Hard News by Russell Brown


My man Zach has kindly excerpted the two main interviews from yesterday's 95bFM Wire show: the first is with the author of the Weekend Herald's expat stories, Simon Collins, who had some interesting things to say - not least in noting that the proportion of GDP going to wages in New Zealand has fallen from 55% to 43%.

I won't have time to digest and compile the nearly 100 emails I've received on this topic, but I should be able to post something tomorrow, so it can stay up for the weekend. It might take that long to read anyway.

In the interim, several people had views on the worth of the Mercer quality of life survey. Someone working at the Auckland Regional Council said:

Here at the ARC we use it as one of our SPI's - strategic performance indicators. A few years ago I had a look at the methodologies behind it, and its pretty ropey. Schools are measured by how many private schools there are in AK, Security is about how many wars etc. Basically it's for extremely rich businessmen, who live in gated mansions in Remuera. I have serious concerns that my organisation is using it as its main judge of how well Auckland is going, and also at how many column inches it gets.

Roger, meanwhile, "did the obvious" and combined Mercer's two indices - quality of living and cost of living - to produce a "bang for buck" ranking. His possibly unscientific Top 10 is:

1. Ottawa (164.5)
2. Calgary (154.5)
3. Montreal (153.6)
4. Vancouver (152.3)
5. Portland (147.0)
6. Perth (145.7)
7. Toronto (144.2)
8. Wellington (142.2)
9. Adelaide (141.7)
10. Auckland (141.5)

Interestingly, the European cities drop out of the Top 10 and Sydney doesn't even make the Top 20.

There was also further comment on this week's Listener cover story. Bennie said:

When I read stats like these I always wish there were classes of child porn, like with drugs. So you could tell the age difference between the porn viewer and the "child". I mean, a 17 year old looking at a naked 17 year old, is that really so shocking?

To be fair, anyone prosecuted by DIA will have been handling the nastiest illegal material. I think their priorities have always been pretty sound. But Joe Boden was concerned about the blurring of the lines.

I haven't read the Listener article on porn and kids, but the tone of the Listener's response to you (and the tone of a number of recent articles in the Press here in Ch-Ch) is a bit troubling. What I'm referring to specifically is the blurring of the line between 'porn' and 'child porn' by reporters and editors. The words are often used interchangeably, when I think it's safe to say we're talking about different things (although the first may blur into the second - old Traci Lords videos and ads for 'teens' being relevant here). The result of this is that a lot of people engaged in a perfectly legal (here in NZ) activity involving consenting adults are tarred with the same brush as those involved in the sexual exploitation of children.

Lucy Van Hout found it:

… amazing that New Zealand and America seem intent on babyising their children. At 15 - 19 a boy/girl is not a child. They can & do have sex and they do look at porn. This was the age we were all looking at playboy and hustler. The medium and intensity has changed but the curosity has not. Same with drink and drugs rites of passage and all that shit! They either turn into ok adults or not.

Sam Finnemore endorsed some of the Listener story's concerns:

I was interested to see that the current Listener story on the Internet and kids mentions the possibly risky capabilities of new-generation 3G cellphones. They're valid concerns, especially when you consider the new kid-friendly marketing slant a certain NZ telco is using to promote 3G technology - thus, we'll soon witness pester power winning cellphones for the youngest market demographic yet. Such commercial targeting of kids deserves closer attention, especially when other more sinister forms of exploitation might follow in its wake. Just a thought.

There was an interesting column in the New Statesman recently, looking at the idea that the ubiquity and extremity of Internet porn is pushing young adults into things they might not really want to do, and included this paragraph:

A 17-year-old - a product of the age - suggested one way to halt this. "Young men need to be taught from adolescence to be porn-savvy. Everybody knows from the time they're a child to be sceptical of the claims of advertising, but young lads don't know to be sceptical about the claims involved in porn. My first experience of women in a sexual context was seeing them on websites as cum-hungry bitches. I guess I started looking at it when I was 11 or 12, and it led me to make some terrible mistakes, approaching girls and expecting them to be into anything and everything. The sex education we got was like something from another age. We were told in class what a vulva was when I was 14, but by that time I had been inspecting them in detail on my computer screen for years, and so had every other lad in the room. I knew what they looked like; what I didn't know was that there was such a huge emotional gap between porn and reality. That's what they need to teach."

The writer, Johann Hari, worries that if the issue stays off the radar, "one of the features of this new age - in addition to the welcome growth in sexual openness - be a terrible wave of increased sexual assaults."

Yet the reality on the ground - in New Zealand anyway - is that the rate of sexual offending falls every year. It is much lower than it was when there was less porn around. Go figure. Anyway, I agree to some extent with the proposition in the Listener story that some sexual practices previously considered bizarre may become normalised, but I really don't think paedophilia will be among them. On the other hand, the major phenomenon in Internet porn is probably amateur and self-made porn: and it's hard to see, say something like I Shot Myself as exploitative, especially when the participants see themselves as "artists". And, frankly, if a 20 year-old college student runs a webcam peepshow for fun and profit, that's an adult choice. The problem is maintaining the boundaries of childhood.

Ben Thomas of Dog Biting Men has a thorough post on the highly unusual decision to charge Tim Selwyn with sedition after his attack on the front window of the Prime Minister's electorate office - which he suspects has been followed up with the arrest of a man who protested against Prince Charles' visit, on suspicion of - again - sedition.

I think Selwyn's a clown and an attention-seeker, and I suspect his motives as much as I'd suspect those of any pakeha who ended a protest note with "Ake! Ake! Ake!". But I can't see any reason that the charge of sedition should have been revived after 80 years of disuse to deal with his case.

The other audio interview from yesterday is with Chris O'Connell of Radar Guidance, on the issue of Telecom and Telstra Clear de-peering; or, to put it bluntly, breaking the local Internet to serve their own commercial interests. (I can't really be bothered even trying to be impartial on this one.) There are some very interesting developments pending on the issue, so I'll keep you posted.