The slaughter of the children in Pakistan is incomprehensibly awful. On the side, it has thrown a spotlight onto something that’s become a pop cultural meme. Fans of the Homeland TV series will be well aware of the collusion between sections of the Pakistan military/security establishment on one hand and sections of the Taliban of the other. That relationship has been the plot engine for the fourth season of the Homeland show, and this essay makes a good case for Carrie Mathison being the embodiment of actual US policy in the region, and for Saul Berenson being what America thinks it doing in the region. Read the rest of this entry »
Whenever the authorities bring a siege situation to an end, there will be criticism if – as has happened in Sydney – any hostages are seriously hurt, or killed. The rationale for the Police decision to storm the café in Sydney will emerge later today. In the Sydney Morning Herald this morning, columnist Peter Hartcher raises a different point – that the initial public response had been noticeably different to the agitated reactions of politicians and the media. Read the rest of this entry »
As 2014 grinds to a close, we probably didn’t need one more reminder of this government’s ability to stare reality in the face and declare black to be a very fine shade of white. As you’re probably aware, the OECD has just released a research report that has rejected trickle down economics as an illusion, and found that policies that promote income inequality are not only bad for society, but bad for economic growth. The OECD also happened to cite New Zealand and Mexico as the most spectacular examples of this damaging relationship. Read the rest of this entry »
So China’s President Xi wants New Zealand to help them to extradite ‘corrupt’ Chinese officials who have fled here with their ill-gotten gains. Hey, who isn’t against corruption? Prejudge the question in that fashion and you automatically end up with the Winston Peters response – sure, let’s do it. Send ’em packing.
Reframe the question though. Should we be helping China to get its hands on people to whom we have granted the rights and protections of New Zealand residency – and thereby making us a party to them being hauled in front of kangaroo courts in China that have an abysmal track record when it comes to the rules of evidence and the due process of law? “Corrupt” officials being those defined as such by the Chinese government, which has also never been shy about defining its political dissidents as “criminals” and “hooligans.” On top of all this, we would be supposed to take at face value a written promise from China that it would respect the human rights of the accused. Once those alleged big-time corrupt officials were back on Chinese soil, they would only be imprisoned and given a lot of dirty looks but – promise, pretty promise – would not be subjected to torture or the death penalty. Yeah, right. Read the rest of this entry »
While Labour and National fiddle around with the powers of the security services – and warrantless surveillance is still an outrage even if it lasts for only 24 hours, Andrew Little – the big international story this week has been the plunge in oil prices. For once, the Greens and the Saudis are almost on the same side of the fence – in that the House of Saud’s recent oil production decisions in OPEC will do serious harm to US shale oil production, and its fracking practices. As oil prices make US shale projects less lucrative, the Middle East’s low-cost fields will become a lot more attractive. Read the rest of this entry »
The use of cute labels to market bad ideas is what you do when running the country seems like a process similar to selling soap powder. So we probably shouldn’t be surprised that the Key government seems willing to drape its deployment in Iraq in the spirit of Anzac. If you can’t explain why this deployment is in the national interest, what you aim to achieve, how long you’d be there, what would constitutes success or what your exit strategy would be, then at least you can evoke the feelgood spirit of Anzac on the eve of the Gallipolli centenary, right? ‘Cos feelgood beats thinkgood in the polls, every time. Read the rest of this entry »
John Key’s credibility has taken a hammering this week – at least among the 50% of the electorate who have always had doubts about him on that score. The other substantial story of the week has been about Andrew Little’s debut as Labour leader, which has received top marks, especially among the 25% of the electorate still voting Labour. According to some reports, the Labour caucus has been ‘in seventh heaven’ about Little’s success this week in taking it to the government in the House.
This is encouraging news for the centre left, given that Little’s oratorical/debating skills were actually supposed to be his weak link. His strong suit is acknowledged to be his organisational nous, very much in evidence in the way he put together his team. Putting Annette King in the Joe Biden role – as the only possible deputy with no ambition to become leader – was a smart move, and so was offering Finance to Grant Robertson, who is being invited to regard this role as lending gravitas to Robertson’s own ambitions to someday lead the country. What Little did was promote the caucus grandees, while putting them on notice to perform – in that everyone’s role would be re-evaluated in a year’s time. A caucus reshuffle, if needed, had thereby been flagged well in advance. Smart planning in the long term, and short term. Read the rest of this entry »
As anyone who’s ever encountered him around Parliament will verify, Chris Finlayson’s arrogance is matched only by his sense of self-esteem. On RNZ this morning though, he exceeded himself on both counts. Right now, National is ramming anti-terrorism measures through Parliament. This legislation will grant the SIS the power to carry out 48 hour bouts of surveillance on anyone without a warrant, and will bestow on government the power to unilaterally revoke anyone’s passports and thus deny them the freedom to travel. Ludicrously, the public has been given exactly one day to make submissions on these major infringements of their civil liberties. Despite Finlayson’s misleading signals on RNZ that these are only stopgaps until next year’s full review of our security laws, the measures in question will not, in fact, expire until 2018. Read the rest of this entry »
Suddenly, we’re awash in inquiries and reviews. (It feels almost as if the Greens won the last election.) Caught out by the damning inquiry by SIS Inspector-General Cheryl Gwyn, the government’s response yesterday was utterly in character – it released two other major reports at the same time to try and distract public attention.
Let’s see…we’ve had (a) the inquiry into the SIS collusion with the PM’s senior staff and their subsequent coaching of Cameron Slater on how to quickly access SIS info in order to undermine Labour’s then-leader Phil Goff (b) the inquiry into Judith Collins’ alleged collusion with Slater and his cohorts to try and undermine the Serious Fraud Office’s then CEO, Adam Feeley….and on the side (c) the inquiry into Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee’s sins against airport security (d) the State Services investigation of the sexual harassment claims against Roger Sutton and its subsequent mishandling of the aftermath (e) the review of security legislation by SIS/GCSB Minister Chris Finlayson and (f) …the ‘independent’ ministerial inquiry into the case of the paedophile & murderer Philip Smith ne Traynor, and his dash to Rio on a passport cunningly obtained under his real name. Read the rest of this entry »
The recent appointment of former TVNZ boss Rick Ellis to head Te Papa has copped a fair bit of criticism.
Much of it has been inspired by the suspicion that Ellis has been hired to pursue the same purely commercial goals as he did at TVNZ, while similarly neglecting the serious cultural side of his mandate. True, it is pretty easy to lament the crass commercialism of the national museum, and all too regularly, Te Papa’s actions have begged to be mocked.
Given his track record then, there are good reasons for concern that Ellis is likely to become part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. Read the rest of this entry »