Maurice Williamson. ‘Blood on the floor’ … and now maybe in the water?

Maurice Wiliamson, flanked by apprentice and neighbouring MP Jami-Lee Ross, delivers the news that he was forced to resign.

Maurice Wiliamson, flanked by apprentice and neighbouring MP Jami-Lee Ross, delivers the news that he was forced to resign.

Nobody’s perfect. Personally, I think Maurice Williamson is a saint with the patience of Job. I’ve seen him sit through two Scholars’ Assemblies at my daughter’s college and not fall asleep or disgrace himself by unfortunate scratching or leering at teenage lasses.

When I think about how he’s been the local MP for 27 years, and I multiply that by the number of school prize-givings, gala openings, private Citizenship ceremonies for wealthy non-English-speaking investors, and whatever other worthy causes he’s supported as MP over the decades, well, whatever the perks of the job, I wouldn’t want it.

As I mentioned last year, I encouraged Maurice in his ‘stand’ for gay marriage — not that he needed any such boost from me — and I was happy for him to have a few minutes in the spotlight as a result of his speech in support of Louisa Wall’s bill. In fact, a number of National MPs distinguished themselves by supporting that bill — conservatives like Chris Auchinvole impressed me with their reasoned arguments for what I saw as progressive legislation.

Anyway, if you’ve followed the news, you’ll know that Maurice Willimson was effectively fired by PM John Key earlier this week — he had no option but to offer his resignation, knowing it would be accepted.

The allegations of impropriety against him were very serious indeed. It’s useful to read the transcript of Maurice’s statement to the media and the interrogatory Q&A which followed — available here via Fairfax’s

These are exceptional circumstances. Mr Williamson seems to persist in the idea: ‘I didn’t see my phone call to police on behalf of a wealthy donor to the National Party facing charges of domestic violence who does’t live in my electorate and whose citizenship application I had earlier intervened in, and who I personally swore in as a citizen in my office the day after his application was approved by a fellow cabinet minister against official departmental advice … was wrong, but it’s been seen by others as wrong, so I’m gone.’ (paraphrased)

Which is an untenable defence, it seems to me. It’s worse than that.

Here’s a short clip of Mr Williamson being questioned, rather aggressively, by TV3 political reporter Patrick Gower. It’s worth hearing:

MP3 file

That does not sound good, does it? In my view Patrick Gower’s questions were an appropriate attempt to penetrate the fog of incomprehension (at best) that Mr Williamson seemed stuck in.

Continue reading →

    This thought, about internet bullying, surprised me.

    From the frequently-interesting ‘Twelve Questions with …’ series at the New Zealand Herald.

    Click to read at

    Click to read at

    It’s been ages since I listened to (then) Pauline Gillespie on (then) ZMFM – two name changes – but she’s obviously a thoughtful, professional broadcaster and media personality/celebrity who (in my view) has earned the right to offer her opinion about such things when asked.

    Fascinating that she’s fingered internet bullying as such a scourge.

    Worth thinking about, huh?

    - P

      Property market predictions … and damage control

      Here’s my latest article on the Empower Education website … Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble (with apologies to Shakespeare)*

      … any comments welcome there.


      * Because in Macbeth Act 4 Scene 1, the witches actually chant:

      Double, double toil and trouble;
      Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

        Let’s get a little perspective on journalists and bloggers

        On the eve of World Press Freedom Day 2014, the press freedom situation in Azerbaijan is worse than perhaps ever before. Journalists and bloggers who dare to criticize the authorities or cover risky topics such as human rights abuses and corruption face a range of pressures, including harassment, intimidation, threats, blackmail, violent attack, and imprisonment.

        from Bloggers also under pressure as press freedom situation worsens in AzerbaijanWorld News Publishing Focus.

        We’ve got it pretty easy here in New Zealand & Australia, wouldn’t you say?

          This caught my eye

          I lived around the corner from this sign in Howick for a few years but don’t recall seeing any ducks — crossing or waiting to cross. Was it a joke?

          duck crossing

            Tarring us all with the same brush?

            In Steven Price’s recent article Opening the door to bloggers first published in Australia’s Gazette of Law and Journalism and now reproduced at the INFORRM (The International Forum for Responsible Media) blog, he lays out this point of view:

            New Zealand’s 600 or so bloggers are invariably careless, partisan, malicious or deranged, and are generally incapable of seeing any difference between their views on any particular issue and someone else’s idea of “the facts”.

            ‘Invariably’? Gee, Steven, that’s a bit disparaging, isn’t it? Speaking as a journalist, who blogs, that’s not how I see New Zealand’s bloggers, even though I am critical of some of them. (But ‘deranged’?)

            Price’s article is worth a read. In part he presents a nice summary of the arguments for-and-against or the likelihood of bloggers in any numbers being attracted to the NZ Press Council’s offer of membership — however that evolves.

            For my own part, I doubt there will be many bloggers who will want to pay hundreds of dollars to join [the Press Council].
            What’s in it for them? Some may welcome the sense of legitimacy it bestows. They are journalists too, see? No longer the poor relations. Readers and sources may be more inclined to trust them if they know that standards are being enforced.
            It may also help bloggers in arguing for source protection, exemption from the Privacy Act, and access to courtrooms and the parliamentary press gallery, for example.
            A bigger attraction may be the waiver that many Press Council complainants are required to sign.
            Complaining is free, but complainants have to promise not to sue in court. This waiver is of very questionable legality – there’s a serious question about whether forcing complainants to forgo their rights of access to court is void for public policy reasons – but it has never been challenged.
            You can see why this waiver system might be bait for bloggers. What’s more, the Press Council cannot award damages or costs.
            Big bloggers such as Whale Oil, Public Address and Kiwiblog have indicated willingness to consider signing up.
            A prediction: if Whale Oil joins, he will withdraw in rage after the first complaint against him is upheld and make it his mission in life to ridicule and smear everyone associated with the Press Council, their children, neighbours, gardeners and pet labrador Boomer.
            How will it work for the others? The obvious first question is: what standards will apply?
            Surely bloggers won’t be expected to display the sort of balance that is supposed to be a staple of mainstream journalism. Will the same conflict of interest rules apply?
            Others have noted that the Statement of Principles includes a requirement to disclose any financial inducements and avoid obligations to news sources.
            Does that describe the political blogosphere? Comment and fact must be distinguished. …

            Those issues Price raises — conflict of interest, disclosure of financial inducements — if they were a membership requirement, they would neatly exclude the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing PR attack blogs which so duplicitously undertake ‘campaigns’ for their ‘clients’ … with no disclosure.

            For instance I know Cameron Slater tried to defend his running such undeclared ‘PR lines’ on his Whaleoil blog on the basis that the attack lines fit in with his personal political beliefs. (Listen to the audio here. Maybe Steven Price’s ‘deranged’ label is fairer than I first thought?) Slater denied being paid … although admitting he ‘demanded’ money. Hmm.

            Continue reading →

              Varying explanations

              I had reason recently, in the context of discussion about a disingenuous lobby group peddling some of its “non-partisan” wares, to remember the quote:

              “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.” —Upton Sinclair

              Here’s another twist on it from Russell Brand:


              Via @caffeine_addict on Twitter

                Defamation via Facebook and ‘a private website’

                click to read at NZ Herald

                click to read at NZ Herald

                This defamation case should be a shot across the bows of various internet wide-boys who think ‘defence of truth’ or ‘opinion honestly held’ is some kind of magic elixir or Get Out of Jail Free card. It’s worth noting the oh-so-easy-to-reach-for-until-you’re-tested ‘truth defence’ in this case was abandoned during the trial.

                In her ruling, released yesterday, the judge [Justice Patricia Courtney] identified about 50 defamatory statements published on Facebook and on a private website by Mr Parker and Mr Purkiss — members of the Justice for Robin Bain group — to which there was no defence.
                She ordered Mr Parker to pay damages of $350,500 and Mr Purkiss to pay $184,500.
                She further punished the men by awarding indemnity costs against them because they “behaved egregiously” in choosing to use the defence of truth at the trial last October.

                The indemnity costs ordered could be in the region of $500,000 according to the report.

                More often than not, it seems to me, defamation actions are a game a ‘Chicken’ — Which party has the nerve to hold out? Many such cases (and other litigation) are settled out of court. In this case, a four year legal action and trial (not apparently delayed by any argument about whether the online publishers of the statements at issue were ‘a news medium’ or not) has ended in significant defeat for those who carried out the online attacks on Joe Karam, however sincerely held their beliefs. One of the defendants Mr Parker has announced his intention to appeal the decision.

                Listen to the language around the protracted online reputation attacks directed at Joe Karam, viz: Continue reading →

                  I think Julia Louis-Dreyfus knows EXACTLY what she’s doing.


                  Click to view on Twitter

                  And bless her for invoking Rob Ford. Sad the NZ Herald doesn’t seem to get the reference and quotes her as if she was serious. see: Seinfeld star explains nude Rolling Stone cover: I was drunk. How dumb.

                  - P

                    On (your own) government spies reading your email

                    Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
                    Cyanide & Happiness @

                    Yeah, it ain’t right. You know?

                    - P

                    PS. The image file name is: imjustkiddingobamathisisonlyalittlejokedontputmeonanywatchlistswhosthatknockingonmydoor

                      The escape of exnzpat, Part 20

                      The other side of the mountain


                      After a few hours, I realized we were walking downhill.  The ice fog, steaming up from the snow about us, gave me the impression we were walking inside a tunnel and, dissipating now, lifted that dark heaviness one feels when in tunnels.  A new stillness came over me.  I dare say I felt somewhat lighthearted, considering all that had gone before.

                      Lilith too was improving.  Her body, morphing back into its human form, seemed to break the terrible grief that had assuaged her over Lincoln’s passing.  Her grief remained but I felt it subside to a point that did not literally have me falling to the ground in despair every time Lincoln, our good dog, crossed her mind. Continue reading →

                        “The more information partisans get, the deeper their disagreements become.”

                        From a must-read new article by Ezra Klein at Vox: How politics makes us stupid showing that often what conditions us to resist changing our minds in response to new information (i.e. learn) is partisanship

                        Imagine what would happen to, say, Sean Hannity if he decided tomorrow that climate change was the central threat facing the planet. Initially, his viewers would think he was joking. But soon, they’d begin calling in furiously. Some would organize boycotts of his program. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of professional climate skeptics would begin angrily refuting Hannity’s new crusade. Many of Hannity’s friends in the conservative media world would back away from him, and some would seek advantage by denouncing him. Some of the politicians he respects would be furious at his betrayal of the cause. He would lose friendships, viewers, and money. He could ultimately lose his job. And along the way he would cause himself immense personal pain as he systematically alienated his closest political and professional allies. The world would have to update its understanding of who Sean Hannity is and what he believes, and so too would Sean Hannity. And changing your identity is a psychologically brutal process.

                        It is Keynes who is quoted as saying, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do sir?”

                        Well, not so easy! As Klein points out: “Individuals subconsciously resist factual information that threatens their defining values.”

                        Yeah, that’s the whole thing with allowing (suffering from?) our paradigms which act to filter out facts that don’t support them. See this post, Negative campaigning and comments following.

                        Throw in a bunch of membership-of-this-club-means-I-let-others-do-my-thinking-for-me and, well, a recipe for ignorance. Wilful ignorance.

                        - P

                        h/t John Gruber

                        By the way, this, from Steven Price, The news according to Mike Hosking, is well worth a read.

                          Glimpse the implications of globalisation, via Disney’s ‘Let It Go’ …

                          Wow. More to those language choices on the DVD than meets the eye, huh?

                          (Excellent song too. Moving.)

                          - P

                            More discussion on the Press Council’s move to ‘embrace’ new media

                            Drinnan-column-on PressCouncil-50

                            More discussion on the Press Council move to embrace new media … with a few different points of view — including a sound bite of my own.

                            The NZ Herald‘s media columnist John Drinnan, I think, ‘gets’ the distinction between blogging as self-expression/discussion/current affairs and ‘blogging’ as a dirty, abusive, weaponised PR campaign … which we’ve discussed here a bit now and then.

                            See: John Drinnan: Press Council embraces the bloggers (NZ Herald)

                            The question for many is whether treating blogs under the same rules as newspapers will make blogs more careful or diminish the stature of traditional media. Even among bloggers like Peter Aranyi there are concerns,
                            Some bloggers seeking legitimisation as ‘news media’ …through membership of the Press Council – should more properly be applying for membership of the Public Relations Institute, said Aranyi who has written a lot about a culture of attacks in some blogs.

                            Let me expand on those thoughts of mine …

                            Some bloggers seeking legitimisation as ‘news media’ — perhaps, later this year, through membership of the Press Council — should more properly be applying for membership of the Public Relations Institute. That would be a more honest umbrella for their activities. But even there, members are required to be honest, ‘accurate and truthful’ in their endeavours on behalf of their clients.

                            We are accurate and truthful in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.

                            from PRINZ Code of Ethics (PDF)

                            Anyone can blog. That’s freedom of speech. But clearly not every ‘new media’ enterprise is a ‘news medium’ — not by a long chalk. It’s pretty clear that some blogs and bloggers take their partisanship to a highly personal level.

                            Some run political and business vendettas, and engage in ongoing abusive public campaigns to unfairly denigrate or corrode the reputation of others.

                            That’s not journalism.

                            In some cases, those activities can be seen to be a commercial enterprise, or in support, or at the service of such enterprises. Cameron Slater’s efforts to demean striking watersiders using personnel files leaked by someone at the Ports of Auckland come to mind.

                            One might think bringing the online cowboys under the Press Council, with its complaints system and standards for ‘accuracy’ would be a good thing.

                            Well, maybe. But, as the target of a particularly nasty online campaign wrote last year: Some of them are no more journalists than they are brain surgeons. (see: Target of Cameron Slater’s ‘campaign’ speaks up)

                            - P

                            Here’s the Press Council’s press release: NZ Press Council to extend coverage, gain new powers (PDF)

                              Et tu, RTF? (WTF)

                              Oh crikey. (click to read Graham Cluley's article)

                              Oh crikey. (click to read Graham Cluley’s article)

                              See this article by UK-based computer security specialist Graham Cluley Just previewing an Outlook email could infect your computer. Microsoft warns of zero-day flaw.

                              Just previewing it? Gah! I remember when Microsoft Office macros were shown to be able to be exploited to infect computers. I ran my (since departed) MS Office suite with the ‘Disable Macros’ option selected, and was, you know, careful what I clicked on. But previewing a message now?


                              In the context of news last week about the NSA (reportedly) sensing malware around the planet, I can see why people within real reason for security maintain some equipment that is never connected to the internet — ‘air-gapped’.

                              This, from a fascinating article in the New York Times How Laura Poitras Helped Snowden Spill His Secrets makes the point:

                              Once she began working on her surveillance film in 2011, she raised her digital security to an even higher level. She cut down her use of a cellphone, which betrays not only who you are calling and when, but your location at any given point in time. She was careful about e-mailing sensitive documents or having sensitive conversations on the phone. She began using software that masked the Web sites she visited. After she was contacted by Snowden in 2013, she tightened her security yet another notch. In addition to encrypting any sensitive e-mails, she began using different computers for editing film, for communicating and for reading sensitive documents (the one for sensitive documents is air-gapped, meaning it has never been connected to the Internet).
                              These precautions might seem paranoid — Poitras describes them as “pretty extreme” — but the people she has interviewed for her film were targets of the sort of surveillance and seizure that she fears. William Binney, a former top N.S.A. official who publicly accused the agency of illegal surveillance, was at home one morning in 2007 when F.B.I. agents burst in and aimed their weapons at his wife, his son and himself. Binney was, at the moment the agent entered his bathroom and pointed a gun at his head, naked in the shower. His computers, disks and personal records were confiscated and have not yet been returned. Binney has not been charged with any crime.

                              I’m still struck by how the US government cancelled Edward Snowden’s passport without any charges & trial or any apparent due process, in an effort to strand him stateless — trapping him in Moscow airport.

                              Who can you trust?

                              - P

                              See also: Beware the ubiquitous PDF? Really?