Hard News by Russell Brown


Farce About

I'm not surprised the anti-Electoral Finance Bill march got a decent crowd in Auckland on Saturday: given the advertising spend, the assistance of such experienced headline-farmers as the Sensible Sentencing Trust and Family First, and a large phone-spam campaign, it would have been unusual if it didn't.

Phone spam? Yes, you read right. Tens of thousands of paid-for robocalls; the kind that leave a voice-mail message if you're not at home. As a form of "free speech", phone spam has some fairy serious shortcomings. Like all spam, it is a form of applied arrogance -- if I spam you I am asserting that my time is more valuable than yours. You can run to your phone, peasant; I'll go about my business.

It makes a bit more sense when you bear in mind that the protest organiser and finder John Boscawen is the chief fundraiser for the Act Party, which has been spamming New Zealanders since it began. Back in the day, it was fax spam. Later, the party ran multiple mailing lists to which people were subscribed without their knowledge (and it was hard to get unsubscribed). Muriel Newman (the party's technology spokesperson!) even passed on addresses obtained for her mailing list to her husband's stock tips and seminars business. And, of course, you know where the only two votes against the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Bill came from.

It's hard to defend a legislative process as shambolic as that around the EFB. It's also hard to defend some of the people who are making all the noise about it.

Colin Espiner has a plague on everyone's house column about the bill.

Meanwhile, Graham McCready's private prosecution for assault against Trevor Mallard has tipped into full-blown farce. First McCready's lawyer William Johnson declined to follow his client's wishes in opposing bail for the minister yesterday. Then Johnson complained that he wouldn't be available on the date set for a substantive hearing by the judge. Now McCready has sent a fax to the alleged victim, Tau Henare, threatening him with legal action. If Henare fails to contact McCready's lawyer by Friday, a refusal will have consequences" and "informations alleging obstruction of justice and being an accessory after the fact" will be filed against him. Good grief.

Further underlining the impression that there's a lot of farce about, National has had to cancel a special media event to present the dreary 'Ambitious for New Zealand' DVD presenting its leader, John Key, on copyright grounds. The Standard is, as you might expect, cock-a-hoop over spotting the problem and layering the real 'Clocks' and the fake one over each other to emphasise their similarity. But the Herald's Claire Trevett deserves credit for contacting people who know about these things, including musicologist and Verlaine Graeme Downes, and giving the story legs.

Whatever anyone says, the most likely explanation would seem to be that after National used 'Clocks' as a fanfare for John Key's entry to the National Party conference in August -- and paid the appropriate performance fee -- someone said to the production company "give us something like that" rather than stump up for the original for the DVD. And the production company took the instruction literally.

American tragedy: more Americans believe in Hell and The Devil than in the Theory of Evolution. It's actually not even close.

And finally: the Broadband Map launched by the State Services Commission at last week's Digital Future Summit is a really good example of the tricky business of the public sector engaging private citizens. It's a mash-up with Zoomin that maps fibre networks and, as it grows, areas of demand. You can go to it, find your address and register your place as one that would like better broadband, thanks. Only complaint: the key is hard to read.

In another example of adventurous thinking, the SSC is allowing Vikram Kumar, one of the key staff on its all-of-government authentication project, to blog privately on issues around the work. Given the almost universal tendency towards risk-averseness in state agencies, I think this is quite remarkable.

And if you want to see the presentations from the summit, many of them have been uploaded as MP4 files by the good people at R2.

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