It appears Shane Jones is stepping down. Good riddance, he is a relic that was holding the Labour Party back. I’m all for a big tent, but his regressive views were taking things a bit far, and in a healthier political landscape, he’d have been sitting firmly on the Right wing of parliament.
Tags: politics, resignations, yay
Tags: durrr, research, treatment
The internet does a lot of cool things and a lot of terrible things.
One of each of those types of things relates to child pornography. Obviously the internet has allowed for better proliferation of child pornography. (It may have even allowed for better detection of child pornography, too)
But the really cool thing that’s beginning to pop up are support groups for paedophiles. Why is this so good? I hear some of you asking. Surely these people are monsters? Well, because it’s an inkling of a hope that this might give us new ways to prevent child sexual abuse, and the data we’re beginning to get from studying support groups that take a moral stance on paedophilia, (ie. paedophiles who say that actually abusing kids is wrong) indicates that we can use this as a way to improve treatment.
The internet provides an anonymous medium where people can go to talk about attraction to children without necessarily risking discovery. For those who have committed abuse and use anonymity as a shelter to discuss abuse, that’s obviously terrible. But there’s a chance here- not all people who are attracted to kids are attracted only to kids. By reaching out to those individuals and studying them – which has not been done before, we could come up with intervention plans that could potentially cure or at least identify a sustainable treatment plan for so-called “exclusive paedophiles” who also experience more normal sexual attraction.
People have demonised attempts to ethically and safely research paedophiles who have not committed child abuse as paedophile sympathising. That’s ridiculous. Clearly understanding more about the development of attraction to children, what might cause it, etc… can all contribute to the prevention equation.
Also it can help develop trust between these people and a responsible therapist, who can help monitor them and hold them to account, who can help them have a fulfilling life in an area where they’re well-isolated from children, and maybe even have a normal (, childless) relationship.
Of course, such research would need funding, which could be a potential PR bomb. If someone were really interested in defending young children, they WOULD risk the PR bomb, and announce what they’re doing aggressively, to try and shame up more funding. I hope someone in the corporate world hears about this issue and comes up with the same strategy.
The other opportunity we have is to start building a world of people who could have been child sexual abusers, that aren’t, and who come out to people they can trust, building accountability networks that will stop them from offending. If we can build good practice guidelines internationally about what to do with self-reported paedophiles who have not committed abuse, that would be a Big Thing™.
And maybe, in the very distant future, even being able to come out publicly as having been in this situation, and transitioned through it. Can you imagine how much harm we’d stop if a confused 16-yearold whose feelings for younger kids isn’t going away can hear that they don’t have to be seen as a monster, that if they get help from someone qualified, they can manage their feelings without harming anyone? Because I can, and that world would be fucking excellent.
Let’s say one coalition group bans certain kinds of protest, with disproportionate penalties for those involved, removes democratically elected regional representatives and refuses to reinstate full elections for the area, and proposes to allow our international spying agency to spy domestically, despite also having a domestic spying agency for that job, and then refuses to answer questions on the matter.
The other coalition group proposes to use some seed money to build houses which it will later recoup, and to set up a single-payer system to keep power prices down while still allowing generators to make a reasonable profit.
One of these coalitions could be forgiven for comparing the other to an authoritarian regime like the Soviet Union.
If you thought it was the first one, then you either have no idea about what being an authoritarian means, or you’re a National Party hack. (because at this stage, who’s even left in the Act or United Future parties, and does the Maori Party really ever want to go into coalition with National again?) I wouldn’t care to speculate between ignorance and malice, however.
The single payer model has been shown to work very well in cases where there is a captive market, like for power and healthcare, where consumers can only choose between providers, but have little choice about whether to buy or not. This is well-tested policy, which anyone who took an interest in politics as anything other than a points-scoring exercise should know. This is the first strong policy announcement by Labour and the Greens, and it was presented as a complementary approach with both parties adopting synergistic policies, and competing in a friendly manner for our vote.
Both parties’ job now is to keep following this precedent. Labour has finally realised it has room to its left, and the Greens have welcomed them to the club again. If Shearer can restrain himself from moving back right, and maintain genuine populism instead of the fake middle-of-the-road sort of nonsense we were seeing before, we could be looking at the beginning of a change in government.
Much of the recent discussion of EQC’s privacy issues has a glaring semantic error which is colouring the story. Most notably, they mostly describe the two recent incidents as “leaks”. This is a very incorrect usage of this term. When you accidentally e-mail a file to the wrong recipient, and it contains private or personal information, what you have is a privacy breach.
When you deliberately e-mail a file with the intent of either revealing the information to a concerned party without official authorisation, or with the intent of creating publicity around an issue, that is a leak.
Privacy breaches require preventative action and are usually not a cause for individual censorship, unless there is good policy in place to prevent the breach, and can often be a matter of systems or workplace culture enabling human error. Leaks are more about the motivations and intent of the individual who performed the leak, and may not even be a bad thing overall, if done with care and for an overriding ethical reason that is not adequately weighted in official policy. For example, what the recipient of the most recent breach is threatening to do by releasing the information to media, that is actually a leak.
Tags: economy, equity, income inequality, living wage, minimum wage
So, unless you’ve been living under a rock, or are from outside our fine country of Aotearoa New Zealand, you’ve probably heard a lot about the Living Wage recently, given some pretty exciting advocacy that’s going on for it, especially in the context of a measly 25c raise to the minimum wage in a country where productivity has still risen higher than wages have. (ie. we are getting underpaid for the same amount of work, when compared to our parents and grandparents at our ages) And that’s not even mentioning the government’s stone-hearted ambitions for a low-wage economy, with an anemic minimum wage.
A lot of the media coverage has focused on the difficulties of implementing a living wage for businesses that currently pay near the minimum wage for some workers. While it is reasonable to feature the challenges for employers, these complaints should not recieve the amount of coverage they have, as they’re really not relevant as the short-term challenges will go away when the stimulative effect of higher wages hits the economy as a whole in the form of increased purchases and tax revenues. (again and again, economists that study real data as opposed to models have shown us that putting money into the pockets of people with low wages is the best way to grow the economy, because they will actually spend that money because they have a lot of unmet needs and wants) There has been roughly equal coverage on these difficulties and the novel (to the press, and to people working in service industries, by and large) concept of being paid enough to take time off for family, or to be able to afford say, library fees, on top of rent and food for yourself and your family, if you support one.
Like many people probably will, I had a pang of insecurity about this news- I’m not paid that much more than the living wage myself, and I’m working in a very high-stress environment where I’m held accountable if I make any errors and yet still expected to deliver to a high standard on both quality and volume. But that doesn’t mean that people who are paid less than me now don’t deserve a raise- it probably just means I deserve one too, but that the market is broken and not set up to pay fair wages to people like me or more especially to people on the minimum wage.
We’re so eminently class-conscious, so afraid of this right-wing boogeyman of class war against the wealthy, (and by extension: those less-worthy people catching up to US, putting US on the bottom of the heap- as if the people on the bottom don’t deserve a fair go, too) that the people campaigning for higher wages aren’t talking about owning anything significant, about the equity in earning enough that you can reasonably afford the sorts of services you provide to other people, but rather that we’re merely talking about access to basic services, food, and rent. Granted, some trolls will think that say, internet is not a “basic service”, but that’s getting into the territory of saying that you don’t deserve a microwave, or a freezer, because you’re a labourer rather than, say, a computer programmer or insurance analyst. Some of these services sound fancy when you consider the high-end uses of them, but we’re literally talking about entry-level internet here. Dialup if you’re in a city, or internet at all if you’re out in a relatively rural area. Being able to email your parents, or actually check wikipedia if you don’t understand something, or look up an obscure word quickly using an online dictionary, being able to request government forms online instead of waiting on hold.
We are setting our sights so low that the actual pushback against people who support the trends in our society of the median wage being more than twice the average wage1, 10% of the population owning a majority of the wealth in our country is literally as meagre and eminently reasonable as “please pay us enough that we can both have kids and afford to read or surf the net in our miniscule spare time”. Some elements of corporate culture have gotten so ridiculous that we ought to be pushing back against things like highly vertical workplace hierarchies, (which are a machine for bullying people, even if that bullying is only restricted to accepting unfairly low wages) executives getting paid more than their actual value to the organisation, and a demotivatingly high amount compared to on-the-ground workers, and we should be saying that we should get paid enough to save for a house, to pay off our student loans within a decade, to be able to save to travel. Those are actually ambitious goals for wages where there is some room to debate about the reasonability of everyone being able to afford those things. It’s ridiculous that to even get coverage about low wages we have to point out that some people are literally not paid enough to live a decent life.
While I’m anything but a labour activist, this quite clearly makes the case for unions in my mind- there needs to be an independent force that can exert some further upwards pressure for ordinary people’s wages, once we get everyone paying a living wage. This campaign is excessively reasonable, and there’s no way to argue against it without sounding like a buffoon or a heartless Scrooge. I want more than a living wage, and I think any skilled worker should be earning dollars more.
Tags: crime, gun control, guns, massacre prevention, rape
The United States remains, at the moment, the last country without sensible regulation of firearms. Mostly due to a backwards and mendacious intepretation of a constitutional clause that was intended to allow people to fight in defense of their country.
But the Newtown killings threaten to change all that, and this is a good thing. While I don’t believe full disarmament is possible, and that it’s reasonable for people to carry rifles for self-defense or hunting, that doesn’t mean that some sort of massacre-prevention law is not necessary. It has been done in Australia, and America can do it too. While in terms of overall crime gun violence is not the largest problem, it is actually one of the easiest to solve, and only involves US Democrats standing up to an outsized lobby that doesn’t reflect the views of its members. Even NRA members favour reasonable massacre-prevention laws that might curtail some less useful or necessary gun rights.
For instance, while I would actually argue that legal adults are indeed entitled to own a single military weapon, there’s no need to allow them to buy unlimited amounts of ammunition unless there’s an imminent threat of invasion. Also, there’s no excuse for ever allowing a concealed firearm of any type- any gun carried should either be clearly visible, or be carried in a safety case that clearly notes it contains a firearm, and should always be carried separately from its ammunition.
Also, unless your job requires a handgun, I don’t see why anyone should ever have one outside of a firing range. Give police the right to inspect people for firearms and ammunition carried illegally in addition to this, and it becomes much harder for people to commit massacres, and your massacres are limited to less potent weapons in general, and people are less likely to commit them- see the difference in terms of a Japanese crime along the same lines. The killer with the knife was unable to injure or murder anywhere near as many people.
Now, I’m not an expert on these matters, but this isn’t a circle that needs to be squared. It’s a triangle where one side of the debate has been missing for many years, and Americans deserve safe schools and safe cities where gun violence doesn’t happen, and it’s quite possible to have very tight gun laws that still allow for legitimate use of firearms by, say, farmers.
As for the victim-blaming going on- look, the Newtown Killer’s mother is not to blame. She lived in a society that does not provide adequate help to people who are at risk for violent behaviour due to mental illness, (which by the way, is a clear minority) and she lived in a society where there was little to no safety net to prevent illegal use of her firearms. She is another tragic murder victim, and doesn’t deserve our criticism.
And as for the “we need MORE guns so that heroes can defeat the bad guys” or “arm teachers” memes, there’s been excellent discussion of why that’s a bad idea elsewhere, by someone who was raped and threatened by a gun owner. Unless we want vigilantes poking into all of our business, widespread gun ownership doesn’t solve as many crimes as it creates.
In any politically healthy country, the immediate, unprompted response would be an improvement of mental health services (with a focus on rehabilitating or caring for those with a risk of violent acts) and sensible gun control law. If the USA is to be a country where people feel safe, that will need to be their response this February, and now is the first time we’re being allowed to have that long-overdue conversation, which thanks to social media, the NRA cannot shut down.
Safe holidays and happy travels to all of you, most especially those of you in the USA.
Tags: centrism, problematic, transparency
The electoral commission has come back with its recommendations based on our feedback, and they’re tricky. I’ll go over them in a second, but first, I’d like to encourage everyone to read them in full, and to make your own submission, if you have comments. If you don’t submit where you agree and disagree with the commission, further reviews will ignore your sorts of views in the future.
While on the surface of it, these recommendations might seem like mild pushes in the right direction in most areas, (other than the recommendation to allow the continued and harmful inflation of electorate seats well past three fifths of parliament) when taken in combination a few of them are deeply problematic. Rather than re-writing why, I’m going to paste my submission verbatim:
In principle I support the abolishment of the electorate threshold, but combined with the relatively high recommendation of a 4% list threshold, this is a recipe for the destruction of small parties in our political system and cannot be supported in this combination. Either both thresholds need to be abolished or neither.
I am also highly disappointed at the very high recommendation of a 4% threshold. The only functional change in this case is that established small parties will be able to more easily maintain party vote support once they start polling in the neighbourhood of five percent. This does nothing for the transition of electorate-anchored micro parties into genuine small or medium parties, who would have the chance to transition to a larger political force from a roughly .83% “win a list seat outright” threshold, or its abolition. I would also like to clarify that my support for a 1/120th of the vote threshold is not a “confusion about abolishing the threshold”, but rather an expression that the roughly .4% de-facto threshold of our formula for allocating list seats is too low, but that a 1% threshold would present a too high barrier for micro parties to transition to a party-vote strategy, as it would require parallel campaigning for both the party and electorate vote. There are genuine advantages to a small threshold between 2.5% and .4% that should not be discounted, although either option is by far preferable to the yawning gulf created between 1-person electorate parties and 4% threshold list parties that are likely to receive six or perhaps seven MPs if they just pass the threshold.
Between the electorate threshold abolition and the mere lowering of the party threshold to 4%, there is no demonstrated way for a party to transition from a single electorate MP to a multi-member party. The only party to successfully contest multiple electorates has been the Maori Party, which is a very unique case that arguably has more to do with the politics of Maori electorates than a general case for multiple electorate seat parties. Any changes we adopt must allow micro parties a feasible opportunity to expand beyond one MP.
I support the commission’s recommendations that dual candidacy and list MPs being allowed to contest by-elections continue. There are unintended consequences to those changes that could easily reduce the quality and diversity of representation in New Zealand.
I am disappointed but not altogether worried that parties are recommended to maintain control around the composition of their lists without even a mandate to hold a vote on the issue in some manner. There should be greater public participation and transparency around list selection, but still in such a way that allows political movements to have some degree of autonomy. Mandating a vote of party members is held and the results publicised, but not legislating any way that vote effects the list, would be the best way to do this. At the very least, parties should have to disclose all candidates that were nominated for their list in any fashion, and outline a formal nomination system to the public, even if it is restricted to members or the party’s inner circle. Some of these aims could be achieved without legislation, but very likely they would be restricted to a particular area of the political spectrum, which is not fair to voters of different opinions, who also deserve more say and transparency about their list candidates.
I support as a good but problematic first step the commission’s recommendation that overhang seats be abolished for parties that do not cross the party vote threshold, but I would prefer overhang seats were abolished altogether. This rule seems like an opportunity for a large party to deliberately tank their party vote and instead aggressively campaign for electorates, artificially inflating their allies’ levels of party vote support. Allowing a hole like that in our electoral system is even worse than allowing a small party to campaign only for electorate seats- at least a small party is unlikely to have the support to win more than a handful.
I think allowing a full 76 electorate seats is a risky decision that enhances the negative effects of both electorates and disproportionality. New Zealanders like to think they like electorate seats because we are enamoured of the idea of “our local MP”, but by far the least popular MPs are always in safe electorates, outside of which they are at best tolerated, but often infamous, including several small party leaders. Ideally the number of electorate seats should be capped at a third until such time as electorates are abolished in favour of some flavour of open list system, or if for some reason New Zealanders never tire of electorates, the number of MPs should grow as electorates are added to keep electorate MPs as approximately one third of the house.
In summary, I think the commission’s recommendation are moderate and well-intended, but that they do not represent any significant gains over the status-quo, and introduce new problems rather than solving existing ones. I would have been happy with moderate recommendations if they were geared to lead to a more robust electoral system that encourages participation, transparency, and political growth. (both of small parties when they represent the people well, and of good policy) While I understood that ultimately my modest but radical (as in “wanting to change the nature of our system” radical, not extremist) expectations of voting were unlikely to represent the will of the majority of submitters, I did expect more intellectual rigour from the commission’s recommendations, rather than simply taking the least objectionable path every time. The only brave stands were on dual candidacy and list MPs contending by-elections, where the commission just flat-out pointed out the ideas were dumb, although in their usual diplomatic way.
It’s a little astounding that the VERY modest support for raising the party vote threshold (usually from people who don’t understand it and just wanted to price all small parties out of existence) held back the commission from lowering it significantly. A threshold of 4% is little better than one of 5%, it’s merely stupid rather than ridiculous. 3% is the bare minimum at which small list parties start to become viable, and medium-sized list parties become safe. Any third party in New Zealand needs to become very large to avoid the possibility of decline under a 4 or 5% threshold, and as the Alliance proved, that still doesn’t prevent internal strife from ending the movement.
Tags: campaigns, electioneering, you are the problem
Idiot/Savant over at No Right Turn points out that labour want to be able to advertise on election day. (story) Labour’s general secretary whines that other countries allow it, name-calls the provision banning election-day advertising as “puritanical”, and cites the number of people making last-minute decisions about their vote as a justification.
Actually, this is a good reason to push back advertising even further from election day in favour of other modes of political campaigning. I’d like to see billboard advertising, TV/radio ads, and print/web ads banned a week before, while still allowing the broadcasting of debates, speeches, or other in-person political modes of engagement. That would provide us a much “realer” picture of the campaign, and take the advantage away from big-money parties- then we can have our full shut-off on election day, and drive the sorts of grassroots political engagement that people think they get from electorates.
The Labour Party should be ashamed that one of their own senior members suggested the idea. The time off from the campaign on election day is critical, and to be honest, relieving. It is not puritanical or mean-spirited, it is a chance for everyone who is tired of politics to take a breath of fresh air, make sure they’ve made their final decision, and go and vote.
Tags: asset sales, Labour are centrists, new zealand, ownership, save TVNZ7, state assets, state insurance, telecommunications, TVNZ
Last election, Labour presented its opposition to asset sales as a contrast. This is typical of the modern NZLP’s centrist approach to politics.
The way you contrast yourself to a painful privatisation agenda is not to simply oppose it. No, you punch your opposition in the face, you take the reverse of their position. You say “You want to talk about ownership of assets? Fine. We’re going to nationalise assets that will perform well as SOEs.”
And if Labour grew a spine, they could do this in a popular and fair way. Announce they’re going to nationalise everything National has sold, and that they’ll only pay people for their shares if they were bought directly through the option. They don’t even have to promise a refund to be fair- hammer the point that these people were trying to steal property they already collectively owned, like uprooting a public drinking fountain, and protesting that you paid rates for it.
But Labour can go still further. You know what else would be better back in public hands? TVNZ. Force a split to the broadcaster- let them keep TV2 and the various commercial-owned channels. Reinstate TV7 as a public service channel, and run TV1 as a cultural/news/documentary/public entertainment channel. Make the governance aim that they attempt to self-fund, and ban them from providing dividends to the government- if they run a profit, they can either save it for when they have higher costs, or reinvest it.
There’s also a good argument for nationalising the telecommunications infrastructure, (hell, we invested in most of it in the first place) nationalising or forcing a buyback* of State insurance, (state-run insurance is almost inevitably cheaper, as it doesn’t need to collect the same profit) making Kiwisaver compulsory in all but exceptional circumstances, and requiring all kiwisaver funds to invest 50% of their assets in New Zealand businesses.
That would be a real conversation about ownership and the state’s role in productive enterprise, and National couldn’t stop it with cheap ads about dancing Cossacks this time- we saw what happened to the economy after they tanked our last attempt to have New Zealanders investing in New Zealand.
But Labour won’t do this, because to push for such a plan yourself is to admit to New Zealand you are no longer wholly a party of the centre, that you believe in some leftist principles, (as opposed to taking a left-leaning slant at centrist principles) and the politics of the NZLP is now firmly rooted in the centre of political discourse. They might do some of these things under the political cover of a coalition partner asking for them, (thank you, Winston. And may I never have to say those three words again) but the current leadership of the Labour party are scared little boys that only know how to compromise and appear “sensible”. I require more than sensible from my government, thank you. I want them to lead.
*I don’t require that we simply “steal” every asset back that was immorally sold in the past, but we can force the owners to accept a fair and reasonable price, rather than being forced into an inflated buyback. National is going to criticise you for paying too much if you do a market buyback, so why pay more when you can get the same business for less money and the same political cost? Also, I don’t accept that the word stealing applies to taking back something that should never have been sold, and that people got for bargain prices and for which they have received more than a full return on their investment.
update: You could also run a billboard for people’s hilarious grass-roots mockery of asset sales, like, say, this auction.