What’s racist today?

When protectionism is racist;

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Here, the Australian left-wing media hangs New Zealand’s Prime Minister elect Jacinda Ardern out to dry because she’s at once too socialist and not socialist enough.

To be clear, there is a difference between social socialism and economic socialism.

Economic socialism views housing as more than a commodity and claims that the free market trade in goods and services (such as houses) must be regulated to prevent the concentration and consolidation of power*.  Ardern has stripes in version of economic socialism**. Economic socialism also does not view people as commodities, to be imported and exported depending on the GDP per capita that quarter.

Social socialism (probably what the vapid, swaying lampreys in the right wing media call ‘cultural Marxism’) means not being a cunt to the Indians living next-door. It means making sure that people who live in your country do not experience prejudice and have the same opportunities as others. Ardern also has stripes in this department.

We see this paradox emerge in the US all the time – Republicans are economically liberal but socially conservative. That was, of course, until Trump, when the socially conservative finally realised that they were economically conservative too – coming clean about the protectionism that engenders their economic strength. They’re still economically liberal with health care though – you limping losers brought that on yourselves.

Which brings me to my final point;

The more astute of you may have guessed that my reference to ‘limping losers’ was a statement whereby I take the position of an anti-healthcare advocate. It is an attempt at positioning both them and me – I believe in publicly funded health and disability care, many Americans do not. If I were a politician, this statement, along with many others I have made online would be enough to get me fired in a fit of internet outrage, no doubt after a Guardian revelation that I’d called disabled people limping losers. Let’s make this easy;

Senator XXX Suspended After Calling Disabled; ‘Limping Losers’. (The Guardian, March 2039)

Tagline; Senator XXX has been relieved of her duties after it was revealed that she once referred to disabled people as ‘limping losers’ in an online blog post in October 2017. 

Let’s have a look at one the BBC prepared earlier;

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Yep, this MAN called women ‘sexy little slags’ in an online review of an Arctic Monkeys something-or-other in 2002 (14 years ago for those playing at home). He also apparently called someone he’d an some kind of sexual relationship an ‘ugly bitch’ during a discussion with her (he denies this).

Conservative MP Mims Davies, chairwoman of the all-party parliamentary group for women in Parliament, said it was “right” that Mr O’Mara had been suspended over his “vile” comments.

But she added: “Why on earth has it taken so long?”

Ummm, let me think about that one….

Firstly, maybe no-one gives a fuck? I am a woman and I couldn’t give a fuck if some bloke calls women ‘sexy little slags’ – and that’s without knowing the context of it. Maybe he was trying to be funny, he is a ginger after all.

Second, no-one is going to call out this behaviour because it opens the Giant Box of Hypocrite. How long till we see ancient online comments from Conservative MPs claiming poor people are best sliced thinly and served with a light vinaigrette?

I’m less interested in the hyper-vigilant confected outrage du jour and more interested in how it is used. It’s like a tractor beam, ever ready to be pointed at the next person to go. Outrage does not ‘do’ complicated political intrigue – no-one’s got the attention span for that. No, it cuts straight to the chase; he called me X. Let’s get rid of him/her.

Politicians are constantly on the knife-edge of inferior wokeness, endlessly surveilled by a foaming media pack ever-ready for salacious, one-line mis-steps in the morass of shrill identity politics.

Who benefits from this hyper-vigilance? The right wing media, who claim that we all live in fear of saying anything at all. Right wing ideologues like Andrew Bolt are increasingly recruiting ‘ordinary Australians’ as the distance between political speak and regular speak grows.


*Houses in Auckland (because that’s where this debate begins and ends) are sometimes bought by overseas investors (often Chinese – thus the Asian racism angle). However, it’s worth noting that although 70% of Auckland’s entry level housing is purchased by investors only 3% is purchased by overseas buyers. Middle aged kiwis are finding Auckland’s housing market almost impossible to access because of Glenys and Murray, not Mr and Mrs Tan. Even though 3% is a small amount, it’s testament to the disquiet about houses being traded as commodities quite so blatantly. After all, even if Glenys and Murray are using their property investment to make money they’re still spending it in NZ – it’s an interesting type of commodification.

**Also worth noting that this reflects a peculiarly Australian viewpoint of racism, focused on anti-Asian sentiment when actually, a good deal of the disquiet about overseas investors isn’t about Asians at all, it’s about the (tiny but high profile) trend of very wealthy global/Americans (Peter Thiel et al.,.) buying large properties within ‘iconic’ New Zealand landscapes. New Zealanders fear their rural and ‘natural’ landscapes becoming an increasingly gated community that they are locked out of. Maori have seen this movie before of course….



51% of university students sexually harassed!

It’s a good line isn’t it? Certainly got everyone’s attention. Here’s the stat;

Around half of all university students (51%) were sexually harassed on at least one occasion in 2016, and 6.9% of students were sexually assaulted on at least one occasion in 2015 or 2016. A significant proportion of the sexual harassment experienced by students in 2015 and 2016 occurred in university settings. For the purposes of the National Survey, incidents which occurred in ‘university settings’ included sexual assault and sexual harassment that occurred:

• on the university campus

• while travelling to or from university

• at an off-campus event organised by or endorsed by the university, and

• at university employment.

Experiences of technology-based harassment were included where some or all of the perpetrators were students, teachers or other people associated with the university…..

When incidents of sexual harassment which occurred while travelling to or from university are excluded, the Commission found that 21% of students were sexually harassed in a university setting in 2016.

So, 21% of students experienced some form of sexual harassment on campus, or in a ‘university setting’. I’m not prepared to consider public transport a ‘university setting’. After all, when was the last time you were expected to pay for trips with massively inflated dollars twenty years down the track?

Still, 21% is quite a high rate but then it apparently includes being harassed over ‘technology’. Does this mean a vaguely smutty/insulting remark in response to something (equally offensive) that you’ve posted on Facebook is sexual harassment? If that’s the case then I think 21% is remarkably low.

No matter. 51% is a great statistic. Especially on Twitter.

Things got pretty…

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Here are some numbers for Mr Stepney and those like him.

– The survey polled around 30 000 students, yielding a standard error of around +/-0.4%. 30 000 students could therefore be considered a representative sample.

– Annabel Crabb is a well known and respected Australian journalist. She has 437K followers.

The main problem with this survey is that it’s biased towards those who would take the time to fill it in. In other words, it’s more likely to attract those with some experience of sexual harassment or assault.

Revenge effects

Newsflash! Australian employers encouraged to ‘retire’ casual staff at twelve months!

I woke up this morning to the news that the Fair Work Commission had accepted Union demands to give casual workers permanent work;

“If the casual employment turns out to be long-term in nature, and to be of sufficient regularity … then we consider it to be fair and necessary for the employee to have access to a mechanism by which the casual employment may be converted to an appropriate form of permanent employment,” the full bench found.

Most of my colleagues are on casual contracts, many have been for years, including myself. I’ve done the same job, for the same money for five years. Each year is covered by two casual contracts, which are zero hours when I sign them.

So you’re thinking hey this is good right? I can now ask for permanent work?

Yeah I guess that’s true except three things;

Employers can refuse the request on reasonable grounds including that…. they could foresee their position would no longer exist in the next 12 months.

First, What stops an employer from simply saying ‘I don’t think your job will exist in twelve months’?

Second, there’s casual loading in casual pay, to compensate for being casual. It’s probably about 30% would be my guess. Does this mean a pay cut? Do casuals trade permanence for less money?

But perhaps the most problematic implication is this;  employers will be penalised for employing a casual for longer than twelve months. Surely this will encourage them to replace ‘old’ casuals with ‘new ones’ to prevent them from applying for permanent positions?


Dogma, Karma, bullshit

screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-4-14-30-pmHow many times must I stab the radio this summer?

In today’s ABC ‘Documentary Piece’ about Roald Dahl, we hear of a young woman’s literary love affair with the author who shaped her childhood. Dahl, she tells us, with excruciatingly ponderous pace, made her into the writer she is today.

But wait, there’s a twist! There is a Dark Side to Roald Dahl, a side so horrible that one can barely bring oneself to look into it, lest their childhood be tapped open like a festering egg!

Tell me more!

Well, apparently Roald Dahl was an adulterer. And, he once called his daughter a bitch for confronting him on it. There’s more. Dahl once remarked that he’d rather be dead than fat (he’s as evil as Kate Moss! Shuffle over, Hitler and stop hogging the blanket!). It gets worse, folks. Dahl was a racist. His oompah loompahs were originally cast as African pygmies, and he ruminated on the character flaws of the Jewish people. Why, he wondered, had they attracted such perverse persecution? Sure, Hitler was a prize bumpfswiggle but in Dahl’s view the Jews had partly brought their fate upon themselves.

The radio narrator/writer weeps and wails over their gravity and depth of these failings…. Oh my God, how could I have loved this guy? How could I have read his books? WHAT A MONSTER! I can’t believe I was somehow complicit in his vile world!

After about thirty hours of this self-righteous, hyperbolic panto routine I turned it off.

When I was 8 my Dad showed me some film footage of Jews being pushed into pits. It is still the most distressing thing I’ve seen in my life and remains securely fastened in a repertoire of lively nightmares. I’ve since questioned my father’s judgement, but I’ll never forget his words;

If you had grown up in a family of Nazis, you would believe this was right too.

Dad wanted me to think about judgement, about the relativism of right and wrong. He wanted me to think hard about the social conventions that I was growing up in. (I’m making him sound like a morally righteous demi-God – he isn’t, he’s just a person like everyone else. A person who should have looked into a bit more Disney).

And so when I hear blind judgement, without consideration of context, background, politics, family, gender or class I get nervous. Because this is truly frightening. This is the blueprint of unblinking dogmatism. And unblinking dogmatism gets you front row seats at the pit.

Simply stating ‘Dahl was a monster’ demonstrates a troubling fixity of thought, something far darker than his supposed ‘dark side’. What is really, truly frightening, is cultivating the lack of insight that allows us to come to grips with what people are thinking and feeling, to think critically about the cultural patterns, tropes and values that are in ascendence at any one time. The Holocaust can’t be understood with the idea that there were just a few more shittier human beans in the can. Dahl’s story tells us that intelligent, well-connected people, loving fathers and mothers can come to hold dreadfully dangerous ideas. We are all ‘monsters’. We need to think hard about how that happens.

Dahl was a product of multiple moments in time, of the family he grew up in, the British class-constrained school he attended, the war he fought, the Africa he experienced and the women he disgraced himself with.

Dahl was a human bean. Like the rest of us.

Spoiler alert; Colonisation in Crocs

Let’s play spot the difference;

What’s going on in New Zealand this week? General freaking out about Peter Thiel buying New Zealand citizenship, that’s what. This brand new Kiwi is now the proud owner of a humble pile in Wanaka, apparently hedging his bets against a global, US centric clusterfuck.

Bolt-holes in New Zealand are the latest asset of the uber wealthy, or so we’re told. Don’t worry about being forced out of your country though, like other peaceable, desirable countries with WIFI and vegetables, NZ has an Overseas Investment Office (OIO). It ensures that only the most criminal of oligarchs can purchase state significant land.

So why didn’t Thiel go down this route? Well, as we all know, waiting for approvals on multi-million dollar purchases is so tedious. Sometimes it takes literally months. Luckily there’s another option. You can simply buy New Zealand citizenship, and then purchase whatever land you want! Just like in the olden days. Cos let’s face it, New Zealand citizenship has been a tidy export earner since The New Zealand Company*. Add to cart!

It’s not like Thiel, who is a US citizen, hasn’t bought little bits Pacific islands before. He recently purchased a home on Maui. He’s in good company, his friend Mark Zuckerberg also bought a hugely expensive estate on Maui. In a magazine article (that now seems to have disappeared) locals described Zuckerberg’s attempts to muscle out his neighbours, some of whom are indigenous owners. Zuckerberg started off by offering his neighbours inordinate amounts of money for their land. In the case of the indigenous owners, he got a few representatives to sell him pieces of land. Trouble is, indigenous title is famously complex – it doesn’t always mesh with Western capitalist version of land tenure. While some ‘owners’ took the money, others argued that it wasn’t really theirs to sell. Some people simply didn’t want to leave the place they’d called home for generations. For those who quibbled about the process, Zuckerberg’s lawyers applied force. This is called negotiation between unequal actors. Or, to use its older term, Treaty.

This is just another form of blockbusting – a co-ordinated attempt to reach a tipping point in a neighbourhood. YOU might dig your heels in and stay but everyone else has buggered off. You’re no longer among friends. But hey, if you need a job as a gardener….

It’s not that Zuckerberg or Thiel behaved illegally in Hawaii. After all, they’re simply participating in the real estate market, a market underpinned by the legitimate structures of US government. The same government that turned up about about a hundred years ago and put those structures in place, by legitimately negotiating with the indigenous Hawaiians to cede their sovereignty and accept a US system of private property and governance ….Kidding! Phew, that was getting awkward…

Seriously though, these uber wealthies seem to be doing something relatively unremarkable on Maui; using their wealth to reach a tipping point in the property market, the point at which those who’re left behind choose the carrot (take the money) instead of the stick (community dislocation and/or expensive lawsuit). Simply put, the peasants move on. Forget capital flight!  Deficit flight is where it’s at!

Johnny Moore’s article suggests that Thiel’s New Zealand property venture will be more exciting than his foray into the Hawaiian market. He describes oligarchs on the run, their children kidnapped, houses burnt to the ground. In this age of global connectedness, he argues, the only real bolt-hole is on the moon.

I think this is alarmist. The consequences he suggests are violent and also illegal. You can bet that Mr Thiel won’t be waiting a year for police to turn up at his place when someone sets fire to his woodpile. Not all NZ citizens are equal. ( I also found the casual discussion about kidnapping children bloody terrifying – I think others would too).

What’s more likely, I think, is people like Thiel will engage in a form of hyper-gentrification, a market distortion where one bolt-hole turns into a series of enclave economies. Ordinary New Zealanders will resent being made to feel like second class citizens, but hey, we’ve seen this movie before. See; New Zealand Company. Who’s dispossessed now?


*For those playing at home…The New Zealand Company sold parcels of land to British citizens who then sailed all the way to the other side of the world to set up house, only to discover someone else was already mowing the lawn.

Lucky break

Hey you know what’s making housing expensive? Red tape. Nope, not ridiculous, hyper- speculation by Australia’s largest age cohort. No no no. Why would you even think that? It’s red tape. Big, bad red tape. If there were more houses, there’d be more supply.

And you know what holds up supply? Red tape. The Planning and Assessment Commission to be precise. So what if we cut the PAC’s ‘red tape’? How cool would that be? Then we’d get more houses! Or more apartments, anyway, because the PAC only deals in large developments.

What’s that? There’s an oversupply of apartments in Australia? Oh, well don’t blame us, here at the Liberal party we’re doing our bit to keep the apartment market afloat.

Now, where were we? Oh yes, red tape. The PAC. Well, let’s ‘streamline’ the approvals process. That’ll get more housing. There’s a housing crisis don’t you know. We’re doing our bit.

And if housing developments happen to comprise about five eighths of fuck all of the PAC’s business, then that’s hardly our fault. What’s that? What does the PAC mostly do?

Mining approvals.