Word of the day


Ersatz – made or used as an imitation or substitute, typically an inferior one; not real or genuine; artificial.

Steampunk Close up


Close up took a look at last weekend’s Steampunk Festival in Oamaru.

The video is here.

Oamru Life has photos of Oamaru on Fire which opened the weekend’s festivities.

I’ve borrowed this one:



Media blamed for low voter turnout


Political scientist Professor Jack Vowles has laid the blame for the low voter turnout at last year’s election at the media’s door:

“One problem is [the] mass perception that elections are not close and that the outcome is totally determined.

“I think that it’s a problem under MMP that people continue to estimate the closeness of an election by the poll difference between the two leading parties, whereas that is not necessary a clear predictor of what is going to happen.

“It may well be that a coalition of parties may be able to form a government even though the gap between the two major parties is not a close one at all.”

Most reporting of polls focuses on the popularity of the National and Labour leaders and highlights the gap between these two parties. It rarely focuses on the right and left groupings and possible coalition permutations. *

Professor Vowles said the format of televised leader’s debates had made the problem worse.

“The precedent of reintroducing television debates between the two major party leaders alone, without the participation of minor party leaders, is one of the things that tends to keep people thinking in terms of this difference of the two major parties.

“I think this is something that I would recommend does not happen in future because I think people will get a much better idea of the uncertainty of the election if the multi-party nature of it is more clearly put in front of them in a very high-profile television event.”

A debate with all the parties is a recipe for a lot more heat than light.

It’s difficult enough to get much worthwhile when it’s just two leaders and the chair, adding the leaders of the wee parties would allow even less time for proper discussion.

Professor Vowles said the similarity between the policies of the major parties had also alienated voters.

“Parties actually developing more coherent and distinctive policies is one way of generating interest in politics, but of course there is also an incentive by political parties to coverage on the median voter and so it is difficult always to do that.”

MMP forces the two main parties to court the centre voters which has a moderating impact on policies.

That said there are still stark differences between National and Labour and both parties offered voters distinct choices last year.

Professor Vowles’ comments were made to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee’s Inquiry into the 2011 General Election. His submission is here.

* The NBR is an exception to this – its report on Sunday’s TV1 poll is headlined: First post-budget poll has Labour-Green block neck-and-neck with National.

Milk price bounces back


The price of milk bounced back in this morning’s GlobalDairyTrade auction, taking the trade weighted price back to the long-term average.

The trade weighted index was up 13.5%.

Anhydrous milk fat jumped 24.4%, cheddar was up 9.4%; lactose was the only product to drop in price, going down 1.3%; the price of milk protein concentrate increased by 19.6%; skim milk powder was up 21.3% and whole milk powder increased by 8.5%.


Whose referendum is it?


They’re called Citizen’s Initiated Referenda for good reason – they’re supposed to be a vehicle by which the people can send a message to parliament.

That parliament has chosen to take little if any notice of the results of those held shows it isn’t a particularly effective one.

They’re also an expensive one.

The Green Party’s promotion of a CIR to oppose the Mixed Ownership Model for a few state assets adds the distortion of the intention of the process  to a waste of money.

That they’re using taxpayer funds to employ people to collect signatures makes it worse.

I accept Graeme Edgler’s view that this is within the rules but that still doesn’t make it right.

It merely provides more evidence for the case for taking the setting of the rules over parliamentary spending from MPs to an independent person or body.

It’s not just people with my political bias who are unimpressed by the Green Party’s actions.

Andres Geddis who says he likes the Greens and admires their stance on several issues is also less than impressed:

So as far as I’m concerned, this is an example of spending public money on an activity designed to force the spending of more public money on something that should not happen. Which is, in my opinion, a bad thing to do. . .

. . . There then is a broader problem with a political party so deeply involving itself in the CIR process. When this was set up, it was designed to be a way in which broader civil society can send a message to parliamentarians on issues that it thinks important enough to mobilise around.  . .

. . . So to now have a political party effectively bankrolling the process of forcing a CIR represents something of a distortion of its intent.

Exactly, not the people sending a message to parliament but MPs using the public and public funds for their own political ends.

June 6 in history


1508 Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, was defeated in Friulia by Venetian forces.

1513 Italian Wars: Battle of Novara. Swiss troops defeated the French under Louis de la Tremoille, forcing the French to abandon Milan. Duke Massimiliano Sforza was restored.

1523 Gustav Vasa was elected King of Sweden, marking the end of the Kalmar Union.

1644 The Qing Dynasty Manchu forces led by the Shunzhi Emperor captured Beijing during the collapse of the Ming Dynasty.

1654 Charles X succeeded his abdicated cousin Queen Christina to the Swedish throne.

1674 Shivaji, founder of the Maratha empire was crowned.

1683 The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford opened as the world’s first university museum.

1752 A fire destroyed one-third of Moscow, including 18,000 homes.

1799 Alexander Pushkin, Russian poet, was born (d. 1837).

1808 Napoleon’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte was crowned King of Spain.

1809 Sweden promulgated a new Constitution, which restores political power to the Riksdag of the Estates after 20 years of Enlightened absolutism.

1813 War of 1812: Battle of Stoney Creek – A British force of 700 under John Vincent defeated an American force three times its size under William Winder and John Chandler.

1823 Samuel Leigh and William White established Wesleydale, a Wesleyan (Methodist) mission station at Kaeo, near Whangaroa Harbour.

Wesleyan mission established

1832 The June Rebellion of Paris was put down by the National Guard.

1833 U.S. President Andrew Jackson became the first President to ride a train.

1844 The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) was founded in London.

1857 Sophia of Nassau married the future King Oscar II of Sweden-Norway.

1859 Queensland was established as a separate colony from New South Wales (Queensland Day).

1862 American Civil War: Battle of Memphis – Union forces captured Memphi, from the Confederates.

1868 Robert Falcon Scott, English explorer was born (d. 1912).

1882 More than 100,000 inhabitants of Bombay were killed when a cyclone in the Arabian Sea pushed huge waves into the harbour.

1882 The Shewan forces of Menelik defeated the Gojjame army in the Battle of Embabo. The Shewans capture Negus Tekle Haymanot of Gojjam, and heir victory leads to a Shewan hegemony over the territories south of the Abay River.

1889 The Great Seattle Fire destroyed downtown Seattle, Washington.

1892 Chicago El began operation.

1894 Governor Davis H. Waite orders the Colorado state militia to protect and support the miners engaged in the Cripple Creek miners’ strike.

1906 Paris Métro Line 5 was inaugurated with a first section from Place d’Italie to the Gare d’Orléans.

1912 The eruption of Novarupta in Alaska began.

1918 World War I: Battle of Belleau Wood – The U.S. Marine Corps suffered its worst single day’s casualties while attempting to recapture the wood at Chateau-Thierry.

1919 The Republic of Prekmurje ended.

1921 The Southwark Bridge in London, was opened for traffic by King George V and Queen Mary.

1923 V. C. Andrews, American author, was born (d. 1986).

1925 The Chrysler Corporation was founded by Walter Percy Chrysler.

1932 The Revenue Act of 1932 was enacted, creating the first gas tax in the United States, at a rate of 1 cent per US gallon (1/4 ¢/L) sold.

1933 The first drive-in theater opened, in Camden, New Jersey.

1934 King Albert II of Belgium, was born.

1934 New Deal: U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Securities Act of 1933 into law, establishing the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

1936 Levi Stubbs, American musician (The Four Tops), was born (d. 2008).

1939 Adolf Hitler gave a public address to returning German volunteers who fought as Legion Kondor during the Spanish Civil War.

1942 Battle of Midway. U.S. Navy dive bombers sank the Japanese cruiser Mikuma and four Japanese carriers.

1944 Battle of Normandy began. D-Day, code named Operation Overlord, commenced with the landing of 155,000 Allied troops on the beaches of Normandy.

1944 Alaska Airlines commenced operations.

1946 The Basketball Association of America was formed in New York City.

1956 Björn Borg, Swedish tennis player, was born.

1964 Under a temporary order, the rocket launches at Cuxhaven, Germany, were terminated.

1966 James Meredith, civil rights activist, was shot while trying to march across Mississippi.

1968 Senator Robert F. Kennedy died from his wounds after he was shot the previous night.

1971 Soyuz 11 launched.

1971 A midair collision between a Hughes Airwest Douglas DC-9 jetliner and a United States Marine Corps McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II jet fighter near Duarte, California claimed 50 lives.

1971 Vietnam War: The Battle of Long Khanh between Australian and Vietnamese communist forces began.

1974 Sweden became a parliamentary monarchy.

1981 A passenger train travelling between Mansi and Saharsa, India, jumped the tracks at a bridge crossing the Bagmati river.

1982 1982 Lebanon War began. Forces under Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon invaded southern Lebanon in their “Operation Peace for the Galilee“.

1983 – Joe Rokocoko, Fijian rugby player and All Black was born.

Joe Rokocoko.jpg

1984 The Indian Army attacked the Golden Temple in Amritsar following an order from Indira Gandhi.

1985 The grave of “Wolfgang Gerhard” was exhumed in Embu, Brazil; the remains found were later proven to be those of Josef Mengele, Auschwitz’s “Angel of Death”.

1986 – Gin Wigmore, New Zealand singer/songwriter, was born.

1990 U.S. District court judge Jose Gonzales rules that the rap album As Nasty As They Wanna Be by 2 Live Crew violated Florida’s obscenity law; he declared that the predominant subject matter of the record is “directed to the ‘dirty’ thoughts and the loins, not to the intellect and the mind.”

1993 Mongolia held its first direct presidential elections.

1999 In Australian Rules Football, Tony Lockett broke the record for career goals, previously 1299 by Gordon Coventry which had stood since 1937.

2002 A near-Earth asteroid estimated at 10 metres diameter exploded over the Mediterranean Sea between Greece and Libya. The resulting explosion was estimated to have a force of 26 kilotons, slightly more powerful than the Nagasaki atomic bomb.

2004 Tamil was established as a Classical language by the President of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in a joint sitting of the two houses of the Indian Parliament.

2005 The United States Supreme Court upheld a federal law banning cannabis, including medical marijuana, in Gonzales v. Raich.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia.

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