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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pukeko awareness month

The Crown-mandated member-run hunting/fishing council quango lobby organisations will have a Pukeko open season soon. In the Auckland-Waikato region they had a season from May to August last year. But why would they exercise rights over a native bird? I don't think they are migratory. I thought they were like a special class of pest destruction board, the fish and game councils, charging a license fee to hunt rather than to eradicate the introduced species? Yes/No?

I am confused. Is this a Maori custom - to declare an open season on pukeko?
Are Maori consulted on "what has been harvested in New Zealand for generations" - according to the Council's website? To have the Pukeko declared a pest for half the year or so? Is it the opportune time for everyone to gorge upon them? What are we all missing out on?

It has been declared as game in the Wildlife Act. But note the reference to "Acclimitisation society" - that is what these clubs are - or are the inheritor bodies thereof. They controlled introduced species as part of acclimitisation, I believe, and they also acclimitise by way of eradicating native birds they don't like by the looks of it too. Acclimitise Aotearoa to becoming British New Zealand by the sounds of it. Abolished officially in 1990:Most of the legacy lives on through the fish and game councils. Why would a pukeko be forfeit to Her Majesty? What is she going to do with it? eat it FFS? - it's a bloody pukeko.

My husband and I would like to thank you warmly for these 1,584 native hens and other forfeit waterfowl. We have since ordered several chest freezers.


A pukeko nest is forfeit to The Queen if you hunt a pukeko without paying your fee - unless you live on fee simple land and are a nuclear family - that is what the legislation is set up for. Otherwise you gotta pay a fee to the man. To the white gun club Council.

Let's get it to 20,000 dead pukeko - is that the idea.
They may be a pest in so far as they attack the other licensed waterfowl and are portrayed as a pest to some farmers - but these are pest attributes from the Council's acclimitisation perspective; I'm not so sure they are much of a pest in respect of their overall place in the indigenous eco-system however.


How amazing was Radio NZ coverage of the Tsunami today? Wasn't it interesting to be reminded that when you hear a major event within NZ is occurring that you turn straight away to Radio NZ to know what is happening. All the other 'free media' were jammed full of bee pollen adverts and deer horn aphrodisiac jingles. What a time to be reminded of this as the Government seeks to cut back a service which only costs the NZ taxpayer $34 million and the 2007 report on their funding found them to be already 27% underfunded.

This isn't a drive for efficiency, this is a shot across the bow of one of the few bastions of critical media in this country while a wide ranging hard right agenda is rammed through mostly under a misuse of urgency.

Tsunami: Auckland time-lapse pictures [UPDATE]

The transit cameras on the Auckland motorway system are a good a measure as any since they cover the shallow parts of the inter-tidal area; but as with the Samoa tsunami this time the Chilean tsunami proved just as anti-climactical. It is difficult to detect the movements from these images, the tsunami surge would probably have been noticeable in the channels further up the harbour - such as Riverhead, the entrance to the West Harbour marina etc. where I imagine they may have replicated the dramatic draining and then flooding/surging that has been observed at the Tutukaka marina in Northland.

The two transit cameras used for this study: the Pt Chev/Waterview interchange looking west across the causeway (left), and the Esmonde/Akoranga interchange looking south across the inner harbour to the city (right). The images in the map are at the end of the sequence (+2 hours from the official 10:52am impact time). The tide was going out during this whole period so we should be looking for any increase that re-covers any of the foreshore.

Stand-by for sequence.[UPDATE: Initial sequencing complete.

(Click on images to enlarge).

@ +1 hour to +2 hours: 11:55AM - 12:55PM NZDT at 5 min intervals.
Pt Chev/Waterview looking west to Rosebank

Takapuna/Barry's Pt. looking south to City

@ 11:45-12:02 using one minute intervals the tide does seem to recede 11:48-11:52 and then return at 11:53 - hard to say though with the low quality images and the light (although there weren't many clouds around at the time).
@ 11:51-54 close up. Out.In.

More sequences to follow.

Tsunami Alert

Generated by the Chile Earthquake - due to hit Auckland 10.52am

If I have to listen to another idiot reporter breathlessly explain that Tsunami moves at 500 miles an hour (the speed of an airliner they inform me) and that it builds when it comes to shallow water without actually telling me when and where it's bloody due I will throw my remote at the bloody TV! How can we have 5 dedicated TV news channels and not a word regarding something about to effect us?

I'm glad we have Radio NZ!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Great Recession Vs Great Depression

Spectators at the end of the feast: the great recession as crises of capitalism

In attempting to answer the question of which will be worse, the Great Depression or the Great Recession there must first be an acknowledgment that the Great Depression took four years to reach its peak of social damage from the stock market crash of 1929 where as the current recession has only been in effect since the stock market crash of 2008 so to make direct comparisons is extremely difficult. That acknowledged we can compare what has occurred so far and put forward the argument that the current recession represents a greater existential threat to the stability of Capitalism.

At 1pm on October 24th 1929, the vice president of the New York Stock Exchange, Richard Whitney marched onto the stock exchange floor after a morning of devastating losses and purchased well over the sale price in front of everyone $20million dollars worth of US. Steel stock. He then went on to purchase General Electric, AT&T and other blue chip stocks spending $130million. His move funded by the wealthiest elites at the time was an attempt to insert confidence into a financial system on the verge of collapse. It worked. Until Monday 28th of October, four days later.

This attempted insertion of confidence by Whitney was misplaced and lacked macro economic foresight. Each panicked Government regulation response caused by Polanyi’s double movement brought about worse outcomes like the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act until eventually global world war was the economic circuit breaker. The market demanded cuts in costs and thought of labour as merely another supply and demand graph, the political fallout for abandoning people to that terrible equation however demanded a political response.

Roosevelt’s election in 1933 saw laissez faire replaced as the dominant economic management ideology with Keynesianism. Capitalism adapted to the legitimacy threat with a social welfare state and unprecedented reform within banking, employment, agriculture and industry.

The lack of a new hegemony to replace the collapsing gold standard led to international relations theorists to suggest a hegemonic stability theory. Krasner argues that without one superpower to act as the lender of last resort or to maintain the international liberal economic system, the system falls over. The Bretton Woods conference was the reestablishment of that hegemonic stability with managed developmental capitalism at it’s heart before warping into what could be considered Hayek’s winning the war of position and last laugh at Keynes - the neo liberal Washington Consensus.

The debate since the Great Depression has been the cause. Was the lack of financial regulation prior to the crash the problem or was the political response to the Great Depression the problem.

The answer depends on who you listen to.

Milton Friedman argues from the neo liberal perspective that the moral imperative from Capitalism is it’s bust and boom dynamic, that those who profited from questionable market practices are punished when the bust occurs and that to deny a true bottom to a financial collapse is merely propping a corrupt system up which will eventually led to an even more damaging correction later in the future.

Fareed Zakaria however defends Keynes and argues that the recession is ultimately the product of a mismanaged financial sector and that Government had a responsibility to stabilize and re-regulate markets. So effective was Keynes’ ‘reformed capitalism’ that many Marxists were forced to reconsider their notions of crises. They argued that this new type of capitalism had to be re-evaluated. Instead of 10 year cycles, Marxists revisited long waves from the Russian economist Kondratieff. The seeds of the Great Recession however, were not the slow decline of booms made by product innovations, but the failures within deregulated neoliberalism.

So how does the Great Depression and the Great Recession compare? There are certain similarities, Liaquat Ahamed makes the point that the same hubris existed. In 1999 Time Magazine had on its cover Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers (Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Treasury secretary and deputy secretary) under an article called, ‘Committee to Save the World’. In the 1920s the same myopic view of a fiscal team who could save the global economy from the ravages of the First World War saw the press refer to Montagu Norman of the Bank of England, Hjalmar Schacht of the Reichsbank, Émile Moreau of the Banque de France and Benjamin Strong of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as the ‘Most Exclusive Club in the world’. This belief in a small group of elites to oversee a deregulated global economy with little over all consideration for global impacts seems to be a set lesson that is repeated until learned.

If we directly compare economic and social indicators we see that in some ways the current recession is in fact worse than the Great Depression. The current recession is worse than the Great Depression comparatively in terms of the declines in income levels. 1929’s average income in the US was $16,000, inflation-adjusted to today’s levels turns out to be just over $200,000. Even though Hoover managed to keep wage rates high for the first two years of the Depression, by 1932, with profits wiped out, the pressure on companies to pay their workers became too great and wage rates fell considerably, this was the double movement in effect.

World trade is falling much faster now than during the Great Depression, however it is also falling from a much higher peak. Although it has recently stabilised, this trend cannot be underrated given the prominence attached to trade destruction as a factor compounding the Great Depression in the academic literature.

So how did the current crises occur? The growing debt of the US economy, the Federal Reserve’s unwillingness to regulate the financial market, and the rise in global inflation, particularly commodities and housing, all undermined the global economy. The bubble would inevitably burst, as it did in 1929. Leaders of the US congress were told on the 18th of September by the chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke that the US economy was facing imminent collapse. The US housing market, with trillions of dollars worth of toxic debts turning bad, was at breaking point. In the spring of 08 investment bank Bear Sterns was rumoured to be in grave financial trouble due to its heavy investment in these toxic mortgages. This rumour turned out to be a self fulfilling prophecy and the company soon was facing collapse.

The Secretary of Treasury, Hank Paulson, forced commercial banks JP Morgan and Bear Sterns to merge in a 30-billion dollar venture which was in sharp contrast to his previously professed ideological standpoint as to the role of the state in the market.

Paulson’s line in the sand was that there would be no more bailouts. He urged Lehman Brothers CEO Dick Fold to find a buyer, however no one would actually buy the firm without a government bailout plan. Fold miscalculated that Paulson would allow the company to fail and ignored his advice. Days later the company went bankrupt: the government had allowed Dick to fold.

The unexpected aftermath of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy was the crash of AIG. AIG had guaranteed Lehman Brothers full payout should the company go bankrupt, as no one expected a company that size to crash. As no one knew about the AIG situation, what ensued was the collapse of the world stock and credit markets. The fallacy of too big too fail sent shockwaves throughout the financial system.

So why is the current economic recession a worse crises of capitalism? Let’s take that some economic indicators of the current global recession have declined faster than the Great Depression, but comparison is difficult because the current recession has not yet played out. People who have built their careers on critiquing the Great Depression were in charge to change things this time around. Current head of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke printed $1.2 Trillion to flood the global economy with stimulus money in the hope to stabilize markets and like a modern day Richard Whitney hopes to keep confidence in the economy. We can’t predict the future but acknowledging the inherent dangers involved in that strategy let’s argue beyond the statistics to suggest the current recession is a worse crises of capitalism because the legitimacy of the neo liberal model has been genuinely questioned.

The very fact that the international bodies set up to prevent another crises of capitalism by regulating the market before the boom busts is in itself evidence of a worse crises of capitalism. As former chief economist of the world bank and nobel prize winner, Joseph Stiglitz points out the proper name of the World Bank was the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Monetary Fund was charged with preventing another Great Depression. The drift away from their Keynesian principles towards the Free Market neo liberal influence of Friedman’s Chicago School of Economics has led to what Stiglitz calls, “global governance without global government”.

Interestingly Jurgen Habermas counter argues that ‘managed capitalism’ would actually collapse under the weight of it’s own restrictions. With the technical mastery of managed global capitalism, Habermas argued that a crisis of legitimacy would consume Governments constrained by their own regulations. These regulations made them unable to deliver what their citizens wanted, other than to encourage more debt and more consumption. The problem with Habermas’ critique of managed capitalism is that corporations and consumers needed no urging by Governments restricted by regulations to globally binge on debt fuelled consumer spending.

It could be contended that the current crises of capitalism could be viewed more correctly as a failure of neo liberal capitalism. Naomi Klien provides a radical reinterpretation of neo liberalism that forces unpleasant truths about the implementation of neo liberal policy. She quotes Milton Friedman as proclaiming “Only a crises – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crises occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around”. Friedman did all he could to make sure it was the Chicago School of Economics that just happened to be lying around when crises were created by the CIA in South America:

“I thought I was witnessing a fundamental change in the way the drive to "liberate" markets was advancing around the world. Having been part of the movement against ballooning corporate power that made its global debut in Seattle in 1999, I was accustomed to seeing business-friendly policies imposed through arm-twisting at WTO summits, or as the conditions attached to loans from the IMF. As I dug deeper into the history of how this market model had swept the globe, I discovered that the idea of exploiting crisis and disaster has been the modus operandi of Friedman's movement from the very beginning - this fundamentalist form of capitalism has always needed disasters to advance. What was happening in Iraq and New Orleans was not a post-September 11 invention. Rather, these bold experiments in crisis exploitation were the culmination of three decades of strict adherence to the shock doctrine. Seen through the lens of this doctrine, the past 35 years look very different. Some of the most infamous human rights violations of this era, which have tended to be viewed as sadistic acts carried out by anti-democratic regimes, were in fact either committed with the intent of terrorising the public or actively harnessed to prepare the ground for radical free-market "reforms".

The collusion between Friedman and repressive South American Dictatorships demands the question, what point of neo liberalism if it is merely the economic tool of Dictators? Beyond the fact that Friedman’s terribly traumatic free market policies actually produced worse economic results than the developmental approach that had been adopted in South America, how could an economic philosophy with freedom as its central theme produce such un-free states? Compounding Friedman’s theory as less than intuitionally ethical is Joel Bakan’s quote from Friedman in his book ‘The Corporation’:

Friedman thinks that corporations are good for society (and that too much government is bad). He recoils, however, at the idea that corporations should try to do good for society. “A corporation is the property of its stockholders, “he told me. “Its interests are the interests of its stockholders. Now, beyond that should it spend the stockholders’ money for purposes which it regards as socially responsible but which it cannot connect to its bottom line? The answer I would say is no”. There is but one “social responsibility” for corporate executives, Friedman believes: they must make as much money as possible for their shareholders, This is a moral imperative. Executives who choose social and environmental goals over profits – who try to act morally – are in fact, immoral.

The deregulation regime prescribed by Friedman set the deregulated global finance market that ushered in the current global recession. This Wild West of global finance was so abused by American Banking Corporates that Alan Greenspan famously conceded he didn’t understand the math behind some of the financial instruments used to proclaim sub-prime mortgage debt as AAA rated.

Neo-gramscians would argue that the neo liberalization of the IMF and the World Bank has seen political elites in various countries adopt neo liberal policies. These policies have contributed to the stock market crash of 2008, as unregulated banks took questionable financial practices global. Stiglitz saw the limitations of these neo liberal policies during the East Asian Financial Crisis when Asian countries were forced to deregulate.

Wallesteins World Systems theory, suggests that the economic collapse of core states will drag peripheral states into a deeper economic recession. Mass unemployment in core states will mean companies will not need to go international to find a labour force cheap enough to make production profitable. Peripheral states will find a sudden drop in investment, damaging their ability to grow. Unemployment created the drag in the Great Depression and our own Great Recession mirrors this reality as we go through the same post crash booms and false dawns the Great Depression went through before it’s W shaped rescission was compounded by the inevitable double movement between market correction and social demands.

The economic and social fallout caused by the Great Depression fostered fascist and communist threats to the capitalist world order. These ideologies were seen as real alternatives to the mass unemployment and economic damage caused by the Great Depression. Fascist and Communist movements were nationalistic in nature and caused the descent into world war.

The unequal distribution of wealth and unregulated greed of modern capitalism, symbolized by the Great Recession, has similarly fostered groups which challenge capitalism. This time it has come from trans-national movements like Al Qaeda, and anti-Globalization protestors rather than national ones. The recent rise of the BNP in England has increased as the effects of the Great Recession have punished Britain’s finance sector that now accounts for 20% of the country’s GDP while $140 billion in bonuses for bankers who continue to write up questionable deals with the full backing of the taxpayer creates class resentment that can fuel extremism.

The differences between these two threats indicate how the definition of ‘crisis of capitalism’ has evolved in the shadow of the Great Depression. Fascism and Communism held pretentions to be the new global hegemony. Transnational challengers however, seek to modify or limit Globalized Capitalism rather than replace it.

President Sarkozy of France has talked about the need of a new managed capitalism and wants happiness to be included in growth measurements. As the G20 struggles to reign in an industry that globally accounts for over $300 Trillion per year in the financial economy as opposed to the $8 Trillion created by the real economy, this obvious power imbalance gives some hint to the difficulty capitalism has to evolve beyond the influence of those wealthy enough to write the rules. Without the type of social pressure a W recession could enforce upon capitalism to evolve, neo-grasmcian counter hegemonic movements will have limited success for co-opting the leavers of power for internal change. The danger of wishing for the W recession is that the same fuel to create social change can be the same source of fuel for extremism.

The Great Recession is a worse crises of capitalism than the Great Depression because the managed capitalism that was supposed to protect us from the cruel boom and bust mechanics have been replaced by the very deregulated wild west free market approach which led us to the 1929 collapse. The Great Recession is a failure of neo liberalism, but the additional problem for the Great Recession is that it is taking place within an environment that simply can not sustain the extra pressure consumer culture and unregulated growth has placed upon the biosphere.

A crises should never be wasted, the question will be who exploits it first? Tobin taxes, taking happiness into account, redesigning the very masculine dominated growth measurements and a developmental rather than neo liberal approach on the one hand or the increased consolidation of power into the hands of a corporate elite on the other.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Auckland misrepresentation

I was at the Über Stadt parliamentary select committee this afternoon to hear what the Auckland Transition Agency - the government appointed entity that has sweeping powers to establish most aspects of the new city council - had decided in relation to the local boards. The Chair (Assoc. Local Govt. minister) John "Hone" Carter had recommended I come back today to witness it since my presentation to the committee on Tuesday focused mainly on how local boards could be empowered (more on my submission later).

So I turned up, I listened to the ATA's Grant Taylor trying to explain the ATA's thinking and I'm afraid I was as disappointed as everyone else. The boards are entirely toothless, everything they do will have to be done through the Council's governing body - the 20 member executive board-style Council - and that is just untenable. More disappointing than hearing the vague and nebulous responses from Taylor was the discussion document distributed to the public afterwards: total spin front to back.

More than spin - lies, I'm afraid - just lies. The biggest of which is the first: "Auckland Council will have two complimentary and non-hierarchical decision-making parts." No - it is the exact opposite of that: it is totally hierarchical with the Council having all the decision-making power and the local boards none. The organisational chart they have prepared is also a lie:- it's actually a very steep pyramid shape - not the supposedly neutral oblong structure they pretend it is.

Describing what the local boards do as "decisions" is a gross misrepresentation - they are only recommendations to the Council, they are submissions, part of a consultation process in the same way that Joe Bloggs can make a submission and a recommendation to Council. The local boards have no power to make decisions on these issues unless the Council delegates it to them and since they don't want any of the local/council demarcation put in legislation the Council retains all the cards - local boards have only what they are given. Taylor actually argued that putting specifics in about what local boards could do would be unhelpful and unproductive! To whom? Why?

Indeed, why should this unelected agency be making decisions on any of these constitutional issues? The MPs and the elected representatives should be telling the agency what they should be doing rather than the other way around. Talk about an executive take-over. It all stinks to high heaven and the average Aucklander can smell it a mile off and they are not happy

Every submitter I've heard - groups and individuals, elected officials and ordinary citizens alike - have been expressing hostility towards the fundamentally undemocratic and unmandated way the amalgamation has been handled. The two main concerns - amongst many, many concerns - are the powerless, pointless local boards and the powerful and unaccountable "Council-controlled organisations" that will run most of what the council does and swallow most of the budget but be controlled by CCO boards composed of Ministerial appointments without elected local representatives. Those are the two big issues and today's discussion document has aggravated the situation even further.

The whole process is arse-about-face: no initial referendum, a nano-second of public consultation, legislation rammed through under urgency - twice, boundary disputes continuing without an acceptable resolution process, an unaccountable agency preempting the legislation, and as the time counts down to the 1 November start to the Auckland Council all of these issues are still highly contentious and pending this third and final Bill are unresolved. What a mess - an avoidable mess too. Rodney Hide has blown a lot of political capital picking fights he never had to have. It didn't have to be this way - a rape rather than a love affair it could have been.

Phil Twyford was particularly aggressive in his questioning today and has posted on the ATA's document on Red Alert
David Clendon sits closest to the submitters and usually asks a few pertinent questions each time - his post about today is on Frogblog.
And finally the government's statement (via Scoop) in which Rodney Hide tries to tell us:

“Local boards will provide unique local representation and allow the local residents to take responsibility for a range of activities in their community. These include overseeing the management of local facilities like swimming pools and parks, community programmes and local services such as refuse collection and graffiti control. I am pleased to see that the ATA is suggesting that the Auckland Council could delegate responsibility to local boards for regulatory functions such as liquor controls,” says Rodney Hide

"Unique" alright - as in a uniquely pointless tier of pseudo-governance. "Unique" perhaps in that some of these boards (the lowest unit of local government and supposedly the closest to the community) have bigger populations than entire metropolitan areas? Is that what he means by "unique" - that the Waitakere board has a population of 166,000? That's bigger than Dunedin FFS!
And as for the claim the boards will be: "overseeing the management of local facilities like swimming pools and parks, community programmes and local services such as refuse collection and graffiti control"
- that just cannot be true. They cannot really oversee anything - certainly not in the sense of supervision or accountability. They can complain to the Council about the operations and make recommendations to the council about operations just like everyone else, but they have no power to suspend or sack staff or to do the things necessary to really change anything.

If the board wants to extend library hours at their local branch, if they want to change managers of the local pool centre, if they want to make local rubbish collections on Tuesdays rather than Thursdays they will have to do all that through the Council because all of those issues have financial and operational implications on the unitary systems that are supposed to be delivering efficiency savings. One local board changing things may also have the potential for city-wide changes too, for example if one local board was successful in lobbying the Council for an exemption or an extension etc. of some city-wide service then all the other boards might well start demanding the same thing. They will be as powerless as the current community board structure - and in the scheme of things as they stand now as contemplated under this third Bill - they will be made, relatively, even less important.


Bomber's Blog - the War on News - on line now!

The War on News

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It’s just like 7 days on TV3 but with less dick jokes.

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Gross distortion the standard

The Standard loves the sats:GDP blah blah blah, inflation adjusted wharp, wharp, wharp... What about population adjusted instead? Isn't that really the performance indicator we should be using here - to find out how better off people are likely to be on average rather than just how good the economy has done as an abstract whole. GDP per capita instead of the raw GDP figures - whether inflation adjusted or not - is the better measure.

It should be easy to find.It's hidden somewhere in the Stats Dept, but I can't find it.

So using what there is available right now a simple exercise should sort it out.

Using the tables from The Standard: NZ GDP 2003-2009 in 1995/1996 prices (ie. inflation adjusted):The same timeframe in current prices (ie. not adjusted for inflation):Assuming the two tables are measuring the same thing - even though it appears they may not ("GDP by broad industry group" v. "Expenditure on GDP") - what happens when population growth is taken into account?

That Stats Dept. 2010 population right now:4,355,900.

2006 1st quarter population:4,027,947 on census night and a note that the previous 5 years the population increase was 7.8%.

1st Q 2006 pop = 4,027,947
1st Q 2010 pop = 4,355,900
movement in pop +327,953
movement % in pop +8.1%

So whatever the raw GDP number is 2006-2010 it has to beat the 8.1% increase in population to be considered a gain in GDP per capita.

If we use the "Annual GDP" figures from The Standard's tables which align closely (though not perfectly because the figures are for year ending 3rd Q 2006- 3rd Q 2009) with the population figures I have just got off the Stats Dept. website we find:

Inflation adjusted: +$3,698m = +0.97%
($128,638m in 2006, $132,336m in 2009)

Current prices: +$28,583m = +18.3%
($156,409m in 2006, $184,992m in 2009)

For a cruder equation on current prices using the population increase:
2006: 4m pop ÷ $156b GDP = $39k
2009: 4.3m pop ÷ $185b GDP = $43k
- That looks good and that's what the government likes to use - and not take inflation into account. Inflation has been running at well over 2% per year during that period. Using the RBNZ's CPI calculator to get the official inflation adjusted figures we get closer to the real story:Inflation during the period was running at 2.8% a year and amounts to 8.7%, a decline in purchasing power of 8%. I've been conservative by not putting the period back to 3rd Q 2005 too, but even with that generosity it's not looking so flash now.

So the raw number goes up by +18.3% but inflation was at 8.7% (minimum). So that $39k per person in 2006 to keep up with inflation would have to be... $42.5k - $43k. Which is pretty much where we ended up according to this data: flat-lining. It would be negative if I included inflation and population growth for the whole of the first year (3rd Q 2005-3rd Q 2006) of the financial stats. But I'll be very generous, won't do that, and say flat-lining.

It's actually a lot worse than either Bill English or the Labour opposition would care to mention. Why won't they care to mention it? Because they are both responsible for it: keep pumping in immigrants to increase aggregate demand and prop up the property prices to make the middle classes seem wealthy enough to keep borrowing, and keep up government spending regardless of whether it is necessary or productive. And where do we go? Nowhere. What has the Nat/Lab economic consensus achieved towards lifting people's standard of living? Nothing - it's static, maybe negative over the last half decade at least. Some people must have done well of course, like the LAQC landlord MPs (National and Labour) with their family trusts etc, others - perhaps the majority of the population, less so.

We have gone nowhere economically and they cannot disguise those facts on the ground even though they gross the figures up to make it appear we have. The arguments the National and Labour parties are having over the economy is delusional. Using The Standard's own inflation adjusted figures of +0.97% GDP growth to make a basic comparison between 2006 and 2009 in 2006 dollars:

2006: 4m pop ÷ $156b GDP = $39k
2009: 4.3m pop ÷ $158b GDP = $37k

Not so flash now. If we ran the ruler over earlier periods - one's that don't contain an over-supply of credit and the first year or so of a recession - I still doubt we would find anything significantly different from the anti-climactical reality of our under-performing economy thus demonstrated. Some might attempt to argue that the aging population and increases in longevity contribute to more souls doing less work, or more babies being born means mothers have to take time off work and the infants and children aren't economically active. Those factors will have some effect on GDP, but that's not going to fully explain the sort of decline we seem to be in.


Thursday, February 25, 2010


There has to be more to Phil Heatley's resignation than the PM's statement. This isn't a smoking gun - less than a hundred dollars in each instance under "food & bev" doesn't sound particularly lethal: it is barely a couple of loose rounds in an old box under the house. Unless this sort of thing turns out to have been the tip of a systematic and prolonged disguising of the purchase of alcohol, where's the real smoking gun?

Phil Heatley - Pushed or shoved?

Phil Heatley resigns as minister
Phil Heatley has resigned from his housing and fisheries portfolios after this week apologising to John Key for misusing a ministerial credit card. At a media conference today, Mr Heatley said he had offered his resignation to Prime Minister John Key this morning, and the resignation was accepted. "It's been a privilege to serve the people of New Zealand as a Cabinet minister in this National Government but I believe I've failed to live up my own standard and for that and for that I'm embarrassed and immensely sorry," Mr Heatley said. "The decision today comes after I've had a closer look at my ministerial credit card expenses covering the past 18 months.

Pushed or shoved? Both? John Key said at the beginning of the week that what Phil did wasn't a sackable offense - today it is? This was my favourite bit from the Stuff article...

This morning's press conference lasted just five minutes, with an emotional Mr Heatley reading a prepared statement and answering only a handful of questions before staff led him from the room.

...heh, staff led him from the room, smells like there is blood in the water here, he's referred himself to the Auditor-General, that's as close to political suicide as one gets in NZ.

I think there is a second shoe waiting to drop here.

Trusting Murray and his Trusts

I'll give shares to Key's son, says McCully
Yesterday blogsite thestandard.org.nz revealed Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully held shares in Widespread Portfolios, a New Zealand investment company with mining interests at home and overseas. The Government is drawing up a discussion document about the prospect of mining in parts of the conservation estate. Yesterday Mr McCully downplayed the significance of the shares, saying he had tried to sell them and would continue trying to sell them. "They've been in my hands since about the year 2000. I declared in them in the appropriate fashion, there are a total of 184 shares and their market value is approximately $31.63.

With every single Minister of the Crown quickly handing all their shares to John Key's son, this kid could make it onto the Apprentice as the boss before the end of the year.

The Standard asks some questions...
Does Murrary McCully have shares in Widespread Portfolios, a company with NZ mining interests? Yes
Is he a member of the Cabinet that has been dealing with mining issues?Yes
Will he be the one deciding whether Widespread’s subsidiary gets a permit for seamining (I just discovered this today)? Yes
Is there, prima facie, a conflict of interest? Yes
Did that conflict turn out to be trivial?? Yes
Was it wrong to raise the questions? No
Are there still serious unanswered questions about what more sizeable shareholdings McCully and other ministers have hidden away in their trusts? Yes

The Government is urgent again

Busy two weeks for Parliament
The Government is using urgency to push through up to eight bills before a two-week parliamentary recess, upsetting opposition parties by wiping out the usual daily question time. Urgency means Parliament sitting from 9am to midnight, focused entirely on legislation the Government needs to pass into law. Opposition MPs use question time to cover a wide range of issues, grilling the Prime Minister and members of his Cabinet in what is Parliament's most lively session each day. Urgency began on Tuesday and could last until tomorrow as Labour MPs battle bills they disagree with.

Here we go again, last year National spent 35% of the time ramming throiugh law under a misuse of urgency and here they go again. YOu would need to go back to Rodger Douglas's time in Government to see a comparable misuse of urgency. What's being rammed through with zero democratic oversight this time? Taking ACC away from suicide victims and criminals, while the latter is an easy kneejerk win, the counter by Labour was worth considering...

“Labour members agree that that an offender like Graeme Burton should not receive lump-sum or earnings-related compensation. If offenders such as he have received compensation, then that is because of ACC’s failure to properly apply the current law.

“There is nothing to stop ACC using its existing power to apply to disentitle claimants more often, and we would approve of its doing so. Its failure to do so operationally is no excuse for the draconian change now proposed.

“The provisions in the bill apply to any offence where the maximum theoretical penalty is two years or more in prison, and the offender is imprisoned or put on home detention for any period (that is, even a week!).

“This is unjust on a number of levels. For a start, the offender has already received the appropriate criminal penalty. Under this bill, they receive an additional penalty, which can also be disproportionate to the scale of their crime. This would affect not just the offender,
but also their family. This outcome arises despite the injured offender having paid ACC levies through their work, and their petrol and registration fees.

“The change would disproportionately affect lower-paid New Zealanders. They are more likely to end up in prison because they lack the means to pay large fines or reparation, which can enable a
better-off person to avoid a custodial sentence.

If Labour had misused urgency in this manner during their 9 years, the NZ Herald would've declared war on the Government, National constantly circumvent democratic oversight and it's just considered the norm now.

Giving Cops gun

Guns may be put in squad cars
The Police Commissioner is considering putting more guns in patrol cars in response to a rising number of assaults on frontline staff. Howard Broad says three attacks on officers at the weekend have prompted police to explore ways of deterring such assaults.

The favourite bogey man used to explain more violence against Police is the dreaded drug P - IF people are pumped up on P, they aren't going to be rational when confronted by a gun are they? This favourite bogey man has been played down of late in the face of the above response.

Why are we contemplating giving Police guns when they refuse to show us what they are doing with Tasers? See I have no problems giving the Police the tools they need to safely do their job, they are after all servants of the State providing a necessary service, my beef has always been the check and balance, we live in a western liberal democracy, not a Police State and as such Police Powers HAVE to be open to intense public scrutiny.

Tasers have cameras on them that take images of everyone tasered, why can't the public see those images and know the Police are using Tasers properly? In fact the cameras were one of the safety mechanisms hailed by Police when they introduced Tasers telling us the Public could be confident because Police actions would always be filmed.

The excuse used that Police are protecting the privacy of those they Taser when numerous Police propaganda TV show's on screen have people with their faces blurred interacting with the Police all the time suggests the real reason the Police are hiding the Taser footage is because NZers would be appalled at who is getting tasered and how.

Let's not give cops more access to guns until we are certain about the checks and balances for the current weapons Police have.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

ACT's Auckland City coup d'état

Power of unelected boards disturbs Auckland bill critics
Unelected boards of businesspeople will control at least 75 per cent, if not 90 per cent, of existing council business under the Auckland Super City, says Rodney District councillor Suzanne Weld. She said plans for at least seven council-controlled organisations (CCOs) would be funded by Auckland ratepayers but have no accountability to them. "This is a deliberate attempt to separate and compartmentalise ordinary council business and to keep the citizens of Auckland at arm's length from their assets and their facilities." Ms Weld was speaking on the first day of hearings before a special Auckland governance select committee considering the Government's third and final piece of Super City legislation. The scale and scope of council-controlled organisations is emerging as a hot issue in the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill, which contains much of the detail for the Super City.

After annexing Auckland under a misuse of urgency, this is the coup d'état by ACT, Council-controlled organizations is such a clever lie to sell the fact that these Organizations are not controlled by the Council AT ALL. These deceptively named 'Council-controlled organisations' are really unelected business men, appointed by Rodney Hide to run the 7 largest organizations in Auckland in secret with no public meetings, no public agendas and no public minutes.

It is a ludicrous situation and a naked attempt to seize power from the people of Auckland by hiding the inner workings of the SuperCity for unelected business men to do as they wish with total lack of public scrutiny.

Council-controlled organisations:
Auckland Transport *
Watercare Services Ltd *
Waterfront Development Agency *
Economic Development, Tourism and Events Agency
Property Holdings and Development
Major Regional Facilities
Council Investments

While ACT outwardly don't seem to have much influence, that is an illusion. The Government is a National-ACT majority, Hide pledged his support immediately to National and they have enormous influence. The fact that these council-controlled organisations will not publish any details of their work to the public should make EVERY NZer deeply suspicious of this ACT initiated coup of Auckland City.

The Emperor + Monty Burns = Rodger Douglas

MPs to debate youth minimum wage
A bill allowing the Government to re-introduce a youth minimum wage is to be debated by Parliament. The bill in the name of Act MP Sir Roger Douglas was drawn from a ballot of members' bills. The last Government ditched youth rates and said the minimum wage should apply to all workers from 16 years-old.

Rodger Douglas has been resurrected from his cryogenic chamber powered by the tears of solo mothers to attack a generation who weren't even born the last time he stalked the country. The intergenerational abuse by Rodger Douglas is more akin to that of polio with him now wanting to strip away minimum wage levels for youth workers.

This Government are not a moderate party at all, ACT is having a major influence over policy. National are using Douglas's "can't hit a moving target" strategy he used to ram his policy lurch to the extreme right through without critical examination in the 1980's with 35% of the time passing legislation last year all done under a misuse of urgency.

Watching Rodger drain the pockets of young workers already hit hard by skyrocketing unemployment to feather the nests of employers by lowering labour costs is vampire like. This is Ghoul economics 101.

Rust and Rodger Douglas never sleep.

Lunch on the Credit Card

Contrite MPs give up credit cards
Some red-faced ministers were yesterday shredding their Ministerial Services credit cards and paying money back to the Government after being caught with irregularities in their use. Housing and Fishing Minister Phil Heatley yesterday handed in his credit card and paid back about $1100 after the details of his credit card use became public. Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee also issued an apology and handed in his card, paying back $152.90 for a lunch with his electorate staff in September. Both were publicly reprimanded over their actions by Prime Minister John Key after their credit card statements were obtained by the Dominion Post under the Official Information Act. Both surrendered their credit cards to avoid a repeat.

Ooops? That's all they've got as a response? I think that what is most revealing about this is that people on quarter of a million dollars are so quick to use our money to pay for lunch. All up however, this issue is a cheap shot, when compared to the vast swathe of things National are ramming through, Phil and Gerry's lunch costs are the least of our worries.

What does Telecom XT, Toyota breaks and Whitney Housten have in common?

What does Telecom XT, Toyota breaks and Whitney Housten have in common? None of them work very well...

Whitney Houston struggles through opening night concert
BRISBANE- Pop diva Whitney Houston has struggled through the opening night of her first Australian tour since 1988, raising questions about the remainder of the concert series.

XT woes starting to hurt shares
More bad press over Telecom's calamity-prone XT network saw the telco giant's stocks take a hit yesterday, with its share price dropping 6c after the resignation of its chief technical officer.

Toyota boasts of $142m recall saving
WASHINGTON - Toyota officials claimed they saved the company US$100 million ($142 million) by successfully negotiating with the Government on a limited recall of floor mats in some Toyota and Lexus vehicles, according to new documents shared with congressional investigators.

That Toyota story is pretty damaging in terms of their boasting holding up regulation to make profits and Telecom HAS to be questioned over getting any money to expand the broadband in this country when XT is such crap. Whitney was just plain awful.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bored to death

Am I contributing to it? Probably. What am I going to do about it? Probably make it worse better, I meant better. Make it better. [Read more...]

Taser-cam has to be secret?

Police refuse to release NZ Taser footage
Arming New Zealand police with tasers has been hailed as a success, but there is a secret attached to the gun that police aren't happy to share. Unbeknown to many people, each taser has a camera underneath the handgrip that films the gun being used on offenders. Steve Tuttle, Vice President of Communications at Taser International, says the footage "helps communities understand what police officers face in the field." However, New Zealand is unlikely to ever see the footage shot here as police bosses won't release it, suggesting to ONE News that the Taser use should be given positive coverage instead.

While Police are hopping up and down about harsher sentences for assaulting Police (just on that, IF the rise in assaults is P fueled then rising penalties won't make meth raged nutters think twice but if it's because the public don't respect cops post Clint Rickards, then other tactics are necessary), Police are hiding Taser footage - why?

The whole point of the Taser-Cam was to make sure NZers knew that the Police were not abusing the Tasers and the Police argument that they can't because it breaches privacy is bullshit when you consider all those police shows on the telly where people are shown breaking the law.

The reason the Police are hiding the footage and only want 'positive' news stories (can you believe they told the media only to do positive news stories?) is because there may well be footage that makes people wonder why the person in question has been tasered. Currently guidelines state that Police can only use a taser if the person has a weapon and is advancing, Police CAN NOT use a taser for just compliance - ie, the Police can't use tasers to threaten a person to comply with Police commands, it's only supposed to be used in specific cases. Watching the footage may cause real questions over their use.

The Police should be forced to release the footage so we all know how it's being used, they can not hide behind privacy laws.

Bomber's Blog - The War on News on tonight Sky 89, 10.10pm

The War on News 2010 – NZ News Satire on Stratos Sky 89 10.10pm Tuesday & simulcast on Freeview 21. Replayed on Triangle TV 9.45pm Wednesday and posted online at Scoop.co.nz as their Weekend Watch.

It’s just like 7 days on TV3 but with less dick jokes.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

NZ media bridge-burning: Summer edition

There's an awful lot of cliquey wank geekery in this country. Russell Brown seems to be half of it all by himself. It's not just the Auckland-centric yap heads he hosts on the ever shorter (15 minutes now isn't it? - the more times his mug's on the web page the shorter his show seems to get) "Media 7," or his Public Address blogging community; it's everything.

One week it's "foo", the next it's "webstock" and then "ONYA" (which all appear to be incarnations of the same group - see below). To the curious outsider - who might otherwise have taken an interest - it all looks a bit wanky. OK, a lot wanky. Smug wanky too - Finlay MacDonald wanky. Yip - that wanky.

A coasting, dry, methodical, entropic wanky trying to be the edgy, free-form wanky it would be if the said wankers weren't all at varying stages of middle age. But having said that at least Russell Brown's show is not the sell-out, dumbed-down form of smug wankiness of the unwatchable and pointless type... like "The Ad Show" that follows "Media 7" with whom they seem to have split the time slot. It is literally unwatchable. It makes Media 7 look like a forum of Nobel laureates by comparison. It's so much pap I'm actually unsure whether there is enough intelligent content there to even be called wanky. It's certainly smug though - the smirk on the presenter's face never left - for even a moment, that I could stand to watch. Maybe it is worse than that? Maybe the unseen portion was even worse? Probably was. Don't care to find out though - wouldn't try viewing that again. I would actually have to be paid to watch it... and even then, so easy to drift off during the ads and the talking to the people who made the ads about how wonderful their ads were and about how much it means to New Zealanders... and the brands... and discussing rates cards... so exciting. So the boring bits - they were a bit wanky I suppose: esoteric information that no-one needed or wanted to know... like a half of a unit standard of whatever the hell "media studies" is at secondary schools these days - one of the parts that you can skip... that part was wanky. As for the rest: at the rate it was going - vox pops, staged micro-interaction with the as-live studio audience and so on - maybe it was worse than what I'm making out. For those who care, "The Ad Show" makes at least three fatal mistakes:
1. The only commercial advertising on a non-commercial channel: we don't want to watch fucking ads - that was the point of these channels (6&7). If we wanted that we'd be better off watching Jasper Carrot or Jimmy Carr host it - seriously - at least their analysis was humourous and to the point. Since it wasn't entertaining, or informative all we are left with as the point-of-difference on that channel is it is plagued by bloody ads.
2. It's a populist format: (vox pops, keeping it busy, short i/v's etc.) on a channel that is supposed to be the exact opposite of that. It's TV2 lite stuff for what is meant to be TVNZ7, ie. HEAVY DUTY public broadcasting. So it's a populist, tabloid infotainment type of format, but:
3. It's so fucking shallow. They had an entire discussion about the Rugby World Cup advertising/sponsorship black zones that the government legislated for the corporates and no mention of the human rights/freedom aspect of that restriction. I think that was the moment I tuned out.

If you skipped the last paragraph because it was too long:
The Ad Show on TVNZ7 is shit.

It's so fucking awful and ill considered even the website for it within TVNZ goes straight to ads before you can stop it (and jams up my computer so I won't link to it). Well, that's commercial advertising: obnoxious, annoying and to be avoided if at all possible. It's unwatchable and unlinkable. Gawdawful.

But enough of poisoning my relationship with Simon Pound; I don't want to overlook Russell Brown's last post which is something of a case study in how breezily seamless and uncritically unconscious the nexus of the media/geek/tech brotherhood can be:"Real credibility" eh? Where do we start? Outing the conflicts of interests and the non-disclosures rampant within the brotherhood might be a good place, but I'll start by remarking on the competency of whatever ONYA is - it's Monday afternoon and they still haven't posted the winners from last week's convocation.

Let's begin with Radio NZ. They are pulling out of awards - just as they have pulled out of the ratings - because it costs too much for them to participate and it's not important enough to them given their priorities (like just surviving under a National government). So given there were only three finalists listed in categories and given that it costs $150 a person/$1250 per table I wonder if anyone was there to pick it up in person? Hmmmm. "Modest resources." I hope they weren't there, but I doubt it.

No need to note also that three of the finalist nominees were from Springload - and that Springload was one of the ONYA sponsors. No need to point out either that most, if not all, of the nominations are... yeah - take this one:Best visual design nominee: NZ International Arts Festival. Go to the page and tell me where it's being held?There's a hint - but it's tiny, right at the end there in amongst the sponsors.That's right - it's the Wellington festival of arts - but the superb design skills being recognised by the industry must relate to how well they can hide this fact. Design FAIL 101. The judge's comment however: "essentially functional." If its brief was "Shhh, don't mention it's in Wellington FFS" then by all means - highly functional. You have to bury down into the media releases and so on before you will get to that key piece of information: it is being held in Wellington. You would never know it from the front page. Sure, it's a bit wanky, but that doesn't automatically mean it's Wellington.If I was on the Wellington City Council I would be mightily fucked off with whoever designed it. But that's not how these awards work is it. Is it.

Cliquey covens and corporate sponsorships don't make for "real credibility." The ones forking out over a grand a table are the ones who are allowed to pat themselves on the back here - it's all paid for isn't it. Isn't it. Yeah - that's the way it works in the real world. It seems that most of the people who should be raising these issues are all part of the interdependent communities of media whores and their corporate pimp masters. They have their incomes and careers beholden to the media gatekeepers, beholden to their advertisers, beholden to their funding bodies and the people who appoint those bodies - and so certain questions will never be asked, certain people will never be heard and certain things will never be said.

Tight collegial circles of creatives and media professionals, working with - and fundamentally compromised by - the overlapping classes of management, determine what shape public discourse takes in this country. That is why it's all remarkably similar: the same story formulae, the same agenda, the same meta-assumptions of race, class and gender, the same timing, the same characters, the same talking heads, the same old shite over and over again: the midday news on the TV and radio networks are carbon copies of each other - ditto the six o'clock news. The most likely phenomena with the potential to break that head-lock is the blogosphere. Despite the fact that most bloggers are wholly or partly entrenched in the aforementioned brotherhood a blog is a genre of publication that encourages a greater level of honesty than the traditional means of transmitting ideas, and if I am a little hard on bloggers it is because they are being held to a higher standard on account of their relative importance in a country dominated by corporate media.

OK, I shall now watch what Russell says is:

an edit of the closing show. That's me testifying at the beginning:

still waiting... more than a minute now... waiting... Waste of time.