So the US has been holding talks in London this week with its 21 coalition allies, on how best to co-ordinate the military response against Islamic State. Oddly enough, New Zealand has not been attending the conference even though we seem well down the track to contributing to the military effort in question. (I guess we’ll just take our orders from the US and UK, and leave it at that.) Yet here’s a thing. If you compare (a) the barbaric practices of Islamic State and (b) the barbaric practices of the West’s strong ally Saudi Arabia, (which happens to be the world’s richest and most influential islamic state) the overlap is striking.
The election in Greece on Sunday – and the likely triumph of the left wing Syriza Party – will be only the first of three hammer blows this year to the European Union and its politics of austerity. Spain too will be holding a general election later this year ( in December) and the new left wing movement Podemos has already swept to the top of the polls on an anti-austerity platform similar to the one that the Greeks seem about to embrace. In Britain too, the May general election is likely to leave the Conservatives clinging to power in a coalition with UKIP, Britain’s right wing anti-EU party – although in UKIP’s case, its hostility to the EU is based on the EU’s immigration policy, not its economic policy. In sum, 2015 looks like sounding the death knell to the European Union as we currently know it.
If so, the Germans will have only themselves to blame. Read the rest of this entry »
This week, Prime Minister John Key was reportedly invited to join a private birthday celebration for the young daughter of British PM David Cameron. They’re that close, the Keys and the Camerons. For years now, David Cameron has been the closest available thing to a mentor/analogue to our Prime Minister, such that Key watchers could be interested in an analysis of Cameron that appeared in the British press over the Christmas break.
Certainly, there are sharp similarities between the two. The British analysis began with the observation that while the government that Cameron heads has been ideological, this has not been in a way that bears the intellectual imprint of the Conservative leader. Cameron may have given his permission to his colleagues to carry out changes in (a) schools are funded and evaluated (b) how the health service is run and (c) the benefit system – but crucially, Cameron did not pioneer and front those divisive changes himself. The model is of a PM who enables polarizing policies to be enacted, while staying above the fray and seeking to avoid being identified with any policies that are less popular than he is. Sound familiar?
Like most events in security intelligence, the resignation for “family reasons” of GCSB boss Ian Fletcher has got (a) a simple straightforward explanation and (b) a complex, conspiratorial one. It may well be that after being shoulder-tapped in Queensland for the GCSB job, three years of living in Wellington has been enough for Fletcher and his family, given that the pending review of the GCSB would have required an even longer commitment from him. Three years of Wellington’s weather is enough for anyone.
The more complex reason? No one currently knows what the review of the security agencies is actually going to ‘review.’ Rather than a routine five yearly WOF process, it could well involve a total revamp : but at this point, the government isn’t saying anything about the scope of what it has in mind. Read the rest of this entry »
Now that the Kouachi brothers have made their Butch-and-Sundance dash for martyrdom, and now that the millions have marched in Paris and elsewhere to defend the Republic…. the events of the past week remain no closer to any comforting resolution. Some have found something repugnant about the attempt to impose a tidy rationalism :
I can barely bring myself to sit down at my desk and read the commentary, let alone add to the pile of hopeful platitudes, lofty sentiments about liberty, calls for solidarity and compassion and moderation, or firmness, or bloody, bloody revenge. Why did this happen? Multiculturalism, drones, Guantánamo, the inherent viciousness of Islam, the inherent viciousness of religion more generally. Take your pick, whichever one suits your politics, whatever tin drum you want to bang on.
Even so, a tough-minded soul sickness about the violent ways of the world also seems like a pretty hollow response, especially from those – speaking for myself – whose experience of violent death in combat is limited to what they’ve seen on movie screens and the printed page. Read the rest of this entry »
Given the layers of meta-irony involved, the saga of the Sony cyber attack seemed at the outset more like a snarky European art film than a popcorn entry at the multiplex. Yet now with (a) President Barack Obama weighing in on the side of artistic freedom and calling for the US to make a ‘proportionate response’quickly followed by (b) North Korea’s entire Internet service going down, and with both these events being followed by (c) Sony deciding to backtrack and release The Interview film that had made it a target for the dastardly North Koreans in the first place, then ay caramba…the whole world will now be watching how this affair pans out. Box office prospects and the potential for a full-blown international crisis seem boffo. Read the rest of this entry »
Gordon Campbell on the dumping of bad news at Christmas
By Gordon Campbell
If the government really did have good tidings of great joy you can bet it wouldn’t be strewing them about at Christmas time – which is, traditionally, the dumping ground for terrible news that the government fervently hopes the public will be too distracted to notice. And so verily this Christmas Eve we learn of (a) the explosion of costs to the taxpayer and ratepayer of the vile SkyCity convention centre in Auckland and that (b) the government’s flagship MBIE “super-ministry” run by its Minister of Everything is a disaster zone of incompetence and mismanagement. MBIE is a Titanic looking for an iceberg, or so it would seem.
First, the Sky City bad news.
SkyCity yesterday lodged its resource consent application for the centre, which it’s building in return for concessions such as extra gaming machines worth as much as $42 million a year in additional profits.
Announcing the application, SkyCity chief Nigel Morrison revealed the cost of the convention centre had jumped [from $402 million] to between $470 million and $530 million.
Then there is that ‘super-ministry’ of Business, Innovation and Employment that’s driving the government’s economic agenda.
Out of 32 areas of review, the report highlighted 22 that needed development, and five that were weak….Only five areas were considered well placed for future performance, and none achieved the top rating of strong. MBIE rated weak on leadership and governance; workforce development; improving efficiency and effectiveness, and financial and risk management.
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 »