Tuesday, 29 November 2011

just tell the truth - it's not that hard

i've been getting annoyed at nz businesses lately, and their pretty shoddy marketing practices. this kind of thing is what i'm talking about:

In a 14-page judgment handed down by the Advertising Standards Authority, Progressive Enterprises, which runs Countdown supermarkets, was found to have misled or deceived its customers about in-store promotions in two stores.

A Countdown store in Hornby, Christchurch, ran an advertising display featuring two supermarket trolleys, one filled with items from the store, the other from a nearby Pak'n Save, in an effort to show its prices were lower. A similar promotion was run at a Countdown in Rotorua...

The authority ruled that despite the fact Countdown had highlighted the items on special, it had chosen nine out of 33 special items from its store, compared with just three from Pak'n Save. The highlighted items included a bag of dog biscuits reduced by $7.10.

"The method of selecting items, the brand of the items and products on sale all comprised elements which had the likelihood to mislead or deceive the customer," the authority said.

Every year since 2008 there have been complaints upheld against either Progressive Enterprises or Foodstuffs under the authority's code for dealing with complaints about comparative advertising.

i've been dealing with another case of misleading advertising, which has resulted in me putting in a complaint to the commerce commission for the first time in my life. i'm not going to name the store or the product just now, but basically the store advertised an item on special for just under 50% of the recommended retail price. the RRP was stated as $199 in the ad, and the price on special was $99. thinking i was getting a real bargain, i bought it. the ad had stated that they were selling some items at below cost price, so i don't think i was being naive in believing the mark-down.

when i got home and looked at the packaging, the sticker price on the package showed that the normal price for this item $129, not $199. thinking that they may have given me the wrong model, i checked through the specifications, and they exactly matched the specifications on the ad. i went online, and sure enough, the product was listed on the store's website at $129 - and that was clearly the normal selling price.

so they hadn't marked it down from $199 at all. the ad was just a blatant and shameless lie. i know i shouldn't be shocked at this kind of thing, but i am. i thought we had laws and standards in this country, and that retailers would make some attempt to comply with them. the fact that they were so careless about the actual price just seems to show a real contempt for the consumer. not that any attempt to have been more clever at their cheating would make them any better. i guess maybe i'm just as appalled at the stupidity as i am at the cheating.

another example is a box of muesli bars i bought this week at the supermarket. they were on sale for $2.49, which is pretty cheap for a pack of 6 muesli bars. so i bought a few. when i opened the packet next morning, it turns out there aren't 6 bars in the box, only 5. every single box of muesli bars i've bought before now, regardless of the brand, has had 6 bars. there was no overt advertising anywhere to highlight the fact that the cheaper price was because there is less product.

i know it's a small thing, but just the number of problems like this is really highlighting for me the total lack of ethics in the business community. again, i know, this is not a major new finding on my part. i know the history of business is full of similar examples. i bring these things up to show how much business needs to be regulated.

and yes, there are bigger and better examples. the whole leaky buildings things. the financial crisis both here and overseas. all show that unless someone is keeping a close eye on them, businesses are likely to cheat us without even thinking twice about it. not every business and not all the time. but enough times to make it clear that deregulation is a bad thing.

and yet consistently, almost every business or organisation that is representative of the business community complainly as loudly and as often as they can about bureaucracy, red-tape, over-regulation. ugh. i'm particularly sick of it right now, given they can't keep to some pretty minimum standards of honesty.

Monday, 28 November 2011

an upsurge of nastiness?

i was pretty busy with election-related stuff on friday & saturday, and trying to recover from it all on sunday. pity that the effort didn't translate into much of a result - at least not as far as the make-up of parliament goes. the MMP vote is looking positive at this stage, but only the advance votes have been counted so far. hopefully the full count will give a much more positive result.

i've put some posts up at the hand mirror in the last week - one on the asian vote, another on racist comments at a national party public meeting and one tonight on more tales from sign-waving.

just to carry on from this evening's post, i don't know if it's just me, but i'm feeling a real upsurge in nastiness of late. it's manifested in a variety of ways, but i think it's influenced by political and public discourse. in particular, the negativity around beneficiaries and single mothers has definitely gotten worse, and that's in direct relation to the welfare policies of the right. the commentary surrounding these policies still paints all beneficiaries as lazy and unwilling to do anything to change their situation.

the negativity is also informed by the likes of paul henry and other media commentators who revel in their apparent freedom from political correctness. which boils down to nothing more that their ability to be nasty about other people without consequence - which they guard as jealously as they can.

all of that stuff affects the way people behave towards each other. once it becomes ok to be judgemental and derogatory to one group of people (say beneficiaries), the shackles come off and it becomes acceptable to target any group for any set of circumstances. and the thing that worries me most about the election result we're left with is that the level of nastiness is going to rise even further in the next three years, in order to push through even more policies that punish the poor for being poor.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

tales of sign waver

i've spent a bit of time waving signs this week. for some very strange reason, this is an activity i enjoy. i love smiling and waving at people as they drive by (oh no, please tell me i'm not morphing into our current PM). the thing is that so many people will smile back, quite a few of them will wave & we've been getting quite a few toots.

i've been dividing my sign-waving between the labour party and the campaign for MMP. both have generally been going really well & i'll be out again tomorrow for the final push. however, i've had a couple of disturbing experiences that i wanted to share.

yesterday morning i was out with the labour team at the intersection of mill st and ulster st, best known for the big pak'n'save behind us. i was standing a couple of metres from another white male labour party member busy waving his sign, and there were people on every corner of the intersection. i'd made sure that i didn't block anyone's access, as plenty of people walk to work along the footpath i was on.

across the road comes a cyclist on the footpath (isn't that illegal). he rides past a white male waving signs across the road, rides past the white guy standing nearest to me, but decides to ride straight at me. he didn't hit me, only my sign & shocked the other people that were walking past at the time. it didn't upset me to any degree, but just showed that i'm more at risk than others when carrying out a pretty standard activity. it's a knowledge i take with me whatever i do. this is why i'm so keen that police record data about the ethnicity of victims of crime - which they consistently refuse to do. just like people of colour tend to feature highly as perpetrators of crime, i suspect they also feature pretty highly as victims of crime. but of course we don't know, and the police aren't intersted in helping us find out. i've raised this issue at various forums, but it has been raised by people who are much more important and influential than me.

it's not that other people don't get negative reactions when out sign-waving. of course they do. there are people that will give us a thumbs-down or the finger, yell out "go national" or i had a woman yell "get lost, i hate MMP". the thing is that i also get the additional layer of people who'll tell me to go back home or some such. a dude in a red car on monday evening gave me that with the swear words included, and when i gave him my usual response of blowing him a kiss and yelling "love you too!", he started screaming at me. luckily he'd gone too far past me so i couldn't hear the actual words and because of the traffic, he couldn't stop and get out so i was safe enough.

this sort of thing isn't going to stop me, of course. and i'm not sure why my response to these kinds of idiots is different when sign-waving compared to the rage-induced response i give when in the supermarket or somewhere else. i guess it's because i know the frustration people are feeling when they see us advertising something they passionately object to, they want to put us down and they feel even more frustrated when we refuse to rise to the bait and give them a cheerful response. so i'm not being particularly noble when i give a positive response, because i know that response in that context actually needles them more than a negative one.

the more disturbing incident happened yesterday afternoon when waving MMP signs at the corner of kilarney road & greenwood st. some dude was on his evening jog as he ran towards me. he stopped to have a discussion with me, which started with him telling me what i was doing was dangerous and i needed to stop.

i told him he must be joking - i've been doing this for years, and have yet to see a single accident. he then told me he works with NZTA, and that sign-waving was distracting to the traffic and i could have caused an accident. he had apparently made the greens stop at a nearby intersection the day before. i told him he was a bit over the top, people have been waving signs across the country for years and it's not dangerous. "but this is state highway 1" he says. and i'm like "so, i've been sign-waving on the cobham drive bridge many times, that's state highway 1 too. never had a single incident."

at one point, he asks me if i would like to go with him to visit "mrs johnson" when her husband had died in a car crash, and i'm like "dude, if anyone has died in a car crash because of people waving signs, then i will happily come with you". it carried on for a bit, and finally i said "well that's your opinion, i disagree". he says "no, my opinion is NZTA opinion because i work there". he had repeatedly asked who was the contact person, and i'd pointed her out. he said he'd be sending an email the next day. as he was about to cross the road, i told him that i wanted to see the evidence in his email regarding the number of crashes caused by sign-waving; data about causes of car accidents is collected so i'm sure he could provide it".

he walked across the road, said something to the guy waving signs there, then across again to the person "in charge". he then continues on his run, and our woman crosses the road as if to stop. i told her to ignore him and we carried on.

but seriously, this guy works at the NZTA and thinks he can shut down political expression just on the basis of his personal opinion? without having to consult anyone and without having to provide any evidence? he thinks because he works at NZTA, he carries the authority of the whole organisation, without having to consult with anyone else at NZTA even?

i don't know the exact law here. but i'm thinking about the banning of cellphones while driving. before they could ban that, they provided research and gave the numbers. they had to go through the whole legal process - select committee hearings, opportunities for public submissions, a public debate. not just some random dude working for the NZTA suddenly deciding he was going to stop people.

people are sign-waving right now across the whole country, from every political party. candidates from local body elections wave signs, even (shock, horror) on highway 1. protesting teachers were waving signs a couple of years ago, some of them on (you guessed it) state highway 1 - to be specific, outside the hillcrest burger king at the corner of cambridge & morrinsville roads. striking workers sign-wave. does this dude think he is single-handedly going to stop all of these people across the country and for all time from getting one of the only effective forms of free publicity available to them?

i've no doubt that there may have been the odd car accident due to sign-waving. but i doubt there have been any serious accidents. if there has been the odd prang, i don't think that's enough cause to ban an activity like this. i'm quite certain that i won't be stopping until said person turns up with the police who have a warrant for my arrest and who can show me the bit of the law that specifically bans the waving of signs. until then, he can just get lost. i won't be moving. and i'll be smiling and waving all the while.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

insomnia

i've had a bit of a blogging drought this week as it's taken a while to recover from the weekend. i did a trip to wellington and palmerston north, to present a workshop to the muslim community on various issues around legal responsibilities of nz muslims. it's a project funded with support from the american embassy, and the workshop was really well received. we will be taking it to christchurch and dunedin soon, as well as delivering again in auckland.

i really don't know how people manage with jobs that require extensive travel. i find it pretty exhausting. left home around 8am saturday morning, and got back close to 11pm on sunday night, and found it took me a couple of days to recover. my insomnia probably doesn't help, because i woke up around 3am sunday morning and found i couldn't get to sleep. so i ended up watching "the joneses".

now i'm not a fan of demi moore and even less so of david duchovny, but i ended up liking this film - except for the crappy ending. it's one of those films that works best if you don't know what it's about, so i'm not going to say too much about it, other than you should watch it if you get a chance. i think it has some interesting messages about consumerism.

i've been thinking to write something about #teapottapes, but it's been written about so extensively that there's really not much left to say. i find it interesting that no-one has brought up the whole john tamihere/ian wishart thing, or that incident where a journalist deliberately left a microphone recording at the 2008 annual congress of the labour, at a session where the media had been asked to leave. the former wouldn't be a breach of the law i guess, because one party was aware of the taping (being mr wishart) but i wonder about the second. it was a room full of people who had no idea they were being taped, and who trusted the fact that this was a session that wouldn't be reported on.

no questions about privacy or ethics raised in those instances. in any case, it's interesting to watch developments on this. i think the person who has really played it pretty well is bryce johns. he created the initial interest, refused to publish thereby creating even more interest and the inevitable questioning of key. by the time sunday comes around and even if he doesn't publish the transcript, there is certainly going to be huge interest in the HoS and a pretty likely spike in sales. he has certainly served his shareholders well; let's hope the readers get something out of it as well.

Friday, 11 November 2011

please watch this. it's about australian comedy duo "fear of a brown planet". it's about half an hour long, but i thought it was well worth it. i really wish they'd visit nz & do some shows.

hat tipped to blue milk.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

sorry isn't quite enough

following on from my previous post, michael redman continues to play the victim and complains of being scapegoated in yet another article by the waikato times - an article which exclusively quotes mr redman without any response from councillors or staff. i'm wondering if this is a tactic he's using to try to pressure councillors so that they won't go ahead with the decision to sue him.

meanwhile, the councillors are refusing to resign but not refusing to say sorry. an apology, in itself, isn't enough even though it's nice to see someone willing to acknowledge their wrongdoing and apologise for it. i don't know that i'd support a mass resignation from the councillors though - given that 9 out of 12 of them were involved in the main decisions, it would gut the council and force mr hide to appoint a commissioner. regardless of the woes the council is facing at the moment, especially with high levels of debt, i don't think things would be made better by a hide-appointed commissioner.

more than that, former ACT party president and current hamilton east candidate, mr gary mallett, is waiting in the wings and has been public with his criticism. which makes me think that he might be ready to put his name forward for mayor. this would be the same mr mallett who told the then very-employed chair of the board of the top performing public high school in hamilton that people like him should go out and get a job (purely on the basis that the chair was maori and mr mallett loves to play the race card - loves it to the extent that he would pay to put in half-page ads in the local community paper every week, that were hugely anti-maori). this is the same mr mallett who was resoundingly defeated in the WEL energy trust elections a few years back. just the thought of him having any kind of political position in this city is vomit-inducing.

so i'm not sure what kind of penalty is sufficient for the offending councillors, including those who are no longer sitting. perhaps some kind of charges of negligence - because the audit office report is clear that there was a lack of due diligence, that there were councillors who weren't asking the questions they should have asked and who were accepting "commercial sensitivity" as an excuse to not do their job thoroughly.

and while we're on the subject of taking responsibility for one's actions, the "parties" charged in relation to the pike river tragedy are also not so keen to own up to their doings. not only are they keen on name suppression, but i suspect that they aren't going to put their hands up and say "guilty" to save the taxpayers the significant costs of a trial - if they are guilty, of course. but hearing the news from the commission of inquiry, there seems to have been a significant amount of negligence as a result of cost-cutting. and really, those responsible should just step forward, admit to what they've done and take the consequences of their actions. whatever those consequences are, they won't be as bad as losing one's life underground in a mining accident.

i'm not holding my breath though. given that the original company is in receivership, it's quite clear that certain "parties" were quickly strategising so that there would be a minimum amount available to be paid. rather like union carbide, and a tried and true strategy it is.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

personal responsiblity? not seeing much here

i'm having a difficult week for vrious reasons i'd rather not discuss. so i'm engaging in a cocoon strategy, which seems to work best for me. i'll deal with the world when i'm ready & not before.

in the meantime, i don't know if people have been following the fiasco that is the hamilton city council and the v8s. in case you haven't heard, the new mayor julie hardaker asked for the audit office to investigate the whole process around the v8s, and the audit office has now reported. long-time readers of this blog will remember that ms hardaker, a complete newcomer to politics, trounced sitting mayor bob simcock in an unexpected victory (or at least it was unexpected for mr simcock & his team). one of the key reasons for the loss, in my opinion, was the dissatisfaction of hamiltonians around the v8s and the costs having to be borne by the ratepayers.

well, the audit office report can be found here (big pdf thingy) and it isn't pretty - skip to page 9 for the executive summary. they pretty much found a lack of transparency, lack of a proper business case, lack of due diligence regarding the financial stability of the promoter (there was apparently evidence of financial difficulties faced by the promoter before the contract was signed, but the council didn't check), lack of adequate project management disciplines being applied, inapproriate delegation of approval of the contract to a council subcommittee, lack of a perception of objectivity on the part of mr redman (former mayor and champion of the v8s), lack of adequate financial management and financial reporting of the project. worst of all, estimated costs of the event to the council of $7 million ended up being more like $37 million.

is it any wonder that ratepayers are spewing?

the question, as always, is who is going to take responsibility. the main actor in this whole thing is former mayor michael redman. it was he who championed the whole notion of bringing the race to hamilton, who promoted it tirelessly through local media (most probably using the media contacts he had gained during his years owning an advertising agency), who was definitely the most informed in terms of the contracts and the organisations involved. the first person who needs to be held responsible is this man.

mr redman has always been extremely clever at media strategy. he immediately stepped down from his role at ATEED, then came out swinging. he blames the audit office for shoddy work and biased reporting; he blames the councillors who approved the contracts and expenditure without full information. he thankfully refuses to blame council staff - those staff were under his direction when moved from being mayor to replacing tony maryatt as CEO of the city, and are most likely to have any evidence (if it exists) of improper actions.

what we fail to see from mr redman is any admission of responsibility, no doubt at the request of his lawyers. neither have we heard anything out of mr simcock, the deputy mayor who became mayor when mr redman moved to the CEO position. other than when mr simcock also took pot shots at the audit office for producing a "shameful" report.

both mr redman and mr simcock are busy playing victim, effectively diverting all blame to city councillors who were, in the end, guided by these two. the waikato times played along nicely, publishing photographs of the 9 currently sitting councillors who were also representatives at the time the key decisions were made. somehow the times forgot to include pictures of those who are no longer councillors but presumable equally culpable, including glenda saunders who lost her place.

the letters to the editor, quite predictably given the way this issue has been reported, have been slamming the city councillors and calling for resignations all round. but only a very few letters have even mentioned mr redman or mr simcock, let alone criticised them. the diversion has been a success, though the current councillors are refusing to resign.

the minister for local government has now placed the council on notice, which means that he can put in commissioners at any time.

but finally, today, we get some coverage of the fact that there may be a legal case against mr redman. it appears that he may have authorised expenditure beyond his authority, to the tune of about $4 million. of course the case would have to be taken and funded by the hamilton city council, in which case i'd say it's unlikely to proceed.

there should be criminal proceedings going ahead on this matter. from what i've read so far, one would think that various aspects of local government laws that have been breached. whether or not mr redman and mr simcock are guilty of anything is for the courts to decide, but these appear to me to be matters that need to be tested in court.

i'd also like to see a lot more investigation of the switch that was done - the move of mr redman to CEO and mr simcock to mayor. as far as appearances go, in light of the avove, this appears even more dodgy than it did at the time. was the switch in order to continue the lack of transparency and the lack of adequate reporting? who knows, but the questions need to be asked and investigated in depth.

it's no secret that i have very little (if any) respect for mr redman. that was mostly because of my own experiences of dealing with him, of which the less said the better. but also because i was never a supporter of the v8s and was always unhappy at the way the race was pushed through. you could say i was and am biased, but if so, the audit office report only confirms that bias.

this needs to go further. we need some real accountability and personal responsibility happening here - things that both mr redman and mr simcock have been passionate proponents of. i'm sure that there are others who also need to take their share of the blame, and that includes some staff members. but the buck stops with the leaders, so time for them to show some quality leadership now.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

broadcasting policy

ok, i know i did something to my blog with those pictures yesterday & it's a little bit broken. you can still get to the old posts, just takes a couple of more clicks. i'll fix it over the weekend, when i get a little time.

in lieu of a proper post today, i'm going to reproduce a press release from the association of community access broadcasters on labour's broadcasting policy:

The Association of Community Access Broadcasters Aotearoa New Zealand [ACAB] and its membership of twelve Access Radio stations, is heartened by the vision to revitalise public broadcasting indicated in Labour Party Broadcasting Spokesperson Clare Curran’s latest media statement.

Curran is promising the opportunity for Kiwis to actively participate in the shaping of a new, non-commercial and modern public broadcasting model – a process ACAB will actively contribute to.

Curran’s statement that “A strong, independent, free public broadcasting media service not driven by commercial interests is essential to informed democracy” has struck a particularly strong chord with ACAB.

Chairperson Mike Williams was adamant, “With twelve non-commercial community access stations representing diverse niche audiences from Auckland to Invercargill, many representing communities of interest for whom access to media opportunities is sorely limited, we’re right at the coalface of fighting for informed democracy – not just here in NZ, but for migrants who maintain active interest in the rise and fall of regimes from their home countries. Access Radio IS delivering precisely what she’s advocating building up”.

Labour’s pre-election promises to encourage stronger representative voices in the media, focus on fostering new media growth, and to look at supporting better programming outcomes for our diverse cultures all mesh perfectly with ACAB’s stated goals.

“Labour has presented a promising Broadcasting Policy which indicates a true commitment to protecting and building the sort of truly local, truly representative media Kiwis are missing. ACAB supports this vision providing it preserves and strengthens the unique place the community access sector has, and invites other parties to seriously consider how they can similarly impress our sector and the communities we represent with policy that is both representative and visionary in a time of fast-paced change” says Williams.

Ends.

The Association of Community Access Broadcasters Aotearoa New Zealand represents the twelve Community Access radio stations that deliver volunteer-developed content by, for and about their local communities, according to the mandate contained in Section 36c of the Broadcasting Act 1989, which requires the government [through NZ on Air] to “ensure that a range of broadcasts is available to provide for the interests of---
(i) Women; and
(ii) Youth; and
(iii) Children; and
(iv) Persons with disabilities; and
(v) Minorities in the community including ethnic minorities; and.
(ca) To encourage a range of broadcasts that reflects the diverse religious and ethical beliefs of New Zealanders;”

community radio hamilton, of which i'm a trustee, is a member of ACAB and it is especially important to us that we have a government that is committed to supporting community broadcasting, both financially and otherwise. community radio is one of the streams of media where people are actually able to exercise freedom of speech without fear of backlash from commercial advertisers. it's important we keep it that way. that's why this policy is especially important for us.

light relief

having spent today fighting a troll who thinks criticism of the american government equates to hating all americans (given that i constantly criticise policies of this national-led government, he must think i hate all nz'ers too), or asking for people to be equally aware and compassionate of tragedies (natural or caused by humans) around the world means that i hate all americans, i'm going to link to a couple of funnies today.

not generally a fan of hamish & andy, mostly due to personal preferences - their humour seeming a tad too childish to me. but this really did make me laugh:



also had a really good laugh with the three-way handshakes site. here are a couple:






i thought this image (apparently from here) was pretty clever: