What is going on? Donald Trump got confirmed as the Republican presidential candidate at a bizarrely chaotic political convention… and promptly received an upwards bump in the polls to where he’s now rating ahead of Hillary Clinton, for only the second time this year. Likewise, John Key’s government had quite a bad month – yet in the latest Roy Morgan poll, National has been rewarded with its biggest lead over Labour in over a year.
S o Trade Minister Todd McClay is unavailable for comment because – reportedly – he has gone overseas on a private trip. (Siberia? Outer Mongolia?) Any skepticism on this point reflects the credibility problem that McClay is going to face in future … Read the rest of this entry »
T he International Olympic Committee has made the right decision by leaving it to individual sports federations to decide whether particular Russian athletes will be eligible for Rio. Collective punishment was bad enough when applied to all Russian … Read the rest of this entry »
C an there really be there any link between the US presidential elections and yesterday’s RBNZ signals on interest rates and the NZ dollar? Well, maybe. And it would be this: the improving US economy is reportedly putting a tailwind behind the US dollar, and … Read the rest of this entry »
No doubt, US Vice-President Joe Biden will be updating Prime Minister John Key on the chances of a TPP vote taking place in the ‘ lame duck’ session of Congress that’s held between the November’s election and the inauguration of a new President in January. Whether there will be a vote on the TPP isn’t the point, though. Key needs to be asking Biden about how – and why – the White House is busily circumventing the TPP deal signed in Auckland earlier this year. Read the rest of this entry »
Over the course of the past decade, MFAT had managed to concoct a China policy of infinite subtlety, a gossamer illusion that – alas – China has just stomped into the dust. Apparently, if we object to their cheap, subgrade steel being jettisoned here, they’ll attack our kiwifruit exports. Quite a wake-up call. Until quite recently, New Zealand had convinced itself it was Beijing’s Best Friend in the West. Hadn’t we been rewarded with the first free trade deal that Beijing signed with a Western country? (It had helped that we – alone among Western countries – had virtually no tariff barriers to put in the way of China unloading its stuff on our economy. No wonder they liked the cut of our jib.) Read the rest of this entry »
Clearly, New Zealand is in no position to criticise the performance of any other country’s state broadcaster. (On Tuesday night, state broadcaster TV ONE lead its 6 o’clock news bulletin with a long report on the Pokemon Go game. Go figure. ) Even so, South Africa’s state broadcaster is in a real mess.
Ongoing turmoil at the South African Broadcasting Corporation threatened to grow into a full-scale insurrection this week, amid a raft of suspensions, gag orders, and widespread allegations about the toxic climate at the embattled pubcaster…
The most recent round of hassles at the SABC have included a bizarre set of decrees handed down by top executives close to the ruling ANC. These demands have included an order to staff that there should be no further negative news about the country’s President Jacob Zuma, and SABC camera operators responsible for choosing camera angles that have allegedly made the President ‘look shorter’ were to be retrained.
An SABC spokesman defended the order….saying that quality footage had to be a “true reflection” of the man in front of the camera.
The public broadcaster will no longer air any negative coverage of the president, according to local newspaper City Press, which quoted an SABC source saying Zuma “deserves a certain degree of respect as president of the country.” It’s the latest in a series of troubling moves by South Africa’s main broadcaster, led by chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
In line with this wave of censorship, top management at SABC imposed a ban on the state broadcaster screening any of the violent images of recent anti-government protests in Pretoria. This decree proved to be a major P.R. disaster, and led to resignations by the acting CEO and the suspension of several staff:
When the capital city was gripped by fiery demonstrations over the upcoming election and rights groups protested outside SABC offices against changes at the broadcaster itself, SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng did not budge. Journalists who questioned him were suspended, while others penned a public letter expressing fear that the SABC is turning back into the propaganda machine it was during apartheid from the 1970s to the early 1990s.
In August, South Africa will be holding local body elections on August. These will provide a crucial grassroots test of the waning appeal of the ruling African National Congress. Evidently, the ANC is well aware of the mounting public backlash against its censorship of the SABC. There are even signs that the ANC could be willing to pull the plug on its minions – including Motseoneng and his top crony in government, ANC Communications Minister Faith Muthambi.
For obvious reasons the ANC has a major credibility problem in posing as a champion of free speech. While enforcing strict subservience at the SABC on one hand, it is also now lamenting the lack of free speech and the censorship policies that this crackdown entails.
Just a week after acting CEO Jimi Matthews stepped down, citing what he described as a “corrosive atmosphere,” the ruling African National Congress (ANC) blasted the broadcaster for censoring its coverage of violent protests in June, with party chief whip Jackson Mthembu saying that “people of South Africa need to be shown these images.
It may be too late for such double talk:
In recent days, media and civil society leaders have organized demonstrations outside the SABC headquarters in Johannesburg to protest the suspension of three staffers who openly questioned a decision not to cover last month’s unrest in the capital, Pretoria. Despite gag orders against those journalists, a growing number of former employees are speaking out about the decline of an institution that has been transformed since its days as a mouthpiece for the apartheid government.
“We worked very hard in those years to make it a proper public broadcaster, [and] to see it going backwards like this is heartbreaking,” former deputy CEO Govin Reddy told Eyewitness News.
Nationwide, the ANC still enjoys circa 60% support. In the three urban wards polled in the oink above, it was registering about half that level. The Ecnomic Freedom Fighters party of ANC dissident Julius Malema will be the party to watch. Like many other liberation movements – including the opne oin neighbouring Zimbabwe – the ANC is finding that being in government poses very different (and seeningly intractable) problems.
And here from Zimbabwe is one of the bigger hits from the 1990s, by the great Leonard Dembo…
Driving round Dunedin South yesterday was an interesting place to be hearing the news of Labour’s new housing policy launch. In Corstorphine and Kew came street after street of state housing built in a previous era by an effective government response to housing need, yet all of it now is plainly in urgent need of renewal. It was a useful reminder that state provision of affordable housing was the crowning achievement of the first Labour government. Much the same job now has to be done all over again – and within a wider economic framework where communities like Dunedin South aren’t gutted of jobs, and left behind to fester. (Affordable housing has to be within the context of good jobs, and reasonable incomes.) Read the rest of this entry »
Seven years in the making. Twelve volumes, and 2.6 million words. The Chilcot report into Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war in 2003 is indeed a blockbuster, and it dole out some harsh criticisms of former British PM Tony Blair – who led Britain into this disastrous action, which has led to so much death and suffering. (The March 2003 invasion and its aftermath also laid the groundwork for the rise of Islamic State.) Read the rest of this entry »
As history records, the last foreign dignitary seen by Chairman Mao before he died was a New Zealand Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon. With British PM David Cameron now on his political death bed, there’s a certain grim resonance in the fact that New Zealand PM John Key should also now come a-calling for an “informal” visit, and with Trade Minister Todd McClay in tow. Hey, remember us? No Dave, don’t get up.
In every other respect, the current Key/McClay expedition to the UK and Europe looks decidedly peculiar. The Brexit dust has not yet settled. British politics are in total disarray. On the Continent, there is pressure on the EU President Jean-Claude Juncker to resign.
Is this really such a good time for that little chap from New Zealand to come knocking on the door and ask if anyone wants to buy more of our lamb? Still a friend, eager to help.
The timing seems way off. Less than six weeks after Key visits Cameron, Cameron will be gone and Britain will have a new Prime Minister. Now, it is nice that Key should want to give Cameron one last consoling hug before the curtain drops on Cameron’s political career. David Cameron is probably the closest thing to a political mentor that Key has ever had. Yet what lasting value can there possibly be in this junket to meet with someone already numbered among the walking dead? Similarly, is this such a good time for McClay to be bothering the Europeans with a possible NZ/EU trade pact, when EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom is rather more focused on staunching the serious impact that Brexit is likely to have on the massive Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment deal?
Here’s a crazy idea. Why not wait until Britain’s new political leadership team is in place, and then spend taxpayer money on a formal visit, aimed at fostering a relationship with the new people who will actually be making decisions in future about our trade ties with the UK and Europe ? True, likely British PM Theresa May would be a stern test for the John Key charm offensive, but the attempt will need to be made, eventually. By contrast, this current junket – except for the planned side trip to Indonesia – looks like a complete waste of time and money.
Nigel Farage, Exit Right
Having got Britain’s EU referendum on the rails and pushed the “Leave” option successfully over the line… Nigel Farage has now (for the third time in living memory) resigned as the leader of UKIP. This mock farewell sums up the Farage phenomenon pretty well:
http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/features/farage-in-less-than-48-hours-i-will-cease-to-exist-20160622109685 AS WE contemplate the historic EU referendum, in which Britain will finally decide to throw off the yoke of tyranny, it’s hard to imagine that I won’t be here to see it. But sadly, in less than two days, the reason I was summoned to your dimension will be gone and the creature you know as Nigel Farage will no longer exist. I came when England called, like Sir Lancelot and Robin Hood. I came in your hour of need to deliver you a seemingly endless referendum and this capering spirit has been as good as his word. You knew I wasn’t real all along. How could I be? But a being of folklore, such as I, could be everywhere at once; on Question Time, guffawing in the golf club, popping into a pub in Peterborough for a pint and stepping out into the Sunderland sunlight for a smoke. Never elected to public office, never within an inch of power, I nonetheless bamboozled your political establishment into this marvellous gift of a complicated expensive thing, but I shall not see its result. My purpose done and my revels now ended, for every vote counted tomorrow I fade a little more until I am melted into thin air leaving only a spectral blazer and a pair of gold bulldog cufflinks behind. But mourn not this jester, for I do not die. I merely sleep until this sceptr’d isle has need of me again. Are you going to the bar?
For a (slightly) more considered farewell to someone who worked tirelessly and successfully to bring out the worst in Britain’s national character and give it lasting effect, try this.
We should not celebrate too soon. Farage has embodied UKIP so completely that – as with Jeremy Clarkson and Top Gear – its hard to see anyone else successfully replacing Farage at the helm of the party. Without Farage, UKIP will almost certainly start to go down the tubes. What’s the betting that Farage will eventually feel impelled to make yet another comeback? For the good of the nation and the ordinary people without a voice, of course.
Since his stint with the 1980s alt country band Rank and File and throughout a long solo career, Alejandro Escovedo has always been a terrific songwriter. “The Ladder” is from his 2006 album The Boxing Mirror.
I’d climb a ladder just to see you
I have no eyes but I can feel
Two snakes entwine so I can be you
This ladder climbs from me to you
In the second verse, he name checks ‘La Bufadora’ – which is a beautiful geyser/natural blowhole found on the coast at Ensenada in Baja California, Mexico. In the final verse, Escovedo also refers to the caracara – a bird of prey that belongs to the falcon family, and is fairly common throughout the Americas, from Texas to Tierra del Fuego.
Let’s sleep away the pain we suffer
The medicine is in our dreams
Fly away like caracaras
This ladder climbs from me to you….
Here’s Escovedo again, with an excellent up tempo divorce/breakup song, called “ Crooked Frame.”
Finally, Jennifer Warnes recorded a great version of another evocative Escovedo song, “Pissed Off, 2am.”