Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Retailers Have A Bumper Season

In NZ the tills have been beeping with glee, 
As Kiwis take part in the seasonal spree!

For those outside NZ -  Eftpos (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point Of Sale) machines handle the vast majority of goods and services sales and credit cards are used widely. Introduced (Australian) Possums here are unwanted pests who ravenously devour our gardens and forests.

A Family Christmas

One memorable Christmas for me was the time my Aunties from Dunedin came to join in our family celebration when I was aged about 8. To get the four Benson sisters together in one place was a rare event and my parents pulled out all the stops by preparing a meal with an unusual amount of exotic treats, the like I had never seen before. The table was lit up with candles and set with highly polished silver, glittering crystal and English china on my mother’s best lace edged tablecloth.

  My eccentric Aunties could have jumped right out of a Charles Dickens novel. Aunty Gladys arrived stooping under her fox fur coat and she reminded me of a tortoise with her large hooked nose, moist eyes and wrinkly face. She told me that several of her fingers were missing because she put them too close to the fire and they just melted away. “So let that be a lesson to you!” she said as she waved the stumps at me. For many years I believed her, but I sadly learnt later that she was the victim of a factory accident.

   Aunty Enid was bulging at the seams with good humour and eating more of her delicious sponges and puddings than was prudent. Her face was coated with powder, her mouth smeared with bright red lipstick and she was fond of talking loudly with a hand rolled cigarette bobbing up and down on her bottom lip. She had twinkly blue eyes that never missed a thing and they bulged so much at times I thought they might fall out when she coughed.  She would shake like a jelly and the ash from her cigarette would fall onto her ample bust and accumulate there like snow on a Christmas tree.

   The eldest of my mother’s sisters was Aunty Vi; but you would not have guessed so, if all you had to go on was her appearance. She had finely cut features and amazingly white skin and looked like the porcelain figurines that my mother kept out of reach, high up the mantelpiece. Another feature I remember well, was Aunty Vi’s dark hair that was pulled back to a bun at the back of her head and seemed to push her face out with a kind of obsessive energy. She had, as my mother put it, “A bit of a nervous disposition Dear. Not surprising really, since she looked after Grandma all those years and never married.”

   The Christmas meal with my Aunties was the best meal ever! My father presided over the occasion with theatrical dignity and cracked jokes that I did not get, but nevertheless, had most of us rolling laughter. Aunty Vi, her face now a rosey pink, said something like “Oh George you are so wicked,” and popped another piece of crystalized ginger into her mouth. I remember looking at her and wondering how long her hair really was, when she suddenly sat bolt upright and left the table. I could see her looking at herself in the hallway mirror and then she started screaming.

   What happened next is a bit hazy because it happened so fast. However, I do recall her yelling as she was taken to a bedroom “I’ve been poisoned… poisoned! You’ll never get the house do you hear! Never!”

   Aunty Vi returned later that night and nothing was said about her antics – or about her being allergic to ginger. Before she left, she gave me a pound note and said, “You won’t tell people about your poor old aunty will you.” I am sure she would forgive me for breaking my silence after all these years and be very pleased when I recommend you to go easy on the ginger this Christmas.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Everesting Mallory?

Beyond The Edge is a good film - - but some Brits still believe George Mallory beat them to it. Is this what Hillary saw? 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Night Bombing Dung Beetles On Their Way?

The idea of introducing new species of dung beetles to New Zealand seemed to be such a good idea at first because a lot of livestock effluent is being deposited daily on farms here and there is compelling evidence to show that new dung beetles could dramatically reduce  pastoral pollution.

There is however, 'a beetle in the ointment'! Scientists outside the development research team are warning that some varieties  of dung beetles fly around at night and we could be exposed to a new health risk as masses of crap carrying beetle bombers head for our homes and street lamps.

It shows, once again, that biological solutions to help farmers can annoy the rest of us by bringing in more problems than they solve. Like Mynas, who were introduced to eat crop eating insects and now ravage fruit orchards, dung beetles might end up being a real nuisance. If they are brought in, will we end up cursing those who flung dung at night into the barbie with their damned beetles!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Simple Simon And His Jonkey Bronco

Simon Bridges mounts his argument for the potentially hazardous deep sea oil prospecting off the coast of Kiakoura with approval from his boss, Prime Minister John Key. Like several other Cabinet ministers, Simon Bridges has followed Key's tendency to mash the English language with his Fush 'n Chipsh style of elocution. Picking up his boss's mannerisms is one thing, but his tetchy behaviour when interviewed by John Campbell revealed he has a long way to go if he has ambitions to become heir apparent.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Blog Returns

For quite some time I have been working on this character called Blog and his sometimes vengeful associate Splot. They will have their own blogsite and perhaps a strip might eventuate. 

Blog is an ex journo who has been made redundant and is now  trying to get back into the media as a freelancer. Time will tell if he gets there, but hope springs eternal in Blog's heart and his friends, pets and associates will all give him a helping hand, a comforting paw and occasional targeted incendiaries to those who stand in the way of success and social justice.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Johnny Jester On The Run?

Johnny Jester makes his debut. I have decided to ditch John Key as  Punch. Reason being, Baby Boomers might get the connection, but I doubt if many younger readers would. Also, Key has decided to mock David Cunliffe as a debating tactic and so the role as Jester/Joker seems somewhat more appropriate. Joker John and Johnny Joker sound interesting too. What do you think?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Keysian Punch

Here's Hoping

This is possibly Billy's last cartoon as the agreement with the author of the proposed series has pulled out of our project. On the plus side, I will be now free to re-enter the arena of politics so keep an eye on this site and another one I am going to develop with a character called Punch Key.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Monday, September 9, 2013

Flag It

This is a satirical flag design which I guess will only make sense to residents of Northland in NZ and more specifically Whangarei. I will not explain it, but keep in mind I admire his work - when it  genuinely springs to life from his own hands.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Contest Begins

The contest for the future leader of the NZ Labour Party has begun with Shane Jones, Grant Robertson and David Cunliffe tossing their hats into the ring. David Cunliffe has a reputation for not getting on with all his colleagues, but he says he is a changed man after spending time on the Back Benches of the NZ Parliament - as punishment for being implicated in the undermining of David Shearer from the day he was elected as leader instead of him.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

An Email To "Afternoons At Radio NZ

Hi Jim, Jo Bennett set off quite a debate about his views on extreme differences in pay rates and it continued with more discussion about whether large differences in pay rates are well deserved and a necessary driver to get better performance out of an economy.

My contribution to this debate would be to to tell you about behavioural research with social primates that I read about. It showed that when unequal rewards were given to individuals asked to do similar tasks in full view of the others, the least and the most rewarded performed the worst. When the rewards became more even, their performances improved.

Similar research was done in a later study with humans and much the same thing happened. It seems to me that initial satisfaction of the over-rewarded was followed soon by guilt and and anxiety which affected their performance. Resentment dampened the enthusiasm of the under rewarded. 

Apparently, when the rewards in both studies became more equal, the performances improved  across all the groups. It seems to me that social primates and humans accept some inequality quite happily, but become agitated and stress out when it becomes extreme. 

When the levels of reward for work were more even in Post War NZ, I too remember a country that was less stressful in many ways and more prosperous relative to other countries at that time. Today we appear to be suffering the effects of accepting a more unequal society . 

In my opinion we are slowly losing our ranking in many ways relative to other nations because of this. My solutions would begin by restoring what worked in Post War NZ economically and keep the hugely beneficial social reforms since then. We can even use small parts of Rogernomics, that we like and work for us. The big question is, have we got the guts to stop the rot and demand change for a more equal income distribution from our Government or will it take more social problems, severe recessions, depressions and wars to inflict enough pain for us to sort our problems as a nation?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

King Billy

This is the start of a new venture. I am now illustrating Paul Campbell's column about Billy The Sheep Dog - a light hearted perspective on life on a NZ farm from a dog's point of view. It is appearing in the Kaipara Lifestyler and associated rural papers in  Northland, Waikato, Taranaki and Canterbury, published by North South Media, based in Dargaville.

In the first cartoon, Billy is dreaming about Kate and William's royal baby in the UK and imagining himself as a top dog with lots of royal puppies. The second cartoon has Billy giving advice to Peri Weepu after Peri missed out on All Black selection. The can in Billy's mouth is from a brand that featured in the massively overblown concern about the possibility of contamination by microbes causing botulism sourced from one of Fonterra's milk processing plants. The media kicked this issue around and badly dented Fonterra's reputation.
Click on the cartoon to enlarge

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Budget Blustering

When a country like New Zealand has a sluggish economy, it is usually a golden opportunity for Opposition Politicians to offer new solutions to voters. However, very little came from the Labour Party in this regard after the National Government presented its Budget to Parliament this month - either in the way of effective criticism or alternatives. This probably demonstrates, to my mind at least, how very similar their policies  are to National's. 

The Greens have plenty of ideas, but they seem to be trying very hard to get co-operation with Labour and it has sadly meant that their voice seems to be somewhat muted. NZ First has useful ideas too, but they get lost in the public perception of Winston Peter's personality.

There was a time when important issues such as continuing Trade Deficits and External Debt would drive an export policy, as it does in Asia. Unfortunately, the National Government prefers to sell State Assets and consume the future prosperity for most New Zealanders. What we have been presented with, is a bunch of policies that do nothing to stop the Trade Deficit or the unsustainable housing bubble in Auckland spreading to the rest of the country and appearing to be an alternative to an actual economic recovery. 

The sad truth is, when the housing bubble pops, it will affect everybody - especially the productive economy and the growing numbers in the underclass of working poor and beneficiaries. What we surely need are fresh ideas gleaned from successful economies overseas and the courage to implement them. What we have are so many "Key Policies" that might be effectively pragmatic in the short term, but do nothing to get the economy going with real industrial and diversified agricultural growth. It is therefore not surprising at all that there are so few opportunities here in well paid productive enterprises, that many New Zealanders are finding emigration to Australia and elsewhere, irresistibly attractive.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Getting Hooked On Kaos

Altho' Auckland is already a poorly planned city, the NZ Government (Nick Smith) and Super City Council (Len Brown) seem determined to make things worse by accelerating the process of building huge numbers of houses without the supporting infrastructure such as roads, railways and social services  etc.

It certainly makes me wonder what sort of ideological drugs they on which makes the obvious appear unnecessary - like intelligent Town Planning and financial restraints on speculators and banks. I suppose they are still hooked on Monetarism. Where the real estate market is supposed to sort itself out with cycles of boom and bust and set the value of the biggest asset most people will ever own, by operating the city like a casino. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Colin Craig Mocks Himself

 The newly formed Conservative Party in New Zealand has been on a bit of a roll recently, as it is has become quite a hit with many older Kiwis and those with a Christian religious persuasion. Its leader, Colin Craig, seemed to be quite a youthful, decent and clean cut sort of chap who was prepared to put his money where his mouth is by initially funding his party into being a real contender in the next election.

Alas, Mr Craig has succumbed to one of the oldest political vices...  hubris! When a rather obscure satirist posted an obvious parody about The Conservative Party and its leader on a website called "The Civilian", Mr Craig reacted by fuming into one of Auckland's top law firms and got them to write threatening letters to demand a withdrawal of the article and an apology.

What he got of course was the opposite of his intentions, which was probably to defend his reputation and snuff out libelous comment. For all his costly efforts, he apparently did at least get a sort tongue in cheek apology, but the offending article is still there to be viewed (getting thousands of new readers) and Colin Craig has revealed himself to be a rather silly man and incredibly politically naive.

He has at least wised up to his mistake by quickly withdrawing threats of court action.  I am sure his doting followers will forgive him and many might still be outraged too, but he will have to be more careful in the future if he wants to one day warm a plush leather seat in Parliament. Kiwi's generally do not admire thin skinned bullies because we know, after years of Muldoon, that is how tin pot tyrants begin their careers.

Groser's Ambitions Fade

Poor old Tim Groser has just seen his political aspiration to be the top dog at the World Trade Organization slip just beyond his grasp and he will have to retire now with a fairly modest track record as a diplomat and politician.

I have never been a fan of his. He seemed to me to be far too smarmy and devoid of any real effective solutions to the current dire economic situation facing New Zealand. There must be thousands of his sort cruising around diplomatic circles or collecting fat fees on boards of directors in companies. They appear to know what they are doing, but seem more adept at working the system than changing the world.

Mind you, I must admit he did look the part when he took on roles that gave him exposure to the media. Perhaps he did do well and I never heard of it - I hope this was so. Anyway, it is time for him to bow out gracefully and open the door for others to tackle trading and political situations that affect us all. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Power Politics


What more can I say. Here we go again, selling State Assets to pay for the groceries. The Opposition, in a rare show of unity, have helped turn the sale process of the State owned energy company Mighty River Power into a shambles. Not a good start I would think for the budding career of Energy Minister Simon Bridges and another dent in the public image of Prime Minister John Key.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Old Cronies

Grant Robertson seems to leading the Labour charge against John Key in Parliament lately. His leader does not appear to like making the most of Key's unusually inept fumbling around explaining how he appointed Grant Fletcher to head the troubled  Government Communication Securities Bureau (GCSB) -  which is becoming an embarrassing parody of a secret service agency.

David Shearer is mouthing his disapproval, but to my ear, unconvincingly. He just lacks the killer instinct no matter how much John Key lowers his guard. No doubt, he knows that Key  probably the legal right to appoint whom he damn well likes and  in the eyes of the Public, there is not much mileage in this one.

So why is Grant Robertson hammering away more than his leader? Well, his body language appears to me to betray leadership aspirations beyond his suitability, which is sadly going to keep Labour low in the polls.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Carter's Capers

David Carter is quite obviously a reluctant Mr Speaker at Parliament and right from the start appeared very uncomfortable in his new job. This is in stark contrast to Lockward Smith, the previous Speaker, who loved the role and alas has taken off to be the new High Commissioner in London.

What has surprised me about Carter's Speaker style has been his obsequious attitude to John Key - who now looks terribly smug in the House. Not surprising I suppose, with David Shearer spluttering away ineffectively and the rest of the Opposition muted by Carter before they get into their stride.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Another Side To Shearer?

David Shearer's rather odd behaviour, following the late disclosure of money stashed away in a New York bank, cannot be explained  in my opinion, solely by memory loss. I suspect he was told that somebody knew about it and that he had better come clean asp. 

I am sure he has once again confirmed the low esteem many people have for politicians in New Zealand. Can any of them be trusted when parliamentary leaders show such a bad example? It is perhaps time for Shearer to go and make way for someone with more integrity, someone who has a better alternative approach to  government than memory fade and policies not so very different to those of Phil Goff - who was soundly rejected by voters. A tarnished and lackluster Shearer will probably suffer the same fate.   

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Unsettled Business

Shane Jones has been been reinstated into Labour's Shadow Cabinet after an Inquiry found him innocent of serious charges of corruption as Minister of Immigration. However, even Shane admits he could have done better and for some, there are still many unanswered questions hanging over him.

As a person, Shane comes across as a likable man and a very capable politician - most of the time. He will hopefully recover from this episode, as he did from the "Porn Tapes In The Motel" episode and re-emerge, a lot wiser and ready to help Labour shore up its Maori and Working class support. Despite his obvious flaws, they will certainly need him if they are to retake the Treasury Benches. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tripping Out !

I find it hard to understand John Key's enthusiasm to send NZ investment overseas at a time when NZ itself is suffering from  shameful levels of underinvestment at home that has contributed so much to our high levels of unemployment. Latin America competes directly in the World Market with almost every thing we export, so what is the point of dangerously exposing our technological lead by helping them out?

As far as I know, John Key has never worked in a productive enterprise in his life - instead he has got his millions from trading currencies. What worries me about this man is that he cannot stop trading - but as Prime Minister, it could be at our expense.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Looking Down The Barrel At Unemployment

Taking jobs in businesses with prisoners does seem a bit counter productive when high levels of unemployment are without doubt a contributing factor in the national crime rate. Far better perhaps to set up skill based courses within prisons and give prisoners guaranteed work on their release in socially needed work before letting them complete in the job market.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Slipping On A Greasy Poll

Sadly, the coverage of David Shearer reshuffling his shadow cabinet was somewhat poorly timed as the it competed with the headlines of his declining popularity. The reshuffle was hardly radical, out with some old and in with some old - along with the new. Typically timid and pragmatic choices by Shearer, hardly the stuff to light the fires signaling a new and dynamic party.

In my view, as long as Shearer remains at the helm of Labour, the Party will continue to look like Goff mk2 and that is hardly an election winner.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Winston Loves Red Herrings

Richard Prosser quite rightly, in my opinion, deserved to get dragged over the coals for his rather shallow comments about how dangerous young Muslims are. However I am sure there are many Kiwis who would agree with his point of view in a less extreme way. Mind you, there have been times in European history where crazy Christian extremism behaved in very much the same manner as we see Muslims doing today.

Fortunately the Age Of Reason came and religious bigots were sent back to the powerless loony fringe of society where they belong. From this point of view perhaps we will have to wait for enough educated people born in Muslim families to take power from the extremists and stop the assassinations, murder and religious wars - in the same way they did in Christian Europe and recently in Communist Russia and China. Winston's Red Herrings make much better reading - especially how the master showman attracts the media's attention to the squandering of public funds.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Holmes Bows Out

Paul Holmes loomed large in my life and probably also in the lives of most New Zealanders. His presence was unavoidable in the media as a TV presenter, talkback radio host, newspaper columnist, author and social celebrity. He was the same age as me and I first caught first sight of him as an actor during my brief time at Victoria University around 1969 - sporting an afro haircut and a mischievous moustache while performing on stage.

This memory of him as a performer has coloured my view of him ever since. I still see him as a mercurial and supremely capable actor of many parts. His last role as a politically conservative commentator made him a fortune - which he richly deserved, as he worked his butt off like no other in the business.

 It appears he sadly paid the cost with illness in the end, leaving plenty of wreckage along the road as personal problems and relationship breakups plagued his rise to stardom. I will miss him as a highly intelligent media man, but his outlook on life seemed to me to the same as the politicians who almost ruined this country implementing monetarist ideology that resulted in a decline in our standard of living and way of life.

 This role played by Paul Holmes will not be missed by me and I hope he will be replaced by others who can help repair this beautiful country of ours and restore the dreams and hopes of our settler forebears - of all creeds and races - and like Paul, still have a few laughs along the way.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Shearer Wins??

Well, they went thru' the motions of confirming Shearer's leadership. However, unless he performs miracles this year like suddenly rejecting the Goff position (who supported the failing monetarist reforms of the Eighties), then Shearer will always be an opposition MP.

NZ Milk Fails Safety Tests

Traces anti nitrification chemicals used in fertilizer have been found in NZ milk and so raising the anxiety level of overseas consumers. Fonterra of course rushed to assure everyone that there was nothing to worry about - levels found are well below EEC standards. However,I bet that is not the only problem worthy of concern with milk. Many more chemicals are need to boost production these days and it is not the very natural product it used to be.

Parata Meltdown

Hekia Parata has been a poorly performing education minister in John Key's Government and yet survived a recent cabinet reshuffle. It appears she has known Key for many years and was groomed for greater things. John Key must see potential in her that seems hidden from the most of us - we shall see if that comes to light this year. The Education Unions are the last powerful union force in NZ. No government has smashed them like most other unions. It will be an interesting contest this time around. Click on cartoon to enlarge it.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Smoking Guns

Sadly, the recent publicity of assaults on police officers in NZ is adding support to those who want to put guns on the hips of every police officer. This would end a long tradition of the police showing us the example that being visibly armed is not necessary to feel safe in our society. The statistics show in fact that there has not been a significant rise of such assaults and God help us if we were to follow the example of the USA. If you want a larger image then click on the cartoon.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Leatherface Attempts Massacre

A recent news item reported the toppling of The Hobbit film by "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" in the weekly USA box office stakes. One of the characters in the latter film is Leatherface and reminded me of Kiwi politician Winston Peters when he ranted about how little real benefit came from the tax subsidies to get the The Hobbit made in NZ. Stupid man does not seem to remember the competitive bidding internationally that went on! Making movies are high risk ventures and every country offers sweeteners - we got the job and there is more to come. It is time Winston retired. Click on cartoon to enlarge.