Joe Hendren

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Listener reaches a new low

The Listener with Princess Diana on the cover. Nothing much more needs to be said.

Pamela Stirling as editor of the Listener has been a destructive disaster. She has proudly taken the Listener downmarket, with the senseless aim of making the Listener just yet another meaningless 'lifestyle' magazine. The last vestiges of investigative journalism have been excommunicated, as quality writers like Gordon Campbell and Bruce Ansley have run out the door.

Occasionally a freelancer might get a good story in, but I suspect this is only when the lifestyle pontiff is not looking.

Rather than inflict editorial terrorism on the previous good name of the Listener, why didn't Pamela Stirling just apply for the Women's Weekly job?


Sunday, June 24, 2007

The power of Guernica

I have been enjoying Simon Schama's BBC series The Power of Art, which has been screening in New Zealand late on Sunday nights.

Previously the history of art hasn't been a subject that has held my attention for very long, but I really appreciate the way Schama, a historian by trade, places the art in its historical context and explains how each of the works fits into the life of the artist.

Tonight he looked at Pablo Picasso, and the pinnacle of his artistic career, Guernica. This work was the reaction of a politically aware artist to the air bombing of the Basque town of Guenica by German and Italian fascist forces during the Spanish Civil War. The town had no obvious military targets - it was nothing more than an act of state terrorism, dropping bombs on a civilian population.

Picasso created the work to "clearly express my abhorrence of the military caste which has sunk Spain in an ocean of pain and death."

Despite a "polite" response at the time, the painting later came to be seen as a prophecy. Like Winston Churchill, Picasso gained a lot more credit for his stand against fascism after the horrors of World War II.

Schama also shows how Guernica gained an uncanny modern relevance in the lead up to the war in Iraq. Following Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations where he told a whole lot of lies on behalf of the Bush Administration, Powell and John Negroponte held a press conference where they made the case for war. At the last moment, someone noticed a reproduction of Guernica on the wall, and officials from the Bush Administration demanded the tapestry be covered up in order that it did not upset people. While they did not burn the work, the effect of the large blue curtain was the same.

Now why would the Bush Administration not want their warmongering associated with an image of screaming women and children? Perhaps the image was just little bit too apt, especially for a military caste which has created an ocean of pain and death.

For Schama this episode was a good example of the power of art. The most powerful country in the world cowered in the face of Picasso's masterpiece.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Low wages are forcing the dollar higher

Hot on the heels of the decision of the Reserve Bank to intervene in the currency market, I found a fascinating comment by a Japanese currency trader.

Masafumi Yamamoto, a currency economist at the Nikko Citigroup in Tokyo
Yamamoto said Japanese investors would likely increase their buying of kiwi investments - uridashi bonds, funds investing in New Zealand and speculative currency instruments - thanks to the stronger local economy. Stable wages and a stable unemployment rate are prompting investors to put the money into higher-risk investments, such as equities and foreign currency assets.

So the refusal of New Zealand bosses to pay higher wages, despite low unemployment for some years has a cost. By hoarding the profits - bosses are inadvertently encouraging speculation on the NZ dollar.

Profit hoarding pushes up the exchange rate, hurts exports and ultimately their business, as foreign investors hunt easy profits. Short term investors are not there to help grow the business, they are there for a quick buck. Perhaps manufacturers ought to be more aware of the larger implications of paying low wages. Even Adam Smith, who is made out to be the hero by the arch capitalists, knew the economic advantage of keeping money in their local community - why don't they!

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Podger pays model to encourage healthy food in schools

Sometimes I think the Green party seriously overestimate the electoral value of Sue Kedgely. Particularly when she is banning chips.

To be frank I have always found Kedgley's approach to issues rather shallow. This issue is no exception.

And why on earth is the Labour party, behind in the polls, going along with this nonsense of banning so called 'unhealthy' foods from schools? Perhaps Labour don't mind this particular 'Green' policy as it does not challenge their carbon filed neoliberal economic model. Perhaps Labour are giving the Greens some credit for this because they suspect the move will be unpopular. Yes, they really are that mean to the Greens.

Sure, kids like chips. But I can think of another good reason why kids tend to buy unhealthy food - a lot of it is mass produced, thus making it cheaper.

A Red approach to this issue would look at why so many families cannot afford to give their children regular healthy meals. Why do so many children go to school hungry? Provide free school meals, fill the bellies, and the kids will have less need for the tuck shop. I would also get rid of the Coke/Pepsi vending machines, particularly where the multinationals give schools backhanders for erecting these Tardis shaped advertising vehicles.

I would of thought a more Green approach to this issue would be to adopt the 'podger pays' principle. Inflate the prices of the 'unhealthy' food, and use the surplus to subsidise the sandwiches.

Of course the kids will jump to fence to visit the chipper down the road - but the Kedgley inspired food bans make this a certainty. But at least under the podger pays model, the podgers are unlikely to want the exercise, and thus are more likely to participate in the tuck shop carcinogen trading system.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Bollard sells the bucks

Very pleased to hear the news tonight that our Reserve Bank has intervened in the currency market.

In order to prevent the speculators pushing the New Zealand dollar up to stupid levels, the Reserve Bank sold around 1.5 billion of the Kiwi, causing the dollar to fall from a post float high of US76.20c, back to US75.25c.

Even if the fall in the dollar is temporary, the exercise was totally worth it, as the currency speculators have been given a lesson that the New Zealand dollar can drop. The recent rise in the Official Cash Rate (OCR) to 8% created a situation that the late Bruce Jesson called a "one way bet". Speculators could buy Kiwi with almost certain expectation the value of the Kiwi would rise. This situation may be great for the bank balances of the speculators, but it is bad for the New Zealand economy, particularly for manufacturing.

National leader John Key used to be a currency trader.

Those who make a living from sucking the life out of other lifeforms are generally called leeches.

It is likely that Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bolland is expecting to increase the OCR again in a few months time, and he wants to discourage overseas currency traders from profiteering from his decisions.

Fairfax Media are claiming this is the first time in 20 years the Reserve Bank has intervened in the currency market in this way. About time. Some would say the action taken today by the Reserve Bank today is long overdue. It is a very small step towards regaining democratic control over our economy.

Update: Oliver has a good post on Bollard's action on Quest for Security.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Video: Progressive Workers support Dennis Maga and Fillipno Workers

Progressive distribution workers locked out for 28 days by their employer last year showed their support for visiting Fillipno unionist Dennis Maga and the people of the Philippines yesterday. It was a way for the Progressive workers to show their thanks for the massive international support they recieved during their struggle.

There is one realy funny bit where a Progressive worker shows Dennis how to do a union 'muscle' salute - in PI style Dennis gets told to "move it baby!"

Many union members in the Philippines have been murdered by arms of the state for exercising their democratic rights. While Dennis has been in New Zealand he has highlighted the terrible human rights record of the Philippines, especially the record of the current President Arroyo.

Dennis has been reliably informed that he may be killed or arrested when he returns home to the Philippines - no doubt for causing embarrassment to Arroyo while she was in New Zealand.

Dennis thanked the Progressive workers for their support, and said it was the essence of international union solidiarity.

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