Monday, July 27, 2015

The Next National Anthem

Artist Grahame Sydney was on NatRad this afternoon criticising the Change the Flag campaign when what we really should be changing is the National Anthem. Why can't we do both?

Surely, Sydney's soapbox has been made more relevant because of the flag competition? It's irrelevant anyway because I completely agree with him. God Defend NZ is a terrible dirge "saturated in god" as Sydney points out.

It was only made official in 1977 when the Queen came to visit for her Jubilee Tour and Muldoon had nothing to give her apart from a law making Thomas Bracken's paean to Anglicism compulsory.

The coin dropped for both Sydney as well as new Afternoons host Jesse Mulligan when they discovered that NZ has two official anthems. God Save the Queen is the other one. The original colonial song, so to speak.

You can see why Muldoon gave Queenie an old but new song as a present. During all future visits to NZ, Liz wouldn't have to listen quite so often to those most over-played bars of bad music. Is there an official record of how many times she's had to grimace through God Save the Queen at varying levels of musicianship?

The dual national anthem is an important precedent though. It shows a way Key could have sold the flag change without all the bad voodoo from the RSA. Two flags for the price of one.

It also shows how swapping out God Save the Queen for something more relevant and less anachronistic would avoid more spilt beer too.

I've had half a crack at a New National Anthem before. Others say Trinity Roots' Home Land and Sea should be it. Here's something I've been working on for a few months now. It still needs work and frankly I wouldn't be surprised if I don't win. It'll do just fine as an icebreaker though:

Fuck Australia, This is New Zealand

Fuck Australia, This is New Zealand
The only thing our old ones
Were guilty of was

Fuck Australia, This is New Zealand
Through wind, rain and fine sunshine
Walk barefoot proudly
Into the future

Fuck Australia, This is New Zealand
Our banner is not our cape
There's no religion
Except sport, of course

Fuck Australia, This is New Zealand
Our wildlife will not kill you
But beware the land

Fuck Australia, This is New Zealand
Our cops are the least fascist
The courts least corrupt
Bent, never broken

Fuck Australia, This is New Zealand
Don't expect too much from it
You might just like it
One day ahead

He tangata, he tangata, he tangata

Friday, July 17, 2015

Another Great Divide

A couple of days ago, Bastille Day in fact, I observed that it was 31 years since the Fourth Labour Government swept into power with a landslide victory. It was never boring, I cheered. Don't remember Labour cheering the 30th last year. Mind you, Cunliffe was in charge and Dagg knows where his head was at.

This year's Labour model appears to be terminally dog-locked to NZ First strategy. Way they're going, I wouldn't put it past Winston to attempt a reverse take-over. There can be only one populist on this pulpit, and the old werewolf knows his pressure points better than any of Labour's front row on the subject.

But you can't run a major party on that platform. The many hands of activism make Labour's light work. That's the crux of labour versus capital right there. You reckon Bob Jones spends his evenings cold calling party supporters to run some lines past them? Nah, fuck that. Here's $25,000.

As last year's electoral returns showed, Labour wasn't exactly getting showered with sponsors and patrons. They were outspent by the Nats and the Greens. Colin Craig even gave them a run for their money, if not in the spend per vote stakes. The unions short-changed the party in meagre donations yet somehow managed to wedge in a union-based leader, president and chief of staff.

So bit by bit, Labour continues to fight in ever diminishing circles, with an inexorably decreasing base to defend. It might yet disappear up its own fundament, sharting on the hard work of Labour luminaries such as Walding, Clark and company whilst doing so.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Watching the Detectives

The Judicial Review of the Hager raid by the police last year has finished Day One of an anticipated three day season. Jon Stephenson covers the high and dry of it here. At stake is truth, justice and all that jazz.

It has taken me some time to parse the whole Dirty Politics saga, soaking in it as I was all those years as a blogger. Reading Nicky Hagar's book on the subject, what surprised me most was not so much the tactics employed but the elaborate collaboration behind the scenes. The sheer stage-managed nature of it all. I felt like a complete Frankenfurter.

There was also the Key government to consider. I had seen the NZ Defence Force take a smack at Stephenson before, during and after his Eyes Wide Shut article in Metro magazine. Before that, accidental journalist Bradley Ambrose's recording of the Key/Banks tea party in 2011 and the resulting cop scrum that descended upon him and the MSM.

More recently, Dakta Green accusing some police of perjury has seen him crushed under a grand piano of scrutiny by them. You can't mess with the status quo and walk away unscathed. Quite how I've managed so far without liability, I attribute to presenting a small target as well as maintaining a variety of wild cards up my sleeves. Fiddling with asymmetries.

Suffice it to say, sub judice pending, that I hope the Judicial Review is successful. Ten hour fishing trips in a journalist's home when they are in absentia is disproportionate and has a chilling effect on reporting. There's evidence to suggest that police broke the court's sealing of evidence, which probably means the GCSB and SIS have been through the allegedly sealed documents too. Hagar had been worked on the Snowden leaks, and it doesn't take much to join dots there.

Without investigative journalism, all we're left with is press releases and native advertising. That's not a Fourth Estate. That's prostitution.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Missed Targets

We were somewhere on Auckland's North Shore when the bus ran out of diesel. Driver had forgotten to check the tank with the stick that morning. It was difficult to tell exactly where we were, as anything north of Takapuna and Glenfield looks exactly the same. Deepest suburbia, brick and tiled hills. No signs of life on the streets but the constant grind of traffic.

Auckland had grown so quickly in the last twenty years, most of these suburbs were farms in the 1980's. In the 1990's the Bolger government had the bright idea of loosening immigration criteria as a cheap way to pump skilled labour and someone else's capital into the economy. Cheap but not frictionless.

Brits escaping Thatcher/Major mingled with Afrikaaners fleeing the collapse of Apartheid in the ahistoric North Shore housing estates. Economic refugees fleeing Mugabe worked alongside political refugees from Iran and Iraq. Jews lived next to Arabs without all hell breaking loose.

Immigration consultants helped grease these wheels, including former Muldoon minister Aussie Malcolm and former Bolger minister for Immigration Tuariki Delamere. Their deep understanding of the law, as well as their contacts in the sector gleaned during years of public office, helped their clients squeeze the most out of NZ's immigrant points system.

In 2011, the Key government loosened the entry criteria. In essence, lump sum residencies were allowed. The easiest way to invest a lump sum once you arrive in the country is to buy property. That would explain when the Auckland bubble began to depart from the norm:

Bolger got away with it a bit in the 1990's, when NZers were still piling offshore to find a decent pay packet. The international student market was just taking off here, with ESOL schools not far behind. The only side-effect was giving Winston Peters a soapbox to bash him with.

But after the GFC, and a few years later when the bottom fell out of Australia's mining boom, Key's Auckland is fit to burst as natives stay put and new natives continue to pour in. The price is painfully clear.

See? Not a single dog-whistle in there, but three shots hitting National. None of that mucking about with surnames. I understand Singapore's full of ethnic Chinese.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Leaving Pook Farm; Generation Rent Edition

My suspicions were first aroused when my property manager told me not to panic. The absentee landlord in Australia had decided to sell up, but not until much later in the year.

That was late February. 28 days later, she wrote to say that the real estate guy had convinced the landlord to sell up right now. Within a week, any reasonable expectation of privacy at Pook Farm had been shattered.

The Residential Tenancies Act 1986 has this to say on the subject of when a landlord decides to sell a tenanted property:
47. Landlord to give notice to tenant of intention to sell
(1) If, at any time after entering into a tenancy agreement, the landlord puts the premises on the market for the purposes of sale or other disposition, the landlord shall forthwith give written notice of that fact to the tenant.

(2) When a landlord is offering residential premises as available for letting, the landlord shall inform prospective tenants if the premises are on the market for the purposes of sale or other disposition.
That's it. No mitigation for the sudden inconvenience. In fairness, this law was written years before all the cowboys rode into the landlord business following the Bolger government's state house sell-off in the early 1990's.

I had been living at Pook Farm for close to four years. For all its faults- threadbare original 1950's carpet, cardboard walls, an open fireplace I was contractually forbidden from using- it was a sweet flat.

A lemon tree out the back, along with a prodigious plum tree which rained fruit every January. My three chickens provided fertiliser for both, as well as omelets for me. Out the front was a raised vegetable patch, which I was half-way through installing when the house pimps sold me out.

The current landlord had bought the property as a holiday bach at the wild heights of the beachfront property boom in 2003. He had bought at auction at a wildly improbable price, some 120-150 thousand above valuation. He chose the same real estate agent who sold it to him, to sell it for him too. Welcome to the double-dipping world of realty.

Although bitter with the real estate agent, I won't name names. Their nefarious tactics go with the territory. According to the Readers Digest Most Trusted Professions Survey 2014, real estate salespeople rank 44th, worse than journalists but better than insurance and car salespeople, sex workers and politicians. Housing Minister Nick Smith's latest brain-fart of a Clayton's Housing WOF- no bark, no bite- entirely justifies this placing.

My excellent property manager had been keeping an eye out for another hovel for me to move to, but the Keynesian make-work scheme of the Kapiti Expressway had put a strangle-hold on rent prices, not to mention all the former Wellingtonian poor who had been squeezed northwards as the social housing stock in the capital was condemned as an earthquake risk.

Fatalistic as ever, my one consolation was that it would all be over in a month. My home would be on the auction block in the first week of May, and one way or another I'd know whether I was sold as a going concern, along with the land and chattels, or whether I'd be out on my ear with the legal minimum of 42 days' notice. Homeless with chickens.

Auction day came and went, where it failed to reach the vendor's minimum. He'd settle for a seventy grand haircut, but not an eighty grand one. I paid anyway. Every Sunday afternoon between 1:15 and 1:45 was Open Home eternal, where strangers tramped through my home, casing the place, weighing it up like a piece of meat.

Men from Porlock would randomly drive up to the gate in SUVs at every other time and stare at me staring at them. Bolder capital venturists would trespass the threshold, which wore thinner each time, to the point where my bark would set off the neighbour's dogs. Things were getting increasingly sweary.

There was no time to think, let alone write. Life on Vogshere is full of slappers. Time to leave. First thing to go was the chooks. They ended up out at an Otaihanga Farm, where they apparently amuse themselves now by breaking out of their pen and turning up at the neighbours' houses.

Next, there I went on reconnaissance for a new roof. After finding an alternative that did not completely suck, I moved. Yeah Napier, where I do not know a goddamn soul. For Lease signs for Africa through the CBD, but that's no different from most town centres these days. Box shops and free parking suck consumers out of the centres out to the periphery, while draconian liquor laws suck the remaining life out of the CBD.

At least there's hope, sometimes peace. But there's no rest for Generation Rent. We're the Walkabout People, the nomads.

Friday, July 18, 2014

One Thread

There is at least one fundamental thread woven through the fabric of recent scandals that seems to have been left out of the dialogue so far.

Whether it's the GCSB shitmagnet, the rape culture flavours of West Auckland's Roastbusters, Wellington's diplomatic thrusts, or other examples of official intransigence, such as the recent night raid on children in a Taranaki marae, there is at least one common thread.

I don't know if there's a Latin name for the principle, but it runs thusly: Citizens can do whatever they like as long as there's no law or regulation prohibiting their actions. The benefit of the doubt lies on the side of the citizen. Reasonable doubt, for example.

Conversely, government officials (military, police or bureaucrat) can ONLY do what the law or regulations permit (acts and omissions, blah blah). The onus is on them to prove they stayed within those regulated margins.

It's a concept that frequently eludes the powerful as well as the powerless. For instance, police union mouth Greg O'Connor regularly spouts that the cops can bend and break rules with impunity for the greater good. He's talking bollocks with a side order of smeg.

It's a lesson that might have to be learned the hard way. Beware the political backlash. Such things tend to over-compensate.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Dogs of War

Back in the dawn of the 1980's, my old man tried his hand at running kiwifruit on a farm out west of Tauranga. We lived in caravans next to the shed, right across from the neighbour's battery chicken farm.

The neighbour's dog, a mangy beast with something short of a full Labrador in him, used to wander onto the farm and hassle our dogs, two German short-haired pointers called Kaiser and Rommel (like another certain disruptive entrepreneur, the old man liked his Germans). Kaiser was a 12 year old former gun dog champ, brown-coated and freckled with white patches of hair. Rommel was not even three, dark liver hair and whippet thin.

After a week of skirmishes between men and dogs, where the dog kept coming across the fence and my old man kept telling the neighbour he'd put a .22 bullet behind its ear, the day of the final dogfight arrived.

The old man was out on his tractor working on one of the nearer blocks. The dogs were with him, and it wasn't long before the neighbour's dog caused trouble. It had caught Kaiser unawares and had latched onto the old dog's throat. Out of nowhere, Rommel zipped in and nipped the dog firmly on its arse. The dog yelped out of pain or surprise, giving Kaiser his escape. It turned to see the source of counter-attack already halfway across the block.

Nor did the dog see the bullet that hit him. It yelped in receipt of it and retreated to less painful territory, limping badly and leaving the old man wondering whether the wound was mortal or merely a winging. Rommel and Kaiser preceded the old man on his tractor back to the shed by a good minute, seemingly none the worse for wear.

The old man put the rifle away and went across to tell the neighbour the news. The neighbour accepted the dog's fate, and we all went out searching the borders of both lands looking for the missing hound. I found him, curled up on a corner section under a tree as if sleeping. The neighbour took the dog away, to a grave or an offal pit is uncertain.

Kaiser and Rommel lived largely happy lives until they died. Kaiser was put to sleep aged 16 years after his legs gave up. Rommel went walkabout off the farm a few years after this summer skirmish, presumably ending up with a short life span in the illegal dog fighting circuit. He was always a better runner than a fighter.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Sex and Agriculture

The old man and I were walking along Mayoral Drive in the Auckland CBD one afternoon back in the '90s. Another even older man had just walked out of the Pan Pacific Hotel and headed towards us. My father, aged sixty-mumble, did something I'd never see him do before.

He lost the expression of a man wearied by sixty-odd years on the clock, and reverted to a mumbling child as he praised former child actor Mickey Rooney in person. This crinkly polite Yank - accosted on the streets in a strange land by some quixotic stranger in the three piece armour of an attorney - had brightened my Dad's day considerably.

Needless to say, Mickey Rooney's golden days of Hollywood were a bit before my time. Growing up two generations prior to my existence, the old man grew up on tales of conquest by proxies of the British Empire in books, as well as the pulp fiction churned out by Hollywood, leeched as it was of reality by the censors and purveyors of moral rectitude.

The Ten Commandments of Hollywood back then, summed up in one picture, were:

An artifact of this celluloid puritanism popped up last week, nicely raising the profile of Eva Green and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For in the process. In America at least, nipples are still considered Satan's cherries.

In contrast to the old man, all my heroes were outlaws. I grew up with '70s cinema and early '80s auteurs, the golden era of the film director. Years before the blockbuster killed the independent studios' diversity with superheroes and cloned plots, it was all Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Bugsy Malone, the Blondini gang from Goodbye Pork Pie, Bruno Lawrence, Sam Lowry in Brazil, Buckaroo Banzai, David Lynch, etc.

Moral ambiguity, anti-heroes, irony and pathos were main ingredients. Ultra-violence was used as allegory or hyperbole (A Clockwork Orange, The Evil Dead), as opposed to today's serious yet CGI carnage purely for the sake of it.

But I digress. The Mickey Rooney intersection came into mind on Thursday, as John Banks walked out of court a guilty man. My old man shared airtime with Banks on Radio Pacific. Of all the things Banks could have said as Michelle Boag quietly photobombed away in the background, Banks had to come out with an esoteric 1930's song about standing in puddles. A man so pole-axed, the child came out.

Three days later, John Banks announces he is exiting the political stage once more. Up until this afternoon, it looked like he was blithely looking at hanging around in Parliament, upstaging the election theatre cast from Jamie Whyte to John Key, before crashing through the footlights head first into the orchestra pit.

Farewell then, John Banks. You will be forgotten. Cannabis will be legalised. Look who's stupid then. Auckland will one day reverse your rates poll tax (aka the Uniform Annual General Charge), as well as your puritanical Brothel and Commercial Sex Premises bylaw. Charter schools will be folded back into the integrated schools system, where state accountability sits in judgement over religious schools.

Everything John Banks did will be dirt.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Dirty Wars and Ignored Laws

Toby Manhire pointed out in Friday's NZ Herald that the country seems to have sleep-walked into a war. No-one appears to have noticed a New Zealander getting a collateralised death sentence by US drone. Not the prime minister, who has all but given up the ghost of an independent foreign policy for gimp status that would make Reek flinch with recognition. Not the public, which seems inured against war crimes or seem indifferent as long it doesn't affect their day-to-day grind.

As the Snowden NSA papers come closer to our shores, threatening to wash up all sorts of dirty security laundry, NZ may well have to face their complicity in atrocities. As a thought experiment, imagine John Key appearing before The Hague for aiding and abetting war crimes.

It's not such a mad proposition after reading this transcript from today's The Nation between Paddy Gower and Dirty Wars author Jeremy Scahill. Whether Key & Co know it or not, they're donkey deep in a very dirty war. A morsel (vid here, interview transcript here):
I can’t disclose specifics on this but what I can tell you is that I have seen dozens of top secret documents that the New Zealand Government has been provided by the United States, because of the Five Eyes status of New Zealand, that indicate that New Zealand is extremely aware of the extent to which the United States is engaged in drone strikes around the world and is briefed fully on the infrastructure of that programme. And the fact is that New Zealand through signal intercepts is directly involved with what is effectively an American assassination programme. People can say ‘oh well we are just giving them intelligence on terrorists’. The fact is that the world – most countries of the world – view what the United States is doing as rogue actions.
Never mind the fluff of polls, PR and show ponies, this stuff is important. It goes to the guts of sovereignty and statehood. NZ was one of the founding members of the League of Nations after WWI. It was a founding member of the United Nations after WWII. John Key's government has blithely swept all that precedent away by including NZ materiel and labour in these many crimes against International Law, including the Geneva Conventions.

The Nats have sold our century of pacific soul to Hollywood. Do you feel horribly short-changed yet?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Hanging Out with Beck, Whodini and Queen Camilla

Please pardon my break from blogging. Although I've been following the headlines, watching the gossip on Twitter, and occasionally popping into the House to witness some absurd theatre, I've really been preferring the company of chickens.
Kapiti Gothic; Beck and Queen Camilla. Whodini AWOL, as usual.
Sartre was wrong about a lot, but not Hell being other people. If the Psychoactive Substances donut wasn't bad enough, here's a sample of righteous puritanism from today's headlines alone:

One (vanilla) farmer gets fined $7500 for gross animal cruelty, while another farmer (with a Maori name) gets fined $15,000 for stubbornly refusing to wear a quad bike helmet on his land. Don't quibble the obiter, the law is still an ass. Actual harm > potential harm.

The coronial inquest into the Masterton balloon tragedy continues, with cannabis still being the whipping boy for the mess. Never mind an almost identical accident occurring in the US (wind changes, balloon hits power lines). Never mind testimony saying there's no evidence cannabis played any role in the balloon failure, the government is welcoming drug testing in the tourism industry.

NZ I love you but you still really piss me off.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Do Focus Groups Dream of Synthetic People?

April was one of those months. Vanilla skies with no news, followed by a vanilla religious holiday, concluding with a vanilla hailstorm of moral panic complete with pitchforked lightning and a flood of recanting politicians.

The Easter shopping anomaly went to 11 this year, with everything open in Wanaka over the mandated religious period except the pubs. Apparently the town was tipped off that there would be no enforcement of the archaic law against Easter trading (unless you were a pub or an unsuccessful special event applicant, in which case there would be). This fickle absence of enforcement gave Wanaka an excemption reserved in legislation only for Taupo and other listed 'tourist towns'.

Alcohol was still available at the traditionally excempted premises. If you were middle class enough to afford to dine in licensed premises, you could drink booze uninterrupted over Easter. This exclusion is an artifact from before the Sale of Liquor Act 1989, when every Sunday was Easter Sunday and all the pubs were closed. Churches could still serve booze (to minors!) in the Eucharist, Synagogues could still serve booze (to babies!) at circumcisions / genital mutilations. For the secular Gentile others, we had to stockpile booze at home over Easter like a survivalist.

Survivalism sounds like what is increasingly a pastime for the residents of the Flockton sinkhole. The recent rains have washed away more hope from them, with the balance between fight and flight swinging inexorably towards the latter. Winter is coming, and there may be more once-in-a-century floods on their way. There's no sign of help from King Gerry, who has kicked the problem firmly into the city council's realm to deal with.

Not entirely dissimilar to the buck-passing bug in last year's visionary Psychoactive Substances Act, which led to hicksville mayors around NZ landed with responsibility for a new and complex regime they knew absolutely nothing about. The upshot of this led to the government siding with vigilante arsonists in banning legal highs outright last week.

In retrospect, all the signs were there. Nationwide protests that looked like a working class Sensible Sentencing Trust lynch mob took place. Associate Minister of Health (and temporary drug czar while Dunne was in the naughty corner last year) Todd McClay agreed with a Rotorua crowd that legal highs were bad. Labour party shadow drug czar Iain Lees-Galloway appeared in Palmy saying legal highs were bad. Only Peter Dunne was singing the Act's positives until last Sunday night, when Dunne finally capitulated and agreed that legal highs were, as they say, bad.

Blame for this vanilla victory rests firmly with National and Labour. National for under-funding the project to the point of sabotage, and its ignorance of what was at stake beyond "The focus group said no." Labour for the inane local government authority bug they inserted into the Psychoactive Substances Act, demonstrating that they have learned precisely nothing from the local government fallout over the Prostitution Reform Act. Secondly, Labour's populist crusade ran counter to their support for the original bill.

It shows bad faith from both main parties. A lack of imagination from the Nats is to be expected, but Labour's faults are unforgivable. Thank Dagg for MMP and third party software, because there's too much salt sown in the fallow fields of Team Blue and Team Red.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Why I Joined the Green Party

Week four of the news drought and still the muse is unamused at the menu. Instead, here's something off the menu from last year. It is the introduction note I sent to the Greens after I joined the party:

I recently joined the Greens on Winter Solstice, after Russel Norman's realpoliltik dropping of the QE policy. That showed political bravery and pragmatism from the Greens, both in suggesting new policies, and dumping old ones that can't be sold to the public. Next year's election is pivotal to the long term future of New Zealand. Booting QE clears the deck for a clear and concise platform to take to the people next year and seek their mandate.

The Greens MPs have shown to be an outstanding Opposition to the Key government, with a better bang for buck ratio than the rest of the Opposition parties combined. Putting aside a few speed wobbles, the party is changing up and consolidating its base, without losing its purpose. I can well imagine expanding on that success, eating into the Maori and Blue Green voting blocs, as well as Labour's bloc and the General Enrolled Non Vote.

But enough flattery. Let me introduce myself. My name is Will. I was born in Palmy on a political animal farm. My first political battle was when I was eight, accidentally leading the faction of Labour Party kids on a school playground at lunch time on Election Day 1978, as a plane flew overhead trailling the banner "Labour is Winning!".

Labour didn't. The old man's Labour lost the Manawatu electorate contest to National's Michael Cox, although Labour's Joe Walding regained Palmerston North after the narrow loss to National in 1975. The lesson here? Every seat is marginal, given the correct circumstances.

Since then I have scrutineered, stuffed envelopes, leaflet dropped, petitioned, databased, policy wonked, and generally volunteered across part of the political spectrum. In chronological order: Labour, Act, Libertarianz, Act, Labour, ALCP and now Greens. If that seems a bit messy, it makes more sense when mapped to my position on the Poltical Compass, which defines me as a Left Libertarian. In short, Ayn Rand was a nutjob (Please excuse the perjorative term. I just wanted to annoy the NSA/GCSB).

I voted Greens in 2011, partly as a protest to Labour's disarray, but mainly because the Greens offered a better alternative team and platform. As a Half Deaf, I was especially pleased to have helped Mojo Mathers enter the House. There is still a long way to go for Disability Rights, especially as National mimics David Cameron's welfare crackdown on the sick and infirm in the UK here in NZ.

I intend to not only vote Greens next year, but hope to encourage others to do so as well. Now more than ever, there needs to be a party that stands with the people, not just giving them lip service such as the main two parties continue to do.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Gated Reverb and Other Sounds of the '80s

One of the great tragedies of the NZ Left is that they have swallowed whole the myth of the Fourth Labour government. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Lange is still revered as a saint instead of the dithering Billy Bunter he was, and Rogernomics is still vilified as voodoo economics.

The Douglas revolution was all but air-brushed out of the Labour Party narrative at the 90th anniversary party at the Beehive, and at other times it is passed off as an aberration. In reality, old Labour MPs such as Joe Walding supported Rogernomics whole-heartedly.

Alas, the false narrative has become the accepted history. This may or may not explain why the party is currently resorting to circling its ever-decreasing wagons.

The tragedy can be summed up in one day; December 17th 1987. Here's Mervyn Wilkinson Hancock's take on it, from the excellent The Sixteen Members of Parliament for Palmerston North 1871-2005, Chapter 15, pg. 511:

Lange broke Cabinet collective responsibility and cancelled the package with his cup of tea. It was clear enough that Lange was exercising a veto power that he did not have, but what can you do? Lange pulled a Muldoon v Fitzgerald where the courts could not go to enforce it, in Cabinet.

Fast forward to today, where Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn complains that the Greens are the only party with a Universal Basic Income policy. If you throw that Rogernomics promise of $370 a week in 1987 dollars into the Reserve Bank's Inflation Calculator, it comes out in 2014 money just shy of $700 a week. That's a reasonable sum for a subsistence family to live in some dignity.

Instead, we're stuck with this hopelessly complex bewilder-beast of WINZ which dribbles out far less to scrape by on, enforced by pains in the forests of paperwork and performance art.

NZ, I love you, but you piss me off.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

News Drought

We're into the second week of news drought here in NZ. Nothing continues to happen. In lieu of news, mirages are common. They look like news at a distance, but upon closer inspection are nothing but the shifting sands of time.

For example, a Kiwi Sleb's Lear jet joins the search for the AWOL MH370. It looks like a match made in clickbait heaven, but turns out to be less than the sum of its parts. Traces of the missing Malaysian airplane continue to elude the search team over the South Indian Ocean, who have only found an ocean full of unrelated human flotsam and jetsam so far. Alas, the man-made Plastic Gyres of inorganic refuse are not news either.

Another cyclist is dead. Police are considering whether to press charges against a 70 year old truck driver who ran over and killed a 22 year old student nurse cyclist.

Sharla Haerewa was wearing a reflective vest and bike lights for Africa, as well as apparently riding in the designated cycle lane. If the police don't charge this truckie with careless driving causing death, THAT would be news.

It would be even better news if the Dutch way of law was introduced here, where the burden of proof always lies with the person in charge of the multi-ton speeding hunk of metal. Fair trade for the freight-friendly Roads of National Significance, eh.

The thinking person's gym bunny, Rachel Smalley, Punk'd herself with a live mic, inadvertently setting off a wrestling match with some self-identifying heifers. It's a fight as old as nerd versus jock but, like alcohol and other drugs, it is a cleavage that feminism has yet to resolve to its satisfaction.

It looks like I picked the wrong week to join Twitter. Just as I join in search of news and novelty, Herald journo David Fisher calls it quits. I can see his point. The signal to noise is so lopsided, I get an idea what SETI must feel like. It's like being in a Kakrafoonian Pub.

At least Towel Day is only a month away. A hopeful thumbs up til then. You're never lost as long as you know where your towel is.

Friday, March 21, 2014


The NZ Problem Gambling Foundation has been effectively defunded after a Ministry of Health review recommended dumping Gambling Foundation services in favour of the Salvation Army. The membrane between state and religion grows ever thinner, and there's a weird funk in the air.

Let's get this clear at the get go. It's not that I wish to pick a fight with the Salvation Army. I have had their Bell Gully law jockeys pissing in my ear on a Friday afternoon when I'm getting my drunk on before. Captain Buzzkills, for sure.

I'd just like to know why the Problem Gambling Foundation was dropped after a long and respectable history, and whether it was the Sallies' tax exempt status that helped undercut the tender for rehab and support services. Unfortunately, the only evidence being presented so far is a series of black boxes.

When casinos were first legalised in NZ, the Casino Control Authority set many conditions on licences. One of those was a gambling levy, which would be funnelled directly towards NGOs funded to be the casinos' nemeses. Some kind of watchmen duality would keep the system in check for the public good.

The NZ Problem Gambling Foundation was a product of this levy. Over the next 20 years, it provided a secular national service for problem addicts, and provided the Problem Gambling literature that casinos must by law have visibly displayed in their premises. The advocacy was separately funded through donations, and worked to minimise problem gambling at the source, through supply control of the gambler crack of pokie machines.

In contrast, the Salvation Army is a more generalised provider of government welfare services; a bit like Serco, the private company behind the Auckland Remand Centre and new Wiri prison, but tax exempt through religious status (The Seventh Day Adventists do the same thing with Sanitarium. Don't get me started on Jesus Freaks and breakfast communions. Suffice it to say, coffee and cigarettes is my rite).

So, after twenty years of internationally recognised excellence in treatment, research and lobbying (Sinking Lid? That was them), why have the NZ Problem Gambling Foundation lost their meal ticket? Well, no-one's saying.

The independent report by the Ministry of Health hasn't popped up. Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne did, on Checkpoint, where he failed to illuminate the why of it either. Nor did the Sallies, who weren't going into specifics. There was unfinished contract haggling to be had yet, and the whole deal was commercially sensitive (My paraphrase, not a quote, m'lud). Unfinished business indeed.

The Ministry of Health is feeling pretty damn sure that the God botherers can improve on the precedents set by the Problem Gambling Foundation. Faith-based even. And which secular NGO is the next to get gobbled up by the Salvation Army's market share and scales of economy?

It's a new monopoly. Pass God. Collect $200.