Archive for October 2010

Winding down after a busy, post-campaign 24 hours


The after-party
At our campaign after-party: self, Karen King, and Chloe Oldfield and Aaron Hape.

It is perhaps no surprise that the last 24 hours saw more Tweets to me than any other period in my life, as the results from the local body elections came in.
   I was overwhelmed by the messages, which were very positive about my securing a shade over 7,300 votes—quite some way off from the incumbent and Councillor Wade-Brown with their 24,000-plus, but, according to many of you, a creditable effort. Off the top of my head, that’s around 12 per cent of the vote—considerably higher than any Fairfax Press poll stated, and within the margin of error of our own polling.
   Most of the messages asked that I run again in 2013, something which I may well consider as I weigh up my options.
   Last night, we held our post-campaign party at the Wellington Apartments, to which Councillors Wade-Brown and Ritchie came, as well as my opponent-turned-endorser, Bernard O’Shaughnessy, who gave a very touching and meaningful speech. Many of our campaign team and core supporters attended, and I thank each and every one who has punched well above their weight. Some were out of town and could not attend. Nevertheless, I thank Albertus, Helen, Chelfyn, Stephen, Daniel, Kelly, Sonata, Craig, Brian, Sibylle, Aaron, Chloe, Jim, John, Natasha; I thank all those who donated to the campaign to get us even this far, including Brett and Tania at Soi who hosted our first campaign event back in April. We managed to get a third of the number of our chief opponents using roughly a tenth of the budget: that’s how hard everyone worked. I think the campaign-spending stats, when they come out, will reveal that we secured the most voters for the least amount—showing that the tide is turning against big money and “politics as usual”.
   I enjoyed proving some of the doubters wrong: those who believed that a non-politician could not possibly be in the top three, that we could not get some of our ideas on the agenda for Wellington, and that we could not engage a sizeable chunk of young people to come out to vote. I also enjoyed seeing the polls fall flat: so much for their margins of error and their claimed accuracy. (One from Fairfax gave Councillor Pepperell victory at 35 per cent [on Stuff] and another 25 per cent; the reality was 9 per cent. From memory, none gave Councillor Wade-Brown a figure near the 38 per cent she ultimately secured.)
   Yesterday’s Fairfax Press paper here had a sizeable article on technology: a realization, at last, of the things I have been talking about for a whole year. They are now recognized. Now let us hope that the new council puts some of these ideas into play: the need for free wifi beyond a self-congratulatory Fairfax front-page ad, how creative clusters can grow our GDP, and the need for a tech strategy to aid growth and exports in our city. I am happy to note that Councillor Wade-Brown recognizes the validity of many of these ideas, and, to put the cherry on the cake, that she had the decency in our debates to give credit where it is due. I have specifics on how to achieve them, and am willing to share this information with her if she wins.
   There are 900 special votes that are yet to be counted in Wellington, plus 90-odd informal ballots. All need to be considered. I thank the High Sheriff, Ross Bly, and his deputy, Lauren Kemple, for their tireless work, along with the entire electoral office, as their work begins on Monday counting these last votes.
   Someone asked me why I thought these last ones will tip the balance in favour of Councillor Wade-Brown as our Mayor-elect. I confess it was a gut instinct, and I had some intel from Bernard telling me that special votes tended to reflect the regular votes. However, I believe there is a difference this time.
   When Sir Michael Fowler and I were interviewed at the beginning of the week, we were told by a member of the media that Mayor Prendergast had stopped campaigning the Friday before. Perhaps she was buoyed by her polling: she seemed confident of the ‘scientific’ polls that placed her comfortably ahead and relayed this to one of our mutual contacts. What I do know is that the last week, and the push to get special votes, saw Councillors Wade-Brown and Pepperell, Mr O’Shaughnessy and I continue to campaign. (I do not know if Mr Mansell did.) If that effort translates to anything, I believe these last 900 votes will reflect those who did this work in the last few days.
   The last 54 weeks were some of the best in my life. I look back at them with fondness, especially the last few where we debated one another. I was delighted to be on the trail alongside my opponents, and be reasonably successful at the many forums held around our city. But, most of all, it was an honour to stand and represent Wellingtonians in this campaign. I will be interested to see if we have secured change at the Mayor’s office come mid-week.

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Posted in New Zealand, politics, Wellington | 1 Comment »

Paul Henry is only the tip of the redneck iceberg


Yesterday, I began watching the Indian media get hold of the Paul Henry story. Indians are, rightly, up in arms with the TV host’s insult of Chief Minister Smt. Sheila Dikshit’s name—this, plus the incident questioning whether Governor-General HE Sir Anand Satyanand was a New Zealander, shows a pattern where Henry thinks poorly of people with Indian ethnicity.
   The Indian people might want to know that the insults to their people are not restricted to Mr Henry: his colleague Paul Holmes has been rubbishing New Delhi and India in the weeks leading up to the Commonwealth Games, using the fact that few New Zealanders have been there, and pushing unfair stereotypes about hygiene. Mr Henry is also not alone in making fun of Chief Minister Dikshit’s name, with sportscasters giggling about it like children.
   Henry has received the flak because he perhaps had more of a profile, and is already down after the comments about Sir Anand. Isolated incidents we can probably forgive. But, collectively, it shows our media still have plenty of representatives from the redneck sections of our society—and I am happy to tar those members with the same brush as the one I have used on Henry. Right now, I hope there are many broadcasters feeling at least a little shame for joking about the Chief Minister’s name.
   And we wonder why politics is under-represented in New Zealand by minorities, how Parliament—or even the local body elections that I contested—do not reflect our rich cultural mixture. This week, we did not have to look very far: one of our institutions, the fourth estate, is quite prepared to treat Chief Minister Dikshit with little respect; and one of its members is willing to imply that a Governor-General, who speaks with a New Zealand accent, does not sound ‘like a New Zealander’ because he has Indian roots.
   It’s not as though we begin on the best footing when we go to India. When I spoke in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, two years ago, one question asked of me by a member of the local business community was why New Zealand had cooperated with China over free trade prior to considering India as a trading partner. I answered him frankly, ‘Follow the money.’ To me, even being someone of Chinese ethnicity, I see benefits working with India, with its proficiency in English, its common law heritage, and its respect for intellectual property. Of course China is important—but not at the exclusion of a fellow Commonwealth country. The gentleman justifiably felt India had been sold out.
   The Indian Government has rightly summoned our High Commissioner asking for an explanation. Our nation has had to apologize to India for Paul Henry. Yet one thing remains very clear to the Indians: Paul Henry is a civil servant working for state television. Words are not going to mean an awful lot to Indians, if they are not backed up by action by our government. Read between the lines of the Ministry of External Affairs’ official protest: they want him fired. Their words:

It is hoped that the government of New Zealand would take immediate demonstrative action against the said individual to send out a clear signal that such behaviour is totally unacceptable.

They mean that a 14-day suspension isn’t going to cut it. And that was for the Sir Anand issue, not for the Sheila Dikshit humiliation.
   Having been to India, I know the industry of the Indian people—and I know that they can do whatever they put their minds to. If they begin crying boycott, we are in such trouble that even a smile from the Prime Minister cannot cover.
   Paul Henry has done one good thing: expose some of the unacceptable thinking that he and others harbour. But just as Sir Peter Jackson strengthened our national image, one man has now weakened our country’s image as a progressive, multicultural and embracing nation.
   TVNZ, which has flip-flopped between defending Henry and giving him a light slap on the wrist, needs to do more soul-searching than CEO Rick Ellis, or Henry sympathizer and spokeswoman Andi Brotherston, has done so far. Does the network truly condone this sort of behaviour? A mere suspension, and the use of the Dikshit clip for days after the Sir Anand affair, are saying that it does. And in such a case, Paul Henry is being unfairly targeted as the sole offender: the circumstantial evidence is that TVNZ has a far sicker culture than even I had imagined.
   To think: usually, I go abroad holding my head up high because I come from New Zealand. People are willing to help me out because they respect our nation. I’m going to brace myself for a much harder time when next working in India, because some of our country’s less palatable members have been able to get away with pushing their agenda for too long.
   I initially thought that the Facebook page demanding a TVNZ boycott was going too far, given that there are responsible TVNZ staff, too. However, I have not watched a single second of TVNZ programming this week, as an unconscious decision. (Commonwealth Games coverage on Prime has helped.) Maybe the supporters of that Facebook page have a point, because as the days pass, and there continues to be inaction from TVNZ, it is becoming apparent that more heads need to roll. My idea of getting Henry to meet with the New Zealand Indian Central Association is looking more meaningless by the day.

Image credit: Map of India by Umesh Rai.

PS.: TVNZ spokeswoman Andi Brotherston has tendered her resignation.JY

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Posted in business, culture, India, media, New Zealand, politics, TV | 5 Comments »

By all means, enforce parking, but it’s not a licence to write fiction


Today was a good reminder why we cannot trust a foreign company to look after our parking, and why things need to be brought back under council control.
   Parking enforcement is not about profit. Karen was unduly issued with a parking ticket in a P5 space after hours. And I received one today. You can figure out what the allegation was in my response to the WCC’s Parking Enforcement department.

Wellington, October 7, 2010

Parking Enforcement
Wellington City Council
PO Box 24-344
Manners Street
New Zealand

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Re. Infringement notice 84836907 for registration FJJ336, BMW 330d, issued the 7th inst. at 2.33 p.m.

I refer to the above infringement notice, which alleges I was parked at Kelburn Parade from 10.19 a.m. to 2.33 p.m. today.
   This is a great work of fiction.
   I enclose an excerpt of my email outbox, marked (1). Our office works on GMT, which is 13 hours behind New Zealand daylight time. This shows that I was still in my office in Rongotai at 10.30 a.m.
   I also enclose a screen shot of my Twitter account, marked (2). These Tweets were sent from my office, and shows that I was still at my office ‘4 hours ago’. This screen shot was taken at 3 p.m., i.e. I was still in Rongotai at 11 a.m. Indeed, one of the Tweets refers to my arriving at Victoria University at 11.40 a.m.
   In fact, I did not arrive at Victoria University till noon, after which I sent another message which appears on my Facebook (‘3 hours ago’). A screen shot of that is also attached, marked (3).
   I have one witness at Scots College who can confirm that I was at their reception at 11.40 a.m. I could not possibly have arrived in Kelburn till 11.55 a.m. at the earliest.
   I have two witnesses who can confirm that at 1.45 p.m. I left them to move my car as my two-hour slot was approaching an end.
   From 12 to 1.45 p.m. today I was parked at the last (bottom) car park on the eastern side of Kelburn Parade. A woman in a dark grey 1990 BMW 5-series vacated that spot.
   From 1.45 p.m., I drove around Kelburn Parade looking for a new parking.
   From 1.50 to 2.40 p.m. I was parked at the position referred to in your notice, at around 12 m north of one P120 sign, after a motorist in a white 1985 Honda Civic hatchback vacated that spot.
   In fact, your enforcement officer (I presume the same one, no. 188, who issued this notice) saw me just after 1.50 p.m. I walked past him as he was issuing a notice to a car (it may have been a brown 1992 Nissan Sentra five-door—I did not intentionally register this) parked in a P5 space outside Victoria University. Your own records will confirm this and his whereabouts. I made a comment to him about how lucky I was to have moved my car in time …
   I believe, therefore, that the ticket has been issued due to an innocent error …

   The last paragraph is my being nice. Remember, the officer is innocent till proved guilty, and that judgement is not for me to make.
   But to outright lie on a ticket to say I had been there when I could not possibly have been—that’s one problem we have with parking in Wellington today.
   It undermines the actual good work done by many wardens who are there to honestly and fairly enforce the law.
   Maybe the culture of Dennis Kozlowski still remains with some Tyco employees.
   What if I never Tweeted? Or had no witnesses? Or never saw the parking warden? Or could provide circumstantial evidence? It’d be my word against his. And that’s not a good deal for the ratepayer.
   If you can’t deal with the city’s debt, then rob from the people. Not the most creative way—but again, a reactive way.

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Posted in cars, New Zealand, politics, Wellington | No Comments »

The other time Paul Henry had it in for someone with Indian heritage


Paul Henry isn’t alone on this: a lot of New Zealand media have been making fun of Delhi Chief Minister Smt. Sheila Dikshit’s surname, purposely mispronouncing it as dick-shit and then giggling away. (For the record, the pronunciation is close to dixit.) Though after his comments about HE Sir Anand Satyanand earlier this week, it’s easy to draw a connection and ask: does Mr Henry have it in for anyone of Indian ethnicity?
   Apparently, before the quips about the Governor-General, Mr Henry stated on his Breakfast programme:

The dip shit woman. God, what’s her name? Dick-shit. Is it dick shit? … It looks like dick shit … It’s so appropriate, because she’s Indian, so she’d be dick-in-shit wouldn’t she, do you know what I mean? Walking along the street … it’s just so funny.

The Fairfax Press reports that TVNZ received relatively few complaints (four) about the mispronunciation of Dikshit, while the inappropriate comments about Sir Anand are in the 600s. Prime TV reports that the complaints have hit a ‘record number’.
   This is no surprise, given that the later comments related directly to how New Zealanders felt about ourselves.
   There’s apparently been fresh criticism as TVNZ has allowed Henry’s mispronunciation clip to remain on its website after the furore on Monday. From Fairfax:

New Zealand Indian Central Association president Paul Singh Bains said the fact TVNZ was still promoting the clip on its website showed it had “totally lost the plot” and was insensitive to the offence Henry had caused.

The segment is now gone, though the tiny 14-day suspension that TVNZ gave Paul Henry seems even weaker in this context.
   Making it worse was the TVNZ spokeswoman, who defended Henry on Monday and worsened the matter then. I think TVNZ needs a new spokesperson. Here’s how Fairfax reported her response:

TVNZ spokeswoman Andi Brotherston said the website was an independent news organisation.
   “[It] is part of TVNZ’s news and current affairs department, which has its editorial independence enshrined in legislation.”

Translation: we can’t do anything about how we promote the channel because of the law.
   Why, pray tell, was the clip then removed?
   It might be nice to get the context in which Ms Brotherston made her comment.
   I wrote to the network today suggesting that Mr Henry at least meet with the New Zealand Indian Central Association in his 14 days off. (I called it, wrongly, the Indian New Zealand Association, mixing it up with one in Wellington.) Let’s do something beyond the on-air apology and learn just why these “ethnic” associations are necessary in New Zealand. (One big reason: the Paul Henrys of this world.)

One thing has bugged me: this idea from Henry that Sir Anand Satyanand does not sound like a New Zealander. I have met the Governor-General on several occasions and I never remembered him having any accent but a Kiwi one. I even had to look for clips of Sir Anand just to make sure my memory wasn’t playing tricks on me. I remember that his wife, Lady Satyanand, is very well spoken. So just how much like a New Zealander did Henry think the next Governor-General should sound like? Fred Dagg? Him?
   There’s nothing wrong with a Fred Dagg-sounding Governor-General, but it seems that Mr Henry believed that a Kiwi accent is not a Kiwi accent if its speaker has Indian heritage.

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Posted in culture, India, media, New Zealand, TV | 11 Comments »

Endorsements from Sir Michael Fowler and others—and why the Paul Henry débâcle matters


Yesterday, as some of you know, Sir Michael Fowler endorsed me, saying that I am the ‘intelligent’ mayoral candidate and he likes the programme I have outlined for our city. It goes beyond what is on my campaign site, of course—the programme includes plans to bring Waterfront Ltd. back under council control, increased transparency through webcasting council meetings, streamlining the processes within the Council, and reviewing Wellington’s asset and risk management (which needs serious work). Most of these have been voiced during the last three weeks of very entertaining debates with my opponents.
   I’m grateful to get the endorsement of a three-term (1974–83) mayor and had the pleasure of campaigning with Sir Michael yesterday up in Brooklyn.
   He is right on many points. The present council is in disarray. And he believes I am more of a unifier. I imagine that is right: in branding, if you are going into a company to redo their strategy, you need unity. If you don’t have it, you need to find a way to create it.
   I was also encouraged by the fact that Sir Michael sees huge value in social networking. ‘You reach a literate, voting population,’ he told me. I am glad he is not as dismissive of technology as at least two of my opponents, who pay IT lip service and little more. He agrees with me that it can help create jobs and give a career pathway for our youth.
   Aside from Sir Michael’s endorsement, those of you who watched Back Benches, listened to Radio Active or watched the video Scoop know that Bernard O’Shaughnessy, one of my opponents, has asked his supporters to back me. I’m very grateful to Mr O’Shaughnessy as well for his support.
   And while it’s not asking supporters to give me their 1, Councillor Celia Wade-Brown has told her supporters to give me a 2 or, at least, a high ranking. I reciprocate that for Councillor Wade-Brown: if we want change, and we can rank our candidates, then please consider a 2 or a high ranking for her.
   Remember that your votes are due in the post by tomorrow (Wednesday). Our own small-sample poll shows that the newspaper one is inaccurate, and suggests that the race is far tighter than has been reported. But the margin of error is also quite large, so if I don’t put much stock in either, I won’t let them sway you. I’ve posted plenty over the last while, more so on Facebook, and I’ve met so many of you in person at the debates and forums, for you to know who the best and most engaged candidate is. One only wishes that more of these were televised!
   Vote with your hearts and minds, but the important thing is: vote.

Yesterday’s mainstream media was more taken with the débâcle surrounding breakfast TV host Paul Henry and his implication that the Governor-General, HE Sir Anand Satyanand, did not look and sound like a New Zealander. He asked the Prime Minister, John Key:

Are you going to choose a New Zealander who looks and sounds like a New Zealander this time … Are we going to go for someone who is more like a New Zealander?

A strange comment, considering Sir Anand was born in Auckland, has had more years in New Zealand than Mr Henry himself, has a distinguished record of public service, and is definitely a New Zealander through and through. His judicial service is probably as recognized as that of former Governor-General, Sir Michael Hardie Boys.
   What Henry really wanted to say is that you can put in decades being a judge and, for the last few years, our viceregal representative, but if you are ethnic Indian—or, more to the point, not Caucasian—then you’re not “really a Kiwi”.
   As the mayoral candidate who would never get a Paul Henry backing because I look nothing like him, the furore struck a chord. Because there is a racist undercurrent in some circles that Henry represents. Any minority has witnessed it, particularly in areas where minorities have typically not ventured due to the earlier prejudices of a bygone age. I am sorry to note that it is still there and I have even noticed it in this election—fortunately not from the Wellington public, but from some of our establishment institutions.
   TVNZ initially defended the man (saying that he simply vocalizes what is on people’s minds) before suspending him (for a mere two weeks—I Tweeted a 30-day minimum would be appropriate). Henry stood by his comments before apologizing. But it all looks like too little, too late, as was the inaction by the Prime Minister, who critics say should have had Henry up on the comment during the interview.
   If one looks at the outrage on Twitter (a small sample, I know), then Henry is well out of touch with ordinary New Zealanders. He has a responsibility as someone who reaches over 100,000 people. And yesterday, he crossed the line. Intentional or not (and only he will ever know), this sort of thinking has no place on our airwaves except, perhaps, in a drama where Sam Tyler wakes up in 1973 and meets a tobacco-stained, borderline alcoholic homophobe by the name of Gene Hunt.
   As one friend of mine says, Henry has a right to be a dork. However, we are paying for this man’s salary as he is employed by the state broadcaster, and he’s less happy with that. As am I. Make such insinuations in other parts of the civil service, and you’d get a more severe reprimand than a TV network defence and a delayed suspension. Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand would know, and they worked for a state broadcaster, too. At least there, the BBC immediately recognized what was indefensible.

The fallout from the Henry incident—whom my friends note still appeared on telly this morning—included the resignation of Ben Gracewood as the show’s gadget commentator. Ben felt it was the last straw and Tweeted late last night, ‘Do you know what made me quit? I wanted to say this, and then realised I was holding back: what a f***ing cock that Paul Henry guy is.’
   Pop over to Ben’s blog where more of the debate has taken place. I think he did the right thing, and I applaud him for acting and having principles.

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Posted in culture, internet, media, New Zealand, politics, TV, Wellington | 1 Comment »

A tribute to Bernard Schwartz—that’s Tony Curtis to most of us


I can’t let the passing of Bernard Schwartz—a.k.a. Tony Curtis—go without some sort of tribute.
   I’ve bitten my tongue a few times this year on writing what I wanted to on this website. And with hindsight, I really should have just gone for it, as someone who preaches transparency. Yes, I do indeed have a sense of humour and a love for old movies, and dear Bernie Schwartz is one of the reasons this blog is named as it is.
   This blog did not start off all political. An early political entry was about the Mohammed cartoons in Jyllands-Posten, but generally, this was a marketing blog. It was called The Persuader for two reasons: the marketing book, The Hidden Persuaders, and the TV show, The Persuaders.
   While my German friends think Alarm für Cobra 11 is my favourite show, the truth is that it’s actually what they know as Die Zwei: a camp series made in 1970 starring Tony Curtis and Roger Moore. The rest of us know it as The Persuaders, or, if you are French, Amicalement votre—it’s still quite a popular show in France and not long ago, you could buy the DVDs at newsagents.
   When I visited Eze, France, in 2002, the first thing I thought of was not the parfumeries, despite owning Lucire, but the episode of The Persuaders, ‘The Gold Napoleon’. I understand from the official Roger Moore website at the time that Moore himself had read the piece.
   It was through Curtis and Moore that a kid in Newtown lived his fantasies of driving along the Corniches in sports cars in the 1970s.
   Of course rich playboys drove sports cars around the south of France, rescuing damsels in distress, and fought shady Mafia figures and dodgy politicians.
   The closest I got was bombing around in humble Opels and Peugeots around France and the dodgiest thing I ever fought in that country was food poisoning.
   And as I got older, with the ad libs that Curtis did in the series—including at least one reference to Bernard Schwartz—I began to think of the great matinee actor by his birth name. It’s why I Tweeted a farewell to ‘Bernie Schwartz’.
   I was a fan. As a kid, I thought Houdini was fabulous, and this stayed my favourite Curtis film for years. Unlike most of the tributes coming in today, I wasn’t that big a fan of Some Like It Hot, though I have seen it many times, and Operation Petticoat was a late-night filler for me. I’m old enough to have watched these as films on regular TV.
   I am aware that Bernard Schwartz could be a bastard. Sir Roger Moore, in his autobiography, mentioned that his co-star came in as a grump till he smoked a couple of joints. He called Joan Collins a ‘c***’ when filming with her on The Persuaders. Directors on the series had their share of complaints. He wasn’t particularly private about his private life, telling his friend, Walter Matthau, ‘Walter! It’s Bernie! I f***ed Yvonne de Carlo!’
   So while the serious film buffs go on about Bernard Schwartz and his 1950s’ classics, and The Boston Strangler, I will remember him for the 24 episodes of The Persuaders. Who cares that he made all of them while high? They shaped my childhood and I still think it’s a heck of a legacy.

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Posted in culture, France, interests, TV, USA | 1 Comment »