GANGNAM Style: Visiting North & South Korea 2014 Part 3

October 22nd, 2014 at 9:00 am by Kokila Patel

By John Stringer

Koreans have a high work ethic and everyone works in Korea, from young to old. This may be because they have a much leaner welfare system than New Zealand [insert ACT policy quotes here]. You see few beggars and bums on the streets of Korea and lots of ancient grandparents minding family shops.

Which brings me to the bowing.  Korea is structured with social customs that EVERYONE honours.  A senior person is always deferred to (which had implications for Korean aircraft safety and protocols and prompted changes to inflight cockpit systems across all airlines. Co-pilots and junior staff had to be trained to question senior pilot decisions). For example, a younger person will always nod and use both hands to an older person, and serve them food or a drink, never in reverse.  An older person would only use one hand to reciprocate to a younger person, etc. This creates widespread respect and social cohesion between the generations, something we completely lack in urban NZ.

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Note the tiny cart underneath which will be pushed by an elderly person.

As an example of the work ethic, there appears to be a civil recycling system in the city, whereby businesses put all their clean rubbish outside, and an army of people come with little push trailers to collect it up. No sooner is it out, than it’s gone. I saw one man unpacking a fridge for his shop, and an elderly woman standing there waiting for the box. The army of collectors take it to numerous small back alley sorting yards on every other block, discretely tucked out of sight, where they sort it all by hand, and obviously sell the material.

We saw this in operation in a back alley self tour we took through the catacombs of Incheon to see what the city was really like for ordinary people. This process cuts down the need for rubbish trucks in the streets, which would be problematic. (Actually, a bus became cast down a sloping alley close to our hotel. Pretty funny observing the extrication). For the load you can see pictured, a person would receive a few dollars. These workers are often elderly people, perhaps without sons or daughters to support them. It’s a win-win system focused on people and their need to work and support themselves, keep the streets freer of trucks etc., and distributes recyclables locally. Again, an evolved social efficiency. Despite this, Incheon still has a litter problem.

Generally Korea is pretty clean and tidy, but quite badly littered in big public spaces (I guess just because there are so many people). But you do observe constant street sweeping with Harry Potter brooms by random people and shop owners.

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We saw only two ‘street people’ the whole time we were here. I think this is because Koreans are prepared to work and are less lazy than some Kiwis. I met this man in a Methodist Park dedicated to John Wesley and gave him some money. He was most appreciative and humble. None of the demanding attitude I meet quite often among NZ homeless persons who have a sense of entitlement.

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Prices and currency comparisons are easy in Korea. It’s Won 000s to the NZ $1, so $50,000 Won is $50 NZ Kiwis. Easy peasy when shopping and comparing. It’ll cost you about $20 for a full night out, drinks incl. which because of the number of restaurants, is much cheaper than in NZ.

I tried these silk worm bug casings (below). They are actually very nice. Also, periwinkle type shells – suck out the cooked thingy inside. Also very nice.

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Incheon is full of tall pack-‘em-in-sardine-style apartment buildings, and we noticed they are numbered 101 etc.  This helped us not to get lost, until we did, and then realised EVERY apartment skyscraper on every lock is numbered 101, 102 etc. So, that didn’t help. Despite a lot of utilitarian Soviet-style residential stacks, Incheon has some welcome modern architecture. I also like how the Koreans take a little time and not much expense, to paint the underbelly of their over bridges, so life at street level is a little more pleasant than Soviet concrete. A good idea for Christchurch. Such a simple inexpensive idea.

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Like London and NY, Incheon and Seoul are, by necessity, cities of subways. This is something Len Brown is attempting, but it’s simply too expensive for New Zealand. The subways are easily negotiated in a different language, are efficient, and very clean. But note your routes and take smart phone pics of your relevant stations.  You also need to talk to someone about the fare cards, how to top ‘em up at the machines, otherwise you’ll get marooned inside the labyrinths.  Best to travel in a pair or more, so you can hand back an access barrier card if your partner’s barrier pass has expired.  Problematic for us a few times.

Following a subway ride to Seoul it is a long bus ride to the North Korean border and the DMZ.  The pickup is a large square in Seoul, and while we were there, there were large memorials to the horrific ferry tragedy a few days earlier.  The outpouring of concern and care was very moving, and Koreans perhaps engage with such issues as much for the humanity as ‘correcting’ Korean mana, apologising and restoring balance.  For example, I went over and spoke to some police officers, but they did not want to be photographed with the ferry memorials in the background.

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The border with North Korea is scary.  This pic sets the tone.  More next time as we cross the border….

 

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Obama’s Last Two Years as President: A Democrats View

October 22nd, 2014 at 8:18 am by Lindsay Addie

I previously posted on how the next two years look for the Republicans post the 2014 mid-term elections. This post looks at it from a Democratic viewpoint.

Thomas F. “Mack” McLarty who was President Clinton’s Chief of Staff has written an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal which discusses how Barack Obama can achieve success in his last two years in the White House. McLarty asserts that the Obama presidency isn’t over.

The unanimous answer: not by a long shot. Every two-term president for a century has entered his last 24 months in office facing predictions of irrelevance, disarray and failure. Most have felt besieged by enemies and abandoned by some friends. “The pundits claimed the administration was ‘paralyzed’ and ‘dead in the water,’ ” wrote Ronald Reagan in his 1990 autobiography, “An American Life.” His job approval in 1986, as his administration was buffeted by the Iran-Contra scandal, stood at 47%.

But the last two years of a second term can be among the most eventful. President Reagan negotiated an arms deal with the Soviet Union. President Bill Clinton led a war in Kosovo and sealed a trade pact with China. President George W. Bush authorized the “surge” in Iraq and unprecedented steps to combat a global financial meltdown.

Truman and Johnson are two good examples of President’s who were worn down by the office. Truman by having to lead America out of World War II and dealing with the Korean War. Johnson became worn out by the Vietnam War. McLarty then goes on discuss how Ronald Reagan dealt with becoming a lame duck.

“Ronald Reagan, rather than being a lame duck, a virtual dead duck for the last two years, decided to clean house, get fresh voices,” Kenneth Duberstein, the last chief of staff in the Reagan White House, said at one of our discussions. “We helped him rebuild those last two years. So in some ways the last two years were the most important two years.”

This sounds very similar to what John Key has done post the 2014 New Zealand Election. I do think Obama should do the same and get his own “fresh voices” into the White House and Cabinet. If this were to happen it could well help him combat the perception that he appears to be too cautious when making decisions on critical issues if he chooses the right people. So can a lame duck fly? There are some interesting examples cited.

The fourth quarter of a presidency can free an incumbent to act with newfound autonomy. Past presidents have used the period to rise above constraints of their own party. President Reagan brushed past conservative protests to achieve his historic deal with the Soviets to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear missiles. President Clinton went beyond the Democratic base to normalize trade relations with China and to create Plan Colombia, in which the U.S. devoted substantial help to the fight against drug cartels and left-wing guerrillas.

Developing autonomy is something I think Obama must do otherwise his policy agenda is in grave danger of becoming irrelevant with potentially Hilary Clinton making a run for President in 2016. The Democrats will start focusing on her and stop focusing on Obama.

With the Republicans poised to take control of the Senate Obama needs to find ways of being his own man and work constructively with the GOP. The issue of a president dealing with both houses of Congress controlled by the opposing party didn’t prevent Eisenhower, Reagan, and Clinton getting things down when it mattered. McLarty suggests one issue that Obama could work on.

That formula will be harder to implement on domestic policy. But that does not exempt the administration from taking on the rampant dysfunction in our governing institutions. This dysfunction is the country’s greatest crisis. No problem, policy or politician is immune from its corrosive effects. It hurts the economy and U.S. standing in the world, and it fuels the malaise that has led a record percentage of Americans to perceive a nation in decline.

This would be good politics were the President to be bolder than his normal apparent cautious self. The Republicans would be willing sit down and talk turkey on this one. They wouldn’t have any choice as they’ve spent years talking about this topic. There is room here for some compromise and constructive policy gains for both sides.

There are three major policy areas where President Obama is already within striking distance of a deal with Republicans in Congress: tax reform, trade and immigration. Each would be a heavy lift, but all are achievable.

These are sensible suggestions that were discussed in my previous post mentioned above. So does Obama have the fight in him make the next two years a success and define his legacy? McLarty says yes but stops short of laying out specific reasons.

Critics of President Obama, including some who have served in his administration—including, most recently, former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta —have questioned whether he has the temperament to lead a divided nation in a time of international dangers and domestic gridlock. While I believe he has the discipline and skill to do so, Mr. Obama is a complex figure operating in complex times, and debate over his performance will continue through his last day in office, more than 800 days from today.

The euphoria of 2008 -09 have long gone and it must be said that Obama must take his share of the blame for creating so much hype in the 2008 election campaign. No President can possibly live up to such high expectations and maintain it for 8 years. There is a chance though for Barack Obama to finish with a flourish if he’s good enough.

 

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General Debate 22 October 2014

October 22nd, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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What will it take for John Key to lead National to a 4th term? Could he ever be NZ’s longest serving PM?

October 21st, 2014 at 4:22 pm by kiwi in america

On election night September 20th, centre right supporters, flush with the enthusiasm of National’s historic win seemingly achieving the impossible of being able to govern alone under MMP, talked excitedly of a 4th even 5th term and for John Key to be able to challenge the long standing record in continuous office of Richard John Seddon. But what is the likelihood of Key pulling this off. David had a more detailed post on this subject

http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2014/10/can_national_win_a_4th_or_even_a_5th_term.html

that covers some of the more technical aspects of governing that National must pay heed to – the suggestions in this post arise from studying the history of other 4th term governments and emulating their successes and avoiding their failures.

Since the commencement of the modern party era in New Zealand, Australia and UK (late 19th century) there have only ever been eight four term governments with four in New Zealand (these are highlighted below with an *). All eight are listed below in order of their longevity with the number of elections won in parentheses. Please note that UK Parliamentary terms have a maximum of 5 years and elections are called at the whim of the sitting Prime Minister. Australia, whilst also having the same 3 year term as the NZ Parliament, have held more snap elections than NZ due impasses in their Senate leading to what are called double dissolutions (snap elections of both the House and the Senate):

Australian Liberal Country Government 23 years (1949 to 1972) – 8 terms (won the 1949, 1951, 1954, 1955, 1958, 1961, 1966 and 1969 elections)

* NZ Liberal Government 21 years (1891 to 1912) – 7 terms (won the 1893, 1896, 1899, 1902, 1905, 1908 and 1911 elections)

UK Conservative Government 18 years (1979 to 1997) – 4 terms (won the 1979, 1983, 1987 and 1992 elections)

* NZ Reform Government 16 years (1912 to 1928) – 4 terms (won the 1914, 1919, 1922 and 1925 elections)

Australian Labor Government 15 years (1983 to 1996) – 5 terms (won the 1983, 1984, 1987, 1990 and 1993 elections)

* NZ 1st Labour Government 14 years (1935 to 1949) – 4 terms (won the 1935, 1938, 1943 and 1946 elections)

* NZ 3rd National Government 12 years (1960 to 1972) – 4 terms (won the 1960, 1963, 1966 and 1969 elections)

Australian Liberal National Government 11 years (1996 to 2007) – 4 terms (won the 1996, 1998, 2001 and 2004 elections)

The list of New Zealand Prime Ministers and their length in continuous office is listed below. Long serving Australian and UK Prime Ministers are added as a frame of reference:

Robert Menzies (Australia 1949 to 1966) – 16 years 2 months

* Richard Seddon (1893 to 1906) – 13 years 1 month

* William Massey (1912 to 1925) – 12 years 10 months

John Howard (Australia 1996 to 2008) – 11 years 9 months

Margaret Thatcher (UK 1979 to 1990) – 11 years 6 months

* Keith Holyoake (1960 to 1972) – 11 years 2 months

* Peter Fraser (1940 to 1949) – 9 years 9 months

* Helen Clark (1999 to 2008) – 8 years 11 months

Assuming the 2017 election is held at a more traditional time of the year (mid November) and also assuming that nothing occurs in the 3rd term of the 5th National Government that causes John Key to resign as Prime Minister, by the time Parliament rises in November 2017, John Key will have served for almost exactly 9 years thus becoming NZ’s 5th longest serving Prime Minister. If he is re-elected for a 4th term then in that term by early 2020 he will eclipse Keith Holyoake and become NZ’s 3rd longest serving Prime Minister. He would need to be re-elected for a 5th term and not resign or be ousted from office before midway through 2021 before he could claim the crown of NZ’s longest serving PM off King Dick.

In examining the experience of these eight 4 term (or more) governments, several key tactics emerge that should be closely adhered to by John Key and his inner circle. Suggestions for National are in bold.

1 – Economic conditions affect a government’s popularity

Economic good times underpinned National’s 2014 3rd term re-election. They kept the Liberals in power in Australia for an unprecedented 23 years – Robert Menzies presided over a 50% growth in real incomes in Australia through the 50’s and early 60’s. Share market and wider economic growth saw Thatcher and the 4th Labour government in NZ re-elected in the mid 1980s.

Likewise sour economic conditions, contractions and high unemployment have cost many governments power (Labour in 1975 and 1990 was swept out of power on the back of very adverse economic conditions). Likewise the Tories in the UK and Labor in Australia in 1996 and UK Labour in 2010 were ejected due to tougher economic times. A collapse in the terms of trade, a severe global contraction on top of the fall in dairy prices could reverse National’s path to surplus and leave it hard pressed to deliver on budget promises making re-election in 2017 much tougher. National’s growth agenda must proceed apace with greater thought given to easing economic reliance on dairy exports.

2 – You must have a plan of transition of power to a rival(s) rising in your own party ranks and this must be carefully managed

In Australia John Howard’s protracted wrangle with Peter Costello as to when he would hand over power destabilized the Howard government. Keating had to fight Hawke to take over Labor. The same tension was evident between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in UK Labour. Holyoake should’ve had Muldoon as his deputy and sooner to satisfy his ambition as his handover to his gentle old friend Jack Marshall meant he was easily outshone by the younger feistier Muldoon. Bolger’s poor handling of Winston Peters led to Peters leaving and forming NZ First. Clark’s failure to have a transition plan is why Labour is in the pickle it is in today.

Robert Menzies was the only long serving PM to leave at the height of his power on his own terms and to ensure he had a successor that was popular (Harold Holt). Menzies won the 1966 election (his 7th) and then after being sworn in as PM resigned as leader and then resigned his Melbourne seat one month later and exited Parliament altogether. The Liberals went on to win one more election and governed for six more years under four different PMs after Menzies left.

Managing Judith Collins will be one of John Key’s crucial tasks in his 3rd term. Mishandling her could result in backbench disquiet that might coalesce around a Collins challenge if National began to consistently poll poorly. Even if the failure to advise her of the delay in giving her the Honourable honourific was unintentional, it created ill will that could fester and was an early unforced error by Key. If she is cleared of any wrongdoing from the Feely SFO interference inquiry, Key should tell Collins privately that she will come back into Cabinet in the next reshuffle if she continues to exercise restraint with her behaviour and public pronouncements.

3 – Disunity destroys governments ….and oppositions

A case in point was Labour in 1990 – its internal civil war was one of the main reasons for its near annihilation. Its disunity in Opposition since 2008 has assisted National’s two re-elections. Menzies stayed in power so long because Australian Labor was disorganized, faction fraught and led by so many leaders. The Rudd v Gillard civil war made it easier for Tony Abbott to win their 2013 election. Australian Labor infighting in the late 90’s and 2000’s helped keep Howard in power. Key and his inner circle must make ongoing caucus and party unity a continuing priority.

4 – Whilst excessive reforming zeal can erode popularity, so can excessive caution

Labour’s flat tax in 1987 was a bridge too far for a centre left party and it led to the Rogernomics related revolt inside Labour that rent it asunder. Howard’s industrial reforms in 2007 were too radical for Australia with its entrenched union power. Margaret Thatcher’s Poll Tax almost killed the Conservatives until reversed by Major.

Holyoake was steady as she goes for too long especially as economic conditions in NZ worsened after Britain joined the EU. Kirk showed energy and vision versus a tired National Government under an old school PM. National in 1949 defeated Fraser’s tired worn out 1st Labour government. Key should not be content to do a Holyoake and just carefully manage the economy – National need to have fresh new policies but ones that are not too radical.

5 – Stay in touch with and listen to middle, centrist swing voter aspirations rather than the media elites, beltway types and the chattering classes

John Howard won several elections against the odds because he followed that advice. The media and opinion shaping elites pounded him over his hard line over illegal asylum seekers. He pushed for major Australian involvement in the War on Terror after 9/11 and he backed Tasmanian loggers jobs over the influential environmental lobby groups. Key kept pressing on with asset sales and the reform of the GCSB in the face of vociferous media opposition knowing that they were beltway issues not influencing middle NZ voters. Similarly his aggressive stance against Nicky Hager and Kim Dotcom in the face of a virtual media obsession on reporting these sideshows in the last election campaign was found to be largely in line with the majority of voters. Cynics will call this poll driven politics but Key has been remarkably adept at staying in tune with centrist voter sentiment and he should not swerve to the right to carve some kind of policy legacy.

6 – Arrogance in office is a vote killer

Her ‘my way or the highway’ attitude in Cabinet ended Margaret Thatcher’s long run as PM as she was ousted by fed up and humiliated Cabinet colleagues. The 5th Labour Government attempt to shut down political dissent with the Electoral Finance Act and its retrospective legislation legalizing the pledge card rorts were acts of arrogance that angered voters. Part of Keating’s problem when he came to fight his second election was a perception of arrogance. Key must do all in his power to keep arrogance out of his office and from his Cabinet no matter how fractured the opposition may be.

7 – Introducing more extreme policies from the more right or left wing base of a governing party is usually unpopular

Keating moved Labor from a careful centrist mild reforming position to more union friendly industrial reforms, aggressive native land title reform and pushes for Australia to be a republic. Clark’s 3rd term was littered with nanny state interventions like telling school tuck shops to stop selling pies, regulating shower nozzles, banning incandescent light bulbs and flirting with regulating sausage sizzles outside supermarkets. Allowing socially liberal legislation to come to the House (legalizing prostitution and civil unions) distracted from core economic policy and came to dominate the agenda a bit too much.

Roger Douglas’ flat tax proposal was too right wing for even the right leaning 4th Labour government. Howard’s aggressive anti-union legislation proved to be too right wing for the Australian electorate. Likewise Labour’s lurch to the left since it has empowered its harder left base with the change to its leadership election process and its need to fight with the Greens for the left vote has made it less electable. A classic example was the suite of envy taxes it proposed – staple fare for left wing parties but not popular in the wider electorate. National should continue to hew a careful mildly centre right agenda with incremental gradual reforms that allow prior reforms to bed in. National’s welfare reforms have been implemented successfully by following this strategy. National should attempt further reform of the RMA in a similar incremental fashion.

8 – Do not create too many enemies inside your own party

John Gorton the longest serving Liberal PM after Menzies in the late 60’s was toppled by his own party for this reason. David Cunliffe created many enemies in his caucus. Under Labour’s old rules, he would never have been elected and his presence as leader exacerbated factional tensions in Labour. Thatcher’s treatment of her Cabinet was legendary in its rudeness and arrogance. In the end they turned on her.

Key must be careful to manage the egos inside Cabinet and not get too far away from the opinions and views of his wider caucus. He should never become isolated on the 9th floor and hide behind staff and he should consult regularly outside his inner circle of Joyce and English.

9 – Refresh your caucus and front bench regularly

Holyoake’s government was tired by the end. Ditto Labour under Clark. Many 4th term governments succumbed to this and the voters tire of the same faces. National under Key has been superb at revitalisation and Key must continue to foster, develop and promote National’s talent inside and outside of Parliament

10 – Exploit the weaknesses of your opponents

All of the long serving PMs were adept at this. Rather than just watch their opponents fight among themselves, they threw down banana peels to kick this process along. John Key is brilliant at this – he uses Parliamentary Question time to hammer his opponents in the split second before they use Points of Order to object. He is also very good at exploiting the tensions between his rivals on the left driving wedges wherever he can between Labour and the Greens. Key’s tactics of attacking his opposition rivals with cheeky humour and quick, good natured barbs must continue.

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General Debate 21 October 2014

October 21st, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Part 2. GANGNAM Style: Visiting North & South Korea 2014

October 20th, 2014 at 9:00 am by Kokila Patel

By John Stringer

As mentioned last time… 

“Hilarimouse Engerish abounds.” Not wishing to be superior or disparaging but it is humorous seeing Engerish featuring so prominently across South Korea, such as the brightly neon-lit SODOMIA Hotel on Rodeo Street or the Queen’s Room. And it’s near cousins…

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 But at least there is “happymoney.”
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Hauling in to Incheon International Airportfrom Christchurch, the first thing I noticed was how QUIET everyone disgorging from the plane into the Incheon cattle yards are.  A large hall full of sardines, and EVERYONE is silent, respectful.  This seemed very unusual to me.  In European or American contexts, people would be chatting and talking. Not here. It appears to be a public mindset I suspect a survival instinct in a society so full of people.
I really like Incheon airport.  It is spacious, well-lit, caters to people, and has won several awards.  The architecture is spectacular. Public sculpture is very modern in South Korea.  Although, there are glitches.  This gigantic phallus on the main drag outside the airport.  “Sou Korea..velly fertile?” They even light it at night. Ahem.
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ongdo Central Park is worth visiting.  It has the distinctive “Tri-Bowl” building. It supposedly represents the “sky (airport),” “sea (port),” and “land (metropolitan traffic network)” but I just see inverted Columbia space shuttle booster rockets.
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Then of course, there is this (below) [not photoshopped].  “Sou’ Korean boys… velly good flow.”
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Korean food is flavourable and delicious; the style is to go to open air BBQs where the staff roast different meats in front of you and you wrap it in various vegetables and edible leaves with your fingers. A common drink is Soju (“burned liquor”) which is like Saki. Korean food is balanced with good fresh vegetables. Cost-wise Korea is about the same as NZ but eating out is a bit cheaper because they have the populace to drive down establishment costs, something we should consider in NZ (ie try some Immigration).
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Being rather high up, and from Christchurch, we were perturbed to find this small wooden box in the closet in case of fire. I guess you climb inside it? Inside was a tinfoil fire blanket and a thin rope that you tie to a hook on the wall by the window that doesn’t open. We spent about 20 minutes each trying to open the window at various stages of our stay, which is set ajar. Merely a hope of saving yourself as you burn to death. We never did work out how the box would help. Maybe just tentatively reassuring and ticking a hotel insurance box.  Everything inside was completely useless.

Part of our visit was for a wedding. One of my new relatives is Eun Yee Un who collected us and was a marvelous host, but knows not a shred of English, or us Korean. Yet we communicated well and thoroughly enjoyed eachothers company all week.  Lots of smiling and nodding and laughing, universal human language.  Koreans are most generous.

Next time…off to North Korea.

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General Debate 20 October 2014

October 20th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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What if the Republicans win the US Senate?

October 19th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by Lindsay Addie

With the polls predicting that the Republicans (GOP) will take control of the Senate but without a super majority (win 60 seats or more), what are the scenarios for US federal politics post the mid-term elections? The Economist has published an opinion piece speculating on the possible strategies (registration required).

Currently Barack Obama can rely on the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid with his obstructionist leadership style to jettison proposals by the House of Representatives and shutdown debate in the Senate. But if his party loses the Senate then Obama will have to either veto or sign every bill the GOP led Congress passes. There are two potential scenarios according to The Economist.

Pessimists sigh that the parties are too polarised to agree on anything. Plenty of Republicans think Mr Obama is a menace whom patriots must thwart and resist. Many Democrats believe there is no point in trying to cut deals with Republicans. Instead, they want Mr Obama to spend his last two years in office ignoring Congress and using executive orders and federal regulations to pursue progressive goals, such as curbing greenhouse-gas emissions, shielding illegal migrants from deportation (and even closing the Guantánamo Bay prison for terrorist suspects, if press reports are true).

What this means is no significant legislation gets passed before the 2016 presidential election.

Optimists retort that once Republicans control both arms of Congress, they cannot just snarl from the sidelines. Unless they show they have a positive agenda, they risk a drubbing in 2016. And if Mr Obama wants a legacy, he will have to work with them. Some of the bigwigs interviewed for this article believe that several constructive, growth-friendly policies already enjoy enough bipartisan support to pass in the Senate.

I agree that the GOP have been too negative. The conservative wing of the Republican Party tend to be ultra pessimists when it comes to working with Obama. They simply don’t want to say anything good about his presidency which does them no credit.

Hardliners have essentially given up on working with Mr Obama—unless he surrenders completely and lets them dismantle Obamacare. Some urge their party to ignore its own pragmatic wing and channel the voters’ rage instead. Michael Needham, the chief executive of Heritage Action, a conservative campaign outfit, denies that the 2013 shutdown hurt Republicans, insisting that it sparked a valuable debate about Obamacare.

Surely Republican presidential candidates will want to be seen as positive agents of change in a post 2014 Washington DC? So what are the issues at stake and the possible scenarios for Republicans if the GOP takes control of the Senate?

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Source: The Economist

Co-operation – Mitt Romney and his 2012 running mate Paul Ryan have suggested the GOP 1) pass some bills through the Congress that Obama may well sign but 2) also send some bills that cover populist policies such as the Keystone XL pipeline that Obama may veto. This is very much a two pronged strategy balancing attempting to govern by passing legislation but also trying putting the heat on Obama. Re the Keystone pipeline, if Obama for example vetoed it he could be accused of not supporting job creation.

Budget – Shutting down the government again isn’t going to help the GOP with the 2016 elections on the horizon. Obama and the Democrats would then probably hold the whip hand if the Republicans play hard ball by making them appear negative. They could though attempt to work with Obama on some modest taxation reform for example. Also the GOP will almost certainly pass Paul Ryan’s budget plan through Congress. Politically a good reason to pass a budget would be to put a bullet point on Harry Reid’s obstructionism. Also the debt ceiling is going to have to be raised again if defaults are to be avoided, so there will have to be horse trading between Congress and Obama.

Energy – The Keystone pipeline has already been mentioned. But Republicans are against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and their plans to reduce the carbon footprint. Republican Governors have also expressed their concerns and if pessimists inside the GOP hold sway then a Republican led Congress could step in and take action on the EPA’s spending. No real room for deal making between GOP and Democrats in regards to the EPA it seems.

Trade – With the lobby groups being powerful the pessimistic scenario may well rule. To add to this pessimism there are lots of Democrats who oppose giving Obama deal making authority. There is a full rundown of the politics of this issue here (registration required).

Immigration – The Republicans want significant reform of border security, visa tracking systems, employment verification and much more. This is already a hot topic with many so if Obama is perceived as to be too liberal/progressive on this one some the GOP will probably go ape and want to turn immigration into an even bigger 2016 election issue. Especially those who want to be the GOP presidential nominee.

Conclusion

So if the Senate changes hands then this means that the Republicans will control the purse strings and attempt to rein in federal spending and the bureaucracy. But on the other hand Obama and the White House will still be in charge of foreign policy and defence. He will also still have significant influence on how regulations are implemented. A key player in all this may well be Mitch McConnell who looks like becoming the Senate Majority Leader if the Republicans win the Senate. Is he willing to reach across the aisle and work with moderate Senate Democrats or will he be negative and obstructionist like Harry Reid? It is fashionable amongst Republicans to blame the gridlock all on Obama but the they are also part of the problem.

Barack Obama will have to decide what does he want his legacy to be? With his approval rating falling this will certainly be a pressing issue for him. His legacy would be enhanced were he to provide leadership and reach out to Republicans and attempt to heal old wounds. It that happens the GOP needs to be ready with a positive response.

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General Debate 19 October 2014

October 19th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Obama Appoints a New Czar

October 18th, 2014 at 3:54 pm by Lindsay Addie

Today Barack Obama appointed a ‘czar’ to oversee the Ebola ‘crisis’ in the USA. His name is Ron Klain who is in fact a long time Democrat operative who has previously worked with Al Gore (remember him?) and Joe Biden. Ron Fournier from the National Journal makes 14 comments about Obama’s foray into czarist politics. My favourites are:

1. We shouldn’t need an Ebola czar.

2. We already put somebody in charge of corralling federal bureaucracies and coordinating local responses to national emergencies. His name is Barack Obama.

3. He has a chief of staff, the nation’s chief operating officer, Denis McDonough; a homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco; a national security adviser, Susan Rice; a director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and a Cabinet full of secretaries.

Fournier is right about not needing an Ebola czar but Obama is a big government guy as are many others in Washington DC.

11. The choice makes sense if Obama’s main concern is a) the incompetence of his team, or; b) midterm politics. My strong hunch is it’s “b”. The Obama White House is not self-aware. It is nakedly political. The uneven response to Ebola threatens to be a toxic issue for Democrats, and the president is under pressure from his party’s desperate candidates to do something.

Charles Krauthammer on Fox News earlier today stated that White House reason for choosing Klain was ‘messaging’. That also strongly implies that the choice is political. Also how much is Klain’s salary going to be to do ‘messaging’?

12. Klain will report to Rice and Monaco. That makes no sense. Even if you think a czar is needed, and believe that the czar should be a Democratic operative steeped in White House politics, this reporting structure is a mistake. He should report directly to Obama.

13. Klain can’t be a disruptively productive force without autonomy. I have to ask: How many senior White House officials, including the president, have ever created an organization chart? Anybody with a rudimentary understanding of management would know that you don’t untangle a chain of command by injecting a new figure haphazardly into it. The answer is to put somebody atop it. Which brings me back to my first sentence, and the real problem here.

None of this is really all that surprising and is typical of the Obama White House. This is all just good old big US government progressive politics at work. Create more bureaucracy and make it look like you’re actually taking positive action.

14. We shouldn’t need an Ebola czar. The president needs to do his job better.

Cannot disagree with this either. Unfortunately Obama comes across as somewhat indecisive when big decisions have to be made. That is one the biggest problems he has.

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Yay we made it

October 18th, 2014 at 12:20 pm by David Farrar

Been offline for last two days, so great to quickly check the news (I have 30 minutes of online time only) to see NZ won the security council vote. Will blog on this in more detail in a few days, but for now congrats to Murray McCully, Jim McLay, David Shearer and the team at MFAT for their efforts. No easy job to beat Turkey.

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DPF out of touch

October 18th, 2014 at 12:16 pm by David Farrar

For the next five days I am in an area with no cellphone coverage and no Internet coverage.  Hence I will be uncontactable, for anyone wanting to contact me.

This also means I will not be blogging obviously!

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General Debate 18 October 2014

October 18th, 2014 at 8:11 am by Kokila Patel
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Can Labour ever again lead a governing coalition? – 3 scenarios

October 17th, 2014 at 6:10 pm by kiwi in america

Political parties are formed with a view to govern. When a party’s vote drops deep into the 20’s, what must it do to revive its fortunes and poll high enough to lead a governing coalition? Can Labour rise again as National did under Don Brash?

Regular readers of Kiwiblog will recall my lengthy essay posted on Easter Friday about the recent history of Labour; some of it based on my time as an activist there until the mid 90’s attempting to explain Labour’s present day conundrum.

In a nutshell it said that an attempt by the left of the party to seize permanent control of Labour after the massive post Rogernomics ructions under the leadership of Helen Clark, led to a gradual purging of activists from the centrist and right wings of the party. Clark, and her followers in the Head Office and regional hierarchies, ensured the selection of candidates in winnable electorate seats (and after the introduction of MMP, also the party list) that not only ensured she could topple then leader Mike Moore after the 1993 election but also cemented her power base inside Labour guaranteeing her an unchallenged 15 year reign as Labour’s leader. This handed power in the party to an increasingly narrow base of sector and interest groups such as academics, trade unions, progressive feminists and the rainbow coalition gradually driving out activists who were more likely to be white, male, socially conservative, small business owners and church going people of faith. After Labour’s 2008 election defeat, former members of the harder left New Labour Party, homeless after the dissolution of the Alliance, the demise of Anderton’s Progressives and the rise of the Greens, began to come back to Labour assisting in the movement of the party more to the left.

This trend culminated in the amendment to Labour’s Constitution at its 2012 Annual Conference giving 40% of the vote for Party Leader to the party membership and 20% to the affiliated unions leaving only 40% in the hands of the Parliamentary caucus. This new formula enabled David Cunliffe to win the first full leadership primary in 2013 despite having only minority support in caucus – the first time this had ever happened in Labour’s history. The result of his elevation to the leadership was Labour’s third successive and even more disastrous defeat.

When you drive out of the party its more centrist activists, you leave a vacuum that has been filled by harder left activists. When these same activists, alongside the more traditionally left wing trade union leadership, have control of the party’s candidate selections, its policy formation and now the election of its leader, over time you end up with a party, candidates and policies that no longer appeal to middle NZ and a party that is no longer the broad church it used to be. The party may be truer to its left wing principles but it now produces candidates, policies and campaigning rhetoric out of step with the aspirations of floating middle NZ voters that decide elections. National’s moderate centrist direction under John Key has become the natural repository for various key demographic groups that once used to strongly vote Labour and accordingly, Labour has ended up falling further behind National in each subsequent election post its 2008 defeat culminating in its second lowest vote this election since its formation in 1916!

Labour is now undertaking yet another review of why it was defeated and another likely more bruising leadership primary. Here are three possible scenarios as to what Labour can do to revitalize its electoral fortunes:

Scenario 1 – Status quo = no real revitalization

Any of the four current contenders for the Labour leadership are only going to result in variations of a status quo outcome. Here’s the predicted outcome if:

Little wins

With Cunliffe’s withdrawal from the race and the unions’ 20% vote representing a key swing voting bloc, Little stands a better than even chance of winning. However the manner of his victory (as it was with Cunliffe) would be an indictment of modern Labour because he is beholden to an interest group whose power and influence in the wider economy and political marketplace has waned to relative insignificance outside a handful of industries (ports and freezing works) and the public sector. Labour’s Constitutional amendment giving the union affiliates 20% of the vote reinforces one of the most unpopular and unattractive aspects of modern Labour – that of it being controlled by ideologically driven sectional interest groups. Little will find it next to impossible to campaign as a reformer of one of the features of Labour that is a prominent part of its lack of electoral appeal. Little brings other baggage. He’s a poor campaigner as evidenced by his consistently poor showing in both the electorate and party vote in the electorate seat (and his home town) of New Plymouth. Little is also a dour speaker and consistently underwhelmed in the House during Question Time. Whilst he has some experience dealing with the corporate sector, he’s not an aspirational Tony Blair like figure who could transform Labour into a viable New Labour type electable force. Key and Joyce will easily portray Little as a tool of the extremist union movement now largely discredited by middle NZ. The problem of competing for the left wing vote with the Greens also remains and the fault lines of the left leaning party and the right leaning caucus remain making a Little led Labour party just as unelectable in 2017. Status quo.

Robertson wins

He’s campaigning as a fresh face to unify the party. The party membership, bruised after the 2014 defeat, may give the leadership to Clark’s office insider who learned the Clark/Simpson winning way to electioneering and party management. However a Robertson front bench would make no more inroads into Key and the Nats than Goff, Shearer or Cunliffe could manage. The policies will be largely the same because the party is still controlled by the harder left activist base. Robertson may try to move Labour to the centre to woo back the old demographic groups lost over the last 20 years but let’s be honest, is ‘Waitakere Man’ going to be persuaded by a chubby, cardy wearing gay man who is a beltway insider with no work experience outside Parliament. It’s not going to happen. The same need for the Greens will hobble a Robertson led Labour Party just as much it did as the Cunliffe led one. A lurch to the centre will be bitterly opposed by the party’s base and unions. Robertson will campaign on amorphous themes of unity and reaching out but the ideological core of the party precludes the kind of radical shift in thinking it would take to truly win back the middle ground. Thus Robertson is also status quo.

Parker wins

Parker formulated and then campaigned strongly for Labour’s economic programme that was just soundly rejected by voters. How can he credibly repudiate that and try and steer Labour to the centre. The same internal tensions apply to him as to any leader. Parker is an earnest policy wonk with questionable morals – not a recipe to unify Labour and topple John Key. Again the status quo.

Mahuta wins

Mahuta’s candidacy is a long shot and more about positioning herself as deputy. How can a person clearly identified with a minority faction (Maori) who has a reputation for laziness and lacks a charismatic vision ever unite Labour’s factions and win back white male voters.

Scenario 2 – Labour fractures in two

The reality is that Labour has boxed itself into a corner with the change in how it elects its leaders. This scenario could only come about if a truly charismatic outsider or newcomer were to attempt to genuinely move Labour property and provably to the centre. The only current MPs likely to be able to do this would be Stuart Nash (invoking the name of his famous grandfather – we know already he dabbled with Simon Lusk over this very possibility) or Kelvin Davis (making the alluring pitch to be NZ’s first Maori PM!). A future MP such as John Tamihere could also drive such a move to the centre. Labour cannot win back the middle ground with its current panoply of politically correct policies, left leaning special interest factions, MPs with narrow appeal and head office dominated procedures. The man ban and any other gender based quota attempts would have to be abandoned. The new leader would need to be an obviously heterosexual rugby playing beer drinking male to counter the PC, metrosexual, chardonnay socialist perception and stop pandering to the rainbow coalition, reverse Labour’s appearance to be soft on crime and no longer embrace the Greens and their nanny state bans and interventions. This new leader would have to unequivocally sever any connection with the Greens and vow to never be in coalition with them in any form. Ditto the unions. This bold new leader would attack National’s centre heartland with a subtle combination of business friendly policies with a tinge of social conscience. Labour’s right faction remains in Parliament because they have a good number of the electorate seats and could just leave and form a new party. They would take Parliamentary Services funding for their Wellington and electorate offices and likely would get a fresh allocation to pay for a party researcher.

The drawbacks are that a centrist Labour breakaway would still be competing for the centre ground with a moderate National Party and also competing with NZ First. Whilst they would inherit the Parliamentary funding and staffing, they would lack much in the way of party machinery to back them as Labour’s activists are mostly left leaning and would stay with old Labour. Finally what would they call themselves and brand themselves? Remember right leaning Labour MPs (like Peter Dunne and Margaret Austin) left Labour and formed United in 1994 and only Peter Dunne remains. Dunne managed to ride a wave of disgruntled centrist support on the backs of a better than expected debate performance and brought 8 MPs into Parliament in 2002 but lightening has not struck twice.

Scenario 3 – Complete realignment of the centre and left parties

I’m of the view that this is the only option that could see a Labour like party be in a position to govern. But in order to do so, there would have to be a major re-alignment of the current parties that straddle the centre and left of NZ politics and changes of this magnitude could only occur after some key figures retire. Here’s the scenario.

Labour factures into two; a left and a centre party. The centre/right faction as per Scenario 2 merges with NZ First once Winston Peters retires. The only current NZ First MP with the electoral appeal and experience to run or co-run a centrist party is Ron Mark. Let’s call this party the New Democrats (a name similar to Germany’s long standing centrist Party the Free Democrats). Labour’s right leaning members would rally around a Nash or Davis or Tamihere leadership. By combining with Mark (as deputy) and keeping some of the NZ First policy orientation to the elderly, this new party could be good for 20% of the vote as a good base to then try and carve off soft National support. Such a party would be more succesful at this than Labour with all its baggage and factional infighting.

Labour becomes New Labour and, shed of its querulous right leaning caucus members, is free to become a truly left wing party. Mana is done as a brand after the disastrous hook up with Kim Dotcom but Mana hard left activists like Sue Bradford, Annette Sykes and John Minto will be more at home with New Labour shorn of all centrist MPs and members. All that remains is for the Greens to realign themselves and return to their true roots as an environmental party. This cannot happen until Norman and Turei stand down. The socialist elements in the Greens will feel right at home in New Labour and perhaps to consummate a proper marriage of the left, Norman becomes New Labour’s deputy; after all he was a hard left socialist before he was a greenie. This would reduce the Labour versus Greens cannibalization of the left’s vote. The hard left of NZ politics represents about 20% of the electorate. The remaining Greens can hew a consistent and principled mainly pure environmental policy line and be good for 5 to 7 % as they did under Rod Donald and Jeanette Fitsimmons.

Absent the factional infighting and lacking any real competition for the left vote and with a leader unsullied by caucus white anting or wider party unrest, New Labour could attempt to claw its way back to 30%. Add the Greens at 5% and the New Democrats could offer the balance of power that sees the election of a Labour PM. If the new parties operate more strategically (like National, ACT and United currently do) and the New Democrats don’t run candidates in Labour held electorate seats and Labour don’t run candidates in the ND seats, they would enhance the chances of a centre left coalition’s electoral success.

Problems still remain even with this realignment. What policy concessions would New Labour have to make to be acceptable to the Free Democrats? The harder left the policies, the less the electoral appeal. But this realignment seems to be the only hope the left has of ever forming a government – at least while John Key heads National.

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Santiago Day 2

October 17th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

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This is the exterior of the boutique hotel we were at.

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A few blocks away was the Cerro Santa Lucía. A great area to visit, and get excellent views from.

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After the initial climb, then some flat park like area.

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We were going to pop into the Castillo Hidalgo, but there were Police everywhere. It seems a meeting of Latin American Finance Ministers was being held there.

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The entrance to the Castillo Hidalgo.

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Then another steep climb to the top.

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A great view of the city from here.

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Sadly there is graffiti everywhere, including on the plants!

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A little ancient church on the hill.

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Many of the Police around this area are on horseback. A majority of the officers are female, or at least the ones we saw.

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Neptune’s Terrace towards the far end. Very beautiful.

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And at the entrance at the far end.

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This park stretches for several blocks, and is a popular place to relax.

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It has one of their many museums and art galleries in it.

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More of the park area.

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A fountain and statue to Rubén Darío. He was a famous Latin American poet.

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And the front of the fountain that is near out hotel. Took around three hours to do both parks, plus an art gallery.

 

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GANGNAM Style: Visiting North & South Korea 2014. Part 1

October 17th, 2014 at 11:00 am by Kokila Patel

By John Stringer

My eldest son lives and works in South Korea, and recently we got an opportunity to visit there as well as North Korea. Despite being well-travelled it was actually my first visit to Asia so I jumped at the chance (North Korea fascinates and appalls me). So, swinging in both wives and two Off Springs, it afforded an occasion to post some reflections by Kiwis and an American in our party of five on ‘Megasia’ in the style of DPF’s yak haul up to Base Camp earlier this year. The Marathon Runner followed me to parliament, so here’s some reverse serendipidy in the spirit of Political Hack (not Yak) Travel Blogginess.

We used Incheon as base camp (Incheon is kind of a whole separate city suburb of Seoul, with its own International airport). Here is a typical street scene.

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Obviously the first thing that strikes you in Asia, is it is very busy. Incheon is also very young; lots of twittering yooths and fashionable androgenous lovelies. Young Koreans ape western fashions, hairstyles and looks to-the-max. There are actually seminars and forums on how to ‘look more western.’ This tends to result in boys looking like girls, and vice versa, or like Justin Bieber (who is neither), but I understand that is actually desirable today. Gender is so passé and nineties. Queue the 2014 man/woman Labour nominee for Whangarei Kelly Ellis, or the opening monologue of the Capaldi Dr Who [Strax on the ambivalence of gender].

I suppose this is symptomatic of living in a massive culture where conformity is everything. Contrary to western prejudice, all Asians do not look the same; that is just ignorant. My son can tell Japanese, Koreans, Chinese and Malaysians apart. They are also very competitive, as much as Aussie and Kiwis are (who do look the same).

Breakfast with my wives at the posh hotel (Benikea Incheon Royal Hotel, I know, sounds posh, aye?) and I’m hit immediately by the courtesy and customer service orientation (not a sexuality) of all Koreans. But Engerish is still a problem.

“Serial” instead of cereal at breakfast written in perfect calligraphic penmanship and slotted in to a golden holder amid the virgin white napkins. This (inevitably) prompted a polite English Teacher “see me” guidance and correction on a napkin handed respectfully to the Consiergé so-as not to embarrass. Can’t help myself.

Hilarimouse Engerish abounds. Not wishing to be superior or disparaging…[Tune in for Part 2 soon].

Below: Something odd for breakfast. When traveling I am adventurous (more on that later). These actually turned out to be lychees, so not so weird after all.
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NZ has highest wealth growth

October 17th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New Zealand has topped the global charts for wealth growth between 2000 and 2014, according to a report by Credit Suisse.

The Global Wealth report said favourable exchange rates meant the median wealth per adult in New Zealand grew by more than 300 per cent, with Australia a close second.

New Zealand had one of the biggest jumps in currency growth against the greenback in 2013-14, up 8 per cent.

In constant currency terms, however, New Zealand’s wealth grew much more modestly, just over 100 per cent and in line with countries like Kuwait.

Not too bad.

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Dear Dita – Nz voted in 2012 to recognise Palestine

October 17th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Dita De Boni writes:

If New Zealand becomes a member of the UN Security Council early tomorrow, hoping to get a pay-off for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in schmoozing we’ve done to get there, let us see how much of an independent voice we will retain. …

Nevertheless, if we get there, the true test of New Zealand’s independence of thought may come sooner than we think. A movement is gaining pace for countries around the world to recognise the independent state of Palestine, with the British Government’s House of Commons having just voted to do exactly that. The vote is largely symbolic – Prime Minister David Cameron and many of his ministers abstained. But it comes in a week in which Sweden became the first major European country to recognise the Palestinian state, and also within a week in which many of the world’s largest countries voted to give Palestine $5 billion to rebuild itself after the devastating 50-day war earlier this year.

The world is largely aghast and impatient with the continuing blockade of Gaza, the repression of its citizens, and settlements that continue to encroach on their land. Yet America continues to stymie efforts to grant Palestine any kind of legitimacy.

Currently, all Five Eyes countries, led by the US and including New Zealand, refuse to recognise an independent Palestine. Will we be able to take a contrary view, even if we wanted to, if we are sitting at the top table after tomorrow?

Before you lambast NZ as being a vassal of other countries, purely because we have an intelligence sharing agreement, it would be useful to check history.

In November 2012 Stuff reported:

New Zealand has voted in favour of a United Nations resolution recognising a state of Palestine.

The UN General Assembly today overwhelmingly voted to grant Palestinians “non-member state” UN observer status.

Now to be fair to Dita, I doubt  many people recall a story from a couple of years ago about NZ voting to recognise Palestine. But it would be useful to check, before asserting that New Zealand refuses to recognise Palestine.

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General Debate 17 October 2014

October 17th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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The free flights for the leadership contest

October 17th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The four Labour leadership contenders have defended using taxpayer funded flights for their campaigns, saying most of the other costs will have to come out of their own pockets.

The four — Andrew Little, Nanaia Mahuta, David Parker and Grant Robertson — were at Labour Party HQ this morning to sign a Code of Conduct and go through the campaign rules.

They can use the MPs’ unlimited air travel allowance to travel around the campaign — but have to pay for any other costs themselves including hotels, taxis and meals.

Mr Robertson said the use of air travel was within the rules. “[The taxpayer] is not picking up the tab for the contest. We are obeying the rules we have around airline travel. Everything else is our own cost.”

Mr Little said the contest did involve meeting with the public, which was part of an MPs’ job.

They’re meeting people to get them to vote for them – ie campaigning.

I think it is fine for MPs to get travel to party conferences, just as they also get free travel to speak to rotary clubs, business conferences, union conferences and the like.

But this is different. This is travelling to events which are specifically to get people there to vote for you. There is a direct personal benefit, rather than an indirect political benefit.

They should pay for their own airfares.

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Uber in NZ

October 16th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Controversial smartphone app Uber has struggling taxi drivers moonlighting for them, according to the New Zealand Taxi Federation.

Uber has its official launch in Wellington this afternoon even though it has been used in Wellington for the past couple of months. It was launched in Auckland earlier this year.

Uber allows registered drivers with their own cars to link up with customers through a smartphone app, with fares pre-agreed.

Federation executive director Roger Heale said they “were kind of enjoying” Uber being in New Zealand.

“The people who are driving for them are the taxi drivers who can’t get work anywhere else. They’re current taxi drivers who, if they get a job have to jump out, take the top sign off [the cab], and go around and do the job as an Uber driver.” …

Uber spokeswoman Katie Curran said they were “thrilled with the reception” they had received in Auckland and Wellington from riders and partner-drivers.

“We’re glad the Taxi Federation recognises that Uber is raising the standards of the for-hire transport industry.”

Good to see the NZ taxi industry not being hysterically opposed to new technology and business models, as some of their overseas counterparts have been.

 

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No more signing for Visa

October 16th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The personal identification number (Pin) has proved to be mightier than the pen, with Visa officially removing the ability to sign for credit card payments this weekend.

Though the exact timing of the change varies between banks, Visa has set its deadline for Saturday.

Country manager for New Zealand and South Pacific, Caroline Ada, said the end of the signature era was aimed at improving payment security.

“Using Pin for purchases at the point-of-sale provides the greatest security for electronic payments today,” she said.

Long overdue. Much more secure, and faster.

What is pleasing is that your PIN now works overseas more and more.

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Vernon Small on the Labour circus

October 16th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Vernon Small writes at Stuff:

By rights the political debate should be focused on the Government’s handling of two things.

How does it meet its self- imposed need to do something alongside traditional allies and friends in Iraq and Syria without getting too deeply embroiled in the war against Islamic State?

And how will John Key make a dent in the number of children in poverty, given the Government’s pre-eminent focus on work as the best route out of poverty? …

But then along came Andrew Little, Nanaia Mahuta, David Shearer and the whole Labour three-ringed circus to demand its place in the limelight.

Don’t forget David Parker who wasn’t standing and then did stand.

Just what Shearer, a former leader, hoped to achieve with his frustration-download is hard to tell.

He seemed to have an irony bypass attacking David Cunliffe, his supporters, the union voting strength and even Labour’s brand – all in the name of a call for party unity.

He probably has every right to feel aggrieved at Cunliffe’s behaviour at the 2012 annual conference, though Cunliffe continues to deny any involvement in a coup or intent to undermine him.

But to argue Cunliffe should have stayed in the race for leader in order to be defeated, as part of a scenario that would take him out of contention in perpetuity?

It all smacked of a stake through the heart – of taking revenge a kilometre too far.

He was right that Cunliffe’s backers in the blogosphere were off the wall, painting anyone but Cunliffe as a dangerous conservative running dog in harness with the mainstream media.

Danyl McL also has an opinion on how the Labour-aligned blogs are doing more harm than good to the left.

Also, Labour’s Maori caucus is asserting itself as a significant proportion of Labour’s reduced 32-person caucus.

Party sources say it is seeking greater autonomy within the caucus, and is even arguing for a share of research and other resources.

Oh that would be fun. A semi-autonomous caucus within a caucus. So if they formed Government, would they also be a semi-autonomous government within the Government?

 

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Collins’ title

October 16th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Prime Minister John Key has admitted his office may have mishandled matters when he left former Justice Minister Judith Collins to find she had been denied an “honourable” title through the media.

But he is refusing to apologise for failing to call her, and said she may have been “confused” about standard procedure.

Collins was left seething yesterday after she was delivered a humiliating snub by Key, who declined to recommend her for the official title afforded to most government ministers.

I think it is reasonable to wait until the outcome of the inquiry, for not waiting could allow the opposition to say the Government has pre-judged the outcome.

But it would have been desirable for someone in the PMO to have directly communicated with Judith that they were delaying a decision on the title until after the inquiry, so she didn’t get questioned unawares about it by media, as she came out of a funeral.

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General Debate 16 October 2014

October 16th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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