Joe Hendren

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Joining the blackout

For more information on the reasons behind the blackout please click here

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Beneficiaries need cellphones. Nat + Lab rght wng pollys sux

Letters from Work and Income telling debt ridden families to take out more loans and pawn off cellphones is more evidence of a mean and punitive culture within the organisation that neither major political party has done anything significant to change.

Its a little hard for a prospective employer to ring you if your cellphone is at the pawn shop.

While the letter approved an application for a Temporary Additional Benefit it also suggested some rather obnoxious additional steps to be taken.
  • Taking out loans to cover arrears (in other words talk to a loan shark)
  • Pawning cellphone and children's playstation
  • Ringing debtors to reduce payments or refinance debt (in other words talk to a loan shark)
  • Seeking budgetary advice
It was good to see Social Development Minister Paula Bennett quickly dismiss the practice when she was questioned about it in Parliament yesterday. One wonders if some of her National party colleagues may have been less quick to do so.

The issue was raised by former Labour party minister Annette King, yet it was the decision of the former Labour government to abolish the special benefit that largely created this situation. The 'replacement' Temporary Additional Support (TAS), placed more restrictions on emergency support - removing a degree of discretion the special benefit made available to WINZ staff. In essence Labour were telling WINZ staff they had to be tougher on beneficiaries.

In March 2008 Green MP Sue Bradford explained how Labour's April 2006 changes led to more beneficiaries being forced to susist within "an endless cycle of debt".
"Up until that point the special benefit had provided a third-tier level of last ditch discretionary assistance for people in the situation where the gap between their actual income and the necessities of life was too high to bridge by any other means. With benefits remaining low and even some low-wage workers requiring assistance from Work and Income, the special benefit played a key role in allowing case managers a way of topping up people’s benefits to liveable levels."

One will certainly end up in even more of an endless cycle of debt if your case manager is telling you to take on more.

In order to be eligible for TAS "cash assets" held by a person can not exceed a prescribed amount. Cash assets as defined in the 2005 Social Security Regulations includes cash and "other assets of the person that can be converted readily into cash". Motor vehicles, caravans and boats worth less than $2000 are excluded from the calculation, as are 'personal effects', however cellphones are not specifically excluded. Nor are student loans, even thought WINZ have attempted to claim this as "cash" in the past.

Later Social Security Regulations added further exclusions, suggesting the TAS is simply poor policy. Its worth noting that following the election National passed another such regulation to exclude ReStart payments.

A history of the special benefit by Advkit Para Legal Services reveals that in 1994 Labour (including Clark, Cullen and Maharey) strongly criticised the decision of the then National Government to restrict the discretionary nature of the special benefit, yet in Government Labour abolished it completely.

While Labour may have raised the issue in the house, in fact it was nothing more than their own right wing Blairite welfare policies coming back to haunt them. Policies that National also supports I might add.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

40,000 hits

This blog clocked up 40,000 hits on 30 January 2009. I started this blog on the 30th of May 2004.

Also did some spring cleaning of the link list. Some more to do but that will do for tonight.


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Israel's blockade of Gaza is counterproductive

Before Israel's dirty disproportionate war on Gaza killed 1300 Palestinians, Israel imposed an economic blockade for a year and a half, refusing to allow fuel, medicines and other essential goods into Gaza. No fuel means no electricity. Food supplies were also affected.

It was in the context of the economic blockade that a minority of Palestinians upped their rocket attacks on Israel - it was an act of desperation.

In November aid agency Oxfam called on world leaders to break Israel's blockade of Gaza, fearing a humanitarian catastrophe.

Israel wished to destablise the elected Hamas government of Gaza. Israel accuses Hamas of launching rocket attacks on Israel.

Yet Israeli actions are only managing to entrench and strengthen the power of Hamas in Gaza. While the following article from the UK Telegraph attempts to play the facile Fatah good; Hamas bad game that appears to fascinate the Western media, it makes some interesting observations.

"In the two weeks since Israel withdrew its soldiers and tanks from the crowded strip of land, inhabited by 1.4 million people, Hamas is deploying a mixture of money, manpower and physical force to restore its kind of order....Hamas has also established almost complete control of private food distribution, using the scores of tunnels along the border with Egypt which have re-opened since the war, and which are now the only source of fresh produce in the markets."

"Thanks in part to an Israeli embargo on anyone moving cash from outside into Gaza, Hamas also has a near monopoly on the currency used in day-to-day transactions. The official banking system is desperately short of paper currency. But Hamas smuggles money through the tunnels from Egypt, distributing it to loyalists and to some of the thousands of supporters who lost their homes or relatives in the Israeli onslaught.

Late last week Ahmed al-Kurdi, the Hamas social affairs minister, personally delivered boxes of cheques totalling $2 million (£1.4 million) to a Hamas tent in the Jebaliya refugee camp. As his aides checked people's identity cards and logged their details on computers, Mr Kurdi handed out 6,000 pre-printed cheques, for different sums, to be cashed at money exchange shops also run by Hamas. With the banks forced to restrict the cash they can give out, the Hamas outlets are thriving - increasing the group's influence even further.

"There is a severe scarcity of cash you can carry in your hand in Gaza," said Mike Bailey, a spokesman for Oxfam. "If Hamas is dispensing cash it will probably make political overtures at the same time and the example of what that means for political power is there for all to see.". Like many aid workers, he is puzzled by the Israeli logic in going to war to crush Hamas, then apparently permitting Hamas to shore up its power by supplying all of Gaza's cash. "It makes the reason for all that destruction by the Israelis all the more perplexing," he said.

So much like the sanctions imposed by the US on Iraq during the 1990s, the economic blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel is not only responsible for great human misery and death, politically it is having the opposite effect to what was supposedly intended. Of course it could be just another facite of Israel's brutal policy of collective punishment - its answer to the decision of the Palestinian people to elect a Hamas government.

Whatever one may think of Hamas, I think it deserves more respect as the democratically elected government of Gaza. If the people of Gaza have functioning political institutions there will be less need to resort to rocket attacks. The Palestinians are not solely to blame - the world bears some responsibility for appeasing Israel and ignoring the rights of the Palestinian people under international law.

Palestinians have faced an illegal military occupation for over 30 years.

When Tony Blair suggests talking to Hamas - this only demonstrates how out of step Israel, the US and the rest of the wing nuts really are.

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