$20 Billion investment in the New Zealand Defence Force

New Zealand

In July of 2016 the Minister of Defence Gerry Brownlee released a defence white paper outlining future spending. Part of this spending was a $20 Billion investment over 10 years in the New Zealand Defence Force. How bizarre.

We live in a country where the chances of being attacked are negligible. To quote the same white paper,

“New Zealanders can remain confident that the country does not face a direct military threat in the foreseeable future.”

To give you an idea of how bizarre this is, the current deaths of New Zealanders due to military action over the last 10 years is 10. That includes us in countries as far away as Afghanistan.

Military Budget vs Suicide

The deaths of New Zealanders over the last ten years, due to suicide, is over 5000. That makes the percentage of suicide deaths to military deaths to be 0.002%.

In 2017 the government budgeted an extra $100 million for metal health services. There was no mention of suicide in the budget speech, yet there was $576 million for Defence Force upgrades.

This seems strange to me. There were 35 New Zealand soldiers killed during the Vietnam War. If we extrapolate that to 10 years instead of 8 that would be 44 soldiers killed. If we look at all the military casualties since World War Two there are 149. That is 0.0298% of our suicide rate over the last ten years.

To extrapolate again, you have only a slightly lower chance of being killed in New Zealand by your own hand than you have of dying serving in another country in our armed forces (0.0011% vs 0.0015%).

What is wrong with our governance?

I say governance here because it isn’t a single party issue. Both Labour and National have failed to deal with the problem of suicide over multiple years and multiple governments.

Both have repeatedly failed to deal with suicide in New Zealand.

I know that we will never get suicide down to 0. Well, I certainly don’t see how. It should, however, be our constant aim.

Imagine if we could spend $4,000,000 on each of these people. What a difference that would make. Well, that is the choice our government made when it decided to invest $20 Billion  over the next 10 years in the Defence Force instead of investing in New Zealanders.

New Zealand suicide rate vs OECD

The High Court judgement and the Kitteridge Report

High Court

News came out today that the surveillance on Kim Dotcom has been ruled illegal by the High Court. There are a couple of points of interest in this.

One is that the decision was made in December of 2016 and has been delayed until now. This is sparking speculation that the decision was the cause of John Key’s resignation on December the 5th of 2016.

Another is that the GCSB has said that,

“….it has not proved possible to to please to the allegations the plaintiffs have made without revealing information which would jeopardise the national security of New Zealand.”

This, in my view, would point to the methods of intercepting the information involving another country and its surveillance systems. Last month the Herald reported,The GCSB documents do contain an admission of NSA involvement, although it was not made outright. which would seem to agree with that viewpoint.

A third point of interest is that in the High Court judgement the GCSB seems to contradict the outcomes of the Kitteridge report of 2013.

That report was the result of an investigation into the legal compliance of the GCSB between 2003 and 2012. The report states that during that period the GCSB was confused as to the illegality of spying because of the multiple laws it was operating under.

“The fact that the issue had not been identified during the preceding ten years (except for the question raised by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security in May 2012) reinforces the point that the interplay between the two Acts is not straightforward.”

This was the get out of jail free card for the intelligence services. In response to Russel Normans request for a criminal investigation over illegally spying on Kim Dotcom and Ban Van der Kolk the police responded with,

“As for the issue of criminal intent, it cannot be established that any GCSB staff had the necessary criminal intent to illegally intercept private communications in this case and the GCSB staff cannot be criminally liable”

Or in other words, they believed they spied legally on Kim Dotcom and Ban Van der Kolk. Thus there was no intent.

But there were 85 other cases identified in the Kitteridge report.

“During that period GCSB provided 55 instances of assistance to NZSIS, which potentially involved 85 New Zealand citizens or permanent residents.”

And the High Court decision released today clearly shows that there was widespread knowledge amongst GCSB staff that they were not allowed to spy on New Zealanders. In the words of the judgement, in 2011,

“Foreigners were highlighted in green, indicating they could be tasked. Those who might be New Zealanders (and other protected persons), were highlighted in red, indicating the could not be tasked.”

This means that in the 85 cases of New Zealand citizens or permanent residents, GCSB staff did have criminal intent and should be prosecuted by the New Zealand Police.

Public Holidays and the Separation of Church and State

Public Holidays

In 2017 there are 11 public holidays, 4 of which could be considered religious holidays. These are,

  • Friday 14 April — Good Friday
  • Monday 17 April — Easter Monday
  • Monday 25 December — Christmas Day
  • Tuesday 26 December — Boxing Day

This has always struck me as rather strange and unfair. I have always considered Church and State to have been separated in New Zealand. But, if I look a little deeper, it really isn’t. Public holidays are just one example. Watching the Speaker of the House pray to God at the start of a parliamentary session is a better one.

To nail the point home completely, our Queen is also the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

What has this got to do with Public Holidays?

Well, we are supposed to be a religiously diverse society. The State designating only Christian based holidays is at odds with that. In fact, if I was religious, I would find it downright annoying. Why do I have to take days off for somebody else’s religious festival?

Over 40% of people in New Zealand identify with no religion at all. Why do they have to change their lives, close their business, and follow the Christian calendar. Perhaps they would prefer to go to Bathurst every year. Or schedule an extended family meetup. Maybe Maori would like to follow Iwi gatherings?

Instead of sticking solely to the Christian calendar. Why don’t we give people a choice? At the start of each year you specify what days your holidays will be on. You can’t change them once you have chosen as they are statutory holidays. But you can place them where ever you want in the year.

This would seem to be a much fairer way than what we have now.

Downsides

Because New Zealand has lived under the Christian calendar for so long, there would be some problems.

What would happen when the owner of a business was one religion and the workers another? Could workers take holidays so as to maximise advantage in the workplace? All these things, and more, would have to be worked out.

In the end, we should remember that religious and ethical beliefs are not grounds for discrimination under the Human Rights Act (there are some exemptions for employers). The government forcing religious holidays on you and not recognising your own would seem to me to be discrimination.

Install Discord on Linux Lite 3.4

Discord logo

Discord is a voice and text chat application aimed at gamers but can be used by anyone. Is is currently available on Firefox, Opera, Chrome, Android, iPhone, Windows, OSX, and Linux….Basically everywhere. There is also a tutorial for installing Discord on Fedora 25 here.

Installing Discord on Linux Lite 3.4 is easy

  1. Go to this webpage, click on ‘Download for Linux’ and then ‘deb’ to download the installer.
  2. Go to the folder it downloaded into, right click and select ‘Open Terminal Here’.
  3. In the terminal type sudo dpkg -i discord-0.0.1.deb (replacing discord-0.0.1.deb with the name of the file you downloaded).
  4. Press enter and type your administrative password.
  5. Wait for it to install and then close the terminal.
  6. Open the ‘Menu’ on the left base of screen and type ‘discord’, press enter and it will start.

It might seem to use a lot of resources on first start but after updating itself it should work just fine.

Discord was created for gamers but is also used by Internet Party NZ for many of it’s internal meetings, voice chat, and group sessions. It allows you to create personal, public and private chat rooms. In general it is much loved.

Settings can be found under /home/insert username here/.config/discord/

Anti-vaccination debate – A way forward

anti vaccination debate

The anti-vaccination debate

I have friends and family who believe that vaccination is more dangerous than non vaccination. This has exposed me to many of the posts and counter posts on the internet and, quite frankly, the anti-vaccination debate isn’t getting anywhere.

The are quite a few reasons for this;

Because of this there is claim and counter claim. Outbreaks are being blamed on parents who haven’t vaccinated, governments are starting to ban children from school who haven’t been vaccinated and in some cases make vaccination mandatory.

That isn’t helpful at all. Trying to force people to vaccinate  won’t work. It places people in opposition to the government, decreases trust in the health sector and science.

Imagine being forced to go to a doctor to inject your child 20 times by age 11. Now, imagine having to take your child to a priest to be injected 20 times with god elixir when you’re an atheist who thinks the injection is poison. It simply isn’t going to work.

A way forward

I propose that we listen to people and help them find their own way forward. This isn’t that hard to do and requires far less setup than mandatory vaccination. In doing so I hope we can change the anti-vaccination debate from something negative to something positive.

There are thousands of anti vaccination people in New Zealand alone and far more around the world. If they each put $10 in a crowdfund then they would have the power to create scientific papers on the same scale as the larger pharmaceutical companies. These studies could then critique the other studies using the scientific method under control and paid for by the anti vaccination community.

This would give power to the people concerned, instead of forcibly taking it away. It would introduce them to and inform them of  the science. They could see the results of their efforts. They wouldn’t have to trust a corporation or a government. Maybe they could have a little less fear.

And who knows, maybe the papers will show up errors in the science of the day. Science is always right. It doesn’t matter if it is done by people worried about vaccination or big pharma as long as it is repeatable.

 

 

Kickstarter

 

 

Why are we so worried about terrorism?

Errorism

Over the last year there have been a huge amount of articles covering terrorism. Nearly all of them international coverage. Deaths from cars, trucks, stabbings. It’s awful. I was in Paris when a man shot some police. The city was chaos with road blocks and the detonation of a suspicious bag in the Metro.

This was during the elections and the Parisians were on high terror alert. The city sounded like a never ending Jason Borne car chase with all the sirens. People were deeply worried about Le Pen and feeling suspected even though they had lived in Paris for 10 years. Desperately concerned about what the election would mean for them.

But this is Paris. Smack bang in the middle of it all.

Meanwhile in New Zealand people are worried about terrorism as well. It is hard not to be when news agencies constantly post terror related articles. They do this because fear sells. They get more hits and sell more advertising through fear mongering.

The government uses fear to fulfil it’s agenda. Massive increases in defence spending, the NZIC budget, the removal of privacy protections in the GCSB Act. All these things have been justified as combating global terrorism, protecting us from the unseen threats that surround us. The shadowy evils that are waiting to pounce.

Fears don’t have to be rational and the fear of terrorism or war in New Zealand isn’t. For instance, the UK travel advice for New Zealand doesn’t even have a link for terrorism.


Why are we so worried about terrorism?


 

Defence Spending

Prime Minister John Key justified the massive increase in defence spending by pointing out the threats.

“The emergence of ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), heightened tensions in the East and South China seas, increases in military spending across South East Asia, and the rapid evolution and spread of cyber threats are just a few examples,” he said.

Yet the same defence force white paper that the spending was based on states,

“New Zealanders can remain confident that the country does not face a direct military threat in the foreseeable future. ”

And then goes on to advance possible threats that may be more likely to occur. Not much to justify spending an extra $20B over.


New Zealand's biggest threat


 

NZIC Budget

In Budget 2016, the Government announced an increased funding package for the NZIC of $178.7m over four years. In the words of the government this was,

“for the New Zealand intelligence community to ensure it can provide essential intelligence and security services and remain effective in a rapidly-evolving environment.”

Which can be roughly restated as we don’t have anything to worry about and we have made up a nice sounding sentence in the hopes you won’t ask to many questions. Or possibly, we just changed the law so we can surveil you but there are quite a few of you so we need more money.


At the end of 2014 New Zealand’s terror threat level increased from very low (unlikely) to low (possible but not expected). MFAT


 

The GCSB Act and associated legislation.

The changes to the GCSB and associated Acts gave the New Zealand government unheralded powers to protect us from terrorism. Yet the last act of terrorism was the Rainbow Warrior bombing in 1985. A full 32 years ago.And a simple search of the news for ‘GCSB threats‘ doesn’t find any reports of them to do with terrorism. Just the usual reports of how they have broken the law, been used to advance politics, and are installing their software in ISP’s in order to ‘better protect us’.


“Unlike many other countries, including our closest neighbour, New Zealand has not recently experienced terrorist attacks or serious, publicly-disclosed security threats.” – Cullen Report 2016


 

So why are we so worried about terrorism?

In the end there doesn’t appear to be any explanation for why we or our government are so worried about terrorism. It is insane that we spend so much time and energy on it.

It is justified by the use of shadowy threats to the country, people working secretly to destroy us. The problem with this is that it can’t be proven and we can’t disprove it either.

If the government says that 18 people are under watch for suspicion of terrorist links we aren’t allowed to see the reasoning. It is secret. We must trust them. They only want to protect us.

In reality New Zealanders have a greater chance of dying from just about anything else than terrorists. You have a greater chance of killing yourself than you do of being killed by outside forces.  579 people took their own lives last  year. We should be worried about that.

I think in the end it is because we aren’t afraid of things we believe we can control. It is the things that we can’t control that are easiest to fear. It is a pity. There are a lot of things wrong with this country that should gain more of our attention. There are better ways to spend our money.

 

 

Alliance of Small Parties

Alliance of Small Parties

A few days ago I wrote a post on the media coverage blackout that the Internet Party was facing. One piece of feedback about the post was this from twitter,

nice article but very weak in that it offers no solutions or actions, counter measures etc

Which is correct. I didn’t intend to fix the problem, I was just highlighting it. But it got me thinking…..

There are 16 registered political parties at the Electoral Commission. Only 8 of them get any media coverage with the general rule being that you have to have;

  • A seat in Parliament already and/or
  • Be polling over 0.5%

to get any media coverage.

The problem with this is that it entrenches the political landscape. No one gets to see the other parties so they don’t get coverage. It’s a vicious cycle and the only way to break out of it is to launch a well funded political campaign from the get go.

This has been the state of things for at least the last two elections. In 2014 it was the Internet Party and this election it is TOP getting coverage. But money doesn’t equal good policy. It just means you can pay for people to see you.

An Alliance of Small Parties

A solution could be an alliance of small parties (ASP).

Each election the small parties could come together and make a five minute clip on one of their policies that they think New Zealand should see.These would be spliced together to make a 50min video that people could watch. Informing them of the alternative options in the political landscape.

This wouldn’t be that hard to do. The Internet Party already has the skills as shown in their live coverage of their campaign and #antispybill series. They could host and edit it and we could all see some of the policies coming out of the smaller parties.

These parties are;

All of these parties are registered to run in the 2017 Election campaign and all of them are getting no coverage.

In NZ elections money not only equals speech, but also popularity. In my view this is wrong. A policy from The New Zealand Democratic Party for Social Credit should be side by side with National or Labour policy in the same area. Half the reason we keep following the same old ideas is that we are never informed of the options.

Alliance of Small Parties

 

 

Station Rock Track to Medlands Beach via Kowhai Valley Track

View from Station Rock Track

It is a good idea to start this from the top at Station Rock end. Unless you really like steep hills. 🙂

Station Rock track is a fairly new track. Originally it only went up to Station Rock but now it has been extended. It follows along the ridge-line to meet Kowhai Valley Track. This means you can do a nice loop by walking up the Medlands Hill, along Station Rock, and then drop down Kowhai Valley track back onto Medlands Beach.

Station Rock

The track up to Station Rock is good. The next part of the track is brand new and well marked but it can be muddy and slippery. When you get to the  Station Rock turn off, maybe 15 mins in, it is worth going to have a look at the view. Looking west you can see down the valley to Medlands. And looking east you get a good view of Tryphena and Coromandel.

Station Rock lookout

You can also see one of the radio masts for Aotea FM.

After going back to the turnoff you can head south along the ridge line. I was a little disappointed in the views but perhaps that was because I had seen them before. It is really more of a nice walk in the bush. A lot of work has been put into the track but unfortunately the pigs have decided it was all for them.

Station Rock Track view

Kowhai Valley Track

Kowhai Valley Track runs from Rosalie Bay road down to Medlands Beach. Station Rock track joins on about 200m down from the road. If you have the time go up and have a look if John Kargaards gallery. Otherwise it is downhill for quite a way. There is a seat near the bottom of the incline and then you go through some coastal forest before coming out onto Primrose Road at Medlands.

In defence of Donald Trump

In defence of Donald Trump

I don’t like Donald Trump but then I don’t know him. All I know of him is what has been served to me by the media and what they serve is what makes them money.

I also don’t like it when I find people I know passing around obviously fake pictures. Here is one of Donald Trump burning crosses with the KKK.

In defence of Donald Trump

This was shared by a middle aged woman in New Zealand. The Facebook post she got it from has been shared 18,675 times and that wasn’t even the original image. It was from the 6th of February, 2017.

The original image was created by UK artist Alison Jackson for her book Private. Just because it is art doesn’t make it OK to share without context. And not telling people it is fake is inflammatory and incites people toward racial violence.

It also adds to the narrative around Donald Trump and the KKK. Above is a picture of Donald Trump and his parents. Also fake.

How would you feel if your family had lived through one hundred years of fear of the  KKK? What about seeing your President dancing in front of a burning cross and his parents members of the KKK. How would you feel if you were a member of a racist group? Time to rise up?

How do you think Donald Trump feels?

Do you think his security team looks at a photo like that and starts looking a little closer at every African American male approaching?

Schadenfreude and Donald Trump

Schadenfreude is pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune. It has become a staple on American Political Satire shows. The most common usage of which is to put a bad picture of someone on the screen and make fun of them such as this one from Last Week Tonight.

john-oliver-trump-tennis-rp

For some reason we think it is OK to laugh at Trumps fat arse playing tennis and that makes us hypocrites and probably sexist as well. If it was Hillary Clinton there wouldn’t be any jokes about her backside.

But do you know what else it makes us? It makes us arseholes. We are the kid in the playground laughing at the kid who fell over and grazed his knee but in this case we laugh harder as the kid is a prefect and from a rich family. We think he is better than us and that is why we laugh at his misfortune.

Affective and Physiological Markers of Pleasure at Outgroup Misfortunes

People often fail to empathise with out-group members, and sometimes even experience Schadenfreude—pleasure—in response to their misfortunes.

One potent predictor of Schadenfreude is envy. According to the stereotype content model, envy is elicited by groups whose stereotypes comprise status and competitiveness.

These are the first studies to investigate whether stereotypes are sufficient to elicit pleasure in response to high-status, competitive targets’ misfortunes.

Study 1 participants feel least negative when misfortunes befall high-status, competitive targets as compared to other social targets; participants’ facial muscles simultaneously exhibit a pattern consistent with positive affect (i.e., smiling).

Study 2 attenuates the Schadenfreude response by manipulating status and competition-relevant information; Schadenfreude decreases when the target-group member has lowered status or is cooperative. Stereotypes’ specific content and not just individual relationships with targets themselves can predict Schadenfreude.

 

Schadenfreude
© 2014 Morbid Mumbles. Licensed under CC-BY.

Kaitoke Hot Springs to Mt Heale Hut via Peach Tree track

Kaitoke Hot Springs Track

Kaitoke Hot Springs track is probably the most walked piece of track on Great Barrier Island. It is also the easiest. Being almost flat helps. If there was a track to take someone in a wheelchair on, this would be it. Do a test run first, but it should be fine.

The track starts on Whangaparapara road. There is parking and it is maybe an hours walk from the Claris Airport so it isn’t hard to get to. Another good idea is to get Steve and Lebee to drop you off and pick you up at the other end.  I don’t know how much it costs but they seem to do it quite a lot.

It takes about three quarters of an hour to get to the hot springs. There is a toilet there and if you follow the path around to the left you can find some hotter pools up stream. There is also a deeper one at the top that isn’t as hot but is still the best.

If you cross the bridge the track keeps on going up steps. At the top there is a seat with a nice view of the Kaitoke Swamp. There are a couple more steps and that is about all the climbing until the start of Peach Tree Track. At the bottom of the hill the Hot Springs Track joins onto Tramline Track.

Tramline Track

Tramline Track runs all the way from Whangaparapara almost to Windy Canyon. Both ends of it are quite steep but the middle is flat and straight. Easy walking.

Tramline Track

Peach Tree Track

Peach Tree Track runs off Tramline where an old whare used to be. I have been told the peach tree wasn’t there though. It may even be still around. It is an interesting sign to read though.

Almost immediately after starting the track you begin to ascend. There had been recent track work when I went up to try and stop the spread of PTA there is a washing station at the start of most of the tracks on Great Barrier.

Once you get out of the larger Manuka into the smaller scrub-lands you are halfway there. The vegetation changes and you cross a stream where an old Kauri Dam used to be. After that it is a fairly steady climb until the junction with Southfork near Mt Heale Hut.

It is always a good idea to look at the view on the way up though. 🙂