Sweeping Taxonomy Changes Planned For Budget 2010

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


amoeba, budget, taxonomy
Click for big version

What may have begun as a typographic error has been embraced by the Government, with the budget tipped to see a sweeping "rebalancing" of the taxonomy system.

The biological classification system, which arranges all living organisms by ranks such as kingdom, genus and species, has remained largely unchanged since the introduction of the domain level under the Labour Government. Business and financial interests have argued the system is due a shake-up.

A recent report revealed New Zealand has some of the lowest taxonomy rates in the OECD.

Along with a host of minor changes, archaea are likely to be formally classified as part of the bacteria kingdom, abandoning the 'domain' level of classification. Finance Minister Bill English has previously indicated he sees this upper taxonomic bracket as inducing unnecessary compliance costs.

"Nine long years of organism-filing mismanagement has left us with a legacy of thousands of unclassified samples," said English. "Labour claims there are tens of millions species on the planet but when you go and look you find almost all of them are entirely undiscovered. They knew about this growing problem and did nothing. Even during the recession the world has been discovering dozens of species a week. Without some hard changes, that is unsustainable."

"Ongoing uncertainty in the area of unicellular microorganisims is damaging economic growth. You'll have to wait until Budget day, but I can say taxonomists not having to faff about with the difference between Archaebacteria and Eubacteria would boost productivity as much as any other change we'll make."

Ease of processing would also reduce widespread taxonomy avoidance, English said.

Challenged on whether the classification of living organisms was a matter for the Minister of Finance, English said that, if Police Minister Judith Collins could be responsible for the justice-related three strikes bill, he didn't want to be left out. Also reflecting the three-strikes process, the species-reclassifications would be made with no input from the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology.

Prime Minister John Key explained that the scientific discipline of biological taxonomy "is the Government's business, actually."

Key would not confirm plans to classify members of the mammal subclass prototheria as aves struthioniformes apterygidae, but pointed out that making the marsupials and montremes technically kiwis would be consistent with the Government's plans to catch Australian by 2020.

"Besides," said a visibly enthusiastic Key, "Kangaroos had two legs. And platypuses have beaks, so it's not really that much of a stretch. I've made my expectations very clear and I don't foresee any problems."

Key conceded that experts in the field might consider such changes ludicrous and unsupportable. "But we did campaign on stuff like three strikes, national standards and boot camps. So that is the kind of thing voters expect from us."

He added that the changes would balance our species-categorisation responsibilities with our economic opportunities.

When asked for comment, the Prime Minister's Science Advisor Professor Sir Peter Gluckman explained that he had something in his eye.

Act leader Rodney Hide has supported the changes. "Scientists might want this system to stay the same," he said. "But who were all these systems devised by? Scientists! And we all know about scientists. You know who liked scientists? Adolf Hilter."

Labour leader Phil Goff has asserted these changes do not conform to first principles, and plans an 'axiomate the taxonomy' bus tour to highlight this discrepancy. He has "no idea" what he would do about them if elected.

Cameron Brewer of the Newmarket Business Association welcomed the changes.

Despite enquires launched earlier this year into leaks of Government plans to groups such as Forest and Bird, there will be no investigation of widespread unofficial knowledge regarding these Budget taxonomy plans among media. An unnamed source close to the Government declined to comment, for once.

The most notable public reaction to the plan is Budget-day drinking games with a drink every time the minister says "phylum".

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Lyndon Hood - more the horatian type myself, Wellington

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I don't think I've said this here before, so here it is:
ENERGY and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee mortified residents of Thames today as he rampaged naked through the Coromandel Peninsula township, seemingly completely oblivious to the screams of horror emanating from locals as he jogged sweatily up the main street, waving, winking and attempting to shake hands with residents, several of whom were later treated for shock.

That's what we've been missing. Someone really vicious.

RABID FIRE. Does what it says on the packet.

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A Tale Of Two Peters

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Peter's On First

Or, All's Well That Ends Welfare

Satire by Lyndon Hood (and a hat-tip to Rory MacKinnon) [Update: ... and of course, to Paula Bennett's press sec.]

spock, professor peter saunders, welfare working group
Image: Morgue

Scoop follows in the footsteps of Campbell Live by securing an 'exclusive interview' with the Minister of Social Development Paula Bennett on the naming of the shadowy Professor Peter Saunders as an expert for the Welfare Working Group.

In this case, an interview so exclusive the even the Minister doesn't know about it.

Which means it may be in good company.


Scoop: So you announced one of your experts for the Welfare Working Group was the Professor Peter Saunders of the Centre for Independent Studies.

Bennett: Yes.

Scoop: Yet in the House the other day you talked about the Professor Peter Saunders who wrote 'Welfare to Work'.

Scoop: Who is a different guy.

Bennett: To who?

Scoop: To the other Peter Saunders.

Bennett: Well obviously in the second case I was referring to the Professor Peter Saunders who wrote 'Welfare to Work'.

Scoop: … who is a different guy to the one you appointed, right?

Bennett: Look, there's the potential for confusion here so I'll be completely clear. Professor Peter Saunders is a whole other person to the other Professor Peter Saunders. But – and I can't emphasise this enough – he is the same as himself. Put it this way: There are two Peter Saunderses, but there's actually only one of each of them. Also, I should make this clear from the start: neither of them is the Kentucky Fried Chicken Guy.

Scoop: So which one do you think you hired?

Bennett: The right one.

Scoop: The right one?

Bennett: The one we meant to appoint. Our choices included the Professor Peter Saunders who commentates on welfare or welfare expert Peter Saunders.

Scoop: But do you actually know who you appointed?

Bennett: Of course.

Scoop: Who?

Bennett: Peter Saunders.

Scoop: But there's another Peter Saunders!

Bennett: Oh we didn't appoint him. Can you imagine the confusion at meetings? What if you were getting a coffee for Peter Saunders and you got a flat white but actually it's the other one and he like lattes? How embarrassing would that be? What a ridiculous suggestion.

Scoop: So, the Peter Saunders from the CIS writes novels about the Muslim apocalypse and has said the working class are genetically stupid, do you have anything to say about that?

Bennett: I don't want to prejudice the working group's deliberations.

Scoop: So you won't be reassessing the appointment?

Bennett: Which one?

Scoop: Peter Saunders.

Bennett: There are two Peter Saunderses. Not a lot of people know that.

Scoop: The one you appointed.

Bennett: What about him?

Scoop: Will you be reassessing his appointment,

Bennett: No, because we appointed the right one.

Scoop: Who?

Bennett: Peter Saunders.

Scoop: Which one?

Bennett: Professor Peter Saunders.

Scoop: They're both Professors.

Bennett: That's right. You could get them confused if you're not careful.

Scoop: Do you have an aspirin?

Bennett: Here you go. I keep some ready. Funny, but people are always asking.

Scoop: Right. So.

Bennett: Yep.

Scoop: Let's call one Professor Peter Saunders 'Author of Welfare to Work' Professor Peter Saunders.

Bennett: Right.

Scoop: And the other one 'nutjob' Professor Peter Saunders.

Bennett: Okay.

Scoop: Which one did you mean to appoint?

Bennett: The right one.

Scoop: 'Nutjob'.

Bennett: Just because you're confused, that's no reason to call me names.

Scoop: No, 'nutjob' Peter Saunders.

Bennett: I'M not Peter Saunders. I don't think you've been following this at all.

Scoop: If you've mislead the house about which Peter Saunders you'd appointed, don't you think you should apologise?

Bennett: I said the Peter Saunders is one of the working group's advisors. And I said that Peter Saunders wrote 'Welfare to Work'. If people get confused about that it's not my fault, I didn't give them both the same name. Where are the parents, that's what I'd like to know.

Scoop: Ms Bennet …

Bennett: No, Peter Saunders. I'm Ms Bennett.

Scoop: Ms Bennet …

Bennett: There, was that so hard?

Scoop: Thank you for you time.


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