Hard News by Russell Brown

Friday frustrations

So Sunday won't now be making its behind-the-scenes story on the launch of the Maori Television Service - last week's softly-softly item on Derek Fox was it. Which is a shame: given what we now know, it would have been better than The Office.

Imagine the fun we might all have had in trying to read the body language, in watching closely for eye contact or analysing the chat. Is there a reel going around then?

There's a good page of pictures of yesterday's Fart Tax protest by farmers at Parliament. Am I the only one who feels that the cockies are a little half-cocked on this one? In principle, the research levy is a straight-up polluter-pays tax, and a modest one at that. Unless you're a global warming denier - and that's getting to be a pretty hard position to sustain, given the weight of expert opinion - it is being applied in the right place.

But the farmers who were shouting about creeping socialism yesterday seem to be saying that you and I ought to pay the research costs, because farming is such an important export earner. Which is pretty much Rob Muldoon's argument for farm subsidies, isn't it?

Actually there is a sound grievance: that farmers can't offset their ruminant methane belches with carbon credits for their trees, because forestry carbon credits have been nationalised. Apart from that, the farmers ought to calm down a bit and talk.

A Mr DM Praecox has been in contact to say that he knows a bit about Judith Aitken's speech on Official Information Act principles, which I mentioned last week. There's an interesting background to its section on the Danks committee, which eventually spawned the OIA:

It seems that the Danks committee, which was set up by Muldoon right before an election to take the heat off him on demands for an OIA, managed to avoid reporting until about 6 months out from the following election. He (Muldoon) then tried to bury the report (no OIA then!). Somehow, unaccountably, the report found its way into the hands of the opposition. Outmanoeuvred! Love it when that happens.

The funny thing is that the speech I pointed to on the Education Review Office website has gone - indeed, the whole speeches directory seems to have disappeared. Never mind. Here's the Google cache version.

I'm giving a little talk at the New Zealand Skeptics conference in Wellington on Saturday, September 20. Should be fun, and the conference looks interesting. But earlier in the week, I booked a return flight (cheap and non-refundable, they have a limited budget for the conference), travelling down on the Friday. And then last night I realised that the Friday night happens to be the B-Net New Zealand Music Awards, which I can hardly miss (today's the last day to vote, BTW).

The only option was to write off the original outbound booking and pay for a Saturday flight at my own expense, which I did this morning. Or tried to. The only cheap flight left south on Saturday which would get me there in good time for my early afternoon slot was at 8am, which was a bit trying, but do-able.

But for some reason, the Air New Zealand website choked on a perfectly good Business Mastercard, which I have used before for booking flights. First it told me that it couldn't recognise the card details (which were correct), and then that the card had been declined (it has plenty of credit available). I started again and got the same sequence of results.

By the time the secure connection had timed out three times and I was onto another credit card, I was screwed. The seat on the 8am flight was gone, replaced by one at 7am, which I had no choice but to take. So I'm getting up at 6am on the Saturday morning after the B-Nets, and I can hardly stay up all night given that I've got all those skeptics to talk to. It's ugly.

This is where I try and marshall all my blog fame: is there anyone out there at Air New Zealand who can do something about this? Click that "Feedback" link and I'll, I dunno, put in a word with the Commerce Commission or something …

Actually, while I'm on the blag, it's past due time for booking the family summer hols. After last summer's epic, we're thinking beachside motel, not too far from Auckland. I have visions of well-kept 60s-style units, willow trees, a trampoline, a breeze-block barbecue and a beach, but I'm flexible. Any ideas?