Joe Hendren

[ Home ] [ Articles ] [ Blog Home ] [ Travel ] [ Links] [About Me]

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Winniebox and the Serious Fraud Office

GWith the announcement by the Serious Fraud Office of an investigation into donations made to his NZ First party the position of Winston Peters as Foreign Affairs minister is fast becoming untenable.

The smartest thing for Peters to do now would be to stand down. He could use the opportunity to claim he is doing it for all sorts of important sounding reasons other than saving his own skin, such as maintaining confidence in the government, a sacrifice for the good of the nation. Peters gets an opportunity to grandstand, an opportunity to clearly state his belief in his own innocence, and his expectation of coming back as a minister as soon as this nonsense is cleared up.

Peters would also be free of any sort of collective cabinet responsibility for the election campaign, which being Winston could bring some advantages.

Sadly, it appears that Winston Peters is simply too arrogant to take the most pragmatic political course of action.

But if Peter's won't go, Helen Clark must suspend him. She has suspended her own ministers for less, in fact David Parker stood down over a whole lot less. If Peters remains a minister while the SFO investigate, it will be difficult to avoid the perception that ministerial standards have dropped to levels not seen since the end of the Shipley administration. That perception has the potential to cause problems not only with the public, but inside the Labour caucus, as any MPs disciplined by Clark will wonder why Peters is being treated so leniently. Many may start to question Clark's judgement, and perhaps even Clark herself.

This Labour-led government is not in free fall - yet. I still rate their chances of remaining on the Treasury benches around 50/50. Despite the National party leading in the polls, they can not lead the Government unless their vote plus their allies adds up to 50% - and that has been a struggle for National all year.

In the case that Peters remains a minister and Labour lose the election, perhaps some people will cast their mind back to the post election negotiations in 2005 when Labour cast off the Greens in favour of NZ First and United Future. In doing so, did Clark write her own political death warrant three years later?

The more hopeful scenario is that Labour scrape home in 2008, and the numbers force the Labour leadership to form a government with the Greens as the primary support partner. In the same way that some people credited the Alliance with rejuvenating the Labour party in 1999, perhaps the Greens can do the same thing for Labour in 2008. One hopes Labour and their supporters can be grateful.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Merkel's mistake promising NATO to Georgia

It is unfortunate that German Chancellor Angela Merkel raised the stakes in the Georgian crisis by reaffirming Georgia's hopes of joining NATO. This can only be regarded as a provocation by Moscow. According to news reports tonight the Russians are beginning to withdraw their forces from undisputed Georgian territory, yet Merkel's words have the potential to slow the pullout and extend the crisis.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel assured Saakashvili in Tbilisi that NATO remained ready to give membership to the ex-Soviet republic, as promised at a NATO summit in April, despite the conflict with Russia. "Georgia will become a member of NATO if it wants to -- and it does want to," Merkel said on Sunday."

This is an unfortunate chance of stance. Earlier this year Germany led European resistance to plans, pushed by the US to put Georgia on a track to Nato membership.

NATO is nothing more than a relic of the cold war that ought to be disbanded. Its continued existence, particularly as it continues to grow to the East, is a threat to world and European peace. In February 2003 Nato faced a crisis when France and Belgium vetoed the timing of protective measures for Turkey - actions that were seen to assist an invasion of Iraq those Governments did not support. Nato is also involved in American plans to resusitate Reagan's 'Star Wars' plans for a 'missile defence shield' in Europe - moves that threaten the creation of another arms race.

While I have great sympathy for Georgian and South Ossettian civilians caught up in this tank filled powerplay, I have absolutely no sympathy for the Government of Mikheil Saakashvili, who provoked this crisis by invading the disputed South Ossetia region. Making proclamations about territorial integrity and being a UN friendly country have a hollow ring coming from a Government who enthusiastically supported the war in Iraq.

Perhaps Russia could invite Cuba and Venezuela to join the Collective Security Treaty Organisation.

Of course Russia is not blameless over the current crisis. That said, David Hearst makes a very good point when he suggests the response of the West to the Georgian crisis should be mindful of the political forces within Russia the West wishes to encourage. Opposing the extension of NATO is "not appeasement, nor even realpolitik, nor even an abandonment of democratic principles. On the contrary every time events follow the mindset of the hawks in the Kremlin, Russia's dwindling band of democrats gets smaller still and the possibility of regime change in Moscow is set back another generation. The surest way of keeping the hawks in the Kremlin is to keep advancing eastwards. Its a recipe for war, which Europe has no will to fight."

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Olympics opening featured blue screen of death

Heh. Rather amused that the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) made an appearance at the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

This is the error screen that pops up on Windows computers giving you no option but to reboot your computer.

This might be the most prominent sighting of the BSOD yet, projected onto a stadium wall at an event watched by 15% of the world's population.

There was one saving grace though. Microsoft founder and near monopoly profiteer Bill Gates has been spotted at a number of Olympic events, so there is a good chance he was at the opening ceremony. I imagine Bill Gates would have recognised the BSOD immediately.