THE DISMAL POLICIES OF BILL ENGLISH



Who is surprised that the Minister of Finance Bill English admitted over the weekend that his Government is comfortable with high unemployment? Indeed he laid his cards on the table and said it was part of the Government's plan of 'reforming' the economy. As with all capitalist politicians, unemployment is just another tool in his policy toolbox.

English calls it 'rebalancing' the economy. But there are no prizes for guessing who he is 'rebalancing' the economy in favour of.

Bill English, the man who pocketed nearly half a million dollars by pretending that his family home was in Dipton, has all but owned up that the economy is stuffed.

John Key's 'aggressive recovery' turned into a 'patchy recovery' and now even business friendly commentators like Paul Holmes are declaring that there is no recovery at all.

Unemployment is still at massive levels and shows no signs of improving, businesses are closing, the shopping malls are bereft of people spending money and the housing market continues to stagnate.

English's answer to the crisis is 'reform'. It is a declaration of war on ordinary people.

His 'reforms ' include slashing benefits by taking the axe to the welfare system, deep cuts in education and health expenditure and changes in labour legislation which are designed to suppress wage levels and create a more casualised and insecure labour force.

Effectively the 'structural reforms' of Bill English and the National-led Government are about a massive cut in the social wage and a transfer of that wealth to the already wealthy.

What we do need are structural reforms that will directly benefit ordinary people.

Such reforms should include taxing the wealthy at much higher levels and making them pay for this crisis. Privatised assets should be re-nationalised and struggling businesses should be nationalised in order to save jobs. Similarly, there should be higher levels of spending in order to protect jobs.

Now I know that talk of such policies immediately provokes a reaction from the cynics. I note that many of these cynics float comfortably within and around the Labour Party. They are quick to say that such policies are not 'realistic' or 'pragmatic'.

But is it 'realistic' or 'pragmatic' to try to maintain the fiction that this crisis can somehow be solved by tinkering with the present economic framework?

While Labour Party leader Phil Goff was quick to criticise English for admitting that he was comfortable with high levels of unemployment, there is nothing in Labour's policy arsenal that even hints at a way out of our economic predicament.

When will the Labour Party acknowledge that tinkering with neoliberalism and adding some 'Keynesian lite' policies is no solution?

The adoption of some mild keynesian measures by the neoliberal Labour Party will only occur because of practical necessity. It does not signify a turn to the left.

We cannot get out of the economic quagmire without expanding our sense of what is possible.

Let's not go down the Labour Party road that leads to more of what we've already got and don't want. Let's not be sucked in by Goff's empty and rediculous promises that tinkering with the system can lead to economic prosperity.

We can't keep pretending that the private sector is ever again going to provide sufficient, sustainable jobs for all who need them.

Most of the socialist left knows that business is at war with the working class but that message has not got through to either the Labour Party or its allies in the trade union hierarchy.

JUNK MAIL


John Key sent me some mail on Monday. It came in the form of a full colour four page pamphlet which attempts to justify the sacking of the democratically elected councillors of Environment Canterbury (ECan) under the guise of 'seeking the opinions' of local people.

Apparently 128,000 of these taxpayer- funded pamphlets have gone out to Canterbury households. John Key's office refuses to divulge how much you are paying for this junk.

It's no coincidence that this shoddy piece of dirty propaganda has been posted out in the weeks preceding the local body elections. It's yet another attempt to shore up the crumbling mayoralty of Sideshow Bob.

Bob, of course, actively campaigned to have the ECan councillors all sacked.

This pamphlet, as The Press has pointed out, implicitly criticises the sacked councillors - four of whom are standing for the Christchurch City Council.

The National Party is throwing a lot of resources behind Sideshow Bob but it will be to no avail as he is about as popular as a fart in a crowded elevator.



Also in my mailbox on Monday was another full colour leaflet - this time from apparently one of my local councillors, Ngaire Button.

I say 'apparently' because I've never seen or heard from her ever since she managed to get elected.

Button has been a poor councillor who has just done what Sideshow Bob has told her to do - although, interestingly, there is no mention of her devotion to Sideshow Bob within her pamphlet.

Like her fellow Sideshow Bob supporters, Councillors Sue Wells and Barry Corbett, she has obviously decided that Bob is no vote winner.

Ms Button certainly has an active imagination.

Take this statement for example:

'I will continue to work towards prudent financial management in an effort to keep rates down leaving more money in the pockets of the people.'

This is the same Ngaire Button who voted to waste $17 million on the five shabby buildings owned by the shambolic Dave Henderson - and which have now had an additional $1 million -thrown at them just to met various costs and expenses. And the costs just keep rising.

Ms Button also boasts:

'I am passionate about issues which affect the well-being of our families and always advocate strongly on their behalf'.

Really?

Well perhaps she would like to explain then why she voted to increase council rents by a massive twenty-four percent. Many of Christchurch's poorest families live in council flats. How would of this outrageous rent hike contributed to their well-being exactly?

And how can Button credibly claim that 'I will continue to serve my community' when she voted to cut council funding to already struggling community groups?

Hopefully Button will be shown the door marked 'Exit' come October.

LABOR PAYS THE PRICE FOR ITS RIGHT WING POLICIES


If you believed what the media has had to say, the Australian Labor Party crashed at the General Election because there was a backlash against the dumping of Kevin Rudd (particularly in Queensland) and a whole load of rednecks didn't much like having a woman leading the ALP.

Just for good measure the ALP has added that the leaking of some embarrassing documents in the last week of the campaign didn't aid its cause either . I heard the ALP campaign manager bleating on how he had stopped all polling after the documents were leaked because they uniformly showed the 'the figures'' going through the floor.

There are a lot of ALP politicians and functionaries mapping out their defences before the inevitable internal recriminations begin - especially if Tony Abbot manages to become the Prime Minister.

Seemingly both the corporate media and the ALP have come together in an unholy unison to try to deflect attention from the fact that the ALP's neoliberal agenda got the big thumbs down from the electorate.

This has exposed the political bankruptcy of the ALP which claimed it could not adopt so-called 'radical' policies in fear of alienating the working class vote. This is worth remembering when Phil Goff and the Labour Party start to unveil their dreary conservative economic programme and promote it as 'pragmatic'.

Not only did the 'pragmatic' neoliberalism of the ALP get the thumbs down, it has opened the door to Tony Abbot. No doubt that's not something the Australian union hierarchy, who have stubbornly and consistently supported the right wing ALP, will be too eager to discuss.

It was just a short three years that the reactionary government of John Howard was tossed out of office, with a six percent swing to Labor. This was the biggest shift in votes to the ALP in forty years.

Kevin Rudd promised real progressive change but ended up pursuing the same old discredited politics of neoliberalism again. Can you really tell the difference between a right wing and left wing social democrat? No, you can't.

When the disillusionment with Rudd stated to translate into a big drop in electoral support, the ALP and union powerbrokers acted. Goodbye Kevin Rudd, hello Julia Gillard.

During one of the television debates with Abbot, Gillard proclaimed that 'the most courageous stand she had made in her political career' was standing up to teachers fighting to defend public education.

This is the same woman that Mike Smith the former national secretary of the New Zealand Labour Party, was praising on the Labour-aligned blog The Standard a day or so after Kevin Rudd was dumped. Smith is also president of the New Zealand Fabian Society.

One of Gillard's first moves was to sellout to the demands of the mining industry. Labor’s Resources Super Profits Tax was heavily watered down, with $1.5 billion chopped from expected revenues.

On commentator wrote:

'If Kevin Rudd had done this deal he would have been crucified - but last night there a call came from the cabinet room - 'champagne!'.

Gillard simply offered up more of the neoliberalism that an increasing number of Australians don't want and the result was a hung parliament with a further disintegration in support for the ALP among the Australian working class.

The ALP's primary vote dropped by some 5.5 percent and most of that vote appears to have gone to the Greens whose national vote rose 3.7 per cent to 11.5 per cent. The Coalition’s primary vote went up only up 1.8 per cent to 44.0 per cent.

Disillusionment with both major parties was also reflected in the informal vote, which was the highest since 1984.In some of the working class suburbs of Sydney the informal vote was as high as 12 percent.

What this all indicates is that there has not been a surge to the right but rather that an increasing number of Australians are looking for a real political and economic alternative to the failed and discredited neoliberal policies of both the ALP and The Coalition.

ANOTHER COSY APPOINTMENT FOR SHERIFF


Councillor Gail 'Sandcastle' Sheriff has not been entirely pushed off the gravy train she has been happily riding for the last several years.

Despite the fact she has resigned as a Christchurch City councillor and despite the fact that the local body elections are less than two months away, Sideshow Bob's loyal follower has again been appointed to the board of Orion Electricity - for three years.

Although its claimed that such appointments are not 'permanent' Sheriff has already served on the board for the past five years.

This appointment comes at a time when it has been revealed that Sheriff had the highest absenteeism rate among elected officials at council meetings in the past year. She missed six of 26 meetings between July 9, 2009, and June 24 this year.

Sheriff will pick up $40,000 a year for work she said in 2008 took no more than '10-15 hours a month'.

Mayoral candidate Jim Anderton has rightfully slammed the appointment. He has told The Press : "Within five weeks of the first vote being cast, the council has made an appointment that effectively binds the next council for the entirety of its three-year term,"

The man responsible for making this irresponsible decision was Bob Lineham, the CEO of Christchurch City Holdings. He holds political views that are not altogether dissimilar from Sheriff's.

Lineham has had a long career within the council bureaucracy and he has been one of the central council ideologues who think Christchurch should be run as a business on behalf of business interests.

In 2006, as CEO of Christchurch City Holdings, he supported selling the Lyttelton Port Company to a Hong kong - based multinational, a sale that was subsequently called off in the face of widespread public opposition.

LET THEM EAT CHICKEN, LEEK AND POTATO SOUP!


Even with the help of TVNZ, the Government's publicity arm, Paula Bennett's desperate attempts to portray herself as a 'friend' of beneficiaries and the poor is turning into a ghastly freak show.

This awful woman, who can be often be heard screeching at the opposition parties in Parliament, has declared war on both beneficiaries and the welfare state but still wants us to believe that she is a good old working class gal with a heart of gold.

And if you believe that you must be a regular caller to the Michael Laws Show on Radio Live. Or you're Paul Henry.

Despite Bennett's rhetoric about focusing on beneficiaries getting jobs, her real agenda is to harass people off welfare and into poverty and reliance on family networks and private charities

On the very same day her punitive 'Work Focus' reforms were passed Bennett appeared on TVNZ's Good Morning.

Bennett and her Government can't provide the jobs they say they want beneficiaries to apply for -or else- but she can provide a recipe for chicken, leek and potato soup (cost $12).

Perhaps this is supposed to be 'helpful' for the growing number of people being driven off the invalid’s benefit, which pays $242 a week, onto the sickness benefit, which pays $194.

Yes, thanks to good old Paula, you lose nearly $50 a week. But you're 'buddy' has helpfully provided you with a recipe instead...

THE FAILURE OF BARACK OBAMA



Barack Obama, the great liberal hope, is losing support among the American people and deservedly so. The man who claimed to be an agent of change is proving to be just another puppet of corporate America.

The latest sign that all is not well with the Obama Presidency is a new Associated Press survey which reveals that more than half of Americans disapprove of his handling of the economy.

61 per cent say the economy has gotten worse or stayed the same on Obama's watch. This is his worst result since he came to office.

Obama has been insisting that the American economy is in 'recovery' but people just don't believe him.

A massive 81 per cent of Americans now call the state of the economy poor or very poor,

Not only is the American economy stuck in a quagmire it is actually sinking even further into the mire.

According to one estimate 125,000 new jobs need to be created by the American economy just to keep up with the number of new job seekers entering the market. In July the economy produced only 12,000 new jobs.

While Obama has been more than happy to throw billions of dollars at Wall Street, he has rejected any government public works program to create jobs and refused to provide serious relief for the millions of long-term unemployed.

This is at a time when the United States is confronting its greatest jobs crisis since the Great Depression and which continues to worsen.

Obama is now resorting to that favourite tactic of all capitalist politicians everywhere - keeping unemployment high in order to drive down wages.

In the video above you can see thousands of ordinary Americans desperately trying to get housing assistance.

Remember scenes like these are happening at a time when the wealthy have become even wealthier over the past year. Forbes Magazine’s list of the world’s billionaires, show them with an average net worth of $3.5 billion – and an average increase of $500 million in the last 12 months. 40 percent of those billionaires reside in the United States.

I was directed to this video by 'J' , a woman from Wisconsin who writes a blog called Not Quite Steinbeck.

'J' writes:

This is what America has become. I know it isn’t like this for everyone, but it is like this for hundreds of thousands of people. I joke around a lot on here, but when I see something like this, I can’t joke. It is too serious and too tragic.

Why aren’t we more enraged that our country has turned into a place where people are literally causing riots just to get on a waiting list to get affordable housing? Why is it that the only dialogue about public assistance you ever hear is that too many people are cheating the system or that anyone getting aid should just 'go get a job'?

Anyone that thinks like that should be forced to live at minimum wage for one year. Just one. Then they can give an opinion on whether the working poor are abusing the system or not.

I’m sick of everyone in this country acting like capitalism was written somewhere in the constitution. It wasn’t. It isn’t. It would not be unpatriotic to get rid of free market capitalism, we wouldn’t be making the founding fathers roll over in their graves. And even if they did, they had slaves, murdered native Americans and were ok with not recognizing women as full citizens, so maybe we can quit worrying whether or not they approve of what we do.


Take a good look at this video because you could well be looking at New Zealand's future.

JOHN KEY GOES INTO BAT FOR BOB


John Key is in town tonight in a bid to bolster the unpopular Bob's re-election campaign.

He is the guest speaker at a fundraising event for Sideshow. Perhaps he will take the opportunity to explain to all the business suits what's happened to the 'aggressive' economic recovery he was confidently predicating for 2010 back in September last year.

Key, who has also attended a similar event for Auckland mayoral hopeful John Banks, has claimed his attendance is not an 'endorsement' for Sideshow Bob.

But on National Radio's Checkpoint a few days ago Key could be heard singing the praises of both Sideshow Bob and John Banks.

He claimed that both Auckland and Christchurch might 'benefit' if Parker and Banks were re-elected.

Interestingly, a National Party car was seen at a recent local debate between Sideshow Bob and his rival Jim Anderton. The driver of that car spent all of his time lobbing prepared questions at Anderton.

The Prime Minister's claim he is not endorsing Sideshow is as about as credible as Bob claiming he is 'politically independent'.

Sideshow Bob's claim that he is above party politics was always a load of old baloney and he confirmed that on his dull election website.

On the website Sideshow writes : 'Right now I am enjoying working with the National government. As a city we got nothing out of the Labour government. They didn't give us money for the stadium – they said they would; they didn’t give us money for the rents – Jim said he was going to get that.'

At the 2008 mayoral election Sideshow had the backing of several prominent National Party members.

SHERIFF SPITS THE DUMMY


Gail Sheriff has had things her own way for a long time so it came as somewhat of a shock for the holiday-loving councillor that people would even dare to suggest that her trip to San Diego to study sandcastles was anything more than a ratepayer funded junket.

So Sheriff has spat the dummy and resigned, claiming she and her family have been 'abused and harassed' since she arrived back from sunny California.

She's not owning up to doing anything wrong though and it doesn't appear that she's going to pay back the $4000 that was spent on the trip.

Apparently it's all the fault of the good people of Christchurch because we just didn't understand what this sandcastle competition was all about.

'It's called sandcastles but actually it's sand sculptures,' Sheriff imformed the media.

Fantastic.

So it was a sand sculpture junket then

Sheriff's resignation may not be all that it seems though. The gossip around town is that she wasn't to going to stand for re-election anyway.

Meanwhile Sideshow Bob has sprung to the defence of his loyal follower and blamed everything on the nasty media who have had the bad taste to ask questions about Sheriff's trip.

Pontificated Sideshow Bob: 'Perhaps the media need to look at themselves and think that they are dealing with human beings who have families. They're dealing with real people in real communities.'

It's a pity Bob never displayed this kind of social concern when he tried to put council rents up a massive twenty four percent or when he cut funding to community groups.

Of course what Sheriff's resignation does do is that it takes the spotlight off both Sideshow Bob and his right hand man Tony Marryatt for approving the sandcastle junket in the first place.

LOADSAMONEY!


Councillor Gail Sheriff doesn't seem particularly keen to talk about her 'sandcastle study tour' to sunny San Diego.

The affair has gone national and both TVNZ and TV3 have tried to chase her down for comment only to find that she always seems to be 'out'.

And she has also refused to talk about her ratepayer-funded trip to The Press who have been doggedly pursuing her for comment. Although she has found time to claim that she and her family have been harassed by people who are, strangely enough, unhappy that she's been living it up at their expense.

Sheriff's reluctance to talk about her trip is all very odd since she usually not slow to voice her opinions on most things.

Back in 2008 for example, she not only voted for Sideshow Bob's attempt to raise council rents by a massive 24 percent but argued that the council's public housing stock should he flicked off to Housing New Zealand - which actually would be a direct violation of council policy.

Sheriff spent the first three months of 2008 sitting on another beach- this time in Bali. Despite the fact she was on full pay, Sideshow Bob said he was 'comfortable' with Sheriff's holiday.

Some two years later we discover that Bob approved Sheriff's junket to California - after he initially said that he was '99 percent certain' that it had not been funded by the council. And, because he's up for re-election, Bob can't so glibly dismiss this new Sheriff junket.

Meanwhile, having copped some flak for being yet another councillor double dipping at the ratepayers expense, Sue Wells is trying to take the heat off both her mate Sheriff and her hero Sideshow Bob.

Sheriff's trip was funded from a ratepayer-funded training pot and Wells now wants its use disclosed regularly.

'I think we have to put our hand up', she has pontificated. She's not saying that Sheriff or Bob have done anything wrong though, you will notice.

This is the same Sue Wells who has not 'put her hand up' when it comes to directors fees. She still thinks she is 'entitled' to the nearly $29,000 worth of directors fees she receives.

Ironically, Wells is the councillor who has used the training funds the most. She has received some $7000.

While the already inflated salaries of councillors seem to go in only an upwards direction, the wages of us ordinary joes and joannes have actually declined.

The official data shows that real wages in New Zealand declined approximately 25% between 1982 and the mid 90s and have never recovered. Wages still lie 25 percent below their peak in 1982 - while costs have continued to rise.

Sideshow Bob and his council groupies are cavorting around in a big vat of cash while a great many people are simply struggling to survive.

Wouldn't it be nice if councillors were paid the average wage?

How many of our so-called 'representatives' would hang around, do you think?

I suspect that very few of them would stand for election again.

THE WELFARE STATE IS UNDER ATTACK AND IT'S TIME TO FIGHTBACK


Under the smokescreen of 'reform' the Government is set to launch a major attack on what remains of the social democratic consensus of the post war era - the welfare state. The dismantlement of the welfare sytem began with the fourth Labour Government of David Lange and, some twenty five years later, a new and far-reaching assault is about to commence.

The first stage in that assault is being orchestrated by the government appointed Welfare Working (WWG) group on Welfare.

It is acting on the neoliberal agenda set down by the Minister of Social Development Paula Bennett. Despite her repeated and transparent attempts to portray herself as a ' good old working class gal' she is proving to be a notorious beneficiary basher.

She has warned beneficiaries 'that the dream is over', claiming that 'too many people view welfare not as a last option but as a way of life'. Using Bennett's logic another 19,000 people have just recently made a 'lifestyle choice' to become beneficiaries.

In April, Bennett told the Welfare Working Group (WWG) to address 'long-term welfare dependence and to look for ways to turn around the growth in beneficiary numbers and expenditure'.

This attack comes at a time when the official unemployment rate has climbed to a ten year high and the real jobless figure is now over 260,000.

Such is the level of economic hardship in this country that Work and Income issued over one million hardship payments in 2009 - the highest on record.

As I wrote in another post some months ago, food banks can barely keep up with the demand. in 2009 the Auckland City Mission handed out 50 percent more food parcels than it did in 2008. I guess this must be all part of beneficiaries and the poor living Paula Bennett's 'dream'.

The number of hardship grants not only underlines that the economy is in crisis but also the level of benefits is inadequate - which is something that the last Labour Government also failed to address.

But the WWG is not reviewing what beneficiaries get paid. 'It is outside the scope of the review' the WWG chair Paula Rebstock said in April.

Dr Susan St John of the Child Poverty Action Group has said that this not make sense because the purpose of a benefit is to provide people in need with the means to live.

"The whole level of the assistance is vital to any consideration.' she said.

But Bennett is actually trying to slash benefits

Beneficiary groups are reporting that Work and Income are actively shifting people from the invalid’s benefit, which pays $242 a week, onto the sickness benefit, which pays $194.

This is simply yet another austerity measure that will drive people into even deeper poverty. And it will have a social cost via more demands on health services and the inevitable increase in crime.

We do not have a 'welfare crisis'. What we have is an economic crisis.

In an effort to save capitalism from itself the National Government intends to dismantle the post-war welfare state in the interests of international capital, the banks and the rich.

A few weeks ago frmer Green MP Sue Bradford said that we need to make the links between the attacks on workers (eg National's proposed new labour legislation) and the attacks on the welfare system and beneficiaries.

I heartily agree.

We need a broad movement of resistance to the neoliberal agenda - a movement that campaigns for a radical economic alternative that puts people first.

BOB APPROVED SHERIFF'S JUNKET!


Here's an easy question.

Guess who's paying for Councillor Gail Sheriff's junket to California to study sandcastles?

Yes, it's the good people of Christchurch.

And Sideshow Bob has more egg on his face. First he said that he was 'unaware' of who was paying for the trip. Then he said he was '99 percent sure' that the ratepayer wasn't paying for another Sheriff overseas jaunt.

But now we find out that Sideshow Bob approved the trip himself!

It was Bob and his right hand man Tony Marryatt who approved Sheriff's California capers - which is costing the ratepayer nearly $4000!

Sideshow Bob is claiming he made an 'unintentional error' when he insisted that the council wasn't funding the trip but do we believe him?

After all this week he also praised Sheriff for showing 'initiative'.

He also had no problems with Sheriff spending nearly three months in Bali in 2008 - on full pay.

Given that so many of Sideshow Bob's faithful followers are riding the gravy train maybe old Bob, fighting for his political life, is getting just a touch sensitive about it all.

Oh, it's a nice 19 degrees in San Diego today with partly cloudy skies. It sure beats the 9 degrees and rain of Christchurch..

THE 'ECONOMIC RECOVERY' HAS BEEN 'TEMPORARILY' POSTPONED..


The usual cheerleaders for the free market and neoliberalism have been slightly disturbed by the sharp rise in the official unemployment rates. It has now risen by 0.8% to 7.3%, a ten year high.

The number of unemployed people in New Zealand rose by 18,000 on the previous September quarter to 168,000.

Also of significance is the increase in the number of people who simply cannot get enough work hours to make ends meet. Of the 496,900 people employed part-time in the June 2010 quarter, 20.6 percent (102,400) would prefer to work more hours. This compares with 21.1 percent in the March 2010 quarter and 22.2 percent in the June 2009 quarter.

For the mainstream media and the banks economists these new figures have, even for them, been chastening. After all these were the same plods who were hailing the drop from 7.1% to 6% in the last September quarter as a real sign that an economic recovery was underway.

TVNZ News, whose criticism of the Government's economic policies are muted at best, described the drop as 'stunning'. Just a short two months or so later they are describing the official unemployment figures as 'shocking'. Is it too much to ask TVNZ - or TV3 for that matter - to do some investigative work about the real state of economy rather than simply reacting to whatever figures get thrown up? Apparently it is.

The bourgeois economists , the people who get paid a lot of money for their 'expertise ', should also have the finger of derision pointed at them.

Like TVNZ, they were hailing the drop in the unemployment as evidence of an 'emerging' economic recovery.

One economist described it as a 'turning point' for the economy. I assume that when he said this he was saying the economy was turning upwards as opposed to the downwards direction that it is really taking.

Isn't it good to know that we have economists like ASB economist Chris Tennent-Brown who really knows what's going on in the economy? I mean, this must be why people like him keep appearing on our television screens to explain what the figures all mean - as opposed to, say, Krusty the Clown.

In May Tennent-Brown described the drop in the official unemployment from 7..1 percent to 6 percent this way : 'It's just a really good step in the right direction to see the labour market looking reasonably healthy compared to our expectations. "To summarise in one word: WOW! The New Zealand labour market has turned,"

The ASB sponsor TV3's 'marker report' on its six o'clock news show and Tennent Brown can often be seen fronting it.

TV1's business reporter Corin Dann would be feeling stupid right now if he wasn't such an unreconstructed neoliberal cretin. Just a few weeks ago he wrote on his blog: '.one can't help but sense that a proper recovery (similar to that in Australia) is just around the corner.'

It must be a very big corner. Perhaps we should just leave little Corin to follow his own particular road to nowhere.

The very week that TVNZ and the economists were going ga-ga over the so-called 'drop' in unemployment over 2000 people applied for just 100 minimum wage jobs at a new Bunnings Warehouse in Dunedin.

I asked at the time: 'Perhaps someone at TVNZ or TV3 would now like to explain why 2000 people lined up for 100 minimum wage jobs if there has indeed been such a 'stunning' drop in unemployment.'

Of course the free market cheerleaders are now having to hastily revise their rose-tinted views about the so-called 'economic recovery'.

But they won't go as far as to own up to the fact that there is no economic recovery, merely that the recovery will be 'slow' and 'tentative'.

A new excuse is to say that a rise in job numbers 'always lags behind any economic recovery' It sounds intelligient but, yes, its just more bullshit.

Basically the acolytes of neoliberalism are just saying 'gobblygook'.

The CTU are predictably demanding that the Government take 'action' on the unemployment crisis. although its difficult to take the CTU seriously since it has done its fair share to contribute to the crisis.

Not only has the union bureaucracy not resisted the growing job losses , it has actively cooperated with the Government as it has implemented its austerity measures. This is the same union bureaucracy that gave the Government's so-called 'Job Summit' an 'eight out of ten'.

Even as the crisis deepens, it is becoming clearer that the CTU is not prepared to fight the Government.

Despite big words about resisting the Government's new labour legislation it's clear that the CTU are simply hoping to pressure the Government into changes at Parliament's committee stage.

Seen any rolling strikes yet? No, neither have I.

The evidence is mounting that the CTU's only concern is to ensure that it doesn't have its own authority diminished.

As usual the General Melchett's of the CTU regard the rest of us as cannon fodder.

MONEY-GO-ROUND


Councillor Bob Shearing is another one of Sideshow Bob's supporters happily double dipping at the expense of the good people of Christchurch.

On top of his council salary of $83,500, he picked up a up over $45,000 last year in the way of directors fees. He is a director of Christchurch City Holdings Ltd along with fellow Sideshow Bob supporter Sue Wells.

But wait - there's more!

He is also a director of RA Shearing Contractors Ltd, a local earth moving and paving company he founded 30 years ago.

So despite being paid over $130,000 a year by the good people of Christchurch to do a fulltime job, he can still supposedly find time to run his own company.

Credible?

SAYING NO TO JULIA AND TONY


The collapse of the social democratic project, the Keynesian mixed economy if you like, has not led to the birth of a new left wing movement, unshackled from the chains of the past.

While neoliberalism has crashed and burned, the ugly fact remains that in most liberal western democracies the parties that were once the defenders of the social democratic project now worship at the altar of the free market.

In New Zealand we are in the position that none of the parliamentary parties are offering any alternative to neoliberalism. The arguments are about emphasis and not substance.

At present there is a lot of discussion as to whether Phil Goff can lead Labour to electoral victory next year. Such is the infantile level of debate in the mainstream media that we are expected to believe that this is somehow important.

Whether its Phil Goff or David Cunliffe leading Labour, its still a right wing Labour Party pursuing the corporate neoliberal agenda. Simply changing the personnel doesn't alter that fact.

As a progressive force the Labour Party died a long time ago but unfortunately it has yet to be buried. Poo! The carcass is well and truly rotting.

But the historic crisis is that while the old has died the new has yet to be born.

This crisis is acutely evident but it is further sharpened at the time of general elections. The stark and unpalatable truth is that whichever party ends up in power, the forces of capital always win. We've lost before the game even begins.

In Australia, with a general election just three weeks or so away, the Australian left are grappling with such problems.

As is the situation here, Australia will end up with a Government that will remain committed to pursuing the corporate neoliberal agenda , whether it be dressed up in the garb of the Labor Party (ALP) or of the Liberal-National Coalition. Julia Gillard or Tony Abbot. Tweedledee or Tweedledum. Dumb or Dumber.

This is what confronts the Australian left.

The Socialist Alliance, formed in 2001 when several socialist groups decided to combine forces, is campaigning for people to vote Socialist Alliance, the Greens and other progressive candidates.

The Socialist Alliance slogan is Vote Socialist and Greens — Put Abbott last' .

The slogan is designed to highlight the failure of the union bureaucracy to back the progressive electoral platform because of its continued support for the ALP. The dismal strategy of the union bureaucracy is to campaign for Gillard in order to stop Abbott.

And union officials are predictably trying to stifle criticism of the ALP.

Peter Boyle, the national convener of the Socialist Alliance says that a strong and politically independent working-class movement is essential to stop the swing to the right.

He says that there must be sustained work put in to break the union movement from the ALP.

The Victorian Electrical Trade Union (ETU) leadership, recently ended its affiliation to the ALP after 86% of its members voted for making the break. Socialist Alliance says that this is a small victory for the left and says that many other rank and file union members are not happy that their unions remain tied to the ALP.

Peter Boyle recently told Green Left Weekly: 'I have no doubt that if the ranks of other unions were given the choice to vote on breaking free from the ALP, they would vote the same way as the Victorian ETU members.'

While election campaigning is important, Socialist Alliance is also conscious that election campaigning is not enough and the fight to create a new and independent left movement must be taken within communities and workplaces.

The struggle to build a new and unified left movement, to bring forth the birth of the new from the ashes of the old, lies with building a movement from the ground up.

HATING GOOGLE...


This post is kind of off-message but do you hate Google's new image search as much as I do?

Most of the time I use Google to find photos and graphics for this blog but Google's new image search is just awful.

It's slow, cumbersome and just a mess.

There are a whole load of new scripts running now which I don't want.

I don't want a full image laid over the website from which it comes. What is the point of this - over than just another way for Google to increase traffic and hence its revenue? Oh, that is the point! It's not about a better service for we internet users!

And I don't like the way images are now jammed on to one page. This just eats up bandwidth. Anyone who is on dial-up may as well give up now trying to find photos via Google.

Okay, you can click at the bottom of the page and supposedly go back to the basic version. And if you clean you're computers cookies regularly ( which I do) then you will have to go through this process repeatedly.

But Google are mucking us about here too because you still have to go through additional clicks to get to the image you want. I can't be bothered with this.

Google have really wrecked their image search engine. And, on the face of it, they've done just to increase their advertising revenue.

I'm searching for a decent alternative to Google's nonsense so if anyone knows of one I'd love to know about it too..

SANDCASTLE JUNKET


Officials from Christchurch, New Zealand, have announced they will be sending City Councilor Gail Sheriff to Imperial Beach, this summer in order to experience first-hand the largest sandcastle competition in the United States. Sheriff will be attending the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition (USOSC) held Aug. 7 and 8 in order to get ideas and inspiration for a similar event Christchurch is planning March 4 through 6 next year.
Imperial Beach Eagle and Times, San Diego


Gail Sheriff, Christchurch's highest paid councillor, is taking time off from her 'busy' schedule and heading to California this week - to study sandcastles.

Apparently the Pegasus Bay Charitable Trust, of which Sheriff is a trustee, is organising a sandcastle competition to run from March 4 to 6 near the New Brighton Pier.

Sheriff thinks its important to go to California to see how they build sandcastles at the two-day United States Open Sandcastle Competition.

Sheriff is very familiar with beach activities.

She spent the first three months of 2008 on a beach in Bali while on full pay. She claimed she did her council work by answering her e-mails twice a day. Sideshow Bob said at the time that he was 'comfortable' with her long absence.

The Press
has not been able to contact Sheriff - which means she ain't too keen to talk about her California jaunt.

Who's paying for this junket? No one is prepared to hold up their hand for this one which is suspicious in itself.

The Pegasus Bay Charitable Trust says it doesn't know and Sideshow Bob says he is 'unaware' of any council funding for Sheriff's trip. Mmm, Bob isn't denying there's possibly been some council funding, only that he's personally 'unaware' of it.

Come on. This is yet another dismal example of councillors riding the gravy train.

Gail Sheriff is on nearly $140,000 a year yet she seems to think she can swan off anytime she feels like it. Did Sheriff apply for leave from the council to take this trip?

Sideshow Bob's failure to prevent this junket is not surprising given that Sheriff is one of his loyal council supporters.

ANOTHER DISMAL APOLOGY FROM TVNZ




Because TV1's dire Breakfast is not exactly 'compulsory' viewing, I completely forgot to see if an reluctant TVNZ had finally broadcast its apology for Paul Henry's appalling comments about Scottish singer Susan Boyle.

TVNZ were ordered to broadcast an apology by the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) after it upheld complaints that TVNZ 's previous half-hearted attempt at an apology was inadequate.

TVNZ aired its apology on Monday (July 27) and a thoughtful person has uploaded it to YouTube.

This new attempt at an apology is woeful as well but TVNZ have complied with the BSA ruling, so this is about as good as its going to get from the broadcaster.

The apology does not mention Paul Henry by name and, once again , he has avoided having to apologise for his comments.

All the former National Party candidate has said is that he didn't mean to cause offence. He has never apologised for the comments themselves.

Since he was the offender, you would have thought TVNZ would of forced Henry to read the apology on air. But, no, they haven't even had the good grace to demand that from their right wing presenter.

While it has apologised for breaching the good taste and decency standard (Standard 1) TVNZ did not have to apologise for denigrating a group of people (Standard 7).

In reference to the Standard 7 complaint, the BSA found, in a majority decision, that Mr Henry’s comments, 'intentionally or unintentionally, extended to encompass all those who suffered from intellectual disabilities.'

Said the BSA; 'While Mr Henry’s cruel comments and actions were brief, the message that viewers would have received was that people with intellectual disabilities can be identified and characterised by certain physical features, and are appropriate subjects for ridicule.'

However because it was a majority decision (3 to 1) TVNZ was not obliged to broadcast an apology for this - and it hasn't.

This week Paul Henry and his mother no less appeared on the cover of one of the women's magazines.This is a sure sign TVNZ are trying to rehabilitate the loathsome Henry's image in the eyes of the viewing public.

What's that old saying?

You can't polish a turd but you can roll it in glitter...

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