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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

State of the Nation: Kelston Cunliffed

500 people at least were at David Cunliffe's State of the Nation address at Kelston yesterday where Labour's Best Start policy was announced.  I was there too.  It was packed in the end, standing room only.  
Cunliffe was well received.  He delivered a solid speech, connected with the humour, substantiated a left position with a hard commitment spelled out in dollars.  This swelled confidence all round.  

He never lacked for self-confidence.  He may have bouyed and energised and he may well be the most smooth and professional communicator Labour possess, but he hasn't quite shed the smarmy, Cheshire cat grinning, smug, cocky, sales spinning persona that still unsettles.  He did relaxed really well on the Paul Henry Show interview last night though, which suits him better.

These presentation wrinkles need to be ironed out.  It's part of who he is, I suppose, so it can only be suppressed.  For example the habit of the half-laughing/chuckling reply has to go.  It shows defence and fear and deflection and flippancy - people can see through it after a while.  It is a phoney laugh - laughing it off - either they are lying or are embarrassed.   Like the awful automatic laugh response anyone on radio suddenly gets when a mic is in front of them (you never get these fake laughs with people on the radio who are on the end of a phone) it has to be unlearned.

As for the policy package itself - it is a move in the direction his supporters expect and have waited for.  Giving $60 a week to working class parents with infants is the sort of financial relief - compassion - demanded after austerity-style tactics by the National government.  Making sure unemployed parents get something after National's targeting over the last five years of the working poor cannot happen too soon.  Apart from the criticism it is not going to rolled out fast enough, the main issue seems to be that it gives parents up to $150k pa a baby bonus.  But they could not just restrict it to the most needy as the votes are in the centre.  It is a deliberate embracing of the middle income earners - the parents amongst them would be much better off with that $60 in their hand every week than the alternative tax cut spread and diluted to the non-"breeders".   The dedication to early childhood education and especially the establishing of centres in the neighbourhoods where the demand exists also got a huge applause as did Moroney's paid parental leave bill.
The meeting audience had all sorts of people - representative of groups that compose the modern Labour party in Auckland: Indian, Chinese, Tongan, Samoan, Pakeha, young, old, women, men.  It was a diverse audience reflecting a diverse membership in an increasingly immigrant-driven metropolitan city.  Now look at the picture above which I took of the media scrum at the post-speech stand-up.  

There seems to be precious little racial diversity within the media organisations.  The gallery and editors and reporters aren't exactly a gathering of the UN - it's more like an Imperial Conference.  

Usually the only non-European people in media are to be found working for "ethnic" media.  The term mainstream media is often used as shorthand for the "old" corporate, government and established pre-internet media; but it can just as well apply as a euphemism for Pakeha media.  Political reporting, and pretty much every other sort of reporting and analysis in New Zealand, is thus middle class white people having conversations amongst themselves about their interests from their own perspective, bound by the insular conventions and thinking of the ruling white elite of which they are attached as a symbiotic, or parasitic, colony.  A colony within a colony within a Colony - within a hive.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Roast Busters Day 82: Roll me over

No progress in the 'Roast Busters' West Auckland rape club case?  No shit. Most people have figured out why by now.  It's because the NZ Police operation is a cover-up focused on diverting the victims away from a prosecution and there is no actual investigation of the offenders because the Commissioner himself has declared the gang to be acquitted on the basis that a son of a serving police officer cannot by definition be found guilty of rape.  

Police remain tight-lipped on the progress of the Roast Busters underage sex investigation, but want to assure the public they are doing all they can for the alleged victims.
Shortly after she announced the formation of a multi-agency team dubbed Operation Clover, which would work together on the Roast Busters case.
Ms Malthus has refused to say exactly what that team are doing to resolve the case. But she told the Herald that the investigation had continued over Christmas and New Year.
"It is a comprehensive and lengthy investigation and the focus for the joint agency Operation Clover team continues to be on speaking to young people and their parents," she said.
"It is of the utmost importance that the privacy, health and wellbeing of these young people is strictly upheld. We appreciate the high level of public interest in this case, however, as is routine with an investigation of this nature, we will not discuss any operational aspects and no further comment will be made at this time."
The only reason this story has re-emerged was because a teenager was arrested for putting similar material to the Roast Busters videos on Facebook.  The comparison is so obvious and damning of the NZ Police that most media seem to have avoided reporting it.  Radio Live reported it, which is where I heard it yesterday but nothing online at the NZ Herald.  Found on Stuff via Taranaki Daily News:
In the New Plymouth District Court yesterday, Judge Allan Roberts said the community deserved to know who was involved in the high-profile case.
The representative age-group rugby player who pleaded guilty in November last year to a charge of making an intimate visual recording at an Oakura house party on October 11.
Greenslade then posted the video on a private Facebook page accessed by other close friends.
Greenslade received four months community detention by way of a curfew from 7pm to 7am seven days a week, and 125 hours community work after the $5000 offered to the victim for emotional harm was taken into account.
The two 18-year-old friends, who have interim name suppression, have pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting the 17-year-old, including rape, sexual violation and indecent assault, in the same incident.
One of the two has also been charged with taking an intimate visual recording.
The two are to go to trial later this year.


Remember the excuse Det. Malthus used last time to explain why nothing had happened with her Operation Clover was that it was the exams coming up and the victims had to focus on that first.  Now the holidays have come and gone she isn't even offering an excuse anymore - it's none of our business, nothing to see here, move along.

Which politician will challenge the notion that members of the NZ Police - and apparently their offspring - carry with them an immunity from prosecution which no other person has?  I ask that question because no politician I've seen has been prepared to deal with this.  They show initial concern, issue a press release, trigger a conflicted - if not outrightly corrupt - 'conduct' investigation (which the Commissioner has assured us that all his staff will be fully exonerated in anyway), but they lose interest, they are too weak to ask the hard questions to the Police Minister, it is not treated as the crisis it is.  It's not their fight, it's not their portfolio, they are that bystander that could do something but just retweets.  They end up using their authority to validate the police.  Opposition spokesperson Jacinda Ardern has already done that much in Select Committee with the Commissioner.  

They let them off under the impression that continuing a cover-up is necessary to maintain confidence in the police.  This tells something of the hollow credibility of the institution more than it does about the mentality of the politicians.  Rooting out corrupt practice is too difficult, too damaging, too dreary a task for politicians when it comes to anything fundamental.  Everyone plays nice and takes tea and studiously avoids conflict in these circles no matter what horrors or war crimes they may have perpetrated.  Some politicians may be antagonistic on the face of it, but the issues that exercise them are often epically petty.  On the hard cases though, like this present case, nobody wants that fight, and if there was a fight they would walk the other way, maybe without even a retweet of symbolic support.  NZ always does well on the corruption rankings because they measure perception not reality.

All the dodgy Waitemata D's have to do to make this go away is to do nothing.  All the politicians have to do is nothing.  All the IPCA has to do is take their normal 5-7 years to issue a report.  

It is Day 82 since the rape club was exposed on the evening news and 82 days of the NZ Police saying their actions and their videos are lawful and only 'morally wrong'.  This gang is legal as far as the cops are concerned - all the self-declared rapists are at-large.  'Safer communities together' in this instance - as in so many others - would be better achieved without the NZ Police.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Netzpolitiken: Party party be cray cray

Kim Dot Com's party is chaos.  It's an ego trip, an immigration/citizenship strategy, an extradition defence ploy, a business lobby, a revenge fantasy and it may even turn out to have some loose connection with politics.  The gravitational attraction of his millions has sent sorts off half-cocked, and cocks off half-sorted.  I have had nothing to do with any of it.

The story so far: Die Interneten Partei Neuseeland had not even been announced and Cameron Slater was trying to perform a political abortion live on the blogosphere armed with Martyn Bradbury's secret astrological star charts he had prepared for big Daddy, Billy Big steps.  The last minute delivery by Caesarian was carried out, once again, live on the blogosphere with Scoop's Alistair Thompson acting as midwife, shredding credibility in the messy circus it had become, unable to keep that many hats on his head at one time.  When multi-tasking goes wrong: the commercially precarious independent journalism lark is no match for a fat payday and a romp in the Dotcom mansion.  The ethical lapses in disclosure revealed so dramatically in the wake of Whaleoil's splash are the thin end of the corrupting influence of big money.

As for the party?  The Bradbury paper deserves a bit more credit than it has received, and his involvement as a lefty with the capitalist Kim Dotcom should not be surprising, nor is this inconsistent with his situation.  

Forming a broad front against National and Act is what the game is about in order to take government later on this year.  Kim Dotcom's party - being inherently based on his values of capitalism and freedom - will be bound to take votes off the right wing parties - more so than the soft fringe of the younger Greens, Labour and Mana.  Translating National votes into anti-National votes and therefore very likely pro-Left votes would be a master-stroke.  Motivating the elusive, non-voting youths never had such good prospects as an internet-based party resourced to the max by a larger than life internet guru cool enough to be wanted by the FBI.  That is sticking it to the man in the 21st century.
Running in the new electorate in Auckland that just happens to be in Kim Dotcom's hood is a given.  Auckland Central is an obvious one too, although Epsom was not mentioned, nor Peter Dunne's Wellington seat.  They only need a few to make an impact and rely on the mammoth task of pulling 5% with a nationwide campaign mainly online plus a tour bus. Well remunerated organisational professionals, IT for Africa, youthful enthusiasm and being this election's 'it' party will only carry them so far.  Without some name candidates in the target seats and on the list that live the brand, ie. are champions of freedom and technology, then the party will be over.  Opting for novice and non-partisan, non-ideological candidates would position them well, but too many from either left or right would assign them by association to one or other to their detriment.

Kim Dotcom's decision to cancel his party party that was serving as a combined album/party launch and birthday bash after the Electoral Commission expressed concern tells us he his most serious about this political vehicle.  It also speaks to his caution.  However from what has transpired so far I can't express much confidence they will be able to get their shit together or be able to keep it together until the election. Best of British to him.

Monday, January 13, 2014

TV Review

My TV review is posted up over at The Daily Blog.  This week on Border Patrol: No-one expects the Spanish Inquisition.
It seems – thanks to the evidence uncovered by TVNZ’s Border Patrol programme – that the molestation, profiling and general humiliation and harassment of travellers is what is to be expected at New Zealand’s border. The dignity of the person – once a cornerstone of international travel treaties has long since been submerged in the water-boarding tank of security paranoia. The traveller is expected to tolerate dogs randomly lunging and sniffing them and customs officers wantonly conducting intrusive searches and interrogation, and tests. Biosecurity becomes a weapon in the quest for revenue and panic. Infractions are plentiful, fines are punitive, enforcement is inflexible. What a pointlessly bitter, expensive start to so many people’s experience of the country: they haven’t been educated so much as they have been punished.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Between the flags

With summer comes the usual stupidity and carelessness around the water that is often fatal.  The surf lifesavers are promoted as being at the forefront of water safety, but that isn't really their purpose and it is not really why they exist.  They are sports clubs modelled on Australian lifeguards and their culture.  Their presence on surf beaches - which are dangerous and make for poor bathing or swimming - encourages novice swimmers to risk their lives.  Every life lost and injury incurred by people lured between the flags should be reported alongside the rescue stats - they are unnecessary casualties.  All so they can dress up and play the hero - which seems very much the point and motivation of the lifeguards.

Dozens of people have been rescued from the sea at beaches in northern New Zealand in the last week - including a woman who couldn't swim and two adults without lifejackets blown 2km offshore in a child's inflatable dinghy.
There were 63 rescues at 17 beaches from Raglan to the Far North between Monday and Thursday and on Saturday, according to Surf Life Saving New Zealand, which didn't have figures for Friday.
Evidence suggesting the life saving bit of life saving isn't really the overwhelming priority abound

The patrol seasons that end on Waitangi Day, as some do, just when the temperature is highest seem more about convenience than safety.  Patrols occur at the placid suburban beaches on Auckland's east coast that have never needed it.  A lot of time, effort and resources go into the sporting games aspect.  The life saver's station (itself typically built on a piece of stolen Maori land gifted by the local council for free) is a sports clubhouse used for socialising year round rather than a tent or a modest ambulance bay for the three to five months a year they actually operate.  Herding people around, telling people where to go and what to do and not to do - exercising control and authority - and generally being the traffic wardens of the beach constitutes much of their activity.  They have no powers, but that doesn't stop them acting as though they do, even if the most they can legally deliver is a self-righteous telling off.  Anyone watching the Piha Surf Rescue TV show will know they treat each rescue as an elaborate set-piece rehearsal for their sports competition (with the routine of getting the inflatable, racing down to the beach, through the waves and out to sea etc.) rather than just have kept the boat out beyond the breakers so they can respond immediately when the call comes.

Striking a pose and being a hero is what it is all about - that is the attraction.  Saving lives is the justification for everything, but when the whole enterprise is considered it is almost incidental to the social and cultural components of the club.  

Having said that the clubs are pretty much there for one reason: not to keep people safe in the water, as they claim, but to encourage people to go into inherently unsafe water.  As if a couple of flags on a wild, rip-prone surf beach and a wannabe David Hasslehoff up a tower makes it safe.  Would putting a pair of flags up on the motorway in summer between 9am and 6pm and having someone in yellow and red speedos sitting on the top of a roof overlooking the motorway who has their bicycle readied by the back gate make it safe for kids to go out and play across the lanes? People shouldn't try playing on the motorway and nor should they try swimming at a surf beach, there are many alternatives.