Thursday, April 28, 2005

An analysis of the Doone Case

More details have come out about why Peter Doone plans to sue Helen Clark.

The nub of the case is that Helen Clark had confirmed to the Sunday Star Times that Peter Doone had reportedly said "that won't be necessary" when the invesitigating officer asked to give his girlfriend (now wife) an alcohol breathtest. Since the statement didn't turn up in Robinson's report, the investigating officer didn't allege that Peter had said it and so it seems to have been false scuttlebutt. There are really two issues here that have been mixed together:
a) Did the allegation cause Peter to lose his job

b) the ethics of Helen's confirmation of the allegation.
The first issue can almost certainly be answered in the negative. Peter Doone was forced to resign not because of the allegation but because of the Robinson report. Although the allegation was defamatory, it did not cause the loss that he claims. If he is awarded any damages, it may be much less than he expected.

As for the second issue, what was Helen thinking? She has been caught out confirming an untrue allegation to get it published. If she was mistaken, why didn't she clear it up before now? It's worthwhile bearing in mind the standards that she elaborated in the case of Lianne Dalziel. Was her confirmation "misleading" or was it "untrue"? If the former, can she supply the text of her confirmation so we can be certain? If the latter, will she be sacking herself?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The return of the Doone

It's been revealed that Ex-police commissioner Peter Doone is dropping a defamation case against the Sunday Star Times and instead preparing to sue Helen Clark instead.

Firstly a summary of the initial case: Peter Doone had been having a night out with his girlfriend. While she was driving them home that night, a police officer spotted their car driving without any lights. He pulled over the car only to be confronted by a somewhat sloshed Commissioner of Police who told him that everything was okay and that there was nothing to worry about. Experienced hands would have known how to mollify the Commissioner and carried on speaking to his girlfriend. Unfortunately the officer was brand-new to the job (only a day or so of experience), felt intimidated by the Commissioner and backed off. When he returned to the station, he contacted the Police Association as he was fearful for his career. Ergo a juicy story appears in the papers the next day. Oops.

Peter Doone could have saved himself then by making a prompt apology. However because he had been drinking that night, he had a somewhat hazy recall of what had happened and so had a different recollection of events than the police officer did. Unfortunately for him, he did not recognize this and so continued to dispute the officer's version of events. This ensured that the matter dragged on and on and on. Since Peter Doone was already under a cloud over the INCIS debacle, his deputy (now current Commissioner) Rob Robinson had to be called in to investigate the affair. And so when Rob reached the only possible conclusion that he could, a face-saving compromise was arrange for Peter Doone to leave his post.

Now the interesting detail is that the face-saving compromise involved Peter Doone taking up a position at Helen Clark's office for the same salary to work on a project for reducing Maori crime. Couldn't Helen have found the time to clear the air over the whole matter while he was within reach?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI

The College of Cardinals has elected Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI and in doing so they extended the digit of contempt towards Catholic Progressives. His outing as a member of the Hitler Youth (thus showing that even the Vatican isn't immune from Godwin's Law) has thus received short shrift as a obnoxiously blatant attempt to kneecap the leading Papabile going into the Conclave. The traditional and more subtle method of leaking the obscure speeches and writings by the candidate to portray him in a poor light could not be used against a Cardinal who was already known as "The Enforcer", "God's Rottweiler" and "The Panzer Cardinal".

It hasn't taken long for the wailing and gnashing of teeth to emerge about how the Pope will be a dogmatic divider who will cause people to leave the Church in droves. I might have more sympathy for this argument if it weren't for Pope John Paul, who was just as dogmatic, drawing the largest ever crowds for his funeral.

However I do not believe that Pope Benedict will be regard his duty as holding the course set by John Paul II. For all his vocal condemnations of deviations from the Vatican line, hardly anything has been heard about matters in which he might have disagreed with John Paul II. In my experience, such silence is evidence that a person knows when to keep his mouth shut rather than evidence of Great Minds thinking Alike. A good example is the modernity controversy around the beginning of last century. Pope Pius X's reign was marked by a great purge of those he suspected of having Modernist's Beliefs. His eventual successor thought Pius was taking matters too far but during Pius's reign, he refrained from criticism and so avoided dismissal or worse. When the successor was elected Pope, he tempered the excesses of the anti-modernity crusade. The name of this successor? Pope Benedict XV.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

15 seconds of fame

The Herald had a round-up of commentary about John Tamihere from selected newspapers and bloggers and one of the bloggers they quoted was me! The ordering is a bit strange, I'm placed behind Russell Brown yet ahead of more established blogs like Kiwiblog, NZ Pundit, and Silent Running (and even managed to mangle the country code as .tvf). I'm curious as to the reasons for the ordering. Was it because they consider me more respectable? Or do I write better? Or was it simply because of the suggestion that I made?

I'm pinching the endorsement as "Skeptical Blogger" so it would look good on my blog page. I should also update my seriously defunct blogroll but I'm less than satisified with the traditional division of left, right and centre blogs that seems to be standard here and overseas. Watch this space.

Friday, April 15, 2005

More on Clayton

Rodney Hide has uncovered several news snippets describing Clayton's antics back in 1993. All of which raises the following question:
Q: Why was John Tamihere Clayton's Friend?

A: Because he's the friend you have when you don't have any friends.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

More on Operation Leaf

The public report is available from both Stuff and Scoop. The editor of the Sunday Star-Times accepts the report's conclusion but refuses to apologize as Helen Clark had demanded on the grounds that they acted in good faith. The only error that she admits to is that the Paper should have been less emphatic that the Story was true. The question that arises in my mind is why she didn't adopt this position once she found out that Nicky Hagar was involved with the story.

Speaking of which:
An investigative journalist involved in the story today said he was under strict instructions not to comment on the matter.

"I'm not allowed to talk on that, sorry," Nicky Hager told NZPA, when asked for a comment on the report.
Nicky is at best a freelancer and there's nobody in the world who could issue him strict instructions. Hence it's apparent he is severely embarrassed at being made to look a fool.

Lastly one of the three sources has issued a statement. It's self-serving drivel about himself to the extent that he claims to have been a CIA agent on the grounds that he was a "liason person" (ie somebody he had a drink with from time to time) to a US embassy official. Yet in all his rambling, he forgets to provide any information to show that the report was a whitewash.

John Tamihere's repreive

So John Tamihere has escaped with a severe censure from the Labour Caucus. Despite having insulted his colleagues (including his hitherto faithful Baldrick) and much more besides in the Investigate interview, John defied Helen Clark's instruction to stay away and ends up a "reconciliation" that displeased half the caucus. At the very least, John should have been subjected to the Samoan custom of Ufoga (in which the aggrieved party can scream abuse, punch or slap the wrongdoer before finding it in their hearts to forgive him). As it is, forgiveness after a fifteen minute apology just leaves the caucus looking stupid. I suppose the best explanation for what has happened must go to John Tamihere when he said:
But [Clark]’s no good with emotions. She goes to pieces. She’ll fold on the emotional side and walk away or not turn up. She knows it’s going to get emotional and it upsets her.
I would be more charitable to John's show of contrition if it weren't for the fact that this has happened before - he got into deep water, donned the appropriate mask of distress, said sorry and then carried on as before. He has yet to admit that he made a bad error of judgement in accepting the Golden Handshake and his refusal to understand why this prevented an immediate return to Cabinet led him to sprout off to Ian Wishart. What John Tamihere needs is a Cluebat of Damocles for without that, he is only going to continue to crash and burn.

Crank-calling Clayton

While intention is focussed intensely on John Tamihere, I thought I take the opportunity to highlight developments in the Clayton Cosgrove story. It stems from sunday when John Tamihere was revealed to have said:
"What [Clayton] used to do is get Clark’s home number, and Peter Davis’ work number and home number and he was in Mike’s support team, and he used to drive them nuts, he’d ring incessantly at all hours saying ‘leave Mike alone!’, and they knew it was him," Mr Tamihere says. "He ran that campaign, and it used to be nasty, naughty."

Herald on Sunday 10th April 2005
Clayton's reaction? According to the same report:
[H]e was upset and said he would "restrain myself". Later he phoned back with a statement: "That did not happen. It is not true."
Enter Ron Mark. While now a NZ first MP, in 1993 he was in the Labour Party. Not only was he close to Mike Moore but he was tipped as Moore's successor. His opinion?
[He] questions the attempts to paint this Tamihere talk as deluded. "It’s my understanding that Clayton was intimately involved in running the defensive and offensive for Mike."

NZ Herald 12th April 2005
It gets worse. In a Press article that isn't on-line (or is on-line but the Stuff's search ability is stuffed):
Clark acknowledged yesterday that she had once accused the Moore campaign of making "hate calls" to her supporters during the leadership contest But she said she did not believe Cosgrove had been involved.
Hardly the ringing endorsement that Clayton might have been hoping for. Seemingly aware of this, Clayton says in the same report:
She (Clark) has shown her faith and trust in me by appointing me to Parliament's top committee (finance and expenditure) in my second term to chair it," Cosgrove said.

"I've always had a very good working relationship with the leader and I'm just a bit gutted."
Let's have a look at the "very good working relationship", shall we? Clayton is the only second term Labour MP who did not end up with some position or sinecure on the Executive after the last election. Even first term MPs have ended up with a Private Parliamentary Secretaryship but such positions remain tantalizingly beyond Clayton's reach. That is why John Tamihere felt it necessary to expound on why Clayton has gotten nowhere quickly.

Moreover it's apparent that Clayton hasn't thought through his denials very well. If Helen Clark really believes that Clayton is innocent of making hate-calls back in 1993, then what has Clayton done to merit such shabby treatment?

Monday, April 11, 2005

Operation Leaf Update

The Inspector-General has released his final reports (one public and the other classified) on the Sunday Star-Times allegations involving Operation Leaf. As expected, the Inspector General didn't find anything. The public report is being made available to the media but as yet, I can't find anything on-line which indicates that this government has a lot more to learn about the net. What is available on-line is the Prime Minister's statement which does quote from the public report.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

It rhymes with Clucking Boron

Just when the matter looked like it might soon die off, John Tamihere has only made things much much worse. He started trying to prove that the matter was off the record and thus, by implication, Ian Wishart acted in bad faith by publishing the now notorious interview. His cunning plan was:
"Mr Tamihere and one other person had returned to Soljans Cafe in West Auckland to talk to staff about the recording of the interview. The Agenda programme was contacted by a "source close to Mr Tamihere" offering tape recordings of staff who apparently said there was no recording device on the table when the MP lunched with Mr Wishart.

Tony Soljan, managing director of Soljans Estate Winery, said yesterday Mr Tamihere and the other person had talked to staff, who had asked that any conversation with them not be recorded. Mr Soljan said his staff felt "let down" when it emerged they had been taped."

NZ Herald, 10th April 2005
In being so clever, John failed to ask himself one simple question - what could Ian return fire with? It just so happens that Ian had held back at least two pretty explosive comments:
He was sick and tired ofhearing about the Holocaust.

Clayton Cosgrove harassed Helen Clark and Peter Davis over the telephone while he was Mike Moore's electoral chairman.
Given Tamihere's motor jet-engine rocket warp-drive mouth, it's highly likely that there's more comments in this vein. I would be quite surprised if he hadn't attacked George Hawkins for example.

The result of these latest revelations is that Helen has now placed John on extended stress leave (indefinite suspension in other words). He now won't be making the proposed apology to the Labour caucus on Tuesday and it's quite possible that he will be deselected. John could try and go for a by-election but I don't know if he would win and even if he did, he has frankly outed himself as being constitutionally incapable of being a respectable statesman. Even when he is over the limit, Winston has far more nous than John does while sober.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Spot the Jedi

During question time in the house today:
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It seems to me that if a supplementary question is ruled out of order—

Madam SPEAKER: It is ruled out of order.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen:—and it clearly was, then we cannot really give a free supplementary question on top of that.

Madam SPEAKER: It is not a free supplementary question.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: It must be an additional supplementary question.

Madam SPEAKER: It is an additional supplementary question.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


Seeing the following exchange in the House today:
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is it that John Tamihere has to be duplicitous, a liar, a tosser, a weirdo, a smarmer, or be without substance before he is allowed back into the Labour Party Cabinet?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: He does not have to be any of those things. He does have to be a team player.
made me wonder if Helen would like to give Robert De Niro's The Untouchables lecture about teamsmanship and baseball to the Labour Caucus.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Tamihere crashes and burns

I simply don't know what to make of John Tamihere's actions over the past week.

Firstly he went on the offensive in the House about the Waipareira Trust affair by complaining that TV3 did a hatchet job on him. One would have thought the wisest course of action would be to admit an error of judgement about accepting a golden handshake and move on but for some reason, that's beyond him. His attack wasn't spontaneous act as John had managed to convince a gullible Clayton Cosgrove into seriously suggesting that the Trust members would spend over $400,000 trying to fit John up.

Secondly John Tamihere managed to achieve the dubious distinction of having the first blog in the country to be shut down on Helen Clark's orders. This was due to his posting a rant that covered the same material as his original speech with some spicy defamation mixed in.

Now John has managed to excel himself by giving Investigate magazine a candid (and I do mean candid) interview about what's wrong with the labour party and his colleagues, the highlights of which can be found here.

What is going on through his mind? Mere drunkeness as Helen Clark has alleged is insufficient as the events are taking place over several days in which one would have expected John to sober up at least once. He's well and truly burned any chance he has of getting back into Cabinet after the election. Not only that, he's also blown any opportunity of leading the Labour Party after Helen goes. Why has he chosen this self-destructive path?

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Postcarolingian reflections

Since Pope John Paul II (born Karol Wojtyla hence the title) has finally passed away despite struggling against his infirmities for so long, I'll take the opportunity to muse on his life and the challenges that await his successor. I disagreed with the Pope on a lot of issues but he should be commended for encouraging the Poles to throw off their shackles and for stomping hard on the heads of the Liberation Theologists.

Although the last days of the Pope began when he was rushed to hospital in February, in reality the Papal Twilight began several years ago. When the Pope was well, he was capable of making strong decisions and he didn't care who he upset. A case in point concerns the diocese of Christchurch.

When Bishop Hanrahan died in 1987, my parish priest Father John Cunneen was widely favoured as his successor as he was very popular among the local priests. The Pope however had concerns about the liberalism of the diocese (he was right about the liberalism whether his actions were justified is another question). He rejected the appointment of Cunneen and instead appointed one Monsignor Basil Meeking as Bishop instead. What the link to Meeking's bio tactfully doesn't tell you is that through much of his clerical career, he was working in the Vatican. In particular, he had been working in the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, the successor to the Inquisition. The Pope didn't so much as ruffle the local feathers, rather he plucked and incinerated them. That was how he ran the Church at the peak of his powers.

The sequel to this anecdote is that a few years later Father Cunneen was first appointed as co-bishop to assist Bishop Meeking and then appointed his successor when Meeking had to retire early (which was unusual in and of itself).

In recent years, the Pope was no longer capable of acting so decisively or even firmly. Matters were kept waiting for a resolution that hardly ever came. Two years ago, matters had so that Cardinal Ratzinger was commenting obliquely that the Pope should get a move on (and within twenty-four hours, he was wishing he hadn't). Hence it's my belief that even if the next Pope was an arch-conservative, he will still seem like an active modernizing Pope compared to John Paul II's last years.

What of the next pope? He'll probably be called John Paul III considering the illustriousness of his predecessor and the probability that he will continue the same uncompromising conservative path. The chief reason for this is that of all the Cardinals that voted in the Conclave that elected John Paul II, only three will be involved in voting for his successor.

The papers generally list several important issues which the next pope will have to confront. To be perfectly honest, most of the issues they raise aren't really all that great. What follows are some of the more credible issues cited in today's Sunday Star-Times:

Birth Control: While many people might have fond hopes that the next Pope will relax prohibitions against Birth Control measures, I have my doubts that this will ever happen. For starters, a modus vivendi has been reached about the issue. Conservative catholics will obey the pope while liberal catholics will continue to defy the pope and, if pious enough, inform their confessor. There is little incentive for the pope to change policy here.

Some people raise the related issue of using condoms to prevent AIDS in Africa. For starters, the major problem here is not the Church but many African Governments and Leaders (e.g. Thabo Mbeki) having heads in the sand. Since the main vector of HIV there is prostitution and casual sex, the people spreading it are hardly likely to be faithful adherents of the papal line on contraception.

Abortion, [fetal] stem cell research and cloning: Why is there even a need for the Pope to compromise? The Vatican is not in the business of funding of medical research.

Married priests, women priests and gay priests: The decline in the number of priests is perhaps the biggest issue confronting the next pontiff. Part of the problem is that the major sources of priesthood are under pressure - the historically poor catholic communities such as the Irish (both Republic and American), the Quebecois and so forth are becoming more sophisticated. Hence the number of males contemplating a life without sex has decreased while large segments of the priesthood contemplate having a wife and kids. For what it's worth, a former priest appears in a TV advertisment for viagra here.

The easiest solution would be to relax the rule against priestly marriage. This isn't a doctrinal rule but was introduced to combat clerical corruption back in medieval times. Since there are now more sophisticated methods of calmping down on corrupt clerics (accountants, audits, etc), there is no necessity for having every catholic priest celibate. Even a modest relaxation would not only make priesthood more attractive but also entice back many ex-priests.

I doubt that the next pope would allow female priests and I would be surprised if he allowed female deacons for which there is historical evidence for in the early church. As for gay priests, what's to change? The Catholic Church has had gay priests for several centuries now without any problems.

Lastly on a lighter note, I must admit to being amused by the origin of the rituals surrounding the death of the Pope. Breaking the Ring of the Fisherman, smashing the Papal Seal, sealing the Pope's apartment and the heads of all Vatican departments save a few to resign their offices. All these have their origin in anti-corruption measures to prevent enterprising officials from forging documents in the emotional tumult of the Pope's death. The Vatican must have been a fun place to work in when these measures were first introduced!

Friday, April 01, 2005

Stunned Shock

On a day of big news, such as Terri Schavio's death, the Pope's cardiocirculatory collapse, the most staggering for me was the revelation that Graham Capill, whom I blogged about before has pleaded guilty to sex offences against a girl aged 8. I've never liked Graham's politics but this goes far beyond what I consider to be just deserts.