Tuesday, November 12, 2019

When Shane Jones Doesn't Go Far Enough ... There's Always Hannah Tamaki

It is often said that when a politician or other public figure says something disparaging about a particular group, that the weight and impact of their words is not only in what they've said ... but also what further statements, what further actions it tacitly allows, invites, and encourages.

Yesterday's press release from Vision NZ, and accompanying remarks from Hannah Tamaki, are a case in point. Coming hot on the heels of Jones' own headline-chasing invective toward the Indian community, we have these guys putting out comments about prohibiting the construction of any new Mandirs, Mosques, etc. and insisting that there's only "room in our society" for one faith, culture, and set of customs here in New Zealand.

Where does that leave you if you're not part of (or, at least, not only part of) our now apparently unitary "[culture], faith [and] customs"? I'm not entirely sure. Vision NZ don't seem to be too clear as to what they want done with anybody who *doesn't* want to "integrate" - and, assumedly, convert, given the rather pointed highlighting of "faith" as something we're not going to be allowed more than one of in this country.

Now to be sure, however personally annoyed I might be about it, what Tamaki/Vision NZ have done here is arguably at the lower end of the spectrum in terms of its actual, tangible impact. A press release and a poor interview are not a brick through the window of a religious building; and with Vision NZ unlikely to get any closer to the actual levers of political power in 2020 than a really, really far away thing ... it is also a rather remote possibility that what's been said by said party will ever *itself* turn into anything more substantive than just that. Words.

Which is rather ironic, as that's exactly what Hannah Tamaki was castigating Shane Jones for in her press release and accompanying verbiage - that all his comments amounted to were words were little prospect of actual follow-through and serious action behind them.

But that is not the point. Well, except insofar as these surely ETS-regulated for methane content outbursts tell us something about the nature, the character, the values, of these greasy-pole dancers jostling for our psephological attentions through the media.

What is, is observing the way in which Jones' initial volleys and ensuing escalation, have set the tone and helped to prepare the ground for Tamaki's more recent and markedly less subtle "contribution". [It is an open question as to whether the ensuing lack of subtlety in Tamaki's remix of Jones' careful leitmotif here, says more about the utterer, or merely its intended recipients]

Jones Spake, and what Jones had implied, or communicated subliminally ... others have now picked up upon, amplified, and projected out damn near superliminally. Because that's how politics, as with most areas of interpersonal affairs in large-scale networks, tends to occur - a smaller, but more forceful move at one end, generates ripples or waves which soon turn into larger, yet less finesseful currents. Occasionally, as Goethe observed, burning *well* out of any control or scope of intended design of their first initiator. 

Thanks, in part, to several prominent media outlets running headline pieces on Tamaki's 'proposal', this pattern of 'broadening' of the sentiment in question is likely to continue for awhile yet - both about our politics, and beyond. Although what this probably means in practice is more on the order of an uptick in Talkback callers and Letters To The Editor picking up and advocating the concepts in question.

Were this America, I would perhaps be a little concerned about what's known as the 'Overton Window' [the general envelope of 'acceptable' opinion within a mainstream political sphere] shifting out in this proffered direction as a rather directly attributable result; perhaps bringing Australian-style "One Nation" antics [that's Pauline Hanson, not Benjamin Disraeli] to our shores. [Or, for that matter, enabling something like the ongoing situation of one of the candidates for the Democratic Presidential nomination - Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard - who seems to face recurrent attacks on the basis of her (Hindu) religion every time she runs, including attempts to have her declared ineligible for office due to spurious something something Hinduism incompatible with the Constitution of the United States and its values something something. Charges not entirely dissimilar to those once levied at John F. Kennedy for his Catholicism, as it happens]

But despite Jones' flirtations with wearing a deliberately Trump-style "Put New Zealand First Again" cap during the past Electoral season, and the Tamakis' own demonstrable enthusiasm for a quite literally American brand of Christianity with occasional GoP characteristics ... we are not there.

Which means that I have the considerable luxury, in a way, of simply being infuriated by what's contained within Tamaki's remarks, rather than seriously apprehensive that I might find my local Mandir's been vandalized or a Pandit beaten up in the street, deported for being .. well ..  a Priest, etc.

Now, it is at this point that I should perhaps take a moment to overtly address my own biases in all of this. Which is something I somewhat doubt Tamaki has actually done, even to herself, upon this matter.

I am one of this country's more than one hundred and twenty thousand Hindus. And, while I like to think that I do a rather better job of putting the "fun" back in "religious fundamentalist" than Tamaki does, I'm nevertheless capable of recognizing that the degree to which this decree has a personal saliency for me, means that I've responded to it rather differently than if it were a more ... abstract issue, from my immediate perspective.

Which doesn't mean that I wouldn't be distinctly unimpressed about what 'Vision NZ' have put forward here, if it were 'just' about Mosques & Muslims, Gurudwaras & Sikhs, or even, for that matter, Synagogues & Jews [oddly, they seem to have skipped a mention in Tamaki's list of Forbidden Architecture]. Hell, I'd probably even be annoyed if some pair of coverage-coveting politicians had sought to suggest banning Destiny Church - whether from constructing new facilities, or just all up and altogether, for the foreseeable future - as a pathway towards the cheap fifteen minutes of "most read story" status, and maybe a few votes down the line into the bargain.

Because, in no small part, even though most of the rest of the ninety seven odd percent of the country's religious (or irreligious, for that matter, for almost half) values are not mine, that doesn't mean I now start thinking of everybody else, all of these, as being "foreign" and having no "place" in our country nor society. You may as well start going around banning various political parties you're not totally in agreement with, because they, too, are in some ways extraneous and 'alien' to your own, personal, 'reality'-tunnel world view. It's not how a healthy, stable, functional society tends to work - and does rather irrepressible harm to the actual fabric thereof through the manner of its enforcement.

I doubt Hannah Tamaki is thinking of having a localized version of the Spanish Inquisition (or, perhaps more darkly, its Portuguese equivalent in Goa) in order to enforce the "integrations" of "faith" she's calling for - not least because I doubt she's thinking much at all. In terms of the actual detail of policy, I mean [although last month's press release from Tamaki demanding that Jacinda Ardern attempt to *ban* gay conversion therapy ... I am not making this up ... somewhat suggests that it's not only the realms of actual policy-detail and practical application wherein "Vision NZ thinking" is a bit oxymoronic] .

But straight-up. My insta-reaction to reading Tamaki's statements upon this matter, was to basically feel that they were almost tantamount to a declaration of war. Or, at least, would be, if anybody much were likely to take them too terribly seriously - or, perhaps flowing directly from that, if Tamaki was actually likely to be in a position to put them into tangible effect a little further down the line.

It certainly went rather beyond Jones' comments which effectively kicked the whole thing off, at any rate.

Now, once we situate Tamaki's offensive as what it is - both an echoing and a direct continuation, amplification, of Jones' campaign ... the serious question becomes whether the whole thing's begun to fizzle out, or whether it'll continue to spread and lose yet further 'nuance' in the process. I'd already observed a shift in the framing even before yesterday's occurrence, from people writing and speaking about "Arranged Marriage" to "Indian Marriage", for instance - and it is not too terribly far from there to the implication, as Tamaki appears to have picked up upon, that it is not the "arranged" part of that concept which is the issue, but rather some generalized concept of "Indian".

It's tempting to simply close off by tapping out that despite all of that, this is New Zealand. And that therefore, beyond the perhaps predictable uptick in "s/he's just saying what we're all thinking!" attempted-letters to the editor and calls in to talkback radio from people with nothing better to do than try garbing themselves in the voluminous folds of the cloak of false moral majority ... nothing much shall happen. Not in the broad sense, anyway. Maybe a few people get hassled in person by sorts who'd quite likely be favourably disposed towards doing so anyway, regardless of what some Government Minister, or er .. minister's wife attempting to Government ... had to say about an issue.

But without intending to be overdramatic about it, following certain events earlier in the year, I'm not entirely sure that that state of affairs is as 'guaranteed' here as it seemingly once was. It is not inconceivable that somebody out there, in whichever sphere, may seek to make some mileage out of picking up and pushing further, the ball which first Jones and then Tamaki have sought to set into (political) motion.

One thing I think I can state with greater confidence, however, is that while it is something of an open question as to whether one or even both of those two figures aforementioned shall still be percolating about our nation's political punch-bowl by this time a few years' hence ...  there are almost certain to still be Mandir Shikharas rising above various sites here. Whatever Talkback or Tamaki might have to say about it.

Because political opponents come and go.

We Endure.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Shane Jones And Da Mystery Of Chessboxin'

When somebody says or does something a bit gauche in politics and then seemingly doubles down upon it, there are two general explanations. Either it's a genuine error which, out of pride or lack of comprehension of the nature of the sin, they're refusing to extricate themselves from.

Or, it's an intentional move designed to elicit a particular response and project a certain image. In other words, it's not a "mistake", much less an "accident".

Now, as applies Jones, there is a school of thought which states that much of what comes out of his mouth is him sounding clever (arguably because he is), and then over-egging the pudding to the point that some of it winds up upon his face. Getting carried away and spraying around eminently soundbitable quips that become the story and obscurate what he's actually trying to say.

The slightly less charitable perspective is that Jones' runaway verbiage doesn't so much occlude, as more bluntly convey whatever it is he was getting at in the first place.

And the less charitable perspective again, is that it does this largely if not entirely because that's *exactly what it was designed to do*.

Now, I've earlier made the case that Jones' previous remarks in relation to the NZ Indian community - viz. the time he declared that the results of NZ immigration policy were "synonymous with butter chicken - rancid" - were pretty much that.

Deliberate exercises in concentrating verbal fire at particular targets, in order to communicate to other parts of the NZ electorate who the speaker is and what he stands for. And designed to imitate how a certain other politician has made successful use of 'Chinese' as a bit of a political pincushion over the last few decades of *his* career (albeit with a bit more linguistic finesse than "two Wongs don't make a white").

As Jones himself puts it - "I'm giving a voice to the anxieties of hundreds of thousands of Kiwis". Allegedly over population growth, at least partially in relation to immigration, but in a manner which suggests that the "anxieties" in question are perhaps concentrated in other areas. [Because seriously - just how much do we actually think a few arranged marriages are contributing to net population growth here in New Zealand; or what "butter chicken", or "Bollywood" (to reference Jones' latest quip) actually has to do with these either]

That's not to say that issues around immigration and population-growth don't exist. Just that Jones' approach seems to be far less interested in actually having a meaningful discussion around population policy (perhaps, to be sure,  because we all saw how that went down when James Shaw tried this a few years ago), and far more in deploying bait and thence escalating a war of words with various parts of the Indian community.

To an older generation, probably of Spaniards, we'd call this "Bull-Fighting".

In my generation's terms, this would be "Trolling".

As my editor, Bomber, pointed out in a piece published on Tuesday, it's a strategy which parlays the conflict and outrage from various portions of the polis into solid electoral gains elsewhere.

Jones has crab-walked into an ongoing 'live' issue via a side-wind, signaled immediately to the sorts of people who aren't too keen on immigration bringing in various cultural practices they don't like the look or sound of that he's Their Man.

Cunning chap that he is, he's added a dash of "Maori" and "Entitled" in the same sentence; declaring that just as Maori "adapted with the arrival of the Pākehā", it's correct for pretty much every other demographic in the country to "adapt" to better accommodate the Anglo population of New Zealand.

Because if they don't - apparently regardless of how long they've been here (and referencing his own remarks about a thousand years of ancestry here in his personal case) - they've got an "elevated sense of entitlement".

It's like playing political scrabble. He lines up his tiles, he hits the triple-word score.

Of course, part of the point isn't really anything specific to do with the Indian community, or Indian cultural nor culinary practices. I don't doubt that Jones has various reasons why he's singled these out - and these connect with his previous record of engagement with the Chinese, especially in and about the Pacific during his prior career as a pseudoambassador.

But in the main, it's about presenting Jones as Defender of Kiwiland and (certain of) its inhabitants. About portraying that there are certain "Kiwi Values", and anybody not abiding immediately and conveniently and *congruently* with these being at best "entitled', if not outright something of a problem.

And then, when this approach is fairly inevitably attacked, responding with a bit of a "who me?" which alleges that any hint of being more than "just saying what everybody's thinking", is some sort of PC-Liberalism/SJW-ism/Cultural Marxism/Precious Snowflakeism gone mad.

With the implicit impact that people who might perhaps count themselves amidst the "everybody" doing the "thinking", also *themselves* feel attacked, and find newly enhanced reason to rally behind their self-appointed champion.

Personally, I think it's a bit rich for Jones to demand that Indians "tame down your rhetoric", immediately between telling those who don't like his approach that their 'home' is elsewhere and they should be heading for it, and declaring that further unimpressed responses are "Bollywood overreaction".

But I'm sure a certain swathe of the electorate views it quite differently - as Jones being the 'reasonable man', and everyone *else* just going around looking to find an excuse to keep the ordinary Kiwi battler down. Especially given pretty much every other party in Parliament - including the Nats, who've probably remembered the reception they got for deciding the approximate value of an Indian to be half that of a Chinese backer - turning out to distance themselves from him. "It's a conspiracy!" "It's a consensus!" "The entire political class has come together to try and stifle your dissent!" "Gosh, if only there were SOMEONE unafraid to take on the vested interests, and speak YOUR truth to power!" "Who's the man to be the martyr for your viewpoint? Why, where's that chap being shot at apparently from *every* side simultaneously!" "The only honest one amidst the lot of 'em!"

With that in mind, the more outrage Jones generates - provided it's kept contained to a relatively small portion of the population doing the outraging - the more he gets the chance to present himself as the victim. In this age of hashtag self-labeling for our experiences, he could probably coin #WhoMe? in reference to his energetic expressions of innocence at pretty much *every* juncture that something like this has come up. Whether it's airlines, forestry companies, people who think that 'what happens/is legal in Thailand ..." isn't the world's greatest defence, etc. etc. etc. - the idea is to transmogrify via bamboozlement somebody who's pretty much Exhibit A for an 'insider', a man so extraordinarily well-connected and well-positioned across just about *everything* in our politisphere that he's the modem to the Matrix ... into an "outsider", an "anti-establishment" renegade. Who takes *on* said Establishment, in this particular instance, by beating down against a grouping of 'little people' who're so far outside "Establishment" that they're often not even allowed into the country.

Now, again - this is NOT to say that there are NO issues whatsoever when it comes to population-growth in NZ in general, or the way we do immigration, specifically.

It's just that if Jones were actually looking to accomplish something in these areas, this would be almost *exactly* the wrong way to go about it. After all, the resultant anguish has effectively propelled the rest of the Government which Jones is allegedly part of (despite how ... nobody else seems to be prepared to back/'take responsibility' for him every time he hits the headlines for sketch conduct), to commit to fixing the situation in a manner which'll make it easier for those in arranged marriages to bring their spouses here.

But Jones won't mind that. Not a bit. Except in public. Because the more it looks like everybody else in the 'establishment' politisphere is doing the opposite - the more he seems "necessary" to those he's keen to have as supporters.

In this way, it is not at all something we can describe via the words of Macbeth - a tale full of sound and fury, told by an idiot, signifying nothing.

Rather, it is the mystery of chessboxing. Something which *looks* like a simple pugilistic spectacle, brazen, bloody blows rained down with punch-drunk enthusiasm in lieu of finesse or insight or intentional skill. And yet which *actually* entails a much more carefully calculated and deliberate - even deliberative - approach that's methodically forward-planned several moves or even matches in advance, pattern-resonant, designed to elicit the loudest roars of approval from the punters down the peanut gallery, keep 'em coming back and the brawler in bar-tabs and commission for another week.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Why It's Difficult To Take Seriously Shane Jones' Attempted Indian Burn On Immigration

There's a few things to be said around Shane Jones' recent skirmishing with part of the Indian community over immigration changes.

I mean, it should almost go without saying at this point, but the idea that if somebody dislikes a government policy - that instead of being able to engage with their allegedly democratically empowered representatives to get some movement on it, they should instead either shut up ... or, in the words of Jones "catch the next flight home", is downright pernicious.

Not least because for many Indians, and in particular those born here - they're *already* home.

But Jones himself has long seemingly had the Indian community in his rhetorical sights. You may recall his previous rather pointed remarks about another area of NZ immigration policy being "synonymous with butter chicken - rancid", for example.

My personal theory as to why is due to a combination of his wanting to carve out a "similar but different" reputation to Winston's and therefore finding a different target to Chinese migration, and Jones' own cosier relationship with Chinese interests.

And it's those 'cosier relationships' which really make a mockery out of the Minister's "if you don't like it, [...] catch the next flight home" rhetoric.

Because when Jones, serving then as Associate Immigration Minister under the previous Labour-led government, heard about a chap by the name of Bill Liu who disagreed with Immigration New Zealand's decisions and policy ... Jones didn't tell Liu to get on a plane an leave - rather, he took up the guy's case, against reams of official advice and an Interpol alert, and overturned all of the above precisely to let Liu remain here.

It is now a matter of public record some of the 'inducements' which Liu may have made to men both Red and Blue in order to secure his chosen outcome. Which was precisely to *avoid* having to "catch the next flight home".

Or, in other words, it is difficult to take Jones seriously upon this matter given his own record in this area. Not just when it comes to the 'never mind democracy - disagreement means auto-deportation' line of spurious reasoning. But also, his demands in response to the alleged "levels of verbiage that the Indian communal leadership have thrown at the party" that Indian New Zealanders speaking up against his comments "tame down your rhetoric".

He should, perhaps, stick to shooting things other than his mouth off, in Thailand.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Blaming TVNZ For Mediaworks' Woes A Case Of Ideological Shiver Looking For Spine To Shoot Up

Here's a few unfortunate patterns. Mediaworks is once again in dire financial straits; and once again, some are attempting to assert that this is because private enterprise just can't compete with a Government owned ... company that also works like private enterprise [i.e. TVNZ].

Now, I say it's a "pattern" because this is hardly the first time that MediaWorks has found itself in a state of implosion. One of the previous occasions saw the National-led Government bail it out to the tune of $43 million.

I say it's a "few" patterns, because then as now, some people were insistent that private enterprise doing badly *had* to be the result of publicly-owned private enterprise somehow magically making an "unfair playing-field", upon which the former just could not meaningfully compete. Which is just simply untrue, as like I say - TVNZ is run as a business, and has generally been returning a dividend to the Government as its majority shareholder, rather than drawing tens of millions of dollars in bailout money like its private-sector owned competitor.

It's almost like people will say whatever they were going to say anyway, *regardless* of the circumstances; because any crisis is an ideal launch-point for the pursuit of an ideological "solution" in search of a problem.

The plain fact of the matter, is that MediaWorks has been run rather badly for some time now. It's tried a few things to get back in the game, many of which appear to have simply dug it deeper into the hole. It pushed "MORE REALITY TV *ALL* OF THE TIME" as some sort of golden bullet [not realizing that the downward trajectory which this entailed meant said bullet was aimed squarely at its own foot] - not just converting over C4 to pretty much, but then opening at least one additional channel to do more of the same.

Which it did at the same time as it was busily gutting one of its few *actual* competitive elements, in the form of its news and current affairs arm.

As an aside, I personally don't think it at all coincidental that 3/MediaWorks got rid of John Campbell during a period of prolonged warm relations with the then-National-led Government (and interestingly, Fran O'Sullivan - yes, *that* Fran O'Sullivan - seems to agree, per her remarks in print at the time in 2015) ... which, given Campbell's extraordinary popularity and ratings-magnet saliency, just goes to show how questionable business decisions made for dumb reasons seem to have come to characterize MediaWorks during its turbulent last few years.

To be fair, Mediaworks *has* found itself operating in an escalatingly difficult environment for many a traditional broadcast/media company. There's no getting around that.

But it seems to me that they consistently appear to have a worse set of outcomes, a worse set of results, than others who might be facing similar general tribulations of environment.

It's easy for those with pseudo-ideological agendas - that basically come down to "the government shouldn't own anything, even at an arm's length!" - to try and take aim at the current situation, as if that somehow *definitively proves* their point.

It does nothing of the sort.

All that it *does* do, is show that private enterprise is capable of acting stupidly, repeatedly stupidly, and making seriously flawed decisions over a protracted period of time, that are against both its own, and ultimately, the national/public interest.

And then somehow managing to keep stuttering on thanks to periodic infusions of capital from big foreign hedgefunds and 'friends in high places'.

You know - the *opposite* of what the pernicious ideology du jour of its most ribald and rambunctious defenders insists is "supposed" to happen.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

On Bridges On Jacinda On Trade Talks With Trump

I gotta say - it's rather odd seeing Simon Bridges attempt to attack Jacinda Ardern for not attempting to press Donald J. Trump on climate change, at their meeting earlier this week.

A few weeks back, New Zealand National Party people were attacking Ardern for allegedly - I stress the *allegedly* - refusing to be open to meeting with Trump. Because, amongst other things, TRADE RELATIONS. So, you know, "she's SELLING OUT our PRIMARY PRODUCERS by refusing to meet - because she wants to politically posture", or something.

Now, this was obviously not factual; and this week's meeting shows that those assertions were basically baseless.

So instead, now that an engagement on trade *has* happened - and one that appears to have been pretty successful [oddly enough, Trump's ... "personal" approach to international relations may actually serve NZ better in this narrow regard than his predecessors' more systemic or otherwise agenda'd facings] - we instead have the leader of the National Party claiming that the Prime Minister should have pushed Trump on climate change.

You know, an issue that Trump is well known to be pretty uninterested and/or actively hostile about.

Rather than making good gains talking trade.

A situation that becomes even more curious when we consider that the National Party here in New Zealand has more usually *itself* been pretty lukewarm on climate change related matters, with a preference for trade and agriculture instead.

So what's going on here?

National, apparently annoyed that something appears to be *working* under the Government, is criticizing the Government for not doing something *badly*; for not doing the STRAWMAN thing that their imaginary rhetorical bete-noir 'might' have done.

If the positions were reversed, and Simon Bridges was somehow Prime Minister ... do we *really* believe that he'd have gone into a meeting with Trump, to push climate change action?

Of course he wouldn't. He'd be gently mentioning trade, and then internally pondering which of the Peoples' Republic of China or the United States he should attempt to sell out the national interest to, first, or endeavour to set up some form of bidding war over between the two.

There are - to my mind at least - legitimate areas to criticize this Government over. Ways to set out a principled and alternative vision, even, that provides voters and the country with a genuine sense of choice going forward. But it often seems that the National Party are less interested in doing that, than they are in simply throwing anything and everything at the proverbial Wall [no, not that one .. not the MP, either] in the vague hopes that *something*, *anything* sticks, no matter if it's *exactly* the sort of stuff they'd vitriolically oppose, were Labour/NZF/(Greens) *actually doing* the thing National now claims it would want done.

The National Party has effectively said to the electorate "These are my principles! If you don't like them ... I've got others"

They have no "vision" - except of themselves in power.

And they shall say and/or do [mostly just "say"] anything and everything under the sun, in order to attempt to get there.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

On Winston On Bridges On China On Freedom

I see New Zealand First has put out a press statement which seeks to condemn Simon Bridges for his recent positive interview with Chinese media, doubling down on recent criticism aired in Parliament by Winston. To quote NZF's release:

""I have never heard such obsequious, subservient grovelling, kowtowing, palm-kissing nonsense," said Mr Peters.

Mr Bridges praised the Communist Party of China (CCP) for taking the country from mass poverty to economic prosperity in the state media interview, calling it an "amazing story".

Mr Peters said the interview was "staggering" because he "belongs to a country that for all these decades and down through the years... has been a democracy". "

Now, it's not that I disagree with Winston Peters on this issue. Quite the contrary!

It's just that I kinda feel that Winston might have been better to apply the same sort of sentiment to his own remarks afore making them back in 2017, when he made his first major speech as Foreign Affairs Minister, to the PRC-backed Confucius Institute at Victoria University:

""We should also remember this when we are making judgements about China - about freedom and their laws: that when you have hundreds of millions of people to be re-employed and relocated with the change of your economic structure, you have some massive, huge problems.

"Sometimes the West and commentators in the West should have a little more regard to that and the economic outcome for those people, rather than constantly harping on about the romance of 'freedom', or as famous singer Janis Joplin once sang in her song: 'freedom is just another word for nothing else to lose'.

"In some ways the Chinese have a lot to teach us about uplifting everyone's economic futures in their plans.""

Now, to be fair and to be sure, Winston's 2017 speech *did* also include the following - "New Zealand and China do not always see eye-to-eye on every issue ... but where we do have a different perspective we raise this in a way that is cordial, constructive, and hopefully clear." And, again to his credit, he at the very least was speaking about the PRC and"the Chinese" rather than the Chinese Communist Party - which may be something of a fig-leaf when speaking about a one-party state, but it's a fig-leaf that *does* at least somewhat matter.

It's also the case that Bridges was in a foreign country as a guest, and apparently reckons that his interview was edited to remove anything *less* than glowingly positive from the record. Which is not exactly an excuse, but does provide some measure of contextual explanation for how and why he spoke - or seemed to speak - as he did.

Whereas Winston was speaking in his own country (which, to be sure, while it may give one additional license, does not mean one suddenly chooses to insult guests) and chose to add the overtly pro-PRC (and anti- too-much concern about human rights or freedom) segment I've quoted above to the officially prepared text of his speech for additional emphasis.

But having looked at the remarks Winston is - again, quite rightly - castigating from Bridges, and comparing these against his own speech (plus the off-the-cuff additions such as the longer section of excerpt I've quoted above, which wasn't in the original text he was to deliver) ... I would perhaps suggest that it is somewhat "Orwellian" for Winston to get *too* enthusiastic in his condemnation of Brides - at least without *first* issuing some form of clarification about how his, and therefore New Zealand's position on the PRC has presumably now changed, evolved, and grown since that time. Assuming that it has.

And by "Orwellian", I do not mean in the more usual sense nor literary associations of the term - to 1984 and the forcible historical amnesia of rewriting the past for political purposes.

I instead mean the rather memorable line from Animal Farm:
"The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Why Simon Bridges' Enthusiasm For The Chinese Communist Party Is Utterly Unsurprising

So in the wake of a recent Newshub piece that quotes National's Simon Bridges enthusiastically talking up the Chinese Communist Party - not, you know, the People's Republic of China, but the Communist Party *itself*, various portions of my newsfeed have understandably been understandably just a little surprised and more than a little bemused that Blue is apparently The New Red. Not the right-wing, National-voting sorts, obviously - the perplexity and somewhat faux-bewilderment has basically been exclusive to those to the proverbial left of Genghis Khan

Yet to be honest, I'm entirely unsurprised that Simon Bridges would speak positively about the Chinese Communist Party, even at a time like this with regard to Hong Kong. The fact is, that regardless of however many National supporters might have earnestly believed in that sign at the last election, that Jacinda Ardern is somehow a "PRETTY COMMUNIST", and then kept up much the same red-baiting rhetoric in letters to the editor and upon talkback radio for much of the just under two years since ...

... the National Party has long had a much more complex relationship with "Communist" China. Even at the height of the Cold War,in 1976 - while Chairman Mao was still alive and still nominally in control, some years before the 'transition' to a 'market economy' had begun - the Nats were quite happy to have their then-leader pay an official visit to Beijing.

The PRC  then arguably returned the favour, by sending an apparent envoy in the form of Dr Jian Yang to meet with the last *several* National leaders, over a period of the last eight years, through the highly transparent forum of the National Party's Parliamentary Caucus, of which he is an elected (list) member.

Something which the Nats were evidently quite keen to keep going, as it appeared that while in government they'd placed pressure on our security intelligence services *not* to unduly scrutinize Dr Yang, and particularly not over his hushed-up background with the PRC's military intelligence apparatus.

This ongoing bilateral politician exchange programme appears to have taken on elements of shuttlecock diplomacy - with former National Party Prime Minister Jenny Shipley amidst a lengthening list of luminaries who've since re-emerged into public life tethered to the local arms of PRC economic organs.

As applies Shipley in particular, there is a perhaps interesting comparison with what has happened with Simon. Bridges, at the very least, whomever may have written the words for him, *did* utter them himself. Unlike Shipley's surprise at finding she'd somehow written an OpEd for the CCP's People's Daily without actually realizing it nor intending to do so.

More recently, at seemingly every step, the National Party have been like a small yappy thing with a bone in criticizing the Labour/NZF/Greens government for apparently undermining/imperiling/vandalizing New Zealand's relationship with the PRC.

I suppose, in particular, that it is understandable that the Nats are now basically unconcerned about the signposted risks to national security of letting Huawei handle our 5G network upgrade. After all, with the PRC already having been in possession of a "man on the inside" [and not just of National - of the Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Trade Parliamentary Select Committee, inter alia] for some years now, the National Party just wants the rest of the country to be subject to the same privilege.

I would have said that was "generous" and "egalitarian" of them - but as we all know, National under Simon Bridges considers "two Chinese" to be "better than two Indians", per their own words on the subject. No word on what the rough conversion rate is for other ethnicities, but I hear that when National's loyalty to this country was up for grabs, it fetched only a mere thirty pieces of silver.

In any case, even leaving aside all of teh above, it is absolutely unsurprising that Simon Bridges would speak positively of the modern-day Chinese Communist Party.

And for one simple reason.

Once you strip away all the mid-20th century political rhetoric and symbolism (including, oddly enough, a lot of banging on about representing farmers .. by which I mean peasants, once upon a time), the CCP are basically more-market repressive authoritarians, who never lose an election, never have to apologize, build roads everywhere, and whose leader is mandatorily popular with the people.

You know - *exactly* what National and Simon Bridges *wish* they could be.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

On John Roughan's Curious Distaste For Journalistic Privilege

Colonel Nasser of Egypt once pithily observed that "The genius of you Americans is that you never make clear-cut stupid moves, only complicated stupid moves which make the rest of us wonder at the possibility that we might be missing something."

Now, I hesitate in the extreme to term The Herald's John Roughan a "genius". Yet every time I read one of his more "ideological" columns, that sort of sentiment seems to spring to mind. A sort of more-cynical/paranoid version of the famed 'Hanlon's Razor' - "never attribute to malice, that which can adequately be explained by stupidity".

Because so frequently, when I cast my eyes over his output, I see all these wild blurrings and obfuscations of facts - and I am never quite sure how much of this is *deliberate* propagandizing, versus Roughan simply lacking due diligence or apt memory of the events and details and occurrences in question.

The most recent offender is his recent piece basically opposing the legal protection of journalistic privilege being upheld in the case of Nicky Hager in relation to an illegal search-warrant executed upon him by the NZ Police.

It's phrased also in general terms as Roughan rallying against this occurrence - due to its being some sort of mid-step marching-stride towards an "unfree press". This is because, in Roughan's view, the inexorable result of *all* journalists having the protection enshrined in statute which Hager has benefited from ... is all of our 'official' news media turning into Pravda, apparently.

Which is downright peculiar by itself. I mean, surely the legal protection of the journalist-source relationship ought to *increase* the relative freedom of our press, by increasing the facility with which they are able to garner information to report?

'Not so', says Roughan; and he invokes the spuriously slippery slope specter of Aotearoa marching towards an era of Journalism being a fully-licensed and accredited profession a la Doctors, Lawyers, and Clinical Psychologists. The implicit idea being that the State shall get to decide who is able to effectively call themselves a Journalist, and benefit from the resultant protection - thus limiting the freedom of the press to speak truth to power, in consequence.

Except ... that hasn't exactly happened, has it. The law which Roughan has taken issue, has been in force now for some thirteen years. It's true that the Press Council is a thing, and that in order to gain institutional access through the Parliamentary Press Gallery, one must be properly accredited .... but these are not recent innovations here. They've been in place for decades. Something Roughan presumably knows, given his stint on the latter from the early 1980s onwards, for a start.

In fact, taking a look at the relevant section of the Evidence Act, I'm not sure at all what Roughan thinks he's getting at.

Here it is:

"journalist means a person who in the normal course of that person’s work may be given information by an informant in the expectation that the information may be published in a news medium" [s68 (5) Evidence Act 2006]

No requirement for state licensing mandated there, and I further note that it's not an absolute privilege, either - with s68 (2) allowing a High Court Judge to overrule the privilege anyway in situations of significant public interest.

As a further point of interest, s58 of the same legislation enables a Minister of Religion to claim a not entirely dissimilar legal privilege to that of a journalist, in the course of his or her duties. Now, Roughan is clearly aware of this - he makes brief mention of the protection in his piece. Except when it comes to his scaremongering about the "slippery slope" we are apparently setting up by enabling Nicky Hager to have the proper privilege protection due to him as a journalist ... Roughan curiously stops mentioning "Minister of Religion" - we go from "Only lawyers, doctors, priests and clinical psychologists have the same rights of confidentiality in legislation" through to "properly qualified and licensed like lawyers, doctors and the rest." Spot the difference.

The reason why he's suddenly started getting 'blurry' here, is because the State of New Zealand *does not* actually license nor assess the qualification or otherwise of "Ministers of Religion". It *especially* does not, when we are dealing with s58 of the Evidence Act, which defines a Minister of Religion as follows:

"A person is a minister of religion for the purposes of this section if the person has a status within a church or other religious or spiritual community that requires or calls for that person—
(a) to receive confidential communications of the kind described in subsection (1); and
(b) to respond with religious or spiritual advice, benefit, or comfort."

Now, personally I think that's a rather broad legal standard, and it would no doubt be both interesting and well beyond the scope of this piece to take a look at how the Courts have interpreted the law in these matters, when it comes to establishing just how widely the principle of recognition extends here.

But the point is - whether we are dealing with Ministers of Religion, or with Journalists, what Roughan is claiming is the likely-inevitable result of having state-mandated (conditional) protection for these occupations ... is simply not a thing under current legislation.

Which is not to say that, in some Reductio-Ad-Orwellium hypothetical future, Parliament might not, for some otherwise inexplicable reason, vote to grant *enhanced* protections and privileges to journalists ... although that perhaps makes about as much sense as the proverbial Turkeys voting for an ever-larger set of test-knives afore Christmas. And besides, with deference to the only *other* instance cited by Roughan of a man having his legal status as a "journalist" subjected to judicial scrutiny - that of Cameron Slater - the Government of the day demonstrated that it was perfectly capable of providing him with *all manner* of assistance and empowerment without creating a more broad and legally above board 'protected class' of offically Parliamentary-sanctioned PR-chaperoned propagandtastic mouthpieces.

And while we are speaking of Slater, it seems most curious to me that Roughan takes such issue with the people who had sought to have Slater's "journalistic" status revoked. He does so at least partially on the basis of WhaleOil's exposure of Len Brown's extramarital affair - claiming that this was "one of the strongest pieces of journalism I have seen in this country."

And certainly, I am not going to disagree that it was one of the most "spectacular". Not least when the fireworks started going off prematurely and *inside the tent* of the political would-be operatives attempting to besmirch the just-elected Mayor by cajoling a story out of an arguable victim in false pretenses. We shall leave aside the fact that WhaleOil did what he did there for a political purpose, and that Slater's most prominent role in the drama was as publisher rather than gumshoe. I do understand and accept that you could feasibly term what happened there as "Journalism".

But, you see, Roughan is rather ribaldly misrepresenting reality here. Slater did not lose his "journalist" status in the course of the Blomfield defamation case due to anything he might have 'reported on' with regard to then-Mayor Brown. Rather, he lost it *for that specific case*, because the High Court Judge in question quite sensibly ruled that carrying out a "private feud", and attempting "extreme and vindictive" weaponized disclosures of patently unsupported or even potentially outright falsified information with the purpose of prosecuting "extended character assassination" against an otherwise private citizen ... wasn't "news", nor was it "responsible" conduct.

Roughan omits to mention, as well, that Slater nevertheless *did* find himself acknowledged *as* a "news medium" more generally by the same Court that was stripping him of the protection of journalistic privilege, in the course of the very same case ... because I presume that that doesn't fit the narrative which he wants to portray.

Which appears to be of Hager as some sort of semi-illegitimate interloper into the journalistic sphere; as Roughan puts it: "Nor would I blame them if "journalist" wasn't a designation of Hager that sprang automatically to their minds. Many see him as primarily a political activist, especially when he pumps out polemics such as Seeds of Distrust and Dirty Politics during election campaigns." Although, to his credit, Roughan does then briefly add "But he is a journalist."

So, on the one hand, we have Slater, and his "2013 exposure of Auckland mayor Len Brown's office affair [as] one of the strongest pieces of journalism I have seen in this country" ... and on the other, we have Hager, and his books taking on both Labour- and National- led Governments, being regarded "primarily as a political activist". What's the difference? Well, I suppose, for a start, Slater tended to only far more rarely attack the figure (and administration) that Roughan wrote a biography of a few years back.

But I digress.

Roughan writes in his piece, that he'd "been a journalist for 45 years and I didn't know we had [journalistic privileges]" under law. And you know what? I somewhat potentially believe him. For you see, Roughan writes these days mostly in the "Opinion" pages of the Herald. And most of his actual output, that I'm aware of, has been a sort of comfortable-accommodation-with-the-ruling-classes-and-accepted/acceptable-lines style stuff that would be singularly unlikely to land him in court or subject to police officers bashing down his door in possession of a search warrant.

To be fair and sure, he does occasionally write good and useful stuff; and I highlighted his recent piece on Ihumatao in part because it was exactly that. At least, in terms of whom it was presumably reaching out to, and what it was seeking to say.

But all-up and overall, I suspect that the reason why Roughan had no knowledge of the legal protections available to a journalist in the course of his or her duties, is because he had never had much, if any, cause to avail himself of them.

Unlike Hager.

So when it comes to Roughan attempting to luridly sketch out the Road to State-Sanctioned Serfdom which the NZ Journalistic fraternity and profession are presumably diving headlong down upon for *daring* to make use of their legally extended protections, in cases of controversial crusading activities ... part of it's probably because he's considering the whole thing as an abstract.

He does, after all, talk up his view that "News media have long claimed a right to protect anonymous informants in court" [which .. somewhat contradicts the assertions made elsewhere in the piece, but anyway], and that in consequence, "Judges have been well aware reporters and editors would go to jail rather than betray a source."

And yes, there is something pretty nobly romantic in the idea of a reporter who so adamantly believes in the truth of what they are doing, the truth that they are *reporting*, that they're prepared to put themselves in the potentially serious harm's way of a prison term (with all its accompanying fecundities) for this.

But underneath this, is something else. Namely, the reflexive role which Roughan plays as a sort of telepathic mouthpiece for the older and more right-wing/conservative type of New Zealander that has hitherto had such a monopoly on power [c.f his eulogistic remarks a few weeks ago around the era of benevolent "Remuera Patricians" running Auckland].

Which is what it is. And in this instance, it's a semi-conscious feeling that somehow Hager has "gamed the system". That instead of the onus being upon the NZ Police to know the law if they are going to choose to enforce it, especially in incredibly high-profile and high-stakes politically-resonant cases ... that the onus is upon journalists not to "upend the applecart", or at least, not rock the boat *too* much or in too potentially insalubrious company ["the trouble with being on the side of right...", as other Winston used to say, being "all the insalubrious company"].

That, to quote the old adage, "if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear".

That "the law" is a single, unified and level playing field, which is unutterably undermined when we start creating 'special' differences within it for persons and clades of people whose intersection with the law is, by their very nature, going to be different and have different requirements of it.

And, in this particular case, that a legal protection rolled out for *all* journalists, incredibly broadly defined with reference only to their regularly being "given information" which is then "published in a news medium" in the course of their "work" ... that the fact that one single journalist *actually successfully making use of this* protection in a court of law, somehow creates both an 'exceptional situation', and irrevocably undermines the freedom of our nation's press.

Because what kind of "free press" has freedom from undue scrutiny of its informational sources, right?

This is not the "banality of evil" that we are witnessing before us. This is the "freedom of banality" that Roughan apparently seeks to defend.

The freedom to do as you like, write and publish as you wish ... but only provided that it isn't incendiary, isn't explosive enough to actually be viewed as a "problem" by the Powers-That-Be, and their blue-uniformed enforcement arm [whom, it should be clear, I generally am rather positive about - the latter, I mean, not so much the former]. Unless you, yourself, are prepared to put yourself in the firing-line to be criminalized for it.

For all his bluster about how we are apparently "on the slippery slope towards an authorised press" [and how nice when he namechecks the fallacy he is using, even as he invokes it] "which is not a free press", Roughan appears not to have thought seriously about the local implications of running the removal of journalistic privilege, to similar extremes as he has hyperventilated about its maintenance. 

There is an old Soviet joke:

"First, do not to think.
If you think - do not speak;
If you speak - do not write;
If you write - then don't publish,
If you publish ... don't be surprised."

We might adapt this to Roughan's take on Hager's situation:

"First, do not receive potentially inflammatory information.
If you receive it, do not read it.
If you read it, do not write about it.
If you write about it, do not publish it - especially during an Election Year!
If you write about it (especially during an Election Year, thus implicitly attacking the Government when it is most at risk) ... then do not be surprised, when the constabulary execute a search warrant upon you."

Now how's *that* for a slippery slope away from the concept of a "free press".

Sunday, August 11, 2019

On The Recent Death Of Jeffrey Epstein

On the one hand, attempting to blame every little thing on "The Clintons" and/or some other, further elite conspiracy efforts ... as hilarious as it can be, is often overtly ridiculous.

On the *other* hand ... Jeffrey Epstein somehow managing to kill himself *while on suicide watch* following his previous attempt, allegedly via hanging, suggests that *at minimum* there's been some almost unbelievable incompetence by his jailers.

I'm not saying that he was, necessarily, murdered. Although there is little doubt that a not-insignificant quotient of people out there, whether rich and powerful or victimized and powerless, will be quietly or overtly jubilant at what has occurred.

But it is difficult to avoid the temptation to speculate that oversight on Epstein may have been *deliberately* lax, so as to actively 'facilitate' an outcome just such as this.

That is to say - why have a man murdered, with all the subterfuge and potential discovery that this may very well entail, when you can just prod him into making an attempt on his own life, and then not stand in his way when he eventually gets close enough to the precipice .. all of his own accord.

And, once again, it may not even have been a 'conspiratorial' effort to facilitate nor ensure that this'd happen. It could have been prison staff with a lackadasical attitude towards the prisoner or the whole situation, for a start.

The only thing that *can* be said at this stage, I suspect, is that in some important ways, justice has been denied. For while we can debate and defer as to whether a self-imposed death sentence is a more or less "just" ultimate outcome, than his spending potentially up to the rest of his natural life in prison ...

i) the actual *processes* and *performative* parts of the judicial process *do* matter. The right, not simply of an accused to have their day in court, but of the accusers, the victims, and society at large to definitively establish guilt and have a perpetrator actually *stand trial* as part of that process - this has now been, in some ways, forever abrogated.

ii) any potential value which Epstein may have had for further ongoing investigations into those other wealthy and powerful figures he may or may not have consorted with ... will now *also* be severely abrogated. Not entirely disintegrated, as Epstein's notebooks and other subsidiary evidence are now coming to judicial light. But still.

It's hard to view what has transpired here - allegedly or otherwise - as being any real kind of "win".

Thursday, August 8, 2019

It Is Possible To Be Both Pro Ihumatao AND Not Anti Police

Watching the course of developments around Ihumatao over the past few months, it is hard to escape the sensation that something extraordinary has happened. What would, some decades ago, perhaps have been written off as a "Maori" issue by much of New Zealand - and consequentially, disparaged, denied, and turned into a pit of talkback-radio excoriation - has in fact managed to attain broad support from across the community.

The fact that John Roughan was prepared to pen a piece in the Herald a few days ago speaking about his own evolving perspective upon the situation - and attempting to cast it as a more justified cause to support than Bastion Point - would seem to confirm that there's been some critical shift out there in the tumulous [not to mention tumescent] body politik. John Key's literal biographer, and a man who not a month beforehand was speaking wistfully about the rulership of Auckland by "Remuera Patricians", being on-side for Ihumatao being protected is a most interesting barometer, indeed.

But if the necessity of the protection of Ihumatao has now managed to draw in support from 'unexpected' quarters like Roughan and his ilk, it has also succeeded in conjuring self-appointed championship from much less surprising specimines. And, I would argue, not necessarily to the Cause's overarching favour.

The video which has been doing the rounds, of a protester at Ihumatao verbally castigating a police officer and demanding that he decamp from his lawful duty to the state "back to your own country", is merely the tip of the iceberg. At the risk of regurgitating NZ Police press statements upon the subject, it really does seem like the Police deployed on that watch-line have displayed stoic professionalism in the face of being spat at, insulted, taunted, and - especially in the case of Maori police officers on site, as well as others - racially abused.

Once upon a time, particularly some four decades or more ago at the height of the 1980s' epoch of 'robust encounters' between Police and Protesters, the happenings and their outcomes would no doubt have been severely different. And it is not at all to seek to excuse the Police from some of their previous (or, indeed, present) areas of misconduct, to say that the restraint they have exercised in recent times at Ihumatao as well as elsewhere has been to their credit. [Indeed, due to the significant quotient of new cops about the place these days, it's absolutely no exception to state that much of what's egregious even in the relatively recent record of the NZ Police, may have occurred well beyond they joined the force, were anywhere near it, or in some cases, had even actually been born.]

Yet in every war, there is an inveterate temptation when going into it to attempt to simply re-fight the last one rather than engaging with the actual fact-situation that unfurls con-current, infront of one.

This perhaps explains why some either at or around Ihumatao are seemingly focused upon re-litigating any number of previous skirmishes or outright conflagrations with the Police in particular, the Crown in general, or even overseas instances over which the Government of New Zealand has little, if any, connection let alone control.

And you know what? Leaving aside the 'optics' of the situation, that's not entirely un-understandable. When you feel that you are bearing the weight of decades, centuries worth of marginalization, oppression, and the exact, axiomatic opposite of fair treatment by colonial authorities or post-colonial or settler states, there is not just a temptation to view everything through a kind of overarching-writ-large metanarrative of 'us versus them' taking place upon every corner of our nation's history, and thence from there through much of the globe. There is an actual factual basis to it, as applies the fact that it's often the debris of globe-spanning empires and significant coterminities of experience [and, for that matter, sodality, solidarity] that we are dealing with here.

But at the same time, it does need to be said that those who would hijack this particular cause in pursuit of a far broader agenda (especially that which can be basically summed up as F*#& the Police), run the significant risk of harming the otherwise enviably positive rapport which the Ihumatao preservation motive has built up within the wider NZ public.

It becomes a distraction; it becomes a degradation; it becomes even a vector - as we can see here with that video - of perpetuating *further* iniquities against those not exactly morally blameful for the actually-objectionable circumstances being protested against. Such as the verbal attack against that nondescriptively brown police officer on Monday night, who may have been born here or elsewhere - or may even have been of Maori descent himself. Who knows. I doubt anybody thought to check before shooting mouth off and into foot with reckless abandon.

In any case, my point is a simple one.

The Government is yet to remove digit and do something productive over the whole issue; and perhaps there are solutions which do *not* require the Prime Minister personally wading in, or remarks to that effect eventuating.

But, not just because the matter is 'in train' and public opinion appears to be swinging over to the pro-Ihumatao side .. but also because it's the morally correct thing to do - it is *certainly* possible to keep pushing for the protection of the site in question *without* attempting to turn the whole thing into an anti-police conflagration.

Let us hope that cooler heads on the protest side prevail.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Tulsi Gabbard Blazes Impressive Trail At First Democratic Primary Debate

It has been said by political minds far more astute than my own [read: pretty much every candidate going into today's 1st Democratic Primary debate] that a 'win' here is securing 'cut-through'. Standing out from amidst the crowded, twenty-candidate field and managing to reach out through the television-camera's silvery lense to make that all-important connection with the ordinary American voter on the other side of the screen.

Now, before this debate had even begun, there were several clear 'favourites' amidst the DNC's 2019 stable; figures who were supposed to make that all-important salience. And, due to a microphone-gaffe part-way through, it now seems like the DNC is once more prepared to help 'guide' attention towards their 'designated winners'. Nothing new there, then.

But here's the thing. Even though the questions, the moderation, and the overarching tactical terrain were arrayed against her from well before the start ... Tulsi Gabbard looks like she's managed to make a positive impact, a splash. Below, we've got search analytics data for the Congresswoman both during and after the debate. I've also seen immediate post-match polling which has Gabbard a clear 'winner' - in fact, the clear Winner - edging out even predicted 'people's-choice-but-establishment-bete-noir' Elizabeth Warren.

What's even more interesting - to me, anyway - is the seeming dysjunction between some of the immediate reception which Gabbard and her points received in the room itself versus out there in broader America. I mean, apart from a few loud positive responses from some in the physical audience, her military background and her opposition to continued American imperialist adventurism ... did not find fecund soil with those in attendance. At one point, the moderators deliberately attempted to stop Gabbard from speaking about Saudi Arabia and its role in financing terrorism.

Yet out there in 'broader America' beyond the room, which is not so easily impressed by a field of candidates falling over each other to push forward a 'united front' of 'Democratic National Consensus' on various policy positions, or compete over who can gesticulate the loudest about this or that minority demographic, Gabbard's views and background appear to have found considerable purchase. Turning her, in the span of a few hours, from somebody who's been almost deliberately ignored in just about any mainstream media reporting of the Democratic Primary - through to a figure of emerging prominence.

She may not - not yet, anyway - be quite a "household name"; but it seems like a lot of households are, indeed, googling her.

The importance of this also lies in Gabbard's ability to 'reach across the aisle', out beyond the Democrats' preferred 'safe' voter-base, to those who are leery of the party and may even have voted for Trump at the last Election. Not by engaging in some sort of social-media slanging-match race to the bottom in the manner that Trump successfully trounced the 2016 Republican Primary field .. but by resonating with the strong regard that many middle-of-the-road American voters have for authenticity, military service, and anti-interventionist foreign policy (particularly when said 'Adventurism' just means more body-bags and far less federal spending turning up in their local community, in service of some fundamentally nasty foreign regimes who don't seem to wish America anything but ill).

As a brief aside, I am genuinely of the opinion that it was Trump's perceived anti-interventionist stance which won him the 2016 Presidential Election - flipping key counties in Ohio, and winning over thousands of voters in the communities that have borne the [domestic] human cost of the previous decade and a half worth of Neocon-ism-in-overdrive via being major military recruitment hotspots etc.

Hence the significant importance of Gabbard's stances - but also personal record of service, which gives her vitally needed credibility when speaking against ongoing military quagmire-ism - in these areas; especially when held up against a Democratic 'establishment plus' field which looks increasingly interested in navel-gazing and 'turning inward' to focus on shoring up its own base against any potential 'contagion' of 'further-left' sentiment a la Sanders 2015-16, or AoC et co last year.

Now, it's true that this debate was not an ideal performance from Gabbard. She displayed hints of anxiety, and more worryingly, in the first half of proceedings was far too 'polite' I suppose you might say - not creating the opportunities for herself by shouldering aside others, and instead waiting to be called upon to speak. That's courteous, and it's no doubt borne out of an underlying attitude towards others, even adversaries, which is built upon the principle of respect ... but this is politics, and up against a potentially rigged system with pre-picked 'favourites' who're designated to get more of the air-time and less-trappy questions, such considerations must by necessity fall by the wayside.

Fortunately, Gabbard improved on these scores over the course of proceedings; and I have every confidence that she'll continue to grow and shine more with further experience, practice, and exposure.

As applies the 'anxiety' dimension ... this is actually not nearly as hazardous as it might first appear. Various politico-psychological analyses have demonstrated time and time again that ordinary American voters like seeing something of themselves in their presumptive representatives. Hence, when George W. Bush botched his lines and came across as less sophisticated, less intelligent ... less know-it-all and slickly "polished", you might say ... than Al Gore in 2000, a lot of Americans actually decided they liked him more as a consequent result!

Coming across as more 'human', as displaying shades of some authentically real traits which we can empathize with, makes us more likely to both subconsciously and intentionally choose to support a leader.

So in other words, especially considering her continued blossoming through the course of this debate, even one of her more noticeable 'weaknesses' is actually a reasonable potential strength.

Going into this debate, myself, I had relatively low expectations for Gabbard's positive outcomes. I figured she might manage to get in a few good hits on her core campaign theme, maybe boost her polling up to the high-end of the single figures, and breath some much-needed 'life' into her ongoing prospects for the next phases of the race.

'Breathe life', she has indeed managed to do! In point of fact, I'm pretty blown away by the actual immediate outcomes of this debate. Fighting in decidedly unfriendly terrain, she's managed to get a sweeping salient of that absolutely vital 'momentum' going. People excitedly talking about her, looking into her, and then going back to talk about her some more armed with fresh insight and information into who she is and how she measures up as compared to the rest of the Democratic field.

The Media and no doubt the DNC shall continue to try to find ways to do so, no doubt - but for the American voter [although this is not necessarily the same species in all particulars as the [Democratic] Primary voter], it shall be increasingly hard to overlook, much less outright ignore Tulsi Gabbard from here on in!

In conclusion, gentlemen:



Friday, June 21, 2019

Why America Might Have Wanted Iran To Down Its Drone - A Warning From History's Rhyme

Now, here is an interesting thought pertaining to the recent Iranian downing of an American drone.

Way back in the late 1990s, it is alleged by then-serving US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, General Hugh Shelton, that he was approached by a high-ranking member of the Clinton Administration's Cabinet with a request that he allow an American U-2 spy-plane to be shot-down over Iraq as an effective pretext for starting a war to ouster Saddam Hussein.

General Shelton did not name the Cabinet member in question when detailing the encounter in his 2010 memoir; however, it is speculated based on various elements in the text and elsewhere that the requestor may have been then-Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.

Anyway, that is beside the point.

What is directly relevant here, is that a surveillance drone operating in Iranian airspace is the modern-day equivalent of the last century's U-2 spy-flight missions. And, fortuitously, one that can be shot down by the country whom it is surveilling, without some poor American pilot having to make the ultimate sacrifice as a dangled lure-bait.

Much has been made of the rather curious pattern of the United States often seeming to start its wars via fishy incidents involving boats - the USS Maine at the outset of the Spanish-American War, for instance, or the USS Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin which preceded the significant upscaling of US entanglement in Vietnam.

Yet little attention has been directed towards another comparable instance to this week's shoot-down - namely, the downing of an American U2 spy-plane over Cuba towards the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

While it is seriously doubtful as to whether this was an intentional occurrence on the part of the Americans the immediate reaction of then-Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Nitze, is rather telling. “They’ve fired the first shot,” he said.

So, if you are outright trying to start a war - having the country you wish to shortly be at war with, carry out an act of armed "aggression" against a border-penetrating reconnaissance effort, can be adequately sold as your bete-noire "firing the first shot", and thus rendering rather more rhetorically 'legitimate' all the ensuing 'return' shots from cruise-missile range that may perhaps thusly ensue.

Marx famously opined that history seemed to repeat itself as tragedy, then as farce. The Americans appear to go the other way, from time to time - with the trumped-up attempts at sparking a war with Iraq under Clinton, that seem downright farcical with retrospect, being succeeded with actually-successful and thencely tragic whipping up of a 'Coalition of the Willing' to actually invade Iraq for real this time, less than a decade later under George W. Bush.

And, because the 'rhyme-scheme' of History is evidently a rather regular one, we have recently seen a bit of a shift in focus from straining to have Iran declared a Weapons of Mass Destruction seeking international pariah to be tarnished and toppled as Saddam's Iraq was by Bush and Blair ... through to what looks suspiciously like an attempted actual going ahead of the late-90s sacrificial-spy-flying-lamb gambit mooted for war-starting use against Iraq, except against modern-day Iran this time.

Given their previous predilections in these areas, I am almost surprised that the Americans did not haul a Catalina flying-boat out of a museum so as to attain the maximum faux-'freedom' synergy for this stunt.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

A Newspaper Is A Dangerous Mind-Altering Substance

You ever get the feeling that your news media's attempting to push a particular narrative that's ... not really all that concerned with the truth?

I mean, seriously. Take a look at this story, from the front-page of yesterday's NZ Herald. Now, going off that headline ... and pretty much everything else in the article ... you'd be forgiven for thinking that cannabis was the *only* factor [or, indeed *a* substantive, salient factor] in the accident that occurred. Because it's repeated - over and over and over again, for two pages.

Yet you look a little closer, and there - nestled in a small sentence that would be altogether too easy to just gloss over if you're reading swiftly - is the actual reality of the situation.

Cocktail of prescription drugs.

Now, it doesn't specify just which "prescription drugs" are being talked about. Wouldn't go very well with the 'corporate line'! Especially if it turned out the guy was legitimately prescribed them!

But I would hazard a guess - and let me be clear about this, this is my uninformed, speculative opinion - that if they were being recreationally used, they were likely the sort of anti-anxiety or other meds which would stereotypically come with a "DO NOT OPERATE HEAVY MACHINERY WHILST UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF" disclaimer.

Or, in other words, the sort of meds you *really* shouldn't be driving upon ... and which would, odds on, be far more - even *exponentially* more - likely to have *actually* had a salient, significant role in the causation of this regrettable accident.

I'm not even going to get into the actual science around the impact of cannabis upon driving, here; although I *will* note that the addition of multiple drugs to an individual, in simultaneous use, can have 'quadratic' rather than mere 'additional' effects.

The fact is, that somebody, somewhere, doesn't want cannabis legalized via referendum.

And in order to deliberately frustrate this particular democratic outcome, they're going to pull out all the stops in order to do so.

No tragedy is going to be too great, no detail too small, for them to distort out of all proportion. They'll find the dirt to throw and the mud to sling - whether it exists there or not.

Now, we can tell from various developments over the past few years, that they've narrowed in on an 'attack angle' around 'drug driving'.

This has partially been driven by the previous National-led Government presiding over some popularization of the concept via some rather odd televised ads; and various attempts to look into bringing Australian-style roadside testing here.

It's also a tangential development to the legitimate expression of horror at our ever-high and lamentably lingering road toll. People want it to come down, so in desperation, will look in all manner of directions in order to try and do something about an escalating human tragedy. That's understandable. And when you're trying to make sense of a tragedy, it's only human nature to go for what seem like the 'easily preventable' "BUT WHY" factors in its (narrative) causation.

So going off the steadily increasing saliency of these "but why would we want to legalize cannabis, when our road toll is already so high??" talking-points all across talkback, social media, and letters to the editor ... it seems pretty clear that whomever, whatever's directing this agenda, has identified a strategy that works.

This kind of broad-based anti-PR snowjob offensive is rather like playing a game of Battleship. You fire out your volleys, and when you see the plume of smoke from having scored a hit on something .... you zero in and bombard that particular point with everything you've got, in the hopes of taking the whole thing down once having hit the magazine via repeated fusillades.

The National Party, as well, has chosen to capitalize directly upon this avenue of attack - bringing in several strikes at the present Government (including the Speaker of the House) as allegedly being "soft on drugs"; inviting victims and family of victims of crashes caused by, inter alia, *synthetic cannabinoids* [and let's remember - the comparison between consuming cannabis and consuming synthetic cannabinoids ... is perhaps akin to that between drinking alcohol, and drinking methylated spirits, while on meth] to come along to Parliament to add to the human pathos of the whole thing; introducing a private member's bill; and both getting themselves kicked out of the Debating Chamber and riddling the Minister for Police with questions upon the apparently epidemic crisis of "drug driving" here in New Zealand.

The goal of such things is quite clear, and - as always - at least as two-fold as it is reprehensibly two-faced. First and foremost, to make the Government of the day look bad, duplicitous, morally and otherwise. Like it's too limp-wristed to care about ordinary Kiwis' voices and vehicular safety.

And second, to keep trying to drive public opinion *away* from what's previously been pretty full-throated support for cannabis law reform, in any meaningful variety. [Which also helps to hammer the government - because apparently, giving ordinary New Zealanders their fair say on cannabis legalization makes everybody even tangentially proximate to the Cabinet of the day a raging pot-head]

You keep saying something often enough, repeatedly enough, and with sufficient permutations upon the same basic theme ... people start to believe it's this absolutely huge, overweening issue that's at crisis-epidemic-insurgency levels. And therefore, that Something, anything, Must Be Done to stop it. Somehow.

So over the next twelve to fourteen months, expect more of these stories, once again blown out of *any* semblance of reality, to be broadcast and shouted from the rooftops in superliminal propagandtastic efforts, with increasing frequency, right up until Polling Day for our cannabis legalization referendum.

Because the only "mind altering substances" THEY want you to have access to - are alcohol, newspapers, and National Party electoral leaflet material. Perhaps that's in ascending order of social destructiveness.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Teen Euthanasia That Wasn't

Here's something potentially rather interesting. You know that 17 year old Dutch teenager whom an appreciably large proportion of just about everybody's newsfeed and/or Letters To The Editor section is jumping up and down about? The one apparently legally euthanized, and therefore how terrible a thing legal euthanasia is we can't have it here?

Well, apparently ... that's not actually what happened at all. Instead, it appears that what actually transpired was the kid applied for euthanasia, was refused, repeatedly attempted suicide anyway, and then eventually, just straight-up stopped eating/drinking - at which point, her family and medical team finally acquiesced to her wishes, and agreed not to force-feed her, moving her to palliative care.

Now, your mileage may vary as to ... well, pretty much this whole thing.

It could certainly be argued that actually having let the child go 'on her own terms' prior to all of this, would have been an awful lot less traumatic than having several months worth of repeated suicide attempts, endeavours to have her subjected to electro-shock therapy, before finally conceding that in the absence of ye olde feeding tube down nose, she was going to get her way eventually anyway.

But it seems like, at this point, an array of both news media organizations - and, for that matter, jump-up-and-down-hand-wringing social conservative pseudo-political groups, have deliberately bait-and-switched a story up, in order to try and oppose any meaningful progress on euthanasia law reform in their own countries, riding high off the back of one obviously tortured girl's personal misery.

I can understand why the idea of the state allowing 17 year olds to put themselves to death would be scary. Because it is. [I personally find the idea of forcing teenagers to carry pregnancies to term to also be rather scary, but then I am over here in the #ProDeath camp, apparently, so once again, YMMV]

But I'm not of the opinion that there's a very sensible comparison to be made between "we allowed a teenager to access a state-supported facility for getting us to kill them" - which is what everybody seems to think happened;

and "after many months of effort, we stopped attempting to force-feed or otherwise forcibly keep alive against her own wishes, a person".

It could be argued that the overall outcome is the same. And yeah, sure, one less person on the planet.

But I don't think that it is. Not really. And not least because only one of these things apparently happened.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Saudi Call For Getting Tough On Terrorism Case Of Serial Arsonist Taking Over Fire Department

So I see King Salman of Saudi Arabia's kicked off Saudi's chairmanship of the OIC by demanding that the world (and the Muslim world in particular), get tough on the supporters and enablers of terrorism. The country-level supporters, financiers, directors and enablers of terrorism.

Now, this is perhaps unfair to other insects, but this strikes me rather like a mosquito rolling up and shouting loudly: "I HAVE THE CURE FOR MALARIA!"

Or, I suppose, declaring Tony Blair has the answers when it comes to bringing about peace in the Middle East. But that one actually happened (with Blair transitioning into the role in question almost the same day he stepped down as UK Prime Minister), so clearly we are already well and away into the realms of blatantly counter-factual satire when it comes to a certain geopolitical grouping's activities in that region.

Seriously, for those who do not "get the joke" inherent in what the Saudis are saying - they are regularly identified as being lead vectors in the creation, financing, and other support/enabling of terroristic groups and operations, both throughout the Middle East and beyond.

Never mind ISIS, or their own ongoing links with Al Qaeda (for example in Yemen and in Syria- which has lead to the once again prima facie ridiculous, and therefore apparently straight-up outright de rigeur situation of forcing US co-operation with Al-Qaeda in both locales). The British intelligence establishment literally attempted to point out that Saudi Arabia represented the single most significant funder and proliferator of extremist ideology in Britain (so, you know, their so-called ally!) - and wound up with the report in question being suppressed out of fear that it'd damage the UK economically if the Saudis slapped an oil price-hike on them for daring to acknowledge the facts.

I hesitate, perhaps, to term that "economic terrorism" - yet given King Salman's recent remarks attempting to panic the world at large into aggressive action against Iran on grounds that the latter's sovereignty represents an allegedly unacceptable threat to global oil supplies ... the weaponization of economic interactions by Saudi itself (as has already happened to Canada, at The Kingdom's black-stained hands) suggests that this, too, is a case of bitter, bitter irony all the way down.

Let us be clear about this. Taking the Saudis seriously as anything other than a threat, when it comes to dialogue around combating terrorism, is to indulge their wilful penchant for fact-free chicanery.

Suggesting that they have a lead role to play in opposing the spread of terror, in any way other than by stopping funding and facilitating it themselves, is worse than useless.

It is like deciding that an arch-arsonist with an apparent pathological proclivity for criminal acts of combustion be appointed town fire-chief, whilst simultaneously mandating that everybody drive Ford Pintos, and drape bone-dry paper towels over their heating units. Followed by rolling out regularly-scheduled "come into our home, why don't you" 'inspection' opportunities.

And then - when somebody, whether Canada or Iran, actually says "enough is enough", and attempts to draw attention to the problem via diplomatic/publicatory or direct assistance to deleteriously affected countries, the defenders against Saudi-sponsored terror are either attacked directly, or sabre-rattled against as Next In Line For Some Good Ol'Fashioned Amerika-McWorldist FREEDOM (tm).

The whole thing's a charade - except with real guns, and real deaths. it is saddening and it is sickening that it has been allowed for so long to continue.