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Hipkins clarifies Northcote school rebuild not by-election related

Labour’s candidate in the Northcote by-election, Shanan Halbert, tried to capitalise on a school rebuild announcement in his campaigning.

Minister of Education Chris Hipkins clarified – albeit a day later – that the rebuild had nothing to do with campaign promises, it would have happened anyway.

Irish vote on abortion

Trump winging it with flip flop flaps

Donald Trump seems to like creating a flap about big issues. He seeks attention  for personal glory and in trying to do the big deals he claims he’s expert at. But it’s a high risk strategy (or more likely lack of strategy). It may only take on serious misunderstanding of where he stands to precipitate a major problem.

And sensible people who may be able to manage things are left flailing around wondering where Trump’s flapping may go next.

Bloomberg: Trump’s Head-Snapping Reversals Shake Allies at Home and Abroad

Donald Trump slapped tariffs on China, then reconsidered. He yanked the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal without a plan B. He ordered U.S. penalties on ZTE Corp. reversed to save Chinese jobs.

And on Thursday he canceled a landmark summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as abruptly as he announced it in March.

Trump has always led from the gut. But the president’s recent head-snapping decisions, made without much consultation with allies overseas or in Congress, suggest a White House that is winging it on almost every major issue.

The president’s activities have grown increasingly frenetic amid two developments: the departure of several top officials regarded as checks on his impulses and the expanding law enforcement investigations into Trump’s campaign and his associates, including lawyer Michael Cohen. Trump has demonstrated a particular obsession with the idea that the Justice Department planted an informant in his campaign, perhaps at the behest of former President Barack Obama — a conspiracy theory for which there is no evidence.

Experienced advisers including former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, National Economic Council director Gary Cohn and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson all exited the administration since February.

Trump’s staff turnover is another problem, creating further uncertainties, and risking a lack of checks on the President’s impulsiveness for fear of getting chucked out.

There’s no clear line between Trump’s staff turmoil, his associates’ legal troubles and his erratic policy making. And his administration contends that major decisions — on North Korea, Iran, trade with China and others — are founded on months-long deliberations. For example, a senior administration official said that Trump pulled out of the Singapore summit after a series of frustrations, including North Korea standing up U.S. negotiators who flew to the Southeast Asia city-state last week for an expected meeting to lay groundwork.

Yet Trump himself conveys the sense that every announcement is spur of the moment.

Less than four hours before the White House released Trump’s letter to Kim canceling the summit, “Fox & Friends” broadcast an interview with the president — taped the day before — in which he said there was a “good chance” the meeting would happen.

The on-off North Korea summit may be on again.

But with two erratic leaders who may be more concerned with their own egos than anything it creates a sense of chaos where the chance of disaster seems increasingly more likely.

And even if a deal is reached I don’t think either Kim or Trump can be trusted much to stick to the deal – North Korea has a long history of non-compliance, and Trump has a short history of dumping on deals he decides he doesn’t like, and creating flaps for self seeking attention or diversion from flip flops.

As long as neither starts winging it with missiles the world may survive them.

School donations another delayed promise

A Labour promise to pay schools extra so parent donations aren’t required has had an evolving target, from “in our first budget” to “three Budgets on which to deliver on them”.

Below the Beltway:

Education Minister Chris Hipkins – After promising repeatedly to offer parents relief from school donations in the Budget, Hipkins insists its omission is not a broken promise but a delayed one.

Labour policy: Schooling

  • Ensure that schooling is genuinely free by offering an extra $150 per student to state and state integrated schools that don’t ask parents for donations

Labour: Education Manifesto

  • Labour will provide all State and State Integrated schools that opt-in an additional $150 per student per year in exchange for their agreement not to ask for parental donations

July 2017: Labour taking action on school ‘donations’

Labour will end so-called voluntary school donations for the majority of parents across the country under its $4 billion plan to revitalise the education sector, says Labour Leader Andrew Little. James talks with Labour education spokesperson Chris Hipkins on this.

James: So the school will get this immediately, as soon as you become Government the schools will get this extra $150 per child?

Hipkins: Ah look it might have to be, obviously we’ve got to pass a budget first, so it probably won’t be the beginning of next year, it’s probably be the beginning of the following year but we’ll be doing it as quickly as we can.

James: How long does it take to sort that out, a year?

Hipkins: Well the government budget’s normally done in May, so you’ve got to appropriate the money first.

James: Haven’t you done the figures already?

Hipkins: Yep. The money, we’ve certainly done the figures but we’ve actually got to win the election and get into Government first, and then it takes a wee while to pass an additional budget. The budget for next year has been already been set by Mr English and Mr Joyce.

Almost as soon as they got into Government,26 October 2017: ‘We’ve got to fund schools fairly’ – Labour determined to take the axe to ‘voluntary’ school donations:

Incoming Education Minister Chris Hipkins said a new Labour initiative would be introduced in the 2018 budget that would see some schools given extra government funding instead of asking parents for a donation.

Hillary Barry: End of school donations, how are you going to ensure that those are gone?

Chris Hipkins: Well that’ll be in our first budget. We’ll be making sure that school funding is enough to deliver the curriculum so that schools don’t have to rely on the ability of parents to pay, because that’s creating real unfairness…

In November: Labour’s $150 per student per year promise ‘over and above current funding’, minister says

New Minister of Education Chris Hipkins…

The new Government would commit an extra $150 per pupil per year to any schools that agreed not to ask for donations, and that money would be “over and above their current funding”, he said.

Hipkins was confident many schools would prefer the new approach to asking parents to “dig ever deeper into their own pockets”.

“I know parents and schools will be keen for this change to be made as soon as possible and work is getting under way,” he said.

It had already softened to “as soon as possible”.

A month later Labour announced their first budget, a mini-budget that included major new spending like delivering on the free-fee tertiary policy. This was their first budget they chose not to address the school donation policy then.

In February this year Schools split on Government’s plan to overhaul donation system

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the policy would be considered for Budget 2018.  “No-one should be denied an opportunity to realise their potential through education because of financial barriers,” he said.

“As it is Budget sensitive I can’t comment further at this point.”

By then it was “would be considered”.

But it was absent from the budget announced this month (May).

In Parliament on Wednesday Nikki Kaye probed Hipkins:

7. Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Minister of Education: Does he stand by all his promises in education; if so, does he stand by his statement in February 2018 regarding ending school donations, “As it is Budget sensitive I can’t comment further at this point”?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Yes, and yes.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Why did he say, in January, to the Nelson Mail that a school donations proposal was working its way through Cabinet and “This restricts me from making any comment further at this stage.”, and when did that schools donations Cabinet paper go through?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Because it was working its way through the process. It was called the Budget process.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Will he reimburse schools and parents who are contacting electorate offices saying they relied on his broken promise to end school donations in the first Budget, and how will they find funding from somewhere else?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The Government has been very clear that we have three Budgets in which to deliver the commitments we made in the Speech from the Throne. We have, thus far, delivered one of the three Budgets.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Will he promise that funding will be provided in Budget 2019 to end school donations?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: All of the commitments in the Speech from the Throne are subject to further Budget consideration if they weren’t funded in this year’s Budget. There are two further Budgets that the Government will be delivering over this term of Government.

Hon Nikki Kaye: How does he justify breaking his explicit promise to parents to scrap the school donations in his first Budget when his Government is budgeting a surplus of $3.1 billion, the tax take is up by $1 billion, and the Government can afford to give millions to wealthy students, Swedish diplomats—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: To be clear, the Government was never going to be able to deliver all of the commitments we made in our first Budget, and we’ve always been very clear that we weren’t going to be able to deliver those things in our first Budget. That’s why we have a three-year term, and three Budgets on which to deliver on them.

So it’s been a moving target:

July 2017: “Probably be the beginning of the following year” (2019)

October 2017: “Well that’ll be in our first budget” (not clear whether mini-budget in 2017 or full budget in 2018)

November 2017: “…this change to be made as soon as possible…”

February 2018: “would be considered for Budget 2018”

May 2018: “three Budgets on which to deliver on them”

If Labour gets back into Government in 2020 Hipkins will have another three budgets to deliver on his promise, sort of.

 

Roger Stone under scrutiny in Mueller investigation

Roger Stone, a supporter of and adviser to Donald Trump, is under increasing scrutiny in the Mueller investigation.

He has been connected to Julian Assange and Wikileaks, who drip fed hacked emails related to the Hillary Clinton campaign.

CNN: Roger Stone’s finances examined by special counsel

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has been probing Roger Stone’s finances as it summons a series of witnesses to gather more information about one of President Donald Trump’s longtime advisers, according to people familiar with the situation. Mueller’s team has questioned associates about Stone’s finances, including his tax returns.

The interest in Stone’s finances could be tied to Mueller’s charge of investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and potential collusion, though another possibility is Mueller is pursuing something unrelated that turned up in the course of the investigation.

Even after he officially parted ways with Trump’s presidential campaign in its early days, Stone remained a staunch supporter and friend of Trump’s. During the campaign, he launched a pro-Trump super PAC called Committee to Restore America’s Greatness.

Now, the interest in Stone’s finances has created a new sense of alarm among his associates.

Whatever the reasoning, the probe into Stone’s finances should give him cause for concern, Zeldin said. Stone appears to recognize that.

“The special counsel having found no evidence or proof whatsoever of Russian collusion, trafficking in allegedly hacked emails with WikiLeaks or advance knowledge of the publication of (then-Clinton campaign chair John) Podesta’s emails now seems to be combing through every molecule of my existence including my personal life, political activities and business affairs to conjure up some offense to charge me with either to silence me or induce me to testify against the President,” Stone told CNN. “I have no intention of being silenced or turning my back on President Trump.”

Stone has come under public scrutiny, in part, because of a prescient prediction during the 2016 campaign. In a now-infamous tweet, Stone predicted trouble for Podesta, weeks before WikiLeaks began releasing thousands of Podesta’s emails. Stone denies having any advance knowledge of the Podesta leaks.

The email in question:

 

“I sleep well at night because I know what I have and have not done,” Stone told CNN. “There’s no inappropriate activity pertaining to Russian collusion. I obtained nothing from WikiLeaks or Julian Assange. I never passed anything on to WikiLeaks or Julian Assange.”

But Wall Street reports: Roger Stone Sought Information on Clinton From Assange, Emails Show

Former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone privately sought information he considered damaging to Hillary Clinton from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The emails could raise new questions about Mr. Stone’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in September, in which he said he “merely wanted confirmation” from an acquaintance that Mr. Assange had information about Mrs. Clinton, according to a portion of the transcript…

The rest is behind a pay wall, but more here: The email Roger Stone didn’t want anyone to see

Emails obtained by the Wall Street Journal indicate that longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone withheld key documents from the House Intelligence Committee — documents indicating he lied about his communications with a radio host he hoped would serve as a backchannel to WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign.

According to the Journal, in a message sent on September 18, 2016, Stone wrote to Randy Credico, a New York radio personality who interviewed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange several weeks earlier, and asked him to:

“Please ask Assange for any State or HRC e-mail from August 10 to August 30–particularly on August 20, 2011.”

That email, which indicates Stone sought help colluding with a website that the U.S. intelligence community has accused of laundering emails stolen by Russian hackers, contradicts Stone’s September 2017 testimony to the House Intelligence Committee that he “merely wanted confirmation” from Credico that Assange had information about Clinton. It also contradicts statements Stone has made on his Facebook page and website about how his communications with Credico about Wikileaks merely “asked Randy to confirm that the Australian journalist had credible information on Hillary Clinton’s campaign.”

The Journal details Credico’s response, which suggests that he had asked Assange for favors on Stone’s behalf on previous occasions.

Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Credico initially responded to Mr. Stone that what he was requesting would be on WikiLeaks’ website if it existed, according to an email reviewed by the Journal. Mr. Stone, the emails show, replied: “Why do we assume WikiLeaks has released everything they have ???”

In another email, Mr. Credico then asked Mr. Stone to give him a “little bit of time,” saying he thought Mr. Assange might appear on his radio show the next day.

A few hours later, Mr. Credico wrote: “That batch probably coming out in the next drop…I can’t ask them favors every other day .I asked one of his lawyers…they have major legal headaches riggt now..relax.”

About two weeks later Stone tweeted:

That raised suspicions about what he knew, how he knew it, and how this might be linked to the Trump campaign.

The campaign against Clinton by Wikileaks deserves more attention too.

A tangled web that may or may not be unravelled by the Mueller investigation.

 

Weinstein in court on sex crime charges

Harvey Weinstein revelations and accusations triggered the #MeToo movement against sexual assault and harassment, especially involving people in positions of power. Many women have claimed improper behaviour over decades, and Weinstein was the subject of many.

For the first time, Weinstein has been charged and has appeared in court in New York. This may be the tip of a legal iceberg for him.

Reuters: Movie mogul Weinstein handcuffed in court to face sex crime charges

Film mogul Harvey Weinstein appeared in handcuffs in a New York court on Friday to face charges of rape and other sex crimes against two of the scores of women who have accused him of misconduct, ending his reign as a Hollywood kingpin.

Weinstein, the 66-year-old co-founder of the Miramax film studio and the Weinstein Co, intends to plead not guilty to the two counts of rape and one count of a criminal sexual act, his attorney, Benjamin Brafman, told reporters outside the Manhattan courthouse.

Prosecutors did not identify the two women, but said the crimes took place in 2004 and 2013. If convicted on the most serious charges, Weinstein could face between five and 25 years in prison.

Weinstein, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 70 women, with some of the cases dating back decades, has denied having nonconsensual sex with anyone.

The accusations, first reported last year by the New York Times and the New Yorker, gave rise to the #MeToo movement in which hundreds of women have publicly accused powerful men in business, government and entertainment of misconduct.

Weinstein earlier turned himself in at a lower Manhattan police station around 7:25 a.m. EDT (1125 GMT). He carried thick books under his right arm, including what appeared to be biographies of Broadway musical legends Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and Elia Kazan, the director of such classic Hollywood films as “On the Waterfront.”

About 90 minutes later, Weinstein was led by officers into court in handcuffs, grimacing with his head bowed, his books nowhere in sight, to await arraignment.

“This defendant used his position, money and power to lure young women into situations where he was able to violate them sexually,” prosecutor Joan Illuzzi said at Weinstein’s arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court.

Judge Kevin McGrath ordered Weinstein released on $1 million cash bail. The defendant surrendered his U.S. passport and agreed to wear a monitoring device that tracks his location, confining him to the states of New York and Connecticut.

An irony on the legal privileges of the wealthy:

How a cannabis referendum might look

With the possibility of a referendum on personal use of cannabis, perhaps as soon as next year, there has been discussion on how a legislation followed by referendum approach might work.

In January Graeme Edgeler posted:

There is a good way to conduct government-initiated referendum, and there are bad ways to conduct them.

Yesterday he tweeted suggested wording for a cannabis referendum adapted the language used in the 1993 MMP referendum.

I think that would be a good approach on cannabis, and similar on euthanasia.

Parliament debate and vote on legislation, to be approved by a binding referendum  – binding in so far as a commitment by MPs and parties to abide by the result and allow the legislation to come into effect.

This wouldn’t stop later changes in law, as can happen with any law.

Media watch – Saturday

26 May 2018

MediaWatch

Media Watch is a focus on New Zealand media, blogs and social media. You can post any items of interested related to media.

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