrats see the new anti-garaging bylaw as "an additional tool to dealing with potential nuisance" - their words.

Simpson Grierson warns that going after potential nuisance makers by targeting every person in Auckland City who may wish to park outside their house, could be going too far. Legally speaking that is.

The lawyers say it's arguable that the council has sufficient powers to deal with cars left for extended periods under existing Local Government Act abandoned vehicle procedures.

They say the bylaw is not targeted at a particular problem location and is not linked to a safety issue. It appears, they say, to be intended to address general policy that parking should be shared and that it is unfair for people to use road space as a place to park their vehicles continuously.

However, under the Local Government Act there must be an identified problem, nuisance or danger for such a bylaw to be imposed.

At last week's council meeting, instead of abandoning the chase, councillors decided to call for yet another report.

It would have been smarter to have cut their losses, taken Simpson Grierson's advice, and quietly dropped this draconian proposal.

I live in one of these so-called problem areas and, like many of my neighbours, lack off-street parking.

On occasion in the past I could well have fallen foul of the proposed new bylaw, either while away on holiday, or by being a good inner-city citizen and electing to walk or bus.

The thanks I get from my council is to seek the power to be lurking around the corner ready to impound my car if it doesn't move in seven days. How will they monitor that? Surely they have better things to do.

If they're concerned about congestion around my way, why, last October, did the council approve, without consulting neighbours, an 80-seater restaurant at the top of the street without requiring one off-street carpark?

The council's parking services manager Chris Geerlings says the city will get around 4000 complaints this year from people complaining about a car abandoned outside their house. He says 85 per cent of these cars turn out to be "garaged", parked there legally - if at length - by neighbours.

"At the moment, if the car is parked legally, in theory you can leave it there for ever."

But what happens is, council writes to the owner's address, and if there's no response within 14 days, they tow. If there's no response after another 21 days or so, the car will be dismantled or crushed.

Mr Geerlings says only two distraught owners have subsequently emerged in the past 18 months or so.

He says amendments to the Transport Act going through Parliament reduces the time before a car can be declared abandoned from 14 days to 10. To an on-street parker like myself, that sounds alarmingly short. As for seven days, that would be downright predatory.

Jim Hopkins: Scientific breakthrough offers hope for millions more

By Our Science Reporter
Biff Throttle

Scientists round the world are hailing the discovery of the previously unknown element Derisium as a major medical breakthrough, and many are calling for the miraculous substance to be added to public water supplies as an essential mental health supplement.

The proposal has been enthusiastically endorsed by eminent New Zillun microproctologist and emeritus professor at the University of Dargaville's Post-Graduate School of Catastrophic Events, Dr Edward Foreskin-Rodgers.

"Derisium is a miracle" said Dr Foreskin-Rodgers in an exclusive interview with anyone who'd listen. "It's the fluoride of the soul. Early indications are it could be the silver bullock in our ceaseless efforts to eliminate the calamitous effects of Global Warning.

"I'm very excited - in a calm and rational, scientific sort of way."

He cited test results which indicate that when Derisium is added to water supplies at concentrations as low as five parts per million, it has a dramatic impact on public behaviour.

"It's b@%&*y amazing," said Dr Foreskin-Rodgers, casually splitting an atom with a hammer and chisel. "Normally, when a randomly selected group of traditionally compliant and acquiescent New Zillun citizens are exposed to bizarre political decisions, ridiculous bureaucratic edicts or absurdly expensive and antiquated transport remedies they meekly shuffle off and do what they're told. But not any more!

"Whack a shot of Derisium in their cocoa and they're totally paralytic. With laughter, of course. And it's not just chuckles, either. This stuff has them defying the laws of gravity. I've seen 'em rolling round the laboratory floor, clutching their stomachs, utterly convulsed with derisive glee."

One of the biggest reactions Dr Foreskin-Rodgers and his team recorded involved a Waitakere City planning inspector directing a retirement village resident to move her pot plants 1.2m away from her deck railing in case visiting children endangered themselves ascending the herbaceous perils.

"Our lot just wet themselves," said the distinguished researcher. "That guy was potting mix by the time they'd finished."

Similar levels of Derisium-induced derision occurred when volunteers were exposed to the Green Leader of the Joint Party's announcement that since she was opposed to the microchipping of any dogs, she would naturally be voting for the microchipping of all dogs. And also to the announcement that the gummint was going to pour money into a Canadian-owned Kiwi music station mainly because no one was listening ("They loved that! Especially since they were paying for it.")

Equally mocking was the reaction to solemn declarations from the ARC that the only solution to Auckland's transport woes was spending billions on an electrified rail system using power from empty lakes delivered through already overloaded transmission lines.

"Normally," said Dr Foreskin-Rodgers," the only reaction to that sort of tosh is a few earnest letters to The Harold. But not with Derisium. One drop and everyone's chortling. They suddenly realise you'd have more luck putting jelly in a corset than you ever will trying to fix Auckland's gridlock with trains."

Dr Foreskin-Rodgers believes Derisium "may let us conquer Global Warning once and for all." While acknowledging "some gormless plonkers" still dispute the human origins of this "terrifying climatic apocalypse" he's convinced the case is incontrovertible.

"What we know, is that the past 150 years has seen a hideous explosion of bureaucracy throughout the developed world. Vast tracts of wilderness have been converted into offices to house these dangerous polluters who have been recklessly emitting rules, regulations, edicts and decrees since the latter half of the 19th century and the cumulative effect has been devastating .

"Thanks to their activities, we've seen a dangerous build-up of Curbing Dioxide (or NoCanDo) in the upper atmosphere creating an inert layer beneath which vast amounts of initiative, adventure, optimism and common sense have been trapped with potentially disastrous consequences for the human race."

New Zillun's leading microproctologist points to the soaring number of endangered species, including parents, children, home builders, DIY fans, cigar smokers, scout masters, car drivers, beer drinkers, dog owners, speedway racers, Happy Meal purchasers, pool owners ("When was the last time you saw a council fence a river?"), fire eaters, sword swallowers, people on waiting lists and "little old ladies in retirement homes" as conclusive proof that Global Warning is a sociological disaster which is having a devastating effect on our bio-diversity.

If humanity was to survive, "we need something that'll clear the b@%&*y air and I don't think anything'll do that better than a healthy dose of Derisium."

Unfortunately, the bureaucrats don't agree. In a joint statement released by the PSA, Local Government New Zealand , the Electricity Commission, the Corrections Department and the Waitakere City Council, a spokesperson said, "Our officers are silly enough as it is, without people realising it. We will oppose any moves to add Derisium to water supplies."

The joint statement was tragically interrupted when officials evacuated their building in response to a tsunami warning they hadn't received.

Te Radar: Frozen, pickled, eaten - it's your body

Once I have no more use for the body I inhabit I would be more than willing, after my demise, to have it donated to cannibals, or necrophiliacs, but feel constrained from doing so for fear that such an action would unduly upset my mother.

I mention this in relation to the rather startling revelation about the dire lack of organ donors in this country, with only 29 people out of the 27,000 who had the misfortune not to see last year out donating their organs.

Rationally, the human body should be treated like a used car. When we are done with it we place it on blocks and strip it for parts.

There are some constraints to this, one being that given my lifestyle, I suspect that those in need of organs probably wouldn't want mine. Even I am not entirely happy with how they are performing.

Organ donation does raise fascinating ethical issues. Once a person has become a donor, can they then specify who does and does not get their organs? In the US some have taken their cases to court to try to enforce their wish not to have their organs donated to people they find "undesirable".

I simply wonder if we can specify that we only want to live on in the body of an attractive member of the opposite sex?

New and novel ways of disposing of the husks of the dead will soon become a pressing concern, as their numbers increase and cemetery space becomes limited.

While some prefer to be frozen, and others crushed into diamonds, I would be happy to simply be pickled and placed in a jar.

An exhibition that is being proposed to tour here features a delightfully modern twist on this theme, and unsurprisingly, has already aroused controversy.

The exhibition features dissected corpses preserved by a process of plastination, whereby the water and fat in the bodies is replaced by silicon.

Some of this hullabaloo derives from those who simply find the concept icky, as it shows in exquisite detail the mechanism of the human form.

Much of the controversy however has not been about the use of the bodies, but where they came from. With the exhibition deriving from China there was a concern that some of the bodies were those of executed political prisoners.

This was denied by Chinese authorities.

However, one previous touring version of a similar show had several bodies returned by concerned curators after it was discovered that there were what appeared to be bullet holes in the backs of the skulls.

One gets the feeling this wasn't caused by budget constraints in Chinese euthanasia programmes.

China has long been plagued by claims that prisoners have been harvested for organs.

I suspect that not only could lives in this country be saved by utilising the organs of our more degenerate prisoners, but the simple threat posed to potential wrongdoers of being human spare parts may deter the committing of other crime.

This way, everybody wins.

Michael Geist: Technology alone not enough to win spam battle

Last month Government officials from throughout the Asia-Pacific region gathered in Calgary, Canada, for a two-day meeting on the anti-spam battle.

Delegates could almost be forgiven for believing that the spam problem has largely disappeared. Spam filters have become increasingly effective in limiting the amount of spam that lands in inboxes, while internet service providers in many countries have become very good at blocking spam messages before they leave their networks.

But first impressions can be deceiving. Global spam volume continues to increase, with recent surveys indicating 80 per cent of all email is now spam. Spam has also become far more dangerous as many messages secretly contain viruses or other hidden programs that can turn ordinary internet users with broadband connections into large-scale spammers.

Spammers have compounded the problem by branching out beyond traditional unsolicited commercial email. Millions of blogs have been hit with spam postings known as "splog", internet telephony is facing a growing spam problem referred to as "spit", and phishing emails, which deceptively send users to phony websites in order to extract personal information, are credited with being responsible for hundreds of incidents of identity theft.

Unfortunately the legal frameworks in both developed and developing countries have failed to keep pace with the new spam-related concerns. While countries such as Canada stand pat, others, including New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Japan, have introduced new anti-spam laws over the past year. In addition, Australia is currently reviewing the effectiveness of its well-regarded anti-spam law and many US states have enacted anti-spam statutes designed to supplement the federal Can-Spam Act.

Australia has also led the way in developing the world's first binding internet service provider anti-spam code of conduct. Drafted in consultation with the industry itself, the framework provides regulators with the power to intervene should an ISP fail to abide by industry anti-spam standards.

The need for stringent anti-spam laws has become particularly important in light of the growing emphasis on cross-border enforcement. Spammers regularly use computers in several countries to send their email and attempt to hide their tracks by routing their profits through multiple jurisdictions.

While there are a growing number of participants in the global dialogue on enforcement, the absence of a comprehensive anti-spam law could hamper many authorities' ability to pursue spamming activity.

Even the technical successes may be short-lived. By focusing on filtering spam or blocking it before it leaves the network, some countries have addressed the symptom rather than the problem. This technical approach clearly does not eliminate spam, but masks it from internet users, leaving everyone vulnerable to spammers, who invent new ways to circumvent ISP filters and blocking techniques.

The long-term elimination of spam requires action against the spammers themselves, including the use of privacy legislation, criminal codes, and anti-fraud statutes. Moreover, tough penalties are needed, since the deterrent value of anti-spam legislation depends upon spammers' perceived risk of violating the law.

The need for tough anti-spam laws is particularly acute in the developing world. Given limited bandwidth and internet infrastructures, the spam deluge is often the equivalent of a denial-of-service attack for developing countries. Many are ill-equipped to handle the increased email traffic, with the result that legitimate internet traffic comes to a standstill.

Moreover, as spammers turn to email servers in developing countries, those same countries risk being cut off from the global internet as ISPs consider blocking all traffic originating in a particular country as a crude mechanism for dealing with large spam volumes.

With spam still growing, countries must act on both the domestic and international levels.

Domestically, those without anti-spam laws should remove the uncertainty associated with the current anti-spam legal techniques by upgrading domestic legislation with tough penalties against spam.

On the international front, countries should increase their presence by working on cross-border enforcement initiatives. The OECD recently released a global anti-spam toolkit in the hope of promoting consistent anti-spam approaches worldwide, while the London Action Plan, a group consisting of 70 countries and private sector organisations, serves as the focal point for global anti-spam co-operation.

Ironically, the recent improvement in spam filtering may have the unintended result of decreasing public pressure for anti-spam action since the full impact of spam may be hidden from internet users. However, with spammers branching out to computer viruses and identity theft, and ISPs reporting that four out of every five email messages are now spam, the risks associated with the problem continues to increase.

* Michael Geist holds the Canada Research chair in internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law.

Jim Traue: Old-fashioned greed to fore in attitudes

The conflicting opinions being expressed on whether Charles Upham's daughters should sell the medals for his VC and bar on the open market point to a much more substantial, and growing, difference in values in our society.

On the one side are those who see the medals as commodities, assets tradeable in the marketplace, while others insist that some things cannot, or should not, be bought and sold in the market.

However, the line between these positions is fluid, and it has shifted markedly over time. For several thousand years it was accepted that humans were chattels that could be bought and sold in slavery.

It was only in the early-19th century that the sale of votes was prohibited by law in Britain. In most Western societies it is now widely accepted that political power and influence cannot be bought and sold and we have laws against bribery and corruption. After a major scandal over the sale of peerages for political donations, laws prohibiting the sale of titles were passed in the early-20th century in Britain.

Criminal justice is not for sale; the bribery of judges and members of juries is a criminal offence, and now lawyers for the defence are provided at the community's expense.

Professional qualifications allowing people to practise as doctors, engineers and airline pilots, and success in examinations, are all fenced by government and professional associations from being bought in the marketplace.

In most Western societies, women are no longer owned by their fathers or husbands and are not tradeable by fathers. However, after centuries of legal prohibitions against the selling of sex, prostitution is now legal in several countries.

The mediaeval Christian church sanctioned simony, the sale of ecclesiastical offices, and the buying of divine grace, and had to go through a reformation to outlaw such sales of the sacred. Over time, societies have defined a number of separate spheres, each with its own set of operating principles and rules.

Michael Walzer, an American political philosopher, calls these "spheres of justice", and argues that widely accepted - what he regards as just - rules for the distribution of the social goods exist within each separate sphere.

Within the political sphere we accept as just the use of political power by our elected representatives and their public servants for the good of the community. However, we rightly protest if this political power is used by them to gain access to other social goods outside the political sphere, by accepting bribes and favours to enrich themselves, getting jobs in the public sector for their families and supporters ahead of better qualified applicants, getting access to better education, medical care, or housing.

We use strong words such as corruption and nepotism to show our displeasure, and back it up with criminal sanctions.

Money has its proper sphere. Within that sphere certain social goods are freely marketable, and a rich man can quite properly buy commodities, products and services, such as a better house, car, private medical services, and a better lawyer and tax consultant. Money does its work in the market, and the market is open to allcomers, even if they are not all equal.

What disturbs most of us is the conversion of one social good into another when there is no inherent connection. This is an intrusion, from one sphere into another, of an inappropriate set of principles.

The most obvious and common intrusion is that of money. Because it is the universal medium of exchange it has the greatest ability to seep across boundaries.

In most Western societies, after the social disasters of laissez faire during the industrial revolution, the boundaries between the spheres were made more impermeable by public opinion and legislation, and the power of money outside its proper sphere was curtailed.

But in recent years there has been a marked seepage of old-fashioned greed back into public affairs. Witness the use of their position by chief executives and their underlings in the United States to plunder, legally and illegally, the companies they are paid to manage to feather their own nests.

Witness, too, the growing number of prosecutions of public servants in New Zealand for misappropriation of public funds and accepting bribes, the furore in Britain over "loans" to the Labour Party by rich men in pursuit of peerages, and the downfall of politicians and lobbyists in the US for bribery and corruption.

Charles Upham found no difficulty in the 1940s in recognising the boundaries between the sphere of personal prestige, gained through exceptional bravery under fire, and that of personal financial reward when he refused a substantial monetary gift from a group of Christchurch citizens. But the line has shifted since then.

* Jim Traue is a former public servant and chief librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library.

Stock takes: Dead cat bouncing

By Liam Dann

Even a dead cat bounces ... or so the old broking expression goes. And so it goes for Telecom shares which closed at $5.06 yesterday - down 49c but still up slightly from the mid-morning low of $4.95.

In the end there were a few disappointed traders as the sell-off failed to drive the share price to bargain-basement levels.

Independent broker Brett Wilkinson was hoping there would be some buying opportunities around the $4.80-$4.75 mark.

"I thought there might be a bit more panic actually," he said.

The great unknown now is the point at which the stock becomes a bargain. Wilkinson did end up doing some buying yesterday around the $5 mark.

But Macquarie Equities investment director Arthur Lim warns there is still plenty of potential downside in the short term.

The thing to remember is that the big international funds will determine where the share price finally settles, he says.

They are likely to take a few more days to decide whether they want to stay in the stock with the threat of regulation hanging over it.

In the end they could go either way, says Lim, who remains optimistic on Telecom's longer-term prospects.

But anyone investing on the basis that Telecom's price has bottomed out needs to bear in mind that they are taking a punt on a big unknown.


Oh the irony ...

Small investors relying on the NZX website yesterday for news on their Telecom stock price faced a frustrating time as the heavy traffic made the page almost inaccessible for long periods. Users of dial-up internet stood next to no chance.

If only we all had faster, cheaper broadband.


Who's next?

Shares that copped some fall-out because of investor jitters about Government regulation included: Auckland International Airport which shed 2c, and Vector, which lost 4c cents. Is the threat real? Is this Government on a mission to wipe out monopolies before the end of its third (and possibly final) term?

Well, maybe, but when you consider the groundswell of public attention the unbundling issue has received this year it was inevitable the Government would have to act.

Regulation of infrastructure is a notoriously unsexy topic which television news shows are loathe to tackle. So perhaps a good rule of thumb is when Close Up and Campbell Live start focusing on a company's regulatory future - as they did towards the end of the Telecom debate - then its time for shareholders to start worrying.


Tax wars, round two

Having come out of his corner swinging, GPG's Tony Gibbs was never going to let his stoush with the Revenue Minister (on the proposed changes to taxation on overseas investment) just peter out ... so to speak. Following on from last month's war of words with Peter Dunne, Gibbs has attempted to reignite the debate with a politically charged letter to shareholders. The letter invites people to send views directly to the Prime Minister - and kindly provides the email address. Presumably the theory is that if GPG's large Kiwi shareholder base can successfully tug on Helen's heart strings she's the one with the executive power to sort out some sort of exemption. Well, it worked for farmers when the Government proposed its ill-fated fart tax. If and when it ever happens, a Gibbs-led hikoi to Parliament will surely be a sight to behold. That address for the PM is: pm@ministers.govt.nz if you have any strong views you'd like to share.


Backpacks and bedpans

After making the news for its part in the $275 million leveraged buyout of Kathmandu last month Goldman Sachs JBWere's New Zealand-based fund - Hauraki Private Equity No 2 Fund - has followed up with a $20 million investment in retirement village owner and operator Vision Senior Living.

The fund takes a 28.5 per cent stake in the business which currently has 600 residents in four rest homes and plans for big expansion. With all the hype about Australian private equity investors like PEP its great to see a New Zealand-based fund being so active.

Maybe they read last week's Stock Takes item about the bright future for the aged-care sector.


Air New Zealand sticking to the skies

Times are so tough in the airline industry that it might just be better to stay on the ground ... at least it appears that's the way Qantas is looking at it. The Australian national carrier has revealed it is considering diversifying into other forms of transport - like roads and rail.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported this week that Qantas was considering broadening its freight business as part of a move to reduce its exposure to soaring jet fuel prices.

Despite the general state of cuddliness between the two airlines Air New Zealand says it will be sticking to the skies. Land New Zealand just doesn't have the same ring to it.


Maturing well

Any fermenting doubts about the success of the Delegat's float have been well and truly corked with its shares forging on from the opening day close of $1.57 (after listing at $1.40).

The stock closed at $1.62 yesterday suggesting - in similar fashion to the Goodman Fielder float - that their may have been a little too much negativity in the market.

OK, in Delegat's case the dollar story has really come to the party but a fall in the currency from US$70c levels was hardly unpredictable.


Strong run

Another company in the middle of a strong run is Allied Workforce, which specialises in supplying workers for pretty basic blue-collar and administrative jobs on a contract basis. It was struggling against some negative sentiment just two months ago but has leapt up by about 30 per cent since then to close at $1.45 yesterday.

The theory that Allied would benefit from the slowing economy seems to be kicking in as rising costs put the heat on big companies. Employers like Fonterra and Air New Zealand are almost certainly looking at ways to avoid taking on full-time staff as a collective whammy of external factors starts to bite.


Suburban Paradise

The successful launch of the colossal Cantabrian property development - Pegasus Town - has prompted Goldman Sachs JBWere to upgrade its forecasts for Hirequip.

The listed equipment hire company is not to be confused with rival Hirepool, which has been tipped this week as a possible candidate for listing.

An equipment hire company might not look like an obvious beneficiary, but Hirequip owned the land on which the instant town of 5000 residents is to be built.

It has a number of other non-core assets including an interest in a Marlborough marine farm, dairy farm interests and an apartment development north of Auckland.

The Pegasus Town project made national headlines last month when the first auction of properties raised $122 million in less than seven hours.

That success has prompted Goldman to take another look at Hirequip's sale agreement.

The deal was for a potential $30 million, with $10 million paid upfront.

But the total payment had been conservatively estimated to come in at $23 million. Goldman now believes Hirequip is almost certain to get the full $30 million.

The only downside is that extra money may mean receipt of the funds is delayed, meaning a reduction in forecast profit for 2007 with an increase in the forecast from 2008 onwards.

Goldman is maintaining its $1.12 valuation. The share closed at $1 yesterday.


Anchors aweigh

Mooring Systems, the listed manufacturer of ship docking technology, has become something of a market darling in the past 12 months with a string of high-profile international sales boosting revenue and - just as importantly - boosting its global profile. But staff at the Christchurch-based company were a bit bemused at the strength of the share price surge related to last week's US Navy deal.

It rose nearly 5 per cent to the $4.60 mark, where it was still berthed yesterday.

It's not that it isn't a good deal. After all it does offer the company an opportunity to show off its capabilities to one of the biggest potential customers in the world.

But some media reports seem to have suggested that the deal might be worth $45 million to Mooring. That's way off the mark, and it be would unfortunate if that misunderstanding was driving the share price. For the record, a company called Oceaneering International has secured a US Navy contract worth a potential $45 million through to 2010. Mooring has just signed a deal to continue working for Oceaneering on the project.

That's a good thing, but in terms of measurable value, deals such as the $3.1 million sale of automated mooring units to a port in Oman (announced in March) probably offer more useful insight. With any luck there will be plenty more of those deals to come.

Brian Fallow: Next target should be power market

A first world economy needs first world telecommunications, especially if it is tucked away in the bottom right-hand corner of the world.

The Government has at last acted on that rather self-evident proposition by unbundling Telecom's local loop and decoupling access to its broadband network from the requirement to buy phone services from it as well.

The move comes 6 years after Labour was returned to power, but better late than never.

And it's a welcome departure from the prevailing Government view in the 1990s, which seemed to be that while Telecom was a quasi-monopolistic so-and-so, it was our quasi-monopolistic so-and-so, a Kiwi David battling foreign Goliaths like Telstra and Vodafone. Deregulation was always good and regulation was always bad, and if we were out of step internationally it was because we were smarter than everybody else in devising regulatory regimes.

The cost of these delusions is to be seen in low rates of broadband uptake, reflecting high charges and low speed.

The sound of impatient prime ministerial fingers drumming over this matter has been audible for some time, but the share price reaction yesterday suggests the changes are heavier-handed than the market had expected.

The Business Roundtable describes unbundling as infrastructure socialism - what's yours is mine by Government decree rather than on commercial terms. Yet somehow capitalism survives in all the other developed countries which have gone down this route.

The regulation of market power is a precondition of effective competition. Other internet service providers will have to pay Telecom rent for the use of its network; it's just that a regulator, not the incumbent, gets to set the price.

The argument that competitors are free to roll out their own networks - as the late lamented Saturn did in parts of Wellington and Christchurch - misses the point. The same could be said of local electricity lines networks, which are regulated as a matter of course.

The broadband issue has now been addressed, and funding for roading has been dialled up, we are told, as high as the physical capacity of the construction industry can handle.

But electricity, an even more alarming area of infrastructure deficit, has barely rated a mention in the infrastructure passages of Michael Cullen's speeches lately.

Will the Government now turn its attention to the uncertainties besetting that sector which have reached toxic, investment-blocking levels?

Cindy Baxter: Climate of doubt

The British Government's chief scientist, Sir David King, has warned that climate change is the most serious threat facing the planet..

In the face of overwhelming evidence that the human race is causing the climate to change, there has been a resurgence of activity of climate science scepticism.

On Monday, the new Climate Science Coalition was launched in New Zealand. The coalition includes a member of a conservative think tank, scientists linked with the climate sceptic movement, and a former national co-ordinator of the National Party's Blue Greens.

Three weeks ago, a letter signed by 60 scientists, including members of the NZ Climate Science Coalition, wrote to the newly elected conservative Canadian Government, pushing for it to abandon the Kyoto Protocol. The letter was followed by another, from scientists, calling on Canada to stick with Kyoto.

These efforts are the latest in a campaign run by vested interests to discredit climate science and to stop the Kyoto Protocol from going forward.

But their arguments have little to do with science, and everything to do with politics and business.

In the late 1990s, US Republican Party pollster, communications guru and political adviser, Frank Luntz, proposed a strategy on climate change for the Republicans.

"The scientific debate remains open," he wrote.

"Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate."

He went on: "The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science."

This advice has been the strategy of the climate sceptic industry over the past decade, stepping up greatly once Kyoto was agreed, and then when George W. Bush came to power in 2000. They claimed a huge victory in 2001 when Bush dumped Kyoto.

What is this climate sceptic industry? Its members are the darlings of a PR and industry lobby, run out of neo-conservative organisations and think tanks based largely in Washington, who have the ears of the White House and money from the oil industry.

Greenpeace has spent considerable time investigating the sceptics, and one of their main funders, ExxonMobil. Since 1998, Exxon has spent more than US$18 million to challenge the science of climate change.

One example is the George C. Marshall Institute, established in the 1990s in response to negotiations on the climate convention. Since 1999 it has received more than US$800,000 from ExxonMobil.

Head of the institute, William O'Keefe, was an Exxon-Mobil-paid lobbyist working the White House in the crucial months before Bush dropped Kyoto. He was former chief executive of the American Petroleum Institute and former chair of the vociferous anti-climate industry lobby group in the 1990s, the Global Climate Coalition.

The institute's senior scientific adviser, Dr Sallie Baliunas, is the "dean" of the climate sceptic industry.

She is also environmental editor at the big industry-funded Tech Central Station website - a mouthpiece for industry, funded by Exxon.

Here, we find the links to the New Zealand sceptic group. Two of its scientists, Vincent Gray and Australian Bob Carter are contributors to Tech Central. Gray's book, The Greenhouse Delusion, has been touted by sceptic think tanks and websites.

Carter has been taken up by the Australian Institute of Public Affairs, which has strong links to the Exxon-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Baliunas and another scientist, Willie Soon, wrote a controversial paper, part funded by the American Petroleum Institute, which challenged the work of a major climate scientist, Michael Mann.

The paper was published by Climate Research, a scientific journal. The editor who took it through the peer review process was Chris de Freitas, of Auckland University. After the paper's publication, three other Climate Research editors resigned from the journal in protest at what they considered a flawed review process.

Today, amid overwhelming evidence of climate change, and our part in causing it - Luntz's "window of opportunity" has closed.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, identified by 17 national academies of sciences as the pre-eminent authority on climate science, and consisting of more than 1500 climate scientists, is clear.

It has confirmed that the links between climate change and human activity, and that the main cause is the burning of fossil fuels.

The IPCC has a long list of expert reviewers to ensure scientific credibility of its reports. These reviewers represent a range of scientific opinion and include climate change sceptics, such as Gray.

But the question remains: Why do these sceptics get such an airing?

Why are climate change stories being "balanced" by stories of bad science from a tiny group of oil, coal and gas industry-linked climate sceptics touted by the neo-conservative think tanks?

Former British chief scientist, and president of Britain's Royal Society, Lord May, noted: "There is no danger this lobby will influence the scientists. But they don't need to. It is the influence on the media that is so poisonous."

* Cindy Baxter is the Greenpeace campaign manager and co-author of the website Exxonsecrets.org