The Herald has an op-ed from Lindsey Mitchell today; I’ve commented on this issue before, that while I think it’s great the the newspaper feels comfortable publishing material from the lunatic fringe of the ideological spectrum it is a little strange that the only content of this type that they publish is free market neo-liberalism. Why give space to Mitchell and Roger Kerr but not the Workers Party or the Scientologists or Satanists or UFO cultists? I still don’t get it. I’m sure the author of Satanism in New Zealand would love to publish op-eds in the nation’s largest newspaper and that they’re just as qualified and have as much to contribute to public debate as Lindsay Mitchell.
September 30, 2009
Here’s something I have yet to see discussed re Bernard Hickey’s excellent scoop about Crafer’s – this is the second time in five months that MAF has inspected a farm site owned by a senior figure in the industry and found nothing wrong (except, in Crafers case ‘management issues’) only to have independent investigators produce video proving that the animals on the farm were being horribly mistreated.
The Minister seems to be ducking the issue hoping that Fonterra and Crafer’s creditors can somehow sort things out and that seems to be where the media focus is at. If I was an animal rights activist I’d be looking to target MAF, not the farms. If they get embarrased a third time in the near future then I think they’ll some under serious political pressure to do their jobs as regulators properly.
September 29, 2009
The Treasury is looking at plans to cut the Government’s administrative staff and costs by almost one third with a centralisation of back office services.
Recruiting, IT, finance and “a range of corporate services” in the public sector in offices nationwide are being earmarked for consolidation to save 30 per cent of costs and increase productivity.
This is the sort of thing that makes perfect financial sense to a bunch of economists sitting aroung looking at line items on a budget. Unfortunately, back in mean old reality an IT project that consolidates 250 organisations is likely to cost 250 times as much as any productivity gains you’ll make on the other side.
I think back office centralisation is a pretty good idea for, say, the various Commissions dotted around the capital, but larger departments (DOC, IRD, Corrections, Police) all have unique organisational profiles and wildly different IT requirements.
Maybe they should start with something small – all the websites in the government, say. Move them all onto one standardised platform, take a look at what happens to the budgets and completion times for that one project and then see if they really think it’s a good idea to try something hard like email or databases.
The notion of a hub managed by a single, private multinational company that hosts all of the government’s data is also likely to attract some exciting conspiracy theories.
September 28, 2009
Monday Afternoon. Consulate on East 41st Street.
Quick briefing with the press at the consulate. I make sure all the recorders and cameras are off and then explain to them that the New Zealand government and the National Party will not be held responsible for the actions – violent or otherwise – of New Zealanders who are offended by negative media coverage of their Prime Ministers statesmanship over the next week, and that we will not be liable for any firebombings of printing presses or drive-by-shootings of political editors carried out by well-meaning citizens in retaliation for critical journalism.
‘Everyone understand?’ They nod. ‘Good,’ I said. ‘Because nobody fucks with the KeyMaster.’
‘Nobody fucks with the KeyMaster,’ they dutifully chorused.
Monday Evening. My suite at the Breekman.
Cocktails with some of the old Wall St gang at Club 55 earlier. Good to see some familiar faces. Tense moment when someone asked me what I was doing for a job these days. I told them, there was a moments silence and they sprayed their drinks all over the table. I nervously joined in the laughter and when Dicky asked what I was really doing I told them I was COO at Deutsche. Feel slightly disloyal.
New poll back home. Slight dip but still riding high. It’s all a massive fraud, of course – we nose-dived after the budget and we’ve been in single digits for months, but what I got on Garner and the Espiners wouldn’t look very pretty on the front page. They know how to play ball.
Tuesday. Office at the UN.
Meeting with HC. The DPS boys led her into the room and assured me she was fine: ‘She was nervous this morning Sir but she’s eaten and she’s calm now.’ I knew better. She was still but her eyes were all white and she was breathing shallowly, her head low, scanning the room. I held back, greeted her cautiously and then she lunged: I’ve never seen anything move that fast! All I saw were flashing teeth and I felt the hot scent of English Breakfast tea against my throat but the DPS boys were quicker, forcing her back into the corner with their prods while she hissed and spat. Eventually she calmed and we discussed Copenhagen, Fiji and the MMP referendum. Also, she gave me a UNDP snow globe. Score!
Wednesday. Back at the Hotel.
Bad day today. No water at hotel, had to use Aussie faculties, had Rudd standing outside the door talking about a federated Pacific while I was trying to take a shit, then he stood outside the shower talking about something called ‘social capitalism’. WFT? Was so distracted I forgot to rinse the conditioner out of my hair and spent all day at the UN with my scalp feeling oily and damp. Couldn’t use the basins in the washrooms to rinse – how would that look if someone saw me? Met Obama and I could see him looking at my hair. ‘He knows!‘ I thought. ‘He understands!‘ If anyone would have a private place to rinse their hair it’s him, but I couldn’t figure out how to ask and he moved on to talk to Erdogan.
Thursday. NBC Green Room.
Show went well. Pity we had to agree to three more years of SAS deployment to Afghanistan to get the slot but thems the breaks. Lindsay Lohan! Heh.
Picked up some nice ties and links at Bergdorf yesterday and this morning Soper liked the look of one of the club ties. He had a coffee and a danish and I hadn’t had breakfast so I offered to make a deal. He crowed: ‘I’ve been around a long time John, you’d have to get up early to get the best of me.’ Long story short I now own his house which I’m mortgaging back to him for sixty points above OCR.
Friday. Starbucks on Harrison Street.
Sent my body double Andy to deliver the speech to the UN (something about a seat on the Security Council in 6 years. BFD) while I went record shopping in Tribeca. Picked up some old Sugar Cubes on vinyl and a totally awesome Arbus print that I was going to give to Bill but decided to keep for myself. Checked my email and it sounds as though the speech went down well. All right. Hooked up with Bronagh and the kids and flew out to Disney World. So long New York – you’ve been good to me.
September 27, 2009
TVNZ has a new poll out tonight confirming that Labour are finally clawing back some support from National. Goff’s approval ratings are also up. Like I said the other day, I think this is down to the story of Bill English’s housing allowance breaking back in August. Many political reporters focus on recent events when they’re looking for post hoc explanations for polls; I think you have to go back at least a month. My theory is that most people don’t pay too much attention to politics outside an election year but if a political scandal breaks and then somehow resonates with voters’ everyday lives then you see a gradual shift in support.
Consider a previously loyal Labour voter who supported John Key in the last election: they didn’t care about Richard Worth or the super-city or cancelled evening classes or any of the other issues that Labour’s supporters are so excised about because they don’t seem very real to them. And then they read a story about Bill English getting paid $40,000 a year to live in his own home.
Maybe they don’t really care – they didn’t vote for English, they voted for John Key and he seems like he’s doing a pretty good job. And then maybe they find out they’ve got tree roots in their drains and it’s going to cost $12,000 to fix, and they’re going to have to raise the money off the mortgage. And then English gets up and tells everyone that they need to be frugal and cut costs and make sacrifices, only he’s still getting his $40,000 a year for his house – turns out he gets it because it’s not his house on account of some loophole with trust funds! Forty grand and he tells the rest of us to cut back! That’s most of their yearly salary! Fuck him! And fuck his party!
Or something like that, my point being that when it comes to party support people don’t spin on a dime when a story breaks, it needs to become real somehow and that can be a delayed process. Labour have done an uncharacteristically good job of keeping this story in the media without somehow shooting themselves in the foot (I don’t know where this burst of competence is coming from but I like it). In response National has adopted the Helen Clark method of scandal management: refer it to an investigation so you can refuse to comment pending the outcome. The Auditor General will almost certainly find that English was not in technical breach of the law but that the eligibility criteria for the living allowance needs to be ‘clarified’. So barring some unforseen revelation I think this one has played itself out – there’s really nothing English can do to recover, he’s been compromised and he’s fortunate that losing a Finance Minister in the first year would look even worse for his party than the current mess.
I’m having my house insulated this week and part of the work involves laying polythene down beneath the floor to prevent rising damp, so my job for this weekend was to crawl around underneath the house and clear out all the junk that successive owners had dumped down there.
This turned out to be a bigger job than I anticipated: roughly ten hours and counting to haul out the detritus accumulated over ninety years. I’ve spent a lot of that time trying to figure out if I’ve ever had to do a shittier, more horrible job and I don’t think I have. This has been the worst job of my life. Which put me in mind of a famous quote by Paul Bowles:
Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more, perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps 20. And yet it all seems limitless.
I think Bowles was a great writer but I don’t think he ever had to spend forty minutes on his belly dragging a huge, waterlogged roll of cobweb-shrouded carpet through a dark, dusty, damp confined space. It is true that I’ll only see the full moon rise a limited number of times and this is a shame, but it’s also true that the number of large sheets of jagged aluminium steel I have to force between narrow concrete piles while thousands of tiny insects crawl beneath my clothes is similarly limited, which is a great comfort to me.
September 26, 2009
Watched Key’s Letterman appearance this morning and laughed quite a lot, not because it was especially good – or really all that bad – but because it was so deeply weird. I don’t think it was a terrible idea – it cost us nothing so if it convinced even one of Letterman’s viewers to visit it was worth it, but it was a pretty strange thing to do.
Fran O’Sullivan is unhappy (this is a bit like saying ‘Fran O’Sullivan is breathing’):
Why is it that the travelling press troupe following John Key about in New York are sending back mountains of celebrity-focused drivel (“colour” as it’s known in the journalistic trade) at the expense of substantive reporting on what’s really going down?
I’ve also felt that the tenor of the coverage has been pretty silly, but since my wife is one of the journalists over in New York with Key I know she’s written stories about climate change, the PM’s bilateral meetings, Afghanistan and NATO troop levels and the Iran protests, as well as the color stories O’Sullivan is complaining about. The Herald has carried most of these stories but they’ve given bigger play to the softer stuff. O’Sullivan claims:
Many New Zealanders will not care one whit that Barack Obama ostensibly told Key, “He’s got a friend down there . . . Or that Bronagh Key said she thought Michelle Obama was “lovely” . . . Or whether or not he mangled his English on David Letterman last night.
But they do – and should – care about the big issues under discussion in New York this week. We don’t know whether Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen was able to give Key an assurance that putting more Nato troops on the ground will enable a win in what Obama previously called this “war of necessity”.
I’m guessing that the reason that the Herald and all the other media covering the trip gave prominence to the celebrity based color pieces is because all of them have done extensive market reasearch and they know for a fact that New Zealanders really do care about celebrities and Obama and Letterman and don’t care about any of the issues O’Sullivan is passionate about.
September 25, 2009
Sue Bradford is leaving Parliament. A mixed loss to the Greens – she’s easily their most effective MP and accomplished more than many Cabinet Ministers ever do, but on the other hand she is probably the most disliked politician in the country; she damaged the Green brand as an environmental party.
Overall I think it’s a loss to the country – Bradford advocated for people who don’t really vote, lobby or otherwise engage in the parliamentary process: abused children, Mothers in prison, minimum wage earners and the unemployed, and there’s not much of an incentive for anyone else to champion these causes. Certainly no politician is going to be stupid enough to try and address issues around our national child abuse epidemic after seeing what Bradford went through in the last two years.
Update: NZPA has a good mini-obit of Bradford up on Stuff.
September 24, 2009
Screen captured from Stuff, I think one of the sub-editors shares my sentiments on the over the top coverage of the Key-Obama detente.