What is about the centre right in Auckland? There they are, in the citadel of commerce, and yet they’re routinely unable to put up a credible mayoral candidate to run the place. All they’ve got for now is poor old Mark Thomas, the former National candidate in Wellington Central whom even the National Party threw overboard 20 years ago, at the 1996 election. A credible right wing foe for Phil Goff may eventually emerge – but they’ll be starting from a long way behind the man from Mt Roskill. Things got to such a pretty pass that earlier this week, Thomas was reduced to complaining that Goff had used a taxpayer funded telephone line (!) the other day to talk to RNZ, when they rang for an interview about his mayoral campaign…. Read the rest of this entry »
One of the great things about writing online is that if you have a bad morning, readers will pick up on it, and take you to task. I’m totally willing to concede that my last column a couple of days ago on the Paris terrorism attacks wasn’t the last word on the subject, but it was a surprise to open the old digital mailbag and be accused of being (a) a ‘regressive leftist’ and thereby soft on terrorism (b) wilfully blind to the security threat to Europe posed by Syrian refugees and (c) allegedly ‘clutching for straws’ in suggesting that the Syrian refugee passport found near one of the dead attackers in Paris should not be taken at face value.
There had been three main points in the column in quesion. Namely, that the Paris attacks should not be blamed on some supposed intrinsic tendency to violence in the religion of Islam. I also argued that there shouldn’t be massive retaliatory bombing campaigns of civilian centres in northern Syria and northern Iraq, since these will only fuel IS recruitment – and would, besides, amount to war crimes that cannot be justified even if those towns did contain IS fighters in their midst. Finally, the mass stereotyping of Syrian refugees as potential terrorists seemed like a terrible idea. If only because in the Al Qaeda attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the subsequent IS attacks in Europe this year, the gunmen seem to have primarily European nationals, not refugees. Read the rest of this entry »
According to polls, a third of Republican voters in Iowa want Islam to be criminalized. Unfortunately, the cornfields of middle America aren’t the only place that ‘Islam’ is being blamed for the terrorism attacks in Paris.
Presidential contender Ben Carson for instance, wants it to be made illegal for a Muslim to be elected as President of the USA. For the Republican Party at least, freedom of religion in America extends only to tolerating many ways of accepting Jesus Christ as your personal saviour. In reality of course, treating Islamic State as the essence of Islam makes about as much sense as treating the Ku Klux Klan as the essence of Christianity.
As Juan Cole pointed out in a recent column on this point, if Islam is so inherently violent, one has to ask why the murder rates in Muslim countries tend to be very much lower than in the United States… Moreover, the millions killed in the 20th century nationalism wars of Christian Europe were way, way above any death toll caused by Muslims over the same period. In some Muslim countries is there an unhealthy blurring of the roles of church and state? Perhaps. Yet as Cole also points out, Franco’s Spain [and the Salazar dictatorship in Portugal] saw church and state become virtually fused, with deadly effect. There’s nothing unique to Islam about that risk. Oh, and like Christianity, Islam also forbids the killing of innocent non-combatants. Read the rest of this entry »
Since Prime Minister John Key plainly has trouble with the leadership thing, maybe we should keep it simple for him. So, here’s a list of what he should do, and what he shouldn’t do when it comes to the brutal detention/deportation of New Zealand citizens.
(a) Key shouldn’t say that the New Zealand detainees on Christmas Island include rapists and murderers when in fact, none of them are. Such claims make him look like either a misinformed fool or a deliberate liar. Either way, its not a good look.
(b) Key shouldn’t keep on recycling Australian government propaganda about how the New Zealand detainees are all serious, hardened criminals. That sort of stuff may go down well with gullible Aussies, but New Zealanders don’t like being stigmatized unfairly by Australians looking for an excuse to mistreat us. No doubt, if Key culls through the list of the New Zealand detainees on Christmas Island he can find some serious criminals. However, a substantial majority are not – and even those who are, still deserve to be treated humanely. Our Prime Minister shouldn’t be smearing the Kiwi detainees by intimating that all of them are desperadoes who pose a serious threat to the law abiding New Zealand public. Most of them are nothing of the sort. Read the rest of this entry »
The rationale behind Prime Minister John Key’s smear attack against Labour yesterday (and the subsequent walkout from Parliament) was obvious enough. When you’re in a hole, don’t even try to explain why – on your watch – New Zealand citizens are being thrown into concentration camps, deported and having their families torn apart by a bunch of Australian goons on what – in the majority of cases – is a dubious legal pretext. Any way you try to explain just why the Australians have simply brushed you aside as you witter on about the spirit of Anzac – and without even giving you the courtesy of keeping you informed about what is happening – you’ll lose, big time. Simple truth is we’re being kicked around by Australians big time, and all that John Key is saying is: do it faster. Read the rest of this entry »
Don’t know how you feel about it, but the selective unavailability of Ministers and senior public servants to media scrutiny seems to be a growing concern. Regularly on RNZ – which usefully reports when this occurs – an issue will arise that begs for a response or where ministerial/departmental accountability is at stake, but the relevant politician/bureaucrat will not be available for comment. Yet often and tellingly, they’re not so beyond-radio-contact that they can’t find time to authorise and email a statement unilaterally stating their position. Which indicates that it is the questioning of the party line that they’re choosing to avoid.
Now, I’m not saying that these busy, important people should be available for comment 24/7 on any issue whatsoever that the media – which is allegedly insatiable – feels inclined to ask. But c’mon, this is the state broadcaster. If you can diary in an appearance on Breakfast TV, surely Morning Report isn’t too much of a stretch. Read the rest of this entry »
When Malcolm Turnbull took over as PM across the Tasman, much was made of him citing the populist touch of Prime Minister John Key – who, Turnbull noted, had managed to keep the electorate onside while making significant changes. It says a lot about the two countries that one of Key’s “populist” touches was to bring back knights and dames, while Turnbull’s first populist move has been to scrap them entirely as a colonial anachronism. Read the rest of this entry »
Unlike the US and (allies like New Zealand) Russia and Iran have a very clear goal for their intervention in Syria. Russia and Iran want the Assad regime to survive and prevail against an Islamic State that they regard as a mere proxy of the Saudi/Israeli/US axis. To that end, they’re willing to put Russian planes in the air and Iranian/Hizbollah troops on the ground to ensure Assad’s survival. And they’re willing to pay that price because they see Assad’s fall as part of a US/Saudi/Israeli plan to pick off Iran’s allies, and weaken its influence in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East. Read the rest of this entry »
Column – Gordon Campbell
Care to know what Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence thinks about the gender wage gap? No? Well, I suppose she is only (a) a successful entertainer and (b) a 25 year old woman, so… what would she know about politics? Whereas men who succeed in business … Read the rest of this entry »
A few days ago, Google finally and comprehensively won a very long-running case brought against it by the Authors Guild which had claimed that Google’s Book Project – which operates as a digital library catalogue with a few snippets of content to contextualise and focus the search – amounted to a violation of copyright. In finding in favour of Google, the US Second Court of Appeals ringingly re-stated the purpose of copyright in terms that are useful and relevant here in New Zealand. Especially now that the IP chapter of the Trans Pacific Partnership ‘trade’ deal has turned back the clock and extended the copyright term from 50 to 70 years, among other negative IP commitments. A few copyright extremists have since come out of the woodwork to defend and applaud the TPP’s IP commitments.
To the US courts, ‘fair use’ is not an exemption to be grudgingly tolerated – it is the very purpose of copyright. Read the rest of this entry »