YES, I AM THE GREAT PRETENDER


This is the first appearance of The Hendo Files this year. I think I was suffering from Hendo burnout - I've been writing about our libertarian hero and 'urban visionary' for well over two years now.

In a front page story today, The Press have reported that our mate Hendo has amassed some $6.5 million in new tax debt and that 90 percent of the 64 (yes, 64) Hendo companies registered with the Inland Revenue have outstanding income tax returns.

This has all been revealed in a another High court case in which the IRD challenged a compromise cooked up by Hendo which would allow four of his companies to supposedly pay off debts over 'several' years.

Not surprisingly, the taxman ain't that enamoured by this latest Hendo manoeuvre. He hasn't displayed much interest in paying his creditors in the past, so why would he start now?

The IRD is owed approximately $300,000 by four hospitality companies which operated bars in SOL Square and which have since been sold by receivers to new owners.

Judge Panckhurst was also singularly unimpressed by Hendo's 'compromise' and said as much when he commented that the 'true level of support' for the compromise arrangements was 'uncertain'.

He also expressed concern about Hendo playing a major role in overseeing the 'compromise' arrangements. This would been like leaving the fox in charge of the henhouse and Judge Panckhurst was not having a bar of it.

'In my view Mr Henderson's position is untenable' said Judge Panckhurst. and duly rejected the 'compromise' scheme of 'The Great Man'.

The High Court appears to have run out of patience with Hendo and his various attempts to tie up his creditors in legal red tape and thus avoid bankruptcy proceedings.

It might be a new year but Hendo is playing the same old tune. He's very predictable is the man that Mayor Sideshow Bob hailed as an 'urban visionary'.

Once again, Davy boy is still painting himself as the innocent victim . Having caused all kinds of financial and emotional grief for people who have either directly or indirectly had dealings with him, Hendo 's attempt to get the sympathy vote are little more than pathetic. He seems to have little comprehension that he is possibly the most unpopular person in Christchurch.

He's claiming that the IRD are engaged in a vendetta against him and 'out to destroy me financially'. Yeah, right. I would of thought that Hendo needs little assistance from the IRD to do that.

What' s more Hendo claims he doesn't have any outstanding income tax or PAYE and owes led GST than what the IRD is demanding. He is basically saying that the IRD is making it all up.

So, as usual, Hendo takes no responsibility for his own actions. This from a man who has continually preached 'personal responsibility' to everyone else, with welfare beneficiaries being one of his favourite targets.

Meanwhile he has been seen around town sporting a big bushy beard and, according to several reports, hasn't been since with girlfriend for some time.

She is apparently busy buying and selling on Trade Me.

Finally, a spiteful Hendo removed the little Christmas lights in SOL Square and replaced then with large lights pointed directly at the bars he used to own.

Thanks to Davy boy, Sol Square looks a little like a prison compound, especially at night.

Oh, and given Hendo's mounting financial problems its unlikely that he will make a buy-back offer for one of his central city properties that he flogged to the Christchurch City Council in 2008. That 'opportunity' expires tomorrow.

Thanks to Sideshow Bob and his cronies on council, the Christchurch ratepayer is effectively stuck with five shoddy properties that are eating up even more money in way of such things as maintenance and depreciation.

If the buildings are ever sold - and that's a big 'if' -they will never recoup what the council paid for them.

Perhaps Councillor Sue Wells would like to tell us again why the Henderson bailout was ' a very good deal'...

Liquidation proceedings begin against Hendo's four hospitality companies on March 15.

YOUR GUIDE TO HEAVEN



Click on picture to enlarge.

NOT ON THE BUSES

Every day of the week Christian fundamentalists appear on our television screens claiming to cure people of cancer and various other life threatening diseases.

Just last night I watched preacher Pat Robinson on Shine TV, eyes closed and body hunched over, claiming to cure an anonymous viewer of tuberculosis via something called ' a word of knowledge'.

Earlier on in the night I watched British 'spiritualist' Colin Fry supposedly talking to people who had died. He followed American John Edwards claiming to be doing the same thing on his show Crossing Over.

This kind of thing exploits people's fears, their grief and unresolved issues they might have in their lives, but I'm not about to wage a campaign to get Pat Robinson, Colin Fry , Benny Hinn and chums taken off the air - even though it would make the world a slightly saner place.

It comes down to freedom of expression and of belief - however loopy those beliefs might be.

But NZ Bus apparently doesn't believe in such tolerance. Without any justification, it has refused to run some billboards on the side of its buses. If the billboards were for God or Brian Tamaki, then NZ Bus wouldn't have a problem . These billboards though say “There’s probably no god, now stop worrying and enjoy your life”.

I would of thought this was legitimate comment but apparently not to NZ Bus.

Organisers of the Atheist Billboard Campaign tried to reach a resolution with NZ Bus, and later attempted mediation sessions through the Human Rights Commission. But NZ Bus refused to participate. Because they are refusing to discuss the matter and reach an agreement, the organisers of the Campaign are now investigating the possibility of taking this case to the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

NZ Bus stated that they have received 'a number of complaints from the public about the proposed billboards.' By 'members of the public' I think we can be safe to assume thse are followers of the more fundamentalist schools of Christianity - the kind of people who still claim that evolution is a fraud.

What were they complaining about? Obviously they don't like anyone claiming there is 'probably no god' but maybe they were also upset that people were being urged 'to stop worrying and enjoy life'. They probably think that's hedonistic since fundamentalist Christians seem to think we should all be spending our time trying to avoid eternal damnation.

So its okay for various Christians to tell me that I'm going to Hell for not behaving properly and not believing the right things but its not okay for a billboard to argue that there is 'probably no god.'

Speaking about the billboard campaign in England - where this atheist advertising campaign originated - Professor Richard Dawkins commented;

'Religion is accustomed to getting a free ride - automatic tax breaks, unearned 'respect' and the right not to be 'offended', the right to brainwash children,"

Even on the buses, nobody thinks twice when they see a religious slogan plastered across the side. This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think - and thinking is anathema to religion.'

It looks like someone at NZ Bus isn't all that keen on people using their critical faculties.

I wonder if NZ Bus would ban a billboard that said 'There is no such thing as free will'?

NZ Atheist Bus Campaign

LABOUR GOING NOWHERE


While I have no love for the Labour Party, it would be nice to think - if just for the sake of meaningful political discussion generally - that some Labour members and supporters might begin a real debate about the future of their party.

It would be nice to think they might stop blaming John Key for Labour's problems and it would be nice if they stopped making excuses for Phil Goff. It would be nice if they stopped misrepresenting the working class in this country or even attacking the working class - once described by one Labour apologist as 'gutless, witless, passionless creatures of the barbecue-pit and the sports bar'.

But it's not going to happen.

The latest poll results show National trampling all over Labour. The One News poll puts National on 54% to Labour's 34%. while the TV 3 poll 56.3% support for National, with Labour a distant second on 29.6%.

In the midst of economic shambles and the Government with no plan other than to make working people pay and pay again for the crisis, Labour's dismal performance in the polls must be of concern to even the most uncritical of Labour supporters - like most of the people who write for The Standard.

One thing is for sure, we cannot expect Phil Goff to lead any debate. He's suggesting that National are still enjoying a honeymoon period. With the National Government half way through its term its stretching credibility for Goff to insist that Labour's poor polling is due to some kind of electoral benevolence toward National.

Of course Goff would say this because this relic of the 1980s is pursuing the same neoliberal economic policies that he has enthusiastically supported for the past twenty five years.

Goff might talk about cronyism and the economy serving the needs of the many but it is all political posturing. He is not offering any alternative - just the 'promise' to manage the free market better than National.

Of course Goff has made it clear that he is a unreconstructed free marketeer. He says there is no alternative to the free market and even very mild 'democratic socialism' is unpalatable to him. He has even boasted that the Clark Government 'saved capitalism' .

But you can bet there will be no challenging of Goff's view. This is a political party that has been emptied out by twenty five years of subservience to neoliberalism and the cadres of the free market.

What we need is a working class and socialist response to the economic crisis - but it won't be coming from Phil Goff's Labour.

NOW A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR...


Get the feeling that this Government, and the Minister of Broadcasting in particular, are not exactly big fans of public broadcasting?

Indeed, as other bloggers have also pointed out, Jonathan Coleman once compared public broadcasting to North Korean propaganda.

He said in 2007:

When the Minister says that the Government is committed to the core objective of building national identity and will do so through television, does he not realise that New Zealanders do not want to be told by the Government what their identity is, and that using a State-owned broadcaster to try to shape national identity is actually a feature of totalitarian regimes, not Western democracies; or does he secretly fancy himself as the “MP for Palmerston North Korea'?

This writer also has a problem with TVNZ setting itself up as some kind of 'conduit' for the national experience, especially when it leads to the awful promos that TVNZ has been broadcasting for the past two years.

That said, misguided ideas about 'national identity' - which is a sanitised middle class fiction anyway - is no justification for attacking the ethos of public broadcasting.

But that is what Coleman has done.

He has freed TVNZ of any public service obligations by scrapping the TVNZ Charter and now TVNZ is providing lots of ammunition for those who would like to see it sold off.

Close Up for example - which TVNZ claims is current affairs - has ran stories in recent times about a drunken former All Black groping a teenage girl, a woman who is frightened of clowns and an interview with silly Mike Hoskings about the horrors of being a minor celebrity. In Hoskings case it's not being able to get a decent haircut.

'Non commercial' content is now ghettoised on TVNZ's digital channels and even this will probably end because Coleman has indicated that TVNZ 6 and 7 will have to become 'self funding' once public funding runs out in 2012. So look out for the return of The Club Show with Glyn Tucker and Ernie Leonard.

Having relieved TVNZ of any public broadcasting obligations, Coleman has moved on to Radio New Zealand.

Last year he kindly froze the budgets of Radio New Zealand National and Concert FM for the next four years.

That means RNZ has no money to meet rising costs. never mind any capital to put toward new developments and innovations. Effectively Coleman has marooned RNZ.

And now the Minister of Broadcasting is further tightening the noose by demanding RNZ 'trim' its costs and look for new sources of funding. If it won't cooperate then Coleman, acting a little like a North Korean despot, is threatening to sack the board and replace them with his kind of people. Perhaps Steven Joyce has helpfully suggested a few candidates.

Coleman says RNZ could raise more revenue by selling its news service and introducing commercial sponsorship to Concert FM. He also wants staff numbers trimmed and studios and offices closed.

Coleman may deny it, but this constitutes an attack on public radio in this country.

Of course it will delight RNZ's commercial rivals who have always resented the public broadcaster because National Radio has consistently beaten its stations in the ratings.

Its always been a bitter pill for the two commercial networks to swallow that people like and support public radio.

Not that this seems to make any difference to Jonathan Coleman - or Radio Live's Marcus Lush.

'Make them (National and Concert FM) play commercials', Lush said on his breakfast show today. 'Then there'll be a level playing field'.

Yes, a level playing field right at the bottom of the barrel, along with Leighton Smith, Michal Laws, John Tamihere and commercials for herbal viagra.

The irony is that Lush has enjoyed the benefit of public money to make his television shows - the same public money he resents RNZ receiving.

Save Radio New Zealand

BACK ON THE BOX


After recently castigating C4 for axing The Daily Show I was pleased to learn that Jon Stewart's demise has only been temporary. He will be returning to New Zealand television screens on Comedy Central, along with The Colbert Report, starting on April 6.

Both shows will be taken off the satellite, the same day as the American broadcast, and screened every weeknight.

It kind of makes you wonder whether Mediaworks did actually axe The Daily Show or Comedy Central just decided that it wanted its television show back.

Whatever - it'll be a welcome relief from the pap that TV1 and TV3 are serving up and which they laughably call 'news and current affairs'.

HARCOURT ON HAITI


Anyone interested in reading some debate on the New Zealand's media's coverage of the Haiti earthquake and subsequent events I refer you to Ethical Cocktail where I have amade a small comtribution in reply to Fair Go's Gordon Harcourt.

Unfortunately Harcourt looks like he has bailed out of the debate, as he does not want to comment on Mike McRoberts journalistic efforts in Haiti. He'll have a go at bloggers like me but it appears that journalists and TV newsreaders within the mainstream media are 'no go' areas.

And so the debate gets closed down...

Anyway here's a small extract from the debate:


Attention Steve Cowan (Steve commented on Gordon’s first post)

Steve Cowan’s response is a masterpiece of naivety. Sorry Steve, but reporting news is about reporting news. Much as you might wish to get a lecture from Robert Fisk about the complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict as part of every single news story [and] every broadcast, it ain’t gonna happen and frankly that’s not a bad thing in my book. It’s incumbent on broadcasters to give a full and balanced picture – cue outraged spluttering from Steve about “balance” – but it’s completely ludicrous to suggest, as you appear to, that a full account of any history to any conflict can be carried in a news broadcast or newspaper, or even a weekly news magazine. Fisk’s latest tome is 1366 pages. How many of them should I read out on air when I next introduce a story from Jerusalem on the TVNZ7 news at 8pm? Which facts (“facts” – there’s an elastic notion) should I include in my potted history primer?

By the way Steve, I saw a great deal of context and history on Haiti in various media during the coverage of the quake aftermath. In fact, I led a 15 minute discussion of it on Radio NZ, while filling in for Kathryn Ryan. News coverage provokes wider discussion of context. That’s how it works, Steve.

And Steve, obviously the evil US military were solely intent on furthering the ends of the industrial-military complex but, um, maybe they had to go in to deliver aid? Gee, it’s just a thought.


My reply:
Actually I wasn’t interested in Mike McRoberts delivering me a lecture but I was interested in him asking some basic questions like: Why did Haiti society simply collapse after the earthquake? Could it have had anything to do with a century of deliberate economic exploitation, driven by the US?

McRoberts never even approached the question, never mind answer it. Rather he made banal statements like ‘Haiti is a country that takes two steps forward, then one step backward.’ Was he blaming the Haitian people for their poverty – it sounded like it to me.

It certainly didn’t sound like Harcourt’s ‘full and balanced picture’.

It might offend Harcourt’s naive liberal outlook, but there has been a defacto US military coup in Haiti. Why are 20,000 armed troops needed in Haiti – none with humanitarian training. Once again, McRoberts had nothing to say.

Doesn’t sound like ‘full and balanced coverage’ to me.

Perhaps Harcourt is talking about the ‘full and balanced picture’ provided by the BBC’s Matt Frei.

To quote John Pilger in the New Statesman:

”The first TV reports played a critical role, giving the impression of widespread criminal mayhem. Matt Frei, the BBC reporter despatched from Washington, seemed on the point of hyperventilating as he brayed about the “violence” and need for “security”.

In spite of the demonstrable dignity of the earthquake victims, and evidence of citizens’ groups toiling unaided to rescue people, and even a US general’s assessment that the violence in Haiti was considerably less than before the earthquake, Frei claimed that “looting is the only industry” and “the dignity of Haiti’s past is long forgotten”.

Thus, a history of unerring US violence and exploitation in Haiti was consigned to the victims. “There’s no doubt”, reported Frei in the aftermath of America’s bloody invasion of Iraq in 2003, “that the desire to bring good, to bring American values to the rest of the world, and especially now to the Middle East … is now increasingly tied up with military power.”


Pilger is probably someone the smug Harcourt would consign to his ‘naive’ camp.

BENEFICIARY WITCH HUNT


Suddenly 'nice' John Key doesn't seem so nice after all - especially if you are on a low income or benefit.

The proposed tax changes will only assist those who are well off while the poor will face increased costs in every area of their everyday lives. The level of poverty and inequality - which Labour did nothing about while it was in power - will continue to rise.

But if you are going to kick someone when they are down, then why not go the whole hog? So Key is preparing to unleash the WINZ wolves, looking for people claiming benefits they aren't entitled to.

If you listen to John Key talking you would think there was millions being lost in fraudulent claims. Tailback radio hosts and their callers might believe this fiction but it bears little resemblance to the reality.

Last year the number of alleged benefit frauds actually went down to just under 15,000.

These were cases that were just investigated for possible fraud. In the majority of cases WINZ simply went on fishing expeditions in the hope of finding something.

One woman, - we'll call her Jennifer - was a recipient of one of these so-called investigations last year.

She told me:

'An investigating officer -it was woman - came to see me one morning. She asked me a questions about my benefit, my rent and things like that. Basically I just confirmed what WINZ already knew. I kind of think she wanted to have a nosey at my house - see what kind of lifestyle I was living. She left about half an hour and I never heard from her again. It was all just a waste of time but you do feel intimidated, even though you have done nothing wrong. I resented she was in my home.'

Of the approximately 15,0000 case investigated last year, only 735 ended up in court. Many of these cases ended up collapsing because no reliable evidence was provided to back up WINZ's allegations.

The Government ended up clawing back just $700,000 last year. That money would have been swallowed up by the enormous number of work hours consumed pursuing these fruitless cases.

There was $12 billion worth of benefits paid out last year.

So why is the government bothering? The witch hunt against beneficiaries - and a witch hunt is what it is - is simply an attempt to drive beneficiaries off welfare, regardless of their financial circumstances.

Given that unemployment continues to rise one wonders how the government expects people to survive. Paula Bennett's claim that 'she is one of us' is proving to be a sick joke.

While he's all gung-ho about attacking the poor, Key has displayed his political allegiances with his failure to implement a land or capital tax gains tax. It would of upset the folk in the Remuera Bridge Club so Key would rather kick the poor instead.

So a large area of the economy remains largely untaxed. This is where the real bludgers are hanging out but since property speculators and landlords have friends in high places they can carry on ripping us off.

Beneficiaries, like the New Zealand working class geneerally, is exposed to such attacks without even the hope that the Labour Party and the trade union hierachy will provide any credible opposition.

The trade union bureaucrats have bought into the Government's austerity programme and put up no resistance to the mounting job losses

The Labour Party is quite simply a joke. It is offering no economic alternative while Goff tries to buy some kudos by supporting the campaign for a $15 an hour minimum wage. He is a cynical opportunist looking for a bandwagon to jump on.

Next time you hear Goff talking about unemployment remember it was a Labour Government that introduced work testing for 55-59 year olds. It was a Labour Government that decreed which areas of the country where 'no go' areas for beneficiaries. It was a Labour Government which increased GST to 12.5 percent without any adjustment to benefits.

Labour is promising little and would deliver little.

Labour, by its own actions, has demonstrated whose side it is on - and its not the working class.

COR! TVNZ IN TRASHY TITTLE-TATTLE SHOCKER!


Although it might pretend otherwise, TVNZ News bears little relationship to what it might be described as serious, in-depth journalism. Rather what we are being delivered is a 'journalism' that regards news and current affairs as just another form of entertainment.

Serious news coverage and analysis has been discarded for lurid murder stories, consumer complaints, stories about celebrities, pictures of disasters and cuddly animal stories. And, yes, sport. And the weather. And inane chit-chat. It's the usual fodder of the tabloids and TVNZ News has embraced it all in the pursuit of ratings and advertising revenue.

In that regard, it was not surprising that TVNZ dumped the Prime Minister from Tuesday's Close Up so it could feature something more vitally important than the future of the country- namely former All Black Robin Brooke saying he was sorry for groping a teenage girl.

Who cares that John Key is set to burden ordinary people with an increase in GST? Who cares he has signalled that, in a time of record unemployment, his government are going to launch another round of beneficiary bashing? Who cares Key wants mining companies to dig big holes in conservation parks?

Not TVNZ. It would rather focus on the drunken behaviour of a former All Black. I'm surprised that Mark Sainsbury didn't bounce into the studio shouting 'Tonight! It's an All Black shocker!' or something like that.

John Key talking about tax is just not as entertaining as an All Black apologising on national television for his drunken and lewd behaviour. It also conveniently allowed Sainsbury not to have to work hard finding ways to avoid asking any difficult questions of a politician he supports and adores.

Sainsbury is another of TVNZ's stable of free market cheerleaders and he has as much political acumen as that thing he wears under his nose.

As usual silly old TVNZ news 'spokeswoman' Andi Brotherston has spouted a load of old nonsense in defence of TVNZ.

According to Brotherston, Brooke's apology was 'big news'. Well, it might be big news for someone with an IQ of 3 - a typical supporter of the Sensible Sentencing Trust for instance- but for the rest of us it was just a big pile of smelly poo. A big pile of smelly poo that got dropped nearly six weeks ago!

A MAN WITH WITH NO PLAN


Trapped within the neoliberal framework which has been the economic orthodoxy in New Zealand for the past twenty-five years, John Key and his National-led Government demonstrated again yesterday that they no solutions to New Zealand's economic problems - problems that won't be going away anytime soon.

What John Key's speech did starkly expose is that New Zealand ruling class has no clear strategy of how to pull the economy out of the mire.

With the cooperation of the trade union bureaucracy, it has tried to make workers pay for the crisis via wage cuts, cuts in hours and job losses. But, despite the almost daily stories in the media about an 'economic recovery', this strategy has not worked either.

Unemployment is now at 7.3 percent although John Key was telling us shortly before Christmas that unemployment had peaked. In June of last year , the Reserve Bank predicted the jobless rate could rise to as high as 7.2 percent by the middle of 2010. Well, we are already beyond that figure and the year has barely begun.

On top of that the number of people who cannot get enough paid work hours continues to surge upwards.

Has John Key got any solution?

No, he doesn't

Key's speech wandered all over the place, grabbing at anything and everything that suggested that he is a man with a plan, a man in control. Among other things he mentioned was 'research and development', more mining (I guess climate change is a low priority now, John?), and fast broadband. And he also mentioned the building of more roads. And Weta Workshops got a mention too, I think.

And, of course, he's hoping that tax cuts might boost the economy.

They will be funded by an increase in the GST which will hit the poorest of us hardest.

And Key looks set to go on another round of beneficiary bashing with his threat, among other things, to cut the unemployment benefits of people who have been on the dole for 'too long' a period. The implication is that they are 'bludgers' rather than victims of a crisis-ridden capitalist economy.

His bluster about 'encouraging' people into jobs - when there are few jobs available in the first place - indicates that beneficiaries are going to get kicked where it hurts the most - as they always do when the economy goes into a nosedive.

While his critics have accused Key of having no vision, he can get away with it because the opposition parties are not providing any clear economic alternative while the trade union bureaucracy has made life easier for Key by buying into the National Government's austerity agenda.

While Goff had a fine old time blasting Key in Parliament the fact remains that Goff and his Labour Party remain just as committed to neoliberalism as Key. The difference is in emphasis and not substance. It's a similar story with the Green's.

The fact remains that no progressive solution - a solution that benefits ordinary people rather than bankers and property speculators - is possible within the framework of the failed neoliberal orthodoxy.

BOO TO MEDIAWORKS!




Jon Stewart's The Daily Show got a raw deal from Mediaworks which stuck the show on at 10.30pm on the low rating C4.

It's an intelligent and literate show that is classified as political satire but is often straight political comment combined with some great interviews.

It's a show that doesn't insult the intelligence of the viewer so it came as no surprise when C4 axed the show. Of course Mediaworks has also threatened to axe John Campbell's seven o'clock show on TV3.

Campbell's show though would be less keenly missed than The Daily Show as Campbell Live has unfortunately turned into yet another soft magazine show for the upwardly mobile middle class. This is kind of ironic since they aren't watching the show anyway and Campbell is now regularly beaten in the ratings by its own late night news show.

It's a pity that Mediaworks didn't extend its support to the The Daily Show in the same way that it continues to support the truly awful Sunrise. TV3's venture into breakfast television has been less than successful. Just 30,000 people thought watching Carly and Oliver talk drivel was a good idea in October- and that dropped to an embarassing 22,000 in November.

Anyway, here's hoping that Jon Stewart will pop up soon on Comedy Central although this will be of cold comfort to Daily Show fans who don't have Sky.

Here's a little bit of Stewart jousting with the right wing Bill O'Reilly - it screened on Fox TV last week. Best television of the week..

UNION 'LEADERS' DO NOTHING AS JOB LOSSES MOUNT


The figures look bad but we always knew they would be.

For the three months to December 2009 unemployment rose from 6.5 percent to 7.3 percent - a ten year high.

The number of official unemployed at the end of last year was 168,000, with a sharp rise in the jobless aged between 15 and 24 where the unemployment rate is now at a disturbing 18.4 per cent and trending upwards.

And, just as significantly, the number of New Zealanders who simply cannot get enough paid work hours continues to rise. Perhaps Rodney Hide or John Key could tell these workers how the casualisation of the workforce has been of benefit to the country. I'm sure they'll appreciate it.

As Bill English might say, the figures are not 'a good look' for a government that has repeatedly claimed for nearly a year that 'we are coming out of recession'. Nor is it good look for the government's cheerleaders in the media who have tried to talk up the economy with good news stories about 'rises in business confidence' 'and an increase in house sales' and other irrelevancies. They should all now be forced to wear dunces caps have and told to stand in the corner of their local Work and Income office. But, of course, being a free marketeer means never having to admit you screwed up again.

But another villain at work here is the trade union bureaucracy.

It might come as a revelation to the likes of Robert Reid, the national secretary of the National Distribution Union (NDU), but workers join unions to have their jobs improved - and defended when the going gets tough.

The union officialdom has spectacularly failed to do this. It has not been a case of 'when the going gets tough, the tough get going'. The Combined Trades Union has organised no resistance and fought no battles. You want an argument for the rank and file regaining the control of their unions? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Robert Reid, Andrew Little and Helen Kelly.

Instead of fighting for the jobs of workers they have simply led workers away to the door marked 'Exit'. It's little wonder that Andrew Little, the secretary of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union and President of the Labour Party, is well liked among employers. He is, they say, 'a pleasure to work with' and, apparently, he is the 'new face' of the Labour Party. Which just goes to prove how stuffed the Labour Party is.

When the clothing manufacturer Lane Walker Rudkin collapsed last year with the loss of over 500 jobs all Robert Reid could say was that he was dismayed and pleaded for help from the government. There was no hint of any effort to stop the job losses, not even a flicker of a fight from a union that immediately raised the white flag of surrender.

The only thing the NDU did was organise a few cake stalls to raise money for a so-called 'fighting fund'. Even this pathetic stunt lasted barely a month.

There was no protest action. No marches, No factory occupations. Nothing. Zilch.

For Robert Reid then to appear on the television news last week and huff and puff about the government's inaction on tackling unemployment was a bit rich coming from a senior member of a trade union bureaucracy that has also done nothing about fighting job losses. Perhaps John Key and Robert Reid could get together and swap notes on what they haven't done. Reid, like Little, has turned bureaucratic inaction into a fine art.

Indeed the whole strategy of the union bureaucracy has been to actively cooperate with the government.

It has ensured that job losses have proceeded in a orderly manner. This is was what CTU president Helen Kelly euphemistically referred to last year as helping 'with transitions where saving jobs is not possible.'

The union bureaucracy could and should have put up an effective fight to protect workers from the effects of the economic crisis, but the ugly truth is that the union 'leadership' have failed this test miserably.

Unfortunately, unlike many of the workers they claimed to represent, they won't be signing up for the dole anytime soon.

CELEBRITIES TO THE RESCUE


It's not so much a case of 'I'm a celebrity, get me out of here' but more a case of 'I'm a celebrity, I'm raising money for Haiti.'

Everywhere we turn there is a celebrity wanting to 'help' Haiti. Actor George Clooney whipped together a quick telethon, Quincy Jones and Lionel Ritchie have resurrected 'USA For Africa' as 'USA for Haiti' to re-record 'We Are The World' and Brad and Angelina donated some $1 million of their $350 million personal wealth to the Haiti appeal.

Meanwhile John Travolta flew into Haiti in his own Boeing 707 and, with the assistance of several Scientology 'ministers', distributed military rations and medical supplies.

'I didn't even know I had it in me to be honest - I was like a commander running around,' Travolta told David Letterman this week. Travolta is presently promoting his latest movie.

Anyone who might be thinking that the plight of Haiti is being turned into a celebrity circus can expect to be criticised on the basis that at least these celebrities are doing something to help. Only an extreme cynic, they say, could criticise George Clooney for raising nearly $35 million during his two hour telethon.

Of course its great that people have donated to the Haitian cause but you do have to ask where George, Angelina and Brad were before the earthquake hit the Caribbean country. Haiti has always been a desperately poor country but only an earthquake has provoked western celebrities into action. Possibly Angelina was in Africa adopting another orphan.

Like Ethiopia and Darfur before it, Haiti has become as much about western celebrities as the Haitian people themselves.

On the TV1 News on Monday night the only story about Haiti was an item about the re-recording of 'We Are The World'. Indeed Haiti itself is dropping off the media radar. As I write this I'm listening to a radio news bulletin that has contained no news about Haiti.

Why wouldn't celebrities - and politicians alike - not jump on the Haitian bandwagon? It's a seemingly win-win proposition for them. Who can disagree that the Haitian people need help? And if celebrities get some positive publicity on the back of it, who are we to nitpick? Are we really going to criticise singer Robbie Williams trying to re-ignite his stalled career by recording a song for Haiti with his former Take That bandmates?

During all of this we are, once again, being presented with a sanitised and politically censored interpretation of the Haitian reality.

While Clooney has been urging America to donate money, he has had nothing to say about the de-facto America military coup that has occurred in Haiti. Clooney's silence is particularly glaring as he has been especially critical of the western media's coverage of Darfur.

Clooney, an Obama supporter, is simply not going to criticise a President that has the backing of liberal Hollywood.

As well as the obvious political censorship, the mainstream media have portrayed the Haitian people in two main ways.

The first approach has been to portray the Haitian people as a desperate and helpless people who urgently need the help of 'caring westerners' - like TV3's Mike McRoberts, last seen carrying a young Haitian girl to hospital.

The second angle, which Mike McRoberts also employed, has been to portray the Haitian people as marauding savages who can only be saved from themselves by 'enlightened' western security.

Writes journalist John Pilger:

The first TV reports played a critical role, giving the impression of widespread criminal mayhem. Matt Frei, the BBC reporter despatched from Washington, seemed on the point of hyperventilating as he brayed about the “violence” and need for “security”.

In spite of the demonstrable dignity of the earthquake victims, and evidence of citizens’ groups toiling unaided to rescue people, and even a US general’s assessment that the violence in Haiti was considerably less than before the earthquake, Frei claimed that “looting is the only industry” and “the dignity of Haiti's past is long forgotten”.

Thus, a history of unerring US violence and exploitation in Haiti was consigned to the victims.


Haiti's poverty and barely functioning infrastructure - which collapsed after the earthquake struck- - is the product of a century of economic and political exploitation driven by the United States.

Because Haiti is poor, and lacking in infrastructure, western figures like Barack Obama can easily portray themselves as a new hope for the future when they are actually ensuring that Haiti will remain under the iron heel of the United States.

Meanwhile the message being sent out by western celebrity culture is that the Haitian people not only have to be rescued from the aftermath of the earthquake but also from their alleged inability to do anything for themselves.

MY OFFER TO PHIL GOFF


In Britain last month a socialist electoral alliance was launched to fight this year's general election.

It's called the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) and its a coalition of various left wing parties and groups. All the participating organisations have signed up to TUSC's core policies.

It is another attempt to stake out territory on the left of the British political spectrum in the hope of attracting support from disillusioned former Labour Party supporters and who can't another face another four years of neoliberalism.

I'm not sure what impact it is having (although its early days) but, from 12000 miles away, it seems to be a positive intervention in British politics. As one writer noted, the new coalition increases the number of constituencies in which there will be a candidate who is a socialist. That can't be a bad thing.

Its policy platform certainly makes for refreshing and inspiring reading. After wading through the myopic and turgid speech of Phil Goff last week, here is something that does speak of a different way of organising society.

The policy platform reads:

Public Ownership, Not Privatised Profit
Stop all privatisation, including “PFI” & “PPP” – privatisation just rakes off our money into their pockets, for worse services.
Bring public services and utilities back into public ownership under democratic control.

No Cuts - Quality Public Services
Take rail back into public ownership and build integrated, low-pollution public transport.
Quality, free National Health Service under democratic public ownership and control.
Stop council house sell-offs and build eco-friendly, affordable public housing.
Good, free education for all under democratic local control, plus student grants not fees.
Keep Royal Mail as a publicly owned service, not a privatised cash cow.

Stop Global Warming
Deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions – otherwise climate change, caused by capitalism, will destroy us.
Invest in publicly owned and controlled renewable energy – not nuclear or dirty fossil fuel.

Jobs, Not Handouts to Bankers and Billionaires
Bring banks and finance into true public ownership and democratic control, instead of huge handouts to the very capitalists who caused the crisis.
Tax the rich. Progressive tax on rich corporations and individuals, with a crackdown on tax avoidance.
Massive investment in environmental projects, for jobs and survival.

Employment and Trade Union Rights
Repeal the anti-trade union laws.
A minimum wage set at half average adult male earnings, with no exemptions.
Invest to create and protect jobs, especially for young people.
Solidarity with workers taking action to defend jobs, conditions, pensions, public services and trade unions.

Protect Our Environment
Recognise that we depend on our environment for survival.
Move to sustainable, low-pollution industry & farming – stop the pollution that is destroying our environment.
Recognise that many of our planet’s resources are limited and that capitalism fritters them away for profit.
Produce for need, not profit, and design goods for reuse and recycling.

Decent Pensions and Benefits
Restore the pre-Thatcher real value of pensions and link them to the higher of wages & earnings.
Protect entitlement to benefits and their value; end child poverty. This needs a clear stand against Welfare Reform and Workfare to be added.

Democracy, Diversity and Justice
Welcome diversity and oppose racism, fascism and discrimination.
Ensure women have genuinely equal rights and pay.
Defend our liberties and make police and security democratically accountable.
For a democratic socialist society run in the interests of people not millionaires. For bringing into democratic public ownership the major companies and banks that dominate the economy, so that production and services can be planned to meet the needs of all and to protect the environment.

Solidarity Not War
Bring home all British troops from Afghanistan immediately – no more wars for resources.
No more spending on a new generation of nuclear weapons, huge aircraft carriers or irrelevant eurofighters – convert arms spending to socially useful products and services.
An independent foreign policy, based on international solidarity – no more US poodle, no moves to a capitalist, militarist United States of Europe, no Lisbon Treaty.

It certainly puts Phil Goff's dreary conservative policies into perspective.

I say right here and now that if Phil Goff stood up and advocated these kind of policies then I would immediately rejoin the Labour Party. That is my offer to Phil Goff.

It's also worth noting that something may also be afoot in the British Labour Party itself with 40 Labour MPs putting their names to a list of policy demands which includes:

'A clean break must be made with market fundamentalism – deregulation and privatisation. Public provision should be expanded – in health care, education, housing, pensions, energy and transport...'

Are you listening, Mr Goff?

THE KIDNAPPING OF HAITI

We are witnessing an American military coup in Haiti, writes John Pilger.


The theft of Haiti has been swift and crude.

On January 22, the United States secured “formal approval” from the United Nations to take over all air and sea ports in Haiti, and to “secure” roads.

No Haitian signed the agreement, which has no basis in law.

Power rules in a US naval blockade and the arrival of 13,000 marines, special forces, spooks and mercenaries, none with humanitarian relief training.

The airport in the capital, Port-au-Prince, is now a US military base and relief flights have been rerouted to the Dominican Republic. All flights stopped for three hours for the arrival of Hillary Clinton. Critically injured Haitians waited unaided as 800 American residents in Haiti were fed, watered and evacuated. Six days passed before the US air force dropped bottled water to people suffering dehydration.

The first TV reports played a critical role, giving the impression of widespread criminal mayhem. Matt Frei, the BBC reporter despatched from Washington, seemed on the point of hyperventilating as he brayed about the “violence” and need for “security”.

In spite of the demonstrable dignity of the earthquake victims, and evidence of citizens’ groups toiling unaided to rescue people, and even a US general’s assessment that the violence in Haiti was considerably less than before the earthquake, Frei claimed that “looting is the only industry” and “the dignity of Haiti's past is long forgotten”.

Thus, a history of unerring US violence and exploitation in Haiti was consigned to the victims. “There's no doubt”, reported Frei in the aftermath of America’s bloody invasion of Iraq in 2003, “that the desire to bring good, to bring American values to the rest of the world, and especially now to the Middle East … is now increasingly tied up with military power.”

In a sense, he was right. Never before in so-called peacetime have human relations been as militarised by rapacious power.

Never before has an American president subordinated his government to the military establishment of his discredited predecessor, as Barack Obama has done.

In pursuing George W Bush’s policy of war and domination, Obama has sought from Congress an unprecedented military budget in excess of $700 billion. He has become, in effect, the spokesman for a military coup.

For the people of Haiti the implications are clear, if grotesque.

With US troops in control of their country, Obama has appointed Bush to the “relief effort”: a parody lifted from Graham Greene’s The Comedians, set in Papa Doc’s Haiti.

Bush’s relief effort following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 amounted to an ethnic cleansing of many of New Orleans’s black population. In 2004, he ordered the kidnapping of the democratically elected president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and exiled him to Africa.

The popular Aristide had had the temerity to legislate modest reforms, such as a minimum wage for those who toil in Haiti's sweatshops.

When I was last in Haiti, I watched very young girls stooped in front of whirring, hissing binding machines at the Superior baseball plant in Port-au-Prince.

Many had swollen eyes and lacerated arms. I produced a camera and was thrown out. Haiti is where America makes the equipment for its hallowed national game, for next to nothing.

Haiti is where Walt Disney contractors make Mickey Mouse pyjamas, for next to nothing. The US controls Haiti’s sugar, bauxite and sisal. Rice-growing was replaced by imported American rice, driving people into the town and jerry-built housing.

Year after year, Haiti was invaded by US marines, infamous for atrocities that have been their speciality from the Philippines to Afghanistan.
More urgently, an occupied Haiti has a strategic importance in Washington's “rollback” plans for Latin America. The goal is the overthrow of the popular democracies in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, control of Venezuela's abundant petroleum reserves, and sabotage of the growing regional co-operation long denied by US-sponsored regimes.

Bill Clinton is another comedian, having got himself appointed the UN’s man in Haiti. Once fawned upon by the BBC as “Mr Nice Guy … bringing democracy back to a sad and troubled land”, Clinton is Haiti’s most notorious privateer, demanding deregulation that benefits the sweatshop barons. Lately, he has been promoting a $55m deal to turn the north of Haiti into an American-annexed “tourist playground”.

Not for tourists is the US building its fifth-biggest embassy. Oil was found in Haiti's waters decades ago and the US has kept it in reserve until the Middle East begins to run dry.

More urgently, an occupied Haiti has a strategic importance in Washington's “rollback” plans for Latin America. The goal is the overthrow of the popular democracies in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, control of Venezuela's abundant petroleum reserves, and sabotage of the growing regional co-operation long denied by US-sponsored regimes.

The first rollback success came last year with the coup against the Honduran president Jose Manuel Zelaya, who also dared advocate a minimum wage and that the rich pay tax.

Obama’s secret support for the illegal regime in Honduras carries a clear warning to vulnerable governments in central America. Last October, the regime in Colombia, long bankrolled by Washington and supported by death squads, handed the Americans seven military bases to “combat anti-US governments in the region”.

Media propaganda has laid the ground for what may well be Obama’s next war. In December, researchers at the University of the West of England published first findings of a 10-year study of BBC reporting on Venezuela. Of 304 BBC reports, only three mentioned any of the historic reforms of Hugo Chavez’s government, while most denigrated his extraordinary democratic record, at one point comparing him to Hitler.

Such distortion and servitude to Western power are rife across the Anglo-American media. People who struggle for a better life, or for life itself, from Venezuela to Honduras to Haiti, deserve our support.

This article is from Green Left Weekly.

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