Liam Hehir

Liam Hehir on facsists

Liam Hehir?writes about the fashion of calling everything and everyone fascist:

Is it OK to punch someone if you think they’re a fascist? Some people seem to think so.

Not long ago, disreputable Right-winger Richard Spencer was attacked on live television. Spencer is often accused of being a Nazi though he disputes that label.

He is undoubtedly a purveyor of white identity politics, however, and is notable for coining the term “alt-right”. At the time he was attacked he was being interviewed on the street during the Trump presidential inauguration. A man came up, smashed him in the side of the face and ran off.

A punch directly to the head is serious business. A blow to the cranium ? even a relatively restrained one ? can cause lasting damage. Spencer could have been seriously hurt or even killed.

Nevertheless, for many liberals in the United States and elsewhere, the sight of such a villainous personage being clocked caused much glee. The offender was compared to Indiana Jones, Captain America, the Blues Brothers and other pop-culture icons who were famous for their (fictional) assaults on Nazis.

Videos of the incident set to music went viral, with a former Obama administration speechwriter tweeting that, “I don’t care how many different songs you set Richard Spencer being punched to, I’ll laugh at every one.”

Since then, it has become clear that the idea of using violence against alleged fascists has gained some respectability.

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Labour’s crisis crisis

Liam Hehir explains Labour’s crisis crisis.

In 1991, the Soviet Union unravelled.

Its empire had been lost, its constituent regions declared independence and its economy crumbled. After decades of failure, the will to preserve the Soviet state was exhausted.

Nineteenth-century America was bitterly divided by slavery. This eventually led that country to civil war in which more than one million people were killed. At times, the very existence of the country hung in the balance.

The 3rd-century Roman Empire found itself beleaguered on all fronts. With the assassination of the emperor in 235, the Romans were plunged into a half century of repeated barbarian invasions, rebellious provinces, civil wars, plague outbreaks and the economic turmoil caused by currency debasement, known today as “quantitative easing”.

In each case, the countries involved were facing critical challenges to their existing order. In other words, they each found themselves confronted with a “crisis”.

Some came through better than others. America survived her civil war and is better for it. Rome got lucky with some good emperors and managed to buy another century before its final collapse in the West. The Soviets’ crisis was too much for their rotten states to withstand.

Many of our opinion-makers seem to be of the view that New Zealand is in the grip of a great crisis. Looking back through the news this year, we have seen the proclamation of a manufacturing crisis, an agriculture crisis, a regional?economy crisis, a trust in politicians crisis, a healthcare?budget crisis, a mental?health crisis, an income?inequality crisis, a wealth?inequality crisis, an obesity crisis, a teacher?recruitment crisis, a log-supply crisis, a water crisis and a casual?racism crisis.

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Liam Hehir on the Red/Green MOU

Liam Hehir discusses the impact of the MOU…and it isn’t much of one.

Labour and the Greens have signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” ostensibly committing both to cooperation in the service of changing the Government.

As the news buzzed around social media, you could be forgiven for thinking the Treaty of Waitangi had just been signed. That very night, Simon Dallow declaimed on the 6pm?news that this “joint party power play is already changing the political landscape”.?According to some cheerleaders of the Left, John Key’s fate is now all but sealed.

The thinking seems to be that Labour and the Greens are like Ross and Rachel, with the great voting public waiting eagerly for the resolution of the “will they or won’t they?” storyline. Now that Labour has finally committed to the nice guy Greens, a delighted electorate will finally be ready to make their own commitment to changing the Government.

Others think the agreement is a potentially serious blunder. In this narrative, the relationship upgrade with the Greens is an effective spurning by Labour of bad-boy Winston Peters. Because it’s generally considered that Labour won’t be able to govern without Peters’ support, the party’s decision to go with its heart and not its head may cost it dearly.

And in fact, Winston Peters does not seem particularly impressed with what Labour and the Greens have done, grumbling that his party doesn’t “like jack-ups or rigged arrangements behind the people’s back”.

As an aside, this argument is incoherent. By publicly announcing an intention to work together, Labour and the Greens are doing the opposite of going behind the people’s backs. What they are doing is arguably a lot more transparent than the standard New Zealand First method of refusing to state a preference until all the votes are cast and the backroom baubles auction is completed.

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Hehir on the UBI proposal

Liam Hehir at the Manawatu Standard lets rip at Labour over their daft UBI proposal.

If you have paid more than five minutes attention to public discourse, you know that proclaiming a?desire to “have a debate” about some radical proposal is really code for actually being in favour of the?thing to be debated.

The same thing goes for wanting “to start a discussion” or to “have a national?conversation” about something you know will be contentious. Framing things this way is usually a?hedge against the potential for backlash if your idea proves a bit too controversial.

So now that Andrew Little has said Labour is “keen” to have a “debate” on whether New Zealand?should adopt a Universal Basic Income, you might infer this means that a UBI is something he would?like to see happen. And the chances are you’re probably right.

Under a UBI, every New Zealander would receive a benefit. Everybody would get the same amount,?regardless of their employment status, wealth or needs. There would be no strings attached and so?every person would be guaranteed the bare necessities of existence without the need for work?(though if mere existence were not enough, you would certainly be free to pursue employment).

Needless to say, such a system would be a pretty radical reform. It is, at the end of the day, a?universal dole ? a payment for simply being alive. You can see why Little was being guarded.

After all, who but a communist could propose such a thing?

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Sledge of the Day

Not from parliament, but from Facebook where Manawatu Standard columnist?Liam Hehir schools Iain Lees-Galloway





Are National and John Key really “out of touch”

Liam Hehir outlines National’s shocker of a year….month by awful month.

In January, the first public poll of the year showed National with 49.8 per cent support, Labour on 29.1, the Greens on 9.3, and New Zealand First on 6.9. That looked pretty good for National. Unfortunately for the party, it all went downhill from there.

In February, the Government came under attack over the possibility of taxpayer funds for SkyCity’s new convention centre. TV3’s Patrick Gower declared that Andrew Little had hit “the political jackpot” and the prime minister’s trouble with the deal was a “a great issue to attack the Government on.”

To make matters worse, Jacinda Ardern accused the Government of being “out of touch” on paid parental leave.

In March, a by-election was held in the safe National seat of Northland and Winston Peters managed to beat out the government’s candidate. Dr Bryce Edwards asked whether this represented “some sort of tipping point” against National. Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the result was proof of an “an increasingly out of touch Government”.

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Liam Hehir on Winston and Seymour

Liam Hehir writes at the Manwatu Standard:

Elite political newsletter Trans-Tasman has named David Seymour its ?Politician of the Year?. Seymour, who is the leader of the ACT Party and its sole MP, is said to have played a blinder and to have proved his doubters wrong. In giving him the title, the newsletter editors said they were surprised at ?the degree to which he seems to have made ACT a potential vote winner again?.

It?s hard to think of a better example of the disconnect that exists between New Zealand?s political commentators and the voters.

Word around Wellington is Trans-Tasman has lost the plot.

It?s certainly true that, in many ways, Seymour has done very well. As the champion of our right to gather in pubs to watch Rugby World Cup matches, he managed to strike a pose that was both popular and libertarian. His earnest manner, together with his support for bien-pensant causes like the Red Peak flag and assisted suicide, has largely defused the hostility he could ordinarily expect from the liberal punditry, whose default setting would be to tar him as a Right-wing fiend.

He has also proven a stable and reliable support partner for the Government and, by all accounts, has worked well as parliamentary under-secretary to the Minister of Education and Minister of Regulatory Reform.

But while all of this might have been terribly impressive, one thing David Seymour has singularly failed to achieve is improving the standing of his party with the people who really count ??ordinary voters. In the 2014 general election in which he limped in to Parliament, ACT received just 0.69 per cent of the vote. And yet despite Seymour?s supposedly outstanding year, the last five public polls (as recorded by Curia Market Research) have shown ACT registering just 0.5 per cent, 0.2 per cent, 0.5 per cent, 0.5 per cent and 0.6 per cent support in the party vote stakes.

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Liam Hehir gives the luvvies promoting “Red Peak” a kicking too

Liam Hehir gives the luvvies presently pushing to subvert the referendum process a good ticking off.

We now have four official alternative designs for a national flag and, in a few months, a winner will be selected to go up against the Blue Ensign next year.

The selection of the final four has seen an intensifying of criticism of the coming referendums from liberal pundits. They do not like our current flag, which is not sufficiently politically correct for their tastes, but they object to the alternatives as well. This has seen a late rally behind the Red Peak design by Melbourne-based Aaron Dustin, which is now the official preference of the twittering classes.

This all comes a bit late in the game. Until now, the principal position of the liberal punditry has been to ridicule, rather than engage in, the flag debate. Toby Manhire, the Left-wing columnist who started the belated campaign forRed Flag,?justified his former apathy for the consultation procedure on the basis that it made him feel “? infantilised, herded into a nationwide social studies project”.

This is a weird complaint, because many commentators have conducted themselves like ageing teenagers on the subject. They think the Blue Ensign is lame, but they also saw themselves as too cool and ironic to participate in anything so closely associated with John Key. They’ve therefore contented themselves with sardonic digs from the sidelines.

With the announcement of the shortlist, however, they seem to have suddenly realised that things are going ahead without them. They want another chance.

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Colin Craig and his charging elephants

Liam Hehir writes about Colin Craig and his Pyrrhic crusades:

In the third century BC, a Greek king named Pyrrhus invaded Italy to assist the city state of Tarentum in a conflict against a rising power known as Rome. King Pyrrhus won the first battle decisively, largely due to the shattering deployment of war elephants against the Roman infantry. Pyrrhus marched northwards.

By the time of the second encounter, however, the Romans had devised tactics and weapons to counter the elephants. The invaders still won the battle, but at the price of devastating casualties. When congratulated by his officers on his victory, Pyrrhus answered: “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.”

Is Colin Craig familiar with this famous chapter from history? Perhaps he sees himself playing the part of Romans ? indefatigable, unfazed by short-term defeat and ultimately victorious. To outside observers, however, his Conservative Party adventures have all the hallmarks of a Pyrrhic victory.

I once had a sales manager who often asked “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer is one bite at a time…and that is how I approach everything including Colin Craig. The other saying I use is “Bite off more than you can chew…and chew like fuck”.

Craig founded the party, lavished millions upon it and made himself into its public face. What has been the return on that investment? As at the last election, he got a lot of ridicule and contempt from a hostile media and no seats in Parliament. In the year since, he has added to those failures an unwinnable feud with blogger Cameron Slater, severe damage to the cause of political conservatism and a battle for control of the party that seems to have exposed the organisation to be little more than his personal play-thing.

But imagine if the Conservative Party had cracked the 5 per cent threshold last year, won some form of participation in government and managed to keep a lid on internal controversies. In this best-case scenario, what could Craig have achieved?

I don’t think National would have agreed to overturn the smacking ban. Nor would it have agreed to reverse the gay marriage law.? I don’t think it would even have agreed to lessen the power of Parliament through binding citizens-initiated referendums.

National maintains power by remaining? firmly in the centre of New Zealand politics. This does not actually involve doing things that are popular. To a greater extent, it means actively avoiding things that will be socially divisive. It means that National rarely initiates contentious social legislation ? and nor does it look to reopen past battles.

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Liam Hehir on Labour’s ill-conceived race-baiting

Liam Hehir explains just how dopey Phil Twyford’s attack on Chinese was:

If you want a masterclass in poor political management, you need look no further than Labour’s badly conceived and poorly executed “expose” on Chinese investors distorting the Auckland housing market.

In essence, the party read through a sales list of one real estate company and counted how many buyers had “Chinesey” sounding names. It turns out these names appear with more frequency than the percentage of Aucklanders who claim Chinese ancestry. It was then claimed that this coarse racial profiling is evidence that foreigners are to blame for Auckland’s housing woes.

This approach is problematic to say the least, as many people on both Left and Right have pointed out. For one thing, we know almost nothing about the real estate company in question. This includes whether it specialises in or targets any particular segment of the market, which is undoubtedly a big consideration in assessing its sales record.

And, more importantly, there are many, many good and loyal Kiwis who happen to have Chinese ancestry. In fact, there are more than 126,000 people of Chinese ethnicity in Auckland alone ? a sizeable number of whom will be recent immigrants who will, quelle surprise, be in need of a home to live in. However, Labour’s investigation made no attempt to separate such New Zealanders from the overseas investors it was attempting to demagogue.

The mastermind who produced this analysis was longtime Labour strategist Rob Salmond, He has gone on the record to defend his statistics. His argument is that the numbers are such that the conclusion that many of these buyers are non-residents is inescapable ? despite the acknowledged weaknesses in his methodology.

Maybe. That does not excuse, however, the staggering recklessness of the exercise as a political matter.

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