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Peter Jackson’s “Precious”…

28 November 2012 36 comments

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Today was the premiere of the first movie in “The Hobbit” trilogy.

I was not about to comment on todays events. For me, the shine has long since corroded from the Ring Trilogy and the “Hobbit” that came after.

Events surrounding the industrial dispute; the mass hysteria that followed; the vilification of actors who stood with Actor’s Equity; the demonisation of trade unionists; the the carefully crafted manipulation of public hysteria by some very skilled creators of illusion; the actions of National in unilaterally changing employment law – all left a sour taste in my mouth.

Whilst I loved the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy; the talents of actors, technicians, director and producer, and all the other fantastically imaginative craftsmen and woman who contributed to one of the most epic movies of this century –  I can no longer share those same feelings with “The Hobbit”.

As with our fraudulent claim to be “100% Pure”, there is something about “The Hobbit” which is a sham.

Unlike the “Lord of the Rings”, “The Hobbit” is not the product of Kiwi ingenuity. It is the product of back-room deals; media manipulation; and political-corporate connivance.

Have a look at TV3’s report today into the tumultuous  background of  “The Hobbit”, when Hollywood Hell broke loose in our country,

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[click here to direct to TV3 Video]

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Note Peter Jackson’s comment @ 1:27,

We are now being given signs that they [Hollywood producers] are looking very seriously about shifting [the Hobbit].”

Source: Ibid

That was a lie.

We know it was a lie.

We know it was a lie because Peter Jackson admitted it in an email to National’s Economic Development Minister, Gerry Brownlee, on 18 October 2010,

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Sir Peter Jackson told the Government he did not believe an international actors’ boycott would force The Hobbit overseas, emails show.

The message, sent to the office of Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee on October 18, is in stark contrast to comments the film-maker made earlier in the month.

On October 1, he said: “The Hobbit is being punished with a boycott which is endangering thousands of New Zealand jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign income, for no good reason.”

Sir Peter dismissed the idea that movie production was moving overseas because it was cheaper to make films there.

“It’s completely absurd! Eastern Europe is only being considered because a minority group of the New Zealand acting community have invoked union action that has blacklisted our film, making it impossible to shoot in New Zealand.”

But on October 18, Sir Peter said the boycott had nothing to do with the movies potentially moving overseas.

“There is no connection between the blacklist (and it’s eventual retraction) and the choice of production base for The Hobbit,” he wrote.

“What Warners requires for The Hobbit is the certainty of a stable employment environment and the ability to conduct its business in such as way that it feels its $500 million investment is as secure as possible.”

The October 18 email also suggests Sir Peter thought the boycott had been lifted, even though he said in television interviews three days later he was unsure if it had been officially ditched.

Sir Peter declined to comment through a spokesman yesterday.

See: Sir Peter: Actors no threat to Hobbit

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And Fairfax Media reported,

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The email showed Warner Bros wanted ”stability” to film the movies in New Zealand and was worried about ”grey areas” of employment law.

The Government secured the movies in October by an urgent amendment to the law which prevented independent contractors from claiming entitlements as employees, as well as an agreement to increase the tax concession for big screen productions.

The report said the email was signed ”Peter J” – apparently director Sir Peter Jackson – and was sent to the office of Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee who was involved in the negotiations with Warner Bros.
  
It said there was no connection between Actors’ Equity union action against The Hobbit movies and choice of location, which contradicted government statements at the time – which were that Warner Bros was concerned about strife caused by the blacklisting of the movies because of a row over collective pay conditions.

See: Union: Protest did not affect Hobbit decision

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It was all a giant con. And we, as a country, were the ones being conned.

Because three days later, on 21 October 2010, Jackson issued  a Press Release stating,

Next week Warners are coming down to New Zealand to make arrangements to move the production offshore. It appears we cannot make films in our own country even when substantial financing is available.”

See: Warner preparing to take Hobbit offshore – Sir Peter

Peter Jackson knew full it well was unlikely that  Warner Bros would move “The Hobbit”, for several practical, hard-nosed reasons.  Which Jackson duly shared with Gerry Brownlee.

Unfortunately, neither Brownlee nor Jackson shared that information with the rest of the country, and the mounting public hysteria gave John Key and National the ‘mandate’ they needed to act decisively.

The country panicked; and National used the opportunity to play “hero” by saving the day. It was like a Hollywood  scripted movie. (Though, for the life of me, I’m not sure that the “good guys” won.)

In 48 hours, National rammed through legislation amending the law covering all workers in the movie and television entertainment industry. The Bill was introduced on 28 October. It gained Royal Assent on 29 October. The fastest piece of legislation enacted since politicians voted themselves generous superannuation entitlements, late one night, in the 1980s.

See: Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act 2010 – Legislative history

At the stroke of a pen – similar to a Decree issued by a lone despot in some authoritarian regime – National unilaterally changed workers from being employees to sub-contractors.

The resulting change was stark;

  • Employees can negotiate collectively for a collective agreement
  • Sub-contractors cannot
  • Employees had minimum wage; sick pay; holiday pay; appropriate employment/termination protections; etc.
  • Sub-contractors do not.

National got what it wanted; public support through a bit of Union bashing, and preliminary legislative attacks on de-unionisation of the workforce. (See: New industrial relations laws rewrite labour rules)

Warner Bros got what they wanted; more money (courtesy of the taxpayer) and de-unionisation of “The Hobbit” workforce.

Peter Jackson got what he wanted; an irritation out of his life.

In a way, I don’t blame Peter Jackson – despite his masterful manipulation of public opinion and reaffirming (if re-affirmation was ever required) that we can be a nation of sheep.

Peter Jackson is a talented, imaginative artist who can create the most visually stunning images on a screen. He is, in most likelihood, a genius.

Unfortunately, geniuses are often so focused; so obssessed; and so fixated on their work, that they will disregard all others around them. A genius is all-consumed with his work, to the detriment of others.

In this case, Peter Jackson identifies utterly with his projects; immersing himself in childhood fantasies that he now has the power to bring to life – albeit a two-dimensional “life” on the big screen.

In doing so, he swats aside any irritation that might distract him from his work.

Actors Equity was such a distraction, and Jackson used his masterful skills at perception-manipulation  to rid himself of that irritation. He had the power – so he used it.

He’s not evil or tyrannical or nasty.

He’s simply a boy who never quite grew up and realised that he could fulfill all his childhood fantasies.

Unfortunately, in doing so, and like many other obessively-dedicated geniuses before him – he has hurt many people in the process.

Will I go to see “The Hobbit”? I really don’t know.

But if I do, it won’t be the same as “Lord of the Rings”.

The illusion will be broken –  the suspension of disbelief (film makers and writers  will understand what I’m referring to).

Because all the while, there will be the spirit of a little boy who never quite grew up; holding on to his childhood fantasies; and murmuring ‘my precious‘, as he never lets go.

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Additional

Fairfax: Union: NZ actors suffer after dispute

Gordon Campbell: On The Hobbit finale

Fairfax: To save regular earth, kill Hobbit subsidies

Fairfax: Hobbit ‘better deal than Lord of the Rings’ – Key

Previous Related blogposts

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 1. The “Hobbit Law”

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WINZ Privacy for some – but not for others

28 November 2012 5 comments

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Most of us remember this apalling episode of Paula Bennett’s career as Social Welfare minister,

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Full Story

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In 2009, Bennett made public private details of two solo-mothers. She  handed over personal information to the media without the knowledge of the two women, Jennifer Johnston and Natasha Fuller.

The information included each woman’s weekly income from the State, including benefits and  allowances.

Her move was supported by misogynists;  right wing nutjobs; assorted beneficiary bashers; and National’s core constituency of conservative cranks.

Bennett’s actions were roundly condemned by fair-minded New Zealanders who recognised the Minister’s actions as a gross abuse of her power and invasion of their privacy.  No wonder that many who  remembered Rob Muldoon’s style of authoritarian governance likened Bennett’s behaviour to the late, former, Prime Minister.

But Bennett defended her mis-use of Ministerial powers,

If someone is deciding they’re happy to use their case to speak about or against something we are doing, I think it’s fair the full story be told.”

Three years later…

Deputy Chief Executive, Janet Grossman, who had been head-hunted from Britain and paid over $50,000 of taxpayer’s money to re-locate to New Zealand, resigned only eleven months after taking up her role with WINZ,

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Full story

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Despite quitting less than a year into her new job; and despite over $50,000 paid to relocate her to New Zealand;  it is reported that Grossman was paid out $97,000 as some sort of severance pay.

When Labour MP Jacinda Ardern questioned this extraordinary payment in Parliament, this exchange took place with National Minister, Jonathan Coleman,

Jacinda Ardern: Was the only reason she was given for Janet Grossman’s departure in that briefing or information that “her husband has had job opportunities in the UK and she wishes to return back there.”?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Yes.

Jacinda Ardern: Was Janet Grossman paid a termination benefit?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: As you know, $97,000 was allocated across five people who left that year, and there will be no breakdown given, for privacy reasons, of the allocation to any of those five executives.

See: Social Development, Ministry—Resignation of Deputy Chief Executive

Really? Dr Colemnan cited “privacy reasons “?!

Chief executive of  Ministry of Social Development, Brendan Boyle, was reported by Radio New Zealand as stating,

Mr Boyle says there is nothing unusual in paying out someone their entitlements when they resign but he refuses to disclose just what payment Mrs Grossman got, saying to do so would breach her privacy.

See: MSD chief clashes with MP in committee

So let’s get this straight…

Two solo-parents who have done nothing wrong; and their only ‘misdemeanour’ was daring to criticise a politician; have their personal details of WINZ payments splashed all over the country’s media, inviting lunatics to attack and threaten them…

But the payout to a senior WINZ executive  who resigned/sacked/? is suddenly a matter of “privacy”?

The double standards set by National, and their cronies at highest MSD levels, beggars belief. However, it is unsurprising.

National’s reputation for One Rule For Everyone and One Rule For Themselves, is by now fairly well known in this country.

It demonstrates their  complete contempt they have for the rest of us.

This is the sort of arrogance that in other countries leads to authoritarian rule;  jails full of political prisoners; eventual uprisings by the populace; and a bullet through the head of despots.

Here in New Zealand, we do things differently. Here, despots get elected to two terms of government.

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Previous related blogposts

“One law for all” – except MPs

Hypocrisy – thy name be National

Sources

NZ Herald: Bennett gets tough with outspoken solo mums

Fairfax Media: Paula Bennett accused of Muldoon-style bullying

NZ Herald: Work and Income boss quits

NZ Parliament: Social Development, Ministry—Resignation of Deputy Chief Executive

Fairfax Media: Social Development Ministry grilled over security

Radio NZ: MSD chief clashes with MP in committee

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Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key – Update & more questions

28 November 2012 19 comments

Continued from: Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key

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http://fmacskasy.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/reaching-out-300x196.jpg?w=300&h=196

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To re-cap,

Allyson Locke and a handful of other New Zealanders are suffering from Pompe Disease – a terminal condition. Their only hope is an expensive drug – Myozyme – which they cannot afford.

Allyson and her fellow Pompe sufferers have appealed to the Prime Minister for assistance.

They are appealing for equal treatment to breast cancer sufferers,  who gained extra funding for extended herceptin treatment, as part of John Key’s election campaign promise in 2008.

This blogger supports Allyson and her fellow pompe sufferers to plead for mercy from John Key.

Considering that Key and National found over $200 million to support last year’s rugby world cup tournament(Blowouts push public Rugby World Cup spending well over $200m), it is inconceivable that they cannot fund medicine which seven New Zealanders desperately require.

The alternative is death.

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Full Story

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Following on from a previous blogpost (Terminal disease sufferer appeals to John Key) on 12 November, the following exchange of emails between this blogger; John Key’s office; and Tony Ryall, has taken  place.

Email sent to the Prime Minister on 11 November,

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Date: Sun, 11 Nov 2012 17:34:10 -0800 (PST)
From: Frank Macskasy “fmacskasy@yahoo.com”
Subject: A request for mercy
To: John Key “john.key@parliament.govt.nz”
Cc: Allyson

Kia ora Mr Key,

Allyson Lock, has contacted you via your Facebook page. Allyson suffers from  Pompe Disease  a terminal disease, requiring a  medication. The cost of that medication is beyond her means.

Her case is outlined here: http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/11/12/terminal-disease-sufferer-appeals-to-john-key/

Allyson has appealed to Pharmac for funding to treat her and six other New Zealanders who also suffer from this extremely rare condition. Pharmac has rejected her on the grounds of cost and efficacy.

I would like to  remind you that in 2008, one of your election promises was to extend herception from nine weeks to twelve months, even though Pharmac had up to that point been resisting all such requests on the grounds of cost and efficacy. You subsequently won the election and carried through with your pledge to fund herceptin to twelve months.

Allyson is requesting that you offer her, and six others in her position, the same opportunity to treat her condition.

I request that you take her pleas seriously and respond to her request.

Her life is in your hands.

Regards,

-Frank Macskasy

Blogger

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Response from John Key’s office, five days later,

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From: “J Key (MIN)” “J.Key@ministers.govt.nz”
To: Frank Macskasy “fmacskasy@yahoo.com”
Subject: RE: A request for mercy
Date:  Friday, 16 November 2012 3:52 PM

Dear Mr Macskasy

On behalf of the Prime Minister, Rt Hon John Key, I acknowledge your email of 12 November 2012. Please be assured your comments have been noted.

As the issue you have raised falls within the portfolio responsibility of the Minister of Health, Hon Tony Ryall, your email has been forwarded to his office for consideration.

Thank you for taking the time to write to the Prime Minister.

Regards

L Diehl

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Tony Ryall’s response, dated 22 November, and sent via email by his Private Secretary,

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Follow-up email to Tony Ryall,

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Date:Thursday, 22 November 2012 9:41 PM
From: Frank Macskasy “fmacskasy@yahoo.com”
Subject: Pompe Disease sufferers: A request for mercy
To: Tony Ryall “Tony.Ryall@parliament.govt.nz”
Cc: Chris Laidlaw RNZ <sunday@radionz.co.nz>,
    “campbelllive@tv3.co.nz” <campbelllive@tv3.co.nz>,
    Dominion Post <editor@dompost.co.nz>,
    Daily News <editor@dailynews.co.nz>, Daily Post <editor@dailypost.co.nz>,
    Grant Robertson <grant.robertson@parliament.govt.nz>,
    Hutt News <editor@huttnews.co.nz>,
    John Key <john.key@parliament.govt.nz>,
    Jim Mora <afternoons@radionz.co.nz>,
    “Joanna Norris ( DPT)” <joanna.norris@dompost.co.nz>,
    Kim Hill <saturday@radionz.co.nz>,
    “kate.chapman@fairfaxmedia.co.nz” <kate.chapman@fairfaxmedia.co.nz>,
    Listener <editor@listener.co.nz>,
    Morning Report <morningreport@radionz.co.nz>,
    NZ Herald <editor@herald.co.nz>,
    Nine To Noon RNZ <ninetonoon@radionz.co.nz>,
    “news@dompost.co.nz” <news@dompost.co.nz>,
    “news@radionz.co.nz” <news@radionz.co.nz>,
    Otago Daily Times <odt.editor@alliedpress.co.nz>,
    “primenews@skytv.co.nz” <primenews@skytv.co.nz>, Q+A <Q+A@tvnz.co.nz>,
    Southland Times <editor@stl.co.nz>, The Press <letters@press.co.nz>,
    The Wellingtonian <editor@thewellingtonian.co.nz>

Sir,

I am in receipt of your email dated 22 November, regarding Enzyme Replacement Therapy (ERT) for sufferers of Pompe Disease. I understand you have already been in contact with Ms Allyson Lock on this matter.

You state that your reason for not supporting funding for ERT is – and I quote you – that “as a Minister I am prevented by law from intervening in PHARMAC’s decision-making process”.

I refer your attention to the 2008 election campaign where your Party pledged to extend herceptin treatment for breast cancer, from nine weeks to twelve months, even though Pharmac had up to that point been resisting all such requests on the grounds of cost and efficacy.

Post election, after becoming government, you implemented your election promise, and you stated in a press release dated 10 December 2008,

“We are extending funding for Herceptin to allow patients and their doctors to have a choice of a 12 months course. The nine-week treatment option also remains funded and available.”

I refer your attention to the following press releases from yourself and the Prime Minister, announcing additional funding for herception, despite PHARMAC’s initial decision opposing the move;

12-month Herceptin treatment now available

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0812/S00083.htm

Government honours Herceptin promise

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0812/S00082.htm

I have three subsequent questions, which you may be able to clarify;

1. If you are unable to intervene in PHARMAC’s  decision making process – what process did you use to fund herception from nine weeks to twelve months?

2. Where was funding obtained from?

3. Why are you unable to use the same process to fund ERT as you did for Herceptin?

I hope this problem can be resolved with some urgency, as Pompe Disease is terminal, and seven New Zealanders are facing a death sentence unless help is forthcoming.

Regards,

-Frank Macskasy

Blogger

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Response from Tony Ryall’s office on  26 November,

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From: “Nicole Hine (MIN)”   “Nicole.Hine@parliament.govt.nz”
To: “fmacskasy@yahoo.com” “fmacskasy@yahoo.com”
Subject: RE: Pompe Disease sufferers: A request for mercy
Date: Monday, 26 November 2012 9:14 AM

Dear Mr Macskasy

On behalf of Hon Tony Ryall, Minister of Health, thank you for your further email of 22  November 2012 about ERTs.

The Minister has asked Ministry of Health officials to advise him on the matters you have raised.  Please be aware that due to the large volume of correspondence we receive, a personal reply to your letter may take some weeks.

Kind regards

Nicole Hine

Private Secretary – Health

Office of Hon Tony Ryall

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Let us hope that common sense, mixed with compassion, prevails.

This issue will be updated when new information, or events, come to hand.

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Sources

John Key: Government honours Herceptin promise (10 Dec 2008)

Tony Ryall: 12-month Herceptin treatment now available (10 Dec 2008)

Additional

Drug trial gives hope to Pompe sufferer (1 Dec 2012)

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