Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Those deck chairs will look far better over there ...

Bristish chancellor George Osbourn is waxing lyrical about the recovery of the British economy (1).

The cause of his delight is that the latest GDP figures are better than the forecast for the quarter. He's studiously ignoring that even the improved figures are are markedly down on the previous quarter. So we're doing better than expected, but worse than we were. You can take what you want from want. Obviously, I interpret it as meaning Osbourn is insane and we're all doomed.

Osbourn's a bit like a passenger on the Titanic, who, clinging to the stern as it rises into the cold night sky just before its final plunge, delightedly declares that the ship is unsinking itself.
1 - "UK economy grows a faster-than-expected 0.8%," unattributed article. Published by the BBC, 26th of October, 2010. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-11624742)

The stupid is spreading

The coalition government in Britain recently outlined plans to reduce the role of social housing. This included ending tenancies for life, instituting a means test qualification and raising rents to match the market. I said, this was stupid. Unfortunately, it looks like the stupid is spreading to New Zealand (1).

Means testing is a disincentive for people bettering themselves. If moving off the benefit, or taking a new job is going to mean you have to move from cheap, secure accomodation to the expensive, insecure private sector, it is a very compelling reason not to do it.

It also changes the role of state housing. Social housing was intended to accomodate people from all social backgrounds - hence, the idea of a means test was anathema to the philosophy underpinning it. Obviously, people with wealth didn't need it - but if they had become weathly since being allocated a state owned house, they weren't forced out.

Reserving it only for the poorest and most needy would - inevitably - mean it would become the preserve of the poorest and the most needy. The 'social tapestry' envisaged in the classic model, where a a wealthy family might live next door to someone poor, will be replaced by ghettos, where poverty is the sole thing uniting the occupants. Being given a state house will not be a starting point for a new life, but a signal that you've reached the very bottom.

This has broader implications as well. Areas where there are state houses will become stigmatised, because of the prejudices that will accrue to the tenants. This, of course, already happens, but reserving state houses for the most desperate will accelerate and intensify the process.

Saying that state housing should be provided based upon need sounds good, but it misses the real cause of the problem - lack of supply. If there is a such a desperate shortage of state housing that people need to be moved out of them to make way for those with greater need, then the more sensible solution would be to build more.

Interestingly, this might also have the effect of lessening the upward pressure on private sector prices, meaning that more people would be able to move out of the public sector - if they wanted to.

Its a policy dressed up in the rhetoric of concern that conceals a rather stupid, and ultimately ideological, intent.
1 - "'State house for life' axed in review plan," by Derek Cheng. Published in the New Zealand herald, 25th of October, 2010.
(
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10682899)

Take your hobbit and ...

Why is it that - assuming the Warners claim that the impasse over the filming of The Hobbit is a result of unruly unions - they want more inducements to commit to New Zealand (1)? Come off it. We know you're greedy. Please don't treat us like we're stupid.

And will the national government really use this as an excuse for further assaults on employee rights? As if they hadn't already done enough!

Meanwhile, artist Tao Wells is lambasted in the media for suggesting that work is over-rated and soul destroying. Am I the only one who thinks this is odd? A major Hollywood studio is holding the New Zealand film industry to ransom, assisted by the mysteriously quiescent director-executive producer of the film, and the governments response is to roll over, offer the studio financial 'incentives,' and sacrifice our employment rights. Maybe I'm missing something here, but that isn't how your meant to deal with bullies. They'll just ask for more.

It's time New Zealand stopped clinging to the coat tails of a fad for a fantasy world dreamed up by an effete English academic, and grew up. The fascination the film industry holds is largely down to the failure of successive governments to halt the decline of real industry in New Zealand. Instead of actually encouraging real economic growth, we've resorted to begging foreigners to use us as a playground and a back lot for film making.

Why is it a big Deal when Chinese companies try to buy New Zealand farms, but not when American film studios dictate our employment law and demand bribes to honour us with their presence?

Tell them to take their hobbit and shove it.
1 - "Subsidies focus of Hobbit talks," by Martin Kay. Published by Stuff. 27th of October, 2010. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/4275149/Subsidies-focus-of-Hobbit-talks)

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Show us your balls, Sir Peter

If Peter Jackson wants to make The Hobbit in New Zealand, then it will be made in New Zealand; if he doesn't then it won't. I think that's pretty much the bottom line, and all attempts to blame unions or claim it down to Warner Brothers is just public relations.

Jackson clearly wants to make the film. I don't believe that he is not in a position to make it where he wants. Jackson, after all, is the man who persuaded New Line Cinema - with the help of a tax bribe from the then National government (1) - to let him make the Lord Of The Rings trilogy in New Zealand. If he really wanted to, he could do the same again. he's one of the few directors out there who can make whatever demands he wants - and given that his previous insistence on making The Lord of the Rings in New Zealand paid off so handsomely, you'd think he'd be in a very strong position.

Possibly Warners have told him that New Zealand is not going to happen, because they think they can get a better tax deal elsewhere. If so, as a director, Jackson should be fighting to make the film his way, where he wants it, just like he did before. If Warners are uncooperative, Jackson should walk away.

That sounds drastic, but the box office arithmetic is on his side, and that's what matters. The Hobbit, without New Zealand is a pallid creature, an imposter. The Hobbit without New Zealand or Peter Jackson will start to look like a very doubtful proposition, especially given the problems the production has already had. I can't imagine Warner really looking at that prospect with much enthusiasm. How many millions for a film a lot of people will write off as a sham?

In the end, I think that Jackson doesn't want to make the film here, for mercurial reasons of his own. Whatever drove him to insist on making the Lord Of the Rings in New Zealand - and become a national icon - seems to have dissipated. Perhaps he's now so internationally established, New Zealand is just a small place where he used to make films, and if decides to favour them with another one, and they aren't grateful, the Hell with them. If they can make Ents and Orcs with CGI, then they can probably re-create New Zealand as well.

As a final thought, I've noticed a line of defence being used quite frequently, which is that Jackson always treats his crews well. I'm sure he does. But decent working conditions and respectful treatment aren't something to be dispensed at the whim of the director - its by agreements between professionals trying to realise a common goal. We don't live in a fantasy realm ruled by a magnanimous High King who decides to treat the peasants nicely - we just like making films about them. Perhaps that's another thing that Jackson has let slip.

As I said, if Jackson really wanted to make The Hobbit here, he'd make it happen, or he'd walk away. His quiescence suggests that he's already made up his mind to move it off shore. If he wanted to fight to keep it here, he'd have shown a lot more balls than he has. it might sound unkind, but perhaps Jackson has reneged - the Wingnut splatter merchant has become part of the Hollywood establishment.
1 - "Behind the making of The Lord of the Rings," by John Braddock. Published by the World Socialist Website, 21 March 2002. (http://www.wsws.org/articles/2002/mar2002/lor2-m21.shtml)

The house reeks of death and dripping blood

Dearie me, I toddle off to bed, warmed by a couple of shots of Glenfiddich and I awake to find George Osbourne has destroyed the British recovery, welfare state public sector and economy (1). The absurdity being that he said he was going to do it, rather in the manner of a child announcing he's going to leave home ("I'm at the door now! I'm walking out the door!") and everyone just sat around and let him get on with it, and no-one stopped to think, "Wait a minute, this is madness." Some even seemed to get quiet tumescent at the prospect of austerity - though always by proxy. We always love austerity when the bite is on someone else, but I think we'll soon find that Osbourne's Austerity-litz very much has him in the role of the Russian Tsar, not as Napoleon.

Only a few sane voices warned that this would be a Very Bad Thing. but like Cassandra, though they saw clearly, they were doomed to be ignored.

This is a monumental fuck up. At this stage, jobs are more important than balancing the budget. That can be done later. It's all based on the monumental lie that the government had to act now, to reassure the markets. Utter bullshit, as bond prices had not wavered. It was a phantom danger, played upon to justify what was a once in a century opportunity to decimate (actually, at almost 20%, doubly decimate) the public service - and blame Labour.
1 - "Spending review axe falls on the poor," by Patrick Wintour and Larry Elliot. Published in The Gaurdian, 20th of October, 2010. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/oct/20/spending-cuts-george-osborne-axe)

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Tories trash social housing

Seems the Tories have decided to effectively dispose of social housing, once and for all, justifying this attack on the state in the name of austerity:
The social housing budget in England is to be cut by more than 50% in the Spending Review, the BBC understands.

Council housing "for life" will also be phased out, with the needs of new council tenants assessed over time.

Despite the cuts, ministers are likely to set a target of building 150,000 affordable homes, changing the way councils charge rent to finance them.

Tenants will be charged nearer the going market rate, to release cash for the building programme. (1)
I can see this having some very unpleasant consequences way down stream. Especially since it sends out the message that social housing is only for the scum at the bottom, so if you're in it, yo umust be scum. Moving people out of social housing if their situation improves is going to create social housing ghettos, with absolutely no cohesion, where only the dross live, instead of the vaguely aspirational communities that social housing was intended to create.

And we're supposed to believe charging nearer to the market rate is going to fund a meaningful building program? Fuck, I don't mind the bastards lying to use, but it's insulting they think we'll believe such obvious lies.
1 - "Social housing budget 'to be cut in half'," unattributed article. Published by the BBC, 19th of October, 2010. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11570923)

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Quantitative easing makes a comeback in the USA

Never happy are they. Inflation was too high, because there was too much money. Now inflation is too low, so they have to print some more money (1).

A cynic might wonder if they were making it up as they go along, or at least changing the rules when it suited them.
1 - "Fed's Bernanke signals new round of quantitative easing," unattributed article. Published by the BBC, 15th of October, 2010. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-11551993)

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Ha-ha!!

truly, my powers are without bound. Only a few hours after I expressed my displeasure at the continued employment status of Paul henry, the situation was resolved (1). Repeated on air mockery of women and non-whites couldn't do it. the combined opprobrium of 1 billion Indians he'd branded 'Dick Shits' couldn't do it. Self important serial protesters with placards couldn't do it, nor the combined squealing of the leftwing bloglands. But lefthandpalm did it.

I also managed to waft Len Brown into office in Auckland, without even having to state my desire. Smart cookies, those Aucklanders, sensing my every wish. I will reward them with bountiful harvests and clement weather.

I hereby decree that the Chilean miners shall be rescued, Co2 levels will stabilise at 300ppm with everyone enjoying a sustainable lifestyle roughly equivalent to my current level of material comfort. I order all gods, supernatural entities and spirits of nature to show up and admit they do not exist. I compel all my subjects (that's you) to renounce meat. Steve Jobs will realise what a pillock he is and Go Away, in the manner of Mr Henry. In fact, many people will realise they displease me and Go Away.

So many, in fact, that it would probably be easier if I did, instead.
1 - "New Zealand TV anchor Paul Henry quits over Sheila Dikshit row," unattributed IANS article. Published by the Times of India, 10th of October, 2010. (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/New-Zealand-TV-anchor-Paul-Henry-quits-over-Sheila-Dikshit-row/articleshow/6723351.cms)

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Go away, little man

So what does Paul Henry have to do to get sacked by TVNZ? The man obviously want to get out, yet TVNZ won't give him the satisfaction of sacking him so he can claim to be the victim of 'political correctness' from the comfort of a tacky talkback show, prior to attempting to rekindle his political career, in the manner of Michael Laws.

Henry has, in quick succession, insulted the Governor General and - worse - done so inaccurately, and made fun of an Indian bureacrat simply because he finds her name funny. This soon after insulting Susan Boyle and anyone struggling with mental illness, for which he was condemned by the BSA.

All these incidents took place on air, when Mr Henry was acting in his professional capacity.

Yet, security guard Louis Rawnsley was sacked with in minutes when - in his own time and in a private capactiy, albeit while still on TVNZ property and wearing his uniform - he approached Christine Rankin and quietly told her that he thought some comments she had made were insulting towards Maori.

A double standard? You bet your sweet life.

Though I should add that the rent-a-mob that appeared to protest outside the TVNZ studios was a bit tiresome and predictable - some of their placards probably recycled from the last time Henry shot his stupid mouth off. It reminded me of The Simpsons, where torch-and-pitchfork weilding mobs materialise at a moments notice.

Obviously, the semi-organised low level left media watchers have their knives out for Henry, enforcing their own version of the Hays Code, censoring people for unspeakable violations of their own moral standards. Henry should be sacked, which is proably what he wants anyway, but these self important placard warriors make me very tired.

There are far, far more important things in the world, and even New Zealand, than getting onto the evening news, waving your placard about opposing the vile misogynistic, racialist and dim sneerings of Paul Henry. On some level, the protestors and the protestee are just the same - more interesting in promoting themselves and fulfilling some sort of role they have chosen to play.

Unlike bloggers, of course ...

Coalition scorecard - child benefit

-1 ... Scrapping child benefit for high tax earners, creating a glaring anomaly. A tiny tweak to the top tax rate would have been fairer, but blind ideology stops the Tories being sensible.
-1 ... Stupid and unnecessary law allowing councils to prioritise locals over immigrants in allocating council housing, rather than simply basing it on need - even though immigrants only make up 2% of the social housing sector.
-1 ... Reneging on pre-election calls by both coalition members for an inquiry into energy pricing.
-1 ... Ending secure tenancies for council tenants. Missing the heart of the problem (stock supply) and acting as a disincentive for people to better themselves.
+1 ... Nick Clegg calling the Iraq invasion illegal. And Damien green declaring a burqua ban would be 'unBritish.'
-1 ... Ill conceived NHS reforms.
+1 ... Scrapping the police's power to stop and search without suspicion.
-1 ... Cancelling school building programme. Idiotic, both in the short and long term.
+1 ... Inquiry into allegations of torture.
+1 ... Raising the tax free threshold a touch.
-3 ... VAT at 20%. Take that, pensioners and unemployed types! And for all the other ridiculously unnecessary austerity measures.
-1 ... Not changing the CGT rates to match income tax rates.
-1 ... Cameron and Osborne going overboard with the debt crisis rhetoric. Don't they realize they've won the election and have to actually act responsibly, now?
+1 ... Opening the books on spending. Possibly just to humiliate the last administration, but still a good move towards openness.
-1 ... Hague's empty words on IDF killings. After ripping off our passports, why are we still talking to these murderous savages?
-1 ... Cutting business tax. Don't these fuckers know there is a DeT MowTIN?
-1 ... Osbourne trying to hold off on it, pandering to wealthy Tories.
+1 ... Increasing the capital gains tax, but ...
-1 ... Plans to reduce the number of constituencies a VERY BAD THING.
+1 ....$10 billion of new spending. Even better, it makes the Tories look like scaremongering hypocrites.
+1 ... The 55% rule is a good thing, would be even better at 66%.
+1 ... Tax cut for the poorest, funded by the wealthiest. good and redistributive.

OVERALL: -1/10. The coalition moves into negative territory following the stupid decision to cancel child benefit for high earners (1), creating a disparity where families with two income may still receive the benefit when they earn far than a family on a single income. Simply unfair, stupid and wrong. A tweak to the top tax rate would have accomplished the same saving far more equitably, but the Tories are simply too ideologically blinkered to consider something as straightforward as that.
1 - "David Cameron 'sorry' child benefit cut was not in Tory manifesto," by Patrick Wintour and Nicholas Watt. Published in The guardian, 5th of October, 2010. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/oct/05/david-cameron-child-benefit-cut)

Friday, 1 October 2010

Closing thoughts on the Labour Party conference

I'm surprised to find myself feeling a little bit hopeful.

I always thought that Ed Miliband would eventually win, by virtue of being everyone's second choice. I have also opined I didn't think he'd be much cop as leader - too young and too wishy-washy. So I'm not susprised to see him elevated, but I'm surprised to find myself feeling un-despairing about it.

Partly, it's a negative emotion. I would have been absolutely horrified if David Milliband had won. I truly can't fathom the minds of those complaining that the wrong brother was elected (As I've quipped before, I'm more of the opinion it was the wrong Ed). Are they talking about the same David Milliband? The Iraq war supporting Milliband who was foreign secretary when people were being trafficked through Britain en route to secret torture facilities in third world Hell holes? The one who - less maturely, but it still has to be said - looks so awkward and odd he makes Ed Milliband look good? The one who comes across as the class sneak on a power trip? Sorry, no, never.

As for the wailing an gnashing about Milliaband's union support - what of it? It is the Labour Party, after all, the party of organised workers. I'll infinitely glad that the unions trumped the wishes of the arrogant and over-powered parliamentary party. It's bad enough that the PLP decided who should get on the leadership shortlist - isn't that enough for them? Having exercised that much power, can't they vote as ordinary members of the party?

There are vague positives as well. Ed Milliband has made some promising noises - too early for anything more, since he doesn't even have a shadow cabinet yet - and he's had the courage to identify what he thinks are the failures of the previous administration. Astonishingly, he even managed to identify the right ones, rather than blaming defeat on the party's failure to be even more revoltingly Blairite.

Whether or not he can deliver anything remains to be seen, of course.

Even the Tories don't want the Tories

ICM's latest poll puts the two main parties pretty much level - Labour a snivel ahead, but all within the margin of error, so nothing to be excited about. Generally matches the trend in YouGov daily polls, thought it puts the Lib Dem support somewhat higher.

CON - 35%
LAB - 37%
LIB DEM - 18%
OTHER - 10%

UK polling Report highlights an interesting oddity:
A final intriguing point was ICM’s question on what people would like to happen at the next election. The overall picture was that 40% wanted a Conservative led government (19% on their own, 21% with the Lib Dems), 39% a Labour led government (26% on their own, 13% with the Lib Dems). The interesting bit was that amongst Conservative voters only 50% wanted the Conservatives on their own, 41% prefered a Con-LD coalition. In contrast, when YouGov have asked the same question they have found 72% of Conservatives would prefer the party to rule alone, 25% prefer the Con-LD coalition. (1)
So the majority of the faction that want a Conservative led government would prefer a repeat of the Con-Dem coalition, whereas most of the Labour bloc want a it straight. And even among Conservative voters, 41% would rather have their party in coalition, as opposed to in government by themselves.

Even the Tories don't want the Tories.

What's really interesting, however, is this suggests the electorate may be more electorally savvy, and receptive to proportional representation than the politicians think they are.

Before the Red Hordes get too smug, however, there is a bizarre twist - The Guardian write up on this reveals that, while the Tories don't want the Tories, labour voters don't really want Ed Milliband as PM, and a substantial minortiy would prefer David Cameron:
Labour's new leader has so far had little chance to make an impression. Among definite Labour voters only 52% say Ed Miliband would make the best prime minister of the three party leaders while 24% name David Cameron. By contrast, 89% of Conservatives pick Cameron. More Lib Dem voters also back Cameron as a competent prime minister than back Clegg. Among all voters, 20% think Ed Miliband would make the most competent prime minister, compared with 47% who say Cameron and 10% Clegg. (2)
Perhaps a Labour led coalition with David Cameron as PM would make everyone happy?
1 - "ICM/Guardian – 35/37/18," posted on UK Polling report by Anthony Wells, 30th of September, 2010. (http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/2819)
2 - "Morale boost for Ed Miliband as poll gives Labour first lead in three years," by Julian Glover. Published in The Guardian, 30th of September, 2010. (
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/sep/30/ed-miliband-labour-icm-poll)

Hang out the stars in Alabama!

Well done, Albanians, or whatever you are. Who ever thought The Great Fightback would start in Alabama? Seriously, well done. Nothi...