Word of the day


Lethologica – inability to recall the precise word; difficulty recalling words.



6/10 in NZ History Online’s weekly quiz.

Criticised for what don’t do not appreciated for what do do


National’s doing well but I’m disappointed it’s not being stronger on alcohol.

This was the message a party member gave me when I ran in to him last week.

The next day I was at a meeting where Invercargill MP Eric Roy mentioned that the legislation the government introduced to the House has 52 of the 63 recommendations from the Law Commission’s report on alcohol.

That may not be going far enough for some but it’s more than a very good start – especially when you acknowledge that the root of the problem with alcohol abuse is a cultural one which requires change in people and behaviour not legislation.

However, the conversation with the party member illustrates one of the perennial problems in politics – you’re far more likely to be criticised for what you don’t do than recognised for what you do do.

Democracy requires participation


When asked on Morning report last Monday how many people had attended United Future’s annual conference the previous weekend, Peter Dunne replied ( http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/20101115):

“It varied during the day but around about 40 to 50 at most points.”

The National Party could expect that many people at many of its electorate AGMs and there would still be some areas where they’d worry if they didn’t get that many at a branch AGM.

But then National is the only party which can say it’s got a reasonable grassroots membership. It’s not measured in six figures as it used to be, but it can still claim tens of thousands of members.

Labour would be scratching to make it to five figures – and I suspect that would be when union membership is counted. The wee parties would be lucky to muster much more than the 500 required to register – and some may not even make that.

That makes them not so much parties as interest or lobby groups.

Declining membership isn’t peculiar to political parties. Sports and service clubs, churches and most other groups which depend on volunteer members are in the same boat.

But these organisations don’t get to run the country, political parties do and under MMP parties and their leaders have more power.

Most National and Labour MPs are electorate ones so they are not only answerable to party members, they are also answerable to their constituents.

Maori Party MPs are too but only because of the Maori seats which by definition and in practice are not broadly representative.

Most MPs from the other wee parties, with the exception of the two one-man parties United Future and whatever Jim Anderton’s current  incarnation is called, are list MPs, chosen by their parties and answerable to them.

Given how small their memberships are that’s not very healthy.

We’re supposed to be an open and representative democracy. It’s difficult to be that when participation for most means no more than voting once every three years, if that.

Update:  Maybe we need to make politics more like this: http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2010/11/now_this_is_a_great_get_out_the_vote_advertisement.html (warning sexual imagery).

November 22 in history


On November 22:

498 – Symmachus was elected Pope in the Lateran Palace, while Laurentius was elected Pope in Santa Maria Maggiore.

Simmaco - mosaico Santa Agnese fuori le mura.jpg

845 – The first King of all Brittany, Nominoe defeated the Frankish king Charles the Bald at the Battle of Ballon near Redon.

Battle of Ballon.jpg

1307 – Pope Clement V issued the papal bull Pastoralis Praeeminentiae which instructed all Christian monarchs in Europe to arrest all Templars and seize their assets.

Papst klemens v.jpg

1574 – Discovery of the Juan Fernández Islands off Chile.

1635 – Dutch colonial forces on Taiwan launched a pacification campaign against native villages, resulting in Dutch control of the middle and south of the island.


1718 –  British pirate Edward Teach ( “Blackbeard“) was killed in battle with a boarding party led by Lieutenant Robert Maynard.


1808  Thomas Cook, British travel entrepreneur, was born.

1812 – War of 1812: 17 Indiana Rangers were killed at the Battle of Wild Cat Creek.

1819  George Eliot, (Mary Ann Evans) British novelist, was born (d. 1880).

1830 – Charles Grey, (2nd Earl Grey), became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.


1837 – Canadian journalist and politician William Lyon Mackenzie called for a rebellion against Great Britain in his essay “To the People of Upper Canada”, published in his newspaper The Constitution.

1869 – In Dumbarton, Scotland, the clipper Cutty Sark was launched – one of the last clippers ever to be built, and the only one still surviving to this day.


1890 Charles de Gaulle, President of France  was born (d. 1970).

1899 Hoagy Carmichael, American composer, was born (d. 1981).

1908 – The Congress of Manastir established the Albanian alphabet.


1913 – Benjamin Britten, British composer, was born (d. 1976).


1917 Jon Cleary, Australian author, was born (d 2010).

1928 – The premier performance of Ravel’s Boléro in Paris.

Ravel bolero drum rhythtm2.png

1932 – Robert Vaughn, American actor, was born.

1935 – The China Clipper took off from Alameda, California for its first commercial flight, reaching its destination, Manila, a week later.


1939 General Bernard Freyburg  took command  of the British Expeditionary Force.

Freyberg takes command of NZ expeditionary force

1940 –  Following the initial Italian invasion, Greek troops counterattack into Italian-occupied Albania and capture Korytsa.

1943  Billie Jean King, American tennis player, was born.
Billie Jean King by David Shankbone.jpg

1943 – Lebanon gained independence from France.

1954 – The Humane Society of the United States was founded.

HSUS logo.svg

1958  Jamie Lee Curtis, American actress, was born.

1963 – In Dallas, Texas, US President John F. Kennedy was killed and Texas Governor John B. Connally seriously wounded. 

1963 – US Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as the 36th President of the United States.

1967 – UN Security Council Resolution 242 is adopted by the UN Security Council, establishing a set of the principles aimed at guiding negotiations for an Arab-Israeli peace settlement.

1973 – The Italian Fascist organization Ordine Nuovo was disbanded.

1974 – The United Nations General Assembly granted the Palestine Liberation Organization observer status.

UN General Assembly hall.jpg

1975 –  Juan Carlos was declared King of Spain following the death of Francisco Franco.

1977 – British Airways started a regular London to New York City supersonic Concorde service.


1986 – Mike Tyson defeated Trevor Berbick to become youngest Heavyweight champion in boxing history.

1987 – Two Chicago television stations were hijacked by an unknown pirate dressed as Max Headroom.

1988 – The first prototype B-2 Spirit stealth bomber was revealed.

1989 – In West Beirut, a bomb exploded near the motorcade of Lebanese President Rene Moawad, killing him.

1990 – British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher withdrew from the Conservative Party leadership election, confirming the end of her premiership.

1995 – Toy Story was released as the first feature-length film created completely using computer-generated imagery.

Film poster showing a toy cowboy anxiously holding onto a smiling toy astronaut (with wings) as he flies in a kid's room. Below them sitting on a bedare various smiling toys watching the pair, including a Mr. Potato Head, a piggy bank, and a toy dinosaur. In the lower right center of the image is the film's title. The background shows the cloud wallpaper featured in the bedroom.

2002 – In Nigeria, more than 100 people were killed at an attack aimed at the contestants of the Miss World contest.

2004 – The Orange Revolution began in Ukraine, resulting from the presidential elections.


2005 – Angela Merkel became the first female Chancellor of Germany.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia

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