The Shock Doctrine

A short film tie-in for Naomi Klein's new book of the same name. Well worth a read. The film was directed by Jonas Cuaron.
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On November 24 John Howard's Liberal Government was voted out of office in Australia.

The key to the defeat of John Howard was the union campaign against Work Choices.When hundreds of thousands responded to the call for mass strikes and protest in the streets, it was the beginning of the end for Howard.

WorkChoices was Howard's attempt to wipe out many of the reforms Australian workers have win in the past in order to shore up the profits of an ageing capitalism. For all the talk of prosperity and a booming economy, the fact is there are one million working poor in Australia, and growing job insecurity - while the cost of basic necessities such as housing, food, education and health make a mockery of Howard's claim that families have "never had it so good".

While our media glibly talk about 40,000 New Zealanders having headed to the so-called 'greener pastures' of Australia in the past year, a little research by the corporate media would of revealed that Australian streets are not paved with gold.

The campaign for union rights and to defend workers' living standards was the key to putting Howard on the run and to ending Liberal rule - but will things will be any better under Kevin Rudd's Labor?

It didn't get off to a promising start when Rudd opened his election night victory by singing the praises of Howard:

"I want to acknowledge for the entire Australian nation and publicly recognise Mr Howard's extensive contribution to public service in Australia."

Indeed at no stage has Rudd spoken out against the neo-liberal agenda. In fact in numerous interviews and speeches he has always stressed his economic conservatism.

Revealingly our Minister of Finance, Michael Cullen, has commented that the New Zealand Labour Government is similar in economic philosphy and direction to that of the new Australian government. Once again, our conservative media failed to pick Cullen up on this remark.

Australian voters have voted out Howard's neo-liberal agenda only to have it replaced by Kevin Rudd's neo-liberal agenda. Despite the camapaign against WorkChoices Rudd has already said that a lot of the WorkChoice reforms will stay in place.

It was predictable from Rudd, but sickening to see a Labor mass audience give some of their loudest applause at Labor's campaign launch to Rudd's declaration that "Reckless spending must stop!" This came out of the mouth of a politician who as a state government bureaucrat in Queensland, wiped out the jobs of many public servants and attacked the working conditons of the public servants who managed to keep their jobs.

In his victory speech, Rudd declared "Australia's long term challenges demand a new consensus. I'm determined to forge that consensus... I want to put aside the old battles of the past, the old battles between business and unions".

The last time Labor committed their government to "consensus" was under Hawke in 1983 - a consensus that delivered a massive transfer of wealth from workers to big business. Labor's determination to forge that consensus led to the deregistration of the BLF, the most militant union in the country, the destruction of the pilots' union and attacks on nurses in Victoria because they dared to defy the restrictions on pay rises required for this "consensus".

Thirteen years of this "consensus" was nothing of the sort, it was the imposition of the bosses' agenda at any cost to workers' rights and living standards. That is what it promises this time round.

As we have seen here in New Zealand, Labour governments might get voted into offce by ordinary workers but they can never be trusted to actually serve the interests of workers.


Arthur Goldwag (Quercus)

So you're at an art opening (if you're that way inclined) someone starts talking about 'pre-raphaelitism'. You're heard the term before but you have no idea what it means. So you nod you're head knowledgeably and hope the conversation will move on to more safer ground.

In a situation like that you need a book like Isms and ideologies, a handy compendium of dogmas, doctrines, philosophies, creeds and credos. Turn to page 120 and you'll find a concise one page summary of pre-raphaelitism.

Some terms will be familiar. Most of us will have some idea of what Darwinism or Roman Catholicism is, but other terms will be a mystery. How about chiliasm or donatism? And what is Muggletonianism?

The book is divided into seven broad categories including philosophy and history, philosophy and the arts and religion. There is also a brief, six page section called 'Sexual Perversions' - I suspected this section was added with an eye on sales.

There have a fair few compendiums and almanacs, some have been pure entertainment and others are serious academic works (eg the Oxford compendium) but Goldwag has succeeded in writing a book that is both a useful reference work and an entertaining read.

Of course in a book like this, Goldwag can only provide basic outlines of vast subjects like Christianity and Marxism but this book is a useful starting point to more in-depth research.

This book is both enlightening and also, in places, faintly disturbing. For example, I always knew Scientology was bonkers but I didn't realise just how bonkers it was until I read Goldwag's useful summary of this bizarre 'religion':

'Scientology's creation story features a wicked alien being named Xenu, who ruled over a vastly overpopulated galactic federation some seventy-five million years ago. In a fiendish subterfuge, Xenu ordered billions of his subjects to report to his government's offices so their income tax returns could be audited. When they arrived, they were paralysed, injected with alcohol, loaded onto 'space planes' (which looked like DC-8s), and transported to earth, where their bodies were piled up near volcanoes. Then hydrogen bombs were detonated, causing the volcanoes to erupt. Though the captives' bodies were vaporized, their souls, known as Thetans, were sucked into 'vacuum zones' and then transported to a movie theatre, where they were compelled to watch a 3-D movie for thirty-six days. This movie indoctrinated them into the tents of traditional religion and other falsehoods, while depriving them of a sense of identity. These Thetans are our souls.'

Remember, there are otherwise rational people who believe this B movie nonsense, including celebrities John Travolta, Tom Cruise and Kirsty Alley.

Indeed this book demonstrates that, as a race, we humans have the capacity to believe some strange and bizarre things.

In the introduction Michael Lewis makes the point that this book actually shakes some of our assumptions.

For example the theory of cinema known as auteurism, explains how many (mostly Hollywood) directors can grow rich and famous by using other people's creative work - and nobody gives it a second thought. Why for example is The Lord of the Rings referred to as Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings when JRR Tolkien created it? Worth thinking about.

This book does have its faults though like a number of George Bush jokes which are too much of these times and will quickly become dated. Similarly using the ardent Christian CS Lewis to define atheism was puzzling. However these errors are minor and can be easily edited out in any upcoming second edition - or the paperback edition.

In these internet days its easy just to 'Google' or look up Wikipedia for a definition of an ologie or ism, but this book is convenient because all the terms are packaged in a handy 350 page book. And on the internet you have to know what you are looking for. I've just opnned the book on something called 'Gradgrindism' - not a word you hear bandied about much down at the pub.

I liked this book a lot and I will be looking for the opportunity to pretentiously drop 'Bogomilism' into a conversation soon....
Steven Cowan


Another exclusive look behind the scenes at the Jim and Carly Show...

Jim: Sorry I 'm late..slept in.
Carly: Whatever. Have you seen the ratings. They say there's only 19, 000 people tuning into
Jim: What's wrong with that? It's way more than I ever got on Radio Live!
Carly: More people watch the infomercials than our show!
Jim: Well, they are quite informative. I've learnt a lot about skin care. Hey, and Leeza Gibbons is still a bit of a looker.
Carly: But why aren't people watching? What about that great review we did of the new Duran Duran album! Essential viewing!
Jim: You said it. It was a good job both of us interviewed the reviewer -it was a tough topic.
Carly: A great American band!
Jim: I thought they were Australian
Carly: And what about our clever banter? I thought that chat we had about Paris Hilton was fantastic.
Jim: Yeah and totally topical - Paris Hilton is a major figure in world affairs.
Carly: Yeah, and she's got a better fashion sense than that Moustache guy in Pakistan. Military uniforms are so 1980's!
Jim: Yeah, and those unkind comments people have been putting on You Tube have been really hurtful. How can anyone describe us as more boring than Paul Henry? That's really hitting below the belt
Carly: You reckon we'll get axed for re-runs of Everyone Loves Raymond?
Jim: I'll probably end up on Kiwi FM!
Carly: And I'll end up on C4! There's no wardrobe budget!

More drivel until commercial break...


We live in a democratic society right? Well, not if you happen to be a member of the Chinese spiritual movement, Falun Gong.

The Auckland group have been denied the right to take part in Sunday's Santa Parade. And who made this decision? None other than Chairman of the Auckland Parade, Michael Barnett.

He's banned them because, he says, they might hand out - gasp - pamphlets! So much for religious freedom.

However Barnett is telling porkies because the Falun Gong group sent a letter to him on November 20, agreeing not to distribute pamphlets or any other literature that promoted their movement.

This is what John Yu, the group's president, said in his letter:

'As President of the Association I provide an undertaking to you that we are willing to abide by any relevant conditions that govern participants in the Parade. I also undertake that no distribution or dissemination of any Falun Dafa related material will occur at the Parade.'

Michael Barnett is also Chief Executive of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce and a director of the NZ Chambers of Commerce.

The real reason for Barnett's arbitrary decision - and he has said as much - is because the group openly campaigns against the persecution of its members in Stalinist China, or in Mr Barnett's morally-devoid view, they "attack a country that New Zealand has a relationship with".

Trade volume between China and New Zealand continues to increase and Barnett is a man prepared to turn a blind eye to human rights violations, both here and in China, for the sake of the almighty dollar.

However Barnett's stand is looking increasingly silly because the Falun Gong, after initially been denied participation, have now been allowed to join this weekend's Wellington Santa Parade, after human rights lawyer Tony Ellis filed for a judicial review in the High Court , arguing that there had been four major breaches of the Bill of Rights Act.

The organisers of the parade, Crackerjack Promotions, quickly had a change of heart.

Crackerjack are also the organisers of the Auckland Parade which kind of leaves the porky-telling Barnett without a leg to stand on.


Several posts ago I wrote a piece about political columnist Chris Trotter appearing on stage at the Labour Party conference, along with along with several other Labour Party luminaries - including Prime Minister Clark.

They were apparently singing a song - called 'It's a Better Way with Labour'.

The song in question, I have learned, was something that musician Chris Knox was commissioned by the Labour Party to write.

In fact, Knox was up on stage providing the musical accompaniment on his guitar.

I didn't comment on Knox's appearance because his politics have been drifting sedately rightwards for many years.

And it appears that Knox has finally turned into a complacent member of the Establishment -the Establishment he regularly attacked in his anarchist/punk days.

But Chris must be feeling uncomfortable about his transformation into a paid-up member of the Auckland 'Labour Milieu' Club (President: Russell Brown) because he has been defending himself in a recent column in the Dominion Post.

Has Chris 'blanded out'? No, Chris says he's just more 'sceptical' about government's rather 'cynical'.

He also went on to offer some thoughts on left wing politics; '‘I do believe in the Left cause. I still think it's relevant. I think helping those who are less fortunate than ourselves which is the basis of socialism, is a viable idea and I'm happy to support it.'

I'm not sure if Chris is confusing socialism with charity but, regardless, if this is how he views 'socialism' how can he still lend his support to a Labour Government that has actually deepened social inequalities?

Ah, Chris falls back on the 'lesser evil' argument, the dodgy argument of all political scoundrels. Chris is supporting Labour because a National Government would be 'worse'

‘I cannot stand the new centrist, “Trust us” face of the National Party., says Knox.

Apparently supporting a right wing free market called Labour is better than supporting a right wing free market party called National


Seventeen Tuhoe and Tuhoe-linked activists were arrested under the umbrella of the Suppression of Terrorism Act -but were eventually charged with arms offences.

The police have alleged that Molotov cocktails were being made and that even a napalm bomb was explored in the Urewera's - but, until the cases arrive in the courts, we don't know just how credible police allegations are.

But one bomb that did not go off happened yesterday morning on Rangitoto Island in the Waitemata Harbour. And Tame Iti was nowhere to be seen!

Businessman Marc Ellis and two business colleagues let of smoke flares to stimulate a eruption on the extinct volcano.

It was all designed to promote a new business venture of Ellis's and his two co-directors, Ben Hickey and Mark Dalton.

Ellis did not get permission to let off the explosion which the Department of Conservation say could have had devastating consequences if a fire had broken out.

There is a total fire ban on the island. Rangitoto is of ecological significance and has the largest pohutukawa forest in New Zealand.

As well, Auckland City Council says the stunt generated a lot of calls from concerned members of the public.The council said that the volume of calls puts pressure on emergency response systems.

But have Marc Ellis, Mark Dalton and Ben Hickey been arrested by the police and charged?

No. Absolutely nothing has happened.

And what of the corporate media who have busy demonising the Tuhoe activists?

Well, they've just treated the whole affair as a publicity stunt by Marc Ellis. Hey, Marc's just a bit of a 'lad', that's all!

In fact TVNZ cooperated with Ellis because they had a camera crew filming the explosion.

The footage featured prominently on the TVNZ news bulletins and on a 20/20 profile of Ellis broadcast on TV2 on the evening of the 'publicity stunt'.

It seems if you're a millionaire card-carrying capitalist businessman and ex-All Black you can get away with breaking the law.

And the media give you're law-breaking a whole load of free publicity!


The rise of the Maori Sovereignty movement in the post Bastion Point occupation era (January 1977) saw a lot of emotionally-charged rhetoric.

Indeed, as a university student in the early 1980's, I can well remember some more of the radical Maori activists telling people like me (i.e. Pakeha) that we were 'foreigners' and that we should 'go home' back to Britain or wherever.

There were even public statements from Maori activists about Pakeha's being 'driven' from Maori land and 'into the sea'.

Since then Maori grievances have been largely accommodated by both National and Labour Governments and most of these activists had been integrated into the mechanisms of government, the public service and various business boardrooms.

The author of the 1980's book 'Maori Sovereignty', Donna Awatere, became a MP for the right wing, pro-free market ACT Party until she was convicted on fraud charges.

Some of these activists are now in Parliament right now as, for example, Maori Party MPs.

But old habits die hard and the co-leader of the Maori Party, Tariana Turia, is still prone to the same race-based views. Who can forget her claim of a 'Holocaust' in reference to effects of British colonisation on Maori?

I'm sure if these activists back in the 1980's had had their conversations bugged we would have been privy to some even more intemperate comments.

Indeed, the likes of Ms Turia and fellow Maori Party co-leader Dr Peter Sharples could possibly of been arrested on 'terrorist charges'.

But in the nervous post- 9/11 era, the police have arrested a handful of Tuhoe or Tuhoe-linked activists on the basis of a perceived 'terrorist threat'.

Yesterday the Dominion Post, ignoring court orders, published some statements from 'leaked' police statements that purport to 'indicate' what these activists were up to.

So we have read comments, among other things, about 'explosives', 'assassinations' and 'killing a Pakeha'.

It makes for juicy headlines and increased newspaper sales but proves very little.

What are the context of the statements? Who made them? When? And, who 'leaked' them to the media? Was it someone within the police bureaucracy?

These questions aren't addressed but it just stokes the fires of public opinion against a handful of hotheaded individuals whose only 'crime' appears to have been to have made some silly, intemperate comments -and who have a faulty and reactionary raced-based view of New Zealand society.

Of course, they thought they were just having a private conversation - they didn't know agents of the state were listening in.

What is more concerning is that the legal process is being deliberately subverted to such a degree, that those arrested are being labelled 'terrorists' even though the attorney general has already said there is no credible basis to charge the arrested with offences under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

Smearing political activists, of whatever flavour, with the label 'terrorist' is a dangerous development for a society that claims to be 'free and democratic'.


Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream
Barbara Ehrenreich (Metropolitan Books)

In Nickel and Dimed Barbara Ehrenreich wrote a compelling account of her year spent doing low-paid jobs around the United States. It was a book that focused on the lives of America's working poor - blue collar workers. It was a fierce indictment of US capitalism, where the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

This time Ehrenreich turns her attention to supposedly 'financially secure' white collar workers. While tales of poverty and financial hardship are routine among American blue collar workers, Ehrenreich began to notice 'that many tales of hardship were coming from people who were once members of good standing of the middle class - college graduates and former occupants of mid-level white collar positions.'

Ehrenreich thus entered the world of the white collar unemployed. She forged a new identity, wrote a plausible CV (mostly fiction) and then experienced a year of 'personal coaching', 'motivational speakers', 'job fairs' and 'networking'.

Ehrenreich quickly discovered that despite all the 'job-hunting', the nasty reality of US capitalism always made its presence felt.

She observes that the American middle class, much like western middle classes generally, have been brought up with the expectation that 'hard work' will always be rewarded with material comfort and security.

While the American blue collar workers have never believed this myth (they work hard and still remain impoverished), it is also increasingly untrue of the middle class. Indeed, as one American sociologist has commented, 'success and failure seem to have little to do with one's accomplishments.'

Ehrenreich met many fellow unemployed white collar workers during her year-long odyssey. Many were victims of corporate purges. One day they were climbing up the corporate career ladder, the next day they were 'surplus to requirements.'

As Marx observed, capitalism has never provided stability and the days when American corporations provided jobs for life have gone. Indeed the myriad of 'job coaches' and 'motivational speakers' counsel unemployed professionals to 'adapt to new conditions', to be 'flexible'.

But it still doesn't provide adequate jobs.

Unfortunately, white collar workers tend to blame themselves for being out of paid work, rather than the economic system that has sent them off to the reserve army of labour.

Thanks to the ever-expanding 'job search industry', white collar victims of corporate instability, regularly meet at 'job forums', 'motivational conferences' and so on. But there is no talk about capitalism or capitalist economics, rather its all about writing a 'better CV', 'interview techniques', 'meeting the right people', etc. The only people who benefit from this are the job coaches and motivational speakers - they're making a lot of money out of their 'clients'.

Ehrenreich writes; 'the constant instruction is to treat your job search as a job itself' - preferably guided by a 'job coach'.

As an aside, here in New Zealand Work and Income are instructing its clientele to look for jobs 'eight hours a day'. This from a government department that promotes false unemployment figures and paints a unrealistically rosy picture of the job market.

Ehrenreich's message is not to be sucked in by such propaganda. Rather, she writes, what unemployed workers and workers in insecure jobs need is courage - 'the courage to come together and work for change, even in the face of overwhelming odds.'


Sideshow Bob Parker, the new Mayor of Christchurch, attended the premiere of We're Here To Help, the movie about local property developer Dave Henderson and his 'struggle' with the Inland Revenue.

Henderson is a right wing libertarian who, under the banner of 'personal freedom', thinks capitalists should be able to do what they like, when they like - and stuff the working class.

Henderson supports Sideshow Bob, although he denied making any financial contribution to his election campaign - although another property developer, David Ogilivie Lee contributed $10,000 to Sideshow's campaign.

Meantime, Sideshow has still to lodge his financial election return with the registrar...


We're Here to Help, South Pacific Film's celluloid treatment of Christchurch property developer Dave Henderson's 'struggle' with the Inland Revenue Department, was premiered this week.

In the process Henderson has had a truckload of uncritical and sympathetic media coverage - including TVNZ, TV3 ( a totally uncritical and gushing John Campbell interview), radio reports and various newspaper stories. In fact, Henderson has had for free the kind of coverage a PR company would normally have to pay for.

If you believe what the media have been dishing up, Dave Henderson is just a good old 'Kiwi battler' (the phrase appears on the film's advertising) who came up against a bureaucratic monster called the Inland Revenue Department and, against overwhelming odds, eventually won.

I don't want to go into the details here, but Henderson's depiction of himself as the innocent but determined individual fighting the 'Evil Empire' (i.e. the Inland Revenue) is fairly enterprising and imaginative. Certainly it isn't one the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen agrees with who, in Parliament, called We're Here To Help ' a work of fiction'.

It's often said that its always the victor who writes the history. In this case Henderson clearly believes himself to be the victor.

It's a pity that there's been no examination of Henderson's politics - because people need to be aware of what Henderson's real political agenda is.

Back in 70's and the early 80's, Henderson was a follower of a bizarre political cult called Zenith Applied Philosophy (ZAP).

ZAP is a Christchurch based organisation founded in 1974. It is a curious mix of Scientology, eastern mysticism and right wing libertarianism.

ZAP was behind another movement called the Tax Reduction Integrity Movement (TRIM) which was all about out cutting taxes and demolishing the welfare state. ZAP publicly stated that the mixed economy was 'against the interests of the individual'.

Generally, 'Zappers' were regarded as a lunatic fringe. Zappers did not help their cause when they did such things as banging on the roofs of Lada cars - because they were made in Stalinist Eastern Europe.

Henderson put his ZAP philosophy into practice via his fast food business The Sandwich Factory. In 1981 claims of $21,152 were brought against him by the Canterbury Hotel, Restaurant and Related Trades (now part of the Service & Food Workers Union and Food Workers Union) on behalf of six employees. The court ruled that the company had committed 15 breaches of the award. Hendeson, like other ZAP followers, believed that unionism was based on coercion and that it constituted a basic violation of individual freedom.

Another member of ZAP at this time was Trevor Loudon. He is now vice president of ACT.

He remains a member of ZAP. In February last year in response to a question from Green co-leader Russell Norman, he commented on his blog that:

'My involvement as a student of Christchurch based self improvement organisation, Zenith Applied Philosophy has always been public knowledge and has been published in an interview I did in 1986, with the old Star Sports. I have studied at ZAP from 1976 to 1982, 1986/7 and 1999 to current. I am enjoying my studies immensely at the moment and plan to continue indefinitely.'

Loudon is pathologically anti-socialist and left-wing in general. Indeed last year he wrote that socialists were either 'mentally ill' or had serious 'character deficiencoies'. He also once made the bizarre claim that 'communists' were suppliers of much of the world's illegal drugs.

Act's leader, Rodney Hyde, has been a prominent champion of Dave Henderson -indeed he appears in We're Here To Help (played by actor Michael Hurst).

It's not clear whether Henderson continues to have any association with the secretive ZAP sect but he remains firmly committed to the libertarian cause.

He even started a radio station, Radio Liberty, to promote the libertarian viewpoint. It eventually closed with debts of $3 million.

Although Henderson says he's for 'individual freedom' and 'individual choice' what he really supports, like others of his ilk, is basically allowing business to do what it likes, when it likes - the 'freedom' to pay low wages, the 'freedom' not to employ union members, the 'freedom' not to help those in need of assistance via the welfare state. Henderson just wants the 'freedom' to further screw the working class.

But Henderson's extreme right wing political views are not being scrutinised by our tame corporate media. They are too enamoured by his property developments and his new movie to actually examine his dangerous politics - and those of the people behind the scenes who are supporting him.

Henderson, once regarded as loony extremist in the 70's and 80's, is now being allowed to paint himself as the good old New Zealand battler - a man of the people, no less. But the truth is his fierce anti-working class politics remain largely the same.


I was watching some news coverage of the Labour Party conference over the weekend. What interested me was a brief shot of various Labour Party luminaries and supporters standing on the stage with the Prime Minister.

They were, I think, singing a song - rather self-consciously I thought. Among the luminaries, smiling away, was columnist Chris Trotter.

Trotter writes for the Dominion and The Independent and occasionally publishes his own Political Review. That publication hasn't appeared for sometime, probably because Trotter has been busy writing his own book, No Left Turn, his own interpretation of New Zealand's political history. It was published six weeks or so ago.

Trotter often appears on television and on radio giving his opinion on various political issues. Most of the left regard Trotter as the establishment's tame 'left wing' commentator.

The very right wing and former National Party candidate Paul Henry calls Trotter one of 'New Zealand's best political commentators' .

Away from writing Trotter has had a mixed political history.

He was union official in Dunedin and a member of the Labour Party. Along with several other unionists, he broke with Labour to form the NewLabour Party with Jim Anderton. I well remember Trotter at the inaugural NewLabour Party conference in Wellington getting out his guitar and leading people in a hearty rendition of 'Solidarity Forever'.

NewLabour went on to join forces with some other minor parties to form the Alliance. Trotter however had a falling out with Anderton (one of thousands) and left.

By then Trotter was in Auckland establishing himself as a political commentator, the media's 'left wing successor' to the late Bruce Jesson.

I still read Trotter's stuff when I am able. He writes well and has some interesting perspectives. And, unlike most journalists these days, he actually has an extensive knowledge of political history and theory.

But Trotter is not a socialist.

In fact in an article some years ago he not only dismissed Marxism
as some kind of nineteenth century irrelevancy, but he also concluded that the working class no longer existed.

When you reach these kind of dead-end conclusions there is only one way you can go - backwards, to the right.

About a fortnight or so ago Trotter wrote a column for the Dominion in which he supported the so-called police 'anti-terrorist' raids. He even went on to support the police agenda that there is some kind of 'political alliance' between Maori separatists and 'eco-anarchists' (whatever they are) - even though the police have provided no evidence of such an 'alliance'.

Trotter, a man who likes to think he's fair, had decided that those arrested were guilty until proven innocent.

Trotter's support for the police raids drew an angry reaction from well known activist John Minto, who wrote an open letter to Trotter.

In that letter he pointed out that Trotter had made no mention of the state attack on New Zealanders fundamental democratic rights via the new anti-terrorist laws.

Nor did he mention that political activists have been actively watched and monitored for over a year:

'Dozens of young activists have been visited over the past two weeks by police with thick folders containing transcripts of every phone call, every text and every e-mail they have sent in the past year. Is this not worth a mention? '

Minto also made the point that Trotter often 'loses the plot on the big issues' and observed that Trotter also sided with Blair on Iraq in 2003.

Minto went on to say :

'People who know you better than me tell me the problem is you are not connected in any meaningful way to any groups active in any particular issues so that your commentary is often theoretical and disconnected from daily struggle. I don't know if this is true but it seems the only explanation that makes any sense to me.'

I think there is some truth in what Minto says here. After all, Trotter wasn't outide the Labour Party conference protesting - he was up on the stage with the Prime Minister and co.

But Trotter has been travelling rightwards back to the Labour Party for some years now.

Sadly, it's not an uncommon phenonemon. Many intellectuals and activists have made their peace with the Labour Party. Many of them try to justify it on the grounds that 'National would be worse'.

They are a miserable lot. They are the kind of people who tell you they want to 'build a better society' but they are not prepared to rock the boat to do it. So they turn up a Labour Party conferences, wearing they're Maori pendants, a copy of the latest Naomi Klein book under their arms, and listen attentively to right wing speeches from the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance.

And this is where Chris Trotter has ended up.

In his book No Left Turn, Trotter reveals his true colours.

He shows himself to be a right wing social democrat when he dismisses left wing criticisms of the first Labour governemnt by the likes of John A Lee and, later, Bill Sutch.

He tries to defend the fourth Labour Government's 'business as usual' approach by suggesting that the lack of any progressive reform has been because the New Zealand capialist class and its allies have been waging a covert guerilla war against Labour.

In the University of Otago student newspaper Critic recently he defended the Labour Governnment on the grounds that:

'This is Clark’s incrementalism. We’re in a period of ‘deep capitalism,’ so there’s only so far you can go. Many people decry it, but it’s hard to see what kind of strategy you could employ without generating the massive resistance from those who command a laissez-faire economy.'

However in recent times Trotter has steered away from this attempt to defend such an openly right wing governemnt. And, unlike some of his Labour-supporting contemporaries, he also appears reluctant to paint the National Party as the even-more-right- wing bogeyman.

But, regardless, it seems that Trotter is going to stick with Helen Clark.

Hence his attack on those opposing the police 'anti-terrorist' raids and his on-stage appearance at the Labour Party conference.

Perhaps he'll take his guitar to the next conference and sing 'Solidarity Forever' again.


I took a look at the Jim and Carly Show (otherwise known as Sunrise) the other day.

Carly's over in the United Kingdom - thanks to a local travel agency (plugged throughout the show) - and the morning I tuned in she was in Newcastle.

I saw her talking to a local music journo. What are the latest trends? asked Carly and said journo rattled off a few band names that meant nothing to me - and probably Sunrise's other four viewers either.

What did I learn from this interview? Nothing.

But dear old Jim Coleman discovered something. 'I didn't know Sting was from Newcastle' he declared to co-host Anna Rogers, normally TV3's film reviewer. 'I knew Dire Straits were from Newcastle but not Sting. Thanks Carly.'

Jim often gets it wrong and he got it wrong again here. Twice.

Sting is from Wallsend, a short distance from Newcastle. While Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits is from Whitley Bay.

But that's Sunrise - there are a lot of factual errors.

Sunrise is mostly fluff. After you take out the banal chat, the reviews, the touristy items, the weather, the interviews with authors flogging their latest book, and the 'lifestyle' pieces (I saw a silly story about a convention of donkey lovers), there is not a whole lot of hard news.

Most of that comes in the news bulletins presented by Sacha McNeil, formerly with TVNZ.

You get the feeling that there's a knowledgeable news journalist in Ms McNeil waiting to get out - instead she's trapped in the Jim and Carly Show, where there's always time for some banal banter and some weak jokes.

Sacha doesn't look entirely comfortable - and fair enough to.

Sacha is a journalist of some years standing - as opposed to Coleman who has spend most of his time cavorting around on pop music radio. It's kind of symbolic of the current dire state of television journalism in this country.

I'm not sure which is worse - Sunrise or TV1's Breakfast. Maybe Sunrise is marginally better but only because it doesn't have Paul Henry.

If you are looking for hard news - maybe you want some analysis of the current situation in Iraq as opposed to some drivel about the All Blacks or donkeys - then you will have to look elsewhere.

Me, I get my news from the Internet but I also watch the English-language news show from DWT (the German equivalent of BBC World) that is broadcast on a local television channel , CTV. It 's solid news packaged up in a no-nonsense half hour show. That's what I want but which neither TVNZ or TV3 feel inclined to provide.


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