Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The fear of a good example

Over the Tasman, the racist One Nation has been caught soliciting donations from the US NRA. Naturally, they've complained to police and ASIO about "foreign interference" in elections - not about themselves, of course, but about the (foreign-owned) media who exposed them. But why was the NRA wanting to donate to a racist Australian political party anyway? It was all about the fear of a good example:

In one meeting in Washington DC last September, senior NRA lobbyist Brandi Graham told the pair it would be easier for the NRA to resist calls for gun control in the US if Australia had softer gun ownership laws.

"That helps us, because the biggest argument we always get from folks is, 'Well, look at Australia'," Ms Graham said.

"They are continually attacking us, it's never-ending."

Which ought to raise some concern, given that New Zealand is setting a similar example. And while foreign donations over $1,500 are illegal, the ban is trivially circumvented by using a local company (which can be 100% foreign-owned), or simply a New Zealander to launder it. Though given the near-universal support for gun control, the NRA might have trouble finding people willing to take their money. Other than ACT, of course...

Climate Change: Coal is doomed

If we are to avoid dangerous levels of anthropogenic climate change which will make the earth uninhabitable, we need to stop burning fossil fuels as quickly as possible. The good news is that advances in renewables mean that coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, is already uneconomic:

Around three-quarters of US coal production is now more expensive than solar and wind energy in providing electricity to American households, according to a new study.

“Even without major policy shift we will continue to see coal retire pretty rapidly,” said Mike O’Boyle, the co-author of the report for Energy Innovation, a renewables analysis firm. “Our analysis shows that we can move a lot faster to replace coal with wind and solar. The fact that so much coal could be retired right now shows we are off the pace.”

The study’s authors used public financial filings and data from the Energy Information Agency (EIA) to work out the cost of energy from coal plants compared with wind and solar options within a 35-mile radius. They found that 211 gigawatts of current US coal capacity, 74% of the coal fleet, is providing electricity that’s more expensive than wind or solar.

By 2025 the picture becomes even clearer, with nearly the entire US coal system out-competed on cost by wind and solar, even when factoring in the construction of new wind turbines and solar panels.

And that's in the US, which does not have a price on carbon. The picture is likely to be even better in countries with an effective carbon price.

But while simple economics should stop the construction of new coal plants, that's only part of the solution. There's also a huge train of legacy plants which are still burning. These aren't just destroying the planet - they're also making consumers pay more for electricity than they need to. And we do not have time to let them age out naturally. Which means that governments need to prioritise rapidly shutting down this old, dirty generation and replacing it with newer, cleaner, cheaper renewables.

Monday, March 25, 2019


The Chief Censor has declared the Christchurch terrorist's manifesto objectionable. Its not an especially surprising decision: the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 specifies whether a publication "promotes or encourages criminal acts or acts of terrorism" as a possible grounds for such a classification, and while it must be balanced against various other factors such as dominant effect, impact, scientific, literary or artistic merit, or intended audience, none of those present a particularly compelling reason for rejecting their conclusion. And its not a novel interpretation: the law has been used to classify ISIS material as "objectionable" in the past.

That said, I don't think this is the minimum restriction on freedom of speech necessary (as required by the BORA), and the Chief Censor recognises that it may interfere with the ability of journalists to do their job in reporting on this event. Graeme Edgeler has suggested restricting it to journalists subject to the jurisdiction of the BSA or NZMC, and that seems to be a far better solution. But if anyone wants that to happen, they can always seek a review, and then (if necessary) an appeal. The outcome will likely be a valuable clarification on the extent of freedom of speech, whatever way it goes.

Germany must investigate US drone murders

For the past 15 years the US has been murdering people all over Africa, Asia and the Middle East with drone strikes. At their best, these drone-strikes are simply outright assassinations. At their worst, they are indiscriminate murders or political killings of non-combatants - basicly, an airborne death squad. It is doubtful whether this policy of murder complies with international law. And now, a German court has ruled that that country's government can't just look the other way on it:

Three Yemeni men have scored a partial success after suing Germany for its apparent role in drone attacks that killed relatives. The plaintiffs want Berlin to stop the US using German territory to relay information.

A court in Münster on Tuesday ruled partly in favor of three plaintiffs from Yemen who believe that their relatives were killed in a 2012 US drone strike that was relayed via an airbase in Germany.

The Münster Higher Administrative Court ruled that the German government must take "appropriate measures" to ascertain whether US operations conducted via the Ramstein Air Base are in line with international law.

The court ruled that Berlin should also, if necessary, press Washington to adhere to international law on drone strikes.

There's more details here, but the short version is that the German government can no longer accept US assurances that everything is legal. Its unclear what would happen if the US refuses to cooperate with the required investigations, or they find that it is violating international law, but its not unthinkable that it could be ordered to cease any support for drone operations from German territory.

There's also implications here for New Zealand. Like Germany, we have a statutorily affirmed right to life which is binding on every action of any part of our government. And like Germany, parts of our government are providing tacit cooperation with US drone murders (in our case, far more directly: the GCSB provides them with information as part of the Five Eyes, and in 2014 the Prime Minister admitted that that information may have been used to murder people). The German ruling suggests that the GCSB can't just rely on US assurances of legality, but must actively investigate to ensure we are not assisting in an arbitrary deprivation of life or other violation of international law. The question is, who is going to make them do that?

Reversing the clearances?

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Scottish landlords cleared the highlands, driving people off their land and forcing them into destitution or to emigrate. The result was a Scottish countryside full of sheep farms and deer-parks, run by and for a small clique of rich lords. Now, the Scottish government has been advised to reverse the process:

Scottish land ownership rules must be radically reformed to reverse the concentration of the countryside in the hands of a small number of ultra-wealthy individuals and public bodies, a major review has warned.

The study by the Scottish Land Commission, a government quango, says that in extreme cases where landowners abuse their power they could face compulsory purchase or community buyouts.

The commission, set up by Scottish ministers who are likely to look closely at its conclusions, found that major landowners behaved like monopolies across large areas of rural Scotland and had too much power over land use, economic investment and local communities.


Describing the worst effects of that monopoly power as “socially corrosive”, the SLC warned: “In some parts of Scotland, concentrated land ownership appears to be causing significant and long-term damage to the communities affected.” The eventual goal of the commission would be to break up many large estates.

The Scottish parliament will be debating the report this week. Hopefully they'll decide to proceed. Alternatively, they could do what New Zealand did when faced with an incipient rural aristocracy in the late C19th: tax rural land, drive the landlords into bankruptcy, and use the resulting proceedings to break up their estates.

Thursday, March 21, 2019


The government has followed up with its strong words on Monday by announcing plans to legislate to immediately ban all semi-automatic and military-style firearms, backed by an immediate order-in-council recategorising them as requiring an E-class licence (so immediately banning sale to almost everybody):

Military style semi-automatics and assault rifles will be banned in New Zealand under stronger new gun laws announced today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

“On 15 March our history changed forever. Now, our laws will too. We are announcing action today on behalf of all New Zealanders to strengthen our gun laws and make our country a safer place,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“Cabinet agreed to overhaul the law when it met on Monday, 72 hours after the horrific terrorism act in Christchurch. Now, six days after this attack, we are announcing a ban on all military style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles in New Zealand.

“Related parts used to convert these guns into MSSAs are also being banned, along with all high-capacity magazines.

“An amnesty will be put in place for weapons to be handed in, and Cabinet has directed officials to develop a buyback scheme. Further details will be announced on the buyback in due course.

The law will be introduced under urgency when parliament meets again the week after next. It will have an abbreviated select committee process, and be passed within two weeks of introduction. There will be further legislation later around registration, but the immediate objective is banning these weapons and getting them turned into police. An amendment to the arms regulations means turning in a lawfully bought reclassified MSSA is not a crime, but as of half an hour ago, anyone who tries to retain or on-sell them is now a criminal. The government has made it clear that the police will be using their power to obtain records from dealers to track any semi-automatic that has been purchased, and will be following up if these guns are not turned in. So, the ban will be enforced, these guns will be taken off people if they don't return them lawfully, and the police will be asking questions if any of them can't be accounted for.

And that's that. The government is delivering exactly the sort of swift action people have demanded. And exactly the opposite of US-style "thoughts and prayers".

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Looking the other way

In the wake of Friday's terrorist attack, the SIS has been quick to disclaim responsibility, making increasing claims that they were looking at Nazis, really. Perhaps then they'd care to explain why there's absolutely no mention of the issue in ten years of documents from them:

There is not one specific mention of the threat posed by white supremacists or right-wing nationalism in 10 years of public documents from the Security Intelligence Service or the GCSB.


RNZ has examined ten years of annual reports and ministerial briefings and the threat of right nationalists is never specifically mentioned.

There is a heavy focus on Islamic fundamentalists, in the context of several terrorist attacks in other countries and conflict in the Middle East and parts of Africa.

The latter makes it clear that this is not about a reluctance to broadly identify target communities for "security reasons". They have been quite happy to publicly identify Muslims as targets of security interest for the past fifteen years. So again, you'd expect that if they were really paying attention to Nazis, they would have made similar mention. They didn't. The first public mention they make of the issue was last month, as an afterthought.

Their silence speaks volumes. In the face of an increasing international campaign of Islamophobic terrorism by Nazis, the SIS looked the other way. While they are now, finally, paying attention to the real threat against our society, their leadership needs to be held accountable for that failure. And that process can start by the director of the SIS offering her resignation.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Show us the warrants

The SIS, in an effort to claim that Friday's terrorist attack which killed fifty people wasn't a failure on their part, is saying they had their eye on far-right extremists. It's an extraordinary claim, in contradiction to everything we know about their past behaviour and priorities. Fortunately, its easy to prove.

Since 2002, the SIS has been granted 314 intelligence warrants. These are basicly the sign of a serious investigation, allowing phone taps, computer hacking, and black bag jobs to gather evidence of interest to "national security". If they've been properly keeping their eye on Nazis, then there will be intelligence warrants for them. All they have to do to prove they've been doing their job is tell us how many there are, per year (or per 3 years, to give some statistical cover), relating to that sort of target.

They won't want to do this, of course. Telling us even broadly who they are spying on is anathema to the SIS. But they've already kindof done that by saying they've been surveilling Nazis. If they want us to actually believe it, and believe the level of surveillance was appropriate to the threat, they need to provide some proof. They need to show us the warrants.

Giving the finger to the Nazis

Parliament met for the first time today since Friday's act of terrorism, with an abbreviated timetable for a condolence motion. It opened with a procession of a dozen religious leaders of different faiths. Parliament's normal christian-centric opening prayer was preceded by an Islamic one.

This is what the Nazis say they fear. But rather than being some sort of sinister "takeover", here it was done as a sign that Muslims are New Zealanders, that they belong - as do members of those other religions, and those not represented, and those of no religion at all. That in New Zealand, religion is not exclusive of nationality, any more than ethnic or cultural background is.

What would the Nazis hate? For New Zealand to embrace the Muslim community. For us all to get along, in celebration of our differences, and protect each other against hate. Parliament gave a powerful symbol of that today. Now we all need to live it.

Little's whitewash

One of the obvious questions which immediately arose after Friday's act of terrorism was why our extremely well-budgeted spy agencies didn't stop it from happening. The fact that it happened, and 50 people were killed, represents a huge failure on the part of the SIS, and one the public deserves answers about. Yesterday, in her post-cabinet press conference, the Prime Minister suggested that we would get those answers, promising an inquiry into the question. But her Intelligence Minister Andrew Little has just pre-judged the outcome:

The Minister in charge of New Zealand's intelligence agencies, Andrew Little, says an inquiry into the events surrounding the Christchurch terror attack will show those agencies did their jobs.


Speaking to Q&A on Monday night, Little welcomed the news of the inquiry and said it would show the intelligence agencies did their jobs.

"… these agencies have done the correct things and done nothing other than fulfil their mandate in terms of security and intelligence."

He rejected any comments there was too much attention given to surveying potential Islamic extremism over other kinds of extremism.

So I guess we'll be getting a whitewash then, an exercise in arse-covering designed to protect the reputation of the spies, while doing nothing to address the question of who they target. Just like the Operation Burnham inquiry. Except of course they'll probably try and grab even more intrusive powers along the way.

We spend $80 million a year on the SIS, an amount which has nearly quadrupled in the last 15 years. What do we get for it? 50 dead bodies. They need to be held accountable for that, and we need to know where they went wrong, so we can be sure it will never happen again.

Monday, March 18, 2019

The Aftermath

I was expecting to spend today blogging about climate change, building on the enormous message of hope sent by the school strike on Friday. Instead, like everyone else, I'm struggling to deal with the aftermath of a horrific act of terrorism which targeted one of New Zealand's most vulnerable communities. According to Radio New Zealand, the terrorist talked in their manifesto about his victims "assault[ing] my civilisation". The real assault on civilisation is murdering people because of their religion, murdering children, spreading this sort of hate. The good news is that he's been arrested and will be prosecuted, and given that he videoed the thing, probably convicted. That won't bring back the dead, but it will stop him from killing anyone else. The other good news is that we're going to get better gun laws, which should make it vastly more difficult for people to engage in mass-murder in the future. And hopefully people are going to be a lot less tolerant of racism in future, now its been rammed home in blood what it leads to.

Obviously there has been a huge intelligence failure here, and I hope some very pointy questions are being asked about why police and the SIS have spent the last two decades spying on Muslims, Maori, environmentalists and the left, while ignoring Nazis. Or why the police were tapping the phones of human rights activists while handing out gun licences to militant racists. Given the scale of the failure, I am shocked that no-one has offered to resign over this. While I wouldn't expect such an offer to be accepted (at least, not immediately), I would have expected it at least to have been made. And it casts serious doubts on SIS director Rebecca Kitteridge's professionalism and integrity that she didn't.

I expect the government to be feeling quite uncomfortable as well. While the Prime Minister has shown us all why she is PM, and expressed the best of New Zealand, her deputy is a racist xenophobe who has repeatedly campaigned on Islamophobia and exploited it for political profit. He's wisely kept out of sight all weekend, but when he slinks back into the light, people are rightly going to ask why he is still in government, or indeed, in Parliament. And since he is unlikely to resign in shame, we're just going to have to de-elect him and his racist party at the next election.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Striking for a future

Thousands of schoolkids around New Zealand have walked out of class today in a school strike for the climate. They're part of a global movement, sparked by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, which is sacrificing a day of education to demand real action on climate change. The people in power now won't live long enough to be badly affected by the disaster they have made. These kids will. They are striking to make their parents care. They are striking for their future.

As it stands, that future is grim. The decisions their parents and grandparents have made - to knowingly keep spewing carbon into the atmosphere and warm the planet so a few people could keep on making money - have had terrible consequences. On current projections, we are heading for between three and four degrees of warming by 2100 - enough to destroy our food crops, spread tropical diseases, make significant chunks of the world uninhabitable, and cause widespread drought, mass-migration, and conflict. And that's just to 2100. Temperatures will continue to rise after that, making things even worse. This isn't extinction, not yet, but things will be very, very bad, with a huge amount of pain and suffering.

Unless we change. Another future is possible: one where we decarbonise the economy, stop polluting the atmosphere, and live within our ecological means. The schoolkids are striking for that future. And we should listen to them - because it is their future. We should not let the dead hand of the old destroy it.

No justice for Bloody Sunday

On 30 January 1972, British soldiers shot 28 unarmed civilians in Derry in Northern Ireland, killing thirteen people. The usual official whitewash followed, and the leader of the murderers was awarded an OBE for his services. But a second inquiry in the 2000's called the crime what it was: murder. The Police Service of Northern Ireland finally began a murder investigation, and now one former soldier has been charged with murder. But only one. As for the rest, the men who pumped bullets into a crowd, shot those trying to flee, and murdered those trying to help the wounded, they all get away with it. But it gets worse - because the reaction of the British government to this was not an acknowledgement of its past crimes and a desire that a prosecution might finally bring some justice, however imperfect, to its victims, but this:

Responding to the PPS decisions, the defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, said: “We are indebted to those soldiers who served with courage and distinction to bring peace to Northern Ireland. The welfare of our former service personnel is of the utmost importance and we will offer full legal and pastoral support to the individual affected by today’s decision. This includes funding all his legal costs and providing welfare support.

“The Ministry of Defence is working across government to drive through a new package of safeguards to ensure our armed forces are not unfairly treated.

“And the government will urgently reform the system for dealing with legacy issues. Our serving and former personnel cannot live in constant fear of prosecution.”

No, Cthulhu forbid murderers living in fear that they might finally face justice! Won't someone think of the poor, oppressed killers?

In case anyone needs reminding, the dead of Bloody Sunday were UK citizens, killed by their own government for daring to demand human rights. They deserve justice. But they will never get it from Britain.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

How MBIE spies on people

Back in January, we learned that MBIE staff were being trained in using fake social media profiles to spy on people. This raised a number of issues around surveillance, freedom of expression, unreasonable searches and human rights, and so I sent an OIA request to MBIE seeking copies of this training material. They refused to provided it, but they did provide a copy of their social media guidelines, which are disturbing enough. MBIE staff will use Google to stalk you. They will log on to Facebook or LinkedIn to access information not shared with the general public, which is beginning to get intrusive. Worse, they will use false personas to perform passive searches, or even for "active engagement" (talking to people), suggesting they are not just accessing private, friends-locked or closed group information for which there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, but also raising the possibility that they are attempting to manipulate public opinion or group actions. Which pretty heavily engages both the freedom of expression and freedom from unreasonable search issues the Law Commission expressed concern about.

Looking at a similar request sent via FYI, MBIE won't say who in their organisation is receiving this training or what it is being used for. Nor will they say whether they seek warrants or production orders to access this private information. Which is pretty dubious. The use of search warrants is the exercise of a statutory power, and there can be no justification for refusing such an abstract query. But the fact that they don't want to tell us tells us what the answer is: they don't, meaning any use of information harvested by such methods is potentially unlawful.

(And yes, in accordance with the "if in doubt, complain" principle, I am complaining about the response on a number of grounds, and have advised the FYI requester on some arguments for their request as well).

If in doubt, complain

Today Stuff launched Redacted, a series of articles on the Official Information Act and how it is abused, to raise awareness about the government's public consultation. Today's big piece is about how public servants circumvent and manipulate the Act to keep information secret and undermine accountability. Its an appalling read, but probably nothing new to regular OIA users familiar with these tactics. So what can we do about it?

Simple: complain to the Ombudsman. Public servants use these tactics because they get away with it, and they get away with it because no-one pulls them up on it. They also use these tactics because it is less work than obeying the law, and again, they get away with it because no-one makes it more work. If we want them to obey the law, then we need to reverse that calculation: make it more work to refuse, and make it likely that bad behaviour will be detected and called out. And the way to do that is by complaining.

Public servants hate Ombudsman's complaints. They are a shit-ton of work, and unlike requests from us peasants, they can't just ignore them, refuse them to meet deadlines, or give bullshit responses. Making complaints is a direct way of incentivising the public servants handling OIA requests to do their job properly and obey the law. At the minimum, they make it clear that someone is watching, and that bad behaviour may be caught.

So, if there is anything dodgy about a response, complain. If material has been withheld as "confidential" or "free and frank opinion" (the most frequently-abused withholding clauses), complain. If the public interest in release has not been considered, complain. If they are late, complain. If they dick you around in any way, complain. Anything less lets the fuckers get away with it.

As for what you should put in your complaint, simply say that you are not satisfied with the response and ask that it be reconsidered. If there's a clear violation of the law - lateness, an illegal second extension, failure to consider the public interest, or hyper-literalism and perverse interpretation of the request (a failure in the duty to assist), point that out. I find it useful to ground my complaints in the Ombudsman's guidelines, providing reasons why any cited withholding grounds do not apply, and this is usually an effective tactic. As the Stuff article points out, most public servants handling requests are poorly trained and unfamiliar with the guidelines, so frequently make mistakes.

The statistics are on your side. Complaints get remedies. Even when there's no formal finding, the fact that the Ombudsman is asking questions usually forces an agency to reconsider a response, and maybe you'll get something. And again: it incentivises public servants to make good decisions and lets them know they're being watched. Which means the public benefits as well.

Public servants will probably hate me posting this. Fuck them. If they don't want complaints, then they need to make obviously sound decisions. If they don't, they have no-one to blame but themselves if someone asks for it to be checked.

Juking the stats

The State Services Commission released its six-monthly OIA statistics yesterday, reporting basic information on volume and timeliness (but nothing on outcome or quality of response). But while the official press release crows about improved timeliness, there's a twist:

As signalled late last year, the non-Public Service departments subject to the Official Information Act, New Zealand Police and New Zealand Defence Force, are not included in the latest numbers. They are now reported separately to focus attention on the results of public service agencies and better reflect the Commissioner’s mandate.

And of course its just a pure coincidence that these are two of the largest and worst-performing agencies, the inclusion of which would have ruined SSC's narrative of ever-improving performance. Hell, the police are so crap that they couldn't even report timeliness for the last six months.

OIA statistics are an important performance metric: you can't manage what you can't measure. But they need to be honest. SSC's exclusion of two of the largest and worst-performing agencies means that that is simply not the case. Its another unpleasant example of how the government is trying to lie to us and pretend that the transparency status quo is fine and nothing needs to change.

Meanwhile, the Ombudsman has also released complaints data. Complaints have risen again, so I guess the Ombudsman was wrong in attributing the last increase to "the electoral cycle". The proportion of resolved complaints which resulted in a remedy - in other words, which found poor decision-making - continued to increase, from 66.2% to 73.3%. The other trend identified from the last stats - an increase in the proportion of complaints for full rather than partial refusals - has continued, suggesting even more strongly that agencies are meeting SSC's timeliness criteria by simply refusing requests to clear them off the books. The upshot: if your request is refused in full, complain. Public servants hate Ombudsman's investigations, so if you make it more work to refuse, then maybe you'll get them to obey the law.

(Analysis of the last batch of statistics is here).

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Growing the conservation estate

A decade ago, the public fought a battle with Meridian Energy over the Mokihinui hydro scheme - a plan to build a dam on conservation land, flooding a scenic river gorge. Now the area has been protected forever by adding it to Kahurangi National park:

A wild and remote river gorge that was nearly dammed for power generation will be part of the largest piece of land ever added to an existing national park.

Nearly 65,000 hectares of land north of Westport will become part of the Kahurangi National Park, expanding the country's second largest national park by 14 per cent, the Government announced on Wednesday.

The added area is slightly larger than Christchurch and about half the size of Auckland.

Its the largest addition to a national park ever, and a huge victory for conservation. But its worth remembering that DoC still controls approximately 2.5 million hectares of unprotected stewardship land, which still needs to be assessed and then assigned protected status according to its value. Hopefully this is jut the first step in that process.

A British-style whitewash

Last year, the government announced that they would hold an inquiry into Operation Burnham, the SAS operation in which six Afghan civilians were killed, including a child. But now, it looks as if the "inquiry" is instead becoming a British-style whitewash:

"The ultimate objective is to get to the truth."

Sir Terence Arnold made this commitment as he opened the only hearing of his Operation Burnham inquiry so far held in public.

After hearing arguments on whether proceedings should be held in secret, Arnold and his co-chair Sir Geoffrey Palmer retreated behind closed doors. And that is where they have stayed.

The inquiry was due to finish in April. Instead, key witnesses have walked away, and some of its core participants are disillusioned, with one understood to be on the verge of taking legal action.

The core problem is secrecy, who gets it and who doesn't. Everything NZDF says will be secret, its witnesses protected from scrutiny and challenge. Meanwhile, the whistleblowers who provided information to Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson, the journalists who exposed this crime, will be expected to give evidence in public and so be exposed to official and unofficial retaliation. And so unsurprisingly, they've decided that the cost of participation is too high. The result will be a one-sided inquiry which makes no effort to get at the truth - basicly an official whitewash for the NZDF. But the result is that whatever the inquiry concludes will simply not be seen as credible, and the taint will linger.

The lesson is clear: the New Zealand political system is incapable of providing justice by official inquiries, at least where the defence and security establishment is concerned. People who want it will have to use leaks and direct court cases instead.

The latest Brexit clusterfuckery

So, having rejected Theresa May's shit Brexit deal, UK MP's were told to vote until they got it right - and rejected it again. Which means that the UK is now just 16 days from Brexit and has no plan whatsoever.

Tomorrow the UK parliament will vote on whether to leave the EU without a deal. They will reject that (again). The day after they will vote on asking the EU for an extension, so they can flail around and fail to make up their minds some more. But with no prospect of any change to the deadlock, there is little point to an extension. The EU may grant it, simply to give the UK every possible chance, but ultimately the deal they have offered is the only deal on the table, and the UK can take it or leave it.

The real problem here is the dysfunction and delusion of the UK political class. Faced with the biggest political crisis in a century, they are unable to agree on anything, unable to even accept their negotiating position. So we have delusional absurdities like the EU just giving them whatever they want if they whine loudly enough, or that they can ignore their binding international legal commitments to the Irish peace agreement because they're Britain and they Rule The Waves. Or their imperialist delusions that Ireland would leave the EU and "re"-join their colonial oppressors for the convenience of the latter - or that threatening them with food shortages would change their minds (I guess they don't teach about the potato famine at Eton or Oxford...)

Given this utter failure, there is really only one solution: parliament can't make up its mind, so kick it back to the people in a second referendum. But that would involve the UK political class admitting its failures and yielding a smidgen of power (not to mention the risk that the people might then want to address the fundamental causes of an unfair electoral system and an intellectually inbred elite which produced this clusterfuck), so it will never happen. So instead they'll just continue the cannibalistic orgy all the way to the bottom of the cliff.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Climate change: Time for divestment

We are facing a climate crisis. If greenhouse gas emissions continue, the earth will become uninhabitable. Even if we're lucky, things are going to get very, very bad, with famine, plague, mass-migration and war. And currently, the new Zealand Superannuation Fund is helping push us towards that future, by investing in the companies which are causing it:

According to data from the NZ Super Fund – New Zealand's Sovereign Wealth Fund owned by the Government – as of June 30 last year the fund had a stake roughly 130 oil and gas companies.

The total value of those stocks at the time was $555 million. The value of the fund as a whole is more than $40 billion, meaning oil and gas stock make up just 1.4 per cent of the total fund.

This is madness. On a moral level, we should not be investing in companies whose business plan is the destruction of human civilisation. And on a financial level, these companies do not have a future, and therefore are simply bad investments. Greenpeace has called for the NZSF to divest from fossil fuels, and its a call we should all support. Norway is doign it, and if we want a future, so should we.