Thursday, 29 October 2009

shoddy advertising

i was going to write about the immigration bill, which passed it's third reading tonight. i'm not at all happy with it. but i did a linky love post at the hand mirror instead. so i'll leave the immigration stuff for another day.

in the meantime, here's a comment i left over at the standard, regarding bill english featuring in advertisments for channel 7:

oh, i think this was a deliberate strategy by tvnz, as it is with many advertisers. create something as controversial as possible and hopefully just over the line to draw out complaints. then sit back and enjoy the free publicity, while being totally self-righteous and innocent. even if no-one complains, people will take notice of the ad because of it’s controversial nature, and then you try harder next time to offend and draw the complaint. it’s all win for the advertiser and client. not so much for the rest of us.

i'm sure i've written about this method before on the hand mirror, particularly in relation to the way women are treated in ads. i never buy hells pizzas, simply because their advertisers deliberately use exactly this technique, and i think it's pathetic.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

a belated labour day post

i was meaning to write a labour day post, but ended up writing about something else instead. so i'll do a belated one.

labour day is a day for us to think about rights for workers that were won after long struggles and much sacrifice. things like the 40 hour working week, sick leave, holidays, health & safety in the workplace, a legal minimum wage, protection for child workers, the right to union membership and collective bargaining, and so much more.

of course, many of these conditions were lost in one foul swoop with the employment contracts act in 1991, and some have slowly been won back. every improvement in workers' rights has involved a lot of hard work and having to deal with strong and powerful lobby groups such as the BRT and employers groups.

one of the campaigns i was briefly involved with was the move to make rest breaks compulsory. it was great to see this legislation passed last year, and so frustrating to see that it's going to be reversed shortly by the new government. it's so stupid. productivity improves when people are allowed decent breaks, and one really has to wonder at the mentality of employers who advocate for measures that are actually against their own interests.

but mostly, i feel for those already poorly paid workers, often working more than one job, who won't get the breaks they desperately need.

in sympathy with those workers, i hope those of you who are in auckland will support the campaign for a living wage this friday night:

The Campaign for a Living Wage will be taking to the streets of Auckland's CBD on Friday night, to demand a minimum wage of 15 dollars an hour, and an end to poverty wages.
Download posters for the march HERE.

Kick off is at 7pm at Aotea Square. Speakers and groups supporting:
Mike Treen, Unite
Robert Reid, National Distribution Union
Darien Fenton, Labour
Sue Bradford, Greens
Sonya Church, Young Workers Resource Centre
Donna Wynd, Child Poverty Action Network

Bring banners, flags and placards from your group too!

We are doing movement stalls outside Starbucks on 220 Queen St Thursday and Friday before the march from 4 til 6 pm

Monday, 26 October 2009

modern life

i've posted over at the hand mirror earlier in the evening, about my love for modern appliances.

i've had a quiet day, after being in auckland on saturday and sunday for the fianz national convention. this was the first event of this kind organised, and went off quite well with a mixture of sports, speeches and competitions. it took a lot of work to pull together, and i'm glad to see that it was well attended.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

it's a very personal crime

there are only two certainties in life - death & taxes. i'm sure you've all heard that one. and the combination of the two gives a nice negativity to tax - such an unfair burden on us all, no?

well, i don't mind paying taxes. of course i don't want to be paying more than i have to, but the concept itself doesn't bother me. taxes are a means to a fair and just society, a means to the provision of social services and to many other benefits that improve my life directly or indirectly.

it appears that there are many people who don't think that way. my evidence for that assertion is gathered from the work i do. i'm a chartered accoutant after all, tax is what i deal with throughout my working day. so i get a pretty good idea of how people think about paying their taxes. and i can't say i always like it, but i don't mind their attitude as long as they pay up.

what really annoys me is the people who try to cheat on their taxes. and there are plenty of them out there. the ones who don't put all their cash from sales into the business bank account. who pocket the money, without paying the GST component back to the government, and without paying income tax on that income. and who feel absolutely no guilt in doing so.

of course such people know better than to disclose such behaviour to their accountant. but we do all know it happens. what amazes me though, is how they feel as if they are doing no wrong. the government is a huge and impersonal institution which collects billions of dollars. it doesn't seem so bad if you don't put in as much as you're supposed. and you can convince yourself that those fools just waste your money anyway, so they don't deserve.

the depersonalisation of the governmental institution makes it easier to feel no sense of wrong-doing. i come across people who will, in every other aspect of their life, claim to have the highest morals, and who will happily look down their noses at others for behaviour or actions that don't measure up to their own standards. the hypocrisy is quite breathtaking.

it makes me really angry, and for one simple reason. these people are stealing directly from me. every cent they don't pay is a cent that someone else has to pay. those of us on the PAYE system can't hide our income - it's taxed before we get it. and our tax rate is higher than it should be, because some people aren't paying their fare share.

it's not an impersonal crime, it's a direct crime against individuals. when people fail to pay their taxes in full, they are cheating their own family members and friends. it's an immoral act, the same as sneaking into someone else's house and taking their stuff.

i guess there are more than two certainties in life. there will always be people who cheat on their taxes, well that's another one.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

gender testing kits

i've posted at the hand mirror today, about gender testing kits for use in earlier stages of pregnancy. i also had a post up a couple of days back about a ban against face-covering at al-azhar university in egypt.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

the prize that wasn't

tonight i was going to write about president barrack obama's winning the nobel peace prize. but now it's really late, and what is there to say really, besides "meh". it's an aspirational choice for an aspirational presidential candidate, rather than an award for actual achievements. they may as well have given the prize to the american people as a whole, as a "thank you for not voting in another george w bush clone" award, which is what this seems to be.

it would be so much nicer if they gave the prize to someone who wasn't a public figure, but just an ordinary person who had achieved something local of significance, that may have involved significant effort & sacrifice. there are plenty of people making a difference in small ways, and honouring someone like that, well it brings home to us how much we personally can achieve. not everyone can be an obama, but everyone can do something meaningful, if they put their mind to it.

Monday, 19 October 2009

who's exploiting who?

whew, i've just spent the last couple of hours wading through the over 200 hundred emails piling in up in just one of my personal email accounts. although i have only myself to blame for letting this happen, and happily a fair few of them were able to be culled without requiring a response from me.

so, another one of the things i was thinking about but hadn't written on was the rt hon winston peters' speech recently about immigration. i haven't read the speech, and have no intention of doing so. i'd much rather beat myself around the head with a blunt instrument frankly!

but. i was having a discussion about his basic approach to immigration issues over the weekend. obviously he is trying to push buttons to generate some media coverage and support. but the problem is that there are serious issues to be discussed about immigration.

the biggest one for me is the importation of workers who will be prepared to work for worse pay and conditions than local workers, simply to avoid the level of poverty they face in their country of origin. i have a strong objection to this type of thing, and i've written about it previously at the hand mirror, particularly in regards to workers in the aged care sector. the two evils of such an approach is that 1) it reduces the wages and conditions of workers in this country and 2) it just adds to the fact that we do little to resolve poverty in their country of origin (through trade or aid).

now, we need to be having some decent and serious public debate about this issue. but we rarely are able to, mostly because of the dog-whistling and underlying racism of the winston peters approach. the fundamental difference between his approach and the one that i would take is this: he sees immigrants as exploiting this country, but i see this country as exploiting immigrants.

of course, it's not just this country - many others do the same. illegal immigrants keep the horticultural industries of many countries viable. as soon as the picking season is over, there will often be a much publicised raid that captures some number of illegals and deports them. but nothing serious is ever done, because economic prosperity depends on cheap labour.

and it never happens that any politician of note stands up and says "our country is exploiting immigrants". because there's no votes in it, of course. it's a reality that no-one wants to hear. but funnily enough, people are quite happy to hear about and absorb the myth that immigrants are exploiting our country and somehow ripping us off. which is why mr peters has been able to thrive for so many years.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

death by a thousand cuts

yes, finally a post from me. i've spent the last 10 days or so being completely unavailable on-line, in that i didn't connect to the internet at all at home & haven't check my private email addresses during the day either. i find i need to do this every now and then, when things start to overwhelm me. it's a way of retiring from the world, and only interacting in ways and with people that i want to interact with. and it's a way of claiming my time as my own and not at the whims and demands of the various groups and organisations i volunteer with.

there are also times when i feel like my own e-spaces that i have created don't feel safe to me. that's wierd too, and i guess arises mostly because there are things that i don't want to have to deal with, and requests that i just want to avoid. it's one of the things about modern life, this being constantly on-call, that i sometimes find difficult to deal with. i suppose it would much better for me to develop a backbone and learn to say no more clearly and more often. i just find a passive withdrawal to be more my style. and it also deals with the people who just don't hear "no", no matter how loudly you say it.

so anyway, i'm mostly back in the e-world and have been trying to catch up on the quieter day of this weekend, in between groceries and getting the washing out and generally cleaning up. and there are plenty of issues to be writing about over the last couple of weeks, it's hard to choose.

but the one that bothers me most are the cuts to ACC. i've blogged plenty about changes around sensitive claims over at the hand mirror, and there is a petition alive on the issue as well as a march coming up soon. but most of the other cuts are pretty nasty too. a while back i wrote about accidental death cover, which included cover when a spouse commits suicide. i really can't believe that they are planning to take this support away, on the basis that spouses who die of medical causes don't get similar state support.

of all the stupid reasons to withhold cover! that reasoning applies to almost every type of cover provided by ACC. as for the "we don't have enough money argument", again nonsense. there are plenty of posts over at the standard proving that this is so, but very simply, an organisation that made a billion dollar surplus last year is not short on funds. add to this the fact that predictions of future liability will vary considerably depending on what assumptions you make about many components of the calculations (eg will interest rates in 10 years be 4%? 10%? and what about in 20 years? how long will the average person with lifelong compensation live? 20 years? 30 years? etc etc).

i'm also beginning to have serious doubts about the wisdom of requiring ACC to be fully-funded. there's a strong argument for putting aside moneys for future superannuation liabilities based on an aging population and the fact that advances in medical technologies have meant that people live a lot longer. however, for ACC, one would think that the opposite would be true. technology and government action through regulation, safety campaigns and financial incentives (eg reduced levies to reward employers who provide safer workplaces) should serve to reduce the number of accidents. an example is the road toll, which has generally trended downwards through a range of measures aimed at deterrance and at changing social attitudes, as well as technological features in new vehicles (airbags etc).

and i hate how the discourse on this issue, just like so many others, is being reduced to the level of the individual. there seems to be very little discourse about the social and societal benefits of the scheme, and the value to us all of providing a comprehensive government run scheme. i guess i'm especially feeling angry about that after hearing a littel bit of rodney hide on tv friday morning (yeah, i was at the airport, i don't watch the show voluntarily and avoid listening to anything mr hide has to say as much as i can). but there he was, trying to make peole who receive ACC into welfare beneficiaries (as if this, in and of itself, is somehow a bad thing) who we should all think of as ripping off the system. bring it down to the individual, ignore community and collective benefits, and then wonder why we've turned into such a bunch of selfish morons. sigh.

so all in all, i'm finding it really sad that ACC is being pared back in this way, and am appalled by the proposals revealed in the sunday star times today. there is no doubt at all that ACC is being slowly prepared for privatisation, and that private insurance companies are set to make a windfall, at the expense of us all.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009


i've had a couple of really busy days, hence the absence of posts. monday evening, i managed a visit to a sick relative in hospital as well as two other meetings (not to mention the usual cooking and chauffering of children to regular classes). last night i had to fit in a teleconference while i was at an event, which meant that i blew $20 just to take part in the call by mobile. grrr. the things we do.

but it was the event itself that i'd like to dwell on a little further. regular readers of this blog (yeah, all two of you!) may recall that i wrote earlier in the year about my encounters with religious hatred, and some thoughts i had after my visit to mr s in auckland about setting up an indian interfaith group. i can't say that i personally made any progress on this, other than mentioning my thoughts to a few people here and there.

but last night i attended an event that gave me a lot of hope and positive feeling. it was a joint eid and diwali celebration* organised by an organisation called the koshish trust. it was attended by indians and pakistanis, and there was a good mix of sikh, hindus and muslims. there may have been christians there, but i didn't recognise them. a joint celebration of religious festivals, particularly here in nz, was a wonderful thing to be part of.

a really touching moment for me was when the programme stopped for the sunset prayer at around 7.30, and all the muslims got up to pray in congregation in one corner of the hall. everyone else just amused themselves for ten minutes and then we all got on with the programme (which was a mix of bollywood dancing, ghazals, poetry recitals etc). this isn't something i've seen happen in other parts of the country, so was quite proud of my hamilton community. the level of goodwill in the room was pretty high, helped by the fact that we mostly knew each other, and cared about each other enough to make a strong statement against divisivenss and hatred.

i didn't have any hand in the event other than attending and being a part of it. and i'm really glad i did so. we had some visitors from auckland at the event, so i'm hoping that there might be something similar happening there in the not too distant future.

*hence, if you hadn't worked it out already, the title of this post. it's the name the organisers chose for the event.

Friday, 2 October 2009

natural disasters

the disasters in indonesia and samoa have been really tragic, and mostly the reason why i haven't been posting in the last couple of days. i've been in tears a couple of times in the last few days, hearing accounts from people who have suffered and looking at pictures of the devastation.

my reaction to the news that a tsunami would be hitting coromandel (this was before i'd heard that it wasn't going to be a major event) was pretty unsettling. i'm not sure that i actually want to admit to it, but i felt more upset at that threat than i did when hearing that it had already hit samoa. admittedly at that point, the reports of the loss of life hadn't come through yet and i had no concept of how big a tragedy it was for our neighbours in the pacific.

but the thought of my own country being at serious risk caused me real grief. we're so used to being safe here from most natural disasters, as well as being safe from war and racial violence. we've never had to face the reality of bomb blasts in major cities, like iraqis or afghanis or so many other countries do. we've had very few mass shootings like they seem to have much too regularly in america. we're actually very much protected from multiple deaths from natural or human causes that i found even the thought of it upsetting. even though, in hamilton, we were never remotely at risk.

i've been trying to analyse what lead to this reaction. is the root is some kind of nationalism? or just the fact that a potential tragedy happening on these shores and so close to home made it somehow more real? i can't seem to pin it down. all i know was that any danger to this country and the people here seemed unbearable to me.

since then, i've been following reports of overseas events, and thinking how sad it is that one of the main reasons for the loss of life (particularly in indonesia) is because these are countries that can't afford strong infrastructure and standards that require buildings to be earthquake and disaster proof. many people live in whatever cheap structures they can afford, structures that won't withstand a natural disaster.

as they bury their dead, try to clean up the mess and start to rebuild, we can send money to help and maybe some volunteers. but in the end we carry on our lives, being thankful that at least we in this country are safe. for now.