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Archive for August, 2011

Dicing with disaster?

31 August 2011 4 comments

National today announced new rules and regulations regarding oil and gas exploration in our coastal waters…

Listen to more on Nine to Noon

Hekia Parata, Acting Minister of Energy and Resources

And yet, it was only last year that the worst oil spill in history occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, threatening marine and coastal wildlife; local fishing industries; jobs; tourism; and costing billions in lost productivity and clean-up…

As a reminder what went down in the Gulf of Mexico, let’s not forget that there is no reason whatsoever that the same could not happen here, in our country…

BP Oil Spill Live Coverage Showcased by Google Earth

Further economic, environmental, commercial, and human consequences of the oil spill.

If an oil spill of similar magnitude and severity hit our coast, we would not have the same resources to effect a clean-up, as our American cuzzies did. And somehow, this just doesn’t sound right,

I hope to god that the powers-that-be know what they’re doing. The consequences of a disaster could make the Christchurch earthquakes look like an entree.

Sloppy Journalism 101

30 August 2011 4 comments

How to be a sloppy journalist…

NZ Herald journalist Derek Cheng writes about National’s planned “welfare reforms” on 14 August. Mr Cheng writes,

“The Government will limit how 16 and 17-year-old beneficiaries and 18-year-old teen parents can spend the state’s money to ensure they are not buying items such as alcohol or cigarettes…”

Mr Cheng continues in the same vein, a little later on,

“* money for basic living costs like food and groceries will be loaded onto a payment card that can only be used to buy certain goods and cannot be used to buy things like alcohol and cigarettes…”

That’s all very well and good… but it’s already illegal for 16 and 17 year olds to purchase alcohol and tobacco products.

Why has Mr Cheng not pointed this out in his article?

National’s policy release has been barely challenged by the mainstream media (MSS) and sounds as if 16 and 17 year olds are freely  purchasing tobacco and liquor in this country. They may well be.  But it is not dependent on whether or not under 18s are beneficiaries.

In fact, it could be argued that 16 and 17 year olds on a Living Alone Allowance are less likely to be able to afford expensive cigarettes and booze.

The Independent Youth Benefit rate (as at 1 April 2011) is $167.83 per week – NETT.

That’s right folks, that’s what this is all about: $167.83 a week. Out of that, a young person living independently has to pay board, food, clothing, transport, power, phone, and other outgoings.

That doesn’t leave much for boozing and fagging much, does it?

Yet, Mr Cheng ignores all this and simply parrots National Party policy, without any critical analysis whatsoever.

This is simply unacceptable. It brings to mind government-owned newspapers such as “Pravda” and “Izveztia” from the now-defunct Soviet Union. These newspapers were nothing more than mouthpieces for the Soviet Communist Party. they had as much to do with critical, investigative reporting – as Vegans have to raising cattle and lamb for supermarkets.

Perhaps the Herald should re-brand as “The New Zealand Government Herald“? Or simply, “The State Mouthpiece“?

Because that is what it seems to be evolving into.

As usual, the three Golden Rules to apply to the MSS are,

  1. Don’t believe everything you read, see, and hear.
  2. What am I not being told?
  3. Will it sell advertising?

That was Then, this is Now #6

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National Party policy quote: http://tinyurl.com/6zm3mo2

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Previous Blog post

That was Then, this is Now #5

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ACT List candidate mystery – solved?

29 August 2011 4 comments

 

It’s obvious really, why  List Spot #3 is vacant…

 

 

ACT will be selling that position on Trademe. (Minimum bid; $1. Buy now price; $5)

 

 

 

 

Greed is good?

28 August 2011 47 comments

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As we look back on the last 25 years of neo-liberal “reforms”, including User Pays; the canning of “Labour’s” superannuation savings plan in 1975 (by Muldoon – after being elected into office with his infamous “Dancing Cossacks”  TV ad); and National’s continuing high popularity in the polls, despite their avowed proposal to sell-down 49% of several State assets,  – it seems abundantly clear who has been  pulling the “strings”.

No, it’s not Washington. Nor the Bilderbergers. Nor the UN/New World Order/Illuminati.

The answer is mind-numbingly far more prosaic:  it’s us – the Baby Boomer generation. The 1960s and 1970s rebellious youth  weren’t just an “aberration” – they were a clear signal that the Baby Boomers had arrived; could be inclined to  incredible selfishness (hence the term the “Me Generation”); and we voted individually for personal gain – on a collective basis.

Yep. We have seen the “enemy” – and it’s us; graying; self-centered; resentful of the young (who we’ve well and truly shafted);  and looking back at ourselves in the mirror, wondering where it all went wrong.

The case of  Surgeons Ian Penny and Gary Hooper, who tried to rort the tax system using Trusts  and companies – even though they had graduated BEFORE student loans and fees were implemented in 1992 – is the clearest example ever of our collective unbridled selfishness.

To re-cap;

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A court battle is over for two surgeons who challenged Inland Revenue over claims they tried to avoid tax bills worth tens of thousands of dollars.

The Supreme Court has ruled unanimously against Ian Penny and Gary Hooper, saying they underpaid themselves from their own businesses to avoid the top personal tax rate.

The issue arose after the previous Labour-led Government raised the top personal tax rate to 39%, compared to the company rate which was then 33%.

The orthopaedic surgeons openly paid themselves a lower salary than the market rate, arguing that they had a choice about how they operated their business.

They tried to challenge a Court of Appeal decision that found in favour of Inland Revenue, which said the surgeons had paid themselves salaries too small to be commercially realistic.

It said they were therefore able to avoid paying the top tax rate, while the balance of their businesses’ profits went as dividends to family trusts.

The trusts funded items such as a loan for one surgeon, and a holiday home for the other.

Inland Revenue said using those business structures to create artificially low salaries amounted to tax avoidance, saving each man between $20,000 and $30,000 a year for three years, beginning in 2002.

Supreme Court Justice Blanchard on Wednesday delivered a judgement supporting that argument, ordering Mr Penny and Mr Hooper to pay Inland Revenue $25,000 in court costs.

Mr Hooper told [Radio New Zealand ]Checkpoint the court has created a salary benchmark that is higher than the one countless private practitioners have been using.

He says they have been following Inland Revenue advice and calculating their salaries based on public hospital rates.

An Inland Revenue deputy commissioner welcomed the ruling, telling Checkpoint it clearly states and reaffirms what the department’s commissioner felt was the case all along. Carolyn Tremain says IRD has yet to fully absorb the implications and consequences of the ruling.

PricewaterhouseCoopers John Shewan, who appeared as a witness for the surgeons, said the case is important for individuals and firms. He said tens of millions of dollars may now be claimed by Inland Revenue from cases it still has open on this matter.

Source:  Radio New Zealand

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Specifically,

Surgeons Ian Penny and Gary Hooper set up companies, owned indirectly through trusts, to buy their surgical services and paid themselves artificially low salaries.

After 2000, Hooper’s personal income fell from $650,000 to $120,000 a year. Penny’s dropped from $302,000 to $125,000, and then to $100,000, while the income of their companies grew.

Source:  Dominion Post

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What makes this case of case of tax avoidance stand out is that none of it was ever necessary in the first place.

Dr Ian Penny received his Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor (MB ChB) of Surgery from Otago University in 1981.  He became a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1990.

Dr Gary Hooper received his Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor (MB ChB) of Surgery  from Otago University in 1978 and became a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1985.

In simple terms, they graduated as doctors in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Tertiary education then was still nominally free. Plus,  student allowances were available to most students,

“Up until 1992, nearly every student (86.4 percent) studying at a public tertiary education institution in New Zealand received a living allowance or grant while they studied.

 Prior to the mid 1970s, student support was based on a system of bursaries and scholarships. In 1976, a new system of government-funded tertiary bursaries was introduced. This included a study or living costs grant that was available to most students.”

Source: NZUSA

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Student fees and student loans came into effect in 1992, during the Bolger-led National Government, when Ruth Richardson was Minister of Finance (and coincidentally the same year that Shortland Street came on air).

In simpler terms, Dr Penny and Dr Hooper enjoyed the benefit of near-free tertiary education before fees were raised in 1992. They had no student loans to repay, as  medical students currently do, and may well have benefitted from receiving a Student Allowance.

Contrast their free tuition with that of medical students, in the 21st Century:  “on average medical students will graduate with around $80,000 of debt and nearly 90% will have a student loan“, according to the  New Zealand Medical Students’ Association in April, last year.

So with a free education; in receipt of student allowances; and no student loan; Dr’s Penny and Hooper were, as Revenue Minister Peter Dunne stated;

… the important thing about this decision is to bear in mind the scale of what was happening. This wasn’t people minimising their income because they were reinvesting in their business. This was people minimising their income because they were actually minimising their tax liability but still enjoying the full benefits of the income they were in reality earning.

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So not only did these gentlemen benefit from a free education – but they were now minimising their income because they were actually minimising their tax liability [whilst] still enjoying the full benefits of the income they were in reality earning.”

God, you’ve no idea how sick this incident has  made me.  Let me explain why.

Prior to the introduction of “Rogernomics” in 1984 (and National’s addition from 1990 onward),  education in this country had been free (or as close as possible to free) to nearly all New Zealanders. Education whether at Primary School or University was funded by the previous generation; our Mums & Dads; Grandmothers & Grand dads. The idea was terribly simple; education was a right, and not to be determined by ability to pay.

In turn, as we graduated from schools and Universities, we – my generation, the “Baby Boomers” – were to fund our children through their education, through our taxes.

Except, it did not quite happen that way.

In 1984 we unknowingly elected a Labour Government that had been taken over by a secret cabal of neo-liberals, conservatives, and proponants of the Free Market. A raft of  radical changes were implemented throughout the economy and impacting directly on society.

Despite public objection; mass protests; and even vocal opposition from within the Government by some Labour MPs such as Jim Anderton, Labour was re-elected in 1987.  Curiously, they had increased their majority from 55 to 57.

During Labour’s two terms (1984 to 1990), they cut taxes twice, and implemented a new tax in 1986, called GST.

National followed, implementing User Pays in tertiary education whilst  cutting taxes in 1996 and 1998.

In 2008, despite evidence that the world was plunging into a global recession, John Key promised that National would again cut taxes. As New Zealand went into deep recession; unemployment rose; businesses closed down – National cut taxes in April 2009 and October last year.

Most of the public, it seems, will swallow User Pays if they stand to reap a benefit from tax cuts.

The social contract therefore, was well and truly broken between our (the Baby Boomers) generation, and our parents/grandparents.

We had taken their gift – that of free education which they had paid for – but we decided not to pass it on to our children. Instead, we accepted one tax cut after another. And social services were either cut or User Pays applied, to pay for those tax cuts.

To my generation of fellow Baby Boomers, I say this; we’ve well and truly  shafted our own children. We denied them the very same opportunities of a free education that our parents had bequeathed to us. Instead, we voted ourselves seven  hefty tax-cuts; instigated User Pays; and left our children saddled with $13.9 billion in student debt.

Is it any wonder that our children our leaving New Zealand in greater and greater numbers? They’re not just emigrating to seek better paying jobs – they’re sticking it to us for our unmitigated greed. Whether consciously or sub-consciously, our children realise what our generation has wrought, and by god, they are not happy.

No doubt there are some folk who will cheer on Drs Penny and  Hooper. These people  feel that paying taxes is “unfair” and that it is unreasonable for the State to take the money that they have worked hard for.

Perhaps I should take a moment to remind these people what their taxes were, and in many cases  are still, used for…

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Inter-island Ferry, Aramoana

Dams and other power generation projects

Our first television broadcast system

Roading and highways

Hospitals

University education

Dental care for our Children

Our Police and justice system

Railways and other public transport

Schools

State Housing

Infrastructure such as power transmission lines

Social welfare and superannuation

Bridges

Postal and telecommunications systems

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Many of these assets no longer reside in public ownership – but they were originally built and maintained by previous generations of taxpayers; our parents, grandparents, et al.

As the Baby Boomer generation, what have we built and left our children?

$13.9 billion in student debt?

No wonder they are departing our shores…

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But I leave the last word to this expat Kiwi, now living in Australia,

A Victorian-based Kiwi with a student loan debt, who did not want to be named because he did not want to be found by the Government, said he did not intend to pay back any of his student loan.

The 37-year-old’s loan was about $18,000 when he left New Zealand in 1997. He expected it was now in the order of $50,000. The man was not worried about being caught as the Government did not have his details and he did not want to return to New Zealand.

“I would never live there anyway, I feel just like my whole generation were basically sold down the river by the government. I don’t feel connected at all, I don’t even care if the All Blacks win.

“I just realised it was futile living [in New Zealand] trying to pay student loans and not having any life, so I left. My missus had a student loan and she had quite a good degree and she had paid 99c off the principal of her loan after working three years.”

Source: Dominion Post

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Further Reading

Greed of boomers led us to a total bust

New Zealand’s wealth gap widens

Over-55s own most of NZ’s wealth

 

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High milk prices? Well, now we know why…

26 August 2011 2 comments

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I guess this explains why milk, other dairy products, tomatoes, etc,  are so expensive.

And the Minister for Agriculture, David Carter, can save taxpayers the expense of a Parliamentary inquiry into why milk is so expensive here in NZ…

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I guess it wasn’t such a bright idea to allow supermarkets to buy each other up, until we had only two, nation-wide chains remaining. Duopolies are not noted for promoting competition and keeping prices down.

New Zealand’s supermarket duopoly:

Progressive Enterprises

Foodstuffs

Chalk up yet another cock-up for the free market, unregulated economy?

I think so.

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+++ Updates +++

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Parliament’s Commerce Select Committee inquiry into milk prices gets under way,

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Full Story

Full Story

Full Story

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Related issues

Why did the fat kiwi cross the road?

Hey, People! Leave our kids alone!

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Silly Idea # 341,907,774

26 August 2011 56 comments

Floating cities: PayPal billionaire plans to build a whole new libertarian colony off the coast of San Francisco

  • Ocean state would have no welfare, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons
  • Platforms would house 270 people and hundreds could eventually join together

PayPal-founder Peter Thiel was so inspired by Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand’s novel about free-market capitalism – that he’s trying to make its title a reality.

The Silicon Valley billionaire has funnelled $1.25million to the Seasteading Institute, an organisation that aspires to launch a floating colony into international waters, freeing them and like-minded thinkers to live by libertarian ideals.

Mr Thiel recently told Details magazine: ‘The United States Constitution had things you could do at the beginning that you couldn’t do later. So the question is, can you go back to the beginning of things? How do you start over?’

Life on the ocean wave: A design for one of the floating cities which Peter Thiel wants to start constructing next year off the coast of San Francisco

Green land: An aerial view of the city, complete with landcaped gardens. Mr Thiel believes many of the islands could eventually be joined together

Design for living: This island even has a high-level helicopter pad. The cities would be constructed on oil-rig like terminals

The floating sovereign nations that Mr Thiel imagines would be built on oil-rig-like platforms anchored in areas free of regulation, laws, and moral conventions.

The Seasteading Institute says it will ‘give people the freedom to choose the government they want instead of being stuck with the government they get’.

Mr Theil, the venture capitalist who famously helped Facebook expand beyond the Harvard campus, called Seasteading an ‘open frontier for experimenting with new ideas for government’.

After making his first investment in the project in 2008, Mr Thiel said: ‘Decades from now, those looking back at the start of the century will understand that Seasteading was an obvious step towards encouraging the development of more efficient, practical public sector models around the world.

‘We’re at a fascinating juncture: the nature of government is about to change at a very fundamental level.’

Light city: Peter Thiel called the project, Seasteading, an ‘open a frontier for experimenting with new ideas for government’

Mr Thiel and his colleagues say their ocean state would have no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons.

Mr Thiel said: 'the nature of government is about to change at a very fundamental level'

Aiming to have tens of millions of residents by 2050, the Seasteading Institute says architectural plans for a prototype involve a movable, diesel-powered structure with room for 270 residents.

The long-term plan would be to have dozens and eventually hundreds of the platforms linked together.

Patri Friedman, a former Google engineer who is working on the project told Details that they hope to launch a flotilla of offices off the San Francisco coast next year.

‘Big ideas start as weird ideas,’ Mr Friedman said.

He predicted that full-time settlement will follow in about seven years.

But while some Ayn Rand acolytes may think the idea is brilliant, it’s not without its critics.

Margaret Crawford, an expert on urban planning and a professor of architecture at Berkeley, told Details: ‘it’s a silly idea without any urban-planning implications whatsoever.’

Big ideas: A close-up of how one of the islands could look. The billionaire founder of Paypal has invested $1.25million to create a floating island utopia

Mr Thiel told an audience at the Seasteading Institute Conference in 2009 that: ‘There are quite a lot of people who think it’s not possible.

‘That’s a good thing. We don’t need to really worry about those people very much, because since they don’t think it’s possible they won’t take us very seriously. And they will not actually try to stop us until it’s too late.’

I fully support founding such a colony. In fact, I’ll donate $100 for a (one way) ticket for Don Brash to migrate there.

I’ve suggested – on several occassions – that neo-liberals who want to live in a free-market, minimalist government, zero-tax, user-pays society have just such a country to migrate to: Somalia.

Somalia is perfect and meets their criteria in every respect.

Of course, as part of user-pays, they would have to pay for their own security; their own private police force. And why shouldn’t they? After all, why should other taxpayers pay for protection of someone elses’ property, in a User Pays nirvana?

Strangely enough, as far as I’m aware, no neo-lib has ever taken up my offer.

And stranger even still, neo-libs seem to prefer living in New Zealand; a country built on collective efforts by it’s citizens to build up every aspect of present day society; electricity sector, education, railways, health, roading, police, bridges, libraries, etc. Even telecommunications, airlines, and television started off as tax-payer funded services. All paid by our taxes.

Private enterprise was focused on providing citizens with supermarkets, clothing, shoes (once upon a time), and other consumer goods. It was a good balance.

“Mr Thiel and his colleagues say their ocean state would have no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons.”

No minimum wage? But… who would clean their toilets?

No building codes? On a free-standing oceanic city? Oh, I can see that working… not.

Few restrictions on weapons. I can see gun nuts loving that. Including gentlemen like Anders Behring Breivik, David Gray, Martin Bryant, et al.

Call me cynical, but I doubt if Peter Thiel’s  ‘Seasteading’ project will succeed. For one thing, human nature is involved – and as we all know, human nature can be a bugger of a thing to deal with.

Secondly, what happens if Thiel’s ‘island’ gets in trouble? Perhaps struck by a hurricane? Will the Seasteaders expect rescue from the international community? And will they be willing to PAY for assistance? (User pays, of course.)

The article further states,

“The Seasteading Institute says it will ‘give people the freedom to choose the government they want instead of being stuck with the government they get’.”

Uh oh. That sounds perilously close to that pesky concept popularly know as “de-mo-cra-cy”. Damned dangerous, that “de-mo-cra-cy”. What happens if, in time, the population of ‘Seastead’ elect a government that is more interventionist?

Will Thiel then build another libertarian community? To get away from the first ‘Seastead’, taken over over “leftists”?

Personally, I think Somalia would still be a cheaper option.

Let’s be honest here, though.

This is about one thing: money. Thiel wants to keep as much of his money as possible and not pay taxes.  There may be other, immensely wealthy individuals, who feel lifewise.

Well, I say “good luck” to them. Let them set up their little sovereign “Island State”. Let them learn the hard way that a functioning, balanced,  society involves more than just having a bloated bank balance. A dynamic society is a collection of mutually supporting groups and individuals – not just a handful of wealthy people.

My guess is that this little “Profit Paradise” will not last long. Nor will it be self-sufficient. And, the inhabitants will still want to spend (most of) their time on the US mainland, socialising, doing business, and all the other things that the rest of us enjoy.  Their Island State will be nothing more than a taxation “bolthole”; a floating bank account.

And herein lies the dishonesty of such an idea.

But if billionaires want to spend their entire lives on such an Island, and not leave, then they are welcome to it.  Imagine being forced to live your life in one little area; never leaving; and associating only with others of your ilk.

It’s called “prison”.

Big is Beautiful – Prejudice is Painful

25 August 2011 5 comments

The Aussie department store, “Myer”, hosted a ‘Big is Beautiful’ show during Sydney’s Fashion Festival yesterday, during which they, unsurprisingly, used plus sized models. After all,  it was a ‘Big Is Beautiful’ show, right?

Damien Woolnough responded with this ‘bitchy’ little piece  in “The Australian“;

BIG can be beautiful but fat should not be in fashion.

At yesterday’s plus-size runway show at Fashion Festival Sydney, curvaceous women replaced their leaner peers to showcase Myer’s size 16 to 24 clothes.

The models were gorgeous, the clothes were unremarkable and the message about health was dangerous. Professional models, including plus-size pin-up Robyn Lawley, strutted and pouted alongside 10 winners of a competition run by Myer and The Australian Women’s Weekly. Most of the models looked healthy but some looked obese. While most fashion festivals ban models for being too skinny, why is it OK to see fat women on the runway?

There is a place for women of all sizes in the fashion media, as seen by the positive response to a plus-size shoot with Lawley in this month’s Vogue Australia, but obese models send just as irresponsible a message about the need for healthy eating and exercise as models with protruding clavicles and ribcages.

Fashion models should not be confused with role models, which is difficult to avoid with the attention given to the fame and fortunes of Jennifer Hawkins and Miranda Kerr. There are no rallies for plus-size male models or complaints that Dior Homme does not make size 40 waist jeans because most men have escaped this cultural curse.

Models have always been thin and tall because clothes look better on them.

Fashion is a world of fantasy carried out by smoke, mirrors and significant retouching, often to make models look bigger rather than thinner. The smoke cleared and the mirror cracked yesterday with the plus-size show delivering a confronting reality.

When it came to the clothing, there was little to aspire to, with basic linen dresses, capri pants and forgiving jeans.

Fashion Festival Sydney is about selling clothes and the plus-size market deserves to be represented but let’s not add another double standard to the fashion industry by celebrating people being overweight.

Women of all sizes are savvy enough to draw inspiration on how to dress from healthy, thin models. Perhaps that’s why the Sydney Town Hall was only half full for the plus-size show.

Here are some of the “plus size” models…

One has to wonder at Woolnough’s  degree of insight into the modelling industry. And not just modelling, but the media, entertainment industry and even in professional, business, and political fields – where women are constantly judged by their appearance and size. Men are hardly ever (if at all) judged by similar standards.

Until now, many (if not most) catwalk models looked like this;

Not only do these women look emaciated, but it is the normal standard set by the fashion industry for their models. So it is little surprise that many young girls end up with body-image problems and low self-esteem.  And just recently, the fashion industry set a whole new “low” by employing a model who was only ten years old; Thylane Lena-Rose Blondeau.

This steadily-worsening obsession with thinner and younger models is a nasty, insidious attack on women. It is the subtle,  Western equivalent of putting women into a burkha or niqab. Men do not have to put up with it – and they wouldn’t. Not for a moment.

Woolnough says in his article,

“There is a place for women of all sizes in the fashion media, as seen by the positive response to a plus-size shoot with Lawley in this month’s Vogue Australia, but obese models send just as irresponsible a message about the need for healthy eating and exercise as models with protruding clavicles and ribcages.”

Well , if  “there is a place for women of all sizes in the fashion media” then why invalidate that statement with a “but” caveat?

And how does society fight back against ubiquitous,  unhealthy, unrealistic, images of women except with striking polar-opposites that challenge our perceptions   formed over the last few decades?

Woolnough may believe that he being honest when he demands, “why is it OK to see fat women on the runway?”

The answer, Mr Woolnough, is in your own question. Why is  it a remarkable thing to be seeing “fat” women on the runway? Why is it a matter that demands anyone’s attention? Why do you think it was necessary to mount a “Big is Beautiful” fashion parade in the first place?

Because, Mr Woolnough, it is such a uniquely unusual occurrence that it has drawn our attention. And because you think it is so unusual that it merits your critical comment. And because your attitude is precisely the problem that people in society – especially women and young girls – are confronted with every day of their lives.

I wonder, Mr Woolnough; when is the last time someone judged you for your body’s  appearance? My guess is probably never. In which case, you have no stake in this issue. None of it matters to you except in a conversational way.

We need more such fashion parades. Many, many more. Until the day comes when no one bats an eyelid or feels it worthy to comment. That day will be when there are women of all sizes in the fashion media.

And no one adds a “but” caveat to it.

That was Then, this is Now #5

25 August 2011 1 comment

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That was Then, this is Now #4

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National – as fiscally prudent as a heroin addict?

John Key today announced that the proceeds from state asset sales could be used for roading…

Now hang on a mo’…

I thought National was intending to part-privatise Meridian Energy, Genesis Energy, Mighty River Power, coal miner Solid Energy, and Air New Zealand to pay off some of the $71 billion debt that National has racked up since it came to office in 2008?!

Now Key is suggesting that National may use the proceeds to pay for roading? Strangely enough, Key makes no mention of selling state assets to fund infra-structure here.

The questions that spring to my mind are;

1. Where is the income from Road User charges, gst on fuel, and other roading-related taxes that we are paying every time we fill up our vehicles at the pumps???

2. Wouldn’t it make more sense to use the profits from Meridian Energy, Genesis Energy, Mighty River Power, coal miner Solid Energy, and Air New Zealand, for infra-structure spending – rather han the actual generators of those profits???

3. If National has to rely on asset sales for infra-structure spending – what will they be relying on once all state assets are privatised and we’ve lost the entire income-stream???

This is like a heroin addict selling his car to pay for his next ‘fix’. What will he sell next? And what will he do once all his possessions are gone?

It’s not exactly a “good look” when a government behaves like a drug addict.

As for the good people of Kapiti – they got the government they voted for. It’s hard for me to feel any sympathy on this issue. My thoughts are with the 140 people who lost their jobs at MAF today. Or the thousands of others who’ve been made redundant these last three years.

My anger is directed at those individuals who blame welfare beneficiaries for the predicament they are in. The finger-pointers who blame the poorest and most vulnerable for daring to be poor and vulnerable.

To the people of Kapiti; you helped elect this government to office. You now have a wee taste of what it feels like to be steam-rolled and to be victimised.

Remember this on 26 November.

How to kill your kids

24 August 2011 3 comments

Gosh, just what New Zealand needs; an instruction manual from religious nutters on how to beat your children to death. Because, as we all know, we don’t have enough beaten; raped; maimed; and murdered children in our society.

Just a reminder how “good” we are at beating our children to death, here.  But maybe ten children murdered each year, plus the hundreds more who suffer permanent injuries/maimings, aren’t enough? Because it seems that there are “helpful” individuals out there who are willing to put together a ‘manual’ on how we can do it more efficiently.

And if it’s based on the scribblings of a 2,000+ year old religious text – all the better. Personally, I’m waiting for a book on child-discipline according to the ancient Aztec  Sun God worship .

I wonder if the next child killer; standing in the dock on charges of murder; will hold up this book and use it as an excuse for his/her behaviour?

“God said I can beat my child!”

How many deranged serial killers have also claimed to hear God’s voice?

Fact File:

“Data sets for the years 1997 to 2001 from each country include all deaths and hospitalisations from assault. The results show that a child in New Zealand is almost three times more likely to die from assault than a child in Sweden.”

So do we really need this book? It seems we’re pretty good at it already.

MMP – the “Marketplace” of Politics…

… and offering the voters real choices, other than the gerrymandered riggings and back-room deals of First Past the Post and Supplementary Member.

The good folk of Epsom now have a wide range of candidates to choose from, this coming November.  Labour MP, David Parker, is experienced, articulate, and with a good common-sense attitude.

Spoilt for choice, Epsom folk?

Can David Parker win Epsom? Should he even try? What is the point of offering oneself in a safe National-seat that is as “blue ribbon” as one can find in this country?

I’m thinking that David Parker has a very simple plan: to Give It A Go.

New Zealanders love that  “give it a go” attitude. The same attitude that has seen various individuals achieve stuff that – on the face of it – was practically unheard off. Whether climbing a bloody big mountain and “knocking the bastard off”, or producing a few ‘splatter’ movies and eventually becoming one of the biggest Names in Hollywood (Miramar Branch) – these individuals just gave it a go.

Now it may be a long-shot that David Parker wins Epsom. That’s a bloody high mountain to climb in anyone’s books.

But Kiwis love the “battler”; the Little Guy Up Against It. Hence why “Goodbye Pork Pie” is one of our most endearing movies?

I think that’s the rationale for David P to try it on in Epsom. He may not get anywhere – but by the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I think he’ll earn bucketloads of respect from the local Epsomites. ‘Cos he Gave It A Go.

Who knows – he may even…

As for the Parker Game Plan – I’m picking he’ll opt for Deputy Leadership if/when the Labour leadership issue ever arises.

That was Then, this is Now #4

23 August 2011 1 comment

Source

Fiji coup condemned

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Previous Blog post

That was Then, this is Now #3

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That was Then, this is Now #3

23 August 2011 2 comments

Police-inspired craziness ends.

22 August 2011 1 comment

About time.

This case should never have proceeded as far as it did. The mis-use of police power in this matter has brought the entire Police Force into disrepute.

Thankfully, saner heads have prevailed.

More here, though I am not fully comfortable with the ex;planation given by Police in this matter. Their “explanation” appears to be more one of a face-saving excuse, rather than an impartial look at the events that transpired that night.

One question that is unanswered is why this matter has taken exactly six months to resolve. Surely this was not a complex issue at all and if a relatively simple case like this can take six months for the Police to come to a satisfactory conclusion – then there is something seriously wrong.

More.

Don – stop smoking that ‘Kronic’!!

Don Brash, Leader of ACT Party

Don Brash, on Q+A today (21 August),

“Nobody seriously believes that Governments run commercial business better than private owners do. There is no logic at all for Governments to continue to own them.”

Really, Don?

Let’s do a Fact Check on your claim that “nobody seriously believes that Governments run commercial business better than private owners do”.

Case # 1: Air New Zealand.

In April 1989 the airline was privatised by Roger Douglas with a sale to a consortium consisting of;  Brierley Investments Ltd(65%), Qantas (19.9%), Japan Air Lines Ltd (7.5%), and American Airlines Ltd (7.5%) .

The owners were a fairly high-powered, supposedly commercially-saavy, group of corporations.

Sources:

Treasury 1

Treasury 2

The sale went through, earning the State $660 million.

In 2000, Air New Zealand entered into a commercial deal to buy 100% Ansett Airlines, for  $A680 million, from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation Ltd. This deal went sour and Ansett Australia was placed into liquidation by September 2000.  Air New Zealand subsequently announced a $NZ1.425 billion operating loss .

By  October 2001, Air New Zealand was itself in imminent danger of collapsing and  was re-nationalised by the then Clark-led Labour government under a  NZ$885 million bail-out. The government ended up with a 76.5% stake.

So much for private ownership.

Case #2: NZ Rail

In September 1993, NZ Rail was privatised and sold for $400 million (less debt)  to a consortium consisting of Wisconsin Central (40%), Berkshire Partners III L.P. (20%), and Fay & Richwhite (40%). NZ rail then had a succession of owners, culminating in heavy losses, with a $346 million loss for the half-year ended December 2003.

In May 2008 the Labour Government agreed to buy Toll NZ Ltd (less its trucking and distribution operations) for $665 million.

This experiment in privatisation was also a spectacular failure. No private owner could make a profit, even with the government agreeing in  2003 to spend $200 million over the following five years, upgrading the track via the new SOE, Ontrack.

The rail network had been badly run down through lack of investment in new rolling stock and lack of basic maintenance. And one of it’s first private owners, David Richwhite were investigated late 2004, by the NZ Securities Commission, regarding alleged insider trading. In June 2007 Richwhite  agreed to pay NZ$20 million, but did not admit liability.

Another “Tui time” for private ownership of state assets.

Case #3: Finance Companies.

It might be worthwhile reminding Don that the recent chain of collapse of finance companies in this country cost investors  $6 – $8 billion dollars in losses . Many of these  are the real “Mums and Dads” investors that National speaks  lovingly when mooting asset sales.

So Don, spare us the rhetoric that “nobody seriously believes that Governments run commercial business better than private owners do”. Because as many will confirm – that’s bullshit.

The question I ask myself is; Don, do you really believe that fantasy or not. If you do, you are deluded. If you don’t, you are  deliberately mis-representing the truth.

Either way – not a good look, mate.

That was Then, this is Now #2

21 August 2011 2 comments

Wouldn’t it make more sense…

… if Peter Dunne just dropped the charade of being a separate Party and simply joined National?

This is really taking “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” to new heights of absurdity.

That was Then, this is Now #1

20 August 2011 5 comments

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Hey, People! Leave our kids alone!

18 August 2011 4 comments

It’s a crazy world we live in. And seemingly getting crazier each year.

From America, we had the dual inventions of television and fast-food. Used separately, in moderation, both are pleasant to have.

Put them together, though, and we have a guaranteed pathway to obesity.

Not content with keeping artery-clogging, weight-gaining fast-food to themselves, our American cuzzies were generous enough to share their KFC, McDonalds, Burger King, Dominos, etc with the rest of the world. “Share the love”, as they say.

And the calories that go with it.

Keep the kids in front of the TV – another “gift” from American culture – with cartoons and other children’s programmes, and advertisers have a ready-made audience to market toys, branded clothes and shoes… and more fast food. (Just in case the little Darlings didn’t get the ‘message’ first time around.)

Kids getting overweight?

Not a problem.

Because our American mates have the solution;

Yep – a diet guide for six year olds  “Maggie”, courtesy  of Hawaii-based author Paul Kramer. Because Mr Kramer is obviously so concerned about obesity in his country that he decided to do something about it.

Exercise? Less junk food? More healthy eating? Nope. No profit there, folks.

Diet book? Plenty of profit!! Especially aimed at young children who are getting more and more body-conscious thanks to adults like… Mr Kramer.

And once  little six year old ‘Maggie’  loses those “ugly kilos” (after buying his book, of course), we can enter her here;

Tart her up in sexy gear; teach her a raunchy little Las Vegas burlesque dance-routine; and she can be on her way to a career in…

modelling!

Just like ten year old Thylane Lena-Rose Blondeau,

Yes, folks; legitamised paedophilia! Never mind the Raincoat Brigade – that old “Stranger Danger” is so “20th Century“. The 21st Century does it with ‘style’ and with glamour, fame,  and big bucks in mind. There’s money to be made in six year old little ‘Maggie’ or ten year-old Thylane.

Next in line; sexy lingerie for children?!

And don’t let the critics interfere with the rights of parents to prostitute – er, I mean, to “let their kids have a good time”. These critics are just “wowsers, right? Why shouldn’t six and ten year olds do sexy little burlesque dances on stage? As the mother of six-year old Eden Wood said about her   daughter,

“If you see sex  when you look at my six year old child, that’s not her fault. It’s a sign  of somebody being sick in the mind’”

Yeah… riiiight, Ms Wood, just because you dress your daughter in sexually-provacative, adult-style clothing, and then make her do a “bump’n’grind” routine on a public stage – that makes it everyone elses’ fault when they are repulsed by the objectification of your own child.

You know people, Western society is highly sexualised as it is. Whether it’s advertising; movies; tv programmes; or music videos (which are practically soft-porn these days), society uses sex for everything. And then we scratch our heads in bewilderment that kids are more sexually aware these days and  teenage pregnancies have skyrocketed in the last few decades. Gee, you don’t think there might be a link?!

Now some groups in society are pushing at the last, previously off-limits, boundary: under age little girls.

They’ve sexualised and abused the bodies of mature women. Then teenagers. And now they’re after the bodies af girls 10 years old and younger.

We put people into prison for treating children this way.

But no longer. Because now there is  money to be made here, and for some parents, that makes it ok.

Money. It makes everything seem ok.

Including paedophilia, it seems.

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One of the US organisation responsible for these so-called “child beauty pageants” is called “Universal Royalty“. Their email address – in case readers would like to directly voice their concerns at the  activities of this group – is;

annette@universalroyalty.com

Rugby World Cup – Copy or Original?

Frankly Speaking” has looked into this matter, and we think that any difference between the original Rugby World Cup, and the facsimile, is so minimal as to be negligible. We certainly couldn’t detect any obvious difference.

Check the image below and give us your opinion which is the original Cup…

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3 things we will never see in our lifetime…

18 August 2011 3 comments

There are some things that are simply impossible, according to the laws of physics…

(Oh, ok, I was wrong about #1. It is possible for aliens to travel to Earth and land in front of the White House… )

A lethal lesson in de-regulation…

18 August 2011 1 comment

More here.

De-regulation and an open, unfettered economy was the big fashion in the late 1980s (“Rogernomics”) and 1990s (“Ruthenasia”). It was argued by neo-liberals; the wealthy; and by segments of wannabee-rich middle class, that de-regulation was the new paradigm that would create an efficient; highly productive; wealthy society.

We would become the “Ireland” of the South Pacific – and Ireland at the time was doing extremely well, economically.

So the National government of the day, led by Prime Minister Jim Bolger, and with Ruth Richardson as his Minister ofFinance, continued what a Labour cabal consisting of Roger Douglas, Richard Prebble, Peter Dunne, Michael Bassett, et al, had started: de-regulating the economy.

The new mantra was “De-regulation, good. Government regulation, bad”.

It was a childishly simplistic notion, and one that would cost us dearly in terms of vast sums of money; destroyed dreams; and lives lost.

The years passed. The 20th Century turned into the new 21st Century. The public became tired of National, and elected a new, Labour government, led by Helen Clark. Labour had a hard task of paying off a decade of accumulated debt and resolving deep social problems that were afflicting the country; growing poverty; high unemployment; increasing cases of poverty-related disease; lack of support for the country’s mentally ill;  a loss of state housing (National had sold off 13,000 state houses during it’s tenure); and other pressing matters.

There were also two silent time-bombs waiting in the shadows.

In the early 1990s, changes were made to the Building Act 1991/Building Regulations 1992  with several  subsequent amendments.

Effectively, these amendments de-regulated much of the industry, permitting untreated timber to be used where, previously, only treated varieties could be using for house construction. New materials could also be used that had not previously been common in residential building, including a newly fashionable “Meditteranean style”.

Similar de-regulatory events were to take place in Health & Safety, in 1992,  with regards to mining. In 1998 seven dedicated OSH mines inspectors were absorbed into OSH.  The disbanding of the mines inspectorate group, and moving its functions to the Department of Labour, had saved about $1 million. Health and safety (mines)  inspector, Michael Firmin,  was the sole inspector of mines left.

The bombs were set, and the fuses lit.

On 26 May 26 2001, the first “bomb” went off, with a NZ Herald article  revealing that a growing number of new or near-new houses were rotting because of lack of water-tightness.

On 19 November 2010, the second “bomb” went of at Pike River mine, as a methane explosion killed 29 mine-workers.

Investigation into both the “Leaky Homes Syndrome” and the Pike River disaster have one, inescapable common factor: regulations that were once in place, had been removed; altered; or watered-down. In both cases, de-regulation had meant a lack of direct responsibility for ensuring that whatever regulations did remain, were not observed.

Hopefully, New Zealand has learnt a harsh, expensive, and deadly lesson about de-regulation. Regulations are there for a reason. Like the road speed limit. We may not always like the nuisance that rules and regulations provide – but they exist for our safety and our financial security. (When the Huntly West mine blew up in 1992 there were no fatalites. (Former) Chief coal mine inspector Harry Bell had closed it down 36 hours before.)

If we give away regulation for expediency, or because it fits some trendy political free-market ideology – then be prepared  for the consequences. Because as sure as day follows night; there will be consequences.

One thing I have noticed about my generation, the “Baby Boomers”; we seem to be child-like in so many respects. We are  impatient – we want it now. Until the Cullen Fund – we didn’t want to save for our retirement (the Fund had to bribe us with a $1,000 kick-start from the government – ie, us, the taxpayer). We accepted tax-payer funded free education from our parents – only to abandon it and force User-Pays on our own children, through Student Fees. Charming.

We ignore complicated social issues – in favour of displaced penguins and “Wellywood” signs. We lose interest in matters that demand our long-term attention – a fact that politicians are aware of, and exploit to their benefit.

By god, we need to grow up. Because, collectively, we are still making incredibly bad or stupid decisions based on self-interest and short-term gain.

Our lack of collective wisdom; our inability to see things long-term; our willingness to accept short-term gain – and never mind the consequences – should give us cause for concern.

Unfortunately, I am pessimistic that we will “grow up” any time soon. In fact, I await the next silent “bomb” that is ticking away, somewhere, in the shadows. How much will it cost us? And will we pay dearly, in lives?

Postscript: following the global banking crisis, Ireland is now bankrupt and a fiscal basket-case needing bail-outs from the EU to survive.

From the Idiot Files…

17 August 2011 2 comments

The moron could have killed someone.  Jeezus wept…!

A warning from a very, very rich man…

17 August 2011 1 comment

Warren Buffet is  regarded as one of the most successful investors in the world.  He is  ranked among the world’s wealthiest people and was ranked as the world’s wealthiest person in 2008. He is the third wealthiest person in the world as of 2011.

He is not a disaffected socialist, nor  “random leftie” – he has serious money in his bank account(s). So when this guy warns us that the wealthy are not paying their way, and have been “coddled by billionaire-friendly governments” – you know he’s saying something important.

And that we should take note…

Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.

To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.

Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent.

The taxes I refer to here include only federal income tax, but you can be sure that any payroll tax for the 400 was inconsequential compared to income. In fact, 88 of the 400 in 2008 reported no wages at all, though every one of them reported capital gains. Some of my brethren may shun work but they all like to invest. (I can relate to that.)

I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.

Twelve members of Congress will soon take on the crucial job of rearranging our country’s finances. They’ve been instructed to devise a plan that reduces the 10-year deficit by at least $1.5 trillion. It’s vital, however, that they achieve far more than that. Americans are rapidly losing faith in the ability of Congress to deal with our country’s fiscal problems. Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness. That feeling can create its own reality.

Job one for the 12 is to pare down some future promises that even a rich America can’t fulfill. Big money must be saved here. The 12 should then turn to the issue of revenues. I would leave rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current 2-percentage-point reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax. This cut helps the poor and the middle class, who need every break they can get.

But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.

(Warren E. Buffett is the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway.)

Buffet’s analysis holds true for New Zealand as much as it does for his own country, the USA.

In April 2009 and October 2010, this government awarded the highest income earners and the wealthiest the most in tax-cuts.

At the same time, the top ten wealthiest people in NZ (and probably others  throughout the world also increased their wealth by 20 percent) – whilst the rest of the global economy was wracked by the worst recession since the 1930s, and millions lost their jobs.

The old excuse that the “wealthy work hard and should be rewarded for their labours” no longer deserves to be taken seriously.  Most of us work hard, and long hours.

It is time that governments stopped coddling the rich. It’s not like they can take their wealth off-planet to Mars or elsewhere. The rich will still invest their vast wealth.

But it’s time they paid their fair share as the price of living in societies that gave them the opportunities to create their wealth.

It’s high time National looked at a fairer taxation system, and paid for the social services and job creation-friendly policies, rather than the top 10% of  the population and middle-class rich-wannabees.

Otherwise, prepare yourselves for a society of growing inequality.

So far, the indicators are not good…

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Well, I think the ‘message’ is reasonably clear for all but the most ideologically-blind.  Question is – what are we going to do about it?

(Hint: more of the same will probably not work.)

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