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Number One with a Bullet | Sep 15, 2005 12:37

I went to the APRA Silver Scroll Awards the other night.

The lamb was great, in case you're wondering, but I couldn't help but wonder about how much money the event cost compared with the average income of the kiwi musician. With the wine flowing, I suspect I drank the entire royalties cheque for Gramsci's new album, while my table put a big dent in what Shapeshifter will be seeing next financial year. Sorry guys.

As one might expect come election time, the Labour party was heavily represented (Helen Clark, Margaret Wilson, Judith Tizard and Mark Gosche) while National opted for Georgina Te Heu Heu. But then it's not a competition, right? Right?

Helen Clark did her usual ramble about how fantastic the last few years have been for New Zealand music.

Having been to any number of functions where Her Excellency has spoken, these speeches all take much the same form, usually a long list of anyone who's done anything significant in the past few years. In fact, if only she could rap, Helen's addresses would sound almost indistinguishable from most of Scribe's name-check heavy songs.

While Clark spoke of voluntary radio quotas and sales successes, I spied a few musicians sneaking off outside. It dawned on me there's one thing Labour could do next term that would benefit a great number of New Zealand musicians.

Legalise it.

I'm not much of a smoker myself, but I've been in enough bands and befriended enough musicians to realise that da mighty 'erb plays a large part in many of their lives. More inspiration than motivation of course; granted it could explain the extraordinary delays in certain Wellington acts releasing their debut album, but it bears consideration.

Why criminalise [in my estimation, at least] half our musos on a daily basis? If Labour is as supportive of the export music industry as it suggests, why support a law that has seen the door to more than one band's overseas travel slammed shut?

I said (or rather slurred) as much to the MP for Auckland Central, but perhaps not surprisingly she was rather non-committal. But with the possibility that Labour and the Greens could form a coalition sans United Future, is decriminalisation (if not legalisation) a likelihood in the next term?

I suspect one of the sticking points might be the continued involvement of Mr Progressive, Jim Anderton. For some reason it appears Labour will stay in bed with Jim even if they don't need to, which is a little odd, although I guess it's a low-cost insurance policy.

The question is, will his rather personal crusade against recreational drugs (nitrous, party pills), teenage drinking and so forth have any real impact on what a Labour government does with regard to marijuana law reform? Is it a bottom line, or just a hobby horse? And with only one seat to offer, is there such a thing as a bottom line for the Jim Anderton Progressive Party?

That's me until after the elections. Merry voting everyone, whichever box you tick.

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The Cracker Guide to Tactical Voting | Sep 09, 2005 15:47

Elections only come around every five years or thereabouts, and this is your one chance to mingle with all the neighbourhood hotties who would never give you the time of day. By following this simple plan, no matter who comes to power on September 17th, you can still wake up on Sunday morning with a smile on your face.

Choose your polling booth very, very carefully.

Some polling booths are within hobbling distance of Retirement Villages. Others are within skipping distance of University hostels. Do I need to draw you a graph?

Vote outside your electorate.

Just like Alamein Kopu all those years ago, Election 2005 could be your ticket out of the boondocks. So you live in deepest Mt Roskill? You don't need to vote there. Jump on the 258 bus to Symonds Street, then the 625 to Remuera Road. All the time humming "Uptown Girl", saunter in to the nearest primary school or community hall. Lock aim on a tidy young Trustafarian and unleash all your working class charm. Good lines include:

"Vote here often?"

"Wow. I wish the girls in my electorate were as hot as you."*

"I've got tickets to Rodney's party tonight if you're not busy…"*

"Would you mind doing my exit poll? It won't take long…"

Nothing too grubby though. Any offers to stuff someone's ballot box should be considered beyond the pale.

Vote Early

Well don't vote too early. In 1999, in my wild and crazy youth, I went straight from Calibre [a nightclub of some repute] on Karangahape Road to the polling booth. High on more than the fact I was about to do my democratic duty, I recall little other than voting for the candidate I really, really loved before locking the nearest scrutineer in a prolonged bearhug.

That aside, the earlier you hit the polling trail, the wider variety of candidates you'll encounter - and I'm not talking about politicians.

From the early morning fitness freaks who pop in mid-jog, the brunching socialites on their way to an eggs benny, some of the best opportunities will present themselves before lunchtime. The later you wait, the more likely you'll encounter Last-Minute Lindas, Tardy Tonys and Progressive Party voters. They've always been a bit slow off the mark.

Vote Often

Of course you can't literally vote often, but don't let that stop you cruising the various polling booths. Epsom Community Centre a bit flat? Then head over to Remuera Kindergarten. Need an excuse to be there? For less than $2, a notepad and a pen turns anyone into a windswept and interesting roving reporter. Or at least some poor schmo from the Central Leader, it all depends how you carry it off.

Don't talk politics

Whoever you're talking to obviously cares enough about politics to drag themselves out of bed and along to some depressing community hall smelling of grey power and sweaty boy scouts. And unless they're wearing a rosette (NB stay away from anyone wearing a rosette, they are by definition completely and utterly mad), you won't know which way they voted. And for Gods sake, if they ask you, don't reply "I'm not even registered love, I'm just here to pick up hotties." It took me two non-molestation orders to work that one out.

So that's it. Good luck. And remember to Have Your Way on Election Day.

*Thanks to Timmy G for the extra pick-up lines

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Calcu-ma-lator | Aug 24, 2005 08:50

Crikey. When I arksed for a calculator, I was just expecting some little solar-powered thingamy. Punch in the numbers, push the button and bingo. But no. This is some scientific shit. The Casio FX82-B with the fliptop lid that breaks halfway through your School C maths year ain't got nuttin' on this one.

Now I'm no campaign manager - although there are plenty around if that's what you're looking for - but is it ever a good idea to tell people they're better off voting for the opposition? Because that's precisely what National are saying to many voters, putting Labour's figures beside their own calculations.

Perhaps they've done the research. Maybe they realise that a low-middle income family with a bunch of kids already know they're going to be better off with Labour. But this is election year, surely there must be some way the Nats could spin it?

It's interesting though. Considering it's a calculator, it's very hard to get a straight answer out of it. Particularly when it comes to my student loan. I'm sorry, but "$40,000+" just won't cut it. There's a huge difference between $40,000, my loan ($52k), and someone with a loan of $80k. I know the average loan is considerably lower than $40k, but I also know I'm not the only one whose balance is higher.

So why can't we just type numbers into the boxes, rather than having to select from a finite list? Is it simply bad design, or because as your loan heads up over $40k, the greater the chance you'll be 'Better Off with Labour'?

Similarly, it's impossible to separate out National's student loan rebate from it's tax policy. Mind you, with the $40k limit, any comparisons are meaningless for me.

David Farrar has kindly taken the time to put together an Excel spreadsheet which fixes a few of NatCalc's errors. Although it does base its bottom line on the Mother of All Assumptions - that you'll put ALL of National's tax cuts back into your student loan as voluntary payments.

It's this sort of thinking that brought you the "everyone will max out their loan, invest it, then pay it back and pocket the profit" call I've seen spouted. This isn't a question of left versus right, it's actually the question "do humans always act completely rationally?" Or, more personally, "do I always act completely rationally when it comes to money?"

If you have problems putting money aside, saving for the future, and could say in good faith that when National's tax cuts kick in, you'll plough it straight back into your loan without a second thought, then great. But if you're one of those "I'll just have a holiday first/ oh hang on now my cellphone bill is due/ how much was my rebate again/ my birthday's next month, I'll treat myself first" kinda people, you might be better off with Labour's no interest policy. But that's for you to decide.

On another electoral tip, thanks to the ever-informative Fundy Post for pointing out that everyone's favourite Neo Nazi, Kyle Chapman, is now standing for the DirectDemocracy party.

Chapman is described euphemistically as a "staunch patriot". But my favourite line is would have to be:

He worked for 4 years with disadvantaged youngsters and was involved in many projects, mostly dealing with the pressing issues of the moment.

I imagine the greatest disadvantage those children ever faced was Chapman himself. And "mostly dealing with the pressing issues of the moment"? I suppose I can't blame them for being vague…

Okay, I'm not in the slightest bit concerned they're going to end up in Parliament, but what sort of party is DirectDemocracy that they thought it would help their cause having Chapman associated?

I'm sure it doesn't help anyone's reputation to be associated with a dangerous idiot like Chapman, I'm particularly interested in knowing how his fellow candidates Dilip Rupa, Tin Chan, Paul Teio and Seira Perese feel about it. I've written to them, and will keep you updated on their responses.

Oh, and just in case anyone was being vaguely swayed by Chapman's consistent denials of his NeoNazi heritage, have another look at this picture.

In the interests of fairness and accuracy, I should add that Kyle has previously stated he never noticed the eight guys doing Nazi salutes behind him, nor that the guy on the left was wearing a Swastika armband. He also never even knew who the guys were apparently; they just turned up and wanted to have their photo taken with him holding the National Front flag. Um, because they were impressed like with his work with disadvantaged youth and stuff, you know?

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It's About Whanau | Aug 18, 2005 23:42

Wow. Wish I had kids.

I'm sure that there are many happy families out there as a result of Labour's promise to extend the Working For Families package.

I'm not impressed. Hardly surprising I suppose, single professional male that I am.

Labour's policy release takes me back to a discussion I was having with my blograde Tze Ming at Russell's birthday the other day. And yes, it's true, we do all hang out, singing 'Solidarity Forever' and drinking - anything as long as it's red.

My point was, and still is, that I don't like the idea of the Government turning more and more people into beneficiaries. Not because beneficiaries are bottom feeding scum or anything similarly reactionary and neo-con, but because I don't like the idea of increasing numbers of people becoming beholden to the state.

There's a touch of The Matrix about it.

When people are reliant on Government assistance, it gives the Government the ability to impose conditions. Some might be reasonable to most people, i.e. Thou Kids Shalt Attend School, but I don't think it's a huge leap of faith to imagine Thou Shalt Immunise Thy Children, which raises all sorts of issues. (No, I'm not some anti-immunisation nut, but I'm pro-choice, where that choice is informed).

By extending the Working For Families package to provide assistance for parents, Labour isn't just helping out those families who are really struggling. They're also making life a little cosier for those who aren't doing as well as they might, had they not dropped as many sprogs as they did. So why should I be paying for that?

According to Labour's new WFF calculator (smart move by the way, people love that shit), even if you're earning $150,000, you'll receive a benefit in 2007 - as long as you have six kids. So what gives? Are they chasing the Catholic vote? Why is Labour suddenly valuing the family higher than everything else when it comes to tax relief?

The problem is, and it's a problem I dare say National has been trying to deal with ahead of its tax policy release on Monday, when you try and give everyone something back, you don't get much bang for your buck. Rather than spraying it around like confetti, it's best when it's targeted. National is probably quite happy to target the middle and upper wage earners (while still delivering on its promised "tax cut for everyone"), because that's where the votes count.

Labour on the other hand, wants to be seen to be good to families, with an emphasis on those on lower to middle incomes. And here's their issue. You can't cut the bottom tax rate without giving everyone, including the rich (goddamnit), something back. And that's expensive. So the only way around it is to turn the tax cut into a benefit, where an income ceiling is imposed.

'What's so bad about being a beneficiary anyway', Tze Ming asks, as Russell turns to throw another copy of Atlas Shrugged on the glowing birthday bonfire.

It might be an ideological position, but it irks me. It's bad enough the Government takes as much as they do in the first place, now we're supposed to be grateful we can ask them for some back? Not on my watch.

For what it's worth, I like the new National ad, although as a friend pointed out, it probably makes being in the Labour Government seem a hell of a lot more fun than it is.

Finally, I found this Matrix quote vaguely amusing in the circumstances. Don't read too much into it - I'm still officially undecided.

Morpheus: This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

PS: In my last post I mentioned going to the Solomons and New Caledonia last weekend. The trip was fantastic (thanks for asking). We followed 80 Pacific war vets back to where they fought and to visit the mates they left behind. It was incredibly moving, and I felt extremely privileged to be there. But as I've written before, old soldiers do that to me.

So anyway, if this sounds like a bit of you, be sure to watch Sunday (7.30pm Sunday on One).

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To Infinity and Beyond | Aug 11, 2005 18:36

Mucho money must've changed hands around the offices of New Zealand as Brent Todd was revealed as one-half of the so-called "celebrity drug scandal".

"Mr Todd wants it known that he has not bought, sold or supplied prohibited drugs," John Billington QC submitted in a memorandum to the court.

I'm not by any means suggesting Todd has done any of the following, but his lawyer's denials aren't exactly an exhaustive list. Hypothetically, a person could have been given drugs for free, simply been in possession of some drugs, attempted to buy, sell or supply any number of narcotics and still be able to claim what Todd has.

I get a bit pissed off about the hypocrisy involved when it comes to people caught dealing drugs. The biggest culprits tend to be young professional "part-time" drug users. Like some young lawyers I know who enjoy getting completely mashed every weekend, presumably to forget the cold grey corporate hell divided into six minute units they suffer during the week. Quite happy to consume the drugs with voracity, but pity the Scum of the Earth they buy them from.

The idea of a "pusher" hanging around like a vulture, incubating addicts is laughable in New Zealand, at least in any social scene I've ever hung around in - although I've never spent much time in the homebake city of Hamilton. It's as ridiculous as a claim I heard on Leighton Smith's show one morning (okay, if you're looking for ridiculous claims, he's got them in spades, but stick with me). A caller (paraphrasing):

"Leighton, if you don't think drugs are available in primary schools, you're living in a dream world. It's all there Leighton, cocaine, crack, heroin, this P stuff…they give it to them for free to get them hooked."

Yes. That's right. Rather than sell the stuff to hairdressers for $350 a gram, it makes a lot more sense to get primary school kids addicted to class A drugs, then relieve them of their 50 cents pocket money each week. Pure evil genius.

Just as laughable is David Henderson's claim that he did cocaine for weight loss. Sure, it might be a nice side-effect - it's certainly done wonders for any number of super models over the years - but are you sure it didn't have a little something to do with the fact it made you feel fucking awesome? Really? It goes to show how ridiculously body conscious we've become, that it's preferable to say you did coke to lose weight, rather than because you enjoyed it.

I'm off to watch the leaders' debate. I can't wait to see whether Jim and Pete have the gall to make eye contact with JC. As belle de jour Cathy Odgers notes, it's kind of like gate crashing a party you weren't invited to. Onya chaps.

Righto. I'm off to New Caledonia and the Solomons for the weekend. I'll explain why when I get back. Wish me luck.

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Go Fish. | Jul 26, 2005 17:43

Finally we know the election date. And it's the same one we knew all along. Ho-hum. At least now the media can stop rocking itself to sleep muttering "September seventeenth… definitely definitely September seventeenth…"

And much like the card game Memory, we can start matching Labour and National's policies against each other. The difference being, in a game of Political Memory, the pledge cards sport pictures of made-over politicians and cost hundreds of millions of dollars each. And they prefer it when the voters don't remember them.

Labour successfully distracted attention from National's student loan announcement by having Trevor Mallard jump up and down on a trampoline wearing a pair of cut-off jean shorts and a bikini top. It wasn't pretty, but it worked.

However Labour must have noticed that some of us, i.e. those of us with huge loans, pricked up our ears at National's announcement. And so they've tried to go one better, promising No Interest on Student Loans, as long as you live in New Zealand.

The right-wingers are already jumping up and down, screaming about perverse incentives - if there's no interest surely EVERYONE will borrow as much as they possibly can, damn the torpedoes. Smart parents will use their children's loan accounts as investment portfolios etc etc.

Well maybe. Although there are two important caveats on Labour's scheme.

1. You must keep living in New Zealand.

2. It's not guaranteed to last forever.

Therefore any student considering moving overseas, or that this is merely a pre-election bribe to be revoked at will, would be well advised to borrow carefully. Unless of course you're so damned rich you don't need to actually use the student loan money, and can just chuck the whole lot into solid investments. (And if you're that rich, are you really going to fluff around investing each paltry weekly installment just so you can reap the returns off a few grand each year?)

It should also be noted, if these perverse incentives do exist, they also exist in National's rebate scheme, albeit to a lesser degree. Although with no interest, as under Labour's scheme, why would you ever try and reduce your loan through voluntary repayments, as opposed to just sticking the money into a savings account?

If you're interested in what'll happen to your own loan under a zero interest policy, there's a calculator here. Probably wouldn't hurt to check the numbers through a calculator not provided by the Labour party though...

At this point, I should make it clear out that by doubting the Nats' trustworthiness in my last post, I wasn't supporting Labour. My enemy's enemy is not my friend etc. And two months from the election, I ain't got no friends.

Still, this simple fact didn't prevent an even simpler character named Nick, using the charming email moniker, ahem, showing me the flaws in my argument. Apparently not only am I a lefty, but also (and I quote): ugly four-eyed cock-biting fuckwit.

Obviously he missed my post on the laser eye surgery. These days I'm only a two-eyed cock-biting fuckwit.

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The Price is Right? | Jul 22, 2005 10:35

AM I GOING through The Change, or did someone turn up the heat on this non-election campaign?

National's acting like the miller from Rumplestiltskin, bragging Don has the ability to spin straw into gold. Tax cuts for every New Zealander AND more money on just about everything.

And yesterday it was time to bribe those with student loans.

Like everyone who started university the same year I did, I remember National's 1990 campaign promise that it would abolish fees. Well, it did, kind of. By bulk funding universities and leaving it up to them to impose fees for any shortfall, National's sleight of policy would have impressed even David Blaine. Twaah.

The student loan scheme was introduced in my first year of university, and like drunken Otago scarfies to the wintry Leith River, we took to it with much gusto. Cars, stereos and ski holidays were charged to Uncle Jim - one friend even had the receipts to prove he had spent his entire year's loan on alcohol. [RIP Brett: We miss ya buddy.]

Long story short, a few years later, a few letters after my name, and I owe around $55,000. A good amount I reckon. It's too big for me to consider pecking away at it with voluntary repayments, but it's not so big that I sob myself to sleep every night. The way I look at it, even if I lose my job, the Government's not going to come around and repossess my new fuzzy hippo slippers.

Even so, a $55k albatross is still one helluva hunka marine seabird to have hanging around your neck. What did scare me a little was the fact that even when I was working, earning vaguely-okay money, paying ten cents for every dollar over the loan threshold, my loan kept inching up. And I'm not alone. Only this year has my income crept up enough to see my loan start to decrease, albeit very very slowly.

So what to do about it? Early into the scheme there was talk - from Jim Anderton if I remember rightly - of writing off the student loans, or at least the portion students were willing to swear an oath went on actual university education, rather than, say, tinnies. But as the debt hit the several billion dollar mark, and the untrustworthiness of students vis-à-vis swearing an oath was proven in peer-reviewed research, it became clear my loan wasn't going anywhere.

Tax rebates have always made sense to me, although I've had the nagging feeling they wouldn't work for some economic reason. I think there's the concern that shrewd rich parents will use their children's student loans, invest them, claim the tax rebate and somehow profit from the whole deal.

Truth be told, you could already profit from the student loan scheme, by investing in property. It would only take a small group of committed students with a couple years' worth of loans to become serious slumlords anywhere outside of Auckland. Even if you couldn't get enough students together to pay cash, IRD's handy write-offs would ensure an interest-free mortgage, at least for as long as they're studying. Um... I think, better check that with an accountant first.

By making only the interest tax deductible, as National are proposing, I end up being about $30 a week better off. If there's tax relief on the way too, as they're suggesting, I could be a few thousand dollars richer each year. At least that's what the American who keeps calling tells me.

Will I sell New Zealand to the Tories for a few grand? Maybe, maybe not. But you can be damn sure a lot of people will.

THE ONLY FUNNY thing to come out of the second London bombing… On National Radio this morning, a young bystander sounding exactly like a real-life Ali G:

Yeah, so I saw the guy din'I, and he took off down the road, right? An'I would've taken off after him, in'it, except I got my heavy record bags - cos I'm a DJ, right…

Have a good weekend. In'it. And gaming fans might be interested to note I've got a new monthly column in the styley new M2 Magazine, out on Monday. Check it.

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