Friday, 23 August 2013

Run rabbits run,

Classical fascists (those who would merge commerce and government) have some things in common with wild rabbits, they like to hide when others get too close, they prefer to meet in secret where no one can see them, and in many parts they're seen as noxious pests.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), is no exception. For forty years they operated in secret an they were happy fascists because no one knew who they were or what they were doing. Then two years ago, grass roots efforts have been digging up their casts and pellets in every state.

The groups have been so successful at revealing the dirty little ALEC secret, because of open government laws requiring that interactions with legislators be part of the public record, subject to freedom of information act requests.

This has ground on the gears of ALEC so they've decided they want exemptions from these open government laws. First in their line up for their next assault on American democracy, Texas. Apparently the Texas AG is kind friendly to ALEC. And when it comes to business law, Texas is once again the wild wild west, thanks to Rick Perry's deregulation agenda.

The irony is perhaps ALEC is precisely the sort of organization, the American founders would have sought open government laws in order to prevent usurpation of the the will of the people.

Honey, where did you put the 10-80 carrots?

See also
  Raw Story - Wisconsin

Thursday, 22 August 2013

"See what you miss if you don't stay alert"

image credit: Shelley Hedges
"Hey guys someone said something important and we missed it. DRINKS!" so said  Zaphod Beeblebrox as it slowly dawned on him that he and his fellow travellers might not be dead, and before the full realisation they were indeed at Milliways the restaurant at the end of the universe.

Over the week I've been busy try to find ways to make my life suck a little less. So I've been a little too preoccupied to write of the evils of rightwing and paranoid politics that befallen many of us.

The week  started off well with New  Zealands first legally sanction same sex marriages. 30 couples tied the knot, with one couple having their ceremony  on a flight to Queenstown. I wonder if the reception involves jet-boating the Rakia river or bungy jumping. It is good to see someone has reason to celebrate but lets not be too distracted.

Today our National  led government push the GCSB bill through parliament 61 to 59. someone in opposition abstained. A poll that contacts people by cell phone as well as land line giving more accurate results has shown a 9% drop in support for national, meaning that if an election were held today, John Key's smile would be looking for a job tomorrow.

Also today we learn Bradley Manning has been sent down for 35 years. Not as bad as the possible sentence he could have got, but plenty bad, he's eligible for parole in 9 years. It is funny how authorities are so keen to spy and reveal the misdeeds of Joe Citizen, but if Joe does the same to the authorities he gets totally screwed.  Bradley should not spend one more day in custody. Meanwhile support is growing for his Nobel Peace Prize nomination, and deservedly so.

On Sunday a new group, had it inaugural meeting. Calling it self "Off the grid Wellington" six people came together to exchange ideas for sustainable living, some of them were even good ideas for businesses, while some want to do things at home that may require at team effort to construct, like a chicken coup.

On Tuesday Oil Free Wellington and Mana Wellington organised a showing of Bidder 70, the story of Tim deChristopher, how he "monkey wrenched" and illegal land rights auction, and the drawn out legal process that led to him spending 2 years in federal prison until April this year. Tim started something, a movement for non-violent civil disobedience against big carbon, America has not seen anything like this since the civil rights movement of the 1960s. This documentary is well worth seeing.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Rolling along...

An important part of the life of major cities will be low carbon transport. Wellington will be no exception once Counsel is driven out of dinosaur thinking to move forward.

I don't usually head over to Kilbirnie, but in my search for cheaper groceries, I decided to walk it. On my way, I passed Burkes Cycles, I spotted a couple of e-bikes, and decided to drop in on my way home, before continuing on to the cheaper super market where I found breakfast will be $4/week cheaper and much more.

I need to replace the tires on my bicycle, and I popped in to make a pricing enquiry. The assistant showed me serveral kinds  for my 27"x1-1/4" wheels ranging price form about $36 to about $65. The latter being puncture resistant may well be worth the extra dosh.

Suitably impressed by the assistants helpfulness, I mentioned this blog and the I noticed eco-bikes in the front. My quick glance earlier had missed the full range of e-bikes present.

Perhaps the best value of the four was the Flying Cat "Blowy"powered by a lithium ion battery, described as having best range and is modestly priced at $2330.    it feature a 250watt brushless motor, some may recognise this as steriodal version of a cpu fan. Shimano 7-speed gears .  26"x2" wheel.

Next, the cheapest at $2249 on this sticker was the smart motion. I checked Burke's web site an it lists them even cheaper at $1799 for the 250 watt models and $2099 for the 300 watt models. This is a real bargain, compared to competitor offerings where $1850 would get you a conversion kit.  Smart Motion bikes are powered by a 36v 10ah lithium-polymer battery and has an 8 gear shimano gear set. they hit the road on 26"x1.9" Kevlar-puncture-hardened tyres. The seat post has a shock absorber in it for a comfortable non bone shaking ride.

Pedigo step thru
Pedigo an imported American brand offer the remaining two bikes The first is impressively large and so was the price tag at $3199, but the last bike from Pedigo was more modest having a step-through frame and price at $2699.

So if you're serious about a low carbon future an e-bike is a great way to leave the car at home on the way to work. Burke's cycles may well be where I go to get my e-bike has soon as I tame my feral credit card.

It would save more in bus fare than interest and card insurance than on the basis of 10 trips per week. So they are a very sensible option. Still we need a more cyclist friendly roading environment.

The batteries are a big part of the chunk of change for an e-bike being price at around $1000 each.  Of course, in a few years we will have Sulphur and Zinc Air options offering much greater energy density, durability and cheaper than is currently offered by lithium.

See also
  Burkes Cycles

Friday, 16 August 2013

Climate crisis threat and opportunity

Hard on the heals of Generations Zero's whirl wind tour, the news cycle bring us yet another example of a New Zealand company addressing the issue and making a buck. Lanza tech have a process that converts carbon dioxide into ethanol. What about this has made the headlines is the fact that they now have a partnership with the Indian government to develop industrial plant use this process to make fuel from industrial pollution.

This will mean that companies using this technology will make money from waste output. Also, if they use biofuel for energy or their industrial process uses bio-sourced materials, they will add no more carbon to the atmosphere.

A process for turning ethanol into plastic has been known for some time, this would lock up carbon especially if it is suitable for a building material. Indeed mixing plastic into concrete increases its durability, and reduces its weight to volume ratio.

Notice how our(NZ) own government's knuckle dragging environmental and economy policy gives little interest in addressing the reality of climate change, and indeed is still schmoozing big oil.  Surprising that NZ$14m in public money was invested in Lanzatech, because it is precisely the sort of thing public investment should be used for.

See Also Lanza Tech
   Ethanol to plastic

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Highway Robbery

Generation Zero completed a series of fourteen public speaking events in locations around New Zealand last night, making the case for a zero-carbon future.

The final event held in Wellington's Illott Chamber was so well attended it needed an overflow area despite seating 300.  The presentation was fast paced and quite a data dump.

What was clear was New Zealand's economic development policy is stuck in the '70s. There are cheaper alternatives. Much can be done, is being done, some of it here, it is working and we need to do more of it to stay competitive.

The audience heard from presentations from Z Energy, A Massey scientist, an engineer, an Architect and more.

The National led government announced with much fan fair the Roads of National Significance (RoNS). This development policy is better described by some as Roads of Significance to National. While these projects may provide temporary benefit - Short term construction work, and a short lived improvement in traffic flows. Certainly the ROI for this project is dubious, Even Treasury says so.

First speaker of the evening was Danusia Wypych of Z Energy. Some years ago Z Energy bought the New Zealand assets of Shell New Zealand. But unlike many in the Carbon energy industry is actively looking for ways to opt out of extracted carbon.  Z Energy is looking for ways to turn wood waste and even wood from forest farms deliberately grown for fuel among other technologies. We also saw examples including a major cement company using wood from demolition for energy in the process saving money and creating business and work for supplying companies.

But 40% of New Zealand's Carbon foot print comes from road traffic. In recent years the kilometres driven by NZ drivers has stalled, perhaps, on the back of rising fuel costs. But New Zealand also has one of the most fuel inefficient fleets in the OECD and just 75 electric vehicles. Our rail network is in places being allowed to decline, most notably perhaps to the Hawke's Bay region. Rail carriers freight for 20 to 25% of the energy needed to move it by road. So the government opting to not repair the damaged section of rail is going backward and costing Hawke's Bay producers a small fortune.

Second to speak was Maddy Foreman.  When the government put into law it emissions trading schema they hailed as part of New Zealand Playing its part. but exactly how is now doing anything to discourage Carbon usage now that the carbon price has been allowed to collapse from $20.45 when the scheme was started to its current level of around $0.50. But it is not the only thing, there's the white elephant RoNS, there's abandonment of a moratorium on new carbon energy, even increased tax breaks for big oil. How did we get Rick Perry to design our energy strategy? :P

Here is where the "highway robbery" comes the RoNS are set to cost NZ$8b, delay roading development and maintenance outside of Auckland for ten years and eventually give little benefit to Auckland. Kiwi's see this obsession with new roads as barking mad, indeed 7 out of 10 would like to see better public transport and would consider cycling if it were safer.

Wellington Region is set to send $2b on the roading network. Three major projects that moving backwards indeed they set to slow traffic but a further 3km/h.
Kapiti Express is estimated to cost $600m and has a benefit to cost ration of .2%. Anything less than 1% is likely to loose money.

These projects are born of short thinking and they are not going to be of benefit.

Ralph Sim Contributor to the IEA and now lecturing at Massey University.
"The current trends toward warming of 4C will have devastating consequences for international security" - UN Security Council.
The change in climate is mainly human caused. And we are running out of time.  Since 1990 carbon emissions from road transport rose from 400 to 550 tonnes of GHG. There is no sign of reduction. Light rail provides options for inter city connections, linking suburbs.  240 people can commute by 177 cars or 3 buses or 1 light rail unit.

"Men and nature must work hand in hand. The throwing out of balance of the resources of nature throws out of balance also the lives of men." E Roosevelt notably without the benefit of the science of climate change we have today.

Paul Young pointed to things that can and are being done.
Critics of those who advocate for responses to climate change
like to argue it is expensive.
Certainly some responses would be but those are not under serious consideration. Denmark undertook a study, and found that they could achieve a zero carbon future quite cheaply. With projects including setting up cycle ways, improving public transport. Now carbon fuel is so expensive, it is not like anyone needs much of a reason to leave their car at home.

Already, 30% of our industrial energy is renewable. Norsk Cog Tasman are using geothermal while Golden Bay Cement are using wood waste from demolitions.

We could do more. For example "energy forests" - Forestry farms were trees are grown for fuel. We have more than enough land for biofuel.

The Nissan Leaf can do 120km on a single charge an this will suit 95% of drivers.

There is more to road users than commuters. There is freight. Rail is 4 times more efficient than road transport so we should invest in it. Long haul road freight should become a mere shadow of there current fleet. Already they find margins squeezed with the rising price of fuel.

Electric bicycles, especially for our hillier cities, Wellington and Dunedin come to mind. These offer assistance on those hills that really make riders break out in a sweat. Even climbing Dunedin's Baldwin Street becomes comfortable with a motor in the driving wheel.  These bikes can set you back $2500 to $4000 or $1800 for a conversion kit. But they have a 10 to 15A/h Lithium battery and are said to work well for Wellington by Electric Bike Hub.

Richard Reid gave us a vision for better roads in Wellington. Of particular concern is the basin reserve. The function he said of the Basin Reserve is to separate North-South traffic from East-West traffic it is good to send East-West traffic under memorial park, this allows it clearance from inner city north-south traffic between the CBD and Island Bay. The proposed second tunnel under Mt Victoria is an expensive waste of space, and it wont actually improve traffic flows.

Another great wast of space is the garden area between Kent and Cambridge Terraces. This space could be better utilized as a promenade with shops.

Steven Green, trained as an engineer to solve the problems of responding to climate, it perplexed him to there are engineering solutions but nothing was being done until he realized these changes need political clout. Government are often loathed to do anything unless there are votes in it. Young are most concerned by climate change yet many youth have not  registered on the electoral role. By increasing young voter registration and encouraging voting for public policy to address climate change the governments can be pushed into action. It is not just registration, it is getting your registration upto date of you have moved.

Wellington's last local body election saw only a 40% voter response. The bigger the voter turnout the more like we are get a council that will move in the right direction. But, they need pushing on issues, just like central government. Making a submission to council is the way to do this, see how at

[Correction] Removed description of Z-Energy as a sponsor of the event in the interests of accuracy.

See also
   Generation Zero on Facebook

Sunday, 11 August 2013

I find salvation at a farmers market.

Living in a first world economy, many challenges face today's working age population, I myself am no exception in this. One of the biggies is establishing and exchange work for income. Since industries we work in are competing with counterparts in 2nd and 3rd world countries. To make matters worse, access to good food can be a problem, Either because the nearest supermarket is 50kms(30miles) away, making access difficult if not impossible for those without there own vehicle. Groceries tend to be heavy and public transport rarely goes from shop door to home door step.

Often supermarkets are operated by corporations whose priority is profit over ethics. So a 10kg bag of potatoes leaves the farm gate for $2.60/bag, and is offered to the public at a supermarket for $12.

Enter the hero, the farmer's market. That same bag of potatoes leaves farmgate, to be sold directly to the public for $8.50, through a cooperative.  This returns a much greater margin to farmers and a better deal to the public.  Prices at a farmers market tend to range from 30% to 50% cheaper than the supermarket price.

Tesla are doing something similar, they have a show room where you see, touch and test drive the car before going home to order your own car on line. This has been so successful that the Tesla S out sold a bunch of its big name competitors. Tesla's experience isn't without wrinkles. Dealers successfully lobbied Texas and Florida to make law requiring that cars must be sold through a dealer network. Oh the irony of the low regulation state regulating against innovation.

For me the farmers market, saves enough to put me "in the black" at the end of most months and catch up on some debts. For many others, they are the only way out of food deserts where all there is to eat is junk food and almost certain obesity and diabetes.

Detroit even has urban farms, and there are similar projects here in Wellington, where people perform some task related to tending crops and are paid with produce.

Over all these endeavours are a quiet revolution. They are overturning the way things are done.  Cutting out the corporate middlemen with their obfuscated overheads and margins, offering greater benefit to the public and producers while breaking down the monopolies of corporations that are short changing us all.  People are looking for and creating solutions to circumvent the problems of the broken economies.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Don't try to be smart.

Higher education is a path out of poverty for many.  For a government that says it is interested in improving the lives of the people who elected it, you would think that they at least would not penalize people for trying to become more attractive to the hiring market. It would at least make sense, right?

But making sense is not exactly forte of conservative politics. Here in New Zealand, you can get assistance if you are out of work. You can also get assistance if you go studying.  At one level these seem to be the compassionate things to do, but beyond that there are good economic reasons to do this.  With this assistance being as low as it is, those who receive it spend all of it, creating demand in the retail sector and encouraging demand in the manufacturing sector thus creating jobs in both sectors thus creating a mechanism by which people in poverty indirectly help some of their ranks get out of poverty.

Removing barriers to leaving poverty should be a role of government and many governments say that they are doing that. But conservative governments have actually been putting in more barriers.

Some time in the last 5 years The New Zealand government set up the following situation. A student in Wellington living on their own gets NZ$60 per week less than an unemployed person in the similar circumstances. How do I know this? I look forward to continuing my own education, and hopefully working to attain an NCEA Level 6 Advanced Diploma in Software Development, I applied for assistance from StudyLink. I called this morning, and the good news is it looks like it will be approved, The bad news is I will get NZ$60 less, than I get now as an unemployed person.

Actually, it gives me NZ$78/week above my rent. Subtract $40 week for food, leaves $152 per month for bills. My bills are around NZ$375/month. This month, however it is looking more like $425. More importantly one bill in particular is approximately NZ$150/month in debt payment and I can't reduce it, even if I could it still would leave me in a hole.

I have no car and no dependants, but it leaves me wondering how people pull off the magic trick of studying under this arrangement.  Many will offer the knee jerk response why not get a part-time job, I'd be happy to do that. but here is the wrinkle. This wouldn't be near so bad in a bouyant job market but 5000 more people lost jobs than got them in the last quarter, the unemployment rate is 6.4% nationally and Wellington is worse than average among regions, mainly due to the government gutting the public service.

The employment market is especially tough right now, and finding work is difficult for everyone. The average is time to find a job is 6 months. for me it has been 18. I'm over it, I'd much rather be working or studying, but this ain't working for me, and it ain't working for 175,000 other Kiwi's.

When I said to a friend it seemed like our government was more interested in punishing the poor than making it possible to escape poverty, his response could be well summed up by the words "well duh".

Of course it is better for people to be working. But employers want skills. And the 1% don't want people who have long experience with poverty to get smarter because they may use their skills or discretionary income to fight their agenda or become, as Boris Johnson put it, "lefty tossers". They are happy to educate the the young with little experience of poverty as an adult, because they are more likely to be swindled by the rightwing propaganda.

So Kiwi students get slammed even harder than those out of work, and American Students get lumbered with debts that cannot be discharged even by bankruptcy  and got screwed by Congress on interest rates. Meanwhile, our conservative government is successfully driving this country into ditch dug by the who used 1%, globalisation as wheel barrow and "free trade" as a spade.  Is it time to drop these jack-asses into their own ditch and fill it in?  I think so.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Good noises but we wait.

President Obama has been making more encouraging noises related to the Keystone XL pipe line.

While on his road trip he to pointed how "you can't talk about a pipeline that will create 2000 jobs and call it a jobs plan." A clear reference to Keystone XL because while TransCanada like to talk about much higher jobs numbers independent analyses paint a radically different picture. The reality is America needs jobs in the millions.

While the construction phase does create many more jobs, those jobs are temporary and so will not contribute to long term economic stability for the American economy.
Indeed when we factor in the instability from the changing climate, KXL will be a huge contributor to economic collapse.

According to Yale University, Toronto has already suffered environmental degradation from tar sands. In 2011, tar-sands companies used and polluted more water than used by Toronto's 2.3 million people, 370 million cubic metres.

As you might expect Republicans are whining that the president's comments are putting KXL at risk. They may disagree, but it is a good thing. Texas' water resources are already under pressure with severe drought and even wild fires in recent years.

New Mexico is already doing the seemingly insane, farmers are draining an aquifer to sell the water for fracking. If there were plenty of water and no problem with methane leakage and Carbon Dioxide then there would be no problem. But Carbon Dioxide, is the highest it has been in over 1 million years setting for to the bread basket states and flooding the south and east coasts with increasing violence and regularity. Methane leakage is 17 times higher than the level needed to keep radiative forcing from methane under that created by the carbon dioxide produced by natural gas from fracking. And New Mexico is in severe drought. But then, this is the state that kept voting for Sheriff Joe Arpaio. A man so despicably racist, that he did not see fit to direct resources to investigate the rape of Hispanic children, was defiant when protests called him on it, and created the law that put one woman -- a citizen -- in custody for 4 months, until a judge asked prosecutors "didn't you check her birth certificate" and prosecutors replied "we assumed it was fake." It wasn't fake the judge had checked the certificate before the appearance, and was shocked by the case. But at least New Mexico will remain untouched by the tar-sands network.

The president executive power is for now the only hope of killing this white elephant. What is worrying is the prospect of a future president flipping the Oval offices position.

See also
   Reuters - Obama dismisses KXL as a jobs plan
   EPA True KXL impact not adequately addressed.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Like an ant under a magnifying glass.

Last week 3rd Degree revealed that in the early 90s police were investigating a string of rape-assaults on Women in Auckland at the same time as Teina Pora, a car thief, was being prosecuted for the murder of Susan Burdett in 1992. The M.O. of the crime for which Pora was convicted fit a pattern in the string that continued long after his sentencing until the arrest 4 years later of Malcolm Rewa 1996.

This case has previously been shown to have deep flaws including payments to witnesses.  but also the defence were not notified that police were having DNA samples analyzed during the trial on a theory that would exonerate their client. Such a revelation would have led to an adjournment.

Yesterday Judith Collins vetoed an enquiry into Pora's conviction, even though six senior police officers with detailed knowledge of the case believe he is innocent of the crime for which he has been convicted. Judith likes her criminals guilty even if they are not she wants them to be guilty. Facts be damned.

Indeed, in another case, The David Bain case, Collin's rejected the independant review of the case and has decided to subject the report to judicial review. This is unheard of in our legal system. The report by retired Canadian Justice Binnie came back saying David Bain was on the balance of probabilities innocent and deserving of compensation, Inquisitor Judith had the report reviewed by a New Zealand judge who agrees with her that the report is "flawed". It seriously smells of judge shopping.

Pora's term of incarceration is now longer than the previous longest false conviction case at 20 years, making it 7 years longer than David Bain's incarceration.

Judith Collins seems to be every bit the rightwing zealot who is convinced of the accused's guilt the moment the charge sheet pops out of the deskjet. If she has any regrets it may be not being allowed to toy with prisoners like she has a giant magnifying glass on a bright sunny day.

This make her eminently unsuitable for the portfolio, but same is true for many of her National Party colleagues.

See also
 3News - Teina Pora
 Stuff - David Bain

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Propangda - The Popular Delusion.

Mike McRoberts interviewed Bill Hodge, who once sat as a judge. He said that if he were advising Edward Snowden, that he would advise him to do what Daniel Ellsberg did when he released the Pentagon Papers.  Ellsberg stuck around to answer the charges, he turned him self into the police and was released on a bond until trial allowing him to prepare his case for court which ultimately led to his acquittal.

After the experience of Bradley Manning it seems unlikely Snowden would receive such fair treatment. Even if exonerated, who would put their hand up to spend a couple of years in lockup stark bollock naked with the light on 24/7 as your custodian attempts to break your mind with psy-ops techniques.

Even Daniel Ellsberg says Edward Snowden was smart to skip town so to speak.  Things have changed since the days of the Pentagon papers. The mechanisms of the US government are driven by more paranoia and are rather more aggressive and punitive in the way that they deal with dissenters.

Revealing war crime it has been noted is not espionage nor is it treason. Yet this is the language used against Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden. While there are claims that his releases have resulted potential even actual loss of life no evidence has been presented that supports such claims. Even Bill Hodge admitted with out prompting that he had no evidence to back the claim that he made immediately beforehand.  This smells of a smear. Make the geek look twisted so the public will hate him too, we don't want any heroes getting in the way.

The propaganda machine must be running at full tick or something close to it. The flood of propaganda has been likened to The Matrix. Morpheus puts it well
"The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inert, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it."
Most people only experience what the system allows them to see, and it is not in their best interests. Even now they are being propaganda to acclimatise them to the idea of slam Iran down for it's putative nuclear program. Certainly, many in mass media will qualify as the "the enemy" as they continue to repeat smears and liables against those who put everything on the line to defend democracy from those who have sworn to up hold it while chipping away at it when our backs are turned. How did we get so many foxes in our hen house?

See also
   Propaganda "Deconstructing Edward Bernays" Smells Like Human Spirit with Dr Jerry Kroth, Prof Emeritus @ Santa Clara
  Three60 Aug 4 2013 - TV3

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Surveilance with a side of camp farce.

As the world pays attention to the big drama of Edward Snowden as he gains temporary asylum in Russia and Bradley Manning faces sentencing and a possible sentence of 134 years, a smaller scale drama is happening in New Zealand, and this one has a strong element of farcical Campanella.

We here are of course playing host  to the Kim Dotcom saga, in which foreign powers have pressured our authorities to spy on a New Zealand citizen - illegally according to the judgement of our courts.

But in the fallout from that judgement the Kitteridge enquiry was formed to investigate the practice of spying on New Zealanders by the GCSB. Far from a highlighting a supposed isolated nature of the Dotcom case, the Kitteridge report revealed that 88 New Zealanders are or have been spied on in recent time. All this despite current law prohibiting the GCSB from targeting New Zealanders.

The government were sitting on that report, until it was leaked to Parliamentary Journalist Andrea Vance.  The PM was livid, though you might not have noticed with that smile that Heath Ledger made famous in his last blockbuster gig.  The PM set up another enquiry to find the leaker. Eventually they came to the conclusion that MP Peter Dunne, a coalition partner that national actually kind of needs because of its weak majority.  In particular Dunne's vote was needed to get the GCSB Bill through its second reading vote this week.

There have since been revealed serious problems with how that enquiry gathered information from which it formed its conclusions.  First, phone call data, and now emails between Dunne and Vance. While the PM says that releasing this information to the enquiry was a mistake that should be blamed on a contractor, but oops John Key's Chief of Staff actually ordered the release of the information.

This farce isn't so much making the case that we need more survellance as much as it is making the case that governments, especially this government, cannot be trusted with private information.

And this is only when they should be on their best behaviour, while they put on a show to say "We can be trusted to spy on bad people to keep you safe from them." Instead the message that is coming across is "We are the bad people who should never be allowed to spy on anyone."

Never mind maliferous intent, incompetence and paranoia can lead to chilling effects on the exercise of rights to free expression and political criticism.

The last four years have been dotted with big privacy breaches by government departments, From publicly accessible kiosks with access to private information related to clients receiving social security assistance, to Accident Compensation Corporation sending clients files to other clients and in one case being blackmailed for the return of the files.

All this has made New Zealanders wary of claims that we need more surveillance, it just seems like another thing to screw people up.

Talking on morning talk radio in Christchurch the PM made the poorly substantiated claim that there are Al-Qaeda trained New Zealanders operating in New Zealand. If that were true the Police already have the instruments to deal with the threat. Even the dreaded Search and Surveillance Act is ample for their purpose. The Urewera case highlights the paranoia that is a work, after the raids, 18 people were charged, 14 cases fell apart, of the remaining four cases firearms charge did stick, but there was no indication of other crime.  These folks seem to have gotten slammed down for being amateur weekend warriors.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Ever wonder why conservatives like to blame child sexual abuse on gays?

Conservatives especially in the religious right bleat endlessly about how gays and lesbians are out "indoctrinate children into the gay lifestyle". Why would they do that? Ignorance? Self loathing? Xenophobia? Well all of these have been offered, and seem to explain much of it, but there is another reason that may have been overlooked.

Such liables levelled at the LGBT community may in fact simply be a hand waving distraction from the failed economic policies known as Reagonomics.

Children made vulnerable by family poverty, or even the religiously inspired bigotry against gender queer people puts kids on the street and into the care of those who would prostitute these kids out.

Indeed 40% of homeless youth (under 25 years old) are LGBT according to the Williams Institute.
More ...
Much of the reason why conservatives panic over sexual predators is perhaps the knowledge that their religious beliefs and the dysfunctions of economic and social policy may well put many kids in the path of sexual predators.

The economic dysfunction comes as a direct result of the attack on the middle and working class in industrialized nations.  As corporations have sought to out source production from the cheaper labour markets of the third an second world nations forcing first world working class to compete with those markets while exposed to the relatively high cost of living in a first world economy or moving to a service industry which is often low wage. One notable exception is the finance industry which can still be high waged because this is the industry that is operating like a vacuum cleaner sucking money out of the rest of the economy.

There is a principle that we tend to create what we think about, so perhaps many conservatives are feeling guilty, especially those that have disowned their kids or a have a relationship "on the down low".

Thursday, 1 August 2013

The surprising allies in the struggle towards enlightenment.

There are two ways to draw people towards a given proposition, show why that proposition is superior to the alternatives. Which Carl Sagan did poetically, bring awe and understanding to the origins of everything putting in perspective great human struggles showing them to be miniscule in relation to the universe we live in.

The other technique, is rather difficult to pull off without looking biased unless you're on the inside. And that technique is the technique of making to competition appear foolish, insane, bigoted and unreasonable.

For an atheist like myself  to say religion is foolishly superstitious, may appear to some be arrogance or sour grapes, but no one can sell the message like Pat Robertson:

Pat Robertson On How To Handle Demons In Your Home: 'If It Was Me, I'd Burn The House Down'

When we say religion is judgemental, we just hate Christians. Even though none of us seriously would consider rounding Christians behind an electrified barbed wire fence. However Charles Worley can really bring home the message that religion is a hateful enterprise:

If I were to say religion is dehumanizing, I might be accused of saying religious people are less worthy of respect or dignity than atheists, but Linda Harvey can really push the message of intolerance in religion across and still be held in high esteem by other Christians.

Harvey's critics have noted that there are no christian children and that they have to be taught to be Christian. and are not legal persons under constitution. Behaviours that civilizations and society have said a big "no" to cannot be endorsed in law. For example...

We atheists like to defend the rights of all people to fair treatment regardless of sex, wealth, gender, nationality or religion. Indeed we abhor domestic violence, but here we have someone saying wife beating is ok, and exactly to how do it. As described, such behaviour may not cause overt physical harm but still results in psychological harm and distress for this reason and the implied infantilism of women many this see this as unacceptable...

This might look like beating up on Muslims, it is not check out this Catholic.... And bear in mind some fundamentalist Christians have defended right to the beating of wives by husbands to "get the demons out". The Bible also contains verses the say no amount beating is worse than hell so children can be beaten as much as the parents like.(Proverbs 23:13-14)

We all know abusing children is bad, but for some Christians it is a business model...
from The Daily Telegraph

The millennial generation are seeing religion more for what it is and abandoning it at a rate that has not been seen before. Without the tireless invocations of bigotry, hatred and abuse, they might easily be lead to believe religion was a good thing. We know many have tried over generations to convey that impression.

Now you might describe Pat Robertson, Linda Harvey, Charles Worley and countless others as ass-hats and witch hunters as evil child abusers. However there tireless self sacrifice means institutional religions will follow their reputations into the long drop of history. And for that we can be truly thankful.

So thanks guys for the help, we could not make ancient superpositions look any worse than it already is, and there is really no point in trying.

See Also
   The Friendly Atheist on CNN about why Millennials are losing their religion.

Ohio Weather: Cloudy with a chance of spagetti sauce.

Is Linda Harvey's anti gay agenda
leaving the FSM off color?
According to Monsenior Captain Ridi Culous of the Fundamentalist Pastafarian Church based in Colorado, Ohio is in grave danger of a massive flood - of spaghetti sauce.

Culous says, "Linda Harvey for the Flying Spaghetti Monster's sake (Sauce be upon him), must stop talking before the state is flooded with spaghetti sauce. The Severe weather in northern Ohio last month was just a warning."

Harvey's anti gay slurs and bullying right down to claiming that gays are not legal persons are so stomach churningly offensive that the Fly Spaghetti Monster is on verge of tossing salad and sauce.

Lately she has been on a bender fighting to prevent dying man from knowing that after he dies, his partner may when he dies join him in the family. Harvey's justification for this is that both men could each marry a women. Says Culous "Well Linda, the Flying Spaghetti Monster(SBUH) has news for you, you too can marry a woman, just get on with it and stop making other people and flying spaghetti monsters nauseous with your despicable nonsense, we just don't need that much spaghetti sauce."

"We understand the last great flood happened when the Flying Spaghetti Monster(SBUH) puked up a serving of noodle soup resulting from Noah's homophobic tirades. By the time Noah drunkenly banished his youngest son for seeing him drunk ass naked, the Flying Spaghetti Monster had been dry retching for weeks. The Flying Spaghetti Monster doesn't have the stomach to be at peace with homophobic bigotry. Just look at Russia, it is so homophobic, last year the FSM(SBUH) coughed up a meatball. People were hospitalized by broken glass shattered by the sonic boom before it landed in a lake.

When asked why the media reported a meteorite and not a meatball, Culous claimed "The media do not want to know the truth of the Flying Spaghetti Monster so they deny him. It is a kind of religious discrimination. After 5000 years, we Pastafarians have learned to live with it."

See Also
   Truth Wins Out
   The Guardian - raining meatball