Weapons Expo 2018

Today hundreds of peaceful protesters are facing down the blunt force of the state which is protecting a secretive meeting of defense contractors in Palmerston North.

We are holding the line for peace. We are holding the line for principle. War machinery is not needed in the South Pacific where there is no war to fight. Guns create instability. Having them increases the risk of them being fired. We stand with the United Nations which prioritizes world peace over the trade of arms.

No more Jack Sparrow!

The last blood has been repayed, and $4 billion has gone into the dead man’s chest. Captain Jack Sparrow has been returned to mortality and killed off. This happened about three movies too late, his death in the jaws of the Kraken in Dead Man’s Chest being the perfect end to the character.

Alas, Johnny Depp had private islands to buy and ex wives to pay off. Both requiring the mega paycheck wrought by a blockbuster franchise. Even with it’s waning popularity the series was still commercially successful on a tremendous scale, and Jack Sparrow remained a fun character. Depp’s well publicized visits to children’s hospitals in costume showed the power of that swagger. And it looked like he really did have a lot of fun playing the role. The final shoot in Australia may have been the exception, the controversy over Depp illegally bringing his dogs on a private jet and having them deported by unsympathetic authorities.

My objection to Jack Sparrow is based more on the awful writing of the later films than on Depp’s performance, which in the first two films was excellent. But woeful scripts subsequently meant that he had to carry the films at the expense of character development and the reliance on gimmicks. I will always see Jack Sparrow as the farsighted wit sailing into port atop the mast of his sinking cutter. And, as the smiling and slightly sodden figure at the end of The Curse of the Black Pearl at last at the helm of his ship looking into a bright horizon.

I hope, pray and beseech the producers of the series not to reboot Captain Jack in their new incarnation of Pirates. Maybe no new character will strike gold in quite the way he did, but it is worth trying. I for one have seen enough of origin stories with young actors playing knockoffs of classic characters. Captain Kirk, Han Solo, the endless Spider Men, the entire X-Men cast, and so on. Give new actors something fresh! Let them wow us or not entirely on their own.

But, as long as the writing sucks, the characters will suck too. There is no excuse for it, it’s not like the studio lacks the resources to fund a good writing team. Perhaps change the historic time to the Spanish-US war of the 19th century, which created the imperial dominance the US has had over the American hemisphere ever since. Just a thought. We could see the start of steam powered ships with iron plated hulls and contrast that with what we have seen before, instead of a romantic picture of a lawless time full of conquest, death, and slavery.

Holding the Strings

The Coalition Government is a year old and it’s combined support is greater than the former government ever had. 57% according to the latest One News poll. Oh I know, the nats want us to see only the comparison between them and Labour, which is narrower (43% to 45%), but it is not correct to do so. This ain’t no minority government, and its support must be taken as a whole.

So, as long as Winston Peters is around, NZ First holds the balance of power. But when will the septuagenarian quit? Not this term, and I think he is likely to stick around for the next one to. This is NZ, we have short three year terms, and Peters shows no signs of incapacity. Further, he has the charismatic Shane Jones behind him, who has the profile and ability to succeed as a future leader of NZ First.

I would dare to predict that this will be the final Government that Winston Peters is a part of. There is so much bad blood between him and National, and far more policy crossover with the Labour Party centrists. Populism holds this Government together. Jacinda and Winston are populists, as was John Key, and to an extent Helen Clark. She was a special hybrid. Simon Bridges is not a populist, nor was Bill English. Elections do tend to reward popularity. So keep Simon in his place to ensure that National gets comfortable in opposition.

Collins coming back. Again

Judith Collins seems to be ever on the rebound. Her leadership, rather like David Cunliffe five years ago, has become inevitable. In fact, there is no other credible reason for her to still be in Parliament. She was a senior minister in the last government, at various times holding the Justice, Police, Corrections, Ethnic Affairs and Revenue portfolios. Where else is there for her to go other than the top? Or, if that is out of the question, she has plenty of opportunities in the private sector. Law firms would love to have her as a senior partner, and she has numerous business interests to capitalize on.

How long will she wait? Well, since Simon Bridges has half a dozen nails in his coffin already, the political calculus is on her side. So what does that mean for the public?

Crime. Crusher Collins has a reputation for being demonic on empowering the police and shelving human rights. I would expect that she would build more prisons, lengthen sentences, streamline the courts, and make punishments for youth offenders more severe. She has a special interest in improving the family court, and presumably would do more there. Police may well be allowed to carry firearms and the resulting spike in gun violence would give her an excuse to get ever more draconian.

Economics. She follows National Party orthodoxy so we could expect more of the Key/English policies with larger tax cuts. So a tad more corruption.

On Health and Social Policy one can reasonably presume that the liberalization of trans healthcare in terms of access to affirmation surgery would be reversed. The usual National practice of putting an emphasis on elective surgery and under-funding of DHBs would figure too.

Not a happy picture, unless you are old, white, rich, cisgender, and straight. Judith Collins is all those things, and that her leadership would be self-serving that it seems too obvious to have to say. But the extent of media scrutiny on Collins is to describe her as polarizing. That doesn’t tell you very much. She may be a more effective version of Don Brash, but then again that is small comfort. He got very close to victory in 2005, only the Helen Clark effect held him off. Would the Jacinda effect be enough to beat Collins. The thought needs careful pondering.

No-one wanted the bed-sheets lifted

The last week has been entertaining. As an opponent of the former National-led Government, it has been cathartic to engage in a bit of schadenfreude, to see Simon Bridges brought so low after being so smug when Labour was tearing itself apart in opposition. But, as has become clear, Bridges is the sort of coward who goes for the genitals when he is on the floor.

Jamie-Lee Ross is experiencing a local #metoo backlash, but instead of it being for the sake of the women he has abused, it is a political hit to protect Simon Bridges. The opposition benches are a sewer, and for the personal lives of at least four (Bridges has suggested up to fifteen) women to be opened up to save his own skin is remarkably nauseating.

Going after the sex-lives of MPs is a risky strategy for the leader of a party with a disproportionate amount of debauchery under the sheets. It may cause his caucus to be united behind him through fear, which may plug the leaks in the short term, but is a risky strategy. Jim Bolger dealt with this with a large scotch and a clap on the back, John Key found an innocuous excuse to fire ministers and let them recover in private. Simon Bridges has shown that he is willing to deal with dissent with the scorching heat of the public spotlight. Jamie-Lee Ross is currently burning like a vampire in daylight.

Stupid op-eds hold that there needs to be greater standards in parliament. Some claim that term limits could be a help. But it is obvious to me that the private lives of people always diminish people when they are made public. That is why the tactic is so odious. Jamie-Lee Ross is now being counseled by Simon Lusk and Cameron Slater, the dealers in filth made famous by Dirty Politics by Nicky Hager. So he dirt flinging may be far from over.

Now independent MP Jamie-Lee Ross, who could get tens of thousands of dollars more if he decides to start his own party with himself as leader, will be a thorn in the side of Simon Bridges and the National Party until the next election. Ah, the schadenfreude is delicious.