Word of the day


Slangevar – cheers, good health.

Hat tip: Gravedodger

Goff prescribes more of what made us sick


Labour leader Phil Goff is promising to make the first $5,000 income tax free if Labour wins power.

At least that’s the line with which he’s attempting to tempt voters.

But it pays to read the fine print:

It would introduce an across the board ‘tax free zone’ so earners paid no tax on up to their first $5000 earnings, at an estimated cost of $1.3 billion.

Although likely to be initially introduced at a lower level, Labour would look to increase that zone to reach $5000 during its first term in government.

The operative words are  on up to their first $5,000 and  likely to be initially introduced a a lower level, Labour would look to increase that zone to reach $5,000 . . .

On up to. . .   likely . . .  would look to . . . means this isn’t a set-in-concrete-we-will-definitely pledge it’s an we’d-like-to-with-ifs-and-buts-and-maybes-goal-we’re-aiming-at apology for policy.

It’s also very, very expensive. Proposals to increase in the top tax rate and put more effort into countering tax evasion will go nowhere near covering the cost:

Labour’s so-called state of the nation speech today is an irresponsible and very expensive recipe for a huge amount of extra borrowing, Finance Minister Bill English says.

“Labour has clearly learned nothing from the failed policies of its previous term, when New Zealand’s net liabilities to the rest of the world soared to more than $170 billion and we ran the highest balance of payments deficit in the developed world,” Mr English says.

“When the incoming National Government took office, we faced an economy deep in recession before the rest of the world and Treasury forecasts of never-ending deficits and ever-increasing Government debt.

“Phil Goff has today confirmed he wants to jump back on the conveyer belt of more debt and higher taxes. His recipe will do nothing to help lift New Zealand’s national savings – it will do precisely the opposite. In fact, it will discourage savings and encourage property speculation.”

By Labour’s own calculations, making the first $5000 of income tax-free for all taxpayers plus taking GST of fresh fruit and vegetables would cost more than $1.5 billion a year – with much of the benefit going to high income earners.

On the hand, increasing the top personal tax rate on incomes above, say, $120,000 and ring-fencing property losses would raise only $440 million.

“And that’s the shortfall from just two of Labour’s promises. They also want to restore research and development tax credits (annual cost $330 million); introduce paid parental leave to 18 weeks ($50 million); increase Working for Families for under twos (unknown cost) and not take dividends from State-owned power companies $700 million).

“It’s telling that Phil Goff would not spell out precisely where all this money will come from. It’s now abundantly clear that he will have to borrow it and increase taxes – and New Zealand can’t afford it.

“I’m sure New Zealanders will be interested to know that despite all the rhetoric, Labour still stands for more debt and higher taxes. By contrast, this Government stands for responsible management of the economy.”

 Goff’s prescription is for more of  the same medicine which made the economy sick.

It didn’t work when the rest of the world was economically healthy, it will do even more harm now it’s ailing.

Should we verb?


The use and misuse of language occupied my discussion with Jim Mora on Critical Mass today.

 To verb or not to verb? That was the question posed by Anthony Gardner in you’ve been verbed.

It introduced me to the verb to handbag – to hit with a handbag; attack verbally or subject to criticism – which is attributed to Margaret Thatcher.

Michael Holroyd writes in The Guardian that the war against cliché has failed.

He concludes:

 So I try to quell my indignation, lower my blood pressure and keep a lookout for developments of language that are precise, witty, useful and have aesthetic value. Have you noticed any lately?

I haven’t.

Ben Yagoda writes about the elements of clunk in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

I was amused to read him lamenting the influence of Britishisms when so often those of us more accustomed to British English lament the way Americanisms have infected our spelling and grammar – the missing u  in favour and labour; the missing l in jewellery and travelled and my pet hate gotten when if it’s really necessary – and often it isn’t – got is all that’s required.

Some hae meat


It’s Robbie Burns’ birthday.

My father, who came from Dundee, was often called on to address the haggis on Burns night, a task he did with great relish.

While enjoying the words and music, I didn’t share his enthusiasm for the feast. In spite of my tartan genes I’ve never acquired a taste for haggis or whisky but if you’ve a mind to celebrate the BBC has instructions for a Burns Night Supper which will include the Selkirk Grace:

Some hae meat and canna eat,

And some wad eat that want it,

But we hae meat and we can eat,

And sae the Lord be thankit.

For something a little lighter but still in the spirit of the day:

 An MP was being shown around a hospital. At the end of his visit, she was shown into a ward with a number of patients who show no obvious signs of injury.

She went to speak to the first patient and the man proclaimed, ‘Fair fa’ yer honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o’ the puddin’ race!’

The MP, somewhat taken aback, went to the next patient, and immediately the patient launched into, ‘Some hae meat and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it.’

That continued with the next patient, ‘Wee sleekit cow’rin tim’rous beastie, O what a panic’s in thy breastie!’

‘Well,’ the MP said to the manger accompanying her, I see you’ve saved the psychiatric ward to the end.’

‘Och no,’ the manager corrected her, ‘this is the serious Burns unit.’

Which is the real Goff?


During discussions on politics from the right and left  on Nine to Noon yesterday, Mike Williams said:

. . . the problem I think at the moment for Phil  is that  he’s kind of one dimensional. You know I can name both of John Key’s kids for example but I can’t tell you the names of Phil Goff’s kids. You’ve got to get him more three dimensional . . .

Politics is very hard on families and if they choose to keep out of public gaze the public, and the media, should respect that choice. Although it does seem a  bit strange that a former Labour Party president doesn’t know at least the names of the leader’s children.

But the more damning observation came from Matthew Hooton:

You could argue that Phil Goff is incredibly multi-dimensional. He starts out as a Vietnam activist then he becomes Roger Douglas’s chief lieutenant; then he’s Helen Clark’s foreign Minister and now he’s wanting to reposition the Labour party to the left . . .

The problem isn’t that Goff doesn’t have enough dimensions, it’s that we don’t know which is the real one.

There’s the long-haired anti-war student.

There’s the lawyer  Political Studies lecturer and union organiser.

There’s the Cabinet Minister from 1984 – 1990 who supported, and helped implement, Roger Douglas’s policies.

There’s the MP who in opposition and then government kept talking about the “failed” policies of the 80s and 90s.

There’s the Cabinet Minister in the 1999 – 2008 government that changed some, but not many, of those policies and introduced nanny-state legislation.

And now there’s the party leader who’s apologised for getting that wrong.

There’s a fine line between being a man for all seasons and being one who shifts with the wind.

Which is the real Goff and which will be delivering his state of the nation address today?

Bad day in Government beats best in Opposition


Prime Minister John Key gave a very strong message  at Ratana yesterday:

“I say to the critics what can you achieve from opposition, and the answer is nothing. You achieve things when you are part of the solution not when you are solely carping on about the problems,”

It was directed at Maori Party MP Hone Harawira but could also apply to the Ratana church which traditionally supports Labour.

The links between the Ratana movement and Labour go back a long way. But that isn’t necessarily the best way to operate now, especially under MMP when smaller parties can have greater influence.

Governments work with all sorts of groups irrespective of their political allegiance. But non-political groups which support one party risk being taken for granted by that party and are less likely to achieve much when that party isn’t in power.

It’s a well worn political phrase that a bad day in Government beats the best in Opposition. That’s where the power lies and where the ability to make positive changes.

It’s better for minor parties to achieve some of their aims in Government even if they don’t support all its policies than to achieve nothing in Opposition.

It’s better for groups other than political parties to keep their options open and work with those in power to advance their cause.

January 25 in history


41 Claudius was accepted as Roman Emperor by the Senate.

1327 Edward III becomes King of England.

1494 Alfonso II becomes King of Naples.

1533 Henry VIII secretly married his second wife Anne Boleyn.

1554  Founding of São Paulo city, Brazil.


1627  Robert Boyle, Irish chemist, was born (d. 1691).

1755 Moscow University established on Tatiana Day.

1759 Robert Burns, Scottish poet, was born   (d. 1796).


1791 The British Parliament passed the Constitutional Act of 1791 and split the old province of Quebec into Upper and Lower Canada.

1792 The London Corresponding Society  was founded.

1796 William MacGillivray, Scottish naturalist and ornithologist, was born  (d. 1852).

1841 Jackie Fisher, British First Sea Lord, was born  (d. 1920).


1858 The Wedding March by Felix Mendelssohn became a popular wedding recessional after it is played on this day at the marriage of Queen Victoria’s daughter, Victoria, and Friedrich of Prussia.

1873 Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana was born.

1874  W. Somerset Maugham, English writer, was born (d. 1965).

1879  The Bulgarian National Bank was founded.

Coat of Arms of the Bulgarian National Bank

1881Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell formed the Oriental Telephone Company.

1882 Virginia Woolf, English writer, was born  (d. 1941).

1890  Nellie Bly completed her round-the-world journey in 72 days.

1909 Richard Strauss‘ opera Elektra received its debut performance at the Dresden State Opera.


1915  Alexander Graham Bell inaugurated U.S. transcontinental telephone service, speaking from New York to Thomas Watson in San Francisco.

1918 The Ukrainian people declared independence from Bolshevik Russia.


1919 The League of Nations was founded.

1924 The first Winter Olympics opened in Chamonix.

I Olympic Winter Games

1942 : Thailand declared war on the United States and United Kingdom.

1945 World War II: Battle of the Bulge ended.

Battle of the Bulge.jpgAmerican soldiers of the 75th Division photographed in the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge.

1949  The first Emmy Awards were presented.

1954 Richard Finch, American bass player (KC and the Sunshine Band), was born.

1955 Terry Chimes, English musician (The Clash), was born.

1960 The National Association of Broadcasters reacted to the Payola scandal by threatening fines for any disc jockeys who accepted money for playing particular records.

1961 John F. Kennedy delivered the first live presidential television news conference.

1971 – Idi Amin led a coup deposing Milton Obote and became Uganda’s president.

1974 Dick Taylor won the 10,000 metre race on the first day of competitions at the Christchurch Commonwealth Games.

First day of competition at the Christchurch Commonwealth Games

 1981 Jiang Qing, the widow of Mao Zedong, was sentenced to death.

1986 The National Resistance Movement toppled the government of Tito Okello in Uganda.

1990 The Burns’ Day storm hits northwestern Europe.

1994 The Clementine space probe launched.


1995 The Norwegian Rocket Incident: Russia almost launched a nuclear attack after it mistook Black Brant XII, a Norwegian research rocket, for a US Trident missile.

1996 Billy Bailey became the last person to be hanged in the United States of America.

1999 A 6.0 Richter scale earthquake hit western Colombia killing at least 1,000.

2004 Opportunity rover (MER-B) landed on surface of Mars.

NASA Mars Rover.jpg

2005 A stampede at the Mandher Devi temple in Mandhradevi in India kills at least 258.

2006 Three independent observing campaigns announced the discovery of OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb through gravitational microlensing, the first cool rocky/icy extrasolar planet around a main-sequence star.


2010 – Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409 crashed into the Mediterranean Sea shortly after take-off from Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport, killing all 90 people on-board.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia.

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