nz politics

The Follow-Up: The Rachinger Posts

In continuing from my previous post: The Rachinger Posts, the following post considers parts 8-11. The allegations effectively revolve around Slater and friends paying hackers to obtain information that can be subsequently used to embarrass opposition MP’s and force them to resign. 

In Part 8, [Information removed  as [person] has instructed his Lawyer to issue a letter denying Rachinger’s assertions  that (a) he was recently involved in illegal hacking and (b) that he is the Tomas involved in the online conversations with Rachinger. [Person] has requested the information be removed as he considers it defamatoy.] Desleigh Jameson (GM, Instra) co-ordinated Rachinger’s meeting with Lentino and the job offer to work with a person called “Tomas(?)”. The role was to be ambiguously called Tony’s Apprentice.

In Part 9, [information redacted for reason noted above]. He also claims that at this time, the identity of the Dirty Politics hacker – Rawshark was circulating in the Press Gallery. It was at this time that Rachinger tweeted “I am Rawshark” as a show of solidarity. Following this, the Instra connection died off, Jameson claims the role never existed and Rachinger receives no further contact.

It’s unclear why Instra shut him out.

Sidenote: Lentino, is the ex-Mega CEO who also spotted money for the Dotcom’s following the raid and asset freeze in January 2013. I am wondering if this will become relevant in later posts. Because there are some unanswered questions:

  • Was Lentino working with Dotcom against Slater
  • Was he working with Slater against Dotcom
  • Is all this purely coincidental
  • Did Lentino simply decide he didn’t want to work with Rachinger

FURTHER INFORMATION (Post publishing this post): (4/5/2015)

On the information above, it appears that Lentino was most likely working with Slater following a fall out with Dotcom. 

In Part 10, Rachinger alleges that in private conversations, Slater makes clear his dislike of Lynne Prentice, author at The Standard.

Weak evidence: It can probably be ascertained from public record that Slater hates Prentice. After all, The Standard and Whale Oil Beef Hooked blogs are polar opposites [left vs right] and it’s likely the authors behind both sites are too. However, unlike previous posts where Rachinger provides screenshots to confirm many of the views Slater held, in this case, he has not. That could be for various reasons. If the conversation were spoken it would have required Rachinger to have taken audio recordings or for there to be another witness. Why does it matter? It could provide evidence of motive.

FURTHER INFORMATION (Post publishing this post): (3/5/2015)

Rachinger then provides a screen grab and email header involving Slater, David Farrar, and Matthew Hooten. The subject of that email involves whether someone can extract information on the authors at The Standard without hacking. Rachinger (somewhat facetiously) posits why he as a hacker was sent that email.

In Part 11, Rachinger makes the unequivocal statement that he was approached by Slater and offered $5,000 to hack The Standard and leave a backdoor to the server for ongoing access.

He claims to have received a $1,000 down payment from Slater and has provided screenshots of his bank statement to support this claim. He states that he never carried out the attack on The Standard.

FURTHER INFORMATION (Post publishing this post): (3/5/2015) further confirmation that the hacking was to be funded. 

See also (4/5/2015)

Weak evidence: The evidence provided by Rachinger, that he was approached to hack The Standard is circumstantial i.e. his assertion that Slater dislikes Prentice, a forwarded email (involving Slater, Farrar and Hooten) identifying a potential interest in obtaining unauthorised information, a down payment from Slater, and Rachinger’s testimony

This allows us to draw strong inferences but is not conclusive proof.

One problem is that the evidence trail is inconsistent with the email trail of previous job offers involving both Slater and Rachinger. However, given the nature of the job, there is the question as to whether email is an appropriate communication platform when organising a hacking operation? However, one might assume Threema would be used given its high level encryption. So the question is why Rachinger does not provide direct evidence explicitly showing Slater soliciting his services for hacking and leaving a backdoor in the Standard system, or more precisely, does he have evidence to that conclusively proves this?

FURTHER INFORMATION (Post publishing this post): (3/5/2015)

Rachinger also alleges there were monetary incentives if the information achieved certain outcomes e.g. embarrassment or resignation of opposition MP’s. But he doesn’t provide evidence to substantiate that claim.

Rachinger claims that he was concerned about how ‘deep’ he was in the Whale Oil machine so he went to the Police and was interviewed and questioned without a Lawyer present. His devices were cloned for evidence and although the evidence sheet is not included in his post, he has made it available via his twitter:

He makes further allegations that Slater owns firearms and is connected to organised crime gangs and has powerful funders/backers.

It appears that Rachinger is ‘framing his case’ to illustrate how dangerous he believes Slater and friends to be. This is unsurprising if the allegations that he and his family have received death threats are true.

Weak evidence: Rachinger would probably need to furnish a copy of the firearms licensed to Slater to prove this claim, and. I doubt he has access to that information. Regarding the gang connection, in an earlier post, Rachinger provides a screen shot of a conversation that implies Slater is connected enough to know that the Headhunters gang assaulted Matt Blomfield due to monies Blomfield owed the gang.  This is not proof of Slater’s actual connection, since that information could come about via the kumara vine. It also is not evidence that this gang is somehow involved in the immediate issue. But the cumulative effect of that information does speak to the harm that Rachinger appears to believe that Slater through whomever his connections, is capable of inflicting.

FURTHER INFORMATION (Post publishing this post): (3/5/2015) on Slater’s admission to owning firearms. Additionally, apparently this is well known for readers of his blog and those who recall from the Dirty Politics book.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it appears that the Whale Oil machine continues to churn despite the revelations and media interest in Hager’s Dirty Politics. I don’t think that is exactly surprising to anyone. But just because it’s not surprising it’s also not an excuse to turn a blind eye either. That these operations allegedly involve the transfer of money and financial incentives to operatives to illegally extract information for corrupt political ends certainly adds a new and disturbing angle to this rancid behaviour. Additionally, the extent that the threats and operations sought to poison the blogosphere by targeting people behind the two largest left wing political blog sites in Aotearoa is also a real concern for democracy.  If it is true that Slater and friends will attempt to destroy any person and undermine every inch of democracy that threatens to expose the machine and disrupt their political agenda then we might want to consider the extent to which the claims made by Rachinger can be substantiated.

Note: It has been suggested to me that I tread very cautiously and very sceptically in dealing with the Rachinger posts. The purpose of writing these summaries was to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the claims made. The analysis is by no means perfect. But I am interested in what readers think, so feel free to leave a (non-abusive, non-threatening) comment.

The Hacker and All the PM’s Men continued:

Part 8: [link removed as requested by [Person] through his Lawyer]

Part 9: [link removed as requested by [Person] through his Lawyer]

Part 10: https://medium.com/@benrachinger/the-hacker-and-all-the-pms-men-part-ten-be7aa6d1839f

Part 11: https://medium.com/@benrachinger/the-hacker-and-all-the-pms-men-part-eleven-2f3322a0b22a

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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.

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.

10173688_10203323887915074_3039928444921319891_n

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.

Opposites attract? Harawira & Dotcom

Speculation has begun regarding the assertions Kim Dotcom made in the Herald on Sunday (HoS) about recruiting at least one current sitting MP to his Internet Party, with others in talks from across the political spectrum.

Although Dotcom confirms that he is in talks with the Mana Party about a potential merger, its unclear if Harawira is the sitting MP Dotcom claims to have already secured.

However, the idea of a merger between the Mana Party and the Internet Party is rather bizarre.  Two glaring issues complicate the Dotcom/Harawira relationship:

  1. Harawira’s recent grotesque assertions endorsing public executions; and
  2. The Mana Party’s press release that unequivocally states that the meeting between Harawira and Dotcom did not encroach on discussions about a possible merger

In regards to (1),  Dotcom’s crusade against the excesses of government is entirely inconsistent with Harawira’s totalitarian outburst.

Its quite possible that Dotcom is oblivious to Harawira’s revolting comments, or that he hadn’t seen them prior to his interview with the HoS. But, in any case, Dotcom will have great difficulty reconciling that inconsistency or justifying why he would want to unite with a party whose leader would endorse excessive government force.

I imagine it may actually damage Dotcom’s campaign, since those who might otherwise support a party that advances internet freedoms, may be loathe to support it with Harawira’s involvement (whether or not Harawira had spoken so vilely on public executions).

I should also point out here, that many Mana supporters also despise Dotcom as a representation of the excesses of capitalism, so a merger could be the worst outcome for both parties.

In regards to (2), it was only a few days ago the Mana Party admitted to meeting with Dotcom and Harawira states unequivocally:

For the record, I didn’t ask him to fund MANA, and he didn’t offer either. I didn’t ask him to join MANA, and he didn’t ask me to join his party.

But Dotcom tells a contrary story:

he was also in talks with Mana Party leader Hone Harawira to unite their two parties under one umbrella, enabling the Internet Party to ride into Parliament on the coat-tails of the Te Tai Tokerau electorate MP

Despite Harawira’s assertion that:

There are no further meetings planned

While the HoS confirms that:

Only the Mana Party admitted having talked to Dotcom about an electoral accommodation

And:

The Mana Party executive will this week consider a merger proposal. Mana would bring one or two electorates, the Internet Party would bring a more broadly-based party vote and $1 million-plus in campaign funding.

Harawira may have made a disclosure, that at the time seemed both a responsible and respectable position for him to take. But his disclosure was clearly dishonest and that should concern Mana Party members. It also doesn’t bode well for the solidarity of the relationship, given the contrasting accounts of the meeting.

Musings on the Taxpayers Union

When the Taxpayers Union (TU) first formed, I did find it amusing that its typically right wing founders used a generically left wing term to name their product.

The key objective of the TU is a ‘fair and efficient tax system’. Who can argue with that? Currently our tax system is highly inefficient and hugely unfair. It taxes productive incomes earned through our efforts and rewards rent-seeking behaviour by not taxing unearned economic rent.

The question on the minds of many is whether the TU is a non-partisan group? Recent comments in the NZH by TU co-founder Jordan Williams might suggest not despite the non-partisanship noted on the TU website.

 When asked about deaf MP Mojo Mathers’ taxpayer-funded trip to be interviewed on a small provincial radio station, Williams made the following comments:

 It’s amazing that she has so little to do with her time to actually travel to a community radio that probably has as many listeners as you can count on your hand

The only silver lining is that the time spent travelling to go on the station in the middle of nowhere is less time spent dreaming up new ways to spend tax payers money

Williams’ comments leave the impression that he sees this particular instance as ‘government waste’. Either that, or his comments were purposively partisan.

Here are the issues as I see them:

  1. Are Williams comments ableist, is he suggesting that disabled MP’s ‘dream up new ways to spend tax payers money’ on wasteful expeditions that reach only a ‘handful’ of people; or
  2. Is Williams commenting on Mathers position as a Green MP – noting the Greens are largely attacked by ‘right wing partisans’ for overtaxing and overspending.

On point 1, if Williams sees taxpayer funding for disability as ‘wasteful government spending’ then he is hardly promoting a ‘fair’ tax system. Fairness is not simply about who is taxed but also about how any revenue collected is then redistributed back to society.

On point 2, if Williams was making partisan comments, then he has spoken out of step with the TU, since the TU acknowledges that:

Individual members have their own political involvements, but as an organisation the Taxpayers’ Union will be vigorously independent in promoting the interests of New Zealand taxpayer.

What about the NZH for even raising this as news?

As @lmfbs points out its unclear whether the TU approached NZH with this story or vice versa. How does it change the story? Arguably, it changes the context and the motivation behind the reported comments.

Additionally, while the NZH story indicates the author was seeking the view of the TU on whether Mathers trip was value for taxpayer money, its unclear if they interviewed Williams in his personal capacity or as a member of the TU. Yes, they refer to Williams as a Director, but was that on the assumption he was speaking in his capacity as a TU member or in his personal capacity?

For many, the answer probably doesn’t matter, because as @ColeyTangerina points out:

There is a genuine disdain for the TU because of those involved in founding it and their very public political partisanship. The sentiment conjured up by Williams’ comments,  irrespective of whether or not they were misreported, adds weight to the scepticism about the the true nature of the TU. However, as a critic of the NZ tax system, I’m not against the establishment of the TU in principle,  I’m just not convinced it won’t devlove into some partisan right wing think tank. Although, others probably think it already is.

Like the TU, I do think that central government exerts too much control over society, and in my view many functions such as education and health could be dealt with at the local level. Obviously, these are topics for future posts, but I think its worth thinking about how we reduce the size and power of central government without destroying vital public services. Local governance creates local opportunities and allows communities to participate in the issues that affect them.

Taxes captured through a central body reinforce a centralised state and therefore central state planning. The TU appear to promote reducing the size of government, providing tax cuts for business and opposing progressive taxation, but at this stage it offers no innovative alternatives. Perhaps, it just means another tax movement needs to be established to challenge these orthodox approaches to economics and taxation.

#Herecomesthesun: The Greens Solar Home project

Firstly, there is some magic in using a Beatles song as a hashtag to promote your policy on solar energy. On one hand, it will resonate with the diehard Green voter given that its a criticism of corporate life. On the other hand, one can’t help but smile when listening along given its folky beat. And its The Beatles, well, more correctly George Harrison. Maybe its just me, I don’t know. But I think that its use is some political psychology gold.

Secondly, the Greens Solar Home project is the kind of radical policy that the Greens need to reinvigorate their voting constituency. Its a bold move amid their neolibral-lite policies, to encourage consumers to ‘take the power back’. Another pun from a band also likely to resonate with the diehard Green voter and anti-state renegades. But pertinent since it implies that the consumer has the power both in terms of their energy source (no more bills to Mr Deep-pockets) and their choice on how best to manage their energy needs (self-determination).

BUT there is a ‘but’ when considering the specifics of this policy and I’m hoping my critique doesn’t minimise the clout of the overall message.

The thing about political parties is that they seem to abhor revision. In the face of criticism, parties often dig in their heels – even if that means advocating bad policy. I hope the Greens can internalise the feedback from Green voters and even non-Green voters and use it to show that they are open to revision where necessary, which is in itself conducive to participatory democracy, and in line with the underlying message of solar project – self-determination.

For ease of reference the Greens policy document can be located here.

In it you will see, that the Greens offer low interest loans to homeowners to install solar panels. The repayments are made through the homeowners council rates. That is, the loan is to be repaid at $900 per year on top of their rates. The interest on the loans is said to be about 4.1% p.a, although this interest figure is subject to change.

The Greens envision a savings of $100 per year for homeowners. Given interest must also be paid on that loan per year, its unclear if the Greens will require the interest on top of the $900 repayment, in which case, the savings figure of $100 is false. Or if the interest is included in the $900 per year, which means the term of the loan is longer.

Some argue that at least the repayments aren’t going to a foreign-owned company. But the loans are made through a foreign bank and provided to the consumer via the government. So in effect, the repayments go to the worst of them all. The Bankers.

What about the effect on homeowners? Its true that some homeowners will benefit from solar power, particularly those who live in the homes they own. Depending on social preferences, house prices may rise if solar is viewed as an improvement to the property. Which is fine for those who tenant their won properties.

What about the renters? landlords may decide to install solar to improve the value of their properties. The effect, is likely to see the rent increase for two reasons: the market rate for solar homes will increase if there is demand for solar powered homes, and the landlord will need to repay the loan for the installation of the solar panels. So for low income renters, this may be a negative, since renting can already place a large burden on those individuals or families. If landlords are prevented from passing on the costs of the loan to install solar, then fewer rental properties will have solar, which affects a large proportion of the lower socio-economic demographic who are the people who need access to soalr the most. Also, it diminishes the purpose of the Greens policy.

Also, the idea that excess power generated could provide a return to the homeowner is a bit disingenuous. If the uptake is significant then power prices will fall. This means that the price at which you can sell your excess power is probably negligible. In addition, the Greens NZ Power policy, intends to drive down the price of power!

This article by  George Monbiot  (h/t to @gtiso) suggests that solar panel installation ‘is the ideal modern status symbol, which signifies both wealth and moral superiority’ [in the middle class], ‘even if it’s perfectly useless’. The suggestion is that the policy either intentionally or inadvertently operates as a wealth transfer to the middle class. Similar could be said of the Greens policy.

What about disposal? It was pointed out that solar panels are difficult to dispose of because they contain toxic materials. Solar panels are estimated to have a life span of about 25 years. The policy is unclear on how the Greens intend to dispose of the panels at the end of their life spans. If they will create landfills in NZ, then there are additional costs involved in setting up a land fill for this purpose, not to mention issues with dumping toxic materials into NZ soils. The alternative is to export the waste material and have some other community deal with the effects of solar panel pollution. Admittedly, I’m not very clued up on how to dispose of toxic materials or the extent of the toxicity in solar panels, so this worry of mine could be completely unfounded.

So I have outlined my gripes, so let me just reiterate that I wholeheartedly support initiatives to address climate change and moves towards decentralisation and clean energy. So  one way I see for improving the policy is implementing the combination of LVT and UBI (see my post on the benefits of UBI here).

LVT as mentioned multiple times in previous posts, brings land (broadly defined to include all natural phenomena not produced through human exertion) into common ownership – distinct from collective or private ownership. The economic rent collected is pooled and can be redistributed via a UBI. Income taxes are abolished (or significantly reduced during the transition) giving workers and non-workers (due to UBI) the ability to invest in their choice of clean energy (if that’s what they desire).  It might even be that communities decide to reduce the UBI for each person and use the remaining amount to invest in infrastructure and clean energy. Who knows. But that is self-determination. It extends this policy and makes it fair for all.

Kim Dotcom: Left or Right?

A number of reasons were cited as to why Kim Dotcom’s Internet Party will align itself to the left. I have listed some of the more common ones I’ve seen below:

  1. Dotcom is incensed at the legal treatment he received under a John Key led National government, so will presumably align his party left;
  2. Martyn Bradbury (The Daily Blog) a very vocal left wing anti-capitalist blogger was recruited as the Internet Party’s political consultant, indicative that the party intends to align itself to the left;
  3. Dotcom appeared alongside left wing activists and political parties during the GCSB protests and public meetings, suggestive that he is sympathetic to the left.

On point 1, Dotcom is understandably bitter but I think it highly unlikely that he would have expected any different treatment under a left led government because Operation 8. His angst is personal not ideological.

On point 2, any anti-capitalist blogger that gleefully teams up politically with a capitalist who is part of the 1% the anti-capitalist despises, does not indicate alignment to the left for the party. It indicates a hypocritical blogger.

On point 3, Dotcom had every reason to attend those protests and meetings, the fact that the protests and meetings were run by the left was inconsequential.

The benefit of Dotcom’s Internet Party is making privacy, civil liberties and internet freedom an integral part of the political debate in NZ during election year. The debate is important.

My reckon, is that Dotcom will support whoever gives him what his party demands. Its not obvious to me that the Internet Party will align to the left. Its politics after all.

The Greens and the implication of exponential growth

So I was reading one of the Greens newsletters this week which left me feeling extremely confused about their economics. My criticism is not because I think Dr Norman is incompetent but rather that I think his commentary is in conflict with what I understood to be ‘sustainability’, an ethic that the Green’s advocate and that in fact the party was founded on.
 
Dr Norman this week criticised the government for a decline of 0.6% GDP in the tradable sector of the economy. He also stated:

 “A shrinking tradable sector combined with a strongly growing non-tradable sector means only one thing – increased borrowing and a ballooning current account deficit”.

I’m curious, wouldn’t a reduction in the tradable economy sit well with Green politics. For instance, he mentions that ‘manufacturing is a key sector for driving high, value-added exports and creating well-paid jobs’ yet the reduction in this sector would surely be an environmental advantage? I mean, less carbon emissions, smaller ecological footprint, ability to restore the now unused land to forest or other environmentally friendly business that would contribute to reducing carbon emissions e.g. industrial hemp farms for various products such as paper, building products, fabric and so on?
 
My question is: Shouldn’t the Green’s be advocating for reductions in exports and imports and promoting wider support for local trading – which could also create well paid jobs by enabling local business owners to employ local workers as well as minimise environmental impact? I’m not saying here that there is no room for exports in a sustainability framework, only that continued steady growth of our tradable sector is unsustainable and therefore the outcome will be no different to that of the neo-liberalism the Green’s have openly advocated against.
 
Dr Albert A.Bartlett states that ‘the greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function’. The exponential function is a tool used to measure steady growth patterns, such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The benefit of understanding exponential growth is to inform ourselves of how long it will take for steady growth to double; using a simple calculation and this gives us the ability to interpret what that level of growth will mean for our society. Dr Bartlett focuses on the use of exponential growth in relation to population as this is where he sees the function as being most important due to its understatement at both the local and global level. My purpose is to show why the Greens focus on economic growth is not in line with their principles of sustainability – the very value that gave birth to the party.
 
GDP is often used to indicate the standard of living in a country and so it follows that the more economic growth the better the standard of living. But the exponential function can dispel this myth.
 
Exponential growth is measured by a constant (fixed fraction) over a fixed period of time. In 2012, NZ’s GDP was recorded as 2.5%. Dr Bartlett indicates that if it takes a fixed length of time to grow, in NZ’s case 2.5% then it follows that it takes a longer fixed period of time to grow 100%. This longer fixed period of time is called the doubling time. The doubling time (T2) is calculated  as follows: T2 = 70/(% growth per unit) = time.
 
What we can say is that if NZ’s economy continues to grow at 2.5% then in 28 years our GDP will double to 5% (Calculation: T2 = 70/2.5 = 28). This may not seem so bad, but consider the growth rates for the 28 years following each of the preceding periods:
  •          2012 = 2.5%
  •          2040 = 5%
  •          2068 = 10%
  •          2096 = 20%
As Dr Bartlett points out, we need to understand that “the growth in any doubling time is greater than the total of all the preceding growth and that modest growth rates give us enormous growth in modest periods of time”.
 
My conclusion is that if Dr Norman is concerned about sustainability then criticising the government for the decline in growth in the tradable sector is not particularly consistent with the principle of sustainability. If modest amounts of growth in that sector will give us enormous growth in a modest period of time then this will require major depletion of natural resources and massive increases in waste to sustain growth at those levels. I wonder if perhaps Dr Norman should instead be encouraging local trading (within NZ) to improve job prospects and the prospects of local business owners and support the reduction in exports rather than advocating a position that has an apparent conflict with Green Party values.