Life, in the curious state of limbo…

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This was the view as I came down the driveway on Thursday night…pretty much the same thing I see every night when I get home…maybe a few more puriri on the concrete and the grass…tis the season…

3 nov 17 a little dog waits

…and, like most nights, a little dog waits…

I had expected that the previous night would be the last time that this view would be truly mine, that by Thursday evening I would be someone else’s tenant after ANZ sold my home at auction on Thursday morning…

But just after 10AM…

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…less than an hour before the auction was due to commence…

Our assumption is that ANZ New Zealand found 1 News’ attentions rather unwanted and inconvenient and pulled the pin to neuter the story planned to air on Thursday evening. We can only assume that because ANZ has still not contacted me to tell me why the auction was cancelled – or even to tell me that it has been cancelled – or indicate where the journey may take us next; or even propose a way ahead…

Well, it’s not entirely true to say that I haven’t heard from ANZ: they did send me a new bank card yesterday…

…but its silence of this more dramatic turn of events is a major concern. Not so much that it has failed (again) to keep me informed but as a sign that ANZ New Zealand simply does not get it. It doesn’t get the most basic functions of customer service or even the most fundamental survival skill of not digging its hole any deeper…

Perhaps, I am so scary that the members of its board and or executive team are still drawing straws to see who gets to contact me. If so, team you need to harden up and start living some of the leadership stuff you are always talking about. Leadership is not about mega-profits or meeting targets; leadership is about taking it on the chin when one of your crew (or a few of them in this case) screws up…leadership is about doing the right thing…

So, ANZ New Zealand, here’s the expectation, just for future reference…I would expect that if you are going to put someone through the forced sale of their home, and then cancel that sale at the last minute – for any reason – you will front for that decision and tell me personally. You have my email address, my home address (that’s the place you were selling from under me, you get that right?), and my phone number…

I would certainly expect that some THREE working days later, you would have summoned up the moral fortitude to explain yourselves and why you have decided to commit me again to this limbo of the unknown…

By now I had expected to be well engaged in plan after this, knowing what, if anything, I walk away with after the auction, developing options, hopefully sussing out a small piece of land on which to start again, or, worst case, making plans to depart the Mountain community…

What’s your plan now, ANZ New Zealand? Will you wait till all the furore over the FMA/RBNZ report dies away and the media is distracted elsewhere to have another go at an auction…? Will you play divide and conquer with me and my ex-partner to still try to regain the money that YOU so recklessly loaned without proper security or process…?

Before you stick your hand back in the fire, please…remember that the matters you found so uncomfortable when when the media asked you about them are not so much those of the initial lending but your conduct over the last five years where you applied deception and misdirect to obstruct any opportunity for a fair resolution to the issues at hand…

In parting, I can leave you no more damning an indictment than that written by Patrick McInerney on Thursday morning…

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Not only are Pat’s words great in their own right, in distilling a complex issue down to a few short paragraphs, there are also a humbling reminder of the communities of which I am a part, even those where actual contact lies deep in the past…

I have been quite blown away by the response to my plight…I have been stopped in the street by people with inquiries or best wishes, called and messaged by comrades who I have not seen in over a decade…this all has been a reminder that we are never truly alone and nor should we feel that way…

Signing off today from Limbo…

#ANZdotherightthing

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Into the unknown….

The decision maker

Values…customer focus…accountability…

Antonia is ANZ’s Managing Director for Retail and Business Banking and a member of ANZ’s senior executive team. She responded to me when I raised my concerns with ANZ’s board a week or so ago…

If you watch this or nay of the other videos of her online, she speaks well and is clearly a smart person who will probably be leading many of the changes looming for New Zealand’s banking industry…

It seems that she is the one who makes the decision…

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Since Antonia’s response, things have gotten a bit wobbly for ANZ and the other big banks in New Zealand. They are being slammed for posting grossly large annual profits, none larger than ANZ’s; and  yesterday’s release of the joint FMA/RBNZ report into banking conduct in New Zealand has surprised few and angered many.

Hi Antonia

Thanks for such a swift response…

My apologies for taking so long to respond…this ‘went noisy’ once the first auction sign went up on my front fence (I was always clear that this would be the catalyst for me to bring this out into the open). In the last week or so, I have been humbled and embarrassed by the amount or moral and practical support from my family and local and professional communities…it has really stretched me just keeping up with emails, messages and phone calls of moral and practical support.

There’s no uncertainty about what may happen to my home. It is being forcibly auctioned by ANZ. In Taumarunui. On Thursday. At 11AM.

But it’s not too late…

Yesterday we saw the FMA and RBNZ release their findings from their joint inquiry into banking conduct in New Zealand. I doubt that there were many surprises there for either of us. It is quite clear that, while perhaps not on the same scale of the findings of the Australian Banking Commission, bank’s management of conduct risk in New Zealand could have been much better and ANZ is up there among those that ‘don’t get it’. I’ve tried to discuss conduct risk with some of your senior staff as part of trying to resolve our current issues, and they just didn’t get the concept…at all…

Even putting aside (for a moment) the original lending that started all this, ANZ’s conduct in my case since this all started in November 2013 (the 11th, so five years ago today week) has not been flash. It certainly has not been what we should expect from a  major banking institution, although the sad truth is that it has probably been exactly what we have come to expect from the major banks.

ANZ officers have said that the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act prevented them disclosing information on the company to me. As I am sure you – and they – knew, this Act, by definition, only covers personal lending. It does not even mention company lending, let alone discuss any rules for or against disclosure by banks to guarantors of company lending. Surely we should be able to credit bank officers in management positions with adequate knowledge of the legislation that does or does not apply to different lending environments? Once might be a honest mistake but when the same ‘mistake’ happens at different levels in different locations in the same bank…well… “Mr Bond, they have a saying: Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.”

Even today, your staff insist that they had no authority to disclose any information on the company to me. I had no access to the company’s documentation for two and a half years, until mid-2106.  When I gain that access I found that the loan documents contained a clause specifically authorising ANZ to release information on the company’s financial position to guarantors. Does ANZ really want us to believe that its staff aren’t aware of the contents of its own loan documents? Really…? Once again, Mr Bond…

Was ANZ also unaware of the Privacy Commissioner’s determination in 2012 that a guarantor’s interests and rights in jointly owned property used as security bring that information within the scope of ‘personal information’. This means that this information should be releasable under the Privacy Act. ANZ staff – your staff – should have known this.

The Code of Banking Conduct is clear that member banks, like ANZ, have an obligation to disclose information about lending to any party providing security for that lending. The guarantee and loan documents are equally clear that, for ANZ, guarantees are types of security. Instead of accepting and honouring this, ANZ invented a definition of the term ‘security provider’ that it attributed to the Code to support its position that the Code’s disclosure obligations for guarantees and security are different. The truth is that the term ‘security provider’ does not appear in the 2002, 2007 or 2012 versions of the Code, not does this term appear anywhere in the text of these documents. What is that about? Did ANZ not think that someone would eventually call it on this quite blatant fabrication? Or would ANZ have us believe that this was just a(nother) mistake, a miscommunication? In a formal letter..? A pop culture beer billboard springs to mind…

At the end of September, I met with ANZ in Wellington at its invitation. The stated purpose of this meeting was for ANZ to discuss the reasons for the mortgagee sale and to address any questions I may have. I was excited to finally have an opportunity to discuss these issues with ANZ. Frustratingly, ANZ was unwilling to discuss any of the reasons for the mortgagee sales beyond repeatedly assuring me that ANZ was comfortable that it had done it could and was comfortable with its position. If that is the case then I would respectfully suggest that there is something seriously wrong with ANZ’s moral compass. I travelled four hours each way, anticipating a frank and open discussion and instead only found staff who were unprepared and unable to discuss the reasons for the forced sale of my home.

And this is what is so frustrating…that ANZ remains unable or unwillingly to justify its position. If ANZ has a serious contrary argument – beyond “we don’t agree” – then I want to hear it. I don’t want ANZ or anyone else to agree with me unless I’m right – and that’s also the question that I have asked friends, professional colleagues, lawyers etc and no one can show me that reverse smoking gun that undermines the position that I have put to ANZ for five years, come next Friday.

If ANZ had been as willing to resolve this in 2013 as it became in 2016; if it had reduced my liability under the guarantee in 2013 as it did in 2016, both our positions would be considerably more favourable. Instead, ANZ embarked on this bizarre course of obstruction (to put it politely) in the apparent belief that it wouldn’t or couldn’t get caught out.  It could have done the right thing then and now I would probably be defending it, as a bank that did the right thing,  over the contents of the FMA/RBNZ report.

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The predicament that ANZ finds itself in now in one solely of its own making. I sympathise…to a point. I think it’s entirely likely that this situation was caused by staff from a bank (NBNZ) that no longer exists now, for whom management oversight was not as good as two banking systems merged. Certainly, I’ve found my personal banking services since NBNZ was finally subsumed totally by ANZ have been a lot better – not perfect, still enough there for me to support the FMA /RBNZ findings, but better – than there were previously. But the fact remains that staff, who ultimately belonged to ANZ, behaved recklessly in their lending processes, and avoided the obligations placed on banks in the Code….

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The obligation to act fairly and reasonably, in a consistent and ethical way.

The obligation to only provide credit or increase credit limits when the information available leads the bank to believe the debtor will be able to meet the terms of the credit facility.

The obligation to inform any party providing security, of the debtor’s obligations when a credit facility is approved.

I know that banks like ANZ are people…people who go home every night to loved ones and normal lives, people who are professional and proud to work for ANZ. From what I have seen of you in the last week, that probably you. It’s unfortunate that this situation was created over a decade ago by people who possibly don’t even work for a bank now; and that even those responsible for the actions above are only the smallest minority of ANZ’s overall staff. Harry Truman said “The buck stops here” and that’s a philosophy that resounds across the communities that I am honoured to be a member of, the community that has rallied around me at a time of difficulty. Leadership and responsibility flow from the top; regardless of where the fault may have occurred, leaders take it on the chin.

And that’s pretty well where we are now. In the last week we have seen the chair of the ANZ board and the CEO of ANZ Group both speak out for a better banking culture. We have seen ANZ post an annual profit disproportionate to its market share, a profit of almost $5.5 million a day (for context, I average around $100/day, maybe a little more if I pick up some guiding work in summer). We have seen the FMA and RBNZ release a joint report that finds significant weaknesses in the governance and management of conduct risks in the major banks in New Zealand and conclude that the overall standard of banks’ approaches to identifying, managing and dealing with conduct risk needs to improve markedly.

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Home

These events are not just catalysts for improving the conduct of our banks into the future; they are also a call to repair, as best they can, the damage that has been done in the past and the decisions to start that process can only come from the top, from you and your colleagues on ANZ’s executive team and board. And it’s not hard – it may feel hard but it’s not really: the anticipation is always worse than taking the plunge – you can do the right thing in not much time than it would take you to offer any comment on me or the horse I rode in on…in April 2016, ANZ said that it accepted my position. My position had been clearly stated and ANZ did not feel a need to qualify its acceptance in any way. All you need to do is just honour that statement…it might even look something like this:

Hey, team, I’ve reviewed  this again and were not gaining anything by pushing this. We said we accepted Simon’s position two years ago and we didn’t conduct ourselves that well leading up to that point. All this springs from the time that ANZ was absorbing the National Bank and it’s likely that there were some cultural conflicts in the at process. Let’s just get it sorted and not inflict any more of this on Simon, his family and ourselves. We’ve got enough on our plate now with the FMA/NBNZ report and this is now just a distraction…

Up to you…it is the right thing to do…

The email version didn’t of course have any pix…but who wants to look at a wall of text where avoidable…?

Just to keep the record complete, here’s the original email I sent to Antonia via LinkedIn:

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View from the Top

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We all scoff at LinkedIn and question its true usefulness for anything, well, useful…yeah, we do…it’s like social media but just for the boring stuff…apart from keeping in touch with one or two people who don’t do the social media thing, LinkedIn is rather ‘yup’…

It has its uses though and, last week, I was able to use my one free month introductory special offer of LinkedIn Pro, specifically the InMail credits that come with the demo, to engage ANZ New Zealand board of directors….you can’t really reach much further than the very top…

From an academic perspective, I was interested to see if I even got a response, and if I did, how long it would take, noting the loooong time it takes ANZ staff to respond, especially if the subject matter is not to their liking. Recently the CEO of ANZ Australia – a Kiwi – said that  he “…answers every email he gets and responds to all written correspondence from customers usually on the same day…” So there’s a standard of sorts…

In all fairness, the board of ANZ New Zealand responded in less than two days. Disappointed in their response? Actually no and not surprised either…this is an organisation that has lost its way so badly that it can no longer see the moral forest for the trees. If the board had suddenly turned against ANZ’s position for the last five years on this issue, you would have to seriously question its competence as a major banking institution.

Today, Stuff posted a story “ANZ makes almost $2b from New Zealand banking” That, apparently, represents 40% of the total banking profit in New Zealand in that twelve month period. 40%! From a single bank! Are the others doing something wrong…or perhaps are they doing things right…? $1.99 billion dollars. Almost $5.5 million dollars EVERY day – by afternoon smoko on any given day, ANZ could clear RAL’s loss for 2018 – and not even blink. For that money, it could probably operate the Defence Force…

The culture of Gordon Gecko springs to mind…
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I think banks have, like a lot of companies, we did lose our way.

“We became unbalanced in terms of the pursuit of financial metrics and success which again are very seductive.

“It is like anything — people in any industry or any team want to win and if the score is about profit or return it becomes really easy to focus on that at all costs.

Shayne Elliot, CEO ANZ, 2018

My situation aside, it’s clearly time for change…let’s kick it off with our own Banking Royal Commission and go from there….

Please sign and share our petition of change in the New Zealand banking industry

 

Identity | The Daily Post

Find inspiration in one of the popular topics on Discover. For this week’s Discover Challenge, focus on identity. You may use it simply as a one-word prompt, or tell us what the word means to you. Or you might publish a sketch that represents who you are or how you feel today, a poem about identity in our digital age, or a personal essay about who you once were.

Source: Identity | The Daily Post

I began drafting this post around the time of one of the recent active shooter incidents in the US. It says so much that such incidents are now so frequent that I cannot remember which it was, possibly Orlando…

The aftermath of each of these incidents is marked by bitter ‘weapon’ versus ‘ideology’ outbursts and exchanges. I do not thing that either side really gets the issues: each tragedy is little more than an excuse for each camp to dust off (not dust-off which is a far more noble act) respective meme collections.

It is America’s right to have whatever laws, rights and responsibilities that it wants to inflict on itself. I have no more problem with the Second Amendment than I do with the Fifth although I would offer that the rights of the Second should be read and applied in the context of their context i.e. as the people’s contribution to a well-regulated militia…the key phrase being well-regulated.

The ‘right’ to espouse an ideology probably falls under the First Amendment…the one that protects free speech…but again that comes with responsibilities. We have probably all heard of, if not actually read or heard the actual words, Oliver Wendell Holmes “crying fire in a theatre” quote. For the record, this is what he actually said to give context to those words:

The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. It does not even protect a man from an injunction against uttering words that may have all the effect of force. The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree.

Those legally bent or who just like to read some exceptionable well-written English can read Justice Holmes’ full opinion in the Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute Web site.

Contrary to the good Justice’s opinion – the key work in his theatre analogy is ‘falsely’ – in the information domain, the random and rabid shotgunning of the information militia (plural) is as destructive regardless of whether it has elements of truth or fact or not.

Every time those ideological memes fly, their sole function, intended or not, is to fan the flames of ideological conflict. As much as I thought it needed work (thought #1, thought #2), what we are seeing is the phenomenon that David Kilcullen theorised in The Accidental Guerrilla: the more something is ‘fixed’, the worse it gets. This is the irony of irregular warfare.

With regard to the active shooter incidents in America, there is another factor in play that may not be present or which is certainly less present in incidents. A large element of American psyche identifies with the ‘main in the white hat’, ‘one riot, one ranger’, the rugged individual standing against all odds, etc. This ethic is quite commendable and certainly not unique to the US. What sets it about in the US though is the accompanying mindset that a gun is what you use to resolve an issue.

We’re not on any sort of moral high ground here or in Australia where the national equivalent is a punch in the head, or the desire to deliver such but that ‘message’ has to be delivered up close and personal, it cannot be delivered from across the street or even across the room; and it is far easier to neutralise. In the UK, or parts thereof, the local equivalent maybe a cloth cap or the good old ‘Liverpool kiss‘…again, attacks with limited projection or lethality from afar…

It is this overwhelming cultural drive that guns solve problems that is America’s challenge. It’s not how many guns you have or what sort they may be. It’s not what you believe or who you disagree with. It’s not how accessible guns or unsocial ideologies may be. Those may all be separate concerns  but, weapon or ideology, it’s the drive to resolve what angsts you with a gun that is the problem…

Jump to 1:02 The Lone Rider

I love those rugged individuals roles immortalised by Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Jan Michael Vincent, etc etc but I don’t build my life around them. When I have a beef with the local council or my employer or the grit truck driver or the mailman, I don’t feel I have to to take a gun to resolve the issue or make myself feel better.

It is one thing when the line between reality and fiction becomes blurred. It is quite another when those worlds begin to overlap…where the ‘final option’ becomes the only option…

Having said that, we can hum ‘Imagine‘ all we like…COIN 101 reminds us that cultural shift happens over generations but being honest about the problem is the first step towards a solution…

Pure | The Daily Post

DSCF9555For this week’s challenge, share a photo of something pure — it can be a person, an object, or a moment.

Source: Pure | The Daily Post

Pure…strawberries…no additives…just naturally pure…sweet and tasty…

Thinking about pure got me on the thought path of purify and a chance to review when I am on my green journey. ‘They’ say that you need do something for six weeks before it becomes habit…I’m now six months in to the journey, taking its start from when I purged – in a most unhealthy manner – all the junk foods from the house. It’s now been six months since I had crisps/chips where I used to knock off a big bag at a time; and maybe three months since I last had a chocolate bar: those Whitaker’s L&P slabs are still just too good to walk away from entirely: who would ever have thought that anyone could successfully combine a chocolate bar and a fizzy drink to mindlessly well..?

The journey is pretty stable now: I’ve settled on the core elements and binned some the trial components. I never much liked the rice milk and so that’s gone and I don’t miss the coconut water even though there’s still a bottle in the pantry I need to polish off: for the most part, good old-fashioned filtered water does the trick – pure as well as it come straight off the roof. I’ve stocked up on bulk chia seed, black rice and sliced almonds from Happy and Healthy, and bulk coconut milk powder from Naturally Abundant. Fresh fruit and veges depend on what’s in season – with just a few out of season treats – bananas being the core staple for smoothies and sugar for baking.

I am becoming a creature of culinary habit – not necessarily a bad thing – starting with porridge and stewed apple mixed with a little coconut milk: the cocnut milk adds a great and unexpected sweet twist to the texture of the porridge and semi-tart apple. I follow this with a slab of homemade herby wholemeal toast with apple butter – a new addition to the pantry that is so tasty and simple, if time-consuming, to make; depending of my degree of personal organisation in the morning, toast may be consumed in the car on the way to work. My morning cuppa is evolving as well – it used to be simple Earl Grey with a little cow but now I am looking for a black tea that will blend well with the coconut milk that has replaced cow’s milk almost entirely now. I still keep some 250ml bottles of milk in the freezer for just in case visitors who still prefer something a little more conventional.

I think that I have finally mastered the coconut bannofee smoothie: the key was the coconut milk powder. I now dice a single banana (reduced from the original two) into the blender with a heaped teaspoon of Jed’s #5 coffee and a table spoon of coconut milk powder and zoom it all together for 30 seconds. It’s quick, it’s easy, it tastes great with competing hints of banana, coconut and coffee.

Lunch now is a bannofee smoothie and either a vege smoothie with cabbage or spinach, carrot (for its the ‘Kune carrot season), LSA or flaxseed, and water; or Jen’s pineapple, banana and tumeric smoothie mixed with a 50/50 combo of coconut milk (from the powder) and homemade almond coconut milk. Pre-assembling and freezing a couple of dozen smoothie bags – just add LAS and water – was a good move and, as I polish off the last of the first two batches, I run up some more – I just have to remember to take one out to thaw the night before…

If personal organisation in the morning trends towards zero, and I don’t the smoothies done, not too worry: the Pihanga Cafe in the side of the Chateau does a great and very filling kids menu (burger and chips, pasta, pizza or chicken tenders on a potato mash)for $8.00, $6.00 with a Whakapapa Village community card! Occasionally, I might supplement this with one or two apple oatmeal or almond coconut cookies – both very chewy and filling – or a couple of slices of my jalapeno or kumara bread – now that I have them sussed – toasted…

Dinner is where the variables come out – I am still slowly working to consume all the meat stockpiled in the big freezer. Items like chicken pieces that can be fried go into the air fryer with kumara and potato chips – just got given a big bag of spuds left over from teh ‘Kune Carrot Carnival so need to work on consuming these…watch this space for variations of potato soup themes. Other things that be can be diced or otherwise mixed in, go into one of my repertoire of stews and curries, to be eaten with rice – still currently white but switching to brown once the last of the white is finally gone. That’ll just leave a few small roasts to find something creative and healthy to do with…

So back to my ‘purify’ thought…yes, I think that I am slowly purifying my diet, reducing if not entirely eliminating processed foods and working more and more with the raw (literally) materials…I still get the munchies some evenings but an orange generally deals to these. I know there’s ice cream in the fridge and that I can make a dessert in a cup in minutes but I just can’t excite myself about that sort of food. Don’t panic though..!! I haven’t totally gone off either ice cream or dessert but I’m certainly not hanging out for or consuming either in anything like the quantities that I used to…watch this space for my crack at raindrop cake dessert with ice cream and a passion-fruit (or maybe tamarillo, I haven’t quite decided yet) coulis…

Is it actually achieving anything..? Well…yes…most definitely…although it’s getting into winter here and temperatures are dropping, I’m not eating more so my weight is holding around 87kg; I am sleeping less but way better, and I feel good…thanks Bubble...

AS I SEE IT (22 April)

By Terry O’Neill.

Many sports involve physical contact and often only a faint margin exists between physical contact and violence.

Alleged rugby player violence in a game is under initial scrutiny by the referees/umpires who control the game. Once cited, a player is then brought before the sport’s local ruling body which is charged to come to a decision on the alleged violent incident.

Punishments can range from a warning to suspension for a number of playing days up to virtual banishment from the sport, whether the person is a player, administrator or, importantly, a spectator.

How spectators conduct themselves is particularly relevant at the onset of the winter sports season noting that violence is not exclusively a winter sport issue. The NZRFU has initiated a campaign on its policy to deal with violence that will be mirrored by other winter and summer sports.

Violence from the sidelines is usually vocal. Unfortunately incidences arise there amongst spectators and also involving players.

And where are these aggressive loud-mouths? Attend a Saturday morning winter sport and in due course they’ll cut through the air, often parents exhorting their protégées to greater heights, a loftiness the parent never achieved themselves if they had indeed played the game.

Most parents/grandparents are the great models to youngsters they should be, and are sincerely commended.

Positive support at games is the focus in “My Parents Are Ugly“, a NZRU booklet, and it reaches beyond “advice” to players. Surprisingly referees/umpires are abused by critics sometimes basing comments on aged rugby laws now obsolete.

The percentage of abusive spectators is low but their impact can be out of proportion to numbers. Fun for the players, and for their parents, is the essential element in sport. And it’s the referees, those people giving up their time, who ensure everyone else can enjoy the game.

And who at the game moans each referee rule against their darling’s team? Some spectators, and even team officials who should know better, scream “not straight, sir“, “offside, sir“, “knock on, sir“, “hands in the ruck, sir“, with a derogative title substituted sometimes, and could be forty to sixty metres away. And there are the “off-side shouters” who encourage a mob not always in a position to judge.

We welcome the pleasant banter between supporters of competing teams as part of the game. However some sports websites spell out what is, and is not, acceptable and, I hark you, they offer an electronic form to register complaints about bad behaviour.

Ever watched a game without a referee/umpire? I haven’t either. The question asked sometimes is why those public-minded individuals bother when they have to deal with yahoos and mean-minded grandstanders of ignorance.

A prerequisites for referees is not that they can walk on water. They make mistakes. Just like you, just like me.

ENDS

To sugar tax or not to sugar tax…

stuff pick your drink

To sugar tax or not to sugar tax…is that the question..?

In a recent post, Masterchef judge Ray McVinnie supported the call for a tax on sugary drinks…

I couldn’t agree more with Niki Bezzant who in her Herald column this morning called for a tax on sugary drinks. Her petition is a great idea and the beginning of a social change movement to curb the processed food industry’s use of ingredients and technology that is simply bad for our biology.
The test for the harm such food does to humans is the fact that any population that abandons a traditional diet for one made up of western processed foods becomes sick and in the words of American chef, Alice Waters, dies a long slow death. She also says that there is no such thing as cheap food, you either pay now or pay later!
The processed food industry is in a similar position to the tobacco industry thirty years or so ago. No one could quite believe that smoking was harmful and industry resistance was strong. Think about attitudes to tobacco today.
As for worrying about the effect on low income people, this type of processed food is unnecessary, there is still lots of good food that people can afford, no matter your income.
But one thing that is never mentioned is cooking. Teaching people to cook is like giving a hungry person the fishing rod not the fish. It gives people power over their diet, teaches people about food and expands their food choices.
There is no point forbidding everything if you don’t give people an alternative. Once people know how to create their own food, the toxic products of the processed food industry become irrelevant because you don’t need them.
It also reinforces the important socialising effect of home cooked food because it is generally served at the shared table, the place where you learn to behave.
I am not advocating trying to turn the clock back as that is impossible and ridiculous, as are naive ideas like using other things to make food sweet.
Face it, any food that is sweet is made with sugar in some form or a chemical sweetener (stevia is perhaps an exception, but sweetness is still an addictive flavour wherever it comes from).
Well done Ms Bezzant, more please.

I think that Ray somewhat looses the plot about halfway through his post. He starts and finishes by applauding the call for a ‘sugar tax’ but wanders in between to advocating for better education in preparing food.

He compares the processed food industry today with the tobacco industry of thirty years ago but misses the connection that increasing the tax on tobacco has not been the big nudge to drive smokers to drop their habit. If anything, the biggest motivation for smokers to give up has been the banning of smoking in bars, especially in winter when the attractions of a smoke are outweighed by the unpleasantness of the weather.

Increasing the tax on tobacco has not caused a massive reduction in the numbers of smokers in New Zealand and it is unlikely that a tax on sugary drinks will drive any great improvement in national health statistics. Considering statistics on the consumption of tobacco and alcohol, it is more than likely that consumption will remain much the same.

It would be nice to think that an increase in the tax on sugary drinks might be accompanied by a reduction in the tax on fruit and vegetables. While I would personally support this, as I consume far more fresh fruit and vegetables than I do sugary drinks, I don’t think that it would create the desired effect: healthy people would get healthy, unhealthy people would continue with their unhealthy habits….just look at the smoking lobby or those who drink to excess and/or by habit…

Sugary drinks and fresh fruit and veg are chalk and cheese and cannot be managed in a tit for tat manner: those who prefer one over the other will continue to do so regardless of cost. Those less affluent will always find money for those perceived needs over the staples of life and wellness. Thus, faux comparisons like cauliflowers v Happy Meals do not help the cause for an effective information and education programme. Try buying your kids a head of cauli as a treat and see how far you get…everything has its place…

Two key truisms about taxes are that they are usually unfair to someone and people will always find a way around. It would be as effective to create a tax that targets those with an adverse BMI figure…

The body mass index (BMI) or Quetelet index is a value derived from the mass (weight) and height of an individual. The BMI is defined as the body mass divided by the square of the body height, and is universally expressed in units of kg/m2, resulting from mass in kilograms and height in metres.

wiki bmi table

Source: Wikipedia

That way, would we not be targeting only those adversely affecting by an over-sugared diet? Of course we wouldn’t! Any tax-based attempt to change people’s habits is doomed to failure. Similarly we would require all couches to trigger a minor electrical shock every 30 minutes to ‘encourage’ their occupants to get up and do something. Do you think Dunedin would the only place in New Zealand where couch burning is a recognised sport..?

dunners couch burning

The key is not nanny state tax manipulation but, as Ray points out – kind of – information and education.Even with the best information and education programmes, though, we do need to accept that not everyone will get the message and climb aboard…we can only save those want to get aboard the lifeboat…

Don’t get me wrong…I am concerned about the average health of our people, to the extent that I have tagged this post under ‘countering irregular threats’: not only this is a greater threat to New Zealand than more commonly accepted irregular threats like terrorism or crime but the solutions (yes, plural!) also lie in similar approaches i.e. the changes necessary to create a positive effect will be drive by culture not by mandate or coercion…

AS I SEE IT (11 Dec)

udrs snicko

By Terry O’Neill.

West Indian quick ,Joel Garner, calls it a “gimmick”. Former umpire Dickie Bird believes it undermines the authority of the onfield umpire. Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal thinks that it exaggerates the ball deviation while the Indian Cricket Board suggests that it is not accurate.

They are referring to the UDRS or the Umpires Decision Review System which came under intense scrutiny after the antics of Nigel Llong in the Adelaide test between Australia and New Zealand a  fortnight ago when he allowed  Australian batsman Nathan Lyon to continue batting after being obviously caught behind.

Former Australian captain Ian Chappell believes that the captains referrals need modernising as well.

Instead of limiting the number of referrals and leaving them in the hands of the players, the use of referrals should be at the discretion of the umpires.

The ICC showed some teeth finally when ,after the game, it announced that Llong’s decision had been wrong. But too little too late for New Zealand.

The  UDRS was first tested in an India/Sri Lankla match in 2008 and was officially introduced on 24th November, 2009 at the Back Caps/Pakistan test at the University Oval in Dunedin.It was first used in an ODI in January 2011 on England’s tour of Australia. Initially its use was mandatory, but later optional if both teams agreed.

There are three components in the UDRS,Hawkeye, Eagle Eye and Virtual Eye.The Virtual Eye technology plots the trajectory of the bowled ball, that has been interrupted by  the batsman often by the pad and can determine whether the ball would have hit the wicket or not.

The Hot Spot is an infra- red imaging system that illustrates where the ball has been in contact with the bat or the pad. The Snickometer relies on directional microphones to detect small sounds made as the ball hits the bat or pad.It has a success rate of 90-95%.

A fielding team may use the system to dispute a “not out” decision. A batting team can dispute an “out” decision.On field umpires can ask the third umpire for certain close calls(run outs/stumpings), boundary calls and close catch calls.

Under the UDRS only incorrect decisions are reversed. The analysis of the third umpire is within established margins of error or if it is inconclusive the field umpires original decision stands.

When an lbw decision is evaluated and if the the replay demonstrates that the ball has made an impact more than 2.5 metres away from the wickets and travels less than 40 cm before hitting the batsman then any not out decision given by the field umpire stands.

The only time an lbw decision will be reversed in favour of the bowler is if the batsman is 2.5-3.5 metres  away from the wicket and the ball travels more than 40cm after pitching before hitting the batsman.Some part of the ball must be hitting the middle stump and the whole ball must be hitting the wickets below the bails. If not the call stands. Sounds easy?

The great rift

Open Letter to My U.S. Government – This Veteran is Mad as Hell – Listen Up! That’s an Order
This good Catholic girl is mad as hell (and I never use that word, so that should tell you just how mad I am!) Read more…

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Yes, the great rift…and I am not referring to a major geographic feature in Africa…as an external observer, it has been fascinating and concerning to watch the US government slowly shake itself to pieces with impasse between both irresponsible factions in the Senate.

Impasses over budgets, national debt and welfare policy are not unknown nor that unexpected…the real concern is the manner in which the government has resorted to the most petty means to maximize the hurt and inconvenience for the people. This is clearly a campaign if not led, certainly endorsed at the highest levels – such pettiness could not be sustained otherwise. To bar survivors of ‘The Greatest Generation’ on what for some may be their first and last visit to the memorial erected in their honour is not only inexcusable, it is the sort of petty arrogance that would see governments unceremoniously evicted in almost every other western nation. It has already been pointed out that, when this happened in Australia in the 70s, the government was promptly sacked by the Governor-General.

 

How do you get to close Mount Rushmore or shut off the sea or prevent people from living in holiday homes on federal land? Yeah, sure, I get that government agencies have to close when staff can not go to work but closing websites and preventing photography or access to memorials that do not require staffing? Puhlease! Give us a break…

The scary thing about all of this is it displays the almighty rift between government apparently from the people, by the people and from the people and the people themselves – representatives who appear more interested in playing petty political games than actually doing their level best to ensure that the best interests not those they present – the actual people, not the endless and mindless lobby and special interest groups – are looked after. Big fail, Congress, epic fail, Senate, super epic fail, Mr President.

It is good to see people getting angry about this but will it do any good unless the system itself is changed, unless political representatives are made responsible to the people they apparently are from, by and for, unless that rift is closed…? As one of the comments on Cynthia’s blog states ‘…time to take your country back...’ And that’s not a call to war, it’s a call for change, to return to your core values – and  that includes putting big business back in its box – in all fairness to the reigning president, he did give the banks a thrashing when he first came to power – and perhaps a period of introspection about your place in the world…

That is all.

Carry on.

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Fixed, determined, inviolable

I’ve always had a soft spot for Douglas MacArthur and think, rightly or wrongly, that he is one of history’s most maligned and least understood commanders. Here is a soldier who reached the top of the heap, Chief of Staff of the US Army, before WW2, who retired to his beloved Philippines, and who was recalled back to duty after Pearl Harbor. Together with Dwight Eisenhower and George Marshall, he was a key figure in implementing a style of occupation we can still (and should) be learning from today and halting the postwar advance of communism.

His final address to the cadets at West Point on 12 May 1962 is a classic that provides a focal point for the essence of what the military is:

… your mission remains fixed, determined, inviolable – it is to win our wars. Everything else in your professional careers is but a corollary to this vital dedication. All other public purposes, all other public projects, all other public needs, great or small, will find others for their accomplishment; but you are the ones who are trained to fight; yours is the profession of arms – the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory; that if you lose, the nation will be destroyed; that the very obsession of your public service must be Duty – Honour – Country…

This is not an Americanism – it is a universally applicable reminder that, indeed, there is no substitute for victory. It does not say how that victory should be achieved, or under what conditions, or in what environments. Simply, it’s about doing our jobs and not letting the bad guys win. To achieve this, we may have to change our ways and, this is where Douglas  MacArthur is commonly held to have failed. Personally, I think that’s debatable given his mandate and mission.

Regardless of nation, the same applies to us in the current environment – it’s a different environment with a different adversary and we have to adapt to the nature of that adversary. That’s the real bitch of being the good guys: we have to adapt to what the bad guys are doing – we can offer them all the MBTs and attack helicopters we like, they are just not going anywhere near our comfort zones. To succeed, to be victorious, we need to get into THEIR comfort zones…and to do that, WE need to change, adapt and evolve or, just like Gunny Highway used to growl, “…improvise, adapt, overcome…