Sky City / TPPA – A lesson in Capitalism

The Sky City Casino / Convention Centre government back-paddle  seems to get us back to the position of “no cost to the tax – or ratepayers”. Don’t bet on it !

For starters it was never and still is not without costs to tax – and ratepayers.
Remember that the casino company intends to pay for the convention centre out of the profits of an extended term of their license and increased number of gaming facilities mostly poky machines. These come with enormous costs to the poorest members of society who are bussed in from South Auckland to pay for the convention centre they will never set foot in other than as cleaners or security guards. Gambling is associated with great social costs of addiction, family violence, deprivation of children and crime. The cost of which will – you guessed it – be borne by the above tax- and rate-payers.

The old story: Profits are privatised, losses are socialised.

That brings us to the wider picture of our present neoliberal capitalistic economic system, which is quite contradictory to a democracy. This is made clear by Noam Chomsky in his 2014 lecture “Why you can not have a Capitalist Democracy!”

Instead of “democracy” – the rule by the people – we in New Zealand and other Anglo-American capitalist countries have what is called “kleptocracy”, which is the rule by the thieves. In other words our system is defined by the Rich stealing from the Poor.
The Sky City back paddle came only about because the thieves had their fingers so blatantly in the public till that even the hardcore John Key / National Party supporters could and would not ignore it.

However Sky City is by far not the only international corporation stealing from us with the help from our neoliberal government.
Remember Hollywood’s Warner Brothers riding into town picked up by government limousines and enriching themselves at the cost of the taxpayer through generous tax breaks and at the cost of New Zealand actors and workers via an overnight labour law change.
Remember Rio Tinto, the very profitable Australian mining giant getting a 30 million dollar handout for the privilege to use discounted power at the expense of ordinary electricity users.

And right now the greatest heist in history is happening right under our noses with the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

Sky City Clowns in ControlFirst I thought this picture funny, pointing fun at the incompetence of our leaders. On second thoughts I find it rather misleading. They are not clowns who don’t know what they are doing. Rather the opposite !

The people who are doing this thing are the big corporations (according to the US Supreme Court corporations are people even if psychopathic). They are the people who steal from the poor. Just one example in the agreement, which by the stroke of the pen extends intellectual property rights like pharmaceutical patents by years, adds billions to the balance sheets of the big corporations at the costs of patients and taxpayer funders, who are deprived of cheaper generic products.

Another even more fundamental, almost the ultimate, prize is democracy. Corporations hate it – at least the real thing they can’t buy.
So the ultimate prize is getting rid of democracy. This is being achieved by establishing the right to sue governments and override their decisions or even acts of Parliament for instance, in the interests of public health, the environment or child protection – if that happens to negatively effect the corporation’s bottom line. And to do that in a private “court” with “judges” all comprising of corporate lawyers who constantly change roles between corporate advocate and “judge”. A  “court” not part of any countries judicial system or democratic oversight no ordinary citizen has access too.

The TPPA negotiations are conducted by corporations and governments in total secrecy. Unions, environmental, health, internet user groups and the rest of civil society are excluded – obviously for good reason.

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The governments’ role in these secret negotiations is to receive the corporate drafts, sign and ratify them in the interest of their own corporations hopefully without the people noticing.

 

 

Sky City Tui TakeoverWhen are the people waking and rising up
(7th of March country wide TPP protest) ?
Even the Tui advertising agency, which normally has a good idea of the mood of the crowd has got it.

 

by Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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Sky City and the magic potion, which lets JK get away with it

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The “free” Sky City Convention Centre has always been a bum deal. The old casino rule applies : The house always wins. That how the roulette wheel or the poky machines are programmed.

The initial deal was packaged as “We get a 400 million convention centre for FREE”. Of course we did not get anything for free or otherwise. Last time I looked it is the casino company getting the convention centre and not the taxpayer owning it.
Then it was never for free. It is loser pays that is the poorest of the poor hooked on the extra 250 pokies paying for the Sky City (and not our) convention centre.
Now we are told that the much hyped deal would give us an “eyesore” and we all as taxpayers are invited to join the ranks of the poor losers and cough up an extra 140 million and it will not end there.

Why is anyone surprised ? That is how the present neoliberal economic system works making the rich richer and the poor poorer. And our 50 million dollar Prime Minister is a key cog in this criminal system.

And he is getting away with it as with telling white lies, dirty politics

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and giving New Zealand’s highest honour to Prince Philipp a couple of years back (something which this week gave the Australian PM “a political near-death experience“).

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The leader’s grip on power has slipped since last month when he drew widespread criticism for making 93-year-old Prince Philip an Australian knight

If only this special teflon coating substance John Key seems to possess could be bottled. All politicians, captains of industry and the rest of the neoliberal so called elite would be queuing up for this magic potion.

We are saddled with this government at least to the end of this term. I only wonder how much worse it will have to get till the New Zealand voter will wake up from the dream, which in fact is a nightmare for most.

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Drought, Flood, Fire – You voted for it !

We are in a drought earlier than in previous years. As stuff reported with large areas of the country drying out alarmingly quickly, weather forecasts are offering little hope of significant rainfall anytime soon. (as of the end of January)

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This seems to be getting worse and worse every year as we become more like Australia. As I write we are experiencing wildfires in the tinder dry parts of the South Island burning down houses, which are one of the effects of global warming.
Last year there were several severe flood events in Northland. Three 20 or 50 year events in a couple of months. As other extreme weather events also an effect of global warming. At one stage the road connection to the rest of the country hung by a thread.

So we know that these extreme weather events are linked to and are one of the hallmarks of Climate Change or to be more precise Global Warming.

At the same time scientists warn us as for example the Guardian reports: Fossil fuel warning: Climate scientists beg governments to leave buried natural resources in the ground.
‘Scientists calculated that a third of global oil reserves, half of gas reserves and more than 80 per cent of coal reserves should remain in the ground as “unburnable” to avoid exceeding the 2C “safe” threshold for global warming’.

The most comprehensive must read book about the situation is Naomi Klein latest :

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with the subtitle : Capitalism vs The Climate

We have no excuse anymore for not knowing and/or not caring about future generations and our planet.

Our government and its scientists as the rest of the United Nations and its international panel of climate scientists know that burning all the existing reserves makes reaching the climate goal of no more than 2 degree Celsius increase in temperature all but impossible.

Still our NZ government has a climate/energy policy, which can best been described in the immortal words of Sarah Palin

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“Drill Baby Drill”.

Deep sea drilling for oil/gas, fracking under our most productive land, coal mining on conservation land, open cast mining for lignite coal, one of the dirtiest of fossil fuels. You name it, everything is sacrificed  on the altar of progress and growth.

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When are we joining the dots ? When are we realising or rather stop ignoring or worse denying the fact that we are contributing to the weather extremes we are suffering ? When are we taking responsibility ? One way we have power is as voters. When are we going to use our votes responsibly ?

A friend of mine in Northland has joined the dots. When he hears the farmers, business people and just ordinary folks complaining about the drought or flood they are suffering he has diminished sympathy telling them : You voted for it !
And I am pessimistic that you up in the safe blue Northland seat will do it again in the coming by-election voting for this ecocidal government.

In the past you could take comfort that it would be your children and their children who will suffer from what we are doing today. That comfort is gone as you up in Northland as the rest of us are suffering today. Climate change is not a thing of the future anymore. It is here right now.

How much worse does it have to get till the penny drops ?

by Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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No prophet is accepted in her own country

Booker Price winner Eleanor Catton

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has done us all a favour with her criticism of New Zealand’s “neoliberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture. They care about short-term gains. They would destroy the planet in order to be able to have the life they want. I feel very angry with my government.”
Her recent interview in India not only attracted attention in the local but overseas media like the Guardian, which goes into great detail to describe what Catton called a “jingoistic national tantrum”.
The favour lies not only in the fact that she describes the present New Zealand government correctly for instance that they destroy the planet in order to be able to have the life they want with their ‘Drill Baby Drill’ energy policy.
The main favour in my view is the fact that she has held up a mirror to look at ourselves. Many didn’t like what they saw and reacted angrily. I give just one example from the letter pages of the NZ Herald, which is too awful to reprint so I just give you my response as printed in this weekend’s edition:
“Eleanor Catton must be vindicated by the reaction to her remarks.
Emmerson’s cartoon found some ‘cultural wasteland’ (Sean Plunket). And on the opposite letter page we find an example of ‘intellectual wasteland’. How else can one describe the contribution from Windsor Park comparing Eleanor Catton’s alleged lack of loyalty (a strange requirement for authors and poets) with Soviet spies recruited at Cambridge who lived as moles in the British secret service for decades spying for the cold war enemy. The connection between the two is ‘disenchantment with their own country’s politics.’ If that is enough then about a million New Zealanders disenchanted with the policies of our present government are to be regarded as in the same boat as traitors and Soviet spies.”

The main perpetrators of the witch hunt Sean Plunket (insults) and Steve Braunias (ridicule) can be best described as follows :

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And then there is what the Guardian described as “an activist group” with reference to Patrice Dougan in the Herald going ‘so far as to publish the amount Catton has received in public funding, suggesting she should pay it back if unhappy with the support she has been given’.

Lets not forget who this activist group – the NZ Herald gives space in its paper – the “Taxpayers’ Union”and it’s “executive director” Jordan Williams are. The financiers behind  this man are no union and they are no taxpayers, if they can help it. They are big business, which do everything to avoid taxes. They instead fund anti-democratic campaigns for instance against MMP, which Mr Jordan fronted. And Mr. Jordan is the point man in Wellington for gutter blogger Cameron Slater who can ring him in the middle of the night to get out of bed and try to get some incriminating photos of a prominent opposition politician having drinks at a bar. So it has been revealed in Nicky Hager’s book “Dirty Politics“.

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If we look into the mirror Eleanor is holding up to us with her comments we will be ashamed not only looking at our present government and it’s policies and even more so looking at the reaction  to having it pointed out to us by her correct and truthful observations.

Prophets, eh !

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History is knocking on our door

1-Tsipras-Reuters

Today I have woken to the best news for ages, the Greek election win for the anti-austerity Syriza party. This is not only good news for Greece but Europe and the planet. This is a defeat of the criminal austerity policies inflicted by the .1% on the rest of us. The policies of the people who caused the economic crises to make the victims pay for it. The recent – only 30 year old – free market economic orthodoxy has been resoundingly defeated at the ballot box in the country, which 2500 years ago invented and gave us the word ‘democracy’.

However the Independent in its lead article is already raising the prospect of the ’empire’ striking back when it put the following caption under the above victory photo:
Success for Syriza party may provoke economic siege by European Union

The paper seems to seriously suggest at a time when the US administration starts to see the light after over 50 years of failed policy that Europe creates is own Cuba under economic siege for daring to defy the banksters.
To advocate historically proven Keynesian economic policies, which for instance got us out of the Great Depression of the 1920-30ies and led to the economically good times after WWII has become a crime. This seems to have become a greater threat to the ruling elites than antibiotic drug resistant bugs, climate change and war in Europe combined. It is a sign that we are ruled not by reason but ideology when heresy is prosecuted like in the times of the Great Inquisition. A modern form of burning the books and heretics as the ruling elites have no arguments left to counter their ideas.

vatican29_06Huge public burnings took place of those convicted of Heresy

So far so good as Stathis Kouvelakis, a member of Syriza’s central committee and a political theory professor at King’s College London said in a recent interview : “In terms of its programmatic and ideological identity, Syriza has a strong anticapitalist line, and it has very sharply set itself apart from social democracy.”

The big question was already posed by award winning Canadian journalist Naomi Klein
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in her latest 2014 book “This Changes Everything – Capitalism vs The Climate”
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The very last paragraph reads :

A year ago, I was having dinner with some newfound friends in Athens. I asked them for ideas about what question I should put to Alexis Tsipras, the young leader of Greece’s official opposition party and one of the few sources of hope in a Europe ravaged by austerity.
Someone suggested, “Ask him: History knocked on your door, did you answer?”

That’s a good question, for all of us.

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Capitalism is winning: We are cooked.

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It’s official: 2014 was the hottest year in recorded history. According to both NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the year 2014 was the hottest ever measured, based on records going back to the year 1880, The Washington Post reported with further links.

It now surpasses all past scorchers, including 1998, 2005, and 2010. Indeed, except for 1998, says NASA, the 10 hottest years recorded have all occurred since the year 2000.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the new record is that it occurred even though 2014 was not an El Niño year, of the sort that usually powers the already up-trending global average temperature to new highs.

As sure as night follows day the the well “oiled” climate change skeptics / deniers try to water down the message for example in the Mail Online the headline reads : Nasa climate scientists: We said 2014 was the warmest year on record… but we’re only 38% sure we were right. As if it would make any difference if by some rounding or other statistical error the record was higher or lower by .001 of a degree. The fossil fuel industry funded deniers just want to create the image as if the science was actually not sure.

To understand why there is a war on science perpetrated by governments relying on the very same people who denied tobacco smoke causing cancer now denying that climate change has anything to do with human activity especially burning fossil fuel you have to understand how capitalism works. Corporations making exorbitant profits from our addiction to fossil fuel (like nicotine) just buy scientist in order to defend their bottom lines.
A must read is Naomi Klein : This Changes Everything – Capitalism vs The Climate.

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Here you find out how the fossil fuel industry has spend millions of (petrol, gas and coal) dollars to create a well “oiled” industry of so called “Think Tanks” and PR companies that lie, manipulate the public, influence policy and buy politicians.

The good news is that we know the solutions. We have the technology to wean us off our fossil fuel addiction. There is still a brief window of time before global warming spins out of control. We can live within the bounds of nature on our planet of finite resources and finite capabilities to deal with our pollution.

The bad news is that it requires collective action not allowed under our present neoliberal, free market, private profit driven capitalistic system. The disciples of this ideology in their hubris rather attempt to change nature with their geoengineering fantasies by for instance trying to put iron into our oceans to change the acidity or pump sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere to partially block the sunlight. How much easier, cheaper and safer it would be to change our ecocidal and genocidal  economic system which is man made and therefor can be changed.

Instead our governments in this case Australia

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accelerates coal mine projects in the face of study that finds it should stay buried as George Monbiot points out in the Guardian.

Our rulers responsible for this are criminals. That is what you call someone who leaves his baby in a car in the scorching sun till it is dead some hours later just to go to the casino. It is called manslaughter. No different to cooking the planet and killing our children’s children 40-50 years down the track. That is what science tells us that millions will perish if we don’t change our ways.

But rather than listen they declare war on science.

We voted for them. May be for our children’s children sake we should be more careful with our vote next time.

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I am not “Charlie Hebdo” I am not an “Journal Irresponsable”

The Charlie Hebdo and anti-Jewish attacks in Paris is a story of two distinct parts. The second is only too familiar.

The first is the story of a few mad, misguided, violent criminals, known to the authorities, murdering innocent people at will and in turn being killed.
The human story of grieving families.
The story of the role of the authorities which must have missed something as they had the perpetrators on their radar.
The story of misguided religious beliefs. When are religious leaders of all creeds start telling their followers that there is no reward in heaven for martyrdom and murder ? Or even better, when are they telling us that there is indeed no heaven at all and we all must live a decent life caring for ourselves and others without fear of punishment or hope of reward in non-existing hell or heaven ?

All the above is the story of these particular crimes.

The second story is the story of the aftermath in the media, politics and the public.

First the media.

Voltaire everywhere.

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It is understandable that the media immediately defined the narrative as that of the right to free speech for a journal nobody had ever heard of, which apparently was offensive to many and which prided itself in their Title as “Journal Irresponsable”. Colleagues from their own tribe got murdered and they now must defend their almost divine right to piss off the rest of us with biased, incorrect and often insulting reporting and opinions. Just one example :

pencilsThis cartoonist conveniently overlooks that for over a decade it is not pencils and quills raining down on the terrorists and civilians alike in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and where ever the West sees fit but bombs and rockets killing women and children alike.

Second the politics.
The most disgusting picture summing it all up is that of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – told not to attend – muscling his way into the front row of the Paris march to be in the same picture with world leaders like Hollande and Merkel.

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In other words the political reaction was also totally predictable tailored for their domestic and international audiences, which can be described with one word : Hypocrisy !

The latest example is Israel laying an official complaint against a cartoon in the Sunday Times, which they might have rightly interpreted as anti-semitic.

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Wasn’t Israel’s Netanyahu marching in the front row to defend the rights of free speech and the right of the ‘Journal Irresponsable’ to insult and offend religious minorities.

Third the public reaction.

Here comes the interesting part. In New Zealand started of by Derek Fox at least part of the public have not swallowed the narrative and look through the hypocrisy. Initially it was reported in the NZ Herald that he was slammed for his ‘disgusting ‘ Facebook post. In the meantime following the discussion in the letters to the editor and on social media it appears that the bullshit detectors are working.

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or Evans

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Conclusion

All this of course is designed to distract us from thinking about and discussing the real causes of the tragic events.

One who is not distracted is Chris Hedges in ‘truthdig’.

What about his narrative in the opening paragraph :

The terrorist attack in France that took place at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo was not about free speech. It was not about radical Islam. It did not illustrate the fictitious clash of civilizations. It was a harbinger of an emerging dystopia where the wretched of the earth, deprived of resources to survive, devoid of hope, brutally controlled, belittled and mocked by the privileged who live in the splendor and indolence of the industrial West, lash out in nihilistic fury.

Makes you think.

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Who are the real (war) criminals ?

One of the most frustrating stories to follow over the years must be the Israeli / Palestinian conflict.

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Heavy smoke billows from a section of Gaza City in the Gaza Strip following an Israeli military strike Tuesday. | AFP-JIJI

The latest outrage committed by the Palestinians is their request to join the International Court of Justice and thereby pledge TO ABIDE BY INTERNATIONAL LAW!
As Robert Fisk in the Independent of 4 January writes sarcastically but rightfully: Heavens preserve us from such a thought, but these chappies – after all their past calls for Israel’s extinction, after all the suicide bombings and intifadas – are asking to join one of the most prestigious judicial bodies on earth. For years, the Palestinians have demanded justice. They went to the international court in The Hague to have Israel’s apartheid wall dismantled – they even won, and Israel didn’t give a hoot. Any sane Palestinian, you might think, would long ago have turned his or her back on such peaceful initiatives. 

The real story behind this story is the reaction mainly of the US State Department.
Its spokesman told us that his government is “deeply troubled” by the Palestinian application. It is “entirely counterproductive”, he informed the world. It does “nothing to further the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a sovereign state” – though one might have thought that membership of so august a judicial body would have done a lot to persuade the world that Palestinians were ready to shoulder all the burdens of statehood.
The United States, of course – and this fact oddly did not feature in the flurry of news reports on “Palestine’s” request to join – has itself refused to join the International Criminal Court. And with good reason; because, like the Israelis – although this is not quite how the whole fandango was explained to us – Washington is also worried that its soldiers and government officials will be arraigned for war crimes. Think waterboarding, Abu Ghraib, the report on CIA torture…
No wonder Jeffrey Rathke, the windbag who speaks for the State Department, says that the Palestinian request “badly damages the atmosphere” with Israel, “undermines trust” and “creates doubts about their (Palestinian) commitment to a negotiated peace”. And remember, Abbas only made his request after America had vetoed – and it has used its veto more than 40 times on Israel’s behalf to reject Palestine’s self-determination since 1975 – a UN Security Council resolution to end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land by 2017. 

The obvious question is who the real (war) criminals are. The ones who want to join the International Court of Justice and thereby be held accountable for their actions or the ones like the US and Israel who steadfastly refused to join and instead constantly block any attempt to enforce international law ?

Don’t answer it if you don’t want to be accused of Anti-Semitism.

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Don’t start another War – Call the Police

At the beginning of the year 2015 it is time to reflect. This is what I am reflecting on this time:

$14 Million (US) an Hour for 13 Years: War on Terror’s Astounding Cost

For the investment in some cardboard cutters and plane tickets on 9/11 the “return” for the terrorists was as unimaginable as the for everyone around the world to watch “perfect” implosion of the towers as a crumbling symbol of the capitalistic world.

However there is not only the “return” for the terrorists in the costs to the US taxpayer. There is also the even more important return to the newly created homeland security industry and the old military industrial complex, which have to thank the terrorists.
Fear is what makes us as governments and consumers spend without thinking and questioning. If we hadn’t the now perpetual “war” on terrorism we would have to invent it. It keeps our economy, which is largely based on the military industrial and homeland security complex, ticking over.
This is the logic of our capitalistic system that wars are there for money to be made.

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Let’s imagine if we hadn’t started just another war as the ingrained reflex of our economic/political system after 9/11. Let’s imagine we had after the outrageous mass murder crime against almost 3000 victims just called the police as you do. What if the police and criminal justice system had dealt with the crime ? What different outcomes would we have ?

This is of course hypothetical as we cannot accurately asses the alternative history. However I dare to say that extremist islamist lunatics would not have gained so many recruits worldwide and the map of the Middle East would at the moment not look like that :

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The Christmas present too much of a temptation !

In desperation on the last day before Christmas I visited a local artist who had supplied beautiful presents before, one of which was sadly destroyed in a recent storm. I didn’t find what I was looking for till he pointed to a sculpture hidden in the back of his studio. I liked it immediately. The artist had called this pear “Adam’s Temptation”.

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I liked it even more when I heard the backstory. The temptation had obviously been to much for some and he was asked to remove the piece from the major gallery in Matakana.

However you look at it

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this raises some interesting issues.

One is that of censorship of art.

The other is the problem some New Zealanders obviously still living in Victorian times are having with nudity. How is it that the naked body – nature itself – can be so offensive even if some are less beautiful than others. The uproar and possible prosecution of naked swimmers or sun bathers especially in the presence of children. What are we teaching our children if we make them feel that naked bodies including their own are something naughty.
And don’t get me started on banning breastfeeding mothers to the toilet because a little bit of nipple might be exposed to the public. It makes me angry.

How do these sick, prudish, moral guardians survive in the age of film, television and the internet. They need serious help before they can be let anyway near our children.

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