Thursday, July 30, 2015

Why Winston Got It Wrong On National Anthem

Oh dear. I'm going to do something I don't ordinarily do, here, and criticize my Leader.

Yesterday, he was reported in a number of sources as claiming he'd "never heard anyone sing our anthem when they are happy".

I reject both the statement and the sentiment utterly.

It's true that when compared to the heights of patriotism reached in both song and occasionally in fervor by other nations ... New Zealand can often seem a little lacking.

When you compare "God Defend New Zealand", it's hardly got the emotive gusto of arming up citizens to go participate in a revolutionary bloodbath, like The Marseilles (one of Peters' points of comparison).

But it's special. Sacred. Everything which we've heard Winston claim about the New Zealand Flag.

And to suggest that just because New Zealanders aren't *quite* so full with gusto when belting out our anthem at a rugby match as some of our podean cousins, that this somehow justifies potentially ditching same ... is pretty faulty logic and reasoning.

We are a naturally reticent people, sadly. Our habitual demeanor is gloomy and dour. We are not overly given toward flashy, grandstandy statements of patriotic fervor in the manner of, say, the Americans.

Instead, our faith in our nation is quiet, understated and reserved. This is natural and normal for us - even as I, personally, attempt to stir up the fires of nationalist sentiment in the hearts of my countrymen with a view to cranking the latter up to eleven, where possible.

Changing the anthem, therefore, will not necessarily change the volume or level of enthusiasm with which we sing it before a sporting fixture.

Instead, it would undermine decades of familiarity and support for the extant status quo. (Which, to be fair, is not always a bad thing - although given the ghastly results of our efforts at designing a new flag ... I can only assume that any attempt to come up with a new national anthem would basically be "New Coke" in lyrical form)

And as for Winston's statement that nobody sings the national anthem when they are happy ... I know I'm an exception to just about *every* rule ... but I do. I'm just that much of a nationalist.

But more to the point; as somebody said on my wall while debating this issue: "Look into the tearful eyes of the veterans on ANZAC Day when they hear that anthem - and tell them they/we hate it"

Yup, that's pretty much the strength of it.

About the only positive thing I can say for Winston in this instance is, as somebody *else* on my wall put it "[at least he's not] forcing a referendum onto people (that nobody asked for) just because it's an issue which interests him personally".

Quite right.

Let's flag this issue and instead get to work on making our Nation great again - not just our national anthem.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Devaluation of 50 Cent

The rapper Curtis James Jackson - better known as 50 Cent's - declaration of bankruptcy last week was as sneaky as National’s selloff of state housing. But we all heard about it. Largely through the inevitable cavalcade of cringe-worthy quips across the twitosphere which then ensued. “50 Cent’s value now literal”. “50 Cent says he’s outta change”. “50 Cent wishes he had 50 Cents”. And our favourite, the puntastic “50 Cent has filed for bankruptcy - that makes no cents”. 

All through social media and the popular presses, people seemed to queue up in their thousands to make light of what’s ultimately a pretty sad situation.

But why?

In a musical genre which lauds the pursuit of fame and riches (the title of Cent’s first album – “Get Rich or Die Tryin” being the archetypal exhibit A), what is it about failure that appears to be so exceptionally appealing for ringside commentators to mock?

More worryingly, why is it that the harpies and harridans who’re hounding Cent through the hunnet stacks appear so singularly unconcerned about fiscal failure elsewhere in the business world – like investment banking, for instance? Or the personal (and political) life of Donald Trump.

What, in a nutshell (or, if you prefer, mixtape) does this tell us about our society? And should we even be concerned – either about Cent’s personal circumstances, or about the fact that we seem to be singling out failure and holding individuals profoundly responsible for their own biographies?

But before we leap into the deep sociological critiques & commentary, let’s wind the clock back and re-trace how we got here in the first place.

Our story begins in the early 2000s. People everywhere are answering phones with directives to find them In Da Club. A much younger version of one of us (we’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to guess whom) is enthralled by the idea of being taken by 50 to an entirely and un-abstractly literal Candy Shop, and is singing along accordingly. Cent himself was yet to Self Destruct himself down to being a mere Window Shopper and was in the phase of his career where Straight To The Bank was a hit single rather than something he had to do in order to refinance his debt obligations.

Instead, he’d navigated a meteoric path from bullet-ridden obscurity through to an enviable  - if brief - position as arguably the world’s most popular rapper, selling somewhere in the region of ten million albums a year during the first phase of his career.

Success outside the musical realm soon followed too – making the transition from MTV-screen stardom to a semi-fledged (if small-scale) acting and television career.

But it was the rapper’s non-musical business dealings which propelled him towards true financial prosperity. First, by commodifying the G-Unit brand (replete with clothing lines, $2.99 ringtones, sneakers, and other accouterments) ... and then, much more bizarrely, by going into the vitamin water business. Hawking a product called Formula 50, and with a ten percent stake in beverage company Glaceau, 50 Cent hit the half-billion mark in terms of his personal wealth when Coca-Cola bought Glaceau for $4.1 billion dollars in early 2007.

Now, call us old-fashioned, but we can *vaguely* remember the days when rappers used to attempt to get rich via the more traditionally musical means of record sales and concert revenues – or, in past lives and sotto-voce, drug-dealing. The idea of men from underprivileged backgrounds first selling big and then selling out in pursuit of, as Kanye West puts it “hood dreams – big fame, big chains” is not especially controversial. And as applies moving from album-sales to selling hoodies and sneakers with one’s face on them ... well that’s arguably just musical promotion by an altogether other means.

But vitamin water? Stock trading?

That seems less deal-with-Ecko than outright Gordon Gecko.

And yet, for all that jarring quasi-cognitive dissonance between the way he got rich and his previous lifestyle of “die tryin’”, it wasn’t that which caused Cent’s career and personal finances to suffer.

Instead, this newly corporate savvy approach to securing wealth served to propel the last of his notable hits. On 2007’s “I Get Money”, he obliquely spells it out: “I took quarter water sold it in bottles for two bucks / Coca-cola came and bought it for billions – what the fuck”.

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Gangsta rap about setting up a vitamin-water brand and selling stocks.

Truly an appropriate soundtrack for the health-conscious stock-market apocalypse of the late 2000s.

At first glance, this may reek of inauthenticity. Here, after all, is a man whose initial career was largely built upon an extensive and semi-stereotypical “street” resume: shot nine times, three convictions to his name, and with the only thing approaching ‘shrewd business competency’ being his adolescent experience as a drug dealer. And yet whose stretch through stardom seemed to have more to do with pursuing more conventional opportunities as a ‘legitimate businessperson’ rather than engaging in acts of crime.

Somehow, “Get Rich Or Go Bankrupt” doesn’t have *quite* the same ring to it.

Still, instead of looking at Cent as a sellout or a betrayer of the hallmarks of the musical form, we instead prefer to view him as what he actually was: a genre-defining artist.

While the intersection of money-making and rap music is not new (consider the Notorious B.I.G. “countin’ them benjamins” with the Bone Thugz – albeit in less salubrious surrounds than the “restaurants with mandolins and violins” which Cent now presumably frequents) ... the manner and enthusiasm with which Cent embraced clear and naked capitalism – even using it as a literal selling point – definitely was. Big L might have been “out buyin’ the finest shit money can buy [...] while y’all be on the corners bummy and high” ... but he certainly didn’t do it through investing in a high-end premium underwear venture. (Yes, 50 Cent’s *also* done that)

 And, as the true mark of a genre-innovator, instead of it dying away, it’s become the new normal. Consider, for instance, Lil Wayne’s hit A Milli. Or, for that matter, the name of Weezy’s record label: Young Money. Hell, where did we think Chamillionaire got his name from? And for that matter, how much money has Dr Dre made off headphones recently.

With this in mind, rather than undermining it, 50 Cent in all his musical and business ventures has instead expanded the mass understanding of what it means to be a hip hop artist. And as a mark of empowerment, we have to admit (despite Curwen’s crypto-socialist distaste for the end result) the idea of a black man rising from poverty to not only entice the masses with his music but also carve a unique niche for himself in the fiscal/business world has a certain potency.

Critics love to tell us what “real” hip hop should be – that it should be stern, intelligent and political. Bandz Make Her Dance is no match for this criterion.

But political content and critical reflection has never been the exclusive preserve of the lyrics of a song themselves. In redefining what it means to be a successful rapper – as well as the public’s image thereof – Cent has left a large metaphorical footprint in the archives of hip hop history. We may not personally agree with the idea that becoming a successful businessperson represents the apex and apotheosis of what it means to live an influential and meaningful life ... but by successfully making the transition from street-corner to Wall Street, Cent has arguably helped to put a chink in the bullet-proof glass ceiling of aspiration for many subaltern listeners.

Whether you agree that capitalist aspirations – and, hell, the phenomenon of Capitalist Rap all up - is a desirable thing is, of course, another matter altogether.

Unfortunately for Cent’s financial status, however, along with his mainstream economic success he’d also kept one of the oldest traditions in hip-hop alive as part and parcel of his career and stardom.

The Feud.

The precise ins-and-outs of Fiddy’s feud with Rick Ross don’t need to be gone into here; except to note that it all escalated when Fiddy released a voiceover’d sextape of Ross’s ex-girlfriend, Lastonia Leviston.
This is what’s resulted in the bankruptcy filing, given the demonstrable shortfall between Cent’s $4.4 million dollar net worth and the $5 million dollars worth of damages he’s been ordered to pay to Leviston.

Wait ... what?

“I thought you said 50 Cent’s net worth was in the hundreds of millions?”

Yeah, we did. And so did Forbes magazine. They’d had his net worth pegged at around $155 million dollars earlier this year. A figure whose credibility was bolstered considerably by his ostentatious displays of wealth. We’ve all heard, for instance, about the $1.6 million dollar bet on Floyd Mayweather Cent allegedly made; and he’s often taken great pains to show off his car collection and taste in bling.

But it turns out that this has all been an illusion. The fancy cars were rented or traded in. The diamond-studded gold chains were “borrowed”. The lifestyle, in other words, was all an illusion – created, as 50 Cent told a packed courtroom recently, for “entertainment” purposes as part of his brand.

The pervasive impression we’re left with, then, is that of an inverse-Macklemore. Somebody who raps about wealth yet finds himself having to take his peacocking items back to the thrift shop.

This is probably the biggest reason people are queuing up to cast aspersions in Cent’s direction right about now. Nobody likes a failure – but when one’s image is based so excessively and overbearingly on financial success and wealth, the sudden revelation that it’s all been for show is especially jarring.

Worse, the idea that we’ve all been fooled about this for some time evaporates our sense of sympathy. Nobody likes feeling duped.

On top of this, there’s a certain sense of karmic justice about what’s just happened to 50 Cent. The lawsuit which brought him low financially was, after all, the act of a woman justifiably and deservedly seeking retribution and remuneration for the exceptionally ugly way in which Cent had dragged her – as an innocent bystander – into his feud with Ross.

We hardly need to state our revulsion and anger at 50’s indulgence in revenge porn to try and tangentially slur a rival.

And yet, that doesn’t seem to be *quite* what’s motivating many of the armchair-bound keyboard-manipulating LCD-tanned aspersion-casting commentators on this issue.

Instead, there’s a certain sense of satisfaction in some quarters that a figure from outside the respectable trappings and upbringing of the financial elite has tried and failed at playing “their” game. Those former crack-dealers can’t be Armani-clad multi-millionaire shrewd investors, and that 50 Cent’s fall into (presumably temporary) financial ruin represents a “setting right” and reasserting of the natural order of things.

If you don’t think there’s a pervasive strain of racism, classism, or some other form of arbitrary discriminatory sentiment against an “other” inherent in this; ask yourself one very simple question:

Why did people react so differently when, say, Donald Trump filed for bankruptcy.

Possibly because Trump’s popular name doesn’t lend itself so readily to lampoonery; and maybe due to the fact Trump’s pop-culture presence and image was already so self-evidently ridiculous that nobody in or out of their right mind could take him seriously enough for there to be a noticeable transition in his social status on any of the four occasions he filed for bankruptcy. 

Or, more likely, deep down we all implicitly recognized that bankruptcies are something that happen to modern businesspersons – and, more importantly, that they’re often only temporary setbacks which allow their sufferers a breathing space to re-organize their affairs and get back on their feet.

We’re not used to thinking that way about rap-stars.

On a certain level, we still seem to think the logical result of a flame-out in a rapper’s pursuit of fame and fortune is the “die tryin’” bit, rather than something that gets mediated by accountants.

Fortunately for Fiddy, however, (and we can’t believe we’re saying this) Trump’s example is instructive.

Trump himself has declared corporate bankruptcy no fewer than four times – and yet today sits on a personal fortune measured in the billions of dollars while leading the Republican pack as its most popular presidential candidate. (Not, of course, that that may be saying much)

Bankruptcy is merely a financial statement on a bit of paper. It’s not actually some woeful and deep piercing indictment of who or what you are. You don’t suddenly loose your creative attributes, your force of personality or your panache thanks to dire financial circumstances.

Now we’re not suggesting #FiddyForPrez as the right man to take on Trump by any stretch of the imagination. But here’s hoping Cent gets his life and career back on track as a result of this.

Only this time, without the fake lifestyle and revenge porn, please.

Curwen Ares Rolinson was recently shocked to find out that, due to his criminal record, he appears to have more actual-gangsta credibility than Rick "Prison Officer" Ross. Khyati Shah can be found reading Foucault and dancing to T-Pain. Occasionally, at the same time

Clayton Mitchell Wins My Coveted Political Troll Of The Week Award

Meet Clayton Mitchell. One of the rising stars of NZ First's 2014 intake, he's recently become a bit annoyed - as I have - about the extent to which both National and Labour are (badly) imitating our policies ... without giving us any of the credit.

However, innovative man that he is, yesterday in Question Time he hit upon a solution.

He hand-delivered each of John Key and Andrew Little sign-up forms to become members of New Zealand First.

Now personally, I'd feel a little odious sharing a political party with John Key ... but then again, perhaps it's better to think of it not as "I'm locked in here with him" but rather "he's locked in here with ME!"

I am therefore tentatively supportive of this bid to re-nationalize the Prime Minister.

Perhaps he'll pick up some morals, principles and values while he's with us, and then we can release him back into the wild.

Unfortunately, however, the Prime Minister wasn't playing ball.

As you can see from the above screenshot, he's acknowledged that National does, in fact, borrow our policies from time to time ... but then proved his ignorance and irascibility by asking us if we're in favour of wasting $26 million dollars on a flag-change (we're not); and more worryingly, labeling the flag-change as a "progressive" move.

I'm not surprised in the slightest that the Prime Minister doesn't know what the word "progressive" means. It certainly shows in his party's approach to taxation. And, as somebody on my wall pointed out, changing the flag is less a step forward than it is "running on the spot, at best"

In any case, Clayton's point is clear.

On everything from opposition to the TPPA's excesses to free doctor's visits for under-13s ... New Zealand First did it first; with Labour and National respectively adopting each stance from well in our slipstream.

While Mitchell does have a point when he claims that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery", I've nevertheless always believed that inferior workmanship on a copy is something of an insult to the originator.

Still, as long as democratic politics exists as a co-operative enterprise, other parties supporting our policies is something that ought to be welcomed rather than eschewed out of hand.

Just provided they acknowledge whom it is that they're supporting ... while also refraining from watering down our good ideas to meaningless exercises in symbolic concern.

Rather like a flag-change, in fact.

Monday, July 27, 2015

National's Migrants To Regions Scheme Makes Sense - Because It's NZ First Policy

Every time I hear a National Party policy announcement that seems to make even a semblance of sense ... I stop and do a double take.

In this instance, because it really IS a double take. For you see, when it comes to the eminently reasonable suggestion of redirecting migratory flows *away* from Auckland and instead into our semi-struggling regional economies ... we've heard it all before.

From New Zealand First.

Three years ago, we unveiled a policy-package designed to encourage migrants to settle in our regions rather than all axiomatically gravitating to Auckland. We even made it one of our "bottom line" policies at the last Election.

At the time, the National Party bullishly claimed that such a policy would be a violation of migrants' "civil rights", and seemed to suggest that any indication of of a problem - much less a solution - in this area was just more of the same Winston rhetoric on immigration.

Well I guess John Key's own announcement that National will do something about this issue is tantamount to an admission that we were, as per usual, right.

Now I'm no great fan of some of the excesses of Winston's rhetoric on immigration. But it's widely acknowledged that one of the core factors driving up house prices in Auckland, is the inarguable fact that there's a supply shortfall created by our city growing at a rate of 50,000 people a year ... yet only building five and a half thousand houses over the same period.

Much of that population growth is comprised of new migrants to the country. Who quite understandably need places to live.

At the same time, our regional economies continue to bleed skilled workers and socio-economic capital to the bigger centers via the internal migration of Kiwis. One way by which we might seek to begin to redress this is, of course, by funneling skilled workers and socio-economic capital coming into the country into these areas to make up the shortfall.

Incentivizing migrants to move to the regions rather than remaining in Auckland thus makes a considerable degree of sense for a number of reasons.

Which is why I'm rather surprised that National thought of it.

Oh wait ... that's right. They didn't ;)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Young Nats Internal Election Goes House of Yugioh Cards - Dirty Politics: The Youth Wing Edition

Blackmail! Lies! Deceit! Bureaucratic Infighting! Strategic Disclosures? And Political Hitmen.

No, it's not an award-winning docu-drama featuring scenery-chewing asides by Kevin Spacey ... it's the self-proclaimed "Best Party on Campus" going to town on their own people #DirtyPolitics style during the course of their upcoming internal elections.

It's no secret that I am hardly the greatest fan of the Young Nats and their leading lights. I've fairly publicly crossed swords with them on a whole raft of issues ranging from George Orwell through to the correct manner in which one might hot-box a Toyota Camry.

So when I first heard that the Young Nats' internal election campaigns were getting a little *ahem* ... heated, my initial reaction was to simply shrug my shoulders, hope it'd make for an entertaining fight-to-the-finish, and go grab myself a healthy supply of pakora to keep me sustained while I watched the blood hit the ground.

Unfortunately, I've got a bit of a conscience ... so when certain information as to how one of the people jockeying for internal position came to light, I felt duty-bound to act.

But first, I feel I need to make one thing perfectly and *absolutely* clear.

I'm not writing this piece out of a sense of broad and generally indirected malice. Hell, I'm not even writing it with a goal of taking down any particular Presidential candidate in order to advantage the other - I'm no fan of either Brittany Raleigh or Joel Rowan.

Instead, I'm setting (middle) finger to keyboard for one very simple, powerful reason.

The thing I genuinely HATE in our politics - possibly even more than nasty young neoliberals ... is people trying to get ahead in the minds of others not through their own merits - but rather, through the craven character assassination if not outright attempted blackmail of other contenders.

It's #DirtyPolitics writ miniature - and it goes on continuously, contiguously, if not outright contaminatingly throughout Kiwi politics; seemingly wherever brutally ambitious peppered little egos are to be found.

One reason I'm so passionate about it, is because it's happened to my good self on an ongoing basis. A year ago, for instance, I found myself in receipt of a late-night phone call from a certain someone which demanded I resign my position on the Board of Directors of NZ First - or face certain information about my mental health issues being made prominently public through the national news media in consequence. (There was also the Utu action from earlier this month carried out against me by my own side for my role in exposing some of the questionable actions our own people get up to)

But it's more than that. This kind of carry-on cheapens our politics dramatically, and serves to scare-off if not outright disenfranchising both newcomers and regular/ordinary street-level participants.

It turns political office-seeking - and hell, even robust public debate - into the constrained pursuit of a few fettered creatures; rather than what it should be ... the right and obligation of everyman.

I therefore consider it my sacred and solemn duty to expose such perfidy as and where it occurs, regardless of how many Young Nats with leadership aspirations it may offend and/or obliterate in the process.

So, without further ado, let's take a look at what's *actually* been going on behind the scenes at the so-called and self-proclaimed "Best Party on Campus".

First up, let's meet Joel Rowan.

Joel is running for the Presidency of Young National.

At present, he heads up their Social Media division; where he appears to have been responsible for a number of high-profile blunders that were so bad, Minister Steven Joyce found himself having to publicly disavow them live on national television.


The situation's gotten so bad that no less a personage than the Prime Minister himself got dragged into the fray, having his office issue a statement repudiating any support for Rowan's activities on social media; as well as quite *emphatically* stating that the Young Nats on social media and their erstwhile "support" efforts for the National Party are absolutely nothing to do with the PM and instead operate "quite independently".

We note with some amusement that Rowan must have taken the hint. Many examples of his handiwork uploaded to the Young Nats instagram feed and referenced in the NZ Herald article linked to above, have since been taken down.

But being a bit "controversial" on social media - and perhaps over-extending one's self in support of one's party due to the exuberance of youth is not a hanging offence, in politics.

If it were, I'd already have been repeatedly drawn, quartered, and then had my entrails strung up like christmas-lights all along Mt Eden Rd by my own Party. Oh wait...

Instead, what *actually* marks out Rowan as unsuitable (or, if you like and depending upon how unfavourably you view the Nats' archetypal character ... very suitable) for the Young Nats leadership is what he's done during the course of his campaign for the Presidency.

For you see, Rowan and his friends appear to have been indulging in one of my own ad-vicer's favourite past-times.

Asking themselves, at every turn, "What Would Nixon Do".

It started off innocuously enough. Rowan's team engaged in a campaign of what I like to call "bureaucratic infighting" in order to bolster their chances at this weekend's Young Nats convention.

Due to the way the Young Nats organization is set up, victory in their internal elections goes to whomever controls the most delegates at their national convention.

Each Region gets six delegates as standard, plus another delegate for every twenty five members they've got. Delegates are "selected" by the local regional board, and that's where things get sticky.

Rowan is from the Lower North Island (LNI) Region of the Young Nats, and has actively campaigned to maximize his advantage through questionably democratic means. He started by shoring up his control of the local regional board by ensuring his friends and associates came to dominate same. The way he's done this has created considerable tension within the Party, to the point that National Party General Manager Greg Hamilton was reportedly called in to force Rowan to run things with at least a semblance of democracy.

Alongside this, the membership numbers for both the Lower North Island and Southland Regions of Young National have mysteriously skyrocketed - from around 70 and fewer than 50 respectively to about 250 members apiece. This guarantees Regions friendly to Rowan an extra eight voting delegates all up - a serious advantage.

But it didn't stop there.

Sources within the National Party have confirmed that the Rowan campaign then began to play an exceedingly dirty game.

Sensitive information about a rival candidate's business affairs was leaked by someone within Young National ... to the Green Party's youth wing. The idea was that Young Greens Co-Convenor Ana Martin would use the Zero Hour Contracts segment of last week's Backbenches Youth Wing special to attack Young National using this information - and in so doing, air it on national television, doing incalculable harm to the reputation of the rival being disparaged.

Unfortunately, Rowan's camp made a rather egregious strategic miscalculation in their choice of launch-vector - and Martin, to her credit, refrained from taking the stab out of principle.

In addition to this, the Rowan campaign has also reportedly engaged in a much more direct approach to the elimination of rivals ... seeking to drive dissenting voices out of the party and politics altogether by making relationships with employers untenable through a combination of specific misinformation and outright bald-faced allegations. The idea, assumedly, was that people concerned about losing their jobs or facing a considerably more hostile working environment would have less time, effort and energy to expend participating in youth wing politics - thus handily winnowing down the opposition.

Obviously, I can't go into too much detail as to the precise nature - or, heaven forbid, identities - of any of the purported victims of these schemes. New Zealand politics is a small enough world as-is that to do so would almost instantly identify them. But having spoken to multiple sources that I trust in an effort to get to the bottom of all this, rest assured that I have every confidence in the veracity of what I'm saying.

All in all, the two dominant emotions that sprang to mind upon writing this were a certain sadness, and a complete lack of surprise.

The reason for the latter should be obvious. This is the National Party we are dealing with - and given the craven lack of conscience continually demonstrated by some amidst their upper echelons through phenomena like the #DirtyPolitics scandal ... or, for that matter, the existence of Cameron Slater generally - it should be entirely unsurprising that their Youth Wing should find itself possessed of leadership aspirants who seek so earnestly to emulate the reprehensible example laid out for them by their own party's top brass.

The sadness, however, is borne out in the fact that this sort of backstabbery and seriously seriously dodgy campaigning has now becomes so part and parcel of our nation's politics that nobody 'in the game' seriously bats an eye at how it is played anymore.

Principled people somewhat more to the 'exterior' of organized politics may take issue with this ... but for those inside the tent, the maxim "victory at almost any cost" appears increasingly to be accorded almost the status of holy writ.

Unfortunately, while it might provide ample meat, drink and entertainment for self-styled political 'operators' to watch the frantic, frenzied scrabblings for position over the perforated backs and slit throats of less fortuitous aspirants ... there's nothing surer to turn more normal, ordinary people off politics quicker than the idea that the game is rigged, played by inconsiderate if not outright evil quasi-sociopaths, and fundamentally conducted in a manner that offends the sensibilities if not outright sanity of any reasonable, godsfearing man into the bargain.

In short: playing politics like this - particularly internally - drives away many of the activists and ordinary rank-and-file members whom any political party or youth wing ultimately depends upon for their survival and successful operation at the actual big contests like General Elections and long-term survivability off into the future.

Henry Kissinger once famously opined that the reason university politics was so vicious was because the stakes were so small.

I take a different view. When you're dealing with the potential political future of your Youth Wing (and thus, implicitly your Party into the bargain) ... the stakes are anything but!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Peter Dunne Sells NZ Out To Foreign Corporations

It's no secret that one of the best New Zealand First contributions so far this term has been Fletcher Tabuteau's Fighting Foreign Corporate Control bill.

In it, we sought to strike back against one of the WORST elements of the TPPA, by preventing Investor-State Dispute resolutions from taking away our sovereignty.

Our bill would have protected New Zealand from the very real threat of foreign corporates riding roughshod over Parliament's law-making ability in pursuit of profits; and also helped to ensure PHARMAC's vital role in providing Kiwis with affordable medicine would have been safeguarded.

In short, it was probably the most important piece of legislation presently being debated by Parliament.

And little wonder, then, that National ordered its stooges and puppets to #KillTheBill.

In one of the most craven acts of political cowardice I've recently seen, MPs such as Peter Dunne decided to betray their people - OUR people - and vote against the Fighting Foreign Corporate Control legislation.

Apparently, from his peacock-perch up in Ohariu, Dunne is quite content to watch as foreign corporates smack their lips in our direction, preparing to brazenly challenge laws they don't like the sound of - and, where they deem necessary - outright overturn them while suing us, the taxpayer, for millions of dollars in compensation for "lost profits".

This is absolutely ludicrous. It's perfidious.

It's National And Friends ... and regrettably, it's what YOU VOTED FOR, People of Ohariu!

Now from where I'm sitting, there's something a bit off about the way a SINGLE electorate MP questionably only there because National doesn't fight a proper campaign (or, arguably, because the Greens have previously insisted on standing a serious and competent electorate candidate) is somehow able to singlehandedly derail vitally needed progressive legislation in order to secure his thirty pieces of silver come election time.

Yes, of course it's the nature of representational democracy that 61 votes naturally beats 60.

But on such an issue of national importance (indeed, something which the very future of the nation as a recognizeable political entity arguably hinges on) ... I'd almost contend that decisions such as this might very well be TOO IMPORTANT to be left to the questionable principles of governmental politicians alone.

Come 2017, I expect EVERY MAN WOMAN AND CHILD to remember which MPs voted to sell us out and down the river - as well as which MPs bravely and nobly stepped up to the plate to try and do everything in their power to protect us - and vote accordingly.

But between now and then ... first up, let's demand a referendum on implementing the TPPA.

If it's good enough for Key to put to a national vote the symbolic minor positional alterations of deck-chairs on the titanic that's represented in the flag debate - then something as vitally important as selling our sovereignty out through the TPPA is DEFINITELY a concern you and I ought to get a say on.

If Dunne had done the principled thing - the right thing, the honourable thing, the *unexpected* thing - and supported our Fighting Foreign Corporate Control bill through to the Select Committee stage, you and I would have been free to have our views and our voices HEARD within the corridors of power.

As it is, the Government is evidently running scared about the immense tidal wave of public opinion against its TPPA plans being given an airing through official channels. So they've squashed the "official" possibility of a debate before it could get going.

Well that's, quite frankly, not good enough.

If the Government isn't game to defend its perspective when it comes to a Select Committee process, then I guess I highly doubt they'll be prepared to let the people have our say through the mechanism of a referendum, either.

What this means is ... between now and Election 2017, you and I must apply ALL CONCEIVABLE PRESSURE to the government to make it ABSOLUTELY CLEAR that we will NOT tolerate their continued actions to reduce us down to the status of yet another quasi-third world Kiwifruit Republic.

Mark my words, ladies and gentlemen.

If we properly get the word out to our fellow Kiwis about what the TPPA is and what it truly, awfully entails ... it will be the issue that breaks-rather-than-makes National on the campaign hustings come 2017.

See you on the front lines!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

ACT Says Reusable Bags Kill - We Say Neoliberalism Does The Same

One of the hallmarks of an ideology in its death-throes is the weird, inexplicable, and outright-ridiculous shapes it ties itself up in knots in in order to avoid confronting simple, basic truth.

We've already seen this countless times in the U.S, where to hear a right-wing nincompoop politician decry wind power because this apparently depletes a finite resource and leads to global warming - or, for that matter to suggest abortion in the case of rape is unjustified because the female body has ways of shutting the whole thing down - is becoming a depressingly common "reality".

They do this, because they're so rigidly ideologically inflexible that their brains (such as they are) will strive peerlessly to come up with all manner of stupendously stupid over-extensions of logic and inversions of fact for the simple and explicit purpose of defending their core values against reasonably couched challenge.

It's despicable.

And into this sorry pattern of phrasing-an-issue has ridden our very own Republican Party-lite weight, David Seymour.

Who's presently claiming that reusable shopping bags will kill up to twenty New Zealanders a year.

Never mind the environmental, ecological - and ultimately, human health - costs from using and then discarding fossil-fuel derived plastics all over the place.

ACT's ideology and its backers are fundamentally against sustainability and renewability.

They see it as a cost. An imposition on their unsustainable way of doing business. Pandering to namby-pamby airy-fairy quasi-hippy environmentalist concerns like cleaner societies and more responsible usage of finite resources.

Well y'know what?

If ACT is suddenly so VERY DEEPLY CONCERNED about the potential health risks and even untimely deaths that may result from us acting out OUR ideology - of sustainability ...

... can I just, for a moment, raise the question of WHEN will they become similarly concerned about the health impacts and spiralling mortality rates from neoliberalism, and its unfair, unmandated imposition right here in New Zealand.

We've seen it at Pike River - where lax safety standards in the corporate world, and an underresourced Ministry of Works coagulated to kill Kiwis.

We've seen it at SERCO's Mt Eden Prison - where cut-cost corporate practices conspire to produce a prison environment replete with fight-clubs and drug culture that's HARDLY amenable toward rehabilitation of prisoners and their eventual reintegration as healthy members of society.

I could go on at some length listing specific ways in which the fundamentally fundamentalist more-market madness of the ACT Party has come together to RUIN LIVES if not rob them entirely over the last thirty years since the beginning of its imposition in our (formerly) fair land ... but you get the point.

If ACT quite genuinely and seriously believes they've got evidence to support reusable bags killing people ... I'll listen.

But only provided they're prepared to listen and take seriously OUR evidence that THEIR actions hurt us - as a society and as individuals - first.

Turns out that reusable political "principles" in a reusable "rotten borough" seat are FAR more deadly than mere recycling of bags.

It's time we recognized that. And took action accordingly.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The First Rule Of SERCO Fight Club Is...

On Saturday night, I found myself watching a film called fight club.

Not, you understand, the seminal millenial anti-materialist hyper-masculinist blockbuster ... but rather, a slightly smaller-budget home-grown Kiwiana production.

Courtesy of Black Power, and the fine folks at SERCO Mt Eden.

Of course, we all know the first two rules of Fight Club.

You do not talk about Fight Club.

Now, I would have assumed that filming your fight club before uploading it to send on to the media implicitly counts as "talking" about it to virtually anybody who would listen.

But then, we've all got to move with the times; and so I felt a strategic re-right of Fight Club's rules for a SERCO institution was required.

As a man who's already found himself *far too close* to operating under the auspices of SERCO's tender mercies (whether as a beneficiary or during the course of my recent brush with the law) ... who better to take a crack at it:

Rule 1: You do not talk about how badly SERCO has messed up running our prisons.
Rule 2: You do NOT TALK about how badly SERCO has messed up running other countries' prisons.
Rule 3: If somebody says "stop" by filming what's going on in Mt Eden, that doesn't mean SERCO's running of our prisons is over.
Rule 4: Only 2 staff per 50 prisoners to a fight.
Rule 5: Up to 3 Ministerial Reviews into how SERCO runs our prisons at a time.
Rule 6: No shirts, no shoes ... doesn't mean no sim-cards and no spliffs.
Rule 7: SERCO's Reign of Error will go on as long as it has to.
Rule 8: If you're a formerly state-run service ... you MUST be privatized!

Oh, and by way of comparison; here's the original rules:

"The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: you DO NOT talk about Fight Club! Third rule of Fight Club: someone yells "stop!", goes limp, taps out, the fight is over. Fourth rule: only two guys to a fight. Fifth rule: one fight at a time, fellas. Sixth rule: No shirts, no shoes. Seventh rule: fights will go on as long as they have to. And the eighth and final rule: if this is your first time at Fight Club, you have to fight."
[My thanks to Andrew Paul Wood for his help with this piece]

A Point to Ponder on Pidgeons for Political Provender

Right, so we've got another minor media flapping frenzy about people phaging pigeons.

Great. I'm so very glad that the preening peacocks of our political press are suddenly extra-keen on protecting periled pullastrines.

Except the real issue here isn't that pigeons are being plucked for the purposes of being presented as provender for poltophagy by parorexic politicians.

Or, as some are breathlessly claiming, that Maori have special rights to kereru carcasses. That's fine, and well within the bounds of the Wildlife Act.

The problem here, is that the birds in question were provided to the Marae which hosted the feast by DOC.

Which presents some fairly troubling concerns about what happened next.

DOC presumably wasn't anticipating carcasses that had lain around in a freezer for x number of days or weeks would be offered up for human consumption; particularly given the possibility that the birds might have died from consuming poisoned bait or illness.

In fact, their own statement on the subject makes it quite clear that even if there *had* been an application made for culinary use of the birds, it "would not support the consumption of dead birds handed into its offices for food safety reasons".

Given the Ministers of the Crown in attendance that day who were served the potentially foul fowl - Amy Adams, Nathan Guy, and Tariana Turia - some might call this, all up, a missed opportunity.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Labour Insider - Young Labour Split With Party Over Chinese Surnames

Oh dear. Late last week, Labour Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford caused outrage and upset by using a list of Chinese-sounding surnames to try and claim Auckland had a problem with foreign domination of our housing market.

This was, predictably, pretty bad - and justifiably backfired hard on Labour. It's not that we don't have a problem with huge influxes of foreign money into our housing market. We do. It's not that a prominent source for this cash isn't China. It is.

It's just that a list of Chinese-sounding surnames doesn't prove anything except the laziness of Labour's Parliamentary Research Unit.

Now, one of the things that a Youth Wing worthy of the name ought to be able to do is act as a slightly exterior "conscience" of their parent party. We're a little out ahead of what the older heads in the mainstream membership tend to think, while still (hopefully) being in touch with their core values.

Often, this means we criticize our elders *inside* the tent, while taking pains not to overturn the apple-cart ... but every so often, one of the high-ups from our own party (whatever that might be) does something so sufficiently face-palm inducing that we feel we have no choice other than to "speak out".

It's something that has happened repeatedly during the more tempestuous periods of my relationship with New Zealand First - first, during the #Wogistan debacle (in which NZ First Youth had Richard Prosser officially Clause 9'd and Censured for his remarks; while I found myself extensively quoted in the media on same); and then when I stated my own personal support for Equality of Marriage in a press-conference down at Parliament.

Each time, there was interior fallout. And each time, we weathered the storm - precisely because we knew what we were doing was, broadly speaking, right.

Unfortunately, that's not what appears to be happening within Young Labour at the moment.

An insider source came to me yesterday with information that suggested a "very large vocal majority of Young Labour" reckon Labour's Parliamentary Caucus have the wrong end of the stick on this issue.

This isn't surprising, but what they told me next, is.

Apparently, there's majority backing within Young Labour for some sort of public statement (presumably in the form of a press release) that criticizes the Caucus's position "the collection and use of statistical data on the basis of "Asian surnames"," and which calls for Phil Twyford to be "demoted or personally apologise".

Needless to say, such a ballsy public statement would require Young Labour's Executive to sign off on its delivery.

This hasn't happened, allegedly because "Katie Wilson and other YL leaders have apparently been approached by senior party figures" and told in no uncertain terms that should they do this, "their personal party memberships will be cancelled by the NZ Council".

That was the situation as of yesterday afternoon, and I'm given to understand that somewhere upwards of thirty young activists have resigned from Young Labour as a result. They're frustrated that their Youth Wing's leadership apparently lacks the spine to stand up to the parent party and tell it straight-up when it's gone done wrong.

Now, as somebody who's been in this position himself a good many times before, and who once entertained notions of a Parliamentary career ... I would just like to say I empathize somewhat with Young Labour's Exec.

It's NEVER easy to find yourself effectively being screamed at from *all* sides, and to have to weigh up the delicate balance between one's individual conscience, the group you're representing, and Dire Threats From On High about what they might do to you should you do the right thing.

It's also hella, HELLA annoying to witness the good work you do attracting young people to your party occasionally go up in smoke because some MP decides to make political mileage out of a questionably quasi-racist statement. *Koff koff* (sorry, must be all the cigarette smoke in here)

But the important thing in politics - particularly when you're acting as a representative for others - is to do the RIGHT thing, the principled thing, rather than the "easy" thing.

And then hope that your minor footnote in our political history reads sweetly and judges you kindly in consequence.

Anything else?

Well, that's just playing the game.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Why I'll Still Be Putting New Zealand First

Well, I think I can safely say I've had a Helluva week. Making international headlines, for almost all the wrong reasons (although being quoted by the Venezuelan government was kinda nice). Finding out who was likely responsible on this very blog. Witnessing a large chunk of my life's work thus far officially declared not to exist. Being defended by David Farrar and Pete George.

It's all gone pretty interesting.

First up, I'd like to say thank you and acknowledge the absolute *legion-strength* chorus of support and solidarity that's thundered my way from *across* the political spectrum these last seven days (including Bomber, who's been awesome). I truly was not expecting this when news of my arrest and court case broke ... and I truly am so incredibly and indescribably grateful for same that I can't even begin to put it appropriately into words. (although I gave it a shot)

But that's not why I'm writing this piece.

For you see, in amongst the knee-deep-if-not-neck-high streams and torrents of positive sentiment I presently find myself wading if not outright canoeing through ... there were some darker, jeering elements.

Credit where credit's due, there are some Young Nats and others on the right wing of politics who have written in - whether publicly or privately - to express their sympathies for my position.

But they have, understandably, not all been so kind.

One persistent theme in all this raging banter, variously phrased, has been a string of questions which basically boil down to "When are you going to be resigning from NZ First", often accompanied by a none-too-subtle suggestion that I ought to attempt to shack up with the Greens.

Now, no disrespect to the verdant half of my tango-of-tactical-voting in the #BlackGreen2017 dream ... but this will not be happening.

Unless I am forcibly Clause 9'd out of NZF by the Party ... I shall not be leaving New Zealand First.

Please, no jokes about the grass being greener on the other side.

The reasons for this are quite simple.

I have absolutely no reason to do so. Even in light of what has happened and what's been said and/or leaked about me.

I am still ABSOLUTELY ROCK SOLID in my faith and conviction (ahem) that New Zealand First represents the very best Party in both Parliament and Opposition for an expression of my views and our national wellbeing.

Barring some seriously major policy announcements which may have happened over the intervening week while my attention's been elsewhere ... they have not, to my knowledge, changed one iota what they - and we - ultimately stand for.

So when it comes to changing my Party allegiance - why would I?

What could POSSIBLY have all these Young Nats aflutter and brimming with suggestions presumably intended to be in my presupposed welfare that I might like to switch horses before the race has even approached its final stretch?

Well, applying one of the few resources that the average Young Nat doesn't have at their fingertips or summonable via the conveniences of Daddy's credit card - i.e. Empathy - it's not hard to see why they're baffled by my decision to stay. And not just because of my abiding belief that when a Young Nat tells you something's a bright idea, then is often (but not always) the time to do exactly the opposite - and with extreme prejudice.

You see, the reason most Young Nats are part of their parent party's youth wing is very simple. It's about self-interest. Whether in terms of making connections that will see them looked after in later life, looking to influence policy in order to benefit them personally, or most cravenly ... attempting to climb the greasy pole and advance up the cursus honorum into eventual high office; many Young Nats (and not a few Young Labourites, into the bargain) are actively engaged in their patch of politics for reasons that could charitably be described as being less than altruistic.

The reasons I got involved in NZ First, by contrast, are the exact and diametric opposites of that.

When I joined up back in 2009, with the possible exception of Winston there *was* nobody to network with - and certainly not anyone of any benefit outside the political sphere. I'm justifiably proud and honoured with many of the connections I've made since then thanks to NZ First and NZ First Youth ... but for the most part those only happened because I - We - built them up ourselves. Often from the ground up and with very little in the way of outside (or even internal) assistance. I make no bones about the fact that a young man such as myself would do very much better in a New Zealand First governed NZ - but then, we pretty much ALL would. And that's because an enlightened, #Nationalist approach to the economy benefits all Kiwis - not because lowering tax rates for upper income earners helps any social class I come from (it doesn't); or being a Young National looks good when applying for a job at certain law firms.

I've also known, ever since I was turned down in my application for candidacy last year in 2014 (ostensibly due to my mental health issues ... which were pretty bad even *pre* hospitalization), that it was patently unlikely that I would ever be allowed to become an NZ First MP.

In light of what's happened, it now seems that it will be virtually impossible.

And yet, you didn't see any outward decline in my ardour nor zeal in attempting to campaign for NZ First at the last Election in light of this. Perhaps more strikingly - even though I was subjected to a blatantly unconstitutional Kangaroo Court Clause 9 complaint process disciplinary action against my Membership of the Party back in January for the absolutely heinous crime of saying "fuck" in a posting on my own personal facebook page ... you CERTAINLY didn't see any let-up in my ongoing efforts to get you all to join me in Putting New Zealand First.

In fact, if anything, I went all the harder for the Party in consequence and response.

Because at the end of the day (and, for that matter, at the beginning, morning tea, afternoon and night of the same 24 hour period) ... I have always deeply believed that we do not get involved politics for petty, personal reasons of avarice and self-advancement.

We choose to put our heads above the parapet and loudly proclaim what we believe in - even if we must do it from the sidelines, if not the sin-bin - precisely because we believe in making a contribution to something far greater than ourselves. In whatever capacity we can.

That's why I got into politics back when I was but a young socialist revolutionary with neither nuance nor neatness to my views.

And that's why the remarks printed on Peter Cresswell's appropriately named Not PC blog that I was "[one who had identified] the rotting carcass of a party with a regular turnover of tailor’s dummies sitting MPs for whom lack of ability is no barrier to parliamentary honours, and seek to ingratiate himself therein." incensed me so grievously. Not just because they are ABSOLUTE ANATHEMA to what I believe and how I have always endeavoured to conduct myself in our politics ... but also because they made me out to be everything I've often found myself despising in the young up-and-coming social climbers of other parties. (I did, however, quite like his referring to me as a "One Man Nationalist Revolution". Thanks. I'll be keeping that.)

It also behooves me to point out that at the time I joined up, NZ First wasn't even *in* Parliament - and the received wisdom from just about everybody (including, no doubt, the Peter Cresswells of this world) was that we *wouldn't* be getting back into the House in the first place. Hardly, you might think, the ideal place for a young craven careerist as he's made me out to be to set up shop and pitch tent. But certainly, I would argue, the ideal first-and-last-stand position for one who has chosen "the path of principle, choosing a party that matches his values and fighting across the length of his career to put them into practice", instead.

A lesser-known drug-using politician by the name of John F. Kennedy was once of the opinion that the essence of political service was not asking "what your country can do for you" - but rather "what you can do for your country".

As applies political policy, my answer, to a certain extent, has always been a bit of "why not both?" - as surely the rising tide of successful governance must lift all boats in the national flotilla, including making a prosperous society that the enactors and mobilizers of such policy can, themselves, benefit from being a part of.

But as applies political parties - and our place, as activists, within them - my answer has always been very, very different.

We are not here, in political parties or other vehicles, to be asking the question "what can our Party do for us".

It is well, right, and good that our political "families" (for such, they truly are) appropriately look after their errant tribesmen - particularly in situations such as mine; and I thank each and every NZ First member and MP who has deigned to check in on my welfare.

But it is NOT right to, as so many Young Nats and others have done, blithely assume that the best and greatest thing about being in a political party (or, hell, setting up a Youth Wing for one - even if this now, sadly, seems unappreciated) ... is the very real chance or peril that you'll some day rise through the ranks to become an elected official upon their behalf.

That's not what politics is about. That's merely political office-seeking. And should be outright discouraged.

As I said in my public statement about my resignation from NZ First's Board of Directors back in June, "Our mission, here in politics, is bigger than each of us and any of us."

And that, I guess, even more so than the other glorious line I came up with about how my "heart is still Black; and the linings remain – as ever – Silver", is why I shall be remaining NZ First unless and until they Clause 9 my membership out from under me.

Because my support for New Zealand First is ultimately not about me. It's about New Zealand.

And what we - whether as individuals, or as constituent parts of political parties - can do to "work as if you lived in the early days of a better Nation". (a phrase I've always liked that adorns the walls of the Scottish Parliament)

It remains to be seen how best I can continue to make that contribution in service of both my Party and my People. Suggestions and assistance toward that end shall be gratefully accepted.

As far as the rest of my political career goes ... I closed my resignation letter by noting that "The Age of Ares is Over". It had become something of a quiet private refrain for me ever since the day of my arrest, when things first went *seriously* topsy-turvy in my world.

But politics, as Chancellor von Bismarck mused, is the art of possibility; and it was presumably in this spirit that one of my more ardent supporters coined the hashtag #TheAgeOfAresIsNeverOver.

In that, I would have to agree.

The Age of Ares is not over. In fact, it's only just beginning ;)

Let's move forward into it. Together.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

We Have A Word For People Like Gareth Morgan ... Lunatic


Another week, another imbecilic Gareth Morgan pontification. Not content with last month's attempt to disenfranchise the elderly; this time, he's got yet another of society's most vulnerable groups in his sights: the mentally ill.

Fair warning ... I'm going to get pretty fired up about this.

Morgan starts out by criticizing opponents of National's Social Bonds for Mental Health scheme as being "stuck in the rut of political point scoring". He then proceeds to politically point-score an own goal by first up insisting that the "political leadership of the Left" is "so lame"; then strawmans "the Left" as harbouring "the assumption that the government is the best provider of, well, everything" (hint: not even *I* do that! Despite being well to the left of the modern Labour or Greens parties); and engages in a petty bit of ableism by characterizing all of the above as being "hallucinations". Perhaps not the most sensitive choice of words for a post about how we, as a society, treat our mentally ill ... but then, the next few paragraphs make it pretty much fundamentally clear that Morgan Just Doesn't Care about little things like sensitivity to facts or the feelings of others. He's right. We're wrong. And if you disagree, you must be experiencing about of hallucination-laden delusional psychosis. (I might be)

Let's start with the facts.

Morgan claims that the Social Bonds experiment will lead to "at least the same result as State provision would but more cheaply".

This is false. Bill English, when talking up the policy, outright stated that the Social Bonds scheme would quite likely cost MORE than the extant state-run services do. This is because the state, under the new model, would be paying not just for the services to our mentally ill Kiwis ... but ALSO interest payments and dividends to private firms and investors.

I'm also yet to be convinced that treating a person with a health condition as some sort of tradable revenue-returning asset is likely to lead to an improvement in health outcomes for our mentally unwell countrymen seeing as National's previous pilot scheme in this area didn't seem to be much of a goer, but then maybe I'm just "hallucinating".

Now on top of this, I would have thought that a right-wing theoretically trained economist like Morgan would be absolutely UP IN ARMS about the idea of the state *guaranteeing* profits for investors and private sector firms. Surely this is exactly the kind of distortion which ruins the utility of the market mechanism as an allocator of goods and services? Even leaving aside Morgan's curious lack of scruples about the idea of making a profit off human misery, there's still something fundamentally unsettling about the idea that he's trying to sell a publicly guaranteed income-stream with competitive free-market rhetoric.

It's almost like in his sudden rush of enthusiasm to get THE MARKET involved in something ... he's found himself wildly overlooking the reality of the situation in a bid to get in as quick as possible with a steady stream of insults about some imaginary "Left" giant-cum-windmill. A more hypocritical man than myself might cast this as "Delusional".

All in all this is yet another case, one suspects, of Morgan getting all wildly excited about an idea and jumping up and down about it ... without bothering to check what he's actually found himself championing.

Now to be fair (because unlike Morgan, I'm not in the business of strawmanning my adversaries), Morgan does pick up on two very valid points which have also been raised elsewhere.

When he talks about the perils inherent in the private sector cherry-picking (or "cream skimming") the most manageable cases in order to turn a profit - that's a legitimate concern. And when he prognosticates about the dangers of private sector operations failing to provide meaningful outcomes to their clients in exchange for cash ... that's hella legitimate, too. After all, it seems to be exactly what's happened with National's previous push in this area.

He even suggests that there might be some inevitable problems entailed in contracting out public services to the private sector, and cites the failings of Whanau Ora as a justification for his concern.

But then he goes on to undermine this curiously sane-sounding bit of reasoned analysis by insipidly suggesting that this means the problem is with this *part* of the model, rather than the entire *outsources-to-private-sector* concept itself.

A moment's consideration will reveal the obvious idiocy contained therein.

I know I've said this before, but I shall say it again. And again and again and again ad-nauseum until the people in power listen. (I'd say it again until Gareth Morgan listened ... but I suspect we might be here until Hell acquires an emissions trading scheme)

Social Bonds, by the admission of just about everyone involved, are likely to COST MORE to run than our extant (and admittedly, creaky at the best of times) public health system.

The reason that they will COST MORE than what we're doing now is NOT because there is any guarantee that the outcomes will be better, or superior. There isn't. That's why this is, by definition, an EXPERIMENT.

Instead, Social Bonds will likely cost more because the state (i.e. you and me as taxpayers and/or mental health service provider users) is set to SUBSIDIZE some FAIRLY MASSIVE potential returns and interest for involved private sector entities. (the figures cited are between five and seventeen percent)

Now call me old-fashioned, but that doesn't sound particularly like the wonderful wheels of free-market efficiency being applied to one of our most complex and intractable health problems.

Instead, it sounds simply like yet more plain old Crony Capitalism from a National government picking clean the corpse of our public services sector to feed their gluttonous private sector mates.

For the record, I have absolutely no problem with non-state actors working in the mental health sector. Many NGOs perform vital supplementary and even front-line roles right now, already, with services ranging from addiction-counselling through to specialist psychiatric assistance. Hell, by definition any private counselor or psychiatrist you choose to commission the services of in order to help get to the root of your illness, is also a non-state actor.

So it REALLY REALLY rankles me when Morgan wades into a debate he clearly knows worse than nothing about, and blindly insists upon not only fundamentally misrepresenting the solutions on offer ... but woefully mischaracterizing the beliefs and objections of those of us not on his side of the argument.

What he's advocating for, in this instance, is something which the Finance Minister himself has characterized as putting *more* money into mental health, for an as-yet unsure and unspecified outcome.

Particularly given the problems with the model which Morgan himself has identified ... wouldn't it make a helluvalot more sense - if we're going to spend more money on this anyway - to put the cash where it's proven to do some good in front-line service delivery, rather than questionable ideologically-driven social experimentation?

I think so, but then Gareth Morgan disagrees.

Tell me ... which one of us is the supposedly insane one again?