THAT'S ALL FOLKS!



Ed Muzik's take on New Zealand becoming a client state of Time Warner. You might recall Ed from the tremendous 'We're Sick of Bob Parker Talking Crap' music video.

DIRTY DEAL DONE AT OUR EXPENSE


The bully boys have got what they wanted

Despite implying that there was no more money in the coffers and the Government wasn't going to get into a 'bidding war', John Key has just handed over another big vat of cash to media giant Time Warner. The figures I've seen suggest it could be as much as $30 million and perhaps even more.

At a time when the Government is playing hardball with welfare beneficiaries, it is nothing less than obscene that Time Warner should receive yet another good helping of corporate welfare.

And to add insult to injury, Time Warner and Jackson have got their way over what the US multinational euphemistically described as 'uncertain industrial conditions'.

Even as late as this afternoon Peter Jackson was firing off another press release berating the CTU.

He must be a happy megalomaniac now. Tomorrow the Government is going to do his bidding and push through legislation that will grind workers into the dirt. Key calls this 'clarifying' the situation. I'm sure we'll hear the word 'clarify' a lot during the next few days. It effectively means workers hired by Jackson will be described as 'contractors' = and the 'nasty' union will be kept out.

Every worker in the country's film industry will now be re-employed as an independent contractor to do the same work they’re already doing as employees. The difference being is that they will have far fewer rights.

Jackson will get his vulnerable and compliant workforce.

It'll be interesting to see how both the CTU and the Labour Party respond to this fundamental attack on the rights of workers.

Will they stand up and be counted or will they meekly surrender to the Dark Lord sitting in his castle in the Waikato?

WHY THE ECONOMIC CRISIS DEEPENS



This is a recent talk given by Richard Wolff. Wolff is Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of of Massachusetts. His most recent book is Capitalism Hits The Fan

SCENES FROM THE CLASS STRUGGLE IN HOBBITON


Time Warner has launched the kind of assault on workers in the local television and industry that they wouldn't contemplate in Hollywood. Why? Because Hollywood workers are protected by strong and organised unions.

In Hollywood even actors like Tom Cruise are members of the Screen Actors Guild. A film studio like Time Warner cannot sign heavyweight actors like Cruise or Angelina Jolie without going through the SAG first.

The craft unions are also powerful because they provide film industry workers with health insurance and other benefits. A movie sound technician , for example, is likely to work for several different studios and production companies in the course of a year, never being with any one of them long enough to qualify for benefits. Instead the union provides those benefits.

Here in little old New Zealand Time Warner wants to continue doing things differently. The media giant (who Jackson laughably claims has acted 'very honourably') ) have launched a very nasty anti-union campaign to prevent workers acquiring the kind of conditions their colleagues enjoy in the United States.

It has been aided its venomous campaign by a local media that has , once again, highlighted how reactionary it is. Once again, it has chosen to go into bat for the rich and powerful.

On Breakfast this morning co-host Peter Williams could be heard asking John Key why New Zealand seemed to be 'overrun' with industrial disputes these days. Williams low opinion of unions could not have been more clear.

For actors like Robyn Malcolm and Jennifer Ward Lealand this has been a particularly unpleasant experience. Malcolm has gone from being lauded for her performances on the hit show Outrageous Fortune to being the subject of vitriol on talkback radio.

I heard one caller saying that actors like Malcolm should be 'grateful' to Peter Jackson for providing work. Yes, King Peter is in his counting house counting all his money and we should all be 'thankful' for the 'blessings' of King Peter.

Thanks to the hysteria whipped up by Jackson and co, Malcolm recently had to be escorted from a restaurant for her own safety.

Is anyone holding Peter Jackson or his mate Richard Taylor to account for this? Or are they untouchable? Are media organisations like TVNZ and TV3 just too busy chasing media-shy Warner studio executives?

And is anyone surprised by the limp response of the Labour Party?

Phil Goff, the self-proclaimed 'champion of the working class', has been nowhere to be seen.

The Labour Party is claiming it is not taking sides in the dispute. This is expedient nonsense. By refusing to back the workers and the actors' unions, it has taken sides. Indeed it seems to be suggesting that Time Warner should be given even more generous tax subsidies - so it and Jackson can make even more money at the taxpayers expense. This is nothing more than corporate welfare.

Just a few weeks ago we heard Phil Goff telling the Labour Party conference that Labour was the party that championed the interests of workers.

Words are cheap. Hey Phil - don't talk the talk if you won't walk the walk.

For an excellent analysis of the weak response of the Labour Party please read the article by Bryce Edwards here.

MR ED


Most people will be aware of the savagery of the spending cuts in the United Kingdom.

84 billion pounds is to be axed between now and April 2015 in the biggest cuts seen in almost one hundred years. 500,000 public sector jobs will be lost, as a minimum and at least 500,000 in the private sector will go as well.

The ComDem Government is, of course, trying to sell the cuts as 'necessary' and that 'everyone' has to make 'sacrifices' in the name of saving the economy. Yes, the same kind of bullshit we're getting here.

But the figures don't show that 'everyone' is making sacrifices. As usual, it's ordinary British folk who will be expected to pick up the tab for a failed economic system. It'll be ordinary people who will be expected to carry the burden of an economic crisis that they had no part in causing.

A massive 18 billion pounds is to be slashed from benefits, including housing , disability living allowance and the child benefit.

Housing has been savagely targeted . New social housing tenants will have to pay higher rents, - these will rise to 80 percent of market levels. They will have only short-term tenancies rather than the security of tenure that current residents enjoy. Vulnerable low income people in need of housing will be forced into the private rented sector or face the prospect of living on the streets. Cuts in housing benefit, which allows those with low incomes to rent accommodation, will threaten many tenants with eviction.

A huge social crisis is in the making right here. I can't imagine what is going to happen on some of the already devastated housing estates but I'm sure it's not going to be pleasant.

Meanwhile the rogues in London's banking and finance district will barely notice a difference. You will still be able to find them in the London bars drinking up large at lunchtime, talking garbage about the 'creativity' and 'opportunities' of capitalism.

Labour's response to this massive assault on the British people has been truly dismal.

Those who have been quick to claim 'left wing' credentials for Labour's new leader Ed Miliband are clearly away with the fairies.

When the cuts were announced, Laurie Penny of the New Statesman had this to say about Labour:

The people of Britain have been badly let down today. The poor, the young, the old, the tired, the unwell: we have all been let down. Not just by the Tories, who let us know what was coming with all the oily subtlety of side street sleaze artists; nor by the Liberal Democrats, from whom nobody expected any more than the stern, funereal complicity, that they delivered during today's spending review. No: the people have been let down by Labour.

In thirteen years of meandering and hawkish leadership, it seems that the Labour party has utterly forgotten what effective opposition politics are supposed to look like. If its collective response to the greatest assault on social democracy in living memory is anything to go by, Labour has also lost sight of what it means to be a party of the left.


Ed Miliband's performance in the House of Common's was even less convincing than Phil Goff's at the recent Labour Party conference here.

I watched him on television and what a pathetic figure he was. He sat there limply adjusting his tie, occasionally nodding his head. There was the occasional look of irritation but at a time when Labour needs a real leader it has ended up with..Basil Fawlty.

While Goff is working hard to portray himself as (snigger) ' a friend of the people', Miliband hasn't even been able to do that.

He didn't even bother to show up at a demonstration outside 10 Downing Street on the day the cuts were announced, after earlier promising that he would. Perhaps he was having tea and biscuits.

But Miliband's and Labour's opposition to the cuts was always going to be ineffectual since before the election, Labour was planning 20 percent cuts across the board.

The 'best 'on offer from Labour, is that the pace of spending cuts would be 'slower' and 'better managed' under Miliband.

So you can either be blitzkrieged to death by David Cameron and Nick Clegg are slowly strangled by Ed Miliband.

Ah, the agony of choice...

SECRET FILES SHOW HOW US IGNORED TORTURE


A grim picture of the US and Britain's legacy in Iraq has been revealed in a massive leak of American military documents that detail torture, summary executions and war crimes.

Almost 400,000 secret US army field reports have been passed to the Guardian and a number of other international media organisations via the whistleblowing website, Wikileaks

The electronic archive is believed to emanate from the same dissident US army intelligence analyst who earlier this year is alleged to have leaked a smaller tranche of 90,000 logs chronicling bloody encounters and civilian killings in the Afghan war.

The new logs detail how:

• US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and normally unpunished.

• A US helicopter gunship involved in a notorious Baghdad incident had previously killed Iraqi insurgents after they tried to surrender.

• More than 15,000 civilians died in previously unknown incidents. US and UK officials have insisted that no official record of civilian casualties exists but the logs record 66,081 non-combatant deaths out of a total of 109,000 fatalities.

The numerous reports of detainee abuse, often supported by medical evidence, describe prisoners shackled, blindfolded and hung by wrists or ankles, and subjected to whipping, punching, kicking or electric shocks. Six reports end with a detainee's apparent death.

As recently as December the Americans were passed a video apparently showing Iraqi army officers executing a prisoner in Tal Afar, northern Iraq. The log states: "The footage shows approximately 12 Iraqi army soldiers. Ten IA soldiers were talking to one another while two soldiers held the detainee. The detainee had his hands bound … The footage shows the IA soldiers moving the detainee into the street, pushing him to the ground, punching him and shooting him."

The report named at least one perpetrator and was passed to coalition forces. But the logs reveal that the coalition has a formal policy of ignoring such allegations. They record "no investigation is necessary" and simply pass reports to the same Iraqi units implicated in the violence. By contrast all allegations involving coalition forces are subject to formal inquiries. Some cases of alleged abuse by UK and US troops are also detailed in the logs.

In two Iraqi cases postmortems revealed evidence of death by torture. On 27 August 2009 a US medical officer found "bruises and burns as well as visible injuries to the head, arm, torso, legs and neck" on the body of one man claimed by police to have killed himself. On 3 December 2008 another detainee, said by police to have died of "bad kidneys", was found to have "evidence of some type of unknown surgical procedure on [his] abdomen".

A Pentagon spokesman told the New York Times this week that under its procedure, when reports of Iraqi abuse were received the US military "notifies the responsible government of Iraq agency or ministry for investigation and follow-up".

The logs also illustrate the readiness of US forces to unleash lethal force. In one chilling incident they detail how an Apache helicopter gunship gunned down two men in February 2007.

The suspected insurgents had been trying to surrender but a lawyer back at base told the pilots: "You cannot surrender to an aircraft." The Apache, callsign Crazyhorse 18, was the same unit and helicopter based at Camp Taji outside Baghdad that later that year, in July, mistakenly killed two Reuters employees and wounded two children in the streets of Baghdad.

Iraq Body Count, the London-based group that monitors civilian casualties, says it has identified around 15,000 previously unknown civilian deaths from the data contained in the leaked war logs.

This article is reprinted from Alternet

YES WOMAN


Sideshow Bob has managed to get one of his faithful followers into the position of Christchurch deputy mayor. You could say its her reward for three years of unquestioning loyalty to the man in the orange safety jacket.

Come on down Ngaire Button!

Ms Button certainly likes to rewrite history.

During the election campaign she claimed that she would 'continue to work towards prudent financial management in an effort to keep rates down leaving more money in the pockets of the people.'

This is the same Ngaire Button who voted to bailout failed property developer Dave Henderson to the tune of $17 million.

Button also stayed well away from the facts when she claimed that she was 'passionate about issues which affect the well-being of our families and always advocate strongly on their behalf'.

The 'passionate' Ms Button though voted to increase council rents by 24 percent and she voted to cut funding to community groups.

And now she's deputy mayor. Terrific.

BACK TO KEYNES


The Labour Party's hold on the working class has, of course, become increasingly weaker and fragmented. This is not surprising given the atrocious behaviour of Labour since 1984.

The present Labour leader Phil Goff, has, for three decades, been an committed supporter of the neoliberal policies that have caused such hardship and misery for ordinary people. But he now wants us to believe he is truly on 'our side'. The smug and arrogant Phil Goff I protested against back in the day was apparently his evil twin.

It was people like Phil Goff who made me resign from the Labour Party in 1985 and the sight of him at the recent Labour Party conference behaving as if he was a 'champion of the people' was about as obnoxious as Andrew Little's attempts to portray himself as something other than the Machiavellian and reactionary bastard that he really is.

I shouldn't really be getting upset because this kind of duplicity is par for the course when it comes to the Labour Party . But as one of the blogs that I follow so eloquently puts it, 'I cant believe that we still have to protest this shit'. I often find myself thinking that these days.

But Labour's merry band of media cheerleaders are trying to sell Labour's 'new direction' as the genuine article.

In possibly one of the most sycophantic columns he has ever written, commentator Chris Trotter claims that Labour has abandoned its 'twenty six year old neoliberal experiment'.

Even if this was true one has to wonder what kind of political party and what kind of people we are dealing with who are prepared to inflict such hardship and misery in order to pursue their 'economic experiment'.

But, of course, people like Chris Trotter have never been at the sharp end of the policies of the party he continues to support. Perhaps if he had spent some time on the dole, tried to survive on the minimum wage or lost his home to the bank, then he might not just talk about Labour's neoliberalism as if it was just a mere bump in the road and one that we can all put behind us. Perhaps if he had had his future snuffed out by the 'neoliberal experiment' then he might not be still peddling the Labour Party as the political solution to all our ills.

But is there any truth at all to the claim that Labour has abandoned neoliberalism? Am I being too hard on poor old Phil?

The lectures and discussions of the New Zealand Fabian Society are instructive in this regard.

The Fabian society is the 'think tank' of the Labour Party and, indeed, some of its speakers were prominent at the Labour Party conference.

These include businessman Selwyn Pellett (involved in the hi-tech sector), John Wally, the Chief Executive of New Zealand Manufacturers and Exporters Association. and BERL economist Ganesh Nana.

Trotter enthusiastically mentions all three men.

Also joining the trio was business commentator Bernard Hickey. Hickey is a former devotee of neoliberalism and the free market. He recently had a crisis of faith and he now rejects neoliberalism. In a New Zealand Herald article he wrote:

I think New Zealand needs to have a debate about capital controls, about foreign ownership of assets, about measures to control our currency and about being openly nationalistic rather than internationalistic about our economic policy.

I think the Global Financial Crisis and the preceding decade of debt-driven instability in global capital markets and trade flows have demonstrated the failure of the economic model most New Zealand policymakers have adhered to for nearly three decades.

I think we need to rethink the way we run monetary policy, the way we allow foreign ownership of assets, the way we encourage savings, the way our financial institutions are regulated and change the things we are aiming for.


Emerging from the discussions within the Fabian Society, of which Chris Trotter was a participant, has been the consensus that a more managed economy is required. The Fabian Society describes this as 'a truly resilient New Zealand economy'.

In a time of economic crisis - and this crisis is the most prolonged and most severe since the Great Depression - we are faced with a choice: should we fight back with anti- capitalist demands and policies or should we advocate policies designed to make capitalism work more efficiently?

The view of the Fabian Society and seemingly the majority of the Labour apparatchik is to go for the second option.

Given that both the Fabian Society and the Labour Party are determinedly anti-socialist, this comes as no great surprise.

Inevitably the economic policies of John Maynard Keynes will surface frequently.

Keynes hated Marx and described Capital an 'obsolete economic textbook that contains nothing but out-of-date controversialising' and he went on to say that he did not want to live in a society dominated by 'the boorish proletariat.

So what we are likely to get from Labour -unless Goff squashes such policies - is some very mild Keynesian reforms designed to blunt the excesses of neoliberalism and the free market. But it does not amount to an abandonment of neoliberalism.

If Labour advocates policies like the nationalisation of the banking and finance sectors for instance, then I will happily eat my baseball cap.

Of course the polices of Keynes will appeal to many Labourites because they mistakenly think his ideas are somehow radical or, like Chris Trotter, they do not support real anti- capitalist struggle.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING


For over thirty years Labour leader Phil Goff has been a loyal and committed supporter of neoliberalism and the free market.

And he hasn't changed. He hasn't thrown up his hands and admitted that, in the light of the global economic crisis, he might have got it all wrong.

Indeed he is on record as dismissing Labour's mild social democratic heritage as some kind of historical anachronism and he argues that there is no alternative to the free market. That the free market has dismally failed to deliver seems to be entirely irrelevant to Goff.

He didn't say any of this at the Labour Party conference though. Instead he made a speech where he tried to fool people into believing that he is a man of the people and not the neoliberal zealot that the socialist left have been attacking for more years that it cares to remember.

Of course at a Labour Party conference you can fool most of the people most of the time and as long as they get a nice cup of tea and a couple of gingernuts they'll swallow just about any old garbage. They'll even forget that you introduced users pays into the education system

Labour MP Claire Curran loved Goff's speech. Like most Labourites she regards herself as 'progressive' although she is vehemently anti-socialist.

Curran writes:

It felt as though Labour was becoming more Labour. Don’t know if that makes sense but it’s how I feel.


No, Clare - it doesn't make sense.

Blogger Martyn Bradbury appears to have been frothing at the mouth while Phil 'Che' Goff made his 'I have a dream' speech. Here's Bradbury wetting his pants in public;

Wow. I mean. Wow. I have not heard a left wing speech like that from a Political leader in my lifetime. I'd scammed a media pass and got to watch the best speech of his life. With that one performance, Phil Goff just proved that he can be the Prime Minister. He was on fire and it was an extraordinary shift to the left. National promised no more 'Labour Lite' after 2011 with the promise that we get the full bodied National Party free market privatization agenda. With this speech, Phil Goff clearly gave NZers a clear and utterly different kind of Government.

Bradbury, an inconsistent radical who has morphed into a consistent Labour cheerleader, must of been listening to a different speech to the one I've read because there's absolutely no evidence that it represents a fundamental break with neoliberalism. To further claim that it represents a return to Labour's roots is not only nonsensical -its intellectually dishonest.

Incidentally there was a lot of talk last year about Labour 'returning to its roots'. Obviously it was a false start.

A more reasoned and calmer observation about Phil 'Trotsky' Goff comes from commentator Chris Trotter. Although he supports Goff (on the grounds there's no superior replacement waiting in the wings) he is not blind to Goff's obvious political shortcomings . He writes of Phil 'Lenin' Goff:

He has had no "Greenspan Moment". No dramatic public admission (as there was by the former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve) that the economic policies he and his colleagues adopted to secure the backing of big business, Treasury and the nation’s editors have now been tested to destruction.

On the contrary, Phil still believes that: "a well-functioning market system is the most effective and efficient way of organising an economy".

For those on the left of New Zealand politics, indeed for all those who’ve voted Alliance, NZ First or The Greens because they simply could not bring themselves to vote for the party of Rogernomics, this is profoundly disappointing.


Trotter briefly mentions that the CTU's Alternative Economic Strategy was floating around the Labour conference.

While the media focus has been on Goff's speech the CTU's economic manifesto deserves to be widely debated and discussed.

While its not a socialist strategy it does represent a major attempt to map a way out of the neoliberal straitjacket that the country finds itself in.

I notice that while the Alliance Party has wholeheartedly endorsed the CTU's economic strategy no such endorsement has come from Phil Goff and the Labour Party.

Given Goff's continued loyalty to neoliberalism I doubt that any such endorsement can be expected.

CHILE'S GHOSTS NOT BEING RESCUED



There are, on average, 39 fatal accidents every year in Chile's privatised mines. They are the consequence of a ruthless economic system that has barely changed since the dictatorship of Pinochet, writes John Pilger.



The rescue of 33 miners in Chile is an extraordinary drama filled with pathos and heroism. It is also a media windfall for the Chilean government, whose every beneficence is recorded by a forest of cameras. One cannot fail to be impressed. However, like all great media events, it is a facade.

The accident that trapped the miners is not unusual in Chile and is the inevitable consequence of a ruthless economic system that has barely changed since the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Copper is Chile's gold, and the frequency of mining disasters keeps pace with prices and profits.

There are, on average, 39 fatal accidents every year in Chile's privatized mines. The San Jose mine, where the trapped men work, became so unsafe in 2007 it had to be closed - but not for long.

On 30 July last, a labor department report warned again of "serious safety deficiencies," but the minister took no action. Six days later, the men were entombed.

For all the media circus at the rescue site, contemporary Chile is a country of the unspoken. At the Villa Grimaldi, in the suburbs of the capital Santiago, a sign says: "The forgotten past is full of memory." This was the torture center where hundreds of people were murdered and disappeared for opposing the fascism that General Pinochet and his business allies brought to Chile. Its ghostly presence is overseen by the beauty of the Andes, and the man who unlocks the gate used to live nearby and remembers the screams.

I was taken there one wintry morning in 2006 by Sara De Witt, who was imprisoned as a student activist and now lives in London. She was electrocuted and beaten, yet survived. Later, we drove to the home of Salvador Allende, the great democrat and reformer who perished when Pinochet seized power on 11 September 1973 - Latin America's own 9/11. His house is a silent white building without a sign or a plaque.

Everywhere, it seems, Allende's name has been eliminated. Only in the lone memorial in the cemetery are the words engraved "Presidente de la Republica " as part of a remembrance of the ejecutados Politicos": those "executed for political reasons." Allende died by his own hand while Pinochet bombed the presidential palace with British planes as the American ambassador watched.

Today, Chile is a democracy, though many would dispute that, notably those in the barrios forced to scavenge for food and steal electricity. In 1990, Pinochet bequeathed a constitutionally compromised system as a condition of his retirement and the military's withdrawal to the political shadows. This ensures that the broadly reformist parties, known as Concertacion, are permanently divided or drawn into legitimizing the economic designs of the heirs of the dictator. At the last election, the right-wing Coalition for Change, the creation of Pinochet's ideologue Jaime Guzman, took power under President Sebastian Piñera. The bloody extinction of true democracy that began with the death of Allende was, by stealth, complete.

Piñera is a billionaire who controls a slice of the mining, energy and retail industries. He made his fortune in the aftermath of Pinochet's coup and during the free-market "experiments" of the zealots from the University of Chicago, known as the Chicago Boys.

His brother and former business partner, Jose Piñera, a labor minister under Pinochet, privatized mining and state pensions and all but destroyed the trade unions. This was applauded in Washington as an "economic miracle," a model of the new cult of neoliberalism that would sweep the continent and ensure control from the north.

Today. Chile is critical to President Barack Obama's rollback of the independent democracies in Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela. Piñera's closest ally is Washington's main man, Juan Manuel Santos, the new president of Colombia, home to seven US bases and an infamous human rights record familiar to Chileans who suffered under Pinochet's terror.

Post-Pinochet Chile has kept its own enduring abuses in shadow. The families still attempting to recover from the torture or disappearance of a loved one bear the prejudice of the state and employers. Those not silent are the Mapuche people, the only indigenous nation the Spanish conquistadors could not defeat.

In the late 19th century, the European settlers of an independent Chile waged their racist War of Extermination against the Mapuche who were left as impoverished outsiders. During Allende's thousand days in power, this began to change. Some Mapuche lands were returned and a debt of justice was recognized.

Since then, a vicious, largely unreported war has been waged against the Mapuche. Forestry corporations have been allowed to take their land, and their resistance has been met with murders, disappearances and arbitrary prosecutions under "anti terrorism" laws enacted by the dictatorship.

In their campaigns of civil disobedience, none of the Mapuche has harmed anyone. The mere accusation of a landowner or businessman that the Mapuche "might" trespass on their own ancestral lands is often enough for the police to charge them with offenses that lead to Kafkaesque trials with faceless witnesses and prison sentences of up to 20 years. They are, in effect, political prisoners.

While the world rejoices at the spectacle of the miners' rescue, 38 Mapuche hunger strikers have not been news. They are demanding an end to the Pinochet laws used against them, such as "terrorist arson," and the justice of a real democracy.

On 9 October, all but one of the hunger strikers ended their protest after 90 days without food. A young Mapuche, Luis Marileo, says he will go on. On 18 October, President Piñera is due to give a lecture on "current events" at the London School of Economics. He should be reminded of their ordeal and why.

Reprinted from Green Left Weekly

FRENCH UNIONS FIGHT AUSTERITY POLICIES - NZ UNIONS DO NOTHING


Although you will not have known it by watching the six o'clock news on either TV1 and TV3, there have been further huge demonstrations in France.

This week the French union movement put more pressure on the Sarkozy Government in its campaign against his attempt to increase the retirement age.

France saw its biggest demonstrations yet with nearly four million people out on the streets and large sections of the French economy shut down.

All the polls show that the demonstrations are supported by two thirds of the French population.

Of course these protests are not just about the retirement age and the availability of pensions - they are part of a wider and escalating campaign against the French Government's austerity policies.

The French union movement has, by its actions, told the unpopular Sarkozy that the French working class will not be made to pay the price for an economic crisis it was not responsible for.

12,000 miles away in New Zealand our union 'leaders' can barely muster a faint 'boo' for John Key and the National-led Government. Or, in the case of PSA President Brenda Pilot, a faint 'I'm very concerned.'

The New Zealand economy is well and truly stagnant and unemployment continues to rise into the stratosphere. There are now over 260,000 without jobs. We are, as business commentator Bernard Hickey observed last month, living in a 'zombie nation…frozen in the headlights of the global financial crisis'.

In the face of this economic crisis, the Key Government has implemented a sweeping austerity agenda, including the inevitable spending cuts and attacks on workers and beneficiaries. At the same time we have seen a massive transfer in wealth to the already well-off, via the increase in GST and the tax cuts.

And in the face of this mounting National Government attack on the living standards of ordinary people, we have barely heard a squeak from the CTU President Helen Kelly. Or anyone else in the CTU cabal for that matter.

In recent times all that has been organised is a few small and lacklustre demonstrations against the extension of the 90 day 'fire at will' legislation. And these even these demonstrations were held at times that would not 'inconvenience' bosses.

But now Ms Kelly and her well-paid colleagues are back in their Wellington offices again where the CTU President plots which next downtown restaurant she will visit for dinner.

For those who hoped that the 90 day campaign would be the catalyst for a wider industrial campaign against the Government's austerity policies they were underestimating just how reactionary the CTU leadership is.

Over the last two decades it has actively cooperated with both National and Labour government's as they have pursued a neoliberal economic agenda.

Unlike in France where there has a high level of union loyalty and activism, the 'modern unionism' of Ken Douglas, Helen Kelly, Andrew Little and others of their ilk, has led to a declining and passive union membership.

Given that they have found themselves being frequently shafted by their union leaders, its no surprise that a great many workers have simply washed their hands of a union movement that has not only failed to defend their interests but delivered them up on a plate to grateful bosses.

In 1989 44 percent of workers were members of unions but it had declined to 22 percent when Helen Clark and Labour came to power in 1999.

Union membership has remained stagnant since then - at the end of last year only 21 percent of the workforce were members of unions. In the private sector a staggeringly low 12 percent of workers are union members.

In a capitalist society like New Zealand its fundamentally important to maintain a strong and militant union movement because without it it is a Herculean task to build not only a significant socialist movement but a progressive movement and culture in general.

The politically sterility of the trade union movement whose leadership have neither the will or desire to fight has done New Zealand workers no favours at all.

In France there is a strong and militant trade union movement and, not coincidentally, a strong left wing culture that embraces all forces for progressive change.

The very individuals that have been the most responsible for kneecapping the union movement and the left wing in this country will be at the Labour Party conference this weekend.

Some of them will also no doubt be delivering speeches to the conference.

Without a trace of embarrassment Helen Kelly will no doubt talk about defending the interests of New Zealand workers.She will also no doubt talk about creating a better New Zealand and working for progressive change.

The sad thing is that she will get a big hand of applause from the conference floor and there will be a great deal of 'comradely bonhomie'.

It would just be great if someone attacked Kelly for being a lousy hypocrite but we're talking a Labour Party conference so that isn't going to happen.

There are no socialists in the Labour Party.

This is, after all, the party whose leader thinks there's no alternative to capitalism and whose idea of real and far-reaching progressive change is knocking the GST off fresh fruit and vegetables.

ORANGE SAFETY JACKET ELECTED CHRISTCHURCH MAYOR


I couldn't resist reposting this article from the satirical news website The Daily Coitus. You can see the original article here. Thanks to Laurie Penny of Penny Red and the New Statesman for the alert..

In a stunning turnaround from early campaign polling an orange safety jacket has claimed victory in the Christchurch mayoralty race.

Early numbers released by the Christchurch City Council showed Orange Jacket had a comfortable margin of approximately 20,000 votes over former Kiwibank president Jim Anderton.

While polling below the margin of error before the Christchurch earthquake Jacket made a leap in public awareness shortly after September 4. Many voters appeared to respond to the durability of Jacket during the days immediately after the earthquake.

Political commentators have also pointed to the versatility of Jacket as a major factor in the final result. “Be it sleeves rolled up for work, or down for business, Jacket always appeared ready to act,” said Christchurch Press political editor Colin Espiner.

Jacket refused to be drawn on whether the earthquake may have contributed to the dramatic improvement, stating it was not a political move to avoid debates in the lead-up to the election. “Voters know I’ve got nothing hidden up my sleeves.”

Detractors had also repeatedly accused the new mayor of media grandstanding. “That’s rubbish,” Jacket vehemently denied. “I’m ‘high-vis’. What else am I meant to do?”

While Orange Jacket would not confirm immediate plans for the coming days it is understood Joanna Nicholls-Parker will be confirmed as Deputy Mayor by next Wednesday. In the meantime Jacket emphasised the work ahead. “I won’t kick back and properly unzip until Christchurch is rebuilt.”

PAUL HENRY RESIGNS



Controversial broadcaster Paul Henry resigned from TVNZ this afternoon, acknowledging that he had "crossed the line".

'I am astonished and dismayed that my comments have created a diplomatic incident. My style is conversational and of course unscripted. I walk the finest of lines and accept that I have inadvertently crossed it from time to time," he said in a statement.

"I am grateful to the many thousands of people who have offered their support to me.

"I hope they will understand and accept that an extraordinary convergence of circumstances has made this action necessary.' NZ Herald



Having managed to sour New Zealand's relationship with India, even Paul Henry could see the writing was on the wall.

He has resigned before he was sacked by a besieged TVNZ.

Where to now for Henry and does anybody care?

Perhaps he'll return to whence he came - talkback radio. I imagine a low-rating station like Radio Live (Henry's former home) might just welcome him back...

Meanwhile, I see that Ethical Martini thinks that Breakfast should be replaced by Captain Kangaroo.

Me, I kind of like the idea of re-runs of The Two Ronnies..

THE REAL SIDESHOW BOB WILL NOW STAND UP


Thanks to an earthquake and his contempt for the democratic process Sideshow Bob managed to get himself re-elected for another undeserved three years.

Yes, if you ensure you are constantly in the media for a fortnight and refuse to be accountable for what you did during the previous three years then you too can be elected Mayor of Christchurch!

It's hardly a glowing endorsement for representative democracy.

It's an empty victory in many ways but that won't matter to Bob, who isn't big on substance anyway. I heard him in the media saying how 'humbled' he was to win. But the problem is he didn't win - it was a caricatured and manufactured Sideshow Bob who won. The real Sideshow Bob, the one in the pocket of property developers, was nowhere to be seen.

And the local media, The Press in particular, allowed him to get away with it. Only Newstalk's ZB's Mike Yardley attempted to find Bob's real agenda under all the PR flannel.

The real Sideshow Bob, the secretive and elitist politician we have come to loathe and which over 50,000 people voted against, was hidden deep within that 'earthquake' jacket he wore for over a month.

Now that he's won, the real Sideshow Bob, in the Italian suits and driving around in the ratepayer funded Porsche Sportster, will now come back into view.

But there's a difference. Bob will no longer be able to credibly describe himself as 'politically independent'.

Bob was always a National Party man but he liked to portray himself as being above 'sordid' party politics. Indeed he often pronounced on how there was no place for national party politics in local body politics.

But, when he was trailing Jim Anderton by 16 percent in the polls (pre-earthquake) a desperate Bob went running for help from John Key and the National Party. The charade of 'political independence' was dropped - Bob came out of closet.

This has also had consequences for his faithful followers on council. The likes of Sue Wells and the really revolting Barry Corbett will no longer be able to play the 'independent' card again - they simply will not be believed. When Sue Wells attacks the liberal left we will all know just whose political interests she is serving.

Bob has already tried to claim the moral high ground and called for council 'unity' and for all councillors to get behind him. This is rich coming from the man who habitually cuts councillors out of the decision making loop - especially the councillors he doesn't like.

Both councillors Yani Johanson and Chrissie Williams have experienced Bob's idea of a consultative decision making process - he makes a decision then people find out afterwards what that decision is.

Johanson and Williams have been joined on council by two new People's Choice councillors - Jimmy Chen and Glen Livingstone.

Chen wants, among other things, to improve the quality, openness, and transparency of decision making on Council. He also wants to restore the $1.5 million that Sideshow Bob and his cronies cut from community funding. This is People's Choice policy and one of the polices they will be pursuing.

Glen Livingtone, also wants a 'democratic and open council' . and, like Chen, is concerned about protecting Canterbury's waterways. He writes: 'Once our water is polluted, there is no turning back, for the present generation and those to come.'

Livingstone , a Presbyberian minister for twenty years, fought against Sideshow Bob's attempt to raise council rents by 24 percent. He has also criticised the council's funding cut to community groups while, at the same time, financially bailing out failed property developers.

Given that he has pledged to be 'more open and accountable' it'll be interesting to see how long it will take Sideshow Bob to turn against the People's Choice bloc - because he will.

THREE MORE DISMAL YEARS OF SIDESHOW BOB...


The results are in and the bad news is we're stuck with more of Sideshow Bob.

With 99 percent of the votes counted,, 68,245 votes were received for Sideshow Bob, while Anderton received 51,566 votes, a difference of 16, 679.

We've got a lot of things to blame the earthquake for and one is the re-election of Bob.

WHAT A CREEP


Sideshow Bob's disdain for the democratic process was very much in evidence on Monday.

A Radio New Zealand debate in Cathedral Square was effectively sabotaged by Sideshow 'I promise to be more accountable' Bob when he refused to debate with his rival Jim Anderton.

Bob has been trying to avoid answering questions on issues like the Henderson bailout and his attempt to put council rents up by 24 percent and on Monday he insisted that he would only take direct questions from interviewer Geoff Robinson.

Sideshow pulled the same cheap trick on Newstalk ZB'S Mike Yardley last Friday. Anderton made the trip to the Newstalk ZB studio while Sideshow decided he couldn't be bothered making the effort and just phoned in.

Not only would Bob not debate with Anderton he pulled out of the hour-long show twenty minutes before it was due to finish. Yardley could barely conceal his irritation.

On Monday he also told a puzzled Geoff Robinson that he was just 'too busy' to debate with Anderton.

But he's not 'too busy' to appear on television wearing his 'earthquake' jacket - which he hasn't taken off for over a month - or drink coffee with the wife in city coffee shops.

Bob has indeed turned the election campaign into a pathetic sideshow. He has basically given the people of Christchurch the one-finger salute.

What a creep.

DON'T BITE THE HAND THAT FEEDS YOU



Paul Henry has got away with ridiculing and insulting a whole range of individuals and groups during his tenure as one of the co-hosts of TVNZ's Breakfast.

Henry's attacks have always been politically specific.

He has saved his vitriol for the liberal and left of the political spectrum.

In stark contrast, he hasn't been slow in promoting the right wing. In particular, John Key and the National Government have enjoyed Henry's benevolence.

Personally I have found his toadying to the Prime Minister just as offensive as anything he might say about Greenpeace or the welfare state.

And TVNZ has countenanced his blatant political partisanship.

The state-owned channel has driven its limited news and current affairs service into the tabloid mire and it has encouraged Henry's transformation into New Zealand's budget-priced version of Fox TV's Bill O'Reilly = with a twist of Glen Beck.

TVNZ have euphemistically described this development as Henry 'pushing the envelope' .

Yesterday TVNZ spokeswoman Andi Brotherston revealingly attempted to justify his latest outrage by arguing that Henry was simply giving voice to what many New Zealanders are thinking but will only say behind closed doors.

Andi Brotherston apparently thinks that this dirty linen should get a good airing on national television.

TVNZ might view Henry as the voice of the reactionary right but he made a real error by straying from his usual targets.

He might get away with attacking Greenpeace activists, socialists and the disabled but its an entirely different story when you make some deeply racist comments about a pillar of the Establishment - the Governor General no less. The Queen's representative in New Zealand.

To add insult to injury Henry embarrassed the Establishment even further by dragging the Prime Minister into the debacle. John Key has had to try and fend off criticisms that he failed to hold his mate Henry to account for his comments. He can hardly have appreciated the implication that he countenanced Henry's racism.

After initially resisting public calls for action be taken against their 'star', TVNZ have now slapped Henry over the wrist with a wet bus ticket and suspended him for a fortnight.

This is a purely symbolic punishment but TVNZ will be hoping that this will be enough to appease the Government, who probably quietly let it be known that they expected 'appropriate action' to be taken.

What lesson will Paul Henry draw from all this?

It will be simply not to bite the hand that feeds him.

Once he returns to our television screens we can expect normal service to resume and the bashing of the left to continue.

WHEN PROPERTY AND POLITICAL AMBITIONS COLLIDE


A supporter of Sideshow Bob who is also standing for the Christchurch City Council is Tim Carter. He is standing in the Hagley-Ferrymead ward.

33 year old Tim Carter works for the Carter Group which is one of the largest property owners in Christchurch and the Canterbury region It is wholly owned by the Carter family.

But unease has been expressed in several quarters about Tim Carter's political ambitions - especially since he and the Carter Group are pushing for some major and controversial urban developments in the Christchurch area. These proposed developments would ultimately come before the Christchurch City Council.

The Carter Group are advocating further urban sprawl development in the Halswell and Kainga areas where the Carter Group have significant land interests.

It also own 2.3 hectares of land in the historic Avon Loop area, which is within walking distance of the central city.

In a submission to Environment Canterbury last year Tim Carter wrote:

This would have to be one of the largest, if not the largest, contiguous land holding in the inner city area and is an ideal location for comprehensively planned and designed residential intensification.

On his election website Carter says that 'revitalising our central city is essential.'

Carter's ambitions for the Avon loop are opposed by the local residents and by heritage experts. They fear that the unique character of the area will be destroyed by the proposed 'residential intensification' in much the same way that other areas of Christchurch have been destroyed by profit-hungry property developers - who have benefited from the benevolence of the Christchurch City Council.

One person who fears for the future of the Avon Loop is local resident Donna Alfrey.

Donna set up a Avon loop community website in 2008.

She had been distributing flyers in the Hagley-Ferrymead ward because 'she just wanted people to know about the plans the Carter family had for properties they owned in the Avon loop'.

Last week someone laid a complaint with the police claiming that Alfrey was 'trying to influence people in the local body election.'

Given that she was merely distributing flyers it was a totally absurd complaint but the electoral officer said she was 'duty bound' to investigate the complaint under terms of the Local Electoral Act.

Alfrey was interviewed by the police last Tuesday and could be fined as much as $5000.

Tim Carter himself says he has been the victim of 'lies and mistruths' but he has not denied the Carter Group's urban development ambitions. Nor has he explained why, if he ever became a councillor, a major conflict of interest would not arise between his role as a significant Christchurch property developer and his role as a city councillor.

On his election website he has not disclosed any conflicts of interest.

As one local Christchurch blogger wrote recently: 'Do we want a city run by property developers, for property developers, or a city run by the people, for the people?'

'WE'RE SICK OF BOB PARKER TALKING CRAP'



The Burning Sensationz say it like it is.

When not appearing on YouTube, The Burning Sensationz are Christchurch City councillor Yani Johanson and Phd student James Dann.

Yani is standing for re-election in the Hagley-Ferrymead ward while James is standing for the Hagley-Ferrymead comnunity board.

Help them save Christchurch from another three years of Sideshow Bob..

RICHARD WOLFF ON THE EUROPEAN PROTESTS


While the union leadership in this country continues to sit on its hands and do nothing, mass protests rolled across Europe this week as opposition grows to the attempts by European Government's to impose austerity policies.

Spanish workers disrupted transport and television broadcasts in the first general strike in eight years. Spain’s two biggest unions said 72 percent of workers joined the strike, including 65 percent in the energy sector and 82 percent in the airline industry,

Traffic in parts of central Brussels came to a standstill as over 100,000 marchers, many of them carrying union flags and banners, made their way from one of the city’s main train stations to the headquarters of the EU Commission and the European Council.

There were also demonstrations of varying scale in Dublin, Lisbon, Rome, Riga, Warsaw, Nicosia, Bucharest, Prague, Paris, Athens and Belgrade.

In an interview with Radio New Zealand's Kim Hill, Professor Richard Wolff talks about the European protests and their implications.

Richard Wolff is Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts and the author of Capitalism Hits the Fan.

The interview was first broadcast on 2 October.

You can hear the interview here.

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