Graphic: Porcupine Farm

Gerry Brownlee 'tells off' the insurance industry - pity he's several months too late.

In the immediate aftermath of the February 2011 earthquake, there was a whole load of profit gouging going  down. Various businesses demonstrated the true meaning of the ' free market' when they  decided that it would be a good idea  to exploit the desperation of  Christchurch people and arbitrarily put their prices up.

This upset the Minister for Earthquake Recovery.  Gerry Brownlee beat his chest and warned that he would 'name and shame' businesses caught profiteering.

But  despite the bravado,  he didn't 'name and shame' one single business - despite the fact that profiteering was rampant.

Several months later,  landlords have  raised their rents  to unjustified levels and our hero has again done nothing.   This time he has gone one 'better' and claimed there is no housing crisis in Christchurch and that the market will sort things out.  So - there's nothing for our Gerry to do!

Last week  Brownlee decided that he probably needed to  complain about the insurances companies. The insurance industry has been dragging its heels in settling thousands of claims causing all manner of financial hardship  and stress. The insurance companies have  gone as far as to say that it could take up to eight years to settle some claims.

Brownlee finally woke from his slumbers.

'Talk of five to eight-year time frames for settlement or repairs is  unacceptable.' he moaned last week.

But the insurance companies have worked out Brownlee  and have called his bluff.

National insurance Council chief executive Chris Ryan said Brownlee should say which companies were at fault.

"He's got to identify, if there are issues, which companies he's referring to. What we're getting here is general statements without specific details. ' said Ryan, the man who claimed earlier this year - without any evidence - that some arson cases in the eastern suburbs of Christchurch were probably 'insurance jobs'.

Do you think Brownlee will 'name and shame' this time round? Of course he won't - and the insurance industry know he'll do nothing.


Petra Bagust  and Brian Tamaki want to 'save' the New Zealand mainstream media!

There are of course, many tormented souls in the media and nobody is helping them!  Never fear - it's the National Media Prayer Day  to the rescue!

Yes, this Sunday (August 5) various churches will be praying for the souls of tormented journalists, broadcasters, editors  bloggers, etc  throughout the country.  Over 1000  churches are apparently  participating in this exercise - the purpose of which is 'to spread the Gospel throughout New Zealand's mass media.'

The impetus has come  from the conservative  Christian Broadcasting Association  (the organisation that runs Shine Television) )  which originally  held  a day of prayer for the work of the CBA . Shine TV is, of course, the channel that regularly  broadcasts anti-abortion, anti-gay and anti-left programmes - many of them  imported from right wing evangelical organisations in the United States and which have close links to the Republican Party.

Shine is  also not that keen about evolution  and also broadcasts shows that denounce such 'nonsense'.  For sheer stupidity, these shows have to be seen to be believed.

Shine  has  been running commercials for the Media Prayer Day.

Among the supporters of the Media Prayer Day  are the Christian Brethren, high profile supporters  of the National Party and furtive  distributors of  anti-Green Party leaflets.  Another high profile supporter   is the not-very-liberal  'Bishop' Brian  Tamaki of the Destiny Church.

Also lending their support to the prayer day are broadcasters Simon Barnett and Petra Bagust. Both feature in the television commercial.

Barnett is a breakfast DJ at More FM in Christchurch and the host of such top notch  television  shows as Stars in Their Eyes and Face The MusicI 'd probably be praying  for salvation if I'd  been  forced to watch these shows. 

Barnett was an active and strident opponent of Sue Bradford's 'anti-smacking' bill.

Petra Bagust is presently co-hosting the  floundering Breakfast show on TVNZ. and pulling in a salary of reportedly over $400,000.

There is a whole lot wrong with the mainstream media in New Zealand. That includes the absence of a non-commercial public broadcaster. It also  includes the  continued 'tabloidisation' of the commercial media  and its increasingly reactionary views.  It also includes the failure of both National and Labour Government's to address the question of the media being owned by a handful of foreign multinationals.

But the National Day of Prayer isn't about  any of these things. Its a condescending and asinine campaign that wants people in the media to support fundamentally conservative  religious beliefs that not only fail to address the unjust media  power structures in New Zealand  but actually defend them.


Why is it okay to use the eastern suburbs of Christchurch for militaristic police exercises?

Just how many indignities are the eastern suburbs of Christchurch supposed to put up with?

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery   Authority (CERA) has seen fit to allow the police to conduct 'realistic' armed exercises in the Eastside.  This will include the use of explosives.

Remember - CERA is the same organisation that ran a series of 'pop up' picnics and movie screenings in the Eastside earlier  this year, in an attempt to encourage some 'community spirit'.

CERA  chief Roger Sutton said at the time: "We want it to be sort of informal, a bit of fun in the local park with a picnic, tug-of-war contests and face painting.'

Now the police will be shooting their big  guns sand blowing things up  as from today and right through the weekend .  It's difficult to see 'community spirit' being engendered by this gung-ho madness.  It's hardly going to be 'a bit of fun' either.

Laughingly Tactical Commander Steve Mather says the police will only be using 'light explosives' - as if that makes everything alright.

The exercises  are being held in quake damaged house that have been abandoned and are now owned by CERA.

But there are still people living in the area but they supposed to be happy by Maher's assurance that the noise generated  by the exercises will be 'relatively low level'.  And they've all received notices in their letterboxes so its all just peachy.

As usual the local community was not consulted abut the police exercises and, again, we've heard nothing from the city's over-paid councillors who have apparently forgotten that their job is to represent the interests  and concerns of the people who voted them into office in the first place.

Perhaps if the exercises were going to happen in Roger Sutton or Sideshow Bob's neighbourhood we might see some protest. But its just the Eastside so who cares...


We've all anguished at the murder of twelve innocent people in Aurora, Colorado. But what about the violence unleashed daily by the US state though its police and military?  By Trish Kahle

Sometimes, the state really manages to place its own contradictions and hypocrisy in brilliantly clear focus.  The last week has been one of those times.  When a shooter, allegedly James Holmes, opened fire in a crowded theater during a showing of The Dark Knight Rises, the response of people around the country was understandably hurt and anguish.  That’s a natural reaction to the murder of twelve innocent people.  Unfortunately, much like after other tragedies, this shooting has not led to a widespread challenging of the roots of the real problem.  Columbine justified the militarization of our schools and the loss of student freedom.  9/11 justified an enormous imperial expedition.  And Aurora will likely fall in line, though exactly where, we’re not sure yet.

This morning, I saw two stories that highlighted the hypocrisy of the media and government sensationalism around the shooting.

The first was the story of another tragedy, this one in Texas.  Fourteen migrant workers (though the reporting has been pretty shoddy and numbers have ranged from 12 to 23) were killed when a Ford truck they were riding in crashed.  Despite a similar death toll to the shooting in Colorado, the response couldn’t have been more different.  Instead of days of national mourning, presidential trips to Texas (though there’s a chance the victim’s families were okay without a visit from Deporter-in-Chief Obama), and nation-wide calls for a re-examination of the policies and attitudes toward migrant workers and immigrants that inevitably lead to this type of tragedy, bigots across the internet were crying from their all-too-prominent-places that the victims got what they deserved.  Overall the incident got nearly no mainstream media coverage, and we were not subjected to endless waxing memorial by TV hosts about the victims–and that’s because no one saw them as victims.  Migrant workers are so marginalized and oppressed within American society that they are all but invisible.  Unions like the Farm Labor Organizing Committee are a venue for migrant farmworkers to raise a challenge to their living conditions, appalling pay, and the terror they often face from immigration services on a regular basis.

The second story I saw this morning was that of Caleb Medley, who was shot in the eye during the shooting and now is fighting for his life in the ICU.  Doctors estimate that he will rack up over $2,000,000 in medical bills if he survives (and even if he doesn’t survive, his bills will).  And guess what?  Caleb Medley is uninsured.

His family has desperately begun a campaign to raise money to pay the expenses, and other working people have responded, but the total is still far short of the needed funds.  This situation, which could be completely alleviated through a single payer healthcare system, will likely end up saddling the family with debt for the rest of their lives.  This certainly undermines all of Obama’s nice words, his claims of heartfelt support.  Warner Brothers has promised to pay a sizable sum to victims and their families, which Caleb’s family hope will cover the cost, but this completely skirts around the fact that what happened to Caleb is a regular occurrence, and the solution is not charity from the wealthy on a case by case basis, but a healthcare system that places people and their lives at its forefront and consigns profit to the dustbin of history.

But what about the guns?

That’s the question everyone is asking.

Just as inevitably as these tragedies occur, so do the calls for “meaningful dialogue” around gun control that follow them (as The Onion pointed out hilariously earlier this week).  But the discussions about gun control are deeply flawed.  They (purposefully?) obfuscate the real issues, drawing a seemingly tidy curtain over the inner workings of a machine that is rotten at its core.

That said, it’s understandable that people want to get rid of guns, but guns are a byproduct of capitalism and imperialism.  They aren’t going to magically disappear.  People make a lot of money off  guns.  So for now at least, they’re here to stay.  In addition, history has shown us, among other things, that people are infinitely clever at coming up with ways to kill people.  Even if it means you have to chew their face off to do it.

But, some argue, even if it’s not a systemic change, isn’t it good to have as many guns as possible off  the street?

This line of argument relies on racist ideas that tell us “thugs” and “drug lords” are gunning down innocent bystanders left and right, and they are the main source of gun violence.  These are the people gun laws are intended to target.  After all, with such laws, good, law-abiding citizens (not unlike one neuroscience graduate student with dyed red hair) would still be able to purchase guns.  Only “criminals” would be excluded.  Combine this with Michelle Alexander’s thesis in The New Jim Crow, and what I read is that people who make racist laws don’t want Black people having guns.

But, as I said, guns exist, and even if they were to be outlawed completely, not only would the people who really wanted one still be able to get one, the biggest criminals of all would still have them at their disposal.

Shootings like the one in Colorado, and other smaller instances of street crime do occur, but in paltry amounts compared to the level of violence unleashed daily by the US state through its police force and military.  In all the conversations about gun control, these guns are never up for being controlled, though they would be the first on my list.  We would all be a lot safer if police walked around in handcuffs and we could release them temporarily to save kittens from trees like they apparently do in some mythical place I’ve never been to.

The murders committed by the state are rarely even considered crimes.  They are hiccups, road bumps, collateral damage, and unfortunate mistakes.  Ramarley Graham, Stephon Watts, Rekia Boyd, and too many more to name here are not considered murder victims by the state, nor are the police who murdered them charged with the terrorism they have unleashed.

Around the world, the US commits heinous war crimes for which it is not punished.  Unknown, but certainly higher than reported, numbers of civilians are killed regularly in drone strikes, ground massacres, and bombings.

Any sane person would consider these criminal acts, but not only are they going unprosecuted, they are sanctioned and expanded at the highest levels of power.

That’s the hypocrisy of talking about “gun control” and it also helps explain why some people feel they need guns.

There are some truly frightening bigots who own guns, but I think on a broader, sociological level, people who think they need (and people who actually do) guns for self-protection against the government or other people are a testament to how deeply undemocratic and alienating our society is.

But what do we do about guns right now?  What about violence in our society generally?  It’s a question worth asking.

Disarm the police.  Obviously, this is easier said than done.  The police are the protectors of state power, the most vital form of protection for the 1%.  Without physical force, they would have to rely on the moral strength of their ideas and actions.  It’s harder to be more morally bankrupt than the ruling class, and especially in the economic crisis, it’s unlikely the ruling class would last long without physical force to protect them.  Even in places where the police force is less militarized than the US, like the UK (before the Olympics), police still manage to commit racist murders.  Think back to the summer riots in the UK in 2010.

But the police are terrorists, and we must fight to stop the violence they unleash against our communities, and particularly Black and Brown communities.  This year, the police have murdered a Black person every 40 hours, but the movement against police terrorism has grown, and as it continues to grow, we must demand that every killer cop be fired and jailed.  That in and of itself will not change the nature of the police as an institution, but it can help put our movement on the offensive and give us confidence to build an even larger movement.

Confront racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, Islamphobia head on.  Don’t be squeamish about the right of people to self-defense.

The people who say “Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people,” are generally the sort of people who make me quiver with rage, but guns are a sort of lethal physical extension of oppressive forces in our society.  The fact that so many murder victims are Black, are women, are LGBTQ people is not random.  They are targeted because of their specially oppressed place in society.  In this situation, gun control discussions are a lot like pulling a plant up by the stem.  The root is still in the ground, and the plant will grow back.

We’ll get a lot more mileage out of waging a war against oppression that we will by self-righteously crusading against gun violence.  If we build a mass movement that can actively challenge the oppressive ideas people have in their heads while at the same time laying the groundwork for a revolutionary process, we can take a tangible step against this kind of violence in our society–the kind that leaves CeCe McDonald in prison, Shaima Alawadi and Trayvon Martin dead, allowed Urbano Ramirez to die in the field where he was working.

And what about mental illness?  Part of the solution is so obvious, it almost feels ridiculous to have to point it out in the first place.  Namely, a full and free health care system that incorporates full mental health services (including the currently non-existent preventative medical care).

Oh, and a rise in living standards probably wouldn’t hurt either.  Remember the woman two years ago who murdered her children before killing herself after being denied food aid in Texas?

But I’m not just ambivalent about gun laws because they don’t address the real issue.  I’m opposed to them because they, like so many other laws that are only supposed to punish “criminals” it would have consequences that would be devastating to working communities, in particular African American communities.

After all, who would be targeted by the laws?  White grad student with no criminal record?  Or Black teen with nothing on his record except “walking while Black?”  This question answers itself.  Have you heard of Stop and Frisk?

Also, it’s unlikely gun laws would actually prevent any violence.

It’s fine to hate violence.  Most people do.  But the reality is that capitalism unleashes some form of violence–whether it’s poverty, war, or racism–on us in some way, albeit in different intensities.  But the only way to get rid of it for everyone is a collective struggle against the one class that is doing the real attacking.  That’s the real solution.

This article was first published by I Can't Believe We Still Have To Protest This Shit


The new left needs a  sense of the  'viscerally thrilling possibilities for change', says journalist Laurie Penny.

Penny Red: Notes from the New Age of Dissent
Laurie Penny
Pluto Press

I've sometimes wished that New Zealand had someone like English journalist  Laurie Penny subverting the mainstream media. The corporate media could do with a good old shake up from within.  Is it just me or we plagued by  the same old talking heads saying the same old things all of the time? 

No one is prepared to stick their heads up over the parapet and declare that it is  just all  BS.  Nobody wants to because they are mostly cheerleaders for the status quo - and, of course, there's a buck to be made. Just listen to commentators  like Barry Soper and Mathew Hooton grazing on the latest headlines like contented dairy cows.    God, Barry Soper. He's the next best thing to a sedative.

Yes, It's a cosy little club where politics exists  purely within the parliamentary arena with all the limitations and sheer dullness that this implys.  Most of the hacks, at one time or another, end up on  on Q+ A or Close Up  for bit of a yawnfest, I mean,  talkfest. 'What about the latest poll results then? What does it all mean? What is this weeks major issue and we'll thoroughly discuss it in five minutes...and what about Winston....blah blah blah....Jusiin Bieber...blah blah blah...

I doubt that someone like Laurie Penny would even survive in the New Zealand media environment. She'd be quickly pigeonholed as 'unsuitable'.   I mean, she talks about things like socialism, radical feminism and how crap the (British) Labour Party is. She declares her support for the Occupy movement and is seen hobnobbing with members  of the Socialist Workers Party (even though she has crossed swords with the SWP in the past). Yes, she is  definitely likely to speak her mind and upset conservative and liberal sensibilities alike.

At least, in the UK at least, she can write for such publications as the New Statesman, The Guardian and the Independent.

I've been reading her stuff for years and, while I don't always agree with her she's always fresh, provocative, acerbic.   She 's also an original  observer of the cultural mores of our time - in a way that someone in their mid-twenties could only  be.

All this and she suffers from clinical depression too. In 2010 she wrote: 'My mental health has taken a turn for the worse. I'm struggling to care. I'm struggling to stay angry. That terrifies me more than anything'.

Thankfully she seems to have beaten off the black dog for now. Staying angry, I think, keeps her going. 

In another column she observed  that, for her generation; 'It’s time to get organised, and it’s time to get angry.' And later she wrote:  'What the young left needs is energy, inspiration, a sense not only of the consequences of inertia but of the viscerally thrilling possibilities for change. What we need, most of all, is a comprehensive sense of fun.'

Penny Red ( the title of her original blog) is a collection of Laurie's  online material  and some of the  material she has written for various newspapers and magazines.

It is conveniently divided into five sections including a section  on the Occupy  protests and a heartfelt final section,  'Their Hallucinations, Our Desires', a call for  revolution and genuine  power to  the people.

Some of the stuff I've  read before and its a little  disappointing there's no new original  material here. But if you haven't met Laurie Penny before this is a good  introduction to her work and her life - because they are both intertwined. Journalism isn't a 9-5 job for Laurie Penny  but always a  means  to change the world. 


Here's a radical new idea! Vote Labour! Zzzz.....

Last  Saturday over a thousand people marched in Christchurch to protest the proposed part-sale of the Government's four electricity companies. The protest was one of several held up and down the country.

Labour politicians were in attendance at many of the protests.  Presumably the majority of the crowd would of thought that the Labour Party was 'on their side'.

However a few days  earlier Labour's finance spokesperson, David Parker, told a meeting of business suits that: 'Labour is a progressive party: fundamentally it is the party of change, the party that is willing to make structural changes when necessary'.

But Parker wasn't talking  about the kind of 'structural changes' that a socialist or even a traditional Labourite might hope for.

Parker's speech  was essentially an assurance to capital that Labour remains loyal to neoliberalism and they can count on Labour not  to 'rock the boat'.

Within his speech Parker also said:

We also think infrastructure assets with monopoly characteristics are especially important to the functioning of the wider economy.

Labour published a closed list of assets that we believe ought to be run in the New Zealand interest because they have monopoly characteristics - assets such as electricity line networks, water and airports.

The list excludes telecommunications and electricity generation.

It was columnist Chris Trotter, I think, who first alerted people to Parker's reflections  and he was the first to highlight Labour's duplicity . He wrote:

What Mr Parker was telling his audience of top-level banking and accounting talent spotters was that Labour does not include electricity generation on its list of “infrastructure assets” that ought to be “run in the New Zealand interest”.

So, all those people standing on street corners with clip-boards collecting signatures for a Citizens Initiated Referendum on asset sales; all those thousands of people planning to march in the “Aotearoa Is NOT For Sale!” protest this Saturday; all those hundreds of Labour Party members who’ve been reassuring their workmates and neighbours that the Caucus is rock-solid against the sale of Mighty River Power and Genesis Energy; all of them are wasting their time. Because “energy generation” isn’t even on Labour’s “closed list” of assets that should never be sold.

Blogger Martyn Bradbury extended Trotter's  theme when he queried whether the  lack of commitment  to telecommunications spelt the end  for public broadcasting in New Zealand.

Having fronted a series of Labour - backed  'Save TVNZ7' meetings throughout the country, Parker's  apparent disinterest in public broadcasting  must of been a bitter pill for Bradbury to swallow.

Blowing my own trumpet, I wrote a post a few weeks ago  that argued that the 'Save TVNZ7'  meetings were essentially propaganda vehicles for Labour. They allowed Labour's broadcasting spokesperson, Clare Curran, to go around the country championing her party as the defender of public broadcasting - when nothing could be further from the truth.  I think Parker's comments further confirmed my observation - Labour is telling capital the real story and selling the public cheap and bad  fiction.

So if its 'business as usual' with Labour - as Chris Trotter himself  describes it - what are people like Chris  Trotter and Martyn  Bradbury going to do about it?  Since they have a larger media profile than we terrible socialists  - who have  little  profile, frankly - many  of their readers  probably  take on board, or at least consider,  their conclusions.

But they are getting a bum steer when it comes to the Labour Party.

The message, unfortunately,  is an all too familiar one -   we're sticking with Labour. There's a lot of huffin' and puffin' but, in the end, its another round of flag waving for Labour. Go straight to neoliberal jail and do not collect $200 and a copy of Capital Vol 3.

Trotter, who is a member of Labour Party,  thinks the 'solution' is to replace leader David Shearer with, wait for it, David Cunliffe.  Apparently Shearer is right wing and Cunliffe, well,  isn't.

I know Labour's cupboard is rather bare in terms of political  talent and completely empty when it comes to anyone who has any kind of ideological commitment to anything other than the 'free market' , but to hold up Cunliffe as some kind of  'progressive' alternative is really clutching at straws, shuffling the cards, rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Cunliffe  advocates  some adjustment of the neoliberal settings  but  that's about it.  It is incongruous that Trotter  attacks Parker for his continued support for neoliberal  policies  but then turns around and supports someone who isn't offering anything substantially different. This is the same David Cunliffe who commented before the last election that Labour wouldn't shirk from its responsibilities to make the 'necessary' cuts.  I didn't hear Trotter attacking Cunliffe for such remarks.

I now await the correspondence that will inform me that I'm wrong about Cunliffe  and that he reads Marx in his spare time. Or maybe I'll get the cold shoulder. Whatever.

Martyn Bradbury  is aware, kind of,  that support for Labour is problematic and his solution is a Labour-Green- Mana  'progressive bloc'. This was also his solution before the last election and look where that got him.

The problem is that this 'progressive bloc' consists of two parties who won't be breaking with the neoliberal orthodoxy anytime soon and the small Mana Party whose influence would be nominal.  How is this a 'progressive bloc' exactly?

What Trotter and Bradbury share in common, along with the trade union big wigs I might add, is the mistaken notion that a passive  working class electorate simply needs to be mobilised  around the 'right' policies. They just need to be attracted to the right 'brand'.

But socialist politics tell us that this is wrong.   If a new working class movement is to emerge  it can only  do so through good old class struggle. Urging  Labour to  break with its neoliberal orthodoxy  is a failed strategy.  But that's what we can expect in the lead up to the next general election.

I used to call  this the 'road to nowhere' but, these days, it's looking more like the road to hell.


Martyn Bradbury... real estate guy!

Has well-known  blogger Martyn Bradbury gone into the real estate business? According to this website he has.

Martyn informs us:  “I’m passionate about property. Call me now to have a free, no-obligations opinion on how I, Martyn Bradbury can add value to the sale of your family home!”

It is a spoof, I think. Really.



While the good people of Christchurch  struggle with the Earthquake Commission, insurance companies, Fletcher Challenge and Gerry Brownlee,  Mayor Sideshow Bob gets a  pay rise...

Displaying more remarkable political  'leadership' in a city where so many people  are struggling ,  Mayor Sideshow Bob has decided that he desperately  needs his $2,500 pay rise. Which means he will be struggling on  just a  basic salary of $171,000 per year. Which makes him the second highest paid mayor in the country, after Auckland's Len Brown.

Of course that's just Sideshow's  basic salary. He also picks up another fat wad   for being a director of Christchurch City Council Holdings. In 2011 the double-dipping Parker picked up a cool $35,000 - along with councillors and fellow double-dippers  Sue Wells, Barry Corbett and Tim Carter.

And let's not forget that Sideshow also has a generous expense account - to pay for such 'essentials' as coffee with his faithful right hand man, 'Tony' Marryatt.

Sideshow, rolling around in his big vat of cash,  tactlessly  told The Press: 'I don't sit around thinking about my income'. Such a carefree attitude can only come from someone with a bloated bank account.

Clearly Sideshow isn't getting the extra cash for representing the interests of the eastern suburbs - who he long ago abandoned to the wolves of 'the market'.


We are witnessing the renaissance of Marxism on an international scale, says The Guardian newspaper.

This is not so much a new post  but rather a 'heads up' on a recent article in The Guardian and which will probably be of interest to the growing number of people fed up with mainstream New Zealand politics  and the lack of any real political alternatives to the neoliberal status quo.

in 'Why Marxism Is On the Rise Again', Stuart Jefferies outlines how Marxism has emerged as a political force to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of  both Stalinism and Social Democracy.

Marxism, in the West at least, has developed largely off-stage but is now gaining wider political attention.It's no coincidence that this comes at a time of revolution in the Middle  East  and mass struggles in the West.

Jefferies quotes a young English student:

"The point is that younger people weren't around when Thatcher was in power or when Marxism was associated with the Soviet Union," she says. "We tend to see it more as a way of understanding what we're going through now. Think of what's happening in Egypt. When Mubarak fell it was so inspiring. It broke so many stereotypes – democracy wasn't supposed to be something that people would fight for in the Muslim world. It vindicates revolution as a process, not as an event. So there was a revolution in Egypt, and a counter-revolution and a counter-counter revolution. What we learned from it was the importance of organisation."

Continues Jefferies:

This, surely is the key to understanding Marxism's renaissance in the west: for younger people, it is untainted by association with Stalinist gulags. For younger people too, Francis Fukuyama's triumphalism in his 1992 book 'The End of History' – in which capitalism seemed incontrovertible, its overthrow impossible to imagine – exercises less of a choke-hold on their imaginations than it does on those of their elders.


Living in a garage in the middle of a Christchurch winter is positive, says Gerry Brownlee!

For months the Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has been denying there is a housing crisis in Christchurch and, specifically, the eastern suburbs.  But as  the crisis has deepened Brownlee's claims that there is nothing  fundamentally wrong have become increasingly shrill and ridiculous.

But Brownlee's credibility has sunk even further - if that could be possible. When confronted with even more evidence of a deepening housing crisis, he has absurdly claimed that it is 'positive' for Christchurch!

According to new Trade Me figures rents climbed  26 percent in the second quarter of 2012. And demand for housing rose 47 percent while supply  actually fell by 34 percent. If anything, these figures underestimate the  scale of the crisis.

Trade Me commented that the skyrocketing rents  was 'grim' for  Christchurch tenants  compared to the rest of the country.

So increasing rents are driving more and   people into  poverty while bloodsucking  landlords have been given a free hand to  exploit the situation.

But according  to Brownlee: "I see these figures as being a huge positive for the future of this city. This is a very, very positive story for Christchurch."


Only Brownlee could see anything positive' in the reality of people living in garages and cars. Of course since this clown  never spends more than one day a week in Christchurch, he has never actually been into the eastern suburbs to see what people have to deal with everyday.

According to  Brownlee its 'very encouraging' to have more and more  people searching for less and less affordable housing. This man is an idiot.

Of course if he was to  front up and admit there was a crisis that  would put the onus on the Government to intervene to ito ameliorate the worst excesses of the crisis.  Instead the Government has abandoned the eastern suburbs  to the hyenas of 'the market'.

If Christchurch  had a mayor who  was doing his job, he would be right now publicly chastising Brownlee for insulting the people of Christchurch and be  demanding that the Government decisively  intervene in the crisis.  But Mayor Sideshow Bob is the  ineffectual toady of Brownlee's and he'll keep his mouth shut. Anyway Bob has more important priorities - like how to wangle  a ratepayer-funded  overseas trip for himself and the wife.


Christchurch's assets should not be off-limits when deciding how to fund the city's recovery, a business leader says.

Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend urged councillors to be "brave in the big calls" during a submission to the city council's annual-plan hearings yesterday.

He said the council needed to consider all options to fund the city's rebuild, including asset sales or a sell-down of its shareholdings. The Press, 6 June

Graphic: Porcupine Farm


While Green Party co-leader Russel Norman  talks of something called  'market environmentalism', the real green alternative is ecosocialism. 

Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis
Chris Williams (Haymarket, 2009)

The most disappointing and infuriating   thing about the  Green Party is its fundamental and irrational  ideological assumption that a 'environmentally friendly capitalism' is possible. This view has been foisted on the party largely by ex-socialist and co-leader  Russel Norman although the die was probably cast when the late Rod Donald  invited various business leaders to the Beehive to assure  them that the Green's were not a threat  to the interests of capital.

But it has been Norman who has pushed the Green  Party further to the right.  This is the man who cries foul at the damage that 'the market'  is  doing to the environment but then can be heard praising the 'power of the market'. This is the problem  with the politics of the Green's - they think capitalism can be a force for good despite all the evidence that says that this is nonsense.

Absurdly, the Green Party is labelled  'progressive'  by the corporate  media when in fact its just as  satisfied  with the neoliberal status  quo as National and Labour.

 All that the Green's  are seeking is some tinkering with the policy settings.  It's an indication of just how skewed mainstream politics are in this country that the Green's (and Labour for that matter) are allowed to pass themselves off as 'centre left'.  That's how timid and insipid mainstream politics have become in this country.

Ecology and Socialism  is a  book that Russel Norman probably won't read but should. He would probably run a mile when from the subtitle -'Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis'.

Green activist and academic   Chris Williams intelligently  exposes the fallacies and, frankly, the plain  gobblygook of 'market environmentalism'. He brings to his subject  the tools of Marxism to show that at the root of the ecological  crisis is a destructive  and  anarchic economic system.

Writes Williams: ‘Capitalist society threatens the breakdown of the basic biogeochemical cycles of the biosphere as we have come to know them’.

He acknowledges and elaborates on the ecological dimension of the socialist tradition. After all it was Marx  who wrote in The German Ideology:

The ‘essence’ of the fish is its ‘being,’ water — to go no further than this one proposition. The ‘essence’ of the freshwater fish is the water of a river.

But the latter ceases to be the ‘essence’ of the fish and is no longer a suitable medium of existence as soon as the river is made to serve industry, as soon as it is polluted by dyes and other waste products and navigated by steamboats, or as soon as its water is diverted into canals where simple drainage can deprive the fish of its medium of existence.

Its not enough to try to convince business leaders of the error of their ways  because this just  leaves the  system intact. What is required is a profound and fundamental transformation of the political economy.  Otherwise  'environmentalism' is likely to degenerate into  individual lifestyle choice.

Williams outlines a plan for a new world based around 'socialist sustainability' and there is much food for thought here.

But he also writes that such  a world will not come through the discredited vehicle of mainstream politics. The social democratic parties, of whatever flavour, have become  nothing but hollowed out servants of capital. Williams, who lives in the United States, is scathing of the Democrat Party.

In the end what is required are new political movements that recognise that you can't save the planet and save capitalism. It's just a pity that, locally at least, the Green Party is allowed to  behave as if there was no alternative to 'market environmentalism'.


With more corrupt practices being exposed in the banking system, this documentary is worth watching.The film centres on the court case being brought by UK Uncut Legal Action against Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs over a tax deal done between the revenue and Goldman Sachs in 2010 that saw £20m wiped off a banking giants tax bill.



Peter Dunne MP  is asking why Kiwi FM is still squatting in three valuable publicly-owned radio frequencies - something this blog has been asking  for over three years.

It's not often that I agree with Peter Dunne MP,  but he is right that it is an insult to supporters of TVNZ7 (RIP) that the Government has let Kiwi FM  continue broadcasting on  three valuable publicly-owned  FM frequencies. These frequencies  had been originally reserved for the non-profit Youth Radio Network.

While it refused to continue funding TVNZ7, the Government has renewed a contract with commercial broadcaster  MediaWorks to allow Kiwi FM to squat in the frequencies for another six months.  This is the station that can barely muster one percent of the total radio ratings  In a desperate bid  to attract  listeners the station recently dropped its all-New Zealand music format - which was the reason it was backed by the previous  Labour Government in the first  place.

To add insult to injury, MediaWorks is still  receiving $300,000 in annual government funding for Kiwi FM. And let's not also forget that the Government 'loaned' MediaWorks  some $50 million so the cash-strapped broadcaster  could pay for the renewal of its frequency contracts.

My three regular readers will know that this blog has consistently   highlighted the broadcasting travesty that  is Kiwi FM.

 I'm not going to rehearse all the arguments again here except to point out that Peter Dunne was a member of the Labour Government that did the shonky deal with Kiwi FM in the first  place.  But, to be fair to Dunne,  it was the inept Minister of Broadcasting Steve Maharey  who was responsible for the doing the dirty backroom deal with  Brent Impey from MediaWorks. 

It is an absolute farce that Kiwi FM  promotes itself as  non-profit, but has, in fact,  been just another part   of the commercial, private equity-owned MediaWorks group. So  the public have been funding a station owned by commercial interests. MediaWorks, while not hesitating to stick its nose in the public trough, has itself been a consistent and hostile critic of  public broadcasting in this country.

The present Minister of Broadcasting, the hopeless  Craig Foss , is also proving to be a Broadcasting Minister  who MediaWorks enjoys working with.

In February he said  that the Ministry  of Communications  was 'investigating' what was to be done with the  three frequencies once the contract with MediaWorks had expired.

The final result of the 'investigation' is. that Kiwi FM will remain squatting in the three publicly owned frequencies for another six months. This is presumably until  Foss can work out how he can hand over the publicly owned  FM frequencies to commercial interests without too much fuss.


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