$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.

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

 

 

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.

The Internet Party and the curious case of the missing media.

Missing Media

It is now 39 days until the New Zealand election and the media coverage is in full swing. Policy websites are up and running. A new political party headed by a rich New Zealander is getting decent traction. The media are fawning over our preferred Prime Minister…..

It is all very 2014 if you ask me. There is just one thing missing. Where is the Internet Party? Where is the party that after all the furor of last election still got more than 30,000 votes?

For that matter, where is the Conservative Party? They got almost 100, 000 votes.

Where are the Missing Media? –  Is it money?

If I go to Google News search ‘Conservative Party NZ’ I get nothing. There has been no coverage of them at all even though they had roughly half the support of NZ First in the last election.

If I search ‘Internet Party NZ’ I get three results. Two of which are a press release for their #Antispybill event. The last is a piece in Computer World. This is the sole piece of semi-journalism between two parties that accounted for more than 5% of the electorate vote last election.

Part of the problem is money. The media run on money. They support that which makes them rich. It is how their business works. The Conservative Party no longer have Colin Craig backing them financially. The Internet Party no longer have Kim Dotcom backing them financially.

You can be absolutely sure than if either party was to intimate they had a $1,000,000 to spend then there would be coverage all over the show as the media flirted and wooed their wallets. Money wins elections.

Missing Media

Where are the Missing Media? – Not just money

It’s not just money though. Money would be bad enough but in this case it is starting to look like a media blackout for the Internet Party at least. If you search ‘Kim Dotcom’ you will find pages of recent news items, but out of the first page of results only one mentions the Internet Party still exists.

“Speaking in an Internet Party live stream this evening, Mr Dotcom continued to slam the GCSB for allegedly hacking into his phone before raiding his Auckland mansion.”

That’s it. I know for a fact that Suzie Dawson, the Internet Party’s leader, has been doing dozens of media interviews from all over the world. The Party has launched in the U.S., and across Europe. The unmentioned guests, from the only news to reference the Party existing, included some of the most famous internet activists and visionaries from all over the world plus commentary on other FVEY member states.

To make it worse the GCSB has admitted it doesn’t control its own spying network and Greenpeace have caught Thompson and Clark surveilling them. Yet no comment has been requested from the Internet Party, in the middle of an election campaign, about front page news stories on topics they were created to deal with. That isn’t just negligence. It’s willful.

If Gareth Morgan can be asked for comment about boot camps then I think the Internet Party should, at least, be asked about our Government Communications Security Bureau systems being run by a foreign power.

 

Who are Thompson and Clark?

Thompson and Clark Homepage

Thompson and Clark are in the news again so I thought I would put together a brief primer on who they are. This is by no means a thorough look at them, but more of a brief history of their sins (and ineptitude).

Probably the main thing to take from this is that they have been targeting activists for a long time, sometimes work for the government, and seem unable to learn.

If you have more then send me the links and I will add them on.


I was paid to betray protestors, 27 May 2007

“An Auckland private investigation firm is paying agents to infiltrate and spy on environmental, peace and anti-vivisection groups for its clients, including state-owned enterprise Solid Energy.”

Link to backup article as the original no longer exists.


Solid Energy denies spying on activists, April 20, 2008

“State-owned Enterprises Minister Trevor Mallard says he has sought, and received, an assurance that state-owned coal company Solid Energy has not breached a no-spying directive.”

Link to original article


Taxpayers pay $1m for spies’ sarcasm, Jan 31, 2009

“STATE COAL company Solid Energy is reconsidering its use of the controversial private investigators Thompson and Clark (TCIL) after they were caught out for a second time trying to use paid informers to spy on community groups.”

Link to original article.


Spies target animal rights campaigners, 1st August 2010

“An Auckland private investigation firm has been caught out after it attached a sophisticated tracking device to a political campaigner’s car – but left the device visible from outside the vehicle.”

Link to original article.


Thompson and Clark Investigations, 3rd August 2010

“KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Minister of Agriculture: Will he ask the Pork Industry Board if they were aware that Thompson and Clark Investigations was collecting information for them on animal rights campaigner Rochelle Rees by means of a tracking device planted under her car; if not, why not?”

Hansard.


Aotearoa Independent Media Centre, 26 August 2012

“Christchurch Police have been accused of corruption by deliberately obstructing a recent investigation into a complaint about ex police detective and co-director of Provision Security Ltd and Thompson & Clark Investigations Ltd, Nick Thompson.”

Link to backup of article.


Greenpeace says it has caught spies in the act, 10 August 2017

“Greenpeace claims it has caught spies in the act of tracking its staff and supporters and compiling detailed dossiers.”

Original article.

 

Metiria Turei and state surveillance

Metiria Turei

Let them who are without sin cast the first stone…..

Over the past month I think we have been shown a great example of why state surveillance is a bad idea.

On the 16 of July Metiria Turei revealed she had lied to stop her benefit being cut while raising her daughter.

This led to a media frenzy and relentless pressure on not only her but her family, investigation by WINZ, admitting she had used a false address, and finally her resignation on the 9th of August.

It looks like she is a horrible fraudster, until you start putting things in perspective.

This is a woman who has served the people of New Zealand as a Member of Parliament with distinction and honor for 15 years. The most recent ‘dodgy’ thing that she has done was 22 years ago. The false address was so she could support a friend in an election. The most she could have benefited from this was $6000.

There have been accusations that the ensuing media and social bloodbath was because she is female and Maori and there is some evidence of this. If you look at the way the media and law treated John Key  Bill English and compare the situations it is disturbing. Even more so for it being recent history, not 25 years ago.

Metiria Turei

Metiria Turei

Perhaps one of the better quotes was this from 1 NEWS Maori Affairs Reporter Yvonne Tahana;

“I have nothing more to add to the screeds of vitriolic, smug and know-it-all epithets that have already been penned by journalists, bloggers and Twitter-ites on that issue.

But, in my opinion, her resignation as co-leader of the Green Party sends a clear message to Māori.

People who’ve done dumb things in their past, or who have struggled, are in no way suitable to make a contribution at a government level.”

And it is with the end of that quote in mind that I want to turn to mass surveillance.

Give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest…

In New Zealand nearly everything is being recorded sold,  bought and stored around the world. I am not just talking about the GCSB and NSA, but also Google, Facebook, and Vodafone.

Everything this generation says and does, where they go, what they do, who they talk to, their drunk txts, fights, the things they thought were normal that will turn out to be social no-no’s in the future. All these things will be on record and available to the government of the day for political gain. We know this. We have seen it before.

So in the future there will be no-one in opposition to the government of the day who is not ‘squeaky clean’….or very, very powerful, or working for the powerful.

But let’s not be paranoid. Let’s stick with ‘squeaky clean’, never broken the law, nothing to hide at all, no texts, never said a word out of place, looked at the wrong things……

The problem with this is that just about everybody does break the law. It is estimated that 70% of Americans have done something that could put them in jail. A survey on the Telegraph found the average Briton broke the law once every day. The ‘squeaky clean’ are such a small number that in terms of the majority they are abnormal.

A world in which we are run by the incredibly small amount of people who are somehow ‘squeaky clean’ will be an incredibly abnormal world.  And any who speak against it must either be part of it, or they will be removed like Metiria.