Saturday, 30 May 2015

The writing on the wall

I don't know whether it's plausible that a Cabinet Minister would leak what appears to be an entire transcript of a cabinet meeting - possibly it's just a deleted scene from House of Cards with the names changed, which is certainly what it reads like. The contempt Abbot displays here towards his voters, his ministers, and rudimentary constitutional principles is truly appalling.

The political henchmen of the 0.1% are systematically dismantling the basic constitutional principles that prevent the arbitrary use of state violence against their citizens, and their citizens are kept willfully ignorant of our steady institutional decline by a complicit media, repeating government press releases verbatim (no time for journalism with a 15-second news cycle) which frame these changes - which are taking place simultaneously (if at varying pace) in every English-speaking country in the world - as matters of national security.

The irony is that they are matters of security. The security of the few against the many. They've seen the writing on the wall. They know that their global ponzi scheme can't survive another recession. They know the chaos and desperation that our changing climate is bringing upon the world's populations. They're preparing for class warfare on a global scale, and doing everything in their power to keep the rest of us oblivious and unprepared.

It'll soon be too late to change course. While there's still any chance at all, we must try - billions of lives hang in the balance. But we must also start preparing ourselves and each other for what's coming if we fail.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Bernie throws his hat in

Why Bernie Sanders running for President is great news for Democrats

Glad to hear he's running. Of course, a Sanders presidency would almost certainly be no less disappointing than Obama's - he's playing to an audience as much as any other politician, and the realities of the US political system make meaningful change from within all but impossible. At any rate, he's unlikely to be a real contender, but he's got a big enough support base in the party (especially once Elizabeth Warren gives her endorsement, which seems likely) to seriously outflank the Clinton campaign on the left and force them to seriously engage with the inequality issue. I don't expect anything that's said during the campaign to translate directly into actual Clinton administration policy, but anything that raises the visibility of the issue is a positive.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Lest We Forget

Huuuuuuge turnout for the dawn service in Christchurch today. Kind of a surreal experience. Momentous occasion for the vets no doubt and it really is a day for them first and foremost - born as I was 70 years after World War I I wouldn't expect it to cater to my ideological preferences. Nevertheless, I can't help feeling that the pomp and ceremony with which we honour the fallen on ANZAC day also insulates us from contemplating the true horrors of war, and I'm not sure that their memory is well served by maintaining the pretence that their blood was the price of our freedom rather than the cost of reckless decisions by sheltered politicians desperate to save their crumbling, squabbling empires, and the credulous nationalism that drew us into their quagmire at the opposite end of the earth. The best way we can honour our fallen heroes is to ensure that we never again allow our leaders to send our youth to die in vain on foreign soil. Lest we forget.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

"A bit of banter" - and then some

I didn't think this story could get any worse. I was wrong. It just got much, much worse.

It would appear that the waitress's employers have colluded with a journalist who is known to have a close relationship with the PM and other National party figures to assist her in writing an article which reframes the issue (and of course reveals her name, which I've rather futilely redacted):

Her bosses, Hip Group owners Jackie Grant and Scott Brown, told the Herald they were disappointed Ms                  - who they say has "strong political points of view" - went public rather than coming to them directly with her concerns. However, they are hoping to "put this all behind us" now.

The waitress spoke at length with Rachel Glucina of the NZ Herald under the pretence that she was a PR consultant working for the café. When she discovered that she had been conned she immediately contacted the Herald. Glucina (who has a tabloid background) claimed that her employers had known who they were dealing with (which they deny, not very plausibly) and that she had no control over whether the article would be published. Bomber contacted the editor of the NZ Herald late last night to ensure that he was aware of the situation. They have published regardless.

I wish I had words to express the enormity of this. The most widely read newspaper in the country is all-but-openly colluding with the National Party in attempting, with the most underhanded and illegal of tactics, to discredit stories that tarnish Brand Key. The most terrifying part is the flagrancy of it all - the Herald knew exactly what they were doing. I can think of only two explanations - the first is that they (and their National party sponsors) were genuinely arrogant enough to think that this wouldn't come to light; the second scarier possibility is that they think they'll get away with it regardless, presumably thanks to their political connections. I should state that there's no direct evidence at this stage that Key or anyone in the National party approached Glucina about writing the article, but "suspicious" would be a rather understated way to describe it given the fact that she's not only a close friend of John Key but acted almost immediately once the original story broke. It's certainly grounds for the Ombudsman to take a serious interest.

We are sleepwalking down the road to tyranny. I am terrified that, once again, people will not be paying attention, that the rest of the media will decide the story is not "entertaining" enough to pursue, that the political opposition will decide that it's a "beltway" issue and fail to hold the PM to account. I really, really don't want to see that happen. If we allow this to stand the powers that be will take it as license to accelerate their agenda of turning our once independent media into a outsourced National party propaganda machine. Please, inform yourself about this, read the Daily Blog articles, and please share and discuss.

UPDATE: The Herald article's now added a statement from the editor, Shayne Currie. The tone protests innocence but nowhere does it contradict the waitress's claim to having been deceived, which effectively confirms it.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

"A bit of banter"

That's the PM's excuse for repeatedly and regularly physically harassing a waitress over the course of several months, pulling her hair (is he 6?!) despite being asked to stop, repeatedly, both by the waitress in question and by his embarrassed wife. She literally had to threaten him with physical violence for the message to sink in, to which he eventually responded with a token half-hearted apology and two bottles of JK-brand red wine. How lovely.

This would be absolutely appalling behaviour from any individual. Invading somebody's personal space like this without their consent is bad enough, but if it had been a one-off incident one could perhaps pass it off as a simple faux pas. Misunderstandings do happen. It's the repeated nature of it - after being quite explicitly told that she didn't like his behaviour - that makes this really offensive.

Being treated this way by somebody in a position of authority is always incredibly stressful, given the potential repercussions that can come from speaking out. Over the next few days she will be subjected to an enormous amount of media attention and have all sorts of awful misogynistic things said about her by the talkback radio crowd. Her anonymity is unlikely to hold for long. Going public about this is an incredibly brave move, and I don't envy her situation.

Those in high office are expected to set an example through their public conduct. Key's conduct brings the office of the Prime Minister into disrepute, and shows shockingly poor judgement from somebody who's been in that office as long as he has. Even his usual cheerleaders aren't defending him. Slater's comments are particularly interesting - while he tries to downplay the incidents, he does so by claiming that Key has covered up far more serious crimes which are more deserving of media attention. The cynic in me suspects that this is an attempt to deflect attention from a matter of established fact to matters of speculation which the PM could plausibly deny. If his beef with the PM was genuine, why be so vague in his accusations?

Further developments notwithstanding, chances are that he'll weather this storm - the waitress hasn't indicated any intention to press charges, and it's unlikely that it would meet the legal threshold for criminal harassment or assault. But if Key held himself to the same standard that he claims to hold his MPs to, he'd resign. At the very least, he ought to make a public apology for his misconduct and take it as an opportunity to raise awareness of harassment and the importance of consent. Not gonna happen, though.