THE CTU'S NEW VIDEO BOMBS ON YOUTUBE!

Since the CTU posted its 'Tougher' video on YouTube on March 24, it has had a mere 124 views. So that's something like a dozen people a day have bothered to look at it. And probably most of them have been union officials - and the people who appear in it. And me.

The video, an attack on the Government's new labour laws that come in tomorrow, is a component of the CTU's so-called 'online clicktivism' campaign against the new legislation.

Even video of paint drying is getting more hits than the CTU's latest video effort.

Yes, this is the 'new unionism' of our dismal union leadership...

THE FAT CATS GET FATTER

While the poor are getting poorer the rich are getting a whole lot richer.

Forbes
magazine recently published its 'World's Richest People' List.

It reveals that there are now 1,011 billionaires in 56 countries, 218 more than last year. The actual net worth of the world’s billionaires has risen by around 50 per cent, clear evidence that the world’s rich are getting richer at the expense of everyone else.

Forbes Editor in Chief Steve Forbes has laughably claimed that both the number of new billionaires and the increase in their net worth is 'proof' that the world economy is 'recovering'.

But what it really confirms is that there has been a continued distribution of wealth from the poor to the rich. It's the 'trickle down ' theory in reverse.

In Mr Forbes own country poverty is at a 15 year high, with one in seven Americans falling below the poverty line.

In 2010 nearly 44 million Americans were living in poverty.

A recent local example of the 'trickle up' theory in action is Minister of Finance Bill English giving the wealthy even more money in the way of substantial tax cuts - tax cuts that Bill thinks he and his mates should keep, although he is telling everyone else that they have to 'pay up' for the rebuilding of Christchurch.

JUST ANOTHER CTU FARCE

How hopeless is the union leadership in this country? How cowardly are they? Can they get any more inept? How many more ways can they find to avoid launching a fightback against John Key and his cronies?

Try this on for size

The CTU leadership have comprehensively failed to put up any real resistance to the Government's austerity policies and yesterday it launched a campaign that is a very poor substitute for strikes and demonstrations. It's the kind of fightback that you would expect to be launched by people who should be in middle management somewhere, giving Powerpoint presentations.

It was launched yesterday by the right wing leadership of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, led by Andrew Little. He is, of course, also the Labour Party president and a man fondly described by employers as 'a pleasure to work with'.

It's called the 'Things just got tougher' campaign and it opposes the government’s new workplace law changes that take effect this Friday.

These include that extension the 90-day 'fire-at-will' law to all workplaces, the restriction of union access to workplaces, allowing employers to demand a medical certificate for a single day of sick leave or family leave, and allowing the selling off of the fourth week of holiday entitlement.

But if the going is getting tougher that doesn't mean the tough get going. Remember, we're talking the CTU here. It always take the path of least resistance.

There won't be any demonstrations or strikes because that is incompatible with the 'modern unionism' of the CTU. It's also incompatible with giving Labour 'a clear run' at the general election in November.

Instead the EPMU is sending people to politely ask bosses not to implement the new laws. Instead of using its industrial muscle the CTU is cravenly pleading to bosses not to enforce the new legislation. Yes, it is pathetic.

The EPMU have also launched a 'multimedia media' to go along with the pleading.

According to Andrew Little this includes 'online ‘clicktivism’, radio and newspaper advertising, and online social media information pages.'

All this empty campaign proves is that CTU have failed to organise any real resistance on basic economic issues. Call me old fashioned, but isn't that what trade unions are supposed to do?

Who is this campaign supposed to convince? The general populace? Bosses? The Government?

The chances that the Government and bosses are going to persuaded by a 30 second radio or television commercial is zero. How much money is the CTU wasting on these TV and radio commercials?

Similarly it's more than likely that the Government and employers will view Little's 'online clicktivism' as 'online bullshitivism'. 'Online clicktivism' simply replaces real political action with marketing.

Instead of giving us a massive and united campaign of resistance to the Government's polices the CTU has given us a Facebook page.

A USELESS LEADER AND A USELESS PARTY

You may have noticed that this blog has been a 'Darren Hughes Free Zone'.

There's a reason for that. The whole affair has bored me silly. While the Hughes affair has been gold for our increasingly tabloid media, I'm not much interested in what Hughes or any other politician get up to in their private lives. And it'll be the up to the legal beagles to decide whether or not Hughes has a criminal charge to answer.

So I haven't spent a lot of time reading the torrent of articles and opinion pieces on Mr Hughes.

I've been tempted to write off the Hughes affair as a load of 'sound and fury signifying nothing', but what has been interesting is the way that Hughes' late night antics have undermined the leadership of Phil Goff.

Goff has been criticised from both within and outside the Labour Party over his handling of the affair. Goff kept details of the police investigation secret for more than two weeks and Hughes only went public after the story broke in the media.

Depending on who you believe Goff will be removed as leader within a few weeks, especially if the opinion polls continue to show Labour failing to make any headway against the Government. Or he will stagger on to a November election defeat because there is no obvious successor.

One thing is for certain though. Goff won't be shown the door, either before the election or after it, because he remains an unreconstructed neoliberal politician flogging failed and discredited policies.

There is no opposition within Labour to Goff's neoliberalism. His crime is that, in a time of economic crisis, he has comprehensively failed to improve Labour's political fortunes.

According to the NZ Herald:

There is already widespread angst within Labour at Goff's inability to make traction against a hugely popular prime minister and a government that should be vulnerable on many fronts, including the economy and spending cuts.

Labour Party members fear that Goff will lead them to a 2002 scenario, when Bill English led National to its worst defeat.


Such is Labour's degeneration that there is no recognition from either its MPs or its party functionaries that Labour has failed to be an effective parliamentary opposition because it has failed to offer an economic alternative to the neoliberal policies of the National-led Government.

An alternative is surely another path, a different way, a choice. But Labour has no alternative idea to offer. Indeed it also believes that the working class has to pay for a economic crisis that it is not responsible for.

Such is Labour's timidity, its lack of vision, its lack of imagination and its reactionary defence of the status quo, that it cannot envisage a New Zealand that isn't beholden to the demands of the 'free market'. It is still joined at the hip to the ideology of neoliberalism and that's why it has been such a feeble opposition.

Changing leaders won't alter that fact.

WHERE ARE OUR DEMONSTRATIONS?

An estimated half a million people marched in London yesterday to protest the Government's austerity policies.

As columnist Laurie Penny wrote in the New Statesman on the eve of the demonstration:

The business elites have been allowed to vampirise the future, and instead of being made to pay for their mistakes, they brazenly demand more tribute. Our barely-elected representatives cheerfully force us into lines to pay the tithe, breaking the heads of children in parliament square if they refuse to comply. As we get ready to march, a government with little mandate is turning our country into a smooth-running cartel to serve the petulant demands of global finance.


Sound a little like New Zealand today?

So where are our demonstrations? Where is the fightback?

The National-led Government have been allowed to impose severe austerity measures - and there are more to come - without either the CTU or the PSA offering any meaningful resistance. They have surrendered the future to the forces of capital and, yet, have the cheek to begin a campaign to recruit new members!

You, dear reader, are supposed to see voting for the right wing Labour Party as you're political salvation. What a joke. And the joke is on us.

We are being sold down the river yet again by a bunch of over-paid deadbeats masquerading as union 'leaders'.

MUMBO JUMBO

In his weekly Press column, Chris Trotter speculates as to why his Christian God allowed Christchurch to suffer a catastrophic earthquake on February 22. Unfortunately instead of displaying the intellectual rigor he regularly exhibits when writing about politics, he resorts to mumbo jumbo.

But its not any old mumbo jumbo. It has to be the right kind of mumbo jumbo. And that isn't the mumbo jumbo of the Dean of Christchurch Cathedral, Peter Beck. He believes in the wrong kind of mumbo jumbo.

Beck's mix of Anglicanism and New Age spiritualism doesn't impress the more conventional Chris Trotter.

Beck has attempted to excuse God's non intervention on February 22 on the grounds that...'we live on a dynamic, creating planet that’s doing its thing', apparently independent of God.

I would argue that if God is not powerful enough to do something about the world’s periodic murderous callousness towards human beings, then in what sense is he a god?

If God is not competent to stop an earthquake or save its victims, then how can it be claimed he had the capability to create an entire world and universe?

But that's not Chris Trotter's argument. He's disputing Beck's portrayal of God. He accuses the good Dean of deifying Mother Nature and that , writes Trotter, puts Beck in breach of his own Christian faith that says there is only God. It's a short skip and a jump from here to condemning all other religions for following the 'wrong' God.

The thorny problem for Chris is he can't bag the good Dean without explaining why his version of God went AWOL on February 22.

Trotter writes that God 'is with us always' but he can't, of course, provide any evidence for this big claim. You'll have to take his word for it. Or not.

But if God is always with us where was he on February 22 and why didn't he have the good manners to prevent that bloody quake?

Trotter's explanation is pure mumbo jumbo. He seems to be resorting to Christian mysticism.

He says he doesn't have to explain God's behaviour on the grounds that God is unexplainable.

Trotter writes that God is 'beyond our questions; beyond our understanding; beyond our judgement.' So there.

This won't do at all. Trotter can't criticise someone else's interpretation of God and then refuse to justify the behaviour of his own version of the man in the sky on the grounds that God is 'beyond our understanding'.

I can understand Chris not wanting to tie himself up in intellectual knots trying to defend God but, really, he's copping out big time.

I think he knows it too because he seeks solace in the work of the Christian apologist CS Lewis.

He quotes Lewis who wrote that God 'is not a pet to be called for and dismissed at our convenience. On the contrary, he is an altogether dangerous being.'

A 'dangerous being'? Well, if God created a dangerous world that inflicts violent and agonizing sufferings arbitrarily on its inhabitants, then he is not 'dangerous' - he is a disgrace. And very nasty.

IRAQ. AFGHANISTAN. LIBYA.


Is the United States and its western allies present military action in Libya really all about 'humanitarian intervention' and an attempt to defend the Libyan liberation forces?

We have to view this interpretation, presently being uncritically expounded by the mainstream media, with a huge amount of scepticism.

If the United States and its western groupies (like New Zealand) are so concerned about humanitarian matters why has there never been any enthusiasm for 'humanitarian intervention' whenever Israel engages in military action in Lebanon or the Palestinian occupied territories?

So while our own Foreign Minister Murray McCully is fully in support of the military action in Libya he didn't show the same enthusiasm for military action when Israel invaded Gaza in 2009. Indeed he refused to condemn the Israeli invasion. McCully's response to the atrocities of the Israeli military was that New Zealand 'wasn't going to take sides'.

Nor has McCully had anything to say about the Bahrain regime violently crushing the democratic movement , with the assistance of a Saudi invasion force.

Two of the Arab states who support the 'humanitarian intervention' are Qatar and the UAE. They joined Saudi Arabia in crushing the resistance in Bahrain.

McCully would endorse the comments of US republican Senator Lindsey Graham owho said last month 'there are regimes we want to change, and those we don’t'.

But its full steam ahead as far as Gadaffi and Libya are concerned.

Gadaffi, like Mubarak in Egypt, was viewed as friend because his regime provided 'regional stability' and presented no threat to western interests

While British fighter jets are now bombing Libyan military installations it was only last year that the Conservative-Lib Dem Government approved the sale of tear-gas, small arms ammunition and crowd-control equipment to the Gadaffi regime.

In the end this 'humanitarian intervention' is yet another exercise in protecting western interests, specifically taking control of Libya's oil resources. Libya is one of the world's richest oil-producing countries.

Significantly, Libya is the first major oil exporter to be directly affected by the protests sweeping the Middle East. And,as we have already seen, the crisis in Libya has had a significant impact on oil prices and this is happening when there is rising demand for oil from developing countries.

Gadaffi should -must - be removed but, if it is to truly benefit the Libyan people, it must be by the way of the democratic revolutions we have seen in Tunisia, and Egypt.

The present western military 'intervention' can only serve to protect the interests of western capital.

IT'S A WIN-WIN SITUATION FOR GOD!

Why is it that insurances companies (for instance) describe natural disasters, like Christchurch's recent earthquake, as an 'act of God' but our religious leaders say that, actually, God wasn't responsible for the natural disaster that has befallen the city that you live in. God, apparently, wasn't being omnipresent at the time. Perhaps he was watching the footy or taking a nap.

At the memorial service in Christchurch on Friday various religious leaders (and, boy, wasn't there a lot of them?) told the crowd, and everyone watching on television, to trust in God, have faith in God and even thank God.

'Thank' God? For what exactly? Wiping out entire streets?

I don't pretend to be an expert on theology but I do know that one of the major differences between modern religion and the less 'sophisticated' tribal and folk religions of ancient days is that our predecessors didn't make excuses for God. If a disaster struck the community God didn't get excused for doing nothing to prevent it.

They thanked God for the good things that happened and blamed him for the bad things that happened. They played straight with God.

But, in these more 'enlightened' days, its a win-win situation for the man in the sky. He gets praised for the good things that happen in our lives but he isn't responsible for any of the bad things. God gets to eat his cake and keep it too!

How can this be? How come God is praised for performing miracles but is handed a 'get out of jail free' card for things like earthquakes and tsunamis? How come he only intervenes in the world when good things happen?

And why did our religious leaders in North Hagley Park on Friday lead the crowd in prayer to a God that stood idly by while half of Christchurch was flattened? I find that offensive to my intellect. Not to mention my sense of fair play.

Of course this knotty problem has kept theologians occupied for years and I'm not about to go into their intellectual gymnastics here.

None of their arguments explain away the double standard that is applied to God and some of the arguments are entirely reprehensible. Like the argument 'that God sometimes causes natural disasters as a judgment against sin.'

In the end what we can say for certain is that the idea that God should receive our gratitude for the good things that happen in life but should not be held accountable for the disasters is plainly nonsensical.

JUNK SCIENCE, VOODOO ECONOMICS

This Sunday (March 20), members of the New Zealand Sceptics Society will be attending a 'non-event' luncheon in Christchurch.

They will marking the failure of another one of Ken Ring's predictions that there will be another big earthquake in Christchurch on or 'around' March 20. Indeed if old Ken is right, Christchurch could have a massive quake right now as I sit here at my computer. And I've just done the housework as well.

The luncheon will be held at the Sign of the Kiwi restaurant, located in an old brick building at the top of the Port Hills. The Sceptics Society say that this was closest building available to the epicentre of the February 22 quake.

This will be perhaps the most high profile attack on the junk science of Ring, who thinks he can predict quakes by the movement of the moon.

Ken Ring has generally been taken to task by the scientific community, the media and several politicians for promoting his cranky theories at a time when Christchurch is a city gripped by anxiety and uncertainly.

While I have no time for the theories of Ken Ring - although many people apparently do - he is an easy target. He's an eccentric out on the fringes but now enjoying his two minutes of 'fame', peddling a theory which has no legitimacy in scientific circles.

It's a pity that the media have not pursued and condemned the wild predictions of people who, unlike Ken Ring, have done real damage to this country.

I'm talking about the acolytes of the 'free market' who have been predicting an 'economic recovery' for many years now.

But, unlike Ken Ring, these promoters of voodoo economics haven't been treated with scorn and derision. No sir. In fact their nonsensical predictions are discussed earnestly in Parliament in the newspapers, on the TV, in the radio, on blogs.

It doesn't seem to matter that they NEVER get it right. It doesn't seem to matter they are promoting economic theories that are junk. But unlike Ring's quackery, the quackery of neoliberalism is treated with reverence, it is ascribed legitimacy.

So many of these wild predictions of 'economic recovery' have been made in recent years I could write a small book on the subject. But here's a few notable wacky predictions to illustrate my point:

* In December last year Westpac economist Brendan O'Donovan predicted that New Zealand 'could have a ripsnorter of a year' in 2011. He went on to say that 'I think we could be on the cusp of a golden decade in terms of economic prosperity.'

In September 2009 he predicted that an economic recovery 'would be fuelled by a migration-driven housing construction boom.'

In 2008 he predicted that 'leading indicators were pointing to a strong recovery in global manufacturing activity.'

A trifecta of wrong predictions! Why hasn't he been ranted at on Campbell Live?

* In March last year the Prime Minister predicted on TVNZ's Q+A that we could expect 'an aggressive recovery in 2010'. Two months later, at a National Party regional conference, he baldly stated that 'the worst of the global crisis has now passed and the economy has begun to grow again'.

A double dip recession has since got in the way.

* In May last year Chris Tennent Brown, an economist with the ASB, claimed that 'the labour market has turned' and predicted a 'strong economic recovery'. Tennent Brown regularly fronts TV3's ASB-sponsored business segment on its six o'clock news show. He hasn't been sacked for not knowing what he's talking about.

*Just a couple of months earlier TVNZ's Corin Dann, now co-hosting TV1's Breakfast, predicted on his blog that the economic good times were near. He wrote: 'one can't help but sense that a proper recovery (similar to that in Australia) is just around the corner.' Nice one, Corin!

Unlike Ken Ring, who is a bit of a sideshow and will eventually return to the fringe from whence he came, the acolytes of neoliberalism are still out there peddling their failed theories and predictions.

Ironically one of those acolytes of the free market will be attending the luncheon on Sunday. That's Minister Nick Smith.

He has described Ring as 'reckless and irresponsible' and that he ought to be held to account for his predictions of a further earthquake in Christchurch.

Will anyone be holding Nick Smith to account for his 'reckless and irresponsible' belief in voodoo economics? I doubt it.

'GRANDIOSE, EMPTY GESTURE'

The thing that makes me feel particularly upset is the national memorial service in Hagley Park on Friday.

Just who is this memorial service for? It's not for Christchurch. It's not for the families who lost loved ones in the February 22 quake.

It's a grandiose, empty gesture starring so-called V.I.Ps - Prince William, Prime Minister John Key, Aussie PM Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott and presumably other assorted boring people in suits.

Lite background entertainment provided by Hayley Westenra, parachuted in from elsewhere, to sing the national anthem.

Some say it is just too soon for a memorial service and I agree. Life is still too raw here for us to have a memorial. With a memorial comes some form of closure - we're just not in that place yet. To the rest of New Zealand and visiting dignitaries the earthquake might be old news but it's not to us, the ones living through it.


Vicki Anderson, The Press, March 18


I couldn't agree more.

BOB CLAIMS HE IS SHARING THE PAIN!

Bob just can't help making things up, can he?

At this afternoon's press conference to announce the inevitable cancellation of the Rugby World Cup games in Christchurch, our hero had this to say:

'We're facing a really long hard winter here in this city of ours,' Poor Bob. He looked so glum. He was obviously thinking about all those photo opportunities that would no longer be coming his way.

'We're' facing the winter of our discontent, Bob? Really?

What problems will you be facing Bob?

Will you be living in a garage this winter, Bob? Will you be living a severely damaged home without water and adequate sanitation? Will you be having to live with the knowledge that you're neighbourhood could be condemned as 'uninhabitable? Will you be one of the 9000-10000 people who will lose their jobs?

Or will you be one of the council tenants out in the Eastside who still have pay rent despite the fact their homes are damaged and they don't have water or adequate sanitation?

I don't think so.

In fact Bob could very well be contributing to 'the really long hard winter' if he goes ahead and puts up the rates by 5.32 percent An- estimated 2.67 percent - would go to covering the debts incurred by the redevelopment of the AMI Stadium. That stadium will now have to have millions more thrown at it to repair the significant structural damage

Bob might want everyone in the Eastside to believe that he is 'sharing the pain' but the reality is something else altogether.

Tell us all about the 'really long hard winter' that you are facing, Bob. Don't be shy.

If you can't do that then I have three words of advice. Just. Shut. Up.

DIVIDED CITY

A provincial public holiday has been set aside for Canterbury this Friday and a national memorial service will be held in Christchurch's North Hagley Park.

In my travels in the 'Eastside' (which is a term I am going to use from now on, because I like it) I haven't detected a great deal of enthusiasm for the timing of the memorial service. The general opinion is a memorial service should be held but not a mere three weeks after the devastating quake.

An online Press poll, when I looked at it yesterday, showed that 5786 people (53.6%) thought the memorial service was too soon while 4880 votes,( 45.2%) thought it was 'about right'. I suspect that those who think the service is much too soon would be far higher in the Eastside.

It's not hard to work out why.

Out in the eastern suburbs people are living in damaged houses and many are without power,water or adequate sanitation. The roads look like they have been bombed and there is mud and water everywhere.

Many people are in temporary accommodation, like garages, that could be home for many months to come.

And let's not forget the smell. The stench coming from various streams is very bad. Yesterday I couldn't walk beside a small stream because of the stench coming from it.

While Mayor Bob Parker is attending cricket matches in Wellington, folk in the Eastside are wondering if they have a future in Christchurch given that John Key has indicated that the suburbs they are currently residing in may be classified as no longer 'habitable'.

If this memorial service is intended to be some kind of 'cathartic' experience for the city , then it really is an insult to the Eastside which will be struggling with the aftermath of this quake for months to come. There will be no 'catharsis' for the Eastside and certainly no sense of 'moving forward'.

Naturally Mayor Bob Parker isn't on our side. On Friday's Close Up on Television One he was asked if he thought it was 'the right time' to have a memorial service only three weeks after the quake . Sideshow Bob circled the question, speculated if any time was ' a right time', and then finally said he was in favour of the service. We got there in the end.

But Bob couldn't say anything else because that would have placed him in direct opposition to a Prime Minister and a Government he loyally supports.

Some of us might let ourselves be persuaded by sentiment to support the memorial service but that doesn't make it any less a service driven by the political establishment, a establishment hugely unrepresentative of Christchurch.

While they will speak much of the 'tragedy' we should not forget that many of them are the very same people who have failed the Eastside.

The eastern suburbs have had to wait for weeks for basic services and many still don't have them . Many streets still don't have portaloos. Last week the authorities were scrambling to get 30,000 chemical toilets out to the Eastside.

Sideshow Bob has held a number of community meetings out east (a relatively new experience for Bob I might add) and while he has denied that the meetings have been 'angry' at one meeting, which I attended, he was accused of favouring his mates and ignoring the eastern suburbs.

Since the Minister of Earthquake Recovery Gerry Brownlee admitted a fortnight ago that the eastern suburbs had been 'neglected' its a bit late in the day for Sideshow Bob to claim that its all 'peace and light' out in the east. Shambala it ain't.

Bob and the Government think a memorial ceremony will dampen the anger and engender some kind of 'unity' Not only are they wrong they have badly misjudged the political climate in Christchurch.

That Sideshow Bob seriously thinks that the visit of Prince Willie will give Christchurch 'optimism' just goes to prove just how out of touch he is with ordinary people.

The memorial service will not paper over the yawning divide that now visibly exists between the poorer suburbs of the east and the favoured suburbs of the west.

CORPORATE WELFARE FOR MEDIAWORKS

For many years I have railed against Kiwi FM (which consistently rates at about 0.1%) squatting in the three FM frequencies that had been originally reserved for a non commercial youth radio network(YRN).

The low rating Kiwi FM, controlled by Mediaworks, was about to be taken off the air when MediaWorks boss Brent Impey stitched up a backroom deal with Steve Maharey, the Minister of Broadcasting in the Helen Clark government, and came away with the three valuable frequencies.

As I wrote early last year:

How all this came about is a bit of mystery - especially since Labour had come up with the idea of an youth radio network in the first place - but its clear that MediaWorks Brent Impey lobbied Maharey hard. Impey was worried that a non-commercial youth radio network would pull audience away from the MediaWorks stable of stations such as The Rock and More FM.

I also wrote in another post:

What is also clear is that Maharey sideswiped his own Government's advisory group. The group, made up of representatives from student radio, access radio and some other media-savvy young people, was asked to consider the network among other options for enhancing radio services for youth.

Maharey, in an attempt to justify bailing out a media corporate, claimed that Kiwi FM would have a year to prove itself and then the station's performance would be reviewed.

A year went by and Kiwi FM failed to attract new listeners. Maharey though went back on his promise and he never conducted any review.

Brent Impey had effectively lifted the FM frequencies from under the nose of the supporters of the YRN. Ironically he had previously argued that the FM frequencies should never be given by the Government to anyone (ie the YRN) for free.

And so today, Kiwi Fm remains on air. It's listened to by just about no one but Mediaworks don't care because they succeeded in scuttling the YRN, championed by such luminaries as Neil Finn of Crowded House.

Finn said of the YRN in 2002:

Those of us who have championed this idea for many years have done so with the belief that it will enliven and empower young people and make New Zealand a more exciting place to live. If we let this opportunity slip away, it will not come again and we will never know what wonderful things might have unfolded.


Now we discover that MedIaworks have been the recipients of even more corporate welfare but from a National-led government this time round.

The latest outrage is that it has been received a $43.3 million loan from the Government to enable it to renew its radio broadcasting licences for the next 20 years.

So not only does MediaWorks manage to get three FM frequencies for nothing it also get s substantial loan to help it pay for its radio broadcasting licences for the next 20 years.

It's nice work if you can get it, especially since MediaWorks announced a massive $314 million loss last year.

It's nothing more than corporate welfare for an organisation that has consistently attacked public broadcasting in this country. But Communications Minister Steven Joyce insists the money was 'just a deferred payment' to help MediaWorks radio network through some tough financial times in 2009.

This view has been echoed by the drive time host on one of MediaWorks radio stations - the low rating tailback station Radio Live.

That host is none other than the man who helped to scuttle the YRN - Brent Impey.

Impey 'resigned' as CEO of MediaWorks in 2009 He fell on his sword after poor financial performances from TV3 and 4 resulted in the board demanding he cut staff numbers. When he refused he was shown the door marked 'Exit'.

Impey's views on Mediaworks generous government loan, has been backed up by the stations 7-10pm hosts, Karyn Hay and Andrew Fagan. . They used to be the breakfast hosts on Kiwi FM and, indeed Hay was the station's general manager. The couple left Kiwi FM after Hay failed to deliver improved ratings.

Hay's views have to be approached with considerable caution as she had no problem with Brent Impey stitching up a backroom deal with Steve Maharey and scuttling the YRN.

The picture gets murkier given that the Minister of Communications Steven Joyce was the former owner of Radioworks, Mediawork's radio network.

Joyce says that he has had 'no dealings with the company in the eight years since.'

It's a pity that the enthusiasm that the Government has displayed in helping a commercial broadcaster doesn't extend to public broadcasting as well.

The Government is expected to cut funding to TVNZ7, undermining public broadcasting once again. Indeed without public funding, TVNZ7 is likely to fold.

Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman has apparently been unable to convince influential figures in the Cabinet to find a way to save the channel. One such 'influential figure' is Steven Joyce, a man not known for having any love for the public broadcasting ethos. He's happy to help out his mates in the commercial media though.

The Government has confirmed that TVNZ is a public broadcaster in name only. It's only obligation to Government is to provide a 9 percent return on its investment each year.

NZ will be alone amongst developed countries in having no public service television. And that's a disgrace.

HURRAH! RICH GIT TO VISIT CHRISTCHURCH!

Mayor Sideshow Bob thinks that the visit of Prince William, sends a message of 'real optimism' to Christchurch.

Bob, last seen masquerading as Christchurch's new 'working class hero', thinks that the impending visit of British Royalty will give the city 'a sense of pride, faith and optimism'. And, of course, Bob will get himself on national television once again. What next? The cover of the women's magazines? Oh, that's right- he's already done that.

Yes, I'm sure people without homes, without power, without water, and without sanitation will be bursting with pride and optimism merely at the thought of a visit of a member of one of the world'S richest families - and possibly the most useless.

What would make Christchurch people a lot happier is Sideshow Bob not putting their rates up in order to pay for the budget blowout at the AMI Stadium.

And perhaps he could tell council tenants in damaged flats in the 'eastside' that they don't have to pay rent for the next several weeks.

Unlike Bob, most of New Zealand couldn't care less about the Windsors...

AFTER THE QUAKE - A RATES INCREASE!

With the assistance of The Press, Sideshow Bob is still on his ludicrous PR drive to portray himself as something that he has repeatedly demonstrated that he isn't - a 'People's Mayor'.

So in another awful article in The Press today Bob is portrayed as the 'caring and sharing' mayor. The newspaper, once again forgetting that PR isn't journalism, informs us that its noses to the grindstone in the Parker household:

'While most Christchurch dwellers have been kept relatively sheltered since the earthquake, locked out of the destruction in the CBD, Mr Parker and wife Jo Nicholls-Parker have immersed themselves in the recovery work.

Running on adrenaline, the couple have gone to the earthquake headquarters at 5.30am daily since the quake, only returning home after dark.'

His wife, taking time off from another visit to the hairdresser, tells the reader that her husband's duty is to lift the city's morale.

'He lives and breathes this job and always has. And this place just has to keep going.'

Apparently lifting the city's morale also means lifting the rates.

Bob and his faithful right hand man , CEO Tony Marryatt, want the government to push through emergency laws that will allow the Christchurch City Council to implement a planned 5.32 per cent rates rise without public consultation.

Such an increase would mean Sideshow breaking his election promise that any rates increase would be under 4 percent

Marryatt was at the Beehive yesterday.

Much of this rates increase - an estimated 2.67 percent - would go to covering the debts incurred by the redevelopment of the AMI Stadium.

Four years ago former Mayor Garry Moore pledged to the good people of Christchurch that they would not have to pay for the $60 million upgrade of AMI Stadium . He assured ratepayers that the stadium upgrade would not any financial impact on them - 'none whatsoever'.

Now it looks like the Christchurch ratepayer , already under considerable financial pressure, is going to be forced to foot a $45 million debt blowout by the city council-owned stadium operator Vbase

Garry Moore publicly supported Sideshow Bob's bid for the mayoralty and has since been employed by the city council on a 'freelance' basis.

Shortly before the quake hit Deputy-Mayor Ngaire Button defended the looming stadium bailout on the grounds that the Rugby World Cup games, scheduled to be played at the AMI Stadium, would be ' a real benefit' to the city.

This was a flimsy argument at the time but since the AMI stadium is now unlikely to host any games Button's argument has effectively been rendered redundant.

It'll be interesting to see how Bob - 'the People's Mayor' - attempts to justify this rates increase to ratepayers in the eastern suburbs who have been going without power, sewerage and water for much of the time since the quake.

A rates boycott may well be looming on the horizon.

Of course some people will defend Sideshow Bob to the bitter end and one such person is Councillor Sue Wells, who harbours ambitions for the mayoralty herself and is also a supporter of the National Party. She has described Sideshow's so-called 'leadership' as 'constructive' and 'positive'.

And if you believe that you will believe just about anything.

SIDESHOW BOB - THE WORKING CLASS HERO!


With the help of Fairfax Media, Sideshow Bob has gone on a ludicrous PR drive in an attempt to convince the angry residents of the working class suburbs of eastern Christchurch, that he is 'one of us'.

He even paid a special visit to the east, to be photographed with some of 'the locals'. Bob is rarely seen out here 'in the sticks' except when he's looking for votes. He's always preferred the wine bars of central Christchurch.

The Press has published a 'Isn't Bob wonderful?' article, masquerading as legitimate journalism, which has also appeared in the Sunday Star Times.

How bad is it? Try this on for size:

'The earthquake mayor is spreading his smile across the shattered east of his city. Bob Parker is the working-class boy with the voice of a toff who knows how to handle a crowd who haven't had a shower for a while.'


This is putrid stuff but it's interesting that Bob suddenly wants to play up his working class 'credentials' since he has spent the best part of his life trying to play them down.

This is the politician whose last two mayoral election campaigns were supported by business interests and by property developers. Faced with being soundly defeated by Jim Anderton at the last mayoral election a desperate Bob finally owned up to his National Party allegiances and called on help from John Key, who duly showed up at a fundraising event.

It was another National Party supporter, John Fairhall, who bought Sideshow's Akaroa homestead for $1.85 million in 2008.

Fairhall, managing director of Archibalds car dealership. donated $5000 to Parker's October 2007 election campaign. He later supplied Parker with his $120,000 Porsche Sportster 'mayoral car'.

Another high profile supporter of Parker was, of course, the failed property developer and ferociously anti-working class Dave Henderson. Parker and his council supporters subsequently paid $17 million for five of 'Hendo's' central city properties.

Yes, Bob is such a good old working class boy that he slashed council funding to struggling community groups while at the same time forking out $5 million for the Ellerslie Garden show - a nice wee plaything for his supporters in the wealthy suburbs of Fendalton and Merivale.

He also attempted to put up the rents of council tenants by a massive 24 percent, which was ruled illegal by the High Court. The flats are home to some of Christchurch's poorest and most disadvantaged people.

Bob, the good old working class boy, also expects council tenants to keep paying their rent even though they have no power, water or sewerage services.

Tenants still living in council flats in the eastern suburbs have been told they will be no rent 'holiday'.

One tenant asked for a discount and was refused.

Bob so wants to be seen as a 'friend' of the east side, the article has him employing working class jargon. Suddenly damaged buildings are 'munted' and 'mega-munted'. It's contrived and it's dishonest but it's so typical of Sideshow Bob.

But it looks like Fairfax Media and The Press are quite happy to go along with this pathetic charade.

KEY'S DEBACLE, BROWNLEE'S IDIOCY

Many people in the hard hit eastern suburbs of Christchurch are still without power, water and sewerage. I was without these amenities for seven days and that was barely tolerable. These guys are still doing it tough nearly a fortnight later.

And it was into the badly hit eastern suburbs that the Prime Minister dropped into yesterday courtesy of an army helicopter.

Key paid a visit to the Bexley power sub-station and a fleeting visit to one street and one school.

If this exercise was designed to assure residents - and the country - that the Government was 'on the case', it was a PR disaster.

On the news we saw Key collared by one reasonable - but obviously stressed - woman who pointedly told Key that she and her neighbourhood still had no power and they didn't know what was happening. Key had nothing to offer but bland assurances.

And in a testy exchange with a television journalist Key bristled when it was suggested Civil Defence had ignored the eastern suburbs. 'That's your opinion,' grumped Key, a tactic he often employs when he wants to shut down a line of questioning.

But just a day earlier the Earthquake Recovery Minister, Gerry Brownlee, had admitted that the eastern suburbs had been 'neglected'.

Many residents were less than impressed by Key's visit. A friend of mine said he should have stayed away.

'I was pissed he was wearing a Canterbury rugby shirt, thinking it would give him kudos with the locals. What would he know about what's going on here?'

The level of tension hasn't been lessened by Gerry Brownlee. He has ridiculously claimed 'some residents don't understand the full extent of the quake damage.'

Given that those same residents are living in damaged houses and are without the basic amenities, one would of thought they are fully aware of the 'full extent of the quake damage' Brownlee's insulting comments will only infuriate people further.

The eastern suburbs contain a lot of poor people who have been the victims of nearly thirty years of the divisive policies of neoliberalism.

While Key might have dropped in promising all the help that his Government can muster, he is also the leader of a Government that is conducting a massive attack on the New Zealand working class.

None of the residents in the areas that Key has visited received generous tax cuts. Many are on the minimum wage that Key only increased by a derisory 25 cents an hour. A great many 'Eastside' residents are on benefits and are now experiencing increased harassment from Work and Income, with the Government intent on slashing welfare services.

All this is occurring while the cost of living continues to soar.

And who knows what nasty surprises John Key has in store for the very people he is presently trying to align himself with. In the background lurks Paula Bennett and her 'welfare reforms'.

My friend is right. John Key turning up in the eastern suburbs in a Canterbury rugby shirt didn't fool anyone.

COUNCILLOR ATTACKS QUAKE VICTIMS

One of the very last things that quake victims need is to be criticised by people who are supposed to be representing and promoting their interests.

But that's exactly what Christchurch councillor Aaron Keown has done.

Keown, who is one of two councillors for the Shirley-Papanui ward, has attacked quake victims in the badly hit eastern suburbs for 'whining for not being helped'.

And despite the fact that east side residents have been organising such things as meal centres and community barbecues, Keown has claimed that the residents are 'badly organised and cannot cope without help from authorities.'

Many east side residents are still without power, water and sewerage nearly a fortnight after the quake hit.

Keown, on the other hand , is enjoying all these amenities in his home.

He is former parliamentary candidate for the ACT Party and a supporter of Mayor Sideshow Bob.

Keown, who is one of the 'lock them away and throw away the key' brigade, was arrested in 1997 for making a hoax bomb call.

He pulled the stunt at the South City Mall, where he sometimes worked as a hairdresser during the weekends.

The mall was evacuated.

Keown didn't own up that he had made the call but was arrested a fortnight later. He was charged under the Misuse of Telecommunications Act. He received diversion and fined $500.

In 2006 his mother. Laureen Reilly, was convicted of benefit fraud.

She received home detention for receiving an overpayment of $157,000 in invalid and sickness benefits between 1990 and 2005.

The Ministry of Social Development alleged Reilly was living in a marriage-style relationship when claiming the benefits, and buying two properties with her son, Aaron.

Keown told The Press: "I don't see how it's relevant to me. She got her sentence and served it, so it's really interesting that these people are dredging it up. Is that not what they call muckraking?"

His mother was killed in May 2008, when a car in which she was a passenger was hit by a boy racer.

BOB AND THE TIME CAPSULES

Mayor Bob and the media got all excited when a metal cylinder and a bottle containing a rolled-up parchment were found beneath the plinth of a statue of Christchurch's Irish founder, John Robert Godley which toppled during the quake.

An excited Sideshow Bob told the media he believed that inside the time capsule were documents outlining the vision of the city.

'Why they came here, what was their vision.' said Bob.

How did old Sideshow know this? No one bothered to ask him.

We quickly knew where this was going - namely Bob using the documents to 'inspire' a new vision for a shattered Christchurch. A new 'founding document' no less, with Bob playing the role of Godley.

The local and global media lapped it all up and guess who was at the centre of it all - yes old orange safety jacket holding forth at yet another press conference.

Then - suddenly - the media was nowhere to be seen. Bob was abandoned, with only his 'visionary' time capsules for company.

That's because it was discovered that the words on the parchment were reported in a Nelson newspaper in 1918.

The article noted Godley's statue was moved to a northern grass plot of the cathedral grounds after spending 50 years in the centre of Cathedral Square.

And what did the parchment message say? Well, nothing about a 'vision of the city':

This statue of John Robert Godley, executed by Thomas Woolner, R.A., was erected in the west side of Cathedral Square by the Provincial Government of Canterbury, and unveiled by the late Sir Charles Christopher Bowen, K.C.M.G. on August 6, 1867. It was moved to this site in March, 1918.

Bob has stopped talking about the time capsules...

OUR GREAT LEADER

In the days that followed the September 4 earthquake last year, Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker was lauded by politicians and the media for his 'leadership abilities'

The New Zealand Herald and TVNZ's Paul Henry compared him to New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani. Fellow millionaire and National Party supporter Paul Holmes waxed lyrically about what an outstanding leader Bob was. TV3's John Campbell gushed about our Bob. Everyone loved Bob - except everyone who knew what he was really like.

Facing a severe trouncing from rival Jim Anderton in the mayoral election, all this praise was manna from heaven for a cynical politician, who in three short years, had managed to get offside with most of Christchurch.

But Bob's debacles, like forking out $17 million for the central city properties of now bankrupt property developer Dave Henderson, were forgotten in the aftermath of the quake and Bob squeezed past Anderton and back into the mayor's office

The fact that Bob's so-called 'leadership' mostly consisted of him getting in front of the television cameras at every given opportunity didn't seem to matter.

However in December last year it emerged that Civil Defence didn't share the same opinion of Sideshow Bob as Paul Holmes did.

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."

These comments were removed from the final report after Sideshow Bob threw a tantrum.

Six months later Bob is again hogging the media spotlight and is again being praised for his 'leadership abilities'.

On Radio Live John Tamihere and Willie Jackson declared Parker to be one of the country's 'great' leaders.

Meanwhile in the New Zealand Herald Paul Holmes was back in 'Bob, I want to have your children' mode. He wrote last week:

You're got the right man as your mayor though. Bob Parker is a face and voice of reassurance. On Wednesday night I was worried about him, so tired and careworn did he look, and I wished he'd simply head home and get some sleep. But there he was on Thursday, fresh as a daisy, the world's media hanging on his every word, taking up the city he loves, wiling you to survive.

Holmes is well known for his sycophancy towards the rich and powerful but its hard not to reach for the bucket after reading this dross.

'The city he loves?' Really? So why did Parker say that he and his wife would go and live In Italy if he didn't become mayor? Hardly sounds like the comments of a man in love with Christchurch.

And if he does 'love Christchurch' why did he slash funding to already struggling community groups? Why did he attempt to put council rents up a massive 24 percent? Why did he imply that only 'indecent' Christchurch people opposed his recent trip to Nepal?

Despite all the lavish praise heaped on the man in the orange safety jacket, no one has said what he has actually done to deserve such high praise. As far as most us can see, he's done the same thing as he did in September last year - kept his face in front of the cameras.

When did knowing what camera to look at become a mark of great leadership? When did a man talking in sound bites become 'inspirational'?

I live in the badly damaged east side of Christchurch and I have yet to see Bob in my area providing his 'great leadership'.

Neither has Andy Bride, another east side resident. He has written on Facebook:

If Bob's really helping the citizens of Christchurch with the earthquake, I don't see him out on the east side with a shovel helping the farmy army or the student army move the silt from our streets. i guess having regular meals/showers/toilet breaks and standing in front of the camera keeps him so busy.

QUAKE WEBSITE

Anyone wanting to check out the state of play in Christchurch should bookmark the excellent Christchurch Recovery Map. This site, run by volunteers around the world, provides information in real time via Email, Twitter and SMS. All the media and official news updates can also be found here.

It's great source of information for local Christchurch people but also provides people elsewhere with an up to date picture of what's happening in the city. Who said Twitter was trivial?

STANDING ON SHAKY GROUND

Where was I before I was rudely interrupted?

I apologise to my three readers that I have posted nothing for the past week but. of course, a massive earthquake intervened and attempted to throw Christchurch back to the Stone Age. Looking at the television images of central Christchurch today I'm not entirely convinced that it didn't at least partially succeed. The central city will be a 'no go' zone for months. I doubt it will be functional even by this time next year.

As I've been without power - and pretty much everything else for the past week - today was the first time I got to see what the rest of New Zealand and the world have been looking at for the past seven days.

I've had to rely on radio reports and the pictures in the newspapers I've managed to pick up. So although I knew it was bad I didn't appreciate just how bad it was until today. Many of those buildings that are now piles of bent metal and rubble I have been in. I could of been in one of them when the quake hit but, on that afternoon, I wasn't in the central city. On another day I could well have been.

I've spent the last seven days doing what's needed to get by. It has come down to basic objectives like finding batteries for torches and radios , finding all the candles I can and buying food at whatever corner shop or supermarket is open. Yesterday I bumped into former Mayor Garry Moore at the supermarket. He was quite cheery and waffled on about his internet service still being down.

We're all just happy to be alive although these bloody aftershocks are really unpleasant for a population already at the end of its tether. The psychological impact of this quake is going to be severe and long term.

I'm also grateful to my friends Dave and Megan who lent me their little gas cooker which has meant I've been able make coffee and tea and make some basic meals.

It has also meant I've been able to cook up some culinary delights for some people up the road. Macaroni cheese anyone?

Of course the world beyond Christchurch has receded into the background and blurred. I know there's an uprising going on Libya but I'm not strong on the details.

But I'm beginning to stick my head above the parapet as it were.

This is because last night the power finally came back on. A neighbour rang me about 10.30pm. 'Steve, do you know the power's back on?' Sweet words indeed.

There is also some improvement in the water supply and I can flush the toilet. Which means I don't have to dig a hole in the garden at three in the morning.

Thankfully the house has once again withstood what nature has thrown at it and I am once again extremely grateful to the unknown builders who built not only my house but all the houses in this area back in the early 1960s. They did a magnificent job.

Unfortunately the inside of the house got trashed again. Despite the mess very few things were actually smashed although that could be because a fair few things got smashed the first time round. The television is a write off but that's small beer compared to what many people have been through.

I have had the opportunity to walk around the neighbourhood on a couple of occasions.

The local shopping mall is about a fifteen minute walk away. The Palms contains a supermarket, a large food court , a heap of shops, a sprinkling of coffee shops, banks and a post office, a restaurant and bar area and a cinema complex. From outside it looks intact but it is still closed and tonight I read in the Christchurch Star that the mall is in 'a bad way'.

There are work crews all over the mall and every entrance is manned by a security guard 24/7.

Similarly the major high school in the area, Shirley Boys', has been pummelled. My old school is likely to remain closed for the remainder of this year. There is some major building damage and there is silt everywhere.

The Minister of Education gave a press conference in the school car park a couple of days ago. I don't know where Anne Tolley expects to place 1500 pupils since every other high school is bulging at the seams.

For obvious reasons I haven't had much time to ponder the political and economic consequences of this quake. However I am alarmed that the Government may be about to add to the economic burden that folk are already carrying.

Instead of scrapping interest free student loans and slashing Working for Families, this Government should be scrapping its recent tax cuts for the wealthy.

Similarly what are the corporates going to contribute? And will the banks be taking a break from their profiteering ways anytime soon?

Similarly will local city councillors be adding anything to the rescue mission? Will Mayor Orange Safety Jacket and councillors Sue Wells , Barry Corbett and Tim Carter be giving up the 'directors fees' they receive for sitting on the board of Christchurch City Holdings Ltd? Perhaps they could contribute the $35,000 they each receive to the Mayor's Welfare Fund.

And some things don't change,

As he did when the last earthquake struck, Paul Holmes has used this earthquake as another opportunity to promote his mates John Key and Mayor Orange Safety Jacket.

Of Parker he wrote: 'You've got the right man as your mayor, though. Bob Parker is a face and voice of competence and reassurance.'

Mm, I wonder how much the Henderson properties are worth now. That was $17 million well spent wasn't it?

And is this the same Bob Parker who wanted 8000 more people to live in the central city?


NB. Thanks to everyone who has sent me emails or 'Tweeted' me. Thanks for you're concern and support. Much appreciated.

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