Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Great Arts Debate

Unlike a certain SAR-based blogger, I do appreciate the arts. This is understandable, since I'm a very cultured chap. I believe strongly that there is much to learn from the musical, operatic, literary, and visual greats.

What I object to, however, is the Government forcing me to pay for a bunch of lazy no-hopers to claim creativity without any hope of practising it. The Arts for the Dole Scheme is one of the most garbled failures, and most insidious symbols of government largesse. When the Government pays actors and painters to sit at home doing nothing, then they sit at home and do nothing.

Creativity, as I was telling an old-time professional actor friend of mine, stems from desire and personal necessity. As I was buying him lunch a few months ago, he was praising Aunty Helen for everything she has done for Aotearoa/New Zealand’s cultural movement. He then claimed that he was not interested in making money. He argued that he was not good at making money. He proposed that making money is just not good for society.

To wit, I responded: “Which of the great civilisations of history have ever contributed to world culture, except through economic dominance?”

“What?” he asked.

“Simple. Every great civilisation has created great cultural artefacts, by virtue of the fact that individuals have supported and patronised a great artist and encouraged that artist to be creative and productive, or else an artist has doggedly chosen to pursue a career by having that inner hunger—supported by nobody except their own determination to succeed. There is no other way to cultural success.”

“What about talent?” he countered.

”Yes, they’ve all had talent. But the successful artists have all worked their arses off to get there. They’ve had to understand their market. They battle on no matter what.”

Government-funded actor suggests that so much art would be lost if it wasn’t state-sponsored. I answer with: “Like what? That theatrical bullshit you come up with that nobody watches?”

Actor is hurt. I say to him: “Look, don’t take this personally. But the reason why your work is such utter shite is that you’re not hungry enough. You’re content with mediocrity. You don’t have to listen to your audience, or respond to what they want. You just do it anyway, because the State gives you a big whallop of cash for you to sit on your arse, so that it can feel good and pretentious about contributing my money to your idleness.”

Case in point is the TVNZ charter. For the last several years, the Government has paid TVNZ a special subsidy to promote New Zealand content on television. The result: outgoing CEO Ian Fraser says that New Zealand content is under threat, that there has been no noticeable increase in content capacity, that there has been no increased audience demand for local television, television revenue is falling, and, in a nutshell, TVNZ has simply absorbed the subsidy into its baselines. Money is thrown at New Zealand culture with no long-term positive effect. It is spent, simply because it is there, on mediocre television that nobody wants to watch.

This morning, I was walking past the Civic Centre. A cohort of skateboarders were doing funky things with their skateboards, outside one of Auckland’s premier cultural attractions. I stopped and chatted with them. “So what do you guys do?” I ask.

“We’re artists,” they answer.


Meanwhile, the Herald reports this morning that a family of buskers—extremely talented, albeit not particularly attractive young musicians—have been given a different treatment from local and government authorities. The story goes like this: two pianist ingénues, aged 14 and 20, have been slaving their guts out for the last six months, providing musical entertainment on Queen Street, playing some of the most difficult Rachmaninov and Chopin pieces, among many others in their repertoire, in order to raise money to send their gifted sister to ballet school in England.

The Sheffield family are not on the dole. They do not ride skateboards. They simply sit and ply their trade. And they do it exceptionally well. Their audience appreciates them. They show their appreciation by contributing directly to them.

I suspect that the Sheffield brothers do very well from their busking. A few months ago, I offered one of them a couple of hundred dollars to play at a client function we were holding in our boardroom for a couple of hours. He declined, on the basis that he would make more money playing the piano in rush hour.

Yet both the Council and the Police have tried several times to move these kids on. Why? Because they’re not state-sponsored. Aunty Helen—the great arts champion—does not support those who actually have a connection with their audience, and who tirelessly strive to make the most of their talent.

Instead, she’d much rather pay a group of skateboarders to claim creative merit outside the Civic Centre.

Stalin tried to silence Shostakovich, because he wouldn't follow the state-sanctioned cultural regime. The Sheffield brothers have Shostakovich--and very credibly so--in their repertoire. The Minister for Arts and Culture, and the Associate Minister for Auckland, who merrily swan their way through any media opportunity at chardonnay-swilling cultural gatherings, could do much to encourage the Sheffield brothers to continue to play for Auckland city-dwellers.

And then they might actually achieve something for Auckland's arts scene. And it won't cost a single taxpayer dollar.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

On Blogging Bitchfights...

Can there be anything quite as inane in the blogosphere, than two individuals from separate multi-contributor blogs, who engage in a war, and actually mean it?

Normally I side with the good folk at The Whig. After all, they're good people... Blair is an erudite figure of insolence, who deserves to live the good life. All he needs is for one of us to sit him down and teach him how to make money, and he can deserve all the fruits of success that his attitude affords him.

The Aboutowners have few redeeming features. They are, in total, a group of smarmy, snarky, limp-wristed pinkos with some particularly dire views on the world. Which is why they will have lives of failure, lest they smarten up sometime soon.

And as much as I dislike admitting it, most of the Aboutowners play fair. Xavier had a go at me recently, in what was a light-hearted and spirited dig. Didn't think it was his best work, but it was not vindictive and nasty.

Tristan is a whole different species. Again, admittedly, his standard of behaviour is not confined to the Left. There are some equally psychotic types throughout the spectrum. One particular female blogger has been recently subjected to behaviour that is no less than that of a deeply disturbed and pathetic mind.

The Aboutowners have distanced themselves from Tristan's behaviour, effectively by saying that they are not going to buy into Tristan's silly little games with Graham over at The Whig. Graham, that behaviour is beneath you. Make the most of having a hot new chick writing for you--that alone is sufficient to drive traffic to The Whig. And forget about Tristan. The little shit isn't worth the waste of ammunition.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

War Stories From The Education Front

My standard-three teacher was one of the most peculiar adults I ever knew. He was a great raconteur: comical, passionate, eccentric, and had a great love for physical activity. Like many men in the teaching profession at that stage, he was also senile, and had an explosive temper.

This teacher had several party-tricks. One was to launch into a tangential stream of war stories. He had been at war in the Pacific: I suspect his battle-scars were more psychological than physical. He didn’t quite understand the appropriateness of telling grisly tales of shooting Japs, or Japs accidentally shooting themselves while chasing him through the jungle on Guadalcanal, or throwing hand grenades at passing Japs, or knifing Japs… or any story, for that matter, which resulted in an Imperial Soldier being ferried home in a casket. Three or four times a day—from a maths lesson, to reading an approved school story—he would provide yet another Japanese war story.

In the second week of classes, his young pupils became aware of just how crazy he was: we had already heard his stories recycled, and were just becoming more preposterous each time. On this occasion, as he was reading some innocuous approved story to us, he went off on a tangent again. At this moment, he portrayed himself as a Jap-grenading Charles Upham. He then turned to the class, and said: “And do you know what happened next?”

One of the other kids, Jason—not particularly bright, as it turned out—called out: “What, Mr Snufflupigus turned up?”

It was a great burn. Sufficient for all the kids to erupt into the kind of shrill laughter that nine-year-olds can manage. The teacher exploded. He walked straight through several rows of desks, knocking over the kids who were seated, and grabbed this troublesome child by the neck. He picked Jason up by his throat, with one arm, and lifted him out of his seat. The teacher then carried him, by the gullet, across the classroom, and outside the door. A few of us followed, just to see what would happen next. The teacher then physically threw Jason several metres, over the path, and into a convenient gorse bush.

It was an astonishing act of random violence against a child. It happened several other times during that year—I got “gorsed”, although the teacher had the good grace to carry me by my shirt and trousers.

As children, we did not consider these to be horrific incidents. Getting “gorsed” was not extremely painful. It was certainly pretty humiliating, but I also recall thinking that it was preferable to getting caned.

Casting a modern eye against historical events is dangerous. My standard three teacher was not an outlandish exception. Physical violence against children was as normal at school as it was in many homes. It was certainly not a universal trait among male teachers, but it was not an uncommon one.

Which is why I don’t consider David Benson-Pope’s alleged tennis ball incident to be particularly surprising. Nor, for the standards of the time, in the early 1980s, was that behaviour from some male teachers, extremely outlandish. Such incidents occurred frequently, by well-meaning, but psychologically disturbed people who were unable to function in society. The classroom was the ideal workplace for them: other adults didn't have to deal with their eccentricities, and they had a secure, reasonably well-paid job with little accountability, for life. We can thank the education unions for that, but that is another story.

The long-term effects of my standard three teacher’s actions are non-existent. At a recent school reunion, we looked back fondly on the crazy old guy, who is long since dead. He didn't actually cause any physical injuries, other than a couple of bruises, a few scratches, and some wounded pride. He did teach us that in the world there are some quite fucked-up people. I wouldn't go so far as to call that teacher character-building, but it would be a massive misrepresentation to suggest that he harmed people considerably.

Likewise, David Benson-Pope’s alleged victims will not carry any psychological scars for his alleged sadistic treatment of them in 1982. Physical intimidation and violence by some teachers was not extraordinary.

I don’t blame Benson-Pope for his alleged bullying of defenceless children over twenty years ago. What is disturbing, however, is that a guy with his downright merciless and inhumane tendencies, is in a position of high moral and political authority today. Benson-Pope ascribes to a certain social agenda: he is a bully, and does not have any regard for using callous tactics to get what he wants done.

Nor does Benson-Pope take responsibility for his alleged brutality. His disregard for the sincerity of the complainants, and his constantly changing story, suggest that he has only ever seen the issue as a political fight. He sees it as perfectly legitimate to use his considerable resources, and media machine, to attack his alleged victims. After having selectively leaked parts of the Police Report, he is now attempting to shift the blame for that onto his press secretary. Classic symptoms of a man of supreme desperation, in denial.

Benson-Pope’s alleged actions in 1982 were hardly defensible, if true. But they are understandable in the context of the time.

Benson-Pope could have dealt with the whole issue by meeting his alleged victims in person, and in private, and sitting through with them, and listening to what they believed occurred in 1982. He could have apologised to them for his intimidating behaviour. And they would have forgiven him.

Instead, through his initial denials—and a ferocity of denial that convinced many that he certainly had the combative personality to inflict physical harm, his constant attacks on his accusers, his refusal to face questions with ridiculous excuses for not showing up, and his recent about-turn with protests that he simply no longer remembers what happened—he has destroyed his own political career. He has chosen to avoid a court of law, and in the process, has been convicted by a court of public opinion.

But at least in his senility, the PPTA will welcome him back to the classroom, where he can regale his pupils with political war stories.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Solution to Cricket Hooliganism: Number 1939

I am New Zealand cricket's number one fan. I will never allow an ill word to be said about any of the players, coaches, support staff, or administration, past, present, and future. Cricket is the game of the Gods, and all those who play and spectate are worthy of a place in Heaven. Even the non-Catholics.

Which is why I am surprised at recent reports of ill-mannered behaviour at Eden Park on Saturday.

There is a simple solution to New Zealand Cricket's crowd control problems. It is not in enforcing tighter security. It is not in serving all the booze in plastic cups, or reducing alcohol consumption at the ground.

Cricket crowds do not behave badly. There are no cricket hooligans. There are merely supportive supporters, who are doing their best to even the playing field. The answer to New Zealand cricket's crowd control problems lies among the players themselves:


Friday, December 02, 2005

Peter Beats Winston To The Punch

In one of the big surprises of the peculiar coalition arrangements this term, Peter Dunne is rattling his sabre.

It's unusual only in the sense that all the commentators expected Winston to lose his rag at Aunty Helen first. Apart from throwing a hissy-fit at international and domestic media and calling for a warming of relations with the United States, which Helen Clark would rather be kept on ice, Winston has been relatively well-behaved. He hasn't engaged in any alcohol-fuelled late-night brawling with taxi drivers since becoming a Minister Outside Cabinet. He hasn't been filmed staggering out of a Chogm meeting, haranguing foreigners. He hasn't even made defamatory remarks about a political opponent. All in all, Winston has kept his head down, and has deserved Helen's feint praise by performing "pretty well".

One of the features of the coalition agreement that Peter Dunne has signed with the Labour Party is that the doctrine of collective responsibility applies only to the ministerial portfolio that Dunne holds. Dunne is the Minister of Revenue. He is bound by the will of the whole Cabinet on revenue matters. He cannot speak out against, or seek to undermine, any policy area relating to the revenue portfolio. Otherwise, he faces instant dismissal.

So what, then, of Dunne's recent encouragement to National's campaign to ditch the Carbon Tax proposal? The Carbon Tax is government policy. It was agreed to, collectively, by the last Labour Government. Helen Clark has signalled a review of it, but it still remains a key policy feature of this Labour-led Government, until such time as the Government acts on any recommendations to ditch it.

The Carbon Tax is a revenue proposal, which will add a further $360 million to Government coffers. Dunne is actively seeking to undermine a revenue proposal. He is breaching the collective responsibility he holds with respect to the revenue portfolio. If any other minister in her Government had acted in a similar fashion, Helen would have sacked that Minister.

Dunne is supposed to be the straight guy. He's the one who is supposed to engage with officials on arcane aspects of revenue policy, and get his jiffy out of their equally arcane responses. Dunne is the geek. He's not the troublemaker. But strange times call for strange actions, and even the most boring of men can rise to the occasion and start a shit-fight.

How much longer will this ridiculous farce continue?

READ ALL ABOUT IT: Another Commie Activist Hates America!

In yet another piece of selective evidence-gathering, Russell Brown is trumpeting former US Attorney-General and "peace activist" Ramsey Clark's attempt to join Saddam Hussein's defence team as a sign that the US-led war in Iraq is immoral and wrong.

It is true that Ramsey Clark is making a bid to defend Saddam. But that isn't a surprise.

Ramsey Clark was briefly Attorney-General under Lyndon Johnson, for a year in 1967. His appointment, and tenure, was hardly distinguished by any measure. It is widely considered that Clark's initial appointment was intended to unseat Clark's father from the Supreme Court, which duly occurred.

Since his fleeting post, Ramsey Clark has distinguished himself only among the sordid company that he keeps. Clark defended David Koresh, who went on to murder 85 of his fellow Branch Davidians at Waco, Texas, in 1993. Clark defended Charles Taylor, the Liberian warlord who led his country into civil war. Clark defended Elizaphan Ntakirutimana,a Rwandan warlord, and one of the key architects of genocide in that country. In the mid-80s, Clark acted for the PLO, defending their claim against the family of Leon Klinghoffer, whom the PLO murdered during their takeover of the Achille Lauro. In the former Yugoslavia, Ramsey Clark was particularly active: he was a key member of the defense team for both Slobodan Milosevic, and Radovan Karadzic.

Russell Brown would like to assert that Clark's move is another coup against the War. No, it's not, Russell. It shows precisely what the anti-American motives of the anti-War activists are. With Ramsey Clark on Saddam's team, if I were George W, I'd be delighted. If Hitler had escaped from the bunker, Ramsey Clark would have been the first to line up to act for him at the Nuremberg Trials. If Stalin had faced the music over the atrocities he inflicted on his own people, then Ramsey Clark would have been his Senior Counsel.

Ramsey Clark's client list is a who's who of the most notorious war criminals and bludgeoneers of the twentieth century. The only thing they have in common, apart from the crimes against humanity that they have perpetrated, is their hatred at the United States for holding them to account.

Peace activist my arse!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Taxing To The Hilt: The Failed Socialist Experiment

The great mistake that Socialists make about the world is that individuals behaviour does not change by altering the tax system. This is their justification for not cutting taxes when tax cuts are affordable: that they refuse to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence that tax changes influence individual economic activities, which have a massive cumulative effect on the overall economy.

The most startling case in point is the current state of the property market. The principal reason that that the Auckland residential property market has been running so hot over the last few years has nothing to do with sound macroeconomics; even the most basic economist will tell you that housing is not a productive investment. It does not, of itself, create wealth. But it is a sensible individual choice, based in large part to the peculiarities of the tax system that Michael Cullen governs.

The reality is that while it is nonsensical that investment property attracts so much individual investment, compared to productive assets, it is very sensible at the individual level. The reason it makes sense is that for small, individual investors, capital gains on investment properties are not taxed.

Personal income is taxed. At sixty thousand dollars, an investor is paying twice the marginal tax than somebody earning thirty-eight thousand dollars a year. The Socialist mantra claims, for some reason, that this is a fair arrangement. The individual taxpayer, who is by no means wealthy, but is striving hard to earn sixty thousand a year, does not feel that same degree of fairness. Unfairness soon leads to resentment. And resentment leads to people looking at ways of behaving differently.

There are various, widely-known mechanisms and financial products in the market to deliver tax-free capital gains to off-set personal income tax. And there are many individual investors—principally those who are earning over $60,000 per year—who are taking advantage of their legal entitlements.

Gone are the days when investment in residential property was a time-consuming affair, associated with the pitfalls of finding a good tenant to a property. There are several companies in the market that provide an end-to-end property investment service, from development of the property, financing, provision of legal advice, valuation of the property, tenancy and maintenance management, and guarantees of rental returns. An ordinary investor can enter the residential property market, having expended no greater energy than he would if he had simply gone down to the bank and made a deposit.

These are not the rich fat cats of society. This is not a scandal of winebox proportions. This is not a story of a handful of high net-worth individuals exploiting cunningly-devised, and little-known tax legislation, to rip the tax base of a few million dollars here and there. Rather, it is a matter of ordinary, mum-and-dad investors making the use of basic investment vehicles to reduce their tax liabilities, to the tune of hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars a year. They are not even small business owners who can take advantage of this situation, but ordinary, average, middle-income salary and wage earners.

The average income for a university-educated, full-time worker in paid employment is morme than $60,000 per year. In Auckland, that person earns more. Consequently, there is a massive market for property-based financial products that are designed to reduce tax.

The property market in New Zealand is effectively a state-sanctioned, and profitable grand pyramid scheme. Demand for residential property investment, propelled by high marginal tax rates, is largely immune to incremental interest rate rises, as the higher the finance cost of a property, the greater that property losses can be attributed against personal income tax. High marginal tax rates at low threshholds, through the property market, have created a degree of structural inflation.

Michael Cullen argues that reducing tax across the board has inflationary effects. Roger Kerr has written extensively on this, pointing out that in an open, competitive, trading economy, the effect of increasing the money supply is less inflationary than in a protected market. The reason for this is that the price of most goods and services in New Zealand is directly related to international commodity prices: New Zealand is too small a market to effect an increase in international commodity prices.

And what Cullen's argument doesn't address is that high marginal tax rates are a key component in both structural inflation, and high interest rates: housing investment is normally financed by fixed-term interest rates that are immune to increases in the Reserve Bank's OCR. House price inflation, driven by increased demand for investment property, to off-set personal income tax, is the key player in the structural inflationary mix.

This, of course, constitutes on its own, a massive potential threat to the tax base. It is guided, for no other reason, than that individual investors feel resentful towards the Government for the amount of money they are paying in tax, for little service.

The result is four-fold: that the Socialists’ attempt to punish the well-off doesn’t actually work, that the tax base is reduced, and that economic activity is distorted: that individuals will cumulatively invest in non-productive assets, rather than productive businesses. Further, low-income New Zealanders are priced out of owning their own homes, as structural inflation locks them out.

That is entirely the situation in the New Zealand economy today.

The Reserve Bank has responded that it is looking at the arrangements of Loss Attributing Qualifying Companies. Again, these are not intricate devices reserved only for the very wealthy who can afford complex legal advice; they can be set up by any one of many mortgage-brokers in New Zealand. They are the prime instrument for reducing an individual’s tax liability. These products are easily accessible, and inexpensive to set up.

Tens of thousands of LAQCs function to fuel and maintain the value of the property market. The effect of any changes to the tax system relating to LAQCs would have an immediate and catastrophic effect on the Auckland housing market, in particular. The consequence of that is a potential threat to the banking system as a whole. But before the Socialists suggest that such a correction would be a good thing, consider this: the working capital of most small businesses in New Zealand is financed by equity in residential property. Start pinging the housing market, and small companies--and therefore jobs--go down the drain.

The only means to safely amend this situation is not to look at a capital gains tax on property. Capital gains have come about because of the distortionary nature of the tax system, which is driving investors into property ahead of other asset classes.

A far more practical approach to encourage investors to move into productive assets is to reduce high marginal tax rates. It’s not something Michael Cullen would like to tell his voters—who believe that middle-income New Zealanders are actually being punished for working hard and earning more. The reality for many of them is that the punishment doesn’t exist. Instead, the tax system fuels higher housing prices, making it unaffordable for low-income New Zealanders to live in places like Auckland and Wellington. Yet again, the Socialist formula cheats low-income New Zealanders who aren’t paying sufficient tax to benefit from tax write-offs in order to leverage them into the property market.

By reducing marginal tax rates and increasing the threshholds to which those rates apply, the Government would remove this perverse incentive to over-invest in the property market. Residential property would still be a viable investment option, but it would no longer be the only investment option for many New Zealanders. House prices would rise at a slower rate, and the structural inflation, and higher interest rates to attempt to counter those price rises, would disappear.

This morning I was having breakfast with a mate, who earns around a hundred grand a year. He’s not wealthy, except in the eyes of the non-working poor, but he is comfortable. I asked him about his property investments. He responded that he had none. I said to him: “Are you fucking mad? Why not?”

He answers: “Because I’m not sure about where the market’s at, right now.”

So I give him a three-minute spiel around the fact the Auckland property market has doubled in value, every seven years, for the last hundred years. That a very simply-devised mechanism would provide him with an additional income stream of twenty thousand dollars a year, plus capital gains over the medium-term.

By the time we got to our second coffee, I had made a call to another mate to see him at lunchtime. By dinner this evening, my breakfast companion was the proud investor in two residential properties, and Dr Cullen was some twenty thousand dollars a year poorer.

New Zealanders don’t have to go off-shore to pay lower taxes. They can do that right here. Of course, it doesn’t make our economy as a whole more robust, and low-income New Zealanders don’t share in that wealth—but that is the necessary consequence of Socialism and rampant taxation.

The Labour Government has slowly, but surely, created this situation due to their dogmatic insistence that it is right and fair to punish middle-income New Zealanders. Over the last six years wage rises have pushed middle New Zealand into high marginal tax brackets. This has encouraged New Zealanders to seek alternative investment options to reduce that tax liability.

Comments Policy

I take a fairly liberal approach to comments on this blog. Consistent with my basic philosophy that I don’t care what others think, nor do I particularly care how others express themselves here. Readers of the comments section will often see something from a pinko commie, who, through their own volition, has decided to both read what I have written here, and be offended by it. That’s their choice.

Of all the comments this blog has received, I have only ever deleted one comment, due to the defamatory content about another right-wing blogger. Mere criticism, or opposing debate, no matter how shoddy, is not, in my view, a reason to delete a comment. I’ll even take insults directed at me, straight on the chin: generally they are so weak and pathetic that it’s less trouble to ignore them than go through the process of deleting a comment.

(As an aside, I have also deleted spam, but that is no longer a problem since I installed the word verification feature here.)

Some blogs do not have comments features. Russell Brown is notorious for this: he actively writes a tirade of socialist nonsense, yet doesn’t give his readers the opportunity to respond. That’s his choice. It’s a hypocritical choice when he then spends half his days filling up the comments sections of other right-wing bloggers. I might have thought that it would be more sensible for him to grow some testicles and install a comments feature on his blog, if he wanted to have public discussion of his stupid thinking, but again, that’s his choice.

It does perplex me, however, when a left-winger sets up a blog, makes up an inflammatory post about a right-winger, and then deletes the comment that the right-winger makes in response. Such is the case with About Town this morning.

This morning, Xavier did a post disputing the appropriateness of my blog title. It was reasonably well-written and witty. I commented along the lines of: “Don’t you commie fuckers realize that I’m not actually offended by the idea that you’ve got nothing better to do than sling shit?”

And what do you know? Xavier deleted his original post, disabling that comment. He then reposted the same article. As if my response didn't exist, which is relatively deceitful in the general scheme of debate.

But for the record: no, I’m not offended by those pinko tantrums. Nor am I surprised that the About Towners are sufficiently dishonest as to delete a post they’ve made, simply to disable a comment I’ve made in response.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Hager: The Right Killed Rod Donald

I haven’t blogged at all on Rod Donald’s death. I have said to some that I detested everything that he stood for, and to suddenly claim some sudden grief at his passing would be hypocritical and self-centred.

I have said before that the most dangerous movement in New Zealand right now is the Green Party, and their duplicitous, envious approach to prosperity and wealth-creation in this country. They are not an environmental movement: they are a socialist brand that tries to hide its real agenda behind the caring, sharing, friendly face of conservation and protection of resources. To that end, I had no respect for what Rod Donald stood for.

Green Party members are the absolute dregs of society: anarchists, Marxists, and greedy little pinkos who want the State to capture yet more of the prosperity that individuals create. They will not be content until they have turned New Zealand back to a nirvanic ice age. When Rod Donald died, they were quite happy to manipulate the occasion so that everybody would feel a little happier about a key member of the Green movement.

But now some of them have come back out of their cages, and unhappy with the amount of glory they received, want just a little more, by politicising Donald’s death even further.

In this morning’s Herald, Nicky Hager is reported as criticizing the hypocrisy of Donald’s lifetime enemies, who praised Donald’s achievements in death. Here I don’t expect to have it both ways—people are free to mourn whomever one chooses, but I didn’t feel comfortable mourning him. I didn’t know Donald well, and didn’t have much to do with him personally. Nor did I want to. Yet Hager would have been the first to cry foul if Helen Clark, Don Brash, or Winston Peters had remained silent on Donald’s death.

But here is the clincher. At the memorial service for Donald in Wellington yesterday, Hager lands another new conspiracy: that the Right were responsible for Donald’s death. At the service, Hager said:

“He said Mr Donald had to endure taunts of "nutty" and "loony" designed to marginalise him and what he stood for. "I'm sure those years of personal attacks and put-downs were a constant strain that took their toll."
Wrong, Nicky. Rod Donald was a nut. People who told him so were just stating facts. You too are a loon. If you’re going to jump into the political arena and throw smear at others because of their ideas—as Rod Donald did, and you have always done, then you can expect people to bite back.

The reality is that the Green movement in New Zealand has not received anything like the exposure it deserves. The soft image of the Green Party—led by Jeanette and Rod—masked the fringe lunacy of ending all further electricity generation, doubling petrol taxes, having Nandor promoting cannabis use outside secondary schools, releasing violent offenders from prisons, make roading construction prohibitive, slashing defence expenditure, and the minimization of private property rights. In short, the very claims that the Exclusive Brethren made during the election campaign, which, despite the Greens’ ire and rage, were largely accurate. Yet did the media focus on the actual claims the EB’s made? No. They focused on the messenger.

That was a classic Rod Donald tactic. To shift attention away from the shoddiness and undesirability of its own policy platforms, and instead create a culture of envy against those who work to create economic prosperity. They are inherently manipulators of truth. They fight the game hard. And for all the contempt I had for Rod Donald, he was pretty good at withstanding the attacks that he got. But he didn’t get attacked nearly as often as he deserved.

But it’s a nice try, Nicky. You should write a book about it. There’s definitely a conspiracy story in there somewhere.

It is, of course, part of an attempt to lionise Rod Donald: he is no longer able to actively strategise for them, but those who are left behind can use his memory to manipulate and carry on the sordid Green agenda. It is a disgraceful claim from Hager, but somehow one that Donald probably would have approved, if only because he, more than anybody else of the Left, lived by the principle that the end justifies the means.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Public Sector Excess Award: MSD

This morning I went looking for the Ministry of Social Development's briefing to the Incoming Government, following media reports that the MSD has now taken upon itself to be the Government's principal adviser--not on welfare issues--but on public health issues as well. I was curious as to how it came about that the MSD had taken on such a role.

So I visit the site. I look at media releases. And what do I find?

Nothing about the Ministry's briefing to the incoming government, I'm afraid. Well, it is there, but it's not displayed through the normal information channels. I might have thought that as a key policy adviser, that their PR person might have made it a high priority.

But apparently the MSD's public relations person has other priorities.

Or should I say, the MSD's PR machine. Because it is a frigging huge machine.

That is The Ministry of Social Development has three Wellington-based public relations advisers. Fair enough, I think. It's a big Government department. Three people is precisely triple as existed in 1999, even under the self-promoting extremes of Christine Rankin.

But I hadn't quite hit the mark, chaps and chapettes. Because in addition to the three media advisers based in Wellington, the Ministry of Social Development has ELEVEN regional public relations lackeys on their payroll. Fourteen spin-nurses lactating from the public breast. This is supposedly part of the high-value government expenditure that is more important than your tax cut.

Don't believe me? Then have a look here. Count them. Better still, if you, like me, run out of fingers at ten, I've listed them here.

Bronwyn Saunders Chief Media Advisor

Jane Mortlock Media Advisor

Northland Clare Blackburn

Auckland Aidan Richards

Auckland Amelia Cairns

Waikato Irving Young

Bay Of Plenty Julie Hill

Taranaki Gail Bennett

East Coast Calvin Robinson

Central Jacqui Ferrel

Wellington Mel Collier

Nelson Jill Harris

Canterbury Amanda Cook

Southern Juliet Smith

Yes. That makes fourteen of them. To give you an insight, that is three times larger than the DominionPost's entire full-time political contingent in the Press Gallery. From one government department.

And what kind of self-congratulatory trash do they put out? Apart from the grand total of fifteen press releases that the entire PR team has issued in the last year, have a look at this Pulitzer-winning piece: a newsletter about how some people were hired through Work and Income to station the tills in a supermarket, and a particularly scintillating gem about a Work and Income Case Manager who "teaches paper-making and card-making and how to make photo frames."

This is what your taxes are paying for. Oh, and if you were looking for the MSD's briefing, it's here. They do mention that the Government needs to "consider new pricing and tax initiatives around tobacco and alcohol". The numbers they use to justify it--that eighteen percent of all deaths in New Zealand are caused by tobacco smoking--aren't supported by the Ministry of Health--the Government's delegated principal public health adviser. MoH puts the same death rate at seventeen percent. A minor quibble, but MoH doesn't mention tax changes to reduce tobacco or alcohol consumption. Nor does Treasury or the IRD--the Government's principal tax policy advisers.

So what precisely is the MSD playing at? It really does sound rather like a stalking-horse for filling Government coffers even higher, presumably because the MSD needs the funds to ensure that some currently unemployed people in Northland get jobs working as PR advisers for the Ministry.

Fuck You, John O'Neill!

Yes, the ultimate comeback.

Despite the bleary-eyed cranks who thought we couldn't pull it off, and with Auntie Helen competing against Nelson Mandela in the first round, we've won the hosting rights for the Cup in 2011!

I never thought that the Cup was unaffordable to New Zealand in future years--but despite the vast odds, and all the depressive cocksuckers who thought we couldn't bring it here, it's ours.

All we have to do is win the frigging thing in 2007, and keep it here in 2011.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Albino Affair

Not so long ago, I was passing through Wellington for a weekend. While there, Adam*, an old university mate, suggested that I make an appearance for his cricket team.

Being the obliging guy that I am, I agreed. After all, I was free, single, and enjoyed the lads’ reputation for consuming copious quantities of alcohol before, during, and after a cricket match. To make it all the more worthwhile, there was an All Black game on that night, which was Adam’s ideal excuse for holding a gathering at his place.

The cricket was not memorable. It was the kind of blustery, arse-awful late-Summer day that only Wellington can turn on, leaving the players cranky, wind-burnt and with no result. Ideal for drinking beer.

I had not played for Adam’s team before. We were playing against a Sri Lankan eleven. The Sri Lankan players had learned their sense of sportsmanship from the Sri Lankan national side. Unfortunately for them, they had learned their cricketing prowess from the pre-Aravinda days of the Sri Lankan game.

The Sri Lankans were woeful that day. Being a competitive young whippersnapper, while they were batting and I was standing in the outfield, I broached the subject of their talent.

“How is it that you guys are so keen about cricket, yet you’re so fucking useless?”

At first, they reacted with the light, dulcet tones of the sort of performers who are used to sledging at high-level, cut-throat sport. They laughed.

I was in an obnoxious mood. There were six of them, and one of me. I wasn’t about to be laughed off. Still, I remained diplomatic and calm, while I devised my next strategy.

The Sri Lankans lost three wickets in seven balls. I had observed that the new batsmen were taking an inordinate amount of time to come out to the crease. The previous batsman had taken six minutes to go out to bat, after the previous batsman had left the field.

“Are you guys just completely fucking disorganized, or are you deliberately taking your fucking time?” I asked again, providing two conciliatory answers for them to choose.

From that point, a considerable argument resulted, in which I accused them of deliberately prolonging their padding-up in the hope that it would rain, and the match would be called off. I subtly advised them that they were a bunch of cheating, objectionable, pathetic duck eggs who didn’t deserve being on the same field as me.

Before a full-on rumble could commence, it started to rain. As I wandered back to my team-mates, I harangued them for not giving the Sri Lankans the same kind of grief that I had given them. One of them quietly, and quite feebly, informed me that they didn’t have anybody on their team who spoke to the opposition like that.

“Then you’re a pack of limp-wristed cocksuckers too!” I notified him.

Slightly annoyed, and moderately wind-burnt, I consoled myself by drinking more beer. I returned to Adam’s house, and drank more beer, and assisted him and his flatmates in preparing for the party. By “assisted”, I mean that I shouted at him a few more times about the state of his cricket team, and reported to him that I would discount him as a friend if he had not ensured that any hot chicks turned up to please me.

The party began civilly. It was a particularly genteel affair. I was assigned to the barbecue. Adam astonished and amazed several guests by pouring methylated spirits directly onto the burning coals, and by not setting fire to himself. I was quite liberal with the bourbon and continued to make what I thought were amusing references to other people about swapping one of my shots of bourbon for one of their shots of coke. To emphasise just how drunk I was becoming, my punchline would invariably be: “Hmmm. That sounds like a fair trade to me!”

Adam’s large deck was the perfect venue for a wrestle. For some reason, nobody else was particularly keen on wrestling. So I picked the biggest, strongest, and most athletic guy at the party and tackled him. Reluctantly, he started wrestling back. Gasps and cries shot out into the night, when I annoyed the biggest, strongest, and most athletic guy so much that he inevitably picked me up and threw me some distance off the deck, and down on top of a small tree.

I agreed that that was a satisfactory riposte to my behaviour, and decided not to continue wrestling. Instead, I wandered inside, and spotted another old friend, Nick, on the other side of the room. I drank a couple of drinks that didn’t belong to me, and shouted out: “Hey, Nick!”

Nick turned. So did everybody else.

“What?” Nick asked.

“Catch this!” I replied.

Now, I should tell you, dear reader, that I am an avid reader of the Bible. And that moment, I understood just how Moses felt when the Red Sea parted through Moses’ faith, and faith alone. And like the Red Sea, the entire gathering separated in two, leaving a perfect corridor between myself and Nick.

So I started to run. I gathered some speed before, having finished the running stage of my challenge, I started to jump.

That evening, Nick, who has never been particularly keen to catch a cricket ball, did take the catch. He caught me. He had no choice but to catch me. At first he was stunned. Then, having taken my weight in his arms, his legs told him that his body was not designed to withstand such a force. So he teetered. And he began to fall.

But before he fell, I jumped off him. Nick crashed through a wooden chair, shattering it to pieces. Nick accused me of breaking the chair. I answered that I hadn’t touched the fucking chair, and that he was to blame. Before a fist-fight broke out, we agreed that it was best to settle the dispute by drinking more alcohol.

At this juncture, given that I had made myself persona non grata among at least one of Adam’s flatmates, for no other reason than that I was close to Nick when he smashed through her favourite chair, I opted to retire to the deck with my bottle of bourbon.

When I reached my spot, I made a point of pissing on the lemon tree that I had fallen through during my wrestle, telling anybody who happened to be near me that urine, being very acidic, is highly “nutrientious to citrus trees”. Some wag claimed that there was no such word as “nutrientious”. I told him he was a fucking dick.

I have found that some of clearest thoughts that I have ever had have occurred during urination. Perhaps it is the lack of concentration involved once I have unzipped my pants and flopped it out; I go into auto-pilot, and reach a zen-like state. This cleansing of the bladder and mind revealed to me that on the other corner of the deck were a very blond, pale guy, and a very hot chick.

Having completed my ablutions, I asked Adam who the chick was “with the Albino”. Adam answered that he didn’t know who the chick was, but that she had come with Daniel, who was a friend and work colleague of one of Adam’s flatmates. The same flatmate who was already dark at me because Nick had broken her favourite chair.

“It’s okay, mate. I’ll be polite,” I slur.

So off I wander, and by the time I reached the end of the deck, Daniel had gone off to use the actual toilet, and I was left alone with the hot chick. I started chatting her up. Delicately. Subtly. “So you came here with the Albino, did you?”

She giggles. I offer her bourbon. Classy-like. From the bottle. She obliges. We talk more, I get her laughing. The Albino returns, but being the socially inept drop-kick that he is, he’s too scared to join the conversation, despite my loud references to “Albinos” that everybody else on the deck hears, but he ignores.

Now, I’ve never understood this about Albinos. I’ve found that if I mention “Germany” loudly, among groups of Germans, that they pick up the cue to come and talk to me. If I say “America” near some Americans, they see it as an invitation to chat about America. But I can report that in my experience, saying the word “Albino” at volume, near a guy with very blond hair, does not provoke the same degree of hospitality.

Assuming that Daniel the Albino is not a very cheerful, happy-go-lucky bloke, and that the hot chick doesn’t know anybody else at the party, the last thing I want is for her to be left on her own and bored. So I keep her talking. She seems to be entertained. We’re getting along well. And she’s very hot.

So, pretty rapidly, events tend to collide with each other, and we are in somebody’s car, while I give instructions that we are heading into town. The Albino is not traveling in the same vehicle. We arrive on Courtenay Place, and in that dare-devil way that lads do when it’s not such a dare-devil thing to do, we jump out of the moving vehicle. I say this is hardly dare-devil, as traffic moves very slowly late on a Saturday night.

And there we are in a karaoke bar. I go and gate-crash somebody else’s song, get the bartender to pour some more drinks, and start dancing with the hot chick. All simultaneously. We’re dancing pretty close, and she’s enjoying herself, and a few of the others from the party start arriving.

The Albino walks in, dead sober, and cranky that his girlfriend has her tongue in my mouth. And what does he do? Yes indeed. He gives her the stare.

The stare might work on a chick who is sober, or who when drunk has a conscience. This chick didn’t have sobriety, or a sense that she cared about the Albino.

But it was at this stage that I made my one fatal mistake of the evening. Until that time, I had survived an attempt to brawl with the Sri Lankan Cricket Team, wrestled a much larger person, imbibed far more alcohol than was humanly safe, broken furniture, sung ridiculously loud songs without destroying my voice, and had not yet been stabbed by the Albino, whose girlfriend, while not having technically stolen her, was certainly borrowing her without his permission.

Because what I did then was turn my back on him. Later, when I digested the events that I remembered of the previous evening, I reflected that I had learned a crucial lesson about animal behaviour: humankind has evolved to a state of culture and civilization such that we often forget just how vicious animals can get when they have the opportunity. They don’t think of pride, of humiliation, or even their own extinction when cornered. Such animals will throw everything, no matter how dirty, into a fight. It is their instinct.

And Albinos possess that same animal instinct.

I am not saying that a fight ensued, because it didn’t. Nor am I alleging that anything specifically untoward occurred at that point. What I will say is that when we returned to our table, the hot chick took a few swigs of her drink, and promptly rested her head on the table to sleep. Albino did not look surprised in the least.

If I had known as much as I do now, about the fine art of criminal forensics—since accidentally viewing an episode of CSI Miami recently—then I might have had evidential cause to suspect that the Albino had deliberately spiked his girlfriend’s drink in order to drag her away. In fact, I did not see him spike the drink. I did not keep a sample of it for testing.

I just suspected that was the case.

Which is why I am always suspicious of Albinos. They can never be trusted not to fight really really dirty when the crucial moment arrives.

*Not his real name.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Spare A Thought For These Impoverished Pinkos...

There’s been some comment on Russell Brown’s new union, The Association Of Talentless Herald Columnists, and some of the tactics they have used to address their pay dispute. Cathy Odgers has blogged on it--but from now on I am making no further reference to Cathy on my blog. Except for this.

My dispute with Cathy goes back some time. The essence of it is that she is an ideas-stealing bitch. She plagiarises my writing subject constantly. Her writing style is merely a slightly chickified version of my own.

Case in point: this morning I was being taxied to the airport. It was 4:30am, and I had nothing else to do for the hour-long journey. So I was browsing the internet on my cellphone.

My phone is not a particularly sophisticated creature. I use it merely to send and receive calls. But I’d worked out how to browse the interwebby thing, and caught up with Cathy’s blog. That’s when I read this story.

Now, the thing is with my phone is that only a limited number of characters can appear on the screen. So Cathy’s blog takes up 178 pages on the phone. Her Gang Of 14 piece extends to fourteen pages, excluding comments--a nice display of collaboration between herself and Nokia, if there ever were one. The upshot of it was that I could only read a paragraph of her writing at a time, and then wait a few seconds before the next page came up.

So I worked my way down, and had time to think between pages. At one point, I am thinking: “Ah, but there’s no excuse for Colin James to be a party of that bunch of whingeing, socialist losers.” And what is Cathy’s next line, once it finally comes up on my phone? Yes, folks: “I expected more from Colin James but there you go.”


That irritates me because as one strives to be original in this world, it often feels like I have uncovered the proverbial barrel of monkeys that are throwing random letters around, and somehow composing the entire works of William Shakespeare. In this case, I am the bard, and Cathy is the barrel. But I digress. It means that being the literary type, and having uncovered somebody who is revealing my thoughts before I get to express them, I have to outsmart those frigging monkeys.

So I’m coming up here with a few perspectives that Cathy missed out. As I write this, it is 2:30am in Hong Kong, and there’s no way she can amend her post in time to throw me the banana skins on this one.

I agree with Cathy that the Herald has the commercial right to do whatever it likes with its columnists’ work. I concur that this is essentially a pay dispute. But I go further with these points.

For a group of professional writers who compose valid arguments for a living, their complaint is really pretty shoddy. They throw in a range of inconsistent issues: concern about readers’ access to their work, concern that the Herald will lose out commercially in advertising revenue; concern that they weren’t consulted on a commercial decision made by the Herald; concern that readers will not buy the print edition anymore. They way the open letter is pitched, these are the chief gripes that the columnists have.

But that is patently dishonest on their part. If their problems were about readers’ access to their work, how does paying them more mitigate that concern? Are they actually saying that their views can be bought for a price? And if so, doesn’t that make an absolute sham of them expressing their opinions, if those opinions are a tradeable commodity (i.e. if they will shut up about the Herald‘s charging mechanism in exchange for more money, doesn‘t that suggest that every other view they express up for sale as well?).

Next the columnists crank about the cost of the on-line premium access. On the one hand they complain that the on-line readership has fallen off, and that their much-vaunted reader “feedback” has disappeared. Then they argue later that they see that the premium content strategy is likely to “cannibalise the print edition”, due to the substantial savings that readers will have by purchasing an annual on-line subscription. Well, dear columnists, which of the two is it? Those two points are entirely inconsistent with each other. If anything, what you have established is that you are incapable of making judgements on commercial decisions by media companies. While some of your arguments are coherent of their own, put together, they don’t make sense. If you were all running the Herald, you would never be able to form an opinion on anything!

Next we get to the substance of the complaint. That they’re not being paid enough. This is a curious mechanism for a bunch of Socialists: what they have done here is attempt to enter into collective pay negotiations. One of the features of the Employment Relations Act is that only registered unions are permitted to bargain collectively. And correct me if I’m wrong here, but the last time I looked, Russell Brown is not a registered union. He's not even an incorporated society.

The EMPU does have a large cabal of journalists among its membership, but they are clearly not a party to this pay dispute. For one, the columnists’ open letter slags off journalists and reveals to the public that the middle-class, liberal moralising that comes from the socialist media is not based on any degree of poverty on the journalists’ part.

So what we are seeing is a group of pinkos slagging off other pinkos, and in doing so undermining the purpose of the pinko Employment Relations Act by attempting to bargain collectively without the authority to do so.

Next we see the columnists attempt a comparison of what they earn versus feature writers. As Cathy has pointed out, a lot more effort goes into writing a feature than an opinion piece--feature writers interview subjects, get a range of views on a subject, and seek to report the whole story based on a range of facts. Columnists have no requirement to be objective. They don’t interview; they just write what is in their heads. So too did John Manukia--but that‘s a different subject.

But the main difference between a columnist and a feature writer is that one is a full-time employee, while the other is a person of standing or interest in the community who has a range of opinions on different issues. They have full-time employment elsewhere. Kerre Woodham, for example, is a well-paid talkback host. Bryan Gaynor is an economist. Tapu Misa is a freelance journalist--by choice, she does not wish to be tied to a single media company. So too is music writer Graham Reid. Through the Herald, they are given an additional forum to express the points of view that they form in their daily lives.

It is not a primary occupation. It is a bonus, which all the columnists involved benefit from in their non-columnist lives through the extra profile they receive from the Herald.

Finally, the complaint seeks to blame the Herald for the columnists’ own naivety. They confess their ignorance of copyright law, by signing it away to the Herald. Well, boo-friggity-hoo. You ignorant tossers entered into a commercial agreement with a company, and you want public sympathy for your stupidity? Cry me a frigging river!

As the monkey-barrel has pointed out, these are not star columnists. People do not read the Herald so that they can catch up on a Kerre Woodham column. They might read her column because it happens to appear in the Herald, but she doesn’t have any commercial pull of her own. And there is no shortage of interesting and qualified freelance writers who could replace them.

Compare the gang of 14--who are so individually insignificant that they feel their only means of addressing their pay dispute is to act collectively, with this guy. The Sun and the Daily Mail are currently in a legal wrangle over the employment of star columnist Richard Littlejohn, who was poached by the Mail for £ 1.2 million.

Bet Richard Littlejohn didn’t think of acting collectively for better pay.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Stuart Boag For Rakaia!

Come on out from under that bushel, Stu, and make a stand for the Rakaia seat.

Now is your time!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Why I Blog...

An esteemed historian I used to know well, and for whom I had great respect, once told me about his philosophy on writing. To him, the written word has the power to condemn, to sanctify, to define and refine, to illuminate and obfuscate, to make light of the most tragic, or to sadden the most fantastic. Writing immortalises what the spoken tongue often forgets. But that is only part of it; the same can be said of any professional writer’s philosophy. What was most important to him was not the power of writing itself, but the connection that the writer had with his intended audience. For this particular scribe, he didn’t care for literary criticism. He didn’t concern himself with pundits or reviews. He never sought fame or acclaim for his work. Because he knew his audience.

To him, his text was the one tangible asset that he could transfer to his future generations, in the knowledge that none of his children could squander his legacy. He wrote for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, about an age that he lived, and through his words, even if never published, his afterbears would have that perpetual knowledge that printed matter possessed. They were the only readers he cared about.

When Joe Stein published his first novel, Primary Colors, he also had an audience in mind. The sensation his work created, based on Bill Clinton’s campaign to win the Democratic Party nomination for the presidency in 1992, was as much based around the fact that he wrote under the pseudonym Anonymous, than for the quality of the novel or the subject matter. Of course, it was a passable novel, nicely written, witty, clever, but not brilliant. It sold well because readers wanted to know who Anonymous was. Joe Klein, a Time political correspondent who had followed Clinton’s up-and-down campaign, knew this readership well. It was the perfect gimmick.

It was an equally intriguing gimmick that Simon Carr played out when he authored The Spin: A Novel Of New Zealand Politics, in 1996. The novel didn’t have quite the scale of Klein’s effort, but Carr knew his mischief would create a mini-storm in the Capital. Knowing his readership, it didn’t actually matter that the events and interludes that Carr described occurred three years earlier, when he was part of Jim Bolger’s campaign. What mattered was that he had successfully started a fury in Wellington as to the authorship of the book. At the time, various pundits were pointing the finger at Michael Wall, Bill Ralston, Richard Griffin, and Barry Soper. Some of them didn’t even deny it—so keen were they to be part of the mystery. Even Linda Clark associated herself with the novel by threatening to sue the publisher for defamation. It was heady stuff, and Simon mostly got away with it.

Which brings me to myself. I write under a pseudonym for the precise reason that I know my intended audience intimately. My audience knows me. That intended readership is amused, frustrated, delighted, annoyed, irritated, angered, and charmed by what I write. Not always completely satisfied with what I come up with, but sometimes surprised, and even when my audience knows if I have composed in a state of inebriation, that audience forgives me. After all, both Dylan Thomas and Byron did their best work in that state.

My “dear reader”, to whom I am writing, is myself. This is, after all, an online journal. I do not write to piss off others or annoy them, or to seek glory or retribution. Frankly, I couldn’t care less if nobody visited my blog. As my by-line states, I don’t actually care what you think. This writing is about me, and my thoughts, and my immortality.

That aside, there has been some discussion about the identity of Insolent Prick. That conjecture tends to come from pinko liberals who are offended by what I write, yet still come and visit in order to be offended. That amuses me. And still I don’t care.

Visitors to my blog do have a function. I have been writing opinions for clients, and providing professional advice, for several years. Writing is a discipline. My blog is my principal means of maintaining that discipline. If I’m absent for a couple of weeks, comments from readers for me to get back to writing something are helpful. But they’re not the reason I write.

The events I describe in my blog are not fictional accounts. They are my interpretations on actual events to which I am a party. Often events I describe possess an element of symbolism. I will occasionally exaggerate to make a point, or change the series of events, or alter slightly immaterial facts. But the substance of what I write, and the opinions I express, are strictly correct. If I do make changes at any point, that is to protect the other people involved. I don't use my own real name here, and unless I'm discussing a political viewpoint on a public figure, it isn't appropriate for me to disclose the actual names of others in my stories.

So, having explained that I am the subject of this blog, and the sole intended audience of it, other readers are still welcome to browse and make comments. But those people are merely bystanders. I do not set out to offend those bystanders, but they should realise that they are reading what is, for all intents and purposes, my journal. These are my inner thoughts. I don't have access to other readers' journals--and realistically, I don't care to read them. They don't interest me. And I'm too vain to stay interested more than even momentarily.

So the bystanders have a choice to be here. I would not ask others to censor their thoughts or ideas in their own journals, and those who are offended are free to censor themselves out of my blog.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Another New Series: PC-Watch!

One of the most absurd claims made by the liberal Left is that political correctness is a non-existent idea, developed by the Right as an easy, general smear, rather a coherent thought process. The Intellectual Left, in that pompous way that only they can manage, define what the Right call PC as merely good policy.

I don’t subscribe to Wayne Mapp’s reported description of political correctness as just the means of a minority to enforce its will on the majority. That is certainly the effect, as the majority do not subscribe to the politically correct agenda. But it’s not the key point. It is really the process by which a group of people aim to shut down discussion and debate by labeling certain viewpoints as taboo. It is no less harmful just because the majority happen to oppose the liberal PC agenda.

It is therefore not PC for a man to claim that he believes a woman’s place is in the kitchen. It might be his perspective. But in many parts of society—particularly the Wellington liberal set—any man who expresses that view will be shouted down and silenced. The smacking debate, in which the liberals would like to make criminals of parents who use even moderate physical force in disciplining their children by lumping them alongside violent offenders—is a classic example. A person who questions the entitlement of a perfectly able person to live a lifetime on a benefit without any compulsion to work, is considered by many liberals to be a fascist. A woman who declares that her belief is that homosexuality is wrong and sinful is threatened with a human rights complaint, merely for expressing that belief. Questioning the level of arts funding in the Capital is likely to trigger a storm of protest from the chardonnay-swilling, “freethinking” Labour voters, with cries of philistinism.

The PC agenda is a liberal agenda. It attempts to control how people think, and their right to express their thoughts, by both restricting the language of debate, and what is acceptable to debate. It makes clearly liberal assumptions about what is acceptable, and does not brook argument of those assumptions.

There is an easy test for the existence of political correctness in any dialogue: if in a group discussion, a single person contests the assumptions of the debate, and that person is shouted down, then political correctness has won. When there is no opportunity to argue the language of debate, there can be only one answer, and debate itself is futile. PC “values” do not protect the dissenting voice: they make value judgements about which voice should be heard, and aim to silence all other dissenting voices.

Defenders of politically correct strategies deny that it exists in the public sector. That is a nonsense. Taking up the challenge to cite specific examples, as Wayne Mapp is planning to do, I will assist him by highlighting each week one of the many public sector PC excesses.

The great irony, of course, is that the result of the PC agenda is publicly quite visible. It is just seldom documented. So Helen Clark is feted at the New Zealand music awards, and lauded by both audience and presenters, while Don Brash’s arrival is jeered and booed by all. And that is seen as acceptable behaviour. Business is bad, Government is good. Rich people are evil, poor people—but not so poor as to not be able to afford the glad rags on display at the Music awards—good. Economic success is wrong, whereas a life of welfare is ideal. Why? Because Helen is a curry-chomping, socialist, gay-friendly icon, whereas Don Brash is a middle-aged male who wants to question the key assumptions that the Liberal Left hold about New Zealand society.

The PC agenda is most pervasive in the delivery of social services. PC behaviour is not necessarily found in the press releases, the ministerial speeches, or even departmental brochures or briefing papers, where it can be readily exposed and ridiculed. Rather, it is deep in the culture of the organization that key liberal assumptions are made about debatable issues, for no other reason than to further advance the liberal grip in the public sector.

But on with this week’s example. Because as much as the PC brigade attempt to conceal their motives, if you dig deep enough, you’ll find evidence of how they think, and more alarmingly, how they want everybody else to think. Take this example:

“It is essential that a Ministry of Health person has an understanding of Mäori issues. This includes an awareness of traditional and contemporary Mäori and Iwi structures, key Mäori concepts, an awareness of legislation, Treaty of Waitangi issues and policy affecting the key areas of work.”

This statement appears in a job description for a certain position at the Ministry of Health. Let’s break it down.

An understanding of Mäori issues. Right. What does that mean? What constitutes that understanding? Who defines it? Who judges how valid that understanding is? Who determines whether that understanding is right or wrong?

An awareness of traditional and contemporary Mäori and Iwi structures. Why? If there exists a programme whereby services are delivered through contemporary Maori structures, why is it necessary to be aware of traditional structures that existed in 1840, but are now non-existent? How does that assist in the delivery of health services?

Key Mäori concepts.” Okay. But what are they? Who decides what those key Mäori concepts are? Is there a set list, set down somewhere, that establishes those Mäori concepts in stone? Are those key concepts not open to debate? Are they unchanging, and concrete? And if so, how can the Treaty of Waitangi be a living document, as so many liberal academics and bureaucrats describe it, if key Mäori concepts are so definite?

And the job description in question is for a financial analyst. It is no less than a key requirement for the employee to fulfill. Yes, folks, at the Ministry of Health, a cost accountant, preparing budget forecasts and financial data models, is required by the Ministry of Health to be indoctrinated in its inalienable version of what constitutes “Maori issues”. It doesn't matter how good a financial analyst a person is; if they do not subscribe to the Ministry's liberal view of Maori issues, they do not make the grade.

The Sow Returns

Man-Hater extraordinnaire, and full-time cranky old moo-moo has re-enabled public access to her blog. She's also set up a list of house rules, which although I don't object to a blog owner setting her own protocol, she somewhat misses the point.

Ruthie slammed another blog-writer by selectively quoting something that the other blogger wrote, without referencing, linking, or attributing that quote to the author. She made baseless, ridiculous claims about the blogger that had no reference even to the quoted part, let alone the entire context of the offending post. And then, once she'd received a good flogging for her silliness, she shut down debate on her blog.

So welcome back, Ruth. There just aren't enough silly people in the world already. It's a delight to have you back, making a mockery of lucid thinking everywhere your head travels. I look forward to more sowisms from you.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Ministerial Dickhead Of The Week: Part One

This is a new feature I’ve added for the exclusive reading pleasure of Insolent Prick followers. Every week I am going to randomly select one of the many stupid statements issued by Government Ministers, and coin that person Ministerial Dickhead of the Week. Judgement will be tough and severe, and no further correspondence will be entered into, with respect to the results. For those Ministers who feature frequently in this section, I will not be accepting their votes against other Ministers.

Alas, this week I have assembled a range of absurd press releases by Government Ministers, and I inadvertently withdrew two statements from the pile. So many stupid words were uttered by the Government that I struggled to separate them all from each other. So this week, I announce that the Ministerial Dickhead Of The Week is…


In first place, we have Steve Maharey, who challenges Wayne Mapp to explain his portfolio title of National’s Spokesman for the Eradication of Political Correctness. Maharey notes that Mapp has a “light portfolio load”, and wants National to justify what else he is doing. This from a Government that has five Ministers outside Cabinet with no direct portfolio responsibilities, and two Cabinet Ministers with the negligible roles, respectively, of Building Issues and Statistics, and Customs and Youth Affairs.

Really, Mr Maharey. With the current state of the education system, and the fact that you’re new to your role, aren’t there more important things for you to be talking about?

And tied for first place, we have Jim Anderton.* Jim Anderton criticizes National for placing Agriculture so low among its spokesmanships (number ten). This, despite the fact that with the departure of Jim Sutton, Labour will have no farmers in Cabinet, whereas National has nine farmers in its top twenty.

Oh, and Mr Anderton: isn’t it YOUR government that has placed Foreign Affairs outside of the Cabinet, and by Winston’s reckoning, outside of the GOVERNMENT?

Haven't you fuckers got anything better to do? Like come to grips with your new portfolios?

*Hard to predict these things, but I suspect he is likely to feature often as Ministerial Dickhead Of The Week.

The Feel-Good Opposition

One of the great mistakes that Opposition leaders often make is to match caucus policy interests with spokesmanships. It might seem like the most obvious means of allocating opposition portfolios, but it overlooks one of the fundamental tenets of politics: not all portfolios, and not all Ministers, are equal. Michael Cullen is more competent than Parekura Horomia; Trevor Mallard is a more forceful foe than Judith Tizard; and Phil Goff is more likely to keep a cool head than Ruth Dyson.

Then there are the hot buttons: law and order is more likely to flare up than internal affairs; education provides greater opportunity to expose shoddy Government dealings than Commerce; and Social Development has an inexperienced Minister who has been wounded by the Opposition before.

In putting together the opposition dream-team, Don Brash has several priorities. Firstly, he needs to present a credible alternative government in the key portfolio areas. Secondly, he needs to detail the Labour Government as less than credible, in specific portfolio areas. Thirdly, he needs to show that Labour are generally living a life of bureaucratic excess. Finally—and this is no small task on its own, given that his caucus has doubled—he needs to hold together his own team and isolate weak members from attack.

Labour has obvious weak-points already. It has, in the main, a solid front bench, but the second row is vulnerable. Steve Maharey is a fuck-up waiting to happen: he sees the hits that the Education portfolio took in the last term as a failure of marketing on Labour’s part, as opposed to key flaws in the administration and delivery of education policy. That is an error of judgement on his behalf, and until he takes the education portfolio seriously, he leaves Labour’s flank wide open to assault. Merely selling the NCEA better will not solve the basic flaws in the delivery of the NCEA.

Annette King, as Minister of Police, has a safe pair of hands. Yet Ministerial competence is not enough on its own to insulate a department from public scrutiny. To sort out the problems with the Police, she has to rebuild police force morale at an all-time low, which seems like an impossible feat for a Minister who is new to that post. It is not simply a public relations exercise: every time a youth in Otara commits a violent crime, that reflects back on the Police’s ability to deal with the social dysfunction in South Auckland.

Parekura Horomia is a bumbler and a waffler. Miraculous to many that somebody as obese as he is has managed to live this long, he’s not physically or mentally fit for ministerial office. Te Puni Kokiri has exploded in size over the past six years, employing policy analysts who do little more than create more work for other Government departments. If their purpose is to improve the lot of Maori in the community, then they don’t actually have any connection with that outcome.

Ruth Dyson is easily flustered. She is a hard-line unionist, of proud Labour Party stock. Whereas Margaret Wilson appeared to be disconnected from the needs of business and employment, Dyson is an all-out CTU stooge. She will be a key driver behind raising the minimum wage to unaffordable levels, and will likely be instrumental in making the labour market even less flexible than it is now. In ACC, she inherited a government agency that was already taking a far more pragmatic and business-oriented approach to delivering accident rehabilitation, but her instinct is to nationalize where possible. It irks her that ACC uses the private hospital system to deliver medical treatment for ACC recipients.

David Benson-Pope is a newish Minister. In Social Development, he will need to defend the bloating of the Ministry of Social Development with policy advisers, and a no-fault welfare system that quite happily transfers unemployment beneficiaries into student allowances and low-quality courses, or alternatively onto sickness benefits. The swollen Welfare State, by any reasonable analysis, has not produced lower unemployment. That is evident in the ghettoes that exist in and around New Zealand’s main centres. More precisely, unemployment numbers have principally been reassigned to other expenditure lines; many of the attendees of polytechnics and wananga are unemployed by any other name.

David Parker will need to front the Kyoto debacle, and has responsibility for energy and transport. Helen Clark has shown obvious faith in him to dish him such significant portfolios. But he is a vulnerability through inexperience.

Nanaia Mahuta is of the Parekura Horomia school: difficult to see what she’s done to deserve a Cabinet placing, and as Minister of Youth Affairs and Customs, she hardly has the workload to justify it, either. Youth Affairs, at least, leaves her open to entrapment on youth crime. She is a key Minister to hold to account, for the main reason that the more it is shown just how little she does in Cabinet, the greater the image of an indolent Government taking the Treasury benches for granted becomes.

Next we have the Ministers outside Cabinet: Judith Tizard, Dover Samuels, Mita Ririnui and Mahara Okeroa hold their positions for no reason other than pure political patronage on Helen Clark’s part. They hold no portfolios of any merit, and nor do they play central roles in the administration of the portfolios that they assist. They are joke Ministers that taxpayers are funding, in a culture of administrative overindulgence.

Now we get to Winston: Foreign Minister outside Cabinet. One of the great—and few—hits that Labour had in the last campaign was the pro-US, pro-nuke smear. They tried to make foreign policy a key election issue. It may have circulated in the liberal Wellington set as an issue, but it will come back to bite Labour with a vengeance with Winston’s appointment. Labour’s projection of a sophisticated, independent, non-aligned foreign policy, where we can tell whomever we like that they’re a bunch of morons—provided that the audience isn’t Scandinavia or France—is dead in the water. Instead, all discussion in diplomatic circles will be Winston’s latest dalliances.

So how has National fared, in this task of setting competent spokesman against competent Ministers, and more importantly, brawlers who can tear apart Labour’s incompetent ones?

In Finance, John Key demonstrated during the campaign that he can foot it with Michael Cullen. He also has Bill English supporting him to the hilt, and the strategically very smart Craig Foss behind him. That is a more than fair match.

Steve Maharey is up against the quintumvirate of Bill English, Tau Henare, Pansy Wong, Colin King, and Allan Peachey. The ones to watch are English, who can shoot through a bureaucratic brief better than any Minister, and Peachey, who has the ammunition from the coal-face to tear Maharey apart, on the one hand, on the state of secondary education standards, and on the other, on the outrageous strains that schools face while the Ministry of Education feasts on its own organizational gluttony. Peachey is a lucid and eloquent communicator: fifteen years of speech-making to school children has been a perfect apprenticeship to life in the debating chamber. He will fire early, and fire often.

Law and Order may well be Simon Power’s making as a major contender in the next National Government. With the Police in a state of perpetual crisis, despite the release of Government crime figures (that nobody believes), Power has been given the opportunity to sink his teeth into every Police scandal, bungle, and inappropriate Government directive on offer. He has the chance to do that by blaming Government policy, rather than the ranks themselves: Government is responsible for poor recruitment numbers; Government is responsible for poor allocation of resources to the ghettoes; Government is responsible for appointing the next Commissioner, who will inevitably walk into a firestorm. Power has a creative and energetic assistant in Chester Borrows: a former detective sergeant himself, Chester has the opening to break into informal police information channels and help expose Government mismanagement.

Maori Affairs is one area that National risks dropping the ball. Gerry Brownlee is already stretched with other duties, and he’s not part of the Maori grapevine. Georgina TeHeuHeu is not naturally combative. Tau Henare has the balls to go after Horomia’s throat, and is probably the only person in the National caucus who can pull it off.

Wayne Mapp will struggle to land major hits against Ruth Dyson in Labour and industrial relations, unless Dyson lands own-goals. Mapp has a tendency to get bogged down in detail and the minutiae of policy argument. He doesn’t have a cut-throat sensibility about him. Dyson should, by virtue of her extreme dogma, be a prime target for National.

Judith Collins will be a formidable foil for David Benson-Pope. She has held the shadow Welfare portfolio for some time already, and was beginning to land some major strikes on Maharey. Benson-Pope’s approach in his portfolios appears to be to bore listeners to tears, to kill an issue; Collins won’t stand for that kind of nonsense.

In Energy, National’s Nick Smith is an erratic creature at the best of times. He’s up against David Parker, a new Minister, with the superb prospect of rattling him early. If that’s going to work, Smith needs to focus himself. Maurice Williamson was always going to have the Transport portfolio, but a clear strategy of stringing David Parker up by the carbon tax noose needs to be devised between the two of them.

Nanaia Mahuta invites a savaging. Realistically, Judith Collins and Katherine Rich are probably the only ones who can carry it off publicly. There’s little to gain from the Customs or Youth Affairs portfolios in a policy sense, but a strong move highlighting her incompetence and/or superfluousness in the Clark Government will be timely at some point this term.

Likewise, I tend to think that Judith Tizard, Dover, Mita and Ririnui should be key Opposition targets. Even if they’re competent—and they mostly aren’t—there simply isn’t enough work for them to do. It’s a classic example of Ministerial excess, of a Government that does not care about the taxpayer.

And lastly we have Foreign Affairs. Murray McCully will never be Foreign Minister in a National Government. If Phil Goff had remained in that post, then the spokesman would have been Wayne Mapp, or Simon Power. But with Winston as the Minister, it is right and proper to bring out the biggest attack-dog of all in McCully as the Opposition spokesman.

McCully thrives on scandal and gossip. Winston will be a key cause of scandal and gossip in Foreign Affairs this term. And while McCully doesn’t have the MFAT networks that the combined sixty-five years’ of service have given associate spokesmen Tim Groser and John Hayes, McCully does have the political instinct, and downright ruthlessness, to go after Winston when Groser and Hayes may have resisted. McCully understands how Winston operates, probably better than any other MP in the House. McCully will teach Groser and Hayes a fair lesson in opposition tactics, to a pair who, while they can manage international politics and bureaucratic functions, are instinctively parliamentary political greenhorns. By the time McCully has made the most of Groser and Hayes’ backgrounds to leave Winston in tatters, Groser will be sufficiently trained to take up the reins as Foreign Minister in a National Government.

Critically, whereas in the past, National was competing with United Future, the Greens, New Zealand First, and Act for media coverage in opposition, National has established itself as the be-all and end-all of opposition this term. Despite Winston’s curiously semantic definition of an Opposition party, neither the public, nor the media, believe that he is not part of the Government. United Future, and only to a slightly lesser extent, the Greens are at least Labour’s cheerleaders. The Maori Party is too dysfunctional to make an impact, or to land hits on the Government, and Act are too small to dominate the agenda. So how National performs this term will dictate the size of its majority and its preparedness for office next election.

The clock has started. We have a weak Labour Government with some feeble Ministers on the one side, and an awesome National-led opposition on the other side. That alone is almost sufficient to feel good about the future of government, and to continue hoping that one day in the not-too-distant future, I will get my tax cut.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Of Family Gatherings...

The National Party, I have often thought, is a large, extended family of sorts. We have our fair share of inbreds, of high-flyers, of plodders, of cringers, of those who suffer their little misfortunes, and those who always seem to be blessed by fine luck. There are many whom I would not choose to associate with, but there’s something still rather comforting about the idea that they’re not commie pinkos, and that they’re celebrating their electoral holy days in my church, and not with the infidels.

Blessed are the capitalists, for we shall not just inherit the earth, but farm it productively.

I had spent election day in a safe National seat, about to become much safer, with the confirmation of a fresh, vibrant new candidate to its ranks. At seven o’clock, as the booths closed, and the troops began to flow back in to watch the start of the count, the wine started pouring and the beer began pumping, I spared a thought for the fortunes of the Labour Party in these safe blue seats: at the polling stations they had been few and far between, supporting insipid Labour candidates, and receiving no support from the local organisations. While National ran a smooth-machine—food and drink runners for the hundreds of local workers, with hand-signed notes from the candidates and cookies baked by the candidates’ spouses—the workers’ party didn’t care its folk. Or perhaps E-Day support was one thing they couldn’t charge against the taxpayer.

Yes, dear reader. The thought I spared for the Labour campaigners was that they were a bunch of SUCKERS.

With an eight o’clock start, after eleven hours of running between booths, phone calling, and scrutineering, I was looking forward to getting pissed.

And at the local campaign headquarters, it was boozing within a family atmosphere. One of the campaigner’s two-year-old children was rolling around the floor, threatening to pull down the displays, drink a bottle of Jif, and seemed very keen to embark on a career of alcoholism. As I tapped my glass against his bottle of Pump, he and I said “Cheers” simultaneously. Something told me that kid is going to go somewhere, someday.

But local campaign gigs tend to fade once the count starts coming in, so soon I was off to the National Party’s regional gathering at Alexandra Park for the rest of the evening. I walked in the door at 8:30pm, as Richard Worth was conceding defeat to Rodney. By this stage I was sufficiently intoxicated to be quite audible to the media rabble, as I muttered: “Good riddance, you useless, pompous cock,” as I wandered past him.

By that stage in the evening, the advance votes—those cast prior to election day—had been counted. The small, rural booths were coming in quickly. The swing to the Nats was phenomenal. The mood was up-beat and excitable. A clear scent of victory was wafting through the air.

I made my way straight to the bar. On my return, I spotted one of the ghosts from National elections past. We embraced as joyously as two straight guys can, and began to give our respective analyses of how the day had gone. In a lubricated state, I remarked to him that I wasn’t annoyed that Rodney had picked up Epsom, and that I’d thought Don Brash had left a subtle opening for National Party voters on the eve of the election, when he’d stated that National voters will do what is best for Epsom. This statement invoked a flash of bitterness in him, as he recalled that as a National candidate some aeons earlier, he had been shat on far more conclusively by the Party machine.

“Ah, but you’re still here now!” I say to him, and down my drink quickly as I find another excuse to leave for the bar.

Now, by this stage, the bar is being well patronised. So the only theoretical means of not queuing all evening is to buy three drinks at once, and only line up a third as often. This, like Paul Holmes’ move to Prime, is fine enough in theory, but in practice doesn’t work out. Because it means I just end up drinking three times as fast. Which, given my purpose to get solidly sloshed, is not such a bad idea.

Here I am, juggling three glasses of bourbon. I bump into a TV3 reporter. He greets me by name, and I offer him a bourbon. He refuses, on the grounds that he’s supposed to remain sober in case the Prime Minister-elect, as opposed to the next leader of the Opposition, needs to be interviewed. We chat for a few minutes about how things have gone, he expresses his joy—in a straight way—that Rodney has won Epsom, and we agree to get very boozed if I’m still standing by the end of the telecast.

Next come a few more activists. They’re Young Nats, and appear to be enjoying themselves as merrily as I am. A very fine-looking female walks past us, and that unspoken wager of the ages has begun. I only retreat when I realise that the female in question is the university student daughter of one of the newly-elected National MPs, and temperance gets the better of me.

On the big screen, the ubiquitous image of Hone Harawira pops up, as I am returning with another armful of drinks. I realize that a former senior MP of yesteryear is standing next to me, so I swill two of my beverages so as to avoid appearing gluttonous, and turn to him. “You know who Hone looks exactly like?”

“Who, Insolent?” The former MP asks.

“He’s the spitting image of that rogue businessman, whose board you sit on now that you’re no longer an MP,” I say.

The former MP is slightly annoyed, so I offer him my remaining bourbon to succor him, which he refuses, and I leave him and his indignity to himself. Another trip to the bar is required.

The barman already has my order ready, before I announce it. I trod off and introduce myself to a newly-elected MP. He’s still in good spirits, as our Party vote is still ahead. He then asks me for my opinion.

“Frankly, I think we’re fucked!”

“Pardon?” he asks.

“Yeah, we’re fucked. Our numbers are dropping… Labour’s going to pass us soon, because the larger booths in built-up Labour areas take the longest time to count.”

“Why’s that?” he asks.

“Because they’re staffed by particularly thick returning officers. They don’t count very well.” I then expound on a sudden theory I have established that a housewife in Remmers is far more numerate than a primary school teacher in Manurewa. Either this particular novice MP is extremely diplomatic, or he sees sense in my logic, as he agrees with me. I then point out that even if Labour is within three seats of us, they have shown during the campaign that they will give away anything for reelection: that Winston and Peter Dunne will go anywhere that the baubles are most shiny.

I down my bourbons, grab a handful of olives and garlic sausages, and return to the bar. The numbers on the screen are favouring my analysis. I harangue a few more people, and then the Leader arrives.

I have sat through many Leaders’ speeches over the past fifteen years. Some of them have been desultory. Others have been bitter. One of the most memorable, as it was the most audacious and booze-fuelled, was Mike Moore’s “long, cold night” taunt to Jim Bolger in 1993, in which he made the most disastrous verbal plays of his political career.

But Don Brash is a sober man. He had a captive audience approaching a thousand, who knew they had come so close to outright victory. He told it plain; as plain as he had throughout the campaign. “We don’t have a Government, but it’s too early to concede,” he said.

And he thanked people. Michelle Boag was the first name to come from him—and rightfully so, as it was her work three years ago that nominated the dream team that was now deciding National’s fortunes. Not just the MPs, either—a swollen proportion of the activists were present on election night through Michelle’s superior organizational and leadership skills.

It was an outstanding speech of non-concession. It signaled clearly to Labour that this term, even in Opposition, National will not concede an inch. And we don’t have to: Labour is in the last throes of Government—they may drag it out three years, but that doesn’t mean that its show will be any less dead in 2008. Don Brash created the appetite for a smaller state, for radical tax reductions, for fiscal accountability and prudence. And half the caucus, who were not there prior to this election--owe their allegiance to him.

And then it was time for me to wander off. A karaoke bar beckoned. I tallied, in my taxi, with the thought of making an appearance at Rodney Hide’s party, but I had forgotten the venue.

But I was prudent with my boozing. On a better night, I would have had three years’ of tax cuts to spend at the pub. Not that night. Not for a little while yet.