Will the Arms Industry allow it ?

Perception is everything

Has the Trump / Kim summit in Singapore changed anything ? Yes and No.

Trump is still and even more so the embarrassing crazy buffoon and as such rich fodder for US comedians. They just have to cut and paste together his public statements and the audiences are cracking up. And for good reason. In any autocratic regime humour has always been the best medicine.

trump-kim-summit-nk-tv-02-ht-jc-180614_hpMain_4x3_992And Kim is still the murderous ruthless leader of a regime with an unparalleled record of almost genocidal Human Rights violations.

Their armies are still facing each other across the 38th Parallel. As before it would take only moments to put the fingers on the trigger.

On the other hand everything has changed.   –   The perception has changed.

The murderous dictator emerged re-branded as a very smart, strong, trustworthy leader. “When he speaks his people sit up and listen.” We even adopt his language calling our long-long standing annual joint military exercises together with our South Korean allies “provocative” !

On the other side the “dotard” Trump morphed into “President Donald J. Trump”. Even “Supreme Leader”. Eric Talmadge describes the carefully crafted total North Korean makeover of Trump.

The physical world is still the same but the perception has been turned upside down. Or is it the other way round and we for the first time are told what the situation really is and always has been.
Western pundits are still sceptical. But they reluctantly will have to accept that Trump and Kim instead of changing the physical reality in a verifiable way have agreed to change the narrative. This was so much easier and as effective as perception becomes/is reality. We might not realise it but a switch has been thrown in our minds.

Trump declared on his return that North Korea no longer posed a threat to the US and I absolutely believe him. Why would Kim threaten the US – of course they were always in the defensive – after Trump guaranteed his safety and ordered the end of the US aggressive position ever since a truce in 1953.

Nobel Peace Price Winner Trump

Fast forward. May be two years from now when Trump for reasons of his re-election will need another foreign policy coup.
He and his friend Putin he always has shown admiration for decide to have a big media event / summit meeting. It would be hosted for logistical and historical reason in Reykjavik.
There Trump to the surprise of everyone would recognise the Crimea as legitimate part of Russia. That would actually be historically and according to international law correct. The people of the Crimea have in a referendum overwhelmingly (well over 60%) decided to again join Russia.
Then as parting gift Trump would declare an end to all “provocative” joint exercises on the Russian border. That said he would declare to the American public that Russia did not (any longer) pose a threat to the US. And again I would absolutely believe him.
Russia unlike Communism has never been aggressive towards the West or specifically the USA. They after all sold them Alaska. After the end of Communism it was the West not Russia that acted aggressively. Against the promises NATO expanded right to the Russian border and the next to join was going to be the Ukraine.

Again the summit would just change the perception and turn Russia from the enemy to a friend. That is what Russia had hoped for all along when they in the 1990s wholeheartedly embraced neo-liberal capitalism.

The two of them should have no difficulty as history would be on their side. The Nobel Peace Price shared by Putin and Trump would be a certainty. I would be all for it regardless of my utter distaste of Trump if not both of them.

Future or Fiction

Why is it that I suspect that this peaceful future might just turn out to be fiction ? Was it not Trump who said during his election campaign that he wanted to make friends with Russia. That it would be better to be friends than enemies as with every other country. And here exactly lies the rub.

He was pilloried by Republicans and Democrats alike for the only sensible thing he ever uttered. Being seen as “soft” on Russia is the worst political crime you can commit in Washington and other Western capitals for that matter. It challenges the foundations of over seventy years of US imperial policy. We have been raised on the Western anti-communist propaganda that Capitalism was good and could do no wrong and justified all means. Communism was evil and had to be fought and destroyed at all costs. Many wars and proxy wars have been fought over which we today can only shake our heads. After Korea think of Vietnam or the continuing economic war against Cuba.
After Communism in the former Soviet Union disappeared the propaganda was switched to anti-Russian. This despite the fact that Russia in all her history never threatened but instead was numerous times invaded by the West. Russia ended the Soviet time military alliance the Warsaw Pact and let non-Russian Soviet republics become independent. All the while NATO became ever more expansionist and aggressive.

The reason for this continuation of the “cold” war after it actually ended is easy to find. There is money to be made in war, heaps of money. The Western most of all US arms industry which underpins the capitalist economy will not let go of it. Swords will not be turned into ploughshares.

11011632_10152957599211680_7027628487775666529_nA friend and political correspondent from the North made an interesting comment when we discussed the outbreak of peace after Singapore. He said that Trump having been under constant attack from the opposition and civil society now had to watch his back. Now he would risk been taken down by his own warmongering side.

Trump pulled off peace on the Korean peninsula. He should pull it off in Europe. The only question is :

Will the Arms Industry allow it ?

by Dr Hans B. Grueber

 

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How Bizarre

Don’t get me wrong. The Singapore summit between Trump and Kim was a very good thing. You only have to look back over the last year. North Korea conducted nuclear and intercontinental missile tests. The US considered pre-emptive military strikes. Both engaged in increasingly belligerent talk up to comparing the size of their nuclear buttons. Now the two seem to be the best of pals. If that is not a great deal better then what we had before then what is.

All Show no Substance

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Evan Vucci/AP/Shutterstock (9710094b) Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un. U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella resort on Sentosa Island in Singapore Trump Kim Summit, Singapore, Singapore - 12 Jun 2018

But then you read the full very brief text the two have signed. There is nothing new but the commitment to return the remains of POW/MIA (prisoners of war/missing in action). In other words the whole show was just that.
True to his history and style as a reality TV star Trump was just playing to his grass-roots supporters. His propaganda department having it’s eyes firmly fixed on ratings. His daughter in law and chief advisor to his re-election committee Lara Trump send an invite to a “Trump writing history” victory party and re-election campaign event in the battleground state of Minnesota already the day before the meeting. Of course Trump told us beforehand that he would suss out Kim Jong Un within the first minute by “my touch my feel”. If the writers of a TV series like The West Wing  would write that stuff they would be called crazy. But that’s the world we live in.
The real dark side is that the USA and the world are run by a criminal. As New York ex mayor and real self-made billionaire Michael Bloomberg famously said about Donald J. Trump : “I am a New Yorker. And I know a con when I see one.”
Sadly the uninformed Trump supporters of Minnesota who “love Trump for his cruelty towards racial  minorities and the way he sticks his thump in the eyes of ‘elites’ (Nobel Prize Winner Paul Krugman)” will blindly lap it up and shout “make America great again”. Serious historians and political commentators in the media will again be drowned out by the cries of “fake media”. All exactly according to Trump’s song book. “Why do I constantly attack, malign and insult the media? So nobody will believe them when they write anything negative about me”.

Obviously Kim played Trump like a fiddle. He knew his vanity and desperate desire to appear as a Statesman and deal maker on the world stage. The Trump sales pitch after the event gets even more crazy. The best round-up so far was given by Stephen Colbert.

But will this make the world a better place long term? To get closer to answering this pivotal question we have to look at the wider picture of Trump’s foreign policy initiatives.

How Bizarre

Two images taken within days of each other tell the story. First the G7 meeting in Toronto.

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This picture is worth more than a thousand words. For you who haven’t seen it before it does not depict a petulant toddler in the naughty corner. It shows the US President and so called “leader of the free world” surrounded by the America’s longest and closest friends and allies after he declared (trade) war against them.

The next one shows the “great leaders” of the USA and North Korea that were for over 65 years mortal enemies.

dpatopbilder - 12.06.2018, Singapur: Donald Trump (r), US-Präsident, und Kim Jong Un, Machthaber von Nordkorea, begrüßen sich zu Beginn ihres Treffens auf der Insel Sentosa. Foto: Evan Vucci/AP/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

The leader of the free world gives the thumbs up to the brutal murderous dictator of a tiny country which suppresses it’s starving population. But it literally bombed the US president to the negotiation table. Trump in a sit-down interview with George Stephanopoulos asked if he trusted Kim replied that the North Korean people “loved” their leader. The same leader he called a few months ago “little rocket man”.

The two images are combined in Rod Emmerson’s cartoon in the NZ Herald.

SCCZEN_130618NZHcartoonRE_master
No wonder that all observers of the events of the last few days are scratching their heads.

To top it all off Trump gave Kim a parting gift that wasn’t even in the agreement but North Korea long wanted. He cancelled the joint military exercises with South Korea the annual war games aimed at the North. He even adopted the North Korean language calling them “provocative”.

Is the world a safer place ?

Undoubtedly as said at the outset talking is better that tweeting insults. Shaking hands is better that shooting and firing missiles.
The great irony many of Trump’s critics do not seem to see is the possibility that out of the crazy acts of a crazy person something positive might emerge. Like two negatives making a positive.
Trump is destroying the old world order, which might actually be a good thing. Globalisation despite all the mantra of the tiny minority which benefited has not delivered the promised land of milk and honey.
After the collapse of communism the cold war, which was sold to us as essentially a war of two ideologies Capitalism vs Communism has not ended. May be Trump achieves what others have not even tried. Bringing Russia into the fold as the Russians expected after they embraced neo-liberal doctrine wholeheartedly in the 1990s. May be he takes the lead to acknowledge that the Crimean people have spoken to be again part of Russia. It has been for hundreds of years bar the time when within the Soviet Union it was gifted to the Ukraine without the people being asked. This would take away an excuse for ongoing Western aggression and vilification of Russia.

However will the arms industry allow it ?

The answer to the question if the world will be a better Place in the long run is a definite may be.

The madness of war games has stopped on the Korean peninsula. In the meantime despite Trump’s sensible words towards Russia in Toronto American and NATO tanks are rolling towards the Russian border in the Baltics for 30,000 men joint exercises.

How Bizarre

by Dr Hans B. Grueber
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Why waste time discovering the truth ?

The West (USA) wants War

Or is it just the arms industry ? Or are Donald and Trump and Theresa May engaging in threatening war talk just to distract from their domestic problems ?
American demand of it’s NATO allies has been for many years to increase their defence spending to 2% of their respective GDPs. The US don’t have any problem with that as they already outspend the rest of the world. At present 647 Billion US dollars is more then four times as much as nearest rival China and almost 14 times as much as Russia. They spend more than the next 12 biggest defence spenders combined (see Defense spending by Country). The US arms industry is the main beneficiary of all these billions. Imagine their windfall if NATO is pressed to follow suit and more then double their spending.
To justify this to the taxpayers you need an enemy and a threat.

Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall the West became the aggressor against Russia. First they extended NATO up to the Russian border against promises given to President Gorbachev when he agreed to the re-unification of Germany. Then the CIA financed and staged a coup against the democratically elected pro-Russian president of the Ukraine. This led to civil war in which the West supported the West Ukraine regime with fascist pedigree  and Russia supported her brethren in the East. Result so far was Russia accepted Crimea back into her fold after a decisive referendum. Still Western propaganda calls it an annexation.

Right now central European NATO countries are planning to upgrade their roads and bridges to be able to move tanks and heavy equipment faster towards the East. They haven’t given it the code-name “Unternehmen Barbarossa” yet – Hitler’s code-name for the invasion of the Soviet Union. It is not hard to imagine how the Russians must feel about it.

A letter to the editor of the NZ Herald perfectly sums up the absurdity of the situation :

Scan
War with Russia is however not likely. Thankfully Russia has enough nukes to make a war un-winnable.
That danger lies with Israel threatening war against Iran. Benjamin Netanyahu : “We want war with Iran rather sooner than later”. This however is nothing new. Israel’s existence and expansion is based on terror, ethnic cleansing and war. Israel is always getting away with it as it has the backing of the USA which has used its veto power in the UN Security Council to protect Israel more than all other permanent members on any other issue.

The new really frightening dimension is Donald Trump and the religious fundamentalist lunatics he has surrounded himself with. These are the people who want war in the Middle East. They want Armageddon to give them – the Righteous – one-way tickets to heaven. The Christian equivalent of the Taliban. The opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem is only the first step. The NZ Herald on 16.May 18 had a very scary article about these

“HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE”.

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Why waste time discovering the truth

Countries especially democracies which want to go to war have a problem. They have to get the people on board. This is nothing new. That is what propaganda is for. Propaganda is by definition the opposite of the Truth. We have to be fed lies the bigger the better. The majority of people are too ignorant or disinterested in (global) politics that they are not able or willing to recognise the difference.
There is a history of lies which made us go to war. Just two recent examples are the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which led to the full-scale Vietnam war and the Weapons of Mass Destruction lie, which led the US and Britain into the Iraq war. Both ended as military and political disasters which cost millions of lives.

However the internet and social media lifted the propaganda game to a whole new level. Now it is so easy to spread a lie to millions of people instead of just the guy next to you at the pub. Media as the gatekeepers with journalists as fact checkers are circumvented so lies become unchecked and unchallenged. When the lie is out there the media fail in their duty to discover the truth.

I recently picked up a David Baldacci novel titled “the whole truth“. I keep going back to the front to check if it is really copyrighted 2008 . The first page just says :

Why waste time discovering the truth
when you can so easily create it  ?

Spoiler alert : A video clip is produced allegedly showing a (non existing) Russian atrocity. Anonymous distribution via the internet spreading like wild fire. Mainstream Media repeating the accusation without any fact checking. Mass anti-Russian hysteria and protest. Russia’s protestations fall on deaf ears. Behind it all vested financial interests of  an US arms manufacturer.

Fast forward to 2018.

– Amateurish assassination attempt with Soviet era nerve agent against ex-Russian spy living for ten years in Salisbury after prisoner exchange. British government immediately blames Russian president without a shred of evidence. Tit for tat diplomat expulsion. Word wide anti-Russian hysteria driven by mainstream media without any fact checking. Calls for increase in defence spending. After months British police reveal that they have no suspect.

–  Video clip released by the infamous “White Helmets” (see John Pilger) with the claim that is was a gas attack by the Syrian government. The “White Helmets” are a government funded ex-British military outfit operating in Syria claiming to be an aid organisation bona fide aid organisations have never heard off. Syrian government denies any gas attack. No independent verification. Robert Fisk, one of the most respected Western journalist living in the Middle East for decades arrives at the scene a couple of days later talks to hospital staff and people living in the area and finds no evidence of a gas attack. One doctor is quoted :
There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night – but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a “White Helmet”, shouted “Gas!”, and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.”
But you see what you want to see. The West (US, Britain, France) have already launched retaliatory bombing raids. Never mind that the UN are still investigating the claims.

 –  The most audacious and dangerous piece of anti- Iranian propaganda (see Washington Post report and footage) was delivered by prime minister Netanyahu of Israel. A state which secretly developed nuclear weapons and still denies their existence and unlike Iran is not party to any nuclear arms treaty and does not allow any international inspectors. Subsequently the Israeli occupiers of the Syrian Golan Heights were warned to go to their bunkers and some rockets duly landed on that occupied territory. This was then given as a reason for Israel’s attack on Iranian positions in Syria.

The US wanted war with Iran for a long time (must watch: Anissa Naouai). They used proxies like Saddam Hussein’s before to wage war on Iran.
How long will it take for Israel to attack Iran most likely with nuclear weapons and the backing of Washington’s Horsemen of the Apocalypse ? Western propaganda is doing overtime to prepare us. The Media perpetuate the propaganda instead of checking facts and finding the truth..

Why waste time discovering the truth
when you can so easily create it  ?

by Dr. Hans B. Grueber
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The Cossacks are still dancing

Dancing Cossacks’ History

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“The National Party’s 1975 ‘dancing Cossacks’ advertisement is the most  infamous piece of election advertising in New Zealand’s political history. National was trying to turn voters against the Labour government by suggesting that the latter’s recently introduced compulsory superannuation scheme might lead to Soviet-style Communism. It did the trick too, helping sweep Robert Muldoon’s National Party into power in a landslide victory.”

You would think that this ancient history has no relevance any more today. Think again !

History of the Bogeyman

Anti-communism and the resulting cold war got only really started after World War II.
After the expansion of Communism/Socialism into the the middle of Europe and the Korean war anti-communism became the dogma of Western ideology and policy.

I grew up during that period and counted my lucky stars to live in the British and not the Soviet occupied part of Germany. Millions of Germans who had fled from the advancing Soviet army  and many more who later moved from the Soviet occupied zone later East Germany to the West were accommodated and integrated. We heard all the horror stories.
We also witnessed first hand the failings of the system in East Germany where the Soviet Union extracted reparations in the form of industrial machinery, railway tracks and anything else valuable, which could be moved to the East. In the West the Allies had learned from the Versailles Treaty and poured millions of Marshall Plan dollars into West Germany to build it up as a bulwark against the Communist threat.
I studied at the American funded “Free” University in West Berlin after the flood of escapees was stemmed by the wall. Still people risked their lives to cross into the West. I cheered President Kennedy delivering his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech. I took personal risks to support my East Berlin friends who eventually all ended up in the West.
I am not starry eyed about Communism or regimes like the Soviet Union. In other words I am as far from a Putin apologist as you can get.

However I never stopped thinking independently and developed a mental detector for propaganda not just communist but also Western .

Propaganda Detector

The first thing I became sceptical of was the propaganda driving the cold war arms race. The German word was “Nachrüstung” meaning catching up in the arms race with the Soviet Union magically always being ahead like the fairytale hedgehog ahead of the hare. How could it be that a country and system, which couldn’t feed it’s people properly with a 10 year waiting list for a crappy car while we walked into a show room to pick the best was beating us all the time ?
I also never believed the “weapons of mass destruction” propaganda leading the world into an unjustified war of aggression against Iraq in 2003. The UN weapons inspectors had been monitoring Iraq for years and did not find anything because nothing was there. But Messrs Bush and Blair had itchy trigger fingers.
I am generally sceptical of the “intelligence” services. They are professionally secretive and proven liars who’s interest it is to overstate any real or perceived threat. You will never in a million years get a report from them saying that the dangers has decreased and we can safely cut their budget and staff to spend the money on more worthwhile causes. Which brings me to the collapse of the Soviet Union and Communism after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1889.

Peace Dividend

The hope was that after the end of the cold war and the former communist countries all adopting Western style neo-liberal policies there would be a peace dividend. Meaning that we could cut defence budgets. No such luck. The defence and “intelligence” establishment and the arms industry are to powerful to allow it. All they needed was a new bogeyman. Easiest to resurrect the old one in the form of Russia the main leftover from the former Soviet Union.
Now Russia was painted as threatening and expansionist even if the opposite was true. It had just shrunk to its core releasing about a dozen states into independence. It was the Western Alliance in the form of NATO and the European Union which expanded their territory towards the Russian border against assurances given when the Soviet Union agreed to the re-unification of Germany.

Resurrection of the Bogeyman

Lets just look at some of the latest “crimes” Russia is accused of :

Ukraine/Crimea
The fact of the matter is that a democratically elected (pro-Russian) President was overthrown by the CIA financed and supported “Orange Revolution” with the West dangling the carrot of EU and NATO membership. This led to a civil war. The Russians in the East hadn’t forgotten the western Ukrainians doing the dirty work in the concentration camps and betraying the Russian partisans to the Nazis. Russia supported their brethren while the West supports anyone anti-Russian.
The Crimea had been part of Russia for centuries. It was given from one soviet republic to another, the Ukraine, only in 1956 under Soviet Union leader Khrushchev. He came from the Ukraine. The people did not have a say in it. Now Russia offered the Crimea the chance to return to Russia. A referendum was held and the  population voted overwhelmingly in favour. No surprise as the majority are Russian. The Western propaganda keeps calling this an annexation.

Meddling in the last US presidential elections
The world renown American thinker Noam Chomsky said about the “meddling” that if everything the Russians were accused of was true the rest of the world would still be rolling around laughing considering how the USA habitually meddle in other countries’ elections and policies as a matter of course. The American hypocrisy is mind boggling.

Poison attack on UK soil
It was all to easy to identify the villain as if he had left his fingerprints and DNA all over the crime scene. Russian President Vladimir Putin seen here after his latest resounding election victory.

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All we know is that a nerve agent was used, which was invented during the cold war by Russia and is likely to have been produced in a Russian lab. The rest is conjecture speculation and assumption. Like someone left a Kalashnikov at the crime scene so Putin must have pulled the trigger or at least ordered the murder. The assumption being that in the largest county in the world nothing happens without Putin ordering or at least knowing about it
There are international treaties with protocols how to deal with acts of chemical/biological warfare. In the initial please explain ultimatum the British government at least had the option of how the Russians lost control of the material. This left open the alternative that some unauthorised individual got hold of the agent and conducted the attack. The victim who had betrayed hundreds of his comrades for money had made enough enemies while the Russian government had let him go to Britain years ago in a prisoner exchange.
However before the international investigators had even arrived the culprit was already condemned.
In any crime investigation the key questions is motive. Who benefits from the attack ? So far I can only see one which is British Prime Minister Theresa May and her beleaguered government. They have soared in the polls. I cannot see any motive for Putin to try to have a man killed just months out from the Football World Cup the most prestigious international sporting event ever to be held in Russia. Today he mocked the Western outrage by saying that the man would be dead instead of in hospital if it would be a Russian government attack.
On the other hand Theresa May said that “There is no alternative conclusion”. The “There Is No Alternative” neo-liberal mantra – a blatant logic defying lie – has been driving us all mad for over thirty years.

The main beneficiaries of the media outrage was identified this morning on National Radio when the General Secretary of NATO and old cold war warrior Jens Stoltenberg declared that as part of the alliance’s reaction defence spending was to increase and troops moved to the Russian border. The military-industrial complex  are rubbing their hands in glee.

What has New Zealand got to do with it ?

Unfortunately we are part of the “Five Eyes” international spy network of the old English speaking imperial world. We have to do what our spy masters tell us and tow the line. We still try to curry favours with the colonial motherland conveniently forgetting that we did not get any support when the Rainbow Warrior was bombed in Auckland harbour. That was a proven clear cut terrorist attack by a foreign government and not just suspicion and accusation. The British hypocrisy stinks to high heaven now demanding our support.

The only one holding out for a while trying to maintain some independent foreign policy was our foreign minister Winston Peters.

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But even the ‘New Zealand First’ leader could not withstand the pressure for very long. The relentless propaganda machine is to strong. It makes sure that in our minds

The Cossacks are still dancing.

By  Dr. Hans B. Grueber
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Lead by a Brain Amputee

No cigar for guessing who we are talking about. How could we be the only ones not talking about Him ?

Humans are Social Animals

We humans are an advanced kind of social animal. After millennia of evolution we are not so much driven by natural instincts anymore to keep up the social structures on which we depend for our survival. We have developed social and cultural norms to form societies. These differ as much as they have the basic principle in common. They make it possible for us to live together peacefully by creating cohesion and conformity.

I, sometimes regarded as eccentric, would never have thought that I would praise conformity as the essential glue of human society. However without it society could not function. Our survival depends on it. Just think of the simple rule we all have to conform to, which is to all drive on the same side of the road. If someone does not conform and drives the wrong way down a busy motorway the consequences are often deadly.

Rules, conventions and the trust we all have to have that they are followed are essential to the social and economic system. If we could not be confident that a hotel room we have booked is there for us when we arrive and the credit card company would keep its promise of payment on our behalf travel and tourism would all but grind to a halt. If we all decided to default on our debt the economy as we know it would collapse.

Our political system also has a complex set of rules all players have to adhere to and which often have to be enforced to protect the system. And the most basic is that all participants in the democratic process have to accept the result.

One Asocial Animal

Here is where the 45th president of the USA Donald J. Trump comes in.

HEMPSTEAD, NY - SEPTEMBER 26: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to the media in the spin room as wife, Melania Trump (R) looks on during the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University on September 26, 2016 in Hempstead, New York. The first of four debates for the 2016 Election, three Presidential and one Vice Presidential, is moderated by NBC's Lester Holt. (Photo by Michael Bocchieri/Getty Images)

This man – not talking about mental age here – has as far as the records show almost made a virtue out of breaking all the rules. One could call him socially dysfunctional.

This self declared “very very smart person” was born into privilege and wealth. Business commentators have calculated that he would be much richer now than he claims to be if he had put his inheritance into a modest bank savings account. His business career is littered with bankruptcies. He is known for not or underpaying his contractors and suppliers. He tricked gullible people into enrolling into Trump “University” and recently had to pay $ 25 million US to the cheated students to settle the lawsuit. He is the only candidate in many decades to not publish his tax return. He refused as president to divest himself from his conflicting business interests or put them at least into a blind trust. Through his businesses he personally receives benefits from foreign powers in breach of the US constitution.

Self made billionaire and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg summed Trump up as a con artist: “I am a New Yorker and I know a con when I see one.”

In regard to his personal “private” life he is bragging about breaking all the social norms of basic human decency. He is a self-confessed womanizer who’s greatest thrill was to sleep with the wives of his “friends” and to humiliate them with secretly recorded phone calls. He claims to sexually harass and assault women as of right as a celebrity. “Grab them by the pussy” dismissing  it as locker room talk.

In the political sphere breaking all the rules is his trademark, which helped him win the presidency against all odds. In the first national televised primary debate with candidates on the stage he was the only one to refused to say that he would accept the result and support the winning candidate if it wasn’t him. Everyone watching and commentating was aghast. But with this he grabbed all the headlines and the media were lapping it up.The rest is history. And we could go on and on and on.

Amazingly none of this was in any way hidden. The American people knew the facts and did vote for him not despite but because of them. He was called a bomb thrower (Bloomberg). And they wanted to lob a bomb into government and the Washington establishment – “the swamp” – by electing a rogue maverick. Normal society would put socially dysfunctional people in the Big House (prison) not the White House.

Other Social Animals

Humans are not the only social animals. We find very sophisticated social structure among insects like Bees and Ants. Others have more basic survival strategies like swarming birds and school fish who stick tightly together seeking safety in numbers.

We in New Zealand are familiar with the herd instinct in sheep, which makes farming them in great numbers possible. If you are old enough to remember the dog show on prime time television you know that one rogue sheep not following the heard makes the task impossible even for the best dog.

This reminds us of an interesting experiment with school fish, which move in tight swarms randomly without obvious reason for directions other than sticking tightly together.
Scientists located the part of the fish’s brain where the herd instinct is located and disabled – sic amputated – its social funti0n to see what would happen to that individual back in the swarm. Not surprisingly the brain amputated individual was totally unfazed by the moving swarm. It swam confidently in one direction independently from the others.
The surprise was that the individual did not end up all on its own and vulnerable but the swarm, which before moved in random directions, started to follow the individual confidently giving the direction. The brain amputated individual became the leader of the swarm.

Question

The parallel to the fish experiment is striking. Trump appears to be the human equivalent of the brain amputated swarm fish.

An unpredictable maverick can also make the right move. At the moment it looks like – against all political wisdom – he is going rogue on the all powerful gun lobby to introduce at least some measure of gun control .

The question remains. We are not swarm fish. Why on earth would we choose to be
lead by a brain amputee.

By Dr. Hans B. Grueber
Posted in politics, Society | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

False Prophet – False Economy

Almost an Obituary

New Zealand’s opposition leader and former short-time Prime Minister and long-time  Minister of Finance Bill English is resigning from Parliament.

Prime_Minister_Bill_EnglishMost of the comments read almost like an obituary even if English is in his fifties and will have another career ahead of him.  “De mortuis nihil nisi bonum”  (“Of the dead, [say] nothing but good”).
Simon Wilson in yesterday’s NZ Herald was a very commendable exception when he found English wanting as “the National party leader who wasn’t”.

The Prime Minister has her famous positivity as an excuse to find kind words for her former opponent. She treats him as – at least politically – deceased and sticks to the above social norm to say nothing but good about the dead. At this time of ‘mourning’ with the  parliamentary valedictory speech ritual still to unfold she wisely does not want to rain on his parade. She might sense correctly that the country does not want to be reminded that it was English who less than half a year ago almost successfully derailed her electi0n campaign with a bare faced lie about a twelve billion dollar hole in Labour’s budget plans. 44 % of voters didn’t seem to mind blatant lying either as long as it was done by the Tories who see themselves as  born to rule (see Bryan Gould in the same edition of the NZ Herald).

However I must admit that it always irks me when people/politicians who have created an image of themselves as down to earth honest “Southern Men” lie, cheat and deceive like the rest of them. It is called hypocrisy. And it especially irks me when the mainstream (neo-liberal) media, which seem to be part of the same tribe, perpetuate the false image of the honest catholic boy and Southern family man against all the evidence. These commentators and editorials conveniently forget that it was English who over years fleeced the taxpayer out of tens of thousands of dollars claiming accommodation benefits he was not entitled to and had to pay it back.
And then there was the affair around the successor in his old Southland electorate Todd Barclay. English still backed him when he knew about his despicable criminal actions and paid a substantial six figure amount of taxpayers’ dollars as hush money.
And there is under his leadership the classical Tory dirty trick of illegally leaking potentially damaging information about a political opponent at the height of the election campaign. The leaking of Winston Peters’ superannuation overpayment killed any prospect of English hanging on to the premiership right there.

I do not take pleasure of kicking someone who is down or at least has thrown in the towel. English if he is not the lying, cheating, deceiving politician otherwise seems to be a nice enough bloke with a wonderful family and I wish him well. My issue is with the media and their bias.

False Prophet – False Economy

Where the media coverage gets really irksome and dangerous is their perpetuation of the myth of the great helmsman of the economy. He allegedly steered the country successfully through the dangerous economic storm of the global financial crises of  2008 onwards with a steady hand.

First let’s not forget that English came into politics from treasury as a disciple and false prophet of the new dogma . The ideas he preached and practised were responsible for the global financial crisis in the first place.

As far as his steady hands are concerned they were shaking when the whole neo-liberal dogma collapsed around him in 2008. It was exposed as the legendary emperor’s new clothes. To give his hand the appearance of being steady he had to sit on them, which he did for his tenure as Minister of Finance.
The only thing he did was to bail out his rich South Island farmer mates to the tune of over one billion dollars of taxpayers’ money when the government accepted South Canterbury Finance into a deposit protection scheme at a time when they shouldn’t have as the company was already on very shaky grounds.

Now let’s look at English’s track record over nine years of the National Party government.
They inherited a very healthy balance sheet from Labour,which had produced nine years of surpluses plus substantial contributions to the (Cullen) retirement fund.
When the global financial crisis hit in 2008 New Zealand was in the very fortunate position that its effects were relatively small as our banking/finance system was sound with only minor exceptions as the before mentioned South Canterbury Finance. However our neo-liberal media still accept the global financial crisis as an excuse for all the National government’s problems.
Since it took office contributions to the retirement fund and the incentives to the Kiwi Saver scheme stopped. The government debt increased from about 20 to over 60 billion dollars. They managed their first surplus only in their last year in office by grossly underfunding health, education and social welfare to name only a few. Increased spending only went into the prison industry including a failed privatisation project.

Don’t mention child poverty, environmental degradation, Auckland traffic gridlock and the housing crisis, which English could not even bring himself to acknowledge.

The much touted growth in GDP, which is a really silly measure of the economic and other well-being of a country, was only achieved by injecting increasing numbers of immigrants into the economy. This works like a drug addiction. We cannot stop as long as we are fixated on growth.

In the meantime under neo-liberal policies we slid down into a low wage economy where people work two or three jobs and still rely on food banks. Last year the handing out of food parcels increased by 12% while landlords and utilities and their shareholders are creaming it. This led to no discernible growth in productivity the real measure of economic health.

All the while the wealth and income gap between the top 1% and the rest has increased exponentially.

neo IThe handling of the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake is also mention as one of his achievements. Just don’t talk to the people of Christchurch who after seven years are still struggling to have their claims sorted.

Bill English claims as his main achievement fiscal prudence and a small surplus at the end. He got it by underfunding. Not paying teachers enough to keep them in the profession and risking the education of the next generation, not paying enough in the health sector or for infrastructure to name only a few.

Then I read today’s letter to the editor viewing “Bill’s tenure as the most beneficial and caring for the average taxpayer and the county’s economy as a whole of any finance minister of the past 20 years“. That person might be a well to do taxpayer but obviously has no children at school, doesn’t like to swim safely in our rivers, never needs hospital treatment nor tries to get into Auckland staying put enjoying the view in Muriwai.

Bill’s recipe is akin to not maintaining your house or having your car serviced but pay heaps more for repairs later. My grandfather would have called that False Economy.

by Dr Hans B. Grueber

PS: Is there hope under the new government ? I am afraid very little. We have another neo-liberal finance minister.  He put on the “straitjacket” (Shamubeel Eaqup as quoted by Brian Rudman) of the Labour/Green self imposed fiscal responsibility rules. They require the government to stay in surplus. We are seeing a caretaker government for, wait for it, Neo-liberalism.

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The 1% are fighting back – Resist !

Jacinda watch your back !

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First the attack on the electoral system

Before the final votes were even counted the defenders of the status quo had already started attacking MMP. Their discontent was the fact that under proportional representation the biggest party being National does not automatically form the government. A lot has happened since the following article of mine (in excerpt) was published on 3 October 2017. I tried to put the record straight about our electoral system we have voted for over the last 25 years not once, not twice but three times.

Hans Grueber: Nothing says the largest party has moral right to govern
• Hans Grueber was a campaigner for MMP at the 1992-93 referendums.

“The mechanism how the parties in Parliament decide who will form the government is often misunderstood.
Some think the party with the most votes and seats should be able to form the government. Anything else they think is undemocratic especially when a much smaller party is in a position to decide the outcome and might not choose the biggest party.
However, the whole purpose of a proportional system like MMP is that the government needs the support of the majority of the house, which represents the majority of the voters. 
It does not matter who is the strongest party if it does not get the majority of the votes and seats. In this election National on preliminary results got (only) 46 per cent of the votes, well shy of a majority and therefore has no mandate to govern.
It does not matter if the majority is reached by one, two, three or any number of parties as long as they together represent the majority of the voters. That is why a proportional system is regarded as the most democratic. Majority rules.

There is nothing undemocratic about the fact that the voters have decided not to give one party an absolute majority but spread their votes among four parties in the clear expectation that these parties would have to compromise and work together to form a coalition to reach a majority in Parliament.

The other reason for misconceptions looks more like deliberate misinformation by people who want to achieve their favourite outcome.

The “moral authority” of the biggest party is one of those notions spread by people who would like to see a National government returned. There is no moral authority whatsoever, all that counts are numbers, which have to add up to the magic number of 61, the majority in the house.

As for a “constitutional convention” that the biggest party should have the first crack at negotiating a coalition deal, New Zealand does not have a (written) constitution. If in the past the party with the most votes and seats formed the government it is purely the result of it having a better chance of reaching the magic number of 61.
It is however perfectly fine and democratic if that number is reached without the biggest party.

In summery there are no valid moral, constitutional or electoral arguments for Winston to turn right rather than left. All they do is show the bias of the people making them.”

Then the attack on the outcome

The media created hysteria about the time it took. However the entire process forming the new coalition government was actually conducted at break neck speed. See the following graph comparing the time with other proportional representation countries :

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We expected from all the polls before the election one politician/party to be decisive. Winston Peters skilfully kept us guessing, second guessing, third guessing. The media fell for it making us believe that there was even a chance that after all the campaigning for change he might back the old tired National government for a fourth term. That was never going to happen as the comparison of the policy platforms pointed to Labour/Green. Most of all Winston knew from personal experience that National could never be trusted. Still the National Party and it’s supporters were delusional till the end.
The inevitable – as I always predicted – result was announced in a dramatic act of suspense.

The daggers came out immediately to declare the new government illegitimate. Former government minister Richard Prebble even went so far to call it a coup.
Let me give you some background on that former minister. He is the one who flogged off state assets at bargain basement prices without a mandate from the owners That made me wonder at the time if he was corrupt with a big fat Swiss bank account or just  stupid. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and thought him to be extremely stupid. With his latest attacks he has proven me right. Or may be not.

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This attack on the legitimacy of our democratically elected government is part of a concerted effort. The 1% lost control of the government.
The new coalition challenges their neo-liberal dogma. “Capitalism has failed” they dared to say, which echoed around the world. We held our breath. Heresy ! They want to be the government for the many not the few.
The 1% are not taking this lying down. The 1% who enriched themselves on the back of beneficiaries, underpaid workers and the taxpayer’s largesse for so long are fighting back. To hell with democracy. The 1% have their privileges not taken away by the the people. If you kept up with our newspapers, TV and radio lately you realise that their biggest weapon are the mainstream neo-liberal media.

The 1% are fighting back. We all must resist !

by Dr. Hans B. Grueber

recommended reading also : Chris Trotter
Dark Transactions: Winston Peters’ Decision To “Go Left” Has Already Set His Enemies In Motion.
and : Strategies Of Right-Wing Resistance: It CAN Happen Here.

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Media attack on New Zealand’s democracy

MMP in New Zealand

Twenty five years ago New Zealand voted in a first referendum for the (more) democratic proportional voting system called MMP (Mixed Member Proportional) as recommended  by the Royal Commission after the most thorough investigation into all electoral systems around the world.
The people overwhelmingly (over 84%) rejected the undemocratic First-Past-the-Post (FPP) electoral system, which for instance previously in 1978 and 1981 had returned the National Party to government even if it got fewer votes than the opposition Labour Party. From the four alternative options MMP got overwhelming support with 75%.
In the run-up referendum in 1993 after a bruising campaign by supporters of the National Party who wanted to hang on to the undemocratic system, which favoured their party the people confirmed MMP by 54% to 46%.

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However the anti-democratic forces did not accept the results of two referenda. They immediately went to work creating a myth that there was a promise that the issue would be revisited after testing it in a few elections. There was in fact never such a promise nor expectation. Still under another National government in 2011 another MMP referendum was held. The result of almost 58% for retaining MMP was even stronger than 18 years earlier.

The media are extremely slow learners. Over all these years they still  seem to be living in the old imperial First Past the Post world. For example they still talk about electorate and list MPs as if there was a difference. In the other MMP country Germany nobody makes that distinctions and never has. In our current debate we still hear the myth that electorate MPs are supposed to be first class while list MPs second class. The former being accountable and being able to be voted out by the people while the later (only) being accountable to their parties, which put them on the list. This myth could not be further from the truth. As one scientist quipped in the US context that MPs in safe seats are less accountable to the public than the members of the Stalinist polit-bureau. The later having changed much more often under public pressure that safe seats under First-Past-the-Post. As I already said in a 1992 debate in safe National seats like Te Kuiti or Southland Clutha the party can put a blue ribbon around a sheep dog and it will be elected.

Not even a conspiracy

Still every election where the results are not to the liking of the neo-liberal media inevitably the electoral system is blamed. An objective observer is driven to despair and might be tempted – shock horror – to agree with Donald Trump’s attacks on the ‘fake media’.

trump1_101117gettyPresident Trump on Thursday again slammed the “fake news” media,
saying it has “such hatred.”

The New Zealand media in general do not even try to conceal their disdain for our electoral system and democracy. After this year’s election, which as usual under proportional representation didn’t produce a clear winner with over 50% of the vote they almost demanded that the party with the most votes – as it two weeks later turned out to be 44% – be given the right to form the next government. The fact that 56% had voted against the old government wasn’t ever worth a mention.
All sorts of arguments were invented by the media like “moral authority” to cling on to the old First-Past-the-Post thinking (see my article in the NZ Herald: Hans Grueber: Nothing says the largest party has moral right to govern).

 ‘Holding the country to ransom’

Some evil man named Winston after a famous British Prime Minister with the help the terrible MMP system has taken New Zealand hostage or so it sounds. Most of the world, which is governed by some form of proportional representation look at us – that is our media – as if we had lost our minds.

We didn’t have a new government on election night, Oh My God !

The media wouldn’t even allow for the final results to come out before crying out about New Zealand being taken hostage by a party with only just over 7% of the vote. They are just taking their time to negotiate and make up their minds. These media, editors, commentators, and pundits assumed that the New Zealand people of voting age are still like little children who cannot wait and want to open the presents under the tree before Christmas day. The only ones who can’t wait are the media themselves. This is the age of instant gratification after all.
A little overview of the comments appeared in the Guardian under the headline ‘New Zealand election result ‘held hostage’ by anonymous board of minor party‘.
This so called “anonymous board” of the New Zealand First party, which will be consulted in the decision making process, is of course not unique but has an equivalent in any other democratic parliamentary party in New Zealand. They would or will be equally involved in the democratic decision making process. So why the media outrage ?

No government, how will we survive ?

Another media beat-up in the crazy assumption that it will scare the people is the fact that for an interim period after every election the old government continues as caretaker government in charge of running the day to day business of government. However they are not allowed to introduce any policy changes of make major decisions. This is portrayed as a terrible thing as if the country would not happily function for a few weeks or even months without a proper government.
The last time I looked the trains kept running more or less on time, the airplanes are arriving and leaving if they have enough jet fuel, the police are still arresting people and solving crimes, the courts are holding hearings and handing down sentences and we all still receive our super annuation or benefit payments. And as far as I could discern nobody claimed after the terrible fatalities of the last few days that people started killing each other on the roads because there was ‘no government’.

The other MMP country Germany held elections on the same weekend. The far right neo-liberal party (FDP) represents the interests of the the business community, which according to the media here cannot live without the certainty of a new government. One of their representatives just appeared on the most influential political TV talkshow. When asked about a coalition before Christmas he replied that such serious negotiations could not be rushed. The host’s only reply was that they just would have to wait.
Belgium a few years back was without a new government for about 18 months after their election. The people loved it as no harm and damage was done to them unlike to us by successive neo-liberal governments over the last 33 years.

The media still stuck in the First-Past-the-Post world ignore the fact that all this is totally normal under any proportional system in the world. They are seriously suggesting that we, the people, didn’t know what we were doing when we voted over the last 25 years not once but three times for MMP – a far superior system than we had before.

Concerted Attack

Following the mainstream media including the state owned broadcasters you cannot but conclude that we are witnessing a concerted attack on our electoral system. Not only do we read and hear comments of the above nature by editors, political reporters and media personnel. The media also give overwhelming space to totally outrageous and false comments in the letter pages and give a platform to anti MMP campaigners of ‘Dirty Politics‘ fame to spread their old disinformation and lies.

It seems we have been watching the Media attack on New Zealand’s democracy.

 by Dr. Hans B. Grueber
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Jacinda, You can do this – again !

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Dear Jacinda

The most interesting and in my mind most appealing feature you disclosed about yourself during the election campaign was the fact that some time back you left the Mormon Church.
You indicated that this had not been easy. I can hardly imagine how hard it must have been most likely having affected your family and circle of friends. You described yourself in an interview as agnostic, which is according to Dr Google synonymous with sceptical, doubting, disbelieving, faithless. In other words thinking rationally. I admire you for having said goodbye to your imaginary friend called (the Mormon) God. Many of us as children had imaginary friends we left behind. However these did not hold such power over us as your imaginary friend – God – must have had. It must have made it hard growing up and starting to think freely and independently.

Good on you for leaving in your case the Mormon Temple behind.

Unknown

Your political aims and values

As a political junky having observed you over the grand total of a few months I never the least have the feeling that I know your core values and concerns as displayed during the campaign.

Poverty / rich-poor gap

You have made the eradication of child poverty one of the main points of your election platform. Poverty especially child poverty and New Zealand’s gap between rich and poor growing faster than in all other developed countries since 1984 is a scandal.  We have to remember that this is not a natural phenomenon we can do little about. No, it is the result of a deliberate economic policy known in New Zealand as Rogernomics.  Remember tax cuts for the rich financed by benefit cuts for the poor.

Health

Growing hospital waiting list for even life saving (heart) surgery and cancer treatment caused by chronic underfunding. This reminds me of one of the best recent letters to the editor which read : When National describes Labour’s policies as ‘tax and spend’ I am quite comforted as National is the tax and don’t spend party.

Mental health and (youth) suicide

You were rightly moved to tears at the display of the over 600 pairs of shoes of all the suicide victims of last year. New Zealand has the highest youth suicide rate in the developed world. It has skyrocketed since the advent of neo-liberalism in 1984. Almost half of the victims had tried to get help. It was not available again because of funding restraints.

Climate change

You declared climate change as the defining – nuclear free – issue of your generation. The old government is only paying lip service to the problem. Even after signing up to the Paris Accord they couldn’t even bring themselves to setting an example by buying electric cars for their fleet. Instead they subsidise the biggest emitters the livestock industry with hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. Don’t even mention public transport. Our present  dogma still seems to be: public – bad, private – good.

The environment

You singled out polluted rivers as a disgrace. And again this does not happen by accident. It is the result of deliberate policies subsidised by millions of dollars of taxpayer money.

Housing and Homelessness

This is the big one, which you wanted to introduce a capital gains tax for. Housing or rather the lack of affordable housing is just another example of the failure of the neo-liberal dogma. The “market” does not solve (all) our problems.

Education

You said at at your campaign launch something like that you wanted schools to be institutions of learning and creativity not testing and assessment. I understand that to mean that our children reach their full potential not just become useful cogs in an economic machine.
To many of our Children are taught in unhealthy mouldy classrooms because of deferred maintenance. Instead funding is syphoned off into the neo-liberal pet project of charter schools. The taxpayer puts up all the investment to hand it over to private operators to turn a profit. Education and our most valuable assets – our children – suffer while private ideological or just profit driven individuals benefit.
Then we have the situation where especially in Auckland not enough qualified teachers can be found as they cannot afford to live anywhere near their place of work.

Connecting the dots

Jacinda, please connect the above dots. Everything you have campaigned against is the result of a common ideology : Neo-liberalism.

“Neo-liberalism refers primarily to economic liberalisation policies such as privatisation, austerity, deregulation, free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to increase the role of the private sector in the economy and society.”

I have never heard you even mention the word unlike your hopefully coalition partner Winston Peters. He declared the neo-liberal experiment of the last 33 years in New Zealand a failure. As did the former National Party Prime Minister Jim Bolger.
Even worse you are still endorsing the so called “fiscal responsibility agreement” with the Greens. This is nothing but the failed neo-liberal austerity policy , which has done so much damage overseas and is widely condemned by Nobel Prize winning economists and even the IMF.
Please listen to enlightened academics like Professor Bill Mitchell. He described your ‘budget responsibility’ rules as “the height of economic irresponsibility”. He called “The Greens neo-liberals on bikes and the Labour Party neoliberal lite. They say ‘I’ll do austerity but I’ll do it fairer’. There’s no such thing as fair austerity when you’ve got a third of your children living in poverty.”
Or listen to Auckland University Professor and public policy pioneer Ian Shirley who witnessed first hand – as I did – what the neo-liberal experiment has done to New Zealand.

Lesson from the campaign

Gordon Campbell calls it “a doctrine that says National is better at managing the economy, and this religious conviction goes hand in hand with an ingrained belief that Labour is a tax-and-spend lightweight on the economy, and should therefore be shunned by the cautious and the prudent.” I understand the budget responsibility thing was directed at these voters. What good has it done you?
You best assurances were blown out of the water by the textbook CrosbyTextor tactic of just telling a couple of big fat lies as in the 11.7 billion dollar hole or Labour raising income taxes by April next year. You should not have bothered to fight the religious conviction.

You left a church once

Jacinda, you must realise that neo-liberal economists have been “torturing the minds of our youth with lies and ideology made to look like eternal truths” (Mitchell). You are one of that youth and might not even remember their infuriating mantra “There Is No Alternative“. This economic orthodoxy is not based on empirical evidence. It is an ideological dogma. It is faith based and therefore a quasi religion.
There are good reasons for religions :

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Jacinda, if you do want to change not just the Government but the direction of the country you have to leave the church of Neo-liberalism. It is a big burden on your young shoulders. It will be difficult as you will have to leave many friends and old mentors behind.

You have done it before.

You can do this – again.

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by  Dr. Hans B. Grueber
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A New Zealand good-news-story

 Good-news-story New Zealand style

Watching the 6 o’clock news on a Sunday night you expect a good news story somewhere to end the weekend on a positive note. Last Sunday the state broadcaster TVNZ managed the impossible feat of literally knitting the worst of the worst of our social and environmental problems together into one good news story. (https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/invercargill-prisoner-works-help-homeless-inside. )

Invercargill prisoner knits recycled plastic shopping bags into matts for the homeless. This makes their sleep on the pavement a fraction less hard and a fraction less cold as he knows from his own past as a rough sleeper.

The problems are :

Incarceration rate

New Zealand has one of the highest incarceration rates in the civilised world second only to the USA, which is fast losing the status of a civilised nation. This is a disgrace on an international scale. The nasty punitive streak in parts of New Zealand society is big enough to be significant for politicians to chase their vote. The “Sensitive Sentencing Trust” – if there ever was a misnomer – seems to dictate ever harsher policies, which have one thing in common. They don’t work to reduce crime. They only satisfy the bloodlust (in the time of the guillotine) of the nasty people. Today luckily it is only: Lock ‘m up and throw away the key. Three strikes and you are out.
New Zealand is the only country with falling crime rate and growing prison population. The only country worse than us are the USA. That has a lot to do with the fact that there prisons are big private business. The fuller the prisons the more profitable the business.  And New Zealand under the present neo-liberal government has also been  going down that same private prison road.

Homelessness

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Homelessness is looking like the opposite of imprisonment. It is actually a sign of the same wider social ill. One is feeding the other.
We read that NZ’s homelessness the worst in OECD – by far.
The rampant neo-liberal ideology puts profit over people with the result that the God of the “Market” drives rents sky high and takes home ownership out of reach for most people. Landlords and speculators are benefitting.
The government is letting their housing stock fall into disrepair as an excuse to sell it off to private interests. The government has abandoned it’s social housing responsibility. It of course is just ideology and makes no fiscal sense. They are giving the houses away to their mates at mates rates and then pay millions of dollars to motels and even buying some for the temporary accomodation of the most vulnerable.
Believing in the absolute rule of the “Market” they ironically pay above market rates or receive less than market rates depending which side of the ledger you look at.

It is absolutely shameful and unacceptable that in New Zealand in the winter of 2017 people are forced to live on the pavement in down town Auckland or whole families in their cars parked up somewhere.

One of the biggest environmental problems: plastic bags

There is a growing recognition and discussion of the environmental problem plastic shopping bags pose. They are used on average just once for less than 10 minutes before they are chucked.  Enlightened countries have banned them outright. Others impose a financial penalty to reduce their use.
You don’t have to sail into the middle of the Pacific to realise the sheer size of the problem. Just  look at the numbers. Thousands of tons of plastic bags – an item which weighs next to nothing – end up in landfills. The rest ends up in the environment most in the ocean where they float in a circle in the middle of the Pacific called the South Pacific subtropical gyre. Walk along even the remotest beaches or just alongside our highways and you find plastic bags everywhere. And the plastic does not disappear but stays in the environment for a very long time.
Local councils, consumers even the big supermarket chains and the general public are calling for action.
Still our government steadfastly refuses to do anything about it.

Instead of solving any of these grave problems our neo-liberal government is running down infrastructure, services and the environment. Their main election strategy is to label the opposition as the “tax and spend” party. A brief letter to the editor of the NZ Herald by Michael Burton on August 14 summed it up nicely. It first sentence reads : I find the National Party’s description of Labour’s policies as “tax and spend” quite reassuring considering that National is the “tax and don’t spend” party.

The good news story

The lady reporter from Southland and the editorial team at Television New Zealand performed the miracle to literally knit together three of the worst social and environmental problems into one good news story. And it really is.
A long time prisoner from a rough background, who obviously should not be there anymore, has turned the boredom of incarceration into action. He knits and teaches fellow prisoners to knit hundreds of used plastic bags into one matt to be given to a homeless person. He has turned his own life around giving it purpose. He is recycling plastic, which otherwise would most likely end up in the environment. He gives a little comfort to the homeless who will sleep a little less hard and a little less cold. Most of all he puts our government to shame.

They should be turning around the incarceration trend ! They should remember their social housing responsibility ! They should deal with the plastic bag pollution !
May be they are thinking more prisoners to knit more plastic bags into more matts helps more homeless people. Problem solved.

Despite the valiant effort of our state broadcaster to fill the good news story slot on last Sunday night’s news it is not a good-news-story, not really !

Dr. Hans B. Grueber

 

 

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