The Hieroglyph Moth

02/05/2011

The Hieroglyph Moth  by Pascale Petit was featured at Tuesday Poem last week.

Contributions from Tuesday poets linked in that blog’s sidebar include:

A reading of T.S. Eliot’s Hollow Men with images of World War I and a reading of another Eliot poem,  The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, by the poet.

Three Roses by Timothy Cahill.

Midnight Pantoum by Saradha Koirala.

The Gazelle by Rainer Maria Rilke.

My Minion by Alicia Ponder.

Love in the Suburbs by Peter Lach Newinsky.

And a visual poem: Cut by Orchid Tierney,


Hager’s Hollow Horror

05/07/2008

John Roghan  says Nicky Hager is carving out a new career in disingenuous political naivete.

Not content with a book based on Don Brash’s emails, since brought to the stage and soon to be a movie too, Hager is running a sequel on the discovery that some of the same “hollow men” are consultants to John Key.

The fact that someone in the National Party must be passing this material to Hager is far more interesting than the use he is making of it, and I have no objection to his using it.

I agree that where the material comes from is the more interesting, and for National, more serious point.

…email, I think, is fair game. A fair reporter, though, could reveal what he learns without feigned horror at the fact that people running for public office hire consultants who try to conceal some of their intentions during an election campaign.

Parties of all stripes are coy on some subjects before an election for good reasons.

The public interest can be greater than the sum of personal interests, sometimes even in conflict with direct personal gains. It is easy to sell benefits to a section of the electorate, harder to explain how the benefits hurt a country in the long run.

Some are minority interests that should be advanced in the national interest. Hager should ponder how much progress Maori would have made in recent decades if every step in their recognition had been an election issue.

Quite.

Public debate usually favours the status quo. Not much could ever be done if every decision was put to the electorate for a prior mandate.

Take the present Government’s biggest economic moves, KiwiSaver and, this week, KiwiRail, which I don’t remember being canvassed, with all their costly implications, at elections beforehand.

Had Labour given an inkling at the last election of the premium they have had to pay to re-nationalise the railway, and the fortune it is going to cost to cover its likely losses, National’s last campaign would have feasted on the information.

If only.

But now that the deed is done, the politics have changed. The purchase is the status quo and National will not dare put re-privatisation before the electorate this year, though that may be what it ultimately does with the trains if not the tracks.

Yep – once something is underway it is difficult to change it, even if it’s because sometimes bad policy is good politics.

Likewise KiwiSaver, a year old this week. At the last election the savings scheme was an essentially voluntary proposal. The following year it was to become compulsory for employers and acquire some costly enticements of dubious economic value.

Not long ago my employers wound up my company super fund. I couldn’t blame them; from April they had to contribute to KiwiSaver if staff favoured it. And who of us were going to turn down Cullen’s $1000 handout and tax credits?

The scheme celebrated its first birthday on Tuesday with 718,000 members – more than double the number predicted in the first year. The only people complaining about it are those annoying economists who see the difference between individual gains and the national welfare.

They fear the scheme will not add to total personal savings, merely displace previous savings schemes.

In the Herald last weekend Maria Slade reported an estimate that as little as 9 per cent of the money in KiwiSaver accounts so far is new saving, a percentage the researcher reckoned would not cover the administration and compliance costs of the scheme.

Is anyone surprised by this?

Westpac economist Dominick Stephens said KiwiSaver had cost the taxpayers $497 million in its first 11 months, an amount that could have added to national savings if it had been left in the Budget’s fund for future public pensions.

Even that fund is questioned by some savings professionals who point out that a superannuation scheme is only as good as the future economy that will have to pay out. From that point of view, the best retirement insurance is the investment made in the economy today.

And not just retirement – health, education and every other service will be more secure in the future if we strengthen the economy now.

Anyone who believes that the best investments are made by those who stand to lose if they get it wrong would argue the economy would be stronger in the long run if the KiwiSaver incentives were turned into personal tax cuts.

And yes again.

Nevertheless, National will have to keep the scheme now that it is replacing private savings on such a scale. The best the party can do is continue to avoid saying whether it will keep the incentives.

It will not be easy, and should not be easy; it is the job of political opponents and the press to pin all policies down. But adroit tacticians can keep the options open and enable a government to come to power with room to move in the national interest. Voters, I think, understand this. They don’t need horrified disclosures that it happens. It is the horror that sounds hollow.

Exactly. National has learnt from the damage done by stupid promises made by Jim Bolger before the 1990 election; and Helen Clark has too which is why she keeps trying to under promise and over deliver.

Parties should be upfront about their philosophy, principles, general  policy, and – sometime before an election – some detailed policy. But they can’t be specific about everything because, once a party is in Government it must have room to adapt to events and circumstances.


Her own words or someone else’s?

04/06/2008

The Hive asks if anyone believes that Winston Peters wrote the article on the Proliferation Security Initiative which appeared in yesterday’s Dominion.

 

I can’t find it on line so can’t comment. However, politicians don’t usually write their own press releases and opinion pieces are generally their own thoughts but may or may not be in their own words, even if its got their name above them. A personal tribute is a different matter, if it says it’s a tribute by someone then it ought to be by them and that’s what I was expecting when I saw this in the first edition of Mindfood: 

 

The Right Honourable Helen Clark recalls the extraordinary life of “Sir Ed” and why the late mountain conqueror, explorer and humanitarian will always loom large in the New Zealand consciousness.

BY The Honourable Helen Clark | Mar 17, 2008

 

After the death of a highly respected public figure a Prime Minister has a fine line to tread between what’s required by the official role and political opportunism. I though Clark got it right after Sir Edmund’s death but I don’t think she has with this tribute.

 

Media reports gave me the impression that Clark knew Sir Ed well so when I saw the headline in the magazine I expected a personal insight with a few anecdotes. Instead, it’s an impersonal account that any journalist could have written from cuttings.

 

So is it her personal tribute or one written by her staff? I’d expect a Prime Minister to be busy enough without writing tributes, and it certainly doesn’t read as if it was written by someone who knew Sir Ed. That doesn’t mean she didn’t write it; but why bother doing it if she couldn’t make it personal; and why would an editor want a tribute from the PM if it didn’t tell us anything more than could have been covered by someone who hadn’t known the subject?

 

Does it matter? Prime Ministers and former academics aren’t necessarily renowned for deathless prose so it may well be her own words , and if so it reinforces the impression of someone who lacks warmth and the personal touch. If it isn’t her writing then she’s done the magazine and its readers a disservice and it would show she hasn’t learnt from the forged painting episode.

 

Ian Wishart makes a great deal of this in Absolute Power.  I’ve read the book and agree with commentators who say it is the right wing equivalent of Nicky Hager’s Hollow Men in that both authors appear to have started with a point of view and found the evidence, to back it up.

 

However, I think Wishart makes a fair point about “paintergate”. It wasn’t just one painting when she was a busy Prime Minister (which wouldn’t have made it right, but might have been easier to understand); she eventually admitted to about half a dozen art works over 20 years and when confronted with it didn’t seem to understand she’d done anything wrong.

 

It’s not like signing a bottle of wine because the label clearly shows who made it. The signature on a painting or other work of art is part of its provenance and in the absence of any indication to the contrary it’s a statement that it is the signatory’s work. You’d think a Minister of Arts would know this and understand its importance.

 

You’d also think that anyone who was asked to produce various works of art over a 20 year period might have come up with several acceptable alternatives to paying someone else to produce them then signing them as if they were her own. Why not say she couldn’t paint but offer to help the charities in another way? Or say she couldn’t paint but was happy to donate someone else’s work; or simply do a daub?

 

 That she didn’t certainly isn’t a hanging offence and I think the police were correct in concluding that the consequences of charging her for forgery would have far outweighed the alleged crime. But what she did was wrong and she didn’t appear to accept that; so when I read the impersonal tribute I wondered if it was really written by her or one of her media team because if she didn’t really understand what was wrong with forging art, she might not also understand you shouldn’t put a by-line to a tribute written by someone else.


%d bloggers like this: