How religious is your neighbourhood?

NZ Herald has a nifty interactive map that you can drill down into to see how religious your neighbourhood is.

See the oddly (and possibly inaccurately) headlined God and money: Interactive map shows rich suburbs have most atheists.

A Herald interactive map, based on 2013 Census data and the New Zealand Deprivation Index, shows that religious New Zealanders live mainly in poor suburbs, with rich Kiwis increasingly turning their backs on God and religion.

The number of Christians decreased to 1,906,398 (48.9 per cent of people with religious affiliation) from 2,082,942 (55.6 per cent) in 2006.

Zooming into Dunedin and drilling down into my own area I get:

Area Unit – Ravensbourne
Deprivation Index: 5
% No Religion: 52.7
% Christian: 37.1
% Hindu: 1
% Buddhist: 1
% Muslim: 0.5
% Jewish: 0.3
% New Age: 0.8
Total people stated: 1155

It looks like I’m relatively deprived of neighbourhood bible bashers (and quiet believers).

One of the poorer areas of Dunedin:

Area Unit – St Kilda Central
Deprivation Index: 9
% No Religion: 47.3
% Christian: 46.8
% Hindu: 0.4
% Buddhist: 1.1
% Muslim: 0.2
% Jewish: 0.2
% New Age: 0.8
Total people stated: 1578

But this proves the deprivation theory wrong:

Area Unit – Vauxhall
Deprivation Index: 1
% No Religion: 43.7
% Christian: 50.6
% Hindu: 0.6
% Buddhist: 1.3
% Muslim: 0.6
% Jewish: 0.1
% New Age: 0.5
Total people stated: 3699

And also in Invercargill:

Area Unit – Waianiwa
Deprivation Index: 2
% No Religion: 42.2
% Christian: 54.7
% Hindu: 0.5
% Buddhist: 0.2
% Muslim: 0
% Jewish: 0.3
% New Age: 0
Total people stated: 1842

The Herald probably didn’t test their theory south of the Bombay Hills.

Nor in Auckland properly:

Area Unit – Herne Bay
Deprivation Index: 1
% No Religion: 46.8
% Christian: 48.5
% Hindu: 0.8
% Buddhist: 0.9
% Muslim: 0.2
% Jewish: 1
% New Age: 0.3
Total people stated: 2592

Area Unit – Waiata (includes Remuera)
Deprivation Index: 1
% No Religion: 31.6
% Christian: 61.7
% Hindu: 1.2
% Buddhist: 2.2
% Muslim: 0.4
% Jewish: 0.9
% New Age: 0.1
Total people stated: 4068

Would no flag be better?

It was suggested here recently in Flag consideration or pissy political pointscoring? that we shouldn’t have a flag at all. Lynn Prentice:

Have you ever actually thought through what a national flag is and the reasons for having it in the first place? Care to explain why it is a good idea for a nation to have one?

The functional reasons for their existence have long since past for technical reasons. Now they just seem to be held on to by people who substitute them for thinking. You are a good case in point.

He was wrong there. It got me thinking. Do we need a flag? It’s worth considering that in the change of flag debate.

I wrote about why I didn’t think we should have a flag at all back in March in this post “On the flag – lets not have one“.

And from that post:

My  question is “Why have a damn flag at all?”.

I can understand the logic in history for them. They were battle standards in the days when the battlefield was a standup with little guile and a need for visual communications. But in the types of battle that have been common over the past century, sticking a flag up just helped to provide the enemy with points to aim at – with grenade launchers, artillery, and airstrikes.

Having flags on the battlefield has long been out of favour. Certainly we trained for in my army time nearly 40 years ago and I haven’t seen them in any realistic military training since.

Later they became “national” flags when the politicians of the day wanted people to turn off their brains and become “patriotic”. This appears to be the main use that John Key and his minions have for it, mostly as it relates to sport.

One thing that I am quite proud of in our kiwi culture is our relative lack of a conditioned patriotic knee jerk reflex. We don’t wander around like other cultures saluting some linen each day as children as part of a state operant conditioning process. This is a good thing because it means that as a culture we are far more mature about when and how we get into conflict.

Our relative lack of flag induced stupidity is quite distinctive when you run into other cultures. And it has probably saved us from a lot of aggravation in my lifetime.

You only have to look at the military and diplomatic messes over the last century that the USA with its obsessive flag saluting culture has managed to produce to see the downstream effects of that. But in our history, my great grandparents had such an obsessive flag culture and ran headlong into the machine grinder of the first world war.

The lack of a conditioned flag bearing culture in NZ has a lot to do with our currently evolving culture.

These days about the only place that a flag really has use in our culture is in sport. Based on friends who are addicted to being armchair activists for this cause, raising a flag appears to be used as a signal for some suspension of realistic expectations. Just as going into a darkened room at the cinema is a signal for a similar suspension of disbelief. But any kind of symbol is useful for that. I’d suggest that the haka is a much more satisfactory and relevant one.

Sure, a flag has symbolic power. That doesn’t mean that we should allow people to exploit that. As far as I am concerned it appears to be a signal for the onset of collective stupidity. Apart from cynical moneyman manipulators like John Key – why would we want that?

I don’t define myself by a flag, and I know bugger all kiwis who do. Given a choice, I’d vote for not having a state flag at all. Lets see how our culture evolves with that. But I sure as hell can’t see why changing our flag at the forced behest of John Key has anything to do with our culture and society.

If we don’t get that choice, then just vote against changing the flag. The old one is kind of boring. Lets hope that its relevance will continue to wither away over time.

Why have a damn flag at all?

Some people seem to like waving them and flying them. Some people like to fly them at half mast in respect. Some countries like to be differentiated at international meetings and events. Some gold medal winners like to see them raised.

Just about every country has a flag. I see very few people saying they don’t want a flag.

But it would certainly be different having no flag. Would no flag make New Zealand stand out more than all the traditionally flagged countries?

It’s at least worth discussing as an option.

Perhaps we could have a Clayton’s flag, a clear plastic flag with nothing on it. That would be different.

Flag consideration or pissy political pointscoring?

It hasn’t taken long for the flag discussion process to be ambushed by pissy political point scoring.

This could be the only chance in a generation – or in a lifetime – to consider alternatives to our current flag and decide whether as a country we want to change or not.

I think the approach taken by the Stand For website is a bit strange, they seem to be trying to do more than just consider a flag change.

But to attack it as a way of attacking John Key because he instigated the process shows how childish and petty our politics can be.

And The Standard is promoting the pettiness as if it’s a win against Key and National.

Standfornz – when social media goes bad

The site www.standfor.co.nz is supposed to get us all excited about the flag distraction:

“Before our country decides which flag we’ll stand for, we want to know what you stand for”

It’s not turning out the way the Nats intended.

And the comments show that a number of blog participants don’t respect democratic process or serious debate about a serious issue.

Sad to see individuals doing this.

It says a lot about the gravitas of New Zealand’s main Labour left blog for them to be promoting this.

And they will probably be amongst the quickest and loudest to complain if a new flag is chosen that they don’t like.

UPDATE: surprise surprise – lprent is against any flag change so is against any sensible debate about it.

Who cares. A flag is a meaningless cloth to me both as a citizen and an ex-soldier. I’m usually pretty proud to be a New Zealander. I don’t need some manky cloth to remind me of that.

And:

Tell me what the point of having a flag at all is again?

I can’t see any point nor reason to change it. Certainly the idiots promoting it have yet to make a single argument for having either a flag at all (see my post on that) or a change in the design.

We aren’t changing constitution. So what are we doing this for?

As far as I can see, only because John Key has such a pitiful track record that he wants to charge everyone for a face saving exit.

That’s how dire our political discourse has become.

Passive progress on medical cannabis

There is passive progress on the legal use of medical cannabis – Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has said he would consider allowing it’s use in New Zealand.

If medical cannabis is effective Dunne will back it

The Government is currently reviewing national drug policy and laws and while Mr Dunne won’t support legalising recreational use he is taking a wait and see approach on medicinal marijuana.

He wants proof of extensive, approved testing processes and says it depends entirely on whether it’s effective.

Three state governments in Australia are taking a more active approach to investigating it’s use.

Queensland and Victoria join New South Wales on medical cannabis trials

ABC news reports that medical cannabis trials are being supported by three states in Australia. The Queensland and Victorian state governments have joined forces with New South Wales to take part in medicinal cannabis clinical trials. The NSW Government introduced the scientific trials last year to help treat patients with drug-resistant and uncontrollable epilepsy.

But the lack of research is a problem.

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that while cannabinoids may have potential as therapy for a number of medical conditions, they do not recommend their use until more research can be done.

It may seem incomprehensible that a plant that has been used for millennia for medicinal purposes has had insufficient research done on it’s effectiveness and it’s negative effects. There has been some formal research:

The Institute of Medicine, run by the United States National Academy of Sciences, conducted a comprehensive study in 1999 assessing the potential health benefits of cannabis and its constituent cannabinoids. The study concluded that smoking cannabis is not to be recommended for the treatment of any disease condition, but that nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety can all be mitigated by cannabis.

While the study expressed reservations about smoked cannabis due to the health risks associated with smoking, the study team concluded that until another mode of ingestion was perfected providing the same relief as smoked cannabis, there was no alternative.

More recently:

Citing “the dangers of cannabis and the lack of clinical research supporting its medicinal value” the American Society of Addiction Medicine in March 2011 issued a white paper recommending a halt on use of marijuana as medication in the U.S., even in states where it had been declared legal.

There’s a reason for a lack of large pharma commercial interest:

The study pointed out the inherent difficulty in marketing a non-patentable herb, as pharmaceutical companies will likely make smaller investments in product development if the result is not patentable.

So the problem is money – or rather a lack of money-making potential. That’s a sad reality of modern medicine.

A 2013 literature review found that exposure to marijuana had biologically-based physical, mental, behavioral and social health consequences and was “associated with diseases of the liver (particularly with co-existing hepatitis C), lungs, heart, and vasculature”.

There is insufficient data to draw strong conclusions about the safety of medical cannabis, although short-term use is associated with minor adverse effects such as dizziness. Although supporters of medical cannabis say that it is safe,[32] further research is required to assess the long-term safety of its use.

The opinion of the Food and Drug Administration and many scientists is that some of the many different cannabionoids included in cannabis can have medical value, but not as smoked cannabis and only with controlled and careful prescription and the same testing for safety and effect as other approved drugs, a process that normally takes about 10 to 15 years from start to commercial product.

So Government caution seems to be justified.

“About 10 to 15 years” sounds like a frustrating time period for people suffering now who want drug treatments readily and legally available.

It’s possible that there’s enough research already been done to shorten this period substantially. But it’s tough on people who want something now.

Passive progress offers paltry hope for people desperate for legal medical relief (which incidentally would at least be safer than self administering by smoking pot).

Majority support anti-ISIS troop deployment

The Government is backed by majority sentiment with the deployment of a small number of troops in Iraq, according to a Herald-Digipoll survey.

On the decision to deploy troops in Iraq:

  • Agree 57%
  • Disagree 34%

(the poll wording was not given)

More men (two thirds) agreed than women (47%).

The poll of 750 eligible voters was taken in the lead-up to Anzac Day when there were arrests in Australia of a group suspected of planning terror attacks for Anzac Day. There was also coverage in New Zealand of Kiwi jihadist Mark Taylor’s YouTube clip urging Islamic State sympathisers here to target Anzac Day celebrations.

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said those were possible factors in the poll. He believed it showed people were increasingly realising New Zealand was not isolated from the threat posed by Isis.

The deployment was opposed by Labour and Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman David Shearer said he believed New Zealanders were more evenly split than the poll suggested.

How would Shearer believe he knows better than the poll?

The Herald-DigiPoll survey of 750 eligible voters was taken from April 17-26 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.6 per cent.

Source: Kiwis back NZ troops’ Iraq role

Changing flags of the Commonwealth

In Lochore: Give flag vote a chance the NZ Herald has an interesting picture of how flags have changed in the British Commonwealth as countries have become more independent.

flagscommonwealth

Only four out of twenty countries have retained their old flags.

New Zealand’s flag change process is getting interest back in the ‘old country’, the BBC report on How should New Zealand choose a new flag?

It’s a vexillologist’s dream. New Zealand has kicked off a public consultation amid a debate on changing its flag. But where should the nation draw its inspiration from?

When it comes to flag changes countries have often turned to symbols from nature and indigenous heritage, but politics is always and inevitably part of the formula.

PM John Key first mooted the change last year and called for dropping the Union Jack as it represents the country’s colonial era “whose time has passed”. He also complained that New Zealand’s flag looks too much like Australia’s.

Key has complained. Like in Flag needs to ‘scream NZ': John Key.

“It’s just sheer confusion with Australia. Even at APEC [in China last month] they tried to take me to [Australian Prime Minister Tony] Abbott’s seat.”

We don’t want to follow the Aussies, we should lead them in flag distinction.

Should children have a say on a new flag?

The Justice and Electoral select committee started hearing from submitters on Thursday about the flag change referendum process and their views on whether a new flag is needed.

From what I saw reported most submissions were just people’s opinion on whether there should be a flag change or not, or whether there should be one referendum or two.

But one submission stood out for suggesting a thought promoting idea – should kids have a say in their flag? Stuff reports: MPs told to give children a vote on the flag.

Michael Gibson told MPs that all school-age children should be given the vote and be involved in the decision-making process.

Internationally New Zealand would be recognised as “not only the first country to give women the vote but also the first country to give children the vote”.

Gibson said giving children aged 5 and over a vote on the flag referendum would be “giving a vote to those who will be living the longest with the consequences”.

“By being involved in the decision-making process school children would feel empowered. The important subject of social studies will be boosted and have even more meaning,” he said.

“To choose between four pictures might have the merit of getting the input of people who simply like the simplest and most attractive picture.”

Gibson disagreed that “pressure groups” would be waving banners and flags outside of schools and ruled it out as a problem.

This is an interesting idea and is worth thinking about and discussing.

lt’s a discussion younger people could easily contribute to. It’s their flag and it’s their country – and they will have to live with the status quo or any change longer than us adults.

Why shouldn’t children have a say? At least secondary aged children.

Eighteen years olds will get to vote in the referendums anyway. Why not their fellow school pupils?

It should at least be seriously considered.

Could be New Zealand

Fisher defends spying ‘revelations’

Senior journalist David Fisher tries to defend the Herald’s ongoing spying revelations – providing a forum for Nicky Hager – in David Fisher: Spying – does the nation need to know?

This suggests the Herald is sensitive to criticisms. The latest spying on China article from Hager How NZ and US agents plotted to spy on China didn’t actually reveal spying on China, just ‘a plot’ or plans to possible spy on China.

Fisher opens by stating the obvious:

It would be surprising if our intelligence agencies were not spying on China in some way.

‘Spying’ is a bit of a loaded statement. It could mean as little as keeping an eye out for information of interest.

And Fisher acknowledges that it can be done legally.

By law there is a path cleared for the GCSB and SIS to carry out intelligence gathering on foreign states. There are even legal exceptions which would allow the sort of “data link” exploit planned for two Chinese government offices in Auckland, revealed in documents obtained by Edward Snowden.

The law also says such intelligence gathering must be to support the “national security of New Zealand”, the “international relations and well-being of New Zealand” and “the economic well-being of New Zealand”.

He then targets what may be the crux of the issue.

The issue which does arise is our motivations for doing so – and whether those are purely New Zealand’s motivations.

And then homes in on the target of concern.

A National Security Agency document, among other material taken by Snowden, states that the GCSB “continues to be especially helpful in its ability to provide NSA ready access to areas and countries that are difficult for the United States to access”.

In essence, our relationship with China is of use to the US and allows New Zealand to operate as a Trojan Horse – or even Trojan Kiwi – for NSA intelligence gathering efforts.

Five Eyes involves three other countries, the UK, Canada and Australia.

Helping Australia or Canada with their intelligence gathering wouldn’t cause so much concern, but in a co-operative arrangement we could just as easily be helping them as the US.

The Snowden/Hager series of ‘revelations’ appear to be targeting the USA, seeing any ‘intelligence’ involvement with them as bad.

We should certainly be interested in our relationships with the US, with China as with other countries.

I’m not sure that Hager reports are the best way to do this.

New Zealand has its own inquiry to come. United Future Peter Dunne voted for the new GCSB Act secure in the knowledge he had won from Mr Key a regular inquiry into the activities of the security agencies, the first due to begin prior to the end of June 2015.

Presumably the inquiry will see New Zealand talking about the activities of its security agencies.

As a forum, its a good place to answer the question about our Trojan Kiwi spying on China.

Yes this inquiry will be a good place to examine our intelligence relationships and operations (as much as they can be discussed openly).

But Fisher suggests he has a common agenda with Hager with a loaded “Trojan Kiwi spying on China” description. The inquiry should consider much more than one arm of much wider co-operation.

If the nation is making trade-offs, does the nation need to know?

Nations always make trade-offs. It’s sometimes called called diplomacy.

I’d be interested to know if we gain as much as we give in the Five Eyes relationship. Hager and Fisher could do well to consider all the pros and cons. New Zealand may gain significant benefits as well as risk falling out with trading partners.

Otherwise they risk being seen as little more than anti-American.

RSA reponse to criticism of their flag campaign

The RSA are confident they have ” the NZ public behind us” in their campaign to retain the current New Zealand flag – but not confident enough to risk the people actually deciding via a sound democratic process. After posting RSA opposes flag change, opposes democratic process I tweeted:

Sad to see @RSA_National actively campaigning against democratic process.

The RSA responded:

We’re all for democratic discussion. We think Govt should hold 1 referendum to ask NZ if they want a change.

They want one referendum because they think that will get them the result they want. Fair enough. But why do they not want to explore possible alternatives to the flag and give people a choice between the best of the rest and the current flag? Presumably because they don’t want change. They want to minimise choice to improve the chances of retaining what they want. I also tweeted:

And unless it can be substantiated claiming just “one or two” in the @RSA_National support flag change insults members.

@RSA_National responded:

Sorry – not our intent. But we are confident we have the support of our membership and the NZ public behind us.

Being ‘confident’ is not any sort of measure. They haven’t offered any substantiation. I replied:

I don’t know how you can claim the support of the public. By what measure?

They haven’t responded. But someone else did. @SarahRoseNZ:

Poll ’14 72%!= No @Yahoo 10,000 voted last month 77% = No! Any ?’s Pete #NZFlag

When I asked how current the Colmar Brunton poll was she said:

Jan last year= no. Don’t shoot messenger. MOST NZ’rs say NO FLAG CHANGE! #NZFlag

That’s over a year ago. I’m sure there will be more polls. And there should be a couple of referendums. I also asked if the Yahoo poll was scientific. No response to that. Some questions for those who don’t want a flag change and who claim that there is strong public support to retain the current flag.

  • What do you fear from exploring possible flag alternatives?
  • What do you fear from having a referendum to let people choose between the current flag and the best of the rest?

If you support the democratic process and you’re confident your choice has overwhelming public support you should be happy with the two referendum process. If you are right that will prove public support is on your side and it is likely to lock in the current flag for the foreseeable future. That would be a win-win for you.

What’s the problem?

Deciding whether to change the flag without knowing what the alternative is would be like deciding to get married without knowing who to.

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