IS BRENDAN O'DONOVAN MAD?


Westpac's chief economist Brendan O'Donovan is a clown. In a less gentle age he would have been held in stocks in the public square and had rotten vegetables thrown at him.

We'll just have to make do with lampooning him on the Internet.

I've written numerous posts charting the descent of the New Zealand economy deeper into a black hole that it is extremely unlikely to climb out of.

I don't know about you but mass unemployment, increasing underemployment, low wages and no economic growth all suggest to me that the New Zealand economy is going to hell in a handcart.

Brendan O'Donovan thinks differently. He doesn't think the economy is on the point of collapse - he thinks we're on the cusp of a new golden age. Hallelujah!

It'll be party hats, champagne and brand new credit cards for everyone, according to O'Donovan.

In the New Zealand Herald today he says: "Personally I think New Zealand could have a ripsnorter of a year and I think we could be on the cusp of a golden decade in terms of economic prosperity.'

O'Donovan says that he knows his views are 'extremely unfashionable' ( could that be because they're just plain ridiculous?) but he's even got an answer for that.

Brendan's been reading his Pop Psychology for Beginners.

According to O'Donovan, we plebs are just partypoopers, who like to talk the economy down.

'We only seem to be happy when we are miserable,' explains O'Donovan, a veteran cheerleader for neoliberalism and the free market

So it's our fault the economy is in the crapper! And here's me thinking it was the fault of, oh, the BANKS for instance. But, of course, O'Donovan, works for a BANK. Westpac pays him some $180,000 a year for his 'economic wizardry'.

This is not the first time O' Donovan has predicted the economic good times.

In September 2009 he claimed that an economic recovery would be fuelled by a migration-driven housing construction boom, with Auckland leading the way,

At a business summit in Wellington he claimed that 'leading indicators were pointing to a strong recovery in global manufacturing activity.'

He said that you would have to be a 'pretty brave person' to stand in the way of these economic 'indicators'.

Donovan confidently predicted that the economic recovery would hit New Zealand within 'six to nine months'.

So it should have happened by May this year at the latest.

Anybody see it?

THE IDLE THOUGHTS OF AN IDLE FELLOW


I am intending to write a post on the CTU's continued allegiance to the dismal Labour Party but that will have to wait for another day as I seem to be in the midst of a summer slumber.

This has involved me watching lots of football (no Xmas presents from Newcastle United as usual) and also a generous helping of Ashes cricket.

I have also been reading a fair bit. At the moment I'm about half way through Stieg Larsson's 600 page The Girl Who Played with Fire. This is the second book in the Millennium trilogy. I didn't read the first book but I did watch the video. My initial impression is that the book's are far richer and complex than the film translations.

And, thanks to wondrous free ebook downloads, I'm reading Jerome K Jerome's The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow, Second Thoughts of an Idle Fellow and Three Men in a Boat.

Writes Jerome in the preface to The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow:

I perhaps should not have ventured to offer these mere 'idle thoughts' of mine as mental food for the English-speaking peoples of the earth. What readers ask nowadays in a book is that it should improve, instruct, and elevate. This book wouldn't elevate a cow. I cannot conscientiously recommend it for any useful purpose whatsoever. All I can suggest is that when you get tired of reading 'the best hundred books' you may take this up for half an hour. It will be a change.


It's also been good to get reacquainted with Gene Hunt, the not very PC detective on the Ashes to Ashes television series, the follow up to the great Life on Mars.

Prime TV have relegated the series to late night screenings over consecutive nights. This week its running from Monday to Thursday around about 11pm. Clearly the first series didn't work for then ratings-wise hence its unattractive timeslot. It's one of the best things on New Zealand television at the moment but Prime think repeat screenings of Danger Beach are more worthy of peak audience timeslots.

Normal transmission on this blog will resume..soon.

READ IN RUSSIA


Normally the most hits this humble blog receives are obviously from New Zealand based readers. Although I recall that a couple of years I got a quick and sudden influx of Canadian readers because something I wrote appeared in a Canadian national newspaper.

At this moment this blog is enjoying some interest from readers in the Russian Federation.

Over the last two days Against The Current has been read by more people in the Russian Federation than here.

This is thanks to my post on RT ( Russia Today), the international news channel, appearing on a Russian news website called inoSMI

inoSMI monitors and translates into Russian articles published in foreign and Western media and, according to Wikipedia, has an estimated readership of 70-90,000.

From some of the comments, (which can lose a bit in translation), I gather the folk over there are proud of RT and are keen that New Zealanders discover it is offering something substantially different in the way of news and current affairs.

I have noticed that our corporate media have shown zero interest in the Russian news channel. What a surprise.

Anyway I'm happy to help out in my small way. And it's been quite enlightening reading the comments. Even if I didn't quite undertand all of them I got the general message.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE AN ELECTION MAKES


Christchurch was yesterday hit by a series of aftershocks which did more damage to already severely damaged buildings, saw a cordon temporarily thrown up around the central city and got a whole load of people running for cover.

According to some reports the damage in some areas of the central city is actually worse than after the main earthquake in September.

Yet the Christchurch City Council - or rather Deputy Mayor Ngaire Button - says its safe enough for people to carry on shopping.

Button is standing in for Mayor Sideshow Bob who is on his summer holidays and it looks like he's not about to interrupt the hols and return to Christchurch.

Bob's 'relaxed' attitude can be explained by the simple fact that he is not in the middle of a mayoral election campaign and fighting for his political life.

So the orange safety jacket will be staying in the closet..

MERRY XMAS, THE ECONOMY IS COLLAPSING


The New Zealand economy is in a state of collapse.

The economy shrank by 0.2 percent in the September quarter - and that follows just a 0.1 percent increase in the GDP figure in the June quarter.

The spectre of a double dip recession now looms large but, frankly,its misleading because most New Zealanders have never actually emerged from the first dip. We can't go 'back' into recession because we have never actually come out of it in the first place.

We're all still on a mad hellish rollercoaster, crashing further down into a deep black economic hole.

I'm not going to repeat the figures here but they are all uniformly bad.

When the next neoliberal clown pipes up with his or her prediction of an 'economic recovery' in 2011, we should simply remember that this recession is now well over two years old and the bottom still hasn't been reached. Things are going to get a whole lot worse and will get a lot more worse more quickly if the American economy, hovering on the edge of a full blown depression, unravels in 2011.

I'm still waiting to see what the US banks are going to do with the $30 trillion worth of toxic debt they have been trying to conceal.

The only 'answer' that the National-led government has to 'our' crisis is to cut spending, cut spending and cut spending. The $2 billion deficit blowout means that Bill English will be inflicting more economic misery on ordinary New Zealanders once he returns from his summer holidays in February.

He expects us plebs to continue to pay the heavy price for an economic crisis we are not responsible for.

We should be seeing heightened resistance to English's new austerity plans but, unfortunately, I suspect we won't. This is because the trade union bureaucracy is going to send ordinary people over the cliff by promoting the election of a Labour Government as the 'solution' to the economic crisis.

Merry Xmas, the economy is collapsing..

ANOTHER REASON NOT TO WATCH TVNZ OR TV3



Normally I use the 'Media Clown' column to dump on New Zealand's dizzying array of right wing media clowns.

But today I am throwing bouquets rather than bricks. I am tossing chocolates rather than rotten eggs. But not for anything that is locally made since most of it is crap.

A few weeks ago I was surfing the channels late one night and I stumbled across a news channel I'd never seen before.

With its slick and colourful graphics and state of the art television studios I immediately assumed this was a US news network.

But it wasn't. I was watching RT (Russia Today) and, if you have Sky, you can find it on channel 96.

I checked on the web and discovered that RT, seemingly without much fanfare, was launched in New Zealand on November 10.

The channel itself has only been in existence since 2005 and New Zealand now joins the hundred or so other countries that RT broadcasts to.

The news channel has studios in Moscow and Washington and what is especially startling is the kind of material coming out of its Washington base. It genuinely is providing a progressive alternative to the corporate-controlled news that we are fed on most of the other news channels.

'RT's target viewer is a person capable of critical thinking, one who realises that one or two sources of information are not enough to get a full picture,' says editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan. "It is someone who wants to know the truth, rather than who passively accepts stereotypes.'

Ms Simonyan says RT gives viewers access to 'stories they're not going to see on the networks they're used to".

A night or so ago I watched a great interview - which ran for some twenty minutes or so - with progressive journalist Laura Flanders. Flanders actually talked about the American working class being screwed by Barack Obama and that Obama was in the pocket of the corporations - the same corporations that funded his election campaign.

After unwisely enduring the inanities of Mark Sainsbury and Close Up and the disappointing John Campbell, listening to an interview that intelligently discussed corporate power and class politics was a breath of fresh air.

And here was an interview which allowed the interviewee to elaborate her views rather then being reduced to a supplying a series of bullet points forced into a five minute interview, squeezed in between commercials.

Said Flanders: 'The reason I work in the independent media is that you won't get the real story on a news channel owed by General Electric or Disney.'

And in the last fortnight I've seen two fine independent documentaries , both the work of American directors . One was about the domination of the American media by handful of corporates and how activists and communities are organising to not only fight the corporations but also establish their own independent media.

The other documentary I saw was on the rise of the American religious right. and its influence on American politics.

This is the kind of stuff you just don't see on see on either TVNZ or TV3, preoccupied as it is with gory murders, natural disasters, the Royal Family, sport and whatever Brad or Angelina are up to this week.

Can you imagine TVNZ's new hosts of Breakfast, neoliberal cheerleader Corin Dann and conservative Christian Petra Bagust, discussing the failure of capitalism? Hell, little Corin is still waiting for the economic recovery he predicted was 'just around the corner' about three months ago. Petra Bagust's background is in...music and home improvement shows.

But I digress.

I have also quickly become a regular viewer of two of RT's pivotal shows , although tracking them down can sometimes be problematic because Sky's schedules are often wrong.

The Alyona Show. hosted by 24 year old Alyona Minkovski, is an hour-long daily news and current affairs show that isn't beholden to either politicians or business.

'The Alyona Show is what you wish you could see on mainstream television'. says its publicity. It works for me. Having wandered in the desert of TVNZ and TV3's dismal programming schedules I have arrived at an oasis where my intelligence isn't continually insulted.

Alyona Minkovski talks with left wing academics and activists - people normally kept off American - and our- television screens.

The other show I try not to miss is The Keiser Report.

if you are fed up with the sycophancy that masquerades as business journalism on New Zealand television, then Max Keiser is for you.

While New Zealand business reporters dutifully and uncritically report the utterances of the business suits, Keiser treats them as charlatans and crooks who have totally screwed the American and global economies. . While TVNZ's Corin Dann is, yet again, bowing to the 'wisdom' of some neoliberal nut, Max Keiser is putting the boot in. He knows what he's talking about as he's a former stockbroker himself.

Interestingly RT has provoked a reaction from the US establishment media.

The lousy Bill O'Reilly on the right wing Fox News rubbished an RT interview with the radical American activist and academic Bill Ayers.

RT shot back with a report asking the question . 'The American mainstream media, crusaders of truth, pathological liars, or just scary clowns?'

Great stuff.

KNOCKING ON HISTORY'S DOOR


In just a few days it will be 2011 and the vicious and unrelenting war being waged by capital and its governments against ordinary people throughout the world will not only continue but it will escalate.

It is a war that cares little for national boundaries and it is a war that capital expects to win.

Whether its Great Britain, Greece, Spain, the United States or New Zealand, the end goal is the same; the working class will be forced to pay the heavy price for a massive economic crisis it was not responsible for. Capital will save itself by grinding working people into the dirt.

Here in New Zealand the Government's deficit blowout of $2 billion will mean further attacks on social services, more attacks on working conditions.

The gloves have come off and the ideologies of union-government 'partnerships' and 'socially responsible capitalism' have been exposed as the empty charades they always were. The 'third way' has been exposed has just another way for social democrats to justify their abject surrender to neoliberalism

But capital is not having its own way. Already massive resistance has emerged in countries like Spain, Greece and Italy. Britain's young people, so often written off as either reactionary or as complaint victims of an all-pervasive consumer culture , have been at the forefront of protests in London and other major British metropolitan centres. They have proved to be not quite 'the beaten generation' they have often been caricatured as.

Perhaps its more accurate to quote Percy Bysshe Shelley:

Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number!
Shake your chains to earth, like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you-
Ye are many; they are few!


Invariably this direct resistance has emerged despite the best attempts by conservative union bureaucracies and bourgeois political parties to channel the protests in a 'safe direction'. In the view of such political snake oil merchants, protests should be gutted of all meaningful resistance and be 'fun for all the family'. In effect they want them to be as impotent as sending a petition to Parliament.

New Zealand will see a general election next year and already we are being told from some quarters that the only 'pragmatic' strategy is to direct our energies into getting the dismal Phil Golf and his equally dismal Labour Party back into power.

We are told that we must stop our 'utopian dreaming'. In the face of a global capitalist crisis , the only 'sensible' and 'realistic' strategy is to support the Labour Party. We can't win the world but we can have a bag of carrots without the GST.

This is the strategy that the do-nothing trade union bureaucracy have adopted - without consulting the union membership.

In short, we must 'adapt' to the prevailing political current. As I've said in other posts, this is a counsel of despair.

The ideological message is that humanitarian utopias are not viable, that there is no alternative to capitalism. It says that capitalism has proven itself to be the only viable society and therefore we should concern ourselves with improving the capitalist system and not with building an alternative system. It's the Fabian view of the world.

In 1901 a young Lev Davidovich Bernstein, who had yet to take the name of Trotsky, was exiled in Siberia.

He looked out a the promise of a new century and wrote of what he sew:

In France-the poisonous strife of racial hatred; in Austria-nationalist strife,,,;in South Africa - the agony of a tiny people which is being murdered by a colossus; on the 'free' island itself-triumphant hymns to the victorious greed of jingoist robbers; dramatic 'complications' in the east; rebellions of starving popular masses in Italy, Bulgaria, Romania...Hatred and murder, famine and blood.

It would of been easy then, in the face of a world in crisis, to accept that any change could only be limited and, by necessity, would be constrained by the demands of the political and economic conditions that existed at the time.

The twentieth century stood before Trotsky and demanded that he surrender his 'pathetic dreams': 'Here I am, your long awaited twentieth century, your 'future'.'

But Trotsky's response was swift and sure : 'No, replies the unfounded optimist:' he wrote. You are only the present.'

The lesson still to be drawn today is that we must continue to put our faith in the future and confidently continue to knock at the gate of history.

We must always act against the prevailing current.

Simply tinkering with capitalism cannot change the course of history. Socialism represents a fundamental break with all that has gone before.

DOWNLOAD THE WIKILEAKS NZ CABLES

I'm not sure how widely available this material is, but Bryce Edwards has helpfully posted a link to a 613 page PDF of all the recent Wikileaks material relating to New Zealand.

Go to Bryce Edwards blog here for the link to the PDF file.

Something to read and ponder over during the Xmas break...

WIKILEAKS CATCHES OUT KEY AND MCCULLY


The Wikileak cables have revealed that the Government have been running two different polices on Tibet.

One policy - the real policy - has been to appease the Chinese and a cable released by Wikileaks reveals that in April last year John Key assured Chinese premier Wen Jiabao that neither he nor any of his ministers would meet the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama when he visited the country later in the year.

But in Parliament Murray McCully, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said that there was no boycott on meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader.

Green MP Keith Locke asked McCully in November last year: “Is it government policy that no minister will officially meet with the Dalai Lama when he visits next month?” McCully's response was “No”. He also said he had discussed the issue with Key.

So the Government have been exposed running an 'unofficial' policy that tows the Chinese line on Tibet. It's not much of a revelation in itself but when examined in light of some of the other Wikileaks revelation, it reveals that powerful government and corporate interests exert an enormous amount of influence on New Zealand's foreign and domestic affairs. We're not the plucky independent 'battler' that the politicians insist we are.

Labour have jumped on McCully's 'deceptions', but the Labour Government of Helen Clark also played word games when it came to Tibet.

When the Chinese regime was in the process of brutally suppressing the Tibetan uprising of early 2008 Labour failed to condemn China for its actions.

Helen Clark claimed she had said nothing because she wanted ' to find out the full story behind the riots'

Keith Locke rightly condemned Clark's comments as 'weasel words'.

It is also of interest that The Standard, the 'unofficial' mouthpiece of the Labour Party, is insisting that McCully should be held to account for misleading Parliament.

Yet barely three years ago The Standard had nothing to say about Labour's failure to condemn China's brutal military repression of the Tibetan independence movement.

While the hacks who write for The Standard will never admit it, both Labour and National share an overwhelming desire never to upset the Chinese regime. This has led to both Labour and National to consistently fail to speak out about China's appalling human rights record.

So the attack on Murray McCully, however much deserved, still reeks of political opportunism.

IT GOES ONE AT A TIME


President Barack Obama visited Trish Kahle's hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina recently.

Despite a promise to bring 'change' and improve the lives of ordinary American's, things continue to get worse in Obama's 'New America'.

Official unemployment stands at just under ten percent of the working population. Over 15 million Americans were jobless in November.This doesn't’t include those who are working part-time but would prefer to work full time. Nor does it include a record 1.3 million who are too discouraged even to look for work.

According to a US Government report released in November 17 million Americans are are going without food at least once during the year. Stephen Quinn, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Wal-Mart Stores, recently told a conference that families are 'literally lining up at midnight"' at Wal-Mart stores waiting to buy food when paychecks or government checks land in their accounts.

Trish Kahle's says ordinary Americans must organise to fight the austerity policies of Barack Obama and that inspiration can be drawn from the struggles now occurring in Britain and Europe.



President Obama's visit to Winston-Salem, NC at Forsyth Tech Community College was just another piece of evidence of the "state of the nation."

It's a little bit confusing, because when we showed up to demand that Obama end the wars and tax the rich, there were more than seventy people huddled onto the one corner the cops would allow them, clutching their plastic yard signs from the 2008 presidential election.

We should ask ourselves why Obama's supporters still have to cling to those signs which are wrinkled and warped by water.

Perhaps because they have nothing new to hold. After two years, things haven't gotten better; they've gotten worse. Obama's supporters--most of whom genuinely wanted real and substantial change--are left with the memories of "hope," and the yard signs are a tangible reminder of that.

A small group of five people--myself and four Obamanites--were separated from the rest on the other side of a bridge by the cops. These were ordinary people: working class people who had scurried away from their job during lunch hour (one was still wearing her scrubs from the hospital two blocks away), but the class difference between Obama and his ruling elite and these people trying to scrape a living seemed lost on them--even as Obama rolled by in his long, shiny motorcade that took dozens of cops to protect, even as I stood next to them, handing out flyers for the International Socialist Organization and our "Fight the Right" campaign, even as I held a sign that said "WE won't pay for YOUR crisis!"

That being said, we can't become cynical about these people and their politics. Austerity--just like we've seen in France, Greece, the UK, and elsewhere in Europe--has come to the US, and we must fight back.

We cannot win without the fellow members of the working class, so we must win them to our arguments. This is, of course, made harder by the people like the one today who told my comrade that she "wanted to kill" him after he told her he was with the ISO. But it must be our goal to expand the political organization. Individual actions like those planned today are good, but very limited. They are inherently reactionary--only responding to things that happen.

Going on the offensive will not only be more effective, but it will draw people to us. They will feel empowered. They will feel solidarity. These things will win them more quickly and more strongly than years of theoretical arguments.

It is a daunting task, but it can be done. As the Rasmussen poll earlier this year shows, people are now more open to socialism than at any time since the Cold War. Especially interested in the socialist alternative to capitalism are young people: people under thirty who have no direct memory of the Cold War and who do not directly emerge from the legacy of Stalinism. We have instead grown up under the massive expansion of American empire and the assertion of the US as a world military hegemon.

These cuts aren't going to fight themselves out of existence, and if we don't organize, we won't survive cuts to education funding, social security, Medicare and Medicaid, and pretty much every other social service that is minimally provided by the state.

We should look to the French example, the example of British students, the Spanish air controllers. Bringing the American system to its knees would not only fight austerity here, it would cripple capitalism around the world. A general strike by American workers--backed by students, the retired, and the unemployed--would present a threat that American capitalism hasn't felt for a long time.

Of course, a general strike doesn't happen overnight, so I leave you with part of Marge Piercy's poem The Low Road:


Two people can keep each other
sane, can give support, conviction,
love, massage, hope, sex.
Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge. With four
you can play bridge and start
an organisation. With six
you can rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no
seconds, and hold a fund raising party.
A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;
ten thousand, power and your own paper;
a hundred thousand, your own media;
ten million, your own country.

It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again after they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.


How many are you?

This column was first posted on Trish's blog, I Can't Believe We Still Have To Protest This Shit

MARRYATT MISSES OUT



Three out of four ain't bad.

I predicted that Sideshow Bob and his faithful followers, Barry Corbett and Sue Wells, would be re-appointed as directors of Christchurch City Holdings Ltd (CCHL) and yesterday my prediction was proven to be correct. Not that there's anything particularly wonderful about my prediction - the three reappointments were a fait accompli anyway.

The three enthusiastic members of the National Party Appreciation Society will now be able to keep their noses in the trough and add another $670 a week on to their already exorbitant and undeserved salaries

These are the very same people who have been calling on everyone else to accept the need for 'economic restraint' but have shown absolutely no such restraint themselves.

Well, someone has to pay the fees so Sue Wells can give her children a private education - and, yes, its the poor old Christchurch ratepayer.

At least Tony Marryatt didn't get the fourth vacancy.

The Christchurch City Council chief executive withdrew his nomination when the issue blew up in the local media. So Tony will just have to make do with his $470 000 salary. It's a tough life.

The bad news is the vacancy has been filled by another Sideshow Bob flunkey - property developer Tim Carter

Tim Carter works for the Carter Group which is one of the largest property owners in Christchurch and the Canterbury region. It is wholly owned by the Carter family. His father, Philip Carter, is a rich-list owner of an estimated $155m worth of property interests.

Tim Carter and the Carter Group are pushing for some major and controversial urban developments in the Christchurch area, including the historic Avon Loop area. .

The Carter family have very close ties to the National Party. Uncle Dave , of course, is the Minister of Agriculture.

David Carter has been a influential supporter Central Plains Water scheme. This is all about the privatisation of Canterbury's water resources, backed by City Council money.

It'll be interesting to hear what Tim Carter has to say about the substantial assets owned by CCHL.

CIVIL DEFENCE CRITICISES BOB'S MEDIA ANTICS



We now learn that Civil Defence weren't exactly thrilled with Sideshow Bob's media antics in the immediate aftermath of the September 7.1 earthquake.

According to a draft report written by Bob Upton, Environment Canterbury's (ECan) civil defence manager, Bob's hysterical performances in the media distorted the extent of the crisis and helped make returning to some kind of normalcy even more difficult.

The draft report said 'the emphasis on the city mayor appearing in most media opportunities tended to distort the true picture of the extent of the emergency, external perceptions of needs and initial decisions as to appropriate responses'.

It went on to say: "Reliance on mayors as media spokespersons can contribute to an artificial air of crisis that is very difficult to climb down from."

But. of course, it was to Bob's immediate political advantage to create an artificial air of crisis in order to get himself re-elected as mayor.

These draft comments about Sideshow Bob were removed from the final report because it was felt they ware 'too contentious'. In other words, Bob Upton was stepping on the toes of people in high places.

Bob has been acting all aggrieved and says that 'I put my heart and soul into doing what was best for the community.'

This is more self-serving nonsense.

Bob put his heart and soul into doing what was best for Sideshow Bob. That is, and has always been, his guiding philosophy.

And having actively campaigned to get all the ECan councillors sacked, Bob is now claiming the comments will 'further damage ECan's relationship with the city council.'

Bob didn't actually bother to consult his council before making these comments and I doubt that any of the Labour-aligned councillors will be impressed with him putting words into their mouths.

We say congratulations to Bob Upton for having the guts to give us a honest and accurate assessment of Sideshow Bob's Earthquake Media Circus.

BOB IS MEDIA CLOWN OF THE YEAR!


Last year TVNZ's Paul Henry won my inaugural Media Clown of the Year Award by the proverbial country mile, thanks to his ridiculing of the physical appearances of Greenpeace activist Stephanie Mills and British singer Susan Boyle.

He put in another strong showing this year, with a couple of notable and deeply offensive racist outbursts.

In October he asked Prime Minister John Key on TV1's Breakfast who he was looking at to replace Sir Anand Satyanand as Governor General when his five-year term came to an end.

"Is he even a New Zealander?" Henry asked about Sir Anand Satyanand -- who was born and raised in New Zealand by his Fijian Indian parents.

'Are you going to choose a New Zealander who looks and sounds like a New Zealander this time... Are we going to go for someone who is more like a New Zealander this time?'

But there was more to come. No sooner had he 'apologised' to the Governor General, he was ridiculing the name of an Indian politician Sheila Dikshit. It was big laughs all round in the Breakfast studio. I'm not sure if co-host Wendy Petrie and newsreader Peter Williams were smiling at Henry's humour out of sheer embarrassment or they really thought it was funny.

Said Henry; "The dip shit woman. God, what's her name? Dick Shit. Is it Dick Shit ... it looks like 'Dick Shit. It's so appropriate, because she's Indian, so she'd be dick-in-shit wouldn't she, do you know what I mean? Walking along the street ... it's just so funny.'

TVNZ runs a tabloid and ratings driven new service and it allowed Henry to use Breakfast to bash individuals and organisations he didn't like - while at the same time praising his favourites like the National Party and the Sensible Sentencing Trust. It was all good for the viewing figures because Henry's redneck fans all tuned in to see their hero in action.

Henry harbours some deeply right wing views and his so-called 'humour' has served only to mask - but not conceal - his hostility to liberals and left wingers alike.

TVNZ was all set to slap Henry over the wrist with a wet bus ticket for the umpteenth. time. Indeed TVNZ Chief Rick Ellis insisted he had 'no intention' of replacing Henry.

But when TVNZ finally hauled itself out of the tabloid gutter it discovered that Henry had provoked a diplomatic incident with the Indian Government and that his racist slurs had gone all around the world. Hardly a good look for a broadcaster that told us that we were all 'one'.

Paul Henry resigned before he got sacked. Since then he has been blaming TVNZ for his behaviour - because it supposedly 'encouraged him' to be a reactionary creep. Boo hoo.

It's rumoured Henry is all set to return to the swamp from whence he came - namely talkback radio. He may be replacing Maggie Barry on the low-rating Radio Live.

Speaking of Radio Live, my second contender for Media Clown of the Year is its 9-12 morning host Michael Laws.

Laws likes to think of himself as a solid, no-nonsense and dependable kind of bloke. He's the good keen man who speaks his mind and fights the good fight against the always threatening mob of beneficiaries , crims, gang members, hopeless Maori parents, druggies, namby=pamby liberals and people who want to introduce an 'h' into Wanganui.

His answer to most things is to be more punitive; less 'molly-coddling' by the sTate and longer prison sentences is Dr Mike's prescription for our social ills. He would also like to see the reintroduction of capital punishment.

Having set himself on a moral pulpit of his own making, Laws duly fell off it when earlier this year it was revealed that he had conducted a relationship with an Auckland woman who used to be a prostitute and a P addict.

The woman in question wearing an electronically monitored anklet during their encounters, which didn't seem to concern Laws at all,

He told the Sunday Star Times: “I’m very supportive of the idea of people making amends for things they have done wrong in their lives.”

Really?

Here's Laws talking about child poverty:

'It’s time for some straight talking around child abuse in this country and the link with ethnicity rather than poverty. And the link with blasted parents who consume themselves with drinks, drugs and the wrong partners.'

In 2009 Laws wasn't talking 'second chances' when he argued that members of the 'underclass' should be sterilised in exchange for a $10,000 payment as a 'solution' to the child abuse problem.

'There are too many people who should not have children.' thundered Laws.

This year Michael Laws' former partner revealed to the Woman's Day that she punched him in the face on several occasions during their "toxic" relationship.

Leonie Brookhammer said: 'It was always the same pattern, we'd get into an argument and eventually I'd just hit him in the face with my fist,'

Brookhammer, who has three young children with Laws, claimed the couple's disputes had twice resulted in police being called out – once in 2003 and then again in January this year.

She also said called in the boys in blue in when an 'incident' erupted following their final split.

She said Laws had stood in front of the gates of their Whanganui home to stop her driving away with their children.

Brookhammer said as he was 'hanging off the windscreen wipers', she 'told him to get out of the way or I would run him over'.

I wonder what the neighbours thought?

For not practicing what he preaches and for being an obnoxious right wing prat, Michael Laws was definitely a contender for Media Clown of the Year.

My third candidate is someone who I've been writing about for some years now. It's not that I really want to - he just won't go away. He's like that bad smell that lingers, seemingly resistant to disinfectant.

I thought Christchurch would rid itself of the curse of Sideshow Bob at the October local body elections - but that was before the city was hit by a 7.1 earthquake on Saturday, September 4.

For Sideshow Bob the quake represented a golden and undeserved opportunity for him to salvage his discredited mayoralty.

Trailing rival Jim Anderton by a massive 16 percent in the polls, Bob was all set to be a one-term mayor.

But before you could say 'Put the coffee and muffins on my council card' Bob had repackaged himself as 'the hero of the hero'. 'Never fear, Bob is here!', he cried, bounding out of the council offices in his orange safety jacket.

Bob did what any hero would do in an emergency - he made sure he was in the media all the time.

While Civil Defence and other organisations got on with dealing the immediate consequences of the quake, Bob largely devoted himself to the crucial issue of getting his face in the media as much as possible.

Whenever a TV crew appeared on the scene so did Bob. He even pushed one guy out of camera shot and took over his interview!

Bob also decided that he wasn't going to be held accountable for his mayoral track record and refused to show up at meetings and debates. Indeed he refused to answer any questions that weren't quake related.

'I'm just to busy dealing with the quake' was Bob's standard response. But he wasn't 'too busy' to spend time in various coffee houses and bars.

So for all round narcissism, and for his contempt for the due democratic process, Sideshow Bob is my Media Clown of the Year.

He wins a new orange safety jacket and a bag of muffins.

IT STOPPED BEFORE IT STARTED


We head into an election year faced with the prospect, in the light of the deficit blowout, of even more severe austerity measures. No prizes for guessing who will be expected to carry the burden. It won't be the wealthy of Remuera (presently enjoying their big tax cuts) but it will be the poor of South Auckland.

I have consistently said that there is - and has never been - an 'economic recovery'. So I'm not being wise after the event.

There has been be no 'aggressive recovery', no 'uneven recovery', no 'patchy recovery', no 'slow recovery'. There hasn't been an economic recovery 'just around the corner'. There hasn't even been an 'economic recovery' just five miles down the highway, then take the first turn on you're right.

There has just been no economic recovery. Full stop.

But can our economic experts and politicians own up to this? No way.

According to the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) the 'economic recovery' has 'slowed to barely a crawl'.

So, lets get this straight. An economic recovery that has never actually happened has now 'slowed to barely a crawl''. So the 'economic recovery' that has never started has now stopped and can anyone tell the difference?

What is this new ludicrous view based on?

In defence of NZIER its not actually its view - rather it is the conclusion they have drawn from a survey of financial and economic agencies.

That's right. The very same organisations that have been consistently wrong about the state of the New Zealand economy have been surveyed for their opinions on the state of the New Zealand economy.

Mm, make sense to me.

One of the financial organisations that was surveyed was the ASB.

One of its economists is Chris Tennent-Brown. In May he was hailing a temporary drop in the official unemployment rate as 'evidence of an emerging economic recovery.'

He said: '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,"

Would you buy a used capitalist economy from the ASB and Chris Tennent-Brown? I don't think so.

These well-paid economic 'experts' who appear in the media everyday are just talking rubbish and they've been talking rubbish ever since the global capitalist economy went into meltdown.

They are neoliberal neanderthals who won't admit that the game is up - neoliberalism and the free market has failed. And it is ordinary people who are paying for that failure.

Of course these guys have a stake in the system and they are not about to start biting the hand that feeds them.

CHARLIE AND CAMILLA'S BOGUS JOURNEY!


TVNZ's UK reporter Paul Hobbs was aghast by the massive student protest in old London town - against the tripling of tuition fees and the British Government's savage austerity policies.

After newsreader Simon Dallow had labelled the student protesters 'a mob', Hobbs - who felt safe enough to stand in front of that very same 'mob' - informed us that he had never seen such mindless violence in all his reporting career.

Hobbs has spent most of his reporting career in New Zealand - the land of a do nothing trade union bureaucracy - so a bit of the old argy-bargy clearly came as a shock to the sheltered TVNZ hack.

He seemed to believe nihilistic barbarians had descended on the British capital , threatening to bring an end to civilisation as we know it. What? No more Coronation Street?

Hobbs didn't dwell on the police provoked violence - although he did show a student with a cut lip.

What's more the student louts also had the bad taste to ruin Charlie and Camilla's night out on the tiles. What's the world coming to when a rich and pampered couple can't get to the ball on time?

Bloody students! Why couldn't they have just had a nice quiet gathering , shouted a few polite slogans, shared a few jokes with the boys in blue and then gone home for tea and muffins? Why couldn't they just had a 'proper' protest? Why did they have to cause a bloody fuss and make a mess in the streets?

But as one student said; 'When injustice becomes law resistance becomes duty, and we will continue to mobilise, to organise, to occupy, to protest.'

The coalition government of David Cameron and Nick Clegg know that this anger can spread to all those who facing cuts – millions of ordinary people across the country.

This is a fight against the real violence - the real economic violence of cuts to benefits, to welfare and health services. It is fight against the real violence - the real Government violence directed against the British working class.

The next step is to bring down the Com-Lib Government.

RIGGED APPOINTMENTS AND GRAVY TRAINS


Despite promising to be a more transparent and all-embracing Christchurch mayor, it hasn't taken Sideshow Bob long to revert to type.

He ignored appeals to appoint one of the Labour-aligned councillors to the position of deputy mayor and instead gave the position to the mediocre Ngaire Button. Her main qualification is that she can always be guaranteed to do whatever Sideshow Bob wants her to do.

Now Bob is intent on stacking the board of Christchurch City Holdings Ltd (CCHL) with 'his people'.

There are apparently six councillors vying for the four positions on the board but the appointments are virtually a done deal given the people doing the interviews are all Sideshow Bob supporters - including company director Ray Polson and CCHL chairman Bruce Irvine. Oh, and the interviewing committee is headed by.....Ngaire Button.

What this means is that the present incumbents will be reappointed. They are loyal Sideshow Bob supporters Sue Wells and Barry Corbett. And Sideshow Bob himself.

Which means there is one position to be filled. It was formerly occupied by Councillor Bob Shearing, another Sideshow Bob supporter. But he was voted off the council in October.

So who could be his successor?

Well, gosh, its none other than Sideshow Bob's faithful right hand man and council CEO Tony Marryatt!

Yes Tony Marryatt, a employee of the council is applying for a position on a council owned company! It smells a bit fishy to me. Yes, there's definitely a whiff of something rotten coming from Sideshow Bob's office. And I'm not talking about his dirty old orange safety jacket.

I agree with Councillor Yani Johanson that it is 'strange' that the council chief executive is vying with councillors for the same position.

Of course what we are seeing is Sideshow Bob ensuring that the assets of the Christchurch City Council are kept within the firm control of Bob's right wing National Party-lovin' faction.

As usual, Marryatt isn't talking but Sideshow Bob is. He claims he didn't know Marryatt was applying for the position. It kind of makes you wonder what they actually do talk about over coffee and muffins in the morning. Earthquake safety jackets perhaps?

Seriously though there is just no way Marryatt would have of gone ahead with his application without Bob's tacit approval.

If the rigging of the appointment process isn't bad enough, Marryatt is all set to pick up another $35,000 in the form of CCHL directors fees.

Marryatt is presently doing it tough on only $480,000 a year.

It's estimated that CCHL work - basically attending meetings and reading a few papers - involves about 12-15 hours a month. Let's say fours a week. And for that four hours the financially bloated councillors pocket an additional $670.

Last year Sue Wells received a council salary of $121,000 while Barry Corbett got $118,000. Sideshow Bob received $225,000.

Isn't it good to know that our council 'representatives' are sharing the burden of these tough economic times?

Jim Anderton, of course, had plans to derail the CCHL gravy train but,unfortunately, a big earthquake intervened and Sideshow Bob fooled enough people to get himself re-elected.

Which means that Sideshow Bob, Barry Corbett, Sue Wells and almost certainly Tony Marryatt will be able to keep their snouts in the CCHL trough.

ASSANGE WANTED FOR 'HAVING SEX WITHOUT A CONDOM'


Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is the victim of a campaign of harassment and intimidation driven by the Obama administration.

Assange has turned himself into British authorities today and has been denied bail on the grounds he has no permanent address. The authorities did not accept the validity of the Australian address that he gave. He will remain in custody until December 14.

Assange says he does not consent to extradition to Sweden where he is wanted on 'sex charges.'

While the impression has been given that Assange is wanted for alleged rape, the reality is that he is wanted for supposedly violating an obscure Swedish law for having sex without a condom.

One of Assange's lawyers has accused Swedish prosecutors of 'making it up as they go along', and said that Sweden's justice system is destined to become the laughingstock of the world'for pursuing the case against Assange.

Another one of his lawyers has commented: 'I feel as if I'm in a surreal Swedish movie being threatened by bizarre trolls. The prosecutor has not asked to see Julian, never asked to interview him, and he hasn't been charged with anything. He's been told he's wanted for questioning, but he doesn't know the nature of the allegations against him.'

Meanwhile with less than one percent of the US State Department cables released, more businesses are pulling the plug on Wikileaks.

After Amazon and PayPal cut off the site, both Mastercard and Visa have now moved suspend service to WikiLeaks.

Responding to the news, freelance data journalist James Ball commmented on Twitter: "For freedom of speech, there's Wikileaks. For everything else, there's Mastercard. And Visa. And, um, Paypal And Amazon."

Wikileaks finds itself caught in a pincer movement driven by powerful government and corporate forces.

But, despite all this, Wikileaks remains online.

Julian Assange is threatening to drop 'a thermonuclear device' into cyberspace. This is reported to be a 1.4 GB encrypted file which has been downloaded by tens of thousands of supporters. The 256 digit code believed to unlock the file will be released only on Assange's instructions.

Various media reports says the file includes secret documents on British Petroleum, the US-run Guantanamo Bay detention facility and the Obama administration's dealings with Wall Street.

A GOOD CORPORATE PRESIDENT


Beware of so-called 'liberal' American president's bearing gifts.

Step up Barack Obama, the 'man of the people', who promised America 'change' and 'a new start', but who has proved he is yet another product of the system. It's been more of the same old same old. More of the same old bullshit.

Obama's latest travesty, if the Wall Street bailout isn't enough, has been to agree to the extension of George Bush' s tax cuts for America's wealthy.

It's estimated that this shonky deal will cost around $900 billion over two years - and most of this money will go to people who don't need it.

Families with incomes of over $1 million will reap an average of about $70,000, while middle-class families earning $50,000 a year will get an average of around $1,500.

If you are on the minimum wage or jobless then , tough, you get nothing.

Obama has agreed to this extension at a time when the US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) has recently issued a report that shows that corporate profits are at an historic high. The very same people who got bailed out by the taxpayer to the tune of over 12 trillion dollars (and rising) are living the lavish lifestyles they have become accustomed to.

According to the BEA:

'Profits from current production increased $44 billion in the third quarter compared with an increase of $47.5 billion in the second quarter'.

This is the fourth successive fiscal quarter that corporate American has recorded big profits.

But, wait, there's more!

If throwing a whole load of money at America's rich isn't enough, Obama has helpfully got rid of most of that pesky estate tax. There will be an the exemption up to $5 million per person and a maximum rate of 35 percent.

Meanwhile, outside the gated 'communities' of California and the lavish estates of New England, ordinary Americans have rapidly become disillusioned with Barack Obama.

Last weeks official figures revealed that unemployment rose to 9.8 percent in November. It was 9. 5 percent in October.

Over 15 million Americans were jobless in November. This doesn't include those who are working part-time but would prefer to work full time. Nor does it include a record 1.3 million who are too discouraged even to look for work.

Obama, trying to justify his abysmal deal with the Republican's, says he also got an extension of unemployment benefits. But after last week's dismal unemployment figures, Senate Republicans would have been forced to extend unemployment insurance anyway.

And what makes this deal even more unpalatable is that all polls have consistently shown that the majority of American's don't support the extension of Bush's tax cuts.

Obama could of made a stand for ordinary American's. But he didn't.

THE WAR AGAINST WIKILEAKS


In January of this year the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for an 'unfettered' internet and condemned all those who conducted cyberattacks.

'We stand for a single Internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas,' boasted Clinton in a major address that cited China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt among countries that censored the Internet or harassed bloggers.

Addressing concerns about cyber spying in China that prompted Google to threaten to quit that country, Clinton said 'countries or individuals that engage in cyberattacks should face consequences and international condemnation.'

But just a few months later Clinton and the Obama administration are engaged in exactly the same kind of behaviour that Clinton condemned in January.

Apparently it is not ok for the Chinese regime to launch a cyberattack on Google but it is ok for the United States to launch a cyberattack on Wikileaks.

The attack began not longer after the whistleblower site began releasing US diplomatic cables, which the United States Government would prefer that you and me didn't get to see.

In fact Wikileaks is fighting a battle on several fronts.

It is continuing to come under cyberattack but it has also had to deal with web servers refusing to host it.

Amazon Web Services dumped WikiLeaks from its servers after staffers from Senator Joe Lieberman's office called the California Internet company to 'inquire' about its relationship with Wikileaks.

In 2009 Lieberman was advocating a military strike against Iran in order to destroy its nuclear facilities.

On December 3 the American domain name provider for Wikileaks, EveryDNS, announced it had dropped Wikileaks because, it said, it too was coming under increasing attacks.

The war against Wikileaks has been unrelenting and in the last forty eight hours PayPal has refused to process donations to Wikileaks. On line donations are Wikileaks main source of funding. It is now solicitng donations via a German site.

Having previously happily processed such donations, PayPal has suddenly discovered a 'violation in terms';

'PayPal has permanently restricted the account used by Wikileaks due to a violation of the PayPal Acceptable Use Policy, which states that our payment service cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity. We've notified the account holder of this action.'

Wikileaks was, of course, the site that released documents that revealed that there have been over six years of civilian killings in both Afghanistan and Iraq and cases of illegal torture had become routinely ignored by the authorities.

PayPal doesn't think we have to right to know this.

On top of all this Wikileaks is having to contend with a campaign to have its founder, Julian Assange, thrown in jail on sex charges.

One week after initial charges were dropped, Swedish prosecutors suddenly reopened an alleged case against him

Assange says its all part of the campaign against Wikileaks. His lawyers say that he has yet to receive formal notice of the allegations he faces - a legal requirement under European law.

Earlier this year, Wikileaks released the cockpit video of a US Apache gunship killing 19 civilians in Iraq, including journalists and children,

Immediately following the release of the Apache footage, Assange had his passport temporarily confiscated when he returned home to Australia. The Labor government denied it had received requests from Washington to detain him. Assange wasn't convinced and decided Australia was no longer safe and left the country.

Of course the United States is not admitting it is engaged in an war against Wikileaks - the kind of war that Hillary Clinton said should be the subject of 'international condemnation'.

To muddy the waters, convenient stories have started to appear in the corporate media suggesting that the cyberattacks could be the work of a single 'patriotic individual'.

It has even been suggested that the Chinese government is responsible. Perhaps this story is meant to capitalise on anti--Chinese sentiment within the United States.

But as a Pentagon paper released in August said, the game plan of the White House is to 'marginalise Wikileaks'. It looks like it'll go to any lengths to achieve its goal.

Wikileaks has reopened its website on a server in Switzerland and three new websites in three countries are hosting its main page.

WHERE IS WIKILEAKS? HERE IT IS...


I've had a couple of emails from people who are getting increasingly frustrated because they cannot access Wikileaks.Not surprisingly, they can't find it.

Wikileaks uses sites in a number of countries to distribute secret US State Department communications, but several of its hosts have come under cyberattack or under pressure to deny Wikileaks service. Wikileaks has been migrating to different servers.

Wikileaks is presently located here but there are no guarantees this address will not get blocked eventually.

WIKILEAKS LOSES WEB HOST


It looks like Barack, Hillary and co are pulling out all the stops to disable Wikileaks.

From the Huffington Post we read:


New York — The website of WikiLeaks, the organization that just released a trove of sensitive U.S. State Department documents, appears to have lost or left its main Web host, Amazon.com.

The main website and a sub-site devoted to the diplomatic documents were unavailable from the U.S. and Europe on Wednesday, as Amazon servers refused to acknowledge requests for data.

Availability of the sites has been spotty since Sunday, when it started to come under a series of Internet-based attacks by unknown hackers. WikiLeaks dealt with the attacks in part by moving to servers run by Amazon Web Services, which is self-service.

Amazon.com Inc. would not comment on its relationship with WikiLeaks or whether it forced the site to leave. Messages seeking comment from WikiLeaks were not immediately returned.

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