Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Twitterati

Once upon an avo dreary, while I pondered, bleak and sneery,
Over many a deleted and faved volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly fapping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently beeping, beeping at my notifications door.
“’Tis the Twitterati,” I muttered, “beeping at my notifications door—
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak September;
And each electorate a dying ember wrought its votes upon the floor.
Desperately I felt the sorrow;—Mainly I thought it bizarro
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost candor—
For the rare and perfect discourse which the Twitterati always bore—
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken, sad, beat of the faving of each blue tweet
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic errors never felt before;
So that now, to still the retweeting, I stood repeating
“’Tis some Twitterati entreating entrance at my Twitter floor
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my notifications door;—
This it is and nothing more.”

Presently my fingers grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your disappearance I implore;
But the fact is I was fapping, and so gently you came beeping,
And so faintly you came beeping, beeping at my notifications door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
Twitterati there and nothing more.

Deep into that interwebs peering, long I stared there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no journo ever dared to dream before;
But the Twitterati was unbroken, and their illness gave no token,
And the only thing there spoken was the whispered “biased, you’re”
This I whispered, and a tweet beeped back “loser, sore”—
Merely this and nothing more.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

In Plain Language: TPP (Part 2)

Today the US Senate passed fast track authority (TPA) for the TPP. I wrote about the implications last week as there was some who viewed that this wasn't going to pass because it was being separated from the TAA. So now what does this mean?

Basically POTUS now has powers that all other previous presidents have had when negotiating a trade deal. When the deal is completed and comes to Congress, it's "ratification" will be an up or down vote (no amendments) and with a simple majority. While this shores up the administration's negotiating powers the lack of TAA still poses a problem. That legislation is designed to protect US workers from job losses from the trade deal and the US politicians haven't come to an agreement on that. However, this is an issue for US domestic politics and has far less bearing on the actual deal or how it affects the rest of us.

So does that mean everything is over? 

In short, yes. Probably. However, there is a period of time the TPP text will be available to the public before Congress votes. The public can consider it and persuade their representatives to give a down vote if they don't like the deal. If there is enough opposition in the US maybe the majority will vote against it which is highly unlikely. I stress this because it's basically impossible.

What does it mean for Kiwis? 

I think we should be afforded the same privilege. I think we should be able to see the text too just like Americans. I don't know what the timing of it will be but maybe if we also get to the see the text or Parliament doesn't get to vote on it until the text is available to Americans, we can buy some time until the next government. This also means the next government cannot be a National-led government. In short, we are fighting a losing battle. As I mentioned, our concerns are not the same as the Americans'. Our biggest concern should be our healthcare system and given the attack it's under due to the TPP, that should be the central issue. The problem is - most Kiwis were against asset sales and making that a central campaign issue didn't change the outcome of the election. The Brits love their NHS but threats of dismantling didn't stop the Tories from getting it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Refugee quota: What should NZ do?

UPDATED: Some facts about previous refugee intake was incorrect which has been corrected.

There are serious allegations that Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia may have authorized payment to people smugglers to turn back a boat headed towards us. Our own Prime Minister could not shine any light on the issue as per usual saying he didn't know and nor did he ask his counter-part. The refugee crisis exists worldwide and countries are being condemned for their inaction. So what should New Zealand do?

In New Zealand the refugee quota is 750 per year and the Greens are calling for that to be increased to 1,000. This should be welcome news for the left except for one little glitch. Last year and the year before, for example we met the quota. But the 4 years prior to that we did not meet the 750 quota. This begs the question - what is the point of increasing the refugee quota if we aren't even going to meet the existing quota?

According to Radio NZ, the government reviews its refugee quota every three years and the next review is slated for next year. However, Budget 2015/15 shows that that the government has already cut spending on refuges for the coming financial year. Essentially the government hasn't even allocated funds for the current level of refugees let alone increased refugees. At this point the government could easily give into the Greens and just raise the quota. Over at Curia, DPF is probably already polling the issue. But it won't make much material difference if we never actually meet the quota and fund it adequately.

Climate change refugees might be a looming issue and we as a country haven't decided how we will deal with that. It is time we adequately funded Immigration NZ to meet the existing refugee quota. Let's all agree that we aren't going to meet this illusive budget surplus and even if we did what is the cost of that surplus? Human lives perishing at sea or in the hands of people smugglers. Can we live with that?

In Plain Language: TPP

The TPP is a complicated trade agreement between 12 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. In my opinion which is shared by many, the US is involved in this trade agreement to elbow out China's growing influence in the region. New Zealand already has a free trade agreement with China so from our perspective we just want to be open for business globally.

Much has been written about this agreement based on leaked documents because the text is not publicly available. I am sympathetic to the idea that it is difficult to conduct negotiations on such a level by making everything available. For instance, I myself worked briefly on Treaty negotiations and I know that it would be impossible if every step was constantly made public. However, and this is a big however, this agreement can be detrimental to Kiwis day to day lives with significant impact on our health system. It has been suggested that the agreement could lead to large pharmaceutical firms with powers to increase prices of drugs and limit access to cheaper generic drugs. The corporate control of public health should be extremely concerning to all New Zealanders. 

What is fast track authority and why is it important?

Currently President Obama is seeking fast track authority from the US Congress which will allow him to pass the final version of the agreement with a simple majority and no amendments (this is very crucial for its success). This part of the legislation also includes a thing called the "Trade Adjustment Assistance" or TAA which is a program that will help workers in America who lose their jobs as a result of trade deals. Democrats are largely against this and that's why they have been voting down the fast track authority. 

Experts believe that democrats would vote for the fast track authority on its own but for that to happen, the legislation would have to go back to committee and be separated. But this is also a problem because President Obama said he would veto fast track authority if it does not include the TAA. But could he change his mind to push forward the deal?

UPDATE: It looks like maybe Obama will not veto a bill that is solely fast track authority. See this article from the Hill.

Why should we care about the TPP? 

Noam Chomsky calls the TPP a neoliberal assult to maximize promit and domination which will lower wages and increase insecurity. The New York Times also notes the unlikely agreement between Republicans and Obama on the TPP calling it  little more than enhanced corporation power branded as free trade. The TPP agreement goes well beyond trade and there's virtually no input on it through any democratic institutions because nobody is allowed to know what is in the text. We should not sleep soundly at night just because the TPP is facing roadblocks in the US. Their objections are different to ours and they are only looking out for their own economy. We should also be worried about our own and we should not rely on the US Congress to stop the TPP. We need to write to our MPs and register our own objections in our own voice.