Saturday, November 14, 2009

Go the All Whites!!!

1982 was a great year.

It was the year I started my formal education, starting in Mrs Slattery's J1 class at Selwyn Primary School.

It was the year the British Empire emerged from its catharsis, smashing the Argies when they tried taking the Falklands Islands away from Her Majesty.

It was the year that Chariots of Fire won the Academy Award for best picture (even though Raiders of the Lost Ark should have won), Israel invaded Lebanon to deal to the PLO, the Commodore 64 was first released and Michael Jackson's Thriller hit the shelves.

It was also the year of the 12th FIFA World Cup, the first - and, so far, only - time that NZ has played at the highest level of football, on the most global of all global stages.

How did the All Whites go back then? Well, they lost. 2-2 against Scotland after 64 minutes became a 5-2 drubbing by full time; the USSR were not seriously challenged in their 3-0 victory over our lads; and Brazil took it easy, scoring 'only' 4 unanswered goals against us. NZ finished 23rd out of the 24 nations, our goal differential being slightly higher than El Salvador's and enabling us to at least earn bragging rights over someone.

Since 1982, a lot of things have changed - or have they? I'm STILL in formal education. Israel hasn't attacked Lebanon to deal with terrorists for two years now - or at least not in any size that would make the news. Another sentimental favourite, Slumdog Millionaire, beat out the real best film of the year, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, for the Academy Award (even the Reader was a better film that Slumdog!). The release of Windows 7 resulted in almost as much hype as the C64 did. Michael Jackson may not have released a new album, but Thriller was back in the number one selling slot for a time after his death. And once more the All Whites are the focus of the NZ sporting public's attention.

Tonight, in Wellington, it is do-or-die stuff. One shot for glory. NZ must beat Bahrain - and if Bahrain score a goal, NZ must score twice as many - in order to qualify for next year's World Cup in South Africa, our first appearance since those days of yore.

Tonight I, like many other NZers, will be huddled around a TV watching, hoping, wishing, praying for the dream to come true: for our lads to be make it into the world's premier sporting event. They probably won't stand much of a chance once they get there, let's be honest. But simply to make it will be enough.

Tonight, the dreams of one country will be granted, and those of another shattered.

Tonight, I'm praying for sub-ten degree temperatures, driving wind, possibly a bit of sleet as well - anything to make the Bahraini footballers as uncomfortable as possible!

Come on, All Whites!!!

The Hone Show

Further developments this week in the debacle that is the Hone Harawira show. It appears that he has finally outlived his welcome within the Maori Party, and neither of the co-leaders, Tariana Turia and Dr Pita Sharples, would be too upset if he were to leave. Remember back in 2005, when he referred to them both as "square buggers" and "dull and lifeless"? I'm sure they still do!

I think this is a promising move by the Maori Party, and an encouraging step in their evolution from a reactionary grouping of disaffected radicals to a fully fledged mainstream political party. If they wish to be taken seriously, and if they wish to attract the vital non-Maori vote, they cannot afford to be linked to this racist firebrand.

It has been a difficult two weeks for Turia and Sharples, but this could well be the best thing that has happened to their party since ... well, since the seabed and foreshore legislation which created it, I guess. The sooner they shed the non-compromising separatists from their party, the better it will be for all of us. Just a couple of weeks ago I was talking with a friend of mine, who happens to be part Maori, about how well the Maori Party seems to have done since signing the confidence and supply agreement with National. The Maori TV World Cup bid fiasco aside, having Sharples and Turia as ministers has been a positive move by the National government and has wrong-footed the Labour Party, which can no longer resort to its classic claim that National is racist and only Labour truly represents Maori.

The most upsetting thing about the fiasco is the latent and unrepressed racism that it has evoked, from both Maori and non-Maori. I was so ashamed and embarrassed to hear Turia speak of the abusive emails she had received that I immediately wrote her an email myself, expressing my admiration for the way in which she and Sharples have divorced themselves from Harawira's rhetoric. I would encourage all other fair minded NZers to do the same; let it not be said that racism rules the roost in this country!

At the same time, this whole incident has proved to me that the time has come for a real debate in this country - free, fair, brutally honest, and no holds barred, but without the animosity, labels, race-bashing and seething resentment which seem to dominate the extreme radicals. True enough, the 1940s version of NZ history is somewhat different from today's, but I think most people will acknowledge that the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction now. The colonists who arrived with and after the Treaty should be seen as nation builders, not rapacious land thieves. Wrongs were committed, yes, but Maori were not completely innocent - many chiefs and tribes played the game and 'sold' the same land (to which, in some cases, they did not even have a claim) to more than one agent. Likewise, greedy land purchasers and speculators sought to take everything they could get their hands on, and the land confiscations following the Northern, Waikato, and Taranaki Wars seem to have targetted the wrong tribes in many cases. But we, as a nation, need to be able to draw a line in the sand; to acknowledge that our foundation may not have been glorious, but that our future can be. What that future will be must be discussed; we must forge ahead as one people, e pluribus unum, he iwi tahi tatou, if we are to have the kind of future which we all deserve.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Racism is alive and well in NZ

Imagine this for a moment.

An MP of Caucasian origin - let's call him John - is sent off to go to a conference in the Solomon Islands about postcolonial government issues. A lot of the discussion takes place at a dinner the day before the conference is held, after which John goes up to the conference host and says "look, mate, I'm not particularly interested in all this, do you mind if I take the day off and charter a flight with the Mrs over to Papua New Guinea so we can walk the Kokoda Trail - she's Australian and it's quite an important landmark in their history." The host says "sure, fine, go ahead", so off he and his wife go.

Arriving back in NZ there are some hard questions to answer - why did John go off on a tourist jaunt at government expense - with his wife! - when he was supposed to be attending a meeting?

"Well," John says, "there were two other MPs there to represent NZ and I thought - hey, when am I ever going to have an opportunity to see the Kokoda Trail again?" The public is annoyed by what he has done, but for the most part many seem to accept his reasoning and don't begrudge him of it too much, especially when it is revealed that he paid for the side trip himself.

However, John then receives an email from a colleague, also of European descent, asking how he could justify this side trip when he was supposed to be on business - after all, this is exactly the kind of conduct he's been attacking some of the Maori MPs for. John, irritated by the constant barrage of complaints, hits back, and replies:

"Mate, what the hell are you doing bringing up all this brown man bullshit? Those brown motherfuckers have been sitting on their arses and ripping off our tax dollars for centuries and all of a sudden you want me to play along with their equality bullshit? Quite frankly I don't give a shit what you or anyone else thinks about it. OK? Oh, and go ahead, send this to the media if you want. I answer to my people, not to those brownies or to anybody else."

The email is duly sent out to the press.

Now ask yourself - how does the nation react? I'm going to go out on a limb and say that, as a nation, we'd be pretty disgusted and there would be calls for John's immediate dismissal as a member of Parliament - how can he do his job and represent the people of a multicultural NZ with that kind of attitude?

I would also imagine that the Race Relations Commissioner, Jorus de Bres, would get involved. I wonder what he would say ... would he fob this off as freedom of expression? Would he give a certificate to the letter's recipient for standing up to 'this kind of nonsense'? Would he organise a meeting with a History professor who specialises in the impact of colonisation on indigenous peoples? Would he go completely bananas like the rest of the country and demand the MP's head?

It's an interesting question, because this exact situation has happened, ladies and gents. It happened just the other day!

The only difference between my account and true life is that the MP was Maori, a prominent member of the Maori Party, and his comments were about "white" people, so according to the Race Relations Commissioner this is not racist, RACIST is, as has been seen recently, when some (white) students wear Nazi uniforms to a party, or pose for a photo saluting a swastika. But this isn't that kind of abhorrent racism; no, it is just "freedom of expression".

So apparently the comments made in this email, the actual one which I amended for satirical purposes above, are NOT racist:

"Gee Buddy, do you believe that white man bullshit too do you? White motherfuckers have been raping our lands and ripping us off for centuries and all of a sudden you want me to play along with their puritanical bullshit... And quite frankly I don't give a shit what you or anyone else thinks about it. OK? Go ahead, send this to the media if you want. I answer to my people, not to them or to anybody else."

No, of course it's not racist.

[SIGH!] Indeed, racism is alive and well in NZ... and we can't do a thing about it.

The worst thing about this is that, until the emails leaked, this was just another offence in the long list of recently published jaunts by Parliamentarians. We've had Bill English under the spotlight for housing allowances, and Chris Carter and Rodney Hide lambasted for extensive, expensive travelling with their spouses using the MP discount. Hone Harawira was one of this group. But NONE of those other men would ever have dreamed about sending an email like the one I wrote above.

One law for all, and another for some?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fundamentalist Islam must not be tolerated

Several days ago, in Arizona, a young woman named Noor Almaleki died in hospital from injuries sustained by a motor vehicle. She and and another woman had been hit and run over by 48 year old Faleh Hassan Almaleki - her father. The reason? By the man's own admission, it was a deliberate act: an 'honour killing' to expunge the 'shame' which Noor had brought on her father and family. What had Noor done to justify this execution? According to her father, she was becoming “too Westernized”.

Also several days ago was the fifth anniversary of the murder of Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh by a Muslim fanatic. His assassin, born in the Netherlands but of Muslim descent, shot and stabbed the film maker on an Amsterdam street because Van Gogh had apparently insulted Islam in his films.

What is the link between these two otherwise disparate events?

It is five letters long, starts with an "I", and ends with "Slam" - which must describe the thought's of Noor's father as he hit her with his car - "I slam my car into my daughter!".

Yesterday, the European Court of Islamic - sorry, Human - Rights (ECHR) ruled that crucifixes must be removed from Italian classrooms, after a parent complained that having these on display violated her child's right to freedom from religion. This has caused a wave of anger throughout Italy, a country profoundly linked with Catholicism, where the cross is just as much a cultural symbol as a religious icon.

Meanwhile, I await with interest what the ECHR has to say about Cambridge University's recent decision to allow female Muslim students to graudate in a burkha. To me it is one thing or another - either you can have religious or cultural symbols on display, or you cannot. If we end up having one rule for Muslims and another for non-Muslims, we might as well just adopt sharia law and be done with it.

What many of the liberal woolly headed brigade do not realise is that the majority of Muslim immigrants to the West, until the 1960s or so at any rate, were coming to escape the persecution and tyranny of their theocratic governments at home. They were, for the most part, moderates who sought the liberty and freedom of Western civilisation and democracy.

In recent decades, the loose immigration and asylum qualifications, along with 'family reunification' policies and 'fetching marriages' has led to an explosion of more hardline Islamists ending up in the West. Throughout Europe, the state has essentially paid these migrants to remain seperate - they have subsidised housing in 'estates', their own schools, their own mosques, and their own community centres, all paid for by European taxes. Many are also receiving state benefits; in Germany, for example, the number of foreign residents (primarily of Muslim origin but also from Eastern Europe) increased from 3 million in 1970 to 7.5 million in 2000, yet the number of foreign residents in work did not change over this period.

In 1950, the number of Muslims living in Europe was negligible. Today, it is somewhere between 15-17 million. By 2050, it is estimated, many European nations will have Muslim majorities - France is expected by some people to be in this position within the next decade! This change is exacerbated by several factors - the continuing tide of immigration, the high birth rates amongst the immigrant Muslim population, and the declining birthrate of the native population; already almost 25% of Europeans are over the age of 60, and this will continue to rise in years to come.

The problem is, of course, that the West, with its declining birth rates and aging population, needs immigration. To simply shut the gates and through non-nationals over the fence is short sighted and misguided. But, in Europe in particular, very little has been done to integrate immigrants into society. Mad mullahs and insane imams have been given carte blanche to peddle their litany of lies and hatred, and because various 'social-democratic' governments have bent over backwards to allow immigrants, especially those of an Islamic background, to keep to themselves, this outpouring of quasi-religious drivel has been lapped up by people with no access to any other perspective, and no education in the liberal-democratic values of our civilisation.

It may already be too late for Europe. I see a future of European "Christian" enclaves scattered throughout the continent, confined to the countryside, as Muslim majorities establish sharia law in the cities and then spread out into the rural localities. I see Beirut and Lebanon on a Continental scale, and the destruction of some of Europe's most historic sites for the simple reason that the radical theocratic leaders dominatiing Islamic society say that they are offensive to Allah.

Where is the moderate Muslim majority? Where are the ones who have successfully integrated, who have adapted, who have learned to fit their faith into the values of the society in which they now live? Sadly, they are silent. They, their parents or grandparents may have fled this madness, but it has followed them to their new homes.

We, those of us in transplanted Europe - in Canada, the USA, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, and New Zealand - must learn from the mistakes of our mother countries. We must impose strict conditions on immigration and assimilation. We must ensure that those people who come to our country accept, and live by, the ideals and values which we hold most sacred and important. After all, they have plenty of other places to go. Those who believe in liberal democracy have few havens left...

Monday, November 2, 2009

To MMP, or not to MMP, that is the question...

Nearly half say they will vote to ditch MMP
4:00AM Monday Nov 02, 2009
By Patrick Gower

The Background:
The campaign to ditch the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system from use in NZ began almost as soon as it was voted in by a referendum in 1993. Proponents of strong government tend to mistrust MMP, while advocates of a weak government tend to support it.

In 1992, when the initial referendum was held, there was a great deal of public dissatisfaction with the governments of the past 10-15 years. New Zealand had changed considerably under the Labour governments' Rogernomics reforms, the impact of the 1987 stock market 'crash', and National Finance Minster Ruth Richardson's "Mother of All Budgets", and people wanted to find something to blame. The electoral system, which had been the subject of a Royal Commission of Inquiry in the 1980s, bore the brunt of the backlash, and people decided to get rid of First Past the Post (FPP) in favour of something else.

As a consequence, a referendum was held in 1992 to ask the voters two questions. The first was whether or not FPP should be replaced by another system, and the second asked which system voters would prefer if FPP was replaced - the choices being MMP, STV (Single Transferable Vote), SM (Supplementary Member system), or PV (Preferntial Voting system). Both STV and PV involve voters ranking the candidates in order of preference, while SM (otherwise known as the Mixed Member Majoritarian system or MMM) reserves a certain number of seats in Parliament for an FPP style electorate vote, and the rest to be determined along MMP lines.

The result of the vote was clear. 84.5% of voters voted to replace FPP, and 70.3% voted for MMP to be the replacement.

As planned, this led to a final and binding referendum in 1993, held in conjunction with the national election to encourage as many people as possible to participate. This was a pure run-off between the existing system, FPP, and the most popular challenger, MMP. Because of concerns about minority governments and increasing the number of MPs from 99 to 120, MMP lost a lot of support, but still won 53.44% of the vote and thus replaced FPP in the 1996 poll and all subsequent elections. NZ has now conducted 5 MMP elections - 1996, 1999, 2002, 2005, and 2008. National has been elected as the majority party in government in the first and last of those elections, while Labour was successful in the three middle ones.

The Situation:

The Herald-DigiPoll survey referred to by the article reveals that some 49% those polled would vote to get rid of MMP in the upcoming 2011 referendum, announced by the Prime Minister last month, while only 35.8% indicated that they would vote to keep it.

If the referendum, to be held at the same time as the next election, indicates that voters want to get rid of MMP, there will be a second referendum - in 2014 - where voters will be given the choice of MMP or another alternative. How that alternative is to be chosen has not been made clear.

Anti-MMP campaigner Peter Shirtcliffe expressed dissatisfaction with the timing of the referendum, arguing that it made any change would take 8 years to implement. However, MMP supporter Metiria Turei, who is also a co-leader of the party that can be said to have prospered most under MMP, believed that the poll simply indicated that more people needed to be educated about MMP, claiming that many people's dissatisfaction may only be with aspects of the system rather than MMP as a whole.

A public education campaign on the referendum will be conducted in the lead-up to the 2011 referendum, with a budget of $6 million.

My opinion
I am not a fan of MMP, but I fear that the public has a short memory. The problem with rule by the masses (aka democracy) is that most people are politically illiterate, and wilfully so. Many people do not take their part in government seriously; they refuse to educate themselves on the matters of importance to them, and often vote blindly or emotively.

FPP was deeply unpopular in the early 1990s. Several governments had been elected, with considerable majorities, despite actually getting less votes overall than the main opposition party. This had allowed governments to force through programmes of considerable change, safe in the knowledge that they had the numbers to vote the changes into law.

If MMP has done anything, it has made governments more responsible.

This does not in any way disguise the flaws of MMP, and there are many. The most notable flaw is that some minor parties have been able to punch well above their weight; the tail wagging the dog, as many critics argue. The status of List MPs has caused some disgust, with many leaving the parties which had got them into Parliament and then retaining their seats as unelected parasites. The problem of MPs getting into Parliament via the Party List after losing popular election for an electorate seat has also riled many. Sue Bradford was a key example of this problem - her unpopular 'Anti-Smacking' legislation has been seized upon as a major shortfall of having unelected MPs driving legislation.

In my opinion, we need some changes, but we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Here are my suggestions to creating a workable political system which will deliver strong government and an effective opposition in a fair manner:

1) Keep the 120 seats. NZers are still under-represented at national level when compared to other countries of our size.

2) Create a cap of 80 electorate seats - 26 for the South Island, 44 for the North Island, and 8 Maori seats. While electoral boundaries may change and shift, the number of seats must remain the same - and the South Island must be guaranteed a minimum of 20 seats no matter what population shifts occur. Including the Maori seats eliminates the chance of an overhang.

3) Create 40 List seats. These seats are voted for by the Party vote, which affects ONLY this category. Thus, if Labour wins 40% of the vote, they win 40% of the List seats in addition to however many electoral seats they win.

4) Retain the 5% threshold (or even increase it to 6%) but eliminate the 'bring-a-mate' policy. If a party wins an electorate seat, so be it - but unless they win 5% of the vote, they cannot bring any other party members in with them. This would eliminate the disproportionate power held by NZ First, the Alliance, ACT, United Future, and the Greens at various times over the past 13 years.

5) List MPs should be entitled to vote on legislation but not permitted to introduce it. Also, prohibit any List MP from being eligible to be Prime Minister - if the leader of the political party which wins the most seats loses theirs, they must step down as PM. Any List MP who defects or is expelled from the party they have been chosen to represent immediately loses their position and status as an MP and is to be replaced by the next person on their party's list.

These changes, to my mind, would make our system fairer and more workable.

And that's my two cents to sense.

Food for thought

Israel arrests Jewish-American for hate crimes
10:19AM Monday Nov 02, 2009

Just a short observation about this. Apparently a man named Jack Teitel, described as an 'ultra-Orthodox Jewish West Bank settler', was arrested by Israeli police and Shin Bet for "the killing of two Arabs, the targeting of a peace activist and an attack on a breakaway Jewish sect over a period of 12 years."

Teitel, who does not speak Hebre, had immigrated to Israel from Florida about a decade ago. Interestingly, the polics spokesperson, Micky Rosenfeld, descibed the man as "a Jewish terrorist".

Critics will point out that Teitel's most conspicious attacks were against a family of Messianic Jews (Jews who accept Christ as the Messiah but have remained Jewish), and an Israeli peace activist, but he has also been accused of killing two Palestinians in 1997 and wounding another Arab.

To me, this begs an obvious question - what do Palestinians do with their terrorists? My impression is that, while Israeli authorities are arresting Jews who have killed Palestinians, the Palestinans seem to hold parades for Arabs who have killed Jews.

Food for thought...

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