Kia Ora

Unfortunately I have to stop the blog again. More unfortunately, I cannot tell you when – if at all – this blog will resume. I have 40 hours a week of work commitments, 15 hours a week of varsity commitments, to say nothing of Amnesty International or N.Z. First commitments. If I commit to something I commit my time as best as I am able to, or not at all. There is no such thing as 50% commitment with me. But now I feel I am fully committed. No more commitments to charities or other organisations. I am full up. All the best people, because this blog might not be coming back. I cannot and will not commit to a restart date – if at all.

If I stop the blog permanently, I will post status messages to the Facebook page that used to host Will She Be Right. They will be designed to make you want to debate questions. If t such as:

“The U.S. drone war does more harm than good. Discuss.”

Best, Rob

Downsizing my internet presence

Kia Ora

Over the last few years since the latter days at Environment Canterbury I have been experimenting with a substantial array of programmes on the internet. When I started in January 2011, knowing that I would soon be unemployed because my work at Environment Canterbury was running out of funding, I was thinking of blogging and going into online media formats to see if I could create some sort of supplementary income stream.

I delved into programmes such as Google Analytics, Adsense, Feedburner, Youtube. I have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube and elsewhere. I tried monetising my blog when it was on Blogspot and Youtube. I was perhaps naive about what I might achieve – if anything at all – since I had no prior experience with any of this and what I did was all based on trial and error. I have learnt a lot and developed a respect for those who have managed to make a career out of developing an internet presence of some sort and making it sustainable.

But in the last year or so a slowly developing tide of concern has started to well up in me about whether I am over exposing myself on the internet. I have started to wonder whether the fact that spying by surveillance agencies around the world and the inability of governments to deal with privacy breaches by corporates is heralding some sort of new era where the only way to be private is not be on the internet at all. Of course that has always to some extent been the case, but more now than ever with the U.S. PRISM programme, the National Security Agency having allegations levelled against it. Even our own Government does not seem to be so squeaky clean as it would want us to believe.

I have accounts with Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube. I used to be on Reddit. This blog is on WordPress – though I am starting to have doubts about whether I should have quit Blogger.

This, coupled with the realisation that I don’t have time any more to play around with many of the Google services, that I signed up to when I was trying to build a blog, has made me reconsider what I want my presence to be like on the internet. I know that I still want a presence, with a blog and a Youtube account, but everything else, including Twitter and to a lesser extent, Facebook is very much up in the air.

Be interesting to see what happens. How many of you have this problem?

Take Care,

Rob

Afghanistan going backwards

Kia Ora

It is sad to watch, terrifying for those whose lives are now in danger, and raises questions about the country’s future, but Afghanistan – particularly with regards to women – seems to be sliding back into the dark ways of the Taliban days.

Amnesty International Australia has just received shocking news. Afghan law makers are close to passing a law that would make people who attack their women folk virtually immune to prosecution.

Oh dear. Oh dearie me. It would seem that all of the progress that Afghan women made in the last decade is about to be thrown head first out the window. For what gain? A huge rise in domestic violence, rape, murder and torture? For an increasingly  big black splotch on its already abysmal human rights record?

But it is not just women who are going backwards. The Taliban, the Islamic militia that occupied much of Afghanistan in the 1990s, is alive and well. Funded by a healthy stream of profits from the narcotics trade, the militia have experienced a major revival in the last few years. Their fear of women being free is as obvious as ever with their attacks on schools for girls.

The war in Afghanistan when I first saw it start like so many others in 2001, I initially thought was a great idea. In some respects I still think it should have gone ahead, but with a blue print to train Afghan teachers, nurses, engineers and give them jobs. The majority of the rebuilding work seems to have been contracted out to companies that only wanted a fast dollar and did not give a damn about the people.

But the more I think about it, the more I remember a salient fact that my mother pointed out when we had a discussion about the war one day. She said the British could not control the country and nor could the Russians, so why therefore should we imagine that the Americans can do any better? All true I considered, but then pointed out that if the Americans had done their homework they would have learnt the lessons of the previous attempts by foreign powers to occupy Afghanistan. A decade and a bit after that conversation, I wonder just for a moment if maybe she was right.

Billions and billions of dollars were spent on the war in Afghanistan. Whilst some of it did some temporary good, the bulk seems to have been wasted either through corruption, through dodgy deals that were never going to work and through – I would be very interested to know how – impressively bad record keeping.

Maybe, just maybe – though I shudder to think where the Taliban would be by now if it had not happened – Afghanistan was never supposed to have been invaded in the first place. Certainly it does not seem to have benefitted from the American attempt at “nation building”.

Best,

Rob

The trouble with the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement

Kia Ora

The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement is a free trade agreement between nations on the Pacific rim. It is intended to create a large free trade zone across the Pacific basin and reduce tariffs and other barriers to trade. Advocates say it will bring New Zealand vastly improved access to commodities from overseas, will create thousands of jobs and significantly increase our earnings. But is it really all that the advocates suggest?

Over the last couple of years I have blogged on this issue several times. When I first started blogging I was still hopeful that there would somehow be benefits that would outweigh the costs. I had a belief that if the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement was really so bad, then why were so many delegates going to it and why were other nations still wanting to join?

It was not until someone pointed out to me that the Minister of Trade Tim Groser was refusing to rule out changes to Pharmac in an attempt to appease the American pharmaceutical industry that I started to have major doubts. In 2011, I wrote a blog article singing the praises of Pharmac. Whilst the drug agency of the New Zealand Government has at times appeared pedantic on certain medicines, especially those related to breast cancer, I would probably not be writing this blog because my parents and more recently myself have been able to afford my necessary blood pressure medication because Pharmac made them affordable. More recently in August 2013, a research paper found that the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement could have very substantial impacts on Pharmac.

New Zealanders medical health is not the only area that might be adversely affected. Legitimate concerns about the environment, privacy, human rights, copy right law, among others have all been raised. The lack of transparency around the deal is abysmal at best and possibly criminal at worst – we keep being told that the secrecy is necessary, but when pressured, authorities clam up. Do they not understand that suspicion is justified when people start to think something is being hidden from them?

I have major concerns about this Free Trade Agreement. It is not sufficient to say to me that if the details are released it will compromise the agreement. The F.T.A. that this is supposed to be in essence, is already compromised by the fact that people are no longer sure that they have confidence in the Government negotiators.

Prime Minister John Key wants to sign this. So does Prime Ministers Tony Abbott of Australia and Stephen Harper of Canada. So does President Barak Obama of the United States.

But do the peoples of these countries want it? Would they want it if they knew what the details were?

I am not altogether sure that they would.

Best,

Rob

Reflections on Waitangi Day

Kia Ora

My previous posts on Waitangi Day have pointed to the politics of the treaty, the issues that still remain in terms of sorting out past grievances and challenges going forward. But how many have stopped and thought about all of the people in New Zealand who are not from New Zealand originally, yet whom consider themselves to be New Zealanders, and their role on Waitangi Day?

New Zealand has immigrants from all over the world from places as diverse as Canada and China, Fiji and Brazil, Egypt and Germany. They are subject to the same laws as the rest of New Zealanders. When they move to New Zealand, understandably their knowledge of the country’s history is going to be sketchy, but how interesting it would be to sit down with respective nationalities and ask them how they view Waitangi Day and what it stands for.

I think it is time for a day that is inclusive of ALL New Zealanders, regardless of whether they were born and raised here, or had their citizenship ceremony yesterday. To many I imagine that Waitangi Day is just viewed as a holiday, like it is by so many others. To new immigrants just trying to get established in the country and overcoming basic things like the language barrier and getting an education, a job is a major challenge. But when they have settled down how well do they come to understand our origins, why this treaty exists.

If I asked someone from – for arguments sake – the Egyptian community what they know of the British colonisation of Aotearoa and the treaty that was signed on 06 February 1840 to make it become New Zealand, I think their answer would be a reflection on how well we educate new immigrants as to the New Zealand lifestyle. Would it:

  1. Be worthwhile seeing what other western countries do about educating their immigrants as to their customs, culture and history
  2. Be worthwhile surveying immigrant communities to see what they get taught and how well their community networks run

Doing this sooner rather than later will help to reduce the disconnect that I think is starting to become established in New Zealand between immigrant communities and others. But no political party – Greens included – seem to have an idea of how to address this. Reflecting on our national day, which should be about New Zealand developing and going forward as a multi-cultural nation where any ethnicity is welcome and made to feel a part of our fabric, this bothers me.

Best,

Rob