What Harre really wanted from TPPA questions

Yesterday I posted Some questions about the TPP from a post by Brendon Harre in which he said…

I have an open mind regarding international trade.

I am in favour of free trade reforms if the beneficiaries are spread throughout society.

I am not sure if the TPPA fits into the beneficial category for the ordinary person. I am not sure if trade and democracy are working together like they have in the past or against each other.

I have some questions -not just for the supporters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership but also to those that oppose it.

He has circulated this on left wing blogs were he has made what he wanted clearer.

At The Daily Blog:

It was directed at both sides. But I mainly want answers from the pro-TPP people because they have done such a poor job answering basic questions.

Some of anti-TPP people have also done a poor job of truthfully answering basic questions.

At The Standard:

I wrote an article about the TPP where it seems we may be in danger of losing important aspects of our democracy. Pro-TPP people have to give some pretty robust answers to some fundamental questions IMHO.

So it’s fairly clear where his TPP allegiances lie.

Are we really “in danger of losing important aspects of our democracy” with the TPP?

I haven’t seen any robust arguments in support of this claim. There seems to be little if anything in the agreement that impacts any more on our democracy than past international agreements.

Every international agreement can put some restriction on what New Zealand can do, but it’s a voluntary restriction that can be reversed if ever our democracy chooses to do so.

Before the TPP agreements was reached last year the anti-TPP warned of a range of specific potential problems.

After the text of the agreement was made public the opposition changed to general terms like anti-democracy and anti-sovereignty.

Brendon, it’s up to you and those who oppose the TPP to make robust arguments for the problems you allege.

In the absence of compelling arguments that our democracy will be compromised I assume there is nothing much we need to be concerned about.

Labour: ‘Say no to the TPPA’

Has Labour been convinced enough by Jane Kelsey and Lori Wallach that the US will not ratify the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement to swing to all out opposition to it, punting on it not going ahead anyway? If so what if the US pulls out but the rest of the countries go ahead?

Labour have now jumped on the petition bandwagon. Political petitions are not designed to achieve change, they can’t.

They are aimed at proving a level of support for a stance.

And they are a means of email address harvesting.

There’s at least one other anti-TPPA petition running. Splitting them will split the numbers to an extent, and due to the possibility (and probability) that some people will sign both petitions the number of signatures added together will be meaningless.

But this cements Labour’s definitive opposition to the TPPA.

Sign the petition: Say no to the TPPA

The TPPA undermines New Zealand’s sovereignty and is a threat to our democracy. National has overestimated the benefits to New Zealand and negotiated it in secrecy.

Under the TPPA:

  • Our Parliament would not be allowed to ban overseas speculators from buying up Kiwi homes. Other countries, including Australia, negotiated an exemption from this clause but National failed to do so for New Zealand.

  • Foreign corporations could sue the government over policy changes seen as affecting their businesses.

  • New Zealanders’ access to life-saving drugs could be restricted as our laws are tilted in favour of US pharmaceutical companies.

Labour cannot support the TPPA as it stands and will seek to renegotiate it in government to get a better deal for New Zealanders — one that doesn’t undermine our sovereignty.

Are you with us? Add your name.

The petition:

To John Key and Cabinet:

Protect the democratic rights of New Zealand citizens. The TPPA is an attack of New Zealand’s sovereignty and democracy. That’s something that should never be traded away.

Claiming “the TPPA is an attack of New Zealand’s sovereignty and democracy” is both strongly claimed and strongly disputed.

Current number of signatures: 15,786

 

US dysfunctional democracy

In what is claimed (by Americans) to be a beacon of democracy the US presidential selection process is as heavy on money as it is light on talent, which should be a real worry for the country that at least claims to be the most powerful in the world.

Mark Triffit, a lecturer on public policy at Melbourne University, writes ( original article published at  The Conversation, republished at NZH as US democracy trumps all as a dysfunctional disgrace):

As the rest of the world looks upon America’s 2016 presidential race and what has become a disgrace of a democratic system, its bewilderment can be organised around a series of hows and whys.

How can a political and policy freak show like Donald Trump become a serious contender for the job America touts as “leader of the free world”?

Why has the democratic “competition of ideas” become so degraded that Trump’s thought bubble to ban more than 20 per cent of the world’s population (Muslims) from entering America has passed relatively unimpeded into mainstream policy debate?

More broadly, how can the race for America’s top job be so short on facts and logic that nearly every leading 2016 presidential candidate is uttering outright lies, mostly false statements or half-truths at least half the time they open their mouths?

Why will it take nearly US$2 billion in campaign funding to win this year’s presidential race and lead a country founded on the idea that “anyone can become president”?

Because that’s what it now takes to fund a circus that has more clowns than potential ringmasters.

Questions such as these go on and on. Separately and collectively, they speak to the absence of the bare bones of a fair, free and moderate democratic system.

The US democratic system has been corrupted by too much money and too little talent.

The dwindling ranks of those who line up to defend America’s system are able to do so only if they view it through a prism of its lofty 18th-century ideals, rather than 21st-century realities. They typically counter critiques with one or more of the following three arguments.

First, there have always been demagogues, money politics and lies in politics. What is occurring in America today is just a variation of these age-old themes.

Yet everyone else, including many ordinary Americans, recognises America’s political system has crossed into a new era of extreme dysfunctionality and inequity. After all, has not a tipping point been reached when the US Congress becomes such a warzone of hyper-partisanship that its current legislators are themost unproductive on record?

Aren’t we seeing money politics played out on a cosmic scale when corporate interests spend US$2.6 billion per year to twist what little legislation is passed in Congress to their own ends?

A second argument is that the antics of a Donald Trump are needed to shake up a complacent political class and raise issues that better mirror public opinion.

But that begs another question. Has the American political system fallen so low that it requires a massive injection of anti-democratic behaviour to make it more “democratic”?

The third line of defence is the claim that beneath the mess that is presidential and congressional politics lies a vibrant sea of local and state-based democracy. More than 500,000 public positions are contested via grassroots elections.

The reality, however, is the fish is rotting from the head down.

With no sign of a remedy.

The proportion of US citizens who trust government is down to less than one in five.

American democracy’s legitimacy crisis is even worse among young Americans. They have been deeply disengaged from what they view as a highly combative, negative and self-serving system. They hardly ever discuss politics, let alone think of pursuing a political career in any shape or form.

This raises the real prospect that increasingly more of America’s democratically elected positions will become less contested.

Similar to here in New Zealand but on a much larger, more powerful and more worrying scale.

Alternatively, they will be captured by the same ideologues and extreme activists who now dominate and distort the national political and policy scene.

That doesn’t seem to be a risk here, at present at least. The extremists where soundly rejected in last year’s election.

The big irony in the massive decline in the quality of America’s democratic governance over the past two decades is this: it has coincided with a period in which the US has aggressively stepped up its efforts to promote and embed this same system around the world.

Th Us certainly isn’t a great advertisement for functional democracy.

Many liberal democracies across the Western world are suffering deep-seated ills as their institutions and practices fail to keep up with the 21st-century world. Yet the US has become the outlier of Western democratic dysfunction.

Any assertion it continues to be a beacon for democracy is surpassed only by Trump’s most fantastical claims.

New Zealand has advantages of being small enough and close enough to ordinary people, and of not being reliant on big money to get elected. And being relatively un-corrupt.

But our international power and influence is very small. We can do little but look on with concern at the increasingly dysfunctional US democracy.

Revolution in Switzerland?

An op-ed from Sam Gerrans has been getting a bit of attention – Switzerland: Poised for a revolution?

When Iceland jailed its bankers something changed. The unthinkable had happened: the real criminals had been held to account. Now Switzerland is also threatening to go off the fiat-bankster reservation. But will it happen?

In an article entitled “Switzerland to vote on banning banks from creating money” the Telegraph reports: “Switzerland will hold a referendum to decide whether to ban commercial banks from creating money.

The Swiss federal government confirmed on Thursday that it would hold a plebiscite, after more than 110,000 people signed a petition calling for the central bank to be given sole power to create money in the financial system.

The campaign – led by the Swiss Sovereign Money movement and known as the Vollgeld initiative – is designed to limit financial speculation by requiring private banks to hold 100pc reserves against their deposits.

This sounds incredibly dull, doesn’t it? But the idea behind it is what revolutions are made of.

The article continues: “Banks won’t be able to create money for themselves any more, they’ll only be able to lend money that they have from savers or other banks, said the campaign group.”

I’ll repeat that bit: they’ll only be able to lend money that they have from savers or other banks.

That’s probably what you think banks do: lend money they acquire from savers or other banks.

But no! They are busy creating money (albeit by a circuitous route); that is, they are busy magicking that thing the rest of us spend our lives working so hard to obtain – money – into existence. They do it by means of the creation of an imaginary thing called debt. We then undertake to pay these fictional notions back, and do so with interest.

Not only is this outright fraud and theft against the poor sap who signed the original credit agreement, it also debases the value of every single unit of the currency in which the transaction takes place.

Put in business terms, it is equivalent to printing more shares.

The article continues: “The SNB (Swiss National Bank) was established in 1891, with exclusive power to mint coins and issue Swiss banknotes.

However, over 90 percent of money in circulation in Switzerland now exists in the form of “electronic” cash created by private banks, rather than the central bank.

‘Due to the emergence of electronic payment transactions, banks have regained the opportunity to create their own money,’ said the Swiss Sovereign Money campaign.

‘The decision taken by the people in 1891 has fallen into oblivion.’

That is correct: if we had access to the same computer terminals the banks have, we could magic in or out of existence all the imaginary stuff we are trained to think of as important – money – in whatever quantities we liked.

This is how it works: when they print quite a lot of this stuff there is a boom. When they print too much of it, there is inflation (actually, the printing of money is inflation). When they stop printing it or simply hold on to it, there is a depression.

As long as the people keep slaving away and let the bankers give them pieces of paper or blips on a computer screen in exchange for their blood, sweat and tears, everything is fine.

But if a nation begins to wake up to the con and starts pushing back it is visited by a color revolution, cultural invasion, or simply bombed back into the Stone Age.

That’s it. You now understand economics.

Maybe.

Now back to the prospective plebiscite in Switzerland.

I am skeptical that this duck will get airborne without being shot down. The democracy the Swiss think they have is a pleasant enough fiction, but I am sure it will never be allowed to interfere with business.

And if we read the article carefully, it does say that the central bank should be given sole right to create money. This would essentially leave the creation of money in the same hands as those who control the Federal Reserve or the Bank of England rather than allow them to farm out the process. But at least it shows that people are beginning to wake up to where the true power lies.

In the unlikely event that this grass-roots movement in Switzerland should get its way and its proposed legislation be enacted, and then begin to morph into something which really does threaten the banking elite, we must not be surprised if Switzerland is shortly discovered to be harboring weapons of mass destruction, or to have masterminded 9/11, or to be financing Islamic State.

Yes, we will need to brace ourselves to be educated by a Western media unanimous in pointing out the connections to be made between the production of precision watches, pavements so clean you can eat your lunch off them, and the evil of an irrational hatred of freedom – one with roots in a culture which tacitly supports jihad against all non-eaters of expensive confectionery.

Freedom. You’ve got to love it!

Here’s something else from Gerrans, from eleven years ago:

I don’t believe in democracy. In some liberal circles this makes me a heretic who should be shot.

I suggest that – internal squabbles notwithstanding – the strong and powerful do more or less what they want, and the rest is just PR. This view is unflattering to the rabbits caught in the headlights of Democratic rhetoric, but I can’t help that. Still, happily for me, as things get worse in the Middle East, the liberals will find it increasingly difficult to justify their worldview to themselves. It’s small comfort in the circumstances, but it’s something.

Democracy’s key attraction for those who truly wield power is the fact that widespread belief that we are free is a cost-efficient means of control. But democracy is not and never has been Freedom; merely dictatorship-lite. And now the Totalitarian infrastructure is in place our rulers can opt to dispense with the spin.

Democracy will, of course, cling to its touchy-feely slogans for as long as it is expedient. But since the real U.S. game plan is to ratchet up the stakes in the Middle East to the level of war necessary to complete the project for Greater Israel – from the Nile to the Euphrates – and since the history of the last hundred years shows that no sacrifice to this end is too great, don’t be surprised if our rulers drop the pretence that this is anything but a good old fashioned massacre and start levelling whole Iraqi cities.

My point here is not to draw moral conclusions. I have my opinion of course. But, for me, the bottom line is this: The strong and the sneaky do what they do and the rest of us need to decide what – if anything – we are going to do about it.

Just don’t wave the democracy dogma in my face because I don’t believe in it.

So shoot me.

 

The struggle for integrity in politics

Bryce Edwards has another political roundup, this time examining the state of democracy and integrity in politics.

Political roundup: the struggle for integrity

Some soul searching about the state of democracy and transparency in New Zealand public life is warranted at the end of the year. Bryce Edwards looks back at the struggle for integrity in politics in 2015. 

The integrity of governance of any society is dependent on numerous pillars that hold up democracy. Akin to an old roman temple, important institutions such as the Official Information Act, public servants and watchdogs act as the foundations of a corruption-free society.

But in 2015 it became apparent that some of the pillars of New Zealand’s governing arrangements have eroded, making democracy less stable. There have been apparent failings in the OIA regime, transparency of Government ministers and departments, murky deals struck and clampdowns on attempts to get accountability.

It’s a long read with many links to further articles and posts.

It covers:

  • Tightening elite control over information
  • The OIA “Game of Hide and Seek”
  • Taxpayer-funded politicisation
  • Cronyism in government
  • Risks of corruption in New Zealand
  • Government efforts against corruption
  • Saudi Sheep scandal rolls on
  • Erosion of public information

 

 

Gareth Hughes calls democracy into question

Green MP Gareth Hughes has called our democractic process into question because his flag choice got one tenth of the votes of the favoured designs.

Hughes was a stong promoter of the Red Peak design, being instrumental in having it added belatedly to the ballot. It got about one tenth of the votes of the two Lockwood silver fern/southern cross designs.

Now he wants the public to vote to keep the current flag.

NZ Herald reports: Green Party MP Gareth Hughes not giving up on Red Peak.

Hughes believed the Red Peak design will continue to grow in popularity and it is still a viable option to become the new national flag of New Zealand.

Does that mean he will campaign for the olf flag in the referendum, in the hope that in twenty years Red Peak will be still around and will replace it?

“Half of the people did not bother to vote in the referendum, anyway, which means the whole existing process has to be called into question,” he said. “Red Peak still has a strong future.”

Hughes calls into question a referendum where one and a half million people voted?

1,127,191 people voted for a Lockwood silver fern/southern cross design.

A similar number – 1,131,501 – voted for National in the last general election. Does Hughes call into question whether National should be in Government?

In comparison 119,672 voted for Red Peak.

Hughes seems to be calling into question democratic votes that don’t match his preference, no matter how small a minority it is.

Ben Rachinger speaks again

Ben rachinger has kept popping up from time to time thrioughtout the year. He popped up here in Whale Oil jumping the Rawshark yesterday

This prompted quite a bit of reaction and discussion. Some tried to discredit Ben, some tried to shut him up, while some tried to push him into revealing things he was unwilling to talk about. Some did all three in various ways.

Here are some of the things Ben wanted to talk about.

I am not Rawshark. Always wanted to be an independent investigative journalist and to an extent I’ve done some good digging in all this. However I’m a young guy with my own upbringing and shortcomings. Those have long been on display.

The reason I’m here on this site now commenting is that I believe if you are going to be politically tribal, you police your own. Rawshark et al should be policed by their own – that didn’t happen. Slater et al should have been policed by their own – that didn’t happen.

So where does this leave us? It boggles the mind.

And:

Due to the nature of the digital skills of the hacker we can only really find out the identity of the hacker from Mr Hager. Hager has stated he met the hacker and knows his identity. No amount of digging can provide info that isn’t there. Whether I was right or not with my initial musings means little.

This is really internecine political warfare writ large. I’ve done my time on both the Left and the Right. Neither is truly for the people in my opinion. So possibly what needs to happen is the writing of a book/story that is balanced and shines the light on all the players involved.

And:

For myself, my ‘Moment of Truth’ was when Hager didn’t provide the details on the journalists who had been working with Mr Slater. To decide that one is a god, in a way, and to control the destiny of the media or a political faction is something that no one person should ever aspire to or want.

That’s the root problem here. Each side has, in their own and distinct ways, tried to play God with our system of governance. The clusterfuck that this represents, in that no side is clean or clear, has only exacerbated the general publics dislike of the political scene.

That is the issue. Instead of a new flag? We should look at what our democracy really is. Who we vote for. How they work. What tactics they use. Examination of their agendas and motives is both enlightening and disheartening. Because truly, we have no champions. Just bad and worse self-styled ‘liberators’.

And:

I’m of the opinion that the identity of RS is a straw man for all of us. We are missing the point. The point is A) whom was involved in the hack and for what motives.. And B) Do we want what Mr Slater is alleged to have done with XYZ people to go unchallenged? I’m of the mind that both are important points but very difficult to balance in your mind unless you’re independent. Mr Hager will end up naming Rawshark or he won’t. But his relationship with Rawshark and the how/why/where and whom is not my story to tell.

Ben has had a chequered short history online but I think there’s some important issues raised here that haven’t been given enough attention, in particular the abuse of power, the abuse of democracy, and the abuse of journalism.

Please in comments stick to the issues raised in these comments, peripheral issues have had plenty of airing on other threads.

How to improve our democracy

I have some ideas on how to improve our democracy, apart providing an open non-partisan robust environment to discuss things here, but what do you think?

PartisanZ prompted a discussion on this here.

New Zealand elections are largely won and lost on the perceived capabilities and likeability of party leaders.

The media have got a lot to answer for – it makes it easier for them to concentrate on leader versus leader and they llike to ignore who they don’t think has any chance – a self-fullfilling agenda – but there is no easy solution to this.

Most of those active in politics outside the media have no inclination to enhance democracy, they only want to enhance their own chances.

That will only change if people promote alternatives.

I have one particular idea that i think will help but I’d like to hear other ideas.

Peters bigger than democracy?

The prospect of power seems to be going to Winston Peters head.

It’s good, even essential, for politicians to be ambitious. It’ doesn’t look so good when they appear to put themselves above democracy.

3 News reported: Peters: NZ First will decide 2017 election

At a glance that looks like a poor headline. Up until now voters have decided elections.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says he will be more powerful than ever by the next election and will decide the next government.

Obviously Peters wants to hold the balance of power after the election and play National off against Labour, trying to use more power than the voters have given him. He may think he is due more power after the voters left him fairly powerless after the last three elections. But i a democracy parties don’t accumulate power credits that they call on in one hit.

Mr Peters’ first job of the day was to hurl criticisms at the media – “your polls are crap”, “stop this nonsense” and “you ask some stupid questions”.

And yet the media keep flocking to feed the beast.

Mr Peters also launched an attack on the Greens, saying it cost the Left last year’s election by attacking Labour, adding the Greens will be irrelevant by 2017.

His memory is different to mine. The Greens wanted to work closely in the campaign with Labour and look like a united option for Government, and Labour turned up their nose at that.

Internet-Mana scared voters away from the left.

While some vote for NZ First to stick one up National the fear of Peters overplaying power almost handed National a majority on their own.

But the biggest culprit of the Left losing last year was Labour.

“Every Green voter knows they can’t make it,” says Mr Peters.

That’s stupid talk. I think in general Green voters have more passion and belief than others – especially Winston voters.

“I expect us to do better than we’ve ever done before by miles.”

Votes are earned, not expected. It looks like Peters’ success in Northland has gone to his head.

Mr Peters also vowed to grow the party membership by more than 10,000 members, or he’ll resign. Moments later, he did a dramatic U-turn, claiming he didn’t say that.

“Maybe I didn’t hear it properly.”

He seems to only hear what he wants to hear. Maybe he didn’t think it through before making a rash promise.

Politicians need to be ambitious, but if they look too cocky, if they look like they want to overplay the power that voters give them, and if they make claims that they don’t mean then it can make enough voters wary to cause an electoral backlash.

Peters will be loving all the attention he gets at his party’s conference, but that looks like it’s going to his head and over inflating an already large ego.

One of Peters’ aims is to out-poll the Greens to give him more coalition negotiating power than the Greens.

Greens co-leader James Shaw tweeted: “Dreams are free.”

“James has been in the game five minutes,” says Mr Peters.

And Peters would hate to have to play second fiddle to a five minute leader.

Another of Peters’ aims will be to be in a position to play National off against Labour. If National and Labour end up close, within a few percent, then Peters may get away with it.

But if National retain a healthy margin over Labour and Peters negotiates baubles of power with Labour over National – and Labour will be more desperate to lead the next Government, then whatever gains NZ First might make this term will probably evaporate, and then some.

If Peters loses credibility again, alongside Labour, then it risks being a one term Government and if that happens it would likely be the end of Peters political career, effectively if not actually.

One thing is certain – there will be many more things in play than Winston Peters come the 2017 election. One thing will be Peters having to divide his attention between holding his Northland electorate and campaigning nationally.

Then there will be how well National weather their third term, whether Andrew Little and Labour manage to look competent, whether Colin Craig is silly enough to through a few more million dollars at an ambition that is now surely futile, whether a hacker feeds Nicky Hager ammunition for another campaign impacting book, whether Kiwis embrace the idea of a new flag identity, and other things we don’t know about yet.

Much of Peters’ success is being seen as anti-power, the maverick fighting against powerful odds.

If Winston promotes power hunger and power monger to much it could backfire on him and New Zealand First.

Democracy has a way of dealing to politicians who play power above the people’s preference.

Shameful Labour campaign against referendums

LabourAgainstReferendumsFlyingYesterday Andrew Little upped Labour’s campaign against the flag referendums by launching a petty, cynical, shameful website trying to sabotage the flag change referendums. Putting petty politics before the people’s choice.

Shameful

I’m usually fairly easy going with what happens in our politics, but this Labour campaign against a fundamental democratic process is really annoying me. I think it’s disgraceful, despicable. Little is shitting on New Zealand democracy by campaigning against something both he and Labour have previously supported.

They are putting petty politics ahead of giving New Zealanders what will probably be a once in a lifetime choice on our flag and our national identity.

Here is Labour’s anti-democracy anti-flag referendum website.

LabourFlagCampaignThat site is asking for names and addresses and for people to join Labour in opposing the flag referendums, opposing democracy in action, opposing what their policy supports – see Labour still campaigning against it’s own flag policy.

So I won’t be submitting any suggestions. But something I would like money spent on is a decent opposition, one that doesn’t oppose things out of spite, one that doesn’t put trying to score cheap political points ahead of people voting.

How much would it cost for an Opposition that doesn’t shit on our democracy?

How low can Labour and Andrew Little go?

Last week they dumped on Chinese New Zealanders.

This week they are dumping on our democracy, dumping on all New Zealanders.

Shameful.

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