Month: April 2015

The Rachinger Posts

Image source: PC World

For the past six or so months, Ben Rachinger has claimed to have a deep knowledge of the extent of corruption in New Zealand’s political system. He has prided Nicky Hager’s book “Dirty Politics” for bringing to the fore the diseased apparatus toxifying the New Zealand government and media. Rachinger has recently begun publishing a series of posts of his direct experience in the Whaleoil machine at the centre of the corruption in this country. [Links to all seven posts he has published so far are available at the bottom of this post]

There has been some criticism of his posts. Some readers suggesting they don’t really reveal anything new, others criticising gaps in the information and some dismissing him as a tin foiler.

Whatever your view, here is what I surmise from the series so far:

Rachinger was a Young Nat and deeply concerned about the lack of information available to voters in the lead up to election. In particular, he took exception to Kim Dotcom’s play for political power and published a video explaining Dotcom’s criminal history and distasteful ethics. He also addressed the rot in the National Party who he supported at that time.  Both videos were published on Cameron Slater’s Whaleoil blog site.

Following this Rachinger built a rapport with Slater offering to assist him with his blog security issues – something Rachinger is apparently skilled in. This led to a job offer to join Slater’s ‘Freed’ media venture. Some emails were exchanged.

When Dirty Politics unraveled Rachinger began to question what he’d got himself into. This was confirmed to him when Slater showed a complete lack of empathy toward the murders of the WINZ workers who had been shot dead at their workplace in Ashburton.

Soon after the election Rachinger advises he was contacted by Police and subsequently did some undercover work for them to try identify Rawshark and gather intel on the Whaleoil machine.

[Missing information: Why did Police make contact with Rachinger in the first place?]

Rachinger continued to work with Slater and his network to identify Rawshark.  But claims to never have engaged in any of the illegal activity that was being carried out.

Communications took place via an encrypted service based in Switzerland called Threema. The service was used on the recommendation of the Israeli Embassy in NZ.

[Inference: Presumably this allowed operators to bypass detection by security agencies or the prying eyes of the State apparatus.]

Rachinger learned that Slater’s network consisted of ten people and they were trying to gather intel to use against Laila Harre and Martyn Bradbury. He was introduced to someone called Tomas with a criminal history as a black hat hacking operative. Tomas was allegedly based in Poland. A subsequent screengrab suggests that Tomas was Jason Ede – the mastermind identified in Dirty Politics.

[Missing information: There is a disjuncture between the screen grab stating (a) Tomas is Ede, and the suggestion that (b) Tomas was actually Tomas Grygoruk. I can’t make out if Tomas is (a) or (b) ]

Rachinger writes that the Israeli embassy were interested in investigating the Rawshark case too, for a not yet specified reason. He then shows he is eventually accepted into the Whaleoil machine when Slater tells him Tony Lentino has a job for him.

To summarise, the Whaleoil machine involves National Party heavies, the Israeli government, Cathy Odgers and a team of hackers not afraid to carry out illegal activities and Tony Lentino. They use an encrypted message service to bypass security agencies and hack into systems to illegally obtain information on people they want to get revenge on. Rachinger claims to have gone undercover for Police to help identify the Rawshark hacker and gather dirt on Whaleoil. Rachinger implies that Tony Lentino pulls a lot of strings.

This is the extent of the Rachinger posts so far.

At the moment there isn’t exactly anything new or at least anything that we hadn’t already inferred. But it is potentially a reinforcement of Dirty Politics and it is shaping up to look like an expose by a person who was directly involved in the Whaleoil machine and who claims to have a personal experience of how this disease operates and precisely who is involved and to what extent.

Shorter still? Here is how I’d describe what I think Rachinger is trying to say so far:

New Zealand’s political corruption – It’s like chucking back a stale marmite sandwich because there’s nothing else to eat and finding out afterwards Slater and his friends took turns discharging their lung butter into it.

Note: If you think I’ve missed something  or misunderstood let me know in the comments.

The Series of The Hacker and All the PM’s Men by Ben Rachinger

Part 1: https://medium.com/@benrachinger/the-hacker-and-all-the-pms-men-part-one-a094cf55ac9c

Part 2: https://medium.com/@benrachinger/the-hacker-and-all-the-pms-men-4d3014ac4ace

Part 3: https://medium.com/@benrachinger/the-hacker-and-all-the-pms-men-part-three-53dc14a53a71

Part 4: https://medium.com/@benrachinger/the-hacker-and-all-the-pms-men-part-four-ac8c01388bc6

Part 5: https://medium.com/@benrachinger/the-hacker-and-all-the-pms-men-part-five-85cbc9d78430

Part 6: https://medium.com/@benrachinger/the-hacker-and-all-the-pms-men-part-six-da511d67e48d

Part 7: https://medium.com/@benrachinger/the-hacker-and-all-the-pms-men-part-seven-1bd54289b05e

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Modern Activism and the Potential for Cultural Conflicts

Pōwhiri is an important ceremony in Te Ao Māori. It begins with a wero from tangata whenua to the manuhiri (guests). When tangata whenua are satisfied manuhiri are there on friendly terms, the karanga is issued calling manuhiri onto the grounds.

But there may be occasions where cultural practices and modern activism come into conflict.

When Australian PM Tony Abbott visited Wellington, he was met by a justifiable resistance from local activists. After all, he has been instrumental in policy that has led to human and indigenous rights abuses. However, Minister Hekia Parata complained to Radio Waatea:

“As the karanga was being issued forth protesters were protesting for indigenous rights. It just shows me that there are different ways of respecting indigenous practices. One of them would have been to respect our indigenous practice here in New Zealand”

I have some sympathy with that argument. It seems rather empty to call for recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples if simultaneously disrespecting the customs of  local Indigenous Peoples.

At first glance, I did find it unsettling that protesters had allegedly disrespected the karanga during the pōwhiri. However, others  (who presumably attended) have suggested that protesters were well away from the pōwhiri such that any potential for disruption would have been negligible. So it might just be in this case, that there is no issue.

But that doesn’t mean that in the wider context of activism that this isn’t a potential issue.

I’m reminded of the Greenpeace activists that entered a sacred Peruvian site and damaged some of the Nazca lines in order to send a message to UN Climate Talk delegates.

When asking the question as to whether activist causes justify disrespecting cultural practices of the local Indigenous Peoples,  I had a straw man thrown at me. As if somehow, I were defending human rights abuses against refugees in Nauru and the forced closure of Aboriginal communities! I can unequivocally state here, that I absolutely abhor the human rights and indigenous rights abuses of the Australian government. I wholeheartedly support the call to solidarity with the Aboriginal Peoples of Australia and the Refugees in Nauru.

Acknowledging there are legitimate concerns about how activism can potentially flout the rights of Indigenous Peoples does not equate to supporting the perpetrators that protesters are dissenting against.

I am not raising this as an issue to distract from the causes. I think some activist communities should think more carefully about how their actions might have unintended consequences. I think activists ought to be mindful of the cultural practices of others particularly when consciously using culturally significant ceremonies, events and locations as the site of their activism.

 

 

 

 

 

Wai Māori

Poroti Springs. Image sourced from Waimarie Nurseries http://www.waimarienurseries.co.nz/Poroti_Springs.cfm

Simmering away for some years now and probably not too far off blowing its stack is the contention as to whether anyone owns the water, or if any group can claim rights over water. This debate will inevitably lead to the false claims that Māori want to exclude the average New Zealander from access to freshwater.

Water is indisputably an essential resource for the development and sustainability of all societies.  Yet, in countries like Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the US (to name a few) where Indigenous populations have protected and relied on certain water sources for centuries, have had their access to most of these water sources snatched away through the process of colonisation. Many of the newer generations ignore the vital role of water to these communities.

The continual use of statements like no-one owns the water derives from the assumption that ownership as they understand it – as an exclusionary concept, is synonymous with the concept of ownership from Indigenous perspectives. For Māori, the rights over water include use rights but also rights to kaitiaki which allows hapū and iwi to keep water sources clean, and to avoid exploitation to preserve aquifers for current and future generations in the event of scarcity.

Water scarcity arises through both natural (drought, flooding etc) and human forces (commercial exploitation, waste, pollution etc). According to the UN while there is “enough freshwater on the planet for seven billion people” its uneven distribution and the extent to which water is  “wasted, polluted and unsustainably managed” affects around 748 million people in the world.

Those of us living in developed countries have for the most part, uninterrupted access to water. Some countries going so far as to drill into prehistoric reserves to service industry needs.

 The NZ Herald recently reported that the government has rejected a bid by the Iwi Leaders Group (ILG) for rights over freshwater. Minister Nick Smith has indicated that the government may instead “compromise by allowing regional councils to do local deals with Māori”.

The government love the no one owns the water message. Firstly, it polarises public opinion and plays to NZ’s largely nationalist base, which concomitantly supports the government’s unwillingness to grant water rights to Māori. Secondly, it obscures what is happening in the background to the negotiations between the Crown and the ILG – the privatisation of water by regional councils for sale in overseas markets.

For example, the Northland and Whangarei District Councils have collaboratively sidestepped consulting with the Whatitiri Māori Reserve Trust, the owners of Poroti Springs, and have approved the expansion of earthworks by Zodiac Holdings for “a commercial water bottling plant across the road from the springs”. This ought to greatly offend the same nationalists likely supporting the against Māori having water rights brigade given the end product is intended for overseas markets. Yet it won’t. Because parse the message and we get Māori cannot own or have rights over water.

To deny rights to Māori over freshwater while empowering regional councils who have failed to protect these water sources from pollution or exploitation illuminates the racism underlying the governments rhetoric. This is not about ‘no one owning the water’ this is about the Crown stamping its racist little iron feet on Māori.

The actions of these councils also indicates that the governments vision of  cooperation between Māori and Regional Councils is not only flawed but disingenuous since the government is well aware that commercial interests will supersede the rights and interests of Māori native to the particular rohe, especially where investment in those regions is necessary.

Escaping government and the nationalist public considerations is that hapū and iwi have occupied these regions for centuries. During this time, they have cared for the waterways ensuring reserves were not exploited and that they remained free of pollutants. Every single New Zealander has benefited from the kaitiakitanga of our tūpuna over our waterways.

In Aotearoa, access and availability is interrupted usually only as a result of drought (scarcity) or flooding (pollution), and through private ownership of water sources granted to corporations by the government.  For Māori some water sources are taonga from a wahi tapu perspective.

But water is also a vital source of economic security. Access and availability are necessary for growing food, drinking water, health, hygiene and sanitation. It comes as no surprise then that the ILG would seek rights over freshwater in Aotearoa, when the Crown have systematically privatised water systems and allocated rights to public entities in this respect which has led to spiritual, environmental, and economic detachment for many hapū and iwi.

The fact that the government and regional councils seem prepared to draw down on the principal of our water for short term relief should worry all of us. Not because the water is to be shipped offshore, but because we should be mindful of the uneven distribution of freshwater globally and the need to protect against water scarcity in Aotearoa for current and future generations. We should also remain alert to the harmful rhetoric employed by the Crown that intends to entrench a divisive public to reinforce its own power over all us.

[Editors noteThis is the revised version of the original post]

Haere rā homeownership

The Landlords Game (the original Monopoly) used to explain Henry George’s theory. See also: http://harpers.org/blog/2012/10/monopoly-is-theft/

As housing prices in Auckland continue to rise at unprecedented rates, the dream of home ownership, especially for many younger Aucklander’s slips away. Well, more accurately put, it is obliterated. Why? Government inaction and a refusal by policymakers to consider different approaches that might actually address the issue. Land Value Tax (LVT) anyone?!

This time last year, Jesse Colombo warned of an economic crisis for New Zealand. He argued 12 points which you can find more detail on here. With regard to the housing bubble he warned interest rates, overvalued land and demand were key indicators.

Colombo was ridiculed by Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, as an  alarmist and a bubble-ologist. As the NBR point out, this is despite the endorsement Colombo is given through publishing on one of the US’s most influential business websites.

But here we are. On the downward spiral to that bubble popping. The demographic I’m referring to are those of us who have had or have to borrow for post-secondary school education. Most of us will never own our own home. We will pay rent to a landlord for the rest of our lives. We will continue to pay sizeable taxes on our incomes but we will pay for our own retirements.

I’ve banged on about LVT for the past couple of years. Deirdre Kent & Phil Stevens of the New Economics Party have been writing on it for even longer. The idea derives from the work of Henry George who wrote his seminal work Progress and Poverty in 1879, that makes the case for taxing land and untaxing labour. Oh, and a factoid for fun, Henry George began the original weekly newspaper ‘The Standard’ in 1887.

Some Georgists/Geoists prefer not to use the phrase LVT, and consider land rents or similar as a more accurate description. I’m down with that, after all, the intentions and theory behind it are pretty much the same. I’ve written a few posts on Georgism, so to avoid re-writing, you can read them here.

We are constantly told if we just build more houses the market will cool, well, clearly we can’t really build at a rate sufficient to meet the total demand it seems. If we raise interest rates, then fewer people will buy. But this means lower-middle income earners are priced out. These approaches have done nothing. And all the while the government itself has contributed to the skyrocketing prices, for example, by banking a section of land intended for social housing for over 11 years, which is now being sold off privately at market prices. So perhaps Minister Joyce might want to reconsider his views on Colombo.

My suggestion is why not an LVT? Even if it is something applied solely to Auckland in the interim to incentivise the competition necessary to drive prices down and then rolled out across the country? I’m not saying I have a model ready and available. All I’m suggesting is that we start talking about alternative approaches to housing affordability especially if they have the potential to simultaneously address other issues that are suffocating low-income families and younger generations (X, Y, Z)

The thing about an LVT is it changes the nature of property rights that we currently know. Rather than individual ownership rights, they become use rights where the land is of the commons and the occupant pays a rent to the community for the privilege of taking the land out of the use of the commons. One comment that remains firmly etched in my mind is this by Nate Blair:

The problem with Georgism is not the idea, which is basically flawless.  The problem with this idea is that it seems both radical and inherently moderate to anyone understanding it.  The revolutionary aspect of Georgism threatens the predators of caricature “capitalism” and angers the conservatives. The justice and honesty threatens communist revolutionaries and angers armchair progressives, who are fine with paying a bit more but not with giving up their privilege.

I hear heaps of people online referring to themselves as ‘progressives’, yet comparatively few advance any alternative ideas, to existing failed models. It makes me wonder how much of that is about a reluctance to part with certain privileges. So since many of y’all liked Piketty’s book, here is a video where Joseph Stiglitz & Thomas Piketty gave a presentation on inequality. Toward the end Stiglitz exposes his own Georgism:

If further interested have a look at the LVT tab up top of this page for some documentaries/clips and websites that talk more about LVT. I personally recommend “The Taxing Question of Land” and “Real Estate 4 Ran$ome”.

The Aboriginal Peoples’ Call for Global Action: #SOSBLAKAUSTRALIA

 

 

Whose land are you standing on?

 

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples of Australia have subsidised the lifestyle choices of white Australia since the colonisers arrived and stole their land, stole their resources, stole their children, forced communities into slavery, and denied their human, economic and cultural rights at every step. Benjamin Warlngundu Ellis Bayliss itemises out the costs of colonisation:

…frontier wars; loss of land; loss of culture; loss of wages; loss of languages; loss of songs; loss of identity; genocide; massacres; rape; destruction of sacred sites & land; stolen generations; Maralinga nuclear testing; stolen artefacts and the collection of ancestors remains; oppression; fear & intimidation; no treaties; influenza; poor health; life expectancy; no self-determination; no consultation; disease; exploitation; creating a culture of dependency; famine; introduction of foreign flora & fauna; culture of divide & conquer; discrimination; racism; meddling with the theory of eugenics; attempts to breed our mob out; so called dying softly in the pillow; deaths in custody; incarceration rates; denigration; invisibility & lack of positive representations; attempts of assimilation; policies of control & management, including driving people from their lands; intellectual property theft; meddling with the Racial Discrimination Act; NT Intervention; lateral violence; and trivialising our interests, concerns; upon many, many others I am sure I have missed.

The Abbott government’s recent announcement that around 150 Aboriginal communities would be forcibly closed in Western Australia, prompted a global call to action for our indigenous whanaunga. This decision was made without consultation and without the consent of Australia’s Aboriginal Peoples.

Pause.

We would not accept this in Aotearoa New Zealand. So why on earth are we so silent when it comes to the tyranny of the Australian government?

 

SOS Blak OZ

 

On Blackfulla Revolution’s Facebook is a call to those who have ignored and continue to ignore the oppression and injustice suffered by Australia’s First Nations Peoples.

 [7min 35s]

But this isn’t constrained to Australia. Abroad, descendant’s of settler generations ignore the impact colonisation has had on Indigenous Peoples within the lands they colonised. It is why Indigenous Peoples everywhere are reaching out to their whanaunga across borders  to achieve kotahitanga and bring our Peoples together in solidarity. This is not separatism. This is not an attempt to turn the tepu and oppress non-indigenous people. It is an effort to get the sleepy masses to recognise that: Indigenous Lives Matter.

This policy being pursued by Tony Abbot & his government is the continuance of that dark history of colonisation in Australia. This system imposed on Australia’s First Peoples is designed to disadvantage their communities at every social, cultural and economic opportunity. This policy is nothing less than forced urbanisation and assimilation. It is an explicit attempt to strip these communities of their connection to their traditional lands.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, many Māori have taken up the plight to stand with our First Nations whanaunga in Australia. MP Marama Fox, Māori Party, sought to table a motion that the House of Representatives condemn the the forced closure of these Aboriginal Communities and to call on the Australian government to honour its commitments to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Although tabling the motion was blocked by government Minister Gerry Brownlee, National Party, it has since been tabled and will be voted on in 3 weeks when Parliament resumes.

The kumara vine indicates that the Māori Party, Greens, Labour, United Future and ACT will all support the motion. However, NZ First and National have signaled that they are against it.

As most will know, recently the National Party lost a seat in Northland, to NZ First’s Winston Peters. The compositon of the house has changed slightly such that National now only have 59 seats. In order for the motion to pass, NZ First support is required.

Winston Peter’s spent much of his campaign talking about how successive governments have ignored the issues that matter to the Northland electorate – jobs, poverty, health and so on. In opposing Marama Fox’s motion, Peter’s words would  ring incredibly hollow given the broader context of his concerns – that governments ought not neglect small communities, and instead ought to manaaki their aspirations. If he stands by his commitment to Northland, then I see no reason why he and his party would not support the call to recognise the rights of Aboriginal Peoples in their communities that have been neglected by the Australian government,  who now deem it appropriate to forcibly close those communities without consultation or consent of the peoples. So I urge people to lobby NZ First to offer their support to add international weight to the plight of the Aboriginal Peoples.

So far three events in Aotearoa New Zealand have been organised around the country to coincide with the global action to support our Aboriginal whanaunga.

For further details see:

Tamaki-Makaurau (Auckland), 1 May 2015, 18:00, QE II Square (next to Britomart)

Hamilton, 1 May 2015, 13:00, The Pulse (27b Whatawhata Road, Dinsdale).

Wellington, 1 May 2015, 18:00, Location tbc.

So it’d be cool if everyone could, you know, be present and support the campaign to STOP! The Forced Closure of Aboriginal Communities. Our silence is complicity. Make their voices heard and show your solidarity with all First Nations Peoples of Australia.