COLD COMFORT FROM LABOUR


I have an elderly father in his 80’s and my friends mother in her 70’s they both turn off their hot water during the week and only turn it on once a week to shower. Dishes are in the dishwasher which gets turned on when it is full.

This is outrageous, the price of electricity has more than doubled in the past 10 years.

I have not had a pay rise in 3 years along with probably a good number of NZ’rs. Where do these fat cats get off raising the prices, then the line changes then the usage again and again and again. -Mescal Bardy



There's something less than edifying about Phil Goff's sorry attempt to paint himself and Labour as 'a friend of the people'. Scratch the surface and you will find the same old neoliberal party that we've put up with for over two decades.

At the Labour Party conference Goff said he was 'sorry' that Labour had mucked about with lighbulbs and shower heads. He also made a few noises about implementing a capital gains tax and attacked price gouging by the power companies. But, as I said in a previous post, Goff also made it clear that Labour had no intention of abandoning neoliberalism.

Of course we could never have expected Goff to bring out that pink flag Roger Douglas locked in the closet many years ago. Labour's commitment to socialism was always a sham and Goff made no bones about his rejection of 'the socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange" as 'nineteenth century history'.

Since Labour has slavishly adhered to neoliberalism for over two decades, Goff's remarks were hardly a surprise.- except to people like Chris Trotter. Goff himself has been one of the more enthusiastic supporters of the free market.

How do the views of the 'new' Labour and the apologetic Phil Goff translate into something like the electricity market for instance?

Yesterday Meridian energy reported a $89 million profit and will pay a total of some $293 million to government.

This profit has been extracted from ordinary people struggling with steeply rising electricity bills.

At the recent Labour Party conference Goff said he was 'sorry' that Labour took big dividends from state-owned power companies and that 'it had failed to fix the system'.

Goff said a Labour Government would stop the price gouging and not demand excessive dividends from the power companies. Of course that's easy to say in opposition Phil - but you and Labour had nine years in government to do something but instead did exactly nothing.

Goff though doesn't say anything about dropping prices and he still expects the power companies to pay dividends - just not as much. So how much then, Phil?

What all this means is that he and Labour have no plans of overturn the failed neoliberal model. Goff, you see, thinks that '..a well-functioning market system is the most effective and efficient way of organising an economy". It seems to have escaped Phil's notice that global capitalism has fallen over in a screaming heap.

Let's compare Goff and Labour's hopeless response to the shambolic state of the power industry to that of the Alliance Party.

Alliance Party energy spokesperson Ian Tinkler recently told the Ministerial Review of Electricity Market Performance that the neoliberal model had not worked.

'This structure does not provide security of supply, and it increases the price paid by both households and businesses much faster than the general rate of inflation. What is more, it increases the price of power for households faster than it does for businesses,' Tinkler said.

The Alliance believes that to ensure ongoing secure supply, the Government should combine SOE generation assets into one ‘National Generator’, give this generator the responsibility to ensure there is enough electricity to meet future demands and provide it with the ability to source electricity from a wide range of sources including hydro, solar and wind to help meet this obligation.

While we can debate the merits of the Alliance's electricity policy it is a clear alternative to the neoliberal model.

It's no good Phil Goff saying that he's 'sorry' for excessive electricity prices while at the same time saying he's not going to abandon the neoliberal model that gave rise to the excessive power prices in the first place.

SONIC WAR IN PITTSBURGH


There was little coverage of the G20 Pittsburgh protests in our mainstream media. While there was coverage of what Barack Obama and co had to say, the views of the protest movement were of no interest. The media were more concerned with following Pamela Anderson around at a local fashion show.

The media didn't even pick up on the fact that the Pittsburgh police employed a new weapon that had formerly only been used in Iraq.

The weapon was the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) that emits earsplitting noise designed to disperse crowds. The sonic weapon has been frequently used in Iraq against protesters in various cities.

It was first used in 2005 to foil a pirate attack on a Cruise Liner.

Over 210 people were swept up and arrested during the two days of the G20 summit and authorities fired rubber bullets, beanbags, pepper spray and OC gas at hundreds more.

All this was of no news value to our corporate media.

SIDESHOW BOB AND THE SURF LIFESAVERS


While Mayor Sideshow Bob and his council chums had $3 million to waste on the 'naming rights' to the Ellerslie Garden Show, the council chose to cut the funding to Surf Life Saving Canterbury. As a consequence, surf patrols are in danger of being cut by two weeks this summer.

The surf lifesaving body applied for $167,918 for its patrol service over the summer holiday period, as well as a $35,000 grant for its volunteer service.

The Christchurch City council declined the grant and approved $141,000 for the holiday patrols.

Last year, the surf lifesavers were granted $183,000, and $171,000 in 2007.

Said an angry Surf Life Saving Canterbury manager Dougal Holmes: 'We can't patrol with limited numbers. We are gobsmacked that a cut like this has been made. For the service we provide and some of the other things money is spent on, I don't feel they have given it a huge amount of thought.'

Lifeguard Sam Henry told the media that people's lives would be at risk.

"If these cuts go ahead, the council would have openly shirked its responsibility to community needs. What value does the council plan to put on the cost of lives this summer? Obviously, not very much.'

In response, Council recreation and sports manager John Filsell said: '"These are difficult times. The council has made difficult decisions all around.'

But the times can't be that 'difficult' since Sideshow Bob and his chums still spent $3 million on the Ellerslie Garden Show - in order to give the residents of Merivale and Fendalton somewhere to go.

The times also can't be that 'difficult' if the council can find $17 million to buy five over priced buildings from property developer Dave Henderson - a man who has stacked up a mountain of debt and has had several of his companies put into liquidation.

The real point is that in the depths of an economic recession you don't go spending money on garden shows and bailing out shambolic property developers. It is a matter of priorities and Sideshow Bob and his council supporters have got their priorities seriously wrong.

BRADFORD PULLS THE PIN


Whenever I have time and I am near a television, I will occasionally look in on the proceedings in Parliament. Yes, I know I should get out more.

Over recent times Sue Bradford’s performances in Parliament have been desultory. She sparked into life recently when she berated Paula Bennett for releasing the personal financial details of two beneficiaries but largely her trademark passion - one of the things that makes Sue Bradford so likeable - has been missing in action.

Bradford referred to that in interviews yesterday. Her heart wasn't in her job anymore she confided. And, she said, she didn't want to become one of those MP's simply serving out their time while they picked up the big money.

Her failure to get elected as co-leader of the Green Party obviously upset her. It must have rankled even more when she knew she was clearly the best candidate for the job. She’s intelligent, hardworking and experienced. She also has excellent organisational skills and the knack of getting people enthused about a specific project or campaign.

But there were other forces at work within the Green’s. Her personal credentials were never going to secure her the job. Both Jeanette Fitzsimons and Russel Norman wanted Metiria Turei.

Bradford’s fate was really sealed when former socialist Russel Norman took over from the late Rod Donald.

While Donald himself had begun to move the Green Party to the right, that process was accelerated by Norman and Fitzsimons.

Norman, in particular, has welded on to the Green Party an unpleasant market environmentalism. He has completely shut any accommodation to eco-socialism.

Bradford's rejection of socialist politics means there has always been a certain ambivalence about her politics and she was quick to distance herself from her more progressive views when she entered Parliament.

Even so, the accommodation of the Green Party to neoliberalism certainly would not have left Bradford in a happy place and she would have been at odds with the views of the leadership and the essentially conservative and middle class party membership. At the risk of resorting to caricature, this is a membership that sees Green politics as a personal 'lifestyle' choice. They want to create a 'kinder and gentler' capitalism much in their own image.

So the Green Party chose Metiria Turei - a rather bland and conservative politician from the Russel Norman 'Don't Frighten the Horses' School of Politics.

Sue Bradford’s replacement just about sums up the state of play in the Green Party. He's Dave Clendon a business advisor with the Sustainable Business Network in Auckland. His wife runs a PR firm.

Says Clendon “Clearly the Green party is evolving. We’ve been in Parliament for 10 years now, and I’ll be able to bring in some new energy, some new ideas, some new networks, some new relationships.””

What Clendon doesn’t say is that the Green Party has 'evolved' into just another neoliberal party and the ‘new ideas’ he speaks of are the same tired 'market solutions' that we have all heard a thousand times before.

JOHN KEY ON 'LETTERMAN'



Here it is. I suppose its marginally better than Paul Henry...

A DAY OUT IN PITTSBURCH








A few photos from the G20 demonstrations. The photos are from Pittsburgh Indymedia

SIDESHOW BOB AND THE $3 MILLION GARDEN SHOW


There you go. Mayor Sideshow Bob and his council chums handed over a staggering $3 million for the Ellerslie Garden Show.

The $3 million bought the Christchurch City Council 'the naming rights' and the so-called 'administrative infrastructure' - oh, and an opportunity for Sideshow Bob to boast about the purchase in the national media.

In the depths of an economic recession spending this kind of money on a garden show is outrageous. Remember, this is the same Sideshow Bob who tried to put council rents up a massive 24 percent.

This is the same Sideshow Bob who was instrumental in making big cuts to community funding.

This year there has been a $750,000 cut to community funding. Sporting organisations, welfare groups, health bodies and cultural groups have all had their funding cut.

The Christchurch City Council is proposing to cut $30m in real terms from its community grants funding over the next ten years.

Sideshow Bob has gone into PR mode - or should that be damage limitation?

It was 'just a one-off cost to the city,' says Bob, as if that makes everything alright.

Furthermore the purchase of the Ellerslie Garden will apparently add ' significant value to the city's Garden City image.'

Really? How exactly? What kind of 'value' is Bob talking about? Or is he just making things up as he goes along?

We can have no confidence in anything Sideshow Bob says. After all, he also told us that spending $17 million on five over-valued city properties belonging to Dave Henderson was also a great deal.

Sideshow Bob and his council chums have got their priorities seriously wrong.

JOHN KEY IS ON 'LETTERMAN'. SO?


The New Zealand media is so dire and facile that it regards John Key's New York appearance on the David Letterman Show as a major news story.

Key is going to walk on and read from the autocue a 'Top 10' list. Letterman will then shake his hand and Key will walk off. Then there will be a commercial break. That's it, folks. Was it good for you?

Maybe they'll be a few sniggers, perhaps the odd laugh. Whatever. It'll be of the same significance as the time Letterman introduced a model as 'Helen Clark, the Prime Minister of New Zealand.'

But at least Key will be able to promote himself as 'one of the boys' again and not the mega-wealthy neoliberal polician that he really is. I'm sure Paul Henry will be cheering him on.

Some 400 miles away from New York, in Pittsburgh, protest action is gearing up for the G20 economic summit which begins on Thursday.

The protests are about, among other things, the G20s agenda of corporate globalisation. Just yesterday the noted economist Joseph Stiglitz gave a talk a In Pittsburgh on '"How will real people be affected by the policies promoted by the G20?"'. This talk was one of a number of talks organised by The People's Voice project, a group campaigning for progressive change that will benefit ordinary people rather than big business.

There are a wide range of seminars and workshops, rock concerts underway in Pittsburgh but we have had no coverage at all in our local media.

Our media has not even attempted to outline what the protests are about. It would rather waste time following John Key's adventures in New York.

But if violence breaks out during the two day G20 summit the pictures will be splashed across our newspapers and on our television screens.

Already the protest movement is reporting police harassment but what's the bet any violence will be presented as the work of protesters?

Is it too much to ask that our media report on what is happening in Pittsburgh and the important issues that the protest movement are highlighting?

Or are celebrity capers more important than the crisis of global capitalism?

SIDESHOW BOB AND THE CHIEF OMBUDSMAN


Christchurch Mayor Sideshow Bob has grudgingly conceded that he and his council chums will have to tell Christchurch ratepayers how much they paid for the 'naming rights' for the Ellerslie Garden Show.

Sideshow Bob has always claimed 'commercial sensitivity' for not revealing the cost - the same excuse he used for not revealing that the council were in negotiations with Dave Henderson to buy five of his city properties - but, apparently, the reasons for that 'commercial sensitivity' no longer apply.

Said Sideshow Bob, backpedaling at a rapid rate of knots: 'Holding on to secrets is uncomfortable. I think the rationale for keeping it secret (the price) is nowhere near as important as in the first year.'

And what 'rationale' would that be exactly? What's changed?

Actually, nothing has changed - except that the Chief Ombudsman has recommended to Sideshow Bob and the Christchurch City Council that it should disclose the amount it paid for the Auckland garden show

So Sideshow Bob is now in a position of having to front up - or be seen to be going against the recommendation of the Chief Ombudsman.

Which, to borrow a phrase someone else has been using recently, 'would not be a good look'.

G20 PROTESTS BEGIN IN PITTSBURGH


Protests have kicked off in Pittsburgh ahead of this week's G20 economic summit.

A peaceful march was held on Sunday although many protesters are still arriving in the city while others are making preparations for the 'main event' later in the week.

At the headquarters of the Pittsburgh G20 Resistance Project, peace activists, environmentalists, socialists and anarchists and others conducted closed-door training on street demonstration tactics.

Participants plan to engage in civil disobedience, culminating with an Thursday march to the convention centre where the G20 summit is being held.

Protesters say they plan to air their opposition to 'the undemocratic way in which the G20 operates and the decisions the group makes, which affect the more than six billion inhabitants of this planet.'

The protest movement has attacked comments made by Barack Obama in the local Pittsburgh media, downplaying the effectiveness of mass protest on supposedly 'abstract issues' such as global capitalism

It was Obama who decided to shift the G20 summit from New York to Pittsburgh in an effort to minimise the protests.

The protest movement has pointed out that during his election campaign, Obama repeatedly said that the way positive social, political, and economic change was brought about in the United States been through protest movements--through the struggles of the labour, civil rights movement, and women's movements.

As one protester said: 'It appears that there's not that much difference between the policies of Bush and those of Obama toward these kinds of protests.'

The two day G20 summit begins this Thursday.

'The People's March' is expected to draw tens of thousands of people.

Twelve hundred state troopers began moving into the Pittsburgh area yesterday. 4000 federal officers have also been called in to assist the Pittsburgh law enforcement agencies.

The protest movement say that both local and federal authorities are deliberately fear-mongering in an attempt to justify any repressive police measures.

Meanwhile,two protest groups have already filed law suits alleging police harassment.

Seeds of Peace, a group that promotes Israeli-Palestinian coexistence, says its bus was illegally searched and seized over the weekend. It also says its members were detained without cause.

Three Rivers Climate Convergence, which focuses on the environment, says its members were also detained without cause.

WHAT'S IN A LETTER?


Should it be 'Wanganui' or 'Whanganui'? This was the crucial question that was taxing the minds of politicians, media commentators and talkback callers for most of this week.

What was so irritating about this issue was that, despite the torrent of words, the real issues that underscored the debate got ignored.

This debate largely allowed the Maori elite, represented by the likes of the Maori Party and media commentators like John Tamihere and Willie Jackson and activists like Ken Mair, to portray themselves as the true voices of Maori, seeking to 'liberate' their people from yet another symbol of white oppression.

It was predictable that middle class white liberals all wheeled in behind the Maori elite - the very same Maori elite that have attacked, over time, trade unions, the welfare state and the environmental movement - among other groups. These are the same liberals who think of themselves as 'left wing' or 'progressive' while still supporting the neoliberal Labour Party. The lack of real critical thinking was sorely apparent. Just the mention of anything Maori and white liberals start wringing their hands in guilt.

My three readers will know that I am impressed by the work of Professor Elizabeth Rata from the University of Auckland.

Her research has identified what is essentially a new Maori capitalism. Professor Rata refers to this as a 'neotribal capitalist regime of accumulation.' Writes Professor Rata:

Under neotribal capitalism, this access to what paltry resources have been returned to Maori is effectively exclusively controlled by the new tribal capitalist elite. Even if ownership of resources is nominally owned by the whole tribe (the corporate tribe, and not an individual, is the legal owner), and even if iwi members have a shareholding in the business, the undemocratic nature of neotribal capitalist business ensures that working class iwi do not have any real say in the corporate iwi head office.

It was the fourth Labour Government that began the process of co-opting the newly-emerging Maori elite into the capitalist structure and the official policy of biculturalism has resulted in a dramatic expansion of opportunities for middle class professional Maori, in the state apparatus, education system, health and the media.

These are the very same Maori, the John Tamihere's and Tariana Turia's, who have been campaigning on the basis of what is commonly referred to as cultural nationalism - an emphasis on Maori culture and identity.

But the focus on Maori culture has been at the cost of any real struggle for real economic and social change. Indeed the cultural nationalism of the Maori Party actively discourages any struggle for real change and implicitly reinforces the status quo.

This destructive emphasis on Maori identity and culture is of no threat at all to New Zealand capitalism which has easily absorbed it into the political system.

In 2007 Bryce Edwards, a Political Science lecturer at the University of Otago, observed:

New Zealand has now had 20 years of politically-correct state biculturalism. What has it achieved? Far from resolving the social crisis confronting Maori, the process has helped widen the social gulf between rich and poor. State-organised 'bi-culturalism' and the Waitangi settlements process has created a small but relatively wealthy and influential Maori elite which boasts assets worth $NZ25 billion. At the same time, Maori workers, like the rest of the working class, have suffered the consequences of two decades of economic restructuring that have produced especially high levels of unemployment and poverty and gutted public welfare, education and health services. After two decades of official biculturalism Maori deprivation remains as entrenched as ever. Unemployment among Maori is officially 10 percent, twice the national average, while Maori continue to figure disproportionately in every social statistic relating to low household income, poor health, low levels of education and high levels of crime.

Its a pity that the mainstream media didn't go to someone like Professor Rata or Dr Edwards to put the Wanganui debate into some kind of context. I guess they thought that the largely emotional and less than coherent views of Michael Laws, the Wanganui mayor, would make a 'better' spectacle on television.

Then again, left wing viewpoints get shut out of most debates so its just par for the course.

But the media's dishonesty allows the wealthy and conservative Maori elite to present themselves as 'liberators' when they are nothing of the sort. It lets the likes of John Tamihere, strongly anti-left wing and hostile to the welfare state, to portray themselves as authentic representatives for all Maori. It's a con job.

But its worse than that.

By reducing the struggle for equality to just a fight against prejudice, the fight is reduced to a fight against institutions and individuals and not the system that perpetuates that oppression. It suggests- wrongly -that the fundamental cause of Maori inequality and racism against Maori can be reduced to a clash of cultures.

The danger with this of course, is that Pakeha and Pakeha culture becomes the enemy and not the system itself. Is it little wonder then someone like Michael Laws can whip up resentment among the white working class who feel they are under attack?

But the strategy of cultural nationalism has been adopted by the wealthy and upwardly mobile Maori elite because it allows them to present Maori as one homogenous group with the same interests and concerns. But what has the Maori woman signing up on the dole in South Auckland got in common with millionaire Willie Jackson? Nothing.

Her interests, and the interests of the ordinary Maori, lie in forging an alliance with the white working class against the system that exploits both ordinary Maori and Pakeha.

The cultural nationalism of the Maori elite has not only done nothing to improve the economic position of ordinary Maori, it leaves them trapped in a political cul-de-sac. Meanwhile the Maori elite continue to line their pockets while, at the same time, continuing to support the neoliberal economic policies of government.

SIDESHOW BOB AND THE GARDEN SHOW


Mayor Sideshow Bob and his council chums have consistently refused to tell Christchurch ratepayers how much of their money was spent on acquiring the 'naming rights' to the Ellerslie Garden show.

While Sideshow Bob was keen to boast of his 'achievement' in purchasing the Auckland show, he's been rather less keen to say how much he paid for it.

The rumour is that Sideshow Bob wrote a cheque for $2 million but he will neither confirm or deny that figure - he's claiming 'commercial sensitivity'.

This an old excuse of Sideshow's and it's just nonsense because the Ellerslie Show has no rival show to worry about.

Which also seems to be the opinion of the Chief Ombudsman Beverly Wakem. She has recommended that the city council tell the people of Christchurch just how much of their money was spent purchasing the so-called 'naming rights'.

The Chief Ombudsman's intervention comes after The Press lodged a request for the information under the Official Information Act.

Sideshow Bob and the city council have another fortnight or so to officially respond to the Chief Ombudsman's recommendation - and are set to go behind closed doors once again to discuss that response.

So much for accountability and transparency..

GOFF'S 'THROWAWAY PROMISES'


I have a lot of respect for the Alliance. At least here is political party that, in its own way, is articulating consistent economic policies that stand in opposition to the cosy neoliberal consensus that exists within Parliament.

The Alliance makes a good point that Phil Goff's sudden enthusiasm for a capital gains tax has been an Alliance policy for many years.

Co-leader Kay Murray asks the pertinent question - how come Labour never introduced such a tax while it was in government?

Murray says: '“Perhaps it could be because their leadership has a long history of abandoning their working class voters while in Government, then conveniently ‘coming home’ when they are outside Government.”

Too true.

Similarly Goff's sudden pledge to do something about price gouging by the electricity industry also smacks of opportunism, since Labour failed to do anything about the shambolic state of the power industry when it was in power.

“Is Mr Goff going to commit Labour to the public control of electricity for affordable power for New Zealanders, or is this just another throwaway promise?” asks Murray.

Given its dismal track record and its conspicuous failure to reject neoliberalism, I'd say this is just another throwaway promise from Goff - desperately trying to fool the public into believing that Labour really is different from National.

SAME OLD RUBBISH FROM GOFF


While the uncritical Labour supporter will say otherwise, nothing new came out of the Labour Party conference other than a clear confirmation that Goff's Labour has no intention of abandoning neoliberalism. Indeed Goff is taking his sorry party further to the right and Labour apologists like Chris Trotter and The Standard have fallen in behind.

Goff has made a few noises about a capital gains tax and price gouging by power companies (how come Labour never did anything about it when it was in power then, Phil?) these are little more than add-ons to Labour's neoliberal framework.

Goff, who thinks there is no alternative to the 'free market', offered the conference more neoliberal tripe and the conference said 'thankyou'. Judging by what Chris Trotter has said, it looks like he went back for a second helping.

While the mainstream media has concentrated on Goff's supposed admission of Labour's 'mistakes' and his commitment to 'listen' to the concerns of the electorate, Goff's conference speech was a statement of orthodoxy and continuity. Nothing new here - just more of the same old rubbish. You can change the labels but its still the same old neoliberal rubbish.

Rather than abandoning neoliberalism Goff chose to blame Labour's social liberalism - eg the anti-smacking bill and light bulbs - as the cause of Labour's downfall. As I said in a previous post this is simply buying into right wing propaganda about 'Nanny State'.

Goff hasn't - and won't - apologise for Labour's economic policies.

Did he apologise for Labour not raising benefit levels? No. Did he apologise for Labour allowing the sharks of the finance sector to fleece thousands of ordinary New Zealanders of billions of dollars? No.

The track record of the Clark government is one of consistent economic attacks on the living standards of working people to the point that we now have one of the highest rates of inequality, and highest levels of outright poverty, in the OECD.

I don't hear Goff apologising for any of this - and he was backed by the appalling Andrew Little as the man to lead Labour into the future!

Who the hell cares that Phil Goff's sorry about mucking about with light bulbs?

This Labour Party cannot be supported by anyone who considers themselves to be left wing, never mind socialist. Anyone who claims such political credentials while continuing to support this party is a fraud.

We now are watching the spectacle of a party whose response to the deep unpopularity of everything associated with Labour and neoliberalism is to move further to the right.

A new era for Labour? No, just a new error. With a dwindling membership - and even smaller 'active' membership - this is party on life support.

At the last election large numbers of Labour voters stayed home because they felt they had no-one to vote for - they still don't.

TROTTER V TROTTER



I can exclusively reveal to my three readers that, despite all appearances to the contrary, there are two Chris Trotters! It's hard to believe but I have irrefutable truth that the well known political commentator is, in fact, two people.

Chris Trotter 1 writing on his blog Bowalley Road yesterday was urging Labour leader Phil Goff to 'reset the course of New Zealand social democracy'.

But a just few weeks earlier,on the same blog, Chris 2 was attacking Phil Goff for dismissing Labour's traditional social democratic principles!

Wrote Chris 2:

Listening to Radio New Zealand-National’s "Focus on Politics" yesterday evening, I was incensed and depressed, but I can’t honestly say surprised, to hear Phil Goff dismiss Labour’s founding objective – "the socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange" as "nineteenth century history."

It got worse, with Phil adding ideological insult to historical injury by declaring that the modern Labour Party believed "a well-functioning market system is the most effective and efficient way of organising an economy". Yes, he was willing to "recognise market failure", but only to the extent of ensuring "an adequate level of regulation".


So while Chris 1 is urging big Phil to rediscover social democracy Chris 2 is attacking Goff for embracing neoliberalism !

Clearly such diametrically opposed political viewpoints cannot be the work of just one Chris Trotter- there must be two of them! Has he been cloned or does he have a twin? Or does he have a doppelganger?

Perhaps the two Trotters should get together and see if they can work out a consistent political position. Clearly they are both all over the shop when it comes to the Labour Party.

WHAT A FOOL BELIEVES


How fitting that reactionary Labour leader Phil Goff is buying into the right wing myth of the liberal 'nanny state'. Having already dismissed Labour's social democratic history as 'irrelevant' and 'outmoded', he's now embracing right wing nonsense about an overprotective state.

Rather than setting a new agenda for Labour he's just entrenching and deepening Labour's neoliberalism. It comes as no great surprise to we socialists, but it must be profoundly dispiriting for blogs like The Standard who keep on flying the red flag for Labour. It's about time they replaced it with a blue one.

According to Goff he wants to 'draw a line' under such unpopular policies as those telling people what size shower heads and which lightbulbs they could use.

But this is not about confronting past mistakes - its about giving up completely any pretensions about Labour being any other than just another neoliberal party.

Goff is buying into the argument that its somehow wrong for the state to intervene in any meaningful way into the economy or society. The market rules!

But as well as buying into the myth of the liberal 'nanny state' Goff is also buying into the myth that the right doesn't intervene and let's 'the free market' run the roost. What a ridiculous man Goff is.

In fact the right favours a broad range of state policies to tilt the field in favour of the rich and powerful - to the detriment of ordinary people.

A vivid example of that is are the plans to create an Auckland 'supercity' which will favour big business and open up Auckland public assets to privatisation or so-called 'private-public partnerships'.

But are we surprised that Goff has bought into the right wing myth about the 'nanny state' when he shows no affinity or sympathy for what we could describe as traditional social democratic policies?

There will be no real reassessment or revaluation of Labour's political direction at the weekend conference and there will certainly be no rejection of Labour's neoliberal economic policies.

Not surprisingly the truly awful Andrew Little claims that Goff has the 'widespread support' of the party. Unless he has asked every party member their opinion he can't possibly know this but its an indication that Little, who has been instrumental in turning the trade union movement into the timid and gutless creature it is today, will ensure that the CTU will remain manacled to this joke of a party.

Labour has not learnt from its mistakes and Goff is all set to leave it further into the wilderness - and the likes of Andrew Little will be helping him.

Once again we are left lamenting the absence of a mass workers party that proudly advocates economic policies that favour ordinary New Zealanders.

SIDESHOW BOB AND THE 'HOUSE OF HORRORS'


Yes, when there's an opportunity to raise his media profile, Mayor Sideshow Bob Parker is not slow in coming forward.

His announcement that the Christchurch City Council might buy what the media have labelled the 'House of Horrors' (a none too subtle reference to the Yorkshire Ripper) appears to have been made on the hoof.

Sideshow's inclination to make announcements and then tell his councillors afterwards about it, is a common Bob trait.

It's news to many councillors that 'they' are thinking of buying the Aranui house where two bodies were found buried in the basement.

They are merely onlookers as Sideshow Bob appears all over the national media expressing his concern for the needs of the local community. It's the 'caring and sharing' Sideshow Bob!

Remember, this is the same Sideshow Bob who tried to put up council rents a massive 24 percent last year. Bob and his cronies clearly have an agenda to sell off council housing stock so its ironic that he now wants to buy a house.

But its for a good cause after all - boosting Mayor Bob's re-election chances.

Sideshow Bob was also instrumental in formulating plans to cut council funding to community groups. The Christchurch City Council is proposing to cut $30m in real terms from its community grants funding over the next ten years. Not a whole lot of 'community concern' displayed here either from Mayor Sideshow Bob.

Given that the Aranui state house hasn't a future and runs the risk of being vandalised or worse, then something will have to be done about it. But it's also ironic that Sideshow Bob who has also shown an inclination to try and offload much of the responsibility for social housing on to central government, is now keen as mustard to see the Christchurch City Council play a direct social role by purchasing a state house and redeveloping the property.

DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE 2 !


Wow. Can you believe it? Not only is the American economy emerging from the ruins, so is the New Zealand economy! Another miracle, brothers and sisters!

Raise your hands in the air believer and praise the Treasury Gods for they bring good news of neoliberal Heaven!

Yes, according to the Treasury officials - who get paid a lot of money for writing reports -the recession 'may' be over and unemployment figures 'may' not reach the levels initially expected. Well, that will be good news for the thousand New Zealanders a week who are presently losing their jobs.

Treasury's delusions are based largely on an unfounded optimism of an international 'economy recovery' and a rise in something Treasury likes to call 'business confidence'.

Yesterday I wrote about the disastrous state of the American economy - a crucial driver of the world economy - and in other posts I have noted the work of economists Barry Eichengreen and Kevin O'Rourke.

To quote them: ' globally we are tracking or doing even worse than the Great Depression, whether the metric is industrial production, exports or equity valuations...The “Great Recession” label may turn out to be too optimistic. This is a Depression-sized event.'

They say that the world economy remains in a tailspin. The best that can be said is that the plunge downwards has slowed a little.

As for business confidence, this is nothing more than a survey of what people think. So if enough business suits 'think' there's an 'economic recovery' then it must be so.

It's nothing more than quackery from the neoliberal Treasury officials.

The collapse in the confidence followed the collapse in the world economy - not the other way round. You cannot 'think' an economic recovery into existence.

In reality there is no concrete evidence to say that the New Zealand economy is coming out of recession. The Treasury is simply clutching at straws.

Don't believe the hype!

DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE!


In the last fortnight or so, I've come across a fair number of stories in the New Zealand media about the apparent beginnings of an 'economic recovery' in the crucial United States economy. Here's a typical story from the Dominion Post (August 28)

The US economy shrank less than expected in the second quarter, despite a record drop in inventories, and fewer workers filed new claims for jobless benefits last week, a sign the economy was starting to heal.

Actually this story did the rounds - the same story appeared in The Press and on Radio New Zealand. It probably appeared elsewhere as well.

There's been a lot of empty bluster like this in the media.

Because he annoys me so much, I must mention Corin Dann the business reporter on Television One. He is one of the more unreconstructed cheerleaders for neoliberalism and the 'free market'. Every time the American stockmarket goes up he wets his pants on national television.

Of course these ' good news' stories are largely coming from the same people and organisations that told us that the free market had ushered in an age of unparalleled prosperity. None of the financial geniuses took any heed of the warning signs- and then the crash came, the bubble burst.

You would of those these economic 'experts' and commentators might of found something more productive to do with their time but, no, they are still clogging up the media. Unable to accept that the credibility of their beloved neoliberalism has been shot to pieces they keep on talking nonsense about 'the signs of an economic recovery'. Hallelujah! It's a miracle! Televangelist Benny Hinn can't hold a candle to some of the fervent babble coming from the economic gurus of the free market.

So is the US economy really starting to heal? Let's have a look.

The latest official figures show that July was the worst month yet for foreclosures. 8.6 percent of homeowners were delinquent on their mortgages - an increase of 40 percent over July 2008.

It was reported that 360,149 U.S. properties were in foreclosure or delinquent on payments during July 2009. That means one in every 355 American homes was issued a foreclosure notice in July.

About 2.9 million homes nationwide have already been lost to foreclosure and U.S. officials estimate that 2.5 million more people may face foreclosure in the next couple of years,

Does this sound like there's an 'economic recovery' underway in the United States? Hardly.

The other big indicator that the American economy is still deep in the mire are the unemployment figures.

The U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics said a week or so ago that the number of recorded unemployed people in America reached 14.4 million in August, for an overall rate of unemployment of 9.7 percent. This is about double the number of people unemployed before the recession began in 2007 and the highest rate of joblessness in 50 years.

Another 2.3 million people indicated they were barely working and wanted a job, but were no longer looking. An additional nine million people work part-time because they couldn't find full-time work.. Together, the rate of those who are unemployed and underemployed is 16.8 percent, the bureau said.

Late this month the G20 summit will be held in Pittsburgh. This is where politicians and officials from the world's biggest economies will wonder what the hell they are going to do to further prop up capitalism - the best economic system we can hope for, according to Labour Party leader Phil Goff.

The politicians will be confronted by protests and the Pittsburgh authorities have plans to implement a massive security clampdown - thousands of police officers, National Guard and state troopers will be out on the streets.

The main protest are being led by the Bailout the People movement, together with some trade unions and many grassroots activist groups. As well other groups are still awaiting permits to hold demonstrations - the Pittsburgh authorities are not issuing the permits with any great speed.

The Bailout the People movement points out that ordinary Americans - the people paying the heavy price for the greed of Wall Street - have only received $8.2 billion in financial assistance. In contrast the banks have received a staggering $12 trillion. Approximately $76 billion of that has been paid out in the form of executive bonuses.

Even this figure of $8.2 billion is deceptive because, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, most of this went to state unemployment insurance programs or job training programs—for jobs that don't exist. Just $25 a week went to those receiving the unemployment benefit.

As the New York Times said recently the bailout of banks by taxpayers is a 'partnership in which one partner robs the other.'

The beginnings of an 'American economic recovery'? Don't believe the hype.

SIDESHOW BOB GETS HEAVY


One of the few areas of the economy that is booming is debt collecting and the Christchurch City Council is about to send more business its way.

It has hired the debt collecting agency Credit Services Ltd to chase debts which includes rates, building and resource consents and - yes- library fines. I owe something like $1.50 down at my local library so perhaps I'll get a letter from the heavy mob.

Apparently the Christchurch City Council is owed some $23 million in debts for the past financial year. It is the area of non-payment of rates that is causing the council bureaucracy most angst, with the threat of court action now becoming increasingly common.

While the council is pursuing ratepayers - who invariably don't pay on time because of economic hardship - it has played fast and loose with ratepayers money when it handed over $17 million to failed property developer Dave Henderson for five nondescript central city buildings.

It also spent some $2 million on the 'naming rights' to the Ellerslie Garden show.

Oh and let's not forget the $100,000 Audi sportster that Sideshow Bob drives around in - the struggling ratepayer 'subsidises' this as well.

Sideshow Bob and his council chums have proven to be less than sensible with ratepayer money - if they hadn't been so reckless the outstanding debts would of been less of an issue.

The struggling ratepayer may of also been less inclined to ignore the council demands if they hadn't seen their money being thrown at property developers already up to their neck in debt.

People like Henderson get a $17 million bridging loan - us plebs get the debt collectors put on to us.

AMERICA'S BAILOUT BARONS


The Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), a Washington-based think tank, has just released its 16th annual 'Executive Excess' report.

It reveals that, despite the near collapse of the American economy and the current global economic crisis, US executives are still living the high life and paying themselves massive bonuses.

Despite Barack Obama's claim that he was determined to rid Wall Street of its 'culture of excess' that culture remains alive and well.

One of the key findings of the report is that Wall Street executives are the United States wealthiest welfare beneficiaries = the very same people who invariably decry state intervention and 'welfarism'.

From 2006 through 2008, the top five executives at the 20 banks that have accepted the most federal bailout dollars since the meltdown averaged $32 million each in personal compensation.

'One hundred average U.S. workers would have to labour over 1,000 years to make as much as these 100 executives made in three.' say the four authors of the IPS report.

Also of note is that since January 1, 2008, the top 20 financial industry recipients of bailout aid have together laid off more than 160,000 workers. In 2008, the 20 CEOs at these firms each averaged $13.8 million, for a collective total of over a quarter-billion dollars in compensation.

'America's executive pay bubble remains un-popped,' commented Sarah Anderson, lead author on the Institute study. 'And these outrageous rewards give executives an incentive to behave outrageously, putting the rest of us at risk.'

The IPS criticises the Obama administration for its lack of action.

'Public officials in Congress and the White House hold the pin that could pop the executive pay bubble,' says IPS Senior Scholar Chuck Collins. 'They have so far failed to use it.'

A generation ago, typical US corporate CEOs seldom made more than 30 or 40 times what their workers took home. In 2008, the IPS report shows, top executives averaged 319 times more than average U.S. worker pay.

THE HENDO FARCE DRAGS ON...



It's hardly breaking news but The Press have reported today that Rodney Hide's good mate Dave Henderson may not be able to buy back the five central city properties he sold to the Christchurch City Council for an exorbitant $17 million in August last year.

Hendo has first right of refusal but as he is being chased by a load of angry creditors, I'd say Hendo has as much chance of buying back the properties as I have of taking a trip to the moon.

Yesterday no less than seven of his companies were involved in liquidation proceedings in the High Court. Of course there are a lot of Henderson companies to go after since he is director of nearly a hundred of them.

But Hendo's financial woes have not just happened overnight - he was already in the poo when Mayor Sideshow Bob Parker and his moronic council supporters decided to bail him out.

Indeed Sideshow Bob and his council chums seemed determined to turn a blind eye to Hendo's mounting financial problems -it's a pity they are not so obliging when we ordinary plebs have trouble paying the rates.

The chief executive of the Christchurch City Council, the silly Tony Marryatt, claimed at the time that 'it was irrelevant' what the council had paid for the properties because Dave Henderson would 'buy them back off us'. I said at the time that this was just 'empty PR bluster' and so it has proved.

Just a few weeks earlier, in July 2008, the troubled Hanover Finance sent the receivers in to Hendo's ridiculous Five Mile Village project near Queenstown - it has cost investors in Hanover in the region of $80 million.

Of course , you would of thought this development would of alerted Tony Marryatt to the reality that all was not well in Hendo's world.

Well, no , it didn't.

Marryatt, along with Sideshow Bob and incompetent councillors like Sue Wells and Barry Corbett still wanted to play fast and loose with other people's money and gave their mate Dave a $17 million bridging loan.

Hendo, laughably , says that 'like every property developer in the world right now, I face a number of challenges.'

That's right Dave - you are in debt up to your libertarian neck.

Hendo also said, in his defence, that 'sometimes people abuse the legal process or act very unfairly.'

Well, you have to give Hendo top marks for barefaced cheek.

Hendo has spent years tying up his creditors in legal red tape - he is an expert in it.

One of Hendo's favourite legal tactics is to get his lawyer to present the court with a last minute 'proposal' and then request an adjournment in proceedings. The legal authorities though may at last be losing their patience with this delaying tactic. Associate Judge Rob Osbourne warned yesterday that since Henderson's companies had been fighting liquidation proceedings since March, he had 'no great sympathy for the last minute proposal' - but he did give Henderson a week to come up with a financial solution.

As for 'acting unfairly', Dodgy Dave's failure to pay his bills is hardly the actions of a man who acts 'fairly'. Indeed there are a number cases in which he has simply denied that he owes anything.

Hendo appears to be turning into a local version of Walter Mitty because he is claiming that he will 'soon be making some announcements in regard to the first property to be purchased back for the development of apartments.'

Has Hendo suddenly found a new source of funds or, as is more likely, is he just making things up as he goes along?

The bottom line is, thanks to Sideshow Bob and idiots like Marryatt, Corbett and Wells , the Christchurch City Council will be stuck with five properties that are worth considerably less than what the council paid for them.

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