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Monday, December 17, 2012

A word about the vultures for Ngati Toa

Ngati Toa. Congratulations on your Treaty Settlement, but the Banks are not clamouring around because they see you as key economic players. They are vultures. The $75 million provides the banks with a reserve on which they can use as leverage for more loans. Yes, they can lend out more money and put more people into debt because their ledgers will show your settlement proceeds as an asset. Whats so bad about this? The Banks are not actually empowered to create money by any form of legislation. However, no doubt they'd rely on the 'third source' the fact that there is no law prohibiting them creating money in this way, since they are not technically 'printing' it. Additionally, they will lend money out, that they created out of nothing, that is associated with your deposit and then they'll charge interest on that loan. That interest rate ensures that there is less money circulating in the economy than the debt that is actually owed. Its how fractional reserve banking works.

I'm not kidding. The financial advice you'll likely receive is to invest the proceeds of your settlement in overseas schemes. Your advisor's will talk about the benefit of profits to iwi. But what are profits? They are the monopolisation of money in the economy. Profits mean that the person or companies who benefit from them do so at the demise of those who are forced out of work so that companies can continue to make profits. In the 1980's this happened to be predominantly Maori, because Maori were unskilled factory workers and the companies had machines replace them. Its a vicious circle. (Although admittedly, machines have replaced menial work giving people the opportunity to pursue more interesting and fulfilling life paths - however, in NZ because education came at a cost at the same time those in menial work were replaced by machines, this had an adverse effect on Maori in particular). Moreover, if you transfer the money in your account out of NZ, say an overseas investment, then this means there is less money circulating in our economy and the less money in circulation the harder it is on the least well off members of society to improve their own economic positions.

However, using a bank is unavoidable on your part really. But you have the opportunity not to be part of the system that caused the injustices that you received redress for but instead to use it as a means of transition. Maori values are not capitalistic. Maori values are egalitarian. Think about that before allowing the banks to use you in a system that necessarily creates injustices to benefit the few.

But hey, who am I to tell you what to do with your money or what your values are. I am just reminding you that the system is deceptive and to be careful not to become corrupted by the very system that used its corruption to disadvantge you and pillage your villages, lands and resources.

But do note: its not your money in reality - its just numbers in a computer system that have no value. It is not backed by any value. Its created as debt - every dollar of your settlement is a debt owed by someone else to someone else.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

No Speaker for the West Side Tory

The issue here is not whether Tau Henare would have succeeded in his bid to become Speaker of the House, the issue is whether or not he was given a fair opportunity to try to do so. 

You'll know by now (unless your a new reader) that I'm not particularly sympathetic to the National Party, and I have no particular bias toward Henare either especially since he accused me of being a terrorist apologist. That aside, interference with a democratic process makes me furious and the PM has made it his modus operandi to interfere with democracy at every opportunity he gets. 

Claire Trevett for NZ Herald reports: 
Maori Party co leader Tariana Turia said the party had spoken to Mr Henare very early on before they knew the Government preferred someone else and believed the Government should choose the Speaker.
While Vernon Small in Stuff reported: 
It is understood Prime Minister John Key invoked Cabinet collective responsibility as leverage on Maori Party ministers and co-leaders Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples to back his choice of Carter for Speaker...He said he expected the Maori Party to vote for the Government's nomination....*The person who was chosen as Speaker would need to be neutral, fair, experienced and acceptable across Parliament, Key said. 
The Speaker of the House is voted in by Parliament, not the Government (although by default, the Government nomination would most likely win if they had a clear majority as they do at present). But in my opinion, the 'collective responsibility of cabinet' line amounts to no more than extortion. As Morgan Godfery pointed out on Twitter, its likely that if the Maori Party refused the PM's request and endorsed Henare for Speaker they would receive very little by way of funding (I suspect in particular for their Whanau Ora project) in the 2013 Budget. So when Tariana insists that the Government should choose the Speaker, she is either confused about the process of electing the Speaker or buckling to the downward pressure, i.e. allowing the Maori Party to be extorted in order to retain Whanau Ora funding. 

Its interesting that the PM also insinuates that Henare were not fit for the position (see* above) presumably because the PM deemed he was either biased, unfair, inexperienced or unacceptable across Parliament. Its hard to see exactly who in Parliament that has not been Speaker could claim to be 'experienced' at being Speaker. As to the other attributes, I don't see how Henare would be any less neutral, less fair or less acceptable across Parliament than the Governments 'preferred' nomination - David Carter. 

I smell institutional racism, but all those Tories out there will probably beg to differ, including the West Side Tory himself. And even if I am wrong, there is an agenda, and TV3 news picked up on it tonight - Nick Smith back in cabinet to fill Carter's vacancy. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Protest, Democracy and the TPPA

The TPPA protest raised some interesting questions. One that interested me was whether  the protest was effective? I’m in two minds. I mean, what other options do we have to express opposition to our government? Yet, the government just don’t listen and they employ tactics to minimise the effect of dissent. 

The image below (not from the TPPA protest - see credit below the image) sums up how many of us probably feel especially in relation to the TPPA negotiations and the recent comments made by PM John Key. 

This image was posted by @OpBigBrother on Twitter, a demonstration organsied by the group Anonymous - the slogan was simple but effective:  see 

I’m sure most readers would have come across the error notice when trying to open a website where the domain no longer exists. Pretty sweet analogy.  

The TPPA protest involved around 300 people who met at Aotea Square and made their way to the Sky City conference centre where the TPPA negotiations were taking place. 

Socialist Aotearoa report that: 
“After the Conference declined to accept the Petition against the TPPA, people demand to be let in to observe just what is being negotiated in secret behind Skycity's closed doors”  
(The Socialist Aotearoa webpage has a write up including photographs and video footage see:
The New Zealand Herald headline depicted the demonstration as follows - Police attacked at TPP protest and reported that: 
“Police have condemned "violent" protesters who attacked two police officers and set fire to cardboard boxes as they tried to force their way into free trade negotiations”.
This opening line fails to acknowledge why the protest erupted into violence. 

The beauty of social media is the eyewitness accounts shared when inaccurate or biased reporting occurs. 

Most witness accounts I have seen posted on social media make it clear that there was an intentionally provocative strategy taken by Police at this protest, while others suggested this was more typical Police practice. But do not be dismissive, such provocation and tactics results in a restraint on democracy. 

The strategy is simple: increase Police presence, raise adrenalin levels of the crowd, force a reaction to justify the use of Police force. One witness posted on Twitter that they saw a Police Officer punch a young female in the face causing those in the vicinity to react. That is the strategy in action, evidenced by the fact that some officers were armoured up indicative of their role in this strategy. 

The Officer in this picture was seen to punch a young female in the face by the person who took this photo and reportedly was particularly provocative in his approach to the protest

While I do not normally condone fighting or violence, witness accounts make it clear that the protesters had little option but to respond to the Police confrontation; however, it is wholly inexcusable that a protester took to stomping on the head of a Constable on the ground. 

My overall assessment of this protest is that it was ineffective. This is contrary to those who attended so I want to explain why. 

The aim of protests is to persuade those in positions of power to listen to the dissent. This happens most often when there is a majority support or at least visible widespread support. The protest yesterday did not gain that visible widespread support and as Police intervened to disempower the dissent and demonise participants, this played into the hands of the 'ruling elite'.  

The mainstream media ran with the ‘protester violence’ angle and many New Zealanders rely on those reports for informing their opinions. It is most likely, that public sympathy lies with the Police (although I hope I am wrong on this assumption). 

Additionally, some of the video footage reinforced the media angle despite the Police force visible. This is because all you can hear are the following phrases: 
  • “F* the Police/Pigs!” 
  • “F* off Pigs/Police!” 
  • Or a generic “F* off!” 
NZ audiences (generally speaking), particularly those who watch mainstream media are a reserved and even conservative bunch and are unlikely to sympathise with demonstrators who themselves sound like they are provoking the Police and are likely to view such phrases as tired and typical. But to be fair, it is extremely difficult to view these videos in context because the context was preset by the media. 

Visibility of organisations. Neoliberalism has successfully divided the activists from the 'reasoned' public, notwithstanding that these groups are visible at all causes and demonstrations for social justice.  Unfortunately, their reputations among the wider public lacks support - at least on the broad scale required to be effective. 

Protest requires public participation. Polls suggest that a majority of the public are opposed to the TPPA or at least want the negotiations made public. The support for the cause is there. The support for the groups involved in organising demonstrations is not. It is likely that many of those who oppose the TPPA also oppose socialism and unions and do not want to be associated with those groups by participating in the protest. 

I mean no offence. Championing social justice is highly admirable. But my personal assessment is that the protest lacked wider public support despite clear public opposition to the TPPA negotiations for the above reasons and this is why I think the protest was ineffective. 

For the sake of transparency, I did not attend the protest. I intended to, but backed out about half an hour before. I was most concerned about being in a large crowd and becoming overwhelmed, and I also questioned whether my presence mattered. In effect, I lost faith in the process. And the Police actions reaffirmed my despondency. 

My view is that democracy in NZ is under attack and this is clear for the following reasons (the list is not exhaustive): 
  • Police engaged in strategies to silence protest; 
  • PM advised the general public and the TPPA negotiators to ignore the protesters because he thinks they are wrong and then revokes permission for NZ’s leading academic on the TPPA to deliver a petition to the TPPA meeting; 
  • Perseverance with state asset sales in the face of widespread opposition and refusing a referendum; and 
  • Secret TPPA negotiations that involve the trade off of freedom, privacy and sovereignty which adversely affects every person who is a citizen of a signatory to that agreement. 

Protest needs to take a new track. It needs to involve more people by removing ties to particular groups. If the Anonymous movement has taught us anything, it is that when we act as one voice on issues we have in common despite our diversity and without compromising our diversity, we can achieve a great deal.

If your interested in watching a short video on the TPPA protest by @OccupyEye see:  

Monday, December 3, 2012

Education: slavery through the illusion of enlightenment?

13 days ago @AlexEdneyBrowne (twitter) asked for my thoughts on Stephen Joyce’s comments regarding engineering enrolments at the University of Auckland (apologies for my belated response). I refrained from writing too soon, because I had a few questions that I didn’t have answers to. I still don’t have those answers, but my views are little more reasoned (but only a little). This post reflects on Joyce’s comments, but not in the way that you might have thought.

According to Stephen Joyce, education is about meeting the demand of the market and the market currently demands that prospective University Students undertake engineering degrees because there is a shortage of engineers in NZ and if an institution does not comply, then the government can go in and force compliance.
"If they want us to be more directive, I'm more than willing," he said. "I'm watching them really closely to make sure they do respond to what the market wants, and if they don't, I can go and tell them how many they should enrol for each department." 
Legality aside, the Minister’s comments reflect the state of our education system. This is the system Labour and National have determined for our country. A system where market conditions are emulated within education institutions to privilege a few through the appearance of catering to the many.

Recently, I was directed to a George Orwell quote:
"The further society drifts form the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it"
In my view, this applies to the Minister’s comments. I’m not saying that I agree with what he said, only that what he said reflects the reality of education in our country.Our education system is more about meeting the skills shortages in the job market and less about enlightenment. The rest of this post considers education in general but randomly refers back to the Minister’s views.  

I watched a snippet of a lecture by Noam Chomsky ‘Education: for whom and for what?’ see:

Chomsky distinguished between two groups: those who consider that education is for the privileged, i.e. the intelligent minority who occupy decision-making roles in society and those who consider that education is for everyone. I have no idea how Chomsky concluded his lecture but my argument is this:
Our governments propagate that education is for everyone but it (the education system) operates to maintain the intelligent minority. Arguably, a public education system indicates education is for everyone; however, requiring a criterion for entrance acts as a restriction on the proposition that education is for everyone.
Education is for everyone – only in the sense that we have a public education system. It’s an illusion to silence the masses in order to retain minorities in specific areas.

Education is for the privileged – in the sense that those who perform better receive advantages as a result of their performance.

An argument against this is the argument from equality. Equality in the sense that everyone has the same access so there is no privilege and those who outperform their peers deserve the benefits for their work. I agree in part with this statement. It takes considerable effort to attain grades of excellence (in the A range). So institutions should reward those who manage to attain those grades accordingly, right? Here I take issue. University grades are awarded through various types of assessment, predominantly examination. Some people are just good at taking exams, while others are not. The system privileges those who are good exam takers.

I disagree with the argument from equality in the sense that not everyone has the same starting point. I have discussed this in various past posts, but I will briefly discuss it here. A persons ability to attain grades of excellence at University is not just dependent on the work they put in at University. There are pre-existing factors that will affect a students performance. For instance, the school you attend prior to University, the subjects available at that school, relationships with teachers, relationships with family, time available to complete the work required or to understand the material…the list is endless. We have created an education system that does not take into account morally arbitrary differences in a students life.

Here is what I want to say about grades. There are limits on how many grades of excellence are awarded. You will not find a class where every student achieves an A grade. Our system moderates work so that only a certain number of students achieve A’s. Presumably, the argument is it increases competition and forces students to study harder to reach their full potential. This is not about full potential, for the teacher it may be, but for the institution its about ensuring that only a few students fill the spots of the intelligent minority. You must attain grades that the institution sets in order to complete at a post-graduate level e.g. Honours and Masters degrees. Even the language used to define post-graduate qualifications reflect the truth of the ‘intelligent minority’ thesis.

The limitation on the number of excellence grades awarded is akin to the way in which money is kept scarce. It controls what people can and cannot do. If you don’t meet the requisite grades for post graduate study, then you are precluded from undertaking those courses, just like if you don’t have the money to pay a debt, you remain indebted. Scarcity forces the status quo to privilege a few. High grades are essentially academic capital. The more academic capital you have, the more academic capital you have access to.*

 Chomsky points to David Hume to make a similar point:
"NOTHING appears more surprising to those, who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye, than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few; and the implicit submission, with which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers" 
How does all this relate to the Ministers comments? It does so by looking at the influence of the market on education. It is in effect a form of slavery. Let me attempt to qualify this. If the market demands what subjects or courses students take in order to meet those demands (and the government work to enforce those demands) then education is about state commodification of students for use by corporations. It is slavery because we are subject to whatever conditions the market determines for us. Here is the question I am struggling to answer: Do we freely chose our course of study or are we simply conditioned to think that we are freely choosing to pursue that path?

*This is not a criticism of those whom have achieved high grades. Its a criticism of the system. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Murray McCully on Gaza

Dear Murray McCully, 
You are an arse. Here is the statement you made:
"In our explanation of vote to the UN our Permanent Representative Hon Jim McLay will make clear our absolute commitment to Israel's right to safety and security, and condemn the actions of Hamas extremists in recent weeks"

Thanks for propagating the Israeli/US lies. Thanks for making a commitment on behalf of NZ to support Israeli apartheid. Thanks for denouncing a democratically elected government, you know, one voted in by the people of Gaza. But most of all, thanks for the expression of your absolute commitment to the rights of Israel to defend itself by targeting and killing civilians including many many women and children. Thanks for that Murray. What a c**t. 

How about considering that it was Gaza who had a right to defend themselves from the Israeli attacks. How about acknowledging the war crimes committed by the Israeli government in targeting civilians and journalists with 'surgical precision' and using weapons banned under international law.  

Naming of the dead by Harry Fear -

An article outlining why McCully is an arse for condemning Hamas's right to defend Gaza:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Re-introduce interest on student loans? No.

Grrr. I was just reading the TVHE blog on student loans. The basic argument is that the government should reintroduce interest on student loans and that the government shouldn't  provide support for students while they study, because tertiary education is a choice.

This is the myth. Tertiary study is not a choice any more than receiving chemotherapy for cancer is. The author even points to the benefits of tertiary study, indicating that a student that completes an undergraduate degree will after 3 years of that degree be earning 51% more than those who did not obtain tertiary qualifications.

Lets unravel this. The market is demanding higher qualifications. This is part of the markets labour competitive strategy. In order for people to earn living wages, tertiary education is paramount. Sure, there are people earning decent salaries based on years experience in an industry, but they are also noting that they cannot get higher than middle management roles unless they have a tertiary qualification.

It is not correct to say that on the basis of the market conditions that people are choosing to benefit themselves through higher education. They are compelled to do so because the alternative is low waged, unskilled labour.

So what of interest on student loans? This is the biggest grind of the whole article.

Money is created as debt. If you don't believe me go search the RBNZ website and you will see reports that indicate that private banks create money out of loans. Loans are debts. The money created by private banks is not paper money or coins. Only the RBNZ is allowed to create that kind of money. Over 80% of money in NZ is created by private banks. Less than 20% is the 'real' money.

When you take out a student loan, you create new money in society. The money didn't exist until it was deposited into the bank accounts of those whom you were required to pay. And interest, well, that is the biggest deception ever. Interest is not money. It is an arbitrary figured applied to a loan amount that makes it difficult to pay the loan back. Not just because it increases the amount you owe, but because it represents an amount of money that does not actually exist. I'm not lying. The world is in a perpetual state of debt because money is created out of nothing by private banks or financial institutions and interest is a means to ensure that all the debt can never be repaid. You simply cannot pay back all the debt in the world because there is not enough money in circulation to do so. Printing more money will not solve this issue, because private banks will create more loans and therefore more interest to continually feed the cycle.

So when someone says re-introduce interest to student loans to make borrowing cheaper for the government, I say screw you dude. Students are compelled to take on substantial debt just so that they can survive in the system created to enslave them,they shouldn't be made to borrow more. To insist that students also be compelled to pay back interest on that debt, interest that is not even money borrowed and therefore not even money created, is to insist that students are easy exploitative targets and ought to therefore pay for the privilege of being screwed over by the money creating beasts known as banks.Oh, and that the government should be in on it.

Yes, TVHE are qualified economists and I am simply opinionated, but there is no conspiracy in exposing the way money is created and what interest actually is. The conspiracy is in why we were deceived for so long.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Facebook censorship

WARNING: This post contains graphic content.

What a joke.This morning when my alarm went off I noticed a random notification asking me to go to the settings on my phone and enter my Facebook password. I was confused. I did as requested, only to receive the following message: 

Again, I did as requested. And received the following message:

Facebook asked me to refer to its 'Community Standards' page to ensure my account stayed in good standing. And to remove further content that may be in breach. 

So curious as I was, I decided to read why my account might have been blocked and what content might cause it to be blocked again. I suspect the  justification for the restriction was the graphic content of the image posted. However, I know for a fact that the particular story with the image attached was shared 4 times from the Gaza TV News page and once from my page, yet it was only my content that was removed. Of course, it would cause too much controversy if Facebook blocked a media company reporting out of Gaza. But me? a little old nobody in NZ, insignificant. My guess, is that it has nothing to do with the image although this was the excuse used to restrict access to my account. I have been particularly vocal on my account and have expressed my condemnation of the Israeli attack on Gaza. I have not attacked Israeli's nor have I made any racist remarks. I am not anti-Jewish, anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic. I am against the tactics employed by the Israeli government and the propaganda used to justify the murder of innocent civilians in Gaza. I am against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and the oppression of the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli government. 

Admittedly, the image is extremely graphic, but if this was the reason for removing the content from my account then surely every account that posted the image should have had the content removed? Right? Wrong. I can still access the story on Gaza TV News and other pages.

Here is what Facebook Community standards say about graphic content:

It appears that while a media organisation may share graphic imagery, the privilege does not extend to individuals. If an image is considered not to balance the needs of a diverse community on one Facebook page, then it does not make much sense that it should be allowed to remain accessible on Facebook via other pages. Selective balance. Additionally, perhaps Facebook thought I derived some sadistic pleasure out of sharing the graphic content? F* off Facebook. I made it clear that I shared the image because down here in little old naive NZ our government is turning a blind eye to the atrocities suffered by the Palestinian people of Gaza. I included a message to that extent when sharing the objectionable content. 

So what's really going on Facebook?  I'm hearing from various sources that Facebook has restricted access to many Gazan's or those expressing support for Gaza or Palestinian's in general, I even note that Harry Fear (Documentary Maker, Activist, Journalist) was blocked from his Facebook account when he first started reporting live in Gaza. Facebook claiming it was administrative error. 

I was pure and simple censored for expressing views that were not complicit with the US position on Gaza. Facebook is as crony as any other massive corporation and will continue to suppress information sharing where it disagrees with what you have to say. 

I also want to briefly mention that in order to prove that I was the owner of my account, I was asked to identify people tagged in particular photo's. I'm not sure about the rest of you, but I don't systematically trawl through all my friends photo's so this seemed like a complete farce when I was asked to identify the person tagged in the following photo:

I have never seen this photo. There were also photos of babies I'd never seen, and photos that friends had been tagged in by people that aren't my friends, but your actual friend wasn't even in the photo? Stupidity.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Disappointed by the Greens on Gaza

The NZ Greens have posted a press release on Gaza. Disappointed. Kennedy Graham insinuated that the Palestinian Resistance were senselessly provoking the Israeli Military, thereby implying that they are responsible for the deaths of the many Palestinians. Echoing the bias western media.
New Zealand should call upon Hamas to refrain from rocket attacks on Israel. Such actions comprise a senseless provocation, which Israel uses to devastate Gaza's infrastructure, and for which Palestinians pay dearly through their lives. See:
Kennedy Graham that is shameful. Not only did you imply that the conflict is the fault of Palestinian Resistance but you failed to make your statement with proper assessment of all the facts available. As stated by Noam Chomsky (et al) who recently returned from Gaza: 
“…the chronology of events of the recent flare-up began on November 5, when an innocent, apparently mentally unfit, 20-year old man, Ahmad al-Nabaheen, was shot when he wandered close to the border. Medics had to wait for six hours to be permitted to pick him up and they suspect that he may have died because of that delay…then, on November 8, a 13-year-old boy playing football in front of his house was killed by fire from the IOF that had moved into Gazan territory with tanks as well as helicopters. The wounding of four Israeli soldiers at the border on November 10 was therefore already part of a chain of events where Gazan civilians had been killed, and not the triggering event”.  See:
What about the Palestinians right to self-defence? Did you even mention that Israel don't have that right under international law? Again, from (*a previous statement made) Professor Noam Chomsky:
When Israel, in the occupied territories now, claim that they have to defend themselves, they are defending themselves in the sense that any military occupier has to defend itself against the population that they’re crushing...You can't defend yourself when you're militarily occupying somebody else's land. It's not defense. Call it what you like, it's not defense. See:
(*Important note: It has been brought to my attention that I had previously misquoted Prof. Noam Chomsky by failing to verify the credibility of the source from which I quoted. For that, I sincerely apologise. Lesson learnt. I have now amended the above quote and provided a credible source. It must also be pointed out that the statement made by the Professor is not in relation to the current attack on Gaza but this particular quote comes from 2004 documentary Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land. See:
For the Party whom many New Zealander's turn to for support for human rights, this is a massive fail.  Your neutrality here is what Bishop Desmond Tutu refers to as support for the oppressor.

And what is this?
It is time for Fatah and Hamas to make a renewed effort at a consensus over the future of Palestine...their continuing divisions are blocking progress towards full statehood and an official role for Palestine in the Middle East. See:
Are you f*ing kidding? Lets not point the finger at Israel who breached the cease fire while Hamas were working on a long term peace agreement, instead we'll condemn the internal conflict? An account from Israeli Peace Activist Gershon Baskin: 
 Just hours before he was assassinated, the Hamas commander had received the draft of a long-term peace agreement with Israel, Baskin claimed. Having kept communication channels with Gaza open since the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange, the activist was well informed about the state of the negotiations.

The powerful Hamas leader played a vital part in those talks, Baskin said, adding that Jabari even prevented a number of recent flare-ups, having realized that the fighting was not “beneficial” to Gaza. But the Israeli side did not want to form a lasting peace agreement with Hamas, Defense Minister Ehud Barak shelved the draft truce after a committee that was reviewing the proposal “decided not to decide”, the peace activist claimed.” See:
The only political party to make a stand for Gaza so far is members of the Mana Party. I had the NZ Greens earmarked for my vote at the next election. This is a deal breaker. 

For updates see: Harry Fear.TV at  (or follow him on Twitter @harryfear); Gaza TV News (Palestinian); Haaretz News (Israeli); RT ; Al Jazeera English 

To show support in NZ visit: 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

More tears for Gaza

The Israeli military have reignited their attack on Gaza. This is not just an attack on a geographical area. It is an attack on people. It is a strategic war aimed at Israeli control and occupation of Gaza.  

Recently I posted on the issue regarding the AUSA’s President accepting travel to Israel. I also criticised the attack on the AUSA president by the SJP in response to her travel choice. I do not fully recant what I said, because the issue criticised was not the SJP cause, but their actions in censuring the AUSA President for travelling to Israel.

My criticism was that the SJP had used the situation as a platform for their own agenda. Following from that post, I watched a film recommended and shown by the SJP at the University of Auckland Politics Week – Tears of Gaza.

Suffice to say, I empathised with the strong emotion felt by those who spoke at the censure meeting and the passion behind their actions. I had felt that the SJP chose an inappropriate time to advocate their message. That was just my opinion. On reflection, had they not, then I, like many others, would be impervious to the Palestinian struggle given the way it is reported in mainstream media and the lack of objective views.

I will point out that I do not support any form of violence. I don't really want to discuss Hamas here because I have very little understanding of their organisation except that they are the military wing of Gaza and advocate for Sunni Islamism and have been denounced by the UN for human rights breaches against fellow Palestinians. I also understand that the West consider Hamas a terrorist organisation while, Arab nations, Russia and Turkey do not ( What I will say, is that I can see why such political groups are established even if I disagree with the tactics employed. And I will mention here that deaths of Israeli's and Palestinian's at the hand of Hamas are just as much victims as the Palestinian deaths caused by the Israeli Military.  But there is also a difference in power balances. The Israeli Military are a high powered military force supported by their government with funding for continual improvement and expansion of the military. Palestine does not have an army. It does not have a navy. It has small factions that at the behest of Israel, the west coin terrorist organisations, as their only form of defence against these attacks. 

Additionally, the Israeli Military are indiscriminate in their ‘targets’. Those targets are people irrespective of age and gender. Irrespective of participation in the hostilities. Tears of Gaza shows images of babies or toddlers shot at point blank range in the head or in the chest. Buildings are bombed including schools full of children.  Don’t forget the apparently ‘accidental bombing of the UN Schools in Palestine in 2009. The Palestinian people are subjected to some of the worst conditions for survival. They are imprisoned in their land. They are taxed for services that are not provided – waste, water, sewerage. They are starved through limited supplies.  They are tortured by the persistent war on their people.

And this is happening right now. People are dying.  Children are dying.  Grandfathers, Grandmothers, Mothers, Fathers, Brothers, Sisters, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, often all from the same families are dying. They are not just dying. They are killed by the mercilessness of the Israeli Military. This is not a war. This is genocide.

Do not rely on your mainstream media to depict the reality. Listen to the people. Understand their plight. There is no future for Palestinian’s if the West continue to ignore the atrocities perpetuated by the Israeli government. This is apartheid. Palestinians are systematically being exterminated for the benefit of Israel.

What is New Zealand’s role in this? Nothing. We do nothing. Can we expect our Prime Minister to at least censure the Israeli government for the grave violations of human rights and the despicable acts of genocide in action? Probably not. Our current government is hell bent on establishing strong diplomatic ties with the US. The US who provide substantial support to the Israeli Government.

I have tears for Gaza. We all should. 

Note: I will be moderating comments (if any) on this post. I will not tolerate hate speech and racism. 

UPDATE: I was referred to this link 

"Ahmed Jabari was a subcontractor, in charge of maintaining Israel's security in Gaza...In return for enforcing the quiet, which was never perfect, Israel funded the Hamas regime through the flow of shekels in armored trucks to banks in Gaza, and continued to supply infrastructure and medical services to the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip...Israel is saying that its subcontractor did not do his part and did not maintain the promised quiet on the southern border...The message was simple and clear: You failed - you're dead."

Monday, November 12, 2012

Unemployment benefits the wealthy

I almost relented on submitting this blog post because of the in depth analysis to be found elsewhere, and being a layperson on the subject I had my reservations about making certain claims, so what I’ve done is included references for anyone wondering where I got my information from and am unapologetically stating my opinion. 

The question I wanted to ask is why are we (apparently) all surprised at the high unemployment rates disclosed late last week? Maybe because the government proposed to create around 170, 000 new jobs. But did we really believe it? I was doubtful, as were many commentators at the time the government made the claim. In short, if you didn’t already know, NZ’s monetary policy relies on certain levels of unemployment. Any government that is unwilling to change our monetary policy, then is lying through their teeth when they assert that their objective is full employment or high employment. Bold claim, I know, but instead of looking at why we have this spike in unemployment I was more interested in the role of unemployment in our economy so this post is a brief and probably over-simplistic look at monetary policy in NZ.

Inflation. As defined by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) is ‘the term used to describe the average rise in prices through the economy, and it means that money is losing its value’. It is usually caused by high employment and subsequently high demand for goods and services, which enables businesses to ‘charge more (inflate prices) for the same goods or services’. Its also caused by higher prices for imports. In short, if there is too much money circulating and ‘too few goods and services’ then money loses value.

If high employment causes inflation, then the logical step is to reduce employment or alternatively, to increase unemployment to reduce inflation levels. When there are not enough jobs, workers compete for those positions, putting employers in advantageous positions such that they can drive down wages. This drags inflation down because there is less money circulating in the economy when unemployment is high and people are competing for jobs.

Another benefit is that low wages create an economy where workers have less so they spend less which helps control inflation, while business owners have more so they demand for the more luxury items are for the privilege of those in positions that pay higher wages because there is less competition for those more specialised roles. Say Hello to the wealth gap. The assumption was that the benefits would trickle down. Yet to happen. Its been almost 30 years and we still have a massive gap between the rich and the poor.

So what happens when people are working considerable hours for wages that provide little more than welfare benefits? Welfare looks more attractive and disrupts the labour competition required for this neoliberal monetary policy to work. The answer then, was firstly to create an arbitrary poverty line then cut that by 20% and make that the welfare entitlement, care of the good old economists at Treasury (In a Land of Plenty link at bottom of page). The next step was to create campaigns demonise beneficiaries as welfare dependents. Pause here. Remember, people are forced into unemployment through redundancies or non-renewal of contracts (to name a few methods) and then made to compete for jobs at lower wages in order to control inflation so that those in positions of privilege could retain the value of their assets, that high employment and subsequently high inflation adversely affects. Another tactic to demonise those who required state assistance, was to introduce penalty programs where those who refused to take on low wage work risked their benefit being cut. 

Why would someone refuse to take on low wage work? For multiple reasons.

Low wages do not provide enough to support individuals let alone families. Working brings with it additional costs if you have children, that is, child care costs for those under 5 and before and after school care costs for those with school aged children. Extra petrol costs if the parent/s work far away from home, parking costs if there is no parking at the work site. There may be moving costs associated with new employment so rent may go up, change of school zones can result in extra school uniform costs. The list is endless for additional costs, especially for those with children. I accept that welfare is not the answer but neither is forcing struggling families and individuals into low wage work. The answer, in my view,  is a change in monetary policy.

I need to quickly address interest rates here and the effect on inflation. In short, the RBNZ raises interest rates when inflation is high. It does this for the follow on effects. Firstly, people borrow less. Secondly, companies make cutbacks so that they can repay the debt. This results in less money circulation and helps control inflation. Cutbacks are usually in the form of staff reductions. Or restructuring. Interest rates are lowered when the RBNZ want to stimulate the economy.

When interest rates are lowered, then employment levels will rise again and economic growth occurs, that is, more spending. 

In summary, the unemployed are forced onto benefits to survive when monetary policy drives up interest rates that cause employers to make cuts to repay debt. They are then forced to look for work in conditions designed to put the unemployed at a disadvantage. If they refuse to take work that pays less than what is livable, they are penalised by the State for conditions created by State monetary policy. Sounds fair enough, for merciless right wingers.

I just want to mention the minimum wage, because it is important. The National Party have refused to increase the minimum wage citing its bad for business. Yet, contrary arguments suggest that the more money people have the more they spend, thereby making at least small to medium business profitable (see Frankly Speaking blog at for a more in depth analysis on the unemployment strategies of neoliberalism). However, what does that do to inflation? It drives that sh* up. See the circularity? If people are spending more, then businesses are making more money and can afford to employ more people but as demonstrated above, higher employment leads to higher inflation rates.

So what is the real problem? It is money and the policy used to convince the public that the conditions within which we live are fixed and that there is no alternative. The value of money is determined by the market, and therefore so too is the value of an asset. A good or service is worth as much as you are willing to pay for it. The mistake is in thinking that money has an intrinsic value. It doesn’t. It’s a piece of paper with a number on it and what you can trade it for depends on what the market thinks it’s worth. I mean we can quantify money in terms such that $1 equals 100 cents and so on, but what it is worth is qualitative. As long as society believe that money has value based on a qualitative assessment of its worth, then the only logical outcome is to accept this neoliberal model that creates poverty to enrich and sustain those already privileged members of society. Corporate’s. The best example I’ve read about understanding the value of a bank note is that it is simply an IOU from the bank (In Ian Wishart's 'Daylight Robbery'). Fake credit. So the unemployed are pawns in a game designed to protect the value of capital that doesn't exist? Society, this is messed up.

A good documentary on monetary policy and unemployment is “In a Land of Plenty” and is available to watch free via the NZ On Screen website at .

Thursday, November 8, 2012

When to cross the floor

The issue here is whether Tau Henare should have crossed the floor in support of Te Ururoa Flavell's bill that would have allowed Members of Parliament to choose to swear allegiance to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

In my view, the answer is yes. Why? Because he delivered a very strong speech in favour of the bill.

Although the bill was unlikely to obtain majority support from the house, in principle, Tau should have crossed. He should have done so because of his whakapapa and for his mana and the mana of the people. Such a move might have restored his reputation among the wider Maori community by signalling to them that he was willing to place the needs of not just Maori but any person who values Te Tiriti o Waitangi, ahead of the Party's position.

Recently, I had the privilege of listening to Tau Henare speak at the World Indigenous Lawyers Conference. I call it a privilege, because prior to his address I had him pinned as self-interested,arrogant and authoritarian. I was pleasantly surprised.While I disagreed with some of what he said, he was honest and he was passionate about Maori achievement.

So I was shocked when he was challenged to cross the floor on the issues set out above and he gracefully declined on the basis that such actions lead to unstable government.

Tau Henare is a seasoned politician, and it is unlikely that his position on the issue would be challenged by the National caucus. John Key made a statement today acknowledging that he knew of Tau's opposition to the party position, and that Key does not prevent his MP's from crossing the floor. While such a move might put the spotlight on the National Party in light of all the recent events including privacy breaches and bad taste comments, John Key and his political spin team would've surely been able to limit any negative publicity, and might have even been able to spin it in terms favourable to the National Party.

Additionally, this would have shown that the issue is important not just to a few 'radical Maori' but to any person who values Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the founding document of Aotearoa New Zealand. Instead, he has done a disservice to the issue by backing down and voting against his own strongly held preferences.

I question whether his desire to be Speaker of the House clouded his judgement on the issue. I hope not.

The Heart Foundation Tick

Sugar. After demolishing my 6 inch sub and 2 ridiculously good cookies from Subway, I'm going to start this post by contradicting the meal I just ate.

Today, the Green Party posted on their Facebook page that the Heart Foundation refused to withhold support for a children's lunchbox snack on the basis that there is no evidence or studies to show that sugar causes heart disease. The snack comprised of 44% sugar, yet was endorsed with a Heart foundation tick.

Admittedly, I can see the point of the Heart Foundation, if the foundation is premised on the view that it endorses any foods that are not proven to contribute to heart disease. But is that the role of the heart foundation?

In my view, this is questionable. Presumably, food product companies have their products endorsed by the Heart Foundation because consumers purchase such products on the assumption that the heart foundation tick indicates the product is healthy. For the more informed consumer, they know this is bogus. But where did the assumption come from? Probably,the way in which food companies promote their products as having the healthy heart tick and unclear objectives of the Heart Foundation. So herein lies the issue. Should the heart foundation endorse all food products that are known to be good for your heart,that is, products that promote heart health and products that are known not to be harmful to either heart or general health; or should it endorse any foods in which there is no evidence that those products are bad for your heart even if there are proven health implications elsewhere.

In my opinion, the Heart Foundation should endorse foods that promote a healthy heart and foods that do not contribute to other serious health implications that may indirectly cause heart problems. It is indisputable that sugar plays a role in both diabetes and obesity. These health conditions are on the increase in NZ and are both known to correlate to heart disease.I think it is irresponsible of the Heart Foundation to apply its market reputation to products (which is does so for a fee)that contribute to serious health issues, especially for children.

In fact, I would go further to say, that food products ought to have health warnings on the packaging. Is this to punish those companies? No. Its to better inform the consumer about the choices they make in respect of the food they purchase for themselves and or their children. If tobacco companies are to be held accountable for the harm they cause consumers,then surely food companies ought to be held to the same standard.

I'm not suggesting that food companies be subjected to 'plain packaging laws' only that they provide more information for consumers to make informed choices.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Media vs the Coroner

Section 71 of the Coroners Act 2006 is proving somewhat of an impediment to media who are anxious to report on the sudden death of high profile lawyer Greg King.
No person may, without a coroner's authority, make public any particular relating to the manner in which a death occurred if the death occurred in New Zealand after the commencement of this section; and there is reasonable cause to believe the death was self-inflicted; and no inquiry into the death has been completed.
The resulting speculation from comments posted in the NBR article regarding a highly placed legal source suggesting that Greg King took his own life, is arguably in breach of this section, depending on how widely this section is interpreted. And my own reproduction of this statement might well be too. But I want to discuss some reasons that s71 of the Coroners Act 2006 exists. 

Depending on the type of post mortem directed, it can take a Pathologist up to 8 weeks to collate the final post mortem report for the Coroner. This is because often bodily samples and fluids are taken for further testing to determine any underlying or antecedent causes contributing to the death of the deceased person. There is an assumption that directly after a post mortem examination has been conducted that a cause of death is available. This is misleading. The only report available directly after the post mortem examination is a provisional post mortem result. It is provisional because bodily fluids and samples are often sent to ESR laboratories for toxicology and histology tests, which can take around 6 weeks before those tests, are complete.

So why is this important for the highly speculated Greg King case? Because, these are some of the reasons that Coroner’s are wary about making particulars of a death publicly available, there is not enough evidence to determine the cause of death at these early stages in the Coronial process.  

There is also some confusion about self-inflicted deaths and suicides. Note, not all self-inflicted deaths will be determined as suicides. There are many instances in which a self-inflicted death may be accidental.

I am going to list some examples but I wish to make clear that I am in no way suggesting that these examples are speculative in regards to the Greg King case. They are not exhaustive examples either but are for the purpose only of distinguishing where a death may be self-inflicted but not a suicide.

  • Aspiration of vomit – occurs when highly intoxicated persons choke on their vomit in their sleep.
  • Some recreational activities such as bridge jumping resulting in death
  • Self-administered illicit drug overdoses (or substance abuse in general) or medicinal overdoses
Suicides have a very high threshold. This means that there must be substantial evidence to show that the deceased person intended that their actions would result in their death. Some deaths that appear to have intended suicide are found to be accidental deaths; this is because there may be evidence suggesting that while the initial intention may have been suicide, at some point after the action but prior to death the person’s intention changed. An example of this might be when a person overdoses on medication intending to end their life, but then calls for medical assistance.

Again, because cause of death relies not just on physical evidence of the body but also the surrounding circumstances, it is premature and therefore irresponsible reporting to speculate on matters regarding an apparent self-inflicted death when someone is not privy to all the evidence available. This is part of the importance of s71. 

Of course, the restrictions made by the Coroner may be inconvenient for an anxious media, however, the family and friends of a deceased person are entitled to accurate reporting as anything else is likely to be highly distressing during such a sensitive and tragic time. Accurate reporting does not occur when all the facts and evidence are not available, it is an injustice to the family and to the process. 

***RIP Greg King "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" (Martin Luther King).

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The PM can’t speak

A key characteristic of a good public speaker is pronunciation. So I am intrigued by the lack of pronunciation by none other than the Prime Minister of New Zealand, or as he would say Nu Zilund.  I am even more fascinated by the level of influence his poor pronunciation has had in his cabinet by those who try to emulate the PM’s pronunciation in interviews. To provide examples I have linked a video journal made by the PM at from which I picked up a number of his pronunciation errors in the first 5 minutes.

  1. It’s not nu and it’s not new-nique to Nu Zealund  (It’s not new and it’s not unique to New Zealand) I must give him credit for pronouncing the ‘ea’
  2. Problee (Probably)
  3. Intrish-rates (Interest rates)
  4. Borra-from the bank (Borrow from the bank)
  5. They-illend (They’ll  lend)
  6. Austray-l-yah (Australia)
  7. Infa-strucksha (infrastructure)
  8. Wea consinnering (We’re considering)
I acknowledge that there are probably times when we are all prone to be a little lazy with our speech, most notably when intoxicated, but this is the PM addressing his constituents, and arguably, the nation on housing affordability. 

It irritated me at first, but I'm finding it hilarious that others would allow their own pronunciation standards to deteriorate, to emulate a man often slurs his words together in a not too dissimilar way to an intoxicated person. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

...taking a short break

FYI - taking a break for exams, unless something urgent comes up that I just can't resist writing about!

By the way, if anyone has any areas of interests they might like to read about feel free to flick me an email at and if I think I can cover it, then I'll let you know.

Check out the blogs on my blogroll in the meantime, plenty to feed those hungry minds.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Dope smoking in teens and IQ

A study undertaken in Dunedin found that adolescents who used cannabis and became dependent on it or used it regularly may suffer a decline in IQ later on in life but there were no significant changes in the IQ of participants who started using cannabis in adulthood. The researchers noted a number of limitations including that they could not rule out that their findings may be the result of an 'unknown variable'. 

The experiment carried out by researchers at the University of Otago sought to test the popular belief held by adolescents that cannabis use was harmless and specifically focused on whether there is a prevalence of IQ decline in cannabis users who start smoking during adolescence. Note a potential bias: the study was founded by the ex-Chairman of DARE  - a drug and alcohol resistance organisation targeted at adolescents and was funded by government institutions in both NZ and the US including other organisations whose objective was to reduce drug and alcohol abuse and organisations who sought to improve the wellbeing of children and young people. Arguably, the research may have been tailored to prove that cannabis use in adolescence was harmful. 

The study group initially comprised of 1037 people born between 1972 and 1973 but in the last wave of the study at age 38 only 96% of the 1004 living study members re-tested. IQ tests were performed in childhood every 2 years from age 7 until 13, prior to the onset of cannabis use with the final test occurring when participants were 38 years old. The researchers conducted the study in waves and split the participants into groups dependent on their level of cannabis use or dependence. Researchers compared the IQ of participants showing persistent cannabis dependence (PCD)** and persistent cannabis use (PCU)*** to those who had never used cannabis. Use of cannabis in the day or week preceding the test is unlikely but the researchers admit this may not be accurate because the participants were not lab tested. Other controls used included hard drug or alcohol use, schizophrenia and education.   

The study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) found that there was a statistically significant decline in neuropsychological function and mean IQ test scores in the PCD and PCU groups, which was not apparent in the never used group. 

The never used group exhibited a positive effect size of 0.05 on average indicating an increase in mean IQ compared to the negative effect sizes of -0.38 and -0.35 on average for the PCD and PCU groups respectively corresponding to a decrease of about ~6 IQ points. 

It can be estimated with 95% confidence that the never used group showed a mean difference in their full scale IQ on average somewhere between 85.39 and 115.89 IQ points, in comparison to the PCD group who showed a mean difference somewhere between 80.61 and 107.25 IQ points on average. The study identifies that those in the PCD group improved in the arithmetic, block design and picture completion subtests, the areas where the never used group showed decreases. This could possibly correlate to the results that show some PCD and PCU participants would have the same IQ as some of those who have never used cannabis despite the general declines measured overall.

The researchers recommend that policy decisions focus on delaying the onset of cannabis use in adolescence, and suggested funding further research to provide definitive results in light of limitations documented in the study. 

Arguably, some further limitations might include the possibility of participants practicing IQ tests prior to testing, for instance, if the participants knew they might be IQ tested they might have wanted to improve their past IQ results. Additionally, occupation could also be a factor in the results, such that those who use higher-level problem solving and verbal comprehension skills on a daily basis – some of the main skills tested, may perform better on these tests in comparison those who have low skilled or unskilled roles or who are unemployed. The sampling frame was very narrow involving only participants from Dunedin, so with a larger and more diverse sample the results may differ. Finally, comparative studies with populations known to be persistent users such as those identifying as Rastafarian, could provide a valuable insight into the neuropsychological functioning of different ethnicities in response to cannabis use. 

In my view there are multiple limitations in this study and I am therefore not convinced that it is cannabis use in adolescence which led to the results found by the study, but other variables not considered by the study. However, in saying that, the study does show that there is at least a risk that cannabis use in adolescence may lead to IQ decline later on in life.  Results for adult onset cannabis use were insignificant leading researchers to conclude that the IQ decline was not prevalent among the adult onset group. 

*The graph was composed based on the results in Table 1 of the actual study and is not an image from the study itself. The error bars in the graph indicate the standard deviation of the mean IQ scores on average.
**Persistent cannabis dependence was defined according to the number of waves at which participants met the cannabis dependence criteria. For the purpose of this article, the 3+ group are the focus.
***Persistent cannabis use was determined through regularity which was defined as 4 or more times per week. For the purpose of this article the 3+ group are the focus. 

This information in this post was predominantly sourced from an assignment I completed for Uni that has yet to be graded. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

A neutral New Zealand

NZ has an anti-nuclear stance which derives from a Labour led campaign against nuclear propulsion and weapons.  In fact, we have legislated to make New Zealand a ‘nuclear free zone’ – New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act 1987.
In 1987 Labour passed the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act. In a largely symbolic act, the United States Congress retaliated with the Broomfield Act, downgrading New Zealand's status from ally to friend. David Lange stated that if the security alliance was the price New Zealand must pay to remain nuclear-free, 'it is the price we are prepared to pay'. In 1989, 52% of New Zealanders indicated that they would rather break defence ties than admit nuclear-armed ships

My question is this: If NZ are sincerely against nuclear weapons, why do we provide support to the US whom we know has nuclear weapons and has explicitly declared that they will use these weapons against nations who fail to abide by the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Additionally, the US were the intiators of having such a Treaty yet they themselves have failed to comply with its terms. NPT signatories are “not supposed to build and maintain such weapons in perpetuity. Article VI of the treaty holds that each state-party is to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament” (see:

The US has nuclear weapons and continues to maintain and modify them citing the reason is to provide reassurance to their allies and friends against any potential nuclear attacks from other nations.

The worry is that recent reports indicate that the US and Israel are preparing to go to war with Iran. We cannot rule out that these countries will not use nuclear weapons during combat, since this will depend on whether or not the US determine that Iran is in breach of the NPT (since Iran is a signatory to that treaty). Such a tactic would not come as a surprise to some critics of the US who suggest that there is evidence nuclear weapons were used in both Iraq and Afghanistan. (See:

My point is this: NZ prides itself on many things – but one area in which a significant majority of NZ are united is our anti-nuclear stance. It is hypocritical then, that our government would provide support to a military agenda that would not rule out the use of nuclear weapons in future wars (despite the fact that the US are a signatory to that treaty). Also remember that the US expelled NZ from the ANZUS treaty for not allowing the USS Buchanan to enter our waters because the US would not declare if it had nuclear weapons on board. Notwithstanding that the US were well aware of NZ’s stance and used this occasion to test the policy, which resulted in a political tantrum analogous to the behaviour of a two year old denied a lollipop. Our government is doing all the groundwork, and making the sacrifices to improve diplomatic relations between NZ and the US even though it was the US government who disrespected our democratic stance on anti-nuclear policy.  

My concluding remarks are that NZ ought to declare itself a neutral state. This does not amount to disbanding our own defence forces. The Swiss and Japanese are clear examples of neutral states that have retained a defence force, and international law does not prevent a neutral state from resisting attempts by belligerent militaries to invade a neutral territory. 

NZ becomes nothing more than a hypocritical backwater if it continues to support the US in its military crusade for global domination. The time for neutrality is now.