Wednesday, January 31, 2007

John Key. Denny Crane. John Key. Denny Crane.

How smart is John Key? Well, that remains to be seen. As far as foreshadowings go, things could be worse. What he lacks in oratory, he makes up for with speechwriters. His Burnside speech hints at interesting things. One of them was a theme I have been playing with for my imaginary book; the role of the private and voluntary sectors in welfare.

In my imaginary book, WINZ is renamed Life Support. Work for the dole is called internship, which every business is enrolled in. In return for a ten percent drop in tax, businesses donate ten percent of their work time to charity. Some businesses already do this.

Thing is, community service has been given a bad rap. If someone says "Community Service", one thinks of criminals working off their sentence, or nuns in soup kitchens. The virtue of charity has been crushed by thirty years of consumerist Me-Firstism. Don't blame Roger Douglas. You might as well blame the car, the colour TV, the Walkman. This happened. Now what?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Queensland set to drink own urine

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie has ditched a referendum on whether the state wishes to drink recycled waste water. Like it or lump it, the Sunshine State faces strained yellow water in their taps as early as next year.
"I think in the end, because of the drought, all of Australia is going to end up
drinking recycled purified water," Mr Beattie told ABC Radio.

If there's one thing to be thankful for during this liquid summer in NZ, we'll not be short of a drop or two of properly precipitated water.

Monday, January 15, 2007

I've never been to Raglan

Apparently I'm a Raglan. I've never been to Raglan, but that's me. Or, at least, that's the dominant trending according to this vexatious meme. It beats Grey Lynn by a nose (8%), followed closely behind by Cuba St with plucky Otara and little Balclutha battling away in the middle. Remuera's dead, followed by Paptoetoe with North Shore at the very back of the field.

Good on Caldwell & Brown for putting this together. While I take all this with a rock of salt the size of a fridge, it seems to be a more accurate guide to our psyche than any of the babble coming from elsewhere in the PR universe. It seems more approximately sensible than the competition. But back to the large fridge-sized salt lick. I've been a bit sceptical about these pigeonhole polls since I scored an XNXX in the Jung Test many years ago (I've replicated this twice since). The current dissection is much of a muchness.
What does the typical Labour voter look like? We can see one here in extremes. If Labour wish to seal the election in 208, Grey Lynn and its ilk must take over the country. Attack of the Art Wankers. You'd want Otara for the ethnic support and Papatoe for the blue collar pakeha drones.
There's a spike of North Shore on Tony, so it's anybody's ground there. White Bread New Zealanders, fool them and you've got it made. I'd imagine that the Nats are hoping for a baby-boom of Remueraliens and Balclutherans. Fat chance. Remuera's stunted (or votes Act) and all the Balclutherans' kids have moved overseas or to the main centres and converted to Raglan and Cuba.
The Grey Lynners might yet be convinced to vote John Key if they can see what's in it for them. Let their wallets win over their conscience. Same goes for the Raglanners, unless Act gets its shit together, like, yesterday. Either that, or the Greens beat them to the Raglans instead of being stuck with only the Cubans.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Nasal drone makes headlines

Jeez, guys. Haven't you learnt by now? You're better off putting a bookmark in as Duty Minister instead of Chairman Jim. Every MP with two brain cells to rub together is escaping this inclement summer to more interesting climes. All except Jim. No, Jim wants to take it to George W Bush with his word association headline. "Iraq." "Vietnam!" Iraq is not another Vietnam. Vietnam was simple compared to this.

Whatever was to be gained from his unfortunate emission isn't clear. But motives have never been Chairman Jim's strong point. This is what the Book of Trev has to say about Jim Anderton:
"I never liked Jim Anderton. I don't trust Jim Anderton and he feels the same way towards me. He was the only member of the panel opposing my nomination as an electorate candidate, and he fought very hard against it. Gordon Brown later told me that he thought I was too clever by half for the Labour Party. I don't know why being clever should disentitle one to be a Member of Parliament, but Anderton certainly was very strong in his opposition.

I had on a previous occasion supported Anderton in a debate in the Labour Party Conference when he had moved to stop the Union card vote. Although I said in my speech to second his motion that I had a degree in Law and represented the Palmerston North Women's Branch at this particular conference, I only got one vote and one white card.

There was Ernie Hemmingson, Secretary for the Hotel Workers' Union. Not a very bright person to say the least of it. He was sitting down with a deck of 54 votes; card votes. I told the audience that in any other meeting of card players, he would be thrown out for having too many in the pack. Anderton moved that the Unions' vote be restricted and I seconded him. But of course the card vote manifested itself and the motion was lost.

Anderton went off in high dudgeon and hid himself, while I went to the Pier Hotel with the union delegates and had a thoroughly good evening sharing their booze and arguing with them about the merits of Union support of the Labour Party. I pointed out to them that in fact they were a millstone around our necks and that the average member of the public thought that a trade unionist was just about as bad as a traffic cop or a lawyer.

That is, if they were hidden behind the scenes and supported us, we would have more chance of coming to power and more chance of putting in the policies that they had supported. However, it is in the nature of politics that people want to be seen doing political things rather than manipulating behind the scenes. There was no way the unions were not going to have their upfront say at the Labour Party Conferences.

I repeat, it was much to the detriment of the potential success of the party at the polls. At any rate that night, despite Anderton's opposition and despite the fact that Joe Walding's own son-in-law was standing against me for selection, I became the candidate for Palmerston North."

Parihaka Diary

I was invited up to the Parihaka Festival to help out at a craft stall. It was an offer I couldn't refuse. Parihaka fascinated me for many reasons. The non-violent teachings of Te Whiti and Tohu came decades before Ghandi picked it up. Parihaka was self-reliant in a way the communes of the 1970's weren't. Namely, Parihaka succeeded at limiting the damage of disease and alcohol which were prevalent elsewhere in the 1860's. The Crown's unlawful response included imprisonment without trial for many of the leaders on a charge of sedition. What would the vibe be at the centenery of Te Whiti and Tohu's passing?

On a less intellectual level, I was looking forward to witnessing a weekend festival experience which didn't go tits up. The only other festival I had attended was the abortive Sweetwaters gig in 1999. Yes, the one where Elvis Costello refused to play. Sure, the Friday night ensemble of the cream of NZ best comedians at the top of their game was a moment of bliss. Neil Finn's gig was poignant, but the rest of it was crap.

Getting to Parihaka was a bit of a mish. No bus service goes past it and my car, EFTPOS II, was out of action. The nearest stop was New Plymouth, a town I had had no previous reason to visit, ever. Thankfully, I arrived there after dark. The bus was early, so I wandered across the road to the bar for a drink. One barman, one customer and me. The barman happened to own the place and his customer ran a place round the corner. We swapped hospo stories over the ashtray until The Boss turned up to take me to the pa.

Serious reggae beats. On the way there, we detour through some rustic village. Eyes left to Hempton Hall. Good on them. We are on the Surf Highway which, like any NZ highway, has its fair share of 35 km/h bends. Parihaka seems further away from NP than it looks on the map. A full moon has risen and Mt Egmont/Taranaki's silhouette sits annoyingly in the corner of my eye. The thing demands attention. Vulcanology be damned, it's still spooky. Parihaka sits in the middle of a lahar path. The exact topology won't be evident til morning.

The first sign of Parihaka is the white and red of the Tino Rangatiratanga flag on the left up on a hillock. Further down the driveway, we are greeted by light shows of a couple of kiwis kicking a rugby ball between them. Further round, a bush pig standing on hind legs is pushing a kiwi in a swing. OK, wasn't expecting that one.

The Boss turns the car through to The Village where all the stalls are set up. It looks like the set of a spaghetti western. The stalls are made from offcuts from the sawmill. Black polythene acts as a roof, while nails and various lengths of bicycle inner tube rubber straps things together. It's a glorious fusion of pragmatism and innovation (photos soon, it's film not digital). I retire early to put up my borrowed tent in the dark. An hour later, the tent is in a sufficient enough state to survive in for the night. Fix it in the morning.

Wake up and discover that I planted myself down at an intersection. Cars, dust and people pass by constantly. Ah well, there are people worse off than me. Some must be hoping it doesn't rain as they are tenting in a dry bog. One intrepid soul has parked his tent up on a hillock at something like a thirty degree angle. Indeed, the landscape is littered with tents on hillocks, palatial multi-domers on the flats, buses parked head-to-head, campervans, caravans, tarpaulin shelters attached to the back of SUVs and vans.

The sky is overcast, Egmont incognito. I walk up past the hangi pits to The Village. The entrance is marked by a huge flag depicting a colonial ship entering the harbour to meet a waka. Mt Taranaki sits clear and prominent, the sun smiling straight out of The Legends of Maui. A cloud is depicted as going behind the sun, an impossibility. Circumvent the wigwam in the middle of The Village to the stall. The Boss and his missus have already set up the stall all good to go. Signs are up, we are open. Business ebbs and flows, waves. Lots of interesting folk.

There's the Nana who frets for her boy. She comes in to buy him a few Hemp lollipops. Oh yes, she says, she always keeps finding his pipes lying around everywhere. I tell her how pipes remove a significant amount of tar from one's lungs and the importance of clean pipes. I tell her how to rinse pipes out with meths or boiling water, or soak it in this orange stuff from Mitre 10. Pipes, like bongs, were allegedly banned many years ago. Thank Dagg this moronic law failed in its intention, as both provide a shitload more harm minimisation than joints ever did. Nana walks out with a NORML News under her arm.

There's the dad with seven kids, five at the festival who he has to keep an eye on. Seven? Yeah, four boys with the first missus, three girls with the second. This is a man who deserves a good smoke at the end of the day. There's the nervous sharemilker, who enjoys a smoke after the second milking, but suffers terrible paranoia about getting busted and ruining his family. Marijuana won't ruin his marriage but the law against it would. That's just the pakehas. The Maori were something else, but more on that later.

I got many chances to take a break and wander. To the right of our spot in the The Village, the Main Stage sat emitting irie tunes. To the left of main stage was a particularly big hillock, slatted with bandsaw plank seating on the lower slopes. There was an initial summit which provided a panoramic view of the ocean 15 kilometres away and the mountain, if and when it appeared from behind the cloud. At the summit proper, what I presumed was a wharenui was actually a peace-out tent featuring Falun Gongers and yoga.

From this hill, one could fully appreciate the unique surroundings. My assumption that the hillocks were just the remains of the 19th century pa were a bit off. From this vantage point, there were hillocks for Africa. It was as if some moles the size of blue whales had turned up the land, typing Braille only satellites could read. Someone informed me that the lahars had burnt away the softer stuff leaving the vast array of small hills over the landscape.

By the time I realised the powhiri was on, I had missed it. Ah well, next year. The cops I talked to were pretty chilled out, although I still kept a couple of neurons focussed on what I said to them. They weren’t expecting trouble at the festival. Next to the wigwam in the middle of The Village, some drummers set the rhythm while the Andean dude played his pipes and a didgeridoo provided a bassline. It reminded me of the Full Moon Drumming Circle out back of Cuba Cuba, before the Marion St apartments went up.

After a hectic day at the stall, it seems that most people, myself included, had a quiet one on Friday night. There’s something special about falling off to sleep with Anika Moa singing. My last thought before losing consciousness was wondering what a duet with Anika Moa and Hollie Smith singing Calling All Angels would sound like.

On the Saturday afternoon, I thought Jane Kelsey's lecture on Indigenous Struggles Against Globalisation Relating to Aotearoa would be good for a laugh. Using Cancun in Mexico as an example, Kelsey explained how things like moving local fisherman off the land so they can build holiday resorts (ie. growth) is bad. While Dr Kelsey explained in three word staccato sentences what she meant, some guys from the local iwi were buzzing overhead with punters keen for a $40 helicopter ride.

In between tearing strips off her Swiss forebears, who stole Taranaki land off its rightful owners (the worst case of ancestor rage I have ever seen), Kelsey explained how assets were the tools of exploitation. She concluded her speech by giving her answer to globalisation; bilateral inter-cooperative contra deals. ie. globalisation with barter replacing money as the mechanism. Inefficient globalisation is the answer to globalisation.

What I really think she meant, and I would agree with her, is that it all went to custard when GATT included banking and investment services in its remit and evolved into the WTO. Goods and tariffs at least are something tangible, controllable. Services on the other hand...

But that's not what she said. Her rebuttal was not long in coming. A Maori dude stood up and told her that assets were not the tools of exploitation but the path to freedom and independence. The assets his trust built up provided many opportunities. His trust, Waitotara I think it was, had put his daughter through university on a scholarship (This chick also happened to be the MC). How was this exploitation? His comments echoed the sentiment I felt at the Treaty talk with Geoff Palmer and Judge Williams from the Maori Land Court some time ago. A strong asset base will provide for future generations.

Kelsey was quick to retract her offence while trying to salvage her argument. The attack continued. A woman stood up and said she was a CTU representative. Her people were talking about development. She was also aggrieved by the raise in the minimum wage. Although she supported this measure in theory, illegal immigrants who were prepared to work for less were undercutting the locals. The locals couldn't legally haggle, could not compete. They were stuck with the minimum wage for good or ill.

This isn't just a rural thing. Illegal immigrants also pay their bills by working the numerous service and hospitality jobs in the bigger cities. One little dude arrived at work at this restaurant I worked in once, five hours after landing at the airport from Indonesia. He washed dishes and lived in a broom cupboard for two years, doing nothing but working and sleeping. By the time he was ready to leave, he said with a Cheshire grin that he had enough to buy a house, two wives and many cows.

Tami Iti also said something, but I wasn’t paying attention.

The sun finally showed its face on Saturday evening, just as House of Shem hit the Main Stage. Even Mt Egmont/Taranaki showed the snow-tipped nipple, if not the whole tit. There was a quick pre-sunset frenzy at the shop as the pagans got their burnt offering supplies all set. After the rush, The Boss came back with some $1 Fried Bread from the stall across the way.

Thing is, this wasn’t just some slice of bread fried in butter, as Nana used to make for fried eggs. This fried bread looked like a doughnut, had the texture of a scone and tasted like maple syrup, lemon and butter. I was determined to find out how this was made.

Sunset first though. Up on the ridge below the Falun Gong show, a thick line of people stood and watched the sun go down on the Tasman. Two horsemen were there too, sat straight in the saddle, a white feather in their hats. Then it came to me.

The Parihaka Festival wasn’t about dance tents and bands. OK it was, but that was a subtext in many respects. To the locals, Parihaka is about remembrance. It is a localised ANZAC Day. There had been no overt preachiness about the history. If someone wanted to know, all they had to do was ask. There was no political militancy outside the correct domain of the Speakers’ Tent. Yet the spirit of the prophets lived on in the actions and the attitudes of the current custodians. If they have to coax others here with DJs, bands and what-not, so be it. Possibly maybe, something will rub off. And if a little money can be made on the side, at least some good has come from this whole saga.

Now, time to work out this fried bread. Over at the counter, I enquired how this dish was made. I was introduced to the Maori paterfamilias sitting to one side of the action in the stall. He explained that the fried bread was basically flour, water, (sure to rise) baking powder and butter. He invited me to observe what happened. One of the youths surrendered a chair for me but I was so engrossed, I stood.

The Mum grabbed the right amount of dough and kneaded it to the right consistency and shape, which was about the size of a 30Gb iPod. The teenage males took this and fried them in a wok of oil until the reached the desired golden colour. The bread, by then the shape of a kumara, was then cut open and the desired filling was added. By Dagg, it’s a dumpling!

I went to the girls on the counter, who were doing a good job of sales and PR, and asked them what they did with it. They treated it like a pancake, putting sweet fillings like golden syrup or jam in it. I went for maple, lemon and butter again. Well, I’ll be damned. It won’t do my cholesterol level any good, but it was yum.

One of the big differences to Parihaka, as opposed to most festivals, was the lack of licensed premises. People were permitted to bring alcohol in, but there were no bars. In my haste departing Wellington, I had neglected to bring any booze. I had left the wine at home as the leaflet said no glass. With a serious case of thirst, I managed to barter a 750 ml bottle of Waikato off some chick for $10. Desperate as I was, it was still a good score.

Because of this dearth of alcohol, everyone seemed to ration the stuff sensibly. No-one got out of hand. There was no sign of punch-ups at the peace festival. In a way, it was the same protocol that protected Don Brash from hate crime at the Maori Queen’s funeral. An inappropriate act was avoided, not through the construct of law, but by the unspoken knowledge that such acts would shame the aggressor.

In the morning, I had a word with one of the organisers. After congratulating her on a good gig, I suggested to her that the Festival brands its own beer and sells it as a monopoly in future. That way, the proceeds are directed as best they see fit and I wouldn’t have to pay $10 for a Waikato again. She replied that they had received many lucrative deals for just such a thing. They had declined every single one. If people want to bring their own, so be it. They accept this without condoning it.

No alcohol or tobacco was available on site, the nearest dairy some 40 km away. Although we were advised that BZPs were also taboo, there was a strong rumour going around that Cosmic Corner was selling them near the Main Stage. Let’s face it, what are they going to do? Ban them?

Sunday morning was rounded off with an excellent gig by the Wellington Batacuda at the Visionaries stage. Around 4:20, we wandered off from the stall, passing the wigwam in the middle of The Village. Inside it, 13 year-old girls were pole-dancing in front of their friends. We were invited up, but we explained that the male anatomy is not built to deal with a metal pole the way a woman’s is. We left them to it and got a good possie downwind on the hill in time for Cornerstone Roots.

After packing up, we prepared for the grand finale of the Dobbster and the fireworks display. He was due on at 10:15. By 11:30, people were leaving. The families and the ones who had to be at work the next day were the first to give up. The MC beseeched people to hang on a bit longer. Finally, around 11:45pm, we were told to look over at the hill with the flag on it. The fireworks show was about to commence.

Bang! Pause. The pause continued. It got pregnant, then it continued. After a while, we all got sick of craning our necks at empty space. Some five minutes or so later, it really went off. It’s as if someone had said, “Bugger this, light everything.” This wasn’t no half-arsed Nancy show. This wasn’t the sad pop that brought in the new millennium in Gisborne. No, this went off. This was even better than the Wellington Guy Fawkes gig.

And low. Big POOMs echoed around, magnesium filling the heavens and raining smouldering debris here and there. I hoped that no WWI or Vietnam vets were in the audience. It would have given them the gibbers. Me, I was crying with laughter, tears rolling down my cheeks at the beautiful absurdity of this glorious weekend.

I reflected on how I had laughed at kids rolling down hills without the mother looking at me like I’m a paedophile, like the Soccer Mums at the Wellington Botanic Gardens do. I laughed at me chatting with the usually scary mother-fuckers, tattooed up to and including their eyeballs, members of Dagg knows what clan. I laughed at the hope that natural selection favoured these people at this place at this time.

Then Dobbo launched into Slice of Heaven. It went Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Chorus, Guitar Solo, Chorus, Chorus. I never realised Slice of Heaven was a guitar solo type of song, and it’s just not the same without Herbs. The next song, Whaling, is something very close to my heart. And he destroyed it with Verse, Chorus, Chorus, Guitar Solo, Chorus, Chorus. After the second or third more recent song, which might have featured God prominently if not a challenging vocal range, I decided to hit the sack.

By the time I settled in, Dobbo was doing some gospel number. The Dobbster has become the God Dobbster. I imagined a pause as someone suggested that he wraps up with some of his good songs. He blats out Be Mine Tonight reasonably, but hashes Loyal. I’m glad one of my mates wasn’t here to hear this. It was played at a friend’s funeral and this version just doesn’t do the memory justice.

Monday morning and I walk up to The Village for one last look. The vitality of all those tracks, some formed as the weekend progressed, was gone. Where once they were capillaries of movement, now just the foreground of a farm. The Main Stage was well on its way to being dismantled, the Bob Marley banner had been packed up. The Village was a ghost town. Empty shells, no voices. Just the wind picking up. Time to go.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Balls to 2007

It's that time of year when there's no news happening. Even more so this year. People aren't drowning or getting themselves killed in cars as much as usual. People not dying is news. Could have something to do with the weather, blah. And the fact you'd be a bloody idiot to have a head-on collision in 5 km/hr gridlock. Some kid gets shot by a good friend. Getting shot by a good friend or relative is a rite of passage for many Kiwis. He might die. People dying is news.

Inevitably, the media starts creating its own news. Regard the NZ Herald's Summer Poll series (read Silly Season Crap):
"More than two-thirds of people think juries should be told if a person on trial
has previous criminal convictions and about 40 per cent support abolishing the
right to silence."

This crap reminds me of an entry in The Book of Heroic Failures (pg.30):
"In 1897 the General Assembly of Indiana passed a Bill ruling that the value of
Pi was four. This ensured that all mathematical and engineering calculations in
the State would be wrong. It would, for example, mean that a pendulum clock
would gain about fifteen minutes every hour."

Media, like politicians, can spout whatever crosses their six column inch minds, but for Dagg's sake don't expect me to take it seriously. Put your polls in the Entertainment section, next to the Horoscope. Saying it doesn't make it so.

Which was a point well taken after joyfully getting a cable modem installed in the weekend and watching Richard Dawkins' Root of All Evil. The Channel Four series mimics pretty much exactly what my objections to religion were not so long ago, right down to the Old Testament blood and guts as well as Bertrand Russell's thoughts. Pardon if my post seemed plagiarised from the series, but my thoughts at the time were my own. I was somewhat shocked to find how many of Dawkins' and my points intersected.

At least the media are releasing more honest opinion pieces, notably the 2007 political predictions. Matt McCarten lays a few bets, as does the DomPost. I'll see their bets and raise 'em a few. Matt McC first:

1. Mike Lee - yes, his star is rising. His portents are good.

2. Dick Hubbard - if not Dick, then who? Stephen Tindall?

3. Barry Curtis - yes, the ARC Council is a NZ equivalent to getting kicked upstairs to the House of Lords. See Number 10 for another example. Wouldn't know Len Brown from a Lion Red.

4. George Wood - Wood is eminently suited to the torpid North Shore.

5. Bob Harvey - Goneburger. Tamihere would be amusing but I reckon West Auckland deserves Ewen Gilmour as Mayor.

6. Georgina Beyer - Beyer has a better chance of getting pregnant than getting the Wellington mayoralty.

7. National and Labour - Labour had better watch out for a rebranded Nat opposition attacking en masse. A new leader with no strong visible policy position on anything can also re-write policy on any front. John Key will consolidate and settle in, hinting here and there as he stretches the canvas wider, to be laid out in detail by this time next year so it has time to sink in with the punters and rainmakers. Expect some grunty fiscal policy backbone from Bill English. Whichever way you slice it, personal tax cuts of some sort will have to happen for the 2008 election, even if they are promised on the never-never like the chewing gum that never got here. Get some lubricant to ease the friction between Clark and Cullen over this, or they've lost the only Finance Minister they've got. KiwiSaver will slip in around the same time. That'll do.

8. Maori Party - New Year's resolution: apply for a job working with Dr Pita Sharples.

9. Greens - Might spike at 10 percent, depending on how many gaffes Labour have this year. Polls, schmolls til 208. As always, these guys have potential but need to get out of the glasshouse a bit more. How does global warming affect Health, Education, Welfare?

10. NZ First - I have it on reasonably good authority that this is Winston's last term, and that his present position is helping him find a nice Embassy to retire to somewhere in the Pacific. NZ First without Peters is a dead duck, especially since Ron Mark killed whatever credibility he had by pulling that bird in the House. Good riddance. Expect some rats to defect to the Nats.

11. Act - Rodney Hide remains infected with Rod Donald Syndrome and does a Coddington. Retires to Waiheke Island to grow grapes. Heather Roy becomes leader of Act.

And now, the DomPost fisk:

1. By-election in Mangere - This will coincide with the by-election in Rakaia. Nah, both will be swept under the carpet til 208.

2. Mallard as Finance Minister - Mallard is in no condition to try and wrestle this off Cullen after he was shot down at the waterfront stadium. He will be lucky to hold his own.

3. No Nat leadership speculation for the first time since 1999 - agreed. Everyone should be too busy to argue.

4. BAT corporate box politician-free zone/ no cigars - maybe, but Peter Dunne will get into a minor scuffle at a wine tasting. In fact, no. Pollies will continue to puff cigars at sporting venues as is their right. As is the right of every tobacco-wielding Kiwi at a moment of passion. Civil disobedience of the Smokefree Laws continues to rise.

5. Cross-party support for campaign funding reform - Helen Clark will push this bugger through come hell or high water. State funding of political parties will be broadened using the current TV broadcasting allocation model which favours the two main parties. Nats say hell yes.

6. Rodney Hide gets funding, no votes - Act was the Richard Prebble party after all. Who would have thought?

7. Jeanette Fitzsimons stays as co-leader for 208 election - She has no choice now. Until her co-leader has his maiden speech in the House, she is the only face that counts. No bushfires for you this year I hope.

8, 9 10. See above.

11. Maori Party extra seat - if so, yes

12. National will stay with its Labour-lite if it know what is good for them. Just make sure that nothing they say contradicts what is launched during the election.

13. United Future remains the Peter Dunne party - Yup, he got a kiss of the spiderwoman.

14. Progressives will hold an annual conference, if for no other reason than to have Chairman Jim sell business tax cuts to his unquestioning and increasingly exclusive group of party faithful. Jeremy Wells attends.

15. Brian Connell will endure hateful silence with the rest of his caucus until he finally gets booted out for a more likable candidate, a rubber chicken.

16. Senior cabinet minister retires - a king will lose his kingdom. Blah de blah. I hope it's Pope.

17. Clark reshuffles - agree with DPF. Tim Barnett has excellent leverage with the ChCh mayoralty gig. Helen Clark needs talent. Will Tim become a minister?

18. Cunliffe ascendent - you bet

19. Minor parties collaborate more - The minors got a taste of their potential for havoc. Yes, and about bloody time.

20. Things will continue, as always, to fall apart. That's not a guess, that's the Second Law of Thermodynamics.