On the Collins reinstatement….

“Mr Key has used quite a bit of his own political capital in bringing Mrs Collins back.

The question is whether Mrs Collins herself realises this. Certainly comments from her this morning, that her year away from cabinet responsibilities has given her more confidence, will not strike her colleagues as being quite the lesson she had to learn from her 14-month demotion to the backbenches.”


From NBR ONLINE column, Collins Back as Minister for Trolling,  for those who have a subscription.

‘Hameron’ and ‘Piggate’

I am a bit worried  about this Winston Churchill quote now. quote-Winston-Churchill-i-am-fond-of-pigs-dogs-look-662

Revelations  – and I use the term ‘revelations’ a little loosely as things have yet to be proved – do rather cause one to look at it in a new light.

As noted here only a month or so back, when it comes to sex scandals, the Brits take a lot of beating. 

Err.

Well, you know what I mean.

The drug revelations about David Cameron as a youngster are harmless. It is not a surprise, for someone of that generation – and besides, contemporary and now journalist James Delingpole have dropped some pretty heavy hints along these lines in the past.

And of course he isn’t the first British PM to indulge in marijuana – Disraeli did. So, as an  aside, did Queen Victoria. She took it for her period pains.

I’ve occasionally wondered  if they ever shared a joint.

“And then, ma’am…we get de Lesseps to dig a canal at Suez! We declare you Empress of India and send a detachment into Afghanistan! What could possibly go wrong?”

[Victoria collapses in a fit of the giggles: then calls for early dinner because “One has the munchies”].

And it wasn’t just Brit PMs on dak.

Eden was bombed on meth at the time of the 1956 Suez Crisis. And Churchill, of course, relied on a variety of artificial stimulants (mostly rather well, it has to be said) to keep going, not only during World War II but in his peacetime premiership.

I can’t think of any British PM, though, who has been said to have engaged, as a youthful or other discretion, in oral sex with a dead pig.

Mind you, I wouldn’t put it past Rosebury.

But anyway, David Cameron will go down in history for this.

If nothing else, he has given the phrase ‘living high on the hog’ a whole new meaning.

To Blog or not to blog

I started blogging back in the middle of the last decade when my Better Half was quite unwell and it became a surrogate social life.
Its become somewhat moribund the last couple of years as other things have taken over, but it is 10 years old this month and a decade is kind of a put up or shut up point.

Having pondered the matter for a while, I’m doing the WordPress migration. So here it is.

Do not expect frequent posts. I usually do something on the weekend, but not every weekend.

It’s a hobby. I’m not going to make the mistake of thinking of it as anything much more than that, even though it is, obviously, a hobby which dovetails very closely with other interests and with work.

For those who read it all eight of you – you may have noticed I tend to do less politics these days.

Partly –  a very big part, in fact –  it is too much like the day job. When the blog started, I was still doing mostly weekly print work. The work work which was online tended to be business, finance, superannuation and insurance stories. Since around 2008 the online political work has taken off.

But theres a bigger, more important reason.
Blogging in the New Zealand context has come to be associated almost exclusively with politics. 

For a whole lot of reasons Ive never liked that and, more recently, its come to bug the hell out of me.

It annoyed me a lot, last year, when there were a few feature articles about the New Zealand blogosphere and it focused almost totally on the political ones. 

This was well before what people had been writing on blogs became – for the media around and about two thirds of the political class anyway – the story of the election campaign.

There are plenty of other things to write about, argue about, even get quite angry or excited about. And to me the most interesting stuff going on in the blogosphere wasn’t – and still isn’t – the particularly inane high school gang/sporting team level of “debate” (and here I use the word “debate” ironically if not totally and utterly wrongly) which goes on.

There are many different types of bores in the world but one of the worst type is those who think their political views are the most interesting thing about themselves instead of – usually – one of the least interesting.
Which does not mean one cannot have an intelligent,interesting debate about politics on the blogs.
My word, one certainly can. And the blogs I have always enjoyed often have a political aspect, and are frequently written by people with strong political views.

But they keep politics in its place. Where it should be. 

There are a number of specialist blogs adding much to the country’s conversation – on books and on economics, to take two examples not totally at random. 

I’ll write more on this, somewhere else, some other time. 


British Sex Scandals and Lord Sewel’s example

Not for the first time I find myself gazing, enraptured and filled with somewhat surprised admiration, at the Old Country. 
Her industry maybe crumbling, she may have lost an Empire: she may be chronically unable to make up her mind whether or not she is in Europe.

But my God, she still manufactures a decent sex scandal better than anywhere else.

For those who haven’t caught up, Lord Sewel – a chap whose role involves enforcement of standards of conduct amongst his fellow members of the House of Lords – is on the front of the Sun.

He has been filmed wearing a red bra, a leather jacket, and sniffing cocaine off the breasts of prostitutes, all the while complaining about how little he is paid, and about what an idiot the prime minister is.

This strikes me as being  about as British as you can get. 
True, these sex scandals are not what they once were. Lord Sewel – ‘Lord Coke’ as the Sun has gleefully dubbed him, and it is gratifying to know there is someone on that publication with an appreciation of the 17th Century jurist – is hardly one of the the blueblooded second sons of an inbred peerage who traditionally get themselves into these situations.
He is a Labour life peer, born in Bradford.  

Now, I am not a close student of Burkes Peerage, but I have an idea the Brit caste system means you can’t really be called an aristocrat if you were born in Bradford. 

One might express a quiet, private reservation to oneself about the wisdom of Lord Sewel’s use of his leisure time.
What, one might ask, is wrong with a good book, or a bracing walk in the fresh air?
But these are matters of personal choice. It may be,  too, that it was the path of duty which led Lord Sewel to don colourful ladies’ undergarments and imbibe white powder off the erogenous zones of other, colourful ladies.

We should not rush to judge here. 

I fear some who are charging the Noble Lord with hypocrisy, given his role and his recent public comments about the need to maintain high standards in Britain’s upper House of Parliament, could be missing the bigger picture.
Lord Sewel is setting an example, a challenge to his fellow peers.

This, he is saying, is how to maintain standards of conduct.

Beat that, in other words, is his message to his fellow Lords.

Here’s to 2015

It is usually around this time of the year a lot of folk take stock, discard the old, wheel the new into place, and make various promises to themselves about the coming 12 months or so.

I’m not going to get too carried away with this stuff. There’s a few priorities I’d like to be able to put a tick next to by around this time in 2016, I suppose: these involve nothing particularly earth shattering or original.

A bit less weight around the middle: a bit more money in the bank: that sort of thing. I’ve started a regular walking programme, or rather, a Sweating and Turning Red programme. By the time I’ve walked to the bottom of Mt Vic, done some weights at the Freyberg, and then walked back up the hill, my face makes the pohutakawa flowers in this picture, here, look a bit on the pale side.

Also doing a bit of writing, in a bit more of a focused and organised fashion. Deep in Muldoon-related stuff right now: it is oddly cheering, not so much about what happened then, but about today’s economic issues.

Things to Worry About

  1. North Korea.  These people have just lost their beloved Leader, one of only about three people north of the 38th Parallel with a weight problem.  These people are crazed with hunger and now with a weird collective grief.  Sort of like the Princess Diana thing, only instead of Elton John they have nukes. 
  2. Europe. These people are crazed with debt problems and with, in the jargon of the financial markets, ‘kicking the can down the road’.  They’ve now got the fiscal equivalent of stubbed toes and they’re running out of road. The thing about debt and deficits is that at some point you have to start the long slow paying back.  New Zealand learned this 25years ago – slowly and painfully, and our political discourse is still scarred by the decisions made at that time.  The EU can only get worse, and it will be worse for a long time. And they also have the baby boomers tipping over into retirement – at least NZ didn’t have that imminent problem in the 1984-92 period.  
  3.  Ditto the US. They’re now going into presidential election year which means the chances of anyone saying or doing anything sensible for the next 12 months is pretty minimal.
Cheerful sod, aren’t I?  Well, as far as New Zealand’s prospects are concerned, I am quite optimistic – over the medium term, anyway.  I’ve written about this here and here will be a third installment in the New Year. 

I’m not convinced 2012 is going to be all that great.  But the combination of diversification of markets, with New Zealand now being geared to the part of the world that is just beginning to grow; New Zealanders’ newfound interest in savings – for the first time in a very long time;  a political system which is not gridlocked and which is, however imperfectly, dealing with the country’s problems instead of ignoring them and/or just blaming them on ‘the 1990s’; and a very transparent set of government finances, means the medium term outlook for New Zealand is quite positive.

We’re not going to boom – and it would not be a good thing if we were – and a country of 4.5 million people, spread over a comparatively large and difficult land mass, will always be vulnerable.

But for the first time in my lifetime – and I’m 47 – I’m looking a decade ahead and seeing solid reasons for optimism.

25 Days In November

Will be spending much of the next four weeks writing about the election, along with covering whatever form the global economy’s ongoing impersonation of a hormonal emotionally incontinent 14-year-old takes this particular cycle.

Oh, and tax.  There’s bound to be some tax stuff in there. Yummy yummy tax.

The twitter feed is probably the best short form way to keep up with things, as the entire news industry is now being twatted.

I may not be making much sense by the end of the month. Wibble.

Despicable

I normally have a fairly strong stomach for some of the games and hypocrisies of politics, and it takes a lot to make the needle on my personal Outrage-ometer move.

But the political response to the court decision which says carers of disabled can be paid the minimum wage for sleepovers sticks in my craw.

National can find the money for BMWs for ministers but can’t find the money to pay carers for the disabled the minimum wage for sleepovers.

That’s not a cheap shot.  Ministers have made noises about how their hands are tied on the issue of the luxury cars –  but they clearly didn’t try very hard to free their hands.

On the issue of minimum wage to pay carers for the disabled?  Wriggle wriggle, desperate wriggle.  They’re even talking a law change.

Labour are no better.  In office, they fought the carers tooth and nail on this issue.  They didn’t give a damn about them.

Yesterday Labour MPs’ nauseating glee at the decision turned my stomach. The callous and nasty political games being played on this are absolutely despicable.

‘Sleepover’ care for disabled people usually involves broken sleep.  (one outfit I know just calls them ‘wakeovers’ – but then that outfit also pays above the minimum wage.  A number of providers do, in fact -but the largest, IHC, does not).

It is hardly glamorous work, it often involves cleaning up shit and piss and trying to calm down frightened and anxious people who cannot communicate, or be communicated with, very easily.

They deserve better than to be politicians’ playthings.

Rich Bastards, Poor Bastards

It looks like we’re in for another round of that tedious old debate about whether the rich in New Zealand are heroes or whether they are crooks.
This invariably turns into a moralistic whine-fest. 
  
Deborah Coddington kicks it off, ably assisted by David Farrar.   Danyl at the DimPost puts the contra view here. 
Where to start?  Well, I think Deborah makes some good points but she loses me when she talks of “championing” the well off. 
Successful people, by definition, don’t sit around whining no-one is championing them.
Danyl’s arguments, on the other hand, hinge on that sour, four-letter reductivist word, “just”.  It is always a good idea, whenever you see the word deployed in this way, to think very carefully about what is actually being said. 
This approach involves focusing on just one aspect of what went into someone’s success and implying its presence somehow invalidates the whole thing.
John Key and Sam Morgan were successful because they were just lucky, apparently. 
Well, no.  Other New Zealanders also set up web sites which copied eBay.  The fact you probably can’t name any tells its own story. 
John Key was part of a relatively lucky generation but unless he was a generation of one, which doesn’t seem very likely,  so too were a hell of a lot of other people.
(I’m not out to “champion” either of those two, btw – I’m citing them because others have. )
 
But I think we need to get a bit less prone to label all our more financially blessed fellow Kiwis as charlatans or silver-spooners. 

It seems odd to bewail our poor economic performance over the past 40 years and then in the next breath badmouth everyone who does do well for themselves.  

Doing well as a country, earning enough to pay for the lifestyle we think we deserve (and as a country we do have very high expectations) means learning to get a lot more comfortable with the fact some people are going to be better off than others. 
I don’t think we need a culture which “champions” wealth.  
But we do need one which does not automatically seek to pull down those who have wealth-generating abilities.  At present this is the default setting of all too many New Zealanders and, apart from being nasty and envious,  it is quite destructive.