BLOGTOWN


I'm a relative newcomer to the blogosphere. It's only in the last two years that I've been taking it seriously and posting on a regular basis.

But I think I've been out in the blogosphere long enough to draw some conclusions about the local scene.

One of my fundamental disappointments is the paucity of blogs that are written from a consistent socialist perspective.

While there are several blogs run by various small parties and groups (eg Socialist Aotearoa Workers Party) there are few explicitly socialist and anti-capitalist bloggers.

In fact we could all comfortably meet in a very small room. Quite possibly, if illness struck, the room would be empty.

There's your truly of course and then, well,...I'm struggling to come up with any sort of reasonable list.

Bryce Edwards would be joining me in the small room for coffee and biscuits. A political science lecturer at the University of Otago, his Liberation blog is a must read if you want a solid and well researched left wing perspective on New Zealand politics.

This year Bryce was bloggng about MPs and their travel and accommodation expenses fiddles long before it made the news in the mainstream media.

You should bookmark his blog for 2010 if you haven't already done so.

Oliver Woods also used to have interesting perspectives on New Zealand politics but his last post was in June - a kind of downbeat post about the failure of the left wing in New Zealand. I'm hoping its his university studies rather than a general disillusionment with left wing politics that has prevented him from blogging.

I'm now struggling to come up with anything else that comes close to being a socialist blog. I'd like to be proved wrong but I don't think I will be - the cupboard is mostly bare when it comes to local blogs written by socialist writers.

At this point though I would also like to mention Letters from Wetville.

While its not an explicitly socialist blog, Sandra interweaves some political comment in between in her posts about her life, her garden and her family. This is a warm-hearted blog that I've enjoyed reading throughout the year.

Overall the New Zealand blogosphere isn't as 'out there' as its often assumed. In fact it isn't 'out there' at all.

The general assumption is that blogosphere is more radical than the local mainstream media (which wouldn't be hard anyway) but the truth is that the blogosphere generally mirrors the conventionalities of the New Zealand political scene.

Essentially the debate occurs within that dreary neoliberal consensual framework that many of us are heartedly sick of.

Two of the more widely read blogs Tumeke! and The Standard, devote most of their time to firing buckshot at the National Government.

Some of the writing is okay and hits the target, but both blogs always leave me underwhelmed with their conclusion - either explicit or implicit, - which is that the way forward is to support Labour and its brand of neoliberalism. I'll pass on that invitation.

After nearly a quarter of a century of solid neoliberalism, the Labour Party of 2009 bears little resemblance to what might be considered to be a traditional social democratic party. Unfortunately we're stuck with a a lot of bloggers who aren't anti-capitalist - just anti-National.

Chris Trotter on his Bowalley Road blog offers a thoughtful analysis of the New Zealand political scene but his blog is marred by his support for Labour - which can lead to Trotter wildly contradicting himself within a few weeks. His love-hate relationship with Phil Goff is a good example of this.

Chris should just come out and admit that he is a right wing social democrat.

I'm still hoping the New Zealand blogosphere might tilt in a more left wing direction in 2010 but I'm not holding my breath. What we have now is, realistically, what we will have come 2011 and the next general election.

LWR WORKERS SOLD OUT BY UNION OFFICIALS

Lane Walker Rudkin has finally been completely closed and, as the year rolls to a close, the remaining eighty workers are now without jobs. All up some 470 workers have lost their jobs.

The National Distribution Union's (NDU) role in the closure is yet another dismal example of a union bureaucracy not prepared to fight for the members who pay the not inconsiderable salaries of the union officials.

When immediate resistance to the redundancies was demanded, the response of the NDU was to promptly raise the white flag and surrender. Of course, as it is in all battles, its the rank and file who suffer the casualties.

In this case while many LWR workers are out of work or doing worse jobs for less pay, the union officials are still there in their nice offices, drinking coffee and reading the newspaper.

In the case of Paul Watson, the southern secretary of the NDU, he's busy writing trite press releases that carefully avoid talking about the NDU's role in this whole debacle.

Not for them the worries of finding another job and finding the money to pay the rent. The biggest issue on the minds of these gutless wonders is wondering what the weather's going to be like during the holidays.

Back in August the really pathetic Robert Reid - and national secretary of the NDU - described the redundancies at LWR as a 'tragedy'.

Reid, a former Maoist, would rather just sellout his members than be a proper unionist and organise a real fightback, so his abysmal response to the LWR redundancies was not surprisingly.

As I said in a previous post in August:

Robert Reid has also got a whole lot of nothing to offer the LWR workers - which is also what he had to offer the sacked workers at Pacific Brands and at Line 7.

His response to the sackings at the Line 7 clothing manufacturer was to say that he was 'worried for the future of Line 7 workers.' Reid then disappeared back into his office.


Reid was up to his old tricks in Auckland recently.

In November workers rejected a union-backed management pay offer by Auckland-based NZ Bus. The 700 workers voted by a 55 percent majority in a secret ballot to reject the shonky deal, which amounted to an increase of just $2 an hour by the end of a three-year contract.

Robert Reid and the NDU, which represented 32 bus drivers, announced it would accept the offer - which was met with anger from the bus drivers themselves.

Confronted by an angry membership, Robert Reid and the NDU quickly backed down and said it would re-join the continuing negotiations.

So LWR workers were always going to be sacrificed by an NDU that - like the union bureaucracy generally - has simply refused to fight despite the increasing number of factory and worksite closures.

The only response by the NDU was to organise some farcical cake stalls to raise a 'fighting fund' for former LWR workers. This was the brilliant idea of Reid's predecessor Laila Harre and collapsed after about a month.

The NDU's 'Bake a Cake for LWR Workers' page is still there on Facebook, lost and alone, a testament to the complete failure of the NDU to organise any meaningful oppositIon to the closure of Lane Walker Rudkin.

MORE MONEY FOR MARRYATT


Ho Ho Ho! What has Santa Sideshow Bob got in his sack then?

'Not much' is the answer if you happen to be a mere worker for the Christchurch City Council.They got a dismal 2.7 per cent pay rise for both the 2009-10 and the 2010-11 financial years. Sideshow Bob and his cronies came up with this insulting offer at the last minute - after consistently claiming that it couldn't afford any wage increase at all.

Sideshow Bob 'explained' that in these 'difficult economic times we all had to tighten our belts'.

But in keeping with his philosophy of 'make the rich even richer' Sideshow Bob has given his loyal lieutenant, CEO Tony Marryatt , a nice wee Christmas present - a hefty $18000 salary increase.This is a five percent increase backdated to July 1.

Apparently the ' difficult economic times' aren't so 'difficult' that Marryatt can't be further rewarded for his unswerving loyalty to Sideshow Bob.

While the money mysteriously vanishes when union officials come knocking on Sideshow's door looking for a decent wage increase for their members, the piggy bank comes out of hiding when its time to 'thank' Marryatt.

Marryatt received a massive 22 percent salary increase earlier this year. He is now on $470,400, making him one of the country's highest paid local government CEO's

Councillors Yani Johanson and Sally Buck were the only two councillors to show some integrity and oppose the increase.

What makes this story even more unpalatable is that Marryatt recommended a zero wage increase for council workers.

HENRY GETS AWAY WITH IT - AGAIN


TVNZ has delivered its verdict on the latest Paul Henry outrage - its 'very sorry' for Henry's behaviour.

TVNZ's complaints committee upheld complaints under the good taste and decency standards of the Free to Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice.

However its not a full and frank apology but comes attached with a number of excuses for the behaviour of the former National Party candidate.

TVNZ claims that Henry was just trying to be funny when he attacked British singing star Susan Boyle and that there is, apparently, 'a legitimate place for Paul Henry's boundary-pushing style and sense of humour in broadcasting.'

So that means that we can look forward to more of Henry's blatant promotion of the National Government and his general hostility to liberal and left wing politics.

There is nothing 'boundary pushing' about Henry. He is simply a cheerleader for the politics of neoliberalism.

Henry himself hasn't actually apologised for his comments - just that he didn't 'intend' to 'cause offence over this or any other issue'.

And Henry's punishment? Well, there doesn't seem to be one - just like he escaped any disciplinary action when he had a go at Stephanie Mills from Greenpeace.

Our punishment is that Henry and his right wing politics will be back in 2010 and he will possibly be hosting an afternoon show.

'WE SHALL OVERCOME'


“Copenhagen is not the end, I repeat, but a beginning: the doors have been opened for a universal debate on how to save the planet, life on the planet. The battle continues.”

Hugo Chavez outlines how Copenhagen was sabotaged by the rich developed countries led by the United States. The President of Venezuela says that the people of the world must carry on the fight against an economic system that now threatens our very survival.


I
Copenhagen was the scene of a historic battle in the framework of the 15th Conference of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (COP15). Better said, in the beautiful, snowy capital of Denmark, a battle began that did not end on Friday, December 18, 2009. I reiterate: Copenhagen was only the beginning of a decisive battle for the salvation of the planet. It was a battle in the realm of ideas and in praxis.

Brazilian Leonardo Boff, a great liberation theologian and one of the most authoritative voices on environmental issues, in a key article, entitled “What is at stake in Copenhagen?”, wrote these words full of insight and courage:

What can we expect from Copenhagen? At least this simple confession: We cannot continue like this. And a simple proposition: Let’s change course.


And for that reason, precisely, we went to Copenhagen to battle for a change of course on behalf of Venezuela, on behalf of the Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA), and moreover, in defence of the cause of humanity and to speak, with President Evo Morales, in defence of the rights of Pachamama, of Mother Earth.

Evo, who together with yours truly, had the responsibility to be a spokesperson for the Bolivarian Alliance, wisely said: What this debate is about, is whether we are going to live or we are going to die.

All eyes of the world were concentrated on Copenhagen: the 15th Conference on Climate Change allowed us to gauge the fibre we are made of, where hope lies and what can we do to establish what the Liberator Simón Bolívar defined as the equilibrium of the universe, an equilibrium that can never be achieved within the capitalist world system.

II
Before our arrival in Copenhagen, the African bloc, backed by the Group of 77, denounced that rich countries were ignoring the Kyoto Protocol, that is, the only existing international instrument to fight global warming, the only thing that penalises the industrialised states and protects the developing countries.

It is necessary to recognise that the battle had already begun in the streets of Copenhagen, with the youth at the forefront protesting and proposing: I could see and feel, since my arrival in the Danish capital on December 16, the historic power of another world that for the youth is not only possible but absolutely necessary.

III
In Copenhagen, from the beginning, the cards were on the table for all to see. On the one hand, the cards of brutal meanness and stupidity of capitalism which did not budge in defence of its logic: the logic of capital, which leaves only death and destruction in its wake at an increasingly rapid pace.

On the other hand, the cards of the peoples demanding human dignity, the salvation of the planet and for a radical change, not of the climate, but of a world system that has brought us to the brink of unprecedented ecological and social catastrophe.

On one side, the victors of a mercantile and utilitarian civilisation, that is, the “civilised ones” who for a long time now have forgotten about human beings, and opted blindly for increasingly insatiable desires.

On the other hand, the “barbarians” who remain committed in believing and in fighting for radically changing the logic, that you can maximise human welfare, minimising environmental and ecological impacts. Those who sustain the impossibility of defending human rights, as raised by the comrade Evo Morales, if we don’t also defend the rights of Mother Earth, those who act with determination to leave a planet and future for our descendants.

I will not tire of repeating to the four winds: the only possible and viable alternative is socialism. I said it in each of my speeches to all the world representatives gathered in Copenhagen, the world’s most important event in the last two hundred years: there is no other way if we want to stop this heartless and debased competition that promises only total annihilation.

Why are the “civilised ones” so afraid of a project that aspires to build shared happiness? They are afraid, let’s be honest, because shared happiness does not generate profit. Hence the crystal clarity of that great slogan of the Copenhagen street protest that today speaks for millions: “If the climate was a bank, they would have saved it already.”

The “civilised ones” do not take the necessary measures, simply because of this, it would oblige them to reverse their voracious pattern of life, marked by selfish comfort and that does not touch their cold hearts, which palpitate only to the beat of money.

That’s why the [US] Empire arrived late on December 18, to offer crumbs via blackmail, and through this, wash away the guilt marked on its face. In front of this strategy of buying support, you could hear throughout Denmark the clear and courageous voice of Vandana Shiva, the Indian thinker saying a great truth:

I think it is time for US to stop seeing itself as a donor and begin to recognise itself as polluter: a polluter must pay compensation for damages and must it pay its ecological debt. It is not charity. This is justice.

I must say: in Copenhagen the Obama illusion was definitively destroyed. He was confirmed in his position as head of the empire and winner of the Nobel War Prize. The enigma of the two Obamas has been resolved.

Friday the 18th came to an end without a democratically agreed accord: Obama mounted the platform separately, in a further violation of UN procedures, for which we feel obliged to challenge any decision that does not respect for the validity of the Protocol Kyoto. To respect and enhance Kyoto is our motto.

I will not tire of repeating to the four winds: the only possible and viable alternative is socialism. I said it in each of my speeches to all the world representatives gathered in Copenhagen, the world’s most important event in the last two hundred years: there is no other way if we want to stop this heartless and debased competition that promises only total annihilation.


An accord was not possible in Copenhagen due to the lack of political will of the rich countries: the powerful of this world, the hyper-developed, they do not want to change their patterns of production and consumption which are as senseless as suicide. “The world can go to hell if it dares to threaten my privilege and my lifestyle”, is what they appear to be saying with their conduct: that is the hard truth that they do not want to hear from those who act under the historical and categorical imperative to change course.

Copenhagen is not the end, I repeat, but a beginning: the doors have been opened for a universal debate on how to save the planet, life on the planet. The battle continues.

IV
We commemorated the 179th anniversary of the physical disappearance of our Liberator Simón Bolívar in an act of deep revolutionary content; I refer to the meeting of the Bolivarian Alliance with social movements in Denmark on December 17. There I felt, once again that Bolivar is not only a banner of Venezuela and Our America, but is increasingly a universal leader.

It is his living and combative legacy, now embodied in the Bolivarian Alliance, which is becoming a world heritage, that we took to Copenhagen to do battle for the Patria Grande, which is at the same time, to do battle for the sake of humanity .

In reality and in truth: Bolivar lives! In Copenhagen it was confirmed that his legacy is more alive than ever.

And now he will overcome.
Now we shall overcome!

This article is from Climate and Capitalism.

COPENHAGEN TRAVESTY


What a complete and utter travesty Copenhagen proved to be. Despite all the rhetoric from our political 'leaders' about the grim future that awaits us all if nothing is done about global warming that is what they shamefully did in Copenhagen - exactly nothing.

The sham deal was pushed by the United States and Australia, and sealed in meetings behind closed doors with the leaders of China, India, Brazil and South Africa.

It's a meaningless agreement cooked up by politicians not prepared to front up to the people of the planet.

'It may not be everything we hoped for, but this decision of the Conference of Parties is an essential beginning,' UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told reporters.

Ki-moon, clearly not wanting to offend the likes of the United States, insulted us all with his vacuous comments.

The 'accord' sets no global emission-reduction targets for the medium or long-term. This accord only 'obliges' the developed countries to 'communicate' their efforts to 'limit' greenhouse gas emissions every two years and there are no binding procedures in place to independently verify such reduction claims.

UN climate chief Yvo de Boer described this 'do nothing' agreement as 'a way of recognizing that something is there, but not going so far as to directly associate yourself with it."

I hope he understands what he's talking about because nobody else does.

Samantha Hayes from TV3 was all excited about Barack Obama attending Copenhagen and told us last week that he might help to 'galvanise proceedings'.

In fact he did what most of the socialist left thought he might do - he tried to scapegoat the Chinese government because it would not allow its carbon emissions to be externally monitored. Obama's hypocrisy was breathtaking since he leads a country that has resolutely opposed any binding agreement.

Obama may have appeased powerful corporate interests back home in the United States but his actions at Copenhagen, once again, show there is a yawning credibility gap between what Obama says and what he actually does.

The real push for genuine measures to be taken against global warming came from Latin America - although its message got, predictably, inadequate coverage from the corporate media.

Speaking on behalf of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela accused Obama of behaving like an emperor 'who comes in during the middle of the night … and cooks up a document that we will not accept, we will never accept'.

Chavez also rightly attacked Obama's undemocratic behaviour and his failure to consult with developing nations.

He declared that 'all countries are equal' and that he would not accept that some countries had prepared a text for a climate deal and just 'slipped [it] under the door' to be signed by the others.

Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, also took the conference floor to express his anger at the way a climate deal was being cooked up by a small group of world leaders at the last minute. 'If there is no agreement at this level, why not tell the people?", he said at the plenary meeting and called for open consultation with all the countries present at Copenhagen.

'Who is responsible?', Morales asked and concluded that 'the responsibility lies on the capitalist system -- we have to change the capitalist system'.

This travesty of a agreement is a disaster for the planet and for many developing countries.

One of our Pacific neighbours, Tuvalu, for example, now faces the grim prospect of being drowned under rising ocean levels.

One of Sudan’s representatives, Lumumba Stanislas Dia-ping, said that Africa was being asked 'to sign a suicide pact, an incineration pact, in order to maintain the economic dominance of a few countries'.

Erich Pica, president of the Friends of the Earth (USA), was so right when he said that the "climate negotiations in Copenhagen have yielded a sham agreement with no real requirements for any countries. This is not a strong deal or a just one -- it isn't even a real one. It's just repackaging old positions and pretending they're new. The actions it suggests for the rich countries that caused the climate crisis are extraordinarily inadequate. This is a disastrous outcome for people around the world who face increasingly dire impacts from a destabilising climate...'

Meanwhile, while the world burns, our 'leaders' are planning more meaningless talks next year..

ATTACKING MAORI BENEFICIARIES


...Tamihere's agenda is particularly hypocritical. This guy supported the free market policies that wreaked such devastation among working class communities, Maori included. Today we are seeing the consequences of those policies yet Tamihere isn't being held to account. Instead he gets away with blaming Maori themselves for their economic situation - a plight brought about by the very same economic policies he supports. In other words, he's putting the boot in twice. With friends like John Tamihere, who needs enemies? - Against the Current, 15 November, 2008


I repeat. With friends like John Tamihere who needs enemies? While he and the Waipareira Trust will benefit from the privatisation of Maori welfare it will mean more misery for Maori beneficiaries - the people Tamihere claims he is 'helping'.

John Tamihere has been a consistent and strident supporter of the neoliberal economic policies that have wreaked havoc in working class communities, Maori and Pakeha alike.

According to Tamihere - and the Maori neo-tribal elite of which he is a part - its not neoliberalism that has damaged Maori but a culture of 'welfarism'.

While the likes of the wealthy Tamihere have done well out of neoliberalism (and his own personal history makes for interesting reading), the Maori working class have been tossed the crumbs from the table that Tamihere and the iwi corporate elite have been dining at for quite some time.

I'm not going to repeat the figures here but ordinary Maori remain just as economically disadvantaged as ever - the money has gone straight into the pockets of the iwi elite.

Tamihere has no problem with this - his 'solution' is to attack so-called 'welfarism'' and the Waipareira Trust - of which he is CEO - is set to make lots of dosh via the privatisation of Maori welfare. This trust runs a number of job programmes and services in West Auckland and has been frequently criticised for paying low wages and its stridently anti-union views.

Rather than helping ordinary Maori, Tamihere wants to take Maori from the so-called 'obliging' Work and Income (Winz) and administer some highly moralistic medicine via organisations like the Waipareira Trust where Maori can be 'sorted out'.

Tamihere's anti-working class views were evident as far back as 2003 and they haven't deviated since - indeed he has often praised the Act Party's anti-welfare policies.

In 2003, while Minister of Youth Affairs in the Labour Government, he said that the government's welfare programmes 'were killing Maori with kindness'.

He went on to say: 'Welfare in New Zealand is delivered in a charitable and benevolent way and that charity and benevolence actually crushes you because it teaches you to put your hand out.'

The implication is obvious. Maori are without jobs and in poverty not because they have been at the sharp end of both Labour and National'neoliberal economic policies- the policies that Tamihere supports - but because they have been allowed to bludge off a tolerant welfare system. He's actually blaming the victims of capitalism for being poor and without jobs.

Tamihere's answer? He wants to make the lives of Maori beneficiaries even more miserable.

In 2003 he said that the Department of Work and Income (Winz) should assess beneficiaries’ entitlements and then pay the money over to private trusts like the Waipareira Trust. The trust would create a 'budget 'for each beneficiary and pay the basic bills,including rent, power and groceries. Beneficiaries would be denied access to their money and only the money left over would be handed over for 'discretionary' spending.

This is fundamental attack on the rights of beneficiaries but we need to remember that Tamihere has a low opinion of working class Maori. In 2003 he caricatured a typical Maori beneficiary like this:

'All I need to do... is to beat my case-load worker at Winz, pull my $160 unemployment benefit, get on the p**s over there and grow a bit of dope over here. That’s a wonderful lifestyle but what values does that teach the children in the house?'

John Tamihere, while he might pretend otherwise, is no friend of working class Maori. It is extremely alarming that Tamihere and the neo-tribal elite may now get to financially benefit from administering a separate Maori welfare system.

SELLOUT 'UNACCEPTABLE' - VENEZUELA


The Venezuelan delegation to the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, denounced Tuesday the attitude of developed countries in the world meeting for not committing to reduce emissions of polluting gases because this would presumably affect their economies. The delegation said that developing nations “will not let them get away with it” because it is unacceptable that they do not take into account that they are responsible for the future of the planet.

Claudia Salerno, director of the Venezuelan Environment Ministry’s Office of International Cooperation, explained that the 30 industrialized countries have the potential to “change the destiny of the world, but today they are telling us that it is too expensive and they are unwilling to let the GDP of their economies be impacted by the response measures to climate change.”

“That is unacceptable, I not only point out to them, but I accuse them… not only are they going to be responsible for climate change but they will be responsible for the future of this planet,” said the official.

She said that developed nations “will have to be judged by the world for what they are doing at the moment...we are not going to let them get away with it.”

The delegate announced that Venezuela, failing an agreement, will stay there [in Copenhagen] until the 18th or until Christmas if necessary.

The representative of the Caribbean country said that nothing will happen in the Copenhagen Summit unless the commitment that developed nations must assume is taken as the starting point

She disagreed with the statement by UN Secretary General (UN), Ban Ki-Moon, saying that the problem is not about “pointing fingers” at polluting countries, and said “with respect”, that it is just to accuse the 30 countries that are destroying the world.

The Venezuelan delegation criticised that the meetings are closed and without access to the press and international observers. “They are getting away with it without letting the world know…the world has its eyes on us. Let the discussions become more open and let the press into the discussions to make the world know what is happening here,” she said.

She welcomed the decision of the African delegations on Tuesday to pull out of negotiations because of the intention of the developed countries to discard the Kyoto Protocol.

“The industrial nations can not continue to sabotage the process and break the UN rules on the discussion of the issues, here are the 130 nations which are still developing because there is no time for more… they should make a commitment to reduce emissions and provide funding for developing nations so that we can take action together to improve climate change alleviation.”

The 15th United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen (COP15) counts with the attendance of representatives of 192 countries. The meeting will last eleven days and it is expected that 100 heads of state and government will be at the closing ceremony.

This article is taken from Venuezela Analysis

MEDIA CLOWN OF THE YEAR



It was not a hard task to pick my inaugural 'Media Clown of the Year'.

There were some strong contenders. Leighton Smith put in a strong bid with another solid year of right wing raving on NewstalkZB. In particular his denial of climate change put him ahead of some of the other right wing loonies- including his colleague Bruce Russell who spent the year, as he does every year, bashing beneficiaries, immigrants, John Minto, the Green Party, etc.

Unfortunately he has never managed to reach that peak which saw him claim that Saddam Hussein did have weapons of mass destruction and Osama Bin Linden had training camps in Northern Iraq. Never mind Bruce - there's always next year.

There were a couple of one-off performances that irritated me a lot. Carly Flynn from TV3 did a particularly nauseating interview with Mayor Sideshow Bob Parker that had me wondering if Sideshow wrote the questions and Ms Flynn just read them out.

But Carly Flynn could not be classified as right wing - just bland and pedestrian.

The same can also be said for another TV3 presenter - Samantha Hayes. She has mostly been confined to reading the autocue on Nightline but now she's taken over as TV3s environmental reporter. I'm not sure how she qualified for this job - clearly it wasn't because her extensive knowledge of environmental issues. Her reporting from Copenhagen has been superficial offering nothing in the way of fresh insight.

But well ahead of the pack has been Paul Henry.

The former National Party candidate has trawled the bottom of the barrel throughout 2009.

He managed to go most of the year without asking any hard questions of the Prime Minister. Even though he thinks Key is too 'centrist' Henry gave his leader an armchair ride throughout most of the year.

If Henry ever gets sacked by TVNZ there surely must be a job waiting for him in the PM's office.

In between crawling up Key's backside , Henry has carried on attacking and insulting people and organisations he doesn't like - which is basically the entire left of the political spectrum.

Stephanie Mills from Greenpeace was treated with derision by Henry who thought it would just dandy to make insulting remarks about her personal appearance.

A proper public broadcaster would of sacked Henry but this is TVNZ - the same 'public broadcaster' that knew that its top sports broadcaster had been beating up his partner but did nothing about it until the whole sordid affair was splashed across the newspapers.

Henry received little more than a slap on the hand for his behaviour so it came as no surprise that an unrepentant Henry delivered more of the same rubbish later in the year. This time he thought it would be fun to refer to British singing star Susan Boyle as a 'retard'.

This gratuitous attack on Boyle was enough to make his newsreader colleague Peter Williams publicly chastise Henry and its been noticeable that the 'bonhomie' between Henry and Williams has faded somewhat since Williams resigned from the Paul Henry Appreciation Society.

I've criticised Williams in the past but he deserves our thanks for publicly speaking out against Henry - the only TVNZ staffer who has, as far as I'm aware.

TVNZ has adopted its usual tactic which is to keep quiet and hope the issue will fade away. It says its following 'due process' which means its hoping that the incident will have been forgotten by the time Henry comes back from his summer holidays.

The bad news is that TVNZ are thinking about scheduling an afternoon show for Henry - which is one the reasons it axed the soaps from the afternoon programming.

Let's hope this is just a particularly unpleasant rumour.

Paul Henry is my Media Clown of the Year. He wins a box of unused copies of TVNZ's Public Charter - and a copy of Susan Boyle's debut album.

EMPTY GESTURE


When the Maori flag flies on all government buildings on Waitangi Day it'll fly in a country where the Maori working class - like their European brother and sisters - are still at the 'sharp end' (to use John key's term) of the economic recession. The flying of a flag, of course, isn't going to do anything to change this situation.

But this about just sums up the Maori Party - it throws a few trinkets to ordinary Maori while its masters, the Maori corporate elite, take all the wealth.

The Maori Party are not so much hiding behind the flag but waving it about as if it represents real progress for all Maori.

Not suprisingly mnay liberals think the flying of a flag is a real gain as well.

Once again, as it always does, the Maori Party. is hiding behind its reactionary cultural politics to pretend that it speaks for all Maori rater than the neo-tribal corporate elite that it really represents.

Given the Maori Party's coziness with the National party it appears that the devastation wreaked on Maori communities by neoliberalism is not a issue to the likes of Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia - or many white liberals for that matter.

GOODBYE TO PUBLIC BROADCASTING


There is a certain degree of irony - well, a lot of irony really - in the spectacle of the Labour Party and its supporters (eg The Standard) attacking the National Government for ridding TVNZ of its public charter and any remaining obligations to provide programmes that are 'non-commercial'.

If you listen to what the Labour Party is saying you would quickly get the impression that they have been staunch defenders of TVNZ retaining its public service ethos.

The silly writers on The Standard might be able to believe this nonsense because they turn into jibbering idiots when they talk about Labour and they become hack propagandists.

But for those of us who aren't deluded about Labour we can approach the issue with our intelligence still engaged.

The hard fact - one that Labour Party hacks choose to ignore- is that it was the Labour Government of 1984-90 that tipped public broadcasting into the quagmire of commercialism.

It deregulated broadcasting in New Zealand which included no limits on foreign ownership of media companies, no limits on cross-ownership -and it was Labour that imposed the neoliberal business model on TVNZ.

As I wrote in another post a few months ago, Labour's neoliberal policy was disastrous for public broadcasting in this country:

It ushered in the era of 15 minutes of commercials per hour, the downgrading of news and current affairs in favour of reality shows and quality drama either ignored or relegated to off-peak hours late at night. Serious documentaries were given the elbow because they didn't deliver the ratings and the crucial advertising dollars.


The new Labour government of Helen Clark recognised it had made a massive blunder when it declared war on TVNZ's 'crass commercialism' - the very same 'crass commercialism' that Labour had allowed to develop in the first place.

By far the best option would of been to transform Television One into a non-commercial public broadcaster.

This, however, would of been contrary to the neoliberal ideology that Labour subscribed to - and still does today.

Labour's 'alternative' was to demand that TVNZ be a non-commercial and commercial broadcaster both all at the same time.

Under the charter, introduced in 2002, Labour expected TVNZ not only to meet public broadcasting obligations but to meet commercial objectives as well. It was a ludicrous hybrid that saw commercial objectives hold sway over public service obligations.

As I wrote in a previous post:

Even someone as capable as Ian Fraser couldn't make the set-up work.The frustrated TVNZ CEO resigned in 2005 but not before delivering a paper to the Clark Government where he proposed turning TV1 into a non-commercial public broadcaster similar to the ABC in Australia or the BBC in the United Kingdom.

Fraser's parting shot was continuing commercial pressures had resulted in a schedule ‘profoundly incompatible with any recognisable model of public broadcasting.


And now National will let TVNZ loose as a purely commercial broadcaster and the channel will simply pursue ratings with schedules filled with more reality shows, American crime shows and a news service that is increasingly sensational and tabloid in orientation.

Any 'non commercial' content will be confined to the digital TVNZ 6 and TVNZ 7. This could prove to be temporary as well as Jonathan Coleman, the Minister of Broadcasting, says they two digital channels will have to become 'self-funding' once public funding runs out in 2012.

Labour's spokesperson on broadcasting is Brendon Burns. He recently observed that TVNZ's 2009 Annual report showed that TVNZ no longer considered itself to be a public broadcaster.

Burns said that where in the past TVNZ measured its performance both by financial results and as a public broadcaster, the 2009 annual report is focused only on business outcomes.

This is all very well but we have yet to see the shape of Labour's broadcasting policy - which Burns is overseeing.

While both the Alliance and the Green's support Television One becoming a non-commercial public broadcaster, Labour's view remains unclear.

But given Phil Goff and Labour's failure to repudiate its neoliberalism, its unlikely the party will support the creation of a non-commercial public broadcaster. Indeed there is the suspicion that it is likely to resurrect the failed hybrid model again.

And we will still remain one of the few developed countries without its own national public broadcaster.

CLINGING TO THE WRECKAGE


The present 'vigorous discussion' occurring within the Labour Party is not so much about two principled political currents disagreeing over Labour's political direction but rather two discredited sets of neoliberal politicians squabbling over the dead carcass that is the Labour Party.

Neither camp offers anything for ordinary people who need to explore more productive pastures beyond the wreck that is Labour.

It was predictable that Phil Goff would take Labour further to the right and that's what he has done, eschewing some of Labour's more high profile social liberalism.

Goff is mistaken if he thinks that a even more conservative Labour Party is going to attract back the Labour voters that deserted Labour at the last election.

Someone should take Goff to a quiet place and shout in his ear - 'IT'S THE ECONOMY, STUPID!'

What Goff won't face up to - given that he is a devotee of the free market -is that Labour voters deserted the party at the last election because nine years of Labour's neoliberalism failed to significantly improve the economic position of ordinary people. Indeed, under Labour, New Zealand become a more unequal society with one of the highest levels of poverty in the OECD.

Yet Goff continues to claim that the free market can deliver for ordinary people. Since it has spectacularly failed to do just that ever since the days of Rogernomics, Goff cannot be considered to be anything other than a neoliberal zealot.

At the last election traditional Labour voters took a long look at Labour and didn't like what they saw. Labour's working class vote collapsed in the main metropolitan centres.

Nor did that support simply transfer over to National. Many Labour voters simply didn't vote.

Goff won't attract back that vote by simply saying 'sorry' for his party's 'nanny statism' and criticising the Maori Party. This is little more than a sideshow that avoids confronting the elephant in the corner of Labour's room - its continued support for neoliberalism.

Goff's strategy might disgruntle the likes of President Andrew Little a bit but he and his ilk certainly do not offer a way forward for ordinary people either

As secretary of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) Little has betrayed ordinary working people time and time again.

Indeed Little has played a influential role in a union bureaucracy that has not only failed to launch any semblance of a fightback against the austerity measures of the National government but has actively collaborated with the business class to ensure hundreds of factory and work place closures have all occurred with the minimum of fuss and bother.

What this little skirmish demonstrates is that Labour Party offers nothing for ordinary people and that the only real way forward is to build a new progressive movement in this country - one that rejects the anti-working class policies of people like Phil Goff and Andrew Little.

THE THREE STOOGES


A few years ago Mark Hotchin of Hanover Finance was basking in the glow of an uncritical media. He, along with fellow Eric Watson were being lauded as two of the leading lights of the free market. They were the talented new breed of entrepreneurs who were leading New Zealand into a bright new future under neoliberalism -along with, among others, our old mate Dave Henderson.

Now both Hotchin and Watson are about as popular as Hendo - ie they are hated and reviled.

And, like Hendo, both men deserve the odium heaped upon them - and then some. In July 2008, with the company already in trouble, they helped themselves to a $70 million dividend.

Then they pleaded with investors not to put Hanover into receivership. The deal they cooked up was investors would eventually get 100 per cent of their money back which would be drip fed to them over five years. The company owes more than $500 million to its investors.

The Hanover investors stupidly agreed to the shonky proposal. The nest course of action would of been to place Hanover in receivership and let the receivers salvage what they could.

But - surprise, surprise- Hotchin and Watson reneged on this deal and a month ago said that investors would only get 70 cents in the dollar.

But this is tale of two snake oil merchants trying to get out of Hanover, relatively unscathed.

And their strategy has changed again. This time Hotchin and the Taranaki farming company Allied Farmers are trying to persuade 17,000 Hanover group investors to swap the money Hanover owes them – debentures and deposits – for shares in Allied Farmers.

This as all the characteristics of a smash and grab raid. Allied will grab what's in the pot while Hanover investors will be stuck with shares of little value.

This isn't much of a deal for Hanover investors but it provides Watson and Hotchin with a convenient exit - departing with their personal wealth left pretty much intact. Unlike the poor 'mum and dad' investors who will get near-worthless shares Hotchin will ensure that he and Watson get cash for their shareholding in Hanover.

Hotchin can get back to finishing his $30 million mansion - to go alongside his many other properties - and Watson, now living in England, can continue doing whatever he does these days.

A major benefactor of Hanover's incompetence was the third of our three stooges - Dave Henderson. He was given $70 million for his ridiculous $2 billion Five Mile village project near Queenstown.

Hanover have sold 23 ha of the 33 ha 'development' - otherwise known as 'Hendo's Hole'. They have been sold to two business concerns for a total of just $22 million.

Hanover investors have zero chance of seeing any of this money as it will be used to pay off an outstanding mortgage.

A SHORT MUSICAL INTERLUDE...



My local mall, like malls everywhere, seems to think that we would really like to hear sickly saccharine Christmas songs all day and every day.

At least I can do my shopping and get the hell out of there - unlike the poor sods who have to work in the malls. Imagine - at least eight hours of being subjected to banal Christmas tripe a day - plus overtime. Surely, this is 'cruel and inhumane' treatment by anyone's standards.

But there's one 'Christmas' song I've always had a sneaking regard for and its 'Stop the Cavalry' by Jona Lewie.

Ironically, it was never intended to be a piece of Yuletide pop.

Says Lewie: `'The soldier in the song is a bit like the eternal soldier at the Arc de Triomphe, but the song actually had nothing to do with Christmas when I wrote it. There is one line about him being on the front and missing his girlfriend - `Wish I was at home for Christmas' - the record company picked up on that from a marketing perspective and added some tubular bells.'

It went to number two on the UK Christmas charts in 1980 and was only prevented from making it to number one by a re-release of John Lennon's 'Imagine'.

It sure beats the cloying sentimentality of 'Do They Know Its Christmas?' and bloody Cliff Richard singing 'Mistletoe and Wine'.

It's anti-military message, as a unwinnable war continues to be fought in Afghanistan, remains entirely relevant today.

COPENHAGEN TALKFEST


Despite all the political hype about 'saving the planet' - or words to that effect - the Copenhagen conference is already dead in the water.

And its been effectively torpedoed by the very same political leaders who, in the next few days, will be appearing on our television screens expressing their concerns about the future of the planet. What monumental hypocrisy.

The self-serving rhetoric will not be able to conceal the fact that nothing that is decided at Copenhagen will be binding and there will be so many get-out clauses contained in the 'deal' to render it entirely meaningless anyway.

We, the citizens of this planet, are being sold down the river by political' leaders' who claim to represent us.

In theory the question of a binding agreement will reappear on the agenda again next year but the problem is the United States. While Barack Obama might be briefly attending the Copenhagen conference, another motivational speech from the US President won't alter the fact that the US Senate remains openly hostile to a binding agreement.

The Democrats and The Republicans are merely the two political wings of big business interests and many US senators owe their political careers to corporate backing. They won't be biting the hand that feeds them anytime soon.

A few day ago a leading climate change expert launched a blistering attack on the politicians that will be wasting our money and time at the Copenhagen conference.

NASA's James Hansen told a British newspaper:

'The fraudulence of the Copenhagen approach — ‘goals’ for emission reductions, ‘offsets’ that render ironclad goals almost meaningless, the ineffectual ‘cap-and-trade’ mechanism — must be exposed

We must rebel against such politics as usual. Science reveals that the climate is close to tipping points. It is a dead certainty that continued high emissions will create a chaotic dynamic situation for young people, with deteriorating climate conditions out of their control.'


Unfortunately I think Hansen's message will get drowned out in the torrent of spin and hype that will be generated by the conference - aided and abetted by an uncritical corporate media.

Copenhagen will will be a talkfest and that's all. I will lay odds that a resolution will be passed to reconvene talks at a future date - as if we have the luxury of scheduling yet more talks at some stage in the future.



I see that Samantha Hayes, TV3's Nightline presenter, has been assigned the role of reporter on all things environmental, and in particular, on climate change. She is off to Copenhagen which will make a pleasant change of pace for the fashion-conscious Ms Hayes.

Will we get some incisive analysis from Ms Hayes or will she, as is more likely, dutifully report the meaningless rhetoric of the various political 'leaders' and remain blissfully oblivious to what is really going on at this Scandinavian talkfest?

We cannot be confident that Samantha Hayes will not uncritically parrot the words of the politicians and their officials. She did, after all, support the con job that was 'Earth Hour'. Indeed, according to the NZ Herald, she 'spent an hour in the dark, thinking about the impact of her lifestyle on the climate.'

Samantha Hayes has found time in her busy schedule to write two short two hundred word blog posts on the TV3 News website.

Frankly, they are inept. Hayes seems transfixed by the spectacle of the Copenhagen charade.

She seems to be labouring under the impression that the Copenhagen conference will actually achieve something but she never actually outlines what that 'something' might be.

More worryingly, like most mainstream journalists these days, she believes that the politicians are on our side. The entire geo-political dimension of the Copenhagen conference and the demands of capitalism have not occupied her intellect at all.

In one blog post she reports that Obama is going to attend the Copenhagen conference - as if its a big deal.

Samantha informs us: 'Sadly Obama will be there in the first week only. I'm going for all the action in the second week when a plan will be hatched, or not.'

Plan? What plan will or will not be 'hatched' Samantha? It would be too much to ask for Samantha to offer some analysis at this point but she then concludes that 'Obama might help galvanise proceedings'. How exactly will he do that since the United States is opposed to a binding agreement?

I don't mean to be harsh but, I'm sorry, Ms Hayes simply doesn't know what she's talking about.

THE GREAT CARBON TRADING FRAUD



Annie Leonard looks at the forces that are driving the 'climate change solution' being discussed at Copenhagen. She introduces us to the financiers and energy traders at the heart of the Copenhagen proposals and shows how the solution being discussed is no solution at all.

LEAKED DOCUMENTS, SUPPRESSED REPORTS




Mayor Sideshow Bob is presently in North America (along with Mrs Sideshow Bob and his loyal lieutenant, Tony Marryatt), apparently studying 'urban regeneration and public transport'.

Meanwhile, here in Christchurch, Sideshow Bob's latest mad scheme is causing a whole load of stink. Strangely, the good citizens of Christchurch are not that keen to see a large concrete block plonked in the middle of the Arts Centre. As I said in a previous post on the issue, the opposition is widespread, well-organised and not without a few dollars in the old fighting fund.

For Sideshow Bob and his council lackeys who voted to build a $25 million music school in the middle of the Arts Centre, it must be of some concern that the proposal is so deeply unpopular with the voters.

Given that these councillors are the same motley lot who voted to give the shambolic Dave Henderson some $18 million for five over-valued buildings (and which are now incurring not insignificant costs in terms of maintenance and depreciation), they are rapidly morphing into the walking dead. Come election time , the likes of Sue Wells, Ngaire Button, Barry Corbett, Mike Wall, Gail Sheriff, Claudia Reid and Bob Shearing will more than likely be booted out of office - along with their leader, Sideshow Bob.

They know it too because, in Sideshow Bob's absence, none of the councillors who voted to build the University of Canterbury Music School seems inclined to publicly defend their stance.

Barry Corbett, who has so much to say on everything else, is remarkably quiet on the issue. Maybe he thinks if he doesn't say anything people won't notice that he was one of the councillors who voted to wreck the Arts Centre.

The barely competent Ngaire Button is certainly a councillor heading out of office. Like Gail 'Bali Holiday' Sheriff, Button never opened her mouth at the council meeting that approved the music school. She just did what Sideshow Bob wanted her to do.

Button has taken to buying space in her local suburban newspaper to outline her 'thoughts' and 'achievements'. 'On the Button' appears every week but if she thinks this will save her, she is deluding herself. She is, as Martin Crowe might say, a 'goneburger'.

Opposition to the proposed music school is so widespread that opponents within the Arts Centre Trust have leaked documents to the Save Our Arts Centre Society and which have been duly filed with the High Court as part of the society's legal case against the music school.

Arts Centre Trust Board chairman John Simpson, getting all high and mighty about it, says he 'has never experienced such duplicity in a long professional career.'

"Someone has betrayed their station here. We are a charitable trust," he told The Press. "We could take legal steps to suppress it, but there's no point.'

But this is just a case of the slippery Simpson - who was Pro-Chancellor of the University for Canterbury for four years- getting his just desserts.

Simpson has been helping out for Sideshow Bob by deliberating excluding board opponents from debates, votes and even from attending board meetings. This is the very same John Simpson who claims that the opponents of the music school are 'not playing by the rules'.

It's now all backfired on Simpson who has just woken up to the fact that the 'dissidents'' are not going to go let him push them around - especially with the Arts Centre future hanging in the balance.

Its also worthy of note that at the University of Canterbury, the University Council held their meetings on the topic in committee and the minutes were never made available to interested reporters.

The secrecy has also extended to the Christchurch City Council and it has been revealed it has suppressed a report critical of the proposed music school.

The report was written by Australian heritage expert Elizabeth Vines and was delivered to the council on 16 November and was due to be released on November 25.

The council has fatuously claimed that report is a 'work in progress' and that's why it has not been released.

If that is the case then why was it given to representatives of the University of Canterbury and the Arts Centre Trust immediately after it was received from Elizabeth Vines?

The Press has applied for a copy of the report under the Official Information Act.

While John Simpson has tried to portray himself and his mates as behaving in the 'public interest' the ugly reality is that the interests of Christchurch are being threatened by vested interests within the University of Canterbury, the Arts Centre Trust Board and within the Christchurch City Council.

THE 'CLEVER' PAUL HENRY




For those of you who haven't seen it - and are interested - here's Paul Henry having a go at British singer Susan Boyle.

Meanwhile the complaints have flooded in to both TVNZ and the Human Rights Commission. and the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

Special Olympics New Zealand have also blasted Henry. Chairman David Rutherford said using retard' to describe intellectually disabled people was as hurtful as racial slurs like 'nigger' and 'kike'.

Once again this incident raises questions about the ethics of a so-called public broadcaster that has consistently failed to take any decisive action against Henry in the past.

Does Henry persist with his boorish and offensive behaviour because he knows that his employer has neither the guts or the will to sack him?

Already TVNZ's response has been derisory.

TVNZ spokeswoman Megan Richards said she was unable to comment on the complaints as they were 'going through the usual process'.

This was exactly the same limp response that TVNZ deemed appropriate when Henry made insulting remarks about Greenpeace activist Stephanie Mills.

That resulted in Henry getting slapped over the wrist with a wet bus ticket.

It looks like TVNZ is setting itself up to do absolutely nothing again.

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