Democracy is under assault and in retreat around the globe, a crisis that has intensified as America’s democratic standards erode at an accelerating pace, according to Freedom in the World 2018, the latest edition of the annual report on political rights and civil liberties, released today by Freedom House.
Posts by Paul Smith
It’s 2 o’clock on a day so sunny that it confounds Aucklanders accustomed to their city’s moodiness. There’s not a cloud to be seen and on the Waterfront Viaduct, families stroll, gorge on takeaways or just sit and, over a drink, watch the passing parade. Not far away something much darker is on show in the stunning ASB Theatre. It holds 680 – and is close to capacity.
First an editorial confession. We’ve been in Oz, but no, there’s no ball tampering copy here, just this:
Condom machine graffiti: ‘ For refund, insert baby here’.
Aussies are not so much a weird as a witty mob at times. Where some residents with dogs might put up a sign saying ‘Beware of dog’, others choose to let passers-by know with much more precision. Take this for example: ‘My dog can make it to the fence in 2.8 seconds. Can you?’
Who would have thought..? We’re living on an egg shell and the data in this story from the independent website (below) confirms how fragile the planet is while indicating the damage done by us.
Nature magazine says that from mining projects to oil and gas operations, human activity has set off earthquakes around the world and in many geological settings.
When you ride on an Auckland bus, there’s no such thing as a typical ride – not if you’re looking.
The entertainment is not so much in the city’s sport – that never-ending version of upmarket stock cars. A U-turn perhaps – just in front of the car speeding towards them? No worries. Drivers career backwards out of driveways into busy traffic lanes, or exit out of entrance ways to shopping centres. Quite a few fancy they can beat traffic lights too, often with predictable results. It’s Auckland.
“We’re a species that… can study our own ability to be manipulated,” said Tristan Harris, a former ‘design ethicist’ at Google.
“We have to talk about the advertising-based business model, which, paired with artificial intelligence, poses an existential threat. We have to get really serious about this. If you think about where are the most powerful AIs in the world located right now? Arguably, at two companies: Google and Facebook. The most powerful AIs in the world.
Sometimes the stuff that spills out of old box files on their way to the bin, are not only worth remembering, but keeping.
One we found was Windows on Poverty, a 1992 Report from the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services on Poverty in New Zealand. It was well on its way to pile in one of those purges we hoarders are told we must do. But caught between the need to clear out stuff – and hoard, we once more hoarded. Why? So we don’t forget, so we don’t allow it to happen again. Not in Godzone.
9 a.m. and the mercury is racing up to 30 degrees. “Better watch out” locals tell us. “It’s going to be a ripper”. They’re right, so we retreat into the air conditioned world which reminds us of home and what temperatures at Christmas should be.
But then we’re on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland and it’s a cloudless Christmas Eve. Still, Christmas is Christmas and though the Mooloolaba Beach is scattered with bodies, the radio station plays – rather incongruously – White Christmas.
He arrived at the wrong address at the right time and his pride was ruffled slightly when we told him as much. A middle-aged Indian, he had come for some maintenance on our house and loosened up when he realised his office had given him the wrong address.
As he worked, we began to chat and I asked why he had made the trek from India to New Zealand.