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WINZ In The Willows

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“Hi, I’m from Work and Income. I’ll need you all to urinate into a cup to be drug tested please.”

I don’t want to speak too soon, but the scorched earth of Aotearoa is taking a big long drink right now, which is a relief. Absent from the country for the month of February, it was shocking returning to browned grasses in urban green spaces, and acre after acre of scenery rolling out over the singed pastoral fields of the Otago Peninsula. When our driest December on record was followed one of our hottest Januaries, in turn followed by one of our sunniest Februaries, the pressure starts to mount. We got off lightly though; last week the Greater Wellington Regional Council announced they had 20 days of water left for the entire region. Northland was officially declared a drought zone in February, which became island-wide a couple of days ago.

The declaration of a drought gives farmers in these affected areas access to Rural Assistance Payments, roughly equivalent to the unemployment benefit in terms of remuneration, to cover costs of living that can’t be met by farmers during adverse climatic conditions. Payments are asset-tested, with “dairy company, meat company or fertiliser company shares” exempt from this process. These payments are ready to go at any time, essentially at the discretion of the Minister for Primary Industries. How many industries have specific benefits hard-coded into the MSD manual just in case they have worse operating conditions than they expected? Not to dismiss the suffering of the agriculture sector, Deputy Prime Minister and Farmer-In-Chief Bill English has chosen a cost of $2billion in the Office Sweepstake, but what is it about agriculture that warrants this specific attention?

If you are a worker at the mercy of the labour market, you are the master of your own destiny, but if you’re a self-employed agriculturalist who is having a bad time, the Nanny State is still prepared to dust off its apron and let you pull on the strings. The man in charge of the purse strings, however, has signalled that farmers shouldn’t expect to rely on government assistance, given the likely increase in droughts over the coming generations. Both NIWA and the Ministry for the Environment agree that frequency is set to rise due to climate change, and it seemed for a second that the climate change advocacy movement had won over a very senior ally. Sadly, and almost immediately, the Dipton’s Deputy was back pedalling so far and so fast that by last Wednesday he appeared to have staked a claim in climate change denial territory. In response to Greens Co-Leader Dr Russel Norman asking him whether he accepted that human-induced climate change is real, English replied: “It may well, but I am not sure what that has got to do with [the question of drought relief sustainability for farmers]”. It is a national embarrassment that the country’s second most powerful elected representative either refuses to believe, or refuses to publicly acknowledge, the links between human activity and metereological uncertainty.

Bill English’s stance on climate change and handouts won him support from the hard right,  and this weekend Matthew Hooten teamed up with the subeditors at the National Business Review to produce the hilariously headlined ‘English leading debate on climate change‘. In it, he peddles his usual line about climate science being akin to the Salem witch trials, and his exaltation of the free market leads him to wonder why farmers in hot summers get handouts, but skifield operators in hot winters get nothing. Long term, the dangers of simultaneously ignoring climate science and embracing welfare austerity could have fairly significant negative impacts on the viability of our farming industry, but for the moment let’s just look at the agricultural exceptionalism of our welfare system.

We all try to prepare ourselves and our families for times when something unexpected happens. One of the best ways to prepare for this is by planning ahead. Unfortunately, sometimes, in spite of our preparations we need some extra help.

This is how the Rural Assistance Payments are framed on the Work & Income website, a relic of the welfare state’s origins in the social democratic experiment. Life is hard sometimes, and you can’t always help that, so we will help you out until you can pull it back together. The statement is very much applicable to those who find themselves out of work and needing temporary assistance, but under ‘Unemployment Benefit’ all you’ll find are heavily emboldened obligations and punishments that will be meted out if you don’t meet them. It is a terribly slippery once you start drawing such distinctions between ‘worthy’ and ‘unworthy’ recipients of the social safety net. Likewise, we haven’t seen Paula Bennett come out and suggest drug testing regimes or incentives not to breed for farmers receiving RAPs, which is sensible because they are abhorrent, expensive and ineffective policies, but that goes for all beneficiaries. I challenge Bennett to cross-reference all statements regarding welfare for the two groups, and see how they read when group of recipients are switched.

Treating the unemployed with the respect and decency we afford our struggling farmers only takes us half way towards leveling this playing field. Recent punishments and shamings of the unemployed take it too far, but I do believe that there is an inherent obligation in receiving welfare, and it is by-and-large met. Applying for a benefit, and subsequently being on one, was one of the most humiliating and dehumanising experiences of my life, and I did what I could to get off it as soon as possible. Despite the diversionary, beneficiary-bashing rhetoric of the right, this is how an overwhelming majority of claimants operate. Scouring job listings, writing CVs, going to job interviews, re-training and showering, they do what they can stop themselves ending up in the same place.
This is another key divergence in the roles of Farmers & Jobseekers; the assistance being offered by the government includes no obligation to take seriously the role of agriculture in effecting climate change and climate disruption. The farming lobby wants us to let them remain publicly blinkered to the overwhelming scientific evidence, allow them to continue their often overly intensive operations, further exacerbate the problems we have with CO2 emissions, and receive financial assistance in perpetuity when it goes wrong. This Worst Drought In 70 Years business seems as good a time as any to use taxpayer-funded financial aid for farmers as a way of dragging them into a serious discussion about the impact of their industry on the long term stability of our climate. Bailing out businesses without requiring them to help futureproof themselves is terrible long term economic policy and a negligent use of Government Resources. The sooner the apron strings come with strings attached, the better.
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Star Wars was an inside job

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Star Wars was an inside job

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Darth Pope

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Darth Pope

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50 Common Misconceptions

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50 Common Misconceptions

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Rise of the Pope Knight

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Rise of the Pope Knight

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Game of Thrones as Game of Cats 6

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Game of Thrones as Game of Cats 6

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Game of Thrones as Game of Cats 5

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Game of Thrones as Game of Cats 5

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Face TV listings Wednesday 20 March

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AM
7.00 Aljazeera News
8.00 In Focus
8.45 Classic serial
9.00 Bloomberg
10.00 Beyond Stardom
10.30 To The Contrary
11.00 euronews

PM
12.00pm Pacific Viewpoint
12.30 Voice of Islam TV
1.30 euronews
2.00 NHK Newsline
2.30 Korean news
3.00 Dutch news
3.30 French news
4.00 German news
4.30 Imagine-nation
5.00 Euromaxx
5.30 DW Journal
6.00 Aljazeera News
7.00 Schools Inc.
7.15 Shift
7.30 Know Your Rights
8.00 Great Australian Doorstep
8.30 No Limits
9.00 Australia News
9.30 The World of Coffee
10.00 The Darren Saunders Show [PG]
10.30 PBS News Hour
11.30 Planet Un-earth [PG]

Face TV broadcasts on Sky 89 & Auckland UHF

Face TV Twitter
Face TV Facebook

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Proverbs you won’t read on Whaleoil

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“The priest who tells you God wants your money is a liar.”

Radical Proverbs

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In the 4pm Daily Blog Watch

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In the 4pm Daily Blog Bulletin…

Around the NZ Blogosphere

-Karol at The Standard evaluates the latest moves in corporate media.

-Idiot/Savant at the very excellent No Right Turn argues that National are planning to impose the Cyprus solution in NZ.

-The Jackal points the finger at more corruption from dodgy John.

On the Daily Blog today

-Coley Tangerina calls NZ First on their referendum stance over marriage equality.

-Chris Trotter questions National Party tactics over tax reform.

-Martyn Bradbury explains why he bought his first ever Woman’s Day and looks at why Seven Sharp thought ‘smack my bitch up’ was an appropriate back music to a violence story on women. He also looks at a decade of war in Iraq and what John Key had to say at the time.

-Steve Gray asks if the NZ Police are the biggest gang in NZ.

-Burnt out Teacher talks about physically punishing children.

-In The Daily Blog Reposts today: Why we need Feminism, Game of Thrones as Game of Cats 3 & 4, The God penguin, The real 7 deadly sins, Stan Lee Parkour, Ted Talk – The 3 Deadliest Words In The World and Face TV listings Tuesday 19 March.

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Those Whom The Gods Seek To Destroy

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WHAT DOES the National Party think it is doing?

As if allowing Peter Dunne to push his doomed Car-Park Tax to the very brink of reality was not crazy enough, John Key’s government is now contemplating the introduction of a Cell Phone, I-Pad and Tablet Tax.

This is madness on stilts.

Mr Key had better pray that the same unholy alliance which brought down the first efflorescence of Mr Dunne’s fiscal OCD, reconstitutes itself to defeat the second.

In fact, the Prime Minister should immediately pick-up his own, taxpayer-funded I-Pad, and send an urgent text to Exeltium’s Matthew Hooton, the EMA’s Kim Campbell and the Unite union’s Matt McCarten, begging them to “Stop us – before we tax again!”

It’s easy to laugh, but there is a serious side to this sudden outbreak of Tory foot-in-mouth disease.

One has only to cast one’s mind back to the reaction afforded TO Labour’s plans to mandate the use of energy-saving light-bulbs and shower-heads. Even Mr Hooton (who at the time decried them as further evidence of Helengrad’s totalitarian ambitions) will, today, quite happily concede that energy-saving light-bulbs and shower-heads were eminently sensible regulatory innovations.

But that is not the point. As Mike Moore is fond of saying: “You get no reward for being right at the wrong time.”

The trick to political longevity and successful governing lies in recognising those occasions when “doing the right thing” is certain to deliver the wrong result.

Governing human-beings is an art – not a science. Enforcing the dictates of Reason is all very well for an enlightened despot, but it butters very few parsnips for leaders required to face their electorates every few years.

Democratic government is all about timing. Knowing when radical measures, being widely expected, are unlikely to provoke serious political resistance; and when a restive electorate, grown weary of change, is capable of taking offence at the most trivial of political provocations.

Indeed, the more intimately the citizen is affected by change, the more likely he or she is to take serious offence.

When Bill Rowling’s Labour Government banned the family cat from the premises of the local family dairy, the leader of the National Party Opposition, Rob Muldoon knew he was onto a winner. Half New Zealand’s households harbour one or more moggies. Keeping poor puss out of the corner shop was roundly condemned as an example of pettifogging socialist bureaucracy.

Much more damaging to Labour’s re-election chances, however, was Helen Clark’s refusal to allow her caucus colleagues to cast a Conscience Vote on Sue Bradford’s “Anti-Smacking Bill”.

The Labour Prime Minister saw the issue in terms of extending to children exactly the same legal protections against physical assault that Parliament had already given to adults.

Unfortunately for Labour, more than three-quarters of New Zealanders interpreted the Anti-Smacking Bill very differently.

In their eyes it represented both an unwarranted intrusion into their most intimate familial space, and an unspoken (but unmistakeable) indictment of their child-rearing strategies. They felt violated and insulted by a childless Labour leader who shared neither their values nor their lifestyle.

It was electoral poison.

That’s why the National-led Government’s inability to stop Peter Dunne from embarrassing it with the sort of pin-pricking, voter infuriating, compliance-costly fiscal measure that maximises public outrage while netting minimal returns to the Treasury, is so puzzling.

Pissing-off National’s core small-to-medium businesses constituency for a measly $17 million (in the case of the now abandoned Car-Park Tax) makes absolutely no sense at all.

One can only speculate that National has reached that point in the life of every government where its familiarity with power is translated into contempt for the very people who gave it to them.

Or as the Ancient Greeks used to say:

“Those whom the Gods seek to destroy – they first make mad.”

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A decade of war in Iraq – remember what John Key said?

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Are we righteous now?

10 years of war in Iraq. So how’s that gone for the West then?

Remember the gung-ho NZers who crowded the airwaves to declare that we should follow America into its ill fated war against a nation who had nothing to do with the terror attacks of September 11?

Let’s remember the cost

The US war in Iraq has cost US$1.7 trillion with an additional US$490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans, expenses that could grow to more than US$6 trillion over the next four decades counting interest.

…let’s remember the dead…

The war has killed at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians and may have contributed to the deaths of as many as four times that number, according to the Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

When security forces, insurgents, journalists and humanitarian workers were included, the war’s death toll rose to an estimated 176,000 to 189,000, the study said.

…let’s remember the other wars America engaged in…

The 2011 study said the combined cost of the wars was at least US$3.7 trillion, based on actual expenditures from the US Treasury and future commitments, such as the medical and disability claims of US war veterans.

That estimate climbed to nearly US$4 trillion in the update.

The estimated death toll from the three wars, previously at 224,000 to 258,000, increased to a range of 272,000 to 329,000 two years later.

…don’t forget we don’t include the indirect deaths or costs…

Excluded were indirect deaths caused by the mass exodus of doctors and a devastated infrastructure, for example, while the costs left out trillions of dollars in interest the United States could pay over the next 40 years.

..and what did brave John Key have to say at the time???

…that’s right, Key’s concern was that if we didn’t rush into this immoral war with America we may miss out on a free trade deal.

A money man who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing.

Where are the weapons of mass destruction? Where is the democracy? Where is the freedom? We were sold lies to justify a war for corporate and geopolitical strategic reasons.

We should hang our heads in shame this ANZAC Day that we have remembered none of the lessons from those who have given their lives.

A poem for John Key on 10th anniversary of the war he so badly wanted to join…

The Gunner’s Lament

A Maori gunner lay dying
In a paddyfield north of Saigon,
And he said to his pakeha cobber,
“I reckon I’ve had it, man!

‘And if I could fly like a bird
To my old granny’s whare
A truck and a winch would never drag
Me back to the Army.

‘A coat and a cap and a well-paid job
Looked better than shovelling metal,
And they told me that Te Rauparaha
Would have fought in the Vietnam battle.

‘On my last leave the town swung round
Like a bucket full of eels.
The girls liked the uniform
And I liked the girls.

‘Like a bullock to the abattoirs
In the name of liberty
They flew me with a hangover
Across the Tasman Sea,

‘And what I found in Vietnam
Was mud and blood and fire,
With the Yanks and the Reds taking turns
At murdering the poor.

‘And I saw the reason for it
In a Viet Cong’s blazing eyes –
We fought for the crops of kumara
And they are fighting for the rice.

‘So go tell my sweetheart
To get another boy
Who’ll cuddle her and marry her
And laugh when the bugles blow,

‘And tell my youngest brother
He can have my shotgun
To fire at the ducks on the big lagoon,
But not to aim it at a man,

‘And tell my granny to wear black
And carry a willow leaf,
Because the kid she kept from the cold
Has eaten a dead man’s loaf.

‘And go and tell Keith Holyoake
Sitting in Wellington,
However long he scrubs his hands
He’ll never get them clean.’

James K Baxter
1965

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Are The New Zealand Police The ‘Biggest Gang’ In The Country?

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This story is dedicated to the undercover agents who took drugs for the NZ Police administration and to their families who witnessed the outcome.

…..quote adapted from the dedication of ‘Stoned on Duty’.

When I first heard the expression ‘the police are the biggest gang in the country’ I found it laughable. To believe the NZ Police operated above and beyond the law seemed impossible. Then, my sister and brother in law were accepted into the NZ Undercover Police programme. They had been cops for around 5 years and were only the second couple to be accepted to go undercover together. Neither of them had ever smoked marijuana before. People always scoff when I tell them they had never smoked dope before they joined, but they hadn’t. They were classic Kiwi boozers.

Their first ever experience was when they were taken away for a ‘training weekend’ in Rotorua and were introduced to smoking marijuana whilst under the guidance of their operaters and in complete knowledge, and attendance of senior Police officers. That always resonated with me. Seniors officers were on premises when they first smoked and got all paranoid and ‘first time kooky’.

This is when the officers were taught that it is impossible to ‘simulate’ smoking marijuana and they would be lying under oath when giving evidence. It is a bizarre situation for people to start using drugs for Police work. But even worse when they were also involved in a fraud to ensure convictions. Most of them continued using marijuana after the end of the undercover operations and a culture of going to any lengths to ensure convictions spread throught he force. And a culture of lying.

THE FULL TRANSCRIPT OF ‘STONED ON DUTY’ IS HERE. Everything is covered in this extensive history of the undercover programme. If you are not aware of this part of NZ history, I definitly recommend reading it.

When I finally was told all this, after having seen the effects of the undercover programme on my family, which still continue to this day, I have never trusted the Police since. To happily change, distort and sometimes break the officers personalities for the sake of small time ‘drug convictions’, the lack of any humanity broke something inside me. That piece of us that always believes everything is lawful and right in the world was broken forever. When someone you love can be used and dismissed with such little care, well, you can’t dismiss that and feel the Police are our (mythical) protectors.

But all of the lies and treatment of Police was revealed in the Press last century but no change to undercover programmes was ever publicly stated by Police as being actioned. In fact, the two recent cases are horrifying for what they show of the continued abuse of the undercover programme.

The use of a mentally ill civillian to get information on ‘protestor’ groups is criminal behaviour being enabled by the Police for information.

He sent images of underage girls to police ffs.

He is know seeking compensation after being allowed to mentally torture women.

 

And it led to this farce.
And the false conviction for an undecover policeman is quite literally breaking the law.

Now, we are all aware that at that time, we were the only country in the world that allowed our police to go on extended periods undercover, sometimes for up to a year. The operatives also totally immersed themselves in the lives of their targets.
They all learnt to lie well.

Unlike many other international undercover programmes, New Zealand’s controversial policy with agents’ drug taking has been their unmaking. Lawsuits, addicted agents, and allegations of perjured evidence have sullied the aims and achievements of the Undercover Programme.

QUOTE FROM HERE.

There are many more trials like this one where the police purjured themselves. Why have none of them been re-examined?
Should we believe the recent report that undercover programmes will be examined? Soon, these programmes that have destroyed lives, shattered trust and yielded thousands of tainted convictions will have been operating with impunity within NZ for 50 years. Will they ever be stopped?

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How grossly offensive can Seven Sharp get?

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It’s good not having to watch Seven Sharp to still be disgusted by what they do thanks to social media.

When they launched, they boldly claimed they wanted to be ‘relevant’. Well they are now. Relevant like cancer.

I really don’t bother watching Seven Sharp, it’s just so dumb and I don’t have enough time in my life for dumb TV. I have flicked in and out with the hope that it has gotten better, but every snippet I see is just stupid bullshit of no relevance what-so-ever.

How on earth is this supposed to be current affairs on the state broadcaster?

Seven Sharp’s latest sin however is just so grossly offensive it is bewildering that anyone would not have alerted someone in charge that what was going to air could decimate the little credibility any one connected to the show now has left.

During a story on staging female abuse in public, Seven Sharp ran the Prodigy song ‘Smack my Bitch up’ as the soundtrack.

Cue open shocked mouth look now.

Does Tim Wilson secretly work for TV3 as a mole sent to destroy TVNZ?

Will Seven Sharp play ‘Shark Attack’ when covering the Muriwai death?

I just can’t understand why Seven Sharp would be so blatantly disrespectful and insulting when covering an issue as sensitive as domestic violence.

It’s violence towards women, it’s not entertainment. What can’t Seven Sharp grasp about that?

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Why I bought Woman’s Day this week

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Now I have to admit, I’ve never bought a Woman’s Day in my life. Ever.

I can’t imagine I am in any way shape or form their target audience, so it won’t come as devastating news to the editorial team at Woman’s Day that I am not a regular reader.

But yesterday I bought a Woman’s Day. It wasn’t for their fascinating expose on Jen & Justin being married already, it wasn’t Pippa being set to wed and it wasn’t because of the All Black proposal – it was because Lynda Topp and her partner Donna were getting married.

In the month that we saw the marriage equality Bill walk through its second reading, nothing shows us how far we’ve come than the dear old venerable Women’s Day giving Lynda’s gay wedding the exact same fluff and glow that they give heterosexual weddings.

The Grans and Aunties buying this magazine are wise enough to know life isn’t as black and white as their original up bringing may have drilled into them. They have lived enough life to know that when you find love and companionship you take it gratefully no matter where it comes from.

So I congratulate the Woman’s Day for their courage and bravery to do this cover. You got my $4.20 this week.

When media make the attempt to be inclusive, we have the responsibility to support them.

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