Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The enthusiasm of youth

I actually thought this was satire when I saw it, this magazine is just trying so very very hard. Who the hell are these pod-people on the cover? 

On a more substantive note though, why is it that those who are trying to claim the mantle of Conservative are so keen to re-hash long dormant culture war arguments? Look at the two articles in the bottom right corner of the page. One is about abortion, and 'protecting the unborn' and the other is about abstinence. Clearly the two are linked, abstinence-only sex education leads to higher levels of teen pregnancy, however in this case it is safe to assume that particular link will not be made.

What this all boils down to is control, just as it often has with those who call themselves Conservative. Control over teenager's genitals. Control over the uterus. Which is odd, given that Conservatives often proclaim to believe in liberty, and freedom to choose to do what you want to do, such as the freedom to carry guns. This freedom is the supposed basis of every single conservative political argument, except when it comes to your penis or vagina. Then the state should have the right to tell you what you can and can't do. 

Monday, 26 March 2012

Prediction scores:

At the start of the South Africa tour I made some predictions about results, and now I intend to score them.

T20: Prediction: NZ 2-1 Result: SA 2-1
Score: 3/10
Well, you have to get the overall result right to get points, and I was a few balls away from that had we won the third match.
ODI: Prediction: SA 2-1 Result: SA 3-0
Score: 7/10
This one was a bit of a blowout, the Black Caps did not play at all well and really let themselves down. They let me down too by not winning a single match in their best format.
Tests: Prediction: SA 2-0 Result: SA 1-0
Score: 8/10
I'm giving myself an extra point here because I predicted one match would be affected by rain, causing a draw, and South Africa would win the rest. As it happens, two matches were rain-affected, and South Africa completely dominated the rest.

Overall: 18/30
Not bad, quite happy with that score. Not very happy with the series result though, all 3 formats lost. South Africa are an extremely good side, but New Zealand are not as bad as these numbers would suggest. To only win one game out of 9 is not remotely good enough, even against the best. Ah well. There's always next summer.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Good news in Afghanistan

No, this has nothing to do with the occupation, but to do with the Afghanistan cricket team. In short, they have just effectively won a tournament for teams who aren't test-playing nations. Their early qualification in the T20 World Cup Qualifying Tournament is huge, out of the 14 best teams who don't play test cricket, they are the first to secure one of two berths in the World Cup.

To do this, they had to beat the Netherlands, a team that has made multiple appearances at World Cups in the past, Namibia, a team who went through their group unbeaten and have also played at World Cups, Canada, who are 2nd only to the West Indies in the Americas, and 5 other sides. 8 wins from 8 games. A flash in the pan team would have not been able to do this so clinically and consistently. They also qualified ahead of Ireland, seen as by far the most likely candidate to be the next team to gain test status.

What makes this effort all the more remarkable, is that in organisational terms Afghanistan cricket is a level below many other teams at this qualifying event. Non-test playing nations are segregated into associate members of the ICC and below that affiliate members. Afghanistan is in the 2nd category. They barely ever get to play against top teams. In February Afghanistan played Pakistan in a one off match, and it was the first time an affiliate team had played a full member in an ODI. It is almost like Afghan cricket developed in isolation and evolved on it's own.

The ICC has a big decision to make. Is it now time to elevate Afghanistan a level to associate status? I would wholeheartedly say yes. They have proven themselves to be the best of the rest, and success should be recognised by the ICC. Cricket in Afghanistan is perfectly placed to be a growth sport, geographically the nation is surrounded by cricket in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, as well as having a population which seems to come together over cricket. Famously, even the Taliban were cheering on Afghanistan when they played Pakistan. The ICC should act quickly to consolidate these gains and bring Afghanistan further into the fold of cricket playing nations.

The effect of this could go beyond the sport itself. It is undeniable that matches between India and Pakistan are powerful forces for good in the region. When the teams played in the World Cup the leaders of each country attended and met, something that would be unthinkable without a good pretext. Cricket can provide an opportunity for enemies to meet as friends. Perhaps this is just what Afghanistan needs.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

It was years ago, let it go

So the verdict on the Urewera 4 is in, and it is... inconclusive. Some charges have stuck, with each defendant being found guilty of half of the firearms charges against them. However, there were also some not guilty verdicts, mixed in with a big dunno on the major charge, Participation in an Organised Criminal Group. The Crown is considering a retrial. Is this really necessary?

Firstly, the Crown has scored a few token symbolic victories by getting guilty verdicts on some charges. This means they will have sent the desired message to other potential militant groups that they will follow up any and all activity and seek to punish them. The charges are hardly hefty, but they will be enough to secure a sentence of some sort.

Secondly, a vast amount of money has already been spent on these trials, and as this inconclusive verdict shows, there is no guarantee that a retrial would yield any better results. The trial by media has so far been intense, there is no way you could find 12 more potential jurors who hadn't already heard a lot about the case, and probably formed opinions already. The Crown should really look to cut their losses and get out of this one before they really start wasting serious amounts of money. (Well, more serious than the existing waste of money at least)

Lastly, doesn't this whole affair smack of bullying a little? The Crown obviously enjoys a massive advantage in terms of legal, financial and media resources, and yet they still can't decisively prove that the defendants were part of an organised criminal group. The only real power left to the Crown is to continue ruining the lives of the defendants, through endless court demands. A retrial could take years to set in motion, so far it has been almost 5 years just to get to this point. What more could the Crown possibly gain by more court proceedings?

At the end of the day the excuses put forward by the defendants as to why they were running around the bush with guns are just as compelling, if not more compelling, than the idea that they were planning on overthrowing the government. The idea that a band of about 20 poorly trained activists with very little popular support could take on the NZ Army and Police Force and a sizeable proportion of the adult population who would be against them is preposterous. The idea that anyone would be so delusional to think something like that could succeed is equally crazy. On the other hand, the idea that they were learning bushcraft (in which guns can be very useful) and skills to try and land security contract work is not really that odd. People upskill all the time, and the skills the defendants appeared to be trying to learn are in high demand around the world.

Therefore I think it would be a colossal waste of time and money for any retrial to go ahead. The Crown has everything to lose and nothing really to gain, plus it is quite simply a bad look the longer this goes on. These people are no threat to the country. It's time to let them get on with their lives.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Please continue to turn your stove off

Here we have a remarkable piece of anti-environmentalism dog whistle from Stuff, who are suggesting that actions such as "checking lights, stoves and taps were turned off, so they could reduce their global footprint." is evidence of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The implication of this article, based on the premise that psychiatric hospitals are starting to see cases of OCD based on fear of climate change, is that people who worry about such trivialities as their carbon footprint are mentally unwell.

Now this is not to denigrate sufferers of OCD. I've seen that condition and it seems like it is very difficult to live with. However, this article is a complete mockery of both sufferers of OCD and efforts to curb climate change. Consider this opening line:

Climate change is making people mad.

This is a fallacy. People are not being driven insane by climate change. They are taking precautions to limit their carbon footprint, and some people with obsessive compulsive tendencies are ritualising that behaviour to a degree deemed unhealthy. For the record, people should be doing the things set out in the article as crazy behaviour, such as checking that you don't use excess energy or water, or an excess amount of any resources for that matter. Why? Because Climate Change is a real, documented phenomena. Already temperatures are rising, and will continue to rise. The effects will be less terrible if people start to adjust their actions so they have less of a carbon footprint.

Is it any wonder that this story appeared on a Fairfax site? After all, the positions taken by Fairfax have never been friendly to environmental interests, and this is not set to change now that mining tycoon Gina Rinehart owns 15% of the company. This particular story would have an insidious effect. By connecting the actions needed to reduce human impacts on the planet with mental illness, it will seed the idea in reader's minds that efforts to fight climate change are crazy. It is not crazy to try and mitigate the effects of climate change, so like the title says, please continue to turn off your stove after you use it.  

Friday, 16 March 2012


The mountain has been scaled. Sachin Tendulkar has finally scored his 100th international 100. Nobody in the history of cricket has ever done this, and there is a strong chance nobody will ever do it again. It took Mr Tendulkar more than two decades to finish the job, will another player ever have a career that lasts long enough?

First, the context for the century to end all centuries. It was a fairly meaningless ODI encounter in a schedule packed full of meaningless matches. The opposition was lowly Bangladesh. India still lost. This was potentially one of the most futile and pointless centuries scored by a truly great batsman.

And yet, this one is special. Or so it would seem, judging from the fawning coverage on cricinfo. For me, the important centuries were those scored in World Cups, or his fabulous 241* in a test in Sydney. Sometimes Tendulkar had the ability to make batting seem childishly simple. My point is this: This particular century was not one of the greats. Compared to the rest of his innings, it was barely one of the goods. However, let us not forget that over the years Sachin Tendulkar has been a sublime batsman, and there are far more worthy innings to remember him by.

Perhaps it is not so bad that this happened in Bangladesh. The nation is desperately poor, has a young population and is by all accounts crazy about cricket. It will mean a lot to them that a milestone innings such as this was scored in their tournament, on their turf. It seems romantic, but maybe there will be a Bangladeshi kid who was in the crowd at Mirpur and become inspired to try and emulate Sachin. Cricket is nothing without the stories we tell about it, and there will be stories about this innings. Let us hope that there is someone in the Mirpur crowd who will one day say "I was there", as he (or she) brings up their own 100th century.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

A Capital Idea

I'm very glad Shearer has decided to stick with the Capital Gains Tax, it was a great idea during the election campaign and remains a great idea now. It shows a commitment to getting more revenue from those earning enough to be in a position to get capital gains, something that has been sadly lacking from politics in recent years. Make no mistake, a CGT is a tax on the wealthy, just as GST is more heavily a tax on the poor. With economic inequality rising in New Zealand, something has to be done to try and stem that trend and turn it around, and a CGT is a good place to start.

Does it matter that this is yet another example of Labour stealing policy from the Greens? In my mind, not really. Simply put, the policies of the Greens will result in a more fair and equitable society, but Labour, being a party which values being in government above all else, is in a better position to implement them. I have high hopes that in 2014 we will get a coalition with the ideology of the Greens and the cold political effectiveness of Labour. (Disclaimer, yes I know how ineffective Labour were in 2011, but look at the previous few elections, they were ruthless and icy.)

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Southee finally dropped

I'm in no way suggesting he is a bad bowler. Tim Southee is without a doubt one of the finest fast bowling prospects in world cricket. However, in tests, he has really lost his edge. A bowling average above 40 is just dreadful. Until he can sort out his issues with form, he shouldn't be playing the premier format of the game. I have no doubt he will be back, and probably a better bowler. Dropping him though could be the best thing possible for his career, because it shows him he cannot expect to be picked on reputation alone.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

SA tour turning into a disaster

I must admit, I was looking forward to the South Africa tour for about a year. The chance to see the Black Caps take on one of the great pace bowling attacks of our era was incredibly tempting. What a shame the BCs are in the middle of ruining their once promising summer.

First there was the final over T20 loss, where they went from cruising to victory to collapsing in a panicky heap. That was understandable, you can't win every close match, and criticism of Ryder's role in that defeat was unfair. It was a shame, but a 2-1 loss in a T20 series isn't the end of the world.

Next there was the loss of the ODI series, after a meek capitulation against Morne Morkel. That was worse, as it seemed to signal a return to the bad old days of brittle batting. Still, games get lost, it happens, there's always the next one etc. Turns out though the Black Caps weren't finished being disappointing.

Now we have a situation where the most promising batsman in recent memory has ruled himself out of contention by going drinking and breaking team protocol in the process. Yes, the sorry saga of Ryder's alcoholism continues. The man needs help, that much is clear, but until he gets it he should be out of the team. Worse, one of his team-mates decided to drink with him. If that isn't enabling behaviour then I don't know what is. Bracewell deserves his ban, not just because he also broke team protocol, but that he decided to go drinking with someone suffering from a drinking problem. That is plainly stupid and irresponsible.

Can the team turn it around? I'm not too sure they will. They are about to face the ultimate challenge to their morale as a unit, a test series against a team with a solid and stubborn batting lineup, and an aggressive and dangerous pace bowling attack. The worry has to be that all of the good work over the summer, such as the Hobart win and the clean sweep against Zimbabwe, is about to be undone. The whole team needs to rediscover their fight and will to compete, or this tour will finish as a joke.