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Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Giddy up Buttercup! Winston Peters rides again.

It can happen here!

Good Morning Munchkins, your starter for 10 is to read this recent article by Jonathan Milne, about NZ horse racing getting tax breaks and government support to open up its gambling operations in NZ, and then come back to this blog post.

Done that, good, now let us proceed by reminding you of that scene in the Godfather where the Mafia goes to a famous Hollywood producer and asks that a mafia connected actor be given a big part in his upcoming movie. The producer says no and then wakes up the next morning with the head of his favorite racehorse next to him in bed.

From there now let us careen to last year’s SFO prosecution of several figures in NZ’s horse racing industry under Operation Chestnut which revealed nearly 7 million dollars in pokie fraud and helped expose a web of money flowing from pubs to gaming societies and then to, wait for it, horse racing!

Finally let’s zoom across to this recent article by Radio NZ which notes that while the number of pokie machines and venues is declining the profits from gaming is going up.

The common factor in all of this? Winston Peters*!

It’s not for no reason that he is known as the “god father of horse racing” in NZ or that there are sections of the New Zealand’s Gambling Act which are ruefully referred to as “Winston Clauses” because they were effectively inserted by him, at the behest of the racing industry, and are the basis of the current monopoly powers that Racing New Zealand has.

But wait doesn’t Racing NZ give the money it raises from horse racing to charity? Why yes, yes it does, if you count mostly giving to established sports rather than the communities where the machines are located "charity" and where the bulk of that cash goes back to Racing New Zealand to pay for its own.

And just to add insult to injury, because this is Winston Peters we are talking about here, all of this is taking place during Gambling Harm Awareness Week here in Aotearoa, because of course it is!

So let’s recap. Massive tax breaks for a parasitic and mostly redundant niche industry in NZ so that its pseudo aristocratic and corrupt elite can maintain their lifestyles built around exploiting poor communities.

This is the dark side of Winston’s populism; this is the dark space that Ian Wishart wrote about in Lawyers, Guns and Money, his expose of the racing industry in New Zealand, and its alive and well in New Zealand First today.

Winston Peters sits in the middle of this grotty crossroad of power and vested interests and if the plans to allow these unjustified tax breaks and greedy power grabbing goes ahead expect no good to come from it.

I know, from someone who was close to the Chestnut Investigation, that the parties who were prosecuted were mostly scapegoats so that the others in the industry could avoid detection due to bungling by the DIA in the investigation and industry capture of DIAs senior management (who were then unwilling to upset the peace with their new friends in the racing industry).

My friend in DIA also advises that if YOU take the time to look at the grant lists for major gaming societies to see where much of the money from pokies actually goes it’s not really going back to the “community” as the Gambling Act requires, but mostly into the pockets of NZ’s sporting industrial complex (think rugby, cricket and hockey mostly but including horse racing - and the UPDATE UPDATE at the bottom of the page) via way of various fronts and schemes.

And the mood of the public in NZ to gambling in general is negative, the views aired in the media rarely speak any good or have any good stories to tell because for every pre-school which gets a measly $500 for toys or their leaky roof which desperately needs fixing there is some larger more connected entity which gets $500,000 just so they can help keep off season players and management in jobs by paying the work as “development coaches”.

Such a sentiment like this ties easily into a comment I got last year from someone well up in NZ's charity sector around where the funding from things like gaming machines actually goes, when they told me with a straight face, and no irony, that “if local and mid-level rugby in NZ was to have its funding tap turned off to the ongoing stream of money from gambling machines in pubs over half of those clubs would fold in six months”.

And all of this of this, absolutely and utterly not surprisingly, links back into Winston Peters with such regularity and such ease that it’s easy to see why Labour blocked NZ First from getting it hands on the Fishing Industry portfolio given how much money they have pumped into NZ First.

Its not to say that other political parties do not have dodgy links to various industries in NZ but NZ First is so brazen about it that it weakens the whole argument of who, or what, is actually in charge of things in NZ when NZ First can run such pork barrel politics in full public view with nary a grumble from the public or the people supposedly in charge, you know, like the PM and cabinet.

Personally I am opposed to gambling but I accept that the intent of the NZ gambling Act is to minimize the harm that gambling creates and then ensure that any profits from it go back to the communities which spend their money on it (in a similar model to how Lotto grants work) but that,s not happening here and its not just some sleazy operators but govt ministers like Winston seeing that his good buddies from horse racing get their $$$ while others suffer.

Keep that in mind next time you see Winnie fronting one of his "populist" causes.

UPDATE - Oh and in breaking news Police have raided a range of harness racing entities (ie also horse racing) in the Canterbury area for race fixing and drugs. Just in case you needed another reason to not want these people to benefit from Winstons "generosity".

UPDATE UPDATE - It must be my lucky day as the news just keeps on disgorging the goodies. Now its Tennis NZ sweating as half its funding comes from ... wait for it ... wait for it ... the TAB! Of course run by racing NZ. Maybe I should buy a Lotto ticket tonight.

*-Ok, except for the scene in the Godfather.

Monday, 20 August 2018

Oh Snap, guess who the new MP for Epsom is?

It does not take a psychic with a crystal ball to see where today’s announcement of the rebirth of The Opportunities Party (TOP) under new leader Geoff Simmons is going to lead for both TOP and ACT.

And I could easily see the voters of Epsom tossing aside one three letter acronym political party in order to elect another and so can Simon Bridges who has said he is “not not open to doing a deal with Simmons”*.

The reason Bridges had to qualify this statement with a double negative probably has to do with not wanting to send David Seymour screaming out the window of his Bowen House office to splatter all over Lambton Quay like human jam, well at least not yet, but if Seymour has not got an icy cold feeling in his stomach it is only because he has not heard the news.

Its simple math folks, Epsom is not voting for ACT because it likes ACT, it’s been voting for ACT because it wants National in power. So, as National has been gifting Epsom to ACT all these years, when it comes to converting percentages into seats in the house or shares of the vote TOPs 2.4% take from the 2017 general election seems like a much better chance of swinging things in a tight race compared to ACTs 0.5%.

And Simmons is being pragmatic about all this indicating that TOP would be “willing to work with everyone” which is less of an ideological pedigree than ACTs economically pure final solution for anyone who is not very rich but that’s neither here nor there when it’s really National that’s calling that shots in Epsom as no one really believes (probably not even Seymour) that Epsom is some sort of politically kinky electorate that gets its freak on for ACTs political program.

And Simmons twitter feed indicates he knows how serious this move is (in replacing Gareth Morgan as the face of the party) by using the old poker term that he  "all in” and noting its “career suicide for an economist”, which is obviously referring to the fact that economists are not seen as congenital liars while politicians are.

ACT has survived for the last few elections only because there was no other alternate party for such a seat as Epsom to be given to and that is due to National colonizing almost all the space on the Right side of the political spectrum thus enforcing its shotgun marriage to David Seymour and squeezing Epsom into the political ghetto its currently inhabits.

With another more popular contender for the seat I’m pretty sure that with Nationals prompting and Simmons trimming his hair they ("they" being the voters of Epsom) could easily elect him should they so desire.

Detractors would note that Simmons ran in the Mt Albert by-election in 2017 and only got third place with 4.6% behind Jacinda Ardern’s 76% but that’s just the point; against Jacinda, who was then riding the rising curl of what was soon to be Jacindamania, he was never going to win but he still polled!

And lest I labor the point too much, David Seymour is NOT Jacinda Ardern(sic) and Geoff Simmons with his economic background** and TOPs pragmatic policy base could just as easily advocate for Epsom as could Seymour.

And with Seymour now desperately grasping at any harebrained scheme or idea to revive ACT (and his own employment prospects) all Simmons has to do to win is not appear in public (or TV) wearing spandex, not utter anything too stupid and avoid any political ideology that advocates an economic death march for 95% of a countries populace (pro tip: getting Morgans face immediately off any TOP promotional material, if not done so already, would also really help things). How hard could it be?

The key point here is that the current coalition of Labour, The Greens and NZ First have functioned as a government and all three have more of an incentive (or political inclination) to stay away from National (especially given the fate of The Maori Party and United Future in coalition with National) while TOP under Simmons (ie not under egomaniac Gareth Morgan) could possibly see the potential of working with National to get some of its own “pragmatic” policy enacted (while not getting too close) and to do that it either needs to hit the magic 5% threshold for the general vote of get an electorate seat .

And we know from past runs by parties at the 5% threshold (think the Conservatives, ACT, Maori and United Future) that such a number is a lot harder than it looks and 4.9% won’t cut it so it’s easy to see TOP opting for an easier (and far more realistic) solution of a gift seat like Epsom than trying to grind it out in trying to win a genuinely held seat or desperately campaigning to get over the magic number nationwide.

Of course we are still two years away from an election, and Simmons and TOP might have their own ideas but if this is not writing on the wall for ACT I will happily stand drinks for any who will take those odds***.

*-Bridges also managed to get in the rather catty comment that TOP could split the Green vote by noting the “divide between the protesters and those who are realistic” which shows exactly what he really thinks.
**-And possibly his background in Improve theater 
**-subject only to my then poverty level.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Sticks and Stones and broken bones: four idiots and the things they said.

Guess who used to be a teacher?

Ok New Zealand politics! I go away for a few weeks to attend to my spiritual enlightenment (Kifflom! brothers and sisters, Kifflom!) and this is what I come back to?

I distinctly remember making it clear that this kind of outlandish and irresponsible behavior was to cease (see previous posts) and you lot were to get down to the business of guiding this country forward and representing your constituents rather than disconnecting your mouth from your brains and then blathering forth with the first inane thoughts that came skittering into your mind, like crabs on sheet metal.

I mean what in Kraffs name got into you? Did you think it was appropriate to say those things? So what have you got to say for yourselves?

David Seymour

I know David Seymour is irrelevant, you know that he is irrelevant and even he knows that he is irrelevant and this is why he behaves the way he does.

After his bid for TV stardom failed he has returned to the one other thing that he can do with his life; and that’s spouting random gibberish.

Listening to David on RNZ a few mornings ago it’s clear that Seymore knows he has absolutely no political capital or credibility and all and DOES NOT CARE one speckled olive.

Rebrand ACT, good luck with that as its likely to be effective as Bill Cosby changing his name and going out to a singles bar and with ACT having the popularity of NAMBLA nothing Seymour does is going to change its fortunes because the neo-liberal experiment has failed and we are now living with its ghastly consequences.

So Seymour, knowing this fact, has taken a leaf from the Don Brash playbook and attempted a few beats on the one drum which he thought could not fail to draw some like minded people to the ACT fold and that’s good old fashioned Maori bashing.

Sure its dressed up in the clothes of “fiscal responsibility” that ACT has always deluded itself into thinking was its creed but to anyone except the ACT hard core (which is now really just Seymour himself) this sounds just like a pedophile arguing that they should be allowed to drive the school bus, disgusting, distasteful and just plain ole wrong.

And listening to Mathew Hooton, later that morning on RNZ, its clear that ACTS days are really numbered if Hooton gets his way as ACT will be put to sleep for good come the next election when National cuts off its political air supply in Epsom and makes space for whatever political Frankenstein’s monster it wishes to create.

I would have more sympathy for Seymour at this point if ACTs ideas and policies were not the political and philosophical equivalent of child molestation.

All I can say further about Seymour and ACT is the sooner they die (and Seymour has to go out and get a real job) the better.

Judith Collins

Judith may not have realized it but when she tweeted out bat poo lunacy posing as real news that she was showing people how her feral mind works but then I get the feeling that Collins does not really understand how twitter or perhaps even the internet works given her previous tweets.

It’s not a series of tubes Judith it’s more like the largest unregulated experiment in human history and anything you say or do inside that experiment is recorded and remembered for posterity and then spat back at you when you least expect it.

And again Mathew Hooton, on RNZ clearly does not like Judith with his dig at her about how many votes she got in the recent National Party leadership challenge (that being one by his source) or her chances of ever being leader of National are when he summed up her behavior as that of a spoiled child daring her father (in this case Simon Bridges) to call her out for her said antics, to which Bridges wisely avoided doing.

But Did Collins back down or apologize for sticking her foot up her backside and then dancing the Hootchie Coo in front of the amazed eyes of all and sundry? No she did not and in an absurd display of not understanding how the Streisand Effect works went to double down on her claims by telling Duncan garner that apologizing “would only make things worse”.

Really? Really Judith? Is that how apologizing works?

You have clearly opened a doorway into your mind and your beliefs by tweeting out fact free mental diareha as something you think your twitter followers should know about and then then decided, very unwisely, to try and link it to the Labour party and the PM (and we will get to her later) and instead of admitting your mistake you sashay on like a pig in pink tutu at the first day of school and you think apologizing would be a mistake?

Remember the Orivida scandal? Remember that and all the other grotesque things you have said and done, because the series of tubes does and one quick Google search can remind people of all your acts of political bestiality in your ghastly career and as much as you lust for the throne you will never get it.

Your only hope is that the auto correct will change their search to Judy Collins rather than Judith because otherwise you are only a step above David Seymour as something that has only just learnt to walk on its hind legs but never quite got the habit of appearing human.

Back to your scum pit at once!

Marama Davidson

In your case Marama I really don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Reclaim the C word?” What the F word are you talking about? You sound like a mid-90s campus radical, you know, someone who does not really have any idea of what they are talking about but will regurgitate any platitude or saying they hear as the faux radical they are.

You are aware of the perilous space the Green party exists in and you’re ok with wasting its valuable (and extremely limited) media exposure on this kind of backwards feminist antics when things like #metoo and equal pay movements are now things.

Worse still you said it at a rally against racism and thereby high-jacked the events agenda with your pointless political grandstanding, you are about as on message there as Seymour and Collins. What in the name of our Lord and Savior Xneu were you thinking?

Ah but of course you weren’t thinking were you and like Collins instead of apologizing you’re going to crystallize your position and be now and forever known as the “C-Word lady” rather than  for anything else meaningful, like for instance the environment, you know that thing the Green party is supposed to be about.

Oh wait, I forgot, this is the “new” Green party, the one that has pretty much sold out its ecological agenda under the queasy leadership of James “anything for the dollar” Shaw and decided that it’s just going to abandon any real pretense to its environmental and social base and simply allow itself to dissolve into a seething mass of radical posturing and empty sloganeering.

Your shallow Marama, very shallow; going out there and shouting profanities is not going to help anyone and certainly not yourself or your party and it does nothing but sell the image that the Greens don’t know what the hell they are doing and need to be treated with the same scorn and disdain that ACT gets, is that what you want?

And for the record it’s not the word itself, profanities come and go and a bad word today is common currency tomorrow but it’s the fact that you seem to think that your use of them is appropriate, or even helpful, to the causes you are supposed to be representing.

The only thing you have reclaimed is the idea that the Greens don’t know how to handle being in power and that your role as deputy leader is just window dressing under the Shaw junta.

Jacinda Ardern

And now to our PM, who in the face of the increasing unrest and industrial action in the desperately overworked and underpaid nursing and teaching sectors (ones where the majority of workers are women by the way Marama!) decided that it was a good idea to not to make time meeting with protesters, only to crap her pants with fear when thousands of them filled parliaments grounds and other public spaces around the country.

Watching your speech to those protesters it was clear you had, as you said, looked down from your window on high and realized that you had screwed the pooch (so to speak) just as Seymour, Collins and Davidson had done. And just like those cretins you could not just go down and hear their demands and show some sympathy but instead thought it was a good idea to go out there and waffle on about how it’s not “us and them” but “just us”.

Really Jacinda, really? I mean REALLY? You have critiqued the teachers for walking away from the bargaining table and implied that they should have held out for a better offer like the nurses did. Is that the way a Labour government wants to run its labor relations?

You had the nerve to front a crowd simply wanting to get paid what they are worth and tell them that you’re down with radical change but that “radical change takes time”. Are you kidding me?

Do you know what those two words imply when put together or more to the point what they implied 30 years ago when it was perfectly OK for the then Labour party to embark on a program of radical economic change in no time at all and damn the torpedoes? Do you even know what punctuated equilibrium means?

However the crowd did not seem down for your panicked platitudes and twitchy hand waving because the only cheers they made where when you referenced them and not you!

It’s clearly an Us and Them situation when you have decided that crisis management style employment bargaining is the way to go rather than just paying what they are worth (especially since you get half a million a year), settling the issue and getting back some respect and credibility for it.

And it’s also clear that when faced with anything less than an adoring crowd you don’t know how to deal with people who have not bought your BS posturing hook line and sinker when they know that you could give them their pay rises and then some if you simply did not spend billions of dollars on a few maritime surveillance planes. Which do you think is the greater priority to them and NZ?

Is this what you mean when you and other Labourites keep saying that you have failed in your messaging because it’s clear that YOU think you’re doing a great job and expect the populace (that would be the Us) to simply thank you for all that you have done in those first 100 days and get with the program.

Well Jacinda, the program is that between 30 years of Labour and National hollowing out this country there is  not a lot left of the socially democratic state that was created by your forebears all those years ago and what we are left with is a government willing to play politics, give the illusion of change by creating a whole lot of committees (often staffed with Labour cronies) and keep on with the same business friendly agenda that National had but with a slightly more oppositional tone to maintain the illusion that you’re not just another lackey for business confidence crowd.

As our PM you have squandered almost all the goodwill generated from the election and done nothing to refill the coffers. You think that you can take a leaf from the Poodle Blair book of politicizing and try and foster a feel good personality cult around yourself and that will be sufficient to compensate for all the other failures to meet public expectations.

Well I am happy to say it won’t and there will be more not less of this kind of stuff (that being strikes and industrial actions) until you actually do what you and Labour promised and implied when you went out there and said “Lets do this!” to the voters.

And of the four you are the worst offender here. The other three are political wastrels and minor players while you are supposed to be something else. But it seems that your star is already on the wane when you can’t even show genuine sympathy for a crowd of ticked off teachers and instead have to use the moment to try and make some demented political point rather than just saying they are worth it and paying them.

It is worth noting that previous PMs of the National party would probably not even have fronted such a gathering so I am acknowledging you had the guts to do that but one individual action, in and of itself, does not change the fact that the government of the day is fundamentally responsible for this situation and if Labour does not address it fully and fairly then they are bad as National under John Key was when they ignored it and refused to front. Is that something you want to be identified with or remembered as?

However as Mighty Kraff has recently taught me that “dinosaurs are a lie that people believe because they are weak” so perhaps I have bigger things to worry about than four idiot politicians and their idiotic comments. 

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Simon Bridges: Political stillbirth or something entirely different?

Because if Tracy Watkins can come up with a ridiculous and over the top headline so can I.

One becomes a critic when one cannot be an artist

The above is a quote from Gustave Flaubert and could be paraphrased to New Zealand Journalism as One becomes a political reporter when one cannot be a politician.

Political journalism in NZ is going through a dull patch at the moment or to be more precise; with no scandal to feed the media, many political reporters have been reduced to reporting on mundane political occurrences or, even worse, writing speculative “think pieces”.

This is ugly journalism at its worst and it shows how the high drama of the political campaign can twist and warp a reporters mind so that they get lost in the glare of personality politics and forget that outside of the campaign, trail politics is not actually about grandstanding political egos (think Winston Peters), personal events (think Jacinda’s baby) or petty political nit-picking (ala all the recent focus on Simon Bridges).

And in the wind up to the recent National Party conference in Auckland the two remaining mainstream outlets in the political media went, what could be politely termed, into overdrive, spewing out page after page of low wattage drivel about Bridges, his leadership prospects, his hairline, his gel quota, his family, his background and absolutely anything but the actual problems afflicting the National Party.

Such star focused reporting shows exactly why political reporters need to be conversant in the Three P's of Politics (Principles, Policy and Personality) rather than just their relentless focus on personality, which is fine for the campaign trail but becomes all but irrelevant once the election is won (or lost) and government and opposition settle down to the day to day of Policy and, on those rare moments when the planets align, Principles.

Its simple stuff really, yet we are still getting articles speculating about Bridges fate as leader or Mike Hoskings sponsored BS about how well the party is doing. Worse still is the kind of bland spin via David Cormack who really needs to just stop writing these suck up articles like some overgrown teacher’s pet (in this case the teacher being Labour) and stick to being the self-confessed “PR guy” role that he refers to himself as. And for the love of sweet baby Jesus take that horrible picture of yourself out of all those articles you write, you look like a total creep.

And finally, it’s clear that the sun has well and truly set on Bryce Edwards as political commentator. Bryce, sweetheart, trolling the internet and for stories and then presenting a rather over worded list of other people’s work as your own is shallow beyond belief. Just stop, please, or at least write something original because in reality the problem with National is NOT Simon Bridges or his leadership (the Personality part of the three P’s) but rather the other two (Policy and Principles).

Even veteran reporters like Audrey Young of the NZ Herald and Tracy Watkins (as noted above) have, at times, been sucked down to this level of verbal diarrhea with catchy headlines and little else beyond to pad out their articles. It’s as if the respective editors of Stuff and the Herald ordered their staff to write about the upcoming National Party conference but the star struck reporters simply could not conceive of anything beyond the same campaign style reportage (with its relentless focus on the negative and the personal) that they were turning out during the election campaign last year.

There are exceptions to this mess with Henry Cooke from Stuff and the Spinoff (despite the disaster of its “hipster TV” channel) being very conspicuous exceptions to the poor state of the general political media by producing ongoing quality assessments of the situation in NZ politics.

However I am 500 words in and I would be no better than Bryce if I was to keep on with this line of analysis rather than getting to the question at hand: that being the question posed in this posts title, but I would be remiss if I did not at least pause a moment to consider why political reportage in NZ is so often the kind of knee jerk tabloid muckraking akin to the gossip magazines at worst or, on a good day, barely pedestrian factual reportage without a hint of in-depth analysis.

But journalism, like life, has posed a question to which there is no single answer (much like why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near or why side A of Marc Jacobs Mannequin is just so damn good or the answer to life the universe and everything is 42 but what’s the question?) however if I was pressed to consider NZ political reporters as a whole I would simply say that most of them are far too close to their sources and as focus too much on the human/personal element of politics and thus become so tainted with the foul stench of politics* that they can’t be too critical lest they piss off their sources and loose access.**

So what is the problem with Simon Bridges at this time and place in NZ politics? The Answer: Nothing, nothing at all and if you don't believe me, check out Liam Hehir from Stuff.

What kind of P is Simon smoking?

Bridges, as I noted a few months back, has the hardest job in politics as the leader of the loosing party in the wake of  government change election and that job has been made harder by a number of factors which relate back to the Policy and Principles aspects of the Three P’s rather than the Personality factor.

First up for Bridges is that he was picked for a role which, in the wake of the dark magic of John Key, is not really tenable because expecting Simon bridges to have the superstar polling of John Key is just not realistic and highlights that even the National Party is desperately trying to ignore its failing in policy and principle by pumping up the personality factor to the Nth degree.

Problem is, John Key and his Teflon personality was an anomaly in NZ politics but it’s easy to see how and why so many have tried to follow the trail he blazed but instead got shot down in a screaming mess of ugly revelations and piss poor polling (think Labours endless run of dip-stick leaders prior to Jacinda) because Key used his magnetic polling skills to keep the party afloat when it was otherwise politically bankrupt and hollowed out in both the principles and policy areas.

Yes Bridges is still in single digit polling and yes Bill English was higher BUT outside of an election and definitively in the wake of Jacindamania the last thing Bridges needs to worry about is how high he is on the preferred PM stakes.

Instead the fact that the party still holds a solid core of political support should be more than enough to settle any questions about how well the party is doing when the grim fact is that the tide is going out on National as a party after nine years in power and it’s going to be spending some time in opposition before the body politic decides it’s safe to trust it again (or more accurately Labour pisses it off enough) to let it back into power.

However that’s not to say that Bridges has not made some mistakes in his time as leader and its here that Bridges will have to up his game if he wants to stay in the job to see another party conference (in 2019) as leader.

Making National your bitch!

First up there is the fact that when Simon got the role from Bill English he did little to stamp his own mark on the party or more importantly his caucus. And super-duper mistakerino number one was the fact that he kept Paula Bennett as his deputy. Yes it was a nod to the old guard Gang of Five (Bennett, Brownlee, Smith, Joyce and Collins) (now four) in National that had monopolised the top spots in the previous government are now little more than tainted vessels (and that is me being extremely polite) and horrid reminders of what National is all about and why people should vote Labour.

Paula Bennett has clearly gotten the memo from Nationals image team to dress less like an on the make suburban housewife and more like a politician because she has ditched most of the god awful outfits she used to wear in favour of more sombre attire (think darker less bedazzled clothing and you get the picture) and a conservative hairdo but clearly did not get the memo on overusing the spray tan or behaving like a cast member from the Jersey Shore (given her behaviour in and out of the House) which clearly shows that beneath the jazzed up hair, clothes and makeup is a smouldering harpy ready to start screeching the moment someone upsets her wine cooler or says something catty.

The net result is that Bennett is now the Snooki LaValle of NZ politics with an image of someone who is a vapid attention seeker and nothing more than a simulation of human being rather a genuine person and as 2IC for Bridges Bennett should be the one getting the MPs into line and whipping up policy teams to be an effective opposition but she is not and Labour has had an almost free ride since getting elected despite an increasing stream of issues which it (and not National) have created or curated.

And replacing Bennett is easy; just add Amy Adams! Yes folks, if Bridges wants to strut the stage like John Key he needs an effective second fiddle (ala Bill English) to manage the numbers and keep things in the back office ruining smoothly and Adams is proven go getter in this area so having her playing second banana to Bridges would be a lot closer to recapturing the JK magic than just sending a younger, more ethnic, lookalike of John Key out into the glare of the footlights in the hope that the audience won’t see it’s just a roadie in a wig.

Sure Adams is a potential rival to the throne but, just like Key was clever enough to keep Bill English close by giving him the Deputy spot he was also smart enough to realise that English’s ambition (while not that of an actual leader) was perfect for being his right hand man (or just The Hand if you are a GOT fan). The result was that Key was free to be Key while English was in charge of the day to day and while it often pains me to say it English was very good as the power behind the throne (emphasis painfully mine).

So if Bridges was to ditch Bennett and promote Adams then he has at least a strong approximation of the Key situation and can focus on getting his personal popularity up (something that will be more important as the election approaches) without having to worry about what his minions are doing.

The STDs of the National party

As for the rest of the gang of four; Brownleee just needs to be demoted to the backbenches as he is no longer effective in his role as flack catcher for National as he is now just as controversial as any issue he is sent into distract from (Brownlee might poll in his Ilam electorate*3 but he is still the most hated man in Christchurch for his role in fucking up the Christchurch rebuild and allowing corruption, nepotism and dodgy behaviours to flourish in the wake of the quake); Smith needs to be disinfected and strategically shaven before being made to work as the mop boy in Wellington sex dungeon.

Which just leaves jolly Judith Collins, who is more of a risk to remove, but could probably be useful as a productive shadow minister or perhaps as the leader of the conservative splinter faction that some in National think is the answer to its problems but needs to be kept on a short leash and kept busy guarding the perimeter, like the good attack dog she is, and not left to fomenting her own limited dreams of being leader, which if were to come to fruition would split the party down the middle.

Getting rid of these human dumpster fires is an essential prerequisite for Bridges getting the party back on track and if he can’t do that then there is no phase two (or three) to any plan to win the next election or be an effective opposition because these malingering cyphers do nothing but take up space and block more productive MPs from rising in the ranks. Bridges needs to cull and he needs to cull now. He has given these monsters a grace period after the leadership challenge and now it’s time to build a new team, in his image and stop relying on these decrepit throwbacks to another age.

The gang of five have been like STDs to the National party, disgusting reminders of a dirty moment of pleasure that they will now carry with them for life, like luggage!

If Bridges can sort the wheat from the chaff then he will have a new team and be able to spend the next two years working hard as the opposition party and rebuilding the policy and principle planks that the party desperately needs to go back into government. However there is just one problem with that and it’s that National scarified its policy and principles in the 1990s to the gods of economic “progress” and outsourced the work (how ironic) to the pro business goons at the Business Roundtable (now the pro-business goons at the New Zealand Initiative).

Surfing the zeitgeist

“But what’s the problem!” I hear you cry, whacking the side of the monitor in anger at the sheer lunacy of the suggestion that we don’t run our country on a pro-business model that exploits the many for the benefit of a small few and has lead this country to have things like a housing hernia, dirty dairy and a low wage, cheap labour economy.

The problem, Henrietta, is that Nationals current crop of policy plans around things like Marijuana, smaller classrooms and more of the same hands off business practices are not really going to address the problems that NZ faces today or in the future and, in fact, are a big part of the problems that helped get Labour elected (by saying they had solutions to those problems).

So National needs to step back and genuinely consider if it can win an election by proposing more of the same (as it has done for the last 30 years) or like medical marijuana, pandering to what is essentially an emotional issue and not one that actually has any relevance to the direction of the country. Smaller classes and medical dope are easy things to say and sound good but one requires a major investment in our educational infrastructure and the other is simply addressing a long standing reality that many Kiwis smoke dope. Neither of these will win an election.

Thus if truly wanting to be seen as credible in the policy stakes National will have to come up with workable solutions to Housing, Health and Wages rather than some quick and easy feel good side shows (like marijuana) while the main issues keep on messing up the country and as National helped to create those messes Bridges, if still leader, is going to have to front for his party’s part in making those messes.

Imagine if this were to occur in a time when Labour still can’t say sorry for the Great Betrayal. Bridges could tap into the national mea culpa, swallow his pride and that of his party and reinvent National to align with the zeitgeist rather than stand in stark isolation to it. National has stolen Labours political thunder before and the best way to out Jacinda Jacinda is by acknowledging that National lost the last election (instead of a continually petulant atmosphere of a sore looser) and going forward rather than holding onto the John Key stained past.

Coming out of the Conservative closet

Also Simon Bridges could retain much of his conservative base by realizing that conservative voters care about things like the environment too. It’s a cross party issue and it’s not the only cross party issue out there where National could steal a march on Labour by changing tack on all and any broad based issues such as wages, the environment, land sales, water and health and in doing so show the public that everything will not be viewed through the lens of the market place.

So instead of having to desperately try and make eyes across the house at the Greens in the hope of a political one night stand in order to temporarily boost his and the parties credibility (which is what this medical marijuana things appears to be about) he can just be real about why it’s important not to piss away the environment because we know that after a torrid night between the political sheets the horror and shame of the morning after would probably see nothing more than a few more evenings of angry sex between the two parties before the whole thing would fizzle out and neither would be able to speak to the other or make eye contact again.

And as much as Simon Bridges would like a savage night of passionate man on man action with James Shaw (perhaps as some sort of delayed hysterical reaction to his strict religious upbringing) to get the party fortunes kick started it is unlikely to work as Nationals previous flings with the Maori and United Future showed that National is only interested in getting its own rocks off and not willing to get down on its knees or even give a reach around to the party that it is currently bare backing into oblivion. So Shaw would be a fool to let a couple of wines in the hot tub one evening destroy him and his political party*4.

National is not going to save the day by sticking to an ideological platform that runs counter to the majority of Kiwis so while I can see why medical marijuana has now come on the agenda for the party the scope of conservative kiwi views and opinions is broader than that and open to be redefined if a new generation of conservative politicians leading the party.

Stop picking on Simon!

By getting rid of the dead wood National could potentially revitalize its principles and the natural flow on from that is an energized policy perspective as the Neo Liberal ideology that National stubbornly clings to has been so thoroughly discredited (thank you FukYoo politix) and hollowed out the party that there are no fresh seeds in which to plant into voters minds.

A fresh approach would inject more capital into what is currently a politically bankrupt party that is going to meander in the wilderness for more than a single term if it can’t embrace change.

And none of this has anything to do with Simon Bridges because he is a fresh face in the party, so to speak. He was not very prominent under John Key and has not been around long enough to give off the evil vibes that the Gang of Five does.

In fact I would go so far to say the problem with National is anything but Simon Bridges (as I said at the start) or at worst Bridges is the least of the party’s worries. I think National has the common sense not to try and roll Bridges before the next election but for Simon to be “match fit” for the next election he needs to use the next two years to get his team into shape and up to speed and that requires some new players in the front row and some new plays in the playbook.

So let’s get the hell away from this endless fascination with The Leader (or in Jacindas case her baby) and focus on Politics and specifically the Policy and Principles aspects, you know the things that actually matter.

*-To recreate this smell take one part used baby diaper, one part fridge full of rotting food and one part sewage farm.
**-And if you guys don’t like that you can start by writing a better standard of article
*3-The same electorate where I currently reside
*4-actually I take that back, Shaw is just the kind of political mercenary to sell his party down the river given how he behaved prior to the election

Friday, 27 July 2018

Come to Uncle Winston little one, would you like some candy?

Wont someone think of the children!

Attention shoppers!

It is never a good sign in a functionally democratic state when a politician starts using a phrase like “enhanced democracy” to defend a political bill which has clearly nothing to do with democracy.

So in that vein hearing Winston Peters rename the odious Waka Jumping bill the “Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill” we know this has NOTHING (emphasis all Minnie Mouse mine) to do with democracy, not a shred, not a jot, not even a sliver.

In fact saying its “enhanced democracy” is a bit like how the US described its waterboarding torture process as “enhanced interrogation”; a classic case of political doublespeak and euphemisms to cover up what is a rather nasty bit of ethically and legally dubious behaviour.

Meanwhile, as the hot froth of last Septembers Jacindamania hardens into the greasy scum of our current coalition government, it’s becoming abundantly clear exactly what New Zealand’s first genuine coalition government really looks like and in the eyes of many beholders it’s not pretty.

But before we wade into who said what and when lets take a look at this goulash of words and ideas that Winston is proposing.

Thus reading through the amendment it’s striking that this reads less like legislation (and I read legislation for a living) and more like something you would find in a zero hours employment agreement or job contract (ie unfairly weighted in favour of the employer).

For starters the additions the proposed purpose of this amendment is to:

a)      Enhance public confidence in the integrity of the electoral system; and
b)      Enhance maintenance of the proportionality of political party representation as determined by electors

And it’s worth stopping for just a moment to masticate over what exactly does “enhance public confidence in the integrity of the electoral system” mean and how this amendment would do that because the implication in that phrase is that we have had some sort of democratic crisis every time a MP jumped ship from their party to another or formed their own.

Ostensibly the argument would go that MPs going rouge from the party (ie waka jumping) creates a crisis in the public mind that the electoral system is flawed or broken and that by giving a party the power to strip a MP of their seat and kick them out of the party would fix that.

However the period of miscreant MPs leaving their party is more an artefact from the early days of MMP and a by-product of the FPP system with its monolithically two party structures which were never going to honestly encapsulate the plurality of positions and opinions on New Zealand’s political spectrum rather than some ongoing or dire threat to the integrity of the electoral system.

But if rolling that phrase round in your mouth a few times is a bit much may I suggest the word salad contained in b) which is where, under a thick dressing of euphemism, the actual purpose of this amendment is stated.

Maintenance of the proportionality? Political party representation? As determined by electors? Enhanced? WTF?

In short this abomination says the following: Lock party share of seats in parliament to general elections only and tie those seats directly to the party rather than the MP.

Yes kiddies, political parties don’t really want or need MPs as the elected representative of an electorate and they sure as heck don’t want a MP leaving the party (and taking their jucy vote share with them) and think about that for a second because if YOU like the idea of democracy then this is extremely undemocratic.

Elected representatives are a key component of democratic politics and in by-passing the MP in the process you turn them into nothing more than a glorified customer service representative between the party and the voter.

Which is where we get to the contractual conditions part of this political power grab as the mechanism for kicking a MP from the party starts when the leader of a party:

Reasonably believes that the member of Parliament concerned has acted in a way that has distorted, and is likely to continue to distort, the proportionality of political party representation in Parliament as determined at the last general election.

And where to begin with this furshlugginer waste of words, do we start with “reasonably believes” or what the definition of “distort” means (because this amendment has an actual definition section but “distort” aint there).

Or, perhaps, it better to start with the fact that this whole intellectual process starts and ends in the mind (no matter whatever fervid state that its in) of the parties leader.

Then, once the leader has made up their mind, it’s a case of issuing a written warning to said member, give them 21 days to respond and a final consideration before pulling the trigger, expelling said member from the party and giving their seat to someone more willing to eat chain for the leader.

The only brake on this hideous process is section 55D(c) which requires 2/3rds majority of parliamentary members of that party agree that written notice should be given but that brake becomes a lot less effective when you consider that if you were a MP in such a situation and not willing to back such a process you could very likely be next to get expelled under the “distorting the proportionality of political party representation” clause.

And all of this leaves out the vital question of how exactly does a party prove that its MPs really want to kick one of their colleagues out when it’s clear that the whole situation is one of deliberate imbalance in favour of the party leader. Who is going to stand up and say they are not down with the party chopping off a head when the consequence of doing so is your neck on the block!

So in summary, Winston wants political power vested in the party structure and directly under the control of the party leader while marginalising the elected representatives (the MPs) and all because of the supposed threat to democracy of MPs not doing what their party wishes.

All which takes on the most delicious coating of irony (Mmmmmm Irony!) when you realise that the very reason for the existence of Winston Peters as acting PM today is because he jumped ship from National in the early 90s and took his “electoral proportionality” with him.

But if your ironometer* on your phone is not going off right now the hypocrisy alarm should certainly be because Winston planning to eliminate the very means that he and NZ First came into being smacks a lot like how MPs, who got a free tertiary education in times past, one day decided to make going to university study fees based (along with the monstrous student loans that is often required) from now on.

And few are happy with this development.

Labour and Andrew Little, currently the shepherd for this black sheep of a bill though parliament, is not keen on the idea and neither is Nick Smith or National** who described the Greens participation in this crime as “selling its soul for power” which is exactly spot on and Nick should know as he has re-mortgaged his soul so many times he has a timeshare in Hell.

And my season of cognitive dissonance continues when I again (for the second time in less than a month) find myself in full agreement with Barry Soper over this thing while both the left and right sides of blogsphere are also against this political version of being tied over a hobby horse while being painfully rogerd from behind as Winston recreates the basement scene from Pulp Fiction with democracy as Marsalis Wallace, Winston as Zed and the Greens as the weedy guy standing off to the side passively watching the action and getting all turned on***.

The only good in this is it’s not law yet and still in select committee but with the coalition having the numbers (thank James Shaw kids!) we could very easily have this being enacted and serving as prima facie evidence that the price of power in this collation government is letting Winston kiddie fiddle democracy in public all the while he is claiming it will “enhance” the experience.

Make no mistake about it; if you value democracy or have ever been helped by your local MP then you should be against this because the only people a MP should be answerable to is the people who elected them, not whatever blowhard happens to be party leader.

*-trademarked and patented
**- Again doing the job of opposition party spokesperson and blowing my mind at the same time
***-Who gets to be Bruce Willis's character is yet to be detremined

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Dodgy ministers, secret meetings and corrupt behavior: What’s new in Toy Town?

This one wrote itself

Hey Kids, remember when Labour was the cool political underdog out to end the rule of the cruel and tyrannical National party and all its corrupt behaviours (like ministers attending secret meetings, not keeping notes and acting like they were above the law)?

Of course you do and you would also remember the rebel alliance of Labour, NZ First and the Greens striking from secret bases somewhere in the moral high ground by pointing out such despicable deeds while National clumsily stonewalled any OIA requests fired their way with faces like gormless fish*.

What we are going to make of it is to label it exactly the same way as we did when National got caught with its scabby paw in the cookie jar and then refused to comply with the Official Information Act (OIA) with terms like corrupt and dodgy.

However, as No Right Turn notes, “the government can’t contract out of the OIA” by citing Chatham House rules and this leaves Labour, Little and Curran looking exactly like the very scumbags in National they would have vigorously denounced just last year when they were in opposition, had this happened then.

Curran and Little are acting like they are above the law and inviting a horde of ironic comparisons given that they are/were the Spokesperson for Open Government and Justice Minister respectively.

And if Jacinda Ardern has any control of her cabinet left then Curran and Little have to be pulled in and made to fess up quick smart or she will become the Admiral Holdo of the Labour Party.

Thus our winter of our discontent continues for Labour because once again both the left and Right sides of the line are finding this to be distinctly unpalatable and far too reminiscent of the bad ole days under National to let this slide. 

However it would be nice if the mainstream media got off its ass and gave this some more coverage given how relentless they were in going after National for this kind of behavior when it was in power.

Secret government is not democratic nor is it for the people, its corrupt and Curran and Littles behaviour just reinforce that Labour is nothing more than National-lite in policy, people and behaviour.

That said this is Andrew Little and Clare Curran we are talking about so its not too surprising. Little was a complete failure as party leader and this is not Curran's first ride at the scandal rodeo either so as the saying goes "whats new in Toy Town?".

Meanwhile the buzz of my cognitive dissonance is starting to wear off as National (and Nick Smith of all people) get to sink their teeth in and do their job as opposition and call Labour out for acting like National used to.

How things have changed but still stay the same.

*-Think Bill english when asked about Todd Barclay or being lected PM and you have what I mean.