Posts by Clarke

  • Hard News: We are, at last, navigating…,

    Wouldn’t the agency’s Chief Executive have a strong effect on setting the agency’s tone, though? If so and if agencies are getting it wrong, is it not the CE’s or the SSC which employs them who are a big part of the problem rather than public servants generally?

    There has been a growing trend over the last 15-20 years - covering both the Clark and the Key administrations - where Ministers have had no hesitation in throwing CEs and staffers under the bus if they think that doing so is in their best political interests.

    If you go back a generation or so, the officials provided the advice and the Ministers took the heat. The change since the turn of the millennium is palpable - officials are part of the political process, not advisors to it. And the media have been happy to assist in this transition.

    The effect has been to fundamentally change the bureaucracy. Decisions are now motivated by political palatability, not by the scientific method, and risk aversion has come to rule the day.

    If we want the decisions in our country to be evidence based, then it’s incumbent on us to force Ministers to resign over bad decisions, not Chief Executives.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 85 posts Report

  • Hard News: We are, at last, navigating…,

    One might speculate that the investigation will find cronyism and corruption flourished in an MBIE gutted by funding cuts and encouraged to outsource it’s advice and guidelines to those friendly to the minister and aligned with the (then) governments philosophy, but that would just be idle speculation on my part, of course.

    I think the answer is much more likely to be in the entrenched risk aversion of the Wellington bureaucracy rather than in any nefarious scheme.

    Agencies are routinely punished by Ministers, the media and the public when they get things wrong - see also MPI on the subject of any kind of biosecurity event - and so they will always err on the side of the most conservative approach. I’m sure there was at least one meeting where someone suggested a more pragmatic and evidence-based approach to the standards, but someone will have piped up and said “yes, but what happens if a kid gets sick and we end up on the front page of the Dominion Post?!”

    Being on the front page of the Dom is roughly equivalent to being the subject of a Stalin-era show trial as far as most agency staffers are concerned.

    So the mis-application of the standard and the draconian results that followed would have been regarded as the lowest-risk option ... not for the tenants, not for the economy, and not for the country. But very definitely for the MBIE staffers sitting in the meeting.

    But just before we condemn these people as venal fools (spoiler alert: a small number of them are venal fools, although a much greater number are just people going to work every day to do their jobs), the real issue lies with the media, as Russell has pointed out. After all, if the chance of ending up on the front page of the Dom based on the danger of someone getting sick because they were downwind of a person whose mate had once known someone who might have smoked P was zero - because the journalists had had their WTF filters engaged - then it’s unlikely the standards would have been applied they way they were.

    This whole saga seems like an intersection between power, incompetence and bad faith, on behalf of the bureaucracy and the media alike.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 85 posts Report

  • Hard News: We are, at last, navigating…,

    Personally, I think every Public Address reader should chip in so we can buy Sir Peter Gluckman this t-shirt.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 85 posts Report

  • Hard News: UNGASS and the "Drug Free…,

    I heard the Kathryn Ryan interview and thought it was very cursory for an obviously complex topic. Needs to try harder.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 85 posts Report

  • Hard News: UNGASS and the "Drug Free…,

    I think the gradual move to legalisation and normalisation is inevitable - but not really for the usual let's-all-be-adults harm reduction reasons.

    As the more astute may have noticed, good old globalised mega-capitalism is in a bit of trouble at the moment; the US, Europe, Japan and in fact most of the developed world is in a persistent no-growth phase that's rapidly turning into deflation. And China is beginning looking pretty wobbly - if the pundits are to be believed, a serious correction may be just around the corner.

    Interestingly, major corporates are having trouble growing their revenues and profits in this environment. The primary problem is that the Western consumer is pretty well tapped out - an ageing population, static wages, high debt levels and the simple fact that a great many people simply have more stuff than they are ever likely to need means that it's genuinely hard to extract much more growth from the developed world.

    The age-old solution to this conundrum has been to diversify into new markets, and that's what's happened in Asia, as everyone from car manufacturers to luxury goods sellers and tourism operators (and Apple!) flooded in.

    But as China's growth engine slowly grinds to a halt under the weight of debt and demographics and poor investment, the question arises: how will these companies continue to expand when there are very few untapped markets around the world? Sure, Iran is the new opportunity (at least, if you're not an American company), but that's a small fish when you're talking corporates that have multi-billion dollar growth goals to meet.

    The ideal would be to find some new mega-market that allows you to sell to your existing consumer base - and the recreational drug market is one of the few opportunities that will fit the bill. So I wouldn't be surprised to see some quiet corporate lobbying in The World's Greatest Oligarchy to slowly decommission the War on Drugs, and allow responsible investors with a history of peddling other recreational substances to gradually move into a business that - in the US alone - turns over hundreds of billions a year.

    Perhaps I'm a cynic, but when there's precious little economic growth to be had, the temptation to legalise the market will be too much for the sorts of corporates who pay Washington lobbyists. Yes, there's money to be made from the war on drugs, but even more to be made once the war ends and legal distribution becomes the order of the day. Call it the peace dividend.

    Just my 2c worth.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 85 posts Report

  • Hard News: Friday Music: About Apple Music,

    While Tidal might offer something, as a paid app Roon by itself makes some dubious "audiophile" claims while barely matching the features of totally free players such as Media Monkey and Music Bee.

    Both the apps you've referenced are still using metadata tagging as the mechanism for arranging and relating music, which is a bit like persisting with AltaVista well into the age of Google. Having used a great many of the players out there, I can honestly say that Roon allows me an ease of discovery - transparently, across my own library and into TIDAL - that no other music sorting and playing software gets close to. YMMV, of course, as "free" may well carry much greater weight than the quality of the experience for a whole bunch of people. I just don't happen to be one of them - I'm actually prepared to pay for better software.

    And I fully get that better quality music doesn't jerk everyone's chain, either - which is why Apple can still get away with 256/AAC long after the point that the growth in bandwidth and storage should have made lossless the default in both downloads and streaming.

    To my ears, nothing sounds worse than a 128K rip of of a favourite track - it's like nails across the blackboard. But given the number of people listening to exactly that format through the default Apple iBuds they got with their phone, I'm absolutely prepared to admit that I'm in a minority, and that audio quality simply doesn't matter to the vast majority of people - which is why the price differential between Spotify and TIDAL matters to a whole bunch of folk. After all, if you can't hear or aren't bothered by the quality difference, why would you pay the premium for TIDAL?

    So when someone says "dubious audiophile claims" I tend to hear "audio quality isn't one of the things in life that matters to me" - which is a view I can respect, even if the audiophile claims are anything but dubious. :-)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 85 posts Report

  • Hard News: Friday Music: About Apple Music,

    What you need is Roon - once you've used this little puppy with a TIDAL account, you'll never bother with iTunes or the Apple ecosystem ever again.

    Things to like include a user interface that actually provides the artist and music discovery experience that everyone's been blathering about for the last 15 years but not actually delivering, plus brilliant audio quality. It hoovers up your current iTunes library, works with FLAC, the TIDAL streaming is lossless, and the audio codecs are first rate - so it's worthwhile actually connecting up a proper DAC and a decent stereo if you're an audio geek (and it works plenty fine through your Mac and/or AppleTV as well).

    Downsides: it's version 1.0 or thereabouts, so there are some evolving features and rough edges. But there's sure a lot to like, and in 12 months this will be the gold standard for playing computer-based audio.

    And on the streaming side, my vote is firmly for TIDAL. Yes, it costs more than Spotify, but the quality is vastly better and they reputedly return more to the artist - which I care about a lot. And in the context of someone who has got used to buying an album/CD a week for too many decades, the cost of TIDAL is a mere rounding error.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 85 posts Report

  • Speaker: Sponsored post: Speed and Safety,

    I've never quite figured out the NZ obsession with speed being classed as the primary killer on the roads, when that's only true in the absolute sense - casualties can only be guaranteed drop to zero only if the speed drops to zero, which rather defeats the purpose of NZTA spending billions and billions and billions on more roads.

    Clearly it's bad judgement that causes crashes, not speed per se, and I agree that the ad would have been more honest if the issue of speed had been left off the table - even at 95km/hr, the crash depicted in the ad would have occurred.

    But we seem to have some sort of cultural issue with attributing most crashes to driver error; even the media is in on it.

    In far too many cases, the news report of an entirely preventable crash has a description like "the car left the road and hit a power pole" ... as though the car had some sort of independent agency, and the driver was a mere uninvolved spectator in the proceedings. It should say, "the driver failed to display suitable skills and drove his/her car into a power pole". It would at least have the benefit of honesty about where the responsibility for the crash lies. If we can routinely attribute plane crashes to pilot error, I don't know why we can't attribute road crashes to driver error.

    But in my view, the focus on speed comes because it makes for easy enforcement. It's easy to measure, the speed limit is objective rather than subjective, and it's amenable to instant fines and very structured prosecutions. Enforcing good judgement is a somewhat more complex and fraught process, but one more likely to produce better long-term results.

    And in that context, it's worth asking the question about why getting a license in a rural area 40 years ago means you're still qualified to drive a car of double the weight and five times the power in busy Auckland motorway traffic, with no evidence of any subsequent re-training. We don't allow surgeons to carry on willy-nilly for four decades without regular refreshers, because they might kill people ... but apparently it's OK to let people in charge of a few tonnes of speeding metal without as much as a casual glance in the direction of the Road Code for that period of time, because it's not like they'd kill people ...

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 85 posts Report

  • Hard News: The sphere of influence,

    It shouldn't be at all surprising that he and his Cabinet will wish to govern in accordance with established corporate boardroom practice.

    And established boardroom practice - especially in some of the more dysfunctional corporations in this country - is that boards eventually start indulging in the worst forms of group-think, where every question becomes a loyalty test. That's the Key/Collins problem right there ... they're interpreting every question from the media not as a request for information and viewpoint, but through a lens of "are you for us or against us?" Which is why attacking Bradford makes some semblance of sense to them.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 85 posts Report

  • Hard News: A Public Address public appeal,

    Done ... and I'd be happy to pay a monthly subscription just for the pleasure of reading and participating in PA.

    Here's the thing: I don't actually want anything more for my money. I would like the rest of the world to be able to see and experience an unfiltered PA without having to put up a dollar, even though I'm a subscriber and they're not. I am happy to see your (curated and tasteful) ads and wouldn't want them switched off just because I subscribe. Having PA continue to work the way it does is worth the investment.

    So if you go down the subscription track, please put up two buttons: one for the subscribers who think they need a little extra something to justify that regular automatic payment, and another one marked "patronage" that has no sweeteners at all, for those of us who think that the automatic payment is merely paying our dues to have a New Zealand Internet (and at one remove, a New Zealand society) that we can be proud of. I, for one, would vastly prefer to be a regular patron than a regular subscriber.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 85 posts Report

Last ←Newer Page 1 2 3 4 5 9 Older→ First