Posts Tagged ‘new zealand’

In running tradition, I would like to call out another press gallery reactionary for not understanding politics.

While I have no intention of voting for this merged Mana-Internet Party, it’s not an affront to democracy that it exists and that it wants to rely on electorate politics to succeed.
(And before we get really into things, I’d like to mention that in the past I’ve said similar things about parties I vehemently dislike and consider a cancer upon our parliament. Also, to be on the record, I think the name “internana” is about the most hilarious thing I’ve heard all day, and I believe the name “Winston Peters” came up in conversation, so that’s pretty impressive)

National have happily abused “Act” and “United Future” as one-man micro-parties with no real agenda and little public support to prop up their government for another term without having to make compromises with the Mäori Party. They and their fans can just quiet down for a while now Hone wants to give them a taste of their own medicine. Labour and the Greens both offered support to end coat-tailing, but National wouldn’t have it, (correctly realising it would hurt their electoral chances in the short-term) and refused to implement the independent recommendations they themselves arranged for, presumably on the deluded hope that the public would vote for watering down MMP with a system that removed its close-enough-to-proportional approach and replacing it with a system half-full with a bunch of safe-seat-warming buffoons.

No, what’s an affront to democracy is our ludicrously high party threshold. If Kim Dotcom wants to buy his way into parliament, let him win enough of the party vote to win a single seat outright. From there, with the ability of any New Zealander to vote for him, stop voting, or vote for someone else instead, the worth of his ideas can be judged by the public, and all it costs is the time for a quick trip to whatever local facility they use to host votes in in your electorate. One of the incredible upsides of MMP has been that it has let the public see how ridiculous some of the marginalised political voices on the Right are, and that it has been kind to the public’s desire for a sensible left-wing party. (If we have to put up with New Zealand First over our current threshold for that, I suppose I will merely resort to mockery in my suffering, as usual)

And Hone Harawira, who like Rodney Hide and Peter Dunne, doesn’t have that great of a claim to have earned his way into Parliament with rip-roaring public support, (although he at least has the legitimate claim to representing a community that deserves its voice being magnified) should not be the gatekeeper for a new political party. While I maintain that Mäori are the proper judges of how to protect their own political rights, and that the Mäori roll is an appropriate judge of whether they support their own electorate seats, I’d just as soon see all electorates gone, when another better way to support the voices of our indigenous people is chosen by our indigenous people. Electorates lock in bad candidates based on uncompetitive backroom selections, and they turn small parties into personality contests, where they continue to isolate voters into groups that feel empowered by electing two-faced wonders who will kiss a sufficient amount of babies and promise you things they don’t even understand. (Like common sense, or patriotism)

No, what’s an affront to democracy is that people have been sold this dumb idea of electorate seats, so that ordinary people can apparently lobby a local boy (or girl, if you’ve transitioned to the 21st century) about their problems. This is a ridiculous notion of politics. You are better off writing a letter to someone who understands your issue from a party (or preferebly, many parties) that may be sympathetic. Most likely that someone will be an aide of course, but aides are there for a reason.

We have a diverse enough parliament that farmers, conservationists, business, social reformers, and even to some degree IT enthusiasts are all represented by people who can understand them to some degree. Voting for whatever idiot decides to run in Ohariu or Epsom isn’t going to give us anything extra, and in fact the idea that that is the only legitimate way to do politics takes away from just how much the party vote has improved our democracy. National actually values capable women now, Labour is only a bit less diverse than the country, we have a disabled MP in parliament, and New Zealanders actually support at least the generalities of how our voting system works. So let’s not get mad at coat-tailing. Let’s get mad at electorates.

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.

Firstly, good news: Huge congratulations to the tens of millions of netizens who participated all around the world in the blackout to inform people about SOPA and PIPA. Everyone who cares about technology even slightly now knows about those outrageous bills and the guilt-by-accusation approach to piracy they espouse, and as this tactic is still relatively new, it had an amazing effect on both houses of the US congress, flipping many sponsors of both SOPA and PIPA firmly into the “opposition” category of the bill, with the usual gormless comments about needing to “read it more carefully” or “more thorougly research the implications”- which means they thought they could coast through and not bother to actually analyse the bill because it had so much support from rights-holders.

This is a victory, but it’s also just a reprieve- SOPA and PIPA were just new versions of COICA, which was similarly disgusting, and New Zealand has had its own brush with guilt-by-association copyright laws before, too, which it also took local blackouts to defeat.

Finally, there’s been excellent stories about SOPA and PIPA all over the mainstream journalist sources recently, to highlight only a couple, there is a great piece written by Dan Gillmor up at The Guardian, a great summary of SOPA and PIPA by Rachel Maddow, and Chris Hayes’ Up With Chris has a video panel discussing SOPA, and a blog that rebuts the fact-light defense of SOPA on the video panel courtesy of Joe Sestak.

 

Now, onto the mixed news: Megaupload is down, in a joint operation between New Zealand police and the FBI that saw four arrests and a $10 million asset seizure, and the seizure of Megaupload’s domain name. The accusations against Megaupload and its sister company are very unclear, and it’s murky precisely what actions are being claimed to have broken the law on the charges being laid- including conspiracies to commit racketeering, money laundering, and copyright infringement, and some of it seems to centre on what I like to call the “blind eye” fallacy, which is that because individuals in the company may have been able to cite examples of infringing content that were not taken down, the people running the company were responsible. I hope that the police plan to actually show that at the least, the people they arrested were criminally liable or criminally negligent in their actions. It’s very disturbing to me that middlemen are being held liable for enforcing copyright- I’m not sure the onus should be on megaupload to prevent infringement when they aren’t actively notified by rights-holders, as the precedent of intellectual property rights cases has been that rights-holders are responsible for objecting to misuse of their ideas in order to maintain their rights. Time (eww, I know, but they’re doing good journalism this time) has more on the “Mega Conspiracy”, as authorities are calling it.

If having to establish evidence that copyright infringement is happening is too hard for the incredibly wealthy rights-holders in Hollywood that are largely responsible for DMCA notices, then I don’t think they ought to be allowed to ask for arrests, or for content to be taken down. The presumption should be that content is licenced until someone complains, and even then, legally, the assumption should be that content doesn’t infringe copyright until it is proven to be (a) work that has been copyrighted by someone else, (b) no valid licence is produced, and (c) proven that the use did not fall within fair usage provisions of legal copying, derivative work, or sharing. That’s a high standard, but legal action should have to meet a high standard. More on other options rights-holders have in a subsequent post, because this one is huge already.

 

Anonymous, a activist/hacking (or “hacktivist”) collective that operates entirely under pseudonyms, (there’s also more to say about Anonymous, which I will get to, I promise, but I’d sum them up provisionally as “very zealous ‘good guys’ on issues of freedom of speech, who break the law in order to defend its principles”) has launched counterattacks on several rights-holders’ sites, and also on the department of justice, taking down those sites. While I absolutely oppose holding service providers responsible for piracy they aren’t notified of, these counterattacks may be premature, and may generate some degree of sympathy for rights-holders among more conservative citizens. Assuming the trial of those arrested is timely, we should wait to see what kind of evidence is presented before condemning authorities- but of course, that’s not Anonymous’ style.

You’ll also be amused to know that currently The Pirate Bay has rebranded itself as “The Promo Bay”, a function which to some degree it no doubt serves, and has lambasted Hollywood rights-holders with a press release on SOPA, making very good points about how Hollywood was built on (legal) copyright violation. I’ll have some opinion posts on the details of piracy soon, seeing that’s the big issue at the moment.