Lyndon Hood - BA and DipGrad (parents), Lower Hutt

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

I was just getting ready to bow out of political issues and write about baking for the rest of the campaign. But it turns out the Labour actually has some policies, even if National doesn't (at least, not that it will admit to).

Gosh: no interest on student loans if you stay in the country. More allowances too, but, gosh. As a key pledge and therefore, based on this term's record, reliable. Probably instructive to compare the clusters of comments here and here.

I've often wondered what National would actually propose to stop the flow of our best and brightest across the Tasman* (apart from cutting taxes - which in the context of lower employee bargaining power probably wouldn't make much difference to net wages - at the same time as not thinking of 'making the country a nice place to live' as part of their job description). Anyway, I can't imagine it would work any better than this.

Labour's bold and unprecedented move to the Left is both welcome and, well, weird.

It will of course make the loans easier to pay off. It is the first Tertiary policy during my knowledge of student unions that said unions (and all the other Tertiary-sector unions) are actually happy about.

And it will be popular with students (who need all the encouragement to vote they can get), and people who know students, and people likely to give birth to potential students, and so on. It's looking big.

Now, while I'm not a great fan of Labour, whenever I've strongly disagreed with them on actual policy National has been worse. And the Nats and Brash don't show any promise of behaving better than Helen's mob in the general deportment stakes either. So, at a pinch, and leaving aside the electoral-death-by-Winston effect, I'll take Labour.

So yay the election-year bribe.

The weird thing is that it creates some perverse incentives.

Mmm, perverse incentives.

On an economic analysis, even if you happened to have the cash on hand, you'd still be better to pay with the loan. In fact, best to max out you account and invest the difference. And there's no incentive to pay it off any faster than you have to, long as you can stand to stay in the country.

The loan scheme has always been a bit odd when compared to what for the sake of argument I'll call 'real debt'. The fact that one only has to actually pay it off if one has the income makes the monstrous debt burden less monstrous of a burden than it might seem. As such, in a sane world, it shouldn't really effect people's chance of getting a mortgage or anything.

And then there was the interest write-off while studying. One hears stories now of people cunningly investing their free loan money, thus basically ripping off the taxpayer. But it's not a common pursuit. I think most people aren't so calculating about their loan. The amount they borrow is based on more immediate concerns and the actual loan balance is just a horribly large number best ignored. I don't think that would change too much.

And one also hears stories of people going bankrupt to avoid paying their student loans. Which is just stupid. Less incentive to do that, too.

Still: more borrowing. Increasing amounts of money really and apparently lost in written-off interest. Loan-funded entrepeneurs. By the standards scandals are made these days, it will be one continuous scandal.

But I can't bring myself to dislike it.

Partly for the 'getting Labour elected' reason cited earlier.

Also because, even with the side-effects, it's an improvement. We want an innovative knowledge economy so bad, or highly-skilled workers, we probably want a tertiary education system that doesn't scare people.

Or maybe I'm just in shock at a post-1990s Government actually proposing that kind of shit. Or I'm getting in touch with my inner leftie-random-spender; kind of in counterpoint to certain cheerfully self-avowed right-wing psychos I could mention.

Maybe not.

At least more people will pay the damn things off.

But it will take some mental adjustment in the short term: the man who has the Left taking fiscal conservatism, whose cupboard is bare for tax cuts, Mister Chastity Cullen, appears to have found rather a lot of millions rattling around in his pants ready for next April. And will no doubt whip out more over the coming weeks.

However, National's finance policy so far is mostly new spending and they're proposing to cut taxes as well.

Of course, we can't have that debate right now, no matter how hard the media tries, because they won't offer up a shadow Budget. Honestly. If it's playing games to not announce the election until you said you would, what is it when you say you'll release a policy and then delay it twice?

But still, I'll mention this now: Top of the economic cycle. Aging population. Oil crisis. Now is not the time to borrow. It's all very well paying for the costs of your infrastructure with the benefits you derive from having it. But it's a rare Government that actually does this, and if your income plunges anyway, you're a bit fucked.

I'll stick with Mike as the reliable one for the time being.

*These Tasman-flowees are of course made up for by carefully-screened immigrants from the rest of the world. But many of these people are brown, and therefore do not count.

Lyndon Hood - Bad Liar, Lower Hutt

Monday, July 25, 2005

NEW ...

...oh, who am I kidding...

OLD HOOD: An Election-Year Glossary

Are you weary of trying to decipher exactly what various parties will do if elected? Having trouble sorting out the scandals from the storms-in-tea-cup? Have you been left drowning and helpless in waves of catch-all buzzwords and empty political rhetoric, and that even though actual campaigning hasn't started yet? You are not alone! Your humble lexicographer is in much the same boat.

Read the rest at Scoop...

SLIGHTLY NEWER HOOD: Political Poetry Through the Ages

I have always maintained that the whole of human experience is reflected in literature. There is much to be learned from careful study of the great classics. To prove this point, I was inspired by this week's Poetry Day to sort through my own small knowledge of world literature, seeking works from the past that could perhaps shed light on our current obsessions.

Read the rest at Scoop...

The latter caused Bruce, of Waitako, to send me one of his poems. I am completely charmed. Not only do I have a reader, I am an inspiration! Think I'll publish it on my blog:
Remembering Roger

There once came a great prophet of a type messianic,
Who did preach the extinction of woes economical.
Yea he seized his great moment ‘mid political panic,
And did institute change of a type Rogernomical

This prophet of change and other protagonists,
Harked back to ideas from a previous time.
We thought not to question for all were good socialists,
And promised utopian pleasures sublime.

This knowledge that seemed at times quite esoterical,
Was followed by followers with fervour religious,
And preached by disciples in tones quite hysterical,
Who forertold this new age would bring wealth quite prodigious

For theory ‘twas not, ‘twas profound revelation,
And thus with such certainty boldly propounded.
We asked not for proof, nor for verification,
For on eternal truths it was thought to be founded.

And when with a faith that did seem somewhat mystical,
‘Twas claimed that ‘twould spread such great wealth through the land,
New converts ‘twould say, eyes aglow, “Its simplistical,
We merely employ an invisible hand”.

Thus great wealth would accrue by this means automatic,
There’d be no need at all for concerns altruistic.
‘Twas all said with a faith, ‘twas a faith so dogmatic,
And sweet music for those with plans opportunistic.

We’d give those poorly paid much less remuneration,
And sell all public chattels which progress impair,
Thus appeasing that demon whose name is inflation,
And finding salvation by means laissez-faire.

And when any questioned their claims hyperbolic,
And dared to suggest ‘twas all quite hypothetical,
From their lofty advantage they became vitriolic,
And called such unseemly behaviour heretical.

And when we did come to the land that was promised,
To savour the fruits of profound revolution,
No rivers of milk nor of honey were noticed,
Oh, but those fruits had been subject to redistribution.
Not an exact mirror of my sentiments, but pretty much. And well worth saying in these dangerous times.

Happy election-date-announcement-day, everyone.

Kelly Pendergrast - temporary worker, Wellington

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Metaphysical Graffiti
I’m no political commentator, but oh! How I love the lead up to general election time. The shifty tactics! The frantic policy-amending! The underhanded billboards! The juvenile graffiti on the aforementioned billboards!

Political party billboards really bring out the best in this country’s vandals. I’m sure there’s all kinds of subversive culture jamming afoot, but in my humble opinion the best defacings are of a far more low-brow nature.

Here’s a couple of recent favourites, both of these seen on the way out to Wellington airport:

1)Act’s new billboard. Ripping off National’s much-maligned red/blue "Iwi/Kiwis" campaign, but with a tri-partite red/blue/yellow colour scheme and Act’s Rodney Hyde perched on the end looking like a disgruntled rhinoceros. “Spin/Talk/ACT” it says. Fortunately, some ratbag has spray painted huge Ernie-and-Bert monobrows over each politicians forehead. It is funny.

2)A big’ol National billboard with Mark Blumsky’s cheerless face on it. Someone has painted over most of the letters so now it just says “B UM”. Good work fellas.

While I’m here, I may as well tell you about the recent evolution of my favourite ever Wellington graffiti.

Many years ago (well before my arrival in this burg) a maudlin graffitist painted:

on a wall on the way to Newtown.

Some time later, a heartless punk (actually, it probably wasn’t a punk) added to it, so it read:


This amused me highly, and I would smile every time I walked past.

However, recently the G and S were painted over, so it was back to its reverent self, with a new addition:


Very nice, very respectful. But can you imagine my unhinged delight when I rounded the corner last drizzly Sunday to see this:


Kelly Pendergrast - smiling politely

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

So I’m Kelly and I’m new here. Hamish said that if I write on Fighting Talk I will get more cred and more sex, which makes him a liar and me a sucker. I realised yesterday that I’ve been a resident of Wellington for over six months now, a half-year in which I’ve achieved remarkably little of any merit. I did meet the mayor the other day, but I was too star-struck to say what I really wanted, which was:

"Kerry, are you aware of the remarkable similarity between our names -- Kerry Prendergast and Kelly Pendergrast? If you were to say my name with a bad faux-Chinese accent it would sound like your own! I feel a kinship, Kerry, I really do!

I never got to ask her about it, though, because she was running off to attend a parade. Of course.

What city parades with more aplomb, or frequency, than the fair city of Wellington? Parades and marches, constantly. Two weeks ago I was working on Lambton Quay and I swear there were people parading noisily down the street four days out of the five. One lot of them even had drummers and ambulances with sirens. I mean, notwithstanding the fact it was the week of the All Blacks/Lions test and there were probably 5 zillion parades in honour of rugby, Wellington still has an abnormally high ratio of parades-per-capita.

Unfortunately, these parades are almost invariably boring like death. One day, as I sat in the library in the bit overlooking Civic Square, I was distracted from whatever old magazine I was reading by a small group of people assembled on the steps outside, arranging microphones and looking variously official and/or ready to break out in a powhiri.

An ominous sound could be heard in the distance. Was it a war-like enemy tribe? A belligerent army of percussionists? I was actually kind of excited.

The thunder approached, and into the square marched some faux-Carribean steel-drum-tapping fuckers with tinsel wigs lead by a man with an air horn. Bummer. Next came an army of bored looking people wearing SONY t-shirts, then a bunch of capoeira types doing their jumpy-flippy thing (it seems that some recent bylaw has decreed capoeira a compulsory part of all parades), then some photographers, then people carrying a Norwegian flag, and then a group of septuagenarians with green balloons and placards. It was a parade. I had no idea what was going on, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t like the look of it.

If you believe people like Mikhail Bakhtin (and everybody believes Russians), parades and carnivals were historically a site where the social hierarchy of the day could be overturned, urban spaces could be overrun, and the distinction between performer and audience was virtually nil. I’m sure a few contemporary parades live up to this anarchic ideal, as far as I can see mostly it’s more about being pushed onto footpath by a policemen so Santa’s float doesn’t run you over, or shouting tenuously-rhyming anti-war slogans at uncaring pedestrians. Either way, there’s not much in the way of social disorder or dancing in the street.

So what are these incessant parades for? I guess they’re for raising awareness (for good causes, for a new product), celebrating something (rugby, Christmas, being gay), or showing off your skills (usually capoiera). The whole thing’s kind of a drag, though. And who invited the people wearing SONY shirts? They pissed me off, they looked pissed off, and it would just be nice if they could be left to sell consumer electronics in peace and I could be left read back issues of trashy music magazines.

Lyndon Hood - Farrar baiter, Lower Hutt

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Get Out of Jail Free

You've heard it from a whole bargin-basement of opposition politicians, the media have - as far as I know - bought it, and it's on the lips of bloggers who I vaguely recall were once not National hacks.

The private running of Auckland Central Remand Prison, they say, was better and cheaper than facilities run by the Public Prison Service. Thus, the fact that the Government has ended it is bad.

I'll leave the question of ACRP is as white as it's painted to people who have seen it (even if they are Matt Nippert - scroll down Farrar's post for his comments). As regards the "cheaper":

Confronted with this assertion, Public Prison apologists tend to point out that the place is new - better designed, fully up to date and, not insignificanly, easier to heat. Also that they seem to pay their staff less. All good stuff, but still...

A while back (in May 2004) the hearty folk at Scoop took the novel step of actually looking into the issue in any way. What do we find?

The figures this claim is based on originated, surprise surprise, with the company that runs the prison (part of the same group running certain Aussie detention centres).

And there are a couple of important problems with them:

- They don't include stuff like depreciation on the building, which PPS numbers do. The State is (was) in effect subsidising ACRPs rent.

- They were comparing the costs of Auckland Central Remand Prison, which, you may notice, is a remand prison, with those of a maximum security prison.

When you compare apples with apples then, despite all of the advantages mentioned earlier, everyone's model of prison privatisation costs about 20% or 35% more (with and without property overheads) than the equivalent public prison.

I'll point out the obvious: these numbers come from the Government. But methinks they are more reliable than 'what some guy said'.

More detailed analysis is in the original article. Also, if you want dirt on ACM (the company in question) try the associated interview with Matt Robson.

Update (15/7 10:51am): David Farrar - justly I think - feels the need to clarify his point. It's not about whether this particular private management was good, it's that private is now automatically exluded. Frankly, either position on this issue is 'ideological' (if you apply what Farrar seems to understand by the term both ways). It's just that the privatisation model is more radical and, as far as I know worldwide, less successful.

Lyndon Hood - blog-top name-putter, Lower Hutt

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Here is Sir Humphrey's's response to my last.

Since my main point was that I generally don't have much patience with anything they say, I obviously won't respond in too much detail.

I will admit it was a fairly petty kind of post. After all, if I dissed every blog I consider to be written by aliens we'd be here a long time.

However, since PC picked up on it, I will say this: it was your blog, Lemur, that raises my blood pressure. And that's not retracting anything - the problem we have isn't my backing of my own opinions, so much as your reading comprehension.

Why didn't I write about London? Possibly because a special post to say that I didn't have anything to add might be a bit naff?

It's probably more complicated than that, and there might be a post in it later. Something for us all to look forward to.

UPDATE 10am, 13/7: (Look! An update!) Astigmatic Lemur is going around saying I have "completely rewritten" my original post. I presume he's referring to the way I removed an accidential letter 'c' from the title. Like I said, can't read too good. Would you buy and interpretation of local and world affairs from this man?

And now...

New Hood:NZ Politicians Care About Human Rights All Of A Sudden

Phil Goff today outlined the steps the Government would be taking now that they have suddenly realised that our cricket team is going to Zimbabwe.

"Naturally, we deplore Zimbabwe's human rights record and we will do everything we reasonably can to stop this situation recurring," said Goff, whose main achievement as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade is the opening of free trade negotiations with China ...

Read the rest on Scoop

Lyndon Hood - Not One to Bear a Grudge, Lower Hutt

Monday, July 11, 2005

I once said that, in looking at Sir Humphrey's, I found them "on average ... fairly reasonable". There was, for example (in fact, the only example I can think of), an appropriately alarmed comment on Phil Goff's Proceeds of Crime bill.

What I wanted to say is, if anyone concluded from my remarks that they are not a bunch of right-wing wackos who are generally to be found on the kooky side of misguided, I wish to unreservedly apologise.

Be aware that I'm about to do a lot of attributing the opinions of one author to the entire blog. I'm sort of sorry about that. I know I abused PC for it. But I don't want to look up who said what because reading that blog is bad for my blood pressure.

And they all like being called foaming-at-the-mouth right-wingers, so what difference does it make?

I had wondered whether Adolf Fiinkensein, Antarctic Lemur, Lucyna and - for heaven's sake - RightWingDeathBeast were evidence of the kind of divided worldview that was seen in the US elections - the tip of an iceberg of people whose understanding of the world had an alarmingly small overlap with, for example, my own.

Or perhaps they were part of the usual election-period insistence that, under the current government, the world will end.

But on reflection I decided to assume that it was just them. All tip, as it were, and no iceberg.

Nonetheless, I did sketch out a post in my head, where I would do battle with some of their notable hobbyhorses.

I would point out the methodological problems in their quest to prove that the media is consistently biased in favour of the left (though I can understand how it might look like that if you were to the right of ACT).

I would cast aspersions on the insistence that Labour is leading the country down the primrose path to totalitarianism when even PC has classified them as "centrist" (though, again: Phil Goff).

I would try to explain why someone who thinks the invasion of Iraq was perhaps not legitimate, sensible, well-planned and/or well-executed is different to someone who is a Saddam-lover whose comments should be deleted.

As an aside I'll also mention the idea being nurtured by the opposition that Labour's political control has reached out to all the functions of government. More so, presumably, than ever before. Apart from that press release from the Police telling motorists to keep left over Queen's Birthday weekend, I don't really see it.

Anyhow, I didn't write that post, mostly because:
1) It's not as if it would change their minds; and
2) Who actually cares what they think anyway?

Yet, weeks later, I innocently click on a link in a link in a pointed Three Point Turn post, and there they are, fucking me off all over again. Hence all these tears.

For those of you who've stayed with me so far, I'll share a theory related to me by an unnamed acquaintance (that is to say, he has a name, I'm just not going to tell you what it is). It goes more or less like this:

The weblog known as "Sir Humphrey's" is in fact run by lefty MPs. Keith Locke and Matt Robson are Adolf Fiinkensein and Antarctic Lemur, "taking the piss by inventing the most fucked in the head reactionary website". Lucyna is probably Sue Bradford. You'll have to work out the rest for yourself.

I find this idea strangely attractive - rather more so than the though that human beings seriously hold the opinions that the Humpers express.

I can see that blogs will be attractive to people who don't see their opinions reflected in the mainstream: Intellectuals, for example. The unusually well-informed. Social minorities. Narcissists. And, of course, crackpots.

These last can give their views some level of publicity at the same time as forming an intellectually incestuous community in their comments section, reinforcing said views and mobbing anyone who disagree. Not that that's unusual or anything.

Anyway, in the spirit of free speech, I'll offer them my congratulations. Thanks, Sir Humphrey's. It important we know that people like you are out there.

Lyndon Hood - God botherer botherer

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Busy Madeleine Flannagan, of the anti-lots-of-things (like abortion and prostitution) but pro-freedom and God Flannagans - former Christian Heritage candidates who it seems were more recently had a visit from the police about a $35 debt (as far as I can tell for putting anti-civil-union posters on David Benson-Pope's office) - was interviewed this morning on National Radio about Jim Peron.

I mention this because apparently she said Ahmed Zaoui was given the "red carpet" treatment by immigration.

Ha, ha, stupid Flannagan.

Lyndon Hood - Antiquarian, Lower Hutt

Monday, July 04, 2005

New Hood: Don Brash of La Mancha