Monday, December 27, 2010

Comment From the Cables of the Day

From the wikileaks cables:
(Note: A National Party media advisor
indicated to Poloff that the nuclear ban issue would most
likely be addressed in a second National Party term -- 2008
at the earliest.)
Well that could come back to bite them at the elections.

Thankfully Wasn't Worse

At the risk of a new email battle with my lives in Texas and is an executive of a company that works with oil uncle over gun control (guess which side he takes) this incident highlights one of the dangers of arming police:

After being called to a report of fighting, the officer arrested a 19-year-old man who had been involved in an assault and while struggling with him, the officer was attacked by two other men, police said.
One of the men grabbed the officer's baton and struck him across the head and punched him. The officer suffered a large cut from the baton, a cut above his left eye and a bruised face in the attack. The officer is now recovering at home, police said.
 Had the officer been armed with a gun that could have been a much much worse scenario and even among our highly trained police there is a significant risk of their weapons falling into others hands. While we want our police officers to be safe this is something that needs to come from respect not fear. We need to somehow go back to the days of the police being a useful pillar of the community rather than someone who gives out speeding tickets in most peoples mind. How to do that I have no idea but I am sure there are enough smart heads in the government to work it out.

Fond Memories of Sisterly Love

This image from XKCD reminds me of so many battles with my sister. Can't help but think how common this is in everyday life...

Rep. Barney Frank On The "Radical Homosexual Agenda"



...and yet they are terrified. In NZ gay people are lucky enough to have equal legal rights but there is still a stigma attached to them which they are struggling to fight. The USA has a long way to go but it is starting to make positive moves and has taken an admirable lead in the UN recently attempting to get sexual orientation back as a prohibited ground for execution again.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

ACC

The government has waited until the House is no longer in session naturally and released the news that was due back in February. They will be opening the ACC work account to competition ignoring the advice of one of the countries best accounting firms PriceWaterhouseCoopers which in its stocktake recommended no change and showed that opening ACC to competition would lead to a $200 Million dollar loss for New Zealand each year. Instead the government set up its own taskforce to review the scheme and like all of its other taskforces chose people it knew would recommend something ridiculous based on very little evidence like the 2025 one which the government could then moderate and look reasonable. The lack of propriety in the way they make the decisions I dislike often annoys me as much as the decision.

As for the opening ACC to competition it is an awful idea in my opinion. The fact is we have no NZ companies that will end up offering this insurance coverage here most likely because it is a major financial undertaking. The likelihood is equivalent cover will be far more expensive because while ACC is currently subject to the ridiculous requirement to account for all future costs for peoples lifetimes all private insurers will be subject to that plus will need to make a profit and pay off the cost of setting up shop here. What will likely happen is that less comprehensive cover will be chosen. Why? Workers will have no choice in what health care option they get it will be a decision entirely for their employer and in fact most people probably won't have the foggiest whether they are even covered till they find out they aren't. A fair chunk of people don't even know about ACC's existence or at least what it actually does generally now. This will also undermine the entire functioning of the ACC system which works pretty damn well right now working at lower cost than almost every other health insurance scheme in the world and each year producing a $1-2 billion surplus to pay off that future funding requirement which will lead to it one day having around ~25 billion sitting around in government bonds most likely it already has over $10 billion in assets. Finally as PriceWaterhouseCoopers showed New Zealand as a country likely stands to lose money from it.

The change is not defendable. A very small portion of the population will get choice i.e. employers who will probably against their employees interests use it to get a cheaper health insurance system which is less comprehensive. In the meantime we undermine the ability to fund a world leading system and cost the country $200 million a year. I don't consider it privatisation of ACC (although it is technically privatisation of health insurance) it is merely wanton destruction of a vital government service and an absurd idea.

I don't agree with all their claims but if you are looking for a good facebook group against the ACC changes there is the ACC futures coalition page here. There were a number of others but they have been somewhat neglected now and are liable to spam.

Wikileaks

Bryce Edwards has put up 243 of the latest Wikileaks cables about NZ and linked to a great deal of the coverage of it. You can check it out here.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Poll Result

Apathy seems to have been the largest reason New Zealand hasn't become a republic before. We have been to a large extent lazy about our constitutional arrangements. There has been massive breaches of procedure over the year which caused but small ripples in the public opinion like CERRRA which gave Gerry Brownlee dictator-like powers to repeal legislation. The latest poll result while inaccurate of the general feeling towards a republic shows even on this blog where presumably most people are politically involved over a third don't care if we are a republic and the rest all support one (although no doubt disagree over what kind). We are going into a constitutional review now which will avoid the question but it may no doubt be brought up anyway. We will presumably see a whole lot of apathy again with this constitutional review which is already in my opinion a constitutional outrage. Why would two government ministers be appointed to chair the review of our constitutional arrangements? It is something that should be done outside of the vested interests of politicians scope.

Regardless of that my own views on the changes that need to happen which they mentioned are already pretty firm although I will post about them with detail at a later date. Yes we should have a written constitution. Yes it should incorporate the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and these should be binding on government actions towards both Maori and Pakeha. The number of electorates should not be increased unless the number of list seats is increased proportionately. The number of MPs should not be reduced as this would limit the talent able to run our country and do the job effectively however it could be increased a small amount. While not necessarily Maori seats there should be a requirement for local government to have elected Maori representatives to ensure they actually are dealing with Maori correctly even if it is just a consultative role. It has been quite an issue in the past and no likely will in the future that councils do not understand Maori issues. The bill of rights should be strengthened so that other statutes must expressly state the bill of rights act does not apply to them if they are inconsistent but it should not be supreme law. The length of Parliament should remain at three years to increase it would create increased corruption and inefficiency in government as it does in countries like France with long electoral periods MPs should never be able stop campaigning that in effect means they can stop listening to the people.

The New Electorate MPs

My congratulations to Phil Twyford and Louisa Wall for this selections. I think both were the best candidates for the electorates they were selected for. Both for practical party politics and for representing the area. With Louisa selected it was pretty much guaranteed for Phil today. Kate Sutton I feel would also make an excellent MP. I have met her a few times and each time have been impressed. Hopefully she will be making it onto the Labour list in a winnable slot for next year.

I also want to mention Kris Faafoi's campaign. It was a tough one as the election was to a great deal fought as Kris against Key and Hekia herself had a strong local profile having campaigned there solidly for the previous four years rather than just the campaign period. Hekia was able to rely extensively on Key to back her up for photo opportunities and meeting voters which Kris simply couldn't beat and Phil Goff while he put in a lot of work canvassing does not have the media profile yet to assist in the same way especially as his role is only leader of the opposition not prime minister so naturally carries less recognition. In the end Kris got proportionally about 1.5% less than the 2008 party vote. This came with quite a low turn out and some of this was lost to UNITE while National lost little to ACT but is still a cause for concern for Labour. They will need to step up their game for the 2010 election there to not just win back that vote but increase it.

Botany selection will also be coming up soon and it will be interesting to see who is selected. Raymond Huo could end up the candidate although Labour is probably better off keeping him on the list as a Chinese MP for the whole country rather than an electorate candidate for Botany which he doesn't stand a great chance of winning although it would be possible to highly humiliate National. A ten thousand vote margin is very difficult to keep and if it is reduced it is a bad sign for then. Running the same candidate as 08 is not likely to be a success. Labour should look to finding a permanent person to deal with Botany if they want to one day hold this seat as Hekia has been trying to do in Mana.

While more by-elections are costly for the taxpayer I am also hoping Chris Carter will resign soon and allow Botany and Te Atatu to be fought together. He cannot realistically do a good job as an MP working as an opposition MP at odds with Labour all he is doing is bolstering the National government and undoing the good work he did as a cabinet minister under the last. I think having Tizard back would be less of an issue.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Facebook Group

A new Facebook Group has sprung up today Unbar the Ballot. It is a group against the stripping of the vote from prisoners which occurred in a National Party bill put forward by Paul Quinn a few weeks ago. If you are against the change then you should consider joining it. The bill is unquestionably in contradiction of human rights which was affirmed by the attorney-general. It stripped voting rights from all prisoners serving sentences under three years (i.e. only minor crimes) as there was already a legislative bar on serious offenders voting. At the select committee only two people spoke in favour of the bill one being Paul Quinn himself and the other being DPF over at Kiwiblog whose support at best was weak. There was over fifty oral submissions against it. It is an affront to democracy and there is no reason for it with fairly clear indications it would do nothing to prevent crime whilst marginalising prisoners and making it harder for them to become reintegrated into society after their release.

Group is here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Amazing Speech from the UK

I will be posting on the awful actions of the UK police in kettling protesters (trapping them in the cold for hours and threatening to shoot them if they try to move essentially.) For now though I suggest you watch this amazing speech by a 15 year old boy over there who was involved in it:

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wikirebels

Lprent over at The Standard has helpfully put up links to a documentary about Wikileaks for those interested in viewing it is about an hour long. Post can be found here.

The Kiwi Wikileaks

If you are keen to find out what was going on in the Kiwi Wikileaks the wait will soon be over. The Sunday Star Times has been given all of the cables by Wikileaks and they have their initial coverage of it here. They show we began our reconciliation with the USA military a year before it was done publicly as the new National government preferred to keep it secret. The cables have also described Key as fiercely pro-American and Helen Clark as a controlling manager but also funny, warm and open. It has also shown since 2005 there has been strong pressure to drop our anti-nuclear stance although that isn't really anything new.

There is also somewhat disturbingly a clear intention on the part of the USA to create journalists favourable to them by giving away free trips to secure their goodwill.

Look forward to seeing if any more issues come forward. There is a full document of them available here. I will go have a read through myself of them all when I have time.

Ron Paul Speech

Came across this speech on youtube as the recommended for its category. I suggest you watch it:





What most struck me about this is how little disagreement with him people had. The video when I first saw it was 1300 likes and 5 dislikes for all the initial opposition to Wikileaks. The fact is if Wikileaks releasing these cables is wrong now then it is always wrong to release information when our government lies to us. If that is true then we are saying it is okay for a government to hide anything from us if they deem it necessary. That is not a country I would ever want to live in and I have to admit I am incredibly surprised the USA has had so many calls for censorship gives how much it says it prides free speech. If any charges are laid against Wikileaks members from the USA it shows that it has failed as a state and to uphold its own constitution and I truly hope it doesn't happen. In New Zealand we have practically no chance of any charges being laid and no real call for them which I am glad of.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Let Them Eat Cake?

It seems the (albeit entirely wrong attributed) Marie Antionette phrase "Let them eat cake" can be used by socialists just as well as the aristocracy.

In a cable titled "Making Socialism Easier to Swallow" it is said:

President Chavez opened the "Arepera Socialista" with much
fanfare on December 22, advertising its low price and high quality
as symbolic of the benefits of his socialist revolution. (Note:
"Arepas" are a Venezualan-style thick cornmeal tortilla usually
used for a type of sandwich. End Note.) The restaurant, located
in a lower middle class neighborhood of Caracas, serves "arepas"
for about a fourth of their regular price. It is currently only
open during weekday mornings, although there are plans to extend
its hours, add coffee and fresh juice to its menu, and open two new
locations in working class neighborhoods.
 ...
Facing high inflation, electricity and water rationing,
and failing public services, Chavez may see the "arepera
socialista" as a relatively quick and easy way to promote the
benefits of "socialism" to his electoral base before the September
legislative elections. The challenge will be meeting demand
without raising the subsidized price or cutting quality.

I wish that this restaurant was serving pork. It would make this so much more classic.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wikileaks Petition

Sign the Wikileaks petition if you support their activites it has a great feature showing you the new signatures flowing in, dozens by the second. The wording is:


To the U.S. government, and corporations linked to Wikileaks:

We call on you to stop the crackdown on WikiLeaks and its partners immediately. We urge you to respect democratic principles and laws of freedom of expression and freedom of the press. If Wikileaks and the journalists it works with have violated any laws they should be pursued in the courts with due process. They should not be subjected to an extra-judicial campaign of intimidation.

Once again it is here.

If you want to help out Wikileaks more I am not sure there are still any safe ways to give donations to them with the risks of confiscation when companies refuse to operate with them. However if happen to be able to host servers then let them know they have about 1300 mirror sites at the moment protecting them so they cannot be taken down by attacks which is crucial to their survival. The more the better.

At least our media isn't this bad....

From Probably Bad News/Failblog:

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gambling on Information

If you want to read more Wikileaks stories but can't decide what try this new site that has come up  and it will link you with a random one. Cablegateroulette has been set up to provide you with the text of a leaked document every time you push the big red button. Go on you know you want to.

In Other News

There is concern an Auckland house may spread to the bush. In other news there is fears a Palmerston North school may spread to the mountains and discontent a Wellington Bowling Alley may spread to the ocean.

Scrapping Superannuation

The refusal once more by the government to consider raising the age of superannuation is troubling. Apparently it is not needed and will not happen under the current government. They also apparently don't need to contribute to the NZ super fund to pay for these people's retirement either. Labour however is probably not too keen to change the age although they will most likely restart the funding. Here's the thing; we have an ageing population. The birth rate in New Zealand is dropping and while births currently outpace deaths that is because we are continually extending our lifespan with people now living past 70-80 regularly. The proportion of people claiming superannuation compared to those earning is rising drastically. On top of this the youth generation will have no petrol as we are likely past peak oil already but by 2015 at the latest and we will have severe farming difficulties from climate change reducing crop viability and the likely loss of phosphate fertilizer from 2030 a core plant growing nutrient which unfortunately has almost been used up meaning we need to find new crops that don't need phosphate to grow quickly. End of this story is that there is going to be a lot less resources around and less people to produce goods with more people needing superannuation. The consequence of this is that it is simply going to become unaffordable if we leave it. When it gets to that point there will be two options namely to greatly increase it 5-10 years overnight or to scrap it entirely. Most people of my generation don't actually expect there to be a surviving superannuation scheme when they get to the current retirement age because it is fairly obvious it won't be possible. If the current generation wants to get its extra two years now fine but they need to be aware they risk a government coming in when 20 years is up and scrapping their whole entitlement.

The option put forward to raise it by two months every year to drip feed a change is a very sensible way to do it and would reduce the pressure of the system. It is important to note though that 67 is very unlikely to be the stopping point in the near future. If there is a retirement age below 70 when I am that old I will be very surprised and wouldn't be at all surprised to see one at 75 or even 80.

The scheme is likely to be left however until breaking point. When it reaches this I don't favour a shock increase this just makes new inequities. I would favour scrapping superannuation in favour of sickness benefits so when a person is too old to work full time any more they can stop which is eminently more fair than people leaving at an arbitrary age which does not take into account the fact that people age at different rates (very noticeable in NZ with Maori and Pacific populations who age significantly faster than Pakeha resulting in getting grey hair several years earlier and ultimately unfortunately having a shorter lifespan).

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Julian Assange: Why the World Needs Wikileaks

Wikileaks Battles On

It seems in France right now there is pressure to create a ban on servers there hosting Wikileaks. Fortunately the courts have rejected it so far but the higher courts have indicated it is willing to hear further arguments. In the mean time Wikileaks has now gone viral to stop itself being taken down with mirrors created by users of the site ensuring the content will no longer be lost to DDoS attacks. Almost $100,000 has been taken from Wikileaks so far after its Swiss bank account has been frozen and its Paypal account suspended. Paypal's site went down for eight hours following the suspension due to DDoS attacks and it has been reported it can expect to take further attacks against its servers. The attackers had this to say:
While we don’t have much of an affiliation with WikiLeaks, we fight for the same reasons. We want transparency and we counter censorship. The attempts to silence WikiLeaks are long strides closer to a world where we can not say what we think and are unable to express our opinions and ideas.
We can not let this happen. This is why our intention is to find out who is responsible for this failed attempt at censorship. This is why we intend to utilize our resources to raise awareness, attack those against and support those who are helping lead our world to freedom and democracy.

These releases has gone from being about the release of sensitive government information to becoming a cyber-war over the internet between governments and internet users while the governments of the world try to find ways to arrest Julian Assange a move highly unlikely to slow Wikileaks at this stage. The crime they are issuing his international arrest warrant on is for "sex by surprise the penalty for which is a small fine as opposed to rape and it is highly unlikely he will actually be convicted given the circumstantial evidence in the case indicating the women involved were lying. It is a mystery right now who will win. Once all of the diplomatic cables are released if Wikileaks is still standing then I don't think we will see it going anywhere regardless of what it releases next. Julian Assange may find himself in jail or dead but that was his plan all along to be a "lighting rod" for Wikileaks and when it happens there is another waiting to take his place. Hopefully out of all this we will see the worlds governments realise they cannot hide things forever.

Sanity Song



For those who haven't seen the video's on autotune the news you should check it out. Here is their autotune of the march for sanity.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Wikileaks continues...

Despite the best efforts of people to censor wikileaks it is still going strong and dominating the international news especially online. Searches for it turn up new results every time you refresh almost at the moment. I think Idiot/Savant hit on the reason why pretty well in one of his blog posts today:

The net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it; attempts to suppress information instead help it to spread further.

The more people try to fight wikileaks the more people are going to care about it. If it wasn't hyped up and kept secret would people really care what diplomats say to each other? The answer is no so long as its public people tend not to mind so much that people do things they don't like from time to time which can be seen in domestic politics frequently where political apathy subsumes any real attempt at political movement on topics that seem boring like constitutional breaches.

The things of interest I have spotted today from wikileaks were this article saying how Saudi groups are still funding the terrorist groups which prevents conflict from ever really stopping. People who have read up on it already know that most the fighting now is really just rich families from the USA and Saudi Arabia paying others to die for them for their satisfaction but it is good to see it actually reported.

There was also another New Zealand cable. The USA cares about our internet connection cables. I am somewhat surprised that they do but it is hardly a major revelation. It is good though it shows our government is not lying to us as much as the others in international spheres.

Wikileaks is still going slowly through cable releases due to its issues with finding servers and web addresses. If the link to it doesn't work for you there are dozens of mirrors now so just google around till you find it or just sign up to its facebook page and find out about the latest releases there. Something this attempt to censor it has certainly helped as despite its numerous publishings before this cables release has seen its fans increase from 550k to 850k in only a few days because it is one of the more guaranteed sources of info as facebook can't be taken down by the DOS attacks.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Land of the Free

So right now the USA has just installed scanners in airports that allow guards to see everyone naked, are rallying against freedom of speech trying to shut down Wikileaks and still are running on one of the least democratic election systems in the world with very little link between votes cast and who is elected....How are they still calling themselves land of the free?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cablegate

Wikileaks has released a whole load of new documents in fact 250,000 this time in a series of leaked diplomatic cables from US embassies. They are already working on their next release with the details of a bank. Governments have of course come out against it saying it is awful and undermines security...except for Equador who offered Julian Assange residency and want him to do seminars there. Hillary Clinton has been leading this charge against him probably because she is the Secretary of State for the USA and also because she may have broken international law severely and ordered spying on UN diplomats. This is all of course utter rubbish though as Wikileaks filters the data that puts peoples lives at risk and is mostly releasing the stuff already widely known to governments just not to their people. As the Defence Minister of Israel Ehud Barak said:
There isn't a big difference, in my opinion, between what you read in Wikileaks and what we've all heard in briefings, even if they were off the record.

Its not going to affect diplomacy in a great deal other than either making governments be more honest or not say things their public would disagree with in the first place both of which are desirable outcomes.

Some of the more interesting breaches include:
The only NZ thing I have seen is that Australia sent us cables suggesting it was prearranged for Rudd to step down.

Now past the trivial stuff as Julian Assange rightly considers the rape smear attempting to lower the impact of these documents, rape charges don't just appear on the same week as you release confidential documents. These cables are going to show up a lot of death and torture and breaches of the law by the USA. We have already seen so many instances of abuse around the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and that is I think only going to become even more apparent from this. These cables that are shaming governments are needed because if we actually know what our governments are doing maybe we can actually change their minds. Maybe we can stop them murdering and torturing innocent people all over the world. People may claim wikileaks may cost lives. I seriously doubt it ever will because if wikileaks can keep up this momentum we are going to move to a far more open society for this type of information simply because there is no other way. All countries made steps a few decades ago making public information acts and the like and then began to regress. This may turn the tide and allow us to have some democratic control of our governments. If their actions in secret cost lives to be made public maybe they shouldn't be doing them. If the world's governments didn't do so many things that are manifestly wrong they would have nothing to fear.

I would already consider David Milliband should be resigning if he was directing the foreign ministry around those cluster bomb issues and Hilary Clinton should step down if it is revealed she spied on UN diplomats. Both of these revelations deeply disappoint me because both are people who I have a great deal of respect for. I have given up expecting US military to actually deal with its sadistic violators that seem to lurk in every corner of it.

There is likely to be over 100 cables concerning New Zealand. I will be greatly interested to see what our government has been doing and will be watching out for it.