Tuesday 30 April 2013

Power and the passion

Electricity politics in New Zealand has never been more interesting in years.

The shock announcement - pun fully intended - of the proposed NZ Power monopsony by the NZ Labour leader David Shearer and NZ Greens co-leader Russel Norman has turned the electricity debate on its head. The proposal, which would create a single buyer for NZ electricity along the lines of Pharmac, is intended to give electricity consumers a better deal than what's been given them following nearly 3 decades of major reforms which, like many other industries in NZ, have effectively led to a cartelised orthodoxy.

To make things even more interesting, the NZ Power announcement has coincided with the impending partial float of Mighty River Power on the sharemarket. And NZ Power has had support from some surprising quarters in manufacturers and even one of the power companies.

Not surprisingly, the usual suspects in the Key Government and Big Finance have hit the panic button, with the sharemarket reacting accordingly, the PM accusing the Opposition of sabotage, Prostetnic Vogon Joyce describing the proposal as straight out of North Korea, and Simon Bridges invoking the hoary old chestnut of the Soviet Union. If Reductio ad Stalinum/Kimum is the best argument that opponents of NZ Power can come up with, there doesn't seem to be much of a contest. Got any dancing cossacks to come to the rescue of the Shock Doctrine too, while they're at it?

There's something iffy, if not cronyistic, about the local sharemarket if it has to be propped up by the transfer of wealth from state monopolies to private ones, instead of garage inventors making good. Adam Smith - read but not always understood by his various fan clubs - forewarned in The Wealth of Nations of this kind of cartelisation happening:
"People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary."

Anti-PC gone mad #3: Colin Craig is [REDACTED]

NZ Conservative Party leader Colin Craig took offence to a satire piece in The Civilian that poked fun at his stance on same-sex marriage, so much so that he called in his lawyers. Not surprisingly, the Streisand Effect did the rest, and Craig retracted his lawsuit. The author of the satirical piece and The Civilian founder, Ben Uffindel, got some free publicity for his efforts and could even make a living off it. And even if Mr Craig had been successful in his cease-&-desist, he'd probably have to sue Google Cache as well.

Upon hearing of this furore, the first thing that came to mind was when Jerry Falwell sued Hustler Magazine for 'emotional distress', after a spoof Campari advert implied that he had, well, a not-so-mild case of the Oedipus complex. The US Supreme Court saw sense and ended up throwing out the case.

It all goes to show that the British have satire instead of revolutions - one of the better traditions passed down to us all.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

A week of deaths

The Capital Times (1974-2013)

The much-loved Wellington freebie weekly, the Capital Times, published its final edition last week, becoming the latest casualty of a changing media landscape and a flat local economy.

It filled in for the much missed City Voice after its editor moved back to Auckland, and covered a range of local issues that were largely glossed over by the mainstream dailies. Grant Buist's Jitterati cartoons never ceased to entertain, and he hopes to continue the series online.

The Capital Times didn't get more Wellington than this, and it's going to leave big shoes to fill.

Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013)

The Iron Lady was never for turning, but the ageing process was one enemy she could never fight. To her supporters, Thatcher rescued Britain from irrelevance and industrial paralysis, and reforged it as a financial superpower. To her detractors, Thatcher destroyed British industry and the livelihoods of millions. In any case, she remains a polarising figure in Britain and abroad, even in death, and the various rituals celebrating her death illustrate that. Thatcher seemed unstoppable - until she implemented the infamous Poll Tax, which provoked riots all over Britain, and a leadership challenge which she risked losing until she jumped.

The Boston Bombings

A series of explosions struck the famed Boston Marathon just after the finish line was crossed, shaking Americans' sense of security once again in the wake of Aurora and Sandy Hook.

So far, no one has claimed responsibility, but initial analyses by terrorism experts lean toward the theory of a domestic or lone wolf attack, given the amateurish engineering of the bombs, and that the explosions happened on Patriots' Day and almost coincided with the anniversaries of the Waco Siege and the Oklahoma City bombing. That hasn't stopped the usual suspects from jumping to conclusions: Alex Jones thinks it's an FBI false flag plot, Alan Jones blames 'left-wing radical students', and Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer blame the Muslims. Plus ça change, plus ca même chose.