Monthly Archives: May, 2009

The Budget

Greetings and hello again from New Zealand!!

As a quick aside for all the international readers before I even start, if you’re wondering where “Old Zealand” is click here. The discoverer of our country, Dutchy Abel Tasman decided on a moniker that was dear to his heart.

So I’ve been dribbling the football of thought around my brain stadium for days now wondering what I might speak about. Generally I like to dip my toes into the pool of international political intrigue. However this time I thought I would keep things a little closer to home here in little old NZ.

This week the brand new National government delivered their very first budget since winning over the hearts of the middle ground of undecideds in the general election late last year. They effectively won on a promise of tax cuts, thinking more money in our pockets will somehow make us feel better. Just to let you all know, in the first round of tax cuts on April Fool’s Day earlier this year I got less than $10 a week. Most of the money went to those people richer than I (just a humble teacher of children).

Anyhoo, since National made all their wonderful promises of money back in our pockets, thousands of people have lost their jobs as companies – led by their idiot boards – who borrowed to expand, fell into receivership as income streams dried up. As these people have stopped paying taxes, the income streams of the government have also dried up. This means the next couple of rounds of tax cuts have been ‘put on hold indefinitely’ which, in layman’s speak means (perhaps I’m barking up the wrong tree here) cancelled forever.

So, one major bribe is gone, how are National going to win our hearts back? By offering a $1300 to any homeowner to insulate their house. You might be thinking that this seems like a very novel and forward thinking idea, and it is. However they have to proved this offer without means testing. I think it’s mainly because most landlords in New Zealand are cheap, and most notably the largest landlord of them all, leading the way for everybody, is the government through the wonderfully resourced Housing New Zealand. Landlords, led by the state, refusing to spend money insulating houses against the cold of NZ winters means lots of sick tenants – last week I was one of them.

Our cold, damp, uninsulated house has begun to sprout the annual black mould around windows and other unventilated areas. For 10 months of the year this place rocks. We have two deck areas, one out the back, one out the front. Both of these get loads of sun. Unfortunately, the lack of insulation in our house means that it is currently colder inside our house than outside. If we had insulation in our roof and floor then we might still be cosy from yesterday afternoon’s sun.

The other thing that was notable in the budget was the scrapping of pay talks between the government and support workers in New Zealand schools. In it’s infinite wisdom the government has decided that all those untrained teachers – and that’s what they are, people who teach our young in a variety of different settings, but are yet to have the degree that allows everyone to call them teachers – are not worthy of a pay rise this time. Once again, the poor old recession is getting the blame – what did it ever do??

So support staff, who teach reading recovery, numeracy programmes, English language support for new immigrants, and other such wonderfully supporting educatory dalliances, lose out. Not only are they not going to get a pay rise, they aren’t even getting the chance to negotiate one with the government. I guarantee a strike would normally be on the cards but these people are paid so piss-poorly that many don’t even belong to the union, so are unlikely to take industrial action. The lack of pay will also mean many can’t afford to make their political point heard.

If you think that teachers are the only educators in our schools, then you are very much mistaken. If we had no support staff then we wouldn’t have any teachers. Nobody would stay in the job with the amount of work required.

I’ll be glad when this damn recession is over sometime in the middle of 2015 if you believe the National government. Maybe then we’ll be able to get back to our old ways of spending money that we don’t have on things we don’t need.

Until next time, word.

Boon x

Ahem – I say pass me a tissue would you?

I remember back to when I was a kid. I was staying at my friends place and for some reason – I’m still unclear as to why – we were given the job of stacking a winter’s worth of wood into a dry area. I think his father’s forceful yet kind insistence may have been a factor. Anyway, about 10 minutes into the job our 11 year old problem solving brains kicked into high gear. We worked out, quite brilliantly we thought at the time, that if we stacked up the wood at the front of the shed, rather than having to start from the back, we’d be finished in no time. And that we were… within about half an hour we had a single layer of wood stacked up to the roof of the woodshed. Admittedly there was still piles and piles of cut wood lying out ready to get soaked in the rain, but the illusion was complete. The woodshed was chocker for the winter and we were very happy.

Later on that day – it may have been an hour later, maybe three – my friend’s dad found us and asked us a question, “would you both like an ice-cream full of nothing?” A slightly confusing question, but it did involve ice-cream so we both perked up. Mr. Brough instructed us to follow him and within minuted we were at the woodshed. I wondered where it was going…

“Do you guys still want that ice-cream full of nothing?” he asked. We nodded confused and Mr. Brough kicked the wood we had stacked and it collapsed in on itself. “Oh,” we said now realising what an ice-cream full of nothing was having recently created a wood pile full of nothing.

That’s what I felt the other week about swine flu. It started off looking liked the fully stacked woodpile of a pandemic. Authorities running about the place dressed in full pandemic regalia – masks, boots and full body suits (saying that little phrase it sounds like an album name from an 80s hair rocker band).

People were being stopped when they got off the plane – if they had even the smallest of sniffles they were whisked away to some kind of isolation area to be probed and prodded before being given the all clear to resume their life. And those travellers that missed out on special occasions like weddings, bar mitzvahs or pandemic conferences because they sneezed while going through transit must be pissed off around about now.

I suppose the authorities couldn’t really do anything other than overreact. If it had been an actual pandemic, rather than one of those situations the media love and will place reporters randomly around the world they can cross live to, then we may have been in the shite. But it wasn’t so we isn’t.

I feel sorry for the pigs, and to a lesser extent the chickens (see previous pandemic scare mongering). What did they ever do to deserve this? Other than providing us food by being housed in conditions so appalling that they lead to the mutated creation of these types of illnesses… And here I was thinking that it was perhaps spread across to humans in a similar way to HIV – with some kind of forbidden tryst betwixt man and beastie.

So I suppose we’ll just have to wait for a real pandemic. With the amount of international air travel at our finger tips we won’t have to wait that long for it to spread either…

Boon x

100 Days…

So Obama’s been in for 100 days. They’re all going on about it….

What’s he achieved so far? Well I think his crowning achievement is not moves halting US torture of detainees, time-line of withdrawal from Iraq, or his decisive moves to halt world economic collapse.

His greatest accomplishment to date is the way he has totally freaked out the right wing lunatic fringe of the US. Of course, when I use the word ‘fringe’ here it implies that there aren’t very many of them. In actual fact there is a vast swath of this fringe that regularly drapes itself over all aspects of the United States. So much so that a brother such as Obama, and recently our southern white brother Clinton, have to turn up to church of a weekend to keep up appearances. I have do doubt that they believe, but having to be pictured heading off to the great building with the family rather than just kicking back, reading the papers and having a latte like the rest of us must be more than just a little bit annoying.

The fact that this right wing lunatic fringe uses religion and Fox News as a front to spout all sorts of ridiculous atrocities makes it even more frightening. Think about the sorts of things that these types talk about inside and outside the electoral process: against same sex marriages, for guns, against abortion, ardent unfettered patriotism. All these things can be quite scary to a little New Zealand free liberal such as myself…

The rallying call of the right recently has been the quaking and shaking. I suppose it happened accidentally before the election when they mistook Barack for some kind of Muslim because of the chocolaty nature of his hue and the fact that his last name sounds a tiny, little bit like the first name of some mystery beardo who nobody’s seen for a decade. Anyhoo, the conservative right are now terrified of Obama. Terrified to the point that they have begun a group called the ‘teabaggers’ (see recent blog) whose main objective is not testicular in nature, but to reduce their federal tax burden. Terrified to the point that their main media outlet fails to fully research a moniker before implementing its blanket usage. Terrified to the point that they don’t actually know what to do other than to complain and moan that, “he’s doing it all wrong.”

Ahhhh… the religious right… That vast group of conservative idiots whose main goal in life is to live by the code of the bible while at the same time to live by the code of the self. Their call for individual rights above all others is only tempered by the doomed hypocrisy of telling other people how to live their lives.

Here is just a short list of contradictory ideologies that make up the founding platforms of these selfish twats (twat: noun a man who is a stupid, incompetent fool. syn dickhead, idiot). They are pro-life with their blinding hatred of a woman’s right to choose, yet at the same time they will willingly exercise their constitutional right to kill people they find on their property – even if that people is a friend and/or relative. They like to send people to prison for life or to death row (see previous pro-life point), yet they are unwilling to pay the necessary level of tax required to support the cost of housing those prisoners, or indeed rehabilitating them to the point where they may once again contribute to society. Conservatives will espouse individuals rights over the rights of the collective (i.e. society), yet are quite willing to tell everyone else what to do when it comes to things like those mentioned in this paragraph.

The great thing about conservatives and their hypocrisy is how far they fall. With a liberal type you generally know what they’re about. I believe in this, I did that at university but didn’t inhale etc. Religious conservatives have to keep up appearances. If you need to appear moral in character and then you start fiddling the books of your company/church, or have sex with prostitutes, then you’re in much bigger trouble when you get caught compared to say someone like Clinton who got some, allegedly, in the oval office with a young intern. Even though he denied fully any accusations, when he ultimately did fess up, nothing much happened because everyone knew he was a bit of a loose cannon and quite a lovable one at that. The Republicans couldn’t even impeach him.

Of course, being a blogger, I am prone to gross generalisations without any foundation. Check this book out (thanks to Google books). I particularly love the front cover – much fire and brimstone. Not all conservatives or religious people are going to be the selfish, pro-life, pro-death, money-grubbing, gun toting nazis that get all the media coverage (Dick Cheney). A vast majority of the religious right go to church because they love Jesus and God and their ideas. It’s just that they expect everyone to be like them, and if, “we’re not with them, we’re against them.”

Totally free and independent individual rights don’t necessarily work. Some regulatory checks and balances are needed. If these were in place then the US banking system would not be owned by Obama now.

Can’t we all be good without being God?

Boon x