Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Conversation Starters

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  • giovanni tiso,

    You're clearly not an anarchist, but why the disdain for people who hold a different political/economic view?

    Some of my, erm, best friends are anarchists, and they seem to struggle with the same contradictions as the rest of us. Narcissism and self-righteousness are hardly the sole domain of political radicals.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Litterick,

    Didn't National just pass a law so that they could set standards and force schools to provide quality feedback on individual performance?'.

    I note the Smiley, so don't accuse me of Irony Deficiency, but Hattie was talking about a different kind of feedback, the kind where teachers talk to students. The feedback which National is implementing is about League Tables and the Three Arse. This sort of feedback just gets in the way of Education.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1000 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    On a different topic, I'm a little confused about your utterly random 'facebook' crack about anarchists, both here and in the comments at The Standard.

    I find the arrogance, and breathless eagerness to declare enemies, of self-professed anarchists and anti-capitalists a bit wearying, frankly.

    I was referring to the part of the linked article from the Economist about people organising and posting trophy videos on Facebook and, more so, that monument to corporate wish-fufillment, Second Life. I just found it a bit ironic that people who are all about smashing capitalism and ending authority rely on publicly-listed companies.

    Seriously, when we've done away with capitalism, who runs global telecommunications?

    What's going on Russell? You're clearly not an anarchist, but why the disdain for people who hold a different political/economic view?

    Seriously? A droll one-liner in response to someone holding forth with grand rhetoric makes me some kind of political brute? I think you need to lighten up a bit, Nick.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Eddie Clark,

    Seriously, when we've done away with capitalism, who runs global telecommunications?

    Russell, haven't you read your Neal Stephenson? We set up a data haven on some remote island, possibly Sealand, and then everything becomes a magical digital utopia. With a hilariously lame recreation of the Black Sun in second life. Duh, its that simple...

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 273 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Litterick,

    And we will all live in villages, where all decisions are made collectively. It will be a post-industrial paradise. But we will still have Internet, and dentistry.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1000 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    And hit parents/friends/acquaintances with the $2k fines that the law provides for supply to minors.

    That's an interesting theory, but parents are allowed to provide alcohol to their children, and their children are allowed to drink it.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3215 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    I find the arrogance, and breathless eagerness to declare enemies, of self-professed anarchists and anti-capitalists a bit wearying, frankly.

    Careful, or I'll start lumping you with "liberals". Whomever (thre fuck) they might be.

    Seriously, when we've done away with capitalism, who runs global telecommunications?

    Say what? The Soviets had phones, and satellites, and radios and tvs, you know. I'm picking that if they hadn't spent so much money in running their army, they could have kept the whole populace in iPods too.

    Seriously, Russell, et tu? Doesn't the Web open pretty compelling vistas on how people can and could organise if the demands of the marketplace didn't get in the way?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    That's an interesting theory, but parents are allowed to provide alcohol to their children, and their children are allowed to drink it.

    I do the Couch surveys for the Families Commission, because somebody has to be skewing them. When they had a question on supplying alcohol to minors, there was no distinction made between buying your fifteen year old two litres of vodka for them to drink in a car with their mates, and pouring them a shandy with dinner.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    Many people have tried to fight the trend away from small, local, independent shops towards chains of gargantuan big-box retailers, because it reduces diversity and forces more car use. Shouldn't that apply to liquor stores as well?

    I don't have a car, and if I'm buying booze, I don't want to have to walk many blocks grappling with clanking bottles.

    I'm not such a fan of the size-based plans as they seems to be applying a template to liquor stores without considering the specific communities they're located in, or indeed what sort of alcohol the shop will be selling.

    And now, an anecdote:

    any law that gets rid of that little shop in Hillcrest (Hamilton) next to the cycle track is just wrong!

    In 1991, I was out on the street with a couple of girls from my 6th form journalism class, trying to sell ads for the end-of-year school magazine. We were down at the block of shops by the cycle track and one of them said to me, "Uh, you'll have to go in the liquor shop -the guy in there thinks me and Kathryn are uni students." I felt so naive.

    Also:

    This effort from Ms. Gallagher is also a cracking read.

    Thanks, Mr Tiso!

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Caleb D'Anvers,

    They show an increasing trend, though not a steep one, and it needs noting that per-capita alcohol consumption remains lower than it was in the early 1990s, when regulations were tighter.

    Absolutely, but I think it's worth pointing out that consumption did decrease in the mid 90s, and (i) only started to increase again when the drinking age went down to 18, and (ii), that this increase also correlated with the introduction of 'self regulation' in liquor industry advertising. This is in-line with international trends. In the states, for instance, the corresponding spike in drinking started in 1996, when a 'self regulating' industry ended its voluntary ban on radio and TV advertising and started to spend heavily in those areas.

    It seems to me that government regulations can be effective, certainly much more than a shark-in-charge-of-swimming-pool 'self-regulation' regime.

    But I'd rather have wine and beer being sold alongside food in a supermarket (where they're much tighter on who they'll sell to than your average hole in the wall is).

    I buy most of my alcohol from supermarkets and the Northland and Kelburn dairies, so I'm probably the last one who should be talking here. I guess my unease with supermarket sales stems from the degree to which it normalizes alcohol, placing it on the same level as bread and milk. I'm still not entirely comfortable with that equation. And the fact that supermarkets have been using alcohol as a 'loss leader' doesn't make me feel any better about it.

    The interesting thing about the process of Grey Lynn going "wet" after its licensing status was changed by popular vote in the 90s is that the residents there were willing and able to use the consent process to control what happened next.

    This is a good point, but it is Grey Lynn. Do residents in, say, Wesley or Otahuhu or Otara have the time and resources to bring off similar results?

    London SE16 • Since Mar 2008 • 482 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    The solution to problem drinking in this country remains what it always has been: to make wine and beer a normal, unremarkable part of civilised life

    I still tend to think that this is the answer, but I've yet to see anyone come up with a plausible strategy for doing this. It would be a very long term social project. It would require some peculiar thinking perhaps. Perhaps limiting the quantity for purchases of cheap for alcohol content (only allowed to buy 4 cans of Big Can Ran for example, or small bottles of cheap spirits).

    The 150 sqm thing is pretty laughable. I was trekking round various friends in Europe last year, and more struck than ever by the drinking divide there. I was pretty over the drinking culture after my time in Bath & Dublin, but overwelmed by the civility of Lugano, Paris & Bordeaux (yes it is a tough life I know). The ability to pop downstairs and buy fantastic bottle of wine for between 3 and 10 new zealand dollars, or a sensational bottle for $30 (mmm Medoc) from the same small shop that sold fruit or baguette or fromage or saucisse.

    To really make progress from what someone artfully called a dry culture to a wet culture, flexible pricing signals and a long term advertising strategy would probably be required. But don't expect it to work in a single generation.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 703 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Say what? The Soviets had phones, and satellites, and radios and tvs, you know. I'm picking that if they hadn't spent so much money in running their army, they could have kept the whole populace in iPods too.

    And I'm saying that's precisely where they fell down. They had plenty of big iron for the enforcement of policy, but people starved, and even when they weren't actually starving, they didn't have a great many of the consumer goods that those of us in the West took for granted throughout the 20th century. That wasn't just because they were spending money on guns, but because a command economy was a really shitty way of running things.

    JK Galbraith's take on the fall of the USSR was that it was less about a desire for liberty than people wanting washing machines.

    But the USSR, which relied on crushing authority -- and, consequently, had the trains run on time -- isn't really a good comparison for the anarchist/anti-capitalist utopia.

    I just don't see how a revolution that does away with both capitalism and all authority gets undersea fibreoptic cables laid.

    Seriously, Russell, et tu? Doesn't the Web open pretty compelling vistas on how people can and could organise if the demands of the marketplace didn't get in the way?

    Call me crazy, but I see a place for both the freedom of markets and freedom from markets.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    __The interesting thing about the process of Grey Lynn going "wet" after its licensing status was changed by popular vote in the 90s is that the residents there were willing and able to use the consent process to control what happened next.__

    This is a good point, but it is Grey Lynn Do residents in, say, Wesley or Otahuhu or Otara have the time and resources to bring off similar results?

    Oh, absolutely. That was what I was getting at really.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    Seriously, when we've done away with capitalism, who runs global telecommunications?

    Um, a consortium of publically run not-for-profits; you might call them things like the `Post Office' or `British Telecom' or whatever. Like the BBC, but with more democracy.

    I'm pretty sure that the anarchists have answers to this one.

    Essential infrastructure is traditionally non-market anyway, so...

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    They've just built two small new buildings near the rail station at Morningside. One is a tiny little liquor outlet which will be opening soon. I can only wait and see what the results will be.

    The other building, for what it's worth, is occupied by a brand new office of Housing New Zealand. I have no idea why.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1611 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard,

    I guess my unease with supermarket sales stems from the degree to which it normalizes alcohol, placing it on the same level as bread and milk.

    As opposed to abnormalising it, labelling it as dangerous, forbidden, naughty and hence glamorous?

    And the fact that supermarkets have been using alcohol as a 'loss leader' doesn't make me feel any better about it.

    On the contrary, I was very happy that Lindauer Special Reserve was 2 for $20 at my local NW Metro, making it all that much easier to stock up for the New Year's Eve punch.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1040 posts Report Reply

  • David Cohen,

    Freedland himself did as much when he noted an article by the odious Melanie Philips, about the group Independent Jewish Voices (whose members include Mike Leigh and Stephen Fry), which she chose to characterise as Jews for Genocide.

    No he didn't. It's a really good piece, and thank you for pointing it out. But the Phillips' headline (which she probably didn't even write herself) falls within within the bounds of a strong debate that Fry et al initiated. It does NOT offer an instance of somebody daring to question this or that Israeli policy and for their efforts receiving the most terrible public slandering as an anti-Semite.

    Brooklyn • Since Jan 2009 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Caleb D'Anvers,

    On the contrary, I was very happy that Lindauer Special Reserve was 2 for $20 at my local NW Metro, making it all that much easier to stock up for the New Year's Eve punch.

    Heh. You should have seen the rush that special caused at Thorndon New World. Dignified it wasn't.

    As opposed to abnormalising it, labelling it as dangerous, forbidden, naughty and hence glamorous?

    Sure, but this goes back to the point made earlier about regulation being seen as the problem, not the (potential) solution. Arguments that regulations make bad things glamorous and we should therefore lift them are just a wee bit too convenient for those who market 'bad' things. I'm not convinced that people drink because they're drawn moth-like to the forbidden or naughty. I think it's far more the psycho-chemical effects of alcohol that people are attracted to. The left-libertarian anti-regulation position is just a wee bit too abstract and cerebral, it seems to me.

    Anyway, we've now had a long period of alcohol being progressively normalized and marketed down every available pipe, and I don't see a Paris-style alco-utopia coming just over the horizon.

    London SE16 • Since Mar 2008 • 482 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Have just been doing some research on No Child Left Behind. It came into law in 2002 with admirable intentions of closing the achievement gaps and having high expectations for all students, but was misguided in that it thought it could achieve this through a tick the box one size fits all model rather than looking at how teaching and learning actually happens.

    It has now been shown to have done nothing to lower the numbers of high school drop outs and has even lowered achievement in some groups. One recent report details the unexpected consequences of threats of non-achievement on students, schools and parents, with manipulation of scores, inaccurate classification of students, and reduced flexibility in the curriculum. (http://pareonline.net/getvn.asp?v=13&n=6)

    A more thorough overview is provided by the Report of the Commission on No Child Left Behind (funders include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) which although approving the aims of the legislation found it is not achieving its goals. Why? Because they have worked out after actually doing some talking to real people affected including students, that what makes a difference is effective teachers (eg those who can teach and engage with a diversity of students etc ), principals who provide community leadership, and schools that foster learning communities (and BTW individual performance pay does not help this).
    (Beyond NCLP: fulfilling the promise for our nation's children, 2007 - it's available onliine)

    We in NZ already know this and it has provided the basis of our teaching and learning policies for years. So why adopt an American system that has been shown to be deeply flawed, and furthermore which used inappropriate research methodology?

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3229 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    Call me a tin-foil hatter, but I'm not the only one to suspect the Granny's pontificating is connected to liqour advertising revenue at stake.

    Wisdom for the day, c/- the Grauniad (my emphasis in bold):

    In 1992, the Los Angeles riots left 55 dead and a multibillion-dollar trail of destruction. Ten years on, community leaders say the city's poor are still being let down by government and business. Duncan Campbell on how LA failed to learn the lessons of the biggest civil disturbance of recent American history
    ........

    In 1992, the 700 liquor stores in the area - more than in the whole state of Pennsylvania - acted as magnets for crime. They sold the paraphernalia for smoking crack cocaine and often adjoined "quick trick" motels where rooms are rented by the hour with a free condom and people could shoot up or prostitute themselves for the price of a fix or a rock. During the rioting, 200 of the stores were burned down. Neighbourhood campaigns ensured that 150 of them never reopened, but crime is on the increase again.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5445 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    And I'm saying that's precisely where they fell down. They had plenty of big iron for the enforcement of policy, but people starved, and even when they weren't actually starving, they didn't have a great many of the consumer goods that those of us in the West took for granted throughout the 20th century.

    Heh. You just reminded me I've been having this conversation on and off since the days when Breznev could still arch his magnificent eyebrows. I shall limit myself to the observation that, insofar as the Soviets could do a lot of things very well - including plenty of industrial things that were aimed at what you could call a consumer market - the fact they couldn't manage agriculture or plan well enough to sustain themselves doesn't prove that communism doesn't work any more than the fall of the roman empire proves that empires don't work. Nothing works, in the very long run. How's capitalism working for a lot of people? Until such time as it starts catering for everyone, I shall remain grateful that there are people who advance alternative philosophies.

    (And nothing how I don't get into all those experiments at socialism and anarchism that were made to fail via the cunning plan of massacring everyone involved.)

    I just don't see how a revolution that does away with both capitalism and all authority gets undersea fibreoptic cables laid.

    If you lived in my hometown, I can guarantee you that you'd be a regular patron and a staunch supporter of the Leoncavallo and other social centres, and you'd agree that anarchists and other left-wing radicals of similar hue are capable of organising tremendously well. You simply don't need authority in order to organise. What they do is plenty harder than laying cables, too (although they do that as well, on a small scale).

    A peek at Wikipedia tells me that these days the Leoncavallo every year organises 350 concerts, 100 film shows, 90 theatre shows and runs a bookshop, a free legal counselling service for immigrants and hosts six community organisations. It has been for over a decade the best musical and theatre venue, hands down, in a town of three million as well as providing a "place to be", for free, to a lot of people, especially young people, who needed it. Beat that with the largest stick at your disposal.

    Isn't it ironic how pro-capitalists never mention that the people in abject poverty that their beloved system creates (or tolerates) are ultimately looked after by people - including plenty of religious organisations - who are themselves anti-capitalists?

    Here you go: you've been lumped.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Um, a consortium of publically run not-for-profits; you might call them things like the `Post Office' or `British Telecom' or whatever. Like the BBC, but with more democracy.

    But those are ordained and maintained by governments, which are like, authority ...

    I'm pretty sure that the anarchists have answers to this one.

    I'd be interested to see them. Perhaps I'm just being grumpy, but modern anti-capitalism doesn't seem to trouble itself much with coherent solutions.

    I can never seem to get a good answer to basic problems: like, what do you do with people who don't see things like you do -- and, say, insist on making things and selling them for a profit? Shoot them?

    What do vegan anarchist utopians do to people who insist on eating animals? Pass a law against it?

    Essential infrastructure is traditionally non-market anyway, so...

    Yes, but the hardware and technology still comes from commercial manufacturers, and they still have management structures, legal status and all that other authoritarian stuff.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard,

    Anyway, we've now had a long period of alcohol being progressively normalized

    A long period? As in, say, approximately the last 10,000 years of human history? As Faulkner said, "civilization begins with fermentation".

    Then again, I found that quote by reading a book called The Joy of Drinking, so perhaps you know where I'm coming from :-)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1040 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    Anyway, we've now had a long period of alcohol being progressively normalized and marketed down every available pipe, and I don't see a Paris-style alco-utopia coming just over the horizon.

    well, yes and no. As an infrequent visitor to my home shores the civilized nature of much of our drinking culture, at least in Auckland city, which is my recent experience, hit me rather strongly over Christmas. It is slowly 'getting there', if you will.

    Sure there are aberrations and fairly hefty ones at that but it is a generational thing with repeated education and enforcement over decades. At a recent drink / drive swoop in, I think, Orewa, not a single person was found to be over the limit. That astounded me but found little comment in NZ.

    The aberrations are the problem, but to pummel the mainstream to tackle those ain't any answer.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3284 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    Yeah, but Pennsylvania is weird, with a funny qango running liquor sales.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

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