27 March 2014

Hitler on the shelf

Probably the only thing that Kim Dotcom and I have in common is that we both own a second-hand copy of Hitler's Mein Kampf. But, in my case, it is a paperback English translation, not a signed first-edition.
Having got that disclosure out of the way, I am sure that anyone who knows my political views will support me in saying that, simply because I own a copy of that politically-charged text, it does not mean that I condone anything at all in it. Nor should we jump to conclusions about the significance of Kim Dotcom's ownership of a copy.
A certain blogger, however, claims that Kim Dotcom has a fetish for Nazi memorabilia and holds anti-semitic views. And hence that Kiwi voters should beware. Dotcom, in reply, argues that these allegations are all part of a 'smear campaign' coming out of the National Party.
Kim Dotcom, as a German, would probably know that the rights to Mein Kampf were acquired after the War by the State of Bavaria, which has since refused to permit its publication. This amounts to an official ban on the book in Germany. It would be a mistake then to think that Dotcom sees his acquisition of a very rare signed first edition as simply a smart 'investment', as Hone Harawira suggests. Dotcom's ownership of a copy is a snub (to put it mildly) to his home country's efforts to suppress Nazism.
But, even if Dotcom acquired his rare copy of Mein Kampf as just a collector's item that will appreciate in economic value, this episode only serves to muddy the waters for his political campaign and the Internet Party.
Kim Dotcom's true political-ideological allegiances are far from clear (probably to himself as much as to anyone else). He has dallied with prominent leftists, such as Hone Harawira, but let's not forget that he is a wealthy businessman. The Kim Dotcom business model may look like a kind of 'piracy' to some (especially some in Hollywood), but it is still a capitalist business model. The Kim Dotcom model represents the future, the digital age, whereas the Hollywood entertainment industry, clinging onto its intellectual property rights, represents the past.
I was amused to learn that Hone Harawira had trouble understanding Marx, but Marx would have warned us that the economic basis of a person's livelihood will tell us all we need to know about his actual political values.

19 March 2014

New Zealand, China's little brother...

China’s ambassador to New Zealand describes this country as ‘not just a trading partner but a very close member of the family’ (Wang Lutong quoted by O'Sullivan). This is the beginning of a relationship defined in Chinese terms: that is, an imperial relationship based on a projected world-system that is paternalistic and that sees a direct analogy between family and state. As a member of the Chinese family, New Zealand will obviously be a junior member, expected to look up to the head of the family. Get used to it.

13 March 2014

How to disfranchise 10,000 citizens

Based on a visit to the Stats NZ site and a rough calculation, there are about 10,000 New Zealanders who will turn 18 between 20 September 2014 and 29 November 2014 (the latest reasonable date on which the government could have set the next election).
Admittedly, 18-year-olds have a relatively low rate of electoral registration and voter turn-out. But nonetheless, the PM's decision to go to the electorate two months early has denied the right to vote at this election to thousands of young New Zealanders.
OK, I know that there were well-rehearsed reasons for the early election, and that those young people who just miss out will get their turn in 2017.
I make this point, though, because no-one seems to think about the young when such decisions get made. If many 17-year-olds feel aggrieved about this decision, then John Key doesn't have to care about them – because they can't vote!
But, should we allow Prime Ministers to decide the date of the election? The arbitrary disfranchisement of young persons is another reason for fixed election dates.

The Winston factor

People, including myself, have given Winston Peters a bit of a hard time for playing an ambiguous game regarding which of the major parties he would support in government after this coming election. Various commentators, and even the PM himself, insist upon pre-electoral transparency from Peters. They argue that voters should know what kind of government the party they are voting for wants to support – and what kind it would oppose. Mr Peters has avoided giving a direct answer to the question 'Labour or National?' He argues that the voters do not like government-formation to be stitched up prior to their making their preferences known at the ballot-box.
Having heard Peters talk recently, though, it appears to me that his position is not really all that ambiguous. NZ First is a centre party and can go either way – or it can, as at present, happily occupy the cross-benches. Peters has indicated that, in the first instance, he would talk with (but not necessarily support) the party with the largest vote (almost certainly to be National). If there is no meeting of minds there, he could then potentially talk with Labour. But again he quite reasonably says that there would have to be some common ground on policy and office-sharing. The tricky question for Peters and Labour, though, would be the relationship with the Greens. Peters has said in the past that he would not support Labour in office if they included the Greens as a support partner. He has not explicitly said the same this time around, so far (unless I've missed something). But any potential deal with Labour is likely to be complicated by that factor.
If all deal-making falls through for NZ First, or if either National or Labour is able to form a government without NZ First's support, then Peters is prepared to stay in opposition.
Overall, then, his pre-electoral position is neither ambiguous nor hard to understand. And, as a centrist party, NZ First need not state a clear pre-electoral preference. NZ First has options, and wants reasonably to keep those options open until the numbers are known after the election. The term 'king-maker' is misleading, as a party in NZ First's position does not 'decide' who will govern. In all likelihood, it will be National that calls the shots and chooses whom they want to negotiate with, and in what order, after the election.
If Peters did state a preference for Labour or National, it could scare voters off, to the right or to the left, depending on what his stated preference was. If some voters are uncomfortable with Mr Peters' currently open-ended approach, then they don't have to vote for his party.
How much more 'transparency' is needed?
Mr Key has not ruled NZ First out this time around. So, I'm predicting a National-led government forming after this election, probably with support from NZ First. By the time the election is over, you will have forgotten you read this, so I'm on safe ground if I got it wrong!

08 March 2014

Colin raises the standards?

Once there was a guy, let's call him Colin, who decided he wanted to play for the Warriors. But he thought the opposing league players were a bit too rough and this lowered the standards of play. So, to teach them a lesson, every time an opposing player smashed him to the ground, Colin laid a complaint with the police. After all, the other players had no right to hurt a delicate chap like him.
For perfectly sound reasons, the police and the courts paid no attention to Colin's pleadings. They said 'league players have to take the hard tackles, as that's the nature of the game.' But the news media did pay attention, because it made great copy. And Colin loved the attention he was getting.
Because Colin had deep pockets to pay lawyers, eventually the other players decided it was safer not to tackle Colin at all, and they just let him score points whenever he liked.
But did this raise the standard of play? Not according to the fans in the stadium! They booed and told him to harden the f*** up.