A RIGHT ROYAL CLOWN

This morning I switched on my radio and had my intelligence insulted by Paul Holmes on Newstalk ZB. I don't know why the radio was tuned to the radio home of right wing bigotry, but it was.

Holmes was opining on the Windsor Wedding Circus.

What acute political insight would the host of Q+A have for us? The man who described Kofi Annan, the former secretary general of the United Nations, as a 'cheeky darky' would surely have something relevant to say.

'Kate is a new style queen!' exclaimed Holmes. Gosh. Stunning stuff indeed. No wonder this man writes for the NZ Herald. No wonder TVNZ describes him as as one of our 'greatest broadcasters.' He is great. Just like Mark Sainsbury. And Robin Leach. And Wendy Petrie.

Holmes then told us that the Windsor's have a 'remarkable ability to reinvent themselves'. Really? And here's me thinking they remain a load of self-serving parasites. But that's not what Holmes meant of course. Kate will be the new Diana is I think what Holmes was suggesting.

Holmes then went on to say 'everyone in London was happy'.

I'm not sure how he knew this since he was 12,000 miles away but I doubt that London's working poor, unemployed and persecuted minorities were feeling particularly ecstatic about life just become some rich and privileged kids got married at their expense.

Also not very happy were folk protesting about the Government's austerity cuts.

British police have spent a lot of their time in the last several days raiding the homes of known anti-austerity protesters . These was justified by the police on the grounds that protesters 'planned' to disrupt Katie and Willie's big day. In the end they found no evidence of such plans. But they harassed and arrested activists anyway.

On the day before the wedding farce police arrested 20 activists in three squats.

According to Police commander Bob Broadhurst any 'threat' to the wedding was 'a threat to democracy'.

In fact the police clampdown on legitimate protest was the real threat to democracy.

Labour MP John McDonnell said that there had been 'some form of pre-emptive strike' before the wedding.

McDonnell said police had handcuffed one person before they 'forcibly detained' others.

'I believe this disproportionate use of force is unacceptable,' he said.

There doesn't seem a have been a lot of 'happy times' happening here but all of this seemingly passed Paul Holmes by. What a guy.

ANOTHER FINE MESS

Sometimes ill-judged and rushed decisions can come back to haunt you. That's certainly the case with Mayor Sideshow Bob and the new Christchurch City Council offices.

Let's go back to 2007.

Just two days before postal voting closed in the October local body elections, the Christchurch City Council voted to spend over $100 million on new council offices.

It was effectively the last act of Mayor Garry Moore and his council.

The proposal was to buy the former post office building in the central city and extensively redevelop it in a joint venture with Nga Tahu Property.

Garry Moore railroaded the proposal through by ensuring that councillors were given just twelve hours notification that the massive building project would be on the agenda. Councillors were only provided details of the project at the meeting. (This was the same tactic that Sideshow used to steamroll through the Henderson bailout).

Despite knowing very little about the proposal and its implications, the councillors (most of whom got voted back on) voted to spend the money anyway – and they made the rotten decision away from the public gaze. Disgracefully, the meeting was closed to the public – the same public who would have to pay through the nose for the new council 'Palace'.

The final vote was 12-1, including the vote of the mayor-to-be - Sideshow Bob.

But, embarrassingly for Sideshow Bob, during the mayoral campaign he had said if he was voted mayor he would defer any decision on any new council building until after the election.

Sideshow tried to deny that he had said this but when The Press pointed out that he had said it publicly in a mayoral debate he quickly shut up

Bob finally settled on the lame excuse that a 'quick decision' had to be made because it was a 'use it or lose it' deal. This was pure nonsense because the Post Office building in Hereford Street had been empty for several years with its owners, Nga Tahu, unable to find anyone silly enough to take it off their hands.

Critics of this building project (including yours truly - so I am not being wise after the event) said the decision had been rushed, ratepayers had got a bum deal (the council don’t actually own the building and still have to pay rent) and the building could end up costing a whole lot more than what Sideshow Bob and his council cronies claimed.

Sideshow Bob, in his usual patronising manner that we have all come to loathe, claimed critics were just raining on Christchurch’s parade, that the building would be a great asset, etc etc

Parker dismissed suggestions that it would have been more appropriate for the Christchurch City Council to build brand new and more modest offices rather than redevelop the former Post Office building.

MP Jim Anderton said it was not 'a good look' for the council to be operating in a costly building while people 'really in need of assistance' were not receiving adequate support.

In July 2008 Bob and his council cronies like Sue Wells and Barry Corbett voted to spend more money to add three further floors and which would cost the council (ie ratepayers) more than $700,000 in extra rent.

Just a short two weeks before this decision was made Sideshow told Newstalk ZB that there was 'no intention' of adding any new floors and 'he didn’t know where the story was coming from.' Guess who was telling porkies again?

But why were three new floors needed anyway? As I said in a 2008 post:

Why are they building these floors? Hey, the councillors couldn’t work out how many staff they had!

The initial decision was for a building that could house 1000 council staff. Now they’ve discovered they need a building that can actually house 1200 staff!

Such a blunder is the result of an unpopular decision that was rushed through to avoid public scrutiny and to give certain councillors, like Barry Corbett and Susan Wells for example, a better chance to get voted back into office.


In the end this bloated building has, so far, cost the long-suffering ratepayer some $117 million. The council has to pay $8.2 million annually to Nga Tahu to rent the Hereford St building for the next 24 years.

The Press has estimated that Christchurch ratepayers could potentially pay more than $1 billion to rent the property over the next century, when rent reviews and inflation are included.

But the building is still having money thrown at it because it has proved to be vulnerable to earthquakes.

It has, in theory, been 'open' since August last year. But, in practice, it has barely been operational.

The September quake knocked it out of action for a number of weeks and some $5 million was spent on repairs.

The February 22 quake saw 'The Palace' sustain more serious and extensive damage. The building is still closed and no announcement has been made about when it is likely to open again.

The irony is that the Christchurch City offices were supposed to be the headquarters for any major civil defence operation.

Civil Defence has been working out of the Christchurch Art Gallery which has sustained no quake damage. Civil Defence are likely to be still there until at least August.

Chrstchurch City Council staff should have been housed in new and more modest offices. Instead the people of Christchurch have been given a lame duck building that was not purposely built and that has proven to be woefully inadequate.

CRAP WEDDING

The Windsor family are spending approximately $90 million on the wedding of Katie and Willie when poverty in Britain is at an unprecedented level. It's estimated that 20 percent of the population is now living in poverty.

The British people will be picking up the tab for the massive security operation, which includes deploying 5,000 police officers. Because the day is declared a public holiday, the costs will be higher than usual as officers will receive overtime.

In February this year new research from the Save the Children charity revealed that in some major British cities, nearly one in four children are now living in poverty. The charity says 1.6m youngsters live in "severe poverty" which it says is a "national scandal"

In 2005 one in seven British children were living under the poverty line.

Despite the severe levels of poverty and economic hardship, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition Government has cut nearly $60 billion from benefits. Save The Children fears the number of children living without the basics will rise dramatically.

In sharp contrast the Windsor family aren't short of a few bob.

Queen Elizabeth, 85, has an estimated personal net worth of $500 million that comes from property holdings including Balmoral Castle in the Scottish Highlands, stud farms, a fruit farm and marine land throughout the U.K and extensive art collection.

As heir to the throne, Prince Charles got $28 million last year from the Duchy of Cornwall Estate.

Diana reportedly left both Prince William, 28, and Prince Harry, 26, $10 million after taxes. They started receiving annual dividends at age 25, estimated at $450,000 a year.

Perhaps only dimly aware that parading their opulent lifetstyle in front of the nation isn't exactly clever, the pomp and circumstance will still be brazenly exhibited for all to see.

Which will give Mark Sainsbury, Petra Bagust, John Campbell and co something to go ga ga over.

ANOTHER WENDY PETRIE MOMENT...



Wendy Petrie's live cross from London goes horribly wrong. Maybe she slept in.

BREAD AND CIRCUSES

The Windsor Family Wedding Circus is looming on the horizon and our media, as each day passes, is becoming even more puerile and infantile It's intent on bombarding us with vacuous stories about such things as Kate's wedding dress, people who collect wedding memorabilia and what the weather will be like in London on 'the big day'. And look out for the simpering interviews with John Key. You have been warned.

The global economy might be going to hell in a handcart but there's nothing like a wedding to keep us all amused is there? The western social democracies may of turned into two party dictatorships but a royal 'event' will keep us all temporarily distracted. Or so the theory goes.

While our two main free- to-air broadcasters won't spend any money on producing some real investigative current affairs about issues of concern in New Zealand, they are more than keen to splash the cash to send people to London to report on a wedding.

Doing the Windsor bootlicking in London this week include Television One's Petra Bagust (Breakfast) , Wendy Petrie (TV1 News) , Mark Sainsbury (Close Up), while TV3 have sent newsreader reader Hilary Barry and reporters Kim Chisnall and Melissa Davies.

Ms Barry says that she doesn't think 'there's a wedding I've ever been to where I haven't cried. I think marriage gets a tough rap these days.'

TV3's John Campbell will be hosting a 'Royal Wedding Special' on the day of the wedding. This is the same John Campbell who has professed his admiration for the work of noted journalist John Pilger. Clearly Campbell has not read any of Pilger's trenchant criticisms of the Windsor's or maybe he's okay with prostituting his talent these days.

But this is not, in the end, some meaningless and innocent celebrity get-together. It represents a tacit acceptance of Britain's bloodstained imperial traditions headed by a 'royal clan' that has, among other things, harboured Nazi sympathisers.

Although we like to think we have 'moved on' from mindless royal adulation, the existence of kings and queens and their offspring is offered as proof that some are meant to be rich and everyone else is supposed to be poor, some are born to rule and everyone else is born to be ruled.

Not that this is of any concern to our 'leading news journalists'. Mark Sainsbury for example, thinks that Willie is 'magical': 'There is still that little bit of magic around him and in a time when there's not much magic around, it's a precious commodity.'

Sainsbury is a rubbish journalist and he has certainly reached a new low with this drivel.

Just like us, the British working class are being subjected to a brutal programme of cuts and which are being enacted by a Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government that says it won't tolerate 'embarrassing' protests at the Windsor bash.

But Petra, Wendy and Mark won't be reporting on any of this. They won't be reporting on the dismantlement of the British welfare state by the bourgeoisie.

Instead they will be doffing their caps to the Windsor clan, praising them and talking about 'a nation coming together'.

For that, as Richard Seymour of Lenin's Tomb has pointed out, is the role of the Windsor's:

Windsor has..entrenched itself as a domestic power. It has assiduously courted a popular base, which perforce requires it to act as a silent partner in the class struggle - a source of legitimacy for the bourgeoisie, by dint of its apparent (only apparent) disentanglement from the daily grind of capital accumulation.

I'm hoping the taxpayer-funded wedding circus will be disrupted by protesters, although this will be no easy task given the huge security operation that the Government has launched. I will cheer if the whole sordid farce collapses.

I thoroughly endorse the comments of the New Statesman's Laurie Penny:

...the possibility of disrupting the stultifying public pageantry of the royal wedding must remain on the table. Do we want to be part of a culture that sits in front of the TV, whining while the big decisions are made for us and cheering on cue? Or do we want to be part of a culture that stakes a claim, stands firm and answers back to injustice?

SIDELINE BOB AND THE VIDEO NASTY

Sideshow Bob has been holding regular 'community earthquake briefings' in various parks around the eastern suburbs of Christchurch.

These meetings are supposed to provide people with 'a general city-wide update', but the truth is Sideshow hasn't got much to say anymore. People who have attended these meetings often leave feeling distinctly underwhelmed. Bob doesn't say anything that they didn't know already and they remain as uncertain as ever about future plans for the city.

Apparently actually living in Christchurch doesn't mean you can have a real say in the running of the city.

Gerry Brownlee and his Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) have left Bob and his council cooling their heels on the sidelines. While Dr Gerry Frankenstein concocts his plans with his monstrous creation in a hidden laboratory somewhere in Wellington (this is true), Bob does.....not a lot.

But Bob could be doing something.

He could be doing his job.

He could be representing and campaigning for the interests of local people who, if we are all not careful, will end up as laboratory rats in Gerry's big urban experiment. Gerry's Big Adventure could prove to be Christchurch's Big Nightmare.

Bob could also be protesting about the lack of community involvement in the decision making process. He could be protesting about the appalling state of affairs in the eastern suburbs which includes the Government's dismal and inadequate response to the housing crisis. He could be speaking out about the disturbing cases of poverty that are now emerging.

But he isn't saying anything.

As Gerry's faithful lapdog Bob is saying and doing nothing that will upset his master. Bob has become Gerry's ventriloquist dummy. It must be uncomfortable for Bob having Gerry's hand stuck up his bottom all the time.

So how is Sideshow spending his days?

It turns out he's been making a video about his favourite subject - himself.

Bob has just posted a ten minute video on his Facebook page. The topic? His orange safety jacket.

Unbelievable. Talk about Nero fiddling while Rome burns.

Only Bob's Facebook friends can access this particular video nasty..

A LOCAL PERSPECTIVE

Bexley's Uncertain Future from Metro News on Vimeo.


Students from the New Zealand Broadcasting School in Christchurch used to put together a weekly local news show, Metro News, which was screened by Canterbury Television (CTV).

CTV has only recently just gone back on air, just two months after the February 22 earthquake and the collapse of its central Christchurch building. 16 CTV staff members died in the collapse.

Metro News is now posting its stories on-line, including many that are earthquake related. There are stories on such issues as the lacking of housing and the future of Bexley, one of the worst affected suburbs.

For a local and different perspective on Christchurch earthquake-related issues, Metro News is worth checking out regularly.

DON'T CALL US, WE'LL CALL YOU

The Candidate charts the compromises, concessions and outright betrayals that social democratic politics has made as it has travelled down its reformist road to its supposed 'kinder and gentler' world. But while director Michael Ritchie's film is a biting satirical take on the machinations of liberal politics it also. in some ways, foreshadows the ultimate demise of social democratic parties throughout the west.

The 1972 movie follows the rise to political power of a young progressive activist Bill McKay, played by Robert Redford.

At the beginning of the movie he is lawyer for liberal causes and critical of mainstream politics. By the end of the movie he has become the Senator for California and a rising star within the Democrat Party.

What makes this movie fascinating is that it grimly depicts how McKay, against his own political instincts, allows the Democrat Party to trade away his principles and beliefs in the pursuit of political power.

He goes from being a passionate liberal defender of ordinary Americans to just another politician hiding behind rhetoric and soundbites.

As a lawyer McKay campaigned against big business, poverty and environmental degradation but as an aspiring politician he ends up with a slogan: 'For a better way: Bill McKay!'

As he travels down the 'reformist' road his principles are, one by one, tossed into the ditch. After attacking the oil industry and big business he is rebuked by his campaign manager for not building 'broad support'.

McKay beats his Republican candidate but, starkly aware that political power has become an end in itself, he asks his campaign manager what he is supposed to do next.

A decade or so after The Candidate was released social democratic parties around the world meekly surrendered to the forces of neoliberalism.

It was again dressed up as 'compromise' and 'adaptation' but it was the historic end of the social democratic project.

We were left with former social democratic parties advocating the policies of neoliberalism, the politics of greed and division. In New Zealand the stake was driven into Labour's social democratic heart by Roger Douglas and the parliamentary cabal that backed him. That cabal included its present leader, Phil Goff.

Today, the 'great liberal hope', Barack Obama, has proven to be just another defender of corporate America. The socialist left never had any illusions about him but our warnings were drowned out by the hype of 'Obamania'.

Here in New Zealand corporate media commentators still nonsensically describe Labour as 'centre left' but Labour remains a committed defender of the status quo and of neoliberalism. It offers no new vision for New Zealand. It is bereft of passion, of inspiration, of imagination.

One commentator thinks Labour should dress itself up in the garb of 'proletarianism' as opposed to 'social liberalism'. It's little more than cosmetic surgery. You can roll a turd in glitter but it remains a turd.

Today a politician like Bill McKay would never even be accepted as a suitable candidate for any 'social democratic' party in the world, never mind the Democrats. He would be regarded as 'too radical', 'too left wing'. His commitment to his beliefs would be regarded as a sign of 'inflexibility' and an 'inability to take a broad view.'

Our Labour Party would be showing Bill McKay the door marked 'Exit' about five minutes after he walked in.

Don't call us, we'll call you...

DEAD PARTY WALKING

If an opinion poll is to be believed then most of the country and over half of Labour's own supporters have given up on Phil Goff-and the Labour Party .

The 3News Reid Research poll showed that 78 per cent of voters overall and 55 per cent of Labour Party voters did not believe Goff's Labour could win the election. Phil's still talking his chances up but we all know he is a dead man walking. He'll soon be walking into the sunset still muttering about his 'grand vision' of a society with no GST on fresh fruit and vegetables.

Mmn, why wouldn't folk want the Labour Party back in power?

You remember the last Labour Government don't you? That was the Labour Government that presided over widening social inequality, that got comfortable with the filthy rich and left anti-trade union laws largely untouched. That was the same Labour Government that held up the wideboys of the finance sector as people to be admired and then sat on its hands when those same wideboys ransacked and pillaged the country.

That's the same Labour Government that found it politically convenient to bash beneficiaries and brought in legislation to make life even more miserable for beneficiaries.

It's not hard to remember this Labour Government because many of its members are still sitting in Parliament today. Mallard. Dalziel. King. Dyson. Cosgrove. Goff. The list goes on.

Indeed leader Phil Goff is a neoliberal zealot from way back. He supported and implemented the 'reforms' of Rogernomics. Despite the massive damage that neoliberalism has inflicted on working class communities in this country, he still says there is 'no alternative' to neoliberalism. He says we must still 'worship ' at the altar of big business and that we must pledge our allegiance to the forces of international capital.

Is it little wonder that people have turned their backs on a party that has nothing to offer but more of the same old crap we've had for nearly thirty years?

But there are people who have stood by Labour over the years and they remain committed to Labour today

Our so-called 'union leaders', for example. They will be calling on you to vote Labour in November. These are the very same 'union leaders' who have failed to defend workers against the neoliberal offensive. Rather they have, in clockwork fashion, collaborated with neoliberalism

What they don't tell you is that the Labour Party also thinks that ordinary people must pay the price for an economic crisis we are not responsible for.

We must move beyond the politically bankrupt Labour Party. We must build a new progressive movement in this country. It's undeniably a difficult task but not an impossible one.

We must build our own alternative to neoliberalism. It is long overdue.

Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number!
Shake your chains to earth, like dew
Which in sleep had fall'n on you:
Ye are many - they are few.

Percy Shelley

BOB DEFENDS GERRY'S DICTATORSHIP

Mayor Sideshow Bob writes a column for the Christchurch Star and, usually, its long on rhetoric and short on substance.

On Wednesday (April 13) he tentatively broached the thorny issue of the Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Authority. (CERA). This is what he said:

'Under the legislation CERA will lead and coordinate the ongoing recovery effort in Canterbury . It will work locally with councils and engage local communities. CERA will be given the necessary powers to relax, suspend or extend laws and regulations for clearly defined purposes related to earthquake recovery'.

Gerry Brownlee couldn't have said it any better.

Notice how Bob defends the authoritarian and undemocratic nature of CERA as 'necessary'?

Of course Bob's cavalier attitude towards local democracy shouldn't come as any surprise. He, after all, campaigned for the sacking of the elected members of Environment Canterbury.

And, despite Bob's claims to the contrary, Gerry Brownlee and CERA are under no obligation to work with the Christchurch City Council or consult with the local community. The fact that the members of CERA's 'community panel' will all be picked by Brownlee tells us that CERA's 'community consultation' will be merely window dressing.

Sideshow Bob is the Government's political puppet and it is Gerry Brownlee who is pulling the strings.

But at least Councillor Yani Johanson is doing what he can to represent the interests of local Christchurch people.

In his Christchurch Star column (April 16) he highlights the undemocratic nature of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery legislation. He points out:

'Essentially the Minister does not have to consult on recovery plans being developed and amended...He can force the city council to do whatever he wants,whenever he wants. with very little checks and balances.


He also makes the point that city councillors had no opportunity to take a formal view of the legislation. He says that the legislation was given to Bob Parker and legal advisers 'in confidence' and councillors were not allowed to see the legislation until it had been introduced in Parliament.

Is this what Sideshow Bob defines as the Government 'working' with council?

THE EASTSIDE ISN'T BEING HEARD

I live on the east side of Christchurch and out here we're packing up our troubles in our old kitbags, rolling up our sleeves and getting the work done. Yes, things might be 'unpleasant' right now but we're Cantabrians and, united, we can overcome our difficulties. That's because they breed them tough down here. We're a gritty bunch....we can rebuild Christchurch, we have the technology. That's what the Mayor tells me, so it must be true.

Before you reach for the bucket, that isn't me talking. It's more of an precis of the 'positive message' being pushed in the Eastside by national and local politicians and local 'personalities'. Whether its the Prime Minister or the Canterbury netball captain talking , the message is the same - the situation is under control.

Whenever's there's cheerleading to de done in the media, you can count on Mayor Sideshow Bob to show up.

Bob has become little more than a mouthpiece for the Government's views and having walked away from his responsibility to accurately reflect the views and concerns of quake victims, he has indeed become a sideshow.

Last week Bob was talking about a pressing issue on the minds of all Eastside residents - Canterbury Show Week in November.

Sideshow Bob announced Restart 2011. The Christchurch City Council in conjunction with, surprise, the Central City Property Owners and Business Group, is aiming to have a section of the central city open in November.

'From 29 October, residents of Christchurch will once again be able to enjoy shopping and eating in the central city. It is essential we re-open on this date in preparation for New Zealand Cup and Show Week, one of our busiest and most prosperous weeks of the year, and for Christmas trade.' said Bob.

Excited? I know I'm not.

Somehow, I don't think they'll be many Eastside residents enjoying 'shopping and eating in the central city'.

Bob has again been attacked for ignoring the Eastside.

Disaster recovery expert Doctor Regan Potangaroa of Unitec School of Architecture commented last week: 'Aranui and the other suburbs out here in the east have been forgotten. The mayor should come out and talk to the people out here - there's a lot of anger and a lot of resentment and he needs to be seen down here on the marae and in the suburbs.'

Chief executive of Nga Hau E Wha Marae, Norm Dewes said: 'If I was to stay silent I would be condoning the behaviour of the mayor, and saying that I'm very pleased with his performance, and frankly I'm not,'

But the cacophony of cheerleading from establishment figures has held sway in the media and the voice of the Eastside has been drowned out.

While we're being talked about, we're not having our voice heard in the media.

Despite the attempts to suggest that some kind of 'normality' has returned to the Eastside, IT is still a disaster zone. Life has barely improved since the February 22 quake.

A lot of people are living in damaged houses, in garages, attics, with friends and other family members in overcrowded conditions. Many people remain without basic services and some streets have virtually been abandoned.

A haze of dust often casts a pall over the Eastside and the level of 'pong' varies from day to day. And there is an eerie quiet, the normal 'hum' of everyday life has all but disappeared.

The roads are severely damaged and major utilities remain closed or are being demolished.

And a huge wave of job losses in now sweeping over the Eastside and Christchurch. Jobs have already been lost in retail stores, factories, the service sector. Even the Christchurch City Councl has announced it will be making redundancies

Gerry Brownlee has not denied that over 20,000 people will lose their jobs.

But community resistance is beginning to emerge in the Eastside. Although still small in scale at present, it is likely that more community self-organisation will emerge, especially with Gerry Brownlee and CERA intent on imposing their will on the eastern suburbs.

And especially since Sideshow Bob and his council cronies have effectively abandoned the Eastside.

BOB GOES MISSING

The going gets tough and Sideshow Bob goes missing.

The select committee hearing on the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Bill heard submissions yesterday but Sideshow Bob decided not to turn up. He sent the Deputy Mayor, Ngaire Button, instead.

The Recovery Bill gives the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) unprecedented powers with the Earthquake Recovery Minister, the unpopular Gerry Brownlee, pulling all the levers. Such are his powers he can override any decisions that CERA makes.

It is this top-down authoritarian structure that is expected to prevail in Christchurch for the next five years.

The powers that Brownlee has at his disposal, effectively deny the democratic rights of local Christchurch people.

CERA could, and probably will, declare entire suburbs to be 'uninhabitable ' and neither the Christchurch City Council or the local community, could do anything about it. People, faced with their home being demolished, simply have to do what they are told.

Such are Brownlee's powers he can suspend or amend any law without going through parliament, as long as he 'promises' to only use it in relation to the earthquake recovery. There is no justification for giving any politician the ability to bypass parliament.

Dean Knight, a lecturer in law at the University of Victoria has commented:

"I acknowledge the gravity of the task facing Christchurch and other districts. The recovery and rebuilding project is a massive one, one that is probably beyond the capacity of present local authorities and other agencies. I accept therefore that central government involvement is essential. However, I question the top-down, rather than bottom-up, model that has been adopted. ... The legislative scheme does not build in the usual elements of local democracy and community participation that is traditionally seen and expected in legislation dealing with town planning and management of local resources."

At the submissions hearing , Ngaire Button, expressed concern about the 'extensive powers' that CERA was being given and appealed that the council be given a substantial role in the rebuilding of Christchurdh

There's, frankly, fat chance of that happening

It's inevitable that this authoritarian legislation will be used to prioritise the interests of capital over the interests of ordinary folk. Christchurch business interests are uniformly in support of this legislation.

It's disappointing but not surprising that the Labour Party did not vote against the Rcovery Bill. Indeed Labour MP for Christchurch East, Lianne Dalziel, has justified the legislation because of the Christchurch City Council's failure to deal with the September quake. She, and Labour, seem quite willing to expose local people to the machinations of CERA and Brownlee.

Sideshow Bob's failure to show up at the select committee meeting, once again, highlights that he is a 'captured politician', beholden to his political masters in Wellington and business interests in Christchurch.

OVER TO YOU, MUZZA

Since our Minister of Foreign Affairs has expressed his concern abut the denial of human rights in Libya and supports the present 'humanitarian intervention' he must soon be going to publicly protest about the military crackdown in Egypt. Clearly he's waiting for Barack Obama to say something first though.

I'm sure freedom-loving Murray McCully will eventually have something to say about the case of Maikel Nabil Sanad, 26. He has just been convicted by an Egyptian military tribunal of 'insulting the military' and jailed for three years. Sanad has been blogging about human rights abuses by the military. He has also had a page on Facebook.

This is the first trial of a blogger by Egypt's US-backed military rulers and the harshest sentence delivered against a blogger since 2004, when one was convicted of 'insulting' Mubarak and 'offending' Islam and sentenced to four years in prison.

Human Rights lawyers say the sentence has wide implications for freedom of expression in post-Mubarak Egypt and does not augur well for the political freedoms of opposition forces in Egypt.

The case against Sanad, who was arrested two weeks ago at his home, was based on a blog post titled 'The people and the army were never hand in hand,' questioning the military's continued allegiance to Mubarak.

Adel Ramadan, Sanad's lawyer. says that 10,000 civilians have been convicted and sentenced by military tribunals since the army took over two months ago.

Time to carry on with the revolution and sweep away the military junta...

I DON'T CARE ABOUT LABOUR'S LIST

I don't care who is on the Labour Party list. I just don't care.

The overall consensus from the media commentators, having examined the Labour list from all possible angles, is that it isn't up to much. It's, depending who you read and listen to, 'too boring', too old', 'too lazy, 'too self interested', 'too gay', 'too feminist', 'too Andrew Little', blah blah blah. Did anyone say the list was 'too right wing'? I don't think they did.

This list hands more ammunition to those who argue Labour has been overwhelmed by the ideology of 'identity politics.' But, here's the rub, there's precious little evidence to suggest that a rejigging of the list would lead to anything other than a Labour Party still committed to the ideology of neoliberalism.

That's the elephant in the corner of the room that no one wants to talk about.

This argument has been more about 'the look' of Labour rather than its substance.

It would be foolish to think that there could actually be a socialist on Labour's list and, of course there isn't one. Twenty years ago Michael Bassett, a cabinet minister the fourth Labour Government, commented in an interview that he no longer knew what being a socialist meant.

The 'heirs' of Michael Bassett occupy Labour's 2011 list. Not only do they not know what socialism means they actually have a strong dislike and even hatred for anything that suggests that capitalism is well and truly stuffed.

But its even worse than that. I challenge anyone to look through that list and point to one candidate who professes a loyalty to Labour's traditional social democratic ideology and history. You won't be able to point to one. None of then can conceive of a society that isn't defined by the demands of the 'free market'.

This is the party that sees the loathsome Andrew Little as its future. This is the guy who has described the mild social democratic policies of the Alliance as 'too radical'. This the guy, who as a union 'leader', has sold out working class struggles time and time again.

Someone like Chris Hipkin is also regarded as a representative of Labour's future. On Labour's Red Alert blog he recently wrote:

In conclusion, let’s be clear. There is only one party capable of coming up with new ideas, real ideas, that address the real issues of today and in the future. There is only one party committed to transformation, to positive change, to improving the lives of the ,many not the few. In New Zealand politics today, there is only one caucus with the breadth of talent, ideas and skills to make a difference. And the there is only one leader who can deliver.

It is Phil Goff. Leading the Labour caucus. Leading the next Labour government'


This is the same Phil Goff who remains committed to the failed ideology of neoliberalism. This is the same Phil Goff who says there is no alternative to the 'free market'.

So I don't care who's on Labour's list because it still results in the same right wing Labour Party that we have all come to loathe. We voters get the booby prize everytime.

As a progressive force the Labour Party died a long time ago. But its carcass continues to rot in public. Having done so much to discredit socialism, the Labour Party deserves people like Andrew Little. And Andrew Little deserves the Labour Party.

THE HAND OF IMPEY

In the same week that the Government announced that it was pulling the plug on TVNZ7, and driving another nail into the coffin of public television broadcasting in New Zealand, we learnt that the Government gave $43 million to the commercial broadcaster Mediaworks, despite being advised by officials that the loan request be turned down.

The Ministry of Economic Development said it did not see 'a strong case' for the loan, and warned the deal would carry 'a financial risk' for the government.

Treasury said the loan would see the government 'acting as a bank' for Mediaworks. Mediaworks owns Tv3 and TV4 and approximately half of the country's commercial radio stations. It is also heavily in debt.

Initially the Government accepted the official advice but that's before our old mate Brent Impey decided he wasn't going to take 'no' for an answer.

Those who have followed the squalid tale of Kiwi FM will know that it was Brent impey, the former Mediaworks chief, who was instrumental in preventing the exciting Youth Radio Network from getting off the ground.

Impey was worried that a non-commercial youth radio network would pull audience away from the Mediaworks stable of pop/pap stations such as The Rock and More FM.

Impey lobbied the Minister of Broadcasting Steve Maharey who subsequently gave the three valuable FM frequencies reserved for the YRN to Mediawork's struggling Kiwi FM.

Maharey ignored the advice of the Labour Government's own advisory group. The group, made up of representatives from student radio, access radio and some other media-savvy young people, strongly supported the establishment of the YRN.

Impey was about to axe Kiwi FM but, with the generous help of Maharey, he was able to keep Kiwi FM on air. More importantly for Impey and Mediaworks, he stopped the non-commercial YRN in its tracks.

So whenever Impey arrives on the scene you know he's looking for a sweetheart deal for a commercial broadcaster that has constantly attacked public broadcasting in this country.

After Communication and Information Minister Steven Joyce said 'no' to the loan, Impey decided to go over Joyce's head and lobby the Prime Minister.

The loan was subsequently approved by cabinet.

Brent Impey has strenuously defended this deal on Radio Live's 4-6pm show which he is hosting until the unpleasant Paul Henry takes over later this year. He's had the support of other Radio Live hosts, including Karyn Hay and Andrew Fagan. They used to work for Kiwi FM, a station that attracts a 0.1% total listenership. Clearly they are grateful that their mate Brent kept them in work.

While Impey thinks its okay for Mediaworks to be bailed out by the Government, he has constantly attacked Radio New Zealand and its requests for more funding. Unlike Mediaworks loan requests however, RNZ's requests for additional funding have not been looked on kindly by a Government unsympathetic to the public broadcasting ethos.

Last year Impey was attacking RNZ for 'crying poor' and said:

“We [private sector media companies] have had to make paradigm shifts in the way we run businesses to keep them viable.'

That 'paradigm shift' now apparently includes expecting the Government to bail you out financially whenever the going gets tough.

THE GOVERNMENT'S TAME LITTLE POODLE

Since the February 22 earthquake, the Government has done very little to address the housing crisis that is now confronting Christchurch.

While a small number of houses have had cosmetic repairs completed, many Christchurch people, particularly in the eastern suburbs, are living in damaged houses without any idea when their houses might be repaired. Indeed Eastside residents don't even know if they will have to suburb to live in, given the Government's intention to write off large areas as 'uninhabitable'.

People whose houses have been deemed 'uninhabitable' are living in rental accommodation, with family and friends, in garages. One recent media story told the tale of a family of four now sharing their three bedroom home with eight other people. This is a typical 'Eastside' story.

Some six weeks after the quake the Government's first real response to the housing crisis is proving to be less than impressive.

The Department of Building and Housing has placed more than 350 campervans at Canterbury Agricultural Park, situated in the west side of the city, which it says can provide temporary housing for up to 1800 people left homeless. On these numbers it expects each tiny campervan to house five people.

The Government expects families to live in such cramped and inadequate conditions during the coldest and harshest months of the year.

To add insult to injury, the Government is demanding that folk, already under considerable financial pressure, to pay market rents for the 'privilege ' to live in a campervan in a big field that will turn to mud once the wet weather arrives.

The weekly rent for the campervans is $190 for two people, $271 for four people, and $337 for six people. It beggars belief that the Government thinks these campervans can be 'home' to six people.

Why the different rates anyway? The campervans are all the same size.

Campervan occupants will also have to pay a two-week bond and power costs, and also be responsible for their own contents insurance.

The Department of Building and Housing says that the campervans are just 'temporary ' and designed 'to give people breathing space to consider long-term housing options.'

This is absurd.

By the Department's own admission, people will be living in the campervans for at least six months. It's likely to be 'home' for a lot longer than this. People whose homes were damaged in the September quake were still waiting for decisions to be made about their homes when the February quake hit.

The Government's intention is to build 2.500 modular homes but work on those homes is unlikely to start until September at the earliest.

It's estimated that 10,000 houses will have to be demolished and 100,000 need repairs.

The Government hasn't come anywhere near to dealing with the housing crisis

The decision to make quake victims pay market rents for the campervans was made by the increasingly unpopular Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee.

Waimakariri Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove is correct when he says 'that some of these families cannot just pluck $600 out of the air to get into a campervan ... you can't swing a cat in.'

While Mayor Sideshow Bob has had a lot to say about the people of Christchurch facing a grim winter and enormous financial difficulties he has, once again, shown that he is little more then the Government's tame poodle.

Instead of speaking out against Brownlee's appalling decision to impose market rents on folk with little money and no homes , he has said nothing.

It's up to the Labour-aligned councillors to do what Sideshow Bob should be doing and that's stand up and be counted for the people of Christchurch.

WHAT'S HENDO BEEN UP TO?

Now that our mate Dave 'Hendo' Henderson has been bankrupted (debts of $140 million), I thought The Hendo Files could finally be closed.

But you can't keep, er, a good man down. Hendo's been back in the news again.

Entering the 'red zone' of Central Christchurch is just about impossible without permission from the Supreme Being. However old Hendo was spotted in the red zone in the week after the earthquake and again last week. He was accompanied by other people.

According to The Press he has also been spotted in the red zone on several other occasions.

What is intriguing about all this is that Hendo appears to have been given permission to access parts of the central city whenever he feels like it. He has been seen showing security a piece of paper at the cordon gate.

This has infuriated central city business owners who have struggled to gain access to the red zone.

So who exactly gave Hendo permission to be in the red zone and why?

NO COCKROACH EATING, CLAIMS TAMIHERE

There was a disturbing story in the media over the weekend of a six year old Bay of Plenty boy who was so hungry that he ate a cockroach.

He and his three siblings have since been taken into care by a community agency.

The story illustrates, once again, the growing level of poverty in this country. As the economic crisis deepens and the government's austerity policies begin to bite, its not an exaggeration to say that we are in the midst of a social crisis.

The cockroach eating incident is the tip of an ever expanding iceberg.

Mangere Budgeting Services Trust chief executive Daryl Evans told the media that the service was under greater pressure than ever. There had been recent cases of impoverished pensioners eating cat food.

'People are getting desperate for food.'

But out in talkback radioland there's one wealthy media commentator who rubbished the cockroach story.

It was John 'I won't accept a golden handshake' Tamihere.

No one would eat cockroaches,' he declared on Radio Live today. 'It's a media beat up'.

According to Tamihere's 'logic' the community group looking after the children, the Homes of Hope, have also presumably been making things up.

Of course Tamihere's allegations of a 'media beat up' are no surprise since he has been a consistent and strident supporter of the neoliberal economic policies that have wreaked havoc in working class communities, Maori and Pakeha alike.

While Tamihere and the iwi corporate elite have done very well financially out of neoliberalism the economic position of ordinary working class Maori has barely improved.

But this is what Tamihere had to say about Maori beneficiaries in 2003:

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

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

I 'm actually repeating something I wrote over three years ago but some things are worth repeating - especially when clowns like Tamihere continue to cheerlead for the Government in the media.

BOB IGNORES PLEAS OF COUNCIL TENANTS

Despite Sideshow Bob's professed 'concern' for the quake victims in the eastern suburbs of Christchurch that concern has not translated into introducing a rent freeze for council tenants. Many of Christchurch's poorest and most disadvantaged people are housed in flats owned by the city council and they have been hit hard by the February quake.

Tenants whose flats have been damaged by the quake were told they must still pay rent. In contrast tenants in houses owned by Housing New Zealand received a three week rent freeze.

Some tenants approached the council for a rent 'discount' Their requests were also rejected.

A fortnight ago Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove wrote to Parker about a rent freeze for council tenants. He has had no response from Sideshow Bob.

'So much for consultation,' wrote Cosgrove in an online newsletter.

Bob has been spouting about 'community consultation' in recent times but there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of 'consultation' going on. It seems that Bob will only 'consult' when it suits him.

Meanwhile, despite Bob's pre=election claim that he would be 'transparent and consultative' , the first Christchurch City Council meeting since the February 22 earthquake went into a closed session to discuss what The Press has described as the 'fate of several major subdivisions.'

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