The Standard scandal – an investigation

We have heard multiple explanations across multiple blogs as to why The Standard is in receipt of a massive subsidy from the Labour Party.

As you will find out the truth is miles from anything that either Tane or any of his other fellow spinsters have explained. Initially in response to some pointed questions from myself Tane had two different stories regarding the shadowy people behind the Standard and who was paying for their site. Firstly he claimed that blogging cost nothing but at the same time he was crowing about his amazing traffic. When he was called on that he then claimed that it only cost them $10 per month to run the Standard. Again he was called on this as there isn't a plan known to man that could cope with the simply amazing amounts of traffic that Tane was claiming. Either he was lying about the costs or he was lying about the traffic. As you will see he was lying about both as shortly his little anonymous world was about to get blown apart.

Here is a summary of the facts so far.

20/01/08 Paul M. at 5:54pm posts on Kiwiblog that The Standard was using Labour Party ip addresses.

7.11pm 20/01/08 Tane posts at Kiwiblog (http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2008/01/47_million_a_year_on_govt_spin_doctors.html) "no our blog is not being paid for by Labour or the taxpayer, nor do any of us derive an income from it – quite the opposite.

We set The Standard up as an independent left-wing blog in August last year. As you probably remember by about November our traffic had got so large our server was crashing every day, sometimes for hours at a time. We put out a call and at the end of last year someone from Labour emailed us and offered us some temporary server space until we worked something out.

It's not the ideal solution I admit, but as a temporary measure it sure beats having your site down for hours at a time during peak hours. We'll probably have some new hosting sorted some time within the next month. Don't fret though Paul, it hasn't stopped us telling our readers to vote Green."

7:33 pm January 20th, 2008 Tane Says on Kiwiblog?

Whale, I'm certain no Parliamentary funds are being used, it'll be the party itself that's helping us out with server space. You're welcome to do an OIA request if you like. You do know how to do an OIA don't you Whale?

By the way Whale, if you were half the sleuth you thought you were you'd look up the Labour Party IP address and find it was hosted in Tokyo (what the hell happened to buy NZ made?). The Standard server is hosted in New Zealand.

7:59 pm January 20th, 2008 Tane Says at Kiwiblog

Bryce, I can assure you the EPMU does not pay for The Standard to be published.


8:04 pmJanuary 20th, 2008 at 8:04 pm Paul M. Says:

Here's the other sites hosted on the same server:

1) bgo.wallmannsberger.com
2) civilunions.org.nz
3) cunliffe.org.nz
4) herodebate.org.nz
5) rainbowlabour.org.nz
6) thestandard.org.nz
7) timbarnett.org.nz
8) tonymilne.org.nz
9) wallmannsberger.com
10) younglabour.org.nz

Very interesting, really. Michael Wallmannsberger's name comes out a lot.

It also seems to be the same server (although slightly different IP) as the NZ Labour's secure "donate" site (https://secure.labour.org.nz/donate/). One has to wonder if this server would therefore be taxpayer funded.

So what we have here is just the beginning of Tane's little attempt at obfuscation. Basically his defence is that it is all temporary and someone in Labour offered it to us. Of course no email has yet been furnished to establish the veracity of his claim and on the surface this seems highly unlikely due to the sheer numbers of Labour affiliated sites sharing the same IP addresses.

It is all about to get even more confusing when Tane bales out of the trouble he is fast building for himself and enlists Lynn Prentice to explain it all away.

January 20th, 2008 at 9:22 pm lprent Says on Kiwiblog
Contary to some of the idiotic statements in the comments on this blog, TheStandard.org.nz is a voluntary blog site, not run by the labour party.

Because it is voluntary, it takes donations to help run the site. In this case a donated block of static IP's pointing to a server cluster. In this case I think that the IP's were donated to the NZLP, who donated them to help our blog. The volume of traffic was growing fast enough that we needed to move to a more distributed cluster than the origional test site.

The NZLP doesn't pay for thestandard, in exactly the same way that I trust (or at least hope) that the national party or act doesn't pay for this blog.

Nice all of a sudden we have moved from "nothing" to "$10 per month" to a "donated block of static ip's" conveniently provided for the Standard by the labour party and provided to the Labour Party by another anonymous donor. Just so that we can see that this isn't just nothing Static IP blocks such as this one of 16 addresses cost about $20 per IP per month. Thus the labour Party if gifting The Standard $320 per month of retail cost.

Now just so we are on the same page here, let's go over again what we know from the boys at the Standard. Their little blog was experiencing some downtime and so they put a call out for some help. That help arrived in the form of "a block of Static IP's". This of course is so not believable. If you site is crashing because of traffic a block of static IP's all by themselves won't help you at all, you need some servers, they ain't cheap (but we will get to that shortly), some bandwidth and a place to put all this gear. Then of course you need to have the appropriate software and we will get to that in due course as well.

Lynn Prentice comes back after having his little attempt at obfuscation roundly criticised, nit just be me but by other as well. He now attempts to explain the hardware.

lprent Says:
January 20th, 2008 at 10:42 pm

I take donations from anywhere (you're welcome to contribute). In this case old hardware running with donated services from a number of sources. Most of them from various peoples contacts around the IT industry.

What you are seeing is a block of static IP's that were given to the NZLP, and then given to us and used to access a server area – that is used for more than TheStandard. We only just got it running over Xmas, so there will be a lot more sites hosted on the same system, and it will be used for testing other services during development and trialling.

So we have Lynn Prentice explaining that it is now a server area and that it is used by more than The Standard. As we already know it is the same area that is used to process the Labour Party's secure transactions when people donate to them, and now they have just let a blog temporarily reside in the same block of ip addresses….sorry but that smells of rotten fish. We also see a different timeline coming out now. Remember at 7.11pm Tane had said that this all happened in November, now Lynn Prentice says it was over Xmas. What is it boys, November or Xmas, it can't be both? Also Lynn has changed Tane's story from an offer of a server temporarily to a block of Stactic IP's to now a block of Static IP's connected to a server area running a cluster with old hardware….hmmmm more than a few changes, but don't worry there are more to come.

?lprent Says:
January 20th, 2008 at 11:03 pm

PaulL – needed 2 static IP's for two seperate servers.
In the routing tables that allows us to send via two seperate routes to two seperate servers. There isn't a lot of point in having a single IP pointing to two seperate machines – that only covers you for having a server box failure. It doesn't cover you for a link going down.

The way the system is setup at present (after we finish configuration) the single point of failure is at the db. I'm planning on setting up database replication at a seperate server to cover for that as a tertiary fallback.

I like multiple redundancy – stops those early morning wakeup calls

Ok, so Lynn Prentice gives us a little more insight into the set up. We have two servers, with 2 static ip's, with two seperate routers. The costs are mounting here folks and soon you will see why. Lynn is setting up major overkill here for a blog site. Major overkill. We have dual servers, dual routers, dual Static IP's and also he is going to set up Database replication. This isn't your standard (excuse the pun) setup for a blog. All of those things with the exception of the IP addresess have a footprint and need to be housed somewhere. Remember Lynn helpfully called that a "server area", he was being more than just a little bit disingenuous over that description as we shall soon see.

Lynn makes matter worse by doing a little gloating while he is at it.

lprent Says:
January 20th, 2008 at 11:05 pm

If I get the replication running correctly, then I'll probably spread the whole system out a bit further…

Yes, so this wee little blog with zero credibility that has denied, lied and hidden the fact that Labour is supporting it is being built on a pretty robust infrastructure and all this remember is supposed to be temporary. Doesn't sound very temporary to me.

The problem gets worse for Labour and for the Standard, They re at the moment desperately using the "nothing to see here" defence but;

# cauld Says:
January 20th, 2008 at 11:16 pm

Hmmm… well. a bit of digging lets us know that the server identifies itself as
mail.labour.geek.nz on port 25

It is happy to relay mail for
younglabour.org.nz (they seem to have a wildcard address map)
thestandard.org.nz
rainbowlabour.org.nz
timbarnett.org.nz

and I dare say several others.

Cauld spikes their party by showing that the same IP addresses are happily relaying email for labour as well as the Standard. Very cosy indeed.

Cauld spikes their guns again;

# cauld Says:
January 20th, 2008 at 11:17 pm

> I like multiple redundancy – stops those early morning wakeup calls

FWIW… Multiple redundancy to that level is worth a few $k per month @ retail.

Suggest this would make a great test case.

Yes indeed it will and it only gets worse for this little band of liars.

Lynn by now is getting desperate as others out there are calling him on his spin. So he drops a great big clanger.

lprent Says:
January 21st, 2008 at 12:39 am

PaulL – i740 video card (its an old box) turns out to only like 16bpp – not 24bpp… Trivial really. I'm not going to play games on an antique Althron – but it is good for doing some cross-compiles

MySQL replication seems to have gotten pretty stable in version 5, and a blog site is a good size to do some medium term testing on something that is a bit more dynamic than the testing I've done on it. I want to gte a feel for the lagging on the updates.

The group of tech people that run the guts of TheStandard know what is going on. The chattering classes (like those here) really don't.

He has just admitted to using MYSQL replication for the Standard….this incidentally is way overkill. MYSQL is a great product. I myself have been using it for years. Mostly it is free or very cheap, but not when you cluster it or replicate it. Now you are talking bucks, and not little ones either. Unfortunately fro Lynn that clanger will come back to haunt him along with the "borrowed gear" line. But right now we are about to find out where this mysterious server room is.

# Matthew Says:
January 21st, 2008 at 1:12 am

I've been doing some tracert on that IP block and it's quite interesting that the final hops (router interface IP address) before getting to the server IP addresses in question are:

3. ge-0-3-0.air01-jcore.iconz.net
2. ge-1-1.cat01-air01.iconz.net
1. IP address from the range 202.74.226.112 – 202.74.226.127

My guess is that air01 is a reference to a major Telecom NZ building in Auckland Central that houses telecoms & internet infrastructure. Called Airedale House, Obviously ICONZ lease space off Telecom (or the building owner) for their internet infrastructure.

Nothing strange there, just a normal setup, but it does give you an insight as to where it's hosted. I would guess that the cat in cat01 is a reference to a Cisco Catalyst L3 switch, in which case it's possible that the physical interface could be ethernet and the actual server(s) would be very close, if not inside, the Airedale building. Again, just a normal setup from a technology POV.

So Matthew has discovered that the hosting site isn't Lynn's spare bedroom or even Labour Party HQ, it is in fact deep inside what one could arguably cll Telecom's most valuable building the Airedale Street exchange. This isn't a place you just bowl on in to chuck a couple of loaned servers in the rack and hook up those handy little Static IP's that they just got handed. Nope this is the an industry standard data centre with all of the attendant security, change management protocols, server racks, air conditioning etc and it isn't cheap to host anything there let alone two routers and a minimum of two servers. Lynn's "server room" is in fact a massive data centre. BTW Cisco Catalyst L3 Routers aren't cheap either even if they are donated.

Faced with overwhelming evidence of astonishing hypocrisy not only by the Standard but also by the Labour Party what does Lynn Prentice do, remember he is the patsy sent in after Tane got so roundly spanked. Well he falls back on the "it doesn't cost us anything" line. No Lynn, of course it doesn't cost anything to the Standard but someone is paying and right now it looks like the Labour Party. He also really screws the pooch and lies like a flatfish in responding to some more than intersting titbits that emerge.

# ryans Says:
January 21st, 2008 at 1:33 am

Actually tiger, what we've found is that thestandard.org.nz and secure.labour.org.nz are both connected to the same router, ge-1-1.cat01-air01.iconz.net [210.48.5.102]

So the two web servers which were claimed to be sharing nothing other than a block of ips are actually hosted in the same room and are connected to the internet through the same router.
Not only that, they both use IIS on Windows Server 2003, even though thestandard.org.nz is supposedly running on old hardware.

It seems more like the two sites are running on the same web hosting package.

Got that, So now the "borrowed servers" are running IIS on Windows Server 2003….not a very cheap option if you actually pay for the licences. If I was Microsoft I would start looking at these guys real close.

lprent Says:
January 21st, 2008 at 1:35 am

Graeme – "if any of the authors is paid to write it as part of any job etc. then it would probably be commercial and their posts at least would be regulated."

It is nice to see some sense here. No-one is paid anything. It is a simple left leaning blog done on a voluntary basis. It is hard to see how a donation from a party to a blog that doesn't carry advertising at all can contused to be governed by the EFA as it was passed. I can't even remember seeing a post that said vote any particular way (there is a lot of poking fun at the right though).

PaulL… good link… there are no perfect languages – I have no idea how many I know now. They all suck in some way (never got into emacs/lisp though..)

"Why is anyone so silly as to run a server on the internet on a Microsoft operating system?"

Because it was available… If I'd had an operating linux system and current skills in it I'd have used that. If I'd had a dual-core CPU, I'd have used that.

Lynn has just admitted that his servers are more than a little bit better than some old clunkers some nice bloke in a brown cardy gifted them. They have to be reasonably good if they are running Windows Server 2003. The hardware overhead alone is significant. I would have thought that he would have used what most webservers used, a combination of Linux OS and Apache Webservers…but no he goes with Server 2003 and IIS. This is truly bizarre for a blog setup. I mean why would you cop to thousands of dollars and I really mean thousands of dollars in licensing to serve a blog? Why? Maybe because he or the Standard is paying for it, the Labour Party is.

So what does this all mean.

Quite a lot actually.

One does not go about offering Blocks of Static IP's to help any one out. Ask any IT professional if that is how a conversation would go. They will laugh. The costs associated with this endeavour are not insignificant and given it has been proven that the servers are being hosted in Airedale Street, Telecom's major datacentre the costs are actually massive per month.

Costs:
We know that a block of 16 Static Ip addresses cost retail $320 per month.
Industry sources that I have spoken to say that telehousing the configuration as explained by Lynn Prentice would run to approximately $500 per month with bandwidth on top of that.
Bandwidth cost can only be guessed at but I would suggest at least another $100 per month.
Servers, lets be generous and say they were donated but we need to attribute a value so I suggest $3500 each times two.
Time for configurations, again can only be guessed at but at a minimum charge out rates for someones skill such as Lynn's would attract $120 per hour. There is at least 30 hours set up in that description, what with replication setup, Server set up etc so we are looking at a "donated" labour costs of $3600

Grand Total:
Monthly Costs $920 x 12 months = $11040
Support =$3600
Hardware (servers/routers etc) =$10,000

Not insignificant costs.

Now if the Standard had arranged a VPS from say Freeparking they would only be looking at arouund $300 per month and that would have been more than adequate for their services. DPF and myself utilise such services and those are the approximate costs.

Basically it looks very clearly like Labour has been funding the set up of a cosy little server farm for helpful blogger and MP's.

The fingerprints are all there to be seen, that is the beauty of Technology. The Standard has not refuted any of the above technical analysis by other bloggers, viz a viz it must be true. The Standard has not denounced any links with Labour or its affliate EPMU, quite the opposite they have obfuscated and spun when confronted with evidence.

The following has been proven without a shadow of a lie. And there are some very very pertinant questions that the Standard and the Labour Party need to answer.

1. Tane is a liar. His explanations cannot be supported in conjunction with Lynn's
2. Where is the email with the offer from Labour?
3. Who in Labour authorized this blatant deception on the blogosphere.
4. Who in Labour has authorized the blog The Standard?
5. Who are the anonymous donors behind the blog the Standard?
6. What concessions are given to labour and the donors for their donations?
7. Who is paying the Standard significant bills if not the Labour Party?
8. If the Labour Party is paying the bills then why no disclaimer or conflict of interest statement on the Standard?

These questions go to the transparency and credibility of any comment from the Standard and likewise from any information that the Standard publishes. Where does the Standard for instance get its statistical data and policy advice from? How involved is Labour's taxpayer funded research unit in the Standard? How involved is the EPMU is any funding either of time or services or both on the Standard?

These are serious questions. Has Labour been running a guerilla unit via the blogs to counter the effectiveness of privately funded blogger such as myself and David Farrar?

Questions indeed. I suspect the answers will be very, very slow in coming, if at all and only after the MSM gets involved.

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