This is not your typical art show with original paintings, plenty of written analysis to absorb and loads of people filing by. The Van Gogh Alive exhibition at the TSB centre in Wellington does has some of that traditional approach at the start and then you step into a technologically visual wonderland.
The “room” is about half the size of a rugby field and contains walls and display screens –perhaps 25-30 of them – up to six metres high and eight metres wide. For about an hour, large scale images of an incredible range of Vincent Van Gogh’s art work flash across these surfaces complete with many of his observation on art, life and love, e.g. I would rather die from passion than from boredom. Then are even two areas of the floor which feature the changing visuals to the delight of small children.
This amazingly comprehensive visual feast of the Dutch artist’s portfolio is complete with music and appropriate fragrances, and follows his phases of styles and subjects from the early years in the Netherlands to his final months in Provence. You can wander around the huge room or just sit and observe the constantly changing images. Because the visuals are graphically magnified you can appreciates the incredible skill of Van Gogh’s brushwork in conveying figures, faces, landscapes, interiors, trees, flowers and buildings. Another fascinating feature of the show is that elements of some paintings like birds, clouds, lights and stars twinkle, glitter and move.
His style cannot be simply categorised and has elements of expressionism, fauvism, cubism and abstraction. The closest anyone else has come to his “style” is Paul Gauguin.
Van Gogh only sold one or two paintings in his time – he completed about 1500 – one went for 200 francs. If you find one in your ceiling or basement it will probably fetch 20,000,000 (Swiss) francs today.
(Van Gogh Alive runs through until January 31 at the TSB Centre on the wharves in Wellington, about a 10 -12 minute walk from the station. You can book online or just turn up and pay at a counter on the premises.)
Weren’t these Antifa rioters, who caused considerable damage last year, anti-Trump and cheered on for that reason by the Mainstream Media? Yes, but they don’t like the Dems and Biden either. Trump wanted to have Antifa banned — it’s possible that Biden will now agree.
This morning we revealed that in just 12 months Creative NZ paid out grants worth $631,266 to recipients in Germany, the UK, Sweden, Finland, Australia, Poland, South Korea, Fiji, the Netherlands, the Cook Islands, and the United States.
And of the 25 grants, 15 came from a COVID-19 response fund!
Examples include: Ngahiraka Mason, who resides in the USA, was given $24,000 towards “a reflective, comparative and critical piece of writing”. Brian Falkner in Australia was given $13,334 towards “writing a new novel set in an all too possible near future”.
Susie Elliot, who is Fijian and resides in Fiji, was given $11,790.99 towards “wage, materials, production costs, travel and accommodation to create and develop a new body of illustrations and video works”.
Luke Thompson, based in the United Kingdom, was awarded $42,000 towards “intensive research and development”.
Creative NZ released this information to us via an official information request which admits that Creative NZ does not require grant recipients to be New Zealand citizens. In fact, recipients included foreign arthouses such as London’s Royal Academy of Arts, which was paid $75,000 to exhibit paintings by New Zealand artist Rita Angus.
It’s galling that while Kiwi families were grappling with the economic effects of the worst pandemic in living memory, Creative NZ sent hundreds of thousands of dollars overseas to high-flying arts luvvies and international art houses.
At least when Creative NZ gave someone $50,000 to make an ‘indigenised hypno-soundscape’, that money was spent in New Zealand. But the cash Creative NZ sends overseas is a total loss for the local economy. We don’t even get back the GST!
Anti-taxpayer propaganda published by RNZ – and (surprise, surprise) they refuse to publish a balancing viewpoint
RNZ, which is funded by taxpayer money, recently published an article written by Victoria University lecturer who argues that the government’s money does not belong to taxpayers and the media should stop calling it ‘taxpayer money’.
The author even singles out the Taxpayers’ Union and accuses us of “breaching the social contract!’ We approached RNZ with a response, but apparently they’re not interested in publishing both sides [typical — we’ve commented before about RNZ’s political activism disguised as journalism — Eds.]
An excerpt: Regardless of whether the government’s money is taxed, borrowed, or freshly-minted, every dollar spent on theatre for the homeless or slides on the lawn of Parliament is a dollar that could have instead been spent by the taxpayers and ratepayers who keep this country afloat, on things they actually need and desire. The phrase ‘taxpayer money’ is shorthand for this inescapable trade-off.
While New Zealanders will have immense sympathy for the victim’s family, many will also be appalled that an overstayer seemingly has the same rights as New Zealanders who pay tax and levies into the ACC system.
To make things worse, ACC is refusing to confirm how or why it became policy to make payouts for illegal overstayers.
We say the ACC Minister, Carmel Sepuloni, must explain how this became the policy, and if she agrees with it.
Monument to waste is also a health and safety risk! Remember we said over summer that there’d be even more costs associated with Rotorua’s $743,000 bungled Hemo Gorge Statute Monument to Government Waste? Well it turns out the whole thing is at risk of collapse and now a safety fence has been erected by the Rotorua Lakes Council!
When contractors tried to install the monument last September, the pieces literally didn’t fit together. Contractors had to cut out pieces so the inner parts could fit. That cutting revealed the tubing structure has not been built to specifications, with an engineering report saying engineers ‘cannot prove whether the defects observed are isolated or systematic throughout the inner and/or outer [monument] tubes’.The report concludes that the monument “exceeds design loads by 620 per cent”.
As Jordan told Stuff: This Rotorua ‘monument to government waste’ is truly living up to its name. It’s time the engineers at NZTA stepped in and took over this bungled Council vanity project.
Vaccines should be targeted by need, not race Facing a serious risk of ongoing lockdowns, we literally cannot afford to derail the COVID-19 vaccination rollout with race-based politics. But that’s what’s happening, with Māori reportedly being prioritised for the vaccine. Vaccination against a pandemic is core government service – taxpayers fund the vaccination programme to build resilience for the wider community, not one particular demographic. We must not elevate race above the many more relevant factors that determine vulnerability to COVID-19, such as age, pre-existing conditions, and physical exposure to other people. Likewise, if we want to target groups with historically low vaccination rates, we should be precise with our targeting, looking at factors like income level and geographic isolation. Singling out the entire Māori cohort – 17 percent of the population – as a target group will mean our limited vaccination resources are targeted away from non-Māori individuals with greater need. That’s not just unfair, it’s potentially disastrous for our COVID-19 response.
Dodgy, dodgy stuff happening at Queenstown-Lakes District Council
In one example, consultants with personal connections to Mayor Jim Boult – including his children’s nanny – were paid $150 an hour for 135 days to review one of three council bylaws. And they got the contract without an open tender process.
Our team is looking into the detail of this story, and we’ve also written to the Auditor-General to investigate.
We’re back at work, and preparing for the big fight in 2021: the Government’s plans to introduce a new criminal law for “hate speech”.
But the last few weeks have been eventful in another way: a tidal wave of speech restrictions of a very different kind.In the wake of destructive protests at the US Capitol on 6 January, Twitter and Facebook indefinitely suspended President Trump’s profiles. Then, an apparent crackdown on Trump-supporting Twitter accounts saw many thousands of users banned from the service – including hundreds of New Zealanders.
Some of these profiles were engaged in abusive behaviour, but for many more the reasons for the ban are entirely unclear. It doesn’t help that with the accounts deleted, there is no way for us to review the offending posts.
Further, after many users migrated to Parler (a social media platform with few speech restrictions), Apple, Google, and finally Amazon Web Services all cut off their support for the service, effectively rendering it inaccessible.
In short, a powerful handful of big tech companies have proven they will enthusiastically block not just individual users, but also upstart social media platforms.And disturbingly, the restrictions appear to be targeted at one end of the political spectrum.
What does this mean for free speech? The issue of online ‘deplatforming’ may be more complicated than state-enforced restrictions on speech.
These are American tech companies. How can New Zealanders hold them to account?
* Shouldn’t a private company be free to decide who uses its service?
* What if these companies hold a monopoly, or are engaging in collusion?
* Do platforms like Twitter now act as the model ‘town squares’ and should therefore be subject to common carrier laws?
* Are these companies genuinely trying to serve their users, or are they attempting to please politicians in order to avoid regulation?
Here at the Free Speech Coalition we have been grappling with these issues. On our podcast, we invited a range of views for roundtable discussion on these questions and more.
Politicians often don’t do in office what they say they’ll do during election campaigns.
In NZ, Jacinda & Co. have achieved very little of what they promised in 2017, mainly because they didn’t think things through enough, but also because of their ideological belief that all problems can be solved by increasing government bureaucracy, increasing taxes and passing more restrictive laws.
In Kapiti, nearly everyone who reads beyond the Mainstream Media knows the present mayor has done nothing about the things he campaigned on — in fact on the subject of empowering the Community Boards, he has done the exact opposite, which was his real intention; like everything else that promise was just something to say to sound good to voters.
In the U.S., although much of what Biden et al said last year would also have just been platitudes to sound good, enough is reasonably predictable about what the Democrats in Washington D.C. will do.
The important thing for those outside America is the impact on trade. As can be seen in the table above for the year ended June 2019, although the USA is still the World’s biggest economy, it was only NZ’s third largest export market — just above the EU collectively which at that time included the UK. China is easily the biggest.
This means that in the scheme of things, America matters, but not hugely so.
What affects exporters is how easy is it to sell to foreign markets — firstly, barriers placed on products; and secondly, how strong the local economy is, affecting consumers’ buying power.
For America, the latter is not looking good in the short term. Up until a year ago the American economy was growing strongly; now it is in recession: 140,000 jobs were lost in December. Only about 55% of the jobs lost in March and April have returned. That is significant.
Because of the Democrats’ opposition to fossil fuels, energy costs are sure to go up, In the case of oil, a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude is now over $US 53. Two months ago, WTI crude was about $40 a barrel. That’s a 32 percent increase in two months.
The Democrats’ enthusiasm for lockdowns, which Trump resisted, means economic problems ahead for a lot of workers and probably for the whole of this year. Those who make their living as bus drivers, bartenders, waiters, hair stylists and boutique store clerks, among thousands of other jobs, make up 50% of all jobs and 45% of U.S. gross domestic product. This is the part of the economy affected by the lockdowns.
Since the election in November, the $US has fallen about 10% in value — that slide could continue. Again it’s not helpful for NZ exporters to the U.S. But because Trump pursued the protectionist policies that the Democrats traditionally have, there may not be a lot of difference ahead in that.
Biden’s key economic policies
The assumption is that Biden — or Harris — can get all of it through Congress. It’s one thing for Biden on day one to sign Executive Orders reversing all the ones Trump made, it’s another to get Bills passed when there are thin majorities in both the House and Senate.
Raise an additional $4 trillion in tax revenue by increasing top tax rate to 39.6%, taxing capital gains at ordinary rates and raising the corporate tax rate to 28%.
Forgive student loan debt and make college free for those making up to $125,000 [about $NZ 175,000].
Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour [about $NZ 21] and repeal “right to work” laws.
Expand “Buy American” policies through government purchasing, while using subsidies, federal matching, and incentives to make American products more competitive.
Invest $1.3 trillion in infrastructure over 10 years [this sounds like Trump’s intention, but there are some differences]
Spend $2 trillion on clean energy during first term as president.
Provide health insurance coverage for 97% of Americans in 10 years.
The $1.3 trillion to be spent on infrastructure over a decade includes $50 billion in his first year in office on repairing roads, highways, and bridges, $20 billion on rural broadband infrastructure, $400 billion over 10 years on a federal new agency to conduct clean energy research and innovation, $5 billion over five years on electric car battery technology, and $10 billion over 10 years on transit projects that serve high-poverty areas.
Biden says he supports the idea of a Green New Deal, and that the U.S. will rejoin the Paris agreement to reduce fossil fuel consumption; he wants the U.S. to have a carbon-emission-free power sector by 2035 and reach ‘net-zero’ emissions no later than 2050.
He also wants to establish a new ‘Environmental and Climate Justice Division’ within the Justice Department. In order to build a 100% clean energy economy and create millions of “good union jobs,” he plans to make investments in new infrastructure, public transit, clean electricity, the electric vehicle industry, buildings and housing, and agriculture.
In all, his climate plan will require federal spending of $2 trillion over his first term. He doesn’t want a ban on fracking, but will ban new permits for oil and gas drilling on federal land and offshore, plug abandoned oil and natural gas wells, and restore and reclaim former mining sites.
Revitalizing the middle class and making it more racially inclusive was the cornerstone of Biden’s campaign. “This country wasn’t built by Wall Street bankers and CEOs and hedge fund managers. It was built by the American middle class,” he said at a rally beginning his campaign.
The American ‘Middle Class‘
Biden cast himself as a moderate with sensible, achievable plans rather than the leader of a revolution against economic inequality. “I don’t think 500 billionaires are the reason why we’re in trouble,” he said in a speech at a Brookings Institution event in 2018. “The folks at the top aren’t bad guys” [Given who some of them are such as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg, that is highly debatable.]
He believes in a growing and thriving middle class, albeit more in terms of values and lifestyle rather than an income group.
According to Pew Research, 52% of American adults lived in middle-income households in 2018: adults whose annual household income is two-thirds to double the national median after adjustment for household size. The annual income range for a middle-class household of three in 2018 was $48,500 to $145,500.
The U.S. has a proportionally smaller middle class than most developed economies, and the income disparity between sectors in the middle class is growing, according to Pew. Moreover, while the top 20% have fully recovered from the Great Recession of the late 2000s/early 2010s, the middle class is below its previous peak in 2007.
… only one team has played with honour. The other with their scuffing of every moral creaseline has shamed cricket and shamed their country. –Journalist John Reason, TheDominion Post, 20 January 2021
History making in Brisbane
By Roger Childs
Australia hadn’t been beaten at Brisbane’s Gabba cricket ground since 1988. That record has now gone with India’s unexpected victory in the fourth and final test on an exciting last day. The visitors scored 329-7 in their second innings to win the match – another record. Not surprisingly they were urged on by hundreds of enthusiastic Indian fans who cheered them all the way.
The win is also the more meritorious because India played without their inspirational captain, Virat Kohli, three of their top bowlers and three of their first choice batsmen. Some of the players were out with injuries caused by intimidatory short-pitched bowling which should have been stopped by the umpires.
In winning the Brisbane test India took the series 2-1 and retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Cricket fans around the world will be delighted as the cocky, over-confident and often unsporting Australians have been put in their place.
An up and down series
The first test in Adelaide had seen the Indians humiliated when they lost by 8 wickets. They were dismissed for 36! In their second innings – their lowest test score ever. (New Zealand’s has the embarrassment of having scored the smallest total in cricket history – 26 against England in 1955.)
Going into the second test in Melbourne the Aussies were very confident of winning and being in a position to march on to a series victory. But this time the Indians won by 8 wickets. The third test in Sydney provided a thrilling last day when the home side was seemingly in the box seat with the media and commentators expecting the Indians to be bowled out. However the visitors played with plenty of grit against more vicious bowling designed to hit and hurt batsmen, and comfortably held on for a draw.
A lack of sportsmanship
A nasty feature which emerged in Melbourne was the practice of “sledging” where the wicketkeeper and close-in fielders abuse batsmen. Unfortunately this has long been a tactic used by the Aussies. There was more of this in Brisbane notably from the Australian captain and wicketkeeper Tim Paine.
Another incident at the Gabba which further tarnished the home team’s reputation was former captain, Steve Smith, using his boot to scuff out the creaseline which an Indian batsman legitimately marked to use in facing the Australian bowling. As Kiwi cricket expert, Melbourne based John Smith, has remarked Ifind this Australian side very hard to like – they don’t seem to have much understanding of ‘the spirit of cricket’.
In contrast to the Aussie gamesmanship, at the end of the Brisbane test, the Indian captain Ajinkja Rahane presented the home team’s superb spin bowler, Nathan Lyon, with an Indian team shirt signed by all the players to mark Lyon’s 100th test.
As John Reason remarked above … only one team has played with honour.