Saturday, May 17, 2014

Dirty Wars and Ignored Laws

Toby Manhire pointed out in Friday's NZ Herald that the country seems to have sleep-walked into a war. No-one appears to have noticed a New Zealander getting a collateralised death sentence by US drone. Not the prime minister, who has all but given up the ghost of an independent foreign policy for gimp status that would make Reek flinch with recognition. Not the public, which seems inured against war crimes or seem indifferent as long it doesn't affect their day-to-day grind.

As the Snowden NSA papers come closer to our shores, threatening to wash up all sorts of dirty security laundry, NZ may well have to face their complicity in atrocities. As a thought experiment, imagine John Key appearing before The Hague for aiding and abetting war crimes.

It's not such a mad proposition after reading this transcript from today's The Nation between Paddy Gower and Dirty Wars author Jeremy Scahill. Whether Key & Co know it or not, they're donkey deep in a very dirty war. A morsel (vid here, interview transcript here):
I can’t disclose specifics on this but what I can tell you is that I have seen dozens of top secret documents that the New Zealand Government has been provided by the United States, because of the Five Eyes status of New Zealand, that indicate that New Zealand is extremely aware of the extent to which the United States is engaged in drone strikes around the world and is briefed fully on the infrastructure of that programme. And the fact is that New Zealand through signal intercepts is directly involved with what is effectively an American assassination programme. People can say ‘oh well we are just giving them intelligence on terrorists’. The fact is that the world – most countries of the world – view what the United States is doing as rogue actions.
Never mind the fluff of polls, PR and show ponies, this stuff is important. It goes to the guts of sovereignty and statehood. NZ was one of the founding members of the League of Nations after WWI. It was a founding member of the United Nations after WWII. John Key's government has blithely swept all that precedent away by including NZ materiel and labour in these many crimes against International Law, including the Geneva Conventions.

The Nats have sold our century of pacific soul to Hollywood. Do you feel horribly short-changed yet?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Hanging Out with Beck, Whodini and Queen Camilla

Please pardon my break from blogging. Although I've been following the headlines, watching the gossip on Twitter, and occasionally popping into the House to witness some absurd theatre, I've really been preferring the company of chickens.
Kapiti Gothic; Beck and Queen Camilla. Whodini AWOL, as usual.
Sartre was wrong about a lot, but not Hell being other people. If the Psychoactive Substances donut wasn't bad enough, here's a sample of righteous puritanism from today's headlines alone:

One (vanilla) farmer gets fined $7500 for gross animal cruelty, while another farmer (with a Maori name) gets fined $15,000 for stubbornly refusing to wear a quad bike helmet on his land. Don't quibble the obiter, the law is still an ass. Actual harm > potential harm.

The coronial inquest into the Masterton balloon tragedy continues, with cannabis still being the whipping boy for the mess. Never mind an almost identical accident occurring in the US (wind changes, balloon hits power lines). Never mind testimony saying there's no evidence cannabis played any role in the balloon failure, the government is welcoming drug testing in the tourism industry.

NZ I love you but you still really piss me off.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Do Focus Groups Dream of Synthetic People?

April was one of those months. Vanilla skies with no news, followed by a vanilla religious holiday, concluding with a vanilla hailstorm of moral panic complete with pitchforked lightning and a flood of recanting politicians.

The Easter shopping anomaly went to 11 this year, with everything open in Wanaka over the mandated religious period except the pubs. Apparently the town was tipped off that there would be no enforcement of the archaic law against Easter trading (unless you were a pub or an unsuccessful special event applicant, in which case there would be). This fickle absence of enforcement gave Wanaka an excemption reserved in legislation only for Taupo and other listed 'tourist towns'.

Alcohol was still available at the traditionally excempted premises. If you were middle class enough to afford to dine in licensed premises, you could drink booze uninterrupted over Easter. This exclusion is an artifact from before the Sale of Liquor Act 1989, when every Sunday was Easter Sunday and all the pubs were closed. Churches could still serve booze (to minors!) in the Eucharist, Synagogues could still serve booze (to babies!) at circumcisions / genital mutilations. For the secular Gentile others, we had to stockpile booze at home over Easter like a survivalist.

Survivalism sounds like what is increasingly a pastime for the residents of the Flockton sinkhole. The recent rains have washed away more hope from them, with the balance between fight and flight swinging inexorably towards the latter. Winter is coming, and there may be more once-in-a-century floods on their way. There's no sign of help from King Gerry, who has kicked the problem firmly into the city council's realm to deal with.

Not entirely dissimilar to the buck-passing bug in last year's visionary Psychoactive Substances Act, which led to hicksville mayors around NZ landed with responsibility for a new and complex regime they knew absolutely nothing about. The upshot of this led to the government siding with vigilante arsonists in banning legal highs outright last week.

In retrospect, all the signs were there. Nationwide protests that looked like a working class Sensible Sentencing Trust lynch mob took place. Associate Minister of Health (and temporary drug czar while Dunne was in the naughty corner last year) Todd McClay agreed with a Rotorua crowd that legal highs were bad. Labour party shadow drug czar Iain Lees-Galloway appeared in Palmy saying legal highs were bad. Only Peter Dunne was singing the Act's positives until last Sunday night, when Dunne finally capitulated and agreed that legal highs were, as they say, bad.

Blame for this vanilla victory rests firmly with National and Labour. National for under-funding the project to the point of sabotage, and its ignorance of what was at stake beyond "The focus group said no." Labour for the inane local government authority bug they inserted into the Psychoactive Substances Act, demonstrating that they have learned precisely nothing from the local government fallout over the Prostitution Reform Act. Secondly, Labour's populist crusade ran counter to their support for the original bill.

It shows bad faith from both main parties. A lack of imagination from the Nats is to be expected, but Labour's faults are unforgivable. Thank Dagg for MMP and third party software, because there's too much salt sown in the fallow fields of Team Blue and Team Red.