A Christian reconsiders the Resurrection of Christ

Post from Kimbo:


The Christian faith, of its own admission, stands or falls on the bodily resurrection of Christ. As per the words of the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians chapter 15, if Christ did not rise again the Christian faith is “useless”, “false witness”, “futile” and “pitiable”. You maybe have a whole host of doubts, objections and flat-out dismissals concerning the resurrection of Christ. Fair enough, but as a Christian I’ll explain what I find the number one challenge to believing the fantastical claim that a man rose from the dead.

To put my challenge in its necessary context, I’ll first outline what I think is fairly certain about the wider Jesus story. The interests of brevity do not permit a detailed explanation why, but I think by the reasonable standards of historical inquiry and inference from the written record of the New Testament Gospels, and the discernible oral traditions from which much of them were derived, the following is likely factual:

  1. There was a Jewish man named Jesus of Nazareth who lived in 1st Century Palestine.
  2. He had an itinerant ministry in Galilee and Judea, which attracted a following, with a core group at the centre.
  3. Central to the message of that ministry was the Jewish apocalyptic expectation of the imminent arrival of God’s kingdom on earth, with Jesus at the centre in some way.
  4. Jesus’ ministry culminated in a dispute with the Jewish authorities who administered the temple in Jerusalem, and who concluded Jesus was, among other dangerous activities, a blasphemer.
  5. As a result, Jesus was put to death by means of crucifixion at the hands of the occupying Romans, whose involvement in his demise was aroused by the additional charge of sedition.
  6. At the time of Jesus arrest and detainment before death, one of Jesus’ followers, Cephas/Simon Peter publicly denied any association with him.
  7. Another of Jesus’ followers, Judas Iscariot, was alleged to have played a part in that arrest.
  8. After Jesus’ death some women attached to his group claimed his body was no longer where it was left after had died.
  9. From that beginning the belief quickly arose among the group that Jesus had risen from the dead, then appeared to them, before ascending to heaven. Also, he was Israel’s long-hoped for Messiah who would one day return to usher in the kingdom of God.
  10. A few years later, Saul of Tarsus, a zealous Jew and former persecutor of the Jesus-movement claimed Jesus had appeared to him in a vison. As a result, Saul became a believer and eventual leader within the Jesus-movement, and he played a key role in expanding the movement beyond Jews to Gentiles throughout the Roman Empire.

You’ll notice I said that the group believed Jesus rose again, not that he necessarily did. For us, who are expected according to Scripture to believe their account, the primary weakness in taking that additional step lies in the nature of that group. First, with the death of their leader they would have been struck with a combination of fear, confusion and grief.

Everyone remember the Kubler Ross grief cycle? First comes denial, then comes anger, then comes bargaining. Whatever else the early church may have been, it was indisputably a first Century Jewish apocalyptic sect. History is full of examples of similar sects whose hope in the end of the age was dashed, and due to a combination of denial and bargaining, they rationalised and recalibrated to keep the hope and movement alive. What became the Seventh Day Adventists are one example, and what became the Jehovah’s Witnesses are another. Both expected the return of Jesus in 1844-45 and 1914 respectively, and when he failed to show up both resorted to “invisible heavenly” actions by Jesus to explain the failed prophecy.

Indeed, from the perspective of orthodox Judaism that’s what Christianity looks like – a sect that put its eggs in the basket of a false Messiahship-claim. Why don’t Jews believe in Jesus? Among other reasons for many Jews the idea of a dead Messiah is an oxymoron. Messiahs don’t die, much less on a cross which is a sign of God’s curse according to Mosaic law. Instead the Messiah ends death by ushering in the resurrection at the end of the age. So, from the Jewish perspective, the purported resurrection of Jesus looks like the denial-and-bargaining process of an apocalyptic sect, trying to rationalise away the fact that they got it wrong…and then they suckered a gullible bunch of Gentiles, too ignorant to know what genuine Judaism was.

The second feature of the original Jesus-was-resurrected group was that they were precisely that – a group. We are, of our very nature, social beings. There is a reason that the New Testament counsels believers to fellowship together, teaching, encouraging, strengthening and rebuking one another as required. That’s how groups, all groups operate to some extent. They keep one another in line so they can fulfil their function or purpose. That doesn’t necessarily have to be the pejorative “group-think” of George Orwell. However, the reality is that to fit in with the expectations and culture of the group and maintain tolerable social comfort levels, people will, in the right circumstances, tow the party line. Like, say, when some of the women come telling the rest of the group that Jesus’ dead body was not where it was left. And then another mentions that a bystander confirmed to them that Jesus wasn’t there. And then another says…Jesus appeared to her. And then someone thinks, what would it mean if Jesus did rise again, how would that fit with the possibility he was the Messiah, and then…

The third feature of the religious group that seems to have genuinely believed in the resurrection story in contradiction to normal expectations is, yet again, they were precisely that – a religious group. I’ve heard Christian apologists make the blanket claim that there is no way that the purported post-resurrection appearances of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John can be psychotic episodes because psychosis is a personal, not a group phenomenon. Ok, but even if that is so, what about phenomena that does affect groups that doesn’t fit the diagnosis of psychosis but involves the distortion of ordinarily-accepted reality?

Leaving aside John Marco Allegro’s now generally discredited magic mushrooms theory, maybe there was some ancient Palestinian version of LSD that lead them off on a group resurrection-trip. But more likely is that if you look for group-induced distortions of reality that mirror some of the elements of psychosis, they aren’t too hard to find. Especially among the religious. I mean, come on! How many suicide bombers getting in early for their 72 virgins, or Jonestown suicide pacts do you need to confirm the fact that, in the right circumstances, especially in a group setting religious people will believe and do anything! I’ve seen it, indeed to my embarrassment I’ve at one time done it – religious people full of zeal who claim to see and drive out demons, lengthen legs and straighten backs. Or worship, or clap or howl at the Pavlovian prompting of a shyster using all the usual party tricks of clairvoyant cold readings, group hysteria and carefully crafted-group pressure.

So, is that what happened with the original Jesus-group? Or is it at least a reasonable possibility. I’d say, yes. From the perspective of New Testament critical scholarship, it solves some problems, like how the thus-far observed laws of nature were contradicted in Jesus’ alleged resurrection. However, it would also raise some others. Including and especially how the likely very primitive confessional formula that Paul recited in I Corinthians 15: 3-8a came to be:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born…

Not just one, or a small group, but over five hundred? The quick-and-easy “the Bible is just made up and was written years after the events it records” is too simplistic in the case of I Corinthians 15, but again space prohibits explaining why here. Suffice to say, it seems that irrespective of whether Jesus rose again or not, the belief he was seen by over five hundred of his followers is genuine. So how did that work? Maybe there could have been someone who looked like Jesus, standing at a distance from the crowd (The Life of Brian, “Blessed are the cheesemakers”, anyone?). Add in denial-bargaining, group-think, religious hysteria and rationalising that the movement has to carry on, and maybe that’s the answer. Put it this way – contrary to the assurances of Christian apologists, I don’t think it can be easily dismissed.

So yeah, it’s a real possibility the resurrection of Jesus was genuinely-believed but mistaken by his original followers. But is it the most likely? Well, from the perspective of modern scepticism, which via the scientific method has rid the world of small pox, sent human beings to the moon and made an assortment of discoveries that would amaze the Iron Age inhabitants of 1st Century Palestine, it is indeed probably the best explanation. So am I rationalising and seeking to work back from my desired conclusions to a method that will furnish them if I note that scepticism is not the only valid starting point? Or that I’m not yet ready to give up my faith?

The left lambasts Labour’s CGT capitulation

Labour didn’t just limit what the Tax Working group could include in any Capital Gains Tax, they didn’t just water down the subsequent TWG recommendations, they didn’t just drop any changes to capital gains taxing, Jacinda Ardern ruled out doing any CGT while she remains leader of the Government.

It wasn’t just a capitulation to Winston Peters. Ardern back down from a policy she said she supported. She ruled out going to the next election with any sort of CGT proposal as she had previously promised, presuming she is still leader then.

And the left, who wanted so much to have a ‘fairer’ tax system, and who wanted the Government to live up to it’s own labelling as transformative, are pissed off.

From Political Roundup: Progressives despair over the CGT decision

Danyl Mclauchlan argues that the CGT programme was one of four key policies agendas for this Government – the others being KiwiBuild, the Carbon Zero Act, and the Wellbeing Budget – and there are clear problems now in delivering them – see his column, Four months in, Labour’s ‘year of delivery’ is a disaster.

He despairs that Labour axed the tax after first initiating “one of the most bafflingly disastrous public policy debates imaginable, making John Key’s flag-change campaign look like the Normandy landings”.

He says any strategic wins from ditching the tax, will come “at a cost of one of Labour’s most important, long-term policies, and it was their failure to control their coalition partner or even attempt to make the argument for taxation reform that forced them to pay such a bitterly high price.”

Mclauchlan argues that Ardern could have won the debate and got a mandate for the changes, but simply didn’t bother.

That’s how it appears. She appeared to do nothing to fight for the CGT she proposed. It also appears she left James Shaw and the Greens out in the cold. Shaw has tried to paper over the cracks but sounds unconvincing (see James Shaw on “do we deserve to be re-elected if we don’t?”)

No Right Turn…

…is now calling for a leftwing boycott of the Labour Party: “If you want change, don’t vote Labour, don’t donate to Labour, don’t volunteer for Labour. Give your vote, your money, your time and effort to another party, any other party that promises change, than the one who betrayed you. Because if you don’t, Labour will continue to treat you like a fool, and continue to promise change while delivering none” – see: Don’t get fooled again.

They also argue the decision means the Government won’t have the money to afford many of their future policy goals: “Effective policy costs money, and this government has just robbed itself of that vital tool. Remember this next time they plead “poverty” as an excuse for not doing something: they chose to be poor. They chose to have a government which could not afford things. They chose to not be able to do the things they promised” – see: The cost of cowardice.

Inequality researcher Max Rashbrooke…

…argues that many other Government priorities will now be hamstrung by the lack of future revenue: “building more state homes, eliminating introduced predators, and repairing mental health services, among others – also require significant funds, again well above what will be generated under existing tax settings” – see: Capital gains tax shutdown threatens govt’s other plans.

In particular, “Consider the Prime Minister’s pledge to halve child poverty within a decade, possibly the political priority closest to her heart. It is very difficult to see how that can be achieved without the $3.4 billion a year that the capital gains tax was, according to the most recent estimate, going to raise.”

Some loyal Labourites had tried to put some spin on the backdown, like at The Standard (currently down so can’t link).

And former Labour Party President Mike Williams…

…suggests that although there are “elements of, particularly the unions and the extreme left of the Labour Party, which would be annoyed”, he “did not think the wider Labour Party base would be too worried about the CGT rejection”.

But Newshub’s Anna Bracewell-Worrall reports that…

…”Labour is facing a massive backlash from its base for ditching any hope of a capital gains tax (CGT) – even Young Labour and the ever-loyal unions are fuming” – see: Young Labour furious at capital gains tax backdown, leak reveals.

“Newshub’s been leaked a discussion from a secret Young Labour Facebook group revealing they’re frustrated with the decision. The Labour Party faithful say they’re ‘mighty disappointed’ and ‘exponentially angry at New Zealand First’s role’, and complaining of ‘unfulfilled promises’.”

And media are asking questions too.

Thomas Coughlan asked the very pointed question of Ardern: “Are you worried you now lead the party of capital, rather than labour?” And now he’s followed this up with an article suggesting that rather than Ardern and her Government implementing transformation, it’s actually them who are transforming – into a cautious and weak government not willing to make the hard and necessary decisions – see: Capital gains tax: Let’s not do this.

The Dominion Post asked if the decision came out of “cowardice or pragmatism”, but suggested the two are indistinguishable anyway. The editorial suggested more debate and leadership had been required for the CGT proposals to get off the ground: “Labour voters were evenly split on the pros and cons of a capital gains tax. It is a situation where brave political leadership and persuasion were required but for whatever reasons, a deep and thorough debate about fair and unfair tax failed to eventuate” – see: Capital gains tax: Political capital but for what gain?.

The newspaper says that Ardern had a “a failure of nerve”, and laments that an opportunity has been missed: “If there was ever a moment when significant change to the tax system could have happened, as the fairness and transformation her Government promised, that moment was now.” And there’s the question of “if the Tax Working Group was merely an expensive waste of time with a predetermined outcome.”

Likewise, according to the New Zealand Herald, “The decision has the hallmarks of pragmatism rather than strong leadership”, leaving “little evidence so far that Ardern will make tough but unpopular decisions to deliver on her convictions” – see: Capital Gains Tax surprise raises doubts on coalition.

It is going to be a challenge for Ardern and Labour to recover from this. They may survive in Government, but they have lost a lot of credibility from the left.

Ardern’s ‘pragmatic realism’ doesn’t sit well with political activists and idealists who thought that with Labour and Greens in  Government there would be substantial changes.

National backs Pike River mine re-entry

The National Opposition have said they now support re-entry into the Pike River mine as they believe it can be done safely.

NZ Herald:  Politics off the Pike River table as National backs re-entry

The National Party is accepting advice that the Pike River re-entry can now be done safely, taking politics off the table on an issue that has been a bitter political battleground.

Yesterday, the party’s Pike River recovery spokesman, Mark Mitchell, met with the Families Reference Group – which represents more than 80 per cent of Pike River victims’ families – and told them National supported the re-entry plan.

Afterwards, Mitchell told the Herald the party’s position had always backed a re-entry as long as it could be done safely, but it is the first time National has told the families’ group it backs the plan.

“The advice now is that we can get in there, and we completely support that.”

As far as I can find rep-entry is planned to begin on 3 May:

Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry Andrew Little has announced that in light of the current state of preparations, the scheduled date to commence re-entering and recovering the access tunnel to the Pike River Mine (the drift) will be Friday 3rd May.

“Since I announced on 14 November 2018 that the project will proceed, there has been an incredible amount of preparation to get ready for re-entry. This has included preparing bridges for heavy loads, installing a nitrogen plant, upgrading the power supply, laying many kilometres of piping for the nitrogen, drilling more boreholes, installing monitoring equipment, and purging and ventilating the drift.

“As well as this, staff have been trained on working in a forensic environment. Worksafe have been reviewing all aspects of the planning, risk assessments and supporting documentation, in order to ensure the re-entry plan is safe.

https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/pike-river-mine-re-entry

 

Fortune: World’s Greatest Leaders

Fortune Magazine’s World’s Greatest Leaders

 

  1. Bill and Melinda Gates
    For evidence of what happens when an unstoppable force — Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates — meets a profoundly movable human being, the empathetic Melinda Gates, one has simply to measure the impact of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
  2. Jacinda Ardern
    Jacinda Ardern had already broken new ground as a pregnant woman—and then a new mother—leading a nation. And this year, the 38-year-old Prime Minister showed the world her fullness as a leader as she deftly, empathetically, and humbly navigated New Zealand through the worst terror attack in its history, after 50 were killed at two mosques in Christchurch in March.
  3. Robert Mueller
    Few people on either side of the partisan divide seem satisfied with the outcome of Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. But that very dissatisfaction speaks to the nobly impartial example the former FBI director set as he led an arduous, sensitive investigation. He and his team didn’t uncover the smoking guns that President Trump’s critics craved, nor did they grant the President the exoneration he demanded. Instead, sticking to the evidence and tuning out the hype, they exposed serious wrongdoing and shed light on systemic flaws that the nation is now more likely to address.
  4. Pony Ma
    Compared with others in China’s boisterous tech scene, Ma keeps a low profile. But his influence has gone global thanks to WeChat, Tencent’s billion-member instant messaging service. WeChat is the epitome of the super-app model, a single interface through which users can pay bills, order food, book tickets, play games, and more.
  5. Satya Nadella
    Under Nadella, Microsoft has generated incredible growth from new businesses like its Azure cloud platform. And Nadella recently showed that he could put principles first while navigating employee unrest, as he stood by a contract to supply the U.S. Army with augmented reality headsets. He argued that Microsoft shouldn’t withhold technology from institutions that protect our democracy.
  6. Greta Thunberg
    Greta Thunberg isn’t here to inspire you; she’s here to give you anxiety. “I don’t want your hope,” the 16-year-old climate activist said in a speech at the World Economic Forum this year. “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”
  7. Margaret Vestager
    At a time when U.S. lawmakers are divided over reining in Big Tech, Vestager has shown how it can be done. She “Apple-converted-space” fined Google a total of $9 billion for alleged anticompetitive behavior, sought $15 billion in back taxes from Apple (both moves are being appealed), and is investigating Facebook. Dismissive of industry excuses, Vestager says: “If it’s your algorithm, it’s your responsibility.”
  8. Anna Nimiriano
    South Sudan has lost five years and an estimated 383,000 souls to civil war, and the challenges of speaking truth to power at Nimiriano’s newspaper range from gas shortages to death threats. When security forces hauled a colleague to jail and told her to shut down the paper, she persuaded them to release him and let her publish.
  9. José Andrés
    In March, chef José Andrés descended on Manhattan to prepare for the launch of a fresh addition to his restaurant empire—a 35,000-square-foot Spanish food hall in the sparkling new Hudson Yards complex. Here, alongside other A-list chefs such as the French Laundry’s Thomas Keller and Momofuku’s David Chang, Andrés’s New York City culinary concept would ply patrons with cured meats and cheese, tapas and paella, and a selection of a dozen sherries.
  10. Doug McMillon and Lisa Woods
    Health care costs in the U.S. have reached astronomical levels—spending hit $3.7 trillion in 2018—and they continue to climb, weighing on patients and the employers who help foot the bill. As America’s largest employer, Walmart is all too familiar with these trend lines—which have led McMillon and Woods to innovate to do health care better. For the company’s 1.1 million U.S. employees and their families, Woods launched the Centers of Excellence (COE) program in 2013, enabling workers to travel to top hospitals Walmart contracts with for select procedures.
  11. Aliko Dangote
    Dangote is Africa’s richest person—worth $16.4 billion, according to Bloomberg—and the four publicly traded companies under the umbrella of his Dangote Industries now account for about a third of the value of the Nigerian stock exchange. He’s now converting his wealth into impactful philanthropy: Dangote’s foundation, the largest in Africa, has helped establish a top-tier business school at Nigeria’s Bayero University; it’s also teaming up with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fight chronic malnutrition in Nigeria.
  12. Masayoshi Son
    Son has become a tech kingmaker. He upended venture capitalism in 2016 by launching the $100 billion Vision Fund, and his backing often proves ­pivotal in battles between rival startups. Son personally vets CEOs of potential portfolio companies and spurs them to scale up dramatically, even if profit is elusive. Ride sharing as we know it might not exist without his avid backing of Uber, Grab, and Didi Chuxing.

There are 50 leaders on the list. Ardern stands out as a politician – there are few of any others.

 

More international accolades for Ardern

While Jacinda Ardern continues to struggle with domestic policies and problems (apart from her recent response to the Christchurch mosque massacres) , she continues to earn praise internationally. In the last few days both Time and Fortune have added to her accolades.

Time100: Most influential people 2019

Ardern features on the page graphics, and is also included in the top 100 influencers.

JACINDA ARDERN

By Sadiq Khan

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

Londoners were heartbroken to wake up to news of the horrific terror attack in Christchurch, shocked by the callous targeting of innocent civilians for no reason other than their faith.

Jacinda Ardern’s leadership since the attack has been an inspiration to us all. Not only is she delivering such swift action on gun control, she has sent a powerful message around the world about our shared values—that those who seek to divide us will never succeed, and that New Zealand will always protect and celebrate the diversity and openness that make our countries so great.

Londoners stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Christchurch. We will never forget that when terror sent ripples of fear through communities around the world, New Zealand’s Prime Minister proudly stood up for hope, unity and inclusiveness in the face of fear, division and hatred.

Khan is the mayor of London

Fortune: World’s Greatest Leaders

2. Jacinda Aardern

Jacinda Ardern had already broken new ground as a pregnant woman—and then a new mother—leading a nation. And this year, the 38-year-old Prime Minister showed the world her fullness as a leader as she deftly, empathetically, and humbly navigated New Zealand through the worst terror attack in its history, after 50 were killed at two mosques in Christchurch in March.

Rallying people behind the theme “We are one,” she channeled the country’s—and Muslim community’s—grief as she opened speeches with Arabic greetings and quietly wore a head scarf. She set a standard for dignity in the face of violence by refusing to speak the attacker’s name. And she won near-unanimous support for a ban on semiautomatic weapons of the kind used in the attack. Future leaders can look to Ardern for a master class in how to guide a country through a crisis

It’s quite different appearing on the international stage occasionally compared to the continuous grind of domestic politics.

It’s good to see Ardern recognised around the world, but she has a lot to do here to earn respect as an ongoing leader aas opposed to impressing on occasions.

Hmm – Notre Dame conspiracies linked to Christchurch conspiracies

How the far right is trying to turn Notre Dame into the next Reichstag Fire

It didn’t take long. Within hours of the news breaking of a devastating fire at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, far-right leaders were leaping on it, using dog whistles and fabrications to promulgate their theories on white supremacy and the perceived superiority of Western civilisation.

A large subset also hinted or directly asserted that the fire was caused by Muslims – possibly in retribution for the Christchurch shooting.

This contradicts all media reports and the word of the French police. Although French officials told media outlets that the fire was accidental as early as 5:19 am New Zealand time – less than an hour after the catastrophe began and while the blaze was still burning – a wide range of far-right figures were quick to cast doubt.

Stefan Molyneux, the Canadian provocateur whose speaking tour in New Zealand last year was cancelled following protests, started off by “just asking questions” about the safety procedures at the cathedral.

Also on Twitter, prominent “alt-right” troll Jack Posobiec – who at one time championed the Pizzagate and Seth Rich conspiracy theories – discussed his own doubts. He tweeted and later deleted, “I notice [US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar] is awfully quiet today,” as if the Muslim congresswoman had personally set the fire.

He later joined a number of right-wing commentators condemning Fox News host Shepard Smith. Smith was interviewing former French politician and convicted libeller Philippe Karsenty when the latter suggested the fire was intentional. “Of course, you will hear the story of the political correctness which will tell you it’s probably an accident,” Karsenty said.

Smith was quick to shut down Karsenty, refuting his baseless allegations and then kicking him off the show. Posobiec and others denounced Smith for this.

White supremacist Richard Spencer … posted on Tuesday: “If the Nortre [sic] Dame fire serves to spur the White man into action – to sieze [sic] power in his countries, in Europe, in the world – then it will have served a glorious purpose and we will one day bless this catastrophe.”

ll these tactics serve a single purpose: promulgating far-right ideology and recruiting new adherents. The far-right wants to identify Notre Dame as a pinnacle achievement of “Western civilisation” – a dog whistle term for white civilisation. In many cases, this is blatant. In his YouTube video, Molyneux described Notre Dame as a Western achievement, then went on to argue that white men were responsible for “way more than 90 percent of scientific innovations from 800 BC to 1950 AD,” a reference to a debunked statistic from race scientist Charles Murray.

By synonymising Notre Dame and Western civilisation, the far-right wants to convince those who understand their underlying meaning that white culture is in danger, also known as the white genocide conspiracy theory.

This theory posits that white people are at risk of being replaced by increased diversity in majority white countries and increased tolerance of racial and cultural differences. Notre Dame has become, literally overnight, an icon of white genocide – a Reichstag Fire for a generation of white supremacists desperate to believe they are the victims.

A select few have gone even further and directly connected the accident in Paris to the Christchurch terror attack. Noting that the fire began on April 15 Paris time and the shootings occurred on March 15 New Zealand time, low-profile conspiracy theorists have argued that the fire was retribution.

Deeper down the rabbit hole, some on the far-right Twitter-style platform Gab argued that the Christchurch attack was a hoax, and that the fire was either started by the same people who organised Christchurch, or that the Muslims who they assume to have started the fire were tricked by the false flag.

Of course, none of these claims have basis in fact. It may seem to most to be very obviously nonsense, but the month since Christchurch has shown us that plenty of people will believe what a majority consider absurd.

How the far right is trying to turn Notre Dame into the next Reichstag Fire

And what looks like becoming conspiracy central in New Zealand, Whale Oil, has also been been trying to stoke the conspiracy fires, usually in posts like Things that make me go hmm – ‘hmm’ is code there for disingenuous promoting of crap ‘theories’.

 

 

Easter Friday

What does Easter Friday mean to everyone?

It’s only ever been the first day of a long weekend to me, but it obviously has more significance for some people.

Someone asked on Twitter today “Why do we have Christmas carols, but no songs for Easter…?”

There’s nothing like the amount of singing at Easter as there is at Christmas, especially by non-church-goers, but there are Easter hymns, as pointed out by Adam Smith who has “One of Adam’s favourite pieces of music” on his blog: King’s College Cambridge 2017 Easter Hymn from Cavalleria Rusticana Mascagni

This is more my sort of thing. Most of what I know about the religious side of Easter I have learnt from this:

Whatever you do for your Easter have a good one.

Government response to the Tax Working Group recommendations

Most of the attention on the Government response to the recommendations from the Tax Working Group report was on the scrapping of plans for any new type of Capital Gains Tax. See CGT backdown, everyone claims victory.

But the report also covered a number of other tax changes.

Beehive:  Govt responds to Tax Working Group report

The Coalition Government today released its response to the recommendations of the independent Tax Working Group report.

The report found that on the whole New Zealand’s tax system was working well, but made a number of recommendations to improve fairness, balance and structure.

The Government is not adopting any of the recommendations on capital gains taxation and has agreed no further work is necessary on that aspect of the report.

Winston Peters said no, so Labour and the Greens agreed that their CGT plans were stuffed.

“The final report covered all aspects of the tax system, and a number of the recommendations will now be considered for inclusion in the Government’s Tax Policy Work Programme,” Grant Robertson said.

“That includes exploring options for targeting land speculation and land banking.

“We intend to direct the Productivity Commission to include vacant land taxes within its inquiry into local government funding and financing,” Grant Robertson said.

Exploring options? I thought that’s what the TWG was supposed to have done.  But now they are going on to exploring more and doing another inquiry. Given the supposed purpose of the TWG, this sounds like further kicking of the tax can down a dusty potholed road.

“Officials have been directed to prioritise work on the TWG’s recommendations on ways to encourage investment in significant infrastructure projects and improve the integrity of the tax system to crack down on tax dodgers,” Stuart Nash said.

A refreshed tax policy work programme will be released mid-year.

So yesterday they announced what they plan on announcing later in the year.

The Coalition Government reiterated it will not introduce resource rentals for water or a fertiliser tax in this term of Parliament.

Another Peters veto of Labour and Green plans?

Other priorities for the Government this year include progressing legislation for research and development tax incentives; GST on low-value goods from offshore suppliers; a discussion document on a digital services tax, and further work to ensure multinationals pay their fair share of tax.

On to a discussion document and further work on things that have been talked about for years.

Summary of the Government’s responses to the recommendations

In that summary there are a number of TWG recommendations flagged as “Endorse the TWG recommendation” – in just about every case the recommendation is not to change anything.

There are several recommendations flagged as “Consider as a high priority for work programme”, meaning no decision has been made on what to do.

What was this Government response for? It has done little but admit they were abandoning any CGT plans indefinitely.

Auckland rail link budget jumps $1 billion

The same day it was announced that a means of getting additional tax revenue was being ruled out – the CGT backdown – another announcement that a a project committed to will cost another $1 billion more than budgeted.

RNZ: Billion-dollar increase in cost of Auckland’s City Rail Link

The cost of building Auckland’s City Rail Link project has risen from $3.4 billion to $4.4b, it has been confirmed this afternoon.

City Rail Link chief executive Dr Sean Sweeney said a revised cost envelope for the 3.45 kilometre-long train line has been submitted to the Crown and Auckland Council for approval.

“The $1 billion cost increase on the previous $3.4 billion estimate made in 2014 reflects significant changes impacting the project in the past five years,” said Dr Sweeney.

“No-one could have foreseen the competitive pressures that have occurred in the construction industry over the past few years and the impact that has on costs, particularly for a project the scale and complexity of the City Rail Link.

“Last year, a decision was made to increase the scope of the project to accommodate longer, nine-car trains at stations. Planning today for a city that will be much bigger in the future reinforces the benefits the City Rail Link City will deliver to the way people travel, work and live in Auckland.

No one could have foreseen that increasing the scope of the project might increase the cost?

The extra cost will be split between the Government and Auckland City.

City Rail Link is now being constructed by the so-called Link Alliance – a group of six companies including Tonkin + Taylor and Downer NZ.

It said the revised higher cost came from four areas:

  • Contingency and escalation costs ($310m)
  • Construction costs ($327m)
  • Accomodating longer, nine-car trains ($250m)
  • Non-direct cost ($152m)

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said tighter financial management will help fund the additional $500 million requested by City Rail Link Limited.

Like the tighter financial management campaigned on in the last election? Tighter still now?

CGT backdown, everyone claims victory

Winston Peters says he has just decided today to not back a CGT as recommended by Tax Working Group and championed by Jacinda Ardern and Labour, despite opposing a CGT for a long time.

Surprisingly Ardern didn’t just scrap the CGT, she ruled out trying again with one while she remains Prime Minister – this is despite taking a CGT to the next election to let voters decide.

Winston now claims to be the CGT stopper. Simon Bridges claims he and National stopped the CGT. Jordan Williams claims he and his ‘Taxpayers Union’ stopped it with a petition.

Meanwhile Michael Cullen claims that is a defeat for National’s election campaign plans next year. This plus claiming victory for the Government was claimed by Te Reo Putake in a lipstick overload on the pig at The Standard – see CGT Dumped.

Jo Moir (RNZ) – CGT backdown: You win some, you lose some

It wasn’t even an hour after the Prime Minister had put the final nail in the coffin that is the capital gains tax (CGT) when RNZ asked Mr Peters whether Labour will be expecting his party’s support on another issue in return for losing this flagship policy. Mr Peters fired back: “May I remind you, the Labour Party is in government because of my party.”

No reading between the lines necessary.

And despite previously saying that the government didn’t deserve to be re-elected if they didn’t do a CGT James Shaw as busy claiming victories with other policies.

As for the Greens they had no hope of getting any points on the board today and while co-leader James Shaw came out with his best disappointed-but-optimistic face on, it was clear yet again NZ First had served them a gigantic dead rat to eat.

Even Mr Shaw is aware they’re starting to stack up.

Asked whether this was the biggest dead rat yet (bear in mind the waka-jumping legislation and Chinese water bottling expansion were pretty substantial) Mr Shaw replied: “I don’t rank my list”.

He couldn’t even hold on to the hope of a CGT under a future Labour-Greens coalition after Ms Ardern killed that today as well.

The Greens have been campaigning on a CGT for the entire two decades they’ve been in Parliament and today the Prime Minister stood and told the country there is simply no public mandate for it.

But we won’t all be winners. This must seriously affect the Government’s transformational reform agenda, given that they won’t have more tax to pay for it.

The official announcement:


Government will not implement a Capital Gains Tax

The Coalition Government will not proceed with the Tax Working Group’s recommendation for a capital gains tax, Jacinda Ardern announced today.

“The Tax Working Group gave the Government, and the country, an opportunity to look at the fairness of our tax system and debate options for change,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“All parties in the Government entered into this debate with different perspectives and, after significant discussion, we have ultimately been unable to find a consensus. As a result, we will not be introducing a capital gains tax.

“I genuinely believe there are inequities in our tax system that a capital gains tax in some form could have helped to resolve. That’s an argument Labour has made as a party since 2011.

“However after almost a decade campaigning on it, and after forming a government that represented the majority of New Zealanders, we have been unable to build a mandate for a capital gains tax. While I have believed in a CGT, it’s clear many New Zealanders do not. That is why I am also ruling out a capital gains tax under my leadership in the future.

“The Tax Working Group was a valuable exercise that has delivered some useful suggestions well beyond just the debate on CGT, and I want to thank the Group for its work. In fact the majority of recommendations will either be investigated further or have formed part of our work programme.

“There are other things that can be done to improve the fairness of our tax system. As such the Coalition Government has agreed to tighten rules around land speculation and work on ways to counter land banking.

“Work will also continue to cut red tape for business and crack down on multi-nationals avoiding paying their fair share of tax in New Zealand. We have already made changes to address base erosion and profit shifting, and we will shortly release a discussion document on options for introducing a digital services tax.

“My job now is to focus on the things we can and are doing to improve the wellbeing of all New Zealanders.

“The Coalition Government is addressing the long-term challenges New Zealanders face such as mental health, climate change and child poverty and responding to the March 15 terrorist attack and keeping New Zealanders safe. Those challenges will be my priorities for the remainder of this term,” Jacinda Ardern said