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Reverse graffiti

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reverse graffiti

Reverse graffiti

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Flock of smeagols

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Flock of smeagols

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How the NZ Police have doubled their arrests for children with drugs

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How the NZ Police have doubled their arrests for children with drugs

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Party insects

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party insects

Party insects

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Face TV listings Tuesday 9th April

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AM
8.00 In Focus
8.45 Classic serial
9.00 Bloomberg
10.00 Green Matters
10.30 Tomorrow Today
11.00 euronews

PM
12.00pm In Conversation
12.30 Bloomberg
1.00 TV Chile 24 Horas
1.30 euronews
2.00 NHK Newsline
2.30 Korean news
3.00 German news
3.30 French news
4.00 Dutch news
4.30 Box Office America
5.00 Euromaxx
5.30 DW Journal
6.00 Aljazeera News
7.00 Pacific Viewpoint
7.30 The Beatson Interview
8.00 The Couch [PGR]
9.00 Australia News
9.30 The Wine Squad [PG]
10.00 Danger Man [PG]
10.30 PBS News Hour
11.30 Song Writers Across Australia

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 king is not divine, he’s a swine.”

Radical Proverbs

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The Daily Blog Watch Monday 8 April

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Today’s Daily Blog Watch Round-Up of matters that have attracted the attention, assessments, and articulations of this country’s leading bloggers…

NZ Left Blogosphere

Chris Trotter laments on Bowalley Road that we are Not Debating The Constitution as we should, and that the Constitutional Review by the NZ Centre for Public Law was a lost  “opportunity to squeeze all the poisons inflaming the open wound that is New Zealand race relations into public view“.

He suggests that whilst those charged with the Review were  “capable of contributing  to a polite “discussion” of our constitutional arrangements” – Chris was seemingly seeking something more robust…

… and while we’re about it, I’ve decided to add “robust” to the list of words that I find highly annoying, and pledge never to use again.

I wonder though; are we, as a society, really mature enough to engage in a rational debate on a constitutional? Listen to Rantback Radio for five minutes to answer that question…

On Tumeke, Tim Selwyn writes And then they confiscated the ocean – pointing out that National plans to use the military to arrest ‘troublesome’ environmental protesters. Won’t that be a sight to behold? The Te Mana shelling protesters in  a couple of  inflatables.

Middle New Zealand might well shrug and mutter, “So f****n what“? They might think differently when a major oil spill ruins their favourite beach; fishing spot; or damages our international tourism industry.

On The Standard today,

  • Looters’ bonus to cost $40 million, writes James Henderson, and his short blogpost on what Bill English has spent $40 million on will make your blood boil. (Unless you’re an ACT drone, in which case nothing will happen, as ACToids have no human circulatory system. I suspect it’s Dalek coolant fluid.) James puts together a neat little update on the theft of Might River Power. Worth a look. And if you’re into writing letters to the editor, James’ blogpost is useful as a source of info.
  • Anthony R0bins  points out that there are  good and bad employers  when it comes to Youth rates – and fast food restaurants are proving to be good corporate citizens. But it may be time to review where you buy your groceries from?
  • Kiwis at centre of money maze: Hager – a review by karol, on Nickey Hager and other journalists investigation into an  expose into a global money maze that allow the wealthy to hide their wealth in trusts and tax havens. And lo and behold – guess which far-right female blogger (who also runs Dalek coolant fluid through her veins) has been implicated (though not illegally, yet) in  a complicated maze, involving a “TrustNet”!!
  • War talk by Anthony R0bins, on the “international diplomacy” by John Key. Key’s initial comments that New Zealand goes where the United States goes was enough to put the sh*ts up 90% of the country (the remaining 10% think war is a jolly nice idea as it is good for the Share Market) . A little later – probably at the behest of his minders and Chinese hosts – Key retracted. God, please someone keep that grinning, brain-faded, idiot away from the Korean DMZ.
  • Temper, temper – a very good piece by Eddie on Key’s increasingly erratic relationship with the media.  Not only did the “honeymoon” end a couple of years ago; but the marriage itself is on the rocks, and a dissolution seems imminent. Seriously, but, this is a good read. (And in a roundabout way, ties in with Karl du Fresne’s nasty little attack on Radio NZ.)

As always, The Standard provides insightful analysis and commentary that is rare in the msm these days.

Brian Edwards writes in his Media blog, The Last Post – on the little known connection between Ritalin and ‘terrific’ TV interviewing, and reviews two interviews that Susan Woods had with David  Shearer and Nikki Kaye on ‘The Nation‘, this last weekend. I tend to agree with Brian – Woods’ performance was abysmal, and I noted that Nikki Kaye couldn’t wait to vacate her chair (with a decidedly bemused look).

On a side-note; Brian states that this will be his Last Blogpost.

What? Gutted!

Whether or not one agrees with Brian – he writes with clarity and with sound reasoning. The blogosphere will be the poorer for his absence.

On mars 2 earth, Marty writes about right-wing Danish politician,  Marie Krarup, and her rather tedious racist rant about Maori culture and protocols. See; instead of a handshake. Personally, I don’t see what the problem is. Send Ms Krarup a “Don’t Come Again” postcard (with bare buttocks as the pic).  Problem sorted.

While over  on Frankly Speaking, Frank cites another case of National Party hypocrisy on When is ‘Nanny State’ not a ‘Nanny State’? whilst also serving up a lesson for the Labour Party on How Not To Do Things; The Fletcher Affair – a warning for Labour.

And on the Dim Post, Danyl has been beavering away with a charge of blogposts;

Mclauchlan’s law of anti marriage equality arguments – showing the absurdity of arguments against marriage equality,

Do not meddle in the affairs of knuckleheads, for they are quick to anger and not remotely subtle – Key on knuckleheads, the media, and declaring war on Nth Korea,

Rules of the children’s game ‘Zombie’ as screamed out by my neighbour’s children while I was trying to write – important to know this,

– a rather cool and informative blogpost on the  Conspiracy theory of the day, GCSB timeline edition. Bookmark as a resource. (I have.) Danyl makes an interesting observation at the end of this blogpost – one shared by 4 million others New Zealanders. (The remainder – 400,000 – are true-blue National supporters who think that a Police State would be a rather fun place to live in. As long as it was run by National, and not those dastardly comy-nists, who would turn a fun Police State into something, y’know, drearrrrry.

On The Daily Blog

  • What is really driving China in trade negotiations and why Key is failing – Prof Jane Kelsey looks into the TPPA and what it really means for the US and other nations. Prof Kelsey is up with the play on this issue and her writings are always informative. Her analysis of the Bo’ao Conference is illumination – and also instructive is the way the MSM have skirted the issues involved.
  • In The Conspirators,  Chris Trotter explains how the neoliberal revolution has become a part of every day society; business; and the political institutions that govern us. Read and learn. This isn’t so much a “conspiracy theory” as recent history put into context.  A Must Read; know what we’re up against.
  • And much, much more!!

Blogpost of the Day

On the Daily Blog, The Law Commission can take this blog from my cold dead hands writes Martyn Bradbury – and he puts a convincing case for bloggers to avoid joining the  “Orwellian named ‘Communications Commission’”.

When Cameron “Show-Me-The-Sleaze” Slater sez with a straight face on Media3 that the Communications Commission is designed for “respectable media outlets and blogs like mine” – then I’m setting my phaser on ‘Kick Arse’ and barricading the doors.

Read Martyn’s blogpost. Now. You’ll thank me for it later and name your first born after me.

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The Liberal Agenda: April 8th-14th

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A whole range of exciting stuff is happening this week…

 

Rating very highly on the ‘things I am excited about right now’ list is the International Documentary Film Festival. It starts Monday 8th in Wellington and Wednesday 10th in Auckland. I’ll post my picks tomorrow, in the mean time, check out the line up. You will probably end up putting little stars next to almost everything.

 

If you feel like you were born in the wrong decade, then head along to the Very Vintage Day Out on Saturday. There will be entertainment (expect burlesque, jazz, rockabilly), shopping (over 30 stalls stocking vintage goodies), high tea and workshops covering all things vintage (think makeovers and swing).

love doc day April 11th

Love Doc Day is on Thursday! this is your opportunity to show those hard-working, dedicated conservation-loving, environment-protecting heros that we love and value them even if the government doesn’t. Send cakes, postcards, emails, tweets, facebook statuses, flowers, drawings, singing telegrams or whatever else you may think will let them know there are still people in this country standing by them.

 

The Titirangi Festival is happening this weekend and there is a very funky line-up over the two days. Fingers crossed the fine weather continues and you can groove your Saturday afternoon away in the sun. There are a range of events on: a couple of concerts (Nathan Haines Quartet and Fabulous Arabia amongst others) which cost $35, workshops for those of you who are musically inclined and a whole bunch of free events outdoor in the village in in the surrounding cafes.

 

There is a really cool thing happening in Mt Eden which I have just discovered. Transition Towns is a grassroots movement happening internationally which is all about local solutions to environmental, social and economic challenges. This weekend you can find out all about it with a walking tour and a bit of a show and tell about what’s going on (fruit trees, community gardens, recycling…all the good stuff). Places are limited and you do need to book, a donation of $20 will go to funding more projects. If the transition town thing interests you, also check out Grey Lynn 2030 and Point Chevalier Transititon Town.

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There is a Public Meeting about the Tamaki Housing Crisis on Wednesday at 7.00pm and the Glenn Innes Primary School. Also to do with housing, is a Public Meeting in Wellington tonight called Making Housing Affordable featuring Charles Waldengrave from the Family Centre and Joel Pringle from Australians for Affordable Housing. Highly topical, my only request is they do one in Auckland soon.

 

Also in Wellington this week is a forum hosted by JustSpeak on Wednesday called ‘Unlocking Prisons:What is the cost of our reliance on imprisonment’. The forum features Andrew Little MP, Professor John Pratt, and Grant Burston who will be looking at whether prisons are really doing what they’re meant to be doing, what the broader costs of prisons are and what some alternatives might be. Don’t worry Auckland- we get this next week.

 

Sunday afternoon is also the launch of the Greens ‘Re-connect Auckland’ Transport Campaign so head to the Greens office to hear about what they’re doing and how you can get involved.

 

If that’s not enough, this week also marks the very exciting return of Back Benches to our screens!!! YUS!!! Wednesday, 10.30pm, Prime. Do it.

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Finally, please remember to join and invite people to the Asset Sales protest on April 27th. Details here.

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The Conspirators

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ON THE EVENING of 11 June 1903, a determined group of Serbian army officers shot their way into the royal palace in Belgrade. Hearing the gunfire, King Alexander and his wife, Queen Draga, hid themselves in a secret room adjoining their bedroom. Inevitably, the pair’s hiding place was discovered and they were brutally murdered – shot and hacked to pieces by at least a dozen assailants. The King’s and Queen’s blood-soaked bodies ended up several floors below on the palace lawn. The jubilant killers celebrated their night of butchery with champagne.

This horrific tale of political blood-lust was compounded by the complete failure of the Serbian authorities to apprehend and prosecute the individuals responsible. The crime, which shocked and sickened the whole of Europe, went entirely unpunished.

The conspirators were always confident of getting away with their crime. Had his rival, Alexander, not been murdered, Serbia’s new King, Peter, would have remained crownless. The assassination plot similarly allowed the hitherto suppressed Radical Party to restore the kingdom’s liberal constitution and become Serbia’s next government. The newspapers, no longer subject to Alexander’s censors, were also reluctant to criticise the conspirator’s actions. Just about everyone, it seemed, had a reason to let the matter drop.

Only a handful of Serbs were prepared to describe this new, regicidal, Serbia honestly. Founded upon treachery and murder, it was a political and legal abomination. But the few brave souls who went further – demanding that the regicide conspirators be brought to justice – were themselves assassinated.

And so the conspirators embedded themselves ever more deeply in the organs of the Serbian state. Their leaders were not only untouchable, but they were also convinced that as “the saviours of the nation” they had an unimpeachable right to control its destiny. Secretive and increasingly influential they steadily expanded their power to become a virtual state-within-a-state: a cancer on the Serbian body politic that its official leaders were too frightened to remove.

In June and July 1914, the official Serbian state’s failure to move against the regicides of 1903 proved fatal to the peace of the world. Indeed, nearly 100 years later, the consequences of the conspirators’ murderous acts – which led directly to the outbreak of the First World War – are all around us.

THE UNTOUCHABLE CONSPIRATORS responsible for the 1903 murder of the Serbian royal family, and again, eleven years later in Sarajevo, of the Austrian Archduke, Franz Ferdinand, and his wife, Sophie, are described in the opening chapters of Christopher Clark’s excellent new book, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914.

Reading about these events, I began to wonder if something similar hadn’t happened here. Like the unpunished Serbian regicides, have the ideological extremists who launched the neoliberal revolution of 1984 been permitted to create and expand their own “state-within-a-state”? Is it possible that, for the past thirty years, a neoliberal equivalent of the Serbian ultra-nationalist secret society, the “Black Hand”, has been intimidating New Zealand’s democratically-elected leaders and dictating official government policy?

It is certainly true that a great many people and institutions benefitted enormously from the brutal murder of social-democratic New Zealand.

The immediate beneficiaries of the neoliberal conspiracy were the companies and individuals who precipitated the speculative run on the New Zealand dollar in the weeks leading up to the snap election of 14 July 1984.

The run was started by the “inadvertent” leaking of Labour’s plans to devalue the currency by a whopping 20 percent. For those in possession of overseas funds it was a sure-and-certain one-way bet. All they had to do was wait until the Muldoon Government fell and collect their winnings.

So incensed was Muldoon by this bare-faced economic blackmail that he refused to follow the incoming government’s advice. A financial crisis rapidly morphed into a full-blown constitutional crisis. After hours of rising tension, Muldoon’s colleagues collectively prevailed upon their leader to back down. The proposed 20 percent devaluation was duly effected.

The speculative run on the Kiwi dollar cost the New Zealand taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Determined to find out why, the newly-elected MP for Sydenham and Chair of Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Select Committee, Jim Anderton, launched an investigation. After just a few hearings, however, the Committee’s inquiry was shut down. The Labour Cabinet didn’t like where it was going.

But if currency speculators were the first to be rewarded by Labour’s sudden conversion to neoliberalism, they were by no means the only ones. With Muldoon’s controls on interest rates, prices and wages now targeted for destruction, money-lenders, retailers and wage and salary earners all stood to benefit from the old order’s demolition.

David Lange and Roger Douglas were hailed as “saviours of the nation”.

Meanwhile, the true conspirators slipped quietly away from their jobs in the Treasury and the Reserve Bank and took up key strategic positions elsewhere in the civil service. Some ended up in the newly corporatized state departments, the business sector and right-wing think tanks. Many more reached out to the heads of New Zealand’s largest companies and drew them into the rapidly unfolding neoliberal revolution. Newspaper editors, broadcasting bosses and working journalists were similarly recruited to the cause of rapid and far-reaching change.

By the early 1990s these neoliberal networks had become so extensive, and were wielding so much influence over New Zealand society that dislodging them would have required a counter-revolution of equal thoroughness and power.

Neoliberalism had permeated and reshaped every major institution in the land – from the universities to the trade unions. Even at the levels of primary and secondary education the ideology was hard at work. The business-funded programmes of the strongly neoliberal New Zealand Enterprise Trust made sure that every Kiwi kid got a go at playing business entrepreneur.

So powerful had the original conspirators become that not even prime ministers could master them. When David Lange finally realised the nature of the beast he’d unleashed, his own caucus refused to help him drive a stake through its heart. National’s Jim Bolger also paid a high price for attempting to restore “the decent society”. Not even his coalition with Winston Peters’ NZ First Party could save him from the wrath of Jenny Shipley and her true believers. With the fate of her predecessors clearly before her, Helen Clark was careful not to alter the default settings of the neoliberal state.

And so we remain enthralled to what has become an unchallengeable economic and social orthodoxy. Neither the stockmarket crash of 1987, nor the Asian Crisis of 1998, nor the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, has shaken the faith of the conspirators. Evident economic failure in the form of mass unemployment, rising child poverty, homelessness, massive public and private debt, a collapsing manufacturing sector and a rapidly deteriorating natural environment is simply construed as proof that what New Zealand needs is not less neoliberal shock-treatment – but more.

Like the Serbian regicides of 1903, New Zealand’s neoliberal conspirators of 1984 have thwarted every attempt to stand them in the dock of history.

The world paid a high price for Serbia’s unwillingness to bring evil men to justice.

New Zealand, too, is paying a high price. The steady deterioration which neoliberalism has wrought in the quality of our national life cannot be remedied until we New Zealanders rediscover the collective courage to confront and hold accountable the conspiratorial minority who, for nearly thirty years, have enslaved us to their fanaticism.

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How NZ Trade Unions combat neoliberalism

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Wanted: New Ways of Working Together.

Winning politically is not only about criticizing the neoliberal policies of the Right. The Left is in need of some serious self- analysis and this blog briefly discusses some of the challenges facing trade unions.

Declining incomes and living standards are inflicting pain on working people everywhere. This decline is accompanied by an unprecedented concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands . Unemployment is high and social security is weakened by the policies of austerity which seek to balance the accounts with no regard for matters of wealth distribution. Low rates of unionization mean that collective bargaining protects some but cannot prevent an overall decline at this point in our history.

To reverse these trends working people must have greater power in the political and economic decisions of their nations. Workers have traditionally gained that power by organizing in the workplace. Following the Great Depression of the 1930’s unions grew rapidly and through collective bargaining built incomes and more equal societies.

So, with few exceptions, why are unions not growing again? The nature of society has radically changed and with it the nature of the workplace. We try to organise our unions based on an industrial model which is in decline and exists now in only minority areas of the labour market.

30 years of consumerism and radical promotion of individual rights over collective rights has destroyed the traditional ideological base which underpins collective action. Fee for service is preferred over membership.

People, by and large, no longer join organisations. They might donate to a cause they believe in, take action in support of a protest or campaign, be motivated to fight injustice and rebel against authority. However the membership of political parties and other community organisations is generally declining. It is a mistake to think that unions are immune from this, even if we remain, in NZ, the largest representative democratic group of citizens.

We have brand damage and poor brand recognition. All those disputes fought in the past which did not have widespread public support damaged unions. There is no education on the role of unions in society and so it is very common to talk to young people who do not know what a union is.

We struggle to close the representation gap. We would grow strongly if we could sign up those who would join a union but have never had the opportunity, despite the trend against joining organisations described above. Unions often act like clubs of privilege and impose complex barriers to accessing membership.
Finally there is employer aggression and worker fear. There is no realisable freedom of association for most workers.

Unions must change to attract members. Often our ideological persuasions demand that workers must change to meet the requirements of our organisations. This will never work. As society continues to change, will unions consign themselves to historical irrelevance? The answer must be a defiant no and a determination to not only fight but also to think.

First and foremost unions must find ways of representing non traditional workers. Dependent and independent contractors, agency workers, temporary workers, farm workers and small farmers are categories of workers which would benefit from collective representation. With some notable exceptions (e.g. Unite, Together) current union structures are not able to represent such workers because they are structured to represent and protect the interests of workers in traditional employment and mostly those who have decent jobs. However unions often have the resources to invest in new structures and forms of organization. The union movement must get serious about representing workers (rather than just members) or they will continue to decline. And yet it is members who financially support their union and expect full attention to their needs. More attention should be given to different union fee systems within union structures to recruit and retain workers in different types of employment.

One long term successful model is the IUF affiliated Self Employed Womens Association (SEWA) of India

SEWA is a trade union which was registered in 1972. It is an organisation of poor, self-employed women workers. These are women who earn a living through their own labour or small businesses. They do not obtain regular salaried employment with welfare benefits like workers in the organised sector. They are the unprotected labour force of India. Of the female labour force in India, more than 94% are in the unorganised sector. Women workers remain uncounted, undercounted and invisible.

SEWA’s goal is to organise women workers for full employment. Full employment means employment whereby workers obtain work security, income security, food security and social security (at least health care, child care and shelter). Women should be autonomous and self-reliant, individually and collectively, both economically and in terms of their decision-making ability.

In 2008 the fee paying membership of SEWA was almost one million.

SEWA is both an organisation and a movement. The SEWA movement is enhanced by its being a sangam or confluence of three movements: the labour movement, the cooperative movement and the women’s movement. Visit their website at www.sewa.org to gain a greater appreciation of the aspirations and achievements of this remarkable organisation.

Finally, back in the neo liberal experiment which is Aotearoa New Zealand, we must lobby for comprehensive citizenship education in our schools. By understanding the rights and responsibilities of being a citizen in a community and in a nation, people will be motivated again to join with others to act collectively for better working lives.

James Ritchie
International Officer, International Union Food Workers (IUF), Geneva, Switzerland

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What is really driving China in trade negotiations and why Key is failing

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EnjoyCommunism2Last month it was Latin America that John Key, global diplomat was taking by storm. The embedded media entourage showed him kicking a soccer ball in Brazil – swapping whisky and wine with Chile’s billionaire President Pinera – waving his sombrero at the prospect of a free trade deal with that bastion of freedom, Colombia, some time in the (hopefully indefinite) future.

Few of the accompanying journos provided an in-depth analysis of Key’s ‘own goal’. His official meetings with Latin America’s leaders had been rescheduled so they could attend the funeral of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Key could have gone too, but chose to stay away – presumably to avoid offending the more important ally in Washington DC. For all the hype back here about the PM’s triumphant tour, the lasting message to Latin American leaders was that New Zealand’s priorities lay elsewhere.

Our great leader is now wooing this month’s new best friend, China. Expect more photo ops and bland blogging from journalists traveling with the PM. That’s why he has taken them with him. The blah has already started. We heard how Key, fresh off the plane, was embraced warmly by his Australian counterpart Julie Gillard. Such warmth is hardly surprising. The beleaguered Gillard can use any friends she can find at present.

This is early days for the China trip, so let’s hope we have some deeper engagement with the foreign policy issues on this visit than we did for Latin America, because they are crucial. One focus, at least, should be the brewing conflict between the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) and the China and Asean-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). New Zealand is a party to both.

Our government has a Janus-faced approach to this tension. On one hand, Trade Minister Tim Groser said ‘if we in New Zealand smell or sense that this is an anti-China thing we would leave TPP’. During the 2012 US election Republican candidate Mitt Romney said Obama hadn’t been tough enough with China, and endorsed the TPPA as a ‘dramatic geopolitical and economic bulwark against China’. Obama responded in one of the presidential debates that ‘we’re organizing trade relations with countries other than China so that China starts feeling more pressure about meeting basic international standards. That’s the kind of leadership we’ve shown in the region. That’s the kind of leadership that we’ll continue to show.’

Both Obama and Romney reinforced the strategy set out by Secretary of State Clinton in November 2011: a two-pronged move to secure America’s Pacific Century through first, realigning US military presence from Iraq and Afghanistan into Asia, and second, the economic pivot of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. The explicit goal was to neutralise China.

Of course, New Zealand hasn’t walked away from the TPPA.

The current goal is to close off the 11-country TPPA at the APEC leaders’ meeting in October. That won’t happen, although intense political pressure could get them quite near. By then Japan will have come on board and the talks will become more complicated.

There are rumours the US might be prepared to sacrifice the time line to bring more Asian countries into the TPPA, presumably to intensify the pressure on China. But despite public urging from US, South Korea has said it won’t seek to join the TPPA talks at this stage because its focus is on a bilateral negotiation with China and a three-way deal with China and Japan.

Assuming the TPPA doesn’t conclude at APEC in Bali in October more meetings will be required, especially at the level of trade ministers and even political leaders. In recent years these have occurred at the margins of APEC, when the minister and leaders are all in one place. But in 2013 China is chairing APEC. Are the APEC members involved in the TPPA planning to have side meetings in China, rubbing the hosts’ nose in a US-led deal that is so overtly hostile?

Which brings us to the parallel world of the RCEP. New Zealand along with Australia, the Asean countries, Japan, India and South Korea are about to start negotiating a mega-agreement that pivots around China. Six of them (Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Japan, Australia and New Zealand) will also be negotiating the TPPA.

With different strategic and foreign policy drivers, and very different economic models, how can the TPPA and RCEP be reconciled? Tim Groser’s happy image has them all ultimately docking together into one grand regional APEC free trade agreement. I don’t think so.

Where does that leave countries like New Zealand that are straddling the two? According to Key in November 2012: ‘Our basic proposition is we welcome the RCEP talks but TPP is the big game for us at the moment’. Will he be telling that to China’s President Xi and Premier Li when he meets them this week?

Which brings me back to the China tour. Coverage to date suggests the Bo’ao conference is the first stop by the PM, several Chinese-New Zealand MPs and a corporate entourage in a trade mission to China.

This line rests on three assumptions: first, that our export interests should, and do, drive our relations with China; second, that trade is politically neutral, so we can play with everyone in the world; and third, that we can sign politically motivated deals with major powers who are in conflict with each other, without having to take sides.

In reality, so-called ‘trade’ negotiations have become proxies through which a new competitive imperialism is being pursued. In the 1990s competitive imperialism described the race between the US and European Union to extend their hegemony. Today, it involves a new cold war between the US and China.

Given the ascendancy of Asia, and China in particular, what position New Zealand takes and how we maintain our independence, is crucially important. These are matters of foreign policy, not isolated commercial issues.

We should not assume that China is sitting passively and contented as the US strategy plays out through the TPPA. China’s own priorities are clear from the order in which it has listed the dignitaries attending the Bo’ao conference. According to the Australian Financial Times, Brunei, Kazakhstan, Myanmar, Zambia, Mexico and Cambodia are higher up the list than Gillard at number 11 – she is even outranked by John Key.

The media would serve us well by interrogating Key about these deeper foreign policy issues. Hopefully he can perform better than at his post-Cabinet press conference last week. According to the Scoop transcript, when asked if was he was concerned about Japan joining the TPPA, Key replied that ‘China did not actually get a voice on the TPPA’.

As with Latin America, these questions that deserve more attention than Key’s smiles and waves, or even than the fallout from the recent calamities in China involving Fonterra and Zespri.

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Ummm, why is John Key trying to start a war with North Korea?

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Prime Minister John Key admits to having telephoned his mother's best friend's son, tipping him off to apply for the GCSB top spook job.

key my work is done

Key tones down war talk
Labour has slammed Prime Minister John Key for suggestions New Zealand could go to war with North Korea.

With New Zealand having previously supported the United Nations-backed South Korea in the Korean War, and allies the United States and Australia likely to do the same in any new conflict, Key appeared to suggest we would follow a similar path this time.

“I wouldn’t want to speculate, but obviously we have got a long and proud history of coming to the support of South Korea,” he said in comments reported on TV3.

“Taken to the extreme, and without interventions and resolutions to the issues, that is of course possible.”

I couldn’t work out if it was Gower not content to manufacture a leadership coup at the Labour Party Conference trying to manufacture a war with North Korea or if John Key really is this stupid.

That Key would automatically state support for America in a war with North Korea and suggest that war was a possibility when every other leader is scrambling to take the heat out of this escalation, is just another example of our dumb arse Prime Minister speaking before he engages his brain.

After his knuckle head tantrum with the media last week where he threatened to not answer journalists questions until he’d had a ‘think’ about them, you would have hoped he would’ve been honest to his word and not just brain farted answers out of the vacuum of the space between his ears where so many issues around security seem to be forgotten with the regularity of a John Banks political donations list.

Sorry planet, our PM is a bit of a clown. Don’t take any notice of him. We try not to.

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TDB-MILNZ Political Performance Poll – GCSB Issue

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Waihopai: GCSB official image.

Waihopai: GCSB official image.
Waihopai: GCSB official image.
TDB/MILNZ Audience Poll: After what seems an age of political activity, media coverage, and public discourse examining the Prime Minister’s oversight of the GCSB and the appointment of Ian Fletcher as the GCSB director – let’s evaluate the performance of the Prime Minister, the parties, the politicians, the media, and how you rate the solutions that have emerged over this issue.

The Prime Minister’s Performance:

    [poll id=”49″]
    [poll id=”51″]
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The Law Commission can take this blog from my cold dead hands

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Corporate-News-1

I’ve watched the attempt by the Law Commission to renegotiate the regulatory framework for NZ media in the 21st Century with some interest as I have complained to the ASA and the Press Council and found their decisions gutless, timid and more focused on defensive arse covering than any pretense of journalistic standards.

This sudden desire to regulate opinion online occurs in the shadow of the TPPA, a 29 chapter national security leash the Americans are trying to force NZ to sign. 5 of those chapters have to do with trade, the remaining 24 chapters are to do with re-regulating NZ for the convenience of American corporations and control of the internet is central to that philosophy.

What the Law Commission has come up with is a nothing short of an attempt to expand the very same corrupt corporate news media values and superimpose them upon the blogging community. The Law Commission may have the tacit approval of the aesthetic left in the form of Russell Brown and the far right bile of Cameron Slater by sucking up to them, but they sure as hell won’t have my support.

Brown is good when you want to legitimize Union bashing hysteria (as his role in manufacturing the crisis at the Hobbit can attest) but beyond helping Warner Bros exact larger corporate welfare from NZ taxpayers, his simpering acquiescence for corporate news control of the blogosphere should be seen for what it is. Slater on the other hand craves the legitimacy of joining up to the NMSA (New Mob-Same Arseholes), and to paraphrase Groucho Marx “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have a far right hate merchant as a member”.

While I live and breath and remain as editor here at The Daily Blog, TDB will never sign up to this corporate attempt to control the NZ blogosphere.

To pay dues to a corporate news body who will drive their agenda through blog take downs and censures is one thing, but being forced to comply with the Orwellian named ‘Communications Commission’ is nothing short of a garrote around the throats of any online opinion they disagree with. Expect corporations to quickly start using this to shut down any opinion that damages their reputations.

You don’t like what I write, don’t read it. If I defame you, take me to court.

I don’t need to pay corporate news media for the right to be considered part of their little old boys club network and I don’t need their bullshit consent to demand journalistic privileges.

I fight for those privileges and I earn those privileges.

You want to talk online ethics? Let’s talk online ethics.

Back in 2008, a source came to me with a folder they claimed an associate had found from Corrections which listed all the parole details of every major prisoner about to be released back into the community.

After I blogged the loss of the file, I had two detectives and a ‘friend’ from ‘The Ministry’ (I could never work out if their ‘friend’ who showed no ID after I requested it was GCSB or not) turn up at my place of work making all sorts of threats regarding the file. It was made clear to me that if I didn’t hand over my source they would throw the book at me.

I told them they could certainly try.

I made it clear to those Officers, as I would to any cop, that I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever (etc etc) turn over a source. That as a blogger, I would prefer to face prison for contempt of Court than turn over a source.

What I told the two Detectives and their ‘friend’ from the Ministry in 2008 was that while I would never turn a source over to them, I would hunt down and get the file back because I agreed with the Minister in charge at the time, Phil Goff, that these prisoners could never expect any real chance of rehabilitation if they were identified and their parole conditions exposed.

I told the two Detectives and their ‘friend’ from the Ministry that I would write a blog about what I saw in the folder, minus any of the personal details that could identify any of them, the post is here.

I explained that I believed in certain principles of justice and journalism, that I would report on what I saw and trace where the file was and have it returned.

I traced the file to the offices of the NZ Herald, and the Police raided them the night before the Herald on Sunday was about to publish ALL the details in their next edition.

The HoS in their ratings driven desire to sell more Newspapers didn’t give a damn about responsible journalism, they were going to name and shame every prisoner and delight in the orgy of details they could release. There were legitimate questions about how Corrections were releasing these people, and I believe the post published on Tumeke at the time addressed those issues, but that level of journalistic standards was utterly absent in what the HoS were caught doing by the Police when they raided their offices.

I refused to turn my source despite threats from the Police and reported on the lost file with far more integrity than the bloody NZ Herald – so I won’t be lectured to by the Law Commission about what they think my journalistic standards should be and I sure as hell won’t be paying corporate news media money to allow them to decide for me either.

Real bloggers are here to dismantle the corporate news gatekeepers, not reinforce them and it will be a freezing day in hell when I hand over my editorial sovereignty.

The NZ Law Commission can take this blog from my cold dead hands!

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How true are National Party claims that our public education system is failing students?

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and-then-i-said-to-them-im-closing-your-school

Continuing the theme of my previous two articles, we now need to further unpack the government’s deceit and manipulation in their education policies. I have to give (reluctant) credit to their spin doctors, for the way in which they’ve successfully pulled wool over the eyes of New Zealand’s ‘sleepy hobbits,’ aided, of course by a compliant media.

In 2009, the government passed the National Standards Education Amendment Bill, that set the framework for the introduction of National Standards and all that has followed. In the Explanatory note, it was stated that only 56% of schools were effective in gathering and using assessment information on literacy and numeracy.

Where was that 56% figure sourced? Which reputable body drew this conclusion, on what grounds?

No one asked at the time; no one challenged the government to provide the data.

Wake up hobbits.

All will now be revealed.

The ‘reputable body’ was …. (drum roll )…. the National Party in a footnote to a 2008 election pamphlet.

Wow. Who are we to doubt that reputable body?

So how did the National Party derive this 56%, used to hammer Labour for failing New Zealand children? They took it from an Education Review Office (ERO) report in 2007. Isn’t ERO a suitably reputable body?

Well, that’s very debatable; however let’s assume for this article that, yes, ERO is a reputable body.

So, what gives then? There was indeed a figure of 56% in this 2007 ERO report. However, this 56% referred to all curriculum areas (not just the literacy and numeracy targeted by National Standards) and that it included both primary and secondary schools (secondary schools fall outside National Standards legislation).

Using this 56% to justify the introduction of National Standards for literacy and numeracy in primary schools was outrageous. Even more outrageous is that the government was allowed to get away with this, without challenge. Hello Labour?

We note here that the Education Review Office, a supposedly autonomous body, didn’t immediately come forward to protest that their data had been misrepresented, either deliberately or through ignorance. Why?

Of course, it was very necessary for the government to pull this con job. The actual 2007 report from ERO about primary schools was rather different, as Kelvin Smythe explains:

‘First, on page 20 of the Education Review Office report, the writers commented on the primary school practice of giving almost exclusive attention to literacy and numeracy and, throughout the report, on the wide range of assessment tools used. And second, on page 19, the writers say that achievement was successfully demonstrated in English by 93% of primary schools and in mathematics by 91%.’
Source.

So much then, for the ‘official’ justification for the introduction of National Standards to ensure primary schools adequately assessed children’s ‘achievement’ in literacy and numeracy.

This was a scam, a deliberate scapegoating of schools, principals and teachers. This is yet another example of the deliberate mistruth and manipulation that characterises this government, and which will define their legacy in future years.

Let’s unpick the basis for the spurious claim of ‘one in five’ not achieving.

This was based on the results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test which was developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Sample groups of 15 year olds from approximately 70 countries are tested on their reading, mathematics and science abilities.

The results of these tests are then used to rank countries’ performance in league tables. Significantly, test results are scaled to enable meaningful comparisons, so that published results don’t necessarily reflect actual scores.

There is no direct correlation between the test results of the 15 year olds and primary schools. Any interpolation of the data to predict primary school influences will not necessarily be reliable or valid.

This Wikipedia article gives a very good outline of PISA. Respected British educator Stephen Heppell presents a very critical overview on this website. and The Economist also raises some issues in Pisa envy.

The other ‘smoking gun’ behind the government’s education policies was a publication by McKinsey & Company in 2007, updated in November 2010, entitled How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better. The 2010 edition was based on an analysis of school systems in ‘Armenia, Aspire (a U.S. charter school system), Boston (Massachusetts), Chile, England, Ghana, Hong Kong, Jordan, Latvia, Lithuania, Long Beach (California), Madhya Pradesh (India), Minas Gerais (Brazil), Ontario (Canada), Poland, Saxony (Germany), Singapore, Slovenia, South Korea, and Western Cape (South Africa).’

Right. ….. a very representative sample of the world’s school systems…..

McKinsey & Company describe themselves as ‘…..a global management consulting firm. We are the trusted advisor to the world’s leading businesses, governments, and institutions’. This apparently makes them educational experts.

The question has to be asked – why is PISA given so much credence?

Moving on: PISA results for New Zealand students consistently rank this country in the top half dozen. The scales are skewed somewhat by the ‘long tail of underachievement’ which is the source for the claimed one in five (20%) failures.

However:

‘The PISA report shows fourteen percent of New Zealand students achieve below Level 2 (the OECD benchmark for life success). The OECD average is 19%. Sixty-six percent of New Zealand students achieve at Level 3 or above. The OECD average is around 57%. New Zealand has 37% of ‘resilient’ those who overcome disadvantaged backgrounds. The OECD average is 31%.

Analysis after analysis demonstrates that given the degree of poverty, New Zealand does better than any other country in the world at educating children from families in poverty.’
Kelvin Smythe

So much for the one in five sound bite. The analysis above shows the true ratio is one in seven and that this is better than the OECD average.

Further analysis, allowing for the effects of the inclusion of students with learning needs, and those with English as a second language, suggests that the actual figure is about 8% (one in twelve). For comparative purposes, it needs to be noted that many other countries do not include these students in the testing groups.

But wait, there’s more.

In August 2012 Hekia Parata made a speech in which she claimed New Zealand was 7th in 2009 rankings, behind the countries of Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, China, South Korea, Finland, and Canada.

Actually my counting on this list has New Zealand in 8th place. Someone is not achieving in numeracy. Last time I looked Shanghai and Hong Kong were part of China. Someone is not achieving in geography either.

China is not an active participant in PISA (or the OECD for that matter) and the testing was in identified schools rather than randomly selected schools. That immediately moves New Zealand up the rankings. Hang on, Singapore is not a member of the OECD and also just tests in identified schools.

That means the real rankings were Finland, South Korea, Canada and New Zealand.

Finland, of course, is the acknowledged leader in education, based on a child centred holistic philosophy of education that is opposite to the standards based policies being implemented. The differences between South Korea, Canada and New Zealand were statistically insignificant.

If Canada included First Nation children in their testing programme then their results would probably drop below New Zealand.

I don’t see any educational crisis here. Do you?

National standards, charter schools, and other government policies have nothing to do with education. Lies. No other word is suitable.

PISA does reveal a concerning picture. Maori and Pasifika students form the bulk of the underachievers. Why?

Consider:

Research has shown that one in five children live below the New Zealand poverty line.
Maori and Pasifika children form the majority of these children.
International research that shows that the predominant influence on children’s ‘achievement’ at school is their socio-economic background.

New Zealand’s mythical ‘one in five’ failure rate is therefore a direct result of the inequality in our society and so shines the spotlight on the failure of successive governments over the last few decades. That’s where the true blame lies.

Rather than address poverty, the government instead scapegoats schools, teachers and children, imposing a ‘back to basics’ curriculum on all children (excepting private and charter schools of course).

And there is the real story behind the underachievement of New Zealand students.

Maybe the government would be far better off implementing a living wage for all?

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