Tuesday, October 23, 2018

On TVNZ Thinking It Was "Diwali" Last Weekend

So over the weekend, I happened to see ads wishing a "Happy Diwali" on two TVNZ channels. Now, before anything else is said - I do wish to acknowledge that this is pretty cool, and that it's a mark of how far things've come for a Hindu festival (and religious observance) to be marked by the New Zealand state broadcaster. So thanks for that.

BUT - here's the problem. Diwali isn't for another two weeks (November 7 this year). The weekend just gone was basically the days after Dussehra, so to label it Diwali is ... odd.

Now, to be sure - this *was* about the time Diwali was last year (I know this, because Diwali was also the date that NZF announced it was going with Labour rather than National - so I made the predictable political observation about "victory for light over evil"); however, I don't think that the difficulties inherent in affixing Lunar timekeeping to the regular old Gregorian calendar is what's lead to what's happened here.

Instead, I suspect there's another culprit.

Namely, Auckland Council's decision to hold its "Diwali" festival last weekend.

Which, to be sure, I have *some* positive feelings about. After all, it puts Indian culture and the Indian community quite literally front stage here in Auckland. And can be thought of as helping to 'build bridges' (while also, this year, assisting in 'burning Bridges' due to his having to use the event to apologize for National's sentiments about the Indian community) with the rest of the city.

But to hold Diwali immediately after Dussehra is ... odd, to say the least. It would be akin to holding Christmas in early November immediately after Halloween. Or, if memory serves, in that case in previous years wherein the Council attempted to hold Diwali *right in the middle* of NavRatri, where it was compared to attempting to put Easter Monday before Good Friday (see? We *can* make lunar calendars work for secular event planning here in NZ!) .

Now, I am given to understand the position put forward by the Council is that it makes it a great deal easier getting performance troupes and suchlike if they hold Diwali as and when they do - i.e. not when *we* do, so to speak.

And to a certain point, I have some sympathy for that argument.

But the trouble with this is that by continuing to refer to the resultant festivity as "Diwali", it (mis-)leads to people presuming that it actually *is* Diwali.

So you get somebody at TVNZ endeavouring to engage in a nice gesture (which, again, I *do* think is a pretty cool intent here - and should be lauded, up to a point), on grounds that they've heard that Auckland City Council is holding a "Diwali" event, and therefore without doing the proper research, they just kinda assume ... and 'get onboard' by wishing us all a "Happy Diwali" two weeks early across multiple channels.

Once again - I am not writing this to be ungrateful. *At all*.

It's excellent that TVNZ has chosen to broadcast "Happy Diwali" ads on a number of its channels.

I just feel it prudent to, along with the thanks, make motion of a gentle correction about the date.

After all. "Acknowledgement" is great.

But "Authenticity" - that is important, too.

On Jamie-Lee Ross' Present Arcing Trajectory Over The Bridges' Nest

There are several things that need to be said on the most recent development with everybody's favourite Botanical bete-noir.

First up, despite what various people have said on twitter etc - it is rather unlikely that the Police have taken Jami-Lee Ross in to a mental health facility off their own bat.

The Police *don't* have the arbitrary ability to just abduct/detain people under the Mental Health Act.

What they *do* have is i) the ability to take you in for an assessment under s109 if you look like you're mentally disordered in a public place (i.e. if you're walking around naked in a supermarket with no memory of how you got there or something *then* they can act on the own initiative);

And, ii) under s41, the ability to assist a DAO (who's supposed to be a mental health professional per s93) who's acting under s38, in getting somebody who's reasonably suspected of being unwell in for an assessment etc.

The second situation is more likely what's happened here.

Particularly given the National Party statement that, and I quote : "Over the past several weeks the National Party has taken seriously the mental health concerns raised by Mr Ross and the medical professionals he has been involved with. That has included seeking advice from medical professionals and involving Police wherever necessary to ensure support is made available to Mr Ross."

We'll leave aside my incredible lack of shock (given the overt proximity of both Paula Bennett and Judith Collins to the tip of the spear on this one) that the National Party appears to be flagrantly violating Ross's privacy in order to achieve a short-term political pantomime-victory. 

Under s38(1), *anybody* can contact a DAO about somebody they think is experiencing mental disorder to get the ball rolling. Although like I say - that just *initiates* the process by which the DAO attempts to work out if they need to take things further, and whether they might need police assistance getting you (urgently) assessed by another professional (this tends to involve a proper psych), either where you are or at a hospital, etc.

So, am I saying that some "concerned citizen" in the National Party Caucus called up the local DAO and managed to convince them to get Ross brought into a facility for an assessment, with the ostensible goal of gagging him for the next wee-while while the party re-organizes itself in the resultant breathing room thus created?

Not necessarily - although that would certainly explain why National's own statement pointedly (dare I say it - perhaps 'gloatingly') notes they've enlisted "medical professionals" and "involv[ed] Police wherever necessary to ensure support is made available to Mr Ross."

It's also possible that a concerned "friend" (or even friend, sans scare-quotes) or family member might have pulled the pin on it; or even a general member of the public.

Although it does have to be said - what counts as "mentally disordered", even in the realms of professional psychiatry and such (and *especially* in the context of politics, which is frequently Alice in Wonderland in terms of its overall sensibility as an environment and conditioning influence upon its dramatis personae), is often a pretty subjective standard.

And while I *can* see how somebody might try to label Ross's conduct over the past few days as clear signs of mental disorder (indeed, Paula Bennett has done exactly this - admittedly, from a non-specialist perspective, and with a rather obvious less-than-pure motivation to do so); I can also very much see how it is behavior that fits well within the confines of 'erratic', but understandable (and, importantly - not "irrational") responses to finding yourself in a *pretty tight spot* politically.

There is a very serious risk inherent in attempting to 'pathologize' political dissent - as anybody who's read a bit about Soviet psychiatry knows. And I suppose it could be argued that the protection in s4(a) against being designated 'mentally disordered' on the basis of one's "political, religious, or cultural beliefs [...] only" may perhaps not extend far enough if it does not also implicitly protect "standing in the public sphere, metaphorically dousing yourself and your boss in the gasoline of scandal, before casually lighting a match" as an effective act of political conviction.

(I must also confess, that one of my secondary thoughts upon reading National's statement - specifically the bit about their "involving Police wherever necessary to ensure support is made available to Mr Ross" - was that I, and no doubt a number of others, should presumably be very, very glad that no other NZ MPs or political parties had previously thought to weaponize 'police-assisted "hospitalization for (alleged) mental disorder"' as an effective tool to silence internal-gone-external dissent. Particularly over the last, say, four and a half years or so that I've been writing here for TDB)

Yet there is potentially a lot we don't know about what's happened with Mr Ross's situation over the past 24 hours, and it would be perhaps unwise to speculate as to whether there might be other, less 'overtly' political flashpoints which may not even (directly) involve the National Party which could have instead lead to this unfortunate situation.

Not least because, if there actually *is* a genuine medical reason for his finding himself sans phone and in hospital, then he deserves appropriate privacy with which to begin to recuperate and rebuild.

It can be a scary as hell thing to find yourself under the tender ministrations of a hospital psych (a situation I have some .. empathy for - long story), regardless of whether one is or is not "mentally disordered" at the time.

I therefore wish him all the best. Not because he has done more damage to National inside three days than the entire Opposition managed throughout a full three Parliamentary terms ... but because right now - he's either unnecessarily hospitalized, and therefore the victim of a grave injustice indeed (even to type this possibility underscores the surreal feeling of events!); or because he may actually be grappling with demons far more profound than anything he might have encountered in the depths of the Beehive.

Friday, October 19, 2018

One Indian Worth More Than Bridges' & Ross' Brainpower Combined

"Two Chinese would be more valuable than two Indians" - The National Party.

Now while, to be sure, it is possible that this may have been meant as a direct comment on how National's two Indian MPs are seen within the party as individuals ... I think given the surrounding context of the conversation that it is quite clear the National Party does not see the Indian communities within New Zealand in a particularly positive light.

At best, they seem to look upon representation as a 'bidding war' between different demographics - who can contribute how much cash to the campaign war-chest; rather than who'd make the best Representatives in the House (not, of course, that National MPs appear to be allowed to do much thinking for themselves, so maybe individual quality is a moot value for them) - or, for that matter, how to bring a broader swathe of New Zealand's voices into their Caucus tent.

From my observations over the years, the Indian 'community' (and it is fundamentally fallacious to monolithicize it into a single unit) has always been livelily split in any number of different directions when it comes to NZ politics. I've seen - and often known personally - Indian candidates for every party presently in our Parliament. And witnessed the significant community backing and support that many of them have attracted.

I therefore think it entirely uncontroversial to assert that NZ's Indian communities are probably some of the most politically active and politically diverse of any of the predominantly migrant demographics here.

Now, I am not so well acquainted with the Chinese community here. And at the risk of running from arms-length or camera-lense pre-conceptions, it has generally seemed to me that - with some outliers - they've mostly clustered around National, ACT, and with some support for Labour.

I mention this not to disparage the Chinese community. We are all, after all, entitled to our own democratic choices - and in any case, as I have said, it would be entirely unfair upon those persons in said community who *don't* vote for National or ACT to tarnish them with the same brush applied to those who do.

But rather - as a matter of political strategy, it seems most curious for National's er .. "brains trust", to effectively be prioritizing a community they *already* have significant investiture in (and, it appears, literal investment *from*), over another which is very much a 'battleground' between a number of political parties and most especially with Labour.

That is, presuming that National's outright priority of Chinese candidacies and outreach over those toward the Indian communities of New Zealand, has much to do with votes ... and not some other motivations entirely.

I wouldn't know about that, though. Perhaps we'll be hearing about it in next week's tape...

Monday, October 8, 2018

Should There Be A Statute Of Limitations In Politics?

It is a curious thing. By the end of last week, a pretty appreciable portion of my newsfeed were discussing Clayton Mitchell's "NZ Values" proposal. Or, at least, that's what they *thought* they were doing.

In reality, discussion had become dominated by a Stuff hit-piece - also at least nominally pertaining to Clayton's NZ Values concept - which set out an array of legal circumstances faced by Clayton in the 1990s. 

Needless to say, pretty much all the resultant commentary was decidedly non-positive. 

But let's back the truck up here. 

Without taking a position one way or the other on Clayton's proposed bill, it seems rather peculiar that people should be attempting to object to draft legislation based not on the merits or shortfalls of same - but rather, on decontextualized material about something else entirely. 

Because let's be clear about this. 

The contents of that article do not constitute a serious critique of the policy. 

They are, arguably, not even an attack upon the MP who's put forward the proposal.

Instead, they are - for the most part - a broadside aimed at a man in his twenties, who would one day "grow up" in multiple senses of the word, to be an MP. 

Now, as it happens, I probably have more reason than most to be pretty keen on the idea of *not* holding against somebody in both perpetuity and in politics the various misdeeds they may have committed as a younger man. I freely admit my 'bias' in this regard. 

It's also probably worth mentioning, if all cards are to be laid upon the table, that my previous interactions with Clayton have likely influenced me somewhat in my thinking about what's happened here. Over a span of perhaps two to three years, I've generally observed him to be the sort of man who'll give you a fair go and judge you on your merits rather than simply going off the stench of a bad reputation; and who tends to believe in 'second chances' and the worthwhile capacity for human growth. 

I guess you could say I'm giving him the same courtesy back in return. 

Yet even leaving aside these factors, I'd be very likely taking exactly the same critical stance about attempting to de-legitimate (or, for that matter, to support) a proposed piece of legislation based around somebody's questionably relevant personal history. 

Even the worst men can have some pretty good ideas, from time to time. And amongst the 'best men' who have lead morally virtuous lives, there are any number of stupid suggestions for ways in which we might 'better' conduct our politics, our economics, our legal system and commercial activities. 

I also found myself pondering - as is invariably the case in matters such as these - an episode drawn from New Zealand's own political history which seems of rather direct comparative relevancy here. 

As long-suffering readers of mine will no doubt by now know, I am quite a fan of John A. Lee. Even leaving aside the rather amusing frequency and depth with which I've been compared with the honourable gentleman, his tangible record during the First Labour Government as a Parliamentary Undersecretary - a man singlehandedly [no pun intended] responsible for the construction of more social housing in the first six months of his tenure than the National Party managed in nine years. Not, of course, that this is a hugely impressive comparative standard; however the considerable outpacing of modern-day Labour MP Phil Twyford's proposed two thousand state homes in twelve months by Lee's 3,220 in half the time may perhaps provide better contextualization for the achievement. Especially considering both the far more 'uphill' nature of Lee's struggles and macroeconomic circumstances by comparison, and the accompanying far greater 'daring' he brought to the table through his (somewhat successful) advocacy for 'radical' approaches to ensuring the feasibility of construction like 1% interest development loans from the Reserve Bank. 

Now, it is inarguable from my perspective that New Zealand at large benefited significantly from John A. Lee being in Parliament. Although, of course, given some of his more 'irascible' actions toward the latter portion of his Parliamentary carer and subsequent post-Parliamentary journalistic/polemical endeavours (which entailed attacking both Savage and Labour more broadly for being hopelessly over-cautious when it came to Lee's proposals for more genuine and meaningful economic reform, as well as his railing against the party's lack of internal democracy - actions which, according to some, eventually lead to Savage's early death) ... I have no doubt that a reasonable array of Labourites may choose on balance to disagree. 

Yet, especially considering the evident success and easily graspable soundness of Lee's policy, it would seem most peculiar if anybody seriously and strenuously objected to its implementation on grounds that Lee had previously done time in Mt Eden Prison for alcohol-related offending as well as breaking and entering, or had accrued at least two theft convictions to his name as a younger man. This doesn't mean that such 'ad hominem' attacks did *not* ensue, of course (despite what some may think, I haven't made a habit of scouring the broadsheets and HANSARD of nearly eighty years ago on a recreational basis, so cannot state one way or 'tuther on such a matter), not least because for quite an array of self-declared right-wingers, attacking a proud and prominent capital S Socialist for a history of "stealing" would be not so much "low hanging fruit" as "finest truffles already upon the ground" - i.e. both irresistible and eminently accessible to them. 

But rather, that it seems fair to presume that many of those who'd be resisting Lee's vision would be either those who'd attack such an implementation almost *regardless* of who was doing it - or, more especially, those who'd attack Lee and his actions almost regardless of what they were. 

Now, this latter thing - the exaltation in our perspective of personality over policy when determining what actions we will or will not support - is a regrettably familiar pattern in our politics; and something even more endemic elsewhere in the Anglosphere. Consider, for instance, the rather rapid volte-face of a number of nominally liberal or 'left-wing' people to suddenly start supporting the TPPA or US military adventurism, following Trump's statements against these things. 

It can and should be vigorously opposed, not least on grounds that it leads to *seriously* bad policy-making and psephological decision-making as a result. 

As it effectively turns politics ever further from something at least vaguely supposed to be a 'contest of ideas' , into an effective race to see who can find the least offensive/most engaging spokesperson to sell whatever party's poison to the electorate with the greatest alacrity and aplomb. 

To restate again, because I am sure that somebody is going to perhaps wilfully misinterpret me on this score: I am *not* seeking to take a position one way or the other on the actual proposal put forward by Clayton with this article. This may seem rather inconsistent, given that I opened this piece with an annoyed observation about people spending all their political attention-span talking about personality in lieu of actually discussing policy ... but as it is my belief that certain people and certain forces out there in our politisphere have quite the ongoing interest in redirecting political discussion in such a manner so as to further their own goals (hence why it's happened to Clayton at least twice now over the span of his Parliamentary career, with a bit of a pattern to it that helps to suggest the culprit), this will perhaps be forgiven.

Leaving aside the perhaps 'conspiratorial' note in the above, one of the lead institutions pushing this reprehensible trend is our nation's "news" media - and for obvious reason. Scandal sells, people relate better to personalities than they do policy .. and will be more likely to purchase or otherwise consume stories about that which they relate better to. 

Further, given how politicians are generally regarded in our society, a cavalcaded chant of "THE EMPEROR HAS FEET OF CLAY" (to mix metaphors) that implicitly panders to our innate prejudices against our political class is *always* going to be something of a winner. Especially when it can be somewhat tenuously tied to some enduring touchstone of the popular memory (in this case - the Louise Nicholls rape trial, via the personage of Brad Shipton, who'd given two references for Clayton in the late 1990s as well as having a three year commercial relationship with him that was terminated once the allegations against Shipton came to light). Preferably with the insinuation or subconscious suggestion that this seemingly innocuous connection makes the target malevolent or otherwise morally grubby (and really, given there is no direct assertion in the Stuff piece that Mr Mitchell knew of Shipton's conduct in the 1980s - a period wherein he would have been a teenager - prior to the allegations surfacing almost two decades later in the 2000s, it seems difficult to conclude that the length of the article given over to Shipton is there for much of a reason beyond the stoking of sensationalism and the stench of 'dodgy by association'). 

But to bring it back to "NZ Values" for a moment, and only a moment - perhaps I am naive or irrationally good natured, but I genuinely like to think that amongst the august pantheon of our national virtues are to be found marked quotients of 'tolerance', 'understanding', 'compassion', and 'forgiveness'. Not in all instances, of course, and not for all men. I am not, after all, here to write something favourable nor exculpatory about that certain former member of the Tauranga police fraternity. 

Yet if you simply MUST cast judgement, and the stones of social media castigation for an MP's past misdeeds when nominally discussing a recent policy proposal they're responsible for ... at the very least, situate them in their proper context. Which is to say, in this instance twenty or more years ago, and of little discernible relevancy to what Clayton's put forward. 

To do otherwise is tantamount to an insistence that a man can and should be barred from admittance into the apparatus of our state on the basis of rather arbitrary and highly subjective assessments of his character and values.

I guess what I'm trying to say, phrased in terms of 'Kiwi values', is something along the lines of "play the ball, not the man."

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Didn't Like 'The Last Jedi'? You Might Be An Unpatriotic Russian Troll Undermining American Democracy ... Apparently

There is an anecdote about how, in Stalin era USSR, everything would somehow be blamed on Trotsky. Soviet economy didn't meet 5 year plan output targets? Trotsky's fault. Collectivization of agriculture has unintended effects on food supply? Trotsky's fault. Building collapses? Trotsky's fault. Factory machinery stops working? Trotsky's fault. Fall down the stairs? Trotsky's fault. Etc.

Now, as applies developments in the USA, it may be said that a similar pattern appears in evidence.

You didn't like the latest Star Wars films? Russian hacker's fault.

Criticizing The Last Jedi online is, it would seem, an unpatriotic act. You *dare* to feel that the plot's a bit wtf perhaps due to the studio having other priorities - and worse, to express these views on social media? YOU ARE UNDERMINING THE VERY FABRIC OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY, CITIZEN.

I'm not even kidding. This is *actually* what is being said.

To be sure, it is not exactly a new thing in the 'popular culture' and 'creative' industries - when an audience doesn't respond positively (or, perhaps, as ebulliently positively as some might like) to a work, to declare that it is because they "don't get it". That they are, perhaps, "unworthy" of what has been placed in front of them, and lacking in whatever critical faculty of discernment is apparently required to see the masterpiece fo what it "truly" is.

Although I cannot help but note that that is *also* how the "new clothes" are sold to a certain Emperor in the old children's story. [replete with, as almost invariably gets left out, the corresponding 'aesop' at the end, where the child who dares to disrespect royalty by pointing out he's buffoonishly naked in public, is imprisoned for that most turgid crime of speaking the truth - and especially where others may perhaps dare to hear it and respond accordingly].

Yet this is not even at the level of that famed maxim of Bertolt Brecht - the one about how, if 'the People' have lost the Confidence of their Government ... it would perhaps be simpler to simply dissolve 'the People' and elect another than to get the government in question to change course.

For this is not a case of a great artist losing confidence in his audience, for being lacking in quality and taste.

But rather, a fairly explicit statement that if you don't just meekly go along both in thought and in word and 'declaratory' deed with the Company Line (whether this 'company' is Disney or the Democrats) ... that you are a subversive! That you are a traitor! And worse than that - that you are either *directly* in league, in cahoots with the dastardly '"post"-Communist' ideological enemy across the sea ... or you are *actually* an unperson. Simply some sock account or automated troll-bot, whose genuine opinion can be safely ignored or actively weaponized against what you support. That most supreme of 'de-legitimations' - being reduced from 'personhood' to some ungainly combination of 'marionette' and 'clockwork'.

And all of this, over a cash-in film trilogy intended to appeal to children and aging nerds with a surplus of disposable income for the TIE-in marketing.

The next step, of course, will be the targeting and identification of these "subversives" - those who have already *dared* to implicitly sabotage a Hillary Clinton 2020 Presidential Run by expressing unfavourable opinion about a forgettable movie three years before.

After all - if it is easier to believe that the problem lies with the intended audience rather than the 'product' [whether a film or an extensively/excessively choreographed and staged political candidacy], then considering the significant numbers involved, it is far easier again to believe that the 'problem' more pointedly lies with entities not even really *part* of the 'intended audience' - yet who nevertheless exert a most malefic and difficult to counter psychic influence over those you covet in support.

With the insidiously broad scope and spectrum of who is liable to be subpoenaed and hauled in for questioning in the context of Congressional and FBI probes into alleged "Russian interference" in the *last* Presidential election ... it would perhaps be sensible to suggest to ordinary Americans on social media that they consider adopting, for their own safety, the advisory maxim indigenous to Stalinist Russia:

"First, do not think. If you think, do not speak. If you speak, do not write. If you write - do not publish. If you publish, do not, whatever you do, sign/do so under your own name.

And if you *do* publish under your own name ...

... don't be surprised."

Thursday, September 20, 2018

A Modest Proposal For Russia's Response To Israel In The Wake Of An F-16

So now the dust (or, perhaps, some measure of the 'fog of war') is starting to clear over Monday's events in Syria, it's probably prudent to reflect on what Putin can and should do in response to what has occurred.

At this stage, and especially given Russia's previously positive relationship with Israel, the "right" being reserved here is very unlikely to include direct military action.

But before I put forward what I have in mind instead of this, let us briefly parse the likely course of events which have lead us to this point:

Everybody agrees that on Monday evening, four Israeli F-16s carried out a missile-strike against Syrian targets in Latakia; and that in the course of this, a Russian electronic reconnaissance plane - an IL-20 - was shot down over the Mediterranean.

American media accounts have tended to basically stop there, except to occasionally add that it seems likely that Syrian air-defences were directly responsible for the shooting down of the IL-20.

As it happens, Russian Defence Ministry statements have confirmed this - noting that it appears that a Syrian S-200 SAM was indeed what brought down the IL-20. However, they have also stated, and at this stage there appears no reason to disbelieve them, that the Israelis deliberately took advantage of the IL-20's radar profile to provide cover for their incoming F-16s.

Now, an IL-20 is a pretty massive aircraft. It's roughly thirty six meters long, with a thirty seven meter wingspan; and would have represented the single largest object in the sky at that point, with its turboprop-derived lower speed and regular figure-of-eight flight-path making for a pretty predictable source of screening.

A further piece of evidence in support of this contention, is that the Israelis only sought to notify the Russians of their operation ... approximately one minute before the commencement of hostilities.

This matters; as it is a considerable break from how the Israelis have handled the previous two hundred or so airstrikes they've carried out in Syria over the past year and a half - wherein in order to avoid exactly these sorts of incidents, they've given the Russians ample warning of any intended Israeli air-incursion.

The strong implication, here, then, is that the lack of notice which would have allowed the Russians to get their plane out of the line of fire, was very much deliberate on the Israeli part. And given the periodic successes of Syrian S-200 systems against Israeli jets in recent months (including at least one instance earlier this year involving an F-16 that the Israelis have been forced to admit occurred), it is perhaps not hard to see why.

It is unclear at this stage just what the French frigate also in the area was firing at; or whether it was operating in co-ordination with the IDF.

In any case, the Syrians proceeded to do exactly what one would expect - and, for that matter, what they are completely entitled to do: they attempted to defend their airspace and their nation from the Israeli sortie, by firing back.

This evidently included the use of an S-200 system - a comparatively antiquated Soviet-made surface-to-air missile first designed in the 1960s, and supplied to Syria by the USSR from the 1980s, with sporadic modernization and maintenance occurring with Russian assistance over the last three years.

Now, *in theory*, the IFF (Identify Friend-or-Foe) tagging system would have made it less likely for the IL-20 to be hit by an S-200, not least due to the Russian/Soviet manufacture of both pieces of hardware. But "theory" is a fine work of fiction when it comes to actual battlefield conditions; and evidently this has not worked out in practice - perhaps due to the IFF system aboard the IL-20 being turned off (it is, after all, a reconnaissance plane), or maybe due to incomplete informational sharing between Russian and Syrian forces. It's also probably worth noting that the S-200 has a rather notoriously 'spotty' record anyway in this department - with a Ukranian S-200 system in 2001 having managed the supposedly 'impossible' feat of taking down a Soviet-made TU-154M civilian airliner 250km away from the S-200's designated target during the course of military exercises, as a result of the missile autonomously attaining a new target lock upon the airliner once it lost its original target, despite (according to the Ukranian Defence Ministry, at any rate) an IFF system and on-board self-destruct which should have prevented this from happening. It is certainly possible that something like this has occurred with regard to the downed IL-20. Namely, that an S-200 either inadvertently locked onto the IL-20 once it was no longer under human targeting control; or alternatively, that the S-200 was initially locked on an Israeli F-16, and upon losing that target due to Israeli countermeasures or evasive maneuvers, instead re-acquired a new target in the form of the IL-20 rather than simply self-destructing. However it transpired, it is a tragedy. And, worse than that, an eminently *avoidable* one. Rendered all the more lamentable by the fact that the Russian crew were in Syria to assist in the eradication of dangerous extremists - while the Israelis who ultimately spelled their doom were over Syrian airspace in order to *help* those self-same extremists through strikes against their opponents. We used to 'joke' that it was not accurate to suggest ISIS and Al-Nusra lacked an airforce - as they had the IDF. This does not seem something to laugh about, now. Anyway, having dissected in a limited way the likely course of events on Monday evening, this now capaciously informs the likely solutions going forward and from the Russian perspective. It would seem that there were two significant contributory factors here: i) the Israeli 'bad-faith' abrogation of the proper protocols for communication between themselves and the Russian Military, in order to attain a deliberate advantage for carrying out their attack; and ii) the regrettable features of outmoded air-defence hardware which ultimately lead to the shoot-down. The solution to the second issue is rather straightforward: Russia had earlier proposed selling S-400 systems to Syria - a move which wound up effectively 'veto'd' by Israel stating in no uncertain terms that they would carry out airstrikes against any such systems before they had been fully installed, regardless of whether they were still Russian crewed at that point. Given Israeli airstrikes are presently causing Russian casualties anyway; as well as the fact that the Russians have already had their own advanced SAM systems for *Russian* defence set up in Syria for some time now, in the present situation of Israeli diplomatic weakness created by Monday's events, now is the ideal time to engage in such technology-transfer directly to Syria with an explicit view to ensuring that Monday's events do not recur thanks to half-century old hardware malfunctioning. The first issue is much more complex, as I would be rather surprised if Russia genuinely wanted to seriously contemplate abandoning its significantly close relationship with Israel - although it may potentially be convinced to 'downgrade' it somewhat, assuming that we do not see a repeat of what happened following Turkey's downing of a Russian military aircraft in 2015 (ironically, a seeming catalyst for the two countries beginning to work more closely together than ever before). Whether Russia chooses to remain on 'friendly' 'terms with Israel in a militaristic sense or not, the plain reality is that the Israelis have demonstrated that they cannot and should not be trusted to behave in an up-front manner when it comes to the communication and co-ordination protocols essential to allowing them to continue to operate with relative impunity above Syrian airspace. Russia should therefore suspend this facility they have provided to the Israelis forthwith - and openly state that future instances of Israeli military aircraft turning up unannounced above Syria will simply be treated as hostile, and dealt with accordingly. After all, from the perspective of that IL-20 crew, what else characterizes the Israeli conduct than this designation? Certainly not the actions of something approaching a 'trusted' ally! The net effect of this would be to impose a 'no-fly zone' of sorts over Syria - thus allowing operational freedom for Russian and Syrian air assets, and denying precious, vital air-cover to the extremist forces which theoretically everybody agrees need to be wiped out. I am aware, of course, that a Russia-provided no-fly zone in this way would form an ironic (and unquestionably improved!) 'echo' of the NATO no-fly zone imposed upon Libya during the ouster of Gaddafi, as well as the no-fly zone which former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was seeking to have imposed upon Syria not so long ago. But that is the case with 'mirror images' - everything in them is 'the other way around'; and so, in this instance, it would be to the welcome relief of the host-nation and positive contribution to a safe outcome to a conflict. Not, as ultimately resulted from the NATO intervention in Libya, or would unquestionably have occurred had Clinton gotten her way, a neo-imperialist ploy to ably assist ISIS et co. The coming days will, no doubt, demonstrate that Putin and those working for him in Russia's foreign and defensive ministries, are both more creative and more perspicacious than I in these matters. I shall await with great interest their ultimate decision as to the appropriate response here. But it seems plainly apparent to me that the hitherto-current approach - of Russia attempting to treat Israel as a potential friend and even ally, whether geopolitically, or in the specific conflict against extremist forces in the Middle-East - has demonstrably not 'delivered the goods'; and needs to be reviewed with the goal of providing greater assistance and credence to those forces such as the Iranian, Syrian, and Hezbollah military arms *actually* doing much of the fighting - not coincidentally, the exact same forces which Israel seems year in and year out most hell-bent on annihilating where possible. Indeed, some might say that unless and until the Israelis can demonstrate a genuine commitment to attacking rather than assisting the *real* adversary in Syria - that they should perhaps be treated, in exactly that light, as part and parcel with them, and shunned in a similar manner.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Jihad Vs McLanguage

Over the past year or two, I've endeavoured to popularize the concept of "Jihad Vs McWorld". If you want a really tangible demonstration of "McWorld" in action, look no further than the McDonalds workplace policy brought to light by Newshub this evening - wherein Maori staff responding to Maori customers attempting to place an order in Te Reo Maori, was firmly clamped down upon by McDonalds' management, on grounds that "English is our McLanguage" .

It is no coincidence that McDonalds has declared English to be its "McLanguage". Rather than, say, the 'lingua franca' of its day-to-day interior operations.

The very concept of "McWorld" is the homogenization, the monolithicization of human diversity - the reduction of the spectrum of human cultures and customs down to easily commodifiable and capitalistically, neoliberalistically exploitable kernels.

On a trite level, I suppose you could say that it's the replacement of genuine Kiwi cuisine with the "KiwiBurger" - an item of culinary cardboard fundamentally the same (possibly minus the egg) as the Australian burger McDonalds marketed in *that* country as something distinctively "Oz".

And if all it is, this "McWorld", this "McLanguage" concept, was the endeavour to appeal to soft-pap simulacra-patriotism when entrepreneurially exploiting the hunger of the masses ... then that would perhaps be one thing. A 'bait-and-switch' carried out with beetroot in a burger.

But that is not at all what we have here.

Instead, it is the concerted effort to expunge the very realities of being 'human' [one of which, of course, is that there is no 'singular' reality of humanity - and instead many and various different heritages, perspectives, and other nexes of peoples worth preserving within their own spheres] in favour of increasingly incredibly bland vague platitudes.

"Ananda?" No, we won't have any of that. Simply be "happy" - as in "happy meal". An emotional stimuli inculcated into us since childhood via the mediums of birthday parties and made-in-China toys-of-the-week. A commodified 'feeling', that has as much resemblance to actual "happiness" and contentment as a cheeseburger does to promoting [stomach-]fullness and dietary health.

Your own language, culture, and customs? Nah, can't have that. Gets in the way of the verisimilitude. Management might have to learn some new words, and Marketing might need to put a bit more effort in. And in any case, a 'distinctive' people, who remain 'disconnected' from the "realities" of corporate-carbon 'consumerhood' as the highest expression and authenticity of 'being' - are a harder market to crack and profit-maximize on anyway.

Now, to be sure, this phenomenon is not entirely sui generis. The rapacious history of colonial-cultural exploits includes quite the array of previous comparable instances to draw from.

We could talk about the Macauley educational pogrom (it seems altogether too 'sanitized' to simply call it a 'programme') in British India - wherein the Brits decided that the key to turning the Indian peoples into pliant, pliable subordinates of Empire meant attempting to rob them of their own ancestral heritages and traditional sources of knowledge, languages, means of instruction and other nexes of nascent identity for the young.

In their place, substituting a very much 'English' educational impetus - replete with the trashing of Sanskrit-derived literature in favour of Jane Austen.

The impacts of that most egregious act of wilful attempted civilizational vandalism continue to be felt to this day, in India. Even despite Independence being achieved, there remains a certain curtailment of the permeation of pre-British Indian culture and heritage within India itself as a result - more than a hundred and fifty years after the fact!

This, arguably, is the *nicer iteration* of the fate which awaits any nation - any people, any ethnos, any tradition - which is insufficiently prepared and On Guard to ward off the pernicious permutations of what I suppose we may have to start calling [oxymoronic in the extreme though it might be] "McCulture".

But if there are not overwhelming differences of 'kind' between this 'Macaulayism' and latter-day McWorldism [perhaps we shall soon see 'McMacaulayism' as a 'term of (mc)art' ] , there are nevertheless distinctions of degree which may render McWorld-ism in some parts *worse* - due to its very banality.

I mean, I do not *at all* approve of what is entailed by Macaulayism. Do not get me wrong. But there is a qualitative difference between English, as the language of Shakespeare - and utilized in the engagement with same - versus what I unheartily expect that "English is our McLanguage" presumably entails.

In that regard, this "McLanguage" concept most likely represents an unutterable act of vandalism not just against the non-corporate(//-)metropole cultures it seeks to (neo-)colonize and vanquish - but against the very cultures and language which somehow inadvertently gave it birth in the first place.

McLanguage - and therefore, by extension, McWorld - is therefore a virus, a parasite. Something that is inculcated into a 'host', via a 'carrier' [funnily enough often from thirty thousand feet, so to speak; or perhaps launched off a rather more literal 'carrier' somewhere offshore, in either case to make the way for what comes next] , and which then begins the drawn out process of drawing and quartering its new bio-cultural environment until it has simply remade itself, over and over and over, and sought to most successfully repress anything *not* of itself which might plausibly thus resist it (or - 'worse' - allow others to organize to do the same).

That is why 'McLanguage' (again, not my term - literally McDonalds' own word from their own policy and internal propaganda documents, issued in the form of poster-mounted commands to workers) and McWorld are so viciously, vigorously, vitriolically, vindictively *opposed* to the yet-remaining instances of Human distinctiveness, cultural diversity - actually-existing Nationalism that cannot be suborned into simply another 'human face' for neoliberal 'civilizational'-tier nightmare.

Because *those* things - those sacred, important, autochthonous, above all *genuine* things - are the bulwarks, the tools, the floodgates, the ramparts, the *weapons* via which "McWorld" can yet still be meaningfully opposed.

And through such, reminding people - people*s*, in fact, in the definite plural of pluralities - who they *actually* are.

It is no coincidence, either, that successful anti-/de-colonial projects have historically functioned on exactly this basis.

The only difference there, then, was that the subject-peoples [in both senses of the term - albeit the latter only realized in the progression of time once they had successfully reclaimed some measure of agency from the mire of 'object'-ification *as* 'subjects' of Empire] *knew* who The Enemy was, and how to fight him.

Today, we are implicitly, effectively, living in a world ruled by a Clown ; and just as Ronald McDonald hides behind Mayor McCheese in the exercise of temporal power - far too many people today remain patently unaware of this intransigent, indolent fact.

The waging of 'Jihad' against McWorld, then, requires the deployment of potent ideological weapons - one of the most important and significant of which being the very idea that there is a War going on in the first place.

And the second, perhaps, being that the 'tools' with which we fight the clown-faced oppressor - those of our own language, heritage, culture, religion, tradition, (communication/confirmation), .. and yes, actually, 'cuisine', also - are not simple 'weapons' of 'memetic warfare'. But are instead, *also* the effective building blocks, the skeletal - spinal - and nervous structure for the World, the Worlds, That Is To Come , next.

So with that in mind ... celebrate your own culture; reconnect with your own heritage; and tangibly reject the globalism - not least by "work[ing] as if you lived in the early days of a better nation".

Short of imitating the example of anguished Serbians against Belgrade's only McDonalds immediately following the outbreak of NATO's air-war against their country; or perhaps more recently, the closing down of symbolic McDonalds outlets in Moscow by the Russian state ... that is what we can do. What we *must* do.

Fortunately for us, as far as actions against the McWorld go - whether physical or metaphysical - these are unquestionably some of the most potent!


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Plaudits For Law-Change Free Prison Muster Reduction

I note with some interest a piece from yesterday's Herald, observing the positive results of a series of changes that have lead to somewhere between six hundred and a thousand New Zealanders fewer being incarcerated unnecessarily.

Now, without going into too much detail as to what's changed and how - this has not actually involved any alterations in the law around parole, bail, or anything of that nature. But rather, a set of fixes to issues which fell 'between the cracks' of existing policy - and which had lead to these aforementioned numbers of Kiwis being placed in prison when they otherwise, by rights, would not have been.

The actual nature of these changes were succinctly summed up by Corrections' National Deputy Commissioner, Leigh Marsh, as being "embarrassingly simple" fixes; which took as their baseline actually listening to front-line staff across the Corrections, Justice, and policing portfolios in order to try and sort out some of the "madness" (again, a quote from Marsh) of the previous status quo.

["Status Quo", as Ronald Reagan pithily observed, being Latin for "the mess we're in [currently]"]

I am sure that the reaction from some quarters is going to be howls of protest about how this makes ordinary New Zealanders more unsafe through having hundeds of additional hardened criminals wandering the streets.

Yet the plain reality is, once again, that under our current laws, *none* of these Kiwis who've been spared incarceration as a result of these changes, would actually have been jailed had 'the system' been working properly in the first place.

A similar note of disquiet can and should be sounded about the ongoing opposition of the reforming of our bail laws to do something about the - again, hundreds - of New Zealanders who find themselves incarcerated on remand, especially for relatively less serious crimes, only to come out following their day in court declared an innocent man; or guilty, but sentenced only to a far lesser punishment.

It is worrying in the extreme that a situation of unjust imprisonment may be welcomed 'just because' it may make somebody else feel a little bit safer - indeed, it is tantamount to starting down the greased incline of asking whether certain segments of the population ought be 'walled off' for the general protection of the rest of us even regardless of whether they've actually been proven to have committed any crime.

(That said, I do have a vague soft-spot for the idea of ring-fencing parts of Remuera and cutting off their access to global financial markets and tax-accountants to see if it lessens the chances of both white collar crime and more general economic vandalism occurring in the wider country ... but another punitive policy-set for another time).

The sheer simplicity of these 'fixes', and their demonstrably substantial impact (last month's NZ prisoner muster was ~10,205 - meaning that the reductions in inmate numbers these shifts in policy has achieved range from about five to just under ten percent of our overall prison population), suggests that they should have taken place years ago.

That said, the fact they did not would appear to indicate that one of two (possibly both at once) things has happened.

Either a) National and its various Ministers to have held the portfolio, were incompetent. That is to say, despite Bill English's declaration of our prison system and our country's massive incarceration rate to be "a moral and fiscal failure", it never occurred to anybody in power at any point over the past nine years, to stop and realize these problems - these *easily solvable problems - existed. Or, given the habitual Nat management strategy, to allow or otherwise empower their various underlings to come up with the solutions so that they might more deftly take credit for them.

Alternatively - and I suspect that this is vastly more likely - b) National and its various Ministers to have held the portfolio (including one Judith Collins, in what appears some sort of inverse, ironic, contrapasso of the damned) *were* at least vaguely aware, or should have been, of these ongoing issues and the ease with which they might be sorted ... and *consciously* (or, at absolute best, wilfully negliglently/recklessly) chose to do nothing about them. For the simple reason that for a certain portion (although not everybody) of the "law and order" crowd - escalating prison numbers mean axiomatically safer communities, and that the police, courts, government ... society at large .. is somehow doing its (various) job(s) properly.

High prison muster figures, therefore, are thought to be akin to a notable budgetary surplus, so to speak, when it comes to courting those people and their votes.

(There is a separate rant about the frank bizarreness of endeavoring to run a surplus in the midst of a recession, despite a historically low cost of crown borrowing, and accomplished via a studious string of cap-handed cuts to essential services and vandalism of a well-earning asset portfolio ... but that is, again, another immanent critique of the previous round of 'Status Quo', for another time)

Criminal justice policy, along with creationism in school science lessons, is one of those curious areas of the socio-political landscape wherein otherwise seemingly rational and indeed intelligent people start abandoning their critical faculties in a bid to make the loudest emotive arguments and the swiftest progress to a state possibly adjacent to that of Texas.

It is refreshing, indeed, therefore, to have made such a shift from a situation wherein Corrections was being presided over by a Minister who thought that prison-rape would be a desirable deterrent element against future offending, through to more reasonable figures capable of looking at the sector through the lense of 'lives' rather than 'votes'.

Let's see if this trend continues with the reception to some of Andrew Little's proposed further reforms in this area :P