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Paper Modelers is back up again but has lost 2-3 weeks of contributions…

Carmen and I visited the big smoke of Palmerston North on Monday. I had an assessment test as part of a job application at 9AM which made for an early start – and a longish drive as there was quite thick fog along the route, made more interesting in some parts by the various resealing projects along both highways: nothing quite like a grey-out when suddenly you loose your points of reference to the side of the road due to the fog, the road markings have yet to be repainted…and you can’t only hope you are still heading to where you should be going and not the ditch or oncoming traffic…The assessment test was a breeze_ I had hyped myself up about it…can I make a credible effort on 80 questions in 40 minutes? As it turned out, 25 minutes was all it needed, giving 15 for checking and changing my minds on a couple…don’t want to get too cocky yet til I get the debrief though.

Bit the bullet and invested in a proper Freeview decoder to replace the crappy one I got off Trademe before Christmas – it craps out on a regular basis, especially during must-watch programmes like Coro…so after resetting it every couple of minutes during Bones on Sunday night we decided to spend the money for peace of mind – just wish we had UHF coverage here for so we could have the HD option as well…think twice before buying a DS200 satellite TV decoder – that there are no contact details anywhere for the manufacturer should have been a warning for me…

Had a brief catch-up with the lads at Hawkeye UAS and then an interesting chat at the Centre for Defence Studies at Massey University – Carmen is still rubbing it in that I got lost finding the right office on campus whereas she found it first time when she when to look for me after I missed our RV in the car park…didn’t help my case for GPS though…

In November 2009, I along with many others, was less than impressed when it was announced that the NZ Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) had a NZ$12 billion + deficit and planned to increase levies to cover the loss. I am a big believer that if things like this annoy you, then in order to have a right to bitch about it you need to be prepared to say your piece and state your case more broadly than just whining into your latte with your mates. I raised my concerns with Dr Nick Smith, the Minister for ACC, via the Parliamentary email system and was most impressed to find a response in the inbox when we got home on Monday night…and a lot more than ‘thank you for raising your concerns and we will take them in to consideration‘: a two page letter no less, with some additional information. I can only imagine who the Minister’s inwards files must have been like over that period so more power to him for making the effort to acknowledge correspondence on this difficult and contentious issue. Good on you, Nick Smith, and more power to you!!

Thinking

President Obama is visiting China. Among the issues under discussion, he also plans to press China to agree to sanctions or other measures to punish Iran if it does not capitulate to an agreement to export its uranium for processing abroad. I really wonder sometimes if anyone in the US is actually reading their COIN doctrine (FM 3-24, JP 3-24, the State Department Guide to COIN, A Tentative Guide to Countering Irregular Threats etc etc) or not? We still seem to be so quick to reach for the big stick instead of perhaps considering other options. Many, incorrectly, called it COIN. The Marines call it Countering Irregular Threats (CIT), the Brits call it Countering Irregular Activity which is a more accurate term albeit with the unfortunate acronym of CIA and, regardless of where the hyphen might be, who would want to be picked up with a CIA manual in their back pocket?

Regardless of what we call it, what we are really doing is Countering Destabilising Activities which we could call CDA, or reverse engineer and simply call it Stability Operations: those operations which promote stability. Because when you really get down to it, this is what we are really interested in: the maintenance of stability. Sometimes when stability operations are not enough, we have to get out the big stick and apply force with the intention of doing harm to promote good. That force may be military; it may equally be diplomatic, economic, or social…but before we get to this point, as in the case of Iran, maybe we should read our doctrine, cut to the core issues at the root of a problem and seek to address them. Perhaps, instead of being treated as the rabid dog of the Islamic world (let’s face it , we’re all pretty tired of being tarred as varying flavours of ‘The Great Satan‘), perhaps Iran would respond more to incentives, to be treated as an equal on the Central Asian stage, perhaps even to being a party to discussion regarding what is certainly an associated issue: the non-sanctioned ownership by Israel of a substantial nuclear capability? Let’s start thinking BEFORE we wave that big stick…

That's Lulu in the front and Kirk at the rear.

And on the topic of thinking, I’ve been considering today on much dogs think. Our second biggest dog, Lulu, is not well: for the last couple of months she has been favouring her rear right leg and the vets aren’t sure what the problem is. X-rays showed nothing unusual and there doesn’t seem to be any obvious injury. She’s on a course of weekly injections and I took her in this morning. She was very brave and only flinched a little at the needle – she doesn’t like them at all and is certainly big enough to make her dislike known.

Afterwards, the vet gave her a chew snack for being so brave and we both commented on her behaviour when she got it. Instead of just chomping it down, she just held it in her mouth as if to save it for later – much like, as we noted, a small child might do. She held it in her mouth the whole way home (about 40km), stubby little tail going a million miles an hour, until she got inside and on her mat; only then did she start to work on it but very slowly as if really savouring it and trying to make it last as long as possible. She growled Kirk any time he so much as looked in her direction and looked so forlorn when he finally managed to score a piece of her treat. She made it last twelve hours – and there is a still a section left for tomorrow.

I know that all the ‘experts’ say we shouldn’t attempt to transpose human actions on to what are meant to be just ‘dumb’ animals (can you get dumb experts too?)  but both the vet and I wondering just how true that it really is…man’s best friend might be brighter than we think. And also on the canine theme, here’s a cute but very sad story I found tonight while researching what might be wrong with Lulu.

The twins say “that’s amaaazing“. If they’d been interested in the News at 6, they would have chorused that line at the story on the bikers protest against the Accident Compensation Corporation’s over-hiked levies in Wellington today (see Tapdancing post. Amazing the confirmed increases in the levies have today become only proposals that “…the Government has yet to decide on…” Nothing like 5000 bikers descending upon their place of work to get the ACC minister and Prime Minster doing a Fred and Ginger act (aptly this link goes to a number called Too Hot To Handle!)…perhaps Nick and John should have done some thinking as well:

  • Is this blatant extortion going to fly with the voters?
  • Are there other options for reducing ACC expenditure other than victimising victims some more?
  • Are we getting value for money from the grossly overpaid executives running ACC?

A sobering thought

I’ve deliberately held off on any comment on the shootings in Fort Hood last week. Every man and his dog has been all over the event from every possible angle. Of all the commentary to date, one of the best is John Birmingham’s Blunty column in the Brisbane Times, largely quoting a commentary from US writer and historian, Stephen Murphy. Please read the comments under the article as well.

  • This was one individual who snapped, not an organised planned attack.
  • We should focus on why he snapped and NOT his culture or religion.
  • America and its friends and allies must resist the temptation to discriminate against other Muslims or people of Arabic descent because of this incident. One of our greatest strengths in the war on terror are those rights and freedoms that we fight so hard to protect but which also provide the opportunities for individuals to act as MAJ Hassan did.
  • It is not about having greater or lesser access to firearms.
  • It could have happened anywhere – not just in the US or the US military.

I think that perhaps were should be less amazed that this tragedy occurred and more mazed that it has not occurred more often: regardless of issues regarding the Islamic jihad, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of soldiers from the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have fought in COMBAT operations in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. Only ONE has taken issues to this extent: if nothing else, surely that is a good indication that the checks and balances ARE already in place AND that they are working well…As far back as 2005, the USMC had already identified the destabilising behavioural effects of minor traumatic brain injuries (MTBI) and introduced a robust screening programme to identify and treat at-risk individuals. The US Army has introduced similar programmes. Although GEN Casey has pledged more resources for mental health programmes, I do believe that the US DOD does need to credit itself for the steps that it has implemented already.

MTBI is a hot topic for me as I have had to deal with ACC and CRM (ACC managers contracted to NZ Police) to ensure that family members suffering from MTBI and TBI get a fair shake of the stick. So often victim of TBI do not get a fair shake because the effects of these injuries can be difficult to diagnose and may present themselves in a broad range of symptoms and effects. If nothing else, the one thing I did learn from a number of years battling with both organisations (those who think ACC is bad, wait til you try the privatised version like CRM!! Be careful what you wish for when you clamour for ACC privatisation!) is that screening and identification early definitely contributes to a faster recovery, mitigation and treatment of the injuries, reduction of long-term issues, and reintegration into society. At least the US DOD has learned this lesson and has no doubt saved many lives already  – it’s unfortunate that we fixate on the one who slipped through the system…

Ratbags

Well the ratbags award for this week must go to those two spannerhead MPs who’ve been caught abusing their Parliamentary privileges.  While these two clowns go swanning around the planet with their significant others, their cronies back in NZ are plotting to wind back benefits because they were incapable of appointing competent senior staff into ACC…

Personally, I don’t have a problem with Hone Harawira taking a day off during an official visit IF he had already completed the business planned for that day – I do have a mega-problem with the tone and content of the email he send to his mate, Buddy, to justify his jaunt to Paris. Then again, ‘good mate’ Buddy probably isn’t clear of the firing line either – the email he was sent was a personal one and I think he has some nerve trying cling to the moral high ground after releasing his mate’s inopportune email to the media…should Hone Harawira be fired as an MP? Nah, only if you want to make rank dumbness an offence in which case you would probably have to get rid of the lot of them and start over…

Rodney Hide, on the other hand, should seriously consider handing in his ministerial platinum card and returning to Dancing with the Stars (except it just got axed) – clearly he is a better tapdancer than he is an minister…for someone who has made his name as a perk-buster to be perk-busted himself and then to whine about not being a martyr when everyone else is doing it, clearly invalidates any credibility he might once have had. But as has already come out, so long as he can at least keep the (easily-led) people of Epsom happy, he is pretty safe…

Not a ratbag…

Well not this time anyway, porn king, Steve Crow was fronted on Close Up over his apparent bullying of some defenceless veterans at the New Plymouth RSA – interesting what comes out when the ‘bully’ has a chance to rebut the allegations – he’s actually the guy putting the money INTO the RSA and dragging it out of debt – but with that comes change, and a couple of grumpy old buggers don’t want to. Mark Sainsbury would have had a bit more credibility himself tonight if he had admitted he might have got it wrong and focused a little more on the FACTs. Mark, maybe YOU should be on this week’s ratbag list for not getting your FACTS right…

Many of these RSA’s and similar clubs are run like little fiefdoms instead of the businesses that they really are and need to be in order to sustain themselves…yes, I mourned as well when the Invercargill Garrison Club had to increase its prices from a dollar a jug but some things have to be done in order to survive. I’m a strong supporter of RSAs and the role they play although I’m not sure whether we are better or worse off in that they are not the powerful political beast that Aussie’s RSL is…

The Week In Review

It’s been quite a week or so hence the lack of daily posts…I spent a couple of great days in Wellington last week and caught up with some people I hadn’t seen for a awhile and gained some valuable insights into how things in this system do or do not work; got introduced to an interesting business plan that I think has some real potential; and got to spend an unproductive but very satisfying half an hour at Modelcrafts and Hobbies – one of the things that I do really miss not being in Wellington. Mr Regan was unable to tempt me with the inbound Airfix 1/24 Mosquito but if he had had the Trumpeter Swordfish on the shelf I would probably been in trouble when I got home. I did invest in yet another jar of German Grey for Dora and some Vallejo Russian Green for the B-4…

Arrived home to find we had the twins for the weekend – always lots of fun and enjoyment but it means that nothing else is going to happen while they are here…took them to the Taumarunui Guy Fawkes display on Saturday night which was all lots of fun until the fireworks started and then we had to beat a hasty retreat because all the noise was just a little too much…dropped them back at home just as their Dad was coming back from a quick excursion down the river with a couple of trout. I took a pic to send to the US CALL guys so they have something to look forward to if they get down to Australia and NZ next year…the twin’s dad made it his mission in life to show fishermen from the Northern Hemisphere (where he believes there are no ‘real’ trout), what a real trout is, so I think they’ll have a guaranteed guide when they come down under…

Trout 002And last but definitely not least, the vege garden has passed its first milestone and various heads and shoots are starting to come out of the ground. We were a bit worried as it has been pretty dry for the last week or so and when you rely on tank water, you sometimes tends to get a bit stingy with the watering at this time of years – 20,000 litres sounds like heaps but…

Planning for summer projects is already under way and the vege garden is already down for a lift so that when we put in the front deck, the height above the ground from any point along the edges will be less than a metre. If we get that done this summer, coupled with more tidying up and new gardens it will have been a good summer…