British Labour leader Ed Miliband is praying at the altar of the 'free market'.
When Ed Miliband became leader of the British Labour Party some two years ago, a large chunk of the 'liberal left' held out hope that he represented an opportunity for Labour to find its lost social democratic soul. Ed was declared, by union bosses and Labour aligned pundits, to be a fully subscribed member of the soft left. That opinion was reinforced by the corporate media who dubbed Miliband 'Red Ed' and delighted in emphasising that Ed's father was the influential Marxist sociologist and activist, Ralph Miliband.
Those of us who don't have any illusions about the western social democratic parties dismissed Miliband as another political dead end and another disastrous distraction to hinder the development of a more progressive politics. But the reality that the western social democratic parties around the world have simply become vehicles to advance the neoliberal cause was apparently going to be ignored in the rush to embrace 'Red Ed' as the saviour for those who found socialist politics just 'too left' for the wine bars and the theatre outings. And it clashes with the carpet.
Here in New Zealand the Labour-aligned The Standard commented that Labour could now 'move on from the Brown-Blair era and fight back against the Tories' and columnist Chris Trotter also came out in support of Miliband.
But in a recent interview with the Daily Telegraph Miliband doesn't suggest that he is about to reject the interests and influence of neoliberalism anytime soon.
While the British working class was being assaulted by David Cameron's increasingly vicious austerity policies, Ed was on holiday in Greece (of all places) having 'a big think'. I'm tempted to make a rather rude joke here but I won't.
The results of that 'big think' are grim but not surprising.
Miliband has no emancipatory vision. He says that capitalism is the best system we've got and he wants to create a 'responsible capitalism.' Social democrats used to believe they could politely reform capitalism out of existence but now capitalism, engaged in vicious attacks on working people all around the world, is the best system we're ever going to get.
Rosa Luxemburg wrote that humankind's choice was stark - socialism or barbarism. Ed Miliband has picked barbarism - but it'll be a 'responsible' barbarism.
What would Miliband tell the people of Greece and Spain presently protesting in the streets of Athens and Madrid? Sorry folks, this is the best you can expect? So put down the placards and go home? Nothing to see here, move on?
I think there was another prominent British politician who said there was 'no alternative' to capitalism. That's right - it was Margaret Thatcher.
But its not enough for Miliband to be a defender of neoliberalism and capitalism. He caricatures socialism along the way.
According to Miliband socialism shouldn't be a 'rigid economic doctrine' but 'a set of values'. If you accept Miliband's muddled thinking then everyone's a socialist because who wouldn't say they were for equality and justice? And socialism isn't 'a rigid economic doctrine' anyway. He insults the memory of his father with this kind of rubbish.
But, wait, there's more. Unfortunately. Ed thinks we can have market economy but without the market society. How does this work exactly? We can have capitalism and not have capitalism at the same time? We can have our cake and eat it too?
In Britain the goal of the Com-Lib government is to destroy the welfare state, privatise the National Health Service, bring the profit motive into education and continue attacking the living conditions of millions of working class people.
Miliband's answer? Capitalism without capitalism. What a joke.
People who are looking for information on the October 5 nationwide protests against the government's welfare 'reforms', please go to this page on Facebook. All the regional addresses can be found here.
Thursday, September 27, 2012Steven Cowan2 comments
Bob wants a big pineapple and a gigantic cow!
First the book and now..the movie. Well, not exactly. Rather its Sideshow trying to 'convince' Australians to come to Christchurch and see the sights. I think that's what he's trying to do because this three minute video is bizarre.
Sideshow Bob tells his 'personal secretary' that tourists are 'flocking' to Christchurch (yeah, right) but not the Australians! Bob tells us that Australians have 'big pineapples'. Bob wants a 'big pineapple' for Christchurch but not any old pineapple - he wants the big pineapple. He also wants a huge Merino sheep in the Botanic Gardens and 'a gigantic cow'. Has Bob been taking drugs?
And who is this guy 'Keith Englebaum' (?) who claims to be Bob's personal secretary? Bob doesn't seem to know who he is either because he calls him Heath.
One minute he's driving down a city street then, mid sentence, he is in Sumner!
Keith / Heath's job, says Bob, is to find a place in Christchurch 'to put this big Australian thing'. Keith / Heath wants somewhere to stick 'a big chicken'...
This is truly awful and there are a further two episodes on Canterbury Tourism NZ's You Tube channel which I haven't yet watched. One episode at a time is more than enough.
This is a hopelessly inept attempt at comedy and unlikely to encourage any Australians to come to Christchurch anytime soon. It's definitely a complete waste of money. A BIG waste of money.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012Steven Cowan3 comments
Sideshow Bob's 'written' a potboiler about his favourite subject - himself.
There's a lot that Sideshow Bob hasn't done in recent months.
He hasn't spoken out against the outrageous rent hikes by bloodsucking landlords and he hasn't demanded that the government do something about it. He hasn't spoken out against the cancellation of the 2013 elections for Environment Canterbury- in fact he supports the government's decision but he won't admit to it. He has boasted about the government's vision of the new corporate Christchurch but failed to speak out about people continuing to live in damaged houses and garages. Nor has he spoken out about the sheer intransigence and arrogance of EQC, the insurance companies and CERA In fact Sideshow has done little but cuddle up to his chum Lord Gerry Brownlee and loudly complain that he has been forced to pay the travel expenses for the wife when they embark on their 'Sister Cities' extended vacation later this month.
You might be thinking that Bob's a complete waste of space but you would be wrong!
Sideshow has been busy! He's been writing a book! And it's all about his favourite subject - himself.
Well, he's had a book written for him. It's largely the work of a ghostwriter who Sideshow won't name. The wife perhaps?
Yes folks, this book features our hero fighting the earthquakes and restoring order to a trouble city. Sideshow says it'll feature 'the arguments, indecision, petty jealousies, power struggles and policies''. So its all set to be a whitewash job for Sideshow Bob and his council lackeys.
The cover kind of sums it all up. There is Sideshow in his orange safety jacket, sleeves rolled up, all set to do another television interview in his bid to get re-elected! He's even wearing a 'munted' t-shirt. It's not enough to betray working people in this city - he'll even steal from working class culture if he can get some mileage out of it.
For this rotten paperback you are expected to fork out $40. God knows who'll buy it other than Sue Wells, Barry Corbett and his other council flunkies. Ripped Apart? If you buy this rubbish you will have been well and truly RIPPED OFF...
It's time to push back against the economic and social violence of Paula Bennett.
For far too long this government of and for the wealthy - spearheaded by the excretable Paula Bennett - has been hurting and destroying the lives of beneficiaries. No one has been safe from Bennett's violence - the unemployed, young mothers, children, the physically disabled, the mentally ill. Safely ensconced within the Beehive, Bennett hasn't been forced to see any of the damage she has inflicted.
Instead she has been encouraged by comments like this on her Facebook page: ' the majority of our benefit bludgers are bitches on DPB and pricks on Dole and both live together and its very easy to go from dole to invalids as i know a few. i personally dont mind people that get benefits if they are genuine BUT majority of them abuse the system which makes my blood boil....these bastards buy drugs,alcohol etc and neglect their kids by starving them and expect foodbanks to feed them,wtf is with that????? closer monitoring or dawn raids on their homes would catch the thieves out then blacklist them from ever committing fraud again....spend money on staff to physically do this so that the genuine beneficiaries are not treated badly and our economy would look better aswel'.
This piece of political wisdom comes from one Zaklina Harvey who is 'happily married with four beautiful daughters'.
Bennett can often be heard spewing nonsense about having people 'sitting at home' does nothing for the employment rate. But this is nothing more than an argument against state intervention to tackle the rapidly rising unemployment figures and in favour of blaming unemployed people for being too lazy and feckless to get a job.
Her reactionary view is that the poor are less deserving than everyone less - so we can just kick them around. The hypocrisy of Bnnett and her government colleagues is that they have presided over the decline of the economy but still blame the unemployed for their inability to find work.
But now Bennett is going to find life a little bit more difficult because a new protest movement has emerged to fight Bennett's 'reforms'. Occupy WINZ has a national day of action scheduled for October 5.
Occupy WINZ , like other movements around the world , has been born on Facebook and is now organising meetings around the country.
Occupy WINZ stresses that this isn't just a fight for beneficiaries.
As Olive McRae of Occupy WINZ says 'It needs pointing out that what we are facing is a war on the poor. We have working poor now, on minimum wage needing food parcels from food bank. We need to really plug a united front. Its not just beneficiaries, its all of us. Low paid workers included.'
I might add it is also a fight that an increasingly impoverished middle class also needs to fight. No one's job is safe anymore - the Government's austerity measures are biting deep into the fabric of New Zealand society.
Occupy WINZ is a group with limited resources but is reaching out to other organisations for assistance and solidarity. Organisations that are backing Occupy WINZ include Mana, Socialist Aotearoa and the Unite Union.
They will be the naysayers who say that Occupy WINZ has little chance of success but we have to start somewhere. The strength of Occupy WINZ is that is a grassroots organisation and free of the sectarianism that has hampered many progressive movements in the past.
Beneficiaries who have had enough of the attacks on them by this government will be picketing Work and Income (WINZ) offices across the country in a national day of action.
The National Day Of Action Against Welfare Reform is being called for Friday October 5 by the Facebook group Occupy WINZ. The group is coordinating with people and organisations across New Zealand who oppose the governments agenda for welfare reform and are calling for people to join in protests on the day.
Details of events are being coordinated in towns and cities throughout the country and will be posted on the National Day Of Action Against Welfare Reforms page as they are organised.
Olive McRae of the Occupy WINZ group says 'it needs pointing out that what we are facing is a war on the poor. We have working poor now, on minimum wage needing food parcels from food bank. We need to really plug a united front. Its not just beneficiaries, its all of us. Low paid workers included.'
"Poverty doesn't exist as an individual problem, and anyone of us could find themselves at some point needing to go on a benefit especially within this economy climate. I urge all people to stand in solidarity with and show support for the people struggling to provide the basic needs for their families and those being targeted and attacked in these latest reforms,' said Christchurch organiser Joanna Wildish.
"Work and Income NZ is already systematically abusive and time wasting, it is designed to make those who need help feel like untrustworthy criminals in need of interrogation more than care and support, and the policies the Nats and ACT are pushing through are only going to make it worse by creating a defunct and inaccessible welfare system. We need to fight these reforms for all of us, whether you are a beneficiary or not - this affects us all."
Wednesday, September 12, 2012Steven Cowan1 comment
Gerry Brownlee says he's 'fed up' with residents of the eastern suburbs of Christchurch 'carping and moaning'. And, according to Brownlee, when they are not 'carping and moaning' they 'buggerise around on Facebook'.
Over the past two years residents of the quake-wrecked suburbs of Christchurch have been forced to endure many hardships and indignities. People are still living in quake-damaged houses. People are still living in overcrowded conditions. People are still living in garages and caravans. People are being exploited by bloodsucking landlords and forced to pay extortionate rents that they cannot afford On top of all this people are fighting what has become a war of attrition with Cera, EQC and various insurance companies. People are in financial trouble and worried about the future. The negative impact of all this on people's health and well-being has been enormous.
But Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee is having none of it: 'I'm a TC3 myself and I'm sick of these people carping and moaning.'
He forgot to mention that his very nice and expansive home was repaired many months ago.
Lord Brownlee was reacting to a survey of 689 TC3 residents that slammed the performance of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, insurers, the Christchurch City Council and the Earthquake Commission. TC3 residents are people whose homes are on land that has moderate to significant land damage.
What is so hypocritical is that Brownlee and his government have deliberately targeted their resources in the direction of big business and the rebuilding of the central city. The proles in the working class suburbs of eastern Christchurch have been left to carry the economic burden while capital reconfigures and rebuilds the central city in its own image.
While the Key government has systematically intervened in the rebuild of the central business district (and sidelined local government in the process ) the Eastside has been exposed to the wolves of the 'free market'.
This is the same Gerry Brownlee who has consistently refused to admit there is a housing crisis in the Eastside and refused to do anything about the extortionate rents being charged. He has fatuously claimed that 'the market' will determine what is a 'fair rate'.
But according to Lord Brownlee the embattled and angry citizens are simply moaning for no good reason and 'buggerise around on Facebook all the time'.
Not surprisingly TC3 residents have demanded an apology from Brownlee.
None has been forthcoming.
Oh, and if you want to 'buggerise around on Facebook' then check out this page.
When it comes to the Key government, Sideshow Bob's motto is 'see no evil, hear no evil.' So it has been up to local Christchurch groups to organise protest action against the cancellation of the 2013 Environment Canterbury elections.
Given the usual lack of leadership coming from the mayor's office, once again it is community groups that are organising opposition to the Government's outrageous decision to cancel the 2013 elections for Environment Council
Having actively campaigned for the sacking of the Ecan councillors in 2010, the good people of Christchurch are stuck with a mayor who supports the government's decision to deny the good people of Christchurch their democratic rights. His refusal to comment has fooled no one.
Bob always has plenty to say when he can show the Key government in a good light but he is nowhere to be seen on all other occasions - and the cancelling of the 2013 Ecan elections is another one of those occasions.
Bob's failure to defend the interests of the people who pay his inflated salary is something the residents of the eastern suburbs are very familiar with. Outrageous rent hikes? Bob's got nothing to say. Lack of housing? Bob 's got nothing to say. The Government stripping the assets of Christchurch on behalf of big business ? Bob's got nothing to say.
But he's got plenty to say about his wife having to pay her own travel expenses on their 'Sister Cities' holiday.
Similarly Bob's supporters on council have also failed to defend the interests of local people. If there's any justice, opportunists and careerists like Sue Wells, Barry Corbett and Ngaire Button will be booted out of office at the next election They're slavish loyalty to the Government has been abysmal, their failure to defend local interests has been reprehensible.
So with no leadership being provided by Sideshow Bob, the political resistance is being organised at the grassroots level.
On Wednesday September 19 the people of Christchurch and Canterbury will gather at the Bridge of Remembrance at 5.30pm to 'say YES to local democracy and NO to the suspension of Ecan elections' .
In response to some criticism on this blog, Christchurch City councillor Yani Johanson says that he would have responded publicly to the Environment Canterbury (Ecan) issue but The Press did not approach him for comment. Yani issued a press statement over the weekend and it is published below.
Once again the Government are using the earthquake as an excuse to kill local democracy in our region.
They refused to consult with central city businesses and residents over the Blueprint, they removed a democratically elected board of Trustees at Linwood College, they are trying to force Council to sell off assets for a huge spend up on think big projects, and now they are reneging on their commitment to an elected Environment Canterbury in 2013 which is totally unacceptable.
After everything our region has been through, taxation without representation is outrageous. The government should be fixing the issues with EQC not destroying a democratic Ecan.
Authorities are apologising after contaminated tap water left dozens of Darfield residents stricken with diarrhoea and vomiting.
The Selwyn District Council will review its systems after more than 125 Darfield residents were struck down by gastroenteritis after drinking contaminated water.
The announcement comes after Canterbury District Health Board medical officer of health Alistair Humphrey said the council needed to ''wake up to its responsibility'' and address its recurring water issues.
Humphrey said more than one barrier had failed, resulting in the ''serious outbreak''.
''Intensified farming now means that a lot of water is contaminated with animal faeces, especially the Waimakariri after heavy rains. Secondly, the chlorination of this heavily contaminated water fell short of levels required to make it safe.''
He said the importance of protecting water from source to tap was ''sometimes lost in political imperatives''. Stuff, August 29
The Government has broken its promise to the people of Christchurch and Canterbury and says that will now be no new election for Environment Canterbury next year - although the people of the region are still expected to pay for its operation. What has Sideshow Bob got to say about it? He's refusing to comment - no surprise there. But no one else on the Christchurch City Council is talking either.
The National Government has disgracefully cancelled next year’s election for Environment Canterbury (ECan), and are instead continuing with the Government-appointed Commissioners until 2016. It has gone back on promise to have an election in 2013.
This is a continuation of the Government's pro- corporate and pro-irrigation agenda. The National Government thinks that the organisations whose interests it represents should continue to have free access to Canterbury's waterways regardless of what anyone else thinks. The people of Christchurch and Canterbury will continue to have no say in who manages the local environment - and how they manage it. There might be real problems with representative democracy but at least we had it - now it is being denied to the local Canterbury people but who are still expected to pay the bills for ECan.
So now the people of Christchurch and Canterbury will have no say in the rebuilding of the city and no say in how the region’s water, coast, air conditions are managed.
This is the point former mayor Garry Moore made today when he commented that central government, through the Canterbury Earthquake Authority, the Christchurch Central Development Unit and ECan's government-appointed commissioners, had taken over the running of Christchurch and is now calling all the shots, but expecting ratepayers to pick up the bill for its decisions.
"Local government has been turned into a eunuch by central government," he told The Press.
But what of the present mayor? Sideshow Bob has made a defiant stand for the people and said... he will not be drawn into the debate. What a gutless response but so typical of a politician who has taken brown-nosing to a new level.
But let's not forget that Sideshow actively campaigned for the sacking of all the ECan councillors in the first place. In 2010 he said that the removal of the councillors was a 'constructive' move. So we all know where Bob stands on this - right next to Gerry Brownlee and Local Government Minister David Carter.
But its not only Sideshow Bob who is at fault here. All his councillors have refused to comment publicly because they claim they need to retain a 'working relationship 'with the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority and its officials. So the people of Christchurch get well and truly done over and all 'our' councillors are worried about is upsetting Roger Sutton?
These councillors need to be reminded they were voted into office and the high salaries to represent the interests of local people. They weren't voted into office to play footsie with Roger Sutton and Gerry Brownlee.
The Government is imposing a new economic order on Christchurch - one that includes a giant transfer of wealth to the already wealthy. What has Sideshow Bob got to say about it? Nothing.
September 4, of course, marked the day when, two years ago, Christchurch was hit by the first of a series of devastating earthquakes. The media did the predictable news stories and interviews to mark the occasion and, as a consequence, Mayor Sideshow Bob has been all over the media - television, print, radio, internet.
Of course we are talking Sideshow Bob, a lacklustre and ineffectual mayor whose own high opinion of his abilities aren't shared by most of Christchurch. This is mayor who has disgracefully refused to defend the interests of people living in the eastern suburbs in favour of snuggling up to Earthquake Recovery minister Gerry Brownlee.
On TVNZ's six o'clock news show Sideshow Bob was asked why it was taking so long to do things like repair people's damaged houses.
Bob's reply was along the lines of ' Yes, things aren't going as fast as we would like. We would all like to see things moving quicker. Yes, it is very frustrating.'
He made it sound as if no one was at fault, especially not the Key Government. It's just a natural phenomena undisturbed by human input. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west and people live in damaged houses and get screwed over by insurance companies and landlords. That's just the way it is. There's nothing we can do about it. So I'll just go holiday with the wife, okay?
If we had even a half decent television news service the glib Bob would not of been allowed to get away with this dismal defence of the Key Government but get away with it he did.
A few days earlier, on a lousy panel discussion on Newstalk ZB, Bob ventured the opinion that Christchurch people might have their 'differences' but we were all 'united' in the common cause to rebuild Christchurch. Bob made it sound that any disagreements were inconsequential to 'the big picture'.
While Sideshow was having a none too subtle dig at the Government's detractors he did speak some sense - but not in the way he intended.
The interests of the eastern suburbs have indeed been largely deemed inconsequential to 'the big picture' - the rebuilding and reconfiguring of the local economy.
As local capitalism is reshaped by neoliberal forces anything on the periphery to this project has been given low priority.
The Government is overseeing this new realignment with the compulsory acquisition of central city land which will benefit the large investors and the property developers.
Over 800 property owners have been served with letters of acquisition by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA). Roger Sutton of CERA has described the plan for the central city as 'unbelievably exciting'. This is certainly not the view of local business interests who think they are being asset stripped in favour of a new corporatism.
And while the Government overseas the imposition of the neoliberal economic model on Christchurch, the Eastside has been left exposed to the ravages of 'market forces' and you don't have to look too hard for evidence;
Petrina Galvin of Richmond says her neighbourhood is falling into 'disrepair'. She says the road are 'a complete mess.'
' I have made calls and asked for someone to come and fix up these roads. I am not demanding that it be done immediately, but some communication would be nice.'
Ms Galvin is being too kind - after two years of inaction she has every right to demand that the roads be fixed immediately.
And community organisations in the eastern suburbs have been asking for months when the many state houses will be repaired. In Aranui alone there are over one hundred state houses that are empty, awaiting repairs. Just a short walk from my house in Shirley there is almost an entire street of empty state houses.
Meanwhile Gerry Brownlee has consistently ignored calls to do something about the escalating rents in Christchurch, declaring that 'the market' would sort it out and determine what a 'fair rent' is. . He has simply disregarded the overwhelming evidence that there is a housing crisis in the eastern suburbs.
In stark contrast Brownlee and his government haven't hesitated to intervene in the commercial property market.
What are we witnessing is the transfer of wealth to the already wealthy.
It will be interesting to see when the Government decides its opportune to sell the assets of the Christchurch City Council.
The Ministry nightclub has, for over twenty years, been a pivotal feature of the Christchurch dance scene - but it too has been dealt a death blow by CERA.
CERA (Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority) has released a city blueprint outlining that they will be seizing Ministry NightClub, demolishing it, and constructing a new bus exchange in its place. Its demise is not the result of quake damage – the choice to demolish is not safety related. Rather, this is a case of over-zealous “forward thinking” and a planning process that has not consulted the people of Christchurch apart from rugby players and conservative old-money families
Even before reconstruction work has started, the engineering assesSment of the building places it at 36% of building code, which means even now it is NOT classed as “quake prone”. The building was strengthened back in 1992 when first built, and was damaged mainly by the collapse of the next-door building on top of it
The demands of the planned bus exchange are in all likelihood years away, and they could still go ahead without the narrow strip of land down one side that is occupied by Ministry
Bruce Williamson designed, built and ran Ministry as a labour of love in Lichfield St for more than twenty years. Despite the damage sustained by the quake, the main floor was still salvagable. In fact, Williamson had been working on rebuild plans for the venue for some time and had already lodged a consent for its rebuild, retaining the existing main room but with capacity increased to 1000 in that room and 1350 people on the entire site
Anyone who attended an event at Ministry will understand what it represents to the Christchurch music scene and what is at stake. Sign and share this petition. Show CERA that Christchurch bassheads are citizens too. YOU deserve to have a say about what is to remain when the new city is built!