Month: April 2014

The Māori struggle is not a ‘left’ thing

Morgan Godfery wrote an amazing obituary to Shane Jones’s retirement from politics. I was going to write something on Jones specifically, but Godfery’s piece summed up most the things I would have tried to express (although I would have done a poor job in comparison). However, one particular statement stood out as more of a general observation Godfery makes about Māori politics:

… I’ve said it before: Māori politics doesn’t sit apart from the political spectrum, but below it. At least the political right doesn’t pretend to be a false friend

While my personal preference would be to use ‘outside’ rather than ‘below’, I think Godfery makes the salient point about the subjugation of the Māori struggle to eurocentric conceptions of the political economy, namely, the socialist/left vs capitalist/right dichotomy.

It is becoming increasingly irritating (for me anyhow) when people claim that only the political left in NZ are capable of representing Māori in politics. I think this is an indefensible claim because it assumes Māori lead a homogeneous existence and that Tikanga  is a left ideal.  It reminds me of a quote shared by Bentham Ohia when speaking with Bolivian President Evo Morales which I’ve expressed before here and replicated in the picture below:

Bolia-Forum-2-Evo-Morales

There is no shortage of non-Māori ‘advocates for Māori’ who consider they are in a position to advance arguments against Māori who step outside the lefts confines as traitors to Māori. As sell outs. As blights on the Maori struggle.

I’m embarrassed that I allowed myself to breathe this myth for so long coming to the realisation only recently about how wrong I was to propagate that view, and how offensive such claims are to Māori. It is wrong to expressly or implicitly clam that someone lacks tikanga values simply because they choose to cooperate with those of the capitalist class. Tikanga does not fit neatly into eurocentric political conceptions – it sits outside them but in being so, as Godfery points out, it is treated as inferior to the ideologies that occupy NZ’s political spectrum.

Embedded in these ‘left is best for Māori’ claims is the idea that Maori representation requires actions like picketing at state housing evictions in Glenn Innes, or protesting on Queen Street or outside the beehive. These are certainly admirable actions, they are grassroots actions, but they are not specific Māori focused grassroots actions. This is not an attack on Hone Harawira (or the Mana Party) who is highly respected for his Māori specific focus in his electorate – its a pointed criticism at the many on the left who craft a conception of Māori representation in terms of the class struggle.

I recall when Native Affairs interviewed David Cunliffe following his successful bid for Labour leadership. Mihi Forbes asked if there were any Māori policies that Cunliffe thought the audience might be interested in, to which he ignorantly replied:

Firstly let me state the obvious that Māori disproportionately benefit from Labours core policies around jobs, around warm dry homes, around education, around healthcare of course they do

He was promptly called out on twitter by Māori Law Professor Khylee Quince:

Kquince

This is a prevailing stereotype in NZ. Yes, many Māori are unemployed and/or less educated and so on but being Māori is not synonymous with being poor as Cunliffe implies. Its no wonder the Māori struggle is subordinated when even those claiming to advocate for Maori, are advocating for the lower class to which they presumptively see Māori as belonging. We are poor first, then we are Māori. Apparently.

The Maori struggle is not one of class. The class struggle is as already mentioned, an imported conception. Its not a struggle confined to the hubris of parliament. The Māori struggle is to break free from the institutions that dominate and control Māori life. The Māori struggle is realising tino rangitiratanga, self-determination proper and not the artificial markings of self-determination through Pakeha specific legislation that allows Māori minimal meaningful participation in their system.

A radical departure from the status quo is needed if the Māori struggle is to regain its momentum.

I accept this claim is likely to irk many as a ‘separatist’ ideal. But it must be noted as I’ve expressed before, that tino rangitiratanga is not about taking power for Māori to dictatorially wield over non-Māori. Its about regaining lost power so that Māori can engage in a cooperative society on equal footing.  I’m also aware that many very hardy socialists will despise the claim that the Maori struggle is not a class struggle. But I’m not saying Maori can’t participate in both struggles, in fact I wholeheartedly support Maori participating in both struggles – I’m merely pointing out that there is a distinction that is too often ignored.

While it’s justifiable to claim those initially of the left who stepped to the right abandoned the class struggle, it is wrong to malignantly accuse those people of abandoning the Māori struggle as if the struggles were synonymous.

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FATCA – NZ’s Insidious Future

Earlier this week Mark Hubbard (Laissez Faire Capitalist) wrote about the monstrosity of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). In it, he queried why those on the Left who staunchly opposed the GCSB legislation were appallingly silent on FATCA – an equally (if not more) intrusive piece of legislation passed by the U.S. government that implicates NZ.

I think its a fair claim made by him, and I will attempt to give a position from my point of view as a Left identifying person, noting that this is my personal opinion and not intended as a reflection of general left wing thought in NZ.

My view is that FATCA is undeniably intrusive and a threat to the privacy of New Zealander’s and in fact all persons who are citizens of OECD countries because Officials in NZ have indicated a willingness for FATCA to be emulated internationally as part of an OECD/G20 initiative and that all OECD countries have entered into negotiations with the U.S. regarding FATCA.

I’ve spent a bit of time lately researching the territorial rights of States, and it occurred to me that FATCA is not only intuitively inconsistent with standard conceptions of territorial jurisdiction but is also technically inconsistent.

Territorial jurisdiction is usually understood as applying to bounded geographical areas and it applies to any persons who find themselves within a States territory. Although the boundaries need not be fixed, jurisdiction is not considered as capable of extending into the boundaries of another sovereign State. In fact, its considered a fundamental breach of international law to do so except in very extreme circumstances – usually on humanitarian grounds.

Putting FATCA in context of jurisdiction – the U.S. cannot exert jurisdiction over the territory of NZ, so the U.S. is arguably in breach of this very fundamental principle of international law through the specific provisions in FATCA that implicate foreign finance institutions (FFI’s). In my view, FATCA impacts jurisdictionally on NZ despite assertions from Officials who claim that FATCA does not breach NZ’s sovereignty because:

…entering into the [intergovernmental agreement] and enacting legislation that enables financial institutions to comply with its terms  is in the best interests of New Zealand

FATCA is clearly obnoxiously coercive and should be opposed.

What exactly is FATCA?

The US enacted FATCA in March 2010. Its purported aim is to reduce tax evasion by U.S. citizens and green card holders living within U.S. territory or abroad. Hence it being a citizenship based tax model and extra-territorial legislation.

FATCA requires third party reporting, i.e. FFI’s must identify U.S. account holders and share information with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

If these FFI’s  do not both register with the IRS and agree to report specific information to the IRS, they risk a 30% withholding tax on every $USD transaction that goes through their institutions. Noting, that some FFI’s are exempt, such as government institutions and certain NGO’s.

However, there are leniencies if the FFI home State enters into an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with the U.S as opposed to the FFI entering into a separate agreement. The purpose of the IGA’s  is to ensure that a partner government will legislate to require FFI’s to comply with FATCA.

In NZ, the IRD insist that the IGA is necessary because if NZ financial institutions (NZFI’s) enter into separate agreements with the IRS they are unlikely to be able to comply with FATCA because of NZ’s current legislative framework. That means NZFI’s would be subject to the penalties contained within FATCA. The IRD has recommended that NZFI’s instead refrain from registering with the IRS website as NZ is currently negotiating an IGA with the U.S.

The Policy & Strategy, Treasury and IRD published a report responding to submissions on the Taxation (Annual Rates, Employee  Allowances, and Remedial Matters) Bill that deals with FATCA.

The report states that it is in NZ’s best interests to proceed with negotiating an IGA because not doing so would involve ‘severe reputational risk’ since ‘all OECD countries have either signed or are negotiating, IGAs with the United States in respect of FATCA’.

This is a weak justification for allowing the U.S. to exercise a kind of quasi-jurisdiction over NZFI’s. It’s also insidious that the report portrays FATCA as consistent with the sovereign rights of NZ despite the legislative changes required to comply.

I do agree in principle, that it’s inappropriate for the NZ government to comment on the U.S. citizenship based tax model, since its part of the U.S. domestic legal system. However, I also think criticism is appropriate in the circumstances given the purpose of FATCA is to coerce domestic law changes in sovereign States so that the U.S. can access information it would otherwise not be privy to.

I do worry about the impact of the IGA’s, since international law is often created through custom, which can derive from treaties and agreements. Custom is established through widespread and consistent State practice and opinio juris (what the States believe).

These IGA’s are arguably evidence that the States who enter into them accept as a practice that intergovernmental information sharing through relaxation of domestic privacy laws is a developing norm. Additionally, that those States conceive of coercing private institutions to share private information about those who have accounts with them as acceptable State behaviour.

The only way for a State to avoid being bound by customary international law is to express a statement to the contrary of a particular practice prior to taking any action that might suggest otherwise. Arguably, signing an IGA is evidence in favour of the norm development. Other commentary of State belief may also bolster any claims of custom in future.

Speaking of future,  the report notes that :

…under the IGA and any OECD/G20 model that may be devised in the future, New Zealand will also be the recipient of information in respect of New Zealand  tax residents that have undeclared offshore bank accounts. This information will assist in ensuring that all New Zealanders also pay the correct amount of tax on their worldwide income

This statement clearly suggests that the Officials are anticipating a FATCA-like regime in NZ (and other OECD countries) in future. As the report points out, the only way for U.S citizens to avoid being captured by FATCA is to renounce their citizenship, and this is probably the only way for NZ citizens to avoid this kind of regime too.

The report also insists that intergovernmental information sharing and citizenship based tax models are pertinent to becoming a ‘good international citizen’ and has dual benefits to NZ i.e. both fiscal and reputational.

Hubbard writes that:

a faceless official who can read your financial transactions, can read your life, plus worse, this official owns your income

While his post rails against the Left in a mocking and often offensive way, the substance regarding FATCA is worth consideration irrespective of  political affiliations. If you value privacy, then you are unlikely to support FATCA.

The IGA being negotiated between NZ and the U.S will compel NZFI’s to collect and share information that is not currently collected and shared but the report considers this intrusion on privacy to be outweighed by other public interest considerations. Inferentially, NZ’s reputation and future fiscal advantages through the ability to coerce information from FFI’s in order to tax NZ citizens abroad.

For all the reasons above, I oppose FATCA and I encourage those who oppose the GCSB legislation to consider the implications of global information sharing based on an individuals citizenship and access to their financial accounts. You may buy into the ‘it targets the 1% who cares’ narrative, but FATCA is not about class. It is about privacy. It signifies the unacceptable encroachment of the State into the lives of every citizen. That is the dystopia we are heading for with FATCA.

Dotcom & Jackson are incomparable situations

Capture

As alluded to in the above tweet, there is a genuine question as to whether the outrage (media or otherwise) aimed at Dotcom is hypocritical given the silence on Peter Jackson’s (alleged?) ownership of a Nazi war plane. The replies to this tweet are diverse with some reasonable sounding but unverified claims.

At this stage, I think the inference that the situations are comparable is weak.

One line of argument I’d be willing to accept is that Jackson will enjoy the privilege of a disinterested media and largely disinterested public. That is, its unlikely that media outlets will make the same kinds of inquiries of Jackson as they did of Dotcom.

A relevant point here is that Dotcom has just started a political party and because of his potential proximity to political power greater scrutiny of his actions are required.

There are also some clear distinctions between Dotcom’s situation being a story and Jackson’s being a non-story and I am not convinced its related to the favourable light in which Jackson is cast compared to Dotcom.

While Jackson (allegedly) owns a Nazi war plane, as a film producer it could simply be a prop. Alternatively, if its not, it could be one plane among many planes he has collected. We know from recent news that he owns at least one other plane that has been sent to Western Australia to help in the MH370 search. My provisional view is that I don’t think the information we have about Jackson warrants the same kind of outcry that Dotcom received.

I need not repeat the disputed and undisputed claims about Dotcom, as they have been extensively published. What I will reiterate, is that it is disingenuous to ignore all the relevant factors in the Dotcom case by isolating the signed copy of Mein Kampf as the only notable aspect.

To clarify, this isn’t intended as a defence of Jackson, but for all the reasons one might not like him, or might think the media were too hard on Dotcom, the situations are not, in my view, comparable. There are contextual elements some of which intensify the claims against Dotcom and distinguish the circumstances, although I’m open to hear what others might think, i.e. are there features that are comparable that I haven’t raised?

 

Mana invite Dotcom to AGM

The Mana Party Executive have extended an invitation to Kim Dotcom to speak to its membership at their upcoming AGM.

Annette 1

Link to post here.

While I’m not a member of Mana, I still find the invitation troublesome.

Perhaps I’m naïve. I’ve never been a member of a political party and as such have never attended an AGM in this respect. Maybe this kind of thing is the norm.

But while Mana insist that any possibility of a merger is to be decided by members and not as a result of a unilateral decision made by the Exec, the image below tells a different story.

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Link to post available here.

Given that the image is publicly posted on an Exec members Facebook wall, I get the impression that the outcome of a merger has been predetermined, and that Dotcoms attendance at the AGM is simply a symbolic gesture to give the appearance of a democratic process in play.  Also note, the representation of Dotcom rather than any reference to the Internet Party.

The invitation appears to be an intention to reinforce or promote an existing relationship between Mana and Dotcom, rather than to ascertain the concerns of or to understand Mana members as postulated in the media advisory above.

Additionally, Dotcom’s  attendance  could be seen as an attempt to influence the decisions of the membership.

In my view, members should be free from any influence to discuss the matter with a clear mind and in an environment where members can express any dissent freely and without fear of reprisal.  Dotcom’s attendance may actually discourage some members  from speaking their minds, moreover,  others may not feel comfortable attending the AGM at all.

Because the Dotcom merger issue is the most controversial among Mana’s members, I would have expected the Exec to act more cautiously in handling this matter. As it stands, its possible to construe Dotcom’s attendance as the Exec forestalling dissent to ensure they get their [the Exec’s] desired outcome.

Too much of a Nazi thing?

I’ve considered writing about the Internet Party since it launched. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Firstly, because it was difficult to separate the party from the personality. Secondly, I wanted to avoid getting into heated debates about whether or not Kim Dotcom (KDC) was a Nazi sympathiser.

So I know I’m a bit late with this post since its already been covered extensively but it occurs to me that it is unfair and not particularly transparent on my part to criticise other leaders, parties, activists and politicians while staying silent on the KDC issue, especially when this particular issue is very significant.

My position is that based on the cumulative effect of the undisputed information available and KDC’s response to it, that it is incredibly inappropriate for KDC to be anywhere near political authority in NZ.

On its own, purchasing the copy of Mein Kampf and other WW2 memorabilia isn’t in my view sufficient evidence for claiming that KDC is a Nazi sympathiser. It might raise questions about his character, however, collectors do in fact purchase these kinds of items and we cannot ignore the news coverage of the raid on KDC’s mansion that referred to him as a collector of sorts.

But I think Giovanni Tiso is right about social norms in Germany and the improbability of German’s finding pleasure in collecting Nazi artefacts or posing for photo’s wearing Nazi memorabilia.  Tiso writes from his experience and understanding as an Italian, the difference between how neo-Nazism is approached in Italy versus Germany:

One of the reprehensible lines used in defence of fondly reminiscing about Italian Fascism is that we weren’t as bad as the Germans. German people don’t have that luxury, and although I cannot speak from any direct knowledge of this, it seems they have kept a firmer grip on what can and cannot be published, what will or will not be sold. Neo-Nazism, of course, exists (as it does outside of Germany), but it’s more effectively cauterised from institutions and the wider society than neo-fascism is in Italy.

Which makes it all the less likely that a German person would wear a Waffen-SS helmet as a joke, or do so out of mere ignorance.

I do have my reservations as to whether there would have been as much public interest or even outcry if only a single event tarnished KDC’s name. I’m sure there would still have been questions that lingered and general suspicions. Interestingly or even perhaps unsurprisingly, many bloggers who support KDC have limited their focus to a single factor attempting to minimise the weight attributed to the claims against KDC, including a post promoted by Vikram Kumar entitled The power of an open mind that hinges only on the fact that KDC owned Mein Kampf.

To my knowledge, KDC has not even made a decent attempt to apologise for his offensive behaviour or comments. Instead he dismisses the claims or events as unremarkable, or offers up excuses and weak justifications for his actions.

It is worrying the support people are willing to throw behind KDC, at his word, without all the necessary information to make an informed decision. Even if the anti-KDC articles and posts do form (in some way) part of a smear campaign, he and his supporters really need to grasp that there is a reason the claims made against him carry so much weight and there is some naivety in thinking that these actual acts together with the alleged acts are politically insignificant.

This post isn’t intended as a smear against KDC and I am by no means convinced that KDC is a Nazi sympathiser and an anti-Semite; however, I’m in no position to say that he isn’t either. I guess thats my point, neither is anyone else who is simply taking him at his word. KDC cannot escape the inferences drawn from the cumulative effect of the undisputed information against him, and as such I think people should be very cautious in deciding whether they will support his political agenda.

On the other hand, The Internet Party has potential as a participatory democratic party, which is desperately needed in NZ politics. On launch it did (and continues to for many) induce a sense of excitement and freshness in approach in stark contrast to the traditional, dry approaches of every other party.

The participatory mechanism for the formulation of policy to calls for assistance in building their wikipedia page is a very progressive start:

and it appears the NZ Greens are impressed to in that they seem to have borrowed from this participatory ideal for their Arts, Culture and Heritage policy:

Other interesting features from the Internet Party are broadening monetary policy debates to include digital currency, and in particular, how a dual currency system might work in NZ, changing or updating copyright protection rules and introducing a Digital Bill of Rights.

However, there is absolutely no way that I could throw my support behind a political party whose founder appears to find some pleasure in collecting or fetishising Nazi memorabilia, and whose membership appear to support him to those ends.