Saturday, 25 October 2008

Interesting times in the PRC

According to the Telegraph:
China's economy recorded its slowest growth in five years at 9.0 per cent in the third quarter of 2008.

The situation has looked increasingly dire in recent days with export-dependent factories closing and laying off thousands of workers, with warnings from industry heads of much worse to come. (1)
The economic miracle of the pRC has been based on some very simple and unmiraculous realities - totalitarian brutality, combined with western capital, technology, and our demmand for cheap consumer goods with human rights optional..

Now the western capital is drying up (or, more exactly, never existed in the first place) and consumers in the west suddnely wondering if they can afford another DVD player, the PRC s is faced with a problem - the prospect hundreds of thousands of newly unemployed people and not 'organic' infrastructure to absorb them.

The social consequence of this could be immense - for the PRC, it could be the start of social collapse, with the newly unemployed resorting to banditry. Or they could be recruited by organised crime syndicates (I mean the illegal ones, not the criminal gang that runs the country), which would internationalize the problem.

The absurdity is that it had been suggested the PRC's economic growth would drag the rest of the world out of recession. Don't bet on it. THeir economy is as reliant on the smoke and mirrors as ours.
1 - "China to invest $445bn in rail system," by unidentified correspondents in Beijing, published in THe Daily Telegraph, 25th of October, 2008. (http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,24551437-5001028,00.html)

Thursday, 16 October 2008

My belated thoughts on the leaders' debate

First, I didn't see all of it. Perhaps the rest of it was really, very very good and would have inspired me to rennounce my broad-spectrum disgust with both major parties and their acolytes. Perhaps, but I doubt it.

My sole contribution to the debate around the debate. I thought both lost. Neither managed to appear anything other than a self-promoting politician canvassing for votes and try to weasel their way into our affections.

Even in the short time I watched, I became intensely annoyed by the populist pretentions of the twain [Ease up, lad, you sound as mock-erudite as Chris Trotter there]. Every time I heard Key refer to "Mum and Dad" I wanted to throw things at him. Equally, when Clark said "Kiwis" I wanted to yell at her to stop trying to do the 'common touch' bollocks.

Both of them seemed disingenuous. Key tried to weasel his way away from the vexing Sprinbok tour issue. Clark did not profit from it, however, because her little speech about opposing wicked regimes only highlighted how far she has come from her moral stance of 1981 - this is the woman whose government negotiated a free trade deal with the bastards of Beijing. She can't argue any sort of ethical superiority over the Springbok tour, without accounting for her current moral bankruptcy.

Finally, an improvement in the Blogosphere

Trying to view Kiwiblog (1) today, I got a screenful of this:

����rٕ�{-E�%U7AGId�ƒlM-�\��v @�D ` b��t���������Or~��vNHKn��\��Dbk�����o��{z���ϣ��y/z�Óׯ�F���Ə��ώ�E����7����ft<�����;�ǽ���o+Q�l2>�ظ��X�h�F��6~�X5}9�X���ޙt*�wل?�����������ە��Tz�Q%���ӃJү�p���ĝh8�t{I6����Ԗ��I�V�\��$f��a5�������tП$�I��r�T���vP�$?O6���Q�,�����/�{�hC�M��^r���E���>���������,�4�'�x2`�ٰ?F���d<���;�u�=�M����SMκ��d0�Ɠx2��U����?F��wPO.{��,I&��l��d�?�Ŭ���_6.��0���,9O�zaÆXo�ǕhŽ�F����Ӎ��=J����0uܛ$�~<F��x8�u۱p`c4� ��G�A%�K���(z�$��/�����9���i+n����4l�φ��� F��tu�F:�I�I�����oP� @t>ɑ��{�z����Nq�6ԑ��,��̮:�n��#(���I��=��P�0��-ζ�x��f�w��>�Z��ҙ8z���@ f�2?��Fc��������=I���<�>�����~�7����/��r�nr[����q�u�Ѡ�D�d AS(�������Y[k���b7�H>&��n_F:�P�{�����.TT���[;�u�Փ�`8^;���C��NҚ����`:Z;�B��^Ԟ�zIm���@�_�3hO��6��}��zq���� ������q��.�D�t��m^��k�"��~��_5JָJ�h�6N��}����I�3��Q�0��ڸ{#L'g~�u_6]#n���p�����ݟ�O�?��G��{W�\v�oL.�c�����;.�AM���!d��pJ��t0I��SN%\��u8���Q�u���V���������MN���:+��A1���~{=�9����u��4B�9M&a���޷���g8�;6_�js�k��1���q 7�&�h�;����.�%���e����{�P[�����c:���ψt~�����?G��q�Χx 5FSlNG��

Which is quite the most thoughtful, profound and erudite commentary ever posted on any rightwingblog, anywhere.

If only the The Standard (2) could aspire to a similar standard.

1 - http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/
2 -
http://www.thestandard.org.nz/

Saturday, 11 October 2008

English tapes - don't get silly, don't get nasty ... too late

The latest English Tapes (1) are a bit of a damp squid, to be frank. It's obviously a jovial conversation between English and someone else, not an admission of scurrilous deceit. In fact, the scantiness of the tape prompts you to wonder if the collocutor was the mole, and what they had said to prompt Mr English's response.

It smacks of entrapment, and a cynical attempt to make a flippant comment sound sinister. Given how weak i is, it may backfire on Labour and their tame propogandists, and serve them right.

The eagerness with which some left blogs have fallen on this story, and the phoney shock and horror envinced on (for example) the Standard that Key and English had obviously talked about how to handle the issue is a bit ... phoney. Both men using the word 'pathetic' to describe the tape is enough to prompt specualtion that the response is co-ordinated by Crosby/Textor - rather a far-fetched conclusion, and evidence that there are plenty on the left who are willing to do whatever it takes to win - precisely what they are accusing National of.

It's a shame to see a professional journalist like Duncan Garner joining in, asking English what he meant (3). From the context of even the fragment we're given, it is obvious he isn't talking about how the National Party are willing to lie and cheat their way into power before turning on us and devouring our children alive before us. It's clearly about a willingness to fight dirty if Labour fight dirty - "despite the highly principled statements" - which is hardly a secret agendum.

Why defend an unlikeable rightwing primitivist (4) like Mr English? Because I dislike lies, misrepresentation and character assasination as much as rightwing primitivism. It's the sort of tactics that are natural to the right - it's disappointing to see the left engaging in them.

Clearly, there are plenty on the left who'll do anything - "despite the highly principled statements" - to win. Which is why I'm sick of them. It isn't about principle any more, just about making sure your team wins.

1 - "More controversial comments caught on tape," reported by Duncan Garner on 3 News, 9th of October, 2008. View it on http://www.3news.co.nz/Video/More-controversial-comments-caught-on-tape/tabid/370/articleID/75161/Default.aspx?ArticleID=75161#video
2 - "In Case You Missed It," posted by all_your_base on The Standard, 10th of October, 2008. (http://www.thestandard.org.nz/in-case-you-missed-it/)
3 - Garner, op. cit.
4 - "Bill English: Political views," Wikipedia profile of Bill English, a viewed on 11th October, 2008. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_English#Political_views)

Friday, 10 October 2008

I was, of course, completely wrong - latest polls

Well, I managed to make a right tit of myself in the polling pundit stakes. Not one but two polls (here and here (1)) indicating a drop in support for National and Labour's support holding up nicely, with the Greens looking spritely as well. So much for my previous prediction (2). Even bloody Winston is defying my prophetic prowess.
1 - Polls conducted by Roy Morgan, released 10th of October, 2008 (http://www.roymorgan.com/news/polls/2008/4327/)
and 'Helen Clark back in the running, poll shows' unattributed TV3 story, 10th of October, 2008. (
http://www.3news.co.nz/Helen-Clark-back-in-the-running-poll-shows/tabid/419/articleID/75328/Default.aspx?ArticleID=75328)
2 - As described previously on lefthandpalm:
http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/09/i-was-of-course-right-roy-morgan-poll.html

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Monbiot

A decent column by Monbiot on the bailout (1). It would have mor eimpressive if he'd trotted out the "socialism for the rich, private profit, public risk" routine in an article dated the 30th of August, not the 30th of September, but it is still interesting to see the figures he quotes from the Cato Institute. Remmember, they are clear-eyed, honest, neo-conservative truth-speakers, not shifty, lying leftist subversives, so when they say that the USA governemnt is a machine designed to move the American tax payer's money into the pockets of big business, it must be true.
1 - "Congress Confronts its Contradictions," by George Monbiot. Posted on Monbiot.com, 30th of September, 2008. (http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2008/09/30/congress-confronts-its-contradictions/)

Friday, 3 October 2008

More bilge from the Mail

I shouldn't be surprised by the Mail's vehement prosecution of its war on truth, because its a nasty little conservative rag just a couple of steps shy of BNP territory. Still, I have to confess to beingimpressed by the effontry with which they try to twist and manipulate information to create some weird little illusion that suits their jaundiced Little Englander world view.

Take this, for example:
Bring back the cane in schools, say one in five teachers
By Sarah Harris
Last updated at 1:50 AM on 03rd October 2008


One in five teachers would like to see the cane brought back in schools to help discipline unruly children, a survey has revealed.

They would back the return of corporal punishment because they have had enough of deteriorating pupil behaviour.

The research comes amid rising concern about poorly behaved children who routinely flout authority both in school and out.

The Times Educational Supplement (TES) survey of 6,162 teachers found that overall, 20.3 per cent backed 'the right to use corporal punishment in extreme cases'. (1)
So, one in five teachers support the return of caning? Which means four in five don't. 80% of those surveyed were absolutely opposed to the idea of beating children. But the Mail tries to emphasise the minority who yearn for the good old days of state sanctioned child abuse.

Bear in mind that teaching is a profession where people don't naturally progress upwards - you can start as a classroom teacher when you are twenty five, and still be a classroom teacher in forty years when you retire. This ensues conservatism is ingrained in the profession, contrary to the popular (i.e. Daily Mail) image of trendy teachers trying to teach five year olds to be gay (2).

It's more than likely that that 20% who support violence against children are - how can I say this - old, reactionary farts. It is noticeable that the Mail interviews one teacher and signally fails to give her age, even though it is almost unheard of in tabloid journalism to omit a woman's age. That's pretty telling.
1 - "Bring back the cane in schools, say one in five teachers," by Sarah Harris, published in the Daily Mail, 3rd of October,
2008. (
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1066786/Bring-cane-schools-say-teachers.html)
2 - "Teach 'the pleasure of gay sex' to children as young as five, say researchers," by Steve Doughty, published in the Daily Mail, 16th of September, 2008. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1056415/Teach-pleasure-gay-sex-children-young-say-researchers.html)

Empire of illusions

Perhaps it is my Eupropean roots, but Zinn's column, outlining an alternative means of confronting the credit crisis, doesn't strike as wildly radical (1). Perhaps it sounds like some sinister new madness in the U.S.A., but in Europe, we GET government intervention. We appreciate that no intervention is, in fact, a form of intervention.

So Zinn's suggestion that the government use the $700 billion to relieve families frightened of losing their homes (because people aren't going to spend money if they think their house is at risk) and create jobs doesn't strike me as something fiendishly Leninist. Quite the opposite - it is Rooseveldian or even Eisenhowerian 'dynamic government' - something that used to be very American, even very Republican, until about thirty years ago.

It's the sort of thing John McCain would be talking about if he was one tenth of the maverick he pretends to be. But even given this excellent and patriotic pedigree, I'm not optimistic.

Gore Vidal was tactless enough to announce the end of the American Empire, in The Nation, as long ago as 1986. He was even able to fix an exact date for it:

On September 16 1985, when the Commerce Department announced that the United States had become a debtor nation, the American Empire was as dead, theoretically, as its predecessor, the British. Our empire was seventy-one years old and had been in ill financial health since 1968. Like most modern empires, ours rested not so much on military prowess as on economic primacy. (2)
Time has passed since then, of course. The USA has remained the largest and most powerful economy in the world in the interim, though this is perhaps more due to the comparative weakness of the emerging economies than any robustness or revival in the US economy. China has been growing, but slowly - ironically the factor feeding its growth into a nascent superpower has been the USA's desperate attempts to squeeze every last cent of profit from light industry, gifting the Maoists what they traditionally lacked - expertise, capital and slick administration. In return, the multinationals got cheap labour, the willing assistance of an authoritarian regime and avoided all the pesky legislation that made making STUFF in the civilised world just too damn expensive for the consumers in the civilised world to afford. Meanwhile, Japan's emergence was hampered by one unalterable issue - lack of landmass. Vidal, in the same essay in The Nation, speculated that China and Japan might ally in pursuit of their common interest:
China is now reassembling itself, and Confucius, greatest of all political thinkers, is again at the center of the Middle Kingdom. Japan has the world money power but needs a landmass; China now seems ready to go into business with its ancient enemy. (2)
This seems unlikely at this time, as the two coming powers are too strongly nationalistic to share primacy. The spate of the Japanese attempts to downplay the massacres of Nanking is a symptom of this continuing disunity - it will delay China's supremacy, not not (since the USA is blindly giving China everything it needs) prevent it.

The illusion economic primacy has been maintained for a few years more, as credit was used to disguise the fact that the USA didn't actually do anything any more. Blue collar jobs were being out sourced to China and Mexico, white collar work was following the money overseas. The 'information economy' was sustained only so long because people were able to buy lots of shiny STUFF from overseas - made my child slaves in China, but who cares about exploited children in far away places when there's a nice, shiny new THING to be bought at Wal-Mart? Ironically, this desperate effort to maintain the appearance of continual growth and prosperity has sped the rise of China and the consequent decline of the U.S.A.

Because lots of people didn't have jobs, and people that did have jobs didn't have job security, the only way the quality of life was maintained at a level that allowed people to think they were still enjoying the good times was by continuing to reduce production costs - so that meant more cheap overseas labour, keeping retail prices down at a level where people could carry on buying their STUFF, and reducing lending controls so people could continue to live the American dream- not realising that the 'dream' was meant literally now, not metaphorically.

Well, now its all gone sour for them, and I wish them luck, because what happens int he USA will affect everyone else. Since the media is generally controlled by the capitalists, it will selll the bailout to the public, who don't want it, but will get told, over and over again, that it is essential they get the system up and running again, so that everyone can enjoy wealth and security once more. Only, the system has been shown to be incapable of supplying that to most people - a few people get very rich, and thus the idea that "average" americans are generally getting wealthier is maintained - the implication to anyone who dares to wonder why, since they seem to be an "average" American, they aren't getting richer, is that they should work harder at it, and they obviously aren't as decently "average" as they thought.

And so the illusionary empire will be kept going a little bit longer. The opportunity to change things, as outlined by Zinn, will be missed, whichever of the pawns gets to parade about the Whitehouse after the four yearly illusion of democracy has been completed. But the reality is that whereas before American capital was supreme even if the American people weren't, that is no longer true, an unpleasing truth that many would still rather not face.

1 - "From empire to democracy," by Howard Zinn, published in The Guardian, 2nd of October, 2008. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/oct/02/usa.creditcrunch)
2 - "The Day the American Empire Ran Out of Gas," by Gore Vidal, published in The Nation, 1986. Reproduced on
http://billtotten.blogspot.com/2006/10/day-american-empire-ran-out-of-gas.html.
3 - ibid.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Bullshitters

Scientists are suggesting (1) thatthe Earth may be "trapped in an abnormal bubble of space-time that is particularly devoid of matter." They even have a picture of it, to convince those who think a picture is worth a thousand words (i.e. lazy people):



They are, of course, taking the piss and waiting to see when someone finally accuses them of being bullshitters. The picture is obviously a photograph of a jellyfish and this is just the latest in a long line of scientific attempts to gauge the gullibility of the public. Up until now, they have been amazed by our willingness to swallow any old nonsense, if said authoratively and with sufficient jargon.

It all started with Newton, suggesting there was some invisible force called gravity that made apples fall, but everyone - afraid of being seen to be too stooopid to understand what he was on about - nodded and said, "Yes, of course."

Darwin said we were all descended from bits of snot washed up on the shore, and once again everyone - afraid of appearing reactionary - nodded and said, "Quite so."

Then they pretended to split the atom, having previously claimed atoms were the smallestest things there could be, and quite undividable. Again, the public bought it, even though the bullshitters went so far as to say a New Zealander did it, even though everyone knows New Zealanders are only good at climbing mountains and consuming methamphetamine.

Then the scentific pranksters realised that they could say pretty much anything they liked and came up with relativity, quantumn mechanics, string theory, dark matter, DNA, pretty much any old nonsense they could think of, and people still bought it.

This latest jape is going too far, however. I'm saying all scientists are bullshitters and I claim my prize. (2)

1 - "Scientists: Earth May Exist in Giant Cosmic Bubble," by Clara Moskowitz, published on Fox.news.com, 1st of October, 2008. (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,430943,00.html?sPage=fnc/scitech/space)
2 - If you are wondering why this is tagged as 'Climate Change,' you need to think about it a little bit more.

Tumeke

So, as you may have noticed, I'm totally pissed off with New Zeland politics at the moment. As I mentioned last night, there's only so far you can go with "I'm disgusted by the fundamental crapness of both parties and their poxy allies." So I'm not going to blog about New Zealand politics for a while, until either I have something positive to say or until I get properly angry. But whinging, day after day, about how I don't think neither party is worthy of being in power is a waste of time.

Final word (for now) to both parties - stuff you, neither of you is worth my vote, nor are your venal support parties. You are not political parties, but power parties - sleek machines designed to win power as an end in itself. You've forgotten why you needed the power in the first place.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Unhappy anniversary

This month - the 22nd of October, to be exact - will mark a year since River's last post on Baghdad Burning (1). That final message indicated she was in Syria, with her family. They didn't sound like they were in any grave or immediate peril, merely enduring the everyday misery of refugees caught up in the War on Terror - the sort of thing we pretend to give a fuck about but don't really, since we happily return the politicians who perpetuate the vicious, lying, ineffectual war - but since then, we've heard nothing.

I hope River has simply given up trying to communicate with a world that doesn't give anything more than lip service to its promises and ideals. That would be sad, but would be the best possible cause of her silence.
1 - "Bloggers Without Borders...," posted by River on Baghdad Burning, 22nd of October, 2007. (http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/2007_10_01_riverbendblog_archive.html#3939951753835220137#3939951753835220137)

If only I could get this angry

This is pure gold, a savage, near-deranged, vitriolic demolition on Sarah Palin and - more cogently, but just as cruelly - the constiuency she apeals to, the knee-jerk, populist, unthinking goonishness faction of American politics. It's strong stuff, but necessarily so:

Right-wingers of the Bush-Rove ilk have had a tough time finding a human face to put on their failed, inhuman, mean-as-hell policies. But it was hard not to recognize the genius of wedding that faltering brand of institutionalized greed to the image of the suburban American supermom. It's the perfect cover, for there is almost nothing in the world meaner than this species of provincial tyrant. Palin herself burned this political symbiosis into the pages of history with her seminal crack about the "difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull: lipstick," blurring once and for all the lines between meanness on the grand political scale as understood by the Roves and Bushes of the world, and meanness of the small-town variety as understood by pretty much anyone who has ever sat around in his ranch-house den dreaming of a fourth plasma-screen TV or an extra set of KC HiLites for his truck, while some ghetto family a few miles away shares a husk of government cheese.

In her speech, Palin presented herself as a raging baby-making furnace of middle-class ambition next to whom the yuppies of the Obama set -who never want anything all that badly except maybe a few afternoons with someone else's wife, or a few kind words in The New York Times Book Review -- seem like weak, self-doubting celibates, the kind of people who certainly cannot be trusted to believe in the right God or to defend a nation. We're used to seeing such blatant cultural caricaturing in our politicians. But Sarah Palin is something new. She's all caricature. As the candidate of a party whose positions on individual issues are poll losers almost across the board, her shtick is not even designed to sell a line of policies. It's just designed to sell her. The thing was as much as admitted in the on-air gaffe by former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan, who was inadvertently caught saying on MSNBC that Palin wasn't the most qualified candidate, that the party "went for this, excuse me, political bullshit about narratives."

The great insight of the Palin VP choice is that huge chunks of American voters no longer even demand that their candidates actually have policy positions; they simply consume them as media entertainment, rooting for or against them according to the reflexive prejudices of their demographic, as they would for reality-show contestants or sitcom characters. Hicks root for hicks, moms for moms, born-agains for born-agains. Sure, there was politics in the Palin speech, but it was all either silly lies or merely incidental fluffery buttressing the theatrical performance.

...

So, sure, Barack Obama might be every bit as much a slick piece of imageering as Sarah Palin. The difference is in what the image represents. The Obama image represents tolerance, intelligence, education, patience with the notion of compromise and negotiation, and a willingness to stare ugly facts right in the face, all qualities we're actually going to need in government if we're going to get out of this huge mess we're in.

Here's what Sarah Palin represents: being a fat fucking pig who pins "Country First" buttons on his man titties and chants "U-S-A! U-S-A!" at the top of his lungs while his kids live off credit cards and Saudis buy up all the mortgages in Kansas. (1)

Try as I might, I find it impossible to get so worked up about the New Zealand election. Perhaps, as an immigrant, this is because I lack the visceral connection to the country that makes strong men weep when they see All Blacks lined up, clutching each other in a heterosexually approved way during the national anthem. Or perhaps it all feels a bit small and unimportant, dwarfed by the American election, the credit crunch, the ongoing Hell of the War on Terror. Or perhaps I can't find enough in the current contest to get angry about - its hard to feel appropriate ire when your confronted with choices as banally rubbish as Clark's Labour and Key's National.

(Before anyone gets enraged what a mere immigrant is saying about New Zealand and New Zealanders, two things. First, stuff you. I'm gonig to say it anyway. Second, everything I say could also be said of Britain, where Brown's Labour Party and Cameron's Conservatives are cut from the same bland, gray cloth.)

In a way, this dismal situation tells us as much about New Zealand (or Britain, for those still grappling with import of the last paragraph), as the Palin candidacy does about the U.S.A. New Zealand has lost its ideological edges, and with it the individual's sense of how he or she fits into the bigger scheme. Call it society, community, class, whatever. It's gone.

Like the Americans ruthlessly caricatured as dim goons cheering on 'their' candidate, New Zealand is a country where the electorate are befuddled - though here the result seems to be a blurring of party and ideological boundaries, as both major parties contend that they are really pretty much the same, only better than the other team. No-one here really gets excited enough to cheer about politicians. At most they might do it in the hope of getting on the News, and subjected to a bit of gentle mockery for taking it all so seriously.

Our Palin-loathing friend sums up why he feels such rage her lurid bid for power, driven upwards by the tribal recognition of narcisstic boors who want to see a dim, reactionary puppet as Vice-President (as if eight years of having a dim, reactionary puppet in the top job wasn't enough), all so they can feel represented and empowered in some pathetic way:

... the most disgusting thing about her is what she says about us: that you can ram us in the ass for eight solid years, and we'll not only thank you for your trouble, we'll sign you up for eight more years, if only you promise to stroke us in the right spot for a few hours around election time. (2)
And what does our own dismally gray election slate tell us? That we, as a nation, don't care. As a nation, we no longer have a clue about history or politics or how our choices matter, and as a result, our political parties have evolved to suit our tastes.

It's a weird relationship where the paplable disinterest of voters prompts politicians to be less interesting and to offer fewer reasons to vote for them. It isn't just the electorate who are befuddled and sheeplike. The parties have also forgotten - or simply, cynically jettisoned - the principles that informed them at their inception. They no longer seek votes, they passivel try not to frighten them away by being too interesting, hoping that the electorate will blunder their way this time, or take a visceral dislike to something about the other candidate, or be attracted, for a few minutes, by a nice, shiny new leader or some empty soundbite about 'trust,' or 'Change.'

There is no Barack Obama here, nor can there be - he's too interesting. As described above, he might be a superficial, edia construct without substance, but the empty shell is one that people who WANT something different and exciting are responding to. If something like Obama evolved here, the party caucus would run screaming for fear of spooking the voters, who are nicely lined up (though perhaps, every time, a few less than before), lowing dully, to be herded into the voting booths to make their mark and choose a government that has all the individuality and charisma of an police photofit image.

All of this should make me angry, of course, but it doesn't. If the Labour Party can sign a free trade deal with the most reprehensible regime on the planet, and the National party's only response is to mutter quietly, "Damn, wish we'd managed to do that," the whole show is screwed. Which means there is precious little to get excited about within the political mainstream. And while a bitter contempt for both parties might be a reasonable response, it isn't one that can be expanded, profitably, for much longer than I have done so here.

So enjoy the rage of smrikingchimp.com. until I find a reason to say something other than, "Screw the lot of you," to our indistingushably crap political pygmies.
1 - "The scariest thing about Sarah Palin isn't how unqualified she is - it's what her candidacy says about America," posted by Matt Taibbi on smirkingchimp.com, 27th of September, 2008. (http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/17504)

Maori Party Choose to feed the tiger, in the hope of not being eaten today

The idea of a National / Maori alliance after the election seems outlandish, but given that strange and unusual seems to be the spirit of the times, why not?

The idea of an alliance between the two has been floated by persons as diverse as Matthew Hooton and Pita Sharples (1). The big issue that seperates the two is National's stated policy (2) of seeking the abolition of the Maori seats. As Hooton (3) points out, this isn't going to happen in the life of the next parliament. Even the next again would , at best, see the first steps towards describing the "constitutional process to abolish the Maori seats" (4).

The suggestion is that it is a non-issue. According to Sharples, "... the reality is that’s not going to happen in the next three years and we need to fight for the things to benefit Maori and New Zealand today over the next three years – I’m talking about education, I’m talking about health, I’m talking about family strength, I’m talking about community development" (5).

If the overtures between the parties alluded to are genuine, then I think both parties are being very short sighted. Again, however, this seems to be some theme for this election - choices are made because they are expedient, not because they relate to any principle, or even any strategy beyond grabbing (in the case of National and the Maori) the government benches) or clinging on to them (in the case of Labour and New Zealand First).

The Maori party should think long and hard before it gives power to a party that has committed itself to abolishing the Maori seats, regardless of whether it will be in this parliament or another. The indications are that the Nats are ready to do an about turn on this issue for the sake of gaining Maori Party support. But isn't this flexibility the problem?

If National are willing to switch like this when it suits them, next time around it might suit them to declare the time has come to address the issue of the Maori seats. There is not certainty that the Maori Party will be in colaition with National in the 2011-14 parliament, when the 'constitutional framework' will be set up.

A National/Maori Party government this time makes a National/Someone else government more likely next time. By concentrating ton the next three years and leaving the fundamental ideological conflict between the parties for another day, the Maori Party are playing into National's hands. If National win in 2008, they will almost certainly win in 2011 - and they will be stronger, and possibly have more options for coalition. The Maori Party might find themselves scratching their heads on the opposition benches in 2011, wondering why John Key and his new coalition partner won't eturn their calls.

And without the Maori seats, the Mori Party will probably be eliminated from parliament. Sharples can talk about focusing on the real, immediate issues, but if he doesn't expect them all to be resolved within the next decade, he needs to keep a eye on the long game as well.

As for National, if they allied with Maori, it is likely there will be a backlash and part of National's core support will break away to form a 'One Nation' style party, cannibalizing the NZ First constinuency and the National rump which finds the idea of coalition with the Maori Party unacceptable. That will make things awkward for National and though the new party (lead, perhaps, by Michael Laws - there's a scary thought!) will be a natural ally for them in the future, they will be a nasty lot and foist all manner of nasty, bigotted policies on the country. And it is a dead cert they'll be hungry for the abolition of the Maori seats.

[Hat tips: Tumeke (5) and Pat (6)]
1 - "Sharples says Nats 'privately' lukewarm on abolishing Maori seats" by Ben Thomas, published in the National Busines Review, 30th of September, 2008. (http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/sharples-says-nats-privately-lukewarm-abolishing-maori-seats-35828)
2 - "Maori Affairs, Treaty & Electoral Law policies released ," by John Key, published on the National Party website, 28th of September, 2008. (
http://www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?ArticleId=28602)
3 - "Why doesn’t National drop the pretence on the Maori seats?" by Matthew Hootn, posted on policy.net.nz/blog, 3oth of September, 2008. (
http://www.policy.net.nz/blog/2008/09/30/why-doesnt-national-drop-the-pretence-on-the-maori-seats/)
4 - Key, op. cit.
5 - "Nats say one thing in public and another in private," posted by Bomber Bradbury on Tumeke!, 30th of September, 2008. (
http://tumeke.blogspot.com/2008/09/nats-say-one-thing-in-public-and.html)
6 - This rant is an adaptation and expansion of comments made in reply to Pat's comments on an earlier posting. They can all be read here:
http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/09/aint-that-truth.html

Nasty little shit

So, Adam Tomkins, a Conservative MSP in Holrood, has brought up the issue of Where Richard Leonard Was Born.  (For those who do not follow S...