World watch – Thursday

Wednesday GMT

WorldWatch2

For posting on events, news, opinions and anything of interest from around the world.

Green challenges

One of the challenges facing the Green Party is to make a significant impact in Government. So far some of their more notable achievements are backtracking on previously strong policy positions, such as the waka jumping bill. This risks them being seen as weak and ineffective – a problem faced by most small parties in government.

Another related challenge will be to stay in Parliament. In last year’s election the Greens were at real risk of missing the threshold and crashing out. They are still in that danger zone. Much may depend on how well Labour support holds up.

Liam Hehir: Greens risk losing ground in 2020 as Labour takes their share of votes

Leader James Shaw has speculated that the party’s “natural level of support is about 10 or 11 per cent” of the vote. This seems to rest on the Greens’ 2011 and 2014 results of 11.06 and 10.7 per cent.

But those were years in which Labour received less than 30 per cent. The Greens have never received more than 7 per cent in any election where Labour’s share exceeded 30 per cent.

Before the Metiria mishap Greens were confident of increasing their vote to at least 15% (which was their 2014 target), but that was due to Labour’s plummeting support under Andrew Little’s leadership.

The Green vote in elections where Labour polled at more than 30%:

  • 1999: 5.16%
  • 2002: 7.0%
  • 2005: 5.3%
  • 2008: 6.72%
  • 2017: 6.27%

That’s not far above the cut. And polls before last year’s election suggest the actual core support is significantly lower than this, dropping to 4.3% in a Colmar Brunton poll 12-16 August 2017.

At this stage Labour looks likely to stay well over 30% so Greens may struggle to hold their support, and are at real risk of losing ground.

Now it appears that the party will do an about face on the “waka jumping” bill being pushed by Winston Peters.

 

It all brings to mind what James Shaw said in the wake of his party’s changing position on benefit sanctions, another New Zealand First-appeasing betrayal of principle:

“Our policy is what the Government’s policy is. So now we’re in Government, we need to do what Government policy says.”

Greens used to be popular, even amongst those who didn’t vote for them, in particular because there was general support for taking more care of the environment. That’s something the Greens are going to need to work hard on maintaining as a point of difference.

Medical cannabis: Terminal vs Severe and Debilitating?

Medical Cannabis Awareness NZ wants the Government’s medical cannabis bill to be expanded to cover people suffering from ‘severe and debilitating’ illness. It currently only allows an exemption from prosecution for using cannabis for people certified to have less than a year to live (but growing is still illegal, as is the supplying of cannabis to them).


Terminal vs Severe and Debilitating?

The exemptions outlined for the terminally ill by Labour’s Medical Cannabis bill do not go far enough, and have been universally panned by patient advocates and policy experts.

MCANZ Coordinator Shane Le Brun:

“David Clark’s excuse for failing to deliver on Labour’s election promise is that there is a high portion of New Zealanders with chronic pain, many of those however would not be severe such as those who suffer from comparatively mild conditions such as osteoarthritis”.

“The Ministry of Health’s Non-pharmaceutical application guidelines have a terminology of  “severe or debilitating condition” using that definition instead of terminal would be a far more effective way of protecting patients. If such terminology is good enough for prescribers it should be good enough for police and the courts.”

“If such a change creates any extra administrative load for the courts to determine ‘severe or debilitating’ it would be short term only, as police would be on the receiving end of an attitude adjustment, the cost in administration pales into comparison against the significance of what it offers a very ill and vulnerable cohort of New Zealanders”

MCANZ Feels that the best solution to the criminalization of patients is to disrupt police prosecution
habits directly, before they get to court.

“The Solicitor General’s prosecution guidelines could be easily reviewed and updated to include a specific clause in the public interest test section. Such a clause counting against prosecution could be worded along the lines of ‘where the Misuse of Drugs Act has been breached for a significant therapeutic benefit”.

“Intervention before prosecution is critical to the safety and wellbeing of patients, most of whom are on benefits who can ill afford costly legal battles, and the seizure of what for many is an essential medicine”.

MCANZ Spokesperson Dr Huhana Hickey MNZM”

“The contradictions in allowing terminally ill to access but not providing them with a way of doing it, is as bad as denying all with pain the chance of taking a medicine that works. We need to educate society over the benefits of medicinal and how it can change lives.”

“To deny Medical Cannabis any longer is to show a disregard for people in chronic pain and who are in effect suffering at the hands of government policy. Change it now, it’s need not be complex, it can be simple, but they need to work with those of us who can no longer take opioids and other strong drugs who want our quality of life back.”

Hawaii’s missile alert and nuclear panic

Apparently the false alarm ballistic missile warning in Hawaii was caused by someone clicking on the wrong link on a poorly designed selection screen.

This is real. Provided by the Office of the Governor in Hawaii.

Hawaii Emergency Management wouldn’t display the rest of the screen due to security reasons

The BMD False Alarm link is the added feature to prevent further mistakes

Presumably that wouldn’t stop the wrong link being clicked in error, it would make it simpler to advise that a false alarm had been set off.

It took a remarkable 38 minutes to advise the public that the missile alert was a false alarm last week, plenty of time for many people to panic and fear for their lives.

ODT editorial: Lessons from incoming alert error

Last month, the Star-Advertiser reported a missile launched from North Korea could strike Hawaii within 20 minutes.

So, Hawaii has reintroduced Cold War-era warning sirens. However, an early-morning emergency alert mistakenly warning of an incoming ballistic missile attack was dispatched to cellphones across Hawaii at the weekend.

Hawaii was already on high alert because of the threat from North Korea. The alert at the weekend set off widespread panic among residents, on edge because of the escalating tensions between the two nations.

The alert, sent by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, was revoked 38 minutes after it was issued, prompting confusion over why it was released and why it took so long to rescind.

Officials say the alert was the result of human error and not the work of hackers or a foreign government. The mistake occurred during a shift-change drill that takes place three times a day at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency command post.

A new procedure was immediately instituted after the mistaken alert, requiring two people to now sign off before any such alert is sent.

That’s a good idea. Such an important warning system relying on one person is risky.

There are two important lessons to be learned from Hawaii and Civil Defence. Ensuring safeguards are in place against false alarms is important. Secondly, people need to be confident the alerts mean what they say.

Meanwhile, it will help global anxiety if Mr Trump dials back his war-like rhetoric against North Korea and countries he does not like. Sadly, that is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

Perhaps the White House needs a system where two people have to sign off on any presidential tweets.

The Week: Why Hawaii’s false alarm should be a massive wake-up call for us all

For 38 minutes on Saturday, Hawaiians experienced the very worst sort of nightmare, after a state agency inadvertently sent out a message that a ballistic missile was inbound. “Seek shelter immediately. This is not a drill,” read the terrifying alert that Hawaiians received on their phones and TVs. Distraught residents and visitors did their best to find safety and send tearful final messages to loved ones before the alert was retracted.

President Trump, who was out golfing at the time, made a minor public statement about the false alarm, calling it a “state thing” and saying he loved “that they took responsibility.”

…while it wasn’t the president’s fault that a state employee created an international panic, nor is he the original author of the Korea standoff, there is no question that the unhinged rhetoric and empty threatsemanating from his Twitter account have heightened tensions and increased the risk of accidental calamity.

The mayhem in Hawaii also raised the specter of an accidental nuclear war, long one of the greatest fears of nuclear abolitionists and arms control enthusiasts. While these incidents have largely disappeared down the Cold War memory hole, the history of the nuclear age is replete with near-misses, including one incident in 1961 in which a nuclear-armed B-52 broke apart in mid-flight over North Carolina, releasing its nuclear payload in the process. Multiple “fail-safe” systems failed on two massive thermonuclear bombs and disaster was narrowly averted.

In 1979, National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski was awakened suddenly at three in the morning to the news that the Soviets had launched 250 missiles at the United States. Nuclear bombers were put on alert, fighter jets were flung into action, and the president’s command-and-control plane was rushed into the air. Apparently a North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) employee had inserted a simulation tape and tricked the entire system into believing that a massive Soviet ICBM strike was inbound.

“For a few frightening minutes, the U.S. military got ready for a nuclear war,” writes Scott Sagan, whose 1993 book The Limits of Safety walked readers through a terrifying litany of nuclear near-misses and argued that our command-and-control systems are not as infallible as we think they are. That a lone Hawaii state employee was able to set off this kind of panic should be sobering to those who blithely maintain that nuclear war could never happen unintentionally or that our systems have become immune to human error.

The weekend’s throwback Cold War nuclear panic should also lead us to question the president’s blasé attitude about nuclear weapons in general. Not only has President Trump spent much of his first year dangerously stoking tensions with his imbecilic counterpart in Pyongyang, but his night-shift government of ex-military minders seems set to undo decades of American policy by endorsing a new nuclear buildup.

Apart from the risk of global annihilation, expanding America’s nuclear arsenal would be a massive and pointless incineration of national wealth. Studies estimate that the United States has spent about $1 trillion a decade designing, building, and maintaining its nuclear weapon inventory, most of which has always been completely unnecessary.

A massive amount of money for a massive amount of destructive power.

One would hope that the president of the United States would do their best to allay fears of mass destruction, and not stoke uncertainties and tensions.

And one would hope that the US and it’s states would have robust systems for dealing with threats of attack, especially when a nuclear response was a possibility.

The selection screen in Hawaii looks very unassuring.

It may be easier and faster to now send out a false alarm message – but considerable damage may already have been done. What happens next time (if there’s a next time) a false alarm message is issued? Will people sit around waiting for a false alarm message? Ignore it? Or panic again in futility?

Image result for kiss your arse goodbye

 

General chat

“Is there any way we could have a thread for the more lightweight stuff like music and general chat?”

Do it here. Please no personal attacks or bickering. Anything abusive, provocative or inflammatory may be deleted.

Media watch – Wednesday

17 January 2018

MediaWatch

Media Watch is a focus on New Zealand media, blogs and social media. You can post any items of interested related to media.

A primary aim here is to hold media to account in the political arena. A credible and questioning media is an essential part of a healthy democracy.

A general guideline – post opinion on or excerpts from and links to blog posts or comments of interest, whether they are praise, criticism, pointing out issues or sharing useful information.

Open Forum – Wednesday

17 January 2018

Forum

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts.

Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts.Comments from other forums can be repeated here, cut and paste is fine.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.

FIRST TIME COMMENTERS: Due to abuse by a few first comments under any ID will park in moderation until released (as soon as possible but it can sometimes take a while).

Sometimes comments will go into moderation or spam automatically due to mistyped ID, too many links (>4), or trigger text or other at risk criteria.

Free speech is an important principle here but some people who might pose a risk to the site will have to keep going through moderation due to abuses by a small number of malicious people.

World watch – Wednesday

Tuesday GMT

WorldWatch2

For posting on events, news, opinions and anything of interest from around the world.

Have we started the year off ugly and angry?

Politics seems to have kicked off early this year, largely because of the attention being given to Donald Trump (New Zealand politics is only slowly emerging from holiday time).

Anger and affront – whether real or an activist tactic – is one of the more visible aspects of political discussion, so naturally some people have started the year angry.

An unusually perceptive post from Martyn Bradbury looks at this – Glitterboobs, tinned tomatoes, racist menus and golliwogs – have we started the year off angry?

I tend to want to follow politics, economics and the political process because with an untested left wing Government, a looming economic crash and an orange fuckwit on the nuclear button, the shit storm that is about to hit demands our full attention.

But sometimes things happen and people say things that are so ugly and ignorant you need to pause and just say, ‘Oi. You. No!’

Have we started the year in an ugly and angry way? I think we have and I think some of the ugliness in our dialogue has been fuel injected by social media platforms where vilification and maximum emotional outrage have rendered us too fried and bitter to even bother checking the better angels of our nature’s twitter feed.

Social media has enabled an overdose of ‘cry wolf’ outrage. It has become difficult to see the issues that really deserve attention amongst the plethora of petty attacks.

I’m still not sure whether Trump is a reactive self obsessed idiot, or a carefully staged act to mask what he or his handlers are trying to achieve quietly. I suspect it’s a mix of both.

I look at the four issues that have recently erupted on social media and some of the things I see people saying is woefully stupid and just misplaced fear and anger that is being spouted by wounded and insecure individuals.

If a woman is walking naked in public, you don’t have any right whatsoever to touch her. Yes, self-defence law doesn’t cover her chasing the dickhead who did this down and hitting him four times in the head, but that’s a side salad to the initial issue of him sexually assaulting her in public in the first place. There’s no defence in the world where it’s justifiable to grope her. None. Zip. Why the Christ are you still trying to justify that?

If you are getting indignant about being told what food to donate to women who are escaping domestic violence, perhaps you need to appreciate that charity isn’t pretty. It’s ugly and real. If you are offended that women in a state of shock from domestic violence require comfort food as opposed to a Jamie Oliver ingredient list, then perhaps you need to check who this charity is actually for, you or the person you are donating it to.

If you think racist menus are funny because they make fun of the way people speak, it not only demeans the food you are cooking, it demeans you as a person. The needlessness of the spite and the joy in revelling in the ‘naughtiness’  of being politically incorrect speaks to a pretty base level ignorance that is childish and beneath everyone. How can an asian restaurant do justice to the spirit of the kai when that restaurant is mocking and humiliating the culture that kai comes from?

(If your main concern was me throwing in the word ‘kai’ in that last sentence, you’re either someone who thinks this menu is hilarious or Don Brash.)

Talking of Don Brash – Golliwogs.

I appreciate you might have had a Golliwog when you were a kid. I appreciate you cuddled up to the Golliwog and I appreciate that you aren’t racist. I get that. However the Golliwog is a crass caricature of the very racist Black and White Minstrels and just like the n word, it’s not really something white people get to claim. And yes, unfortunately sensitivities to many centuries of slavery and racism do in fact outrank your childhood memories.

This last one is a tricky one. I get that we should all be more sensitive to what may offend others. But should we sanitise our pasts and presents in case someone might be offended by something?

Sometimes people are quite justified in being offended.

But sometimes – increasingly via social media – people use ‘offence’ as an excuse to attack or to shut down valid debate.

In each of these four examples,  the Glitterboobs, tinned tomatoes, racist menus and golliwogs, people are wanting to be wilfully offensive to one another. It’s not a case of ‘forgive me I didn’t realise that’, it’s a case of, “Fuck you I don’t care”.

That’s correct – to an extent. Some people are deliberately offensive to attract attention – Cameron Slater is a good example of this.

But some people deliberately claim offence when none was intended. Just about any time I comment at The Standard people (a small number) pile in claiming offence, deliberately misrepresenting and making false accusations. This is a widespread problem in social media – ‘offence’ is used as an attack weapon.

Perhaps it’s because the first reaction is always, ‘you racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic/xenophobic heteronormative patriarchal redneck…’ that people’s heels dig in as deeply as they do. Social media has bypassed gatekeeper media, but it’s also unleashed a cacophony of resentment that removes compassion in favour of online assassinations.

That’s a big statement from Bradbury, because he has been known to have some fairly over the top first reactions.

The ugly anger being spouted by many on social issues that cut to the very heart of our individual identities is a backlash long in coming. The wounds that so many are speaking from can’t be argued with, they need to heal first before they can listen and I don’t  think there is going to be a lot of listening in 2018.

He is right that some wounded people can’t be argued with, it is too emotional for them to see other points of view. Some have suffered for their lifetime.

But politics is different to a large extent.

Some of the worst arguing and not listening on political issues is not from a position of personal aggrievement, it isn’t based on personal hurt and suffering. It is based on perceptions and ideological passions that often bear little resemblance to reality.

Is there a way of separating real personal wounds from impassioned political activism? If there is it won’t be easy.

Having thought this through perhaps Bradbury can address some of this at The Daily Blog this year. Not everyone will start to listen this year, but if he puts more thought into posts like this, if he reduces his own anger and ugliness,  Bradbury may increase his audience and change political discourse for the better.

And each of us could do likewise.

Anger can be an essential safety valve, but ongoing ugliness is counter productive to making social and political progress.

Satire versus bullying

I hadn’t heard of Terry Pratchett until I saw this quote at The Standard:

There could be some truth in that.

Another Pratchett quote on bullying (from Hogfather):

“A bully, thought Susan. A very small, weak, very dull bully, who doesn’t manage any real bullying because there’s hardly anyone smaller and weaker than him, so he just makes everyone’s lives just that little bit more difficult…”

He has a satirical record:  Terry Pratchett and the Art of Satire:

Under his hand, the entire concept of fantasy changed, and satire was put to better use than ever before; but just how did Pratchett combine both into such a phenomenally successful formula?

Pratchett also uses the medium of his Discworld novels to examine more serious issues concerning our society today: bribery and corruption are a major feature of his Discworld, especially amongst the ruling elite.

Human behaviour is examined in all of his novels – even his children’s books, such as The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, where the society of intelligent rats are made the heroes rather that of the townspeople who are trying to kill them. Comparing the two- with the implication that is it the rat that are the truly educated ones rather than the humans- allows Pratchett to make intellectual points in both a funny and parodic way that might not be possible in another setting.

Here, satire is not only a comedic device but also a way in which to examine our society.

Through his juxtaposition of the modern and the fantastic we can laugh, not only at the society he creates but also, obliquely, at ourselves. In Pratchett’s hands, the art of satire is a way in which we can examine ourselves more clearly.

Satire is a useful way of examining and exposing those in power, politicians.

But it can also be misused as a means of attacking politicians – and political supporters.

From Oxford:

satire
The use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

bully
A person who habitually seeks to harm or intimidate those whom they perceive as vulnerable.

Politicians (and political supporters) sometimes deserve ridicule, and satire is a fair and reasonable means of doing that.

But politicians are also vulnerable to being coerced, intimidated or harmed by unfair and untrue attack and ridicule.

‘Satire’ is sometimes used as an excuse for dirty politics.