Thursday, September 30, 2010Steven Cowan7 comments
I was wondering if Ed Miliband, the new leader of the British Labour Party, is the son of the late Marxist theoretician and sociologist Ralph Miliband and, yes, indeed he is.
I have a copy of one of Ralph Miliband's most important books, The State In CapitalistSociety, (1969) and which I bought for $2 in a second hand bookshop some years ago.
I was reading it again last night. In his conclusion Ralph Milband writes:
...social democratic leaders in government illustrate particularly clearly the limits of reform. For while they raise great hopes among their followers and many others when in opposition, the constrictions under which they labour when in government, allied to the ideological dispositions which lead them to submit to these constrictions, leave them with little room to implement their promises. This, however, is only half the story. The other half consists in the fact that, confronted with demands they cannot fulfil, and with pressures they cannot subdue by reform, they too turn themselves into protagonists of the reinforced state. Like their conservative opponents they too seek to undermine the strength of the defence organisations of the working class..
In his final work, Socialism for a Sceptical Age (1994) Miliband continued his demolition job on the fallacies of social democracy. He describes 'mild social democracy' as an 'adaptation' to capitalism and not an alternative to it.
Ed Miliband though does not share his father's politics - he is, I'm afraid, yet another right wing social democrat. He's perhaps not as bad as Tony Blair (but I could be wrong) but he's not unlike Gordon Brown in many respects.
He's probably got a lot in common with Phil Goff too...
Thursday, September 30, 2010Steven Cowan2 comments
Friday October 1, of course, marks the day when there will be a massive transfer of wealth from the New Zealand working class to the wealthy elite, via the tax cuts.
When the tax cuts were announced John Key said that the rich deserved them because they fitted into some of the more 'critical categories' of the economy.
The rest of the population-who produce most of the wealth, are apparently 'not critical' to the country's well being. Note to John Key - please look up 'surplus value' on Wikipedia.
These tax cuts will only serve to plunge more people into poverty.
But-wait- there's more!
We unimportant proletarian types are also going to see more of out cash disappearing in the way of GST. Another 2.5% will vanish from our wallets and purses every time we buy the groceries, pay the power bill, visit the doctor.
The median wage in New Zealand is approximately $38,000. But if you include what New Zealand's growing number of beneficiaries receive , the median comes down to something like $28,000 .
We are a low wage country and life is just about to get a whole tougher for most of the population.
Someone on the dole , for instance, will get a derisory $1. 20. Does Bill English really think that this will compensate for the hike in prices? In my local supermarket the cheapest you can pay for a litre of milk is $2.10.
And prices will rise more than 2.5 percent. As Matt McCarten wrote in the NZ Herald in May:
'First, price rises will be more than the GST increase as retailers round up prices and take the opportunity to maintain profits.It happened the last two times GST increased and will happen again.'
This massive attack on the living standards of ordinary people is happening at a time when the New Zealand economy is sinking further into the quagmire.
At this very moment the Labour Party and its allies in the CTU have yet another opportunity to strike out and articulate a new economic vision for New Zealand - one that isn't beholden to neoliberalism and the 'market'.
But the silence is deafening. The lack of political will is obvious. The betrayal is reprehensible.
Steadfastly refusing to give up on an discredited economic ideology that has inflicted massive damage on the lives of ordinary people, all Labour has come up with so far is a promise to take GST off fresh fruit and vegetables.
But, here's the rub, Labour won't eliminate or even reduce GST.
And we are expected to believe that Labour represents a real alternative to National! You really would have to be a sandwich short of a full lunchbox to believe such loony assertions from the likes of Phil Goff and Helen Kelly.
We are in a economic crisis that demands radical new ideas and radical new policies.
Thursday, September 30, 2010Steven Cowan3 comments
Who knew that Sideshow Bob's wife, Jo Nicholls-Parker , was playing such a pivotal role in the immediate aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake?
How else can we explain Bob's insistence that she replace high-ranking Inspector Craig McKay, Operations Services Manager(Canterbury region), on a helicopter flyover of the Christchurch Quake Zones on Sunday 5 September ?
That's the information that mayoral candidate and former Environment Canterbury councillor Rik Tindall has received from a member of the public.
The flight had room for three people. These were to be Superintendent Dave Cliff (District Commander of Canterbury), Mr Bob Parker (Mayor) and Inspector Craig McKay (Operations Services Manager, CanterburyDistrict), but Mr Parker’s wife took the place of Mr McKay at Mr Parker's insistence.
Inspector McKay is also in charge of emergency planning and should of been on the helicopter flyover of Christchurch - but instead he had to cool his heels on the ground because Bob wanted his wife by his side.
As I mentioned in a previous post, Sideshow Bob is refusing to debate the issues with his mayoral rival Jim Anderton - despite having earlier promised that he would be more 'transparent' and 'accountable'.
So much for Bob's empty promises.
He has bailed out of six debates and now he says that he will not participate in any more of them.
Bob wants us to believe that he has stopped campaigning and that he is just dealing with the 'bigger issues' of the quake aftermath.
He also wants us to believe - and this really is vomit-inducing stuff - that he is prepared to sacrifice his own political career for the people of Christchurch.
Sideshow Bob told The Press: "There are just bigger issues on my plate. I'm willing to pay the price for that. If that should cost me the election, then so be it, but I will know I've done all I can in the job that I'm employed to do.'
What a man. What a hero. What a wanker.
Can you believe this guy?
Sideshow Bob has been doing nothing but campaigning since the quake hit.
Every time a television camera shows up, Bob is always there to hog the limelight - even going as far as pushing other people out of the way.
He's been less enthusiastic though about making appearances where he can't accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. Hence is non-appearances in Christchurch's most severely damaged suburbs and his refusal to debate with Jim.
It's funny that 'the bigger issues on his plate' don't prevent Bob from having his ego massaged by TVNZ's slimy Paul Henry but they do prevent him from showing up to radio debates on Newstalk ZB.
Of course what we're dealing with here is a opportunistic and cynical politician who is blatantly using the quake in a bid to save his discredited mayoralty.
Let's hope the people of Christchurch see through Bob's charade and vote him out of office.
Councillor Sue Wells is one of Christchurch's more arrogant councillors. Always convinced that she is right about everything, she has largely forgotten that she is supposed to be a representative of the people of Christchurch. Instead, like her hero Sideshow Bob, she continues to pursue her own right wing agenda.
Wells sunk to a new low in 2008 when she condescendingly dismissed the opponents of Sideshow Bob's $17 million bailout of failed property developer Dave Henderson as 'stupid and silly'.
Apparently we opponents of the Hendo deal just didn't 'understand' what ' a very good deal it was'. In recent times though Wells has gone rather silent on the Henderson bailout - none of her election propaganda mentions it. Her election material also doesn't mention that she voted to increase council rents by 24 percent.
Although she talks a big game about 'consultation' and 'accountability' (especially when she wants to be re-elected)her patronising attitude towards the good people of Christchurch was exposed at the local body elections in 2008. Sue Wells wrote that she wanted ' to continue leading the people of Christchurch' . Apparently 'representing' the people of Christchurch is an entirely secondary consideration.
Wells has been up to old tricks again and has been cuddling up to her kind of people.
This time it involves the old Orion site in the Christchurch working class suburb of St Albans.
Last year an independent commissioner Ken Gimblett recommended that the new business area proposed for the site be limited to 3500 sqnm and no single tenancy to be over 450 sqm.
The Christchurch City Council adopted Gimblett's recommendations in October last year and so honoured an understanding it had with the local St Albans community. But this was all to change when property developer Wakefield Mews Ltd appealed the decision.
The Christchurch City Council has, in recent years, developed a reputation for being very 'sympathetic' towards the 'needs' and 'concerns' of property developers and so it has proved with Wakefield Mews.
The Council, without bothering to consult the local St Albans community, made a deal with Wakefield Mews allowing it to create a 5000 sqm business zone and with a supermarket that will be nearly twice the size as the one recommended by the independent commissioner.
The St Albans Residents Association has described the decision as 'a slap in the face for a community who worked together many years to ensure that any development at the site was in keeping with the nature of the neighbourhood.'
I agree. St Albans needs another big supermarket like it needs another big earthquake.
Our 'leader' Sue Wells is chair of the council's district plan appeals committee which heard the Wakefield Mews appeal and approved the new deal.
Wells cavalier attitude toward community consultation was highlighted again when she pompously informed the media that she had the right to cut off the community from the decision making process.
Said 'Our Glorious Leader': 'When we receive advice from council about the merits or otherwise of an appeal we have the right to exclude the public to protect legal privilege.'
Wells failed to explain what she meant by 'legal privilege' but its probably a lot like the 'business confidentiality' excuse that Sideshow Bob has often employed to keep details of deals hidden from the public.
She also had the cheek to say that the opponents of Wakefield Mews had withdrawn their appeals and that the St Albans Residents Association had agreed to the final plan.
What she didn't say is that opponents withdrew their appeals because they simply could no longer financially afford to continue the fight through the Environment Court.
On Sue Wells election website (which she shares with fellow right wing Spreydon councillor Barry Corbett) Sue and Barry declare that they support:
Increased transparency, better ways to have your say, and good process in decision making.
Under the reign of 'the People's President', America's rich have got richer this year - while the poor have got considerably poorer.
According to Forbes magazine's rich list, which has just been released, the combined net worth of the 400 richest Americans climbed 8% this year, to $1.37 trillion. Wealth rose for 217 members of the list, while 85 saw a decline.
Despite having screwed up the American and global economies, its the clowns on Wall Street who have been amassing the most cash - 109 of the richest 400 are in finance or investments. These are the same people who have been the direct beneficiaries of a $11.2 trillion bailout (as of November last year) by the Obama administration.
But the victims of Wall Street are doing it tough. Poverty in the United States has risen to a new post-war high. The official statistics say that 20 million can't work and more and more Americans are joining the ranks of the working poor - they simply cannot earn enough money just to get by. The median wage continues to decline.
Despite the appalling statistics Obama has done nothing to improve the situation. He doesn't even have the political will to overturn the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 which benefited only the rich.
It's ironic that 'the People's President' has this week been talking about a new global development plan to alleviate poverty in developing nations when he has so dismally failed to address the growing poverty of the very people who voted him into the White House.
Thursday, September 23, 2010Steven Cowan3 comments
TVNZ's Breakfast is broadcasting from Cathedral Square in Christchurch tomorrow.
This will give the loathsome Paul Henry another opportunity to paint a fellow National Party supporter in the best possible light. Expect more nauseating praise for Sideshow Bob.
When he was last in Christchurch Henry was comparing Sideshow to former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.
You can, of course, count on Bob to show up for Breakfast - in his Canterbury 'quake' jacket with the Tui beer logos. And you can count on him to wax lyrically about the 'great efforts of Cantabrians' and blah blah blah.
In contrast Sideshow was nowhere to be seen when disgruntled and increasingly angry Avonside quake victims protested in the street yesterday. He let one of his council flunkeys face the music instead.
Said one angry resident : 'The bottom line is we have little children in unsafe houses with unfit conditions and we can't get answers.'
Sideshow Bob is putting his own political survival ahead of addressing the real needs of Christchurch's quake victims.
Bob has laughably claimed that he wasn't 'aware' of the plight of Avonside residents. And if you believe that you'll believe just about anything.
He is only showing up at events where he can extract the maximum amount of positive media coverage and consequently he hasn't been seen in the suburbs that have been the most hardest hit by the quake.
He's even refusing to debate the issues with rival Jim Anderton. The 'Mike Yardley Show' on Newstalk ZB has been trying to organise another on-air debate between Sideshow and Anderton. Bob though will only appear on the radio if its to talk about quake issues and only if Jim Anderton isn't invited.
Remember - this is the same Sideshow Bob who just a fortnight ago was claiming he was going to be more 'transparent' and more 'accountable' to the good people of Christchurch. Despite Bob's best efforts to exploit the earthquake for his own political ends, it hasn't been as beneficial to Bob as many media commentators have commented - like TV3's Duncan 'Scoop' Garner who a couple of weeks advised Anderton to give up and just withdraw from the mayoral race.
A Christchurch Star poll shows that Bob leads Jim Anderton by the tiniest of margins - 35% to 34%. Of the 100 people polled, 28% said they hadn't decided who they were going to vote for.
Given that Sideshow has been all over the media in recent weeks, this is an encouraging result for Anderton and we may well find that Bob's increasingly obvious mercenary behaviour will begin to see the polls swing back to Anderton.
Shortly after the Christchurch quake Sideshow Bob confidently insisted that the Christchurch City Council had opposed the development of new sub divisions in the city's quake prone areas.
He even went as far as saying that the council rejected sub-divisions in some of the worst hit areas saying residents had only been able to build after overturning the council in the Environment Court.
This directly contradicted the view of people like property developer David Renwick whose Enterprise Homes built 150 houses in Bexley's Pacific Park subdivision over a period of 10 years.
He pointed the finger at the Christchurch City Council and said that all houses had to be certified to the engineering requirements of the city council.
Now we discover that there is no evidence of the council refusing any building consents.
Bob has been making things up again.
Indeed, over the past decade or so the Christchurch City Council has developed a reputation of doing little more than rubberstamping anything that the city's influential property developers have wanted to do. Whole areas of Christchurch have been pillaged by greedy developers pulling down character houses and putting up rows of cheap and ugly townhouses.
Councillor Chrissie Williams, who requested evidence that the council had actively opposed the plans of property developers, has accused Sideshow Bob of blatantly lying.
Bob, backpedalling at a rapid rate, says that he 'misunderstood' information that council staff and given him.
Bob has resorted to his old line that 'he never intentionally misled anyone.' - which was the same line he employed when he had to admit that he had approved Councillor Gail Sheriff's trip to San Diego to study sandcastles - after initially denying it.
We all know that Sideshow Bob is milking the quake for all its worth and so it comes as no surprise that he is continuing to ponce around in his 'quake' clothes, including that Canterbury jacket that he's taken a liking for.
Has Sideshow no shame? Apparently not.
Meanwhile the debacle that is the five former Dave Henderson-buildings continues.
Sideshow, of course, spent $17 million of ratepayers money, on these five ugly and absurdly over-valued buildings - which Councillor Sue Wells described as 'a very good deal'.
Sideshow forked out $5.7 million for both the northern and southern portions of the former Para Rubber site.
For the last two years that building (along with the other four) has been chewing up even more cash in terms of maintenance costs, etc. It's estimated that a million more dollars has been thrown at these buildings since Sideshow bailed out his mate Hendo. But now we discover that Hendo - the 'urban visionary' - apparently never got round to doing any earthquake strengthening and Sideshow Bob never bothered to check.
The building was structurally unsafe and has been demolished
The building was only insured for the cost of the demolition. This is also the case with another one of the former Hendo buildings. The Welles Street building is also likely to be bowled over.
It it is kind of appropriate though - the Henderson bailout has proven to be one big disaster from start to finish.
IT TAKES A PILLAGE: BEHIND THE BAILOUTS, BONUSES, AND BACKROOM DEALS FROM WASHINGTON TO WALL STREET Nomi Prins (Wiley John & Sons)
I was half way through this book when the Christchurch quake hit which was kind of appropriate in a way.
In It Takes A Pillage Nomi Prins, a former manager at Goldman Sachs, chronicles the financial quake that brought Wall Street and world capitalism to its knees in 1998 The aftershocks are, of course continuing to reverberate around the world as the global economy remains stuck in the quagmire that it created for itself.
If you, like me, are heartily sick of the PR spin that masquerades as financial journalism, this book is a good antidote.
It Takes A Pillage is a fascinating account of 'The Crash' and its aftermath because it is written by someone who was once at the very heart of Wall Street and knows where all the bodies are buried.
For me, one of the striking themes that emerges is that the public face of Wall Street bares little resemblance to what it is really up to in its plush offices within the glass towers.
During the 'financial boom', the public face of Wall Street was one of sobriety and responsibility. Traders , financial advisers and bankers behaved as if they knew what they were doing and were guiding the United Sates and the world to a new level of economic prosperity. They were the same people who advised Government's all around the world and appeared in the media pontificating on anything and everything.
Those of us who had an alternative view were simply crowded out.
But, as we now know, what the market 'gurus' really did was construct a flimsy House of Cards built on a foundation of shonky financial schemes, corrupt practices and a whole load of creative accounting. Prins zeroes on the deceit, the bravado, the arrogance and the greed of her former colleagues.
But very few of these financial wizards have had to pay a price for their criminality. Instead its ordinary Americans who have been forced to carry the burden of the crisis. Ordinary Americans have lost their jobs, their homes , their futures.
In contrast Wall Street has had trillions of dollars thrown at it by the Obama administration.
Prins has calculated that, as of December 2009, Obama had bailed out Wall Street to the tune $11. 2 trillion. It's a figure that can barely be grasped. New Zealand's total debt to foreign institutions, $263 billion, (which is more than our total GDP incidentally)), certainly pales in comparison.
Despite this massive transfer of wealth to Wall Street, the bailout has not worked. Much to the acute embarrassment of Obama, the 'People's President' new census figures show that one out of every seven Americans is now living below the official poverty level, the highest proportion since the 1960s. One in five American children is living in poverty.
Officially that would indicate that some 45 million people were living below the official poverty line in 2009.
But this official poverty level, an annual income of $22,000 for a family of four, massively underestimates the level of income required for a decent life. The real number of people living in actual economic distress is much higher, perhaps as much as 100 million.
In her book Nomi Prins writes : 'In 1933, at the peak of the four-year depression, around 1,000 homes were foreclosed every day. ... By comparison, 10,000 homes were foreclosed daily by early 2009.'
Wednesday, September 15, 2010Steven Cowan2 comments
Despite his claim before the earthquake that he had heard the complaints of local people and recognised that the Christchurch City Council (ie Bob) had to be transparent and inclusive in its decision making processes, it looks like Bob just can't help himself and has reverted to type.
He has unilaterally appointed Wellington architect Ian Architect to lead a team that will develop ideas and plans for Christchurch's rebuilding programme, although their brief does not include the heritage buildings.
Athfield Arcitects designed the council's new offices which Jim Anderton has claimed have suffered $5 million worth of earthquake damage
Once again Bob has failed to consult his own council before making an important decision. The first councillors knew of the appointment of Ian Athfield was via the media.
Columnist Chris Trotter made the point in The Press yesterday that both the main mayoral candidates needed to explain how they intended to allow local people to have a real say in Christchurch's rebuilding projects.
He observed that if local people were shut out there was the real danger that Christchurch could have foisted upon it some welcome changes driven by a narrow political agenda.
But Bob, despite his promise to be more open and democratic, has made yet another decision without bothering to consult his own council. Although he has no doubt talked with his right hand man, CEO Tony Marryatt.
It's simply unacceptable and demonstrates that Sideshow Bob's new found commitment to local democracy was simply a cynical election ploy.
Did you know that Sideshow Bob can leap tall buildings in a single bound?
Not really. But Bob's supporters would like you to believe it.
During the aftermath of the quake the hype surrounding Bob has been, at different times, both nauseating and hilarious. At different times during the immediate aftermath of the quake, he has been variously portrayed as Superman, Mother Teresa, Winston Churchill and Dr Phil.
The New Zealand Herald and Paul Henry likened him to the right wing Rudy Giuliani - presently doing nothing for religious tolerance with some intemperate attacks on Islam.
Bob has basked in it all but, of course, 'he couldn't possibly comment' on such lofty comparisons. Ah, he's so humble..
Bob's backers have hailed him for his 'leadership abilities' but they have not actually explained what Bob has done that has been so exemplary.
From where I was sitting, Bob as Mayor, did what was required of him. He was the front person for a Civil Defence operation that swung into action independently of him. Are Bob's mates saying that no-one else could of done this?
But Bob has been all over the media for the past week, effectively hogging the spotlight. Bob talking to camera! Bob on the phone! Bob pointing at a map! Bob looking at wrecked buildings! It's been a regular Bobathon!
Indeed he was live on television again last night. This time he was on Prime News saying not very much. I switched to something else.
And all Bob ever really told me in the quake aftermath was to 'don't panic, stay safe and boil you're water for three minutes'.
And there are criticisms that Bob, not the most inclusive of Mayor's, neglected to keep his own councillors and community board members in the loop.
Some people won't like Saint Bob being criticised but he still needs to be held accountable for his misbehaviour over the past three years.
Bob and his supporters, of course, will try to keep the focus on quake-related activities and thus sideline the host of other issues that have dogged Bob during the election campaign and that saw Jim Anderton amass a nineteen percent lead over him, pre-quake
Bob's conservative politics are already coming to the fore.
Around 10,000 Cantabrians are calculated to have no household insurance and their lives have effectively been put on hold.
For days the Government fudged on whether they help out these unfortunate folk. Now its suggesting that each household will be judged on its individual merits. Gerry Brownlee went as far as to imply on Q+A yesterday that some householders may not be compensated because they had made a 'choice' to be uninsured.
While the Government was more than happy to provide a blanket bailout for investors in South Canterbury Finance, it looks very much that uninsured Cantabrians are not going to receive similar generosity from the Government. They are a 'low priority'.
Most of these households were uninsured not out of choice but because folk could not afford the big insurance bills.
Mayor Bob, who has talked a lot about 'our people' and how 'we are all in this together', has said nothing about these unfortunate folk.
If he was truly representing all Cantabrians then he would be demanding that the Government compensate all the uninsured householders and provide them with some certainty. But Bob is not going to run the risk of offending his good mate John Key - who was criticising Anderton over the weekend I notice.
Saint Bob clearly doesn't want to tarnish his halo with the grime of election campaigning.
In the end Bob still has to be judged on his record over the past three years and not on his media abilities over the past nine days.
Miles Warren, a prominent Christchurch architect, says it was 'scandalous' that a new sub-division was allowed on reclaimed land in the eastern suburb of Bexley. It has been hard hit by the earthquake. Most homes and sections are covered in deep layers of sandy silt and houses have lifted, cracked and sunk
Warren has pointed out that Bexley was once an old riverbed and should, in hindsight, ' have never been built on.'
Anywhere near a waterway, swamp or old creek has been particularly badly affected by liquefaction and subsidence.
Warren has been backed by Mark Quigley, a Canterbury University lecturer in active tectonics and tectonic geomorphology, who says suburbs had been built on areas known to be prone to liquefaction.
Bexley residents who have lost their homes , having got over the initial shock, are now beginning to express their anger and it is not altogther unrealistic to say that a class action could eventuate over the coming months.
Not surprisingly this issue, with its obvious political and legal ramifications, has provoked a game of 'passing the buck'.
Enterprise Homes built 150 houses in Bexley's Pacific Park subdivision over a period of 10 years.
Company Director David Renwick has pointed the finger at the Christchurch City Council. He says that all houses had to be certified to the engineering requirements of the city council.
Indeed the Christchurch City Council's role in the Bexley disaster is looking increasingly suspect.
Property lawyer Jim Keegan, told The Press , that information on suspect ground had been available in land information memorandum documents (LIMs), issued by all territorial authorities, for 10 to 15 years.
'The council have been pretty specific in terms of allowing building in certain areas proven to have peat or sandy soil that would require additional foundations because of the liquefaction threat,"
So did the Christchurch City Council allow houses to be built without the additional foundations?
In another veiled criticism of the council structural engineer Stephen Barrow said that the Bexley houses 'probably' should not have built on sandy soil 'but such zoning was up to the council'.
Mayor Sideshow Bob Parker has been quick to say that the decisions on new housing in Bexley had been made by other councils.
Parker told The Press: 'When those councils, years ago, made some of the decisions about residential areas, they probably did give it a lot of thought and take a lot of advice, and there would have been a diversity of opinions,"
'Historically, of course, there were already many, many houses built over on that [east] side of the city, but I think we have to revisit that.'
What Bob hasn't mentioned is that some of his present councillors have been on council for over ten years. They seeking re-election again this year.
Whether Parker likes it or not, it appears the Christchurch City Council has something to answer for.
Who is coming to the rescue of Christchurch in these difficult and stressful days?
It's not the stock market, not the finance houses (the ones that are left that is), not the banks (although one or two have made tokenistic donations out of their obscene profit margin), its not even the media cheerleaders who have been telling us for years that there 'is no alternative to the free market'. They came to Christchurch for a few hours that ran away back to Auckland again.
No, it's the good old State. The thing that we have been repeatedly told by the free marketeers that we need a good deal less of.
When help was needed in Christchurch and the outlying regions, who rolled into action? The various divisions of the State - Civil Defence, Health, Welfare, Education, Transport, etc.
After being sliced and diced by the neoliberal Government's of the last two decades, its still the 'inefficient' , the 'bureaucratic' ' and just downright 'unfashionable' State that is up for the fight when the chips are down.
It's ironic that the powers of the State are being orchestrated by a Government that has spent its first term in office cutting back the resources of that very same State. Budgets have been slashed. Jobs have been axed.
And its ironic that the powers of the State are being employed by a Government that has plans to privatise further parts of it if it manages to get re-elected next year.
And what of the hypocrisy of Government Ministers who shed a tear for ordinary people at this time of crisis but are so callous and indifferent to these very same people in ordinary times?
The Minister of Social Development Paula Bennett, for example, has announced that some $2 million has been allocated for trauma counselling services in Canterbury. This from a woman who has caused a whole load of trauma herself in the wake of her continuing campaign to intimidate and harass beneficiaries off welfare and into desperate poverty.
She is also the same woman who is about to do a hatchet on welfare services in the not too distant future - the same welfare services that are doing such a sterling job in Christchurch and Canterbury today.
Wednesday, September 08, 2010Steven Cowan1 comment
But - wait - there's more! Unfortunately.
Like a lot of people in Christchurch I got some good sleep last night. There were some mild aftershocks during the small hours but they were certainly not enough to wake me up.
Feeling more refreshed and hearing news reports that it had indeed been a relatively sedate night, I was cautiously optimistic that we had come through the worst.
It was drinking coffee when the aftershock struck at about 7.50am It was brief, no more than 5-6 seconds I guess, but it threw the house about a bit.
I actually didn't rush for cover this time round. I waited it out. I certainly know more about quakes than I used to.
But, in those brief seconds, people were again thrown into a state of panic. as we hit by a 5.1 jolt located about six kilometres under the ground. Many people are at breaking point and some people are not coping at all - the police have reported an increase in domestic violence. Stress turning inwards and into violence.
It's one thing to say that this is all part of a predictable pattern that occurs after a major quake but its another thing altogether when you're right in the middle of it.
Everyone just wants this thing to end.
It was surreal to switch on the television and see Paul Henry playing with a radio controlled blimp. Apparently Henry graced us with his presence for a few hours yesterday and then was gone..
Indeed most of Auckland's media celebrities have parachuted into Christchurch over the last few days and then vanished again. Stick Mike McRoberts in front of a wrecked building! Gotta get those ratings!
I've been getting e-mails that have assumed normal transmissions are being resumed but I think this new aftershock has dispelled any notion that things are getting back to some level of normalcy.
Indeed I'm reading that the state of emergency has been extended for another seven days.
We just have to do what we can and ride this monster out.
We had some major aftershocks during the night with the first one hitting shortly after 11pm. I had just gone to bed and promptly decided that sleeping on the couch was a far batter idea.
These aftershocks are simply adding to the already considerable stress people are undergoing. People are anxious and frightened and its all been compounded by the lack of sleep. I visited a former neighbour yesterday and she was in a state of shock - even though her home had escaped any significant damage. Fortunately she has her son and a daughter-in-law who can provide her with support.
It needs to remembered - and I've certainly been reminding myself over the past few days - is that 80 percent of earthquake deaths are caused by collapsing buildings. Thanks to our building codes - which have property developers have often found 'frustrating' and 'bureaucratic' - Christchurch has suffered no fatalities.
There has been a lot of uninformed comment about earthquakes which have done nothing to alleviate stress levels.
The person who has impressed me the most is seismologist Dr Warwick Smith of the earthquake monitoring system GeoNet. He has been studying earthquakes for over thirty years and his comments have been authoritative, thoughtful and reassuring.
He hasn't engaged in destructive speculation and he has be quick to dispel some of the myths about earthquakes which have contributed to people's fears.
I see that the not-very=dynamic Gerry Brownlee has been appointed the minister in charge of earthquake recovery.
That doesn't fill me with confidence and nor was I impressed with his comment that the 10,000 people who are uninsured will have to show 'genuine hardship' to get any money out of the Government.
What planet is Brownlee on? He expects that people who have had their houses demolished to prove 'genuine hardship.' ? Does Brownlee pull the wings off flies as well?
Also, the $5 million contribution to the Christchurch City Council's hardship fund is a drop in the bucket - especially since the Government was able to find $1.6 billion to stop South Canterbury Finance going into meltdown.
A friend of mine, already stressed, has had to apply for the unemployment benefit because the earthquake has scuttled a temporary job he would of been starting next week.
In the aftermath of New Zealand's biggest earthquake since 1931 and Christchurch far from anything resembling normalcy, WINZ expect him 'not to be late for his appointment', and be 'be dressed appropriately as if he was about to begin work'.
I wasn't going to broach this subject quite so soon but since Bob Harvey, the Mayor of Waitakere City thought he'd campaign on behalf of Sideshow Bob on Q+A this morning, I don't feel I should keep my powder dry until another time.
Twice on Q+A Harvey used the Christchurch earthquake to talk about Parker in glowing terms, even describing him as a 'great mayor'. As an aside, I note that blogger Martyn Bradbury seems to have swallowed Harvey's line as well.
Given that he's languishing far behind Jim Anderton in the polls it was going to take something big to save Sideshow's mayoralty and they don't come any bigger than an earthquake.
It may gave him a bit of temporary 'lift' but I don't think Bob has done anything other than what a mayor would normally be expected to do in circumstances like these.
Indeed from where I'm sitting Civil Defence and the police have put their well-rehearsed plans into action and Bob has largely been the frontman - with his mate John Key by his side for good measure.
But Sideshow has been all over the media while he's been doing it and he's much too calculating a politician not to have recognised that he's been provided with an unexpected opportunity to garner a few more votes.
It's been galling to hear Bob talking about 'our people' as if he's on first-name terms with everyone in Christchurch. These are the same 'our people' who he has consistently trampled on over the last three years.
Of course Bob Parker is genuinely concerned for the welfare of the good people of Christchurch in these very difficult days but we shouldn't let that blind us to his dismal track record as mayor.
Some may regard this post as churlish but I'm only pointing out that Bob's backers won't be slow in coming forward to hail Bob's 'leadership abilities'.
6am or thereabouts. It's over 24 hours since the earthquake struck.
I've had a fitful night of sleep at best. I've spent a lot of it watching TV and listening to the radio. No Premier League to watch though.
Got calls from relatives in Newcastle and an old journalist friend in London. This earthquake is all over the world media.
I heard the host on NewstalkZB speculating about another big earthquake - which was based entirely on him scanning and misreading a news story. This was totally irresponsible - which is what I said to him when I rang up. He denied he was scaremongering and made some comment about me having a 'crack' at him.
Of course the guy was sitting in a studio in Auckland - perhaps he might of been more careful with his comments if he was down here in Christchurch
There have been many aftershocks throughout the night. A couple of sharp ones but mostly mild and brief in duration.
We seem to be in the pattern predicted by the geologists and earthquake experts - a massive earthquake followed by aftershocks which may go on for weeks.
But it doesn't do anything to allay people's fears and concerns. Me, I've barely eaten anything in the last 24 hours which isn't good. I will make a concerted effort with breakfast.
Of course everyone's fears are exaggerated at night and the daylight will be welcome. Although I hear bad weather is on its way. What next? A plague of locusts?
Generally its been quiet throughout the night. Everyone has hunkered down and are waiting it out.
Good on the people dealing with the power network and telecommunications - they have kept everything going throughout the night.
I live near a main road that leads to one of Christchurch's big shopping malls and there certainly is not a lot traffic on the road. Which is a good thing - people are clearly taking heed of advice to stay home.
I'd also say that media stories about looting have been over-played. As far I can gather there were two isolated cases in the central city in the early hours of the morning.
The central city is in lockdown and the media is reporting that some 8000 residents have to get out. This seems to be a precautionary measure because of the danger of further building collapses.
I imagine building assessments be made over the next few days - so the central city could be a no go zone for some days.
Shamefully, all main media coverage seems to be emanating from Auckland. In the case of TVNZ the coverage includes, unbelievably, advertising breaks!
TV3 isn't even covering it
I think local station CTV is off-air while no less than Paul Holmes from faraway Auckland has been orchestrating the coverage for NewstalkZB.
Power is on to 70 percent of the city they say and it should be at 90 percent by 6pm. There doesn't seem to have been any substantial damage to the power network.
As I wrote this, there was another little jolt. Nice.
There has been a major earthquake in Christchurch. I understand it was a 7.3 and the epicentre was some 35 miles from Christchurch, near Darfield.
I've never experienced anything like it. It started at about 4.30am. The noise was a like a roar of a jet engine and I honestly thought the house was going to collapse. The earthquake lasted about a minute I think but it felt like a lifetime.
I tried to get out of bed but was thrown back. Meanwhile stuff was falling off shelves - books, CDs, DVDs. I honestly this was it.
That noise was absolutely terrifying.
Of course without any power, I had to stumble around in the pitch black looking for candles, torches, etc.
I managed to grab some clothes and went out into the street to check to see if everyone was OK. Fortunately my street avoided any substantial damage.
In the last couple of hours the power in my area was restored and there is no visible damage in my street but I gather areas are still without power and there appears to be a major water probLEM developing.
There have been a series of aftershocks. We just had a severe and unnerving one about 20 minutes ago which shook the house.
I think everyone is on edge and it seems that the scale of damage is only starting to emerge. Out near Darfield I can't imagine how buildings could have not collapsed.
Me, I've still got a knot in the pit of my stomach and I will be sleeping in my clothes tonight. of course we will likely 'just' get a series of aftershocks from now on but, hell, I'm not taking anything for granted.
Thursday, September 02, 2010Steven Cowan2 comments
Sideshow Bob has been quick to tell the good people of Christchurch that, in these tough economic times, we 'all' have to tighten our belts and make economic sacrifices
This is the excuse that Sideshow and his council lackeys employed when they slashed funding to already struggling community groups.
But, despite these 'budgetary constraints', Sideshow Bob has found money to install - wait for it - a huge 58 inch plasma television in the mayoral office.
And another 58 inch plasma television has been installed in the councillors-only playroom/lounge.
The cost to the ratepayer? A 'mere' $8000 per television.
Why does Sideshow Bob and his council flunkeys need these toys? So they can watch the footy on Sky TV of course! But dismal CEO Tony Marryatt wants us believe that Sideshow Bob and his council groupies need them so they can 'access news information'
Yeah right. This is the same guy who told us that the council was legally entitled to put council rents up by twenty-four percent. The rise was subsequently ruled illegal by the High Court.
But what 'news information' is Marryatt talking about exactly and why is it necessary to watch it on $8000 plasma TV's?
Here's a thought - why not just check out the news on the internet!
But perhaps councillor's need to get the news from Emmerdale. Or perhaps Dr Phil has important relationship advice to share. Maybe a councillor has money on a horse running in the 2.30 at Riccarton.
It's estimated that the Sky service will cost some $5000 a year. But, hey, at least Sideshow Bob and Mrs Sideshow Bob can watch the Rialto Channel in comfort!
On the very day that this latest grotesque expenditure was revealed its been reported in The Press that Christchurch's food banks are trying to cope with an increasing demand for their services.
City Missioner Michael Gorman said he was also 'worried about the impact of the rise in GST."
At least Councillor Yani Johnasson has had the integrity to speak out about this latest insult to the good people of Christchurch.
He has described the spending as 'over the top'.
'There are groups missing out on funding who are struggling and the council's spending money on that (plasma televisions). Their priorities are all wrong.'
Is anyone surprised that one of South Canterbury Finance's bad loans went to our 'urban visionary' Dave Henderson?
You will recall that Hendo got some $70 million out of Hanover Finance for his disastrous Five Mile village project near Queenstown.
He also managed to get some $20-30 million out of South Canterbury Finance (SFC) for Hotel So, a 283 room property in central Christchurch - with additional funding coming from Dominion Finance (which also collapsed).
The hotel's latest valuation is reportedly $9 million which means CSF will incur a big loss - a loss incidentally the taxpayer is paying for. Meanwhile, thanks to Sideshow Bob and his right-hand man, Tony Marryatt, Christchurch ratepayers are lumbered with five buildings that will never recoup the absurd $17 million that Bob and Tony paid for them.
Basically the good people of Christchurch are the victims of a Hendo double-whammy.
Perhaps Councillor Sue Wells would like to explain again why buying Hendo's rotten buildings has been a 'very good deal' for Christchurch - which is what she was arguing in 2008.
Strangely, there's no mention at all of the Hendo deal in her election propaganda,,,,
Wednesday, September 01, 2010Steven Cowan4 comments
During the last mayoral campaign in 2008 , Sideshow Bob went around declaring that he, if voted Mayor, would be 'accountable' to the people of Christchurch. And so would his fellow councillors.
Not only that, daylight would be allowed to shine on the decision making process. The word 'transparency' was frequently to be heard coming out of the mouth of Bob.
At one election meeting he could be heard to say that he wanted to 'rebuild community confidence in council as an institution they can trust'.
Anyone who knew anything about Sideshow's politics, his agenda and his backers knew that this was all a load of the old proverbial.
Bob though had the advantage that he yet to blot his copybook in Christchurch and he managed to squeeze into the mayoral office when no-one was looking - only 43 percent of Christchurch's registered voters bothered to vote.
And the error of Sideshow Bob began.
Bob has treated local democracy as an inconvenient obstacle in the way of him pursuing his right wing agenda. I've written about most of Bob's arrogant and anti-democratic behaviour on this blog over the past three years - and there's been no shortage of material.
And, dear local voter, its worth remembering that he has only been able to get away with it because of the sycophants on the council who have consistently supported him. These are the very same councillors who now don't seem to want to advertise their devotion to Sideshow Bob.
Having loudly defended him over the past three years the like of Councillors Sue Wells, Barry 'murder is probably wrong' Corbett and Ngaire Button are now avoiding mentioning him. Clearly they are all worried about losing their exorbitant and unjustified salaries. And, in the case of the double-dipping Sue Wells, she's also anxious not to lose the $25,O0O a year she receives for attending a few meetings of Christchurch City Holdings.
But I digress.
Having trampled on local democracy for the past three years Sideshow Bob has - wait for it - had a revelation! He has seen the error of his evil ways! Hallelujah! He wants us to believe that he is a changed man!
'I have heard the people of Christchurch. They want their council to be more transparent around important decisions, particularly around commercially sensitive ones," he said this week. 'People need to know that I get it,' said the man who actively campaigned to have the democratically elected councillors of Environment Canterbury sacked.
It sounds like someone has been working hard on Sideshow's script doesn't it? Perhaps it was sent down from National Party HQ.
Bob now says that previously secret Christchurch City Council workshops will be open to the public. These workshops replaced council committees which Bob scrapped soon after he became mayor.
Of course they might be 'open' to the public but the public won't be able to have any meaningful input - so Sideshow Bob and his council cronies would continue doing what they like anyway.
Nevertheless Bob is hoping that his latest trick with the old smoke and mirrors will fool a few more people to vote for him.
Because that's what the new 'Democratic' Sideshow Bob is all about. Votes.
Bob hasn't changed his spots - he's just getting increasingly desperate in the face of polls that show his main rival Jim Anderton holding a healthy lead over him. The latest poll by The Press shows Anderton having a big 19 percent lead over Sideshow. I also understand that Anderton's own polling shows him to have a even bigger lead over unpopular Bob.
Sideshow Bob had three years to 'rebuild community confidence in council as an institution they can trust”' and he did nothing. In fact , while he pursued his agenda of running Christchurch as a business for business, community confidence in the Christchurch City Council just ebbed away further to be replaced with an increasing anger with a Mayor and his council supporters who have blatantly ignored the wishes of the community.
Feigning concern won't save Sideshow and his council flunkies now.