Sunday, September 19, 2010

Auckland Super-City Mayors Compared

Several people have commented to me that they have no idea who they're going to vote for in the upcoming elections. I'm yet to receive my voting forms but I've spent about 12 hours over the last four days trying to find out what the candidates stand for, and I've summarised my findings below in an easy to follow, categorised package.

I've chosen six key policy areas to compare: Auckland's Assets, Infrastructure, Local Government, Public Transport, Rates, and Water. I've also put what I consider to be their political leaning (left, centre, right) or any overt party Affiliation, and any Other information I deemed noteworthy. The idea is that, with this done, I can allocate points to each candidate on each policy - 1 point for something I agree with in principle, and 2 points for something I really approve of - and the candidate with the most points will win my vote.

Some of the candidates either have no policies at all, seem to have nothing that fits into the above categories, or have not made much of an attempt to publicise themselves, so I've not included them here. My information below is a summary, in my own words, of what the candidates have provided to the NZ Herald or on their own websites and/or Facebook pages. If you think I have interpreted any particular policy incorrectly, or if you find a policy which I've left blank, please let me know and I'll amend this accordingly. I've tried my best to use the candidates' own words or what they seem to intend, rather than using my own ideas.

BTW if anyone knows how to put a table into these blogs I'd appreciate a heads up - this looks much better on my Word document as a table and it's much easier to draw direct comparisons on key issues.

Oh, and it's in alphabetical order by surname - seemed the most logical way to organise it all!

Note: PPP = Public Private Partnerships; CCO = Council Controlled Organisations

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Aileen Austin

Affiliation - None (sounds like a conservationist)

Assets - Guardianship for future generations

Infrastructure - Maintain existing infrastructure

Local Government -

Other - Wants to defend "the NZ-Kiwi way of life"

Public Transport - "Sensible" self funding solutions

Rates - GST off rates

Water -

---------------------------------------------------

John Banks

Affiliation - National

Assets - CBD Rail loop, develop Waterfront

Infrastructure - Reduce street signage, improvements for pedestrians, invest in CBD improvements and develop world class infrastructure

Local Government - Promote local board funding and powers

Other - Current Mayor of Auckland

Public Transport - Another harbour crossing,; more development for buses, rail, ferries and an integrated network

Rates - Savings within 3 years

Water - Consumer choice vital

--------------------------------------------------

Marlene Barr

Affiliation - None (leftist?)

Assets - Council to oversee assets

Infrastructure -

Local Government -

Other -

Public Transport - Focus on improving Public Transport

Rates - Budget will be carefully examined

Water -

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Len Brown

Affiliation - Labour

Assets - Maintain public ownership; roll out free entry to pools etc across the city

Infrastructure - Develop a high speed broadband throughout the city as a high priority, focus on developments to enhance the export and tourism sectors

Local Government - CCOs need to work for the community; bring in Maori seats for Council

Other - Current Mayor of Manukau

Public Transport - Fully integrated Public Transport system linking road, rail, ferry and air

Rates - Examine the possibility of a “Poll Tax”

Water - Maintain public ownership

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Penny Bright

Affiliation - None (Left)

Assets - Keep in public hands

Infrastructure - Maintain at current status

Local Government - Keep out the unelected CEOs of CCOs

Other - Anti-corporate, Anti-SuperCity

Public Transport -

Rates - Decrease

Water - Council run not corporate

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Hugh Chapman

Affiliation - None (leftist?)

Assets -

Infrastructure - Reduce traffic congestion; rejuvenate Manuaku harbour

Local Government - Local Boards should consult and listen to residents & work with CCOs; More role for Local Boards in community expenditure and planning

Other -

Public Transport - Elevated passenger transport systems; a 10 year plan to integrate Public Transport

Rates -

Water -

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Colin Craig

Affiliation - None (rightist)

Assets -

Infrastructure - Keep costs down – no big spending or borrowing for major infrastructure work until after the recession

Local Government - Each local area is to be empowered; binding referenda will be held on major issues for the Super City

Other - Organiser of the March for Democracy (protest against the anti-smacking law and government's response to referndum) 2009

Public Transport - Anzac Centenary Bridge as harbour crossing; radical improvements to Public Trasnport required

Rates - Local Boards to set their own rates; keep rises to a minimum

Water - Opposes long term corporate monopoly on water

--------------------------------------------------

Vinnie Kahui

Affiliation - None (leftist)

Assets - Retain in public ownership

Infrastructure - Make it easier to develop sustainable buildings

Local Government - Effective engagement with communities essential

Other - Bring more events to Auckland – V8 Super cars, film and TV crews

Public Transport - Make it more effective, efficient, eco-friendly and cheaper

Rates - “Sort them out”

Water - Public ownership

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Alan McCulloch

Affiliation - Leader of One NZ Party (Centre-Right)

Assets - Public ownership

Infrastructure -

Local Government - Return to local Mayors for each of the regions; replace CCO directors with publicly elected officials

Other - Former Mayor, East Coast Bays.

Public Transport -

Rates - No overall rates increases

Water - Public ownership

--------------------------------------------------

Steve McDonald

Affiliation - None (Centre-Left?)

Assets -

Infrastructure -

Local Government - “meaningful consultation” between Mayor and the Council and Boards– empower local boards

Other - Has served on Henderson community board for 2 terms

Public Transport - Needs shaking up

Rates - Don’t rate people out of their homes

Water -

----------------------------------------------------

Vanessa Neeson

Affiliation - None (rightist - married to former National MP)

Assets - “I even know how to defeat graffiti”

Infrastructure - Build social capital through PPPs

Local Government - Maintain a tight relationship with CCOs

Other - 18 years as Waitakere City Councillor

Public Transport - We need a first class Public Transport system

Rates - Remove GST from rates

Water - Water provision should be first class

--------------------------------------------------

Simon Prast

Affiliation - None (Left)

Assets - No sale of public assets

Infrastructure - Funded by regional, national, and private sources

Local Government - Local boards to be fully incorporated into democratic practice

Other - Actor and Director, wants to make Auckland the First City of Pacific-Asia

Public Transport - Efficient, effective, affordable Public Transport solutions needed; a new bridge; Airport-Britomart rail link

Rates -

Water - Public ownership

--------------------------------------------------

Raymond Presland

Affiliation - None (rightist)

Assets -

Infrastructure - We need buildings and places we are proud to show off.

Local Government -

Other - Retired businessman – worked in farming and textiles

Public Transport -

Rates -

Water -

-----------------------------------------------------

Annalucia Vermunt

Affiliation - Communist League

Assets - All assets to be owned by the Public

Infrastructure - Public Works organised to provide public housing, health clinics, child care etc

Local Government - No cuts to Council services; bring in Maori seats to the Super City

Other - There is plenty of wealth in Auckland to provide for what the workers need

Public Transport - Public Works to provide the Public Transport required by workers

Rates - Opposes GST on rates but no actual statement about rates

Water - Opposes water taxes and corporate interest in water

--------------------------------------------------

Andrew Williams

Affiliation - None (Centre-Right)

Assets -

Infrastructure - Complete key regional infrastructure

Local Government - Properly resource and empower local boards

Other - Current Mayor of North Shore City

Public Transport - Fully integrated Public Trasnport system; another harbour crossing

Rates - “Don’t Waste the Rates!”

Water -

--------------------------------------------------

David Wilmot

Affiliation - None (right)

Assets -

Infrastructure - No more “lolly projects” until we get back in the black

Local Government -

Other -

Public Transport - More roads not rail; Public Transport is a dead duck and a waste of money, private automobilisation needs more support

Rates -

Water -

Sunday, August 22, 2010

How do we stop crime?

There's been some conversation on my Facebook profile about how to stamp out crime, specifically in light of this recent NZ Herald article about New Zealand's thriving underbelly:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10667655

I linked this article to my profile and made the following comment:

"Several answers immediately occur to me here. 1) Tighten up on our anti-money laundering legislation (already being done); 2) Tighten border control and increase customs staffing so that EVERY package coming into NZ can be searched; 3) impose the death penalty for drug traffickers, to be conducted within 6 weeks of the sentencing (appeals must be heard within 4 weeks of the first trial); 4) compulsory drug rehabilitation for anyone caught using illegal drugs no matter what age, rather than prison, and a minimum non-parole sentence of 25 years hard labour for recidivist offenders."

While a couple of respondents agreed, several others expressed a sentiment that this was reminiscient of a Nazi-style criminal justice system, and one used a derivative of Blackstone's formulation ("better that ten guilty persons go free than one innocent person should suffer") in decrying the death penalty altogether.

This belief has long been with us; in Genesis God announces that he will spare Sodom (or was it Gomorrah? Sorry, I'm too lazy to look this reference up!) if he can find but 50 righteous people; obviously he can't, so the whole place turns to salt. Exodus 23:7 tells us that "thou shalt not slay the innocent and righteous". So this kind of thinking has obviously been around for a while. Benjamin Franklin expanded on Blackstone's idea when he proclaimed that it was better for 100 guilty people to go free than for one innocent to hang. Voltaire and Rousseau also had ideas along this train of thought, as, I believe, did Burke. In fact, one might say that the entire foundation of our Anglo-Saxon jury system and the western liberal justice structure is based around the preference to let the guilty walk rather than coop up the innocent. Here in NZ we have had Arthur Allan Thomas, David Bain, and now John Barlow who have been convicted of murder, served a long stretch behind bars, and then freed or even exonerated. So it is a very topical as well as an emotional issue.

In a perfectly robust state where the police were completely above suspicion, the death penalty would work well. Unfortunately, though our police force is still very honourable and incorruptible as a whole, we do know that on occasion individual police officers have planted evidence to secure a conviction. This will always haunt the debate about the death penalty, and we do need to think about how to ensure that the right person is being executed. The article cited above was mainly to due with drugs, and how Asian crime syndicates have overseen a massive increase in money laundering, drug importation and sale in this country since the advent of P. In China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia, to name several examples, they would face the death penalty for importation; here, they face a relatively small fine, a few years in prison, and deportation. As we've seen with cases like that of Shanelle Corby, however, proving that someone is actually guilty of importation rather than being an innocent patsy can be difficult.

There is one thing which is much easier, however. Drug tests. This does not prove importation, but it does prove consumption. If there were no users, there would be no traffickers. Yes?

In Sweden, they recently took a new look at prostitution. Rather than making the sale of sex illegal, and turning the prostitutes into criminals, the Swedish government made the purchase of sex illegal - hence hitting the people whose demand for prostitutes was fuelling the sex trade. I see this as the fundamental reason behind why drug use should remain illegal - if not for the users, drugs would not be a problem. Look at the situation in Mexico at the moment, with many thousands of casualties caused by the drug war being waged by the under-resourced government against drug warlords and cartels who are funded directly by American drug users.

My thinking is simple. Death for traffickers, where guilt can be proven beyond reasonable doubt. But is this enough? That's why I advocate compulsory rehab for anyone convicted for using drugs - rehab to be done in a secure rehabilitation facility which houses other drug users but no other types of criminals, a residential facility where families can also stay to be close to their loved ones and help them through (or receive rehab themselves - lets face it, many of those using drugs are simply following in the footsteps of family members.) People convicted a second time would have the book thrown at them, for fuelling the drug industry. A choice of 25 years minimum non-parole period, hard labour, or a nice, clean death within 30 days with a $50,000 payment to their family (which will still save the taxpayers millions of dollars per inmate).

While no one likes to see innocent people suffer, we all need to get over our obsession with individual rights and start thinking more clearly about collective responsibility, safety, and security. As I wrote on Facebook, is it not better for an innocent person to give their life for the security and safety of their country, their people, their nation, rather than allowing ten or a hundred guilty people to live and potentially cause even more pain, hurt, and suffering to many more innocent people? Surely none of us can deem our own person as being more important than the community as a whole? If the part that we play in providing collective security is that we must die for it, then, to borrow from John F Kennedy, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Anarchists hijack protest AGAIN

The latest round of the G-8 and G-20 meetings is currently being held in Toronto, Canada. These high level meetings are all about smoothing globalisation and addressing global issues. As such, they tend to inspire a certain level of protest by hippies, pacifists, leftists, nationalists, and pretty much anyone else who likes dreadlocks, listens to reggae, smokes a bit of ganja and generally wants to be free to bitch and moan about things he or she thinks are wrong with "the Western World", from climate change to poverty in Africa to oil to McDonalds to Hollywood to overpriced CDs to internet restrictions to AIDS to disenfranchised and culturally impoverished minorities and all that other jazz which are traditionally laid at the door step of capitalism.
Unfortunately, for the past decade or so these legitimate protests have been hijacked by serious, orgainised, violent thugs - the Anarchists. Most anarchists, from what I've seen of their antics, actually believe in nothing more than wanton destruction; they are, for all intents and purposes, initiating Fight Club's Project Mayhem. Innocent businesses are targetted, shop windows destroyed and displays stolen or vandalised in an orgy of looting and pillaging, while security forces maintain a high level of alert to prevent any of the high level dignatories present from being assassinated.

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/torontog20summit/article/829203--police-burned-by-protesters

The Toronto Star reports the burning of police cars, and the innocent casualties as bystanders and peaceful protestors got in the way of police action against the determined but cowardly anarchist fringe. This is why people should not attend protests - when will they realise that in doing so they simply leave themselves wide open to being used as a human shield by the anarchists and terrorists who routinely hijack such events? It appears also that misinformation is being spread by these Black Bloc anarchists, who blatantly lied in numerous twitterings about rubber bullets being fired at them.

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/torontog20summit/article/829194--behind-the-black-bloc-mob?bn=1

One of the anarchists claimed that their actions were not violent in themselves, but "vandalism against violent corporations. We did not hurt anybody. They (the corporations) are the ones hurting people..”. Funny. Explain that to the pack of masked protesters who attacked someone's unoccupied BMW 4X4.“Stop it. They’re not our enemies,” one protester shouted. The other retorted: “Yuppies are our enemy.”

We need to take this threat seriously. Free speech is only a right when people exercise the responsibility of respecting security and property. When thugs, looters, pillagers and hooligans descend on the streets, they need to expect a hail of bullets, a cloud of tear gas, and the baying of bloodthirsty guard dogs. Provided that police and event security inform any intending protesters that these methods will be employed if a demonstration gets out of hand, I can see nothing wrong with this. International law also needs to recognise that anyone caught at a protest in Black Bloc regalia should be charged as a member of an Anarchist Organisation (although this in itself seems a contradiction in terms!), which needs to be at the same level as a Terrorist Organisation.

That's my two cents to sense this week. I'm still too upset about the unbeaten All Whites not making it through to the second round to comment on them.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Russel's a Norman

NZ is currently hosting a visit by the Chinese Vice-President, Xi Jinpin. We have a free trade agreement with China, which is supposedly a good thing - I'm not sure if there's been an increase of cheap Chinese crap in the two dollar shops or the Warehouse lately but apparently we're selling more stuff over there so that's all good.

Anyway, Dr Russel Norman, former member of the Australian Communist Party, now a NZ citizen and co-leader of the NZ Communist - sorry, Green - Party (these days its not just colour blind people that think red and green look the same!), took it upon himself to abuse his position of responsibility as a Member of Parliament and demand "democracy" for the people of Tibet while waving a Tibetan flag, in a clear publicity stunt. He was manhandled by Chinese security and has filed charges against them.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10652789&pnum=0

The Background

China invaded Tibet shortly after Mao's Communists had consolidated control within the mainland. At the time Tibet was being ruled as a feudal theocracy by a Buddhist monastocratic elite (that word probably doesn't exist, but it means monk-rulers) who prevented the majority of the population from learning to read and kept them in perpetual servitude under the "benevolent rule" of the Dalai Lama, their spiritual leader. Most of the Tibetan people were living in worse conditions than English serfs during the time of Robin Hood. China invaded, overthrew the monastic elite, and began modernising the state: Tibet was strategically important to the security of the new Communist power, and at this time it was looking uneasily towards the Indian border (China and India ended up going to war in the early 1970s). The Dalai Lama eventually escaped into exile and since then has been encouraging a 'Free Tibet' movement, which has some enthusiastic followers here in NZ as well as around the world. Most of the supporters of the Tibetan independence movement have no idea what conditions were like under Buddhist rule and do not appreciate that, by and large, the Tibetan people now enjoy a much higher standard of living and have much better prospects than they had before the Chinese invasion.

The Situation

A peaceful protest was being conducted not far from where the Chinese Vice-President was, in accordance with NZ law and custom. Many of the protestors seemed to be members of Falun Gong rather than any Free Tibet movement, but that's beside the point. Dr Norman, as a Member of Parliament, was accorded access to the Vice President which is normally denied to the public. In an act of blatant disregard for the obligations inherent to his position, he chose to wave a Tibetan flag in front of the Vice President and make various demands concering the Tibetan people. Now, if a representative of the Palestinian National Authority came to visit and you had an MP wave an Israeli flag at him, there would be an outcry, just as would have been the case even 20 years ago if an Israeli government official had visited and someone yelled at him while waving a Nazi swastika. (I say 20 years ago because I am sure Norman and his ilk would quite happily wave swastikas in front of Israeli officials these days.) The Chinese security accompanying Xi Jinpin, obviously not accustomed to our way of handling things, grabbed Dr Norman and pulled the flag off him. TV coverage of the event is quite funny, actually - he bleats like a little child who has had a lollipop taken off him: "give me back my flag, give me back my flag!" Well, I laughed anyway. Following the incident the Greens co-leader announced his intention of laying charges against the Chinese for manhandling him.

My Opinion

I don't particularly like the way the Chinese government does things, and have in fact conducted my own boycott of Chinese made goods since just before the Beijing Olympics, which I did not watch. However, this man was (and still is) a guest in our country. Protestors were permitted to demonstrate at a distance, so as to prevent any potential security risk such as suicide bombers or other similar attacks (you can't be too careful these days, even in NZ). Russel Norman is a member of parliament, and as such he has a level of dignity and mana which he must maintain as a representative of the people of this country. In the past week we've seen some MPs fail in this regard - Shane Jones and his use of a ministerial credit card to pay for porn in a hotel room being only the most obvious example - and today we've seen another epic failure. Dr Norman has the right to protest, just like all NZers. But if he wanted to do so, he should have been with the other protestors. Abusing his rank and position to conduct a protest is way beyond the pale.

Quite frankly, he's a dick.

That's my two cents to sense.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

All Whites YAY Vuvuzela NAY!

Time zones suck. For the next month many of us are going to be grumpy and sleep deprived, and those bloody plastic horns definitely don't help. Okay, blow it once or twice when a goal has been scored - no problem. But why on earth are they being blown for the whole bloody game? They're doing my head in. I watched as many football matches as I could, pretty much every single day, during the last Cup in Germany, and the Cup before in South Korea and Japan. Those were awesome tournaments - well run, well attended, well organised; the only thing wrong with them was that NZ wasn't there. Now, however, we return to the world stage, and what do we have to put up with? THAT goal by Winston Reid will go down in history, and every time we watch it we will have to endure those bloody vuvuzelas. So thanks for ruining a magical night and a great tournament, South Africa. That's the last time I ever support your hosting another international tournament. I'm boycotting all matches not featuring NZ until the semi-finals - if another billion people did the same, I'm sure the sponsors would lean on FIFA and we'd see some action quick smart.

On the plus side, NZ 1-1 Slovakia. We're ranked, what, 88th or something in the world? Slovakia's only about 50 places higher than us. But this campaign has been about going above and beyond: we played amazingly well to beat Bahrain and qualify; we had a blinder against Australia which we lost at the last minute (and we should have been playing 9 men rather than 11 for much of the game); we beat Serbia, ranked in the top 20 in the world, just a few weeks ago; and we came out all guns blazing last night. Judging by the Facebook traffic I'd say the better part of a million people must have been watching that game in the early hours of this morning. To be honest, in think the last 20 minutes of the first half and first 30 of the second were pretty much all Slovakia - their guys were just running rings around ours, and we were lucky to survive with only one goal being scored against us. Paston pulled off some good saves and there was some great defence by Reid, Lochhead, and Nelson. I got the feeling that Elliot, at 36, has definitely seen better days and was having difficulty controlling the ball - mind you, who hasn't, Robert Gates? Smeltz didn't really get out of first gear until the second half and only had two decent attempts on goal, and our entire strategy seemed to be kick the ball high and hope that Killen can connect his head to it. 3 minutes into injury time and it seemed like it was all over, until Smeltz punted the ball with pinpoint accuracy and Reid - wtf was the central defender doing in front of goal??? - guided the ball in with a flick of the neck and a tap of the forehead. Magic. I felt a little sorry for Slovakia, denied their first ever win in their first ever World Cup match, but only a smidgen. A draw's as good as a win. Our first point from a World Cup match and, would you believe it, we are now in a tie for first place in our pool. Admittedly, a four-way tie between all four teams in the pool, courtesy of an Italy-Paraguay 1-1 draw the previous night, but still, we'll take what we can get. Realistically Italy will probably teach us how to play but the Paraguayan match is shaping up to be our sudden death, do or die, one shot for glory, elimination game. Bring it on.

Headlines:

Australia longs to forget their 4-0 drubbing by Germany, claiming NZ as their own! "Australasia 1 - Slovakia 1" - wtf? :
http://www.smh.com.au/world-cup-2010/world-cup-news/australasia-1--slovakia-1-kiwis-get-the-point-20100616-ydks.html

The world press loves us, apparently:
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/news/article.cfm?c_id=4&objectid=10652249

Winston Reid sets the World Cup alight!:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2010/jun/15/new-zealand-slovakia-world-cup

BBC straight to the point:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/world_cup_2010/matches/match_12/default.stm

Even the NYTimes has a story about us! :
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2010/06/15/sports/AP-SOC-WCup-New-Zealand-Slovakia.html?_r=1&ref=sports

All Whites make history:
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/news/article.cfm?c_id=4&objectid=10652220

Monday, June 7, 2010

Pointing the Finger at Me Leaves Three Fingers Pointing Back at You - Part Three

My Opinion

In case it's not readily apparent, I should make my bias clear. I'm a Zionist. I believe that the state of Israel, as a descendant of the historical Kingdom of Israel, has a right to exist. I believe that the Palestinian Arabs have been used as a political pawn by the Arab World to divert the attention of their own people away from democratisation and attempts to create a more transparent govenment at home. I think that Israel needs to sort out a proper solution with the Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank so that the Palestinians can see the fruits of negotiation and diplomacy and overthrow the terrorist "government" which they elected out of a sense of frustration, anger and hatred during the latest intifada.
I also think that the rest of the world needs to stop playing the Palestinian propaganda game. These guys are masters at manipulating public opinion; they know that many people on the left of the political spectrum need only a little prodding before their basic underlying mistrust of authority simmers to the surface, and only a little direction to divert that towards the Palestinian cause. There would not be a Palestinian cause if Israel's Arab neighbours had accepted the 1949 peace treaty as a firm definition of Israel's borders, and taken moves to relocate and accommodate any Palestinian Arabs who chose not to return at the stage. Subsequent invasions and plans to invade Israel led to a quite natural attempt by the Israeli government to expand its territorial holdings in order to obtain the strategic depth which is vital to the preservation of a state surrounded by enemies.

There is no easy fix to this problem, simply because we have so many people who are so completely invested in a particular outcome. The Palestinian West Bank wants East Jerusalem as its capital; Israel believes that a united Jerusalem is paramount to its nation's identity. I can't quite understand why the rest of the West Bank doesn't just join with Jordan in a Transjordanian Union, but I'm sure someone will explain why.

Like it or not, the blockade of Gaza has to be managed in such a way to retain Israel's security and international prestige (such as it remains) without giving in to the terrorists. Perhaps if the amount of humanitarian aid donated to Gaza were doubled, with Israel agreeing to match every piece of international aid given with a can of food or other such item, this would go some way to alleviating the alleged humanitarian crisis and defusing the claims of the pro-Palestinian lobby.

Those poor, innocent, misguided fools who let themselves get manipulated into taking part in protests, demonstrations, and "Gaza Freedom Flotillas" need to take a good, hard look in the mirror and ask themselves why it is that they can't see the SS uniform they're wearing. Pro-Palestinian action is a legitimate display of anti-Semitism in the Western World, and the pro-terror groups sponsoring such actions know it.

Here's some sites I used to bolster my postings today; other sources of information include many years of reading countless books on the subject and creating a coherent backstory from it, as well as Time magazine and the Encyclopedia Britannica, and a few text books we used to use when I taught the Israel-Palestine topic in Year 11 History.

Sorry, the link html isn't working - if you're interested, just copy and past the urls into your browser:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7069203.stm

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10650091&pnum=0

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/charlesmoore/7803919/Why-has-Israel-disarmed-itself-in-the-battle-for-world-opinion.html

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10650087&pnum=0

http://www.rightsidenews.com/2010060410454/global-terrorism/israeli-palestinian-confrontation-june-2-2010.html

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article7142977.ece

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jun/06/israel-gaza-blockade

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/05/world/europe/05reconstruct.html?src=mv&ref=world

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/06/world/middleeast/06flotilla.html?src=mv&ref=world

http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=177320

http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=176812

http://www.turkishweekly.net/news/102884/ayalon-raid-deliberately-conducted-in-international-waters.html

http://www.turkishweekly.net/news/102812/israel’s-debacle-at-sea.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYjkLUcbJWo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFKi5pdEaY4

I wonder why someone can't just buy them all a Coke and let them live in harmony ... some thing tells me that we're still going to be arguing about this in 50 years time, and 50 years after that, and 50 years after that ...

That's this week's two cents to sense.

Pointing the Finger at Me Leaves Three Fingers Pointing Back at You - Part Two

The Situation

Gaza has been blockaded by both Israel and Egypt (hmm, haven’t seen many Egyptian flags burning over the past week or two...) since around June 2007 or so, as a direct result of the 2006 election victory by the terrorist group Hamas and the subsequent takeover of Gaza by Hamas forces in March 2007. Since the blockade, Israel has permitted only limited humanitarian aid supplies into Gaza – enough, the Israeli authorities say, to stave off malnutrition and hunger, but not enough, critics point out, to allow any form of self sufficiency or comfort sneak in. Israel’s navy patrols the coast to intercept and redirect any shipping en route to Gaza, while Egypt’s land forces are constructing an underground steel barrier on its side of the border in an attempt to seal off the tunnels used by Hamas to smuggle food, medicine, munitions, and weapons into the territory. While Israel’s motives for the blockade are primarily to deny sufficient resources to Hamas to allow it to continue its relentless rocket attacks on Israeli territory, Egypt’s motivation is to show solidarity with the legitimate Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank.

Meanwhile, Hamas is using the blockade to shore up hatred of Israel and to increase its own strength. In February 2000 Hamas “police” confiscated a large number of food parcels and blankets from the UN Relief mission, and confiscated more than 200 tonnes of food in another incident several days later. It was only a threat by the UN to suspend all its relief work in Gaza which forced Hamas to back down and return the stolen items, which observers believe would have been used as largesse to reward loyal Hamas followers in the blockaded territory.

On 31 May 2010 the IDF (Israeli Defence Force) intercepted a convoy of six ships heading for Gaza. Five of the six ships in the so-called “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” seem to have complied with Israeli instructions not to break the blockade, although they, like the sixth vessel (the MV Mavi Marmara) had earlier ignored a request to dock at Israel’s port of Ashdod, from where the approved aid items would be delivered to Gaza. The MV Mavi Marmara, the main ship in the convoy, seemed intent to break the blockade, and Israeli commandos moved to enforce the blockade by boarding the ship. Despite some footage of the events being released by the IDF (critics point out that much of the footage lacks context), we are unsure as to what exactly happened next, but what cannot be denied as that there was a struggle aboard the ship as the “peaceful” protestors sought to prevent the Israeli forces from taking control of the vessel, and 9 people aboard the ship were shot and killed, with 60 others, and 10 IDF members, being injured.

When news of the convoy’s imminent departure from Cyprus reached the Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh earlier in the week, he claimed that "if the ships reach Gaza, it's a victory for Gaza... If they are intercepted and terrorised by the Zionists, it will be a victory for Gaza, too, and they will move again in new ships to break the siege of Gaza." Interestingly enough, when the ships were diverted and offloaded at Ashdod, Hamas refused to accept any of the aid aboard the vessels – aid which, according to some reports, was composed of food past its use-by date.

As a direct result of the international reception to this event, Egypt relaxed the blockade on its end of the border; despite the apparent inspections which are going on at the Rafah border crossing, there is little doubt that this has allowed Hamas to significantly rearm itself. It also means, however, that there is no further need for “humanitarian” organisations to attempt to break the blockade, as, if they truly wanted to send aid into Gaza, they can do so from both Israel and Egypt, while there is nothing to prevent people in Gaza getting what they need from Egypt (provided they can get the requisite travel documents from their own “government”, which is problematic as Hamas will only let certain people travel outside of its demesne).

Critics of the blockade suggest that the blockade does not distinguish between civilians and military opponents (which of course it cannot because Hamas, being a paramilitary terror group, uses civilians to conduct its actions). A 1977 amendment to the Geneva Convention specifically prohibits the use of any collective measures which do not distinguish between military targets and innocent civilians. While Israel has not signed these protocols, the international community expects it to uphold them; Hamas, as a terrorist organisation administering an internationally unrecognised statelet, has also not signed the protocols and is unable to do so even if it were willing.

The September 2009 Goldstone Report into Gaza and the blockade by the UN suggested that it was a crime against humanity and recommended that the matter be referred to the International Court of Justice by March 2010 if the situation had not improved by then. Israel condemned the report as being biased and poorly researched, and stands by its claim today that the situation, while not pleasant, is certainly not fatal – at least not for those people living in Gaza, anyway.

Pointing the Finger at Me Leaves Three Fingers Pointing Back at You - Part One

Recent events in relation to the Gaza blockade have once more catapulted the mess that is Middle Eastern politics into the world's living rooms - here we were thinking the BP was the devil because of the oil spill and then all of a sudden we're reminded that there's other devils still hanging around out there...

The Background

There was this guy called Abraham, and he had a son, Isaac ... okay, maybe this is going a little too far back but the problem with this saga is that it's hard to remember when it all began. We're coming in at the middle of the story, like Star Wars - when it starts, we see this tiny little blockade runner being pursued by the biggest baddest mofo of a star destroyer ( “IDF inflatable vessel”) anyone had seen to date, and over the course of the film our emotions are manipulated into thinking that the rebels ( “aid flotilla”) are "good" and that the Imperial (“Israeli”) forces are "bad". Of course, when we go back to the beginning of the story we find out that, while some of the guiding forces behind the Empire (“Israel”) may have had a rather mixed agenda (like all that nonsense with the Stern Gang and Irgun, wtf was that all about guys? Kind of like going to the Dark Side and giving in to the Sith, right?), all the Empire really really wants is peace, order, a place to call home, and security - something that the ineffectual Republic (“Palestinians”) cannot enjoy because the Galactic Senate (“Hamas”, the “PLO”, “Fatah” – take your pick) is corrupt and ill advised. The Empire, we see, is actually the good guy in all this - Imperial forces have established a relatively peaceful regime, one which is ordered and controlled and where the people are safe in their own beds, apart from the ungrateful little bastards who set up the rebellion because their piece of the pie wasn't big enough for them. Most people can’t see the Lucas layer of mystification to perceive the truth behind it, although he himself got a little mixed up with the analogy and brought in a whole bunch of cuddly teddy bear Ewoks (“Viet Cong”) to defeat the overwhelming technologically advanced forces of the Empire (in this case, the “USA”), which of course we all know is a load of crap; the only reason the VC won is because the ARVN didn’t want freedom, liberty and security enough to fight for it.

Anyway, back to the Israel-Palestine thing. It is sovereignty over the land (which they’re welcome to, by the way – NZ has much more worth fighting for than that strip of sand and dust ever will, other than some cool old ruins) to which both groups have eons-old claims which lies at the centre of their dispute; land which, until the early 20th century, was really not being utilised very well at all, so the Zionist Jews who began arriving back "home" after the centuries long Diaspora legitimately purchased the land from the Ottoman Empire and began to work it, then invited more of their brethren back to the Promised Land to purchase more of it, work it, and set up kibbutzim. The Palestinian Arabs living there were rather annoyed at these Johnny come-latelies making more money out of the land and started protesting vigorously. Britain made deals with both sides during WWI, which is usually where most synopses of this situation start, and was given a mandate over the entire area after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Some 90% of the region was converted into Transjordan, essentially a Palestinian Arab territory, while the rest - called "Palestine" by the British just to confuse everybody, allowed limited entry by some of Europe's Jews – although not enough to accommodate the many Jews who wanted entry, many of whom resorted to smuggling themselves in. By 1931 Jews formed 13% of the population of the mandated territory, but the number of Jews in the area more than doubled over the next six years with the rise of the Nazis in Germany a significant contributing factor. The situation was becoming untenable when WWII came along and with it the Holocaust, the ruthless extermination of millions of Jews and other undesirables (although not Muslims, because Hitler and the Nazis had an understanding with some of the highly ranked Muftis in the Middle East and are said to have admired the Islamic faith). Throughout the '30s many hundreds of thousands of Jews fled Germany, and millions more would have followed had it not been for the reluctance of the rest of the world to allow too many Jews into their countries (which, you have to say, was probably justified to an extent – every country has the right to limit the number of new arrivals it takes and no person has the right to enter or claim citizenship of another country just because they think they should be entitled to it). Stories like that of the MS St Louis which was denied entry from various ports as it carried a number of Jews seeking sanctuary show the exact reason for why Israel was established in 1948, and why it should still be there today – no matter what happens in the world, if there is an attempt to repeat the Holocaust against the Jewish people, there is one country that has an open border; any Jew, anywhere in the world, is entitled to entry and citizenship in Israel.

Unfortunately the Arab world was not too happy with a Jewish state being re-established in the area, and the Jews themselves were not about to let a little thing like a UN directive get in their way, not when they’d survived the worst that life can throw at you. (Interestingly none of the Arab countries supported the UN Partition Plan either.) So David Ben Gurion declared independence for Israel in 1948 and immediately thereafter the infant state was attacked on all sides by all its neighbours – Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq. Oh, and it won. Some 700,000+ Palestinians fled or were felt impelled to leave their ancestral homes in the Palestine territory during this war, although interestingly enough well over a million Palestinian Arabs remained in Israel and gained citizenship of the new state, and more than 800,000 Jews left or were forced to leave the Arab World by the early 1970s; oh, and there’s only one of those groups which remains huddled in refugee shelters and dependent on overseas aid. The Jews helped their people, and enfranchised the Arabs who had remained, while the rest of the Arab World basically cursed their people and did their best to isolate them while holding them up as a tool which legitimised their hatred of Israel. Somehow we tend to forget the Arab World’s role in this massive humanitarian crisis... Anyway, the borders established in that war remain what most countries in the world still recognise at Israel’s “official” border, although Israel itself soon realised that a lack of strategic depth would be a significant weakness. A number of wars followed: in 1956 against Egypt, which had sought to block Israeli shipping in violation of a number of international agreements; in 1967 against Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq – a mass mobilisation on its borders provoking a pre-emptive strike from the IDF, wiping out the impending and seemingly overwhelming invasion forces to the north, east and west within less than six days; in 1973, as a result of Egypt and Syria’s surprise attack on Yom Kippur, the holiest of Jewish holy days; in 1982, against PLO forces in Lebanon, and again in 2006, this time against Hezbollah forces there; and in 2008-9 against Hamas forces in Gaza. Notably the nature of the enemy has changed in recent years; Israel has not officially gone to war since the 1970s, and its military actions have been primarily retaliations against terrorist activities. This means that Israel has surrendered the initiative to the terrorists, and it is in this context that we must view the most recent events – ie the blockade runner.

...tbc...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Good and Bad

Being a full time secondary school teacher these days doesn't leave a lot of time to write, unfortunately. It's now 10.50pm and every morning I tell myself I'm going to be in bed by 10 that night; every night I get to bed around 11.30 and the next morning I tell myself I'm going to bed by 10 ...

Anyway, some good and bad things from the past few weeks:

GOOD :)

David Cameron is now Prime Minister of Britain.

BAD :(

The Tories have to share power with the Lib-Dems. Oh, and it's also bad that he's Scottish, although he is an MP for an English seat I think. Seriously, when will England get its own parliament? The Tories would have won a clear majority if it wasn't for those Welsh, Scottish and Irish seats.

GOOD :)

METALLICA tickets!!!! YEAH!! October 13, 7.30pm, I'm going to be rocking it out in the mosh pit, wearing whichever black metallica t-shirt I can find that still fits, pulling the devil's horns with both hands and yelling along with every song. It's going to rock! Oh, advance notice - I'm not going to be at school on October 14. Deal with it.

BAD :(

Still no word about Rugby World Cup tickets, although I put in a bid last month. I think its pretty close to the cut off date for buying them now, so fingers crossed I get my ticky-tickies for the Eden Park matches and the semi at AMI Stadium. Plus it would be cool if I can get drawn for finals tickets. Might have to start saving money ...

GOOD :)

Got elected back onto the Massey Board of Trustees - this may also be BAD depending on how many late nights it is going to entail. But it is nice to win anyway :)

BAD :(

Teenage hysteria. Honestly, what's with mobs and that horrendous shriek? J Williams visited our school today. I had to ask who he was, like most of the staff (apparently once you hit 30 you no longer have any idea what's "cool", which is actually a bit of a relief, because most of what is "cool" to teenagers is actually just "stupid", "idiotic", "criminal", "irresponsible", or "moronic" anyway). He's a hip hop dancer and r&b singer apparently. Something like that anyway. Ok, so some numpty decides that he's going to have a free concert in our hall, and doesn't think that maybe security might be a good idea. I headed down to the staffroom a few minutes before lunch thinking to grab a coffee and then go out to help with crowd control. Ixnay on the offeecay, there were already 300 kids minimum blocking the narrow passage between the staffroom and admin block which leads to the hall. Spent the next ten minutes trying to calm and slow the kids down as they got into the hall and then dispersing those that couldn't fit in the hall. Those that were waiting to get in were not happy that they weren't being allowed past. I ended up essentially acting as a human wall trying to prevent this mob of kids pushing through to get to the hall. It was pandemonium. I don't think I've ever been more fearful for a students' safety than I was at that moment - we were so lucky that no one was hurt. Absolute chaos. I can still hardly believe it, it was just so unnerving. It obviously unsettled me because when this boy spun past me and made a run for it I unleashed the full fury of my angry-teacher-yelling voice for the first time ever in my teaching career. I've been involved with breaking up fights, pulling grappling kids off the middle of a main road in traffic, dealing with a bus crash while on a school trip, busting taggers in flagrante delicto (and catching the little buggers too when they thought they could run away from me), and all sorts of shit that teachers have to put up with these days, but until today I have NEVER yelled at a kid like I did then. I'm not happy that I lost my cool, but all I could see was a horde of kids following his example, and the resulting carnage would have been catastrophic. BAD :(

GOOD :)
Free beer at Bar 159. My quiz team has come second four weeks running, and the time before that we won. Prize = bar tab. Bar tab = free beer. Mmm. Whenever I tell my kids at school some random fact, I always remind them that one day it could help them in a pub quiz. Free beer is GOOD :)

Bedtime is also GOOD :)

That's my two cents to sense.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Iceland volcano = Al Qaeda agent?

We were talking about the "Iceland volcano" (as all the media organisations call it) in class today. Well, okay, I was talking about it. I don't know why, I was supposed to be talking about the nature of Elizabethan and early Stuart government in 16th-17th century England, but if you've been one of my students you'll understand exactly how one of my classes can weave its way around 6000 years of recorded history, pseudo-science and conspiracy theories before eventually getting to where we were meant to be going by the end of the hour.
So, anyway, I couldn't help but wonder how Osama Bin Laden must feel about this volcano. I mean, the guys gets all these terrorists and suicide bombers and hijackers and shoe bombers and tube bombers and drink bottle bombers and stanley knife carriers and what-not over the past decade to attack embassies and airports and navy ships and aeroplanes in mid flight and world trade centre buildings and what have you, and what has all this achieved over all this time? Aircraft have been grounded for what, 12 hours? 18 hours?
This ONE volcano, in ICELAND of all places, lets off a bit of steam and releases an ash cloud, and not only has almost every country in Western Europe indefinitely grounded all air traffic, they've also stopped planes from flying in from other places for almost a week now.
If I were Obama, I'd be pretty pissed off with this volcano being able to do more in a week than I'd achieved in a lifetime. Although, maybe he's not quite sure... maybe the volcano is actually doing his work for him?
After all, look at the name of the volcano - Eyjafjallajokull. Look at the middle of it. The exact middle. Those four letters. ALLA. I wonder if the 'h' has been dropped over time...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Was the Waihopai attack justified?

Back in April 2008 three men launched a raid on the so called "spy base" or Government Communications Security Bureau installation at Waihopai, near Blenheim. They broke into the facility, cutting their way in, then used sickles to slash open the plastic cover protecting one of the dishes used to receive information.
Yesterday, a jury of 11 men and women in Wellington exonerated the men, finding them not guilty of the attack to which they had confessed, nor liable for the million dollars in damage.
Apparently, the jury were convinced that the men were acting according to their consciences, and doing what they believed was right.

Here's the NZ Herald articles:
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10632720&pnum=0

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10632804&pnum=0

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10619725

At first glance the last article may not appear to fit with the other two, but think about it. The anti-abortionist who killed the late term abortion doctor was also acting according to his conscience. Therefore, if he happened to get this jury, he'd been not guilty.

I'll bet the Nazi Party are wondering where this jury was during the Nuremberg trials!

What kind of weak, pathetic excuse is this for finding people not guilty? Does this mean I can blow up a McDonalds because I genuinely believe it is killing our kids by encouraging obesity, and get off scot free? Can a Maori now legitimately steal property from a non-Maori on the argument that they genuinely believe they are owed restitution from some Treaty grievance? Can I shoot Keith Locke in the head because I genuinely believe that he is evil incarnate and the longer he spends spouting his drivel in parliament, the more irreperable damage he does to New Zealand's security?

These three traitors are guilty, guilty as sin. They have attacked a key installation which serves to defend our nation's interests as a Western power. They have cost the taxpayers of NZ more than one million dollars in property damage, not to mention their legal aid fees and the cost of the trial. They have shown no remorse for their actions, and simply provided encouragement to the liberal lunatic fringe of pacifist soft-cocks who will be the first ones to throw their arms up in surrender and offer to collaborate if NZ ever gets invaded. They need to be locked up for their actions, not freed. If this is the kind of farce we get from a jury system, then maybe it is time to look at reducing the public involvement in trial by jury, and creating a number of professional jurors. The interests of the state as a whole, and the security of its people, should never be set aside for the agenda of the few who happen to live some where in cloud cuckoo land where everyone hugs each other all day and no one is trying to kill them just because they come from a Western country.

Better yet, could we please send these three to Afghanistan? If they care so much about the people there, they'll do a much better job if they're actually living in the country, and we'll be much better off without them.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Wailing about Whaling

Illegal Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean has been a topic of much discussion in New Zealand for some time, and especially so in the past few months.

According to the International Whaling Convention's foundation document (retrieved from http://www.iwcoffice.org/commission/convention.htm this morning, 13/3/10), the objective of the IWC is to protect all whale species from overhunting, establish "a system of international regulation for the whale fisheries to ensure proper conservation and development of whale stocks", through the supervision of the International Whaling Commission. The Convention's aim is to allow whale numbers to increase, but it also gives the governments of signatory powers the right to carry out scientific research which involves the killing of whales - in 1986, the IWC completely banned all commercial whaling in order to allow whale stocks to replenish themselves. (Interestingly, this was the same year in which the fourth Star Trek feature film, The Voyage Home, was released, featuring a ship of unknown origin which, it turned out, was piloted by whales searching for their interstellar brethren on Earth! Thus saving the whales became an issue of intergalactic importance.) Originally signed by 15 nations, including NZ, the IWC now has 43 members.

The problem is that the loophole allowing for scientific research has been exploited to the point of insanity. According to figures presented by the NZ Prime Minister in his address on whaling,
During the previous 20 years, whaling quotas have increased ten fold, from 300 in 1990 to 3,000 for 2010 (http://www.johnkey.co.nz/archives/904-John-Key-statement-on-whaling.html)
Clearly this is not sustainable. Clearly, the current system is not working. Clearly, something needs to be done.

Some environmentalists, concerned that nothing was being done to stop the slaughter, decided to protest on the high seas against whaling in all its forms. Greenpeace and other associated organisations which oppose whaling completely (ie even if there were 100 million whales in the sea they would still oppose hunting) launched a small fleet to tail the Japanese 'scientific expeditions' on their annual whale hunts. We're used to seeing this on the news. What we were not used to, until recently, was the increasingly dangerous activity pursued by groups such as the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. This group has been blatantly ignoring the rules of the sea and putting its own crews and vessels, not to mention those of the Japanese, in danger. This culminated in a collision between the Sea Shepherd vessel Ady Gil and the Japanese whaling vessel Shonan Maru No 2 in the Southern Ocean on Wednesday 6 January 2010. Following this, the Ady Gil's captain, Pete Bethune, illegally boarded the Shonan Maru in an attempt to present a bill for the damages to his ship, which sank as a result of the collision, and to place the Japanese captain under citizen's arrest. When that failed, he then demanded to be put ashore in NZ. Yesterday, on his arrival in Japan, he was arrested by Japanese authorities.

Make no mistake, Sea Shepherd has its heart in the right place. But what the organisation is condoning is basically the 21st century equivalent of piracy on the high seas. They are nothing more than eco-terrorists. For those who would say that my use of this term is biased and clearly indicates an opposition towards the SSCS, take a look at these pictures:

http://creativelogik.wordpress.com/2008/05/06/sea-shepherd-success/ - boasting about how many ships this society has sunk.

http://thisiswhitey.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/joining-forces/ - the Jolly Roger derivative used by the SSCS vessels.

Prime Minister John Key has copped a lot of flak from environmentalists and their brainwashed adherents in the past week or so, simply because he suggested a diplomatic solution to the problem. His intention is that at the next meeting of the IWC NZ propose that the scientific research loophole be completely closed, in return for an annual quota set by the IWC for Japan to legitimately hunt. The loony liberal fringe immediately leapt to its feet and accused the National government of wanting to legalise commercial whaling again, but, as usual, they completely missed the point. Diplomatic discussion and compromise are the only way forward. Japan already feels that it is being unneccesarily picked on by the Antipodean nations, and without diplomatic negotiations the official attitude between the nations will harden. Japan is a major export and import partner for NZ, and many Japanese tourists come here every year, providing a huge cash injection for the NZ economy. While it would be wrong to put profits ahead of the survival of a species, it would also be wrong to not try and ensure a healthy relationship between our nations.

The NZ Herald and Dominion Post both contributed some interesting articles on the plan for negotiation in the past few days:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10631021&pnum=0

http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/opinion/editorials/3420779/Editorial-Stop-the-slaughter-any-way-that-works

Over recent years the loony "liberal" left has become increasingly hostile to debate and compromise. It is their way or the highway. They reject democratic dialogue, and while they demand that they should have the right to speak and be heard, they often deny others that same right. This is not democracy. This is not even liberal. The hijacking of the Green movement worldwide by the remnants of various Western socialist and communist parties has been well documented, and is clearly obvious here in NZ when one examines the credentials and track records of the current leadership of the Green Party. It is no longer an environmental group, it is simply a new guise for an old foe - Comintern has reinvented itself and gone deep under cover. Perhaps the colourblind have an advantage over the rest of us - to them, red and green appear the same...

Done and Dusted :)

Last week I handed my masters thesis in for marking. It proved to be a mammoth undertaking, trying to combine research with a full time job which often demands close to double the 40 hour working week we commemorate on Labour Day every year. With part time study and deferring it for a year, there were times when I feared it would never be finished. But now it is, yay!

The official title of my thesis is "Down the Toilet: The Flushing Incident and the Decline of the Anglo-German Relationship, 1890-1914". I've reprinted the abstract below if anyone happens to be interested.

The Flushing Incident of 1910-11 provides an intriguing insight into the state of diplomatic relations in north-western Europe prior to the outbreak of the First World War, and contributes to the body of evidence detailing the deterioration of Anglo-German relations during the first decade of the twentieth century. There is a gap in the existing historiography of the origins of the 1914-18 war, an absence caused perhaps by many previous historians’ lack of interest in the role played by neutral powers such as the Netherlands in the strategic planning of Britain, Germany, and France.
The public interest shown by newspapers in Britain, France, Germany, and Belgium towards the Dutch government’s decision to upgrade its coastal defences in late 1910 was immense. The Netherlands tried to remain aloof from Great Power politics in the early 1900s, but could not avoid being entangled in the web of intrigue, suspicion, and distrust which had ensnared its three powerful neighbours by 1910. The debate over the Dutch right to fortify the coastal approaches to a river within their own territory was more than an attack on the sovereign right of a nation to defend its own land. It cut to the heart of British, French, and Belgian suspicions of Germany’s future intentions. In so doing, the Flushing Incident cast a cat among the pigeons at the British Foreign Office, tasked with maintaining the balance of power in Europe and, above all, keeping the Channel ports free from any Great Power. Considered in this context, the Flushing Incident assumes a significance hitherto denied it by the historiography of this period.
This thesis aims to demonstrate the importance of the Flushing Incident in portraying the tensions that existed between Britain and Germany in 1910-11, to position it within the context of the Anglo-German relationship, and to use the incident to examine the influence played by the neutral Netherlands and Belgium on British and German strategists before 1914. The Flushing Incident has been undeservedly neglected by past historians, and deserves to be considered alongside the other crises and events which contributed to the First World War.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Minto's a Munter

And I don't mean cool Munter like on O.F. either ...

Ever approaching impending thesis deadlines loom large so my blog is suffering, but I had to say something about this.

The Background

I don't watch tennis, and there are only two reasons why I know about the ASB tennis open in Auckland: (1) it makes it really hard to get to the museum which is just up the hill from where the tennis is, and (2) for the past couple of years John Minto has shown up to demand that one of the female tennis players go home.

It started last year, back when Israeli troops went in to Gaza to try to stop the constant barrage of rockets being fired into Israeli territory by Hamas militants. Said militants were of course acting up because Israel has them penned up tighter than a nun's thighs at a sausage convention, and there's a really long history of animosity between the two groups which, even if I didn't have a thesis to write, would simply take me much longer to write about than I can afford. Any way, back in January 2009 when this was going on, this female Israeli tennis player, Shahar Peer, was due to play in Auckland. Like all Israelis her age, she's been in the army; in fact, I think she's still doing her national service now, or at least she was last year, but because she's so good with a racquet the army is letting her hit balls rather than heads. So you have an Israeli woman, who, might I point out, has no involvement in the direction of Israeli foreign, domestic, or military policy, turn up to play in a tennis tournament here in Auckland, NZ. About 20 protestors hung around outside and did whatever it is protestors do.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10550934

Well, Peer - who is apparently ranked in the top 50 in the world, and was barred from competing at the Dubai Tennis Championships in February last year when the Arab Emirate refused to grant her a visa for undisclosed reasons - is back in Auckland this year, and so too is Minto. I guess he was getting a little bored over the summer.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10618592

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10618695

The Situation

So Minto and 10 supporters - only half the tiny number he could gather last year - are outside the ASB centre again callig for Peer to go home "in the name of peace". Um, she's a professional tennis player! I'd love to not go to work in the name of peace but I'd be in the same position as Peer is - I wouldn't be paid. Obviously if Minto can stand outside the tennis all day he's not going to work in the name of peace as well - unless someone's paying him?

I realised today that Minto has a lot in common with Hamas, so it's no wonder that he supports them. Here's 6 things I came up with off the top of my head:

1) MINTO and HAMAS both have five letters = 3 consonants, 2 vowels. What's more, both have two syllables. Do not underestimate the power of the syllable.

2) They both like Palestinians. Well, they both say they do anyway.

3) They both like media attention for when they are making their 'political points'.

4) Both Minto and Hamas tend to pick on innocent civilians when making these 'political points'. Minto has actually chosen a specific innocent civilian to blame for the policy of her government, whereas Hamas tend to be rather more indiscriminate in their selection.

5) Bombs. Hamas use them all the time, and, coincidentally (?) the ASB tennis stadium was evacuated on the first day because of a supposed bomb threat. Hmmm...

6) They both make wildly extravagant demands, both claim to be working for 'peace' (although something may be lost in the translation; Hamas seems to have misconstrued 'peaceful' as 'full of pieces'), and both tend to get rather upset when people point at them and laugh.

Oh, and I'm sure Minto would probably look like Hamas too if he put a tea-towel on his head and strapped some explosives to his chest.

What I find funniest about this situation is that Peer won her 1st round match and her opponent said that the protest had put her off - this is what I'd regard as being 'counter-productive' if I were one of Minto's Munters.

My Opinion

I don't know who else is playing, although no one from NZ any more after one of them pulled out before it started and Erakovic got knocked out in the first round, but I'm really hoping Peer wins. That'd be a great slap in the face for Minto and his Moronic Muppets. It'd be even nicer if she dedicated her victory to the ongoing peace process in the Middle East, because if anything can shut him up, that will.

New Zealanders get a little funny about the Israel-Palestine issue, which is interesting when you think that (a) it's so far away, (b) I didn't notice anyone in Isreal or Palestine protesting over the Seabed and Forshore 'confiscation' or whether Wanganui needs an h, and (c) I'd probably tell them to mind their own business if they did start having an opinion on things that don't concern them. January last year was a good year for crazies: you had the mad monk smearing blood on the Yitzhak Rabin peace memorial in Wellington (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/middle-east-conflict/news/article.cfm?c_id=601&objectid=10550835), there were some cafes refusing to serve Israeli customers (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/middle-east-conflict/news/article.cfm?c_id=601&objectid=10552520), and of course there was Minto.

I do find myself wondering what all those people would do or say if I suddenly refused to teach Muslims in my classroom and demand that all Muslim students withdraw school as a protest to put pressure on their religious leaders to condemn the actions of a small group of fanatic extremist terrorists who claim to be doing Allah's work in their name. Somehow I don't think I'd get away with it, and I don't particularly want a bomb in my letterbox - although it would make a difference to the my mail box's normal diet of junkmail.

In the meantime, I'm putting $20 down to start a collection to raise money to buy Minto a one way ticket to Gaza. Hopefully someone can cancel his NZ citizenship while he's over there, and then he can see how things are done Hamas styles when he tries to protest against corrupt government practices over there.

Oh, and I expect to see Minto at the next Olympic Games demanding that every athlete who comes from a country where the government oppresses at least some of its people, wages war indiscriminately against neighbouring countries or groups of its own citizens, or kills innocent people on a regular basis. He'll need more than 10 supporters though, and if he gets his way I think Norway, Finland, and Sweden will probably have their best Olympic Games ever, seeing as how they'll probably be the only teams still permitted to compete!

And that's my two cents to sense. Sorry for the wait. Happy New Year!

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