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Tuesday, April 9, 2013
This post may not resonate well with some readers, mostly because I am calling out someone well known and highly respected for her ‘progressive opinion shaping’ as an advocate for human rights in NZ and abroad.
I’m not saying I’m perfect, nor that I expect anyone else to be. When we are so grossly offended, we often say or do irrational things. Its human nature.
I've been chatting to some friends on Facebook - one in particular who was rightly upset by the comments made by Marie Kraup, the Danish Politician (reportedly a far right nationalist) who recently slandered Maori culture in an opinion piece in a Danish newspaper. I'm a little late and many have written on this topic already, but there is a different angle I want to take.
An angle that brings to mind a heated twitter exchange I saw a few weeks ago where @ColeyTangerina went to town on @Kaupapa for referring to the careerist left women of Labour having more balls than the men and for saying that ‘ovaries’ don’t have the same linguistic currency as ‘balls’.
I happened to agree with him – yet I could also see @ColeyTangerina’s point. So long as we believe ‘balls’ have more linguistic currency than ‘ovaries’, is as long as that will remain the status quo.
It also brings to mind the case of John Key’s ‘gay red shirt’ comment, since he got slammed for using the term ‘gay’ derogatorily notwithstanding that he attends gay pride shows – which he wouldn’t if he were homophobic. Not defending John Key, just saying that some terms are used in ways that we often take for granted as being derogatory or offensive to others.
So what does this have to do with Marama Davidson? This:
The part I refer to is line 5 beginning 'upholding Danish racist pastry woman's comments'. And when asked if ‘pastry’ was a typo, she replied:
Marama is usually an amazing advocate and her writing and comments are usually well considered. But referring to Marie Kraup as a Danish racist pastry is not the conduct one has come to expect of a progressive opinion shaper, especially when the point of the status update is to call out our Race Relations Commissioner for failing to provide guidance on this issue.
I wholeheartedly agree that Susan Devoy should be making some comment to send a global message that we are united against cultural intolerance. I suspect that most readers of this blog will agree that what Marie Krarup said was abhorrent and her own intolerance was the most primitive thing about the whole situation.
But is this a justifiable response given it is in the context of criticising the lack of commentary from the Race Relations Commissioner?
Surely the message could have been conveyed without resorting to her own ill-considered comments? Many Danish people will take offense to the petty name calling and derogatory reference to their nationality as pastries. Maybe some of my readers will think what she said wasn't offensive in the context of what was said about Maori culture, but in my view, this was a bit of people in glass houses. Not particularly conducive to improving race relations nor promoting tolerance.
What I will say, is that I agree if you are reading this and upset that Dame Susan Devoy has not made any comment, then do call or email the Human Rights Commission and demand a response.
Note: these comments from Marama are made publicly on Facebook, so are easily accessible by any person. I haven't covertly extracted them.
*I get that the word 'pastry' is not offensive on its own. Its the use of pastry as a way of belittling that could be deemed offensive to the people of Denmark.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
I was recently enlightened about a generational shift to hairless vagina's. Yes. Men with young daughter's this is probably an uncomfortable, but necessary post for you to read.
The conversation begins by TP, SI and SP discussing the NZ Herald article on the susceptibility of sexually transmitted infections for those who wax their pubic hair. (Note: the particular study in question acknowledged the results were inconclusive because there was not a control group). This transpired into a discussion on the all faous full brazilian wax.
We were told by SP that in her view, females under 25 years old are predominantly foregoing their pubic hair. For clarity, this is not at all a problem, a woman is free to choose to do as she pleases with her pubic hair.
Why am I talking about hairless vagina's? Because the subject both fascinates and terrifies me. You will see why by the end of this post.
SP is a 24 year old female who is considering IPL (permanent removal) and regularly waxes the lot.She made some interesting points that I want to discuss. Firstly, that she is insulted that (some) feminists consider her choice for a hairless vagina as submitting to the desires of men and secondly, that hairless vagina's are a 'generational thing'.
I can appreciate where those feminists are coming from when they make such remarks. They may have had wider issues in their minds but transfixed the idea onto an individuals choice. So the remarks were probably made without context and unfortunately relayed in way that demeaned SP as a woman capable of making her own choices. The problem SP raised about those feminists is similar to my own experiences of some self-proclaimed feminists - that all the decisions I make that benefit males are are not free choices but rather kowtowing to conform to the needs and/or desires of men. Note, that its a very small minority of feminists that fall into this experience for me. Although it highlights the importance for feminists to make clear that they are not judging the individual but instead considering the wider issues and implications of such choices (if that is the intention of course).
So I've established that I do not consider having a hairless vagina anti-feminist. Women of all generations have taken the brazen step to wax the lot. I do believe, if it is true that as a generational thing young women are opting for hairless vagina's, we should be concerned.
Intuition tells me that when there is a preference for female body appearance, that the element of conformity is in play. This suggests to me that not all women who choose the full Brazilian wax or IPL are doing so as a free choice. I accept that they are actively making the decision and this is a choice, but I worry that the reasons for those choices derive from a fear of being different or being ostracised for having what SP referred to as a 'bush' or a 'beard'. I also worry that shame or repulsion of pubic hair is being indoctrinated within this generation not just for young women, but to their young male counterparts as well. I'm also concerned that if there really is a generation of young women who are opting out of having any pubic hair, then this could have unintended consequences. I worry that the depiction of a hairless vagina as preferable could adversely affect the sexual safety of our pre-pubescent females.
Obviously, my concerns derive from a single conversation and I do not have the resources to verify the views expressed by SP, but I do think it worthwhile considering in the wider context especially given the prevalence of rape culture in our society.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
So I was reading one of the Greens newsletters this week which left me feeling extremely confused about their economics. My criticism is not because I think Dr Norman is incompetent but rather that I think his commentary is in conflict with what I understood to be ‘sustainability’, an ethic that the Green’s advocate and that in fact the party was founded on.
Dr Norman this week criticised the government for a decline of 0.6% GDP in the tradable sector of the economy. He also stated:
“A shrinking tradable sector combined with a strongly growing non-tradable sector means only one thing – increased borrowing and a ballooning current account deficit”.
I’m curious, wouldn’t a reduction in the tradable economy sit well with Green politics. For instance, he mentions that ‘manufacturing is a key sector for driving high, value-added exports and creating well-paid jobs’ yet the reduction in this sector would surely be an environmental advantage? I mean, less carbon emissions, smaller ecological footprint, ability to restore the now unused land to forest or other environmentally friendly business that would contribute to reducing carbon emissions e.g. industrial hemp farms for various products such as paper, building products, fabric and so on?
My question is: Shouldn’t the Green’s be advocating for reductions in exports and imports and promoting wider support for local trading – which could also create well paid jobs by enabling local business owners to employ local workers as well as minimise environmental impact? I’m not saying here that there is no room for exports in a sustainability framework, only that continued steady growth of our tradable sector is unsustainable and therefore the outcome will be no different to that of the neo-liberalism the Green’s have openly advocated against.
Dr Albert A.Bartlett states that ‘the greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function’. The exponential function is a tool used to measure steady growth patterns, such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The benefit of understanding exponential growth is to inform ourselves of how long it will take for steady growth to double; using a simple calculation and this gives us the ability to interpret what that level of growth will mean for our society. Dr Bartlett focuses on the use of exponential growth in relation to population as this is where he sees the function as being most important due to its understatement at both the local and global level. My purpose is to show why the Greens focus on economic growth is not in line with their principles of sustainability – the very value that gave birth to the party.
GDP is often used to indicate the standard of living in a country and so it follows that the more economic growth the better the standard of living. But the exponential function can dispel this myth.
Exponential growth is measured by a constant (fixed fraction) over a fixed period of time. In 2012, NZ’s GDP was recorded as 2.5%. Dr Bartlett indicates that if it takes a fixed length of time to grow, in NZ’s case 2.5% then it follows that it takes a longer fixed period of time to grow 100%. This longer fixed period of time is called the doubling time. The doubling time (T2) is calculated as follows: T2 = 70/(% growth per unit) = time.
What we can say is that if NZ’s economy continues to grow at 2.5% then in 28 years our GDP will double to 5% (Calculation: T2 = 70/2.5 = 28). This may not seem so bad, but consider the growth rates for the 28 years following each of the preceding periods:
- 2012 = 2.5%
- 2040 = 5%
- 2068 = 10%
- 2096 = 20%
As Dr Bartlett points out, we need to understand that “the growth in any doubling time is greater than the total of all the preceding growth and that modest growth rates give us enormous growth in modest periods of time”.
My conclusion is that if Dr Norman is concerned about sustainability then criticising the government for the decline in growth in the tradable sector is not particularly consistent with the principle of sustainability. If modest amounts of growth in that sector will give us enormous growth in a modest period of time then this will require major depletion of natural resources and massive increases in waste to sustain growth at those levels. I wonder if perhaps Dr Norman should instead be encouraging local trading (within NZ) to improve job prospects and the prospects of local business owners and support the reduction in exports rather than advocating a position that has an apparent conflict with Green Party values.
Sunday, March 17, 2013
While I’m not a typical reader of Rodney Hide, nor do I agree with much of what he has to say – most the time – but on occasion I find myself in agreement with some of his ideas/opinions. I encourage you to read on, even if you hate the pants off Hide.
I want to focus on 3 of Hide’s articles that interested me. Note, interested does not mean I unequivocally agree with him. But for reference the articles are embedded as links below.
Mainzeal and the mad men who drive our economy
The business failure is reported as an economic calamity. And a sign that all is not well within the wider New Zealand economy...It’s all nonsense, of course. The business collapse shows we have an economy that is working. We would be better off with more...It is traumatic and upsetting for those involved. But so, too, is life...It’s simply a part, and a very necessary part, of living....Business collapse is part and parcel of a successful economy.
At first glance, I interpreted this article as saying that the free market wants business to fail. So, I thought I’d ask the biggest defender of the free market I know of (@MarkHubbard33) how he interpreted Hide’s piece. His response was in summary, that “business failure is the natural, necessary way for the market to fix malinvestment: that aids innovation and the big problem with bailouts were they kept alive zombie business concepts/models, and hindered innovation”. In comparing this response and reading Hide's piece again, I suspect Hide's view is identical.
What I understand from Hide’s comments is that business collapse is natural and indicative of a healthy economy. My problem with his theory is that in a later article he implies that providing a living wage to employees is bad for business.
My question is, if you are for the free market and accept that businesses collapse is natural and necessary, why then is a living wage considered as something that would cause a business to fail?
For instance, if the labour market demands a living wage and the business is not in a position to pay it, then surely it is a zombie business and therefore deserves to collapse under the free market doctrine.
I suspect a response to that claim might be that government legislating what employers must pay (at minimum) is intervention and not the natural course of the market. In my view, this is weak. The government are enacting what the labour market are demanding – the right to be remunerated for the value they provide to the business. Of course, the particular framing of this claim may suggest that if a business cannot afford to pay a living wage then the employee is arguably not providing the business with the value they seek in return for their labour. Although I don’t buy that argument either, since without the employee’s labour, that is, the skill used to produce the good or service, the business would not be able to turn its resources into a revenue stream. The business does not fail because of the labour provided – it fails because the business relies on an ineffective business model that ‘hinders innovation’.
Bravo: The real business class
So lets look at what Hide has to say when it comes to paying a ‘living wage’ to employees:
...many businesspeople don't make the minimum wage, let alone the "living wage". They work all hours. They sweat about making the wage bill each week. The income they generate pays all our wages, either directly or indirectly...Business would survive without government. But government wouldn't survive without business... business success is the social success that matters most. It's the success of providing what people actually want at a price they are prepared to pay.
I’m not compelled by this argument for he reasons set out above and additionally, I find Henry George’s argument more persuasive:
“wages are the product of the labor for which they are paid”
George uses the example of an egg company that hires a group of workers to collect eggs and in return they receive a fixed wage. The fixed wage is paid in money that represents the eggs because the sale of eggs produces the cash to pay the wages. This may in fact be what Hide meant. But in my view Hide overlooked that without labour the business would not generate the income to pay wages. So the importance is not the business, it is in fact the labour.
I’m amused that Hide on one hand says its natural and in fact a sign of a healthy economy where businesses collapse since innovation derives from these failures. And on the other hand businesses that are struggling should be assisted by the government twofold – firstly, by not legislating a minimum wage thereby privileging the business over the labour, and secondly, by leaving it to the government to provide social security for the workers whose employers cannot afford to pay them a living wage. Has Hide forgotten that the government represents the people and not business? Well, not according to his latest piece in the NBR that I will discuss below.
I enjoyed this piece while at times I seethed much of what he said was palatable and some of it even sensible. Lets look at his idea for Christchurch first. Hide says:
The government should butt out of Christchurch...Property rights should be recognised and reaffirmed rather than endlessly pinched, the region should be declared tax-free and oppressive laws such as the Resource Management Act, OSH and the Employment Relations Act deemed inappropriate.
It was all going well until he spouted the bit about deeming laws that address fundamental rights of individuals inappropriate [in bold - emphasis added].
What I like about this suggestion is that he is right about the government butting out – CERA is an impediment to the direct democracy of the people of Christchurch. CERA is an installed regime intended to ignore the plight of the people for the benefit of some crony government agenda.
I’m also impressed by his tax free zone, although in my opinion, this should be limited to personal income tax and GST because I'd be suspicious about some (external) businesses finding loopholes and using the tax free status of the region to create profits that didn't feed back into the community. And this would undermine the whole point of declaring Christchurch a tax free zone. The advantage of a tax free zone is that individuals would have their full wage to assist them in rebuilding their lives which would go some way to providing the necessary relief in the wider community. It would also benefit the local businesses because people would have more money to spend and would be more likely to spend thereby circulating more money in the region without having to artificially create more money (banking) or printing more money (QE). I’m not entirely sure how such a scheme could be implemented, but on the face of it, I think Hide’s idea has merit. I suspect his reasons are because such a scheme would be more favourable to businesses, while I prefer the idea for the benefit of the community as a whole.
Another idea I liked of Hide’s was in relation to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Hide says:
Get rid of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. That alone would signal that government understands that business, innovation and employment aren’t things that flow out of the Beehive.
In my view, he’s right. Government is about governance and not dictating what the economy should be doing. While I see a role for government in facilitating the employment relationship, its not the role of government to determine what is innovative for the private sector. I appreciate that some people believe that some ‘public-private partnerships’ have been successful, but I don't think this justifies the relationship since success is almost always measured in profitability. We elect the government to represent us as a people and when governments are in partnership with business there is a clear conflict of interest and conflicts of interest are deemed highly inappropriate in most professions.
To conclude, for all the BS that Rodney spouts and his deliberate trolling of the left, he does happen to have some good ideas and opinions. What I am finding is that despite the differences in opinions or how our opinions and ideas are formed, where there is common ground we should probably work from there. Surely, its far more productive than slinging mud back and forth.
Sunday, March 3, 2013
Following the SC decision on the Wai case, looks like there is going to be a final push against Asset Sales in which various union groups and other movements are calling for a National Day of Action (Date: 27 April 2013).
This week the MSM asked what National's Plan B would have been, had the SC decision gone in favour of the NZMC. Its irrelevant. Who cares. They would have legislated against any finding. Much the same as Labour did with the Foreshore and Seabed. We can assume this.
But what was the Plan B for those in opposition to asset sales? A referendum that wouldn't be held until after at least the first few SOE's were partially privatised? Relying on Labour & Greens to create more widespread participation through actual action something that they've failed to effectively do already?
In the meantime they've left it to Mana's activists, unions, blogs and other social movements to keep the issue live.
So Plan B now appears to be another mass demonstration. This is not the 1980's. And its not Egypt. It might feel like an exercise of citizen power but there are always a few who manage to deflect from the real purpose by using the march as a platform for spreading their anti-Key sentiments. When they do that, citizen power is lost. National laugh off the protest as a bunch of radical left wing haters. It does more damage than good.
To make matters worse, opposition Leader, David Shearer ain't gonna make the protest credible since he struggles to string together a single coherent sentence. And while the Greens will provide valid arguments, National have developed a knack for making common sense sound completely irrational.
Yes, I did just make that statement - the Greens argument is common sense because its not just focused on economic advantages or disadvantages but takes into account both social and environmental factors which are highly relevant and seldom considered.
I appreciate that there are people who are not opposed to the sale of these assets - in fact many, including Treasury see the full privatisation as providing more economic benefits. I also can understand the diverse philosophies/ideologies that compel people to either oppose or support privatisation schemes. But my point here is not to debate whether or not we should as a country partially privatise state owned assets. I want to focus on a more effective form of protest using our real power, that is, as Consumers.
BOYCOTT MIGHTY RIVER
Mighty River Power claims that its retail brands have a combined national market share of 18% of the physical electricity sales by volume. They boast around 370,000 customers.
The Greens have released figures that suggest they have collected 370,000 or so signatures for a citizens initiated referendum and the polls tell us that around 80% of New Zealander's are opposed to the partial sell down.
Consumers are in control. Without them, businesses fail. This protest that is being organised needs to promote this power. The threat of loss of customers is enough to devalue a company. Actual migrations of customers will be even more effective. If those who oppose assets want to prevent the sale - then they must use their power as a consumer and boycott all Mighty River Power retail brands such as Mercury Energy.
The effect of this is in order to retain profits the company are likely to have to drive up its power prices - this would inevitably force other users to transfer their service to other power companies. The loss of customers (and customer instability) and hence lost profits is less attractive to potential investors and is the only effective way of getting the government to respect our power as citizens and consumers. As consumers we can drive down the value of the SOE's in a show of opposition to its proposed partial privatisation. We often forget that governments serve us we do not serve them.
Its foreseeable how the government will respond - they'll blame those who divest from Mighty River Power for its imminent sale. Its BS. They plan to sell anyway whether you take this action or not. Counter the rhetoric. Those who oppose these asset sales need to get smarter not angrier. They need to anticipate counter-responses and take more direct actions. Protesting about sales is a start but its not the same as taking direct action to prevent them. As a consumer in a consumption society - we have the power.
According to the NZH Mighty River is in the process of being listed on the ASX:
http://nzh.tw/1086852 now is the time.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
The purpose of this post is to discuss how our political differences have become a way of distinguishing who we are not, rather than who we can be.
When I first began blogging, my writing was more aggressive and perhaps more theatrical than the style I’ve since become accustom to (albeit still maintaining a tendency toward a ranty, reactionary post now and then). However, after my first few posts a good friend sent me an email suggesting that I temper my writing. The logic behind this was that the more aggressive my writing the fewer people who would actually read my blog. Additionally, that if my purpose was to open up the debate then my vitriolic rants would inhibit that goal. Of course, I was taken aback at first, but he was right. There are plenty of ranty leftwing and rightwing blogs that added very little to the debate because they limited who could or would participate. And besides, he said, the particular style was only compelling for those who already shared my views and simply turned off any potential readers who might actually be receptive to some of the things I had to say. Sage advice. Because it appears the blogosphere is another platform for division.
I’m going to refer to some things I have read that highlight this division and why I think the blogosphere is the place to build unity through political diversity.
Firstly, on Maui Street blog, Morgan wrote:
“The first challenge is to build a community. The first step in that challenge is easy - bring together a community of bloggers and their readers. The second step is harder - build a community of readers and commenters from outside of the leftwing blogosphere”
I agree. There is an abundance of talent in The Daily Blog line up. My worry is any preconceived prejudices based on The Daily Blogs creator - Bomber.
In my view, Bomber is to the left what WhaleOil is to the right, or alternatively stated, Bomber is to the right what WhaleOil is to the left. They are both aggressive political and social commentators and while they've both established a strong readership they are unlikely to attract the more reserved reader. Like Morgan, however, I am optimistic that any pre-conceived prejudices will be overcome simply because of the talent pool Bomber has cleverly lined up. The beauty of The Daily Blog is the possibility. Although, I think if its purpose is to shape opinion then what could make it more interesting would be to include rightwing bloggers who can offer a challenge to the leftwing line up.
An example of the blogosphere/social media divide was demonstrated this week through the debate over benefit fraud vs tax evasion. I was amused to see that the left vs right arguments typically considered one to be the lesser evil and the other by default, the greater evil. To an extent, there were even some attempts to justify either benefit fraud or tax evasion.
I make no secret of the fact that I lean left but in my view benefit fraud nad tax evasion are equally dishonest. Here I want to discuss why I think the debate was framed wrong resulting in an inevitable (although avoidable) division, where the real issue was ignored. Its true that there are those who commit fraud for reasons of greed and that there are also those who commit fraud because the state limits their options.
Lets brielfy look at the limits created by the state. We (in NZ) have social security in the form of 'benefits' because the government operates according to an economic ideology (neo-liberalism) that cannot cater to full employment and must create an underclass to support prosperity. Through neo-liberalism the state creates beneficiaries and must at the same time actively demonise welfare to maintain a competitive labour force. The governments focus on benefit fraud over tax evasion serves this purpose - to reinforce the idea that everyone can get a job and that the economy is capable of full employment even though those in power know this to be a myth. On the other hand, we have tax evaders because they object to forcible deductions on all their sources of income. However, the government must tax so that they can support the beneficiary class created through this flawed economic model.
So lets look at the issue - it is a result of an inferior economic model that requires widespread taxing to support the underclass it creates and at the same time it propagates welfare demonisation to create the illusion that every person is capable of attaining prosperity within this model (I wrote an earlier post on this called Unemployment benefits the Wealthy). So instead of trying to justify who were the less evil fraudsters and allowing our political ideals to divide us, the debate should have been around what created the problem and how it can be overcome because this division is silent, intentional and operates to perpetuate the status quo.
I want to move on to a common left wing argument: ‘solidarity’. The rhetoric is nice. But its treated as an aesthetic and lacks true meaning in the way its being used. Solidarity and unity are often used interchangeably and that is how I will use them for the remainder of this post because this concept ties together what I have talked about in this post.
Solidarity is often used as a method of opposing capitalism and all that it is argued to represent – exclusivity, selfishness, anti-democracy, cronyism to name a few things. Its usually aligned to socialism, but John Ansell has shown that the concept can be incorporated in rightwing politics under Nationalism via his Together New Zealand Campaign, even if his use of unity is merely superficial.
My view is that the way solidarity and unity are used are inherently exclusionary. When used by either leftwing or rightwing movements, the intention is to unite against an opposing politic. This creates and perpetuates division and therefore limits social progress and works against solidarity.
While writing this post I was referred to a very interesting YouTube clip by @AAMCommons (Twitter) called:
The possibility of political pleasure
This video link helped me solidify what it was that I wanted to write about. The idea was similar to what I had been thinking about – we don’t have to all agree on our beliefs and values – but we do need consensus to fix problems that affect us both locally and globally. This is direct democracy and is what we ought to be striving for – not democracy by the majority – but real participatory democracy, because in my view there can be no solidarity where political diversity is shunned.
Arguably, a good example of true solidarity is the Anonymous community. They have no leader. Each person contributes to the community in whatever way they choose to. They are guided by the protection of civil liberties and resisting banker occupation. They come together voluntarily and because there is no ‘Leader’, community members follow ideas – bad ideas fail because community members discontinue with it and good ideas succeed but never in perpetuity - because innovation underlies the community. In this sense, Anonymous is fluid. And fluidity is necessary for the persistence of the group because it allows members to participate meaningfully and directly.
There are a couple of good documentaries that you might like to watch:
We are Legion
Generation OS13: The New Culture of Resistance
Tying this altogether – if we as a country who are in fact a community of people, valued our political diversity and shaped our decisions around good ideas and not a single politic, then we might actually start to see some progress. We might actually see solidarity.