Wednesday, January 22, 2014

When's a bribe not a bribe?

Don't you just hate it when someone has a novel idea, and then the Governmental grinches drop on it from a great height?

Last week Kim Dotcom announced he would be offering free wi-fi to the Upper Harbour electorate as part of his Dotcom political party's campaign for the 2014 General Election.

By my reckoning looking at proposed boundary changes it appears my electorate has changed from Helensville to East Coast Bays meaning an avoidance of being lumped into Upper Harbour. So there is no vested interest in the Dotcom Party's intention.

But even if there was, it appears the Dotcom Party's offering could be construed as an election bribe.

This is where there is a problem.

What actually constitutes an election bribe?

Obviously cash in the hand to vote for someone is a bit blatant, or is it?

Cast your mind back to 1975, and if anyone happening to have read this far who was born after that date doesn't know what happened then read on.

There was a certain gentleman purporting to represent the Conservative Party of the day, a bloke by the name of Rob Muldoon. He went up and down the country berating a New Zealand Superannuation Scheme that had been introduced by the Labour Government of the time which involved compulsory contributions by the working population. And it would be available for anyone over the age of 60.

Muldoon had reds under the beds, dancing Cossacks appearing in television election advertisements. He reckoned the Labour Government would buy up every industry in the country with the stash of money it would have. It was nationalisation by stealth. Apart from the fact that by statute it was impossible for the guardians of the Superannuation Fund to invest anything more than 15 percent in any one company, this went down well to a generation brought up on the worth of the McCarthy era, and I don't mean the rugby commentator Winston McCarthy.

Muldoon had them all thinking this compulsory superannuation scheme was the closest thing to communism they could imagine.

So what did he do?

Muldoon said he would do away with the New Zealand Superannuation Scheme and replace it with a National (remember that was the name of the 'Conservative' Party he led) Superannuation Scheme that no-one would have to contribute to. That's so those who supported him would remember forever where their Super came from.

It would be payable from the age of 60, and if those of that age felt like they wanted to carry on working, well they could have their salary from their employment, and Rob (that's Rob Muldoon) would pay their superannuation as well.

Of course, the generation that had fought a World War and had lived through the Depression of the 1930s were not even going to think twice about that. They became known as the 'greedies'.

It didn't matter that the scheme they voted in, because that's what they did, en masse, was the closest thing to communism it was possible to imagine. Their retirement was going to be paid for by a generation of baby boomers who were already coping with double digit inflation, and double digit mortgage interest rates.

Now if that's not a bribe I don't know what is?

And, of course, the country paid for his scheme in a huge way with more mad schemes, (remember the Sheep Retention Scheme when Muldoon paid farmers to keep their sheep that the world didn't want in the vain hope the world would recognise the fault of their ways and suddenly realise sheep meat was needed) resulting in the crisis that hit the country in 1984.

All of which leaves me feeling short-changed (deliberate pun that!).

Does it really matter if the good folk of Upper Harbour get free wi-fi or not?

Is it doing anyone any real harm?

It might create some wi-fi envy in other electorates.

But is it going to have the long-term cost that Rob Muldoon's superannuation scheme had?

Which 'bribe' has the greatest cost?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cricket heads back to the Dark Ages

Alarm bells are quite rightly ringing around the cricket world over the changes planned to the administration of the world game, and especially the cosying up of the interests of India, Australia and England.

Historically, and fortunately cricket is a game with wonderful access to its past, there have long been issues with the administration of the game, stemming from the autocratic colonisers of the game, the Marylebone Cricket Club and, by association, the Imperial Cricket Conference.

This was the all-powerful representation of the incantations of Empire with its benevolence determining the shape of the game.

This stranglehold of imperialism was broken down in various degrees, albeit slower than the rest of humanity was moving towards a more democratic solution to life, resulting in the International Cricket Council being formed as a more representative mouthpiece of the game.

But in the last decade the flexing of monetary muscle in India has resulted in a shift away from the notion of democracy to one of more self-interest, based around the reliance on television rights money and creating imperialism of an even worse kind.

Just how much this has changed is clear from the second page of the Draft Position Paper on the suggested future.

The paper suggests the "ICC reverts to being a member-driven organization [sic]; an organisation [sic] of the members and for the members."

Pardon me, but isn't that what the ICC was supposed to be anyway?

Then it states: "As part of this process [above], the leading countries of India, England and Australia have agreed that they will provide greater leadership at and of the ICC."

Leading as in what? Performance, money, players or, more importantly, ideas?

Cricket is cyclical and form waxes and wanes – there are any number of examples of this. So too, does leadership. It doesn't always hold that the strongest are the most able when it comes to administration.

Another claim made in the draft report says: "All members, as guardians and leaders of the game of cricket, carry a significant responsibility for giving the game direction and leadership in their respective territories and for setting and sustaining a framework of support within those territories to ensure the game continues to grow and thrive for the sake of fans, stakeholders and participants."

Given the Indian reaction to the appointment of a chief executive of South African Cricket recently, a chief executive who recognised the need for the ICC to be run by an independent board, it has to be wondered how far the tentacles of this supply-driven model is likely to intrude upon sovereign nations right to control their own game.

In other words, "If you don't change what you are intending to do, we will withhold your [monetary] dispersal."

This is an inglorious grab for power. Trickle-down economics have been proven to be flawed on far greater scales than this scheme envisages.

It is also interesting in a situation where two of the three nations looking to seize control have played 10 Tests in succession between themselves in the past eight months. The players were clearly exhausted at the end of it all, especially the English, and if contact kept becoming so common, eventually the public would tire as well.

New Zealand spokesman Martin Snedden has said that the changes may not be a bad thing for New Zealand Cricket. The important words are 'may not be'. Who is to say the model as it has been given to him is the complete answer?

Given the role New Zealand played in removing the power of veto from Australia and England in the mid-1990s, it is regrettable that its effective, albeit extended to India, return will likely have New Zealand's support.

New Zealand won much credit among the other nations, including India, for that stance and it will be a shame if its role in accepting this change proves a wrong decision.

Not surprisingly, South Africa have led the charge to have the position paper struck down, labelling it as 'unconstitutional'.

This suggests a fascinating legal battle lies ahead. Solomonic wisdom would be a handy tool and given past experience it has to be wondered if that quality exists in the halls of ICC power. Oh for a Sir John Anderson now.

In effect, what Australia, England and India are saying is: "Trust us."

By agreeing to the suggested plans cricket nations would be signing away their sovereignty. That can't be in the best interests of all concerned.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Don't you just hate it when

This rambling series of observations will be an on-going feature of this blog, all driven by frustrations in the observations of everyday life. They may be political, they may be sporting, they may have to do with various aspects of the world around us. They also may have to do with my age, but what the heck.

Some starters:
+ Don't you just hate it when you are walking along the street and you have to avoid someone walking toward you totally absorbed in their mobile phone?

They've got no time, or awareness, of a 'Sorry', an 'Excuse me' or a 'I beg your pardon'. In fact, it wouldn't surprise if they are unfamiliar with the concept of those expressions of good neighbourliness. The antidote? Wait until a collision is imminent and then shout: 'Boo!' Chances are it will make no difference to them but you will feel a lot better. But as Arlo Guthrie once said (and I found a DVD of Alice's Restaurant at The Warehouse over Christmas – superb!) if everyone starts doing it, perhaps it will start a movement which may, sometime or another, force those who transgress to wonder at what they are doing wrong.

+ Don't you just hate it when you go to the movies and someone comes along and plonks their feet over the back of the seat in front of them?

Apart from the disgusting fact that someone's head may or may not be reclining on the said seat now, or sometime in the future, what need is there to elevate the feet so high? If that amount of elevation was absolutely necessary, the transgressor would probably be better placed under care in a hospital than attending the movies. What especially grates, and I am showing my age here, is that those of us who can remember the days when cinema seats were the last thing considered in the design of the theatre, and placed so as to ensure as many people as possible were herded into said viewing space, appreciate the advances made in viewing comfort. And while we are at it, whatever happened to those torch-wielding minders who never let you put a foot out of place at the movies when you were young and stupid? Why aren't they putting these show ponies, who would never put their feet over the back of a chair at their parents' home, in their place?

+ And while we're talking about mobile phones and movies, don't you just hate it when people can't go to the movies without leaving their mobile phones on?

Not only is there the totally rude ringing of the phone to disturb everyone else in the theatre, there is the flash of light when they, and they are always - as a result of Murphy's Law - sitting right next to you, need to send a text or to read what one of their moronic friends has sent to them. Again when you suggest to them they might like to put their phone away, the usual response is that you are something along the lines of a 'stupid old fart'.

+ Don't you just hate it when it is time to go back to work after the Kiwi holiday break of two weeks over Christmas-New Year and a goodly proportion of the population still has another one or two weeks of holidays?

It's not so much the thought of those people still being on holidays, but the fact that the motorway is much less crowded in the mornings. However, some of those heading to work obviously forget to take into account that their journey is likely to be much faster as a result of less traffic. But they, poor souls, can't imagine what it might be like to arrive at work, five or, perhaps, 10 minutes early so they decide that rather than start later from home, they will use up time on the motorway cruising along at 60-65 km/h, or the sort of slower speed they are used to during regular non-holiday commutes, allowing the traffic to bank up behind them.

+ Don't you just hate it when lanes are painted on roads and drivers view them as mere decorations?

There's all manner of variations on this theme but two that constantly leave me wanting to throw a Road Code at offenders are outlined. The first is an intersection when you are turning into a two-laned road, ie, two lanes on your side of the road, from the left. Also turning is someone on the other side of the intersection making a right-hand turn. Now the law clearly states you turn into the lane closest to you, in both instances. But how often is the person in the left-turning lane forced to avoid making their turn because the moron turning right, decides they need to get into the left-hand lane immediately? This is the same, in the second instance, at roundabouts. Now roundabouts should be the drivers' friend – they are much more useful than traffic lights, when used properly. But at the roundabout I witness most often, which is after a motorway off-ramp, again the driver turning into the left-hand lane, on a two-laned road, dare not make his turn until the driver turning right has crossed over lanes in the middle of the roundabout to get into the left lane. Time your exit right into the left lane, to deny the offender turning right his space, and wait for the abuse, whether by horn or gesticulation. In most instances it won't be long coming.
New Zealanders have always had an affection for Henry Blofeld, cricket commentator and writer, bon vivant and good bloke.

There is a public Blofeld, and a private one, and it has to be said his latest book, Squeezing the Orange, opens up much more of the private side of Blofeld's life and helps reveal who he is.

Squeezing the Orange by Henry Blofeld. Published by Harper Sports

Much more of his upbringing is described in what is advertised as a book about 'life's great adventure' with some cricket too.

The two are linked, as they always must be where Blofeld is concerned. His childhood and boarding school experiences are dealt with in the under-stated way that has become synonymous with his public image. But they are also revealing for the way in which they demonstrate the way that cricket made Blofeld the man we know today.

All manner of health problems have afflicted him at various stages of his career, the first involving an accident with a bus while riding his bike, an accident that certainly denied him the chance to see how far his cricket career might take him.

While it seemed he might be destined for a career in the City, the financial heart of Britain, he soon had other ideas and life as a cricket correspondent began, with small steps and then, by putting himself in the position to take advantage, at a much faster pace to the point where he became a figure as recognised as any of the players he was commenting about.

New Zealand in the West Indies in 1972 proved a significant step for him by opening up the chance for the commentating that has most boosted his career. He later was a regular member of the TVNZ commentary panel during some of the heady years of New Zealand cricket when Richard Hadlee and cohorts were in their prime.

And, more recently, his contact with the New Zealand audience has been maintained for those who still catch BBC commentaries through the marvels of modern technology which allow contests not previously available in New Zealand to be picked up through internet radio.

Blofeld has never been short of an opinion, as one would expect of such an attuned observer of cricket, and his book on the Packer controversy remains a must-read for anyone wanting to understand the issue and the passions it evoked. There are opinions too, in his latest effort and it provides another reminder of why cricket is such a fascinating game, not only for the action it can provide on the field, but for the qualities demonstrated in so many ways on the periphery.

As you would expect from its title, there is plenty of cricket 'juice' from Squeezing the Orange.