If David Cameron was the closest thing John Key had to a political mentor, their successors also share a whole lot in common. Theresa May and Bill English were both propelled into the top jobs as the result of unexpected resignations, and without much in the way of credible competition from their colleagues. Neither have yet been given a mandate to govern by the electorate although – in both countries – the Labour opposition is in less than robust shape. Read the rest of this entry »
Since the resignation of John Key, the speculation about what-might-happen in election year 2017 has been framed almost entirely in terms of personality politics. Is National’s Bill English more – or less – chemically inert than Labour’s Andrew Little, and will the electorate finally decide this predictability /complacency/familiarity to be re-assuring, or disturbing? Is English so very lacking in inspirational energy that he will need to bribe the electorate with tax cuts in order to induce even the centre-right to get out and vote for him? Will the centre-left gain any/some/or a whole lot of traction out of the departure from the political scene of National’s super salesman? And so on.
This obsessive focus on personality politics is understandable. New Zealand politics has been a presidential form of combat for several decades now. However, elections aren’t merely a popularity poll. Moreover, since “populism” – in the form of a desire for wholesale institutional change – is winning elections all around the world. So, it could be worthwhile to try and collate what we know about the dynamics of populism, and see if any of its structural elements fit the situation in which the electorate currently finds itself, in this country. Read the rest of this entry »
The controversy over the dossier purporting to show US President-elect Donald Trump’s alleged ties with Russia has been virtually overshadowed by the related controversy over whether the Buzzfeed site should have published the dossier in the first place. After all, some august mainstream news outlets – eg the Washington Post, New York Times and the Guardian – had previously seen the dossier but had decided not to publish it, apparently because the contents could not be verified. Read the rest of this entry »
Gordon Campbell on why tax cuts in 2017 would be a (proven) bad idea
Ever since the world fell prey to the mullahs of the free market in the 1980s, no amount of real world evidence has managed dispel one key tenet of their economic faith. Namely, the idea that if you cut income taxes and taxes on small business, a wave of individual enterprise and entrepreneurial energy will thus be unleashed, profits will rise and – hey bingo! – the tax cuts will soon be paying for themselves via all that extra economic activity that this virtuous cycle will have set in train.
Ahem. One small problem : the formula doesn’t seem to work. Undaunted, Donald Trump appears intent on uncorking this magic potion yet again – despite the previous tax cutting disasters initiated by George W. Bush and earlier, by Ronald Reagan. Read the rest of this entry »
Primarily, Meryl Streep’s critical speech last night at the Golden Globes – which is the award ceremony hosted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association – was a defence of journalism and of journalists. Notably, she cited the journalist Serge Kovaleski who was mocked for his disabilities by Donald Trump on the campaign trail last year. Kovaleski had committed the sin of querying the fake news that candidate Trump was disseminating at the time, about US Muslims allegedly celebrating 9/11.
The foreign-born, as Streep eloquently pointed out, have always made essential contributions to American life and culture. Read the rest of this entry »
Our foreign policy is trade, as Robert Muldoon observed back in 1980 – give or take the accidents of history that may have created a few allegiances for us along the way. For any small trading nation, trading opportunities need to be at the forefront of its diplomatic planning and – presumably -our role in the recent UN resolution on Palestine was driven by the possible trade opportunities in the Middle East that our public stance on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories might now put within our grasp. Evidently, these trade openings are seen as outweighing (a) the predictable fury of the Israelis, and (b) landing ourselves on the enemies list of the incoming Trump administration. Read the rest of this entry »
OK, I’m not even going to try and rationalise this surrender to a ‘best of’ listicle. Still…maybe there is an argument for making some semblance of narrative order out of a year that brought us Trump, Brexit and the deaths of Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and Alan Vega, who I missed just as much as the Big Three. So without further ado….oh, but first a word from the sponsor : Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Lania Pantaleo
As yet the nation still doesn’t know what to make of its new leadership team. Last weekend’s Cabinet shuffle of the same old names around a few different chairs didn’t tell us much. Given the chance to innovate, Bill English chose instead to leave the future captaincy of the health system, the education system and our foreign policy apparatus up in the air for the next six months. Whatever else that is, it isn’t leadership. Read the rest of this entry »
Not that Mark Zuckerberg probably thinks about us all that much, but Facebook is having a profound impact on the survival strategies of every media company in New Zealand, big or small. Basically, Facebook, Google etc continue to soak up the lion’s share of the advertising dollars that local media had once naively hoped would fund their own digital news operations. To rub salt in the wound, Facebook and its ilk serve only as distribution platforms for news, and don’t invest anything at all in the costly business of news gathering. Local media do all that, while Facebook scoops up the bulk of the financial rewards.
Last week, the Commerce Commission held a conference in Wellington in order to canvass the competition issues involved in the proposed merger between this country’s two biggest media companies, Fairfax and New Zealand Media Holdings. Facebook didn’t attend the conference, but its spectre hung over the entire proceedings. Read the rest of this entry »
Things will be just the same, but really, really different! Its so exciting! Bill English is from the South and I’m from the North! How great a team is that? And can I tell you again how awesomely talented all my colleagues are? Yikes. I have a feeling we’re going to get very tired of the chirpy chops ebullience of our new deputy Prime Minister in a very short period of time. Grumpy, less charitable thoughts do come to mind. As in… is someone, anyone on the new team going to ensure that Nick Smith and Murray McCully are shot at dawn this week, and replaced by people even more awesome than they are? Read the rest of this entry »