NY Times – do Ardern’s progressive politics work at home?

Jacinda Aardern has had very good media coverage for a small country leader, and she has generally acquitted herself very well, but not all media is fawning promotion.

New York Times: Jacinda Ardern’s Progressive Politics Made Her a Global Sensation. But Do They Work at Home?

In many ways — temperament, style and policy, among them — Ms. Ardern is the polar opposite of President Trump and other brash male leaders.

She has become a subject of global fascination for her progressive values, her youth and charisma, and her status as a new mother who has garnered more attention than any previous leader of this small Pacific country.

But even as her star soars abroad, Ms. Ardern increasingly faces challenges at home. Corporate interests are lining up against her agenda after the country’s business confidence rating dropped to a 10-year low in July; the confidence rating has since improved, according to new figures released this month, but it remains weak nonetheless.

There are risks to the economy and to the government’s spending plans and wish lists.

Important policies, including tax reform, are still being decided, and critics have cast doubts on Ms. Ardern’s ability to maintain discipline within her governing coalition.

Indiscipline and dysfunction have hovered at home while Ardern has been in New York.

Experts say New Zealand exemplifies the difficulty of enacting a progressive agenda at a time when politics are fractured and conservatives worldwide are emboldened. Ms. Ardern’s supporters say she must push even harder for transformative change.

“The gestures of kindness and care need to be matched sometimes with more concrete and meaningful aspects of kindness in practice,” said Max Harris, a fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, and the author of “The New Zealand Project,” a new book about the country’s politics. He added that true success for Ms. Ardern would require structural shifts in social and economic systems — and it remains to be seen whether Ms. Ardern can get it done.

Ardern has not been progressive (or revolutionary) enough for those on the far left.

Ms. Ardern came to power last October. After nine years of center-right government in New Zealand, voters chose Ms. Ardern and her party because of their promise of a better deal for ordinary people, especially the marginalized and vulnerable.

That’s a very simplistic view of how the election and formation of government played out. In part Ardern became Prime Minister due to the 7% support of a not very left wing at times NZ First, and many NZ First voters would have preferred that Ardern didn’t get the nod.

But her power is limited. In New Zealand, a party does not have to win an outright majority in Parliament to govern. Labour formed a governing coalition with minor parties and in recent weeks, disputes between Ms. Ardern’s party and the party of Winston Peters, the deputy prime minister whose support was crucial to her victory, have become more frequent, leading critics to argue that Ms. Ardern is not in charge of her own government.

That was highlighted again in her absence.

One of her most common refrains is: “This is the right thing to do.” She used that line this month when announcing that New Zealand would accept 500 more refugees per year starting in 2020, raising the country’s quota to 1,500. The phrase also appeared in her speeches announcing policies to freeze lawmakers’ pay and increase paid parental leave.

In an interview last month, she argued that values and government go together. “You can be pragmatic and grow an economy and improve well-being and do all of the things you have an expectation governments do, but do it with a bit of heart,” she said.

That remains an unproven and fairly vague plan.

In New York Ardern outlined in general terms how she things government should progress in New Zealand, but she still has a lot to prove in practice.




Denials as Trump train wreck continues

When quotes from ‘White House sources’ were published in advance of the public release of from Bob Woodward’s book on Donald Trump there were some denials from those claimed to have said to have provided quotes (Woodward claims to have recordings of all his sources).

Following the New York Times publishing of an anonymous op-ed by a ‘senior White House official’ – see The White House ‘resistance’ and what the hell is happening – there have been a number of inevitable public denials from senior White House officials.

New York Times: It Wasn’t Me: Pence, Pompeo, Mattis and Mnuchin Deny Writing Anonymous Op-Ed

A day after a senior administration official described President Trump as amoral, impetuous, petty and ineffective in an anonymous essay, the denials from the upper echelon of the administration started to roll in.

The mystery writer is not Vice President Mike Pence, a spokesman said Thursday. “Our office is above such amateur acts,” the vice president’s spokesman, Jarrod Agen, said

“It is not mine,” Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, said.

“Patently false,” said Dan Coats, the national intelligence director, responding to rumors that he or his principal deputy wrote the piece. “We did not.”

Press officers for the secretaries of the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Treasury and Housing and Urban Development also issued denials on behalf of their bosses.

They will feel bound by principles of journalism to publish these denials, but a few at the NY Times knows who it is.

The author, whose identity is known to The Times editorial page but was not shared with the reporters who cover the White House, describes him or herself as one of many senior officials in the Trump administration who are “working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”

Predictably Trump has tweeted on it.

Typical bluster and attempted diversion by attacking NYT, but he has attacked the media so many times because he hasn’t liked what they say about him it comes across as wailing wolf, again.

Bloomberg: Pence’s Office Says He Didn’t Write the Anonymous New York Times Op-Ed

Mike Pence’s office said the vice president wasn’t the author of an anonymous New York Times op-ed claiming key administration officials were secretly working against President Donald Trump, calling the article false and “gutless,” as Trump demanded the paper reveal the writer’s identity.

The denial by Pence came as other Republicans, notably Trump’s Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Senator Marco Rubio, came to the president’s defence and said the writer should have resigned before making the accusations.

Fair call – if Trump is as bad as the editorial writer suggests (and Bob Woodward’s book suggests) then it should be untenable for them to work there.

However given the attack they would have faced from Trump and others it is perhaps justifiable to keep their identity out of it in the short term. It seems inevitable their identity will become known anyway, probably soon.

“America has one duly elected president. Anybody serving at his pleasure should do so faithfully,” Rubio said in a Twitter posting. “When they feel they no longer can, they should resign & speak in their own name so the country can evaluate their insights with a full understanding of where they are coming from.”

On Wednesday evening, before demanding that the Times unmask the writer, Trump tweeted one word: “TREASON?”

“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do,” he said in tweet early Thursday. “The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!”

That is playing to the conspiracy theory crowd, but it is unlikely to convince others that he is of sound mind.

And in other news yesterday: Kim Kardashian West visits White House to discuss clemency reform

Does she qualify as a senior White House official?

One thing is indisputable – something highly unusual is going on with Trump’s presidency. If Woodward’s book  and the op-ed are coincidental it suggests major problems, and if they were coordinated it also suggests major problems.

Trump versus New York Times

@realDonaldTrump has started the new year on the offensive against the New York Times:

The Failing New York Times has a new publisher, A.G. Sulzberger. Congratulations! Here is a last chance for the Times to fulfill the vision of its Founder, Adolph Ochs, “to give the news impartially, without fear or FAVOR, regardless of party, sect, or interests involved.”

Get impartial journalists of a much higher standard, lose all of your phony and non-existent “sources,” and treat the President of the United States FAIRLY, so that the next time I (and the people) win, you won’t have to write an apology to your readers for a job poorly done! GL

This probably says more about Trump’s obsession with wanting to be praised than anything.

His ongoing barbs against media are likely to encourage them to be more accurate in their criticisms of him than lavish him with sycophantic praise.

As a result the New York Times could well improve their political coverage. That would be a good thing.

In their latest political news: The Trump Effect: Business, Anticipating Less Regulation, Loosens Purse Strings

The administration’s campaign to reduce regulation has improved the mood of business executives. They may be spending more money as a result.

There is no sign of Trump improving his social media ranting.


Trump versus New York Times

A New York Times story from Wednesday (US time):

Two Women Say Donald Trump Touched Them Inappropriately

Donald J. Trump was emphatic in the second presidential debate: Yes, he had boasted about kissing women without permission and grabbing their genitals. But he had never actually done those things, he said.

“No,” he declared under questioning on Sunday evening, “I have not.”

At that moment, sitting at home in Manhattan, Jessica Leeds, 74, felt he was lying to her face. “I wanted to punch the screen,” she said in an interview in her apartment.

More than three decades ago, when she was a traveling businesswoman at a paper company, Ms. Leeds said, she sat beside Mr. Trump in the first-class cabin of a flight to New York. They had never met before.

About 45 minutes after takeoff, she recalled, Mr. Trump lifted the armrest and began to touch her.

According to Ms. Leeds, Mr. Trump grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt.

Ms. Crooks was a 22-year-old receptionist at Bayrock Group, a real estate investment and development company in Trump Tower in Manhattan, when she encountered Mr. Trump outside an elevator in the building one morning in 2005.

Aware that her company did business with Mr. Trump, she turned and introduced herself. They shook hands, but Mr. Trump would not let go, she said. Instead, he began kissing her cheeks. Then, she said, he “kissed me directly on the mouth.”

It didn’t feel like an accident, she said. It felt like a violation.

Following that a letter from Trump’s lawyer:


The New York Times has responded:


This probably won’t help Trump turn his ailing campaign around, although he try playing the ‘me against the media ‘ card some more.

Trump’s tax records

There’s been a claimed leak of Donald Trump’s tax records, but they are from 1995 don’t appear to reveal what tax if any he has paid since then, just that he was exempt paying some tax for 18 years.

New York Times: Trump Tax Records Obtained by The Times Reveal He Could Have Avoided Paying Taxes for Nearly Two Decades

Donald J. Trump declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns, a tax deduction so substantial it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years, records obtained by The New York Times show.

The 1995 tax records, never before disclosed, reveal the extraordinary tax benefits that Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, derived from the financial wreckage he left behind in the early 1990s through mismanagement of three Atlantic City casinos, his ill-fated foray into the airline business and his ill-timed purchase of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.

Tax experts hired by The Times to analyze Mr. Trump’s 1995 records said that tax rules especially advantageous to wealthy filers would have allowed Mr. Trump to use his $916 million loss to cancel out an equivalent amount of taxable income over an 18-year period.

That’s ‘could have avoided paying tax’ – without seeing his tax records since then it is not possible to know if he has avoided paying tax  since then.

Although Mr. Trump’s taxable income in subsequent years is as yet unknown, a $916 million loss in 1995 would have been large enough to wipe out more than $50 million a year in taxable income over 18 years.

So this doesn’t seem to be a huge revelation, but it puts Trump and his refusal to reveal his tax records in the spotlight. He is the first candidate since Richard Nixon to not reveal his records.

Trump’s response:



New York Times editorial: Maybe One Less Union Jack

New York Times editorial Friday 21 March:

Maybe One Less Union Jack

Prime Minister John Key of New Zealand wants to get rid of his country’s flag. Earlier this month, he promised a national referendum in which citizens would choose a new flag design to replace the current one, a blue ensign with Britain’s Union Jack in the upper left corner and four stars of the Southern Cross, which has flown over New Zealand for more than a century.

That flag proclaims New Zealand as a South Pacific outpost of the British Empire, which is precisely why Mr. Key wants to abandon it. He thinks it shackles his country to its colonial past and is unrepresentative of the racial and cultural diversity of 21st-century New Zealand. (The nation’s biggest city, Auckland, is more diverse than London or Sydney.) Those on Mr. Key’s side argue, too, that their flag is nondescript and derivative; it looks very much like Australia’s flag, for which it is often mistaken. The New Zealand Herald recently published a graphic of 30 flags from around the world based on the British flag, writing: “Somewhere in here is the N.Z. flag, lost in a sea of blue and Union Jacks.”

Mr. Key favors a simpler design — a silver fern on a black background — used by New Zealand’s national sports teams, including its famed rugby squad, the All Blacks. A poll published Wednesday by The Herald found a slim majority in favor of keeping the current flag, but among the 40 percent who wanted to change it, most preferred the fern.

While some critics are dubious about using a sports symbol — arguing that a country needs a flag, not a logo — The Herald was on the mark when it urged Mr. Key in an editorial to go bold and not leave momentous aesthetic decisions in the hands of a committee of politicians. “The selection of a design to be put before the public should not made by senior ministers,” the editorial said. “It should be entrusted to a panel of vexillologists, artists and designers.” That makes sense. For practitioners of vexillology — the study of flags — an opportunity like this does not come often, and they are surely eager to make the most of it.

NZ Herald refers to this: Flag change gains international support

NZ Herald editorial: Key needs to be bolder on flag change