Vladimir Putin is not olone

Putin: The US is to blame for almost all the world’s major conflicts ( The Independent)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the US of undermining global stability, and warned that the world will face new wars if Washington does not respect the interests of other nations. During a speech in the Russian city of Sochi, the President argued that while Moscow does not see Washington as a threat US foreign policy has created chaos. Citing the wars in Iraq, Libya and Syria, he went on to accuse the US and its allies of “fighting against the results of its own policy”.
And as quoted in the Guardian :  “The exceptionalism of the United States, the way they implement their leadership, is it really a benefit? And their worldwide intervention brings peace and stability, progress and peak of democracy? Maybe we should relax and enjoy this splendour? No!” and  “Unilateral dictatorship and obtrusion of the patterns leads to opposite result. Instead of conflicts settlement – their escalation. Instead of sovereign, stable states – growing chaos. Instead of democracy – support for very dubious people, such as neo-Nazis and Islamic extremists.

Unfortunately in his criticism of US foreign policy based on the dogma of American exceptionalism Putin is not alone despite his remarks being called “diatribe” in the NZ Fairfax media. Again and again international surveys have found, which country is seen the most dangerous to world peace. In one of the latest examples researchers in their annual End of Year poll for WIN and Gallup International surveyed more than 66,000 people across 65 nations : In Gallup Poll, The Biggest Threat To World Peace Is … America ! 

Should this not cause New Zealand to pause for some thought before we again rush into another war at the side of the US ?

Posted in politics | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

John Key Minister of Double-standards

It seems a long time ago actually just earlier this year that Minister Maurice Williamson rang the police on behalf of a Chinese immigrant. His explanation that he rang in his capacity not as Minister but the electoral MP or just as a friend did not wash and he had to resign. Only a couple of months back Minister Judith Collins communicated with gutter blogger Cameron Slater. Her explanation that she rang him as a long time friend did not save her from her downfall.
This week the Prime Minster in Parliament fobbed off a question from Greens co-leader Russel Norman how often he had spoken with the same “gutter blogger” (Toby Manhire) by saying that he hadn’t spoken with him “in my capacity as Prime Minister”.
The Media comments were scathing for instance the NZ Herald editorial October 24 : “Speaker gives PM, ministers a licence to duck for cover” or Fran O’Sullivan October 25 : “When it’s the Prime Minister who is being asked to account for his own actions during Question Time, resorting to semantic gymnastics and logical contortions to avoid accountability just looks too cute by half.”

Call it ‘too cute by half’, call it ‘a cavalier disregard for the accountability and integrity of his office’ (editorial) or call it just plain arrogant the question remains why can the New Zealand voter not see the true colour/character of the man. Are we still all queuing up to have a beer with him at a barbecue ?

May be Mr Key should add a new portfolio to his list : “Minister for Double-standards”.
Come to think of it remembering the PM’s often re-played efforts on  the cat walk he should for good measure add “Minister for silly Walks”.
Sorry John Cleese.


Posted in politics | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Old Snake Oil Merchants driven out of Town ?

Brian Fallow in the 23 Oct Herald alerts us to a change in economic debate with the publication of the The Piketty Phenomenon a collection of essays dealing with the groundbreaking work of the French economist’s Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century. “His careful scholarship torpedoes the comfortable belief that economic growth is the rising tide that lifts all boats.”
The result of Piketty’s research, as Geoff Bertram (one of the essayists) puts it, is that: “Simply leaving the logic of the free market economy to work without restraint will produce a society with a super-rich patrimonial elite owning the lion’s share of the total wealth, and wielding the political power to go with it.” “Patrimonial” here refers to inherited wealth or belonging to what Warren Buffett has called “the lucky sperm club”.

Professor Tim Hazledine (another contributor) was struck not only by Piketty’s finding that the top 1 per cent have more than doubled their share of income since 1980 in English-speaking countries but by “the equally striking lack of such an increase in most other large rich countries such as Japan, Germany and France“.
That suggests rising inequality is the result of policy choices, in particular “the 1980s counter-Keynesian neoliberal revolution, which celebrated unrestrained greed in an ever-more permissive policy environment“.

I have lived through the crazy days of Reagan, Thatcher and “Rogernomics” from the eighties onwards. I was always struck by the audacity of the advocates of thieving by the elites from all of us of not possessing a rational intellectual argument standing up to scrutiny.  They did not dare to debate their theories instead resorted to the mantra: “There is no alternative“.
Other non-English speaking rich countries, which did not follow the economic snake oil merchants of the time had quite different and arguably better outcomes. This proves that there always was and is an alternative to the 1980s counter-Keynesian neoliberal revolution, which celebrated unrestrained greed in an ever-more permissive policy environment.

Are we now in good old fashion going to drive the snake oil merchants out of town ?
Looking at this government and the two main political parties for that matter Brian Easton (another contributor) might be correct in his pessimism that it might take another decade or so.

Posted in Economics, politics, Society | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beware of call for Police State

We are witnessing a very dangerous trend of liberal democracies with universal human rights and freedoms mutating into a authoritarian police states.
One example for this concern is a recent speech and the underlying thinking of the FBI Director James Comey as reported in the NZ Herald. Comey “warns against the push by technology companies to encrypt smartphone data and operating systems, arguing that murder cases could be stalled, suspects could walk free and justice could be thwarted by a locked phone or an encrypted hard drive“. Even if he had to admit that he didn’t have an example of that yet Comey said: “Logic tells me there are going to be cases like that“.

The idea behind his attack on encryption is worth thinking about. Since when is the aim to convict criminals paramount over all other considerations like the universal right to privacy and free speech or more specific to criminal procedures the right to a fair trial ? The history of the criminal justice system is full of cases where people literally got away with murder because the police made mistakes and evidence became inadmissible. It is one of the most basic principles of the rule of law that it applies foremost to the powers of the state. The thinking of none other than the Director of the FBI trowing all this overboard just to secure convictions is very dangerous indeed. He is obviously unable – beyond his brief as the top cop – to see the fundamental human values and rights to privacy and free speech. The issue is reduced to “Encryption isn’t just a technical feature. It’s a marketing pitch.
We can only hope that the lawmakers in the US – and in New Zealand for that matter where similar calls were heard – hold the line and protect the rights of all of us not just criminals

Posted in politics, Society, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rod Oram : Defend the right to debate

If you haven’t read Rod Oram’s latest column yet please do !

It hasn’t stopped to amaze me how brilliantly the government spin worked in the lead-up to the recent election. It had almost an Orwellian quality of turning the meaning of words into the opposite (war is peace and peace is war).

Dirty tricks of the ‘Right’ as revealed by Nicky Hager turned into a conspiracy of the ‘Left’.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend on the evening of the release of “Dirty Politics”, which happened just before the six o’clock news. Nobody had read the book and knew what to make of it. Was it any good and based on facts or was it just a bad election hatched job full of falsehoods ?
My friend said that we only would have to watch the reaction the next morning. If the book was bad and full of falsehoods the government would attack the book and point out mistakes. If not they would attack the author. The reaction in the morning gave us the clear answer about the quality of the book. It was obviously untouchable.
The irony was that John Key already attacked the author as a leftwing conspiracy theorist well before he  even knew what the book was about. At that time he suspected that it was going to be about spying and the GCSB.

This just goes to show how spin works totally detached from the facts. You only have to repeat it on end and you can turn truth into falsehood and falsehood into truth.

Posted in politics, Society | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A seat at the Big Table – let’s live up to our good ‘brand’

Even if you don’t suffer from Colonial cringe and overly rejoice at every sporting win over the Imperials or the bigger cousins across the ditch and every other occasion where we ‘punch above our weight’ you have reason to celebrate that New Zealand won a seat on the UN Security Council on the first ballot. It goes to show how much good will New Zealand enjoys around the world. This is no surprise to someone with an overseas experience or background.
Countless commentators listed as reasons for our success, the perception of New Zealand being independent from the big powers (nuclear free stance) and standing up for principle and the little guys (anti-apartheit protests even if it deprived us of one most beloved rugby contest). Our image as the clean green Paradise of the South Pacific, which underpins much of our economic success, also comes into it.
It is a little bit ironic that since those deeds, which put us in the good book of the rest of the world, we had successive leaders of the National Party who either wanted our nuclear policy ‘gone by lunch time’ or can’t even remember where they stood during the Springbok Tour in 1981. And if we are honest with ourselves and for instance look at our rivers we have to admit that we are not as clean and green as we present ourselves to the world.

Now is the time to make an extra effort to be or become true to our brand and be the good little country the world imagines when it puts us at the big table (see).


Posted in Environment, politics, Society | Leave a comment

The Dogs of War, again – how ‘odd’ ?

We are just being prepared for joining another war, again !

I will not argue about the evil of our latest enemy.
However I have a nagging question ever since I arrived in this county well over 30 years ago and fell in love with it and its wonderful friendly people.

Why is it that New Zealand seems so eager to join every war going at the time. Looking back over the 20th century New Zealand was by my rough count part of eight wars and even offering her participation in the Malvinas (Falkland) war, which was thankfully not accepted. In contrast for instance Germany, seen by many first through WWI propaganda and then for the 12 year Nazi regime as militaristic and war mongering, was involved in only three or four wars and the latest only kicking and screaming against their will.
What is it in this far remote allegedly ‘independent’ paradise in the South Pacific that makes us want to join any far away war as soon as we are asked.
The latest reason given by PM Key might have been the reason all along that it would be odd if NZ didn’t join her friends.

Here I envisage a puny little guy standing before a judge after being involved in another gang brawl explaining that it would have been ‘odd’ not to join in with his friends. And I hear the judge saying when are you going to grow up, think for yourself and make your own decisions before you get into a fight.

I always thought it to be one of the greatest and indeed groundbreaking achievements of Helen Clark’s government to at least keep us out of one war, the disastrous Iraq war. We since have fallen back into line stopped thinking and instead honouring our (five eye or other) patch.

Posted in politics, Society, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Guest Post: The Sale of the Power Companies

Could it be a Blessing in Disguise?

Many commentators, including this blog, have chastised the government for selling half of its power companies despite strong opposition from the general public.

In the early nineties, I myself was involved in a (successful) campaign to prevent the sale of the Manapouri power scheme to Comalco. Our reasoning was that the old hydro systems were a licence to print money. This is because, in our wholesale market, the electricity price for all generation is determined not the lowest but by the highest bidder. As new and more expensive stations come on line, everybody else then just hikes their price up to that new level. This is called shadow pricing, also well established in the market for crude oil.

Here is my prediction: This very convenient business model will fall apart during the next decade. Solar electricity will become even cheaper than it is now, so that more of the electricity demand will be met by roof-top photovoltaics (PV). Once that happens, the big power stations will progressively be mothballed or relegated to stand-by. This in turn will cap the price of electricity because the most expensive generation is retired first.

Up to now, electricity supply is from limited resources where increased supply results in ever higher cost: one has to drill and dig deeper for fossil fuels. It even applies to hydro, where the limited resource, of course, is not the water but the sites where hydro stations can be built profitably. The progress of PV then turns the supply from being from a limited resource into a truly unlimited resource for the next fife billion years: solar radiation.

In other words: The factor governing prices will no longer be the rising cost of new power stations and their fuel but the falling cost of PV.

Another point: For now, it does not make sense to disconnect an existing dwelling from the grid and use batteries instead. Being independent from the grid makes sense only if a dwelling is new, and the cost of batteries can be offset by saving the cost of the power lines between the grid and the new dwelling. However, as batteries will get cheaper and last longer, this too will change. At some point the monthly cost of batteries (depreciation) will be no more than the lines charge. At that point all hell will break loose. People will disconnect themselves from the grid in droves, which makes the supply charge rise for the remaining fewer customers, thereby accelerating the process even more. At the same time it will deprive the power companies of their last weapon against PV: the low credit for power fed into the grid during daytime.

Once the above events happen, the earnings and values of the power companies will deteriorate. In that view, one might have wished the government had sold not only half but all of the shares, and preferably to the Aussies.

Peter Kammler

Posted in Economics, politics, Society | Tagged , | 3 Comments

About righteous little ‘Pricks’ and righteous big ‘Pricks’

Thank God that she made New Zealand small and economically insignificant. Therefore our Prime Minister responsible for our economic direction is only a righteous little Prick.
Remember some time back when John Key rubbished and demonised the Greens’ Russell Norman’s suggestion – to put it bluntly – print money instead of borrowing it from the banks as being cheaper and better for the struggling economy. In modern speak is is called quantitative easing. Everybody has been doing it, the US, UK, EU and all other leading economies sometimes dragged into it screaming. Even Switzerland not known for economic adventurism a couple of years back threatened to print as many franks as it would take to stop currency speculation hurting their economy. It did stop overnight with some speculators ending up with bloody noses.
Here however John Key killed any rational debate by just name calling Dr. Norman and the Greens as irresponsible economic lunatics. Who is the righteous little Prick then who knows better then the (mainstream) rest of the world.

The big contexts is of course austerity with New Zealand’s obsession with balancing the books at a time when the economy actually needed more spending. Thank God for the Christchurch earthquake where spending by the EQC and insurance companies carried us over the damage the government policy was doing to our fragile economy.

The damage of economic righteousness  is now becoming more and more apparent when you have a righteous big Prick, in this case Germany, doing the damage. As the Huffington Post on 13 October headlines: Germany’s Austerity Obsession Could Take Down The Global Economy. Lately it was mostly the Southern European countries suffering under German righteousness. However austerity fever — egged on by a now-discredited research report that claimed government debt is bad for economies — has been hurting economies around the world since the Great Recession.

When is New Zealand waking up to the fact that this government did and does a lot of damage. Instead we still hail the the little Prick as the great helmsman who steered us successfully through the troubled waters of the global economy.

We said our piece. Now go back to sleep again New Zealand.


Posted in Economics, politics | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

One law for all – New Zealanders fighting in foreign wars

New Zealand’s Prime Minister has been swept up in the world wide media storm after the beheading of three Western hostages by ISIS in Syria. What a PR coup for the murderers. Being horrified by the video footage we have forgotten about 3000 Palestinians (mostly women and children) killed in Gaza or 300000 Syrians (mostly civilians) killed in their civil war. Instead of keeping cool heads in this serious situation it looks like the government is following the great example of Australia’s Tony Abbot by shooting from the hip.

If the Prime Minister is really considering a hard-line change similar to Australia’s to detain those suspected of heading off to fight overseas and deal with those returning, as reported in the NZ Herald,  we are all for it. However we would of course expect it to be one law for all. We can’t wait to see our SAS troops heading for war in the Middle East being arrested at Auckland airport.
If we only have had a law like that 100 years ago. Thousands of young New Zealanders would not have been killed or wounded in a senseless foreign war and/or come back thoroughly terrorised and brutalised.
How wonderful that would have been and still would be today.

Posted in politics, Society | Tagged , , | Leave a comment