‘Steven..? Grab the cat…’

 

“Red wire, blue wire…”

I’m not a big fan of shoot ’em up fillums, but this one had perhaps one of the best opening sequences I’ve seen.

Mel Gibson’s psychotic nihilistic side was seldom more in evidence.
Found myself thinking of this scene when pondering the governing arrangement talks going on between New Zealand First and the Labour and National parties this week.

Do I have any great insight? Nothing I haven’t already shared with the readers of NBR. The fact neither Labour nor National are saying anything about what their policy priorities are, and allowing Winston Peters to look like he’s setting the agenda, leads me to think we’re not going to see a deal emerge out of these talks.

 

Election 2017 – on voting

Finding my voting place? (Scratches head…)

Where was the last place I had it?

Ok, seriously… I’m currently sitting in a house deep in a mid-Auckland suburb, at the tail end of probably the most interesting campaign I can remember in 21 years in the press gallery.

And most difficult election to predict I can remember.I don’t know what the results going to be – but there is a feeling that this is very important election.

On the subject of actually a casting vote, I’m not one of those political journalists who feel I can’t or should not vote.

Voting is a sacred act. People died to give us the right to vote. They died defending that right.

There is blood on those ballots. Human nature and a wicked world being what it is, people will probably have to die to defend that right again.

Which doesn’t mean, to use that often heard, simplistic phrase, “if you don’t vote you can’t complain”.

You are always allowed to complain. That’s the whole point of democracy, or at least one of the points of democracy.

You have a say.

Voting is the tail end of that process in which you have a say. Voting essentially picks who is going to form the government for the next three years. It is mostly about picking people, not policies.

Which means you can complain all you like about policies – and the people for that matter – but if the smorgasbord of people on choice, come election day, isn’t to your liking, you’re perfectly entitled to not to vote.

And to go on complaining.

Voting is not democracy. Its a part of it, certainly, but its probably not even the most important part.

Democracy goes on in the arguments, discussions, shared annoyances, shared ideas, shared hopes and dreams, of human beings everyday.

Nor do I believe there is such a thing as a “wasted vote” if you are voting what you believe. That right, to vote what you believe, is what people fought and died for us to have.

To me, the only wasted vote is if you vote for something you don’t believe.

Finally, a more general comment about New Zealand election is this: we’re okay, I think. If you look at the options available for New Zealanders, we’re doing better than most democracies. Views may vary intensely on the qualities of the two alternative prime ministers, but from my observation, and certainly compared with certain other democracies, they’re basically decent and not at all dim people.

And whatever happens at the polls, we do, I believe, have a more economically secure base than we’ve ever had before.

There’s still a long way to go: a country of less than five million people, spread over a land mass the size of the UK or Japan a long way from anywhere else and with geological difficulties, not to mention an inconvenience strip of water across the midriff, is always going to have a high level of economic vulnerability.

But for a whole lot of reasons, the scope for reducing those vulnerabilities now is better than it ever has been in our history. I just hope that whoever forms a government after this weekend maintains a focus on reducing those vulnerabilities.

Thought for the Day – from good ol’ Hunter S.

‘The main problem in any democracy is that crowd-pleasers are generally brainless swine who can go out on a stage & whup their supporters into an orgiastic frenzy—then go back to the office & sell every one of the poor bastards down the tube for a nickel apiece.’

– Hunter S Thompson.

Talking on the wireless again

Matthew Hooton is visiting the Americas,  I gather from the Twitter, to make a close study of the current nervous breakdown convulsing the United States’ body politic.

Personally, I rekkin Prozac is at the heart of the problem. Around 15% of Americans are on some form of anti-depressant and I think they’ve been overdosing.

Lescreen-shot-2016-12-28-at-3-45-28-pmad pipes were blamed for the fall of the Roman Empire. The elites all got lead poisoning and went bonkers, started making their horses into zodiacs, masturbating while the city burned, that sort of thing.

In centuries to come, I suspect, historians will recall anti-depressants had a similar role in the collapse of the American hegemony. Certainly, according to legend, the water supply over there is full of the stuff.

All that is by way of aside.

The immediate issue is that Matthew’s departure to the heart, and spleen, of the 21st Century Roman Empire has left a gap in National Radio’s programming.

So it was that late last week, from deep within the labyrinth of Radio New Zealand House , the call rang out, ‘Send for Hosking NO NOT THAT ONE.’

Anyway, I shall be on Nine to Noon this morning, shortly after 11am, discussing the state of the political world.

If anyone wants to hear me more regularly, I’m at NBR Radio here.

UPDATE: you can hear the audio here. http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/201821190/political-commentators-stephen-mills-and-rob-hosking

 

‘Sister Europe’ -and Brexit

Can’t muster much m0re than bewilderment and concern on this. I could see the appeal of the vote to leave – in fact I thought the Brits would vote to leave, and was rash enough to post this on the Twitter before the vote. 

It seemed to me that if the polls were that close the Brexit-eers would get over the line – that there would be a similar ‘shy Tory’ effect seen in the UK polls at their last general election. 

I don’t like the appeal to naked racism the Brexiteers engaged in.  I think you could make an economic and political argument for exit without going there – in fact I think the case for leaving, if this were a more normal time globally, is stronger than Remain, without raising the flag of xenophobia or racism.. 

But the timing of this is all wrong.  This is going to be destabilising at a time not just the UK but the world economy doesn’t need any more destabilising influences. 

If I’d been in the UK, I’d have voted remain for that reason. It would have been a reluctant vote, a very reluctant one. 

Anyway, here’s the Psychedelic Furs’ “Sister Europe”.  Seems apt. 

Buy a car and watch it rust

Sister see them fall to dust

They fall around

In another crowded room

Paint me like the shirt I’m in

Honestly

Thought for the day 

‘What makes a politician accountable is not that there are millions of people who vote, but that there are procedures of government that force him to account for himself….Lenin surrounded himself with a zealous cohort and said he was speaking for the people. In fact the people had no way of modifying his behaviour…’

– Roger Scruton

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. 


Worthy Pursuits [chough!!}

Wednesday. Lets see.

Got up.  Coughed up green stuff.  Had breakfast.  Of grapefruit and stir-fry garlic, ginger, broccoli carrots and almonds.  [what? Who are you calling weird??]

And tea. Lots of tea.

Got email about press conference.  Got another email asking about rumours about Richard Worth.

Cried off press conference as I seem to have a factory producing radioactive slimy kryptonite somewhere in my lungs.

Got tape of press conference.  Apparently worth has done unspecified Bad Things and is being stood down.

Way to go, PM’s office.  Excellent damage control. You just set half the journalists in the country chasing every possible rumour about Worth. It’s not like we had a lot on, anyway.

Got a couple more phone calls asking about various rumours about Richard Worth. I wheeze some I have heard.

By lunchtime I’ve heard half a dozen new rumours about Worth and I’m not even in Parliament Buildings.

Wrote column about superannuation.  Talked to some economists.

Went to doctor. Tell him I’m feeling better, he says no I don’t and writes out a scrip.

 Then he quizzes me about Richard Worth rumours.