Saturday, 29 March 2014

Thousands say no TPPA

Today thousands of New Zealanders marched demanding an end to the secrecy surrounding the TPPA negotiations. Including and estimated 500 at parliament. People from all walks of life and across the political spectrum. While next to nothing of any substance has been officially announced to the public, negotiators themselves have said there will be little in it for New Zealand.
What is known about the TPPA comes from leaked documents available at wikileaks.
Three things stick out as big concerns for New Zealanders.
Pharmac negotiates for cheap medications, this is likely to be seriously curtailed, either preemptively by Pharmac soft balling to avoid suit under the investor-state disputes chapter, or by suits claiming lost profits by pharmaceutical corporations seeking compensation from the tax payer.
SOPA the "Stop Online Piracy Act" tabled in the US house of Representatives, was so awfully unworkable it would break the internet, and so clearly hideous that not only were there street protests, even Google and Wikipedia protested it with 24hour black outs.
The ability of government to legislate for the public good will be subordinated to good of multinational corporations in member countries. Philip-Morris in Hong Kong could sue the tax payer for lost profits if we implement plain packaging as Australia did. There is already a pending case against Australia for their plain packaging law.

The thing that bothers most critics of this "treaty" is the unusual secrecy with which it is being negotiated. Even US Senators have publicly complained they can only read the text if they specify which bits they wont to read, and sign documents swearing they wont tell anybody what they have read, and while they are reading it they can take the documents out of the room.

Given what we do know about the history of "free trade" agreements and their economic effects, and more specifically the leaked chapters of this agreement it hard to understand why any country with an advanced economy would willingly sign up to this pig in a polk.  If this thing is so good, why the secrecy? Any one would be forgiven for thinking there was some chance that if we understood what was in it, we might hate it more than the oh so suspicious secrecy which it has surrounded it.

For working people in advanced economies like New Zealand and USA, the biggest threat comes in the form of investment mobility, what this means, investment capital will be more freely movable to low wage economies, meaning that higher wage economies will manufacturing workers toss into the street to scrape for the jobs in the wonderful world of minimum wage service industries which are pushing for no minimum wage, while offering zero hour contracts and precarious employment. This is get that step too far, after 30 years of neoliberal economics, which has only offered a plentiful supply of empty promises, while delivering the wealth created by working people to the top 10% of income earners. Just how perverse this situation has become, was recently well summerized Bill Maher (See here at Raw Story).

See also
  One News

Friday, 21 March 2014

Drop Dead Fred and Thank you for your cooperation.

Finally at age 84, Fred Walden Phelps Sr, Founder of the Westboro Baptist Church is dead.
Mourned by few outside his cult, with the possible exceptions close family with stockholm syndrome his death sees the end of a twisted tale of abuse, bigotry and public ridicule.
In the manner of the pot calling the kettle black, Jerry Falwell in 2007 described Fred as a "first class kook", coming from a man who once claimed that a hurricane, I forget which one, happened because his god was pissed at Americas gay community.
Associated Press

Somewhere along the way he lost plot, he was once a civil right lawyer in the fight for black civil rights but things went strange when he sued a court clerk after they failed to get court paper to him on time. After that the breaks  on his "road to hell" journey.
It's thought his family excommunicated him for the crime of dying before Armageddon, form which they infer he is indeed Hell bound.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

A deeper look

This has got to be big news, perhaps our first glimpse behind the cosmic firewall which obscures our view to about 13.5 billion light years. Prior to that point photons were scattered by dissociated protons and electrons, rendering the universe effectively opaque and once the universe cooled enough, the electromagnetic force was able to overcome the energy levels and hold electrons and protons together as hydrogen, allowing the universe to become transparent.
This makes it impossible to see the earliest moments of the universe directly, but this week it appear the first crack in the cosmic veil of secrecy has  appeared. It comes in the form of polarity shifts that are observable as altered polarity in the CMB radiation. Theoretical work suggested that gravity wave from the earliest moments of the universe could affect the polarity of light that form the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation.
Observers in Antarctica, have seen twists in the CMB that seem to approximate some predictions of this earlier theoretical work.
This is also the first time we have seen evidence of the gravity waves that were predicted by Einstein. It may also be a big step toward a grand unified field theory for explaining the for fundamental forces of nature, the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, electromagnetic force, and the wascally wabbit of them all, gravity.

See also
   Washington Post
   Chicago Tribune
   New Yorker
   New Scientist

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Not A sad farewell...

No, it's not a video capture from Walking Dead
Nate Phelps son of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps, reports that his father is gravely ill and is near death. This news leaves him conflicted, while sorry for all the hurt and anguish Fred has put himself, the rest of his family, and many others through, it comes with a sense of relief the Fred will no longer be able to offer the world the venom of Mosaic Law. Fred is still his father, and that means some sadness for a lost chance to reconcile.
Fred's life is in a sense a monument to poison of religious belief. Fred's adopted positions made himself and his family not only the pariahs of a nation but a laughing stock of a world that understands compassion reason, science and respect for the grieving. Even GW was forced to act to reign in the antics of this "first class nut" (Jerry Falwell 2007). His beliefs also led to abuse within his family.
Some 20 members of the family escaped in 2004, perhaps this great family rift can be put down to Fred's dogmatic understanding of the ancient and savage text.
So with the respect Fred has due and on behalf of the many families he and his family picketed, I bid him farewell as apropos. So long sucker - you won't be missed.

A brain on religion is a truly hideous thing. What good might he have done had he not been infected by this terrible infection of the mind.

See also
  The Daily Kos

Friday, 14 March 2014

America the post apocalyptic nightmare?

Perhaps not yet, but seems there are people trying really hard to make it happen.
A big story hit the media in the last 24 hours, North Dakota, the growing scandal of radioactive filter bags from the fracking industry being dumped anywhere but in a dump. It turns out dumps are prohibited from taking radioactive waste. and there is nowhere in North Dakota to properly dispose of these filter bags, just to sure, check down the back of sofa and comfy chairs, because these bags are being disposed at random by fly-by-night operators stashing them any where they can.

The first mention of this story I saw was of the abandoned gas station where some these bags have been dumped. The meters used measure upto 1000 pCi(pico curies) went off the scale with some bags. A reading of 5pCi is the maximum safe level.

Moving right along, the is the mess of Duke Energy poisoning 70miles of river, and the regulators well maybe we should look in to it.

West Virginia, Most rural residents used to get their water from aquifers,  the coal industry has progressively poisoned the aquifers, leaving the river the only clean natural water source in the state, until the Freedom Industries spill poisoned it too.

And the Koch brothers have a Jones for Keystone XL, that will produce giga tonnes of PET coke, the dirtiest coal substitute bought only by countries that can't afford coal.

Around 30 nuclear facilities  have basically the same design as Fukushima Daiichi, and are located downstream of Hydro dams in the vicinity of geological fault lines.

What could possibly go wrong?

See Also:
Nuclear Power Stations
Duke energy Coal Ash Spill, Let's inspect.
Cool, clear water - not in WV.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Can we feed the kids now?

"Energize the demolition beams" Education Minister
Hekia Parata considers how best to deal with hungry
kids in decile 1 & 2 Schools.

After three false starts, one time at 10:30 pm, it looks like Hone Harawira's Feed the Kids bill will at last get its first reading on Wednesday, 12 March. The bill was postponed so that the public and the press would have the opportunity to observe the debate.

On the issue of hungry kids in schools, Nationals peacemeal Food in Schools programme brings together NGOs and corporate suppliers including Sanitarium and Anchor, but reaches only 8,000 kids of 87,000 kids living poverty.  The programme is more of a political solution creating the appearance of addressing the issue without actually attempting to fix the problem.

Now why is that? Here we have 208,000 kids living below the poverty line unable to afford extravagances like breakfast and shoes because mum and dad keep blowing the dough of frivolous things like rent, power, phone and doctors bills.  It should be a no-brainer to fix this. The Government's solution is more of a gift to faith based NGO's and corporations than it is a salve for the economic depredations families in the  25th percentile of household income.

To understand how the government could say they understand the problem and miss the mark so badly that they hit someone else's barn door, we must understand their priorities. This government's agenda is more about helping out its wealthy and connected friends. While not actually evil, they're bureaucratic, officious and callous. (thanks Douglas Adams). Despite spin and protestations to the contrary, the governments priorities are not for a bright future for New Zealand across the board, indeed the governments focus is for those that are found at Chambers of Commerce, Business Round Tables and Manuwera mansions. They are also willing to pander to faith based NGOs to win votes from church laity by creating the illusion  that their vote supports the kind of social programmes they support. Meanwhile the corporations get few extra dollars for the bottom line and public recognition for seemingly charitable behaviour as the government polishes their brass knobs with a fine chamois while counting electorate and list seats with the other hand.

Meanwhile, power companies, landlords, and telcos are effectively the big boys in the playground stealing the other kids lunch money.

Ultimately, we should ask what does it cost us? In short NZ$6b, in increased medical interventions, remedial education, and lost productivity. To help put that into scale, that is 3/4 of New Zealand's imported fuel bill. Can we afford it? We can't afford not to fix this, but why wouldn't we.

It could be argued, the 1% are too busy sucking the economic vitality out of the middle class, the last thing they would want to see is people leaving the carefully engineered poverty and entering the middle and undoing all their hard work. After 30 years, they haven't quite halved the wage/productivity ratio, but the are close, and there is no reason in their minds why the should stop now, they can't even chain the staff to work stations yet and damn it the staff still insist on having tea breaks, going home at the end of their shift and being paid at least the minimum wage, sometimes more if they call themselves "skilled" or the work "high value".
But it is much simpler than that, a portion of 1% are greedy and callous, and rort(game) the system to their advantage, without prejudice. And that is why we need to change the government, and seriously consider the problem of unbridled power weilded by a demented grasping uber class of ethical voids.

See also
   Bill Maher on Billionaire whiners (Raw Story)