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Finally – mainstream media is catching up…

9 November 2012 4 comments

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Full video

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In an extraordinary development, TV3 launched a full scale criticism of National’s failure to meet it’s Budget Day promise, last year, to create 170,000 new jobs.

Bill English at first tried to dismiss the horrendous rise in  unemployment (7.3%, from the previous 6.8%) as,

You could call it a blip. There are slow patches but we are on track for 2 to 3% growth.”

But he was eventually pressured to admit,

In the past two years, [there are] 26,000 people in new jobs, but in the last quarter no new jobs – which is why we want to crack on. We are behind the 170,000 track.”

Which  is as close as we will ever get to a National politician conceding that they and their neo-liberal, free market, hands-off, approach has failed.

Every other country on this planet is actively engaged in proactive management of their economies and social policies. Only New Zealand – ‘governed’ (and I use that term loosely) by  a Party that is slavishly pursuing a thirty year old dogma – is standing back as our economy goes down the proverbial toilet and will end up flushed out somewhere in the Cook Straight.

The economic realities;

  • Unemployment: up from 6.8% six months ago, to 7.3%
  • Export sector: in crisis as our over-valued dollar makes selling our products overseas barely worthwhile, losing profits and ending up with staff redundancies
  • A critical housing shortage
  • A growing poverty-wealth gap
  • and thousands more New Zealanders heading overseas

This is in stark contrast to John Key’s vision of the  ‘Bright New Future’ that he promised us last year, and the many fine-sounding speeches he made before that  in 2008 and since. Unfortunately the rhetoric doesn’t match National’s deeds or results – not by a long shot.

Faced with trenchant criticisms from all direction, English lamely replied,

We think we have the balance about right.”

God help us.

TV3’s handling of the story left the viewer in no doubt that National was being hauled over the coals. And with a critical analysis not seen for a long time during Dear Leader’s reign.

The steep rise in unemployment was the final signal that National has had an Epic Fail, and from now on it is “gloves off ” by the mainstream media.

As BERL’s economist, Ganesh Nana said bluntly,

You have a seven in front of unemployment, you have a five in front of dairy forecast payout, a zero in front of inflation and export growth – how many warning signs do you need on the dashboard until you do something different?

Without changes to our policy settings, the short term picture is not pretty, with our models projecting even further rises in jobless numbers.

Only a year ago, centre-left bloggers  had come to this same conclusion when,  after the last election, it quickly became apparent to the likes of Tumeke!, The Jackal, The Standard, Bowalley RoadWaitakere News The Dim Post, et al, that National was reliant on a failed neo-liberal agenda to ‘govern’.

National was not going to govern with pragmatic common sense – it was going to govern from an ideological stance, and nothing was going to change it’s direction.

Since last year’s election, New Zealand has been at undeclared war with it’s own “government”, as unpopular policy after unpopular policy was dumped on us.  Coupled to Key’s unhealthy, blind support for the corrupt Member for Epsom;  the lies that followed from both men;  and this was a “government” we were losing faith in.

TV3’s Duncan Garner simply repeated what bloggers and other commentators have been saying for the past year,

Key says now is not the time to change course. But economists are all largely saying the economy has gone into a fragile state.

[…]A change of course is urgently required if New Zealand is to avoid yet another damaging recession.

The Government was shell-shocked by yesterday’s numbers, but it’s praying with its fingers crossed that things come right.

It’s risky. The expensive tax cuts from three years ago have had little impact.

Christchurch needs to be rebuilt fast and Auckland has alarmingly softened, although its house prices haven’t.

That’s seriously concerning, especially when your second largest city is in rubble.

Forget gay red shirts, comments about ‘batsh*t’ and what Key knew or didn’t know about Dotcom.

This blows all that away in terms of importance. This is fundamental. This is the serious stuff.

It’s people’s lives, their jobs, their mortgages, their families, their hopes, their dreams and their security.

It’s the economy, stupid. It wins and loses elections.

The Prime Minister’s sole focus needs to be the economy.

If he can’t turn this around or halt the slide – National will likely lose the Treasury benches in 2014.”

See:  Opinion: Is our economy collapsing?

“Is our economy collapsing” askes Duncan Garner? The answer, Duncan, is yes; it is. You just needed to pay closer attention to what the rest of us were saying all along.

As for John Key – I suspect he’ll be avoiding other media from now on, and not just Radio New Zealand.

Dear Leader’s bunker awaits, as critics close in on him and his harried Party.

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Folic Acid vs Vitamin B9

2 September 2012 10 comments

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Folic Acid

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Definition

Folic acid is a water-soluable vitamin belonging to the B-complex group of vitamins. These vitamins help the body break down complex carbohydrates into simple sugars to be used for energy. Excess B vitamins are excreted from the body rather than stored for later use. This is why sufficient daily intake of folic acid is necessary.

Description

Folic acid is also known as folate, or folacin. It is one of the nutrients most often found to be deficient in the Western diet, and there is evidence that deficiency is a problem on a worldwide scale. Folic acid is found in leafy green vegetables, beans, peas and lentils, liver, beets, brussel sprouts, poultry, nutritional yeast, tuna, wheat germ, mushrooms, oranges, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, bananas, strawberries, and cantaloupes. In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required food manufacturers to add folic acid to enriched bread and grain products to boost intake and to help prevent neural tube defects (NTD).

Purpose

Folic acid works together with vitamin B12 and vitamin C to metabolize protein in the body. It is important for the formation of red and white blood cells. It is necessary for the proper differentiation and growth of cells and for the development of the fetus. It is also used to form the nucleic acid of DNA and RNA. It increases the appetite and stimulates the production of stomach acid for digestion and it aids in maintaining a healthy liver. A deficiency of folic acid may lead to anemia, in which there is decreased production of red blood cells. This reduces the amounts of oxygen and nutrients that are able to get to the tissues. Symptoms may include fatigue, reduced secretion of digestive acids, confusion, and forgetfulness. During pregnancy, a folic acid deficiency may lead to preeclampsia, premature birth, and increased bleeding after birth.
People who are at high risk of strokes and heart disease may greatly benefit by taking folic acid supplements. An elevated blood level of the amino acid homocysteine has been identified as a risk factor for some of these diseases. High levels of homocysteine have also been found to contribute to problems with osteoporosis. Folic acid, together with vitamins B6 and B12, helps break down homocysteine, and may help reverse the problems associated with elevated levels.
Pregnant women have an increased need for folic acid, both for themselves and their child. Folic acid is necessary for the proper growth and development of the fetus. Adequate intake of folic acid is vital for the prevention of several types of birth defects, particularly NTDs. The neural tube of the embryo develops into the brain, spinal cord, spinal column, and the skull. If this tube forms incompletely during the first few months of pregnancy a serious, and often fatal, defect results in spina bifida or anencephaly. Folic acid, taken from  one year to one month before conception through the first four months of pregnancy, can reduce the risk of NTDs by 50-70%.It also helps prevent a cleft lip and palate.
Research shows that folic acid can be used to successfully treat cervical dysplasia, a condition diagnosed by a Pap smear, of having abnormal cells in the cervix. This condition is considered to be a possible precursor to cervical cancer, and is diagnosed as an abnormal Pap smear. Daily consumption of 1,000 mcg of folic acid for three or more months has resulted in improved cervical cells upon repeat Pap smears.
Studies suggest that long-term use of folic acid supplements may also help prevent lung and colon cancer. Researchers have also found that alcoholics who have low folic acid levels face a greatly increased possibility of developing colon cancer.

Preparations

To correct a folic acid deficiency, supplements are taken in addition to food. Since the functioning of the B vitamins is interrelated, it is generally recommended that the appropriate dose of B-complex vitamins be taken in place of single B vitamin supplements. The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for folate is 400 mcg per day for adults, 600 mcg per day for pregnant women, and 500 mcg for nursing women. Medicinal dosages of up to 1,000-2,000 mcg per day may be prescribed.

Precautions

Folic acid is not stable. It is easily destroyed by exposure to light, air, water, and cooking. Therefore, the supplement should be stored in a dark container in a cold, dry place, such as a refrigerator. Many medications interfere with the body’s absorption and use of folic acid. This includes sulfa drugs, sleeping pills, estrogen, anti-convulsants, birth control pills, antacids, quinine, and some antibiotics. Using large amounts of folic acid (e.g., over 5,000 mcg per day) can mask a vitamin B12 deficiency and thereby risk of irreversible nerve damage.

Side effects

At levels of 5,000 mcg or less, folic acid is generally safe for use. Side effects are uncommon. However, large doses may cause nausea, decreased appetite, bloating, gas, decreased ability to concentrate, and insomnia. Large doses may also decrease the effects of phenytoin (Dilantin), a seizure medication.

Source:  The Free Dictionary

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Overdose risks

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The risk of toxicity from folic acid is low, because folate is a water-soluble vitamin and is regularly removed from the body through urine.

Source: Vitamins and minerals: efficacy and safety, U.S. National Library of Medicine

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Folic Acid. Folate. Vitamin B9. Vitamin Bc. Folacin. Pteroyl-L-glutamic acid.  Pteroyl-L-glutamate. Pteroylmonoglutamic acid. Take your pick.

All different names to one of many naturally occurring compounds which our (and other animals) bodies need to survive.

Before western society decided to process the hell out of our foods, we ingested Folic Acid/Vitamin B9 in vegetables such as spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, lettuce, cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, beans, peas,  lentils, bananas, oranges, peaches, Sunflower seeds, and meats such as liver and poultry, etc.

See:  Foods rich in folic acid and vitamin B12

So it’s not exactly some weird concoction, brewed up  by a mad scientist slaving over bubbling beakers and arcing electrodes in Victor von Frankenstein’s basement,

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When the issue first arose in 2009, the debate whether to add Folic Acid/Folate/Vitamin B9/Vitamin Bc/Folacin/Pteroyl-L-glutamic acid/Pteroyl-L-glutamate/Pteroylmonoglutamic acid to all breads,  was lost on Day One  when the vitamin was referred tro as “Folic Acid”.

This blogger will be the first to admit that  had never heard of “folic acid” or “folate”.

Folic acid… Sounded suspiciously like hydrochloric acid… sulphuric acid… hydroflouric acid…  Nasty chemicals which have no place in the human body.

Except that the unfortunately-sounding apellation – folic acid – had nothing to do with any of the above tissue-damaging chemicals above. Like ascorbic acid – aka, ascorbate or Vitamin C.

Like most  people, the substance was more recognisable with it’s more benign label; Vitamin B9. A quick googling soon informed me that folic acid = Vitamin B9.

*whew*

Panic over.

Visions of a nefarious government secret agency lacing our food with ACID were dispelled.

But… how many other people failed to make the connection? Most folk have only a basic understanding of  Nature and science. Fears arise easily – especially when things have gone terribly wrong in history…

Atomic power… asbestos… pesticides… thalidomide… chloroflurocarbons… human-produced atmospheric CO2… History is littered with triumphs of science and technology – only to learn later that there were unintended consequences.

Heck, the Ancient Romans used to store and  drink wine from urns made from lead. Wine is acidic… and it leeched lead from it’s vessels. The consequential lead poisoning must have been horrific.

The 21st century version of lead-poisoning in antiquity is plastic bottles containing BPA (bisphenol A) – which has been discovered to have nasty effects on the human body.

See: BPA Chemical Leaches From Hard Plastic Drinking Bottles Into The Body, Study

When humans are unfamiliar with something, they are naturally cautious and wary. (A survival trait, no doubt, when our ancestors had to cope with poisonous plants, big nasty  insects, hungry sabre-tooth tigers, and other perils of  Paleolithic Earth.)

The reality  of Vitamin B9 was  simple and straight forward; it was a natural compound that could reduce the incidence of Neural Tube Defects. But even that term – Neural Tube Defects – meant nothing to the average Bloke and Blokette.  It was a vague medical term that  99% of us had never heard before.

Another way to explain Neural Tube Defects is spina bifida (one form of NTD),

The human nervous system develops from a small, specialized plate of cells along the back of an embryo. Early in development, the edges of this plate begin to curl up toward each other, creating the neural tube—a narrow sheath that closes to form the brain and spinal cord of the embryo. As development progresses, the top of the tube becomes the brain and the remainder becomes the spinal cord. This process is usually complete by the 28th day of pregnancy. But if problems occur during this process, the result can be brain disorders called neural tube defects, including spina bifida…

… Spina bifida, which literally means “cleft spine,” is characterized by the incomplete development of the brain, spinal cord, and/or meninges (the protective covering around the brain and spinal cord). It is the most common neural tube defect in the United States – affecting 1,500 to 2,000 of the more than 4 million babies born in the country each year.

See: MedicineNet.com – Spina Bifida (Neural Tube Defect)

Whilst many with spina bifida can walk with assistance-devices, others will be confined to wheelchairs for their entire lives.

Many will have problems with urination, having to use plastic catheters inserted into their urethra/penis to urinate. Some will need hygiene pads to contain uncontrollably excreted faeces in their underwear. Others have other surgically-enhanced techniques for relieving themselves.

A number will require ongoing surgery to address complications caused by their condition,

Some children will need subsequent surgeries to manage problems with the feet, hips, or spine. Individuals with hydrocephalus generally will require additional surgeries to replace the shunt, which can be outgrown or become clogged.

Some individuals with spina bifida require assistive devices such as braces, crutches, or wheelchairs. The location of the malformation on the spine often indicates the type of assistive devices needed. Children with a defect high on the spine and more extensive paralysis will often require a wheelchair, while those with a defect lower on the spine may be able to use crutches, bladder catherizations, leg braces, or walkers.

Treatment for paralysis and bladder and bowel problems typically begins soon after birth, and may include special exercises for the legs and feet to help prepare the child for walking with braces or crutches when he or she is older.

See: How is spina bifida treated?

For people  with spina bifida, in wheelchairs, they will need ongoing assistance until their final day.  The way they overcome they restricted mobility and challenges  is nothing short of heroic.

There are many things they will struggle with, and many that will be beyond their abilities without varying degrees of assistance.

For  many of us, visiting a friend who happens to live a few dozen steps up from the road is something we do without much consideration. Not so for a person with spina bifida.

Imagine the degradation of being lifted up stairs to enter a building, and being carried up by others. (Not all buildings have electors or ramps, contrary to public perception – and 99.99% of private homes certainly do not have elevators.)

If you’re in a wheelchair, you will most likely never journey through New Zealand’s wilderness.

And going to a beach will most likely involve being carried bodily onto the sand. (Unless they can afford an expensive, specialised, wheelchair.)

A home for a person with spina bifida has be be totally adapted to his/her needs; wheelchair ramps (both front and rear door);  bathroom adapted to be a “wet area”; modified cabinets, benches, oven, sink, in kitchens; lowered light switches, etc.

The State has to provide ongoing assistance in many areas of a wheelchair bound person’s life and home.

Relationships can be more difficult to form, as many people do not see past a wheelchair or crutches.

I encourage an able-bodied person to try to spend 24 hours in a wheelchair. You probably wouldn’t  make it past 30  minutes.

I write this not for pity for people with spina bifida – they don’t need our pity – but for understanding that for every decision we make, there are consequences.

Not adding vitamin B9  to bread will have consequences; women giving birth to babies afflicted with spina bifida.

Critics of fortification use the cliche of  “mass medication” and insist that pregnant women take vitamin B9 supplements to assist their unborn child.

“Mass medication” is a mis-nomer. Vitamin B9 is not “medicine”. It is a natural occurring compound like Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, etc, etc, etc.

And if folic acid/vitamin B9/folate/whatever was so harmful – why are bottles of B9 supplements available in every single supermarket, chemists, health-food shop in New Zealand?

No one has ever suggested that adding Vitamin C to our fruit drinks is “mass medication” – it would be ridiculous to suggest so.

And by the time a woman discovers that she is pregnant, it may be too late to take Vitamin B9 supplements,

Folic acid, taken from  one year to one month before conceptionthrough the first four months of pregnancy, can reduce the risk of NTDs by 50-70%…”

Source:  The Free Dictionary

Where did the campaign, along with the “mass medication” meme, originate? Like many of these fear-campaigns, it’s a matter of ‘following the money‘,

The Bakers’ Association has labelled the compulsory introduction “mass medication” of the population, and warned that bread containing folic acid will be less safe than it is now. “

The Bakers’ Association “mass medication” rhetoric was followed by ex-National MP, and neo-liberal,  Katherine Rich, who was now leading the NZ Food and Grocery Council,

Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said there was no good reason to medicate an entire nation without clear benefits and known risks.

“They are embarking on a medical experiment of grand proportions,” she said. “If there are long-term effects and the Government is keen on adding folic acid, they should indemnify”.”

See: Bakers furious at ‘mass medication’ of NZ’s bread

See previous blogpost: Crony Watch!

The same Katherine Rich who opposed liquor controls for supermarkets and has been a staunch defender of  light-handed regulation of the alcohol industry.

See: Big Alcohol‘s Global Playbook: New markets, reduced regulation and lower taxes

Interesting how two separate business organisations were using similar fear-tactics; “mass medication” (Bakers’ Association) and “medical experiment” (NZ Food and Grocery Council ). And note that the NZ Herald in which those comments were reported is dated 17 May 2009 – one of the very first references to “mass medication”.

These fear tactics were unsupported by any hard facts, and relied on dubious “experts” and dodgy “science”. It was all very convenient for commercial interests that were more concerned at cost – than the health of this nation’s children.

Bomber Bradbury, from the ‘Tumeke’ blog summed it up nicely when he said,

” There was also a torrent of anger about ‘putting stuff in my food, personal choice blah blah blah’. I’m all for the heavy hand of Government regulation if it means avoiding 70+ children each year (abortions plus live births) being born with deformities. I don’t buy into the ‘personal choice’ stuff at all, we all concede certain choices to live together and if putting folic acid into bread reduces deformities, what’s the problem? The issue HAS to be based on the science, and right now there is science that suggests a connection with cancer – if that science is as weak as some have posted here, and is as weak as Gluckman thinks it is, then it should be a 6month review tops to explore that and make a call. Kicking for touch with a 3 year moratorium is weak by Key and means 200 kids + will be born with deformities in those 3 years.

The irony that many claimed this was the ‘nanny state putting medicine in my food’ misses the point that it will be the nanny state who will have to provide for the deformed children.”

See: Folic Acid U-turn wrong call

Bomber Bradbury has hit the nail on the head when he says,

The irony that many claimed this was the ‘nanny state putting medicine in my food’ misses the point that it will be the nanny state who will have to provide for the deformed children.

Bingo!

Profits from bread: privatised.

Massive financial costs of 20+ children born with spina bifida: socialised.

How many times have we heard that?!

Concerns over “increased cancer” fears were dispelled in a discussion on 8 July, on TVNZ’s Q+A, with Andrew Marshall from the Paediatric Society of NZ,

GREG BOYED

First and foremost, a couple of hundred more cases of cancer per year – what are your responses to that?

ANDREW MARSHALL

Completely false. If we look at the United States where they introduced mandatory fortification in ’98, there’s been a reduction in all cancers since that time. So it’s not true it will increase cancer. It reduces cancer overall.

GREG What are your thoughts on Dr Smith’s science, because, as he said, he’s done extensive studies on an extensive number of people.

ANDREW I’ve reviewed his studies. He is very selective in the studies he chooses. He talks about a meta-analysis of 38,000. There’s a different meta-analysis using a similar population – some of the studies overlap – of 35,000, which is much stronger. It shows no relationship with cancer, no increased risk, no statistical risk. So he’s selective in the studies he chooses, and he’s chosen a weaker study which showed a borderline. Even the writers of that study said there was no definite increase; it was borderline.

See: Q+A: Transcript of Andrew Marshall interview

On 2 September 2012, “Food Safety” Minister, Kate Wilkinson was interviewed on TVNZ’s Q+A. Greg Boyd asked why National had decided not to opt to add vitamin B9 to nearly all bread.  In a breath-taking example of ignoring real research and common sense, Wilkinson said,

The decision that was made was really based on consumer choice rather than the science, because, as you know with science, you can have scientists arguing black and scientists arguing white. At the end of the day, the consultation went out. The submissions were clearly in favour of voluntary, so people can make up their own mind whether they want folic acid in their bread or not. “

As Q+A producer, Tim Watkin,  said on the ‘Pundit’  blog,

So the baking industry won the day over the medical folk, not by the strength of their arguments or superiority of their science, but by the weight of numbers.

Bizarre.

We’re an anti-intellectual enough country at the best of times, but to be so cavalier about science is a terrible signal to send.

See: Q+A: Interview with Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson

For Wilkinson to state,

The decision that was made was really based on consumer choice rather than the science…

The clear message is that people want choice.”

… means we have abandoned common sense and policies made for social good,  and allowed commercial interests and the paranoia of a few individuals, to determine the health and safety of our children?!

One must also ask that if National was swayed by “the submissions were clearly in favour of voluntary” – why have they not taken heed of the vast number of submissions opposing state asset sales.

See: Hundreds beg committee to stop sale of state assets

Selective much?

Executive director, John Forman, from The Organisation for Rare Disorders was also  obviously disappointed by National’s decision,

“Up to 20 babies every year will die or be seriously disabled by neural tube defects (NTD) in New Zealand, thanks to the Government’s decision today to keep the fortification of bread voluntary.”

See: Folic acid to remain voluntary

Indeed, whilst we enjoy our “choice” – unborn children do not. Their future lives will be blighted by the choices that we adults have made for them.

Spooked by back-room dealings and manipulations by vested interests, we have allowed ourselves to be panicked and corralled like a bunch of sheep. The food industry maintains its profits by not having to pay for vitamin B9 to be added to bread, and National maintain’s it’s slavish adhrerence to the mantra of “personal choice”.

Another example of the Cult of the Individual, with it’s nasty, self-centered “Me First” attitude, and all it’s dreadful consequences.

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Additional

Bakers furious at ‘mass medication’ of NZ’s bread (May, 2009)

Q + A: Paul Holmes interviews Sue Kedgley and Kate Wilkinson about folic acid (July, 2009)

Minister sides with bakers on folic acid (July, 2009)

Will bill make food safer or be a form of control? (February, 2012)

Folate fortified bread back on table (May, 2012)

Australians beating us over meat labelling (May, 2012)

Folic acid to remain voluntary (August, 2012)

Q+A: Interview with Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson (September, 2012)

Previous blogposts

Crony Watch!

Other blogs

Tumeke: Folic Acid U-turn wrong call (July, 2009)

The Pundit: National’s folic tangle (July, 2009)

Corporations & Health Watch: Big Alcohol‘s Global Playbook: New markets, reduced regulation and lower taxes (December, 2011)

The Pundit: The folate debate – no easy choices (July, 2012)

The Pundit: Get foliced! Now science is just a ‘nice to have‘ (September, 2012)

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Tobacco Corporations are interested only in our “intulecktualul property rights” – agree/disagree?

28 August 2012 13 comments

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Some (most?) folk will have seen an advert currently running on television, featuring the above image.

It is part of a campaign by tobacco companies to oppose plain packaging here in New Zealand. In Australia, recently, a million-dollar law suit brought by tobacco companies against the Australian government was fought on this specific issue.

The tobacco companies lost.

See:  Tobacco packaging: cigarette companies lose Australian court case

This trans-Tasman conflict was viewed closely by National and it’s coalition-partner, the Maori Party. Especially by Associate Health Minister, Tariana Turia.

See: Tariana Turia welcomes Australian plain packaging decision

Plans for a similar law are being mooted here in New Zealand; to replace the glamourous, brightly-coloured cigarette packets with plain packages featuring mostly the usual ghastly images of cancer victims.

In response, British American Tobacco New Zealand, the biggest tobacco company in the country  launched a counter-campaign on 23 August, called Agree-Disagree.

Part of that campaign is a short, animated advertisement running at prime time on several (?) television networks. The campaign pushes the proposition that if a business creates “intellectual property” then it should be free to use it.

This blogger has seen the ad.

It’s rubbish.

If the aim of the campaign is to mobilise public opinion to log on to the Agree-Disagree website, then they pushing poo uphill with a garden fork. Ain’t gonna happen, sunshine.

This is the New Zealand public we’re talking about here. A million of my fellow Kiwi brothers and sisters couldn’t be stuffed voting at the next election. If  apathy had been a political party, it might’ve beaten National comfortably.

At the same time, we have pressing issues such as chronic alcohol abuse (which most of the country is in denial about); child abuse (except for a small group prone to moral panic attacks); child poverty; growing unemployment; a stagnant economy; blah, blah, f*****g  blah.

Unless it’s a stranded penguin or some big white letters on a cliff-face overlooking a Wellington suburb or some silly bint making unwise comments on a Facebook page about dead soldiers – the public is too ‘busy’ to care.  Hey, the latest episode of “The Block”, “The Voice”, “The Latest Really Exciting Cooking Show”, etc, etc, is on – and people are positively mesmerised by 21st century junk-TV.

By the time their particular favourite  Reality-show porn is over, folk will have forgotten that ad, plus fifty others that might’ve flashed across our screens during that time.

Thank you, Television, for turning our minds into short-term attention spanners.

Sorry… um, what was I writing about?

Either tobacco companies have wasted their hard-earned cash (derived from customers just dying to enjoy their products) on a disastrously mis-judged campaign – or this blogger is missing something.  If the public are not going to rear up on their collective hind legs in moral outrage that innocent drug peddlers tobacco giants are being treated unfairly – then what is the point of these adverts?

On another excellent blog – Tumeke – well-known left-wing commentator, Chris Trotter made this interesting comment,

The ads aren’t aimed at us, Bomber, they’re aimed at the newspaper publishers and broadcasting networks.

Add up the amount of money being spent – then look at the response from editors and columnists.

See how it works?

See: Dear Big Tobacco – why I refuse to agree to disagree

Well, that’s as valid as any interpretation, I guess.

Because otherwise, BAT has just wasted several hundreds of thousands (millions?)  of dollars on a campaign  that is futile and doomed  to be forgotten.

One final question to tobacco companies…

They make the point,

If I create it, I should own it.”

Can that same statement be applied to everything else that tobacco companies created?

Like the millions of cancer sufferers who are dying from use of their product?

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The Union Report – 4 June 2012 – Online now!

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The Union Report

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– 4 June 2012 –

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– Labour’s spokesperson on Labour Darien Fenton & Unite President Matt McCarten –

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Issue 1: With industrial action looming, has the Government’s bigger class room sizes been a failure?

Issue 2: In the battle of hearts and minds for the left – who is more of an ally to the Union movement? The Greens or Labour?

Issue 3: Are the jobless unprepared for the realities of the workforce?

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Acknowledgement (republished with kind permission)

Tumeke

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The Union Report – 28 May 2012 – Online now!

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The Union Report

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– 28 May 2012 –

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– Annie Newman & CTU Economist Dr Bill Rosenberg –

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Issue 1: How does a zero budget impact on workers and public servants.  Bill English claims we all liked it, really?

Issue 2: What will the living wage campaign do for social justice in NZ?

and Issue 3: How does Iwi involvement in the Affco industrial dispute change the wider dialogue for labour relations in NZ?

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Acknowledgement (republished with kind permission)

Tumeke

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Some thoughts on the anti-MMP campaign

15 December 2011 1 comment

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With the referendum come and gone, it’s worthwhile looking back at the anti-MMP clique,  the so-called “Vote for Change“.

As far as campaigns go, “Vote for Change” had to be one of the most amateurish in living memory.

First, it was uncovered that “Vote for Change” was to be organised by National and ACT apparatchiks. People like Simon Lusk, David Farrar, Cameron Slater, and Jordan Williams – all deeply connected or associated,  in one way or another, with right wing politics,

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Full Story

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If those revelations were deliberately “leaked” to the media for free publicity – it was not a “good look” to let the public know that “Vote for Change” was a front-organisation for National and ACT.

If that leak was not authorised, then someone in the “Vote for Change” camp was not happy. An unhappy camper was not a very auspicious start.

Then, it was discovered by another blogger, Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury, of “Tumeke”, that one of “Vote for Change’s” supporters was a white-supremacist who advocated nazi-style racial separation,

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Full Story

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Vote for Change” was quickly developing an image as an elitist club for assorted right wingers.

The only exception to “Vote for Change’s” roll call of conservative businesspeople; right wing politicians; and National/ACT activists was former Labour Party president and Waitakere mayor, Bob Harvey.

But he quickly realised the political bed-fellows he was associating with, and made his own call to quit,

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Full Story

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These were fatal blows to the anti-MMP lobby group. They never really recovered from these gaffes and the public perception was of a conservative organisation that was wanting to take New Zealand backward, to the days of single-party Parliamentary rule.

Even “Vote for Change’s” announcement on 29 October that their group had chosen SM (Supplementary Member) to promote as an alternative to MMP was seen by many as a return to FPP-by-the-back-door. It was another blow to their credibility; “Vote for Change” was not advocating change at all.

It was a strategic mistake for “Vote for Change” to promote SM. SM was the least known of all electoral systems, and in the 1992 referendum had polled the lowest at just over 5%.

If  “Vote for Change” had really wanted change – they should have chosen STV. But they did not – STV is also a proportional system and that is the last thing Williams, Lusk, Farrar, et al wanted for New Zealand.

It was blindingly obvious that their  agenda was to destroy any semblance of multi-party government and replace proportional representation with a system that would allow for single-party rule.

They were seeking absolute power for National.

Most people, I believe got this. Older, Baby Boomers, of a liberal persuasion, had unpleasant memories of the outrageous  abuses of power by Muldoon, Douglas, Bolger,  Richardson, et al.

Younger people who had no experience of FPP regimes most likely had no interest in a system that favoured only two parties and reduced their choices. (Neo-liberals, in this respect, had successfully socially re-engineered NZ society to prefer choice over a two-party, take-it-or-leave-it, offering.)

Aside from National Party supporters, New Zealanders did not want to take A Giant Leap Backwards.  “Vote for Change” offered nothing except an old, discredited electoral system, and fear-mongering,

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Source

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Using Winston Peters as a scare-mongering tactic was not just clumsy – but evidence that “Vote for Change” had no real intellectual rigour in promoting their cause. Demonising one man – as disliked as he might be by some voters – is not really a sensible reason to throw out MMP and turn our entire electoral system upside down, on it’s head.

This was the tactics of spoilt children who could give no other reason to cater to their whims except, “do it –  or else!”.

Not exactly a  convincing  argument.

But perhaps the best example of a *facepalm* situation was having National Party candidate, Simon Bridges (now MP),  on their website,

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Source

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Bridges was positively fuming when he complained,

It gets under my goat that list MPs are not subject to direct democracy.  They’re chosen by a small power elite in each party, so MMP has taken power off the voter.”

FYI: Simon Bridges was #30 on National’s  Party List. Had he not won the electorate of  Tauranga, he would have returned to Parliament as a Party List MP.

That would’ve been interesting.

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Additional

Pundit: I’ve just been internalising a really complicated situation in my head

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State Media Bans Dissident!

10 October 2011 13 comments


Left-wing critic; blogger; and media commentator, Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury, 36,  is a semi-regular guest on Radio New Zealand’s “Afternoons with Jim Mora”  Panel – a segment hosted between 4pm to 5pm, each weekday. “Bomber” Bradbury  is invited to participate once a month or thereabouts.

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During the course of this hour, the host – Jim Mora – features topics of interest and often contains a degree of controversy.  Panellists range in political belief from the right wing such as Mathew Hooton and David Farrar, to the left, such as Martyn Bradbury and Dr Brian Edwards.

During this hour, Jim Mora always asks panellists, “What’s been on your mind?”. His guests are invited to share any pressing particular issue that they might feel merits consideration. It can literally be on any issue dear to each Guest.

On 5 October, a 54 year old man sitting in the public gallery at Parliament attempted to jump over the Public Gallery balustrade and into the debating chamber. He was restrained by members of the public and security guards, before the man could complete his jump, thereby averting serious injury to himself and to anyone below him. More here.

During this incident, the Prime Minister was heard making several comments directed at the Labour Party MPs seated across the Debating Chamber from him.

He was also seen to make a peculiar motion across his throat, which has been described by many as a “throat slitting gesture”,

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[Click image for video]

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By coincidence, “Bomber” Bradbury was scheduled to be a guest panellist on Jim Mora’s show the following day. When asked “What’s been on your mind?” by Jim Mora, “Bomber” gave his critical opinion of John Key’s (alleged) “throat slitting gesture”.

The 4pm-5pm Panellist comments are normally presented on RNZ’s websites in two parts, split in two to account for the 4.30pm News Update.

As an example, note the  “Audio from Wednesday 5 October 2011”. Click here for webpage.

However, the “Audio from Thursday 6 October 2011” contains only Part 1. Part 2 has been removed. Click here for webpage.

However, “Bombers” comments were discussed on Mediawatch for 9 October. (Relevant commentary begins at 26.05)

Bradbury’s comments are highly critical of the Prime Minister’s actions on the day of the “Balcony Jumper”, and describes Key in unflattering terms.

So because Bradbury has criticised John Key’s actions,  CEO Peter Cavanaugh has banned him from participating in Radio NZ again, and has removed Part Two of the Panellists Hour.

Martyn Bradbury explains the situation here.

If this doesn’t smack of Big Brother, then what does? In effect, Cavanaugh accepts right wing critical comments – often directed at the Greens or the Labour Party – but balks at criticism of the Prime Minister?!

Since when has it been a bannable offense to criticise the Prime Minister?

If you find Peter Cavanaugh’s actions reprehensible, then here are the appropriate email addresses to write to:

Peter Cavanagh <rnz@radionz.co.nz>

feedback@radionz.co.nz

RNZ’s Facebook page:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/RadioNewZealand

Other email addresses that might be useful:

Jim Mora <afternoons@radionz.co.nz>

The Press <letters@press.co.nz>

Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>

Sunday Star Times <letters@star-times.co.nz>

The Listener <letters@listener.co.nz>

NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>

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Boycott!

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Email!

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Make Noise!

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An attack on one is an attack on all.

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Email correspondence on this issue

On Monday, soon after learning of Radio NZ’s bizarre decision to “Ban the ‘Bomber’ B”, I fired of three emails to various email addresses for the SOE. This is the one email I recieved a response to,

from:    [email]
to:    feedback@radionz.co.nz
date:    Mon, Oct 10, 2011 at 2:35 PM
subject:    Recent Events…

Sir/Madam,

Your recent banning of Martyn Bradbury reeks of  muzzling freedom of expression.  Will you also be banning right wing commentators David Farrar and Mathew Hooten? I heard Bradbury’s so-called “offending comments”  and found nothing offensive or defamatory amongst them.

I sincerely hope that saner heads prevail at RNZ and this crazy decision is rescinded. Or have we reached a stage here in NZ that criticising the Dear Leader (formerly known as the Prime Minister) is no longer permitted?

Shame on you, RNZ – you are capable of much more than this kind of pettiness.

-Frank Macskasy

Today (Tuesday, 11 October), I received this response, from their Communications Manager, John Barr,

from:    Feedback feedback@radionz.co.nz
to:    [email]
date:    Tue, Oct 11, 2011 at 1:40 PM
subject:    RE: Recent Events…

Hi Frank,

Thanks for taking the time to contact Radio New Zealand. We appreciate feedback from our regular listeners and I can assure you that your comments about Martyn Bradbury have been noted and passed on to the relevant people at Radio New Zealand National.

Radio New Zealand has monitored and noted the on-line, email, and blog discussions over recent days relating to The Panel and Martyn Bradbury’s performance last week. There are several points that need to be made.  

Mr Bradbury has not been banned from Radio New Zealand. He was told that his invitation to appear as a future panellist on Afternoons had been withdrawn but there was no suggestion that it applied to other programmes.  

Radio New Zealand received many complaints from listeners regarding Mr. Bradbury’s comments on The Panel during Afternoons with Jim Mora last Thursday.

The decision to withdraw Mr. Bradbury’s invitation to take part in future editions of The Panel was made by the programme’s Executive Producer immediately after the programme.  That decision was supported by the senior manager responsible for the programme and subsequently by the Chief Executive and Editor-in-Chief.   

Mr. Bradbury’s invitation to participate on The Panel was withdrawn because his personal comments about the Prime Minister were deemed to be in breach of Radio New Zealand’s editorial requirements for fairness and balance.  One of his comments was regarded as being potentially defamatory. The segment in question was removed from the Radio New Zealand website because it was considered to be potentially defamatory and Radio New Zealand has a duty to protect the organization against defamation proceedings.

Participants on The Panel on Afternoons with Jim Mora are given plenty of latitude to express personal opinions but it is expected that these will be presented for engagement and discussion and that panellists will conform to Radio New Zealand’s editorial policies and broadcast standards.   A relationship of trust and confidence between the programme presenter, producers, and panellists is essential for the programme to be effective.

Mr Bradbury’s comments on The Panel on Afternoons last Thursday were inconsistent with information he had provided to programme producers before going on air and Mr Bradbury later apologised to the programme’s Executive Producer.

It was made clear to him that while his invitation to appear as an occasional guest on The Panel was being withdrawn, it was not a ‘lifelong ban’.

I hope this information clarifies some of the issues that have been raised over the last few days.

Thanks again for your email.

John Barr
Communications Manager

This is a Standard Response, sent to several people who have also taken time to voice their concerns to Radio NZ. It is also – according to ‘Bomber’ Bradbury, more or less  utter BS. (Read ‘Bomber’s’ response here.)

It astounds me that someone of Mr Barr’s education (I assume) could think to send out such comments and not realise that with the internet, his claims could be dissected and countered as rapidly as it takes to write a response and post it on-line. It makes Radio NZ appear to be panicking and desperate as they try to cover their arses.

Obviously government funding cut-backs have impacted severely on the quality of Radio NZ’s  PR department.

Perhaps the strangest of Mr Barr’s comments was this,

“Mr. Bradbury’s invitation to participate on The Panel was withdrawn because his personal comments about the Prime Minister were deemed to be in breach of Radio New Zealand’s editorial requirements for fairness and balance.”

That is absurd rubbish. There is no such requirement for Guest political commentators to be “fair and balanced” – just as there is no requirement for politicians guesting on Radio NZ to be “fair and balanced”. Can you imagine this scene taking place in Radio NZ’s studio,

Host: “Welcome, Mr Prime Minister.”

John Key: “You’re welcome, it’s good to be here.” [smiles on-microphone]

Host: “Now before we begin, Mr Prime Minister, I just have to remind you that you have to be fair and balanced in what you say today. That means explaining Labour’s taxation and welfare policies, in an unbiased, non-partisan way.

John Key: “Sure. No problem” [waves to studio technicians]

Host: “So can you tell the listeners, Mr Prime Minister, which taxation policy is the fairest for all New Zealanders, and not just the top ten percent?”

John Key: “No problem. Obviously Labour’s taxation policies are vastly fairer in that their system is progressive, and their Capital Gain Tax captures those who up till now have escaped paying their fair share. By contrast, my government’s policies have impacted unfairly on the poorest in our society, and our opposition to  a Capital Gains Tax simply perpetuates inequities.” [smiles and waves at people outside studio, looking in]

Ridiculous, eh?

It is not up to invited guests to be “fair and balanced”. Guests present their own individual, particular, viewpoints.

Instead, it is Radio NZ’s responsibility to invite guests from various, differing, viewpoints.  This, then presents a “fair and balanced” debate.

No doubt Mr Barr and Radio NZ’s hierarchy is well aware of this salient point.  I am guessing that Radio NZ’s management have simply hoped that the public are thick enough to swallow their line that  “guests have to be fair and balanced”.

Do they really think so poorly of their listening audience?

It’s definitely “Amateur Hour” at Radio NZ at the moment.

Postscript: Tuesday

Right-wing blogger and National Party activist, David Farrar, was today one of the two guests on Jim Mora’s  Panel today (11 October).

Was Farrar instructed that he was “required to be  fair and balanced” in his comments?

I truly suspect he was not.

Postscript: Wednesday

Received today, a second response from Radio NZ. This time from the Chief Executive and Editor-in-Chief, Peter Cavanagh,

from:    Peter Cavanagh Peter.Cavanagh@radionz.co.nz
to:         [email]
date:    Wed, Oct 12, 2011 at 11:08 AM
subject:    RE: Recent events

Dear Mr. Macskasy,

Thank you for your recent email.

I understand that you also contacted other staff at Radio New Zealand and have subsequently received a detailed response from our Communications Manager, John Barr.

I hope this information has clarified the issues raised.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Cavanagh
Chief Executive and Editor-in-Chief

Has  John Barr’s “detailed response” to me “clarified the issues”?

No, Mr Cavanagh, it has not.

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Related Blog Stories

Defusing The Bomber
– Chris Trotter, Bowalley Road.blogspot.com

Banned from Radio NZ for criticizing the Government
– Martyn ‘Bomber’ Bradbury, Tumeke

Radio New Zealand needs to clarify position on Bomber ban
– Phoebe Fletcher, Tumeke

Dropping the Bomber
– Russell Brown, Publicaddress.net

On RNZ’s banning of Bomber Bradbury
– Gordonb Campbell, gordoncampbell.scoop.co.nz

Censoring criticism of Key
– Anthony R0bins, The Standard

Let the courts decide
– the sprout, The Standard

Bomber Bradbury – a gutless reaction by Radio New Zealand that smacks of political hypersensitivity.
– brianedwardsmedia.co.nz

You have the right to free speech as long as you’re not dumb enough to actually try it
– Andrew Geddis, Pundit

And from the “Champions of Free Speech” *cough*

Radio NZ and Bradbury
– David Farrar, Kiwiblog

On The Bradbury Ban
– imperatorfish.com

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