The Aotearoa Gambit

St Johns ambulance and first aid was immediately in the thick of it in Christchurch and continue to play an essential part in the slow recovery.

Here’s a neat way to help them: The Aotearoa Gambit a brand new adventure for tabletop superhero RPG ICONS, with all revenue going to St John NZ.

Once again Gareth at Adamant was at the heart of the project – this was his idea, and he’s pledged all proceeds from this product in perpetuity to St John. Local legend Dale Elvy wrote it, I did some stat work, and expat Kiwi Cam Banks edited. Non-Kiwi but fine chap ICONS line artist Dan Houser made some incredible illustrations in record time.

And it may well be the weirdest fundraiser St John ever had. Fight a Moeraki boulder! See Christchurch’s famous wizard fight crime! Interfere in the filming of a certain fantasy epic involving short hairy-footed folk!

It’s a great evening’s worth of RPG fun, and for a good cause. And it’s yours for only $1.99 US! You know what to do!

Brian Drain

John Key was on the telly defending his tax cuts etc and I perked up when John Campbell cited back Key’s argument that we have to sort out our economy or more bright young Kiwis will go overseas.

This is the fabled Brain Drain that has been bubbling along in NZ political discourse for, I dunno, fifteen years? It has a long and contentious history in other parts of the world too. The basic idea is that valuable people take off for other places because their prospects are better there.

It is often used to justify tax cuts. Because desire for a lesser tax burden is a major driver of emigration. (No it isn’t.) Job opportunities, however, definitely drive emigration, always have, and it’s no secret that NZ doesn’t offer the wide range of high-skill, high-paying jobs that you can find in major global cities like London and New York. Heck, even Melbourne takes us to the cleaners in terms of high-end job opportunities.

I’ve finally put my finger on why I don’t care about the brain drain.

It’s because I live in a semi-diaspora. I’m a Kiwi, and I have a strong identification with this island nation, and I know people who identify in the same way and who live all over the planet. This is the underlying theme of Saatchi’s NZ Edge initiative – we’re everywhere.

So what is lost when our best and brightest go overseas? Well, their economic productivity is no longer contributing to NZ’s national balance sheet. And… that’s it, right? That’s not an insignificant concern, but you know, I value our transnational identity far more than that. And not in a purely symbolic way, either; it’s obvious that the Kiwi semi-diaspora delivers significant economic benefits to NZ, and I think those benefits are likely to cover a bunch of what we’ve “lost”.

As long as NZ continues to be a functional economic unit in this increasingly globalised world, then let our best and brightest go out into the world. This nation will never be able to provide equivalent opportunities here; it’s madness to think we could. We’re a small nation and we should focus on doing what we do best, and let the rest of the world work its charms.

Because if we’re doing it right then we’ll get high-value smart people working in this country anyway (e.g. in our film industry).

And if we’re making NZ a great place to live then those diaspora Kiwis will often find their way home.

Because there’s more to life than tax rates and income. I’d guess that every Kiwi I know could earn more money in some other country.

I guess we like it here.

Mining Backdown

To the tune of “The Final Countdown”: it’s a mi-ning back-down… dada daa daa… dada da da da…

The government has abandoned plans to mine in highest-value conservation areas. Needless to say, this is a good thing, and stems directly from the massive public outcry.

As far as handling the backdown goes, the Nats are basically in denial mode. There are two lines you’ll hear in the official comments: “aren’t we great for being democratic?” and also “it was a worthwhile exercise because we’ve educated people about the natural resources available in this country”. (That’s if you even manage to hear them – National Radio this morning said they’d tried to get the PM to comment, but he’d declined saying only Gerry Brownlee would talk to this issue, and Brownlee’s office declined to speak as he’d already said enough on this matter. He didn’t even last out the 24-hour news cycle, poor dear.)

Both those official spin lines are weak to the point of comedy, and they suggest to me that the Nats, as previously speculated, are massively out of touch with our national identity. Moreover, the over-disciplined, almost paranoid and belated backdown suggests they still can’t quite believe it. I should clarify – I don’t think they’re amazed they got it wrong – I think they’re amazed that the electorate is so stupid that it can’t see they got it right!

But it was always about ideology, not facts. Brownlee never showed any convincing numbers about the simple value of this mining, let alone numbers that would somehow make despoiling prime conservation land all right. As much as the Nats would love for us to become Australia, we can’t give ourselves massive mineral reserves by wishful thinking. NZ’s valuable natural resources are its natural environments (both for tourism and for the “NZ brand” which has enormous value in the export market and on the global political stage) and its ecological security (which will see us ride out the water wars and food distribution breakdowns that will be the main story of the 21st century). I am unconvinced that there’s a single person in the National government who really understands how valuable these things are and how much better off we are than Oz.

Anyway. The Nats will continue with their plans to mine conservation land that isn’t high-value – the Labour government was happy to do the same, and I doubt the electorate is going to mobilise to stop them. The polls for the Nats haven’t shifted throughout this affair, so I doubt it’s even going to cost them much at the next election, unless opposition parties can effectively make this a campaign issue – and whether they can do that depends on what happens in the next few weeks. If Labour, in particular, doesn’t land some solid hits about this in the next fortnight, then it’ll be forgotten by voting time.

Move along

Nothing to see here, just trying some stuff out.

This is the Asian Association of Social Psychologists.

The url is

Some of these people are my friends, but that’s not important right now. What matters is, I need to try some stuff in relation to their site, and I need an external link to play with. So this is that external link.

Seriously, carry on. This is boring work stuff. Apologies for the interruption to your day.

Sing This Song Linky

Comic Sans defends itself.

Ten minutes of Arnie quips:

Smarthistory, a very neat interactive textbook thingamy on the subject of art history. Inspirational.

Via the Grauniad, a handy Kiwi-friendly world cup wallchart, explaining what this game that doesn’t involve an oval ball is all about. Amusingly out of date – the NZ score for each game was pre-filled as 0.

A family photograph themselves over 30 years.

Via Evie, giant packing-tape cobwebs.

The cliffhanger ending of the cancelled Little Orphan Annie newspaper strip. It is waaaay crazier than you will expect.

Former host of From The Morgue, David Ritchie, talks up phones-as-platform and related stuff, in this short presentation from the last Ignite Wellington session. Isn’t he a dapper chap?

Via hottieperm, and somewhere else I can’t remember, Bad Postcards

The worst book covers in Scif-Fi and Fantasy

And finally… a music video that you will never forget: Cathy Don’t Go

(Once again via Dangerous Minds. Sooo much good stuff there.)

Paula Bennett raaagh

Watched some of the “hard-hitting” “political news” show Q+A yesterday morning, in which Minister Paula Bennett defended the changes to the welfare system that were announced out of Cabinet last week. (Full transcription of interview on Scoop.)

Part of these changes were introducing work tests to those on a sickness benefit to get them into part-time work. Although this policy was opposed by that renowned left-wing champion of dole-bludgers, the Treasury [Er, is that right? – ed] , Bennett was keen to give it a spirited defense. The spin she was instructed to deploy was plain to see:

“Let’s also deal with the fact which says that people, with low level depression and low level illness are often better off in work, and it’s actually a road to recovery for them, it actually helps them get better. So it’s not actually all penalties, this is actually what I believe is helping people get well and actually work is a big part of that.”

“Look I think that actually those on the sickness benefit will be better off in work…”

“Yeah and many of them won’t be [on the minimum wage]. You’re actually I think underselling them, and I think they’ve got something to contribute, both for themselves and for the economy, and I’m going to back them to do it.”

“I believe there’s people that could be getting well faster and we could be helping them to get back into work quicker.”

I find it hard to imagine a more shameless and contrived policy defense: welfare cuts as therapeutic technique.

Related: Keith Ng’s advice on setting policy, with reference to the mining of conservation areas. “4) If the person gives you a report with NEW ZEALAND MINERAL INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION written on the front, BEWARE! Although they both have “New Zealand” in their names, the New Zealand Minerals Industry Association is not the same thing as the NEW ZEALAND GOVERNMENT.

Key might go

The poll I linkied yesterday is gone to wherever those polls go (I guess they just get deleted, nice on but TV3 at least is reporting that Key might go after all:

“There’s a case that might be able to be put up that is if it looks like a deal is going to be concluded,” he says, “then obviously I might need to react to that and get on a plane.”

That’s our master statesman at work. Still, as I’ve written before, I think it’s very important to get as many top nobs in the same room as possible for Copenhagen. The climate change problem needs to be addressed through the nation-state (that is why the I in IPCC stands for Intergovernmental) and that makes John Key a player, our % contribution to the overall problem notwithstanding.
I hope the reportage is accurate, and the campaign that I talked about before has achieved an unexpected success. Go John Go!
(Hey, just checked that link, and the image of Reptilicus is gone from Photobucket! I’ll go add in a different Reptilicus photo. Go Reptilicus!)