Little speech: on Maori

In his ‘state of the nation’ speech in January Andrew Little didn’t mention Maori at all – see Maori 0f Little importance? – but since then Labour’s Maori MPs, candidates and votes have been talked about a lot.

In his Congress speech yesterday Little had to mention Maori, and he did.

And, get this, after the election, at least 1 in 4 Labour MPs will be Māori.

We are going to have the largest representation of Māori MPs of any party, ever, in New Zealand politics.

It’s common for opposition parties to talk in positives in their speeches, like ‘the next Prime Minister’ and from his speech “to all of our dedicated activists and organisers who are going to sweep Labour to government on September 23rd“, and likewise, claiming “at least 1 in 4 Labour MPs will be Māori” presumes all Labour’s electorate MPs will retain their seats and they will improve their share of the party vote. Neither are guaranteed.

Through all these policies and in every decision, Māori will be at the table.

If they have Maori party members and Maori MPs then yes, they will be at Labour’s policy table, but it doesn’t mean they will be influential. 1 in 4 is 25%, from from a majority vote.

Māori aspiration sits at the core of Labour’s vision for New Zealand.

That’s vague and means little in reality.

And that’s all on Maori in the speech. Nothing specific, no policies addressing Maori issues beyond “the Kiwi dream” generalities.

Two contentious Maori issues flared up last week, partnership schools and prisons. On schools:

Thank you for the policy you launched yesterday of health teams in all our schools, which is just one of the ways we’ll bring a fresh approach to our neglected mental health services.

On prisons – nothing.

On the Treaty of Waitangi – nothing.

If Little wants Maori voters to step up and tick Labour in September’s election then Labour may need to step up with some actual policies that will give them some incentive, and promises of policy rewards.

Andrew Little’s speech to Labour’s Congress

Andrew Little’s speech to Labour’s 2017 election  year Congress (in non-election years they have conferences).

Andrew Little speech to 2017 Congress

Delegates, we have four and a half months ahead of us, and a great opportunity to give this country a fresh approach:

  • to make sure everyone has a decent place to live;
  • for hospitals that can treat everyone who turns up for care;
  • to give hope to young people looking for work;
  • to make our rivers clean again and take real action on climate change and the environment.

Delegates, the next four and a half months are a fight for a better New Zealand, and for everyone in this magnificent country of ours.

Delegates, we can do this.  We must do this.

Thank you for devoting this weekend to the cause of Labour and contributing so much to this year’s election.

I acknowledge our President Nigel Haworth and our General Secretary and campaign manager Andrew Kirton. Thank you for the tremendous work you both do.

And, of course, I acknowledge my Deputy Leader Jacinda Ardern.

Jacinda, thank you for the support you give me. Thank you for your speech yesterday and the passion with which you advocate for our children and young people. Thank you for the policy you launched yesterday of health teams in all our schools, which is just one of the ways we’ll bring a fresh approach to our neglected mental health services.

To all our MPs and candidates for Parliament – thank you; thank you for putting yourselves forward, either again or for the first time.

And – most important of all – to all of our dedicated activists and organisers who are going to sweep Labour to government on September 23rd. Thank you.

I also want to take a moment to thank the Labour MPs who are retiring from Parliament. All have served our party and our country with distinction.

To Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe, Clayton Cosgrove, and Sue Moroney, thank you for your service to Labour and to New Zealand. We owe each of you an enormous debt.

I especially want to pay tribute to Annette King.

Thank you Annette, for everything you’ve done for everyone in this room, and for the people of New Zealand.

Annette has been our rock. She helped me lay the foundation for rebuilding the Party after the last election.

Thank you, Annette, for your lifetime of service to Labour. You are a titan of this great Labour movement.

Of course as current MPs retire, Labour has an impressive crop of new candidates ready to come to Parliament after the election. They’ll be fantastic MPs.

I’m especially proud of two things:

We’re going to bring at least nine new, amazingly talented women to Parliament as Labour MPs.

And, get this, after the election, at least 1 in 4 Labour MPs will be Māori.

We are going to have the largest representation of Māori MPs of any party, ever, in New Zealand politics.

You know, it was such a nice feeling to be introduced by Leigh before. She has sustained and supported me in challenging roles over many years, and I am hugely grateful.

I couldn’t do this job without her.

Leigh and I have been together for nineteen wonderful years. She’s my soulmate, and we have a son who is our pride and joy.

We’ve lived the typical Kiwi story in many ways.

Leigh and I met just after I started working. We settled down, bought a house, started a family, and got married – which is a very 21st century order in which to do things.

Many of you will have a similar kind of story to tell.

That first house we bought in 2000 cost us $315,000. That wasn’t a small amount of money for us, but it was manageable.

It got us a nice, three-bedroom starter home, built on a hillside in Wellington.

And, like any good Wellington house, it was up about a thousand steps!

For Leigh and me, being able to buy that first house gave us a measure of financial security and certainty. More importantly, Ii It gave us a sense of our own place.

It was the house we brought our baby boy home to.

I remember that time vividly. Preparing the baby room. And putting this precious bundle of humanity in his cot for the first time. This tiny little thing, in this ocean of sheets.

Of course, Cam’s nearly 6 foot tall now. He doesn’t fit in the cot anymore!

The story of our first home is a story told by thousands of Kiwi families every day.

A place to call home.

A place to raise your children.

The Kiwi dream.

It’s the story Labour wants for every Kiwi family.

But let me tell you something. We bought that house in 2000 for $315,000. Now, it would cost around $830,000. It’s gone up by half a million dollars in 17 years.

Its value has nearly tripled.

But here’s the thing: Families’ incomes haven’t tripled since 2000. Nowhere near.

That’s why housing is getting further and further out of reach.

New Zealand’s housing crisis – yes, crisis – is not just about out of control prices. It’s about the insurmountable barrier that many first home buyers now face. It’s about the rapid increase in rent that tenants are seeing now.

It’s about the disruption it is causing to the education of thousands of children.

It’s about the fact that what is happening with housing is now the main cause of growing inequality and growing poverty in New Zealand today.

You know, I was out door knocking in Mt Roskill last year with Michael Wood. It was a typical Kiwi street, modest family homes – sports gear in the front lawns and washing lines out the back.

I knocked on one door, a typical house, and I realised very quickly there were three families living there. Not one family – three! It wasn’t a big home; it was a modest home. I was gobsmacked by that.

Then, the next door I knocked on, on the same street, had the same thing. Multiple families crammed into a house designed for only one.

And it wasn’t just one or two houses on the street, it was house after house, all with families packed in.

Delegates, that’s not the New Zealand we want.

We can do better.

As Jacinda and I travel the country doing public meetings, housing is the number one issue people raise with us, every single place we go.

You know, last Friday, I was in Hamilton with Nanaia Mahuta, Jamie Strange and Brooke Loader. I met a woman there called Shirley, and her daughter.

She lives on Jebson Place, an area that was once a thriving state house community. But, she told me, the current government has gradually emptied out all the other houses.

Her community is gone. She showed me what is left – a bunch of broken down buildings, a haven for crime.

Shirley couldn’t understand it. Why have they left those houses empty and rotting in the middle of the housing crisis? She told me she just wants her community back. She had tears in her eyes.

So, I told her why I was there that day. I was announcing that Labour will tear down all those abandoned old buildings. And in their place we are going to build a community of 100 affordable KiwiBuild and state houses – a place for families, once again.

Well, you should have seen Shirley’s face. She was beaming from ear to ear.

Security, community, hope. That’s the difference we will make up and down this country by building those homes.

You know, that’s why I do what I do. That’s why I come to work every day. I do it because when I meet people like Shirley, or the people crammed into houses down that street in Mt Roskill, or even look at my own son, Cam and his mates, and wonder what the future holds for them, I know we can and must do better.

And I’m damned well determined to do something about it.

New Zealand urgently needs some fresh thinking on housing.

Every Kiwi family should have a place that they can call home.

And everyone should have a shot at owning their own place.

So here’s what we’re going to do.

The first thing is we will build homes that families can afford to buy.

We will lead the largest house building programme since Michael Joseph Savage carried that dining table into 12 Fife Lane.

We’ll use the money we get from selling the first bunch of houses at cost to build more homes and sell them. And we will keep on doing that – build, sell, build, sell – helping more and more and more families buy a place of their own.

But… building houses is just part of the answer. The other part is dealing with those things that jack up prices and put homes out of reach for so many.

If we want to make sure all Kiwi families get a fair shot – that when it comes to buying a home they have a level playing field – we’ve got to get the speculators out of the way.

We can’t let our homes be gambling chips anymore.

So there are three things we’re going to do to level the playing field:

First, we’ll ban overseas speculators from buying existing houses. Simple as that. We’ll do that in our first hundred days.

Second, we’ll make speculators who flip houses within five years pay tax on their profits.

Third, today I’m announcing Labour will close the tax loophole that allows speculators to claim taxpayer subsidies for their property portfolio.

Right now, speculators can take losses from their rentals and offset that against their personal income. It allows them to avoid paying tax.

This loophole is effectively a hand-out from taxpayers to speculators. It gives them an unfair advantage over Kiwi families.

So I’ll tell you.

We will close the loophole. It is over.

Families don’t deserve to have the odds stacked against them by their own government. They deserve a fair shot. With Labour that’s what they’ll have.

Now, let me be clear. This isn’t about the mum and dad investor who has bought a rental as a long-term investment. The vast majority of them don’t use this loophole. Those that do will have time to adjust.

This policy is about the big speculators who purchase property after property. It’s about those big time speculators who are taking tens of thousands of dollars a year in taxpayer subsidies as they hoover up house after house.

I say to people who would defend these loopholes – how can we as a society possibly defend handing out subsidies to property speculators when most young couples can’t afford to buy their first home.

You ask me whose side I’m on? It’s families. It’s first home buyers.

Removing the speculators’ tax loophole will save taxpayers $150m a year once fully implemented.

Now, Grant, before you get too excited about Treasury getting that money – I’ve got plans for it!

Today, I’m also announcing Labour will invest those savings into grants for home insulation and heating.

Homeowners and landlords will be able to get up to $2,000 towards the cost of upgrading insulation to modern standards or installing heating.

Over a decade, we’ll help make 600,000 Kiwi homes warmer, drier, and healthier.

This is a perfect complement to my Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill that requires all rentals to be up to a standard where they are fit to live in.

40,000 kids a year go into hospital in New Zealand for illnesses related to living in cold, damp, mouldy homes. We’ve got to change that. We can do better.

And Labour will.

That’s the fresh, new approach we’ll bring to housing.

We will build affordable homes.

We will level the playing field.

We’ll make our homes healthy, warm and dry.

You know, National’s had nine years to tackle the housing crisis. And they have failed at every step.

I’m telling you now, where they’ve failed, we will succeed.

Why have we made getting housing right such a priority?

Because it is absolutely essential to New Zealanders’ sense of security and stability.

Home is about “our place.” It’s a place of celebration; a place of refuge. A launching pad to face the day’s adventures and challenges. It’s our landing spot to rest and get ready for the next day. It’s where life is lived. Where futures are dreamed.

Without a place to call your own, it’s hard to have any of these things. To thrive, to prosper, to stand on our own two feet, every New Zealander needs to have a place they can call theirs.

It is Labour’s mission to restore the foundation stone to strong families and strong communities – decent housing.

I’ve focused on housing so far today, but the same values that make housing such a priority underpin everything else Labour does.

We are putting people first.

That’s why we’ll fund our health system so people get the care they need, and not just the care they can afford.

That’s why Labour is facing up to the crisis of neglect in mental health.

And that’s why we’re going to have an education system that has what it needs, and that prepares our young people for the future of work.

Labour has so many fresh ideas for New Zealand.

We’ll ensure the Government buys Kiwi-made to keep work here and invest in regional infrastructure.

We’ll get young people off the dole and into jobs improving their communities and the environment. I am committed to lifting wages and improving work rights, especially for lower income workers.

We’ll make our rivers cleaner and tackle climate change.

Through all these policies and in every decision, Māori will be at the table. Māori aspiration sits at the core of Labour’s vision for New Zealand.

Because we are a progressive party – we stand for a better future for each generation; we think ahead; we invest in the future.

We are a party of great passion – for our people, for ideas that make this a more perfect country.

You know, the election in September will be about who’ll invest in New Zealand’s future. It’s not about the lolly scramble we’re seeing in this year’s Budget.

This election will be about who has the vision, the guts, and the plan to build a better New Zealand that puts people first.

The answer is: Labour does.

Only Labour will build the houses.

Only Labour will reverse the health cuts and boost funding for GP visits and mental health.

And only Labour will make tertiary education and training fees free for three years.

In Labour, we have the vision, we have the guts, and the plan.

I’m here because I believe that all our people should have a fair shot at the Kiwi Dream.

I believe that, just as Norman Kirk said so memorably, we should all have “Someone to love, somewhere to live, somewhere to work and something to hope for”.

I’m here because I believe that a government that puts people first is at the heart of making that vision a reality.

I’m here to help build a better New Zealand.

But, before we get that opportunity to help build that better New Zealand, we’ve had to build a better Labour Party.

We’ve had to build a party that is ready to win, to govern, to lead.

As I look out at this Congress, today, I know we have achieved that.

We’ve done it by working together.

We have built a dynamic, modern party.

We have packed out halls and pubs around the country with ordinary Kiwis, keen to hear our vision. Keen to support our plan.

We have built a strong relationship with the Green Party to show that there is a stable alternative government, ready to go.

And because of all that, we’ve been winning. In the local elections. In Mount Roskill. In Mount Albert.

You know, by the time of the Mt Albert by-election, National had stopped even bothering to show up!

Our Party is in amazing shape.

We have a fantastic caucus, amazing new candidates, a huge army of volunteers, and hundreds of thousands of Kiwis signed up as supporters.

Labour is ready to win in 2017.

This election is ours to win. All over the country, people are telling me they’re ready for a change.

To make that happen, we need much more than politicians on a stage.

Ours is a community movement. It’s powered by people like you.

Mums and Dads.

Students and teachers.

Workers and families.

You and me.

Our movement wins when we bring thousands of committed people with us.

I wouldn’t want it any other way.

New Zealanders have a clear choice at this election.

We can choose a tired government that has run its course.

Or we can choose a new, positive vision for a better New Zealand.

This isn’t going to be an easy fight. It’s going to be close. It’s going to be tough.

I’ve faced tough fights before, and this is one fight we simply have to win.

Here’s my message to New Zealanders this year:

It’s time for a fresh team with energy and passion.

It’s time for new ideas on housing.

It’s time to give hope to our young people.

Vote for a better New Zealand.

Vote Labour.

Delegates, let’s do it.

Ardern’s Congress speech

Jacinda Ardern has given the key Saturday speech at Labour’s election year Congress, and has announced new policy on mental health.

Labour on Facebook:

And today, Jacinda Ardern has announced that we’ll deliver comprehensive health services to every state secondary school. These services have been shown to reduce the risk of suicide by two thirds.

We’ll make mental health an absolute priority.

It’s great to put more priority on dealing with mental health issues – in the shorter term this may put more pressure ion the Government to take more action.

But I question this claim: “These services have been shown to reduce the risk of suicide by two thirds”.  There’s no way of knowing in advance what degree of success it might have.

Ardern’s speech:

A curious personal intro to her speech by Ardern, trying to appeal to a social media audience.

Stuff reports: Labour promises a nurse in every secondary school

An emotional Jacinda Ardern has spoken about her grief at losing a childhood friend to suicide.

Speaking to Labour’s election year congress, Ardern put youth mental health on the political agenda, with a promise to place a nurse into every public secondary school.  Schools will also get the support of a GP.

“Evidence around existing services shows where students had more time with on-site professionals there was significantly less depression and suicide risk. Depression and suicide risk were up to two thirds lower in schools with comprehensive health services. Early intervention works.”

Ardern revealed that as a 13-year-old in Morrinsville, her best friend’s brother took his own life.

“I had just started high school and was waiting for class to start when I heard the news, I can remember exactly where I was standing, just outside the science block.

“I went straight to my friend’s home and spent the next few days with her as her and her family went through the unimaginable grief of losing their only boy, grief that was felt by everyone that knew him, and was captured in the handwritten notes and messages from his classmates that hung around the walls at his funeral. Every single thing about it seemed unfair and still does to this day.”

Ardern said school based health services were introduced by Labour in 2008  but were currently only funded directly for nurses in decile 1-3 public secondary schools, teen parent units and alternative education facilities.”

Under Saturday’s announcement, the average secondary school would have a full time nurse and also the support of a GP.

The cost would be around $40 million a year, funded out of Labour’s commitment to reverse National’s $1.7 billion of health cuts.

That doesn’t sound a lot in the whole scheme of things. The question to ask is whether it’s the most effective way to deal with a big problem.

Personal experiences can be a powerful driver of change that matters.

Full text: Jacinda Ardern: Labour Congress Speech

Make or break weekend for Little?

This weekend could be make or break for Andrew Little’s ambitions. Same for Labour as they have their election year Congress (a party conference with PR rather than conferring),

Labour have failed to impress voters since Helen Clark lost the 2008 election. In every election this century Labour has lost support and have trended downwards since 1938.

Embedded image permalink

Lately Labour has been polling in the high twenties, hardly improved on their a record low election result in 2014 and well short of where it needs to be if they want to be in a strong position to lead a coalition government.

Andrew Little took over the leadership after the 2014 loss but two and a half years later he is struggling to appeal to voters.

Little and Labour are trying hard to address those issues, but while they talk about them they have been slow to come out with clear or decisive policies. Little is reported to be announcing something on housing in his big speech tomorrow.

An issue not on that list but probably critical to Labour’s chances is ‘Maori’ Little didn’t mention that word at all in his January ‘state of the nation’ speech.

He will need to do much better tomorrow, without getting tangled up trying to appease two distinctly different voter groups, the ‘middle New Zealand’ said to be essential to ‘win’ an election, and the Maori vote that Labour are putting so much hope on while giving them little in the way of policies – Little has ruled out two policies promoted by Maori candidates and MPs this week, partnership schools and Maori prisons.

Labour’s Maori electorate MPs (and Labour’s strategists) have created a problem for themselves by not standing on the party list.

While party vote is essential for Labour’s overall success, six Maori MPs have to win their seats again or they are out of Parliament, so they are going to put more effort into their own interests.

The controversies over partnership schools and Maori prisons is indicative of this.

Somehow Little is going to need to overcome this perception…

…without annoying voters who don’t want preferential treatment for Maori.

If he doesn’t deal with that successfully then whatever he says about housing, inequality, poverty immigration and economy may not matter much.

This could be a make or break weekend for Little.

It’s still over four months until the election, but there are signs Little could be losing support from within Labour and signs that confidence in Labour is really struggling, again (or still).

Little’s speech will be important – what he says and how he delivers it, but more important than the PR driven RA RA will be in the next week or two when the contents and ramifications of the speech sink in amongst Labour’s MPs, candidates and rank and file.

If they are not happy and confident amongst themselves – and that is difficult to fake – then voters are going to remain unimpressed.

Hooton on Labour and Maori

Yesterday Matthew Hooton promoted his weekly NBR column with a provocative headline (with a promise of similar from Duncan Garner):

A Labour staffer responds:

Hooton’s column isn’t up on the NBR site yet (it will be behind a pay wall anyway) but he pushes some different buttons via Twitter:

Garner’s column doesn’t appear to be up yet either, but it could be a testing weekend for Labour at their election year conference (they are calling it a ‘congress’) with the focus on a speech on Sunday:

Upcoming events

Sunday, May 14, 2017 at 01:30 PM

Amokura Gallery, Te Papa in Wellington, New Zealand

Andrew Little’s Congress Speech

Join hundreds of Labour supporters, as Andrew Little announces a fresh new addition to our housing plan ahead of the 2017 election at Labour’s Congress in Wellington.

In his last big speech, his ‘state of the nation’ address in January, Little didn’t mention Maori at all – see Maori 0f Little importance?

He won’t get away with ignoring them again on Sunday.

73% want US election inquiry v Russia

A clear majority of Americans want an independent, non-partisan commission instead of Congress to investigate Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

NBC News: 73% Back Independent Probe of Russian Election Interference

Seventy-three percent of respondents prefer the independent investigation, versus 16 percent who pick Congress.

Still, a majority of Americans — 54 percent — believe that Congress should investigate whether there was contact between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, which is essentially unchanged from February’s NBC/WSJ poll.

That’s clear majorities for all but Republicans.

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted April 17-20 of 900 adults, including more than 400 who were reached via cell phone. The poll has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.3 percentage points.

US discussion – Flynn and immunity

News or views or issues from the USA.USFlag


The Wall Street Journal raised interest with a story yesterday claiming that now resigned National Security Advisor Mike Flynn approached the FBI and Congress saying he was willing to testify in exchange for immunity.

Just Security comments on this: Flynn’s Public Offer to Testify for Immunity Suggests He May Have Nothing to Say

Although Flynn’s lawyer, Robert Kelner of Covington & Burling, refused to comment for the article, he tweeted out a statement teasing that “General Flynn certainly has a story tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit.”

As an experienced lawyer, Kelner will know that the Justice Department would never grant immunity for testimony on these terms. Prosecutors would first require that Flynn submit to what’s called a proffer session in which Flynn would agree to tell everything he knows in exchange for the prosecutors agreeing not to use his statement against him.

Only after the prosecutors heard what Flynn could offer in terms of evidence against others, and had an opportunity to assess his credibility, would they be willing to discuss any grants of immunity or a cooperation deal. At a minimum, the prosecutors would require Flynn’s lawyer to make a proffer outlining the information that Flynn could provide.

The fact that Flynn and his lawyer have made his offer publicly suggests that he has nothing good to give the prosecutors (either because he cannot incriminate others or is unwilling to do so). If he had something good, Flynn and his lawyer would approach the prosecutors quietly, go through the proffer process in confidence, and reach a deal.

So they think a deal isn’t going to work.

The Justice Department will tell Congress that a grant of immunity at this stage could compromise its ongoing criminal investigation. Already, statements from the Congressional committees suggest no interest in granting immunity to Flynn.

Flynn’s lawyer appears to have hoped that publicity, pressure or politics might cause one of the Congressional committees to jump. Flynn’s lawyer may have concluded that at a minimum the public offer would help change the atmospherics around his client, which could help him at a future stage. But the ploy feels desperate, indicating that Flynn may not have much to offer.

And the very fact that Flynn’s lawyer is making a play for immunity at this stage suggests that he has some fear that his client faces real criminal exposure.

That could well be the case.

The Swamp fights back

The Swamp – the Washington political establishment – or at least Republican members of Congress, have sprung a surprise by cutting the power of an independent ethics committee, despite opposition from Republican leaders. Donald Trump has criticised the move.

NY Times: With No Warning, House Republicans Vote to Gut Independent Ethics Office

House Republicans, overriding their top leaders, voted on Monday to significantly curtail the power of an independent ethics office set up in 2008 in the aftermath of corruption scandals that sent three members of Congress to jail.

The House Republicans’ move would take away both power and independence from an investigative body, and give lawmakers more control over internal inquiries.

There was no advance notice or debate on the measure.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the majority leader, spoke out during the meeting to oppose the measure, aides said on Monday night.

The surprising vote came on the eve of the start of a new session of Congress, where emboldened Republicans are ready to push an ambitious agenda on everything from health care to infrastructure, issues that will be the subject of intense lobbying from corporate interests.

@TomFitton (president of the conservative Judicial Watch):

Poor way to begin draining the swamp, .

Trump tweeted:

With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance!

While that is fairly soft criticism #DTS refers to Drain The Swamp.

The NY Times says that this is “a public break by Mr. Trump with rank-and-file Republicans”.

A statement from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics:

“Undermining the independence of the House’s Office of Congressional Ethics would create a serious risk to members of Congress, who rely on OCE for fair, nonpartisan investigations, and to the American people, who expect their representatives to meet their legal and ethical obligations.

As CREW and others noted in a bipartisan letter a few weeks ago, OCE is one of the outstanding ethics accomplishments of the House of Representatives, and it has played a critical role in seeing that the congressional ethics process is no longer viewed as merely a means to sweep problems under the rug.

If the 115th Congress begins with rules amendments undermining OCE, it is setting itself up to be dogged by scandals and ethics issues for years and is returning the House to dark days when ethics violations were rampant and far too often tolerated.”

From Wikipedia:

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-partisan legal watchdog group working to force our government officials to behave responsibly and ethically. CREW’s mission is to use the legal system to expose government officials who betray the public interest by serving special interests.”

The Trump campaign for the presidency threatened to tear the Republicans apart, but having ended up with more control (with Senate and House majorities plus a Republican president) it may be that some of them at least have already become intoxicated with that power, and want to cut oversight of their actions and ethics.

Trump may be challenged by these competing power bases of what should be allies.

This gutting of the the Office of Congressional Ethics is a bity of a smack in his face, if not in his credibility over his ‘Drain The Swamp’ catch cry.

Update – there seems to be a Republican back down:

NY Times: House Republicans Back Down on Bid to Gut Ethics Office

House Republicans, facing a storm of bipartisan criticism, including from President-elect Donald J. Trump, moved early Tuesday afternoon to reverse their plan to kill the Office of Congressional Ethics. It was an embarrassing turnabout on the first day of business for the new Congress, a day when party leaders were hoping for a show of force to reverse policies of the Obama administration.

The reversal came less than 24 hours after House Republicans, meeting in a secret session, voted, over the objections of Speaker Paul D. Ryan, to eliminate the independent ethics office.

The Swampists seems to have had their wings clipped.

Obama to push TPP

President Obama has said that he will try to push the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement through Congress, despite both presidential candidates publicly strongly opposing the trade deal.

Newshub: Obama set for ‘full-fledged’ TPP push

US President Barack Obama is launching “a full-fledged, full-throated effort” to push the Trans-Pacific Partnership mega trade deal through Congress in the final lame duck months of his presidency.

The TPP would be the final landmark piece of Mr Obama’s presidency.

“This will be a full-fledged, full-throated effort,” Mr Obama’s deputy US trade representative, Robert Holleyman, told an event this week at Atlanta’s Commerce Club.

The Atlanta event reflected the huge divide between TPP supporters and critics in the US.

David Abney, the chief executive of the world’s largest package delivery company UPS, talked up what he believed would be the TPP’s ability to cut red tape for US small and mid-sized businesses entering new Asia-Pacific markets.

As Mr Abney spoke, UPS drivers and union representatives supporting them protested outside the Commerce Club.

“We’re opposed to the TPP because we feel like it’s going to undermine American workers’ standard of living,” Teamsters Local 728 political director Eric Robertson told theAtlanta Journal-Constitution.

Mr Obama has put Congress on notice he will be sending a TPP bill their way.

The White House has also organised 30 pro-TPP events to support Democrat and Republican members of Congress who favour the legislation.

It will be difficult for Obama. He hasn’t much time left in his second term, and has to get the TPP through in the ‘lame duck’ period after the election and before he leaves the White House in January.

Political science congress snippets

The International Political Science Association (IPSA) (an international scholarly association devoted to the advancement of political science) is currently holding the 24th World Congress of Political Science 2016 – is was going to be in Turkey but was moved to Poznań, Poland after the coup attempt Turkey.

From Latest News:

On the first day of the 24th IPSA World Congress, various interesting sessions and events were held. One of the most popular ones was Richard Wilkinson’s Plenary lecture The Enemy Between Us. In his lecture, Richard Wilkinson (co-author of the groundbreaking book The Spirit Level), focused on inequality and its impact on people and societies.

According to Prof. Wilkinson, societies with bigger income differences tend to suffer more of a wide range of health and social problems, such as higher death rates, higher levels of mental illness, violence, and lower levels of child wellbeing.

In his plenary lecture, Prof. Wilkinson explained the main reasons behind inequality and its impact on societies. Prof. Wilkinson supported his presentation with data and analyses, indicating differences in several countries. He also explained the differences between the understanding of inequality between the United States and Scandinavian countries.

Geoffrey Miller has been tweeting snippets:


Is New Zealand politics becoming more radical? Intriguing paper by 

Inequality now most important issue for NZ voters

EdwardsInequalityChart

“The Hillary Clintons are the future, not the Bernie Sanders” – Identity politics, not class?

EdwardsIPSAConclusions

(PIPPA NORRIS, Harvard political scientist, compares democracy & democratization, gender politics, political communications, culture & elections.)

Flexibility rather than rigidity, fuzzy ideas rather than clarity – on future of political science

Reliance on out of date concepts from 1960s and 1970s? On state of political science.

Use “fuzzy concepts” rather than “crisp, clear concepts” – advice for politics researchers

Wolfgang Merkel from

“Top journals make careers” – just a myth in academia?

Philippe Schmitter:

Political scientists need to analyse “informal practices”, e.g central bank culture, not just “formal rules”.

“Sovereignty has always been a fiction”, myth that Peace of Westphalia was only about nation-states.

“Politics exists because of uncertainty.”

“Democracy is not in decline. It’s moving to something else”.

I think this is an important point. More on this some time.

“Whole process of representation not working” in current politics”.

Top politics academic Philippe Schmitter thinks of himself “more as an artist than a scientist”.

Currently shift underway from emphasising stability to emphasising change in politics.

More political scientists from Global South (Latin Am, Africa, Asia), who are more used to change.

Increasing devolution of power to non-elected, technocratic institutions. Pol scientists too focused on parties.

And along with media too focussed on a few politicians like leaders and attention seekers?

“Idea that concepts must have very clear borders doesn’t really interest me…fuzzy ideas characterization of real world”.

Something the media doesn’t grasp or do well, it doesn’t fir with headlines and sound bites.

Culture always changes, can’t assume e.g. that people living under authoritarian regime are authoritarian by nature.

again (in debate with Philippe Schmitter):

Pol scientists often “prisoners of concepts from the past”.

“Science isn’t certainty, it’s doubt”.

Pippa Norris frustrated when people say “oh you mean democracy” when she says “electoral integrity” – new concept.

Thanks Geoff, some interesting stuff.