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The only cannabis poll that counts is the Referendum itself

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A poll released last weekend has caused much angst and teeth-gnashing among cannabis reformers and consumers. Headlines included New poll suggests recreational cannabis referendum won’t pass and Support plummets for legal pot.

It mirrored a recent 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll that showed 52% opposing legalisation with 39% intending to vote in support (see Majority don’t support cannabis legalisation – new poll).

That itself was a contrast to other recent polls that showed majority support for legalisation, including in May 2019, when 52 per cent of those surveyed said in a Horizon poll that they would vote to legalise, while 37 per cent said they would vote ‘no’. Six months earlier, in October 2018, another Horizon poll was released which showed 60 per cent of people would support the legalisation of cannabis for private use.

So what does all this mean?

First, we can’t deny that support has dropped. This is a wake up call. The absence of detail around what we’ll be voting for, and why, has been filled by the likes of Family First and Mike Hosking. They are leading the debate, because the Government refuses to engage and law reformers have no resources.

Contrary to the hysteria and fear-mongering spread by the likes of McCroskie and Hosking, we have no Big Cannabis backing us. Most businesses can’t see a clear way for them to be involved in any marketplace that is yet to be discussed in detail. I think some are also (quite rightfully) wary of being seen to be involved and potentially reinforcing concerns about business taking over.

And while many advocates and activists favour non-commercial models that focus on home growing, we still find many supporters are wary of donating for fear of what turns up on their bank statement.

It seems there is little chance of law reformers being able to match the fortune Family First has stashed away, or the media reach of NZ’s number one radio jock.

Don’t panic yet.

To borrow a phrase from Winston Peters, the only cannabis poll that counts will be the referendum itself.

And it’s really important to realise two things:

1. The referendum will pass, and

2. It won’t be the same question as this (or any other) poll.

The government will only put up something that will pass by a large majority. They won’t propose a question that fails. That’s why it hasn’t been decided or announced yet.

The Government will put forward a model that is broadly supported, and will pass comfortably. That is a certainty, if only because their future is tied to the result. Anyone who thinks the referendum will fail is asking the wrong question.

It’s not whether the referendum will pass, but what will pass.

At the moment that is perhaps more likely to be restricted to legalising personal use by adults but perhaps not allowing sale or supply, which would leave the lucrative cannabis illicit market in the hands of organised crime. Maybe adults would be allowed to grow a plant or two, or maybe not. Maybe old cannabis convictions would be wiped, or maybe not. Maybe hospices would continue to worry about letting palliative care patients consume on their premises, or maybe not.

We have until about March next year to move public support sufficiently so that the government is confident enough to put up a model that properly regulates cannabis sales to adults.

Anything less will continue to enrich and empower organised crime.

How we can do this

We need to keep our eyes focused on the end goal and just keep doing the hard work that gets us towards this goal, such as public events, speaking, writing letters, collecting petitions, meeting with local representatives, engaging with local Council and service clubs, calling talk back radio, holding exhibitions, and all the usual activity that successful campaigns do.

We must use messaging that convinces the over 50’s. They vote. They won reform ballots overseas. But they haven’t yet been won over here.

The best way to win this important demographic is to focus on crime, safety, and how it will improve their lives, including their family.

Family First are targeting these same people with crime- and safety-related messaging whipping up fears about gummie bears, driving, violence and neighbourhood crime. It’s working for them.

We need to reset the narrative. Start with reading this page for fact-checking the anti-cannabis reports cited by Bob McCroskie and Family First.

Contrary to their claims, cannabis prohibition makes everyone less safe. It empowers organised crime. It hands over a huge lucrative market to enrich organised crime.

Crime and safety are usually a top issue every election, so relate cannabis law reform to this and we will immediately have more conservative people thinking about supporting the referendum.

Access to medicinal cannabis will also help bring over this older group.

It’s also obvious the general public are more concerned with rebuilding communities than building stock values for ganjapreneurs, and I think many people have found the jostling for medicinal cannabis market dominance to be distasteful. Let’s focus on how reforms can increase equity and fairness, and keeping their grandkids, nieces and nephews out of jail.

Our messaging for young people is different because we already have their support, but they often don’t vote. So our campaign is to get people registered to vote, ensure their friends are too, and getting them to actually do it on voting day.

Young people have the most to gain, but this referendum is a make-or-break opportunity that if we lose won’t come around again for another generation. Their future is at stake. Let’s not let them down.

We need to all work together and not at cross-purposes. Fit yourself into a plan, and do things that other people and groups agree are good ideas. Or financially support people who are doing good things, including NORML, #makeitlegal and the NZ Drug Foundation.

Be part of the solution, not just navel-gazing online or criticising from the sidelines.

We need money and your help

If you can help, we desperately need funds and volunteers for our campaign, and keen to hear your ideas.

This is an opportunity to refocus our campaign, not on whether the referendum will pass, but what will pass and how you can help make it happen.

Don’t panic. We can do this.

***

Chris Fowlie is the CEO of Zeacann Limited, a medicinal cannabis producer; co-founder of the New Zealand Medical Cannabis Council; president of the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws NZ Inc; co-founder of The Hempstore Aotearoa; resident expert for Marijuana Media on 95bFM; blogger for The Daily Blog, and court-recognised independent expert witness for cannabis. The opinions expressed here are his own.

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GUEST BLOG: Dean Parker – What do you have in store for us next, Mr Bin Laden?

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John Laing, a director and old friend, rang me three or four years ago and asked was I interested in writing a TV feature about CNN journalist Peter Arnett finding and interviewing Osama bin Laden in the 1990s.

An Auckland producer, James Heyward, had had the idea for it. It was to be aimed at a slot on TVNZ 1’s popular Sunday night seasons of dramatised local real-life stories. 

Sure, Bin Laden wasn’t exactly from New Zealand—though he’d worked on his family dairy farm—but Peter Arnett was from Southland. It would make a change from the usual real-life tales of sport and crime. 

Then John added those magic words about the producer which instantly animates all writers: “I’ve found James pretty good at raising a budget.” 

It was ages since I’d had TV work. I’d been making programme submissions to local production companies down the years but this was more like some sort of annual religious observation one goes through before returning to real life.

The last thing I’d written for TV was years ago, a feature, a dramatised doco about Jim Edwards and the Auckland unemployed riots of 1932. Ian Mune had directed it, doing a brilliant job full of flourishes that matched the surreality of the period. It was ordered cut back from 90 minutes to 75 by a horrified TVNZ, shown on its Sunday night slot and got the lowest viewer ratings in the history of local New Zealand television drama. 

I checked out the Peter Arnett story. 

Osama bin Laden, fresh from defeating the atheist Russians in Afghanistan in the 1980s (with American-supplied weapons), had turned his sights on Washington. He had declared war on the infidel United States. 

He was in exile from Saudi Arabia and this was causing him grief. Saudi Arabia was his homeland, the land of the Prophet, and totally in the pocket of the Americans. 

In the mid to late 1990s he was hiding out round Tora Bora in Afghanistan, hosted by the Taliban. He was constantly thinking and writing about the way Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan had unified Islam and led to the downfall of the Soviet empire. Since then Islam had fractured. It had returned to being a little people. How, then, to unify Islam once more and make it great?

He had his own army, al Qaeda. They were one of a number of Muslim fundamentalist groups that had spokespeople placed in London. 

In fact London was becoming known as Londonistan.

On the CNN payroll at the time was New Zealander Peter “Live from Baghdad” Arnett. He decided, here was a good story. 

He visited the al Qaeda HQ in Dollis Hill and got the okay to interview bin Laden who was looking for international attention.

Arnett then had to get into Afghanistan, which had its borders closed to foreigners. At the main crossover point from Pakistan, the trees were festooned with camera film that had been unreeled and draped about as a warning to photographers and camera operators.

One of Arnett’s fears was he and his small crew might be followed by CIA operatives and become collateral damage in a missile attack on bin Laden, whose whereabouts was much sought after but still unknown to the Americans.

Finally he met with bin Laden and did his interview. 

And here was my major problem. Major, major. 

The whole show hinged upon this interview. Like Frost/Nixon

As a piece of drama, the interview was a dud—apart from the last thrilling question-and-answer: 

“What do you have in store for us next, Mr bin Laden?” “You will have to wait and see, but you will read about it in the media.”

The questions were patsy questions sanctioned beforehand by bin Laden and his media advisers. Follow-up questions were not allowed.

No drama there whatsoever.

But the show was such an opportunity! The 20th century had ended with the fall of Soviet communism. What would start off the 21st century? This wasn’t a backyard kick-around, this was a big story. With central Otago standing in for Tora Bora. Fab-u-lous!

I thought about the stolid interview and figured the only thing to do was write my own. While the camera operator is setting up his gear, polite small talk between New Yorker Arnett and mountain-dweller bin Laden flames into a full-on row about the strengths or otherwise of Western culture and the nature of American foreign policy.

Which would be very satisfying to write. I don’t think America has had a decent foreign policy since the Normandy landings, while at the same time I’m with those who reckon the final word on Islam is its total inability to produce anything like the Marx Brothers or Cole Porter.

So I did the job.

For a bit of local colour and light relief, I had Arnett leaning upon my own dire attempts in the past to get a drink in Muslim states. 

Somewhere in Syria I was chased from a convenience store by an owner irate at my desperate entreaties for a bottle of red. 

In Tunisia I was shown to a doubtful curtained-off back-room in a supermarket. It was like those areas where X-rated videos used to be kept at Video-Ezy stores. 

In Denizli, a diesel town in Turkey, I ended up in a low, evil basement dwelling, below street level,  the refuge of fallen Muslims downing liquor, the very image of that Chestnut Tree Café dispensing gin in Nineteen Eighty-Four: “Under the spreading chestnut tree / I sold you and you sold me…” 

I don’t think these even made it off the script to the editing floor.

But the row between Arnett and bin Laden remains intact. I’ve viewed it once. It’s compelling.

A War Story. TVNZ 1. Sunday, August 25, 8.30pm.

Dean Parker is an Auckland writer

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Real Fascists Don’t Use Swastikas

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ONE OF THE MOST puzzling features of contemporary New Zealand fascism is its self-imposed failure. When fascist groups are discussed, the image conjured-up in the minds of most New Zealanders is one of pathetic misfits. This negative impression is reinforced by the latter’s idiotic embrace of the swastika. Even in the second decade of the twenty-first century, the baleful legacy of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich is more than powerful enough to consign those who embrace its iconography to the category of crank and/or criminal. When combined with the contemporary Kiwi fascists’ shaven heads and multiple tattoos, these wilful references to the defeated fascists of the past fundamentally compromise their entire political project.

Such self-destructive behaviour suggests that New Zealand fascists simply do not understand the nature of the ideology to which they have attached themselves. Above all else, fascists validate the national community. In the local context, this means embracing all the myths and symbols of the New Zealand nation state. No genuine New Zealand fascist would consider for a single moment marching down the street beneath the flag of their country’s World War II enemy!

Genuine fascists present themselves to their fellow citizens not as outsiders, but as the ultimate insiders: the ones whose attachment to the core values of the nation is stronger than any of their political rivals.

That Hitler’s stormtroopers wore uniforms did not strike the Germans of the 1920s as either odd or sinister. (As the wearing of uniforms outside the armed forces and the police most certainly strikes today’s New Zealanders as both odd and sinister.) Many groups in pre-World War I German society wore uniforms – student societies in particular. In most Germans’ eyes they simply betokened unity and collective purpose: positives – not negatives. The swastika, similarly, when adopted as the symbol of the Nazi Party, struck most Germans as intriguing rather than threatening. When it was explained to them that it was an ancient symbol, representing the power and purity of their “Aryan” origins, they were impressed – not repelled.

The equivalent in contemporary New Zealand society would be an ancient Maori symbol. A Kiwi fascist would present this as proof of his movement’s mystical connection with land and people.

The misfits who call themselves fascists, while carrying around the swastika flag, understand nothing about the political iconography of radical nationalist movements. Indeed, it is hard to imagine anything more calculated to make the rest of the country regard them as an outside force that must be destroyed – rather than as a deeply patriotic group with privileged access to the inner wellsprings of their nation’s identity.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate what a New Zealand fascist movement might look like is to describe the rise and fall of the New Zealand Legion – the closest this country has ever come to a mass fascist organisation.

In essence, the Legion represented the outrage and distress of upper- and middle-class New Zealanders at the seemingly intractable problems thrown up by the Great Depression. While the incumbent United-Reform coalition government seemed incapable of effective action, the Labour Opposition struck members of the business and professional classes as a clear and present threat to their wealth and status.

Shaken by the riots of the unemployed in 1932, a group of “patriotic” businessmen, professionals, sheep-farmers, teachers and journalists came together, in February 1933, with the purpose of galvanising the respectable classes into action. Within a few months 20,000 people (mostly males over 40 who had served as officers in the First World War) had joined the NZ Legion – numbers rivalled only by the mass membership of the 1930s Labour Party.

On the card they were required to sign, intending members read:

“[R]ealising the present serious National emergency, and the necessity for all good citizens to subordinate private and political interests and to make any necessary personal sacrifice for the sake of the country, [I] agree to become a member of the New Zealand Legion and to further loyally, by every means in my power, by vote, example and personal influence, the objects of the Legion.

They further pledged to be “loyal to his majesty the King, the British Empire, and the New Zealand Constitution.”

In essence, the Legion sought to take politics out of politics by outlawing political parties. (Which was just a typically pusillanimous middle-class way of calling for the outlawing of the Labour Party!)

Politics, however, was what ultimately killed the Legion. Its leaders and members simply couldn’t agree on what it was, exactly, that patriotic New Zealanders needed to do. Unlike a genuine fascist movement, it lacked a charismatic leader capable of preventing such crippling internal debates by reserving all policy-making powers to himself.

By 1934, the legion was on the wane. A year later, the Labour Party, whose 50,000 members had some very clear ideas about what needed to be done, was elected to govern the country. The Legion was over.

Or was it?

According to the historians at the Ministry of Heritage and Culture:

“With the conservative parties being well and truly trounced by Labour at the 1935 election, the Legion was soon forgotten. Some of its members, though, became active in the new National Party formed in 1936. Eight former Legionnaires were selected as National candidates in the 1938 election, and the movement’s greatest success story, Sid Holland, went on to serve as National Prime Minister from 1949 to 1957.”

Contemporary Kiwi fascists would be wise to take heed of the lesson provided by Sid Holland and his fellow Legionnaires. The cause of radical nationalism is best served by aligning oneself and one’s followers with those individuals and groups possessing the power and resources necessary to advance it.

From the very beginning, Hitler’s Nazi Party (like Mussolini’s fascists) was able to call upon the resources of extremely wealthy and well-connected supporters. And you may be sure that when he called upon these supporters for financial and political assistance, Hitler arrived wearing a well-tailored suit and a silk tie – not a brown shirt. He certainly didn’t arrive carrying the Tricolour or wearing the steel helmet of a French infantryman!

Indeed, when he ran for the German presidency in 1932, Hitler presented himself as a decorated war hero who did not drink or smoke and who followed a strict vegetarian diet. Those newspapers sympathetic to his party’s cause told their readers that this former artist and front-line soldier, who had been awarded the Iron Cross (First Class) for his bravery under fire, loved cakes, dogs, children – and, above all else in the world, Germany.

All of these details were correct.

Of course, if the 37 percent of Germans who voted for Hitler in 1932 had known what he would do to their country, and the world, between 1933 and 1945, it is unlikely that quite so many of them would have given him their support!

But, that’s the terrifying thing about real fascists, they don’t come wearing warning signs, and they aren’t obliged to present us with x-rays of their souls.

That New Zealand’s tiny collection of self-proclaimed fascists choose to come before us bearing both of these identifying items, tells us two very important things. 1) They’re not really fascists. 2) If we want to identify those radical nationalists who are truly dangerous, then we need to look elsewhere than pathetic collections of wannabe führers.

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Political Caption Competition

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Peekaboo

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The Daily Blog Open Mic – Tuesday 20th August 2019

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Announce protest actions, general chit chat or give your opinion on issues we haven’t covered for the day.

Moderation rules are more lenient for this section, but try and play nicely.

EDITORS NOTE: – By the way, here’s a list of shit that will get your comment dumped. Sexist language, homophobic language, racist language, anti-muslim hate, transphobic language, Chemtrails, 9/11 truthers, climate deniers, anti-fluoride fanatics, anti-vaxxer lunatics and ANYONE that links to fucking infowar.

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Dr Liz Gordon: Opening up our prisons

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We walked into the entrance hall and approached the reception desk.  I stated my name to the young woman behind the desk (we were expected) and was given a ‘visitor’ tag.  Behind me across the wide hallway (beautifully tiled) was a small coffee bar and shop. Everyone smiled.

I walked up to the gate and stated my name and business through a speaker.  The door buzzed open and I was inside a metal cage. The door behind me banged shut and I walked the length of the cage.  The door at the other end opened slowly and I walked up to the building. The first doors slid open, but I had to wait to be inspected at the second set. As those doors opened, I saw in front of me an enclosed room with three uniformed officers in it. Beside is was a metal detector. There were frowns as I stated my business.

Each of these paragraphs describe my experiences in entering women’s prisons this year. The second paragraph describes a New Zealand prison.  The first describes Askham Grange Women’s Open prison in Yorkshire, England. I did not mention that the reception staff, the café staff and nearly everyone else we met initially were not staff of the prison, but (in their terminology) residents.

The prison holds 128 women, so it is slightly bigger than Christchurch Women’s. What an open prison means is that there are no gates or barriers.  Residents have to stay within the bounds of the estate unless they have leave, usually to find jobs or re-connect with families as they come close to release. But they are not held in by wire, but by their own determination to obey the rules. You would be wrong in thinking that these women are not serious offenders.  There are sixteen convicted murderers among the residents.

There are no locks on the doors of the bedrooms.  Curfew is 11pm until 6am, and the women must be in their rooms by then. The women all work within the grounds.  There is a vege garden and outside areas to be tended. There is also a ten-woman Mother and Babies unit which is in the grounds. Barnado’s runs the nursery and helps with child welfare.  The unit has an outstanding nursery which receives glowing reviews from education inspectors. The babies are well-stimulated from birth and are generally ahead of their age in development. The women are expected to work once the babies reach three months of age, so full-time childcare is necessary.

The prison costs 1/3 as much to run as other UK prisons.  It is the cheapest prison to operate in the UK by far, as the expensive paraphernalia of security is virtually absent. Just to give one example, the large and airy residents dining room is also the visiting centre, whereas NZ prisons have dedicated visitor rooms which are unused part of the week. All the resources at Askham Grange go on programmes for the women. The aim is to prepare the women in all ways, through education, job training, family reunification and assistance with mental health and addiction problems, for a good life outside.  The recidivism rate is 2%, compared to an average of 63%.

The prison is also a conference centre, holding about 100 people.  Our lunch was cooked by the residents and there were pies, quiches and lasagne, salad, and four kinds of vegetables. The residents talked freely with us and answered questions.  They seemed happy and relaxed.

The village at the end of the lane contains some of the most expensive real estate in Yorkshire.  It is beautiful. The prison has been operating for close to 50 years and there has never been an incident. There is one massive incentive for people to obey the few rules: breaching them means returning to a closed prison. It has happened, but not often.

All of our prisons in New Zealand are high security in the sense of razor wire, single entry, lots of staff, strong security focus, stab-proof vests and so on. There is an inescapable dehumanisation about our prisons, whether intended or not. They are really expensive to run but not so good at development or rehabilitation, or family contact and job-finding.

A first step in prison reform in NZ needs to be moving away from the current model in all our prisons, towards options for variable security levels underpinned by excellent incentives for people in prison to better themselves.  An open prison for both women and men would provide an effective, empowering and low-cost model. These could be run on kaupapa Maori principles and values.

There are things that can be done easily and cheaply that are effective.  At the conference I have just attended, the UK’s shamefully high imprisonment rate (in European terms) was often discussed.  Yet ours in NZ is a third higher than that, despite our peaceful and low crime country. A call for action on this is long overdue. 

Open prisons are not the whole answer, but they are one piece of the puzzle that can easily be fitted into place.

 

Dr Liz Gordon is a researcher and a barrister, with interests in destroying neo-liberalism in all its forms and moving towards a socially just society.  She usually blogs on justice, social welfare and education topics.

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Ongoing drug-test sanctions contradicts Government’s rhetoric on drugs – AAAP

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Reports that two-thirds of beneficiaries who fail drug tests are still having their benefit sanctioned contradicts the Government’s so-called health approach to drugs. Auckland Action Against Poverty is calling on the Government to immediately act on its word and end the drug-test sanction regime.

“We’ve got a hypocritical Government punishing beneficiaries who fail drug-tests yet speaks of moving towards a health based approach to drug use, reassuring people it was not aiming to continue applying this sanction last year”, says Ricardo Menendez March, Auckland Action Against Poverty Coordinator.

“The drug-testing regime is not only expensive, but most people who are subjected to one don’t test positive for drug use. The people who test positive and have a substance abuse problem need support, not punishment.

“Cutting people’s incomes when they have a substance abuse problem only exposes them and their families to more harmful substances, as well as potential homelessness and other health risks.

Last year Minister Carmel Sepuloni admitted that the drug test sanction regime is harmful to beneficiaries, but failed to act on to ensure the sanction was no longer applied. As with other aspects of welfare reform, this Government has been slow to act on its promise of building a welfare system that allows people to live with dignity. Continuing to apply this sanction despite reassurances by the Deputy Chief Executive of Work and Income and the Minister of Social Development exemplifies the ongoing toxic culture at Work and Income.

“The Welfare Expert Advisory Group, commissioned by the Government, was clear that the drug testing sanction regime needed to be put to an end. The Government needs to listen to its own reports and communities on the ground and introduce this change.”

 

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Sanford’s latest gambit a bid to protect profits, not dolphins – World Animal Protection

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World Animal Protection describes an overnight announcement (19 August, embargoed until 6am 20 August), by fishing company Sanford as a cynical move to undermine growing support for full habitat protection for Māui and Hector’s dolphins. World Animal Protection calls on the Government to reject Sanford’s plan immediatley. 

Campaign advisor Christine Rose says Sanford’s self-described ‘innovative’ measures are unproven and reckless. “The announcement is clearly designed to head off further regulation. The scale of the public response to the Threat Management Plan has shown that the world wants full protection for Māui and Hector’s dolphins and Sanford are worried”. 

For years the fishing industry has suggested devices designed to either deter the dolphins from their own habitat, such as pingers, and to eject trawl-caught dolphins from nets once they’re caught. But this has always been to avoid responsibility for entanglement risks and have never been effective or proven.

“Sanford hope that their weak suggestions will head off additional protections for the endangered Māui and Hector’s dolphins” said Rose. “They are designed to protect Sanford’s profits, not dolphins”. 

The company’s proposed thirty-day moratorium on fishing in the habitat if a Māui dolphin is killed is ludicrous. The tiny dolphin population can’t sustain a single death, and no limited moratorium subsequent to any death will sufficiently mitigate the impact of such a loss. 

The International Whaling Commission and the International Society of Marine Mammology have repeatedly called for New Zealand to protect Māui and Hector’s in waters to 100m deep to prevent human made extinction of the species. Many other international and national environmental groups and scientists are unified in urging the removal of set and trawl nets from the entire Māui and Hector’s habitat, out to 100m, in harbours and in the areas between populations where the dolphins are found.

 

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Will the economic meltdown hurt Trump? Really?

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The latest hope by liberals to the end of the orange fascism that is Trump, is that the looming economic collapse that he has inadvertently set in motion will somehow damage Trump enough to finally beta him.

Firstly, let’s remind ourselves that this next economic Armageddon has been created by 10 years of Central Banks printing trillions in money to stop the implosion of the GFC of 2008, Trump looks like he’ll pop it through his trade war and perverse corporate tax cuts, so the hard rain that is going to fall isn’t all on Trump.

Secondly, someone did have to take China on, they are a repressive Totalitarian regime with far too much power and clipping their economic wings is actually far better than open warfare.

After the dozens of scandals, after the blame Russia campaign, after the sexist, racist hateful shit he spouts daily, after the 12000 lies, after the failed Mueller investigation, we now tell ourselves that the new thing that will end Trump will be a collapsing economy.

Really?

I fear it could actually consolidate Trump.

After the tax cuts that put money in their pockets and jobs everywhere, People who vote Trump won’t blame the President for an economic failure, they’ll see a media and political class who have attempted to undermine him every step of the way and how attractive is the blame migrants dog whistle when people are actually economically hurting, not just fretting about their perceived loss of privilege?

We tell ourselves that Trump will lose because we want to believe it, but Trump was elected because of economic anxiety, how much more enraged will his electorate become when they truly feel that anxiety become economic reality?

I fear they will scream for Trump to punish their enemies in a terrible way.

To beat Trump’s negative populism, the Democrats need positive populism, they need to talk about free health fare and free education. Bernie Sanders & Elizabeth Warren are doing that, but Biden is lost in his own white saviour fantasy.

Trump is unique in that he understands resentment better than any other politician before him, if you think poor white America are irrational when they think they might be losing out, wait until they start losing out.

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The slumping failure of the cannabis reform movement in NZ

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The latest poll shows support for cannabis reform has dramatically slumped.

How the hell can this happen?

Helius, the company who paid for the poll have a vested interest in keeping cannabis pharmaceutical so will privately celebrate recreational cannabis slumping as it strengthens their medicinal cannabis business model, but their vested interest aside, how the hell could the argument be getting lost?

Some might suggest fringe Christian fanatics Family Fist have pumped out propaganda and that has changed things, but I don’t for one second think it’s God squad or their moronic whining, I think it’s something far more damaged.

In America, the tribalism is so pathological that people love Trump because he makes the people they despise incandescent with rage. In NZ, the Greens have gone from friendly folk with alternatives to a middle class woke lynch mob whose activists manage to make most people feel alienated.

Last year Pride parade had 30 000 turn up to celebrate the rainbow community, this year after the woke Board took over and banned Police from marching because Trans people might be triggered by seeing a Police Officer in uniform, it barely managed 2500.

The woke proclaimed this as a win.

The Greens practise the same pure temple mindset of inclusion via exclusion and because the Cannabis reform is so closely aligned to the Greens, the bac lash we are seeing with slumping cannabis polls is driven by people reacting to them, not the debate.

It can’t all be the Greens fault, the lack of an actual referendum question and the fact it’s not binding on the next Government doesn’t help, but ultimately what the Cannabis reform movement desperately needs right now are an all star celebrity team calling for change and a regulated market.

This movement needs to be liked again and the lowly polling Greens aren’t likeable.

I’ll be hosting the first great cannabis referendum debate on September 2nd live streamed from Chapel Bar at 8pm as part of our ‘Pub Politics’ season. Paula Bennett, David Seymour, Chloe Swarbrick and Chris Folwie will front and debate the issue.

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I’m getting the same feeling about local elections I did with the Census

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Bryce Edwards thinks as little as 30% will vote in local body elections.

I think he’s being optimistic.

I’m getting the same feeling about the local elections I got about the census – that people are weaponising their apathy as a fuck you to the system. I predicted census would be a failure, I fear our local elections will be poorly attended as well.

I spoke with so many people about the census who weren’t bothering to fill it in because they were angry. A sense that they didn’t want to give the Government any more information than they had to, a resentment that was driven by a deep dislike of their fellow citizens.

Culturally I think we are at war with one another and I blame social media.

The more and more we have had the opportunity to connect, the more and more we have disliked each other.

French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre once said ‘Hell is other people’, I think Hell is other people’s social media.

In a cultural landscape of identity politics, the tribalism is now pathological with no over arching values of being a New Zealander that people attach to. We are weaponising our apathy to the point of outright refusal to co-operate with one another.

Subjective rage and a culture of micro-aggression policing are making us impossible to connect with.

A sense of entropy has descended, I’ve lived in Auckland central for 25 years and I’ve seen it get worse and worse. The gridlock, the ever spiralling rents, the naked poverty of homelessness on the streets – do I believe any candidate will fix that?

No. No I do not.

Add in a news media more focused on entertaining and distraction than informing and a future blighted by climate change, I sense an isolation every bit as Trumpian as Donald’s wall.

We all want to build a wall now, between ourselves and each other, sure we will turn out for the big election because we despise the other team more than love our apathy, but for the run of the mill co-operation like local body elections or the census? I don’t think we care.

I think the bonds of fellowship between us have been blighted and we move to shut down that interaction rather than build on it. Social media has alienated us with no common narrative to connect with.

I hope I am wrong, but I feel like something very profound has changed in the way we communicate with each other that has alienated us to extremes of civic dispossession.

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Why the massive ice melt in Greenland should terrify you

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Greenland ice melt is so extreme, it is happening at worst case scenario rates not expected until 2070.

Just pause and consider that.

It’s melting 50 years faster than Scientists predicted, last week it was reported that the ice sheet lost 11 billion tons of ice – in just one day.

So what you say.

Greenland is melting at a worst case scenario 50 years early, how does that impact the rest of us?

In a terrifying manner I’m afraid.

The Atlantic Circulation current takes warn water from the tropics and takes it north allowing most of Europe to have a temperate climate, the fresh water pouring off Greenland dumps into the Labrador Sea, which is one of the most important sea pumps for the Atlantic Circulation, if the water around the Labrador Sea desalinates because of the fresh water, the Atlantic Circulation shuts down, warm water stops going north and Europe’s climate becomes catastrophic.

It’s happening now, the Atlantic Circulation is weaker now than it has been for 1600 years.

We are seeing the last canary die in the coal mine. Catastrophic climate change is here, we have run out of time. Our collective denial has made it impossible to stop climate change, our only hope now is radical adaptation.

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Judith Collins – Foot in Mouth Award? Or something more sinister?

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Former Police, Corrections, and Justice Minister in the previous John Key government, Judith Collins, has been ridiculed on social media after posting a comment on Twitter that was patently untrue;

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Wrong!! National did not remove Prisoners’ ability to vote. Parliament voted through a Private Member’s Bill not a Govt Bill. Note where NZF voted. Restoring prisoners’ right to vote still not a priority – Andrew Little | Newshub

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Ms Collins stated-as-fact “National did not remove Prisoners’ ability to vote. Parliament voted through a Private Member’s Bill not a Govt Bill. Note where NZF voted“.

Twitter posters were quick to point out that the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010 was indeed a National government Bill. The Bill was introduced by then-National MP, Paul Quinn, on 10 February 2010.

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Mr Quinn’s Bill passed it’s third reading on 8 December 2010, with National’s fiftyeight MPs and ACT’s five MPs voting it into law.

Labour, the Greens, the Māori Party, Jim Anderton (as the Progressive Party), and Peter Dunne (as the United Future)  voted against the Bill. Contrary to Ms Collins advising people to “note where NZF voted” – New Zealand First was not even present in Parliament at the time.

The Bill received Royal Assent from the Governor General seven days later, formally becoming the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010.

Ms Collins was wrong in almost every respect in her August 12, 2019  Twitter post: the law was National’s from beginning to end.

Her blunder (or wilful misrepresentation) was compounded when her Leader, Simon Bridges, publicly confirmed Ms Collins’ “tweet” as mis-information;

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It’s our law – we believed in it then and we still believe in it so we will oppose change. Quite simply if you do a crime that’s serious enough for jail you lose a number of rights, including most importantly your liberty, but also we think it’s right while you’re in prison you lose that right to vote.”

Simon Bridges’ statement owning the 2010 law change made Judith Collins look like a complete fool. She was lucky that her Twitter post did not gain wider media and public traction. (Those two really need to talk more often.)

This is not the first time Ms Collins has publicly mis-represented an issue. In August last year, Ms Collins used social media to promote a bogus ‘story’ from a fake news site;

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The mainstream media coverage was brutal in condemnation;

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Ms Collins was unrepentant, resorting to verbal gymnastics to defend her ‘right’ to spread lies;

I still share them because, actually, I don’t believe in censorship on people’s ideas.”

And politicians wonder why the public do not trust politicians?

National’s current Leader, Simon Bridges, made no attempt to reprimand his MP, saying;

“I’ve liked things before, actually genuinely accidentally. I think when you’re scrolling through things, you know that’s created its own little controversy. I think in this case Judith Collins feels strongly about the issue, that’s legitimate. But it is a wrong source, she acknowledges that, and we should in general try and get them right.”

The reason that Mr Bridges failed to tell Ms Collins to remove her fake news post was simple and had little to do with fearing a challenge from his errant MP.

Ms Collins, along with every other National MP and Party apparatchik are presently engaged in a Trumpesque campaign to win next year’s election. Whether this involves half-truths or shonky data, or outright spread of lies – National will do whatever it takes to win.

As Chris Trotter wrote this month (15 August 2019);

“And so it begins, the National Party’s simultaneous descent and ascent. Downwards, into the dark territory of “whatever it takes”. Upwards, into the glare of electoral victory. It’s happening because the party’s present leader has convinced himself that it is only the first movement which makes possible the second.

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That is no small matter. Once truth and propaganda become fused in the minds of one’s followers, debate and discussion become redundant. If one’s opponents are all outrageous liars, then engaging with them in any way is pointless. Rather than waste its time, a political party should, instead, target all its messages at those who have yet to grasp the full mendacity of the other side. Tell these “persuadables” the truth – your truth – before the other parties tell them theirs.”

Whether Ms Collins knew that her comments regarding the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010 was true or not is utterly irrelevant.

National has entered into a propaganda blitz. They will use half-truths, exaggeration, out-of-context material, distortions, and outright fabrications to win next years’ election.

Whatever it takes.

They will use dog-whistles; throw ‘red-meat’ to bigots; demonise every group that their conservative base despises.

Whatever. It. Takes.

Thus is the style of election campaign strategy set from now till Election Day: Whatever it takes.

With an under-resourced mainstream media, it will be a Herculean task for journalists to keep track of National Party propaganda. It may take a day to fact-check assertions from National MPs – and by then, party apparatchiks will have moved on to the next part of their diabolical strategy. (Though on 29 July, on Radio NZ’s “Morning Report Gyles Beckford challenged National leader Simon Bridges with dogged determination we rarely hear these days. )

Fortunately, they will still fail. New Zealanders, for the most part, don’t take kindly to Trumpian-style politics. And Simon Bridges is certainly no flamboyant Trump.

The only certainty is that Simon Bridges will not be leading the National Party in 2021.

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References

Wikipedia: Judith Collins, Former Police, Corrections, and Justice Minister

Twitter: Judith Collins – Prisoner Voting – 8:59AM August 12, 2019

Parliament: Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010

Parliament: Paul Quinn

Parliament: Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Bill — Third Reading

Wikipedia: NZ First – 2008 General Election

Radio NZ: NZ First tightlipped on prisoners’ voting rights

Twitter: Judith Collins – Fake News Twitter – 12:36 PM  Aug 6, 2018

Mediaworks/Newshub: Judith Collins defends her fake news tweet to Jacinda Ardern

TVNZ: ‘I don’t believe in censorship’ – Judith Collins stands firm over tweeting from ‘fake news’ site

Fairfax/Stuff media: Judith Collins defends linking to fake news article on France consent laws

Fairfax/Stuff media: Judith Collins digs in heels on fake news story

Radio NZ: Collins on fake news tweet: ‘I don’t believe in censorship’

NewstalkZB: Judith Collins slammed for retweeting fake news

Radio NZ: Collins’ fake news blunder a Bridges fail

Twitter: National Party – manufacturing graph – twitter – 5.24 PM  Aug 16, 2019

The Daily Blog: Chris Trotter – Simon Bridges Leads National Down Into The Dark

National Party: Tell them to go home, Prime Minister (alt.link)

Radio NZ: Simon Bridges criticises govt’s cancer treatment spending

Other Blogs

The Daily Blog: Prisoner Rights Blogger wins for Human Rights

Green:  Prisoner voting ban needs to be repealed

The Green Blog: Prisoner voting disqualification and the Bill of Rights Act

Public Address: Fact-checking Parliament – more prisoners can vote than they think

Werewolf: Robbing the Vote

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The Daily Blog: The madness of Judith Collin’s fake news tweet

The Standard: Is Judith Collins willing to denounce the use of fake news?

The Standard: Of course Judith should #DeleteTheTweet

Previous related blogposts

Twelve fun facts about National’s failed housing policies for Parmjeet Parmar to consider

Democracy denied – Labour’s saddest failing

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Time for emergency measures?

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The media silence on the $2 million dollar Whakamana Tangata report by the Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) has been staggering. It was given to the government in February and released publicly in early May.  Apart from a few policy wonks, who knows about it, let alone has read it? Unlike the Tax Working Group report there has been no public debate and to date the government has barely acknowledged its existence.

But now at last something  has emerged. The IRD, bless it, has quietly released  its Government tax policy work programme 2019-20.  In it there is a section on Social policy including Government response to the WEAG report.

“This work stream includes policy work on:

the Government’s welfare overhaul work programme including:

    • reform of Working for Families;

    • child support pass-on; and

    • debt;

  • student loan scheme (non-BT work);

  • KiwiSaver – enhancing Trans-Tasman superannuation portability; and

  • other agency initiatives that impact on the tax or social policy system.

On the Government response to the welfare overhaul, officials are working closely with MSD and other agencies to develop a welfare package. This will take a phased approach given the complexity of the welfare system and the need to balance fiscal prudence with improving wellbeing and other high priority government objectives.”

It is great that the Government intends paying attention at last to the broken welfare system. But has it left its run too late?   Will there be a time- consuming round of consultations for the changes that may eventually proposed? Will the delay mean that welfare reform is going to have to be an election issue? Is that a dangerous path to go down?

In the meantime, while high level secret talks may be taking place in Wellington, there has been very little immediate relief for the 174,000 children and their parents living under the impossibly low 40% after housing costs median income poverty line.   For this group the families package has been clearly inadequate  and the changes for them to come in next April from this year’s budget, are just miniscule.

The foodbanks are saying they are overwhelmed with demand, in spite of government being kinder with supplementary assistance and hardship grants.  The Auckland City Mission has had a 45% jump in the number of food parcels given out over the last year. The medical world is warning about diseases of poverty:

“Not being able to get to the doctor for scheduled vaccinations is another barrier caused by poverty. Immunisation coverage rates for infants have significantly dropped in the past two years, particularly for infants from severely impoverished households, and particularly tamariki Māori. “ CPAG 2019

Many families in precarious work are already feeling the effects of  the beginning of an economic recession: how much worse will it be by this Christmas?  We can expect that recessionary pressures will exacerbate the already entrenched poverty. One of the best counters the government could make would be a significant emergency package for the worst-off delivered before Christmas.

The government could keep to its long-term plan for future welfare reform while doing some things that will move it immediately in the right direction.  Here are some highly targeted suggestions that would provide a real counter-recessionary boost and reduce the depth of child poverty and family misery.

·         Join up WFF and give the 72.50 a week to all low income families that currently are excluded \ at a cost of $0.5 billion that is a lot of bread and milk).

·         Increase the amount that can be earned on a benefit to 10 hours at the minimum wage, ie  $177 per week.

·         Continue the WEP for all on a benefit-and for those superannuitants getting an Accommodation Supplement for another  6 months- a much needed defacto benefit rise.

So far we have had a reduction in interest rates that is supposed to stimulate more real investment and be good for jobs.  But that outcome relies on investor confidence and that may be rapidly evaporating. Easier loans will no doubt help buoy the property market, and keep share markets afloat, at least for now, but that is no help to the 174,000 children who need help right now.

There is plenty of fiscal space for positive action.  The net debt rule should not be the hold up. One avenue to explore is the immediate suspension of the contributions to the NZ Super Fund. We should not be building this treasure chest for the future with $2 billion annually from working age taxpayers who  won’t see anything back until 2050, and then only a trickle, while today’s low income families go hungry and in poor health with totally inadequate housing.

The most important thing is to act with urgency before an intractable depression-like situation is reached for the worst off families with severe repercussions for them, their children and for society.

 

 

 

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GUEST BLOG: John Tamihere – Auckland is in gridlock

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Auckland is in desperate need of direction and clear decisive leadership.

That is what I have brought to the table by way of example with my Harbour Bridge & Penlink announcements.

Auckland is in gridlock.

It will not get better by doing nothing.

The harbour superstructure is a NZ Govt funded project and not funded by ratepayers.

Anyone that says it will bankrupt the city is simply not telling the truth. The choice is very clear you can wallow in the present failing status quo or change tomorrow.

John Tamihere is a candidate for the Auckland mayoralty 

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