- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Friday, October 31, 2008

Obama campaign infomercial - You Tube

Part 1: Presidential, serious, sober. They might have even tweaked the bass a bit when he speaks. Subtle classical music in the background. The public discourse in America now describes the working class as the middle class (from what I understand). They are an aspirational people, so no-one seems to mind the dropping of "working class". The way they talk about class now it's either "middle class" or "super-rich". Working class, the working poor, the ghetto etc. are yesterday's political paradigms.

Part 2: Case study of a ruined retirement for a struggling couple. Energy independence, including gas and oil drilling. 5 million jobs created. Promises subsidies for car makers. Spending cuts and budgets, withdrawing from Iraq. CEO of Google endorses him. The musical accompaniment is now the strains of a mournful Appalachian folk violin. You will notice in Obama's campaign that they use white American music, like country or classical, rather than black music like Jazz (and its many offshoots like rock and hip hop etc.) to down-play the black side and create a subconscious white vibe. I've picked up on it, I'm not sure the Americans would really notice.

Part 3: Widow - an over-worked teacher - with a mortgage: case study. Obama reassures the voters that his Dad (the Kenyan one) was absent from his life. Education - mentions bonding for college. Health care - will reduce costs by $2500 for average family. Michelle Obama on Barack and their kids. Obama gets to tell the story of the evil health insurers stiffing his dying mom - this is the most compelling tale I've heard through the campaign. Biden gets his appearance: Obama questions Condi Rice and that impressed him. Obama shows the love back.

Part 4: And just to prove me a liar, Obama voices over some old black and white footage and mentions "working class" - but it's in an historical context - a context of them moving upwards to the middle class after the WWII. Obama's grandfather fought in that war - which he mentions. Promises to rebuild the military, finish the Taliban off. He starts on about "the story of America" - at this point (4:40) the orchestra swells in a mawkishly saccharin movement that coincides with some black and white photos of Obama in various poses. Amongst the still shots the compulsory Kennedyesque silhouette. And at the point of Americana over-drive they cut live to a rally he's addressing in a stadium in the key state of Florida (5:20). "Change" "middle class" "healthcare" "education" "energy" key word after key word. Then an appeal to get out to vote and volunteer.

Wow. Slick does not come close to describing it.

I bet he's putting shades of grey on his hair, so that in this last week he has a visible greying of the temples to just put that final touch on his presidential look - just that final touch that people will subconsciously register as a reassurance that he has the right look, the right feel, to be President.

Pass the Kool-Aid for economic Armageddon

Both major parties have now released their “transition” policies for the coming economic Armageddon.

(A third group, Destiny Church, has released its policy for perhaps the literal Armageddon: Bishop Brian Tamaki plans to retreat into a separate independent city in South Auckland for the faithful. In the current troubled market, your correspondent foresees a rise in Kool Aid shares.)

National and Labour have released support packages for redundant employees.

The cost of the packages is roughly the same, although National’s promises a bigger payout to people with children – bumping up the maximum accommodation allowance by $100 a week, but also allowing families to keep the “in work” payment of Working for Families even if the recipient is, well, no longer in work.

This assistance will help out for up to 16 weeks for employees who were in jobs for six months or more and then made redundant. It will therefore benefit those with high accommodation costs and those with families.

(The in-work payment is fairly significant – for a family with a total income of $60,000, the payment is $55 a week or over $3000 a year.)

It’s not as sweeping a plan as the National party had suggested, and so should be applauded for that reason.

In contrast, Labour says there will be no spousal income testing for the unemployment benefit – this benefits couples, where the redundant worker’s spouse earns above slight wages, but does nothing for (say) solo mothers who lose their jobs.

The initial analysis has been Labour’s plan will spread the same amount of money more widely but thinly. That’s not necessarily true.

The unemployment benefit could in some cases be a bigger lump sum than, say, a $55 Working for Families subsidy and an accommodation supplement. If the recipient had no children and a high earning spouse then the “equity” argument could go the other way and see labour’s plan lining middle class pockets.

The wealth of such scenarios under which both transition packages could be seen to be playing favourites undeservedly (not even starting with the apparent resurrection of a class of so-called "deserving poor") points to the flaws in redesigning welfare on the hoof.

Unemployment is expected to jump. The pre-election Treasury update guessed it would hit 5%; earlier in the year the Reserve Bank predicted 6%. These figures, high in comparison with recent high employment in New Zealand, are both historically low and also compare well with other developed countries.

There are fears that it could go higher given the recent financial crisis, especially with expatriates returning home from troubled foreign job markets.

That's the problem. As they come up with their rescue plans John Key and Helen Clark– and although he might quibble, probably Bishop Tamaki as well – can only guess at what's in store for the future.

[more NBR columns]

Ngati Porou in the House, Cullen's house.

The Labour Party's confiscation law will never be called confiscation by the Pakeha press. Legislating rights, ancient rights off a group of people to advantage another group of people and then making the losers apply for lesser rights that are defined entirely by the people that have legislated it away is described as "overturning a court ruling". That's how the Rhodesian Press Association would have reported it.

And this agreement is being signed just a week before a General Election in which the area covered by the agreement, and the people it affects, just happen to be in a highly marginal Labour electorate. Parties will use their government incumbency for these cynical deals. Shoddy, shameful deals under a disgraceful law that is unconstitutional and illegitimate.

After the difficult and at times heated debate about the foreshore and seabed in 2004 not many believed that we would achieve an agreement and that, following the passage of the Foreshore and Seabed Act, our positions could ever be reconciled.

But from the beginning both sides approached this issue with goodwill and patience. Ngāti Porou sought to discuss their concerns about their longstanding customary rights as soon as that debate began.

The government recognised that there was an issue that needed to be resolved.

Our first step was to incorporate provisions within the foreshore and seabed legislation that would give Māori the opportunity to have longstanding rights recognised.

These provisions provided the framework within which this agreement was negotiated. Members of Ngāti Porou took one of the two options provided in the legislation and decided to talk directly to government.

This agreement is the culmination of those talks.
Your leadership entered into this process with great enthusiasm and a determination to uphold your rights.

It is a tribute to the skills of people like Dr Mahuika and their regular communication on progress that the consensus for ratification was so solid.

This was confirmation that throughout this process your leadership rested on the support of your people.

Maori cannot protect their property rights against the settler onslaught by disunity. Labour want to retain their Pakeha veto over entrenching the Maori seats. What sort of person on the Maori roll would still keep voting for the Labour Party?

Turia also made some good points about the media at a documentary launch yesterday, out in the field - as it were:

On May 3, 2004, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, confided to Breakfast Television, that the hikoi making its way to Wellington was comprised of :

“The same old faces. The Ken Mairs, the Harawira family, the Annette Sykes, the haters and wreckers, the people who destroy Waitangi every year, now wanting to do a Waitangi in every town in New Zealand on the way to Wellington where they will do a Waitangi on the steps of Parliament. Is this not what New Zealand has got absolutely sick and tired of?”

Those words, of course, will be forever on the public record.

And that’s bad enough.

But what is even worse, is the ominous silence that followed those words.

No analysis of the appropriateness of the phrase “to do a Waitangi”. No analysis of the ethics of identifying individuals to be targeted for attack. No analysis of whether or not the people of New Zealand shared Helen Clark’s views.

Framing Maori is a film that forces us all to ask these questions, about every item of news, every 6 o’clock bulletin, every story in which we, Maori, tend more often than not, to be framed as the baddies.

Of course, it’s not as if ‘framing Maori’ is reserved just to the television screen. My colleague, Derek Fox, pointed out that in the election campaign trail, the questions reserved for the Maori candidate are often predictable – how to deal to child abuse, crime, law and order.

I am proud to stand here tonight, to say, we are framing Maori in a different light.

Gideon Porter, in the documentary, talks about the challenge of providing a context in mainstream news. In a space of 90 seconds, he’d try to cram in a slice of history, the views of mana whenua about the issue – and the issue itself.

Only four countries at the UN voted against the Indigenous Rights Declaration: Canada, USA, Australia and the other Anglosphere colonial entity with a massive European and immigrant population whose economic prosperity is based on keeping the indigenous people off their own land. The other entity that passes confiscation laws against native populations. Didn't hear about it? It was probably on page 14 in a news brief. The TV news had about 30 seconds on it about half an hour into the bulletin.

Previous posts on this issue

Worshipping British bullshit since 1840

Too many Poms in the newsroom combined with a slavish colonial deference to anything from the BBC - that's my pick. That's my explanation. The NZ media - newspapers, radio and television - have been carrying reports, endlessly detailed reports, of some London DJ's on a BBC station doing something idiotic. They certainly look childishly idiotic and so I have switched off before I could hear their childish idiocy. But this has gone on for three days now and our established media keep churning it out. I will not waste your time, dear readers, by linking to it - or waste my time by reading or viewing the "news" in question.

This isn't entertainment news, it is not international news, it is not business news, it is domestic UK tattle. The reason it makes it to the mainstream outlets wrapped up as legitimate news?

I know there are a lot of NZ and Australians working for the BBC in London, but you wouldn't see them reporting on some stupid Auckland or Sydney radio DJ's being cocks. I can't see that passing through the editorial chain-of-command without it being met with the contempt it would deserve. So why does this shit pass through the gaping sieve of what passes for newsworthiness in this country? I suspect it is because British immigrants - the only people who would care in the slightest, the only people in this country who would give it more than 1 second of interest - are making these calls in senior positions in the newsrooms. The locals see "BBC" and conclude that their British colleague must be right. Pathetic.

NZ bloggers however have entirely ignored this non-news event. We have important things to discuss. I raise this as a case study only.

Greens attack Nats

Fitzsimons unrepentant over Key ambush
Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons is unapologetic after ambushing National leader John Key in a shopping mall, saying if the leaders of National and Labour won't go to her, she will go to them. Ms Fitzsimons gatecrashed Mr Key's walkabout at the Coastlands shopping mall in Paraparaumu yesterday to tackle him over statements by his MPs about climate change. It was the first ambush in what has been a tightly guarded campaign by both major parties. Details of leaders' daily movements have been carefully managed to avoid opponents getting advance notice.

And she should be unrepentant! Key has avoided the environment, he has MPs telling Farmers in meetings that National will dump all of it’s emission commitments, he has front benchers who don’t believe in global warming, he wants to give a cabinet position to Rodney Hide a Global Warming denier who claims C02 is a mis-understood nutrient for Christ’s sake and John Key originally was skeptical of global warming, not only should the Greens not apologize for ambushing the Nats, they should do it every day!

Urewera raids: Accused face fresh charges

Urewera raids: Accused face fresh charges
Fresh charges are to be laid against some of those seized in the Urewera police raids - more than a year after they were arrested. Five of the 18 people arrested during the nationwide operation last October are to face new allegations of participating in a criminal gang. One of the five is Maori activist Tame Iti. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and has angered supporters of the accused, who claim the Government is trying to save face after failing in an attempt to bring charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act. Seventeen of the 18 defendants charged with firearms offences were committed to trial last month. They were alleged to have participated in weapons-training camps at various locations around the country.

So what criminal gang were they participating in or are the Police creating a criminal gang out of them? In the latest Police News there is a discussion over the new powers the Police want to ban gangs where they get to choose who is a gang member and who isn’t after they have had the gang banned by the Attorney-General, is that what we are seeing here, the Police are creating gangs out of people so that they can use ‘participating in gangs’ laws – and if they can charge as easily as this for participating in a criminal gang, why do they need these extra powers they are pushing for?

Seeing as the Police failed horribly under the TSA one gets the feeling that this is a grudge match now, while I certainly believe there should have been an investigation into activists running around and playing with guns, the manner of that investigation in land as steeped in righteous grievance as Tuhoe and the powers that were used to gather that evidence went well beyond the threat.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Merchants of dirt

Mike Williams, Labour Party President, went to Australia to dig stuff up on some 1980s dirt on John Key and dump it - dump it now when Owen Glenn pops up again. Puh-leeze, brother! Williams has done this out of his own pocket according to the PM - his boss. That pocket is fattened by his numerous appointments to government boards (made by her and her ministers), so in a way the government is helping to foot the bill.

And there was a similar moment of incredulity upon hearing the spin on yesterday's TV coverage of the supposed Winston-Glenn saga. The gloating Guyon Espiner on TV One said Winston "aggressively pushed" for Glenn to be made consul, while TV3's Duncan Garner said he "personally pushed" for it. I've heard just as much from other media. What I haven't seen is convincing evidence that he "pushed" very hard at all. Where is the gotcha quotes to back it up?

The important thing here is that the PM and Mike Williams are most likely up to their eyeballs in the Owen Glenn drama.

What Winston did in all probability - and where the PM's supposed countermanding of any Glenn appointment sits I don't quite know - is this:

Glenn asked him about being honorary consul to Monaco (getting a diplomatic passport and credentials) and Winston goes "I'll see what I can do - I'll put your name forward", and Glenn asks about how to make a donation to Winston/First, and then he talks him up to a hundred grand and says "I'll do everything I can".

Winston tells his Ministry to see whether we need a consul in Monaco and if we do whether Glenn would be appropriate.

MFAT drag their feet because it's baublage for the bauble-meister and just another petty political indulgence and they are unimpressed and sit on it. Winston might have sent another missive asking them what the hold-up is. I don't think this aspect of the slush fund allegations needs to be fully investigated because I suspect their really isn't anything in it beyond Winston having to placate Glenn because his Ministry won't approve it.

Winston knows how the game is played - he's kept his side of the deal by putting Glenn's name forward - but if it gets rejected then too bad, he did what he could. That was the deal. But some gentlemen's lobbying would not be against Winston's code. To do more however would be unprofessional - it would compromise his integrity. But to keep Glenn sweet he keeps telling him that the decision hasn't been made yet and that the process is going on etc - which is just to shut him up - it just means that he hasn't said no yet. At this point the PM and Mike Williams may have realised that Glenn was too much of a loose unit and she told MFAT to bin anything about Glenn. Who knows exactly how it went down or when. At some point the PM and Williams decided to start the quarterisation and quarantining process - which led to the awkward and undignified spectacle of the PM physically distancing herself in public at the opening of his building.

This is very much how Williams managed the Stephen Ching affair at the last election: Williams would not budge on getting Ching off the list even though there were multiple allegations of corruption outstanding - that's how desperate Williams is for Labour donations. The idea is to string the donors along, draw as much money out of them as humanly possible with all sorts of hints and winks and nods and even promises and agreements... and then burn them off at the last minute. If Glenn had not been such a "character" he would probably have his passport to the diplomatic cocktail party circuit and be quietly enjoying it. But the one thing he lacked - for all his millions - was fame and influence. Happy now?

[UPDATE: 5:50PM Friday 31/10/2008:

And this from Guyon's brother Colin in the Press:

But email correspondence between officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade shows Peters pushed the case hard and gave his department a hurry-up for not moving fast enough on the appointment, asking New Zealand's Ambassador in France to meet urgently with Glenn in Monaco about the role.
The correspondence, during 2007, came a year after Glenn had donated $100,000 towards Peters' legal expenses in the Tauranga electoral petition, which Peters denied knowing about until July this year.
A parliamentary privileges committee inquiry censured him last month for not declaring the donation.
Clark said last night there was no issue because no appointment had been made.
She revealed she had blocked the proposal because of the possibility that money was involved.
"For my part, once I had heard there had been a donation I didn't think it would be appropriate," she said.
A spokesman confirmed Clark had formally axed the proposal once Glenn told her when they met in February that he had donated money to Peters.
Last night Peters turned on the media, claiming the documents were "as stale as Colin Meads's football boots".
He said he had "inherited" Glenn's interest in the role from someone else. "It didn't start with me."

Aunty Helen will look after us

Labour unveils $50m redundancy package
BREAKING NEWS: Labour has unveiled a 13-week cash benefit to be paid to workers who lose their jobs in tough economic times. Labour leader Helen Clark has just told workers at Patience and Nicholson Engineering in Kaiapoi that if they lost their jobs as a result of an economic downturn they would receive the unemployment benefit immediately regardless of their income or assets. Under Labour's transitional assistance package the unemployment benefit would be paid for 13 weeks without means testing. That means workers with houses or partners who work will not be affected. The normal stand-down period for getting assistance would be reduced to one or two weeks.

With so many fearful of what will happen with their jobs, Labour have put forward an incredibly generous package free of the usual barriers, this will boost Labour support from those who usually vote Labour but have been turned off from the Winston business. Watch to see the undecided vote come down and Labour vote to solidify upwards from this announcement.

US electronic ballot calibration farce

Watch this You Tube video and be afraid. Cousin Ray at the local county office is going to tutu with the machine and fuck the votes up and we may never know.

The Americans are fascinated by machines and systems - look at their grid cities and grid constitution and grid attitudes. I believe the Indian elections are now conducted using electronic machines, but I trust the Indians not to fuck it up. Cousin Ray, or whoever will be doing the calibrating at county level, may not be the technical whizz that he made out on he was on his CV. The different forms of ballots and systems seems plainly idiotic to us. A General Election it seems has been lumped on the end of all the local, municipal, county and state ballots. We would have it the other way around, I guess so would the Indians and everyone else. The grid logic seems to have succumbed to the autonomy provisions of the constitution.

Video: Recalibrated Machine in W. Virginia Appears to Record Vote Inaccurately: it sure looks that way:

In the video, after Waybright demonstrates the phenomenon on the uncalibrated machine, he calibrates the machine and votes again. But even though the machine is supposed to be fixed at that point, it appears to record a vote incorrectly.

A standardised paper ballot is the best system invented isn't it? It's real, it's physical, everyone can see it, a layman can easily interpret it, special technicians are not necessary. Having said that I hold no objection to electronic voting only if it issues a paper recording of the ballot as well. In the video we can see a scrolling paper to one side:

The machines in West Virginia and Tennessee differ in one regard. West Virginia's iVotronic machines produce a paper print-out that scrolls behind a window, allowing voters to check that the machine has registered their selection as they make their choices. If voters make a change, the machine will print out their new selection as well. Tennessee's machines do not produce a paper trail. But all of the machines, in West Virginia and Tennessee, provide a review screen at the end of the electronic ballot so that voters can check their final choices before casting the ballot.

But what if you are in Tennessee? No evidence - nothing to check. There are prompts on the screen to confirm, but this is far from desirable if the voter doesn't check properly - especially since there will be many, possibly dozens of different things they will be voting on. Without a paper trail it is flawed.

Anyone watching the 'Recount' movie last night on Prime will appreciate the peculiarities of the American voting system and their reliance on machines.

PM odds narrow: as predicted

A fortnight ago I urged Labour supporters to jump in - to back Clark at the bookies:

Now Centrebet has her coming in to $3.40 and Key sliding out to $1.31.

It's really more like even money on the two because of the Winston factor. I suspect they got the election result wrong last time for the same reason that Clark was so unrealistically valued two weeks ago - because a lot of over-confident Tories have laid some big bets that the Nats will cobble something together. That is quite an ask.

NZ ranked among big polluters

NZ ranked among big polluters
New Zealanders' love for cars is contributing to our huge ecological footprint, which per person is now ranked sixth largest in the world. A WWF Living Planet Report released yesterday shows that only the United Arab Emirates, the United States, Kuwait, Denmark and Australia have larger per capita ecological footprints than New Zealand. The report, regarded as the leading statement on the planet's health, differs from measuring just our carbon footprint by including not just what the country consumes in resources, but how much waste is generated and its impact on the natural environment. Globally the report showed that more than three-quarters of the world's people now live in nations which are ecological debtors, where national consumption has outstripped a country's biological capacity. However, because New Zealand has a relatively small population for the country's physical size it is not yet in eco-debt, with a bio-capacity still up to half greater than our footprint. Chris Howe, WWF-New Zealand executive director, said our global consumption was increasing and biodiversity declining. New Zealand moved from requiring 5.9 global hectares per person in the 2006 report (based on 2003 data) to an average of 7.7 global hectares per person (based on 2005 data). Mr Howe said a global hectare was a hectare with world-average ability to produce resources and absorb wastes. Worldwide, the average ecological footprint jumped from 2.2 global hectares per person to 2.7 global hectares per person. The planet could afford just 2.1 global hectares per person and humans were now exceeding the planet's regenerative capacity by about 30 per cent.

There are those who don’t want NZ to be a leader in green policies because our contribution in pollution is so tiny compared to the rest of the world, I think that’s a cop out. We can lead by example, and look at how wasteful we are with our resources we use 7.7 global hectares compared to the average ecological footprint of 2.7 global hectares, we are running out of global hectares, we will need another planet full of resources if we continue unsustainable growth, where are we going to find that other planet folks? We have the slight luxery of being able to make these changes in an environment that is well supported with public services, how dare we lecture developing countries to use less polluting methods of power generation when we are not even bothering to do our bit? Clean and green NZ is a lie that has been partly spoilt by Dairy Farmers and lazy politicians who are too frightened to spook the cows.

Bigger pastures for Destiny

Bigger pastures for Destiny
Destiny Church is calling on members to help build a big complex in South Auckland but denies it plans to create a self-sufficient "walled city". News of the shift follows claims that Destiny asked members last Sunday to sell their homes and donate the proceeds to the complex, which would include a new church, three schools and a medical centre. "It would be completely self-contained," one church member, who did not want to be named, said. The head of the church, the self-styled Bishop Brian Tamaki, told members attending "A Decade of Destiny" conference during Labour weekend that the complex would give the church a big presence in the centre of Auckland. "We have signed virtually for 10 acres with the possibility of another five if we want it and another five acres when we need it, which gives us 20 acres right in the heart of our largest city in our nation," Mr Tamaki said. The complex's schools would mean Destiny members could opt to remove their children from mainstream schooling.

A separate walled city for the Bishop? Is this starting to sound a bit weird now? Sure the black-shirted marching and chanting ‘enough is enough’ was all fun and games but a walled separate city – doesn’t that tend to turn people a bit queer in their thinking and should a cult of personality leader be able to rob his followers blind to build his walled city? Perhaps the Resource Consent process needs to look into the ramifications of dense urban planning by messiah cult figures before they grant the building of Brian’s Ark.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

NZD: the Iceland lesson

[UPDATE: 11:30AM Thursday 30/10/2008:

- an anthem of gloom. We say we are a trading nation, but we continue to export less than we import. Weak, very weak - structurally weak too, we've been in this position for some time and the plasma screens are still on order by the looks of it.]

Five months on, after Iceland's crisis and crash, the question remains pertinent.

The collapse of Iceland’s banks: the predictable end of a non-viable business model makes for some sobering reading. In the conclusion the authors mention Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark as possibly being vulnerable for the same reasons. Well they should have widened their scope beyond Europe to include us.

Because the worst possible outcome has now materialised, both for the banks and for Iceland, there is no reason not to circulate the paper more widely, as some of its lessons have wider relevance.
With most of the banking system’s assets and liabilities denominated in foreign currency, and with a large amount of short-maturity foreign-currency liabilities, Iceland needed a foreign currency lender of last resort and market maker of last resort to prevent funding illiquidity or market illiquidity from bringing down the banking system. Without an effective lender of last resort and market maker of last resort – one capable of providing sufficient liquidity in the currency in which it is needed, even fundamentally solvent banking systems can be brought down through either conventional bank runs by depositors and other creditors (funding liquidity crises) or through illiquidity in the markets for its assets (market liquidity crises).

This weakness is what the RBNZ was addressing earlier today when it released this statement:

The Yanks will bail us out - that's the message. Depending on if and how it works I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up as a mechanism to bail them out. Anyway:

During the final death throes of Iceland as an international banking nation, a number of policy mistakes were made by the Icelandic authorities, especially by the governor of the Central Bank of Iceland
The decision of the government to take a 75 percent equity stake in Glitnir on September 29 risked turning a bank debt crisis into a sovereign debt crisis. [...] then, on October 7, the Central Bank of Iceland announced a currency peg for the króna without having the reserves to support. It was one of the shortest-lived currency pegs in history. At the time of writing (28 October 2008) there is no functioning foreign exchange market for the Icelandic króna.
The main message of our paper is, however, that it was not the drama and mismanagement of the last three months that brought down Iceland’s banks. Instead it was absolutely obvious, as soon as we began, during January 2008, to study Iceland’s problems, that its banking model was not viable. The fundamental reason was that Iceland was the most extreme example in the world of a very small country, with its own currency, and with an internationally active and internationally exposed financial sector that is very large relative to its GDP and relative to its fiscal capacity.
The Icelandic banks’ business model and Iceland’s global banking ambitions were incompatible with its tiny size and minor-league currency, even if the banks did not have any fundamental insolvency problems.
In this recent crisis, however, regulators and supervisors have tended to be uninformed and out of their depth. We doubt Iceland is an exception to this rule. The quality of the balance sheet of the three Icelandic banks has to be viewed by outsiders as unknown.

The RBNZ says they have $11 billion in foreign currency to play with, they call it "intervention capacity". Domestic credit, I note, keeps expanding 10% a year - far in advance of what growth we have had. NZ's overseas debt increased by about $30b in the last year:


Clark's handling of Glenn saga casts cloud over Labour

The latest revelations about Winston Peters’ involvement in political donor Owen Glen’s bid to be consul to Monaco suggest a significant conflict of interest, and demonstrate him misleading the public again. But he will probably emerge unscathed from the fiasco. Prime Minister Helen Clark may not be so lucky.

Communications between Peters’ foreign affairs adviser and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, obtained by TV One News, show that in contrast to his earlier protestations, the then-foreign affairs minister was active in promoting the expatriate businessman to appointment to that post.

It shows him up again as muddled and as having misled the public at some point about his involvement in Glenn’s bid to become honorary consul in Monaco. He told reporters in February he had been hands off and had little to do with the selection – in fact, he said, “We have not made a decision with respect to even having a consul in Monaco.”

Except the papers show that officials concluded the previous November there was a marginal case for the appointment of a consul, and that should one be needed then the preferred candidate would be Italian businessman (a Kiwi by marriage) Frank Repetto, the nominee of National MP (and Monacan consul to New Zealand) Richard Worth. If the process was still going by February – and still had Glenn in the frame –it was at Peters’ initiative.

And the suspended foreign minister appears to remember this now: he says that there is no case to answer because once officials advised against appointing a consul, the matter was closed – a clear contradiction.

Will this further hit to Peters’ tattered credibility around the Glenn affair hurt the recently resurgent leader and his New Zealand First party? It’s unlikely.

Since the privileges committee hearing in September, believing Winston Peters did not know Glenn had donated $100,000 to his legal costs has essentially been a leap of faith. The committee itself just managed to make that leap – it held open the possibility he didn’t know but should have made the enquiries that would have lead to finding out.

The papers from within MFAT suggesting Peters actively lobbied for Glenn’s appointment are certainly incriminating – but only if you believe that Peters knew about the earlier donation from Glenn. Then it starts looking like, at best, a serious conflict of interest.

But if you believe – as most Peters supporters do and as the privileges committee was willing to grudgingly concede as a possibility – that the minister of foreign affairs could contact Glenn fairly often, meet and dine with him, without the subject of his donation ever coming up, then the further evidence proves nothing except the minister’s apparently remarkable ability to hold himself above the fray.

Peters’ hard core of support has shown over and again that the standard by which he will be judged is no less than, and possibly more than, criminal liability. In the absence of irrefutable proof – rather than what is merely a crushing weight of circumstantial evidence – that Peters knew about the donation, their faith in him will hold.

But for a prime minister who is scrapping over soft votes in the centre, where reside electors with a less sunny view of Peters and his serene ignorance of matters financial, the news is not so good.

Helen Clark says there is “no issue” over the Monaco consulship because no appointment was ever made. But under Clark’s version of events that appointment could not have been made, because she stepped in to axe the appointment process herself in February, when Glenn told her he had donated to New Zealand First. This was obviously a pre-emptive measure.

This intervention, however, occurred during the period when Clark maintained silence on the (at the time alleged) Glenn donation, and Peters denied any donation. Clark later maintained that both Glenn and Peters were “honourable men” and she accepted there was a reasonable explanation for their conflicting version of events. However, she was concerned enough to cauterise Peters’ political involvement with Glenn.

She also answered numerous questions in Parliament confirming she had confidence in Peters as foreign minister, despite having (as she says now) over-ruled whatever process he was following with regards to Glenn’s possible appointment – a job squarely within his responsibilities.

Ironically, this course of action was more legitimate than the supposedly relaxed, hands-off handling of the alleged conflict of interest she recounted last month.

The kinds of behaviour that would be unacceptable in times of peace may mark a person out as a hero in times of war. Similarly, Clark’s determination to hold together fragmenting support against a gale of opposition will be praised if she can weld a multi-party government post-election.

That's no vindication, however, for her evasiveness and cynical disregard for the standards of her foreign minister over the course of this past eight months, which amount to nothing less than a cover up. Peters may be content to play to a gallery of supporters on the margins but for a legacy-obsessed leader like Clark, that should be important.

[more NBR columns]

Winston ALT TV interview: Now on You Tube

Part 1: History, Churchill, Minor leaders debate. Financial crisis. National funding. Coalitions. Owning banks.

Part 2: Foreign Minister - immigration. Iraq a mistake. US doesn't understand history. Lectured State Dept. on democracy - lobbying for US FTA. Springbok Tour. Slush funds, hints National will get dirt dished on it soon. Driver: "That phone conversation... you spoke to Owen..." Winston says Glenn wanted to have a diplomatic passport.

Part 3: Can he work with National? Bank ownership. Economy. Moral votes - political correctness.

Part 4: Political funding EFA. Mistakes. My Way. Hooton a "fascist". Nat's will answer on trust revelation.

National Party Gulags

Prisoners to work for victim fund - National
More prisoners will have to work under a National government, and the money they earn will go towards a victims' fund. Those who refuse will lose their right to parole. National leader John Key announced plans to boost work and rehabilitation schemes yesterday, and confirmed it would allow the private sector to run prisons again. Mr Key said a National government would spend $7 million a year boosting the number of inmates in industry-based work from 2500-3500 by the end of 2011.
Mr Key said prisoners were usually paid between 20c and 60c an hour but were charged out at market labour rates.

So we enter the time of the corporate Gulag, Prisoners forced to work at what is effectively slave labour where smug National Party supporters get to race past motorways where chain gangs sing spirituals under a hot South Auckland sky, so hateful has our social policy become it has been warped into this abortion, exactly as it has been in America with the same vested interests of longer prison sentences and larger prison slave work force, Private prisons don’t give a toss about rehabilitation, they care only for longer sentences (meaning the prisoners stay longer, meaning they get more money to hold them) and while holding them they get to implement prison labour as a cheap workforce, they make money off the labour of prisoners – see how in that equation how the Private Prison doesn’t give a toss about rehabilitation and why only the state should be allowed to incarcerate you against your will and not a corporation?

National Party Spin Machine

Just on the whole spin attempt to create 'Moral Authority' for the party with the largest vote to form the government, Brian Rudman makes some devastating points, how come last time it wasn't 'moral authority' that National were arguing at all!
Brian Rudman: When silver and bronze beat gold

The irony is that three years ago, Mr Key's predecessor Dr Brash was trying to stitch up a coalition of the disparate, every bit as scary as his "five-headed monster." And Dr Brash was doing it from the "illegitimate" position of being leader of the "losing" big party. In September 2005, Labour won 45,506 more votes than National, ending up with 41. 10 per cent of votes to National's 39.10 per cent. Did Dr Brash stand back like some quaint gentleman cricketer and say, "jolly bad luck chaps, Helen is the rightful ruler"? Of course he didn't. He did what John Key will do and tried to sweet-talk the small parties into his bed. After three weeks of intense lobbying, Dr Brash wrote to New Zealand First leader Winston Peters claiming he had lured the Maori Party, United First and Act New Zealand into his camp and was "willing and able to enter into discussions with New Zealand First to form a National-led government.

Right so this Crosby & Texter ‘moral authority’ attack lines are as pointless as the ‘5 Headed Monster’ attack lines, especially because a) National tried to form an MMP Government last time without this ‘moral authority’ nonsense and b) because this time around National will need a 4 headed monster to govern.

Dr. Dunne and the Blood Pressure Worm

Dunne shows grace under pressure

United Future leader Peter Dunne had his blood pressure taken yesterday but says he could not be more relaxed about his decision to rule out working with Labour after the election.

United Future president and local candidate Denise Krum set up a table outside Onehunga Mall in Auckland offering free blood pressure tests under a chart showing Labour's pressure was too low, National's was too high, but her party was comfortably in the centre.

"The point it's trying to make is if you look at political pressure then clearly the purple bit in the middle, the United Future bit, is the most stable, reliable and good for us all," Mr Dunne said.

"It's slightly higher than normal, but I think that's the pressures of the campaign."

Halt the Tardis! Dr. Peter "Middle of the Political Road" Dunne is back with another bizarre analogy for the election - blood pressure as "political pressure". Labour's is too low, apparently, although it is hard to tell whether this is a reference to a lack of policies Dunne favours or the slow-breathing of Clark's well-practiced approach to politics. National's is too high - perhaps the pressure of attempting to adopt an Obama-styled "Change" message for new right politics.

Does Dunne think the people of Onehunga are stupid?

News review

A gloating Guyon Espiner on TV One's midday news reckons he's sunk Winston. He knew something about Owen Glenn. I wasn't really listening. I suspect his prime audience of former voters aren't either.

TV3 had their news in the middle of an English arsehole inspection with some story about London radio DJs being vacuous arseholes and on switching back to One's bulletin Paris Hilton was saying that "Tinkerbell [her dog as I understand it] did..." something - and then I had to turn off. Off.

If our dollar keeps dropping or remains where it is (and it probably went through something of a psychological barrier the other day), and if our real estate prices keep falling the foreign investors will clean us out over the long-term; or should I say clean us out again. They will wipe the cupboard bare and we will be paying them rent forever. As I understand it someone sitting on the internet in Istanbul or Oslo or wherever can buy freehold title and shares in practically anything we currently own. We can't afford to buy it - not right now. They can. They want safe havens and stores of value at the moment - doesn't that describe most classes of New Zealand land, buildings and infrastructure? We had the Canadians walking over hot coals to get to the Auckland International Airport.

National will open the doors to foreign investment and the private-public model Labour set up will actually be advanced in practice.

Labour will make a compromised and hypocritical, but pragmatic, decision about how far the door should be left open.

NZ first will shut them. Shut them out or buy them out. A more Singaporean type model.

It's these issues that actually put Winston to the left of Labour on many economic policies. Cullen, according to Winston on last night's interview, has been nevertheless, sound. A sound steward of the Rogernomics model?

[UPDATE: 2:10PM:
The 2008 NZ Official Yearbook is launched by the statistics department: What was its original purpose?
Cost: $100.]

Aussie feds attempt to interrogate teens over contraceptives

Crime body bid to identify indigenous girls on contraceptives

THE secretive Australian Crime Commission, now using its coercive powers as part of the federal intervention into child sexual abuse in the Northern Territory, is locked in a battle of wills with remote-area doctors and nurses who it believes are under-reporting child abuse.

A Katherine regional health clinic, known as NTD8, won a Federal Court case in Darwin last week. Judge John Reeves ruled that the clinic did not have to provide the ACC with the names and addresses of eight girls aged between 13 and 15 who the clinic had fitted with Implanon contraceptive implants.

The clinic is not permitted to discuss the case but it is known that remote clinics providing services to Aborigines -- most of which have been served notices to hand over medical records about children -- fear crime commission agents want to visit the girls and interrogate them about their sexual partners.

The clinics believe the girls would lose trust in the clinics if they were interrogated.

Just when it looked like the situation couldn't get any worse for Aborigines in the Northern Territory - military occupations, food stamps and dislocations at the level of the stolen children era - the Australian Crime Commission wants to begin interrogating teenagers about their sexual practices.

The clinics are right here - there is something inherently creepy about the state visiting 13 and 14 year old girls on contraceptives to ask them what they have been up to. While there are high rates of sexual abuse among Aboriginal communities, this is hardly the solution for the problem. It is more likely to further entrench the divide between Aboriginal and white Australians, meaning that Aboriginal teen girls no longer trust the clinics.

It seems if you are Aborigine in Australia at the moment the government has the right to control all aspects of your private life, including your autonomy over your own body. The Howard/ Rudd solution to colonisation has been to recolonise these people, exerting control over all areas of public liberty that are taken for granted by white Australians. To be Aborigine in Australia today is to live under a police state, where the Government has the right to reclaim land, restrict access to food and alcohol, to seize anyone's computer, to remove and "assimilate" children and now to interrogate the youth. Considering that this is the same combination of factors that has led to the current situation, one can only assume that the pithy sums being thrown at the intervention are only going to have the effects of entrenching this trauma long-term.

The John Key MMP spin begins

The current spin from John Key is that if National wins the most votes on election night they should form the government and smaller parties must heed that ‘moral authority’ – which of course under MMP is absolute bullshit – it depends on who can put together a majority, not which party has the largest vote. This line of attack from National is intended to whip up pundit kiwiblogh fury and National supporter fury if the Maori Party goes with Labour, claiming such ‘moral authority’ is a distortion of the truth and gives some inkling of how National will attempt to challenge the authority of the next Government if they don’t win.

When a lack of service is sold as service

DIY to beat check-in queues
Air New Zealand domestic travellers will from Monday be able to print bag tags, drop their luggage directly on to a conveyor belt, and get their boarding pass using their mobile phone. The new self-service approach, designed to speed up the check-in and boarding process, will see almost 40 check-in kiosks replace many traditional service desks at Auckland airport.

Isn’t it incredible how a lack of service can be sold by Air NZ as a service and because Air NZ has so much advertising power when they crack the whip, all the media dutifully follow through and mouth the lines. How can having to check your own luggage and boarding pass be a service? The claim is this will cut down waiting time, I have rarely had to wait very long to board a domestic flight and the responsibility is the check in persons where as the responsibility is dumped on the passenger and sold as a ‘service’. Incredible!

Call to register prepaid cellphones 'an intrusion'

Call to register prepaid cellphones 'an intrusion'
A call for prepaid cellphone customers to be registered to stop criminals using them has been labelled an unnecessary intrusion into people's lives. Police yesterday called for the register because criminals often used prepaid phones, which can be bought without identification, because they believe they cannot be traced and can be disposed of easily. But Auckland Council for Civil Liberties president Barry Wilson said the plan was over the top and could result in innocent people getting caught up unnecessarily in police inquiries. Mr Wilson said this was not just a case where only criminals would have something to fear from being registered. "Cellphones are lost or stolen so often, and they are also passed on or sold at garage sales on a regular basis," Mr Wilson said. "If people who end up with the phones then use it for criminal activity the original registered owner can get caught up in a police inquiry and that can be very stressful." Mr Wilson wondered if such a register would require anyone who sells or hands a phone on to go through paperwork similar to that needed for vehicles.
"That would just require another level of bureaucracy, and it would be yet another intrusion on people's privacy."

If you look at the latest Police News, they discuss the new powers of these ridiculous anti-gang laws where the Police get the Attorney-General to outlaw a gang, and then the Police get to pick off whichever individuals they wish to claim is an associate. The article in the Police News notes that while some claim this is a breach of civil liberties, the Police News sides with Goff that some civil liberties need to be over ridden to be safe from gangs. This mindset, that any civil liberty is up for grabs in our new war against the terrorist gangs is a disgusting position to take – our civil liberties are the thing that needs protecting, not creating the environment that gives weight to a Police state, and here we are being threatened with the same argument that we need to allow the Police access to our mobile phones – breaching our privacy – to fight ‘da gangs’. We allowed ourselves to be frightened before and rush through the Terrorism Suppression Act – why are we allowing ourselves to be manipulated again, and you just know those bloody Nats will have no problem helping the Police get those powers of they get elected.

Latest Winston 'scandal' - compared to National scandal about to drop

PM admits scotching consul bid
Prime Minister Helen Clark has admitted she scotched Winston Peters' attempts to appoint Owen Glenn as honorary consul to Monaco after hearing the billionaire had given her foreign minister $100,000. The revelation late yesterday came as Clark sought to distance herself from a fresh scandal enveloping the New Zealand First leader over his dealings with Glenn and the businessman's bid for a diplomatic post. Papers released under the Official Information Act yesterday to TVNZ show Peters was involved in trying to get Glenn appointed as New Zealand's honorary consul to Monaco. Peters has maintained that he had little to do with Glenn's unsuccessful bid to be appointed as honorary consul in his adopted home. But email correspondence between officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade shows Peters pushed the case hard and gave his department a hurry-up for not moving fast enough on the appointment, asking New Zealand's Ambassador in France to meet urgently with Glenn in Monaco about the role.

Oh for God’s sake – YAWN! So what Peters pushed for Owen to be looked at, it was turned down, they even ended up suggesting someone else who lives in Monaco all the time rather than the 3 months Owen spends there. This is tired and is nothing compared to what is about to be released regarding National. If I were John Key, I’d be a lot more worried about what is about to drop than papers showing Winston pushed to see if Owen was acceptable for Monaco, my guess is that no one will be talking about Winston and Owen next week.


Cash not linked to Monaco role - Glenn and Peters
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters and billionaire Owen Glenn both say there was no connection between a large donation to the party and Mr Peters backing the expatriate's bid for a diplomatic position. Mr Glenn gave NZ First $100,000 and Mr Peters, in his role as Foreign Minister, supported his bid to become honorary consul of Monaco. Mr Peters, stood down from his ministerial roles while donation allegations are investigated, has maintained he did not know about the donation to his party but Parliament's privileges committee found he did and it heard evidence that he asked for the money. Official documents released yesterday showed an email trail in which Mr Peters pushed the Foreign Affairs Ministry (Mfat) hard to have Mr Glenn appointed to the position. Mr Peters told Radio New Zealand today that he only ever asked the ministry to investigate the merit in appointing an honorary consul in Monaco, and he did not push for any particular person to be appointed to the role.

However, among the documents released was an April 19, 2007, memo from Mfat chief executive Simon Murdoch which said Mr Peters "wants to appoint an honorary consul in Monaco. It is a distinguished expat of his choice". Another memo talks about Mr Peters being annoyed progress was so slow. Mr Peters said the decision on an appointment in Monaco was subject to the same "tardy" decision-making by Mfat that he experienced over a decision on a similar appointment in the Ukraine, and the organisation of his trip to North Korea. "I wanted them to give me the answer - do we need a consul today, in 2007, in Monaco and, if so, would you check this man (Mr Glenn) out." When the ministry came back and said a consul was not needed in Monaco "that was the end of it", Mr Peters said. Mr Glenn told Newstalk ZB he initially told Labour Party president Mike Williams he would like to be honorary consul in Monaco because New Zealand was not represented. The suggestion was passed to Prime Minister Helen Clark and Mr Glenn said he was then told by Mr Williams there was no objection but the decision lay with Mr Peters. Mr Glenn said Mr Peters "favoured the idea". He later gave $100,000 to Mr Peters but said there was no connection between that donation and the honorary consul's position. "These are separate things. I am trying to be a nice New Zealander if you like and people are trying to make something that is serious out of it."

Isn't it nice to see that both dear old crocodiles can at least get one part of their story straight and that is apparently in the world of nudge, nudge, wink, wink one can still have chinese walls created to help focus oneself on the issues at hand. My guess is that come next week - perhaps Wednesday before the election, we won't be talking about Winston.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

NZD crisis: fair warning

[UPDATE: 29/10/2008 (the day after)
What the RBNZ is saying is that they anticipate an emergency situation arising where "markets become dysfunctional" ie. the day everyone decides to stop lending us their money. At what rate is the swap set at I wonder. I don't know the mechanics of how it will go down. If this is going to be used to defend the NZD - to put a floor on the exchange rate - it could be courting danger. The RBNZ was probably reasonable in entering the market to buy USD at 74 and 75c (as I recall) but would they be smart to start buying at 55 or 54... or 53... or 50... keep going. I think the US is in a poor condition long-term and actually grossly over-valued right now. It would be ill-advised to start buying USD at such a dip. But as I said I don't know the details just what the statement above says. I believe the Icelanders - in their desperation - even tried to peg themselves to the Euro at one point in their bumpy ride to the begging bowl of the IMF. But let's not go there.]

Today's situation:

My previous calls:

This was the headline I said would put a bullet in us. I was saying it on Sunday, last fortnight, and in May and in fact ever since I started this blog in 2005. Here are some of the many examples of my unheeded warnings a selection of which appear in images above.

So the crunch time - long predicted by myself at least - seems to have arrived.

Fortunately the credit agencies are spraying lead into other countries at the same time, so we are limping through without as much damage to our exchange rate as would otherwise have been the case. At least that is the situation today. The downgrade came around the time we were beginning to tank anyway, so I can't claim for certain whether the agency was to blame or not.

NY Times:

Officials are growing increasingly concerned that the pullback is affecting currency markets, with economists warning of a growing disequilibrium in global exchange rates.

Although confidence may be shaken in the American economy, foreign investors still see the U.S. dollar as more reliable than most other currencies, with the rush to the dollar sending its value soaring against the euro, the British pound and a host of emerging-market coins in recent weeks. As currencies weaken in emerging markets including Brazil, Mexico and South Korea, corporations in those countries that have foreign loans or other bets in dollars are being slammed as debts suddenly become more expensive to pay back.

Winston ALT TV interview: Key "plastic," "superficial" - Americans ignorant

Just glimpsed the rushes of the Oliver Driver interview with Winston Peters airing tonight.

Driver managed to strike a rapport in the early stages by covering some history and that seemed to permit him to ask some tougher questions on his slush funds later on without the dialogue deteriorating into a combative bog of obfiscation. It was a very good, serious interview and I know that if any political leader other than Winston bloody Peters was saying it they would be pulling twice as much support as he does now, tainted as he is by his trust fund shennanigans.

So it started well, before Winston launched - albeit briefly - into swipes against the local media. He dismissed the campaign antics of rivals as disappointing: "bungy jumping... does this pass for politics?" He was scathing about the leader-media relationship that he claims has developed, saying it would not be allowed in other countries. "Holding a meeting with the media" rather than with real people at public events came in for particular criticism. He avoids saying anything about Clark, but on John Key he had plenty to say: "so plastic - so superficial".

The former Treasurer lectured us on the - now obvious - problems of having "the most volatile currency in the world". And while rounding on his former National colleagues over finance policy he makes the claim that the Business Roundtable paid for National policy to be written. I think it was at this point - and Driver comes back to it near the end of the interview - that he alludes to some up-coming scandal involving National's funding which he, naturally, doesn't want to have any part of... sounded more vague than threatening to me. But that's Winston isn't it.

Winston wanted equity stakes in NZ banks - the British model. All he said on immigration was to use Britain as an example of a trend to cut numbers in face of a recession.

Then Winston, the suspended Foreign Minister rips the Yanks a new one.

The Iraqi invasion was built on false evidence and he was against it all along he explained. He recommends the documentary on MacNamara and the Vietnam war, The Fog of War: "it should be seen by everybody". An excerpt:

He said, like Vietnam, Iraq was a "classic mistake" by the US because they didn't understand history.

And as for the Free Trade negotiations with the US, he said he lobbied the State Department and - it seems - lectured them over democracy and compared our two track records on the matter.

On the 1981 Springbok tour - a question Key lapses into amnesia over - Winston answers succinctly. Whether you are convinced of it is another matter. He believes in freedom of association in religion, culture and sport, so he did not oppose the tour, but the would-be Maori All Black said he never went to a single game.

On coalitions Winston described Dunne and Hide as selfish, but on which party NZ First would align with he stuck with his "the public will decide" position, leaving Key and the Nats - despite their stated antipathy to Winston in a ministerial role - nevertheless having to talk to him to avoid a Nat-Act-Maori-UF deal. Winston hasn't ruled out going "issue-by-issue". Winston would have to use the Maori Party as leverage to National to go with him should his party be returned, but he did not comment on the Maori Party.

He claimed to have been in Uruguay at the time of the anti-smacking bill. As a defence for not taking a position this would have to be one of the strangest. At this point I wished Driver would get him to answer the damned question: "You're not in Uruguay now, Minister Peters" would have been a beautiful line.

Then right at the end, ambush-style, Driver asks Winston about the whole Hooton thing. Cue tirade. Matthew Hooton is a "fascist" and his allegations "disgusting". Ahh, that's Winston.

Streaming live Alt TV and on Channel 65 Sky TV at 8:30pm.