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Saturday, February 28, 2009

The summit

NZ Herald reporting one of the outcomes of the generic bringing-sector-groups-together-new-govt-summit - this government quite properly focusing on employment (the alternative like a "growth" summit that may have occurred if the financial bubble had not popped never eventuated because it popped big time) - has had as one of it's most talked about ideas that the PM may consider a training day once a fortnight for workers who are in businesses experiencing a downturn in production.

Not inspiring. But I note that I have not been factoring in the potential social benefits of a policy that reduces the working week. Cactus reckons:

Rather than a day off where the time can solely be used for the worker, let workers drop their hours each day and FORCE them to go off every day at 3pm so they can pick up their kids from school and shock horror, actually force them to spend some time with them before it gets dark.

It would also spread out the traffic in the cities which would be a much more efficient use of the roading and public transport capacity than just having one day a fortnight off. So seeing as how mornings are the real killers make it a 10am or 11am start every day to reduce the morning peak? In the last serious recession we had carless days - now it's credit rather than petrol in short supply we'll be having jobless days. It is astounding to think it has come to this.

And as for all the pointless training that will supposedly occur on this one day a fortnight? Training for what? Skilling oneself in what - how to find another job? I don't know how to tell the PM this, but half of Auckland already goes down the pub bright and early every lunchtime on Friday and they never make it back to the office. We're already effectively taking that one day per fortnight off anyway - now they want to apply that rule to blue collar workers too.

These people were considered skiving, unproductive piss-heads that gave city workers - and the managers that encouraged it - bad names and now they are the heros of the depression; leading the working class' consciousness over day-specific voluntary labour contraction issues in order to save the nation. You legends. Those of us about to be partially casualised salute your years of previous sacrifice.

The cycleway concept had more credibility - although it will take a lot longer to plan and consent and construct than the few short years that the people commenting on Radio NZ yesterday seemed to think.

If that idea is flying then they must have very few ideas at the gab-fest, so here's mine:

Underground the lines.

If the utility companies do not want to take advantage of the $1.5 billion (?) of govt. broadband money then maybe giving the local councils the power to rate the utility companies overhead (but not underground) wires will give the councils some much needed rates money and provide the financial incentive (the imposition of substantial easement rates) to get these ugly lines off the landscape and under the street.

This work would be the right time to then put other services and the capacity for future services into the ground in a conduit accessible to parties other than the current two (Telecom and the local electricity lines companies).

Undergrounding is a capital intensive and labour intensive activity that will benefit productivity and economic growth in the long term.

This could also apply to some extent to Transpower and the high-tension pylons esp. in urban areas. If they complain about, for example, a $1 billion cost to underground a section of transmission lines, the council could show them that the $10m overhead utility easement rates for that section each year is the alternative - at which point the company will probably ask the govt. to go 50/50 on an undergrounding the actual cost of which will probably work out to much less than what they claimed the estimate was.

Literally rate them into the ground.

Friday, February 27, 2009

nz blogosphere rankings: January 2009 summary

The January 2009 nz blogosphere rankings list is completed now, slightly later than usual. Many blogs have rebounded in traffic since the lull of the holidays. Being a quiet time posts have been level since December - but comments have been up. There was a lot of heat over Gaza in this period within the blogosphere in an otherwise placid summer break. Things are getting competitive in the top thirty or so now.

There are a total of 212 blogs on the list (up 3). Changes from last month (December) in brackets.

Top 100:

#14 (new) Kiwipolitico : www.kiwipolitico.com
#19 (new) Open Parachute : www.openparachute.wordpress.com

#3 (+2) Public Address : www.publicaddress.net
#8 (+3) Dim Post : www.dimpost.wordpress.com
#11 (+7) Poneke’s Weblog : www.poneke.wordpress.com
#15 (+4) The Hand Mirror: www.thehandmirror.blogspot.com
#20 (+5) Hot topic : www.hot-topic.co.nz
#22 (+8) The Visible Hand in Economics : www.tvhe.co.nz
#26 (+9) Fundy post : www.fundypost.blogspot.com
#30 (+27) Anti-Dismal : www.antidismal.blogspot.com
#34 (+14) Dear John : www.dearjk.wordpress.com
#43 (+10) Just Left : www.jtc.blogs.com
#47 (+19) Greenpeace NZ blog : www.weblog.greenpeace.org.nz
#50 (+9) Aotearoa: a wider perspective: www.aotearoaawiderperspective.wordpress.com
#58 (+42) The Humanitarian Chronicle : www.humanitarianchronicle.com
#60 (+30) Socialist Aotearoa : www.socialistaotearoa.blogspot.com
#67 (+27) Say Hello to my Little Friend : www.beretta-online.com/wordpress
#73 (+25) Auckland blog : www.aucklandblog.blogspot.com
#75 (+16) Contra Celsum : www.jtcontracelsum.blogspot.com
#77 (+23) Ethical Martini : www.ethicalmartini.wordpress.com
#82 (+18) Blessed Economist : www.getrad2.blogspot.com
#83 (+17) Republican Movement of Aotearoa New Zealand : www.republic.org.nz

#17 (-4) Cactus Kate : www.asianinvasion2006.blogspot.com
#27 (-5) New Zealand Conservative : www.nzconservative.blogspot.com
# 35 (-12) Keeping Stock : www.keepingstock.blogspot.com
#46 (-34) Policy Blog : www.policy.net.nz/blog
#52 (-11) John Key : www.johnkey.co.nz
#53 (-22) Liberty Scott : www.libertyscott.blogspot.com
#55 (-11) Dave Gee: Life from Right Field : www.davegeeblog.com
#57 (-31) Pundit : www.pundit.co.nz
#81 (-16) Eye of the Fish : www.eyeofthefish.org
#87 (-27) The ex-expat : www.exexpat1.blogspot.com
#92 (-24) NZBC : www.nzbc.net.nz
#98 (-20) Ideologically Impure : www.ideologicallyimpure.wordpress.com

[Posts] Average per week:
135 (+15) Whoar
50 (-10) Inquiring Mind
50 (+10) Whaleoil
45 (-5) Kiwiblog
30 (+5) TUMEKE!
30 (+10) Aotearoa: a wider perspective
25 (-20) No Minister
20 (-10) Standard
20 (-) No Right Turn
20 (-10) Home Paddock
20 (n/a) Hand Mirror
20 (n/a) Roar Prawn
20 (-) Keeping Stock

[Comments] Average highest post per week:
390 (+190) Public Address
205 (+35) Kiwiblog
90 (-70) Frogblog
80 (-20) Standard
80 (new) Kiwipolitico
75 (+25) TUMEKE!
60 (+35) TBR
35 (+10) No Minister
35 (+10) Hot Topic
30 (+10) Dim Post
30 (+10) Poneke
30 (-5) New Zeal
30 (-5) NZ Conservative
25 (new) Open Parachute
20 (n/a) Cactus Kate
20 (-) Hand Mirror
20 (n/a) Reading the Maps
20 (n/a) MandM
20 (-) Eye of the Fish

To all those bloggers who have given details or provided a traffic meter etc., thank you for your assistance.

It's the economy, stupid

How much does the former merchant banker who heads our Government know and when is he going to reveal his cards? As our best and brightest financial minds gather to brainstorm at the Jobs Summit, this question needs to be asked: how good are traditional economic models now under what economist George Soros has called the end of unregulated capitalism? As the increasing toll of late nights worrying furrows the brows of both our Prime Minister and our Minister for Finance, it is becoming clear that nation states are used to regulating price stability in much more calmer conditions and are not sure quite how to deal with this level of fluctuation.

The faith of many people in the ability of unregulated business to make sane decisions has been dented in the US by the series of high profile fraud cases and allegations of insider trading that have been mirrored around the world. The collapse of companies such as Lehman Brothers, Fanny May and Freddie Mac in the US have been followed by a slew of other companies, exposing the fragility of this house of cards we have built. In America, the middle classes who have borrowed beyond their wealth have been turfed out of their homes through foreclosures causing tent cities across the nation. The damage this housing market's over-extension has caused has sent ripples of fear through other countries, the globalised nature of our markets meaning that the import and export trades of very few markets are safe.

A few days ago, we witnessed the collapse of the Anglo Ireland bank in a scandal that Gene Kerrigan argued in The Independent would inevitably lead to public strikes against the Government for its protection of the wealthy players rather than the people who lost their homes. Just over two months ago, we witnessed Iceland go bankrupt because the krona could no longer compete against stronger currencies on the international market. The news of late from other countries is little better: Japan is predicting a 4.1% contraction in the GDP causing the Liberal Democrat Party to issue suicide warnings, particularly as the people losing their jobs first appear to be those on casual contracts and limited hours. Many regions of Eastern Europe remain under threat of economic collapse, with the Ukraine, Latvia, Hungary and Romania asking for loans from the IMF over the last few months. Having finally made progress under the global credit boom, these countries teeter on the brink of bankruptcy. In India, we have seen the losses of more than two million jobs in the last four months. Even China's economy is slowing, with the Government just declaring a US$1 billion bailout for China Eastern Airlines.

While Key and English keep reiterating that we have somewhat of a buffer due to the more controlled style of lending that our Aussie banks have procured, the problem is that the structure of our economy is not immune to the whims of the fluctuating economy of other nations. For example, the Australians are watching the Japanese markets with a keen eye at the moment as it affects nearly a quarter of their export market. Under these kind of economic conditions, it becomes a Government's job in tandem with the Reserve Bank to attempt to regulate price stability and keep consumer confidence up to encourage spending. As George Bush argued after 9/11, we need to keep going to Disneyland (as cited in Spigel, 2004: 231).

However, as Soros so acutely highlights, how do we keep going to Disneyland when the wheels have effectively fallen off the machine? Stimulus packages in the US did little to quell the collapse of the sub-prime housing markets despite tax paying Americans receiving rebates. The problem is, as the debates over Bush's stimulus package illustrate, tax rebates tend to either be spent very quickly or saved. The former result is simply an aspirin to a market crippled at the knees and does not fix the problem; the latter is an anathema to its purpose as the money does not circulate.

It is hard to see how such a flawed system can be fixed by such measures without radical transformation of the terms under which capitalism works. While many exercise faith in his ability to manage the situation due to his background as a merchant banker for Merrill Lynch, recent revelations regarding Wall Street politics weaken this claim to credibility. As Michael Lewis' argues in his autobiographical work Liar's Poker, the streets paved with market gold were often frequented by players who had little knowledge of economics, the business environment encouraging snake oil merchants who had little regard for the confidence they inspired in stakeholders. After writing a memoir on how he made it on Wall Street without knowing much about the system itself, Lewis was alarmed to find that people were reading it as a manual on bluffing with big money.

Moreover, there has been increasing focus over the last few weeks on how many of the basic premises on which economic decisions have been made are fundamentally flawed. For example, Wired.com examines how the complex equations on risk designed by David X. Li and adopted by economists around the world are fundamentally flawed. In the desire to create a definitive number for the essentially unquantifiable variable of risk, financial institutions have threatened the very foundations of our society. One in five mortgage owners in the US are now in negative equity and economists such as Soros argue that the fall-out from the "sub-prime detonator" will get much worse. In the US, the Federal Reserve sees the recession as continuing well into 2011. As Gordon Campbell highlights, some economists are predicting the US recession could actually last as long as till 2015. The bottom line is that it is difficult for the property market to stabilise with rapidly rising levels of unemployment.

In the midst of this global chaos, we elect a leader who is one of the people who has helped get us into this situation. Despite Key's apparent expertise at the economy, all we have had is policies that are targeted at saving cash for the middle classes by providing tax cuts and easing regulatory restrictions around small businesses. This did not work in the US and there is no guarantee it will work here. As Rob Fyfe points out, tax cuts are unlikely to get the economy moving. The middle classes are more likely to save that money and for a tax stimulus to work it must be targeted at the people who are most likely to spend it. As his opponents have pointed out, the small business changes just make it easier to fire people who are likely to lose their jobs anyway during a recession.

Apparently we are supposed to vest our faith in the patriotic myths that keep falling like verbal diahoerrea from Key's lips: "We're not a nation of whingers or slackers", despite our size "we are gritty" and there will be a moment where we emerge from this crisis as victorious due to our unnatural ability for innovation by virtue of being born New Zealanders. These problems will be solved by Key meeting with the old boys club at the Jobs Summit (a meeting that even the ACT Party recognises is playing with tiddlywinks while the backyard burns).

Diverting us to the minutae of the economy and relatively small scale jobs creation plans is on the one hand good for consumer confidence, perhaps slowing the rate of unemployment. On the other hand, it is time for some serious planning. It is clear that in order for NZ to emerge in a better position from this recession, there is a need to overhaul the system. Repeating lessons from Economics 101 will do little to protect us from a situation that is already arguably too out of control for the Government and Reserve Bank to effectively steer. The only way from here, at least for the short term, is down. But one would hope that in the long term, strategies are introduced that limit the risk of our people by regulating the free market further. For while the market in theory eventually rebalances itself, we should take this as a stern lesson of the human cost in letting capital flow with little regulation.


As one star rises another fades. Little's EPMU/Labour dual act will continue in the meantime - making a mockery out of both Labour's and the EPMU's independence, esp. in relation to the now repealed Election Finance Act. When Cullen shuffles off to pick up his old-school parliamentary mega-pension it raises the spectre of Judith bloody Tizard returning (after Clark departs for the UN role of which no other contenders have emerged in our media) and this will damage Labour's prospects further.Cullen is turning game keeper after 9 years/25+ years of poaching. For the man who rammed through the Foreshore & Seabed confiscation law in 2004 (and the terra nullius colonial style racism of section 34 that philosophically underpins it) the turn around is gobsmacking.Dom Post reporting:

Former Treaty negotiations minister Michael Cullen is set to jump the fence and become a negotiator for central North Island iwi Tuwharetoa when he leaves Parliament.
Labour sources yesterday confirmed Dr Cullen would quit before the May 28 Budget, as reported by The Dominion Post on Wednesday, to take up the role

As amends for the law that this Englishman has passed it has at least some sort of symmetry about it. As DPF notes:

This is almost the opposite to National’s Chris Finlayson. Chris used to be Ngai Tahu’s lawyer, and now of course is the current Treaty Negotiations Minister.
It is possible Cullen could end up negotiating with Finlayson on behalf of Tuwharetoa. For their sake I hope Chris has forgiven Cullen for personally vetoeing Chris getting the QC in 2005!

Musical chairs is such fun - after the tune stops at the next election they might both find themselves trying to sit on the same seat.

To the critics of the Treaty process (and that includes Maori) this will confirm their suspicion that the Pakeha elite are gaining more out of it than the average Maori it is supposed to be helping.

Boot camps DON’T work

Judge puts boot into boot camps
The traditional "boot camp" for young offenders was "arguably the least successful sentence in the Western world", the principal Youth Court judge says.
"It made them healthier, fitter, faster, but they were still burglars, just harder to catch, " Judge Andrew Becroft said. He said physical programmes backed up by mentoring and family support could work, but New Zealand's corrective training camps, which ran up till 2002, found 92 per cent of young attendees reoffended within a year.
"It was a spectacular, tragic, flawed, failure," he said.

Well, well, well – exactly what we here at Tumeke pointed out – BOOT CAMPS DON’T WORK – but right wing NZ doesn’t want to hear that, right wing NZ wants to burn $35 million to feel good about putting a hard kick up the arse of youth they hate – it’s a dog whistle spite thing, just like allowing junk food back into schools to increase our diabetes rates and heart disease numbers for the most pathetic ‘it’s-nanny-state-to-force-your-kids-to-eat-fresh-fruit’ reason by Ronald McDonald’s new girlfriend, Anne Tolley. Same with dumping incandescent energy saving lightbulbs and increasing truancy fines to $3000, they serve no purpose beyond arousing red necks to crimson.

Once again, for those who vote blue – BOOT CAMPS DON’T WORK, please stop burning our tax dollars.

Job summit a set up

Who the hell let John Key get filmed spinning around and around and around yesterday as he's trying to talk about not letting the economy spin out of control? You could see his Spin Dr's in the background wincing at the image of the PM spinning endlessly and the focus on his footing by the media as he tried to stand up desperately trying not to look wobbly on his feet.

Here is why the Job Summit is a set up

1: The Media are banned from sitting in on the sessions to see exactly what is said, why are they so frightened to let the media see that and the none transparency doesn't help ease concerns that this is a jack up with a pre-determined solution.

2: The largest opposition party has been banned from attending.

So National are calling a 'job summit' which the media won't be able to attend beyond the PR spin and the Opposition party is banned from turning up all together. Seeing as National have already passed a 90 day right to sack law, have raised the minimum wage by a pitiful 50cents and are about to redesign tenancy laws to benfit the landlord, let's not pretend National are the friend of working NZers and holding their 'job summit' in secret doesn't help shrug the feeling National have already made up their mind on a plan.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Elvis has left the building

In fact most likely Elvis has left the country altogether. As you do when you're standing trial for $2m worth of P.

[UPDATE-- 8:40PM:
And here's why he did a runner and why I for one do not blame Elvis for exiting abruptly:
The Judiciary are now smoking more fucking P than the dealers - a life sentence for meth!? A pharmaceutical crime gets life, and Emery - who stabbed and killed a 15 year old - gets just a couple of years. In fact pick just about any violent crime and compare it with what the judge gave to this person:

She said there was no doubt Rhodes, 53, was a menace to society and the human cost of his drug offending would have been great.
She said a life sentence was needed to deter Rhodes and others from similar offending and to protect the community.
Rhodes was part of a highly sophisticated and commercial drug ring which included his brother and four others.
The ring stockpiled the ingredients to make methamphetamine, made the drug and then supplied it to others.

Ahhhhh, yeeeaaaaahhhh... and Emery killed a kid. Manslaughterers, as long as they are white and middle class and the victim isn't, get less than half (and will serve much less) than what Rhodes' will - a mandatory ten to start.

I fail to see how a non-violent crime, the manufacture of a product that is bought at high prices by a small number of the population, warrants anything approaching life. The co-offenders sentences would indicate their crimes are worse than death as well:

Another member of the same ring, Stephen Kissling, 40, was jailed for 20 years for manufacturing methamphetamine with a minimum non-parole period of nine years.

Paul Robinson, 55, was jailed for 16 years with a non-parole period of seven years; Xing Su, 24, was jailed for four years and nine months; Richard Rhodes, 58, was jailed for six years and six months; and Glenn Gollop, 37, for 12 years with a minimum non-parole period of six years.

Non-parole. Spiteful, hysterical and completely disproportionate.

Detective Senior Sergeant Bruce Howard, said [...]
"The courts are recognising the heinous nature of offences that are caused directly as a result of the manufacture and use of methamphetamine.

No, the courts are the ciphers for the (ironically) over-hyped and frenzied police-led, media-fuelled (ironically once again as everyone from news readers down are frying up in media/"creative" circles) anti-P mania, backed as it is by the reactionary public and the knee-jerking politicians. It is the sentences that are heinous.

I've served time with hardened meth fiends and they told me P was an evil substance, that they went for many days without sleep becoming ever more paranoid and agitated and that the drug was addictive and turned them into unmanageable, unbearable arseholes. That's their first-hand experience of using P. Using P heavily. Some even went on to say that when they got out they would as soon as they possibly could consume the maximum human capacity for methamphetamine and go on a crime binge. It doesn't sound advisable to use it in a binge capacity - I would reply, and I would tell them that Darren MacDonald, the superb TV3 newsreader, did some of his finest work as a broadcaster when he was as fried as chips. But he managed it, he used it wisely, he was never professionally compromised as far as I recall except for the charge itself. But no bingeing. No staying awake for six straight days with six trays of Woodies, a sawn off shotgun and a girlfriend meaner than you - FFS it's such an obviously flawed lifestyle choice.

But some people - and many were alcoholic - like their drugs and they love their P and they will do and pay what they have to to get it. If it wasn't P it would be another letter of the alphabet with those types. I got the impression that their criminality was assisted by P rather than caused by it.

So why is P so bad again?

Let's use the news report's two ones:
- from the police:
the heinous nature of offences that are caused directly as a result of the manufacture and use of methamphetamine.
- from the bench:
menace to society and the human cost of his drug offending would have been great.

So P is bad because other - presumably innocent - people are "heinously" affected.

Accepting they are "heinously" affected we have to ask why are they and what can we do, policy-wise, to minimise the level of heiniousity and/or minimise the numbers affected by heiniousity:

  • If people commit a crime, or prostitute themselves etc, to pay for P then it is the price that is the issue. If that is the issue then lowering the price by making it legal might be one answer. But one of those answers cannot credibly be: send people to prison for Life because people like to put things into pipes and smoke them. The reason it is expensive is because the government sets the price effectively through risk: Class A. If they made P Class C then its price would fall most likely.

  • If people commit a crime, or prostitute themselves, neglect their kids, under-perform at work etc, because they are addicted to P, then mental health is the issue and some form of therapy, or clinic to treat their addiction might be one answer. We don't solve alcoholism by banning alcohol and we can't send people to prison for Life just because people like to put things into pipes and smoke them.

  • There is no third point here, not really. Availability or distribution or imperfect information etc, ie. the lengths people will go through to get it is reflected in the first bullet point - price - which also reflects the other assumed evil "the pusher" who is motivated only in pushing drugs that have high profit margins and therefore are usually Class A. The government controls what price it is through the class tariff and enforcement and the judiciary underscores it all with Life sentences. If there was a third point it is that it is only a self-harming, victimless crime after all, or that it is not self-harming either (and I know that isn't true from the people I've talked to who became addicted). The conclusion being that we can't send people to prison for Life just because people like to put things into pipes and smoke them. That's not how this issue should be dealt with. But that is what they are doing.

    A Life sentence is more "heinous" than anything that a P supplier ever caused to an innocent party alone; because his silent partners in the drug business are the government and the police. Without their hyper-criminalisation of methamphetamine much of the damage caused by P would not exist. The market - that is to say the receptive audience - for cheap P may well extend to all levels of society, but is it really that much deeper and wider than what it is already at current market prices? No one wants to see primary school kids picking packets up off the street and experimenting, but we are probably already at that point in some areas and a lowering of the price, I think, will not substantially increase the number of addicts (and if it does go down it would be because a stronger letter drug was being made).

    There is a lot of remarkable histrionics from politicians and police and the media when it comes to P - crusading zealotry and demonisation that leads to utterly disproportionate responses to (how shall I put this) human frailty... that person who paid hush money to keep his girlfriend from telling the cops that he bashed her - he's got his gig back on radio. I believe the matter is before the courts. He seems to have conceded that he is a violent offender and yet MacDonald - for smoking P - is black-listed.


    NZPA reporting:
    On February 8 Wu's lawyer Ron Mansfield told police his client had disappeared.

    and -

    A warrant has been issued for Wu's arrest and police are calling for any information on his whereabouts.

    The police want to know any information on the whereabouts of Elvis.

    Doh! And double doh! with the timing - the Minister for Courts on a tour of Auckland:
    How's that performance and circumstances for you minister? (or is this possibly something they can pin on the embattled Corrections CEO?)

    If you have seen Elvis or know where Elvis might be please contact the NZ Police.

  • Alt Tv returns March 2nd

    The new management team at Alt will be kicking off the new schedule Monday March 2nd, Sunday News Roast is back Sunday 8th at 7pm and the first Let's be Frank will be with Labour leader Phil Goff on the first 100 days under National/ACT 8pm Sunday.

    Foreshore & Seabed review panel

    Maori Television's Te Kaea (and also Te Karere on TVNZ who speculated on the membership) are reporting that the Maori Party-National policy of reviewing the Foreshore & Seabed confiscation law has had the details set - both the terms of reference (understood to be as broad as the wording in the Mational coalition agreement) and the panel:

    Judge Eddie Durie (a well-known judge and chair of the Waitangi Tribunal) will probably chair it, with the two likely other members being Hana O'Regan and Richard Boast. I can't see why the panel will be any larger than those three. I note here that Durie and Boast have literally been on the same page about some issues (Maori cusom law) - see image.

    Boast is a Vic law professor who has written a book on the Foreshore and Seabed in December 2005.
    O'Regan is into poetry as well as other literary and academic activity.
    Shane Jones, the Great Waha of the North, says that although there will be experts in tikanga Maori on the panel the government will not listen to them. Jones' own party not only didn't listen but slapped Maori across the face - so anything he has to say on the issue is a joke. And yet he says:As do I.

    We won’t borrow for super, but we will borrow for tax cuts? COME ON!

    I’ve always felt a wee bit queasy about putting the future retirement needs of the country into the stock market, it seemed to me like Uncle Cullen may as well pop down to the racetrack and punt it all on a hose called’ Muldoon-likes-to-think-big’ and blow the lot so I have a certain amount of sympathy for holding off on payments, but sweet Christ folks, if we are looking to hold off payments for something as crucial as the retirement of an entire generation, a situation that will force us to pay more later (English quips there ain’t no free lunch when he makes that point) then we sure as hell should stop the April Fools Day tax cuts immediately. If borrowing for a retirement scheme isn’t sustainable in the current economic meltdown then tax cuts that benefit the wealthy sure as hell aren’t sustainable either.

    Drop the tax cuts that benefit the wealthy first and then let’s discuss suspending the super.

    Key not guaranteeing ongoing tax cuts
    Prime Minister John Key "believes" tax cuts for 2010-11 and will go ahead, but he stopped short of guaranteeing them today. Mr Key made the comments while being asked about Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe's comments earlier questioning whether tax cuts were the best way to stimulate the economy.

    Good to see National are listening to Tumeke, dump the April Fools Day Tax cuts as well Mr Key - be honest with NZers and tell them how bad it really is going to be, they need to hear that the bed of debt they've made with their consumer consumption culture has to be addressed, no matter how painful the reality for some.

    The meltdown, the culling and the mergers: a less competitive future?

    The collapsing economy is forcing re-thinks about the structure of entire industries - not just the banking and finance sector. With weaker firms on smaller market shares struggling to find capital their survival is more at risk than the "too big to fail" multi-national corporates and their going under will never make the headlines the way General Motors, AIG - or even F&P - does. What is at risk in the aftermath of the turmoil is that the only ones left will be merged super-corporates that are at least tacitly backed by the government. They don't need to be particularly responsive or efficient to collect a govt. handout - they just need to be big enough to have survived - and when they come through the other side it will be cream from here to Africa for the big boys.

    Given this is the way things may well end up I'm glad the economic blog. TVHE, has lambasted the NZ Herald's bizarre suggestion that the Commerce Commission should be "temporarily relaxing some elements of competition law to help the corporate sector," and notes:

    There is too much of a micro focus on “keeping a businesses afloat” - the important issue is actually making sure that the allocation of resources across the economy is as efficient as possible. Allowing prices to get stuck outside of their competitive level isn’t going to help this …

    If the recession is prolonged - and most seem to be forecasting something like a depression - then the risks are that the small, innovative (but capital poor) operations that keep the large firms honest will disappear. It's not as if small players have any lobbying powers, compared to their larger rivals, to prevent anti-competitive mergers. The result? Corporate consolidation and market dominance at the expense of long-term competition.


    Shortage spells good times for landlords
    The rental market, particularly in Auckland, could be about to turn.
    After years of plentiful supply and tenants being able to pick and choose, some experts are picking a big change. Auckland has more than 5400 places to rent, web data shows but Robert Mellor, the managing director of consultants BIS Shrapnel, said the city would soon not have enough places to rent. Mr Mellor said the city's population was growing by about 22,000 people a year but only a few thousand consents were being given for new dwellings. BNZ chief economist Tony Alexander also said rental property was becoming a more attractive investment. Landlords were achieving good rent increases as pressures started to build in parts of the country, he said. "There has been a strong increase in lettings of property in Auckland over the past few months but a rent response has yet to occur," he said. "In the past few years the annual number of dwelling consents in New Zealand has averaged about 24,000. Over the past three months the annualised rate was below 14,000. Where are all those people, who were finding accommodation unaffordable before, going to find places to live?

    So with a massive swing of power to the landlords, why the hell is National changing legislation to give their property owning voters EVEN MORE POWER? Surely if the mechanics of the market are now demand driven rather than supply driven, why add extra powers for landlords and take NZ closer to a slumlord paradise?

    Never been a better time to buy? REALLY?

    Experts' tip: Now's the time to buy a house
    If you are secure in your job and have enough money saved, now is the time to buy a house, say real estate experts. No one should try to pinpoint the bottom of the housing market and if the price is right, the timing is perfect, says BNZ chief economist Tony Alexander.

    Has anyone ever noticed that those with a direct interest in the property market are ALWAYS saying it’s never been a better time to buy? Are you crazy? Property valuations have dropped by nearly 10% and they are predicted to plunge another 20% - only a moron would buy now with so much uncertainty in these turbulent overheated property markets. The reality is that we are on the property Titanic and we’ve hit a credit crunch iceberg. While the rest of us are scrambling for the lifeboats, the owners of the property Titanic are still trying to sell us on the ocean views.

    The game is over, this economic meltdown is something that as a generation none of us have ever experienced. George Soros is right, Capitalism is dead.

    What is Ryall up to?

    Plan for surgery superhubs
    The greater Wellington region could get its own surgery "super-centre" to help tackle waiting lists. Three Auckland district health boards gave Health Minister Tony Ryall their proposal yesterday to build the first new centres dedicated to elective, or non-urgent, surgery. They are now preparing a formal business case. Mr Ryall said it would be the first "cluster" in the Government's plan for 20 new elective surgery theatres. National is planning to spend about $180 million over five years.

    I don’t trust Mr Ryall at all, if there is anyone with skeletons in the intellectual closet, it’s him (ask Georgina). Here’s the run down, I tagged him as ‘the great communicator’ a year before the election when he hosted a press release with John Key to launch National’s Health policy, embarrassingly Ryall didn’t seem to have noticed that his policy would lift restrictions on what Drs could charge, something Journalists gleefully and mercilessly exploited during the painfully uncomfortable press conference, (Key didn’t go on to do another set press conference till the election after that debacle). Then just before the election, Mallard got hold of their Health policy (with a couple of others he’d managed to ‘find’) and the Nats released theirs before Trevor could, but the interesting thing between the two was that in Mallards version the new 20 elective theatres were there, but in the one National released they mysteriously disappeared. This led me to suggest that what National actually had in plan was a health private-public partnership (the current euphemism for privatization) and with Ryall’s near impossible new standards he’s imposed, which Public Health providers will not be able to met without extra funding, one gets the sense that Ryall is setting the Public Health sector up to fail and claim in the interests of competition he’ll open the tendering process up to the private health sector. It will be interesting to see what the tendering process will throw up.

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009

    Mr Pink's pinstriped remedy for black business days

    The media have been giving the Aussie-owned ASB Bank a lot of uncritical publicity over their decision to abandon capitalism, monetary theory and the profit motive in order to "save jobs". Really? Well that's the angle they play up, and I do not believe them. We should be cynical of these big banks that have gouged out ever larger margins for themselves and not passed on the full Reserve Bank rate cuts of the last few months to their customers. They claim it will be "below market rates" - but considering the banking cartel have pumped up those rates recently the claim may turn out to be quite hollow.

    Apparently, if you can suspend your disbelief, they now have so much money that they can lend it out at an un-gouged, un-extortionate rate - but only to large companies coming to them for a new loan. Which is what banks normally do - give rich people with secure assets access to low interest loans to make them richer. So... what? ASB's official statement:

    “These loans are specifically aimed at businesses looking to invest in a new project, process or expansion initiative. Provided the business case for new lending stacks up, and will result in additional people being employed, or stop existing employees losing their jobs, we will consider it,” said Mr Pink.

    “A low interest rate and certainty around interest payments for the next two years might just be the factor that a business needs in this environment to decide an opportunity is a ‘go’.”

    So ASB thinks interest rates will fall below 5% in the next year and will stay there for at least another year - that's another way of explaining this move. Since normal criteria apply anyway (it's just the rate that is different) only large established firms can get it. Any talk about saving jobs is PR wash and it will be gross (rather than net):

    ASB will separately account for this pool of lending funds and will report publicly on progress in terms of loans extended and jobs saved.
    - Laughing yet? All the way to the bank! The ASB loans out $10m to F&P, or whoever, and they will then turn around and claim in their ad campaign (that this announcement foreshadows) that ASB has saved 1600 NZ jobs, or whatever. Really? Will they account for the jobs lost because:
    Applications to refinance existing borrowings will not qualify for a Job Creation Loan.

    Didn't John Key say he would resign if the Super was touched?

    No guarantee over Super Fund contributions
    Finance Minister Bill English says he can not rule out suspending contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund.

    Ummmmm - didn't John Key say that he would resign if he changed the super fund?
    Key wavers on super funding
    Mr Key promised on the campaign trail to resign as prime minister if a National government broke its promise to keep pensions at their current rate.

    How would pensions stay at their current rate if National stop funding the super fund?

    Will the other cops get away with Home D for their part in the alleged killing?

    The NZPA report says that the judge didn't give a reason why these cops - two of the three who helped cover up an alleged killing by a police colleague - will not serve time in prison. Ten months Home D. Given the seriousness of the incident being hushed up (a death) and the breach of public trust and so on the move to have them kept out of serving actual jail time is concerning.

    Andrews J must have her reasons of course. Is one of them that they will be providing evidence against Hill and the other policeman on trial? There must be a good reason they got a discount, because if one doesn't transpire it undermines not just the public confidence in the police, but confidence in the justice system as a whole and the judiciary in particular.

    Hill is due to appear in the High Court at Auckland today charged with Mr Harris's manslaughter while a police sergeant has been charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice.

    I suppose the alleged assault that allegedly led to the death was only supposed to be a beating like this one a few months back that was because the hand-cuffed offender was allegedly "resisting their orders."

    Job summit really old boys network (you are on thin ice National)

    Groups upset at missing out on Jobs Summit
    Community groups and some small business sectors are upset that they have been left off the invitation list for Prime Minister John Key's Jobs Summit in Manukau on Friday. The guest list, released on Monday night, includes only three people from the community sector: Auckland City Missioner Diane Robertson, Salvation Army social services director Campbell Roberts and a policy adviser for the disability group DPA, Wendi Wicks. Instead, 118 of the 194 invited are from the business sector - mostly from big businesses (62) and finance (22), but including 30 from smaller businesses and sector groups and four from state-owned enterprises. The rest are from central and local government, education and training organisations, unions, iwi groups and a handful of academics and researchers. The list includes 165 men and just 30 women. At least 20 are Maori, but only two are known to be of part-Pacific Island heritage: Rick Fala of the tap maker Methven and NZ Super Fund chief executive Adrian Orr. Fletcher Building chief executive Jonathan Ling will be the sole flagbearer for the Asian community.

    Wow, after making a couple of really shrewd moves, this is a really dumb one by National, by making the job summit look more like the old boys network than a actual representation of views from the employment sector (Labour aren’t even invited for crying out loud) National open themselves to real danger here. Let’s forget 11% or 14% unemployment rates, let’s just stick to 7% unemployment, think about that, we’re doubling our unemployment rate in a year, the social implications of that should keep us all up at night. Forget boy racers being rowdy or noisy, now imagine them as angry and hungry – we are going to have a sudden spike in crime, not caused by bored urban youth or hardened career criminals, it will be caused by need – that’s a very different social problem. And those causing crime because of need will end up in an excessively violent prison system that will only serve to brutalize those prisoners.

    If National are seen to simply be ‘looking after their own’ in the face of the worst economic meltdown we’ve ever seen as a generation, there will be a deep, deep resentment. This isn’t smart politics at all.

    Tuesday, February 24, 2009

    Hamiltron to the financial rescue

    Why the former television boss, Ian Fraser, was announcing a boxing match I don't know. He's probably just there to charm the provincial cheque books out of the municipal robes of the Hamiltronian leadership after Auckland City Councillor Aaron Bhatnagar told them where to get off... only about a hundred K's down State Highway One as it happened:

    It appears the city were the only council to offer a financial investment to secure the fight. Hamilton mayor Bob Simcock said the city [had funding available because of a now cancelled world rally championship and ] were able to switch that money at short notice.

    Hamilton has stumped up the cash where in Auckland they only do that sort of thing if it involves boats or over-paid English soccer players. If the ratepayers of Hamilton are happy to see the year's cultural/motorsports budget expended on a big Samoan and a big Palangi smashing each other over (and the critics would say that is something you can witness for free in certain public bars and carparks most weekends up the road in Auckland anyway) - then I dare say it appears as good as an investment as the V8 street car franchise.

    But all right, local government issues aside, it will be a momentous occasion as far as boxing goes. I cannot recall a match between contender/title class heavyweights who are both New Zealanders - not in my lifetime anyway.

    If people can get in for $60 then great - they'll likely get a good view of Tua's shimmying tassles on his shortskirt and Cameron's bleeding, shredded face from wherever they are in the stadium.


    nz blogosphere - top 20

    The top 20 blogs in the nz blogosphere rankings are now in the sidebar. The list is coming out a bit late this month due to issues of a technical nature involving alcohol and summer. The full list will be up on our nz blogosphere sister site sometime tomorrow.

    The crew over at Kiwipolitico sure know how to make an entrance - at #14 for the January survey - and Open Parachute enters at #19. The Dim-Post's satire and activity during the month sees it in the top 10 - at #8. Poneke didn't get around to blacking out his blog, but he figured out how to get a statcounter on there - which helped him lift his placing to #11 by showing that his real traffic was higher than the estimate - which is why the estimates have been lowered - to encourage disclosure (I lowered it for Kiwiblog too and Farrar revealed his eye-wateringly unassailable traffic Everest - e'Yoikers!)

    Dear John (the last Bernard Hickey blog)

    While some on the right pretend that it’s gonna be okay, we here at Tumeke have been questioning for sometime the wisdom of borrowing from the developing world to fund a first world consumer culture of plasma TVs, SUVs and plastic surgery all on credit cards in an overheated property speculation market that had no capital gains tax to cool it. We’ve questioned the wisdom of unsustainable capitalism and as his last blog shows, Bernard Hickey paints a grim reality check on just how bad it’s going to get with the speech John Key SHOULD deliver to a country still in utter denial of how bad it is going to get.

    Clear throat. Look uncomfortable. Deliver in a sober manner. Shouldn’t be a hard delivery style.

    Fellow New Zealanders, I have a few uncomfortable things to say.
    I think it’s time we confronted the most serious threat to our economy in 80 years with a common understanding of what went wrong and how to fix it.
    We will get through it, but it’s going to take more than a decade and most New Zealanders will experience lower standards of living during that time. We need to work together to make sure our social safety net catches everyone as they fall and that it becomes a type of trampoline that bounces everyone higher when the recovery comes. We need to embrace the idea of spending less, saving more and investing more.
    Firstly, a few home truths.
    Most of us spent much more than we earned for the last five or six years. We bought too many cars. We bought too many flat-screen televisions. We went on too many overseas holidays. We bought too many useless things that are now just cluttering up the basement.
    Our economy seemed to be growing stronger and longer than it normally did. There’s a reason for that. It shouldn’t have. This economic growth was fuelled by foreign debt. Our net foreign debt has almost hit 100% of GDP and that is all private sector debt. That makes us the second most indebted developed country after (pause for effect) Iceland.
    There’s a reason for this. We spent much more than we earned for almost a decade. We borrowed the deficit between the spending and earning or sold our assets to foreign investors to bridge the gap. Now we have so much debt and send so much in dividends overseas that we are struggling simply to pay the interest on the old debt. Essentially, we are now borrowing more to pay the interest on the old debt. That is utterly unsustainable.
    This is why our current account deficit is now around 9% despite several years of an export price boom and a sharply lower currency. We are now in a select group of six advanced economies with current account deficits of over 8%. This group includes Spain, Greece, Portugal, Cyprus and (pause for effect) Iceland. Spain, Greece and Portugal have all had their sovereign credit ratings downgraded. Their unemployment rates are rapidly heading towards 20%. We all know what happened to Iceland.
    New Zealand’s Treasury is now forecasting a current account deficit of 10.6% for 2010, given that its “downside” scenario is now its central forecast because of the significant deterioration in the global economy in the last two months.
    Standard and Poor’s has warned us that our credit rating will be downgraded unless New Zealand’s government can come up with a “credible medium-term strategy” to reduce the government’s debt. That’s because the current “downside” central forecast is that without changes in our approach the government’s gross debt will hit almost 80% of GDP.
    This is important because up until the last year or two the government was saving while consumers (that’s most of us) were spending and borrowing. New Zealand can’t have both the government and consumers spending and borrowing at the same time.
    We must bring down our current account deficit and reduce the outlook for our public and private debt. There is nowhere for New Zealand to hide now. The warning from Standard and Poor’s was effectively our orange light. Foreign lenders are hunting down economies that borrow too much and they are forcing them to stop. They do this by selling their currency and forcing their market interest rates up. Any such forced adjustment would be brutal. Interest rates would skyrocket. Imports would become very expensive or simply impossible for most to afford. Unemployment would skyrocket. The economy would crater.
    This is not going to go away when the global economy rebounds. It’s time to be realistic about the global economy and the way it has boomed for the last five years. That boom was also unsustainable. At least New Zealanders were not alone in borrowing and spending too much. Americans, Australians, Britons, Spanish people, Irish people and Icelandic people all did the same.
    Now this model of western consumers borrowing from cashed-up Chinese and Middle Eastern governments to buy Chinese and European imports is broken. The financial system that supported this model broke on September 15 last year when Lehman Brothers collapsed. The scale of the debt created by that system was absolutely enormous. It will take more than a decade to wind down. That process of winding down the debt or “de-leveraging” has already destroyed the value of shares and houses globally. However, this process has only just begun.
    The former chairman of the Federal Reserve, the 82-year-old Paul Volcker, says the economy is slowing faster than it did at the start of the great Depression. Renowned investor George Soros says there is no end in sight to this financial crisis. The NZ Institute says we are vulnerable to a foreign investment freeze that could drive our unemployment rate to 11.2%.
    We cannot let this happen. We simply have to spend less, save more and invest more. This is easy to say. It is harder to do.
    That’s why we must all accept something completely foreign to all of us and to politicians in particular. We must accept a lower standard of living. (Pause for effect)(Wait for applause)(Start speaking again after uncomfortable silence.)
    We must accept that we cannot just consume what we’d like to have or think we need to have. Those days are over for both consumers and politicians. We can’t afford any more monuments to politicians. We can’t afford to build empires inside our departments. We can’t afford to pay David Beckham millions to play soccer in front of a half-empty stadium. We can’t afford many things.
    So it means we must cut out the unnecessary things from our private and public lives.
    We must first ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable in our society are healthy and safe. We must ensure we invest in our human and physical infrastructure to make sure we can grow strongly when this long recession ends. That means investing in schools, in health services, in roads and in broadband. We must invest in public assets that will keep generating essential public services for decades to come. The private sector must invest in private assets that generate goods and services for decades to come. The poorest kids should not be hungry or sick. They should get a great education so they can contribute when we recover.
    We all must do everything to ensure that public and private investment happens. That means removing roadblocks to investment. It means changing the way we think. We must think now about the long-term future. We must think about making sure our children and grandchildren have the tools they need to succeed. That means taxpayers and workers must spend less and save more now. That means the government will have to hand out less money for people to consume things and instead use that money to invest and to save.
    But “we the public” is wider than just the government. It means “we” as consumers and taxpayers.
    “We” as citizens cannot afford these tax cuts that we promised before the election. I’m sorry. National was wrong. I was wrong. I thought we could afford them, but we can’t.
    We consumers can’t afford to buy new cars and flat-screen televisions and all the unnecessary things of the modern age. Ask yourself before every purchase: Do I really need this? Do we need fancy overseas holidays? Do we need brand new clothes? Do we need all of these imported consumer goods that we can’t afford? Do we really need another flat white and another biscotti? Can we live without it? We all might be surprised how much we can live without. We might even find we enjoy it more.
    This government is now going through its budget line by line to weed out any hint of unnecessary spending. The nation should do the same.
    I ask you now to go home and do a personal budget. The best way to do it is to look at the outgoings every month from your bank account and the income into your bank account. Do they match? Are you finding yourself spending more than you earn? If you are then you need to stop right now.
    Once we’ve spent less we’ll find we have some spare cash. When that happens, the first thing we should do is repay debt. Don’t muck around. Pay off the credit card. Pay off the car. Pay off the fridge. Pay off the mortgage. Just get rid of the debt. If you don’t, someone else will.
    New Zealand’s governments of the last 20 years managed to reduce its debt to almost nothing. It can afford to increase it slightly, but only for investment in productive assets. We can’t afford to hand over money to taxpayers to simply spend it on more consumption. There are no easy fixes. We cannot tiptoe out of the room and hope the ceiling doesn’t collapse. It already has.
    We must instead invest this money in assets our children can use and avoid building a mountain of debt that our grandchildren will have to pay off.
    I know this is a bit of a shock. I didn’t talk about this before the election. But to be frank, I was a lot like everyone else. I didn’t realise the depth and the scale of the problem. I do now.
    I hate disappointing people and saying no to requests to do more, to give more and to spend more. I’m more of a “Yes we can” kind of guy. But sometimes the right thing is to do is to say “No we shouldn’t,” “No we can’t,” ”We can’t do it that way any more.”
    In fact it’s a different kind of “Yes we can”. Yes we can dig ourselves out of this hole. Yes we can avoid bankrupting the generations to follow. Yes we can save more. Yes we can invest.
    Yes we can get by with less.
    Because we have to.

    The blogosphere will miss your wisdom Mr Hickey.

    It ain’t easy being Green

    Fitzsimons to quit Greens co-leadership
    Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons today confirmed she will stand down in June. She told reporters she looked forward to being an active backbencher, and it was time to pass the leadership on to the younger generation. Ms Fitzsimons has led the Greens since 1995.

    As predicted on Tumeke, Jeanette Fitzsimons has stood down as co-leader and immediately the race is on between Sue Bradford and Metiria Turei. Who will win will really depend on how quickly things get bad on the unemployment front. Sue has the experience to rally those who are about to be thrown onto the scrapheap, her activism and knowledge of unemployed rights could be a crucial master stroke in terms of creating more support for the Greens, Metiria on the other hand could make in-roads to a Maori vote which quickly becomes dissatisfied with the Maori Party supporting National. The question is which of these two support bases will prove to be the most electoral significant as the Greens try and find their feet under such a hard right domination of Parliament.

    The cost of Vengeance

    'Three strikes' crime policy costs disputed
    Prime Minister John Key says estimates that the ACT Party's "three strikes and you're out" sentencing policy will cost more than $30 billion over 25 years do not stack up. Rethinking Crime and Punishment director Kim Workman said many new prisons would be needed as a result of the policy, costing $7.5b with an additional $1b a year in operating costs. The Government agreed to support the three strikes policy through its first reading as part of its support agreement with ACT. It was included in the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill which has gone to a select committee for consideration. A "strike offence" was defined as the most serious violent and sexual offences, including murder, attempted murder, grievous bodily harm, serious firearms offences, rape and a range of sexual offences on children and young people. On the third strike the offender would get mandatory life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 25 years. Mr Key said the Government was reserving judgment on whether it would support the policy further. "We need to see what comes out of that select committee. But there's a fair bit of merit in it, we're not giving it lip service," he told NewstalkZB. "We think it's potentially workable and we've asked for advice on it." Mr Workman said Corrections Department figures showed there were 16,000 offenders who were convicted of three or more serious crimes since 1980. Of those 2000 are now in prison. If the policy was introduced in 1980 the total prison population would now be 22,000 meaning there would have been between 44 and 48 prisons in New Zealand, rather than 20. Mr Workman estimated costs were $500,000 a bed when a new prison was built which was how he came to the $7.5b figure. On top of that would be $1b a year annual operating costs. He said it cost $75,000 a year per inmate. As well, prison populations were already growing.

    Mr Key said he did not accept the argument. "I don't think that quite stacks up."

    Oh it stacks up Mr Key, as Tumeke predicted, ACT's three strikes and you are screwed death penalty fantasist law and order policy is going to cost an arm and a leg - $30 billion over 25 years, how the hell can anyone seriously suggest that spending $30 Billion to lock NZers up is a better way of dealing with crime than pumping even a half of that into early intervention? Hate has warped our social policy and in a time of extreme economic recession we are being told to pay for that hate.

    Only in 'lynch em first and ask questions second' NZ.

    Economic nuclear winter for America

    So, America is fucked - and yet it's currency is stronger in value today than it has been in recent times. Over-valued and pumped up like 'roid meat the coach wants to keep injecting the body. It is a septic mess set to burst. The question is when?

    Well done bloggers

    Internet copyright law delayed:
    A controversial copyright law covering the internet will be delayed to see if the sector can make it workable, Prime Minister John Key said today. The online community has been up in arms in recent weeks as the law is due to come into effect on Saturday. Protesters say Section 92A of the Copyright Amendment Act could force the closure of any internet account following any accusation of breach of copyright, even if it was not proven. A large number of websites and blogs blacked out their sites this morning to raise awareness about the issue. Mr Key told journalists that Cabinet had discussed the issue today and decided to delay the implementation for one month until March 27.

    See what we can do when we work together? Well done, let's make sure National listen to the rightous concerns we've expressed ovcer this dog of a bill and don't try any tricky back door means to make it law.

    Well done bloggers.[John Key's own blog is conspicuously un-black - from bottom right: 6 across and third up. - TS]

    Bondage under National

    $10 million carrot thrown to graduates
    A $10-million-a-year sweetener is being used to lure young medical, teacher and veterinarian graduates to areas difficult to staff. The Government announced yesterday it would pay graduates to work in regions that have struggled to fill medical and teaching vacancies with young doctors the biggest winners. They will receive a salary top-up of more than $45,000, less tax, after three years, if they stay put in a speciality or job that has traditionally struggled to attract graduates.

    I like the bonding idea, Drs and Nurses and Teachers SHOULD go to rural areas, it’s great to have that new talent moved around and learn a bit of humble public service, the concept that the state will give you your education in response to the graduate staying in areas difficult to staff is EXACTLY the kind of thinking that will help rebalance services. It’s a great start but one that needs to be widened well beyond the limited careers it’s being offered. This is final proof that the student loan system NEVER WORKED, user pays education for crucial public services only meant the public ended up paying for the interest as well as the education and this massive U-turn in policy recognizes this.

    Cheating cops?

    Police replace recruit test after discovery of cheat
    Police have had to ditch their recruitment test questions and bring in a new set after they found a copy was being circulated among a small network of potential candidates. Police said they found out last Thursday that an applicant had access to the police officer recruitment test, prior to the testing day. They replaced the test with a new set of questions. They are looking at whether they can charge the person who used the circulated test questions and anyone else who might have been involved.

    Hmmm, recruits who cheat to pass their exams to be a cop – not really the best start in a career of honest service protecting the public is it? How could a course that is only 19 weeks long be so difficult that you need to cheat to pass it anyway? I wonder if a new question will be asked in this exam,
    If someone tries to pass off Police exams for sale do you
    a) High five the officer offering the exam over a gangbang on the Clint Rickards memorial bonnet.
    b) Seal the deal with a blaze up from the evidence locker.
    c) Turn down the offer and become immediately ostracized by the ridiculously warped alpha male environment.

    Unemployment plan isn’t working

    PM rejects estimate of 11.2pc jobless
    Government departments are bracing for the unemployment rate to reach double figures as the economy shrinks and the outlook for New Zealand's trading partners gets bleaker. Prime Minister John Key refused to speculate yesterday about how high unemployment could go, but rejected a calculation by think tank the New Zealand Institute that it could reach 11.2 per cent. He said the Government was concentrating on ways to curb the rise in joblessness, including options to be considered at Friday's job summit, rather than seeking regular Treasury updates.

    This Government cannot claim their stimulus package is the 3rd best stimulus package in the world when they base that claim on old figures that didn’t consider the rest of the planets response since November, especially when the majority of the stimulus package is in fact money Labour put aside. Their stimulus package is more akin to a warm glass of milk before bedtime and their inability to come up with a response to the global meltdown is embarrassing and their scramble to deny how bad it will become starts looking like denial. If John Key denied unemployment will hit 11.2% what was his response to Paula Bennett’s claim in Parliament on the first day back this year that she had seen reports suggesting unemployment will be as high 14%?

    John Key’s solution to all of this? A ‘job summit’ that the Labour Party aren’t even invited to, hardly the broad based discussion National had promised, the economy is in freefall and this Government has no plan other than to glide through the honeymoon period and hope for the best.

    Has anyone noticed that we haven’t heard from Rodney Hide for a while, doesn’t that concern anyone? Where is he and what awfulness is he brewing?

    United States of Torture

    Freed Guantanamo prisoner alleges torture
    A British resident held at Guantanamo Bay for more than four years has returned to Britain a free man and accused the US government of inflicting "medieval" torture on him – with British collusion.
    Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian citizen with British residence, was returned on a charter flight after the US government agreed last week to a British request to free him. All charges against him were dropped and he was never tried.
    He is the first Guantanamo Bay detainee to be freed since US President Barack Obama came to power with a pledge to shut the prison. Human rights groups say 241 Muslim detainees remain at the camp, including one other British resident.
    Mohamed, 30, said he was "neither physically nor mentally capable" of facing the media after nearly seven years in captivity, but in a statement he denounced the US government.
    "I have been through an experience that I never thought to encounter in my darkest nightmares," he said via his lawyers in a statement issued shortly before he stepped gingerly off an airplane at a British military airport looking thin and frail.
    "Before this ordeal, 'torture' was an abstract word for me. I could never have imagined that I would be its victim. It is difficult for me to believe that I was abducted, hauled from one country to the next, and tortured in medieval ways – all orchestrated by the United States government," he said.

    Wow, so this is what the West did to win the war on terror, torture and abuse to bring freedom and democracy, why it almost sounds like the crazy evil we were supposed to be fighting doesn’t it folks? What a sickening reminder of the hypocray of the West and the horror of the Bush years. When the West tortures, we lose all moral high ground to lecture the dictatorships we prop up to sell us cheap oil, oh wait, we don’t have any fucking moral leg to stand on do we.

    Remember all those NZers who sprayed foam braying to join the war on terror, they’re pretty quiet these days. Are we fighting for freedom and democracy when we get into these wars, is Afghanistan really about freedom and democracy? I thought we were in Afghanistan because we were trying to find Osama Bin Laden, wasn’t Alexander the Great the last military leader to hold Afghanistan? Why do we think the West with it’s hands covered in the blood of civilians think it has the moral compass to decide for the people of Afghanistan?

    We lost the war on terror a long time ago.

    Monday, February 23, 2009

    PM announces copyright law suspension

    It's difficult to find fault with John Key's pragmatism today. This is my transcript from the PM's presser:

    "There's been some debate in the last week about section 92A -

    Cabinet this morning decided to do the following, that is:
    1. There will be a delay in the implementation of section 92A until Friday the 27th of March. We are hoping that by that time agreement can be finalised on the voluntary code of practice. If by the 27th of March the voluntary code of practice hasn't been agreed by the parties then section 92A will be suspended. Assuming that voluntary code of conduct can be reached by the 27th of March then there will be a review in six months time to reflect on whether the law is working satisfactorily. - so that's basically it."

    These codes must include robust verification and rights of defence for any person in NZ that supposedly harms the interests of Hollywood and the corporates that control the copyright business.

    Blackout coverage

    [Additional: Just made another image of what the top 50 NZ-based blogs looked like on the morning of the protest. This image may be of use to bloggers to give some idea of the solidarity. It is free to copy, use and share... unlike things made by Hollywood.
    (Click on image to enlarge)

    [UPDATE-- 4:50PM:Our protest - an unprecedented one - appears to have been successful. Reports coming in that the government has delayed the controversial copyright law provisions.

    These images are a mosaic of what the front pages of the top 50 or so NZ-based blogs looked like this morning. Please note that most blogs that do not appear fully blacked out also have postings or ads supporting the protest (click on scrolling ad banner above to visit the official site).
    No news yet on what or even if Cabinet has decided (or not) to do something about it.

    The blogs with a lot to lose were particularly conscientious.