One day in 2001 my daughters brought home a DVD of the Steven Soderbergh movie Erin Brockovich. The film, if you're unfamiliar with it, is based on a true story about a woman, Erin Brockovitch, who almost single-handedly exposed a case of toxic poisoning involving one of the largest utilities in the state of California. It is a terrific film. Kate and Frances were using it for a school project. My wife (who wishes to remain anonymous) made a passing (and fateful) comment about how satisfying such David & Goliath stories are. Was there an equivalent in New Zealand?

A few years earlier I had read a series of columns in the National Business Review, a business weekly, by an English gadfly named Simon Carr. I used to direct the occasional television commercial and read the NBR's advertising gossip column of a way of keeping up with the play.

Carr was writing about Dave Henderson, the Christchurch businessman who had fallen afoul of the Inland Revenue Department. The IRD's treatment of Henderson was so bad it was funny (objectively-speaking) and Carr made the most of it. Week after week he mocked the Department. He accused it of having committed 'the seven deadly sins, plus the sin of generally being obnoxious.' He named names. He made the IRD look petty and vindictive and ridiculous. It was exhilerating to read. It was as though someone was openly lampooning the secret police. Soon it was Carr's stuff I was turning to first, rather then the advertising column, especially since insights gleaned from the latter were proving of no help to me professionally.

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