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.


General Debate 16 October 2014

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

Our next flag?

October 16th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar


The Kyle Lockwood flag

Stuff reports:

he first of two referendums on changing New Zealand’s flag could be held as early as next year, with a decision made in early 2016.

Prime Minister John Key used his address to the Returned Services Association (RSA) National Conference today, to lay out his case for a new Kiwi ensign.

Talking to media after the speech, he said he would be writing to the leaders of all other parties within four days to ask them to choose a representative to take part in a cross-party panel on the issue.

Key said he had received official advice that outlined a two-step referendum. It would see a public consultation period on possible designs.

The cross-party panel would likely pick the top three to five designs which would go to a referendum to pick the most preferred.

That would then be pitted against the current flag in a second referendum, where people would either vote to change or keep the status quo. 

I think that is the way to go. First have New Zealanders vote on their preferred alternative, and then have New Zealanders vote on that design vs the current NZ flag.

That advice still had to be considered and voted on by committee, but Key said he hoped the first referendum could be held before the end of next year, with a final decision by April 2016.

He gave an assurance to RSA members that New Zealand’s contributions to World War I would be recognised under the current flag at centenary commemorations in New Zealand and Gallipoli next year. 

Key would not support any change that undermined the role of the defence force, but he did not believe a new flag design would do that.

“If you got to any of the Commonwealth war graves [in Europe] what you actually see on the war graves is the silver fern. It’s not the New Zealand flag. 

“When people say New Zealanders were buried under that flag, that’s technically correct when the flag was on the coffin, but it’s not true in terms of being on their headstones,” Key said. 

The silver fern has become a de facto symbol for New Zealand and New Zealanders. It is time we had it on our flag.

The Prime Minister had softened his preference for a silver fern on a black background, saying it was unlikely to be a popular option.

He had swayed more toward a design by Kyle Lockwood, which retained New Zealand’s current flag colours, with a Silver Fern and a southern cross. 

My preference is still for the silver fern on black, as it would be as instantly recognizable as the Canadian Maple Leaf. However also a big fan of the Kyle Lockwood design and see both as vastly superior to the status quo.

I’d love to do a poll of 1,000 non New Zealanders and Australians, and show them the NZ Flag and Australian flag and ask them to pick which flag belongs to which country. I suspect the proportions getting it right will be barely more than the 50/50 of random guessing.


US Mid-Term Elections: Senate Races Update

October 15th, 2014 at 10:03 pm by Lindsay Addie

The main interest in the mid-terms is still the fierce battle for the US Senate with the Democrats desperately trying to preserve some of their 55 to 45 lead (helped by two independents who caucus with them). So with the Republicans needing to make a net gain of at least 6 seats to gain control the polling in the key battleground states is like this:


The GOP will win Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia very easily. They need to win three more seats to gain control of the Senate but are in a dog fight in Kansas against an independent. They look likely to pickup Alaska and Arkansas bringing them to 49 if Kansas does fall. They will still need a couple of seats to get over line. Here is a summary in no particular order of the more interesting contests. Quoted comments are from Jay Cost of the Weekly Standard.


 In Alaska, Republican Dan Sullivan has broken open a lead against Democrat Mark Begich. Recent polls show the Democrat down by about 5 points and stuck at an anemic 42 percent of the vote. Alaska is a tricky state to poll, so you never know until the votes are counted, but the GOP should feel good about its position on the Last Frontier.


In Colorado, Republican Cory Gardner has withstood months of attacks from Democratic incumbent Mark Udall, focused mainly on abortion and birth control. A month ago, the conventional wisdom was that Gardner was fading, but he has shown strength of late, and the polling averages show a tied race. Like Iowa, Colorado is a true swing state, and with Obama unpopular, Gardner has at least even odds of pulling out the win. Again, Democrats cannot be pleased that Udall, who dominated the airwaves through the summer, is stuck around 45 percent—in the danger zone for an incumbent seeking reelection.


In Louisiana, Republican Bill Cassidy has mostly held a lead over Democrat Mary Landrieu this year. That lead appears to have widened, and the polls show Cassidy nearing the critical 50 percent mark. That is especially important because Louisiana’s election occurs in two stages: a jungle primary, in which candidates from all parties battle one another, and a runoff between the top vote-getters. This race is widely expected to go to a runoff, in which Cassidy would be the favourite.


Republican Joni Ernst charged out of no-where early this year to capture the attention of the party establishment and grassroots activists. She cruised to victory in the primary and has taken what appears to be a clear lead over Democrat Bruce Braley. This is the reverse of what Beltway wags expected a year ago. It seemed then that the Democrats had scored a coup in recruiting Braley, a House member, while the GOP field was unimpressive. Now it is Ernst who is the star and Braley the gaffe-prone dud.

Kentucky – Mitch McConnell is the Senate Minority Leader for the GOP and has been made to work by Alison Lundgren Grimes. Grimes though has been under merciless attack because of her voting record in support of Obama.

Kansas – Pat Roberts is the GOP incumbent but is in a real dogfight with Greg Orman an Independent. This is just too close to call currently.

North Carolina – Kay Hagan the incumbent Democrat has been holding on to a lead for a while now but  Republican Thom Tillis is making Hagan work and is closing the gap.

So it’s currently looking better for the Republicans than the Democrats but bear in mind that during the 2012 presidential election the Democrats had a great ground game that enabled them identify where the key votes were and then get them to the polling booths.

A final comment, New Zealand’s MMP elections from the perspective of a political junkie are rather bland compared to the intense one-on-one contests that are a feature of US elections.




October 15th, 2014 at 3:06 pm by David Farrar


In Santiago for a couple of days. This is Barrio París-Londres, which is a nice cobble-stoned area.


In this area is a building called London 38. It was a detention and torture centre under Pinochet. Outside the building are the names and ages of those who died inside it. 219 people died or disappeared.



This is inside the San Francisco Church, which was consecrated in 1622. It is the oldest building in Chile.



A photo of some of the roof tiles.




This is the back of La Moneda Palace, the office of the President of Chile. It started construction in 1784.


Underneath the palace, is the Centro Cultural Palacio de La Moneda.


Two of the presidential guards. Note they have daggers, not guns!


Inside the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral which began construction in 1748. Its predecessors had somehow angered God who destroyed them in earthquakes.


A view of Santiago from the Santiago Metropolitan Park. It is very smoggy here, but still a great view of the city nestled behind the Andes. I’m told the view in winter is absolutely spectacular.


In the afternoon we did some wine tasting at Concha y Toro. It is the second largest wine producer in the world.


The best wine is kept down in the old cellars. Each barrel of wine is worth around $45,000.


In the old days, the owner spread a rumour that the devil lurked down in the cellar, and it seems this was enough to deter would be thieves. Today it would probably attract them!


Snakes on a plane!


This is the wine blackboard at the Bocanariz Restaurant. It is one of the top restaurants in Santiago, and we managed to get in without a booking. Highly recommended. Rated No 4 out of 1,404 on Trip Advisor.


This is in the Parque Forestal, which is opposite the hotel we are staying at. We’re at the Su Merced Boutique Hotel which has just nine rooms. The rooms are quite spacious and nice, and the location is right in the centre of town.

My first ever time in Latin America. Having a direct flight from Auckland helped.



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Bob Jones on the living wage

October 15th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Sir Bob Jones writes:

Through hard work, he and his wife have built a nationwide airport and CBD lunch retail operation with more than 100 stores, supplied by his Wellington factory working through the night, its output flown out early in the morning across the land. They have about 400, mainly retail, staff.

What staggered me most, given its scale, is how marginal this operation is. Some stores do well, others badly, while many just break even in this intensely competitive field. Raise your prices, I suggested, inducing a derisive laugh. The owner told me regulars making the same daily purchase comprise a large component of their business. Apparently, even the most minor increase elicits outrage and the loss of their custom.

My inquiry as to the best employees brought an unsurprising answer – new immigrants by a country mile. What particularly interested me was the salaries for what’s essentially menial work. In most cases they’re on the minimum wage. Any more and they’re out of business, he said, and I believe him.

Margins in retail are often minuscule. So that would be 400 jobs gone.

I mention all of this in the context of the absurdly titled living wage clamour, the noise invariably coming from leftish critics not employing anyone, nor ever likely to. There are exceptions. Two leftie Wellington city councillors, respective owners of small city retail food businesses, led the charge recently for menial task council employees to be paid the so-called living wage. Inquiry however, revealed their own employees were on the minimum wage.

“We’d go broke,” they wailed when their hypocrisy was exposed. It was classic left do as I say, not as I do, double standards.

It was indeed.

The answer is elementary. If you want the $18.50 “living wage” or better, choose employment paying it, rather than complain.

Harsh but not entirely untrue. There are very very few people in New Zealand that couldn’t train to do a job that pays better than the minimum wage.

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The other five affiliate unions should follow the SFWU lead

October 15th, 2014 at 10:58 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Shearer said the people who walked away from Labour were middle New Zealand – “white blokes” – and Labour needed to win them back.

He also believed every worker in the unions should vote for the leadership rather than delegates casting affiliated unions’ votes, which count for 20 per cent of the vote deciding the leader.

“If we are going to have affiliates contributing to the leadership it should be one person one vote,” he said.

“That’s democracy … not two dozen people voting on behalf of 4000.”

The most powerful delegates are the EPMU ones. Only 35 of them voted on behalf of probably 30,000 or so affiliate members.

In the last leadership election only 149 delegates over five unions decided the votes for the union. Only the SFWU gave all members a vote.

If the Labour Party itself decided that all members should vote, rather than just the caucus bosses, then why not apply the same to the unions?

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General Debate 15 October 2014

October 15th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Mahuta stands for the leadership

October 15th, 2014 at 12:23 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour’s Hauraki-Waikato MP Nanaia Mahuta will contest the Labour Leadership.

Ms Mahuta said late this afternoon she had made the decision to stand after giving the matter serious consideration.

“This decision has been made with the knowledge that if the party reviews the election outcome, we can learn from the base of support that was demonstrated across Maori electorates in South Auckland and amongst Pacific and ethnic communities.”

Ms Mahuta’s announcement brings the number of contenders to replace David Cunliffe to four with former Deputy leader David Parker, Andrew Little and Grant Robertson also in the running.

Her candidacy announcement at 4.30pm came just before the deadline of 5pm.

Cynically I think this is more about a play for the deputy leadership, or at a minimum ensuring she remains a front bencher.

However it may also be as a result of complaints that all the contenders had been middle aged white men.

There are seven Maori MPs in caucus. If she picks all of them up, then that gets her over 20% of caucus. But hard to see here getting many votes from members or unions.

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Shearer says Cunliffe should quit politics

October 14th, 2014 at 2:11 pm by David Farrar

I think we are starting to see the reality of life in Labour. One former leader is telling another to quit politics. The Herald reports:

Mr Shearer said he would have preferred it for the new leader’s sake if Mr Cunliffe had stayed in the race and lost.

“I think it would have been easier for whoever wins if he had stood and lost. It would be a cleaner break for whoever takes over. His followers undermined Phil Goff and myself and I think he continues to be a presence that will make it difficult for a new leader.”

He said if Mr Cunliffe had lost this would have sent a clear message to his supporters, rather than let them have the impression he could have won if he hadn’t withdrawn. He was also disappointed with Mr Cunliffe’s decision to stay on as an MP. “It would be easier for the new leader if he decided to move on.”

It was a sentiment echoed by several other MPs, although none would be named.

To quote Lady Macbeth – Out, damn’d spot! out, I say!

Cunliffe has pointed out:

Mr Cunliffe pointed out Mr Shearer was also a former leader.

“I think that’s an unfortunate thing for him to say and it belies my long-term loyalty to the party and caucus.”

But Shearer has only been an MP for one and a bit terms. Cunliffe has had five full terms. And I think Phil Goff and David Shearer have a different idea of what loyalty looks like.

“It’s about making sure we set ourselves up for the future so the new leader doesn’t have the same experience I had.”

He had been white-anted by Cunliffe’s supporters when he was leader and did not want the same thing to happen to the new leader.

If Parker or Robertson wins, it is inevitable I’d say that they will also face undermining.

“The people who had attacked himself and Mr Goff were mostly anonymous, Mr Shearer said.

“There are certainly some who’s names I think I know, but these are people who sit behind darkened screens and blog and undermine people.

And several of them now work in the Labour Leader’s office – which explains why so many are so unhappy.

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Can a three year old be proud of being a vegan?

October 14th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Essential Mums reports:

Alicia Silverstone says her three-year-old son is “proud of being vegan”.

The 38-year-old actress is mother to Bear with husband Christopher Jarecki. And the star admits that while the pair made the conscious decision to raise their son a vegan, the lifestyle choice has never caused an issue with the little boy.

“He has never asked for meat or dairy. He is proud of being vegan,” Silverstone told the Miami New Times. “In fact, the other day I called him ‘my butterball’ and he said, ‘Mommy, I don’t eat butter; I eat Earth Balance. I don’t want to eat cows.’

I think it is much more parental decision, than the son’s choice.


NZers in overseas jails

October 14th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff has a list of the 53 known New Zealanders serving time in overseas prions. The summary is:

  • Australia – 8
  • Cambodia – 2
  • Canada – 3
  • China – 6
  • Colombia – 1
  • Ecuador – 1
  • Fiji – 1
  • Indonesia – 1
  • Japan – 4
  • Peru – 2
  • Philippines – 1
  • Samoa – 1
  • Thailand – 6
  • UAE – 3
  • US – 12
  • Vanuatu – 1

Most are for drugs crimes or sex crimes.

I’m sure there are more than eight Kiwis in jail in Australia. I imagine only the high profile ones get reported.

No tag for this post.

Don’t rush the law

October 14th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The first Cabinet meeting of the new Government will consider a proposal to tighten New Zealand’s terror laws by cracking down on New Zealanders who go to fight alongside the Islamic State (IS). …

Cabinet would meet today however to discuss a proposal that would extend the time passports could be cancelled and make fighting with IS an explicit criminal act. That legislation would likely be passed under urgency.

While there might be a case for a shortened period from the normal nine months or so to pass a law, any bill should at a minimum go to select committee for public submissions. Again, one might reduce the time period for submissions and consideration from the normal six months, but it would be a bad start to the third term to pass a law like this with no public input.

Urgency could arguably be warranted for certain stages of the bill, but it should not be used to bypass a select committee altogether.


General Debate 14 October 2014

October 14th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Food prices down

October 14th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stats NZ reports:

Food prices fell 0.8 percent in September 2014, Statistics New Zealand said today. This fall follows a 0.3 percent rise in August and a 0.7 percent fall in July.

“Lower food prices in September came from seasonally cheaper vegetables, partly countered by a rise in meat prices,” prices manager Chris Pike said.

Fruit and vegetable prices fell 6.5 percent. Lower vegetable prices (down 11 percent) were the most significant contributor to the monthly fall in food prices, with price falls for lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, and capsicums. …

Food prices decreased 0.1 percent in the year to September 2014, following a 0.7 percent increase in the year to August 2014.

In the year to September 2014, grocery food prices decreased 1.6 percent, influenced by lower bread prices (down 14 percent).

Food prices don’t have a lot to do with the Government, more the market. But it is good to reflect that it has been several years since we have had serious food inflation.

In the last three years food prices have only increased 0.8%. This compares with a 18.1% increase from 2005 to 2008.

A remarkable difference.


Cunliffe pulls out

October 13th, 2014 at 3:16 pm by David Farrar

This afternoon David Cunliffe announced he is pulling out of the contest for the Labour Party leadership, and is endorsing Andrew Little. This should boost Little’s chances considerably and may have David Parker regretting his entry into the race, as I suspect if Little wins, that Cunliffe will be his Finance Spokesperson.

This is obviously the end of the road for David Cunliffe’s prime ministerial ambitions. Cunliffe had many political skills, but being able to lead his caucus was not one of them.

It is worth reflecting though that his political career should be judged on more than his 15 months or so as Labour Leader.

He was one of Helen Clark’s better performing Cabinet Ministers. I’ve said many times that I thought he was an excellent Communications and ICT Minister. Also his reign as Health Minister was relatively successful, with the exception of his sacking of the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board.

While I would have disagreed with many of his policies, I always thought that David Cunliffe could have been an excellent Labour Finance Minister. While he has gone left to win over the activist base, he does have a rare (in Labour) understanding of the business world and private sector.

While Cunliffe had many skills, there was no better display of his weaknesses that on election night, and in the weeks following. Launching his campaign to stay leader on the night of the worst election result for Labour in 90 years was incredibly dumb. And then declaring he won’t resign to try and get caucus to sack him, and then resigning, and trying to cling on despite barely 20% of caucus backing him – well it was a sad end to a career which deserved better.

It will be interesting to see what portfolio Cunliffe ends up under the new leader, whoever that may be. Finance is the logical pick, but I can’t see that happening with Robertson or Parker.

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How have the leadership contenders gone in their electorates?

October 13th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

I thought it would be interesting to look at how the four (if Shearer stands) Labour leadership contenders have gone in their respective electorates. This may give some idea of their personal appeal, and also their ability to convince people to party vote Labour.

So I looked at the changes in their local party and electorate votes from 2008 to 2014 (or for Shearer from 2009 for his electorate vote).

This is what has happened:

Party Vote

  • David Cunliffe (New Lynn) -4.2%
  • Andrew Little (New Plymouth) -10.3%
  • Grant Robertson (Wellington Central) -10.7%
  • David Shearer (Mt Albert) -13.1%

So New Lynn has actually held up best on the party vote, compared to 2008. The other three electorates have all lost more than 10%.

Electorate Vote

  • Grant Robertson (Wellington Central) +9.8%
  • David Cunliffe (New Lynn) +0.5%
  • David Shearer (Mt Albert) -4.8%
  • Andrew Little (New Plymouth) -15.9%

This indicates that Grant Robertson is very good at increasing his personal vote, but not so the party vote. Cunliffe has held steady, Shearer has declined a bit (but from a by-election high) while Little got 16% less than the former Labour MP in New Plymouth.


Maori Youth Offending

October 13th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The new Minister of Maori Development Te Ururoa Flavell is calling for a review of the justice system as young Maori become increasingly over represented in youth crime statistics.

Fewer young offenders are fronting the judge but young Maori are making up more of those who do pass through the justice system.

Latest Ministry of Justice figures show the number of children and young people charged in Youth Court is the lowest in 20 years. However, as the number drops, the figures show the proportion of young Maori compared with non-Maori is rising.

Six years ago, Maori represented 48 per cent of youths facing charges in the Youth Court. The latest figures reveal that has jumped to 57 per cent.

While the Government lauds the decrease in youth crime, Flavell, who is also co-leader of the Maori Party, said the New Zealand justice system continued to be stacked against young Maori.

It is important to note that while the proportion has increased, the numbers charged has decreased significantly – just not as much as non-Maori.

In the last six years there has been a 46% reduction in the number of young Maori who have been charged in court. That’s a great result. The reduction for young non-Maori has been 63% which is even larger. But if both of them are heading in the right direction, I don’t think it is a problem if one is reducing faster than the other. It would be different if both were increasing.


Hopefully the trend continues.


Bowker says Nash knew of report

October 13th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A story in Hawke’s Bay Today has revelations that appear to have been overlooked by other media. They report:

A Wellington businessman has challenged Napier MP Stuart Nash’s claims that a report into starting a new political party by National Party and Dirty Politics figure Simon Lusk was commissioned without his knowledge. …

Wellington businessman Troy Bowker and a man known only as “Ned” approached Mr Nash about starting a new political party. He said he told them he wasn’t interested and, unbeknownst to him, they commissioned a report with Mr Lusk.

Mr Nash said Mr Johnson sent the surfaced email because he mistakenly believed Mr Nash had commissioned the report himself. But Mr Bowker told Hawke’s Bay Today yesterday that, contrary to Mr Nash’s version of events, the Napier MP told them to come back when the report was done.

“We might have had an early conversation with Stuart, he said he wasn’t that keen on the idea … He said let me know when you’ve had a look at the report.” Mr Bowker and his business associate “Ned” approached Stuart Nash proposing to set up a new “centre, centre-right [political] party”, and Mr Nash was aware a report was being commissioned.

Mr Nash yesterday maintained he didn’t know about the report until after the fact.

“I didn’t know they were going to commission a report.”

There is a direct contradiction of evidence between what Mr Bowker and Mr Nash say.

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General Debate 13 October 2014

October 13th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

The Internet Party of Ukraine

October 13th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Love this ad by the Internet Party of Ukraine.

Related to this Stuff reports:

In a galaxy far, far, away – Odessa, the third-largest city in Ukraine – several Star Wars characters have managed to register as official candidates in the upcoming election. With names like Darth V. Vader, Stepan Chubakka (Chewbacca), Master V. Yoda, and Padme N. Amidala listed on the candidate roster, voters can’t be blamed for looking twice at the ballot.

Here’s another of their campaign videos

In a galaxy far, far, away – Odessa, the third-largest city in Ukraine – several Star Wars characters have managed to register as official candidates in the upcoming election. With names like Darth V. Vader, Stepan Chubakka (Chewbacca), Master V. Yoda, and Padme N. Amidala listed on the candidate roster, voters can’t be blamed for looking twice at the ballot.


Air support sounds okay

October 12th, 2014 at 4:28 pm by David Farrar

Vernon Small reports:

Prime Minister John Key says New Zealand could offer the airforce’s “airlift capacity” as part of a contribution to the international military action against Islamic State (IS) militants.

Key is also signalling that Cabinet will tomorrow take the first step towards cracking down on New Zealanders who go to fight alongside IS, by extending the time passports can be cancelled and by making fighting with IS an explicit criminal act.

Speaking on TV One’s Q+A programme, Key said a range of options were being considered for New Zealand involvement in the IS conflict but more work was needed before a final decision.

Any action should be “useful, practical and work”, he said. That could range from humanitarian action, which was already under way, and include military options such as training, “to ultimately people who would be there right on the front line”.

“The last bit is some sort of military support, but not necessarily people on the ground, so it could be airlift capability.”

I’m very against sending actual combat troops such as the SAS in. But something such as airlift capability sounds a good way of supporting the effort, without risking getting bogged down in a long-term conflict with no exit strategy.


Great ad from Powershop

October 12th, 2014 at 12:14 pm by David Farrar

Was sent this by e-mail:









Very well done. I like the spelling mistakes, and the caps, just like real scams.

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US Federal Government Spending

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

This post draws mostly on material from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) who conduct independent non-partisan analysis of budget and economic issues for the US Congress. All dollar amounts are in US currency.

Categories of federal spending
The National Priorities Project defines the categories as follows:

Within total federal spending, there are three distinct ways our public dollars are spent: discretionary spending, which is determined by Congress during the annual appropriations process; mandatory spending, which is determined through eligibility rules and benefit levels already in existing legislation; and paying interest on the federal debt.

For example entitlements are mandatory spending whereas money spent on the US military is discretionary.

Why is the federal government debt of concern?
The inability of the US Federal Government and lawmakers to find a long term solution to its debt problem has made it a political hot potato for many years. The only President who has had any real success in modern times in bringing deficits under control was Bill Clinton. By working with like minded Republicans he managed to achieve surpluses.


The CBO has estimated that between 2014 and 2024 the annual deficits will be between $500-$960 billion adding $7 trillion dollars to the debt (assuming no change in policies). That would be in addition to the current accumulated debt of $17.8 trillion which is 72% of GDP and by 2038 will reach 100% of GDP if current policies remain in place.

The CBO when discussing mandatory spending expresses concern about the ongoing cost of entitlements:

CBO’s projections for total mandatory spending mask diverging trends for different components of such spending. CBO projects that, under current law, spending for Social Security and the major health care programs, notably Medicare and Medicaid, would grow from 9.8 percent of GDP in 2014 to 11.2 percent by 2023, driven largely by the aging of the population, rising health care costs per person, and an expansion of federal subsidies for health insurance.

It is these entitlements which are clearly in the most need of reform as the next graphic shows.

Federal spending in the 2014 financial year

federal spending 2014

So out of $3,78 trillion in total spending $2.28 trillion was spent on Medicare and health plus Social Security and unemployment etc. That is 62% of all spending is on entitlements. No wonder the GOP don’t like the President’s progressive agenda! Also bear in mind  the CBO in its Long-Term Budget Outlook have calculated that entitlement spending and interest on the public debt based on the current law and policies will contribute to spending rising by 26% by 2039 .

Obama’s debt-reduction plan
In 2011 Obama released details of his plan which included proposals to increase taxes on the wealthy, eliminating loopholes and deductions. He also proposed modest changes to Medicare and Medicaid but none to Social Security. Finally there were also cuts in military spending.

Paul Ryan’s 2015 path to prosperity
Ryan who was Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012 has released his own plan. The main features are:

  • Seeks to balance the budget within 10 years.
  • Cut spending by $5.1 trillion (over 10 years).
  • Taxation reform.
  • Repeal Obamacare (saving $2 trillion).
  • Reform Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Keep a cap on discretionary spending.
  • Reduce the public debt from 73% of GDP in 2015 to 56% by 2024.

So the battle lines have been drawn between Obama’s somewhat cautious approach to debt-reduction and Ryan’s much more comprehensive and bold approach. The Democrats of course will claim that Ryan’s budget plan will hurt those who need assistance the most and try to portray the Republicans as cold and unfeeling. The GOP argue that under current policies aren’t lean government and enough is enough. What they currently lack is someone who can effectively espouse their political philosophies.

The reality is that time isn’t on the US Federal Governments side when it comes to getting public debt under control. The longer the debt problem it is not tackled the harder the issue will be to solve. One thing is clear if the GOP control both houses of Congress after the mid-term elections they will put debt-reduction on the political agenda and pass Ryan’s plan. It will then be up to Barack Obama to decide his next move. Perhaps he could seek the counsel of Bill Clinton for tips on how to work with Republicans?

CBO: The 2014 Long-Term Budget Outlook
CBO: Options for Reducing the Deficit
Paul Ryan: The Path to Prosperity: Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Resolution

[UPDATE]: I forgot to make it clear that there are two classifications for US federal government debt.

The Debt Held by the Public is all federal debt held by individuals, corporations, state or local governments, Federal Reserve Banks, foreign governments, and other entities outside the United States Government less Federal Financing Bank securities. Types of securities held by the public include, but are not limited to, Treasury Bills, Notes, Bonds, TIPS, United States Savings Bonds, and State and Local Government Series securities.

Intragovernmental Holdings are Government Account Series securities held by Government trust funds, revolving funds, and special funds; and Federal Financing Bank securities. A small amount of marketable securities are held by government accounts.

The CBO uses the debt held by the public figure which is currently just under $13 trillion when calculating accumulated debt and the what the amount of GDP this is (72%). Intragovernmental Holdings is essentially the US government borrowing money from itself.

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