Parity in celebrations

We often hear people saying “I wish we’d celebrate Waitangi Day, like those Aussie’s celebrate Australia Day.” Well now we do ;o)

Crafer, Crafer everywhere with not an valid point to be seen

Oh my goodness! Are we still talking about why the ‘Chinese’ shouldn’t buy Crafer farms? This conversation has been going on for what feels like an eternity…and just like Christmas…it’s back before you know it.

The Overseas Investment Office authorised over 1,000,000 hectares of NZ land to be sold to foreign nationals or consortium’s from Germany, Australia, Canada, South Africa and many other predominantly ‘white’ countries…all I am looking for is consistency.

I don’t think NZ land should be sold off shore, although it’s not as serious as many would have you believe for a couple of reasons. One, they can’t take it anywhere, and two, when the foreign entity wants to sell it, NZers have the first rights again to buy it i.e. it’s not ‘lost forever’. However I think that leasing is the sensible option for overseas investors…but then again if I am a farmer and I want to sell…and no one can afford to buy my property…leasing may not be an option so why not sell to the highest bidder then?

Consistency would be showing the same kind of abhorrence to any international sale as we do to “the Chinese”. I think it’s undeniable that there is massive xenophobia and maybe even racism over this sale.

I wrote about this last year on my old blog. The audio link is no longer working in that post so here it is again, your typical talkback caller with no evidence, just rhetoric, posturing, xenophobia and ‘gut feelings’

We have a couple of possibilities here. One is that Crafer Farms does not sell, two is that it does sell. If it sells to a NZ company or individual it’s likely it will be for far less than an international bid…but it’ll be NZ owned (blah. blah, blah). If it sells to an international group they will inject far more into the economy to get the farms up and running. If it is bought by one of these Chinese groups they will make the milk powder in NZ, employing more Kiwis, and then send it to a part of the world where the children desperately need this kind of product…where is the dilemma?

The latest news is that ‘the latest’ conglomerate from Asia that wants to purchase the farms with the same old people wanting to block it making their loud voices and creating fear amongst Kiwis that ‘we’ll soon be paying to rent our own land’. Well that decision is out tonight or tomorrow. I am sure talkback will be busy.

A tough one when apparently two crimes have been committed.

 

Mellissa May

Mellissa May, the woman who pleaded guilty to assault on a minor, is seeking diversion.

Typical talk back call over the past few days saying, “She should go before a jury, they’d never convict her” or “the police should never have charged her”, well ‘they would’ and ‘they should have.’

Just because a jury sees something as ‘unfair’ doesn’t mean a guilty verdict would come out and this assault happened in front of the police, they were there, they saw it. Imagine the precedent that it would set if police did nothing about a woman, for whatever justifiable reason you think, hit a minor in front of them. Do we think that May would have admitted guilt if she thought she could have ‘gotten away with it?’ She pleaded guilty so she could apply for diversion; if there were any plausible scenario where she may have been found ‘not guilty’ in a court of law logic tells us she would have taken that path.

Here is the one indisputable fact in this case. This woman committed an assault on a 14 year old. That is no question about that. She hit a 14 year old…in front of the police…and now has admitted her guilt.

Now, as an experienced talk back host I must humbly advise ‘Owen’ from ‘Nelson’ of the point he should be making. What you are actually saying ‘Owen’ is that you think this assault is justifiable. There was definitely an assault, but you think that this mother assaulting the 14 year old girl was acceptable because she allegedly beat up her child. Well let’s investigate that.

The indisputable fact is that the assault took place, the disputable fact is that the girl who was assaulted, and her ‘friend’ assaulted the child of Mellissa May. Now let me be clear here, I am not saying that didn’t happen, but currently that is alleged as it hasn’t been proven in a court of law and we take those accused in NZ as innocent until proven guilty…another minor part of out society that I’d advise ‘Owen’ about before he convicts every person in NZ on a news item.

So now were at at the point where we can confirm that May assaulted a 14 year old, and that she has admitted her guilt. Those are facts. The remaining question is what happens now?

If the justice system allows her diversion, then we are setting another precedent here that if your kid gets beaten up, you can go an take revenge physically on the ‘alleged’ perpetrator…if she receives a sentence from the judge then people will be asking about ‘the right to defend ones child’…albeit a weak argument in this story.

To each of those questions I have no answer, if it was me who had the child who allegedly assaulted May’s child I’d be thinking one thing, if I was May I’d be thinking the opposite.

Tough one.

Drop in Legal Aid lawyers a concern for the most vulnerable

Since the ‘crackdown’ on the legal aid system last year lawyers have been fleeing from being available to clients who have no other way of paying for their services.

In 2006 the government were told that if they increased the number of people eligible for legal aid, there would be cost increases, the government of the day did allow more people on legal aid, then when the bills came in they ‘freaked out’ and pulled the rug out from under the system.

Over the past year or so the number of legal aid lawyers working in the family courts has halved from over 2,000 to around 1,100. The number of cases hasn’t dropped, the demand hasn’t halved, but the number of lawyers has. This means the family courts will now start to run even slower, with the most vulnerable in society finding it even harder to find a lawyer.

It’s the beginning of having the wealthy be able to ‘buy’ justice, when the poor have no chance. I say that as if it isn’t currently like that…I guess I say that with a little optimism.

Lawyers who currently receive legal aid are subsidizing the tax payer by accepting a lower fee than required. The current legal aid rates are set at 1997 levels, which means the rate paid hasn’t gone up in 15 years and with the new ‘fixed fee rates’ and ‘onerous paperwork’ many lawyers are running for the hills.

Where is the line between the ‘waste’ they we were told about, and ensuring that those that need the help can get it?

If the lawyers are running from the new system doesn’t that mean that those we should be thinking about, the ones who need assistance, will start to fall through the cracks? I agree that there is not a simple ‘one size fits all’ solution, but initial reports would seem to confirm that this National Government has come at this issue with too heavy a hand.

Is it too late for Sarah Palin to be the saviour of the GOP?

The ‘War’ for South Carolina is happening as I write this post. The winner of the South Carolina Primary will be the GOP nomination to go up against President Obama in November’s election, how can I say this so confidently? Every single nominee for the GOP to run for President in the past, 100% of them, has won South Carolina.

In an earlier post I wrote why Obama will be reelected, I still believe that in fact the events of the last few days have done nothing but confirm my thoughts that America could never elect one of the two front-runners for the Republicans.

Sadly for supports of the Conservative right, your choice will either be Newt Gingrich, or Mitt Romney. Both who have demonstrated hypocrisy to an unbeliveable degree over the past week or so.

Mitt Romney is the GOP favourite at the moment, but more and more is being revealed about his financial past and how he has amassed his vast wealth and it doesn’t fit with the GOP narrative. Before we get into this let me state that I have no problems with a person becoming wealthy, I am not an ‘occupier’, I am not someone who thinks that ‘rich people are bad or evil’, but when your wealth becomes a problem to the message, then we need to figure out the disparity.

Mitt Romney is reportedly worth about a quarter of a billion dollars, which he amassed by forming a private equity firm called Bain Capital. What a private equity firm does is come into failing businesses, or purchase businesses with good potential for leverage and ‘streamlines’ them i.e. they make cuts, then borrow against them. The companies then tend to strip the companies, sell them on in parts and make a big fat profit. The issue that Romney has with all this is that GOP catch cry is “Save jobs and stop borrowing”, but his whole business credentials which he is using to say why he should be President, is one of laying people off and borrowing to make quick cash. That on top of the revelation this week that Romney pay’s ‘in the vicinity of 15%’ tax on the money he makes from investments makes this an embarrassing week for him.

P.A.Y.E in America starts at 10% and the most you pay is 35% depending on your income, but Romney’s income is made from his investments which classifies it as ‘capital gains’, hence Capital Gains Tax is applied which in America is around 15%. So Romney earns millions a year and pays the same percentage in tax as the guy driving his campaign bus. Romney said in the last debate the ‘top tax rate should be down around 25%’, yet he only pays 15%. Another catch cry of the GOP is we are taxed too much, well it would appear Romney is not.

Mitt Romney needs to stop trying to sell the idea that his is ‘working class’ and own that he is the richest politician in the run for President, and one of the richest politicians in America.

Now we move onto Speaker Gingrich.

With Rick Perry pulling out this week, and endorsing Gingrich as his candidate you might think Newt would have a jump in the poles, but the Romney camp is using the issue of ‘ethics’ to derail and momentum that Gingrich may be getting…and rightfully so. As I have already pointed out, Newt Gingrich seems to have a penchant to sleeping with women that are not his wife and you have to ask the obvious question that is we know about these ones…how many others are there?

Again you could argue that if it doesn’t impact his ability to govern then it shouldn’t matter…but it doesn’t fit with the GOP Christian, conservative, ‘family values’ narrative.

This week we find out that according to Gingrich’s second wife (of three) that he wanted an ‘open marriage’ where he could have a mistress AND keep his wife as well. All this while the Speaker is still standing up for the ideals of marriage “as the union of one man and one woman.”

For Gingrich, ‘the Gays’ are not to be married as it would be ‘an abomination’…but cheating, lying, and multiple hetero marriages is to be defended as ‘God ordained’ and ‘natural.’

All of this happening with many GOP supporters acknowledging that these two the ‘best of a bad bunch’ just confuses me when you have Rick Santorum with a great CV and actually world political experience on the sidelines along with Ron Paul who is really the only ‘real’ small government, less tax candidate. Ron Paul is what Republicans should be…if they weren’t hypocrites.

Finally, I have to admit to being a little intrigued about a very…very…VERY unlikely scenario. Even though she has said she would not run for President and it is contrary to my opening paragraph, I just wonder if we might hear from Sarah Palin as a late entry. The field is so weak, if she came out of the blue with her rock star persona, the ground swell might be there for a Sarah Palin nominee.

Now would it be a bad decision? Well it couldn’t be any worse than a choice between Romney and Gingrich.

America still using Atom bombs all these years later…except this time it’s in the form of SOPA

Kanye West 'Loves MegaUpload'

The latest news in this whole Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) is that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid delayed the debate until Tuesday (Wednesday NZ time).

Firstly so we have an understanding, these bills work together, they are ‘sister bills’, SOPA in Congress and PIPA in the Senate.

The purpose of these acts is to “tackle the problem of foreign-based websites that sell pirated movies, music and other products.” For me, that in itself is not a bad idea, there is a problem with illegally downloaded copyrighted product, and I do think that taking a song, album, piece of software or movie is theft, however we get into problems when we try to figure out who is to be held responsible for these downloads and how we hold them accountable.

Yesterday, on behalf of the FBI, NZ Police raided the old ‘Chrisco Mansion’ in Coatsville and arrested several NZ Residents for their involvement sharing copyright property via their website MegaUpload.com which is said to be the worlds largest file sharing site. Not that we have the full story yet but I think this case will go far beyond the SOPA and PIPA issues as in news reports of the last 24 hours numerous more serious charges have been laid against these gentlemen like ‘racketeering’ and ‘money laundering’, that just says to me there’s more to this particular case than sharing the latest Rhianna album. It also needs to be noted that SOPA and PIPA haven’t even gotten close to being passed yet so whilst this has become the poster child for the potential power of those acts, it really doesn’t relate to them.

That all being said I am a little uncomfortable with three elements of this case.

  1. NZ Police doing the dirty work for the FBI
  2. The site http://www.MegaUpload.com being taken down by American officials, doesn’t American law, like ours, tell us we are innocent until proven guilty…how can that decision be made already without these accused men having their day in court
  3. Many celebrities, the kinds of people who should want their ‘intellectual property’ protected support, use and voice their ‘love’ for MegaUpload

Something doesn’t seem quite right when all these artists are singing…literally…the praises of this ‘evil site’.

This conversation then splits into several ‘strands’. The first is internet piracy.

I am completely against the idea that someone, somewhere can get for free, a piece of art (be that music, movie, software…whatever) when they should be paying for it. If you or I had intellectual property to a physical item, we wouldn’t be happy about someone taking for themselves, then copying that item and passing it around for free. This would effect our sales. To me internet piracy is theft, there is no other explanation…taking something for free, when the owners of that item want to you pay for it…is theft.

The second is, “who are the pirates?” Which becomes cloudier. Example, I watched an episode of South Park the other day on line because I missed it on the TV. Now it was free to air on FOUR, but technically what I did may have been illegal…have I committed a crime under current law, or under newly proposed copyright law? I am not sure. If it was ‘free’ on FOUR then is getting it for free on the ‘net seems ok. But technically maybe not. And then there’s also the issue of copyright holders ‘losing revenue’. I wouldn’t ever use this as an excuse for ‘stealing’ but there is truth in the idea that some people who download copyrighted product from the internet will never purchase that item, so there is no money lost. This is a weak argument for ‘stealing’ but there is some truth for ‘a few’ internet users.

The third is who should be responsible for that theft and how should they be held accountable. Well again that becomes cloudy. If it was a physical item being stolen, then it’s the person who takes the item from the shop that you would charge…but these are not physical items and there needs to be many complicit people involved to make this file sharing work. Therefore it would seem that the logical conclusion to to make the site accountable…easier said than done.

If the site is active in the distribution of the copyrighted material, then fair enough, hold them accountable. But what is someone uses the site for reasons it wasn’t intended. MegaUpload.com seems on one level to be a valid way of people sending their files around the world, just like DropSend or Box.net and many others. So what if the people running that site are just being used as ‘pawns’ for illegal activity to happen around them? It could be the difference between lending someone your car to rob a bank, and having your car stolen and it then being used in a bank robbery. In one case their is active accountable…in the other there isn’t. That’s what sites like Wikipedia are worried about, someone puts a link on one of their articles, then technically they will be in breach of these new laws.

Jon Stewart had an interesting take on it, click here to see as WordPress doesn’t allow flash to be embedded.

To me it seems like this is an issue of Corporations wanting their pound of flesh, and they are entitled to it. The Corporation pays for the album, movie, television show…whatever…and they don’t want it stolen. It’s a little different in places like NZ because our artists, especially music, really do struggle. In larger societies I don’t think downloading the latest Coldplay album would effect Chris Martin’s net worth…but done enough times it would affect Capitol Records profits, dones over 100 artists at Capitol Records…well you can see how it works. But what always seems difficult to understand is how Corporations get the support of, and action taken by, federal agencies like the FBI so quickly.

In 2010 the Supreme Court of the USA decreed that Corporations have the same first amendment rights as people when it comes to Freedom of Speech, it’s called Corporate Personhood.

Corporate personhood is the status conferred upon corporations under the law, which allows corporations to have rights and responsibilities similar to those of a natural person. There is a question about which subset of rights afforded to natural persons should also be afforded to corporations as legal persons.

This gave Corporations the right to spend as much money as they want on political campaigns but I think it has gone so much further.

I think today, in America, Corporations have far more rights than people. And one of the scarier parts of this is that Corporations, in America, have more rights than people who may, or may not be doing some illegal, in a mansion in Coatesville.

Revisiting the idea that these guys who run MegaUpload may, or may not, have committed crime(s), yet their site has been taken down. The power that these Corporations wield to get a sentence carried out, before a court case even happens is frankly scary. Imagine if this was a ‘person to person’ theft or crime. Would the accused be subject to action that you would expect with a conviction…the answer is ‘No!’

It seems that the legislation is far too heavy for the issue at hand and will catch out many whom the acts are not aimed at. I wouldn’t say it was using a sledgehammer on a fly, as the issue of copyright infringement is much larger than a ‘fly’ but maybe it’s something like demolishing a building with an atomic bomb.

Were you aware NZ has its own genuine Superman!

Many people will have seen this but for those who have not this is World Junior Shotput champion Jacko Gill. In this workout video he is only 16 years of age. Be afraid competition over the next 20 years…be very afraid.

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