There’s a mounting whirlwind of press coverage about Hilary Mantel’s Royal Bodies column in the LRB, claiming that it’s a vicious attack on Kate Middleton. The headline for the Stuff story is Novelist Lashes out at Kate Middleton. You can read it for yourself here, and quickly discover that the actual article is (amoungst other things) a lashing out, vicious attack etc on the public obsession with royalty and the media’s exploitation of that obsession. Sample quote:
When her pregnancy became public she had been visiting her old school, and had picked up a hockey stick and run a few paces for the camera. BBC News devoted a discussion to whether a pregnant woman could safely put on a turn of speed while wearing high heels. It is sad to think that intelligent people could devote themselves to this topic with earnest furrowings of the brow, but that’s what discourse about royals comes to: a compulsion to comment, a discourse empty of content, mouthed rather than spoken.
Much of the essay is about Henry VIII and his Queens, and the creepy, unchanging prurience about the sexuality of royal persons:
As for depression, he had a great deal to be depressed about: not just his isolation on the world stage, but his own decay and deterioration. He had magnificent portraits created, and left them as his surrogates to stare down at his courtiers while he retreated into smaller, more intimate spaces. Yet he was quite unable to keep private what was happening to his own body. The royal body exists to be looked at. The world’s focus on body parts was most acute and searching in the case of Jane Seymour, Henry’s third wife. No one understood what Henry saw in Jane, who was not pretty and not young. The imperial ambassador sneered that ‘no doubt she has a very fine enigme’: which is to say, secret part. We have arrived at the crux of the matter: a royal lady is a royal vagina. Along with the reverence and awe accorded to royal persons goes the conviction that the body of the monarch is public property. We are ready at any moment to rip away the veil of respect, and treat royal persons in an inhuman way, making them not more than us but less than us, not really human at all.
You really need to bend over backwards to read this as ‘Novelist lashes out at Kate Middleton’, but when you’re a news site on which the lead story is usually about ‘Kate’s Baby Bump‘ this sort of stuff must cut pretty close.
I know even less about educational needs in post-earthquake Christchurch than I do about most of the things I write about. It seems reasonable that there needs to be closures and mergers given the millions of dollars in property damage and the huge population shifts. But for me the spectre hanging over all this is the charter schools policy. The Education Minister has announced that this government will be ‘seeking expressions of interest’ from organisations wanting to operate ‘partnership schools’ in the affected areas.
So are these changes tragic but necessary? Or are they opportunistic – a change to proceed with the part-commercialisation of the Education system using the earthquake as an excuse?
(Update: Apparently this has been cancelled. Now I’ll have to spend Sunday afternoon with my family instead of Richard Prosser. Not happy.)
Apparently this is a real thing. I guess the goal is to generate news footage of Prosser being abused by a room full of weird, scary looking hipsters, generating sympathy for him with New Zealand First’s constituents. If anyone can come up with a better reason why Richard Prosser is holding a public meeting in the Aro Community Hall I’d be happy to hear it.
Whatever the reason, this meeting is a golden opportunity to question Mr Prosser on other issues, such as whether he still thinks the South Island should secede from New Zealand, and if he still believes he possesses magical healing powers.
I saw last night’s episode, and it wasn’t too bad. Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t like it and I’ll never watch it again but in terms of news value it didn’t seem worse than your average episode of Close-Up. The first story was about youth binge drinking – as was every other episode of Close-Up – with the usual stock-footage of kids stumbling around plastered, slurring amusing things to the camera. The context was that the government’s alcohol reforms weren’t going to fix this, but they didn’t explain what the reforms were, or weren’t.
The interview was with a PR shill from the alcohol industry. The presenters didn’t seem to know anything about the subject so the shill was unchallenged. Greg Boyd’s done well-prepped interviews on Q & A, so I blame the producer and the researcher.
As many others have pointed out, the tone is a bit weird; the opening segment contained a joke about Oscar Pistorius, and normally I’d find a gag about an athlete murdering his girlfriend hilarious, but this one didn’t quite work for me. And they haven’t solved the technical challenges of a three person hosted live-show; that’s still a bit of a mess. But these things take time. Remember Paddy Gower’s first few months of TV journalism? It was pretty bad, and now he’s the Mother of the Nation.
Much has been made of the fact that they lost 200,000 viewers in a week. If they’re losing those viewers from TV1′s older demographic I doubt they care. Those people don’t buy the products that Seven Sharp’s advertisers sell. If they lose 200,000 viewers over fifty and gain 50,000 viewers under 30 then that’s a ratings win for TVNZ.
(From my perspective, at least) is that his brilliant scheme for a one billion person global no-fly list was vexed to idiocy when this vacuum-eyed buffoon tried to carry a knife on board a passenger aircraft and the security officers confiscated it:
Prosser, 45, penned a provocative column for Investigate magazine titled Enemy of the State after his pocket knife was confiscated at Christchurch Airport.
He wrote: “I will not stand by while their [his daughters'] rights and freedoms of other New Zealanders and Westerners are denigrated by a sorry pack of misogynist troglodytes from Wogistan.
New Zealand is considering sending potential asylum seekers to controversial Australian detention centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
The move would be an attempt to dissuade “boat people” from making the journey to New Zealand, Prime Minister John Key said.
During the weekend, Mr Key and his Australian counterpart, Julia Gillard, announced New Zealand would take 150 asylum seekers from Australian detention centres each year.
“I wanted to do this, I think it’s the right thing to do . . . my view is that we are helping our mates,” Mr Key said.
This makes so much sense. If ‘boat people’ arrive in Australia they get sent to New Zealand, and if they arrive in New Zealand they get sent to Australian detention centers in PNG or Nauru, because we want to dissuade boat people from coming here, even though none ever have, and we’re doing that by accepting a hundred and fifty boat people a year.
Key looked like an imbecile on the news last night trying to justify all of this, with a subsequent graphic showing the route from Indonesia to New Zealand and the ten-thousand odd kilometer detour required to avoid Australia, and he looked like he knew it.
So what’s really going on? My uninformed guess is that we’ve just been bullied by an Australian PM with a tricky domestic issue who is heading into an uncertain election, that Key had no choice but to accept this ‘deal’, which was probably more of a threat, and they’ve resurrected their nonsensical ‘boat people are a’comin’ scare story to try and frame it positively.
Josie Pagani has a post up on Pundit regurgitating her one big idea about political strategy: that Labour needs to move to the right and embrace National’s ‘get tough’ policies on crime and welfare.
The Paganis have been saying this for years and it still makes very little sense to me. The National Party wants to get tough on welfare, criminals (and teachers) to distract people from their actual policies, or the failures thereof. The number of unemployed rises and falls with the economy, crime has been trending down for many years across the entire western world, and our education system is regularly rated as one of the best in the OECD.
If you’re a National politician you try and solve these problems that don’t actually exist because it’s part of a wider strategy to promote other policies that are unpopular with the general public but benefit your donors and core voter demographics. But why would a (nominally) left-wing politician buy into that scam? Why not address real problems that would help your constituency? Or, failing that, create your own fake problems that advance your own political agenda instead of your opponents? Or – if you’re not inclined to help your voters or advance your own values – just leave politics and go and do something else with your life? I genuinely don’t get it.
Update: Josie responds. Opening quote:
If you think crime, welfare and unemployment are ‘problems that don’t actually exist’ you are out of touch with the facts as well as public opinion.
TVNZ and Radio New Zealand have done a couple of stories reporting on the leaked Briefing to the Incoming Minister (BIM) which the Ministry of Education supplied to Steven Joyce about the Novopay debacle. They’ve focused on the Ministry’s warning that Novopay could take 1-2 years to get working properly. I’ve also received a copy of this document, and I was more interested in the Ministry’s summary of what actually went wrong. Briefly:
- Novopay is designed so that schools do everything online (presumably through a browser or thin client). When the platform was launched there were ‘significant issues’ with the online user interface (UI); for example, it wasn’t possible to submit time-sheets for part-time teachers.
- The work-around for problems submitting payments via the UI was for the schools to fill in a form and submit it to Talent2′s Novapay service desk via e-mail, and they’d manually enter the payment data into the system.
- But the service desk wasn’t staffed or trained for this – they were supposed to be supporting an online platform in which the schools did almost everything themselves. So this created a huge backlog of manual payments for them to enter, many of which missed the payrolls.
- The service center also generated a vast number of errors in payments because it doesn’t have ‘robust quality assurance’ (I take this to mean there’s no verification when service center staff manually submit data: so if someone is being paid $20/hour and they work for ten hours, the manual system won’t prevent a service center staffer from accidentally paying them $2.00)
- Talent2 aren’t able to produce complete draft payrolls for the schools to QA, so these errors aren’t picked up before the payroll data goes live.
- The briefing is contradictory on the state of the programming defects in Novopay. The background summary insists that the problems leading to the huge submission of manual forms have been fixed, but in a subsequent section on software defects the Minister is told that new defects continue to come to light, and Talent2 have been unable to fix the existing problems. (I get the feeling they’ve been relying on manual work-arounds, rather than debugging the actual code.)
The Ministry’s solution is to put more resources into the service center while Talent2 fixes up software bugs via a release code schedule (I get the impression the extra software engineering cost is being met by the Ministry).
If anything will resolve the high exchange rate, urban housing crisis, low wages and exodus to Australia, surely it’s convict labour.
I don’t have any moral/philosophical objection to making prisoners work to offset the cost of their imprisonment, or help skill them up to re-integrate them ‘back into society’, but if you combine it with National’s policy of private prison management, it’s not hard to see how the goals of rehabilitating and releasing prisoners could clash with the prospect of having a subsidised compulsory zero-cost workforce.
If you are in a car and there is a rush of blood to the head and Labour and the Greens do get there, you had better like your radio station because you will spend a long time in a traffic jam, because the first thing that will be gone with those people are the roads.
Prime Minister John Key in his Opening Statement to Parliament yesterday, in which the PM traditionally lays out his policy agenda for the year, our current Prime Minister . . . not so much.