World watch – Saturday

Friday GMT

WorldWatch2

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

Folau fulminating and media mire

Perhaps I didn’t say things very well yesterday in The Israel Folau furore continues – there have been some positive outcomes as various people have spoken up against Folau’s archaic and insulting (but still very common) religious beliefs.

But very few if any people would have been hurt or offended if his small comment on Instagram had been like millions of other online comments every day and had been ignored.

The social media and furore gave the comments publicity they didn’t deserve, and that exposed people to offence and hurt that otherwise wouldn’t have been suffered.

Protesting and publicising the comments exposed millions to possible hurt and offence.

While it is a feature of modern media and social media, why did Folau’s comment get so much attention and opprobrium?

Folau is a rugby player. Until now his public utterances were not seen as important.

In comparison Destiny Church Brian Tamaki says ‘cry baby gays’ will go to hell

Outspoken Destiny Church self-proclaimed pastor Brian Tamaki has come out in support of Israel Folau, hitting out at “cry baby gays” and agreeing the LGBTQ community could go to hell.

“The Bible says hell is a possibility for anyone who doesn’t repent. Jesus didn’t apologise for offending people when speaking God’s word. If the gay community want to be accepted as a part of society then ‘take it on the nose’ like the rest of us.”

He then used a hashtag he made up, “#crybabygays”, to sign off the message.

Tamaki speaks to and tries to influence many people, but apart from a few passing mentions gets nothing like the criticism that Folau got.

However Tamaki is largely ignored as an attention seeking nutter, while the normally private Folau is plastered and blasted.

David Cohen at RNZ – Folau comments: Keeping an eye on the wider picture

It is easy enough to say Israel Folau was wrong to get all religiously high and mighty on social media about homosexual behaviour.

The question also naturally arises of how the mainstream media ought to be dealing with fundamentalist beliefs of any stripe in the first place – not to mention the perils of holding up people who happen to be good at kicking a ball, as also being liberal champions.

It has been said before – by this writer, in fact – that not only sports stars but poets, critics, movie-makers, playwrights and rock performers tend to make for notably unreliable authorities on pretty much all matters outside of their chosen field (if on that).

With only a few notable exceptions, they offer bad ideas on social policy, banal observations about economics and, yes, whoppingly ill-considered religious views, too.

Some mainstream commentators have used the controversy to anguish over the limits of free speech. In the news business, these are sometimes known as whyohwhyofwhyohwhy pieces – commentaries that rather skirt a fundamental issue, in this instance the question of fundamentalism itself.

Folau was, after all, simply giving his own, particularly rigid, Christian stance on homosexual behaviour. He also was expressing a view shared by many who take a severe interpretation of any of the three great monotheistic religions.

Threatening hell for all sorts of behaviours has been common for yonks, as anyone who went to a religion orientated school (or church) in the past can probably attest.

Christianity’s record in this regard is well known, notwithstanding the fact that plenty of thoughtful, devout believers, would argue the toss, or at any rate, question the focus on what consenting adults choose to do among themselves.

But the ultra-Orthodox stream of Judaism isn’t exactly known for sanctioning homosexuality (although Israel – the country, not the player – generally takes justifiable pride in being the most LGBTQ-friendly country in the Middle East).

And the ferociously anti-gay record in parts of the Muslim world, where homosexual acts are sometimes punishable by death, ought to make a western liberal blanch.

As the British diver Tom Daley recently pointed out after winning the synchronised 10m Platform competition at the Gold Coast tournament, no fewer than 37 Commonwealth nations currently have anti-LGBTQ statutes: a rainbow mosaic of bigotry.

But all hell breaks loose when someone known for sporting rather than speaking prowess has a comment dug out of the depths of the Internet and plastered all over the world.

The media can even lead the way. A more constructive approach (other than sporting associations to insist their stars learn a few social manners) might be to pause a while longer before dining out on any such comments made by celebrities in the first place, and try to keep an eye on the wider picture.

Sometimes fixating on just the one chance Instagram comment isn’t just unhelpful. It can even be a bit (sorry) sinful.

Expecting the media to lead the way on sensibly dealing with things like this is probably as futile as hoping to go to heaven when you die.

Premature ‘influential’ accolade for Ardern

Time Magazine has named Jacinda Ardern as one of the 1o0 most influential people in the world for 2018. Given that we are only in April this is premature – and I think it is far to soon to judge Ardern’s actual influence outside the celebrity circuit. At least she hasn’t been given a premature and ultimately undeserved Nobel prize as per Obama.

Time: Jacinda Ardern by Sheryl Sandberg

Just 11 countries out of almost 200 are led by a woman. Let that number sink in. That’s how hard it is for a woman to rise to lead a nation.

Last October in New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern did it.

She was already a political prodigy. In 2008, she was elected the youngest member of the New Zealand Parliament. Now she’s the youngest female Prime Minister in the world. At a time when conservative politicians are ascendant across Europe and the U.S., she’s proudly progressive—with a raft of plans to fight economic inequality, address climate change and decriminalize abortion. She wasn’t supposed to win: she entered the election late, and her party’s approval ratings were low. Then a wave of “Jacindamania” swept the land.

And she’s expecting her first child this year.

In a world that too often tells women to stay small, keep quiet—and that we can’t have both motherhood and a career—Jacinda Ardern proves how wrong and outdated those notions of womanhood are. She’s not just leading a country. She’s changing the game. And women and girls around the world will be the better for it.

Sandberg is the COO of Facebook and author of Option B and Lean In

‘A raft of plans’ does not make a successful Prime Minister in New Zealand, let alone an influential world leader.

Fighting economic inequality and addressing climate change are lofty aims, but Ardern and her government are yet to prove that they can make a real difference on either. They may, but we are unlikely to be able to judge that to any degree in 2018, or probably 2019.

By the end of 2020 we will have time to see whether notable progress has been made on inequality and climate change (but both are long term projects), and whether Ardern has influenced New Zealand voters enough to win a second shot at continuing the reforms she has talked the talk on, but has barely stood up let alone walked the walk.

Other younger leaders that initially caused a stir, Emmanuel Macron of France and Justin Trudeau in Canada, have since found the going tough.

Funnily Ardern has written praise of Trudeau in the Time 100 influencers list.

There will be a few names globally that will become etched in our history books. They will be the names that mark the shift in our political landscape, when younger politicians took the reins and heralded a different type of politics. Justin Trudeau will be one of them. Youth alone is not remarkable, but winning over people with a message of hope and warmth, tolerance and inclusion, when other politicians the world over choose an easier route—that is remarkable.

Trudeau’s tenure as Prime Minister of Canada has hit speed bumps. As has Macron, but he also gets a good write up:

Just under a year ago, a 39-year-old underdog shook up French politics to become the youngest-ever President of the French Republic. His movement, built from scratch in just a few months, quickly doubled down by winning a large parliamentary majority, giving the new government a mandate for change.

Using this unique window of opportunity, President Macron has swiftly begun to implement an ambitious set of reforms intended to boost economic growth, reduce high unemployment and transform France into a more dynamic, competitive and inclusive economy. His vision of a strong Europe also has added fresh momentum to the integration effort—which has become all the more critical in our increasingly fragmented world.

Challenges abound. Migration, terrorism, climate, digital transformation and inequality are forcing new fault lines on our societies. But based on the policies he has implemented to date, I am convinced that Emmanuel Macron can help create the multilateral solutions that will make the planet a better place for all.

Also on the list of influencers are Donald Trump, Robert Mueller, Sean Hannity, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Plus a number actors, performers and sports people.

Angela Merkel, Theresa May, Kim Yong Un, Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin don’t feature at all.

 

Labour-Green oil and gas naivety questioned

The Government announcement last that no more off shore oil and gas exploration permits would be granted was celebrated by the Greens and their allies (like Greenpeace), but it hasn’t received wide support. Questions are being asked of the possible negative effects, and the lack of planning or substance on the transition from fossil fuels to alternative forms of energy.

Listener: Is the Govt’s ban on new oil and gas exploration brave or naive?

Just transition or heart over head?

The decision to stop issuing offshore oil and gas exploration permits was not pre-election policy. Although Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was musing privately months ago about the politics of such a move, it is barely a month since she broke from her formal programme to accept a petition from Greenpeace on the forecourt of Parliament.

Always with an eye to powerful imagery, Greenpeace backed the moment with pictures of history-changing Labour leaders of the past: Savage, Kirk, Lange and Clark. Ardern could enter that pantheon with a huge symbolic gesture designed to make real her claim that climate change is “this generation’s nuclear-free moment”.

She has done so, in a move that is at once measured and justifiable yet also naive and arguably cavalier with a major industry. No other country with a significant oil and gas industry has made such a decision.

…the naivety of the Government’s new policy is that it will not, of itself, reduce global carbon emissions, but could increase New Zealand’s if it leads to more coal use in the meantime.

It is disingenuous to claim that existing permits might sustain a healthy oil and gas sector until the 2040s. The fruitless hunt for major gas fields in the Great South Basin since the 1960s proves the point that exploration is expensive and usually unsuccessful.

But perhaps the biggest risk is the promise of a Government-led “transition” to new industries of the future. Airy ministerial talk of capital being redeployed to new activities is a carbon copy of Rogernomics-era rhetoric. Capital was redeployed, but not necessarily in New Zealand.

The Government is talking a big game on its ability to direct the emergence of such new industries, but its capacity to deliver this upside of transformative change is untested and the value of the industries it is disrupting is all too measurable.

While radical change was necessary then ‘Rogernomics’ was executed hurriedly with more hope or desperation than planning.

Tim Watkin takes the similarity with Rogernomics style reform-and-hope policies, as opposed to David Lange’s ‘anti-nuclear moment’ – Oil be alright. But has Labour learnt the wrong lesson from its past?

Jacinda Ardern has drawn on our national pride in New Zealand’s nuclear-free stance to rally support for her decision to end offshore oil drilling. But her announcement has echoes of Douglas and Prebble as much as Lange and Palmer

When Jacinda Ardern was asked to justify her government’s decision to stop issuing oil drilling permits forthwith she drew on a memory that sits deep in her party’s – and our country’s – soul. Our nuclear-free status. The decision for me, however, recalls another controversial move by that same fourth Labour government.

For Ardern and her team, so long out of government, it is a chance to do the sort of thing they expect Labour government’s to do. The moral thing. Policies that show vision and make the world a better place. What’s more, it shows leadership in the Pacific.

As with our nuclear-free policy, the decision to leave the oil where it is gives New Zealand the moral high ground, a sense of mission and it gets us noticed. It’s also similar in that it will also do next to nothing in the short term to change global behaviour or make the world safer.

Our nuclear-free stance has been largely symbolic, as will this stance be, unless or until the rest of the world follows suit.

Like Rogernomics, last week’s decision was announced with no real consultation and ruthless speed. There was no time for opponents to circle the tankers. Like Rogernomics, it moved Labour away from the safe centre and took it to the edge of mainstream politics. And like Rogernomics, they have shown no sign that they have planned for the consequences – forseeon or unforseen – of this policy.

Talk to members of the fourth Labour government today and few resile from the thrust of the economic reforms, but almost all wish they had done it differently. More slowly, with transition funding and re-training upfront. With more consultation. More commitment to not leaving some people on the scrapheap.

Sadly, there’s no sign this government has heeded that lesson. Not yet anyway. The announcement came with the zeal of the nuclear-free dream, but without the legwork. There was no transition fund announced. No plan to find new purposes for the people and their skills. No three year grace period, for example, in which the country’s fourth largest export-earning industry could start on what Greens co-leader James Shaw has promised will be a “gentle transition”.

One could forgive Shaw and the Greens for being naive, given their lack of experience in power. The same could be applied to Ardern – but as Prime Minister she should be better advised. She seems to have believed her lofty hype over leading a generational change on climate change.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the new Government was woefully unprepared for taking over. They have taken some quick and bold moves – like committing to major spending (handouts) for fee-free tertiary education – and leading the charge against climate change without any sign they know where this will take New Zealand economically.

But by embarking on this in a sudden, even sneaky, way and without a considered and consulted transition plan, it’s undermined the ‘what’ by buggering up the ‘how’. Labour has failed to learn from its own history. Or, at least, the part of its history Ardern says inspired this bold move. The question now is whether the government moves rapidly and with proper thought to live up to its promise of that “gentle transition”.

There is time for getting it right, or at least better and less risky, but there is no sign of this being recognised by the Government.

Another unlikely critic is Brian Fallow: Exploration ban a pointless, self-righteous policy

Resounding cheers greeted Jacinda Ardern and James Shaw when they went to Victoria University last Thursday to explain that morning’s announcement that no more offshore oil and gas exploration permits will be granted.

Gratifying to their ears, no doubt — but entirely undeserved.

This policy is self-righteous nimbyism, environmentally pointless, economically costly and politically counter-productive to the Government’s own agenda on climate change.

Tossing a trophy to the Green Party base, perhaps in the hope of reducing the risk that the Green vote gets wasted in 2020, smacks of ad hoc partisan politics as usual.

It is utterly at odds with the careful, consultative, consensus-seeking approach being pursued over the larger climate agenda.

James Shaw has set up a committee (according to National the 75th committee/group of this Government) to consult over climate change transition but as pointed out in Climate Change Committee announced, significant omissions this notably lacks direct representation from the key farmer and oil & gas industries.

Is there anyone in Labour capable of doing the hard work necessary to make such a transformative  policy work successfully without too many risks and adverse effects?

With Shaw in charge of the Climate Change ministry the only Labour MP (apart from Ardern) with related responsibilities is Megan Woods as Minister of Energy and Resources, and Minister of Science and Innovation, things that will be (or should be) a prominent part of the climate change/fossil fuel transition.

Nikki Haley’s stand against White House wavering and waffle

President is well known to be unpredictable – he plays on it – but this has often resulted in mixed messages from himself and from White House staff. Discipline and co-ordination are often lacking, to the extent sometimes that the White House looks disorganised and confused. It can certainly be confusing.

This week U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley spoke on Russian sanctions, was slapped down by the White House, but she slapped back, and this prompted an apology.

Weekly Standard editorial: A Failure to Communicate

Tight messaging and internal discipline don’t make a presidency—the Obama administration was extremely disciplined in its public pronouncements, and it was a disaster in almost every respect. But the present administration suffers from an almost total lack of coherence in its communications to the public and that debilitation has consequences beyond mere politics.

The problem can be located in the Oval Office: When President Trump makes a decision, or reverses one, he doesn’t always tell the relevant people.

This week, it was U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s turn.

Haley wasn’t fired but reprimanded—wrongly. On Sunday, April 15, speaking on Face the Nation, she announced the imposition of new sanctions on Russia for its nefarious abetting of Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime. She said what she had thought, almost certainly correctly, was the president’s position: “Russian sanctions will be coming down. Secretary Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday if he hasn’t already and they will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons use.”

… in this case she appears to have stated exactly what the cabinet had agreed to do.

Only later—evidently without bothering to apprise his subordinates—the president changed his mind. From Mar-a-Lago, Larry Kudlow, the president’s national economic adviser, contradicted Haley. She had, Kudlow told reporters, gotten “ahead of the curve” by announcing the new sanctions; the ambassador may have had “some momentary confusion about that.”

Another White House official told the Washington Post that Haley’s remark was “an error that needs to be mopped up.”

Haley responded to Kudlow curtly. “With all due respect,” she was quoted by Fox News’s Dana Perino as saying, “I don’t get confused.”

Later, and very much to his credit, Kudlow called Haley to apologize. “She was certainly not confused,” he told the New York Times. He was “totally wrong” to speak as he did.

What almost certainly happened is that the president balked on the sanctions, his national security team sans Haley agreed to the change, and either someone forgot to tell Haley or everyone did. This is what happens when a president and his staff haven’t quite established its decision-making process and fails to keep everyone informed.

It seems to be a common failing of Trump and his administration.

Trump famously values unpredictability. We wish he wouldn’t use it so often against his own staff.

It would be good if he didn’t use it so much against the US either. A chaotic presidency is high risk – some things may work out well, due to or despite Trump chaos, but it seems just a matter of time before mistakes or misinformation mires the country in major muck.

Haley has come out of this looking strong and bold, she is one of the star performers of a very mixed administration. And that has refueled speculation about her political ambitions.

The Hill: Haley spat fuels political chatter around White House

Nikki Haley’s public spat with the White House has underscored Trump World’s obsession about the political ambitions of people in the president’s orbit.

Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, raised eyebrows Tuesday when she hit back at the White House after top economic adviser Larry Kudlow accused her of being confused when she prematurely announced new sanctions against Moscow on Sunday.

Nonetheless, the comments had Trump allies saying that Haley is thinking too much of her own political brand.

“Clearly she has machinations for higher office and will do anything to continue rising, even if it eventually means throwing President Trump and his administration under the bus,” said one former White House official.

The White House tried to throw Haley under a bus, but she fought back and won.

It wouldn’t be difficult to look better than Trump (or Hillary Clinton). Haley looks like she would potentially be a big improvement.

A GOP strategist in contact with the White House said “there is no doubt” that Haley has eyes on a higher office, but that it is highly unlikely she will be running for the White House in the near term.

At the age of 46, Haley’s future in politics could go beyond Trump’s presidency — which his supporters expect to last through 2024.

Haley’s defenders say it is natural for her speak out to maintain her integrity when she is criticized publicly.

Integrity stands out amongst the current chaos because it is in short supply.

“She has to stand up for herself because she is being characterized as confused,” said the GOP strategist.

“I think it is a question of competency and she is obviously competent,” said the former White House official when asked about the president’s feelings about Haley.

The ambassador has not become enmeshed in the type of ethics scandals that have plagued other Cabinet heads and her charisma and outspokenness, while grating to some, can be an asset for the president.

“She is a well-spoken female conservative and for better or for worse, that goes a long way with a lot of people. There is a deficit of that in the GOP,” the former official said.

The US could do a lot worse than having Haley as president – like now (deliberate double meaning).

Media watch – Friday

20 April 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.

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.

Open Forum – Friday

20 April 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 – Friday

Thursday GMT

WorldWatch2

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

Climate Change Committee announced, significant omissions

James Shaw, Minister for Climate Change, has announced the members of the Interim Climate Change Committee. The members have a wide range of relevant experience, but notably there is no farmer or oil and gas industry or transport representation.


The Minister for Climate Change today announced the membership of the Interim Climate Change Committee, which will begin work on how New Zealand transitions to a net zero emissions economy by 2050.

“We need work to start now on how things like agriculture might enter into the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZETS), and we need planning now for the transition to 100 percent renewable electricity generation by 2035,” says James Shaw.

“The Interim Climate Change Committee will begin this important work until we have set up the independent Climate Change Commission under the Zero Carbon Act in May next year.

“The Interim Committee will consult with stakeholders and hand over its work and analysis to the Climate Change Commission,” Mr Shaw said.

Committee members have been chosen because of their expertise across key areas related to climate change: agriculture, agribusiness, climate change science and policy, resource economics and impacts, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, te reo me ona tikanga Māori and Māori interests, international competitiveness, and energy production and supply.

Dr David Prentice, the Interim Committee Chair, was most recently the CEO and Managing Director of infrastructure firm Opus International Consultants.

He led his company through the Global Financial Crisis and has a sound understanding of economics and international markets.

He is joined by Deputy Chair, Lisa Tumahai, who has significant governance experience and is Kaiwhakahaere of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu. She is a person of significant mana and standing in the Māori community.

The committee members are:

  • Dr David Prentice, Interim Committee Chair
  • Lisa Tumahai, Deputy Chair
  • Dr Harry Clark, a New Zealand expert on agricultural greenhouse gas research
  • Dr Keith Turner, former CEO of Meridian and professional director
  • Dr Jan Wright, former Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment
  • Dr Suzi Kerr, an internationally renowned expert in the economics of climate change policy and emissions trading.

“If we want to help lead the world towards meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement, we must create a moral mandate underpinned by decisive action at home to reduce our own emissions.

“Setting up the Interim Climate Change Committee is a great step in that direction,” says James Shaw.


Typical Green style gender balance with a significant Māori position. generally it seems a reasonable mix of experience – but notably, no farmer representative, and neither is there any representative from the oil and gas industry or from transport interests. I think these are major omissions.