AGENTS OR VICTIMS?


In some previous posts I commented that columnist Chris Trotter had dismissed the working class as a force for political and social change. Chris says this is not his position and he has forwarded me an article which is a clarification of his present viewpoint.
This article appeared in this weeks Independent Financial Review and it is published here in a spirit of open and critical debate.
Readers may also like to read Bryce Edwards commentary on the article which is posted on his Liberation blog.



Former union boss, Rex Jones, once quipped: "The Engineers’ Union represents workers – not victims." It’s a distinction Phil Goff and Labour need to learn – and fast – if they’re ever to recapture the Treasury benches.

A week or so ago, John Campbell asked Paula Bennett, our new Minister of Social Development, the blindingly-obvious but all-important question. Why didn’t she, as a young, working-class, part-Maori woman, raising a daughter on her own and struggling to make ends meet, turn to the Labour Party for political salvation?

"Why didn’t you join?"

Bennett’s response was devastating.

"Because I was damned if I was going to be a victim."

If Phil Goff is to lead the Labour Party back into government in three years time, he and his party are going to have to come up with a response to Bennett that’s as convincing as hers was crushing.

Because in one simple sentence Bennett has encapsulated everything that is wrong with Labour’s (and, to a greater or lesser extent, the entire Left’s) current relationship with the New Zealand working-class.

The contemporary Left conceptualises the political dynamic between those at the bottom and those at the top of our society as being, essentially, therapeutic.

Poverty, unemployment, domestic violence, dysfunctional child-rearing – powerlessness in general – are not understood as relationships which must be changed, but as pathologies which must be treated: diseases which must be cured.

This conceptualisation of the social-democratic project is, of course, a profound revision of the original socialist cause.

Consider the political, social, economic and cultural implications of the last verse of the old trade union anthem, Solidarity Forever:

In our hands we hold a power greater than their hoarded gold,
Greater than the strength of armies multiplied a thousandfold
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old
When the union makes us strong.


Packed into those four lines are a cluster of ideas and assumptions from which the modern social-democrat would, quite frankly, run a mile.

For a start, there isn’t even a whiff of powerlessness, not a trace of victimhood.

Written by the union agitator, Ralph Chaplin, back in 1915, when the Industrial Workers of the World – the IWW or "Wobblies" – were still a force to be reckoned with in American labour relations, the song is an undisguised celebration of the raw power of working-class collectivism.

"Heroic" individualism, the ideal which in subsequent decades would come to define America’s perception of itself, is dismissed by Chaplin in a single line:

Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one?

The song is also a statement about the competence of the unionised working-class, in which Chaplin defiantly attributes the manifold achievements of modern industrial civilisation not to the capitalists who initiated them, but to the workers, whose labour-power erected and sustains them:

It is we who plowed the prairies; built the cities where they trade;
Dug the mines and built the workshops; endless miles of railroad laid.
Now we stand outcast and starving, 'midst the wonders we have made


And it is this sense of exclusion which fuels the rising temper of Chaplin’s verse:

All the world that's owned by idle drones is ours and ours alone.
We have laid the wide foundations; built it skyward stone by stone.
It is ours, not to slave in, but to master and to own


What Solidarity Forever describes is a relationship that has failed, a relationship that must change:

They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn,
But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn.
We can break their haughty power; gain our freedom when we learn
That the Union makes us strong.

It is no coincidence that the repeated use of the phrase "we can" in this, the most popular and best remembered of all union songs, found a contemporary echo in the slogan of a Democratic Party candidate who, for the first time in more than forty years, drew openly from the rich historical legacy of the American labour movement.

"Yes we can" became Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan, but it was Ralph Chaplin’s first.

The consciousness of collective power, the assertion of collective competence, and a very clear sense of historical agency: these were the factors which drove the early socialist movement forward, and made its participants so certain that they could alter the exploitative economic, social and political relationships in they were enmeshed.

If there were problems to be solved, diseases to be cured, it was working people who would do the curing and the solving. They were history’s subjects – not its objects.

Contrast this with today’s therapeutic social-democracy. Far from being the prime agents of historical change, working-people find themselves reduced to suitable cases for treatment. They’re either patients – to be healed; victims – to be comforted; or delinquents – to be rehabilitated.

It was precisely this mindset that Paula Bennett wanted no part of: the mindset that disempowers working people by subtly but unmistakably infantilising them. The political dynamic which, having transformed working people into children, then proceeds to offer a vast array of middle-class professionals – teachers, union officials, social workers, probation officers, criminologists, sociologists, anthropologists and psychologists – as their surrogate parents.

The sort of people who send shivers up and down the working-class’s spine every time they deliver that immortal line: "Hello, we’re from the Government/Ministry/Council/CYF’s – and we’re here to help."

If there were problems to be solved, diseases to be cured, it was working people who would do the curing and the solving. They were history’s subjects – not its objects.

Contrast this with today’s therapeutic social-democracy. Far from being the prime agents of historical change, working-people find themselves reduced to suitable cases for treatment. They’re either patients – to be healed; victims – to be comforted; or delinquents – to be rehabilitated.


Denied the opportunity to exercise collective power, is it any wonder that all those "aspirational" members of the working-class: people seeking "inclusion" in the broader social narrative; citizens who, a century ago, would have built the workers’ unions, the workers’ party, and finally the workers’ government; today turn for inspiration to the boy raised in a state house who went on to become New Zealand’s millionaire prime minister; or to the feisty solo-mum who went from being the recipient of a social-welfare benefit, to the Cabinet Minister responsible for handing them out.

This is the great transformation which John Key has now been given the opportunity to complete. To finally wipe from the minds of the New Zealand working-class all memory of the collective power that once allowed it to transform a nation. And, to create in its place an Americanised culture in which the revolutionary political slogan: "Yes, we can", can be quietly retired in favour of the transformative personal slogan: "Yes, I can".

If Phil Goff cannot put the "our" back into Labour. If he cannot dispel the notion that workers have become little more than lab rats in a vast social-democratic experiment. Then, to paraphrase Bruce Springsteen’s heart-breaking ballad, ‘My Hometown’:

"These votes are going, boys – and they ain’t coming back."

PIPPA WETZELL: NZ'S WORST TELEVISION JOURNALIST?


Who is New Zealand's worst television journalist?

There are many candidates competing for this 'title' but my vote goes for TV1's Breakfast co-host Pippa Wetzell.

Consistently she fails to ask the right questions and, indeed, she often doesn't seem to know what the right questions are.

This morning she 'interviewed' Michael 'Barmy' Barnett from the Auckland Chamber of the Commerce and the man responsible for banning the the Falun Dafa from the Auckland Santa Parade next week.

Barmy's real reason for banning the Falun Dafa is because his mates in the Chinese Stalinist regime don't like them and Barmy doesn't want to upset mates who have a lot of economic clout. He probably wouldn't have any problems with the Falun Dafa if they came from, say, Zimbabwe.

However the dimless Wetzell allowed Barmy to portray the Falun Dafa as a political movement. The only other people who describe them as a 'political movement' is - no prizes for guessing - those jolly Stalinists in the Chinese regime. These are the same people who do not recognise the Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader.

Barmy said he wouldn't have National or Labour in the Santa Parade so he wouldn't have the Falun Dafa either.

Did Wetzell suggest to Bamy that the Falun Dafa was actually a spiritual movement?

No, Wetzell just sat there in serene silence and allowed Barmy to do his hatchet job.

And, to top it all off, the very-right-wing Paul Henry chimed in with his support for Barmy.

'I'm glad common sense has prevailed,' said Henry, the man who thinks John Key isn't right wing enough and who has been a consistent supporter of George Bush's economic policies.

SOUR SHERIFF FAILS TO UPHOLD COUNCIL POLICY


One of Sideshow Bob's faithful council lackey's is Gail 'Holiday' Sheriff.

Sheriff, another one of those politically 'independent' councillors, voted to increase coucil rents by a massive twenty-four percent.

This week however the High Court squashed that increase because due process, including consulting the tenants themselves, was not followed.

Like Sideshow Bob, Sheriff has not had the decency to apologise for her actions - in fact, she now says that council housing should be handed over to Housing New Zealand.

The sour and unpleasant Sheriff, having failed to get her own way, now wants to play by her own rules - so she can win everytime.

The Christchurch City Council has a proud history of providing social housing for over 70 years - it was the first local authority in New Zealand to provide housing for people in real need of affordable accommodation.

But this, apparently, is no consequence to Ms Sheriff.

Sheriff, as a city councillor, has an obligation and responsiility to uphold council policy. One of those policies is:

“To contribute to the community’s well-being by ensuring safe, accessible and affordable social housing is available to people on low incomes including elderly persons, and people with disabilities”.

This is taken from the Christchurch City Council's own website.

Will Mayor Parker rebuke Sheriff for openly attacking and not upholding council policy? He should of course but he won't. Sheriff is one of 'his people' and Parker never criticises his own. He reserves his broadsides for those on the left of the political spectrum.

Gail Sheriff, of course, was the councillor who earlier this year spent ten weeks in Bali - on full pay. She told the local media that she kept up with council work by checking her email a couple of times a day! Presumably this was while waiting for the barman to make her another Pina Colada.

Meanwhile council tenants are owed approximately one million dollars in rent reimbursement - but that reimbursement could be delayed if Sideshow Bob and his cronies on council decide to lodge an appeal.

The matter has become even more complicated with a growing number of council tenants stopping their rent payments until they are adjusted.

Remember, Sideshow Bob and his council supporters have been taking money from people on low and fixed incomes - money that the High Court has told them they were not entitled to take.

For Sideshow Bob to lodge an appeal would simply be adding insult to injury.

WELCOME TO THE POST-INDUSTRIAL STONE AGE


The neo-liberal economic orthodoxy has collapsed – and the recession is here to stay. James Ayers gets ready for the Brave New World...

While we are finding it increasingly difficult to fill the petrol tank or buy a block of cheese, it seems the economists among us are finding it increasingly difficult to explain the myriad of economic woes that beseech us and predict what lies ahead.

That at least shouldn’t surprise us. After all, an economist is simply someone who lies awake at night, wondering if something that works in reality will actually work in theory. The reality is far simpler. What we are all now experiencing, to quote REM, is the end of the world as we know it.

Fifty years ago, a small sovereign nation at the bottom of the world, may have survived the current meltdown of neo-liberal economic orthodoxy and perhaps the collapse of capitalism itself. Thanks to globalisation however, Aotearoa is now just another deck chair on the Titanic and the band has almost finished its last tune “nearer my God to thee”. The time to get into a lifeboat is NOW!

The world is now lurching from one crisis to the next with increasing frequency and intensity; Throw in a few other environmental catastrophes, credit crisis, peak oil, rocketing food prices, spiraling crime and moral decay and it seems we are knocking on the door of the Apocalypse. Have the four horsemen already received their final instructions, or is the free will gift from God ultimately leading us to our own destruction?

While we may hope that the tough times we are currently facing will eventually be turned around, the reality is things are going to get worse, a lot worse! And our naive trust in our political representatives is playing into the hands of the ruling elite who ultimately control the world’s oil and money supply. The irony is that our demise will ultimately be their demise. Peak Oil and Peak Debt are upon us.

Thanks to globalisation however, Aotearoa is now just another deck chair on the Titanic and the band has almost finished its last tune “nearer my God to thee”. The time to get into a lifeboat is NOW!

So what is just around the corner? In short, the death and suffering we believe only happens in Africa, will soon spread throughout the world, as oil prices keep rising and oil supply starts to decline. After all, power, transport, food, water, shelter, and medicine, all depend on cheap oil. When a quick trip to the Warehouse or Woolworths is no longer an option, what then will you do?

It seems the Peak Oil predictions of a Shell Oil geologist named Hubbert over 50 years ago are now a reality. Despite rising demand and prices, global oil production has not increased over the past three years. We are told that OPEC and others will not pump more. What we are not told is that they can’t pump more! Oil at $100 per barrel will seem like the good old days.

When oil hits $200 per barrel within the next year or so, panic sets in and petrol riots become the norm around the globe. At $300 per barrel, the shit really hits the fan, law and order breaks down and all oil fields are acquired at the point of a gun. (Of course the US has already implemented this strategy in Iraq. Iran and Saudi Arabia are next). At $400 per barrel, globalisation, the US hegemony, capitalism, and western civilization itself all come to a screaming halt.

Welcome to the post-industrial Stone Age. If you are alive in 2020, it will be because you’ve figured out how to forage locally and no longer live in a city.

If peak oil doesn’t bring about the collapse of our civilization, as we know it, it will only be because Peak Debt has already delivered the knockout blow (if it hasn’t already with the global credit crisis). The exponential curve of debt growth fuelled by consumerism and greed is now almost vertical.

As debt servicing gobbles up more and more income, consumption starts to fall, jobs are lost, corporate profits collapse, the stock market and commercial property values crash, banks fall over faster than kiwi finance companies and a world supposedly flush with money is now seen for what it is – Western Capitalism has no new clothes!

An economic recession, not just here in Godzone but globally has already begun. And unlike previous recessions, this one-despite what the economists say-is here to stay.

James Ayers, The Corporate Nemesis, Plains FM 96.9 Christchurch, Tuesdays 11am

A GREAT VICTORY FOR CHRISTCHURCH - AND A MASSIVE DEFEAT FOR SIDESHOW BOB



In a stunning victory for the people of Christchurch, the High Court has overturned the massive twenty four percent rent rise imposed on council tenants by Mayor 'Sideshow' Bob Parker and his council supporters.

Judge Chisholm ruled that the rent rise was invalid and would be squashed.

The case was brought by the Council of Social Services.

Judge Chisholm said that the council had failed to properly assess the impact of the rent rise and had failed to give 'proper consideration' to the views of council tenants.

Furthermore it had also failed to pursue the government funding option to help upgrade council housing - which was something that Wigram MP Jim Anderton pointed out some months ago.

Judge Chisholm's decision is more confirmation that Sideshow Bob and council CEO Tony Marryatt steamrolled the rent rise through council and deliberately prevented any alternative plans from being presented.

The councillors who voted for the increase were Gail Sheriff, Claudia Reid, Sideshow Bob Parker, David Cox, Sue Wells, Ngaire Button and Mike Wall.

Yani Johanson, Norm Withers, Chrissie Williams, Helen Broughton, Sally Buck and Bob Shearing voted in favour of reducing the rent increase to 5 percent.

Councillor Barry Corbett (on a salary of some $83,000) defended the rent rise on the grounds that the increase was smaller in proportion than he paid for his mortgage - Corbett's house is valued over $300,000.

Councillor Sue Wells, another Parker crony, also had no problems with the increase. Like Corbett, the 'politically independent' Wells is deeply unpopular in her Spreydon Ward.

And what about CEO Tony Marryatt? In May he said the 'council's legal team was confident that the correct processes had been followed.'

Still feeling 'confident', Tony? Marryatt is presently busy wiping egg from his face.

The rent increase has already had an adverse impact on the lives of many council tenants.

Council figures show that 110 tenancies ended in July and August compared with 65 in the same two months last year, a rise of 70 per cent.

As well as the financial hardship imposed on council tenants, there has also been the emotional stress. City council tenants are largely on low and fixed incomes – low waged jobs, pensions, welfare benefits, etc. They are perhaps the most vulnerable people in the Christchurch community.

But has Sideshow Bob shown the grace to apologise? No way. Despite being told the contrary by the High Court, Sideshow Bob is still arguing that the rent increase was 'the right decision'!

And, true to form, the arrogant and condescending Parker wants to see if there are grounds for an appeal.

Any appeal would delay tenants being reimbursed their extra rent they have paid since the rise came into effect on July 1.

And, unbelievably, he's even threatened to bring the rent rise back to the council again!

If he does Parker is just digging a deeper hole for himself and his cronies on council.

Now we await the Auditor General's report into the $17 million bailout of failed property developer Dave Henderson.

FONTERRA PLAYS BALL WITH THE CHINESE REGIME


While Fonterra might just want the poisoned milk powder scandal to go away, it is now clear that the Chinese regime is concealing the true number of deaths.

It is also clear that Fonterra is turning a convenient blind eye to the activities of the Chinese regime.

From the Chicago Tribune (Nov 19):

'Li Xiaokai died of kidney failure on the old wooden bed in the family farmhouse, just before dawn on a drizzly Sept. 10.

Her grandmother wrapped the 9-month-old in a wool blanket. Her father handed the body to village men for burial by a muddy creek. The doctors and family never knew why she got sick. A day later, state media reported that the type of infant formula she drank had been adulterated with an industrial chemical.

Yet the deaths of Xiaokai and at least four other babies are not included in China's official death toll from its worst food safety scare in years. The Health Ministry's count stands at only three deaths.

The stories of these uncounted babies suggest that China's tainted milk scandal has exacted a higher human toll than the government has so far acknowledged. Without an official verdict on the deaths, families worry they will be unable to bring lawsuits and refused compensation.'

Fonterra, which has a 43 percent share in the Chinese SanLu dairy factory where the melamine-laced milk powder was first discovered, is donating $8.4 million to charity. This money will be drip fed over a period of five years.

This donation is of little use to Chinese families who are now struggling with huge health bills for children who consumed the tainted milk powder.

One Chinese family, for example, has spent its entire cash income for the year to pay for medical treatment - and has since borrowed more.

This is a familiar story among Chinese families who have used the tainted milk powder. Fonterra's charitable donation, which is largely a PR exercise, will not help these families.

It's estimated that more than 90,000 children have been sickened by the tainted milk powder.

So what about financial compensation?

The Chicago Tribune reports:

'Lawyers, doctors and reporters have said privately that authorities pressured them to not play up the human cost or efforts to get compensation from the government or Sanlu, the formula maker.'

It's clear that Fonterra is turning a convenient blind eye to the pressure being applied by the Chinese regime. Certainly it has not offered to help the Chinese families involved seek financial compensation.

According to Fonterra spokesman David Glendining: “The question of support for victims is a separate issue that is in the hands of the Chinese Government,”

Yeah, right - it's in the hands of the Chinese Government which is actively trying to prevent claims for compensation.

Does Glendining seriously expect us to believe his nonsense?

Fonterra's standpoint is motivated purely by self-interest. It has revealed itself as a callous and greedy corporation.

Fonterra is now busy trying to sell off its stake in SanLu, thereby washing its hands of the whole affair - and leaving the Chinese families blighted by its milk powder to fight for financial compensation from a hostile Chinese Government.

Their chances of compensation must be regarded as slim at best.

THE TEN WORST CORPORATIONS OF 2008


Multinational Monitor have just released their annual list of the ten worst corporations of the year. This is something the magazine has been doing for some twenty years.

This year the list includes a varied collection of multinationals including a finance corporation (of course), a cigarette producer (of course) and an oil company (of course).

Multinational Monitor's ten worst corporations in alphabetical order are:

1. American International Group (AIG)
2. Cargill Foods
3. Chevron Oil
4. Constellation Energy
5. Chinese National Petroleum Corporation
6. Dole
7. General Electric
8. Imperial Sugar
9. Philip Morris International
10. Roche

Our own Fonterra couldn't quite make it to the top ten despite a determined effort this year with poisoned milk powder.

Read all the details here.

THE GREEN PARTY CALLS FOR PRIVATE BEACHES



I see that the Green Party are, once again, calling again for the repealing of Labour's foreshore and seabed legislation.

According to Green MP Metiria Turei (who is likely to be co-leader Fitzsimon's successor) this legislation is 'massively underused and pointless.'

This is untrue and Turei is simply playing games when she says things like this.

In fact, despite the appearance of being a 'progressive' move, the repeal of the foreshore and seabed legislation would be massively right wing.

Both columnist Chris Trotter and political scientist Bryce Edwards have pointed out that the nationalisation of the beaches means a guarantee that everyone can use them. Turei's call for repeal is a call for privatisation of much of our coastline.

Repealing this legislation would open the door to private beaches. Given the fact that the Maori Party has already said that it would not necessarily oppose the further sale of public assets, this is a real threat.

Of course the problem for the National Party is that it knows that its support base actually supports the coastline remaining under the protection of the state. Although you would think it would be all in favour 'private property rights' on this issue it actually regards free and common access to beaches as more of a priority.

So sending this issue off to some nebulous 'review process' means that John Key does not have to confront this issue quite just yet.

However it is interesting to note that in February Trotter was of the opinion that the National Party was busy writing repeal legislation.

Meanwhile Turei's viewpoint once again highlights the right wing views prevalent within the Green's parliamentary team. Indeed Norman and co are now running the show - the party itself appears to have remarkably little influence over policy formation. This is somewhat ironic for a party that once prided itself on its 'grassroots' origins.

BARMY BARNETT'S SANTA BAN


Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief Michael 'Barmy' Barnett is at it again.

In his role as Santa Parade Board Chairman he has banned the Falun Dafa's marching band from the Santa parade - despite a number of councillors urging Barnett to allow them to take part.

Last year Barnett, a National Party supporter and big on 'individual rights', banned the Falun Dafa because, he claimed, they would hand out pamphlets!

Of course handing out pamphlets is not a crime but Barnett was happy to stomp over the Falun Dafas's basic democratic rights because he expected those pamphlets to contain criticisms of his friends in the Chinese Stalinist regime.

Barmy Barnett though was was being less than honest because he had already recieved a letter from the Falun Dafa agreeing not to distribute any literature.

So he has banned them again this year and for exactly the same reasons.

The Falun Dafa, as is their democratic right, campaigns against the persecution of its members in Stalinist China. The Falun Dafa is a spiritual practice and has been persecuted by the Chinese Stalinist regime for over nine years.

The morally-challenged Barnett calls the Falun Dafa's campaign 'an attack on a country that New Zealand has a relationship with".

A trade relationship that is.

Auckland councillor Cathy Casey says that Barnett is taking his guidance 'from the Chinese Embassy website'.

The Falun Dan are now going to court to fight Barmy Barnett's Santa Parade ban.

LEFT IS RIGHT AND RIGHT IS LEFT


TVNZ's Deputy Political Editor must have been talking to TV3's Duncan Garner.

Francesca Mold was on TV1's News tonight blithely talking about the Act Party on John Key's 'right' and the Maori Party on his 'left'.

This is just inept and lazy journalism.

Let's get this straight.

The Maori Party supports neo-liberal economic policies. It has a punitive view of welfare which co-leader Turia says is close to Act's view. It has conservative views on a raft of other issues.

How exactly is this 'left wing'?

It seems that Mold, Garner and others are determined to maintain the fiction that there are major political differences between the parliamentary parties when, in fact, they all adhere to bankrupt neo-liberal ideology.

The differences are one of emphasis and not substance.

HENDO DODGES THE TAXMAN AGAIN


Failed property developer and Christchurch City Council beneficiary Dave Henderson has narrowly escaped the wrath of the taxman again - but its only a short reprieve.

Yesterday in the Christchurch High Court, the Inland Revenue sought to liquidate his company, Tannadyce Investments Ltd, over a GST debt of about $120,000 dating from 2002.

The Inland Revenue is also chasing the company for $356,000 in tax arrears for the 2002-2004 tax years but that is being contested by Henderson in a yet another Hendo legal manoeuvre.

The Inland Revenue are getting fed up with Henderson and counsel would not agree to Hendo's request for an adjournment over the GST debt. Pointedly, IRD counsel commented that Henderson was simply, yet again, mounting a last minute defence to delay proceedings.

Reports The Press:

'Austin Forbes, QC, for Henderson, said his client had never disputed the GST debt and had hoped it could be set off against a GST refund owed to him by Inland Revenue but that did not now appear to be available.'

Henderson was seeking a loan to repay the GST and had a letter from Secure Lending Ltd confirming the application had been made.

Forbes sought a seven-day adjournment.

The judge said it would not be in the interests of justice to liquidate the company since the debtor had a proposal. He adjourned the case to December 1.'

It's interesting to note that Henderson is seeking yet another loan to repay the debt. What's happened to the $17 million he got from the Mayor Sideshow Bob Parker and his council supporters?

Meanwhile, true to form, Henderson is wailing about the 'injustice' of it all:

"I have really had a gutsful of all this. ... I would have thought the IRD would be working to accommodate the simplest of arrangements and looking to minimise costs. Their desperation to cause me cost and grief is palpable."

Boo-hoo.

Remember this is the guy whose companies owe tens of millions of dollars and have done their bit in sending various finance companies into the poo - the result being that thousands of small 'mum and dad' investors will be lucky to get any of their hard-earned money back.

What about their 'cost and grief', Dave?

Note: Isn't it interesting that Henderson's good mate Rodney Hide has been appointed Minister of Local Government? Will Hide be seeking the opinions of Henderson about how to 'trim' local government spending?

HOW 'CENTRIST' IS 'CENTRIST'?

When you campaigned on being a centrist politican and a centrist political party, giving Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia and Act leader Rodney Hide senior government roles is not exactly starting out on the right foot.

Turia, among other responsibilities, has been appointed an Associate Minister of Welfare.

Turia, as I have mentioned in a previous post, has views on welfare very similar to that of the Act Party.

Similarly Hide,as Minister for Local Government, will be bringing his discredited neo-liberal views to this role as well - with Roger Douglas no doubt provding him with 'suggestions'.

He's also taking a role in the review of 'government spending' - which will mean, if Hide gets his way, taking the axe to welfare.

Both Turia and Hide are politicians carrying ideological baggage that has no credibiity. The crisis of global capitalism means that the high priests of neo-liberalism have been revealed as emperors with no clothes on.

Here in little old New Zealand our conservative corporate media have allowed the likes of Turia and Hide to front up at press conferences and pontificate. It doesn't seem to matter that they are peddling a bankrupt ideology.

They should of been booed off the stage by now but, no, they are treated with respect!

With unemployment set to rocket as the economic storm descends, no one has seen fit to question Turia whether 'work for dole' schemes really are the answer. What about the wider economic issues - or is she just going to dump on unfortunate beneficiaries?

It may well be that Key has added to his potential problems with these appointments because, as John Minto has suggested in his newspaper column, Key the 'moderate' may well find himself being outflanked by his more extreme ideological colleagues.

After all the likes of Murray McCully, Nick Smith, Tony Ryall and Bill English are all back in cabinet. They were all involved in selling state assets, cutting benefits, slashing government spending and helping out the rich. They are nasty pieces of work.

As Minto notes: 'In his cabinet John Key could well be the sole moderate voice'.

The problem for the Labour Party sympathisers is that they can rage against John Key all they like but if all they are offering as an alternative is the neo-liberalism of Phil Goff - well, they better have a serious rethink. Chances of that happening? I'd say zero.

THE MAORI PARTY: NO FRIEND OF MAORI WORKERS


Ah yes, there they are - the rich conservative Maori elite in, and connected to, the Maori Party - about to railroad a deal through with National and pretending their doing it for the benefit of all Maori. If you believe this then you will also believe that the Green Party isn't just another market party. Yes, you are deluded.

Underlying many of the commentaries on the proposed deal between the Maori Party and the National Party is the assumption that the Maori Party is somehow 'liberal' or 'left wing'.

Take silly old Duncan Garner at TV3. Taking a break from looking for 'scandals', 'Scoop' Garner would like us to believe that John Key, in the centre, is playing the Act Party on the right off against the Maori Party on the left.

Garner is a clown but his dumbness appears to be prevalent among mainstream journalists who don't know any better.

The Maori Party is a right wing party.

Let us examine the Maori Party's view on welfare, something it has said it regards as a priority issue.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia has been a guest speaker at an Act Party conference and has openly said that the Maori Party's views on welfare are similar to that of Act.

Indeed the Maori Party's talk about ' welfare dependency' and so forth is clearly aimed at blaming the individuals for their economic situation and not the economic system that generated it in the first place.

Turia sounds like Rodney Hide or Roger Douglas when she talks of 'the state' intruding into people's lives and of 'welfare' being a 'blight' on Maori.

The Maori Party's solution? It's a throwback to the 1980s and the discredited and punitive 'work for the dole' schemes.

It's not the about changing the economic system, which the Maori elite are financially benefiting from, its about zeroing in on the individual and holding them responsible.

In fact it is clear that the Maori Party would like to take some welfare services away from the state and into the hands of Maori social service providers. One of the advocates for such policies is John Tamihere who has been actively promoting this agenda on his Radio Live talkback show and has been lobbying for a deal with National at the present series of hui.

As an aside, Tamihere's agenda is particularly hypocritical. This guy supported the free market policies that wreaked such devastation among working class communities, Maori included. Today we are seeing the consequences of those policies yet Tamihere isn't being held to account. Instead he gets away with blaming Maori themselves for their economic situation - a plight brought about by the very same economic policies he supports. In other words, he's putting the boot in twice. With friends like John Tamihere, who needs enemies?

That his talkback co-host, former Alliance MP Willie Jackson is following Tamihere's lead says it all about the bankruptcy of Jackson's politics. It's no surprise that the wealthy Jackson is rumoured to be joining the Maori Party.

And there are many other conservative facets to the Maori Party - it voted against the Civil Union bill, it is in favour of privately-run prisons, it has even said it would not necessarily oppose the sale of public assets.

All this is ample evidence that the Maori Party is not a left wing or progressive party and the natural inclination of the Maori elite is to side with National. They have been aided by a general Maori disatisfaction with Labour.

Of course neither Turia or Peter Sharples will own up to being a conservative party and they instead conceal it under the camouflage of Maori nationalism, talking about 'all Maori' as if they all had the same interests. What has the unemployed Maori guy in Northland or the Maori woman working a low paid factory job in Auckland have in common with the wealthy Maori elite? Nothing.

Tumeke's Martyn Bradbury, his Labour Party sympathies aside, did make a good observation when he questioned whether the Maori Party was really speaking for all Maori or just a narrow self-interested group.

Maori are predominantly working class and their interests lie in promoting and defending those class interests - and that means forging alliances with the Pakeha working class.

The conservative pro-capitalist Maori Party is no friend of the working class and, as unemployment rockets over the coming months, watch the Maori Party elite side with business interests.

THE TAXMAN COMETH


I haven't reported a whole lot lately on the adventures of failed property developer and Christchurch City Council beneficiary Dave Henderson.

It appears Hendo has been trying to keep a low profile and Mayor Sideshow Bob and his fellow Hendo supporters on the Christchurch City Council have all been trying not to talk about the $17 million bailout.

In fact old Sideshow has been trying to 'attenuate the positive' given the amount of PR material the council has been spewing out lately.

But, privately, Sideshow Bob is still insisting the 'deal' was good business although not all within the Christchurch City Council agree with his verdict.

One City Council insider told me: 'I can't understand how this can be described as a 'good deal'. Someone is benefiting from this deal but its not the local ratepayer'.

The issue will rise again though when the Auditor General releases his final report on the whole affair.

But back to Henderson.

Despite laying low, circumstances have caught up with him again and he is back in the newspaper.

The Press is reporting that the Inland Revenue have moved to put four of Henderson's companies into liquidation over what it claims are, surprise, unpaid taxes.

The taxman is already pursuing a fifth Henderson company for unpaid taxes. The Inland Revenue says that Tannadyce Investments Ltd, owes $356,686 tax for the 2002-2004 tax years.

True to form, Henderson denies this.

Henderson says that the other four companies, operating out of South of Lichfield, are simply late in making tax payments. He insists that these companies are not in financial trouble.

The four companies in trouble are Minx Ltd, Yellow Cross Brewing Company Ltd, Char Char Ltd and Edward J Schwartz Entertainment Inc Ltd.

Of course this is just more embarrassment for Sideshow Bob and pro-Henderson councillors like Sue Wells and Barry Corbett. They have held up South of Lichfield as a shining example of 'urban renewal'. Indeed South of Lichfield was provided as 'evidence' as to why it was a good idea to buy five of Hendo's central city properties.

At least Sideshow Bob and his council cronies can be voted out of office in some two years or so - the problem is what further damage will they do in these two years?

HAVE I GOT A DEAL FOR YOU!


The election of Phil Goff as Labour leader will hardly set the world on fire, although it might give some of us a bit of a laugh.

Phil Goff. As Victor Meldrew might say - 'I don't believe it!'

Goff was a strong supporter of Rogernomics during the 1980s and nothing he has said or done since has deviated from his core belief in the supremacy of the 'market'. Indeed he is probably a little more 'right' than Helen Clark.

Of course the ideology of neo-liberalism gets more discredited by the day as global capitalism collapses under a mountain of debt, but here in little old New Zealand we like to do things differently.

Our Prime Minister is a former stockmarket trader - he made most of his wealth while at the failed Merrill Lynch.

Meanwhile we have Act leader and market zealot Rodney Hide, already clamouring for 'spending cuts', requesting a briefing from Treasury officials - which I'm sure that the truly despicable Roger Douglas will be interested to hear about.

Parliament has turned into a second hand car yard where dodgy characters in terrible suits (including canary yellow jackets) try to sell us a clapped-out vehicle that is falling apart, won't start, and no-one else wants. Neo-liberal economics is yesterday's economic model - it didn't work then and it's certainly not working now.

Even the Green's light green and fuel-efficient little runabout is a lemon.

And Phil Goff? He's yesterday's politician. It's back to the future with Labour!

I await bloggers Martyn Bradbury and Russell Brown to attack Phil Goff just as vehemently as they have John Key.

And no doubt Chris Trotter will have something to say about Phil Goff being male...

FONTERRA ON MOST CRITICISED LIST

This is from yesterday's China Daily Post. It doesn't appear to have made it into our corporate media...

BERLIN -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s biggest retailer, and Fonterra Cooperative Group Ltd. have been named in a list of the largest companies most criticized for their impacts on the environment, health and communities.

Wal-Mart was blamed for contaminants found in its bottled water last month while Fonterra, a New Zealand diary, has been involved in a scandal over tainted milk in China, according to a study by RepRisk, a consulting firm that analyzes companies’ exposure to controversial issues and news.

Other companies named in the study include BP Plc, whose refinery in Indiana was singled out by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for higher air pollution leading to asthma and heart disease, Exxon Mobil Corp., Monsanto Co. and BAE Systems Plc.

THE LABOUR INTELLIGENTSIA THROW A TANTRUM


The Labour intelligentsia have been wailing over their computer keyboards today. The end of the Labour Government has impacted on them deeply.

Chris Trotter in the Sunday Star Times has even argued, bizarrely, that the Key Government means a return of the patriarchy!

Trotter and friends have always been comfortable with the Clark Government, the occasional mild criticism not withstanding.

This identification with the Clark government has largely been about its liberal, essentially middle class, social agenda. For the likes of Russell Brown, Oliver Driver, Martyn Bradbury, Chris Trotter and co this has been 'their government' led by 'their people'.

But what has irritated me for the past nine years (I'll get over it eventually) is their failure to condemn Labour's neo-liberal economic agenda - in fact, people like the patronising Russell Brown have praised the Labour Government for apparently making New Zealand more 'economically creative' and 'assertive'. Brown's been talking tosh for years but, hey, people bought it.

The problem for the Labour intelligentsia though is that these very same economic policies have been screwing working people.

While the intelligentsia have done fine out of the Clark Government thanks very much, for ordinary people the reality is low wages and increasing job insecurity.

The massaged unemployment figures hide the fact that many people, as jobs have become more casualised, cannot get enough paid hours to maintain an adequate standard of living. These are the growing working poor.

It's stuff like this that the intelligentsia have not talked about - they have been too busy talking about Helen Clark's support for New Zealand culture, civil union and anti-smacking bills, refusing to send troops to Iraq, etc.

This smug lot, constantly on our television screens. have never felt inclined to adopt a consistent critique of Labour's free market economics.

Yet bloggers like Martyn Bradbury, despite remaining silent about Labour's neo-liberalism, have wasted no time to attack Key for his neo-liberalism.

Writing on Tumeke! Bradbury had this to say;

'In these polls, it is quite clear that we are about to move in a very different direction than the United States. Rather than the groundswell of mistrust of Wall Street that has given rise to Obama's election, we look set to have a symbolic representative of the old American order as our Prime Minister. It is worth examining how Key is able to escape controversy over this comparison and why, in the wake of an economic crisis, our tradionally centre-right main party is able to capitalise on symbolic association with centre-left parties overseas.(Tumeke!, Nov 9).

But, hold on - was Labour ever going to move away from its neo-liberal economic policies? No, it wasn't. Yet Bradbury wasn't perturbed about this. He wasn't castigating Clark as a 'representative of the old American order.'

What bugs the hell out of Bradbury, Trotter and co is that the Nats have come out of the cold and crashed their party. The Labour intelligentsia have had the run of the roost for the past nine years and now someone else has moved in.

It would be nice to think that the middle class intelligentsia, the chattering class, might find it in themselves to adopt a critical stance on the New Zealand political system and finally start advocating real alternatives to market economics. Hell, here's an outrageous idea -they might even like to have another look at Marx!

But it won't happen. They will spend the next three years firing shots at National and trying to revive the fortunes of Labour.

They want their clubhouse back in three years time...

THE GREENS UNDERPERFORM

Despite the hype coming from within the Green Party about how well it would do in the General Election, the Norman-Fitzsimons led party underperformed again.

While it did gain another two list seats, to take its total to eight, this was far from the ten or eleven seats that many of the Green parliamentary MP's were hoping for. On election night Green MP Keith Locke excitedly told a journalist that New Zealand was 'turning green' - but this was before he saw the final figures.

It's slice of the vote did not increase dramatically. This went from 120,521 in 2005 to 134,622 - an increase of an underwhelming 14,000.

While National benefited from the public mood for 'change', this did not translate into votes for the Green's.

Having created what amounts to another 'market' party, albeit with an environmental focus, the largely Norman-moulded Green Party failed to differentiate itself from the other parliamentary parties straddling the centre.

It's timidity cost it dearly - and the finger of blame must be pointed at Norman and the parliamentary MP's who drove this conservative campaign.

And its much lauded media campaign - lauded by mainstream commentators anyway - didn't have the impact the Green's clearly hoped it would.

Bland slogans didn't, in the end, convince most of the voting public to vote Green

With the New Zealand economy going down the toilet, the Green's failure to offer an alternative economic programme was costly - simply fudging the issue or aping National or Labour didn't convince anyone.

The Green's now risk alienating some of their supporters if they are seen to be getting too close to the National-led government.

THE GREEN PARTY CON


Green party co-leader Russel Norman was interviewed on Radio Live this afternoon. He also took calls from listeners.

Hosts Wille Jackson and John Tamihere, one rumoured to be joining the Maori Party and the other the National Party, are not exactly Green sympathisers and give Norman a gentle grilling.

Norman, in the hour so so he was on air, underlined that he is just another free market politician - but in green drag.

He attempted to convince Jackson and Tahihere that the Green's environmental policies would make New Zealand more 'competitive' economically on the world market.

It's business-friendly enviromentalism!

At the end of the hour Tamihere praised Norman.

'You lot used to be just loony left,' said Tamhere. 'But, hey, Russel you have made the Green's into a stable political party!'

When right wingers like John Tamihere start praising the Green's then you know this is a party that has well and truly sold out.

SAME OLD RUBBISH, DIFFERENT ELECTION

Yesterday I, along with hundreds of others no doubt, received a e-mail from one of my local MP's, Nicky Wagner.

The e-mail, which included a photo of a smiling Barack Obama, attempted to link the election of a National Government with the election of Obama to the White House.

'It's time for change,' Wagner told me. Wagner, not known for her radicalism, went on to say that, 'just like in the United States', it was 'time for a fresh start'.

My Webster's Dictionary defines change this way: 'to alter or make different, to put one thing for another.'

But National are not offering to alter anything or make anything different. Just like the other parliamentary parties, National are offering nothing but more of the same failed neo-liberal economic policies.

The economic crisis is real but we are stuck with a bunch of hapless parliamentary politicians who have nothing new to offer.

And who are the politicians who are supposedly going to give us this 'fresh start'? It's yesterday's men and women - Bill English, Maurice Williamson, Lockwood Smith, Nick Smith. Are you excited yet? No, I didn't think so.

Much of the joy generated by Obama's victory was all about seeing the back of the Bush regime but that sense of exhilaration will not be evident here.

Neither Labour or National, along with their minor party supporters, have an inspiring vision that has captured the public imagination. National will just get elected because most people are tired of Helen Clark and Labour.

National's call for 'change' amounts to little more than parliamentary musical chairs. John Key replaces Helen Clark, Bill English replaces Michael Cullen - and so it goes.

'Change' has been the most over-used word used during this election. But the word has been emptied of its meaning.

What is needed is real change but John Key isn't offering such change - he's just offering the same neo-liberal policies and ideology that have screwed us over for too long.

One thing is certain -real change will not come from any of our present parliamentary parties.

SIDESHOW BOB HAS A COSY CHAT WITH JOHN KEY


Christchurch mayor 'Sideshow' Bob Parker has made great play of his political 'independence' - he's claimed to be above tawdry 'party' politics.

However all his election backers were of a conservative bent and Parker has been quick to fire a salvo or two at his critics - who are invariably liberal or left wing.

In stark contrast he has either publicly supported or remained silent when his right wing council supporters have made transgressions or said things that they shouldn't have. Councillors Barry Corbett, Sue Wells and Gail Sheriff have all benefited from Sideshow Bob's benevolence. They, of course, also describe themselves as politically 'independent'.

Despite his so-called political 'independence' Bob has recently been keen to fraternise with the National Party.

Last Tuesday there was a important workshop for Christchurch City Councillors. Mayor Parker was conspicuously absent.

Where was he? What important mission had taken him away from council work? It must of been something of utmost urgency.

The answer can be found in the campaign blog of National leader John Key.

Key writes about his activities on Tuesday, 28 October:

'The release of National's prisons policy, a visit to Air New Zealand's hangars, a drop-in to a preschool, and a meeting with Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker were all highlights of my visit to Christchurch yesterday.' (29 October).

Yes, Bob was hanging out with his mate John Key - which, apparently, he didn't tell his councillors about.

John Key has sung the praises of Mayor Parker before. At the National Party Canterbury-Westland Regional Conference in May he congratulated Parker 'for his 'commitment in tackling crime in Christchurch'.

It seems that Sideshow Bob gets along terrifically with the National Party. In contrast his relationship with local Labour MP's cannot be said to be warm.

Meanwhile, while giving local Labour (and Progressive) MP's the cold shoulder, Sideshow Bob has extended the hand of friendship to the Nats even further. A few weeks ago Bob met with National finance spokesperson Bill English - along with several senior council managers.

WILL OBAMA REALLY CHANGE AMERICA?


Today is the day that the United States voters - or it appears the majority of 65 percent of eligible voters - will vote the first black American as President of the crumbling American 'Empire'.

Here in New Zealand the media are again putting spectacle before substance. Marcus Lush, for example, on Radio Live this morning could barely contain himself, describing the forthcoming Obama presidency as 'historic', 'history in the making', and the 'most significant thing we will see happen in our lifetime'.

Over on Newstalk ZB the newsrader was talking about 'Americans making history'.

On both breakfast television shows there has been a similar response with various superlatives thrown around with reckless abandon.

On 'Morning Report' there's been more a measured response but, more often than not, the focus has been largely on Barack Obama being black. A vote for Obama will be a significant strike against racism is the underlying theme.

Indeed it is significant that millions of white voters are willing to put their futures in the hands of a black president, but will Barack Obama be any different from a white president?

Obama's campaign strategy owes a lot to the of Bill Clinton - and Obama himself has acknowledged this.

He told Rolling Stone magazine last month:

“Oh, I've already learned a lot from him. Bill Clinton, I think, understood earlier than most Democrats the need to correct for some of the excesses of the late Sixties and early Seventies, both in terms of our fiscal policies and our cultural posture toward Middle America… Bill Clinton did a lot to make Democrats seem like they were in touch with the ordinary aspirations of a great number of Americans. That, I think, stopped the haemorrhaging of independent voters and Reagan Democrats into the Republican Party… So I’m still in debt to Bill Clinton for what he accomplished” (Rolling Stone,Oct. 30, 2008).

Obama followed the Clinton strategy in one crucial respect in that he has articulated the aspirations of black Americans but, at the same time, has been able to 'compartmentalise' that aspiration - in order to not risk white support.

Indeed critics of Obama have said that Obama will only promote black interests that do upset the white middle class constituency. It is no coincidence that Obama does not talk of the black working class but of 'middle class voters' and 'middle income families'.

Although the McCain camp have tried to paint Obama as some 'risky' liberal, Obama's political career shows that his sympathies lie with the 'centre right' of the Democratic Party. He's no Dr King. He's not even a Jesse Jackson.

Indeed how does Barack see black Americans advancing? There is no suggestion of significant economic changes rather Obama talks the familiar individual virtues of 'initiative'. 'hard work', 'education' and 'responsibility'. It's all very well appealing to these virtues but what if the playing field is tilted against you? Obama does not address this.

Some problems require political solutions - individualising such problems is simply inadequate.

Ryan Lizza, in a recent excellent New Yorker article, summed up Obama this way:

“Perhaps the greatest misconception about Barack Obama is that he is some sort of anti-establishment revolutionary. Rather, every stage of his political career has been marked by an eagerness to accommodate himself to existing institutions rather than tear them down or replace them”

The election of Barack Obama to the White House will be largely symbolic - he will, in the end, defend the interests of American capitalism. It's no surprise that the Dow Jones has risen with the prospect of Obama as Commander-in-Chief.

IT'S ANOTHER RATINGS SHOCKER FOR KIWI FM!

I’ve written about Kiwi FM before, so I’m not going to restate my thoughts here, but its worthy of note that Kiwi has – again – failed miserably in the latest radio ratings.

Broadcasting in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, its nationwide ratings went up to 0.2% - from 0.1%. It’s hardly significant and is more proof – if more proof was needed – that this station is in rigor mortis.

Kiwi’s weekly cumulative audience fell from 20,000 to 19,200.

Normally I wouldn’t be all that corcerned about the ratings of commercial radio, but Kiwi (or is that Turkey?) continues to occupy the three FM frequencies that were reserved for a non-commercial youth radio network.

Despite the fact that the Labour Government publicly said that Kiwi had a year to prove itself, it is – some three years later – STILL broadcasting to an audience made up of Karyn Hay, Andrew Fagan and some of their friends.

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