We are better than this

The recent Canadian election campaign, which ended in the defeat of the conservative Harper government featured one outstanding campaign ad. It was not produced by the opposition but Adbusters, the Vancouver based anti-consumerist organisation. Even if it is pretty shocking it is a must see clip.

The ad features a man spitting on a Canadian flag sewn onto a woman’s bag.
Adbusters says that is based on an actual incident that happened at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.
What happened?” the man says. “You used to be the good ones.”
The narrator declares, “He was right.”
The ad also shows images of a country that has gone from achievements to be proud of, to a kind of police state that is wreaking havoc on the environment.
I used to be proud of my country,” the narrator laments, “we have come a long way together, but lately we’ve been led astray. And the world now sees us for what we’ve become.
The final line reads: We are better than this.

Looking at New Zealand over recent times up to yesterday and today I cannot get this ad out of my head.

 New Zealand’s reputation under threat

New Zealand more than most countries relies for our economic wellbeing on it’s good will, it’s positive image. The country is dependent on trade with our overseas customers. Buying our product they want not only value for money but want to feel good about it. For this we have developed the image of the “100% Pure Clean Green New Zealand“. However, the reality does not even come close to that image. It should be only a matter of time till New Zealand will be charged with advertising fraud if only anybody would take our claims seriously. Just take a few examples from recent times.

Our prime export commodity is dairy products. We promote the image of happy cows on pristine green pastures in contrast to overseas production, which mostly happens indoors where cows are housed and milked. The feed there is often imported, shipped and trucked around the world at great cost not only financially but to the environment. However, if we look closely our dairy production is far from lilly white. As a consequence of dairy farming most of our rivers are so polluted by nitrogen that they are not safe to swim in. The methane emissions from our livestock account for about half of our green house gas emissions. And we are right at the top on a per capita basis. Our industrialised dairy production relies also in part on imported palm oil seeds for feed, which also contributes to the increasing destruction and burning of the tropical rain forrest in Indonesia. Also a major contributor to climate change.
On top of this we this week were confronted with disturbing images of cruelty to bobby  calves as a byproduct of the milk production. Images, which will go around the world to the consumers of our products as the activist against cruelty against animals have promised.

Our dairy trade is not the only industry threatened by the fact that reality does not match the beautiful imaginary portrayed abroad. Most of our tourists come here with that image in mind. We can be sure that it will have a major impact when potential visitors find out that the clean green 100% pure New Zealand image is just false advertising: 100% pure bullshit. The customer backlash is going to hurt the whole country. It will affect other exports as well, which based on our image and good will have up till now produced premium returns  for our horticultural and wine industry. The dirty big secret is bound to come out.

Climate-Change policy

The biggest threat to our international reputation is our government’s policy on climate change.

Listening to our prime minister at the UN climate summit in Paris making promises with his fingers firmly crossed behind his back makes you angry and want to spit on our flag.


One policy making the headlines was to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, which internationally amount to over US$ 750 billion annually. New Zealand does not directly do this and therefore it is cheap to demand. What we do instead is subsidise oil & gas exploration at a time when we know that this is the last thing we need to find more fossil fuel resources under the sea. If the world is to have any chance to keep global warming to the agreed maximum of 2  degrees most of the already known reserves of coal and oil have to be left in the ground. So we don’t need to find any new ones. This goes to show that our government is not at all serious about the future of mankind on planet Earth.

New Zealand after the pathetic hypocritical performance of our Prime Minister in Paris was shamed by winning the wooden spoon  “Fossil Of The Day Award”. The world is watching with 8000 journalists in attendance. There is not enough advertising space available to repair the damage.

And we have the means in our country blessed with an abundance of renewable resources to make a real difference if there only would be the political will.


Are we better than this ?

I first came to New Zealand in 1981 before Neoliberalism had arrived. Everyone I talked to beforehand was full of praise for this beautiful blessed country. I promptly fell in love with it and it’s people and immigrated in 1984. In those days like the Canadians who don’t want to be mistaken for US Americans we proudly attached our flag to our luggage to be safe and liked.

Thirty years of Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us and especially the last seven years of the neoconservative Key government. So I am not so sure if people who really know the New Zealand of 2015 still like us as they did in years back for good reasons.  Advertising and PR do work only for a limited time if not matched by reality.

Our chance to show the world that we are better than this comes around every thee years. Will we take that chance in 2017 – like the Canadians did – and toss out our present conservative government and even better neoliberalism altogether. This year will be another record hot year. We are facing a severe drought in the coming months. How many more record floods, droughts, hurricanes around the world and in our backyard will it take to show the world that we are better than this. 

by  Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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They have Guns. F–k them. We have Champaign. *

It took me more than a week to turn to one of the more important events of the year the terrorist attacks of Friday the 13th in Paris.  First I had to let the tsunami of media coverage wash over me, let the dust settle a bit and have some good night sleeps before I hit the keyboard.

The story of the terror attacks on Paris has distinct aspects, which I will try to differentiate in my assessment. There are the attacks themselves and their roots and reasons in the Middle East as well as at home. And there is the reaction of the corporate media hand in glove with the political elite. Both seem to have one thing in common that they both are brutally violent.  They are two sides of the same coin feeding off each other with no end in sight.

One Attack somewhere in a long line

Unfortunately the Paris attacks are not the first and will not be the last. The ground they sprang from in the Middle East as well as in France is still fertile. And by all accounts the reaction from the West fertilises the ground even more.

The Muslim World

The West has created a lot of very angry hateful people in the Arab world going back decades. It started when the Arabs were betrayed after WWI by the allies they have been fighting for. It continued when the guilt ridden WWII allies allowed the Zionist state of Israel to be established on Arab land. The victims of that ethnic cleansing are still lingering in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and Gaza. In 1967 the occupation of the West Bank and the Golan Heights begun and is still ongoing. The young people are living without hope and have been taking up stones against guns as long as we care to remember. The repression is getting more brutal by the day including building a wall through Arab land and taking the scarce water resources. Israel is doing it with impunity against countless UN resolutions because of the backing of the USA.

On top of all this the West/the former colonial powers have consistently contributed to  the suffering of the people by supporting the most corrupt autocratic oppressive regimes.

It followed the illegal 2003 Iraq war and occupation, which started the latest round of disastrous Western interference, which destabilised the whole region. Hundreds of thousand died, mostly civilians. The Iraqi army was disbanded and it’s highly professional often British trained Sunni officers were left to join ISIS. It continues with extra-judicial killings by drone strikes. Recently drone pilots who do the killing and watch the results on their computer screens back in the US in an open letter to the US president told us that ‘Civilian Killings Driving ‘Terrorism, Instability’. The Air Force whistleblowers say that the US drone program “is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.”

As the US are not likely to listen to their own pilots the consequence are that terrorism will not only continue but increase. On 9/11 2001 New York was hit, in 2004 it was Madrid, in 2005 London and now in 2015 it was Paris’ turn for a second time. Nobody expects that this was the end. And as a true Westerner I only list the major Western targets and not the attacks in the Third World like Bali and Mumbai and the attacks around the Middle East and Africa.

Homegrown Terrorism in the West

On 9/11 New York was attacked by foreigners from the Middle East mostly by our best friends the Saudis. The London and as far as we know the Paris attacks were executed by homegrown terrorists.
We have to look again for what creates such hatred in Muslim suburbs of Paris that young Frenchmen kill other young French people. Here the story goes back to France’s brutal colonial war in North Africa and the influx of many Muslims from the Magreb region. They of course fare much better than their Palestinian brethren under Israeli occupation but still are second class citizens with well documented social problems.

Add to that the rise of religious fundamentalism among Muslims in the Middle East as well as Christians in the US. Crazy people who believe in Armageddon in their lifetime. Remember George W Bush not only spinning us the lie of weapons of mass destruction but justifying his criminal war against Iraq because God told him so.

In other words the attacks were totally predictable. And so did Nafeez Mosaddeq AhmetAt the end of last year, as politicians and pundits cheered on coalition airstrikes in Syria, [he] wrote this: 
“The war on ISIS has already been lost. As regional instability escalates predictably as a direct consequence of the US-UK led non-strategy, ISIS will become stronger, and reactionary terrorist violence against western targets will proliferate – in turn fuelling reactionary and militant responses from western foreign policy establishments.

The Western Reaction

The first to react were the media.
In New Zealand TV ONE decided to devote one and a half Saturday night prime time television hours on the attacks with very little substance to fill the time other then the advertising. I had the distinct impression that our state broadcaster in true commercial form started to make money from the event. The personal tragedies for so many victims and their families will fill the papers for some time to come

Others were making money too. In the morning my son watching the markets reported a notable rise in the stocks of the arms and security industry. There of course would be no war if there would not be huge amounts of money to be made. There is the crux of the matter as well as the solution. Cut off the arms and ammunition supply and let these fundamentalist Muslims who mostly kill their own countrymen go at each other with sticks and stones. However, that would be the last thing the arms industry would allow.

As soon as the media were able to drag the first politicians in front of the cameras they were prompting them to ask for increased surveillance powers and military retaliation. The media were calling for a violent response. Just watch Glen Greenwald blast CNN over this. Or another CNN guest calling for We Should Bomb Even Hospitals, Universities To Fight ISIS. It seems CNN will let just about anyone air their warmongering views on the network. 
One has to feel sorry for French President Hollande, who resorted to the predictable reflex of violent retaliation launching more airstrikes against Syria and now even pushing for a ground war. Any other response would have been political suicide. And by all we know that is exactly what Islamic State intended to lure the Western ‘infidels’ into the trap of a more and more violent conflict on their terms and territory.

Some of the media headlines and stories and utterings of politicians struck me as particularly strange. One said that France found itself at war. I wonder where she had been all year while the French airforce were bombing Islamic State in Syria.


Is it war only when the killing reaches your shores ? Did the French government expect that the bombing would go unanswered like in the case of the Rainbow Warrior ? That only one side of the war would do the bombing and shooting while the other would just sit there and take it ? Was the West deceived by the Israeli/Palestinian conflict where mostly one side does the shooting while the other throws back stones ?

Then came Charlie Hebdo, the anti-Islamic satirical French magazine, which itself suffered a murderous attack earlier in the year with the following cover :


This reads in English :   They have Guns. F–k them. We have Champaign.

What were they thinking putting an image on their front page where out of the bullet holes of the victim pours Champaign instead of blood and talking about the them and the us .

If this is any indication of the attitude of France and the West then God, Allah, Yahweh or anything else, which might be out there, may help us.

* Cover of French satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo”

by  Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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Australia = Racism & Xenophobia = Human Rights Abuse

Australia, the lucky country ?

Australia likes to call and see itself as the lucky country. And it has many reasons to feel that way. Anyone who has ever visited is struck by it’s natural beauty in great diversity from it’s beaches to the red centre. There are so many iconic picture postcard images identifiable as unique Australian to make most other countries envious.

Ayers Rock Under a Blue Sky Uluru National Park, Australia

Ayers Rock Under a Blue Sky Uluru National Park, Australia

However, even the breathtaking natural beauty comes increasingly with a serious downside. The weather extremes seem to give us either severe droughts or floods. There are (lack of) water problems not only in the most populous part of the Murray/Darling river catchment of the Eastern part but even more serious in Western Australia. All this of course aggravated by climate change.
It is an irony that one of the riches of Australia they are exploiting on a massive scale is coal, which directly contributes to climate change. Australia does  not only export coal but also uses it extensively for local power generation despite having ideal conditions for sustainable energy production like solar.
Another of Australia’s riches is space. A whole continent sparsely populated, which could do with more people.

How come then that the Australians are so paranoid about the arrival of a few hundred boat people that they ship them off to far away islands in the Indian and Pacific Ocean including women and children ? Of course not all Australians suffer this condition and many are actually appalled by what is done in their name. However, it seems to be a sizeable majority as both major parties seem to outdo each other especially at election times to stem the “flood” of boat-people by treating them extra harshly and inhumanely.

Racist History

Not only did the colonial history of Australia start as a British penal colony being settled by the low life and petty criminals from England but it was a extremely racist country from it’s conception. When the first English settlers arrived they regarded Australia as ‘terra nullius‘ a land that nobody owned. In International Law ‘terra nullius’ describes territory that nobody owns so that the first nation to discover it is entitled to take it over, as “finders keepers”. This despite the fact that the British boat people were greeted at the beach by Aborigines who had lived there for around forty thousand years. The indigenous people where not even regarded as human but listed under Australian fauna. They then became one of the first victims of British genocide.

These extreme racist attitudes and policies continued over time till today. Since Australia  became an independent self-governing country it had a British only immigration policy. After WWII when Europe was full of refugees and displaced people the then immigration minister had to trick the Australian people into accepting non-British immigrants. He send his officials to the camps across northern Europe to select the most beautiful Aryan specimen the Nazis could not have chosen better for their breeding programme to fill the first immigrant ship. When she arrived in Melbourne the news reel cameras were rolling and the Australian people were pleased with what they saw and accepted immigrant who looked like them or even better. It took many more years to let Southern Europeans in. The White Australia policy lasted many more decades. Even Asians who had come to help defend Australia during war were not allowed to stay.

Only through a referendum in 1967 did Aborigines who had lived there for 40,000 years become Australian citizens some of them having already fought under the Australian flag in WWII. In the 1950s and 60s murdering indigenous people without punity called Abo-Hunting was still considered a sport in some places.

This is the history we have to take into account to understand today’s Australian ingrained racist attitudes.

Experience of Australian Racism

From my personal experience with Australian people I just want to recall a few events.

In 1992 the Australian Hight Court in the landmark Mabo vs Queensland decision for the first time recognised native land title. The ‘terra nullius’ doctrine was overturned for Australia. I was among the group of the Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating visiting a West Auckland Marae. A huge pack of Australian media where quizzing their prime minister over the decision as if the sky was falling in over Australia and what it all was going to cost the commonwealth. Nobody mentioned that with this court decision centuries of injustice could come to an end.

In 1998 we did a cruise around the Yasawa Islands of Fiji. Unfortunately the small local cruise ship was dominated by a group of racist rednecks from Queensland  who made the experience almost intolerable. To be fair to the Australians it has to be said that the expat New Zealanders among the group were as bad if not worse.

At present among our friends and family who live across the ditch many plan to come home giving the intolerance and racist xenophobia in Australia as one of the reasons.

Today’s Human Rights Abuses

The Australian human rights abuses in today’s headlines are mostly directed against asylum seekers. The indefinite detention policy was already in breach of Australia’s obligation under international law. As a further deterrent against desperate refugees risking their lives in leaky boats to reach Australian shores they are now shipped off to remote islands in the Indian and Pacific oceans with no access to legal representation or hope to be treated humanely and fairly. (See Pamela Curr in Left Turn: Political Essays for the New Left)
New Zealand was forced to take notice when our citizens ended up in the same modern day concentration camps run by the infamous private prison company SERCO. Late last year in another knee jerk reaction to perceived muslim terrorist threats Australia passed a law allowing them to deport any non Australian citizen with a criminal record of one year or more imprisonment even if the person had lived in Australia since he was an infant and any other person the minister deemed undesirable. These people had done the time often years back and were picked up from the street and in early morning raids ripped from their families and some ended up on remote Christmas Island.


When opposition MPs in the New Zealand Parliament raised concerns about these human rights violations against New Zealand citizens Prime Minister John Key tried the old “dead cat” trick to distract from his failings by deviously accusing his critics of supporting rapist, murderers and child molesters even if none of them were.

If that was not bad enough creating a huge furore his alter ago and media personality Mike Hosking in a rant a few days later trying to distract from his master’s lying and insults in parliament basically defended the human right abuses as nobody wanted and cared for those people anyway.



However, what really should offend every single New Zealander is last years joint statement by the Australian and New Zealand PMs as quoted by Toby Manhire :

No other bilateral relationship has the same immediacy and commonality as the links between Australia and New Zealand. We share common values, including a strong commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.”

Our Prime Minister has again shown that he has no knowledge nor sense of history. I like to think that Kiwis have no immediacy and commonality with racists, xenophobe human rights abusers.

by  Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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Rugby, Racing & Royal visit – lets feel good

New Zealand the lucky country ?

This week presented New Zealand with all possible goodies at once. On Sunday “we”/”our boys” won the Rugby World Cup for the second time in a row. On Tuesday “our” horse won the Melbourne Cup the richest horse race in the Southern hemisphere which brings two countries Australia and New Zealand to a standstill for a few minutes every November. And on Wednesday “our” future king Prince Charles and his lovely wife Camilla arrived in the capital for a week long royal visit.

Our prime minister as a professional money changer/gambler must be counting his lucky stars. And did he love it and make the best out of it to increase or at least cement his personal popularity.


Spring has arrived. The sun is out. The cricket season has started and “our” Lydia Ko is number one of the golfing world. And again we were named one of the top prosperous countries in the world by some obscure overseas organisation. Could we get any happier in this lucky country ? So we thought. Then came Thursday.

New Zealand under threat !

When we got up on Thursday, Guy Fawkes Day, when we still celebrate the historic foiled terror attack on the parliament building in Westminster, we were greeted by the full front page of the biggest newspaper, the New Zealand Herald, which read “SPIES TELL PM The six threats facing NZ” with #1 “Violent extremism in NZ and by New Zealanders”. Enough to want to crawl back under your duvet and pull the pillow over your head.

How come that almost thirty years after the bombing and sinking of the GreenPeace flagship “Rainbow Warrior” the only terrorist attack on New Zealand soil in living memory we again seem to be under threat. Could it be that our attention seeking foreign policy sending a few soldiers to Iraq to fight ISIS: “Hey extremist muslims look at us don’t forget us at the bottom of the world” has actually worked ? Does ISIS now bother to spend efforts and waste resources and in a worst case a suicide bomber on our paradise in the South Seas ?

SIS director Rebecca Kitteridge doesn’t seem to think so.

SCCZEN_A_110315NZHMMSPIES7_620x310Perfect example that an organisation spying on all citizens
does not change by putting some lipstick on it

She is quoted as saying “New Zealand’s spies have turned up new terror threats as increased funding has boosted capability.  It doesn’t necessarily reflect an increased danger to New Zealand and could show the improved ability of the SIS to identify threats.”
“If your numbers are growing as our numbers are growing, and you find more, I have been very careful about not saying the threat has changed. It may just be that we are finding more. You have to be quite careful about all of this. I’m not in favour of shroud waving or scare-mongering. I want to be very factual and not over-egg what we are doing.
However, that is exactly what she is doing scaremongering and over-egg what they are doing. Instead of being “very factual” there are no “facts” whatsoever and there will never be. We never heard of any successful prosecution of any wannabe extremists nor will we in future. All is shrouded in secrecy.

According to her above explanation of the “new terror threats” there is only one recipe to reduce them, which is cut funding to the spy agencies and the threats will diminish.
Instead the spies say they will need new laws and new powers and of course more money to protect the country from “emerging threats”. Sounds to me very much like the perfect protection racket business model of the Mafia: Pay us and we will protect you.

The Prime Minister had to comment and is quoted as saying “On the one hand, our very strong advice is don’t be frightened of these things, but on the other side of the coin the Government has a responsibility to be alert to those risksSo, yes there are some potential threats but they’re at a much lower level from what we see, for instance, in Australia.”
He has a problem. On the one hand he is the minister responsible for the secret services and has to justify their existence and the millions spend on them. On the other hand as minister of tourism he must not frighten potential visitors. The last place New Zealand wants to be is on some travel warning list issued by say Iraq or Syria to warn their citizens from any danger if they are lucky enough to be visiting New Zealand.

Unwrapping of the TPPA parcel

Then came black Friday and with it the release of the text of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).


The critics see their worst nightmares confirmed. ‘Worse Than We Thought’: TPP A Total Corporate Power Grab Nightmare :

“Worse than anything we could’ve imagined.”
“An act of climate denial.”
“Giveaway to big agribusiness.”
“A death warrant for the open Internet.”
“Worst nightmare.”
“A disaster.”

While the neoliberal defenders of the so called but anything but “free trade” agreement were relatively muted in its defence. They couldn’t find much advantage for New Zealand so praised our government to have at least done the best possible job of minimising the damage.

I liked the defender of the Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), which is an instrument of public international law, that grants an investor the right to use dispute settlement proceedings against a foreign government. This gives foreign corporations the right to sue our government for any policy, law or regulation, which they claim impinges on their future profits. He said on Radio NZ that those clauses had been part of trade agreement for 30 years without New Zealand being sued once. He conveniently forgot to mention that Australia had just been sued by an US tobacco corporation for plain packaging legislation and New Zealand delayed its own legislation till that case was decided. It only goes to prove that over the last 30 years neoliberal governments in New Zealand were compliant to the demands of overseas corporation as in the example of postponing public health legislation.

It reminded me of the man jumping out of the 60th floor of the world trade centre passing the 30th floor saying to himself: So far so good.

It also reminded me of the Cinderella fairy tale where the sisters unwrap a big gift parcel to find that the ugly (corporate) sisters got all the wonderful expensive presents while Cinderella New Zealand was left with the crumbs.

Sad to see that all the positive feelings of our best ever week of rugby, racing & royal visit has evaporated even before the week is out.

by  Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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Media – Branch of the Corporate State ?

“We all more or less hate the media as countless polls about the trustworthiness of various professions show. Journalists always rank at the bottom between politicians and used cars salesmen. But we as a democratic society cannot function without news media.

Civic role of Media in a Democracy

Whenever you talk to a real journalist (not Mike Hosking) you will hear about their special privileges enshrined in law and obligations and standards drummed into them at journalism school. The main ethical standard is true and fair reporting based on facts. This for instance includes quoting correctly and completely and not out of context. Clearly separating factual reporting from (personal) opinion. Basically painting an accurate picture of events around the world for readers, listeners and viewers to be able to understand and make sense of.

Media are different from all other industries in their pivotal role informing citizens to enable them to exercise their democratic rights and duties. Without media we would know very little about the world we live in beyond the things we are able to personally witness. We as voters would have difficulties making informed choices if we are not informed completely and truthfully.

For this reason of being a crucial part of any democratic system most countries have state funded organisations in the most important part of the media i.e. television and radio.

Media Ownership

When we talk about the media and it’s role in a pluralistic society and democratic political system – at least that is how we like to think of our western ‘democracies’ – we never must forget the Elephant in the room : Media Ownership.

There are two basic models.

Publicly owned state funded media like the BBC in the UK, Television and Radio NZ in New Zealand and the ABC in Australia for example.

Privately owned now mostly corporate media like newspapers and the increasing number of private television and radio stations. Neoliberal globalisation has led to a concentration of media ownership in the hands of very few corporations controlled by very few individuals. Rupert Murdoch is by far the leading example but there are others.

To own and control a crucial part of the democratic process gives you enormous power. No surprises really that the young Labour leader and aspiring Prime Minister Tony Blair had to go on a pilgrimage to Australia to seek the blessing (and probably embrace and secret handshake) from before mentioned media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Ironically Rupert had embraced a snake who allegedly contributed to to the breakup of Murdoch’s later marriage by having an affair with his wife.

Media editorial Independence

What we as media consumers really care about is not who owns what and pays or makes money but that we are reliably impartially informed to the highest journalistic standards.

The public model deals with the problem of potential political/government interference in these standards by (at least formally) granting their media editorial independence.

The private model on the other hand in the recent era of neoliberalism has not only lead to increased concentration of ownership but also control over editorial content.

You can call me naive that knowing all this I am still outraged about the latest low points in media performance. I am almost lost for word about what we witnessed recently in the UK media around Jeremy Corbyn, in the US around Bernie Sanders, in Canada leading up to this weeks elections and in New Zealand around reporting on PM John Key and the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

These examples demonstrate that the media have morphed from reporting events into dispensing cutting edge propaganda for fellow corporations and attached governments.

Media promoting corporate/government agenda

In the UK during and after the election campaign for the Labour Party leadership the anti Jeremy Corbyn sentiment in most of the mainstream media was relentless. And the media were just clearing their throats for the campaign to destroy the new Labour leader who was just elected with overwhelming democratic mandate. Just watch the beginning Corbyn’s Labour Party conference speech.
There is only one conclusion that mainstream media have abandoned their primary function to enable and facilitate democracy and are now focused on destroying it.


And it is not only the print media owned by private corporations doing it but also the publicly owned BBC. They continuously label Corbyn if not worse “left-wing” as in bad and unelectable while refusing to balance that by labelling Cameron by the same token as “right-wing”. There was even a petition for the BBC to change this biased practice.

In the US just last week we witnessed the efforts of CNN to successfully re-write the history of the first Democratic Party presidential candidates debate staged by CNN. Against the overwhelming result of their own polling giving Sanders the win


they declared Clinton the winner pulling their own poll results from their website and spread the “news” widely with all the other mainstream media in hot pursuit.


And it worked as nationwide polls have picked up for Clinton on the back of the false news of her “winning” performance in the debate.

In Canada print media tried to stop the avalanche burying the incumbent Conservatives.

screen_shot_2015-10-18_at_6.44.39_amIt reads: Anything but voting for the Conservatives
“will cost you”

In the National Observer under the headline “YELLOW STAIN: The bystander bigotry of newspaper endorsements“Sandy Garossino writes :
“The stain of this shameful moment in Canadian journalism will never wash completely clean from the Globe and Mail and Postmedia. Not only did they tolerate the ugliest political episode in Canada’s post-war era, they signed their names to it.”

If you think in little New Zealand the media are still doing their job of reporting facts impartially think again. These are the latest examples of media bias in this case by state owned Television New Zealand.

Two examples, which at first might not look like much but in reality are in the same league as what we are seeing in the UK and US.

One is the relentless government spin repeated by Television New Zealand talking up the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) as a “free trade” agreement while in reality it is anything but. Only a very small number of the chapters are about trade. There is even less about freeing up trade rather more on enshrining tariffs on for instance our dairy exports. Most of it is about the right of corporations to sue our government in overseas Kangaroo courts, extending intellectual property rights adding billion to the balance sheets of big corporations, extending patents on new lifesaving drugs, regulating the internet restricting innovation by newcomers and the list goes on. Still our TV presenters  insist on the term “free trade agreement” like Simon Dallow on Q&A : But ‘surely’ free trade is a good thing.

The other example was the “reporting” on Prime Minister Key’s recent visit to our soldiers in Iraq while ignoring that at the same time our sovereignty and land was sold out from under our feet. The “reporting” that our soldiers are appreciated for doing their job differently to our Australian and US allies because we are doing it “The Kiwi Way”(?). The images of Key in body amour among the troops not really telling us anything other than look at me not the TPPA. The whole exercise made us cringe by making us think of the immortal image of George W Bush on the aircraft carrier.


Media defending status quo

In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act“. (George Orwell)
It is safe to say that the corporate and government media cannot be accused of being revolutionaries.

What is the reason that the media are freaking out now over Corbyn, Sanders and any other challenge to the status quo ?

The permanent political class is freaking out because it knows it is under very real threat. They are going to use every weapon in their armory to neutralise that threat.” (Kerry-Anne Mendoza)

By doing what the media are doing in the above examples they just confirm for us that instead of fulfilling their civic journalistic duties they are just a Branch of the deep Corporate State.

by  Dr. Hans B. Grueber


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TPPA : No bus but sheep truck

TPPA – more of the same old same old


This cartoon appeared in the Listener Magazine in 1999. Slane could recycle it for today. Nothing has changed. Then it was the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) conference in Auckland. New Zealand’s neoliberal government was frantically trying to run us over the cliff. Then we were saved from ourselves by other countries, which were not prepared to follow our folly. What I have written at the time about the disastrous results of New Zealand’s then 15 year neoliberal globalisation adventure you can find on the Economic-Myth-Busters website.

Sixteen years later in their latest attempt the international corporations and their neoliberal zealot helpers in government and media are at it again. This time even bolder and more insidious in it’s consequences. And again our best chance to be saved relies more on other countries than ourselves.
Here in our country without a constitution there won’t even be vote in Parliament to decide if we should sign up to the TPPA. It just will be discussed in a select committee stacked with neoliberal supporters. The voice of the people will be dismissed by our arrogant government as that of uninformed, stupid, whinging Luddites from the flat earth society. This has been the basic attack line of the government and it’s coterie in the media against any criticism of the so called “free trade” agreement, which we still are not allowed to see.

What “free trade” ?

The brainwashing propaganda from the ‘Ministry of Truth’ and its lackeys in the media starts with the word “free trade”, which is the opposite of what the TPPA really is. Only a few of the chapters are about trade. The vast majority is about protecting monopolies in the area of pharmaceuticals, intellectual property and the internet And by all accounts instead of freeing up the dairy trade New Zealand is most interested in the agreement is a big disappointment to the industry.

The TPPA should be called a corporate monopoly power protection treaty because that is exactly what it is.

Still the government and media keep selling and talking about it as a “free trade” agreement knowing that this misnomer invokes positive connotations. This is the whole purpose of the spin. This “free trade” spin is only the beginning of the hard sell over the next few months. At the same time the government and media can brush off critics for another few weeks by insisting that we haven’t seen the full text yet.

Minister acting illegally and unconstitutionally

The blanket withholding of any information by minister Tim Grosser requested under the Official Information Act (OIA) was not only illegal but unconstitutional. The NZ Herald reports
Firstly, there was “no lawful basis” for the Minister to withhold some of the information requested by Professor Kelsey.
Secondly, Justice Collins wrote, “the Act plays a significant role in New Zealand’s constitutional and democratic arrangements”.
“It is essential the Act’s meaning and purpose is fully honoured by those required to consider the release of official information.”

How bad must the deal be if our government goes to such length of deception, coverup and breaking the law and constitutional conventions to push it down our throats ?

And the government is succeeding with it’s dirty tactics. The time frame is such that being kept in the dark and fed propaganda lies for so long we will hardly have an opportunity of meaningful analysis and debate before the TPPA is pushed through.

What are we : man or sheep ?

The interesting observation of the latest turn of the debate is that since the results of the negotiations became clear and the deal was agreed the protagonists of the TPPA have run out of supporting arguments.

After the big disappointment for our dairy industry the little bits of tariff reductions for some of our other primary industries over the coming decades are negligible even if their questionable value to New Zealand is totally overstated. (see my last blog: Dining out on dead rats)

On the other side the costs, which were hidden and denied for so long, are very real and substantial.

One example is the extension of intellectual property rights by 20 years. This just adds billions of dollars to the balance sheets of the corporate copyright owners we consumers have to pay for. There is not even any pretence of a justification unlike the big pharmaceutical corporations, which argued that they had to recover the huge costs of developing new generation drugs.
When the copyright extension from 50 to 70 years was passed in the US some years ago on behalf of the Disney Corporation when their major copyrights were due to end the law was appropriately called the “Mickey Mouse Law“. Why on earth should we adopt the Mickey mouse law to benefit Hollywood ?

What the protagonists are left with is the notion that it is unthinkable that little New Zealand would not be “on the bus”, when it was leaving the station. This is not even an argument. It is a variation of being part of the “club” and having to pay a price for it. Whenever New Zealand often reluctantly joined the “club” for no good reason other than being bullied by the big boys we paid a hefty price from Gallipoli to Vietnam to Afghanistan.

Have we forgotten our proudest moments in living memory when little New Zealand stood up to the bullies and decided not to be part of the club or on the bus ? When we resisted US pressure and took an independent position on the nuclear issue. When we did not join the phoney coalition committing the war crime of invading Iraq in 2003. A war, which not only was an international war crime but also so stupid that 12 years later the world has to deal with its disastrous consequences in the Middle East. To keep us off that bus was the only great achievement of the Clark government. Now she has for her own personal ambitions fallen behind the TPPA proponents.

What is wrong with us that we have to follow and be on any bus without asking where it is taking us ?
I cannot help to see my lambs pushing and shoving to get on the “bus” when their time has come to go to lamb heaven.

How bad must the TPPA be when it’s protagonist have to scrape the barrel and resort to the most stupid argument ever : Being on the bus.

Is there no consideration that the bus we are so desperate to be on is in fact a sheep truck taking us to free trade heaven.

by  Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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TPPA : Dining out on dead rats

TPPA – what we don’t know

All governments involved in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) have kept negotiations deliberately secret. This enables them to brush of any criticism from its sceptical citizens as uninformed scaremongering. They won’t release the full text for some time yet even if it has now been signed off.

So far the discussion is based on leaks of some of the chapters and on the experience with previous similar agreements. All of which should give us reason for grave concern.
However, we don’t know the details and of course the devil lies always in the detail.

We also cannot see into the future. So all predictions of future gains are only speculative. For instance when tariffs are cut on – for argument’s sake – Kiwifruit by ten percent we are made to believe that this will mean 10 % more return for the NZ Kiwifruit industry. This however is based on the assumption that the overseas buyers are totally stupid. Knowing about the tariff reduction they will ask for a equivalent price reduction to pass this on to their consumers. After all wasn’t “free” trade to benefit consumers ? In this game the big supermarkets hold the power not the producers. Just listen to Rod Oram on Tuesday’s Radio NZ National. He is asking all the right questions. This goes for all tariff reductions. To hail them as just benefitting our exporters is not telling us the truth.

TPPA – what we do know

Looking at the Orwellian “Ministry of Truth” propaganda efforts already starting the very morning we know that the detailed content of the so called “trade” deal doesn’t matter in the government’s effort to sell the deal to the sceptical New Zealand public. Without any more information since yesterday, last week or last month one government official involved in previous negotiations claimed on Radio NZ National that the scaremongering of the critics has been proved to be unfounded. How can he claim that ? On which information ? Just because the deal was reached ? As no more information has come out it can only be what it was before, which is spin, lies and propaganda.
Our government declares that the just signed TPPA will give “more jobs, higher incomes and a better standard of living” to New Zealanders in the future without producing one shred of evidence. Instead as far as actual trade is concerned like dairy we read that Fonterra was “very disappointed” by limited gains for dairy in the TPPA, with the Government admitting it was “too difficult” to lift all tariffs in the newly-agreed trade deal. And that is already the most positive spin they can put on it.

Another thing we do already know is the fact that copyrights have been extended from 50 to 70 years. This exemplifies what the whole deal is about. It adds billions of dollars to the balance sheets of the corporate copyright holders while the creators of the copyright don’t actually benefit and couldn’t care less if their creation is protected for 70 instead of 50 years after their death. A justification for this gigantic gift to the corporations is not even attempted. Unlike with pharmaceuticals where is is meant to encourage expensive research We are just told that books and music will get more expensive.

TPPA – the bigger picture

One thing about the whole TPP / “free trade” discussion I have missed so far is the part it plays in the wider neoliberal agenda.

What is reported is only one side of the coin/story/ledger. We are blindly accepting that getting rid of tariffs must be a good thing. Our exporters don’t have to pay them and we consumers might get imported stuff cheaper.

However, the later doesn’t apply to New Zealand anymore as we unilaterally gave tariffs away a long time ago as good disciples of the neoliberal textbook. We threw away our future bargaining chips of for instance our car import tariffs, which had made it viable to have a car assembly industry in NZ.  Cutting tariffs of about 350 million came at a cost of a loss of around 12,000 jobs. What is hardly ever reported and emphasised is of course the revenue loss of 350 million dollars, which could have bought a lot of health services and education.
But I am getting sidetracked and angry every time I have to remember the follies of the 1980-ties and 90-ties.

What is missing from the tariffs-good-or-bad debate is the tax/revenue aspect.
Tariffs are a form of tax and as all tax have two functions: one to gather revenue for the government, and two: achieve explicit or unspoken government policy. If you fiddle with them for policy reasons you have to at least consider the revenue implications. This means how do you want pay for a gap of 350 million in our budget as in the case above. Are our children or the sick paying for it with the lack of treatment and teachers ? Or who else is paying ?

What we are witnessing with tariff reductions and eliminations really is a tax brake for the rich and powerful international import/export corporations at the expense of weaker members of our community. And on the policy side governments surrender the most effective tool to achieve its policy goals to the corporations. And to add insult to injury the foreign corporation have demanded and got the right to sue our governments in secret overseas tribunals for any law or regulation, which might affect future profits.

It is all just another step on the way for corporations to rule the world. The role of governments and implicit in that is civil society and democracy is weakened. The private international corporations are strengthened.

While I am writing this I realise that it sounds like a nightmare conspiracy theory. But I can’t find the fault in my description of what we are all witnessing. May be my tax accountant friends and readers can help me with that.

And here for the really crazy part. It is governments i.e. politicians themselves, which are not only  negotiating and signing the deal, which emasculates them but ramming it down the throats of a sceptical public, which instinctively knows that the result is not good for them.

It only shows who are the puppets and who pulls the strings.



TPPA – the role of our media

We can already gather the approach of the corporate media.

What we are witnessing is a serious step taken in our history. Nation states surrendering to the international corporations. Will it be properly reported ? No !

The media field is left to the neoliberal cheerleaders and clowns. Like last night on TV3’s “story” where six equally uninformed punters like the rest of us were asked to rate the TPPA on a scale from 1 to 10. One joker gave it 7.5 and added an extra point for the efforts in dairy, which is of course a slap in the face of that industry. It wasn’t even meant to be ironic. At least nobody saw the joke.

We are fed the platitudes of the political protagonists of the TPPA like “When the bus leaves the station you want to be on it.” The media are not asking if the bus is actually going into the direction we want before we jump on it.

The clowns should at least endeavour to find out how so many governments developed a taste for swallowing dead rats. According to our “victorious” trade minister (see cartoon above) they were all into it. There would be even a cook book in it :

 > Dining out on dead rats <   


by  Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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VW emissions scandal: Any surprises ?

Emission Scandal

The various emissions standards and testing regimes in the US, EU and individual countries are complex. Like most of us I was only superficially informed by news reports about the VW scandal but not the background and long history of emission standards.

One thing I for instance learned in a lengthy conversation with a good friend in Germany was the fact that not only individual car and engine models have emission standards but the whole fleet of cars manufactured by one company have a standard. This allows manufacturers to build top-end high performance & emission cars when they also produce small low emission cars. They can offset the high with the low emissions to reach one fleet emission target.

The others are the different tests and results between testing stations where the car is stationary either idling or the wheels running in a steady pace on rollers and real road operation. One is basically a lab situation in a controlled environment while the other is real life motoring with the family, mother in law and the dog in the car in stop-and-go city traffic or up and down hill through the country. The latter producing much higher emissions.

VW as any carmaker had to accommodate two goals, which are almost mutually exclusive. Low fuel consumption and emissions on the one hand against performance and cost on the other. They apparently have the technology to meet the emission targets but at a cost of performance and higher production cost and a more cumbersome service regime. In order to avoid the latter they decided to just cheat on the emission side.

The background to all this is of course the desire of governments and regulators to reduce car emissions to improve our health and save the planet from global warming. But there is at least as much desire to accommodate the fossil fuel and car industry as there is for actual emissions reduction. The standards however  must be met by hook or by crook.

In other words good intentions together with defunded shrinking governments relying on industry figures instead of its own or independent testing have led to these unintended nasty consequences.

VW cheating scandal

ARCHIV - ILLUSTRATION - Ein VW Passat TDI Clean Diesel wird am 09.01.2012 bei der North American International Autoshow (NAIAS) im US-amerikanischen Detroit auf dem Messestand von Volkswagen gesäubert. Volkswagen drohen in den USA aufgrund angeblicher Verstöße gegen das Klimaschutzgesetz «Clean Air Act» hohe Bußgelder. Foto: Friso Gentsch/dpa (Redaktioneller Hinweis: Bei dem gezeigten Modell handelt es sich nicht um ein Modell, welches in der dpa-Zusammenfassung erwähnt wird) (zu dpa «Verstoß gegen Klimaschutzregeln? USA drohen VW mit hoher Strafe» vom 19.09.2015) +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Yeah right

It is most instructive how this slow motion train wreck unfolded for VW. It was not government testing or control, which uncovered the cheats. It was an independent low cost organisation, which actually was after a good news story to demonstrate the benefits of these low emission diesel engines. They operated on a shoe string and had to borrow some of the cars from friends and drove them across country from LA to Chicago only to find out that the actual emission were many time higher than to be expected according to the manufacturer’s figures. They reported their findings to the US authorities, which in turn send a please-explain letter to VW. All this in 2014. Only earlier this year when US authorities threatened to withhold the necessary certification for selling their diesel cars in the US did VW wake up to the seriousness of the situation. Finally a few days ago they admitted to a computer programme, with which they had manipulated emission results by giving lab test/testing station figures instead of an actual road use figure.
In other words a low budget private organisation not government controls or testing and clever software engineers got the ball rolling. Not proper forensic investigation but pure threats forced VW to admit wrongdoing on a massive scale.

With that admission the proverbial hit the fan.

Not only did the share price of the world’s largest car maker tank by 40%. The rest of the world’s car industry big wigs have to change their underwear frequently in fear of the spotlight been shown on them for this and various other issues with their products. The list of wrongdoing even of a much more serious nature concerning safety is long.
In the special case of VW however the rest of the world of course loves to take the world beating German car industry down a peg or two. For the whole German industry the “Made in Germany” quality brand is under threat.

Lessons so far

A rude awakening for Germany and it’s economic and specifically industrial prowess. The country had come through the recent global financial crisis relatively unscathed. Unlike the UK, which its greater emphasis on the City of London’s funny money economy i.e. the banking industry, Germany is still producing stuff the world wants. Even I as a long time ex-German sometimes felt smug about the Anglo-American criminal shenanigans of the finance industry. Everyone seemed to agree and I learned the word at Berkeley already in 1969 that bankers were just banksters. Some friends were confident that the criminal justice system would deal with the global financial crisis. Then we learned about our financial institutions that they were not only too big to fail so the taxpayer had to bail them out. They also were too big to jail so the criminals at the top got off scott free.

But we still nurtured the illusion that even if Wall Street was crook Main Street – the real productive industries – was ok. Especially in Germany where there is the “Mittelstand”, often for generations family owned companies not under constant pressure of quarterly reporting, acting responsibly. VW is still being controlled by the families of it’s famous founder and designer of the original VW Beetle, Ferdinand Porsche.

Columnist Jakob Augstein in the German Spiegel magazine under the title “VW-Scandal and Capitalism: The Car ? The Fraud !“gives the reason why a highly successful company with 600,000 employees, 200 billion Euro revenue, 119 factories building every eights car in the world resorted to breaking the law : Greed.

Smug German industrialist thought of themselves superior to the Anglo-American finance industry with it’s fraud and deception by having orderly German rules, which all supposedly followed. However capitalism is the same in all sectors from finance to cars to pharma. Companies even if given human rights by the US Supreme Court have no human qualities like conscience nor morals. They are as Canadian film maker and law professor Joel Bakan describes in his book titled “The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power” (Free Press, 2004), designed to be psycho- or sociopaths.


The irony being that the US are by many – not unlike in the FIFA scandal – hailed as the saviour with their cowboy attitude to justice. In reality compared to the EU they don’t give a rat’s arse about the environment and global warming. They just don’t like to be lied to and good on them for reacting strongly.

One lesson should however be learned. Capitalism in order to survive needs a strong nation state to set the rules and police then. That is what Adam Smith the founding father of market economy stipulated and what today’s neoliberals perverting his theories and creating the monstrous capitalist system we live in have conveniently forgotten.

Any Surprises ?

The finance industry behaving like crime syndicates : No surprise, almost a given.

The rest of industries under the capitalist system also acting unethically, immorally and even criminally : No surprise.

The leading carmaker in the world with brands like Porsche, Bentley and Audi – the latter also affected with over two million cars – risking billions of dollars and not only their own survival as a company but the business reputation of their country as a whole with a scam, which was easily detected by low budget amateurs beggars believe. That nobody in the organisation looked at that risk and concluded that it could not possibly be worth it amounts to stupidity on a monumental scale.

To find stupidity on this scale in one of the leading manufacturers in one of the leading industrialised nations : The only surprise.

by  Dr. Hans B. Grueber


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New Zealand’s growing pains

Growing up (in) New Zealand

New Zealand is a young country. That is if you disregard earlier settlers and start with the arrival of Rugby.
Growing up as a young country goes in leaps and bounds. In the old days it was months long overseas tours from the Incredibles to the Invincibles around the turn of the last century to the four yearly Rugby World Cup tournaments of the present time.

This year we have been going through an unsettling and painful period of upheaval, which normally would be associated with a growth spurt. We had the urgent overnight law change extending drinking hours in pubs and bars as if we only had known since last week that the 2015 tournament is played on the other side of the world in a different time zone.
The latest is the “Push back for Black” full page news paper ad campaign over the last weeks to push back the working hours in New Zealand to give the rugby fans the time to sober up after their early morning drinking sessions watching the game.

It is questionable if this is actually a sign of growing up, progress, ‘moving forward’ as a nation or the opposite a step backwards towards retardation.

Lessons from the home front

I have to admit that I do not understand rugby. When I came from a non English speaking  nor rugby playing country to New Zealand in 1981 my sporting days were well and truly over. I have just been watching from the sideline my children play. Unlike cricket, which I learned to understand, love and follow, one obviously has to have played rugby to understand the rules and appreciate the game. However I have a young true Kiwi friend who explained it to me in terms I can understand.

I commented on the above mentioned “Push back for Black” campaign saying what a lucky country we are. In a world in trouble wherever we look our biggest concern seems to be the drinking and working hours around a sports tournament. He got very agitated almost angry with me that I didn’t appreciate that Rugby is really our religion.


This made me think and reflect on the nature of this our religion and my friend as an example of it’s worshippers.

I have known this young man for a very long time. He was brought up in a secular almost anti-religious family. He got baptised and confirmed simultaneously while attending a christian boarding school only to get access to some mess wine and probably giving the fingers to his father. He never attended church ever again after leaving that school even for his own wedding and his children are not baptised or brought up in any kind of religious believe. In other words you would not find a more secular person if it would not be for Rugby.

I really got him into trouble by asking, which side he would have been on during the 1981 Springbok Tour. I know him as a fair, strong anti-apartheid kind of a guy who knows that part of our history even if he was just born at the time. He struggled with his answer trying to reconcile his values with his religion. His somewhat unprincipled but practical response was : Depending if I had a ticket.

I have to admit though he takes his religion seriously. During the first match of the All Blacks at the weekend he checked the score on his phone in the middle of the night and the ABs were behind. He got so worried that he got up and decided to watch the second half. As the house is a sky-free zone he had to get on the computer and pay a $17 one day subscription to watch the rest of the game in leaps and interruptions because of our slow internet speed. All this just after four o’clock in the morning. His worship was rewarded with the come-from-behind win by the All Blacks.

May be the All Blacks and the nation for that matter have to thank him and all the rugby supporters like him. The ‘Push back for Black” campaign might be right in their IMPORTANT MESSAGE FOR THE NEW ZEALAND PUBLIC  asking “to allow the nation the chance to watch the games and support our team“. The ABs might not have won without the valiant early morning support from my friend and people like him. We will know whom to blame if our Rugby Gods don’t bring back the revered trophy. It will be heartless, godless New Zealand employers just thinking of the economy and productivity when keeping to normal working hours.

Rugby as our religion

For a secular man I am thinking quite a bit about religion. You might remember one of my previous blogs “Thank you Brian Tamaki“.

At closer inspection Rugby meets all the criteria of a religion. If the NZ Rugby Union does not already have tax-exempt status it should.
Rugby is our religion. Richie McCaw, Sunny Bill Williams and the rest of the All Blacks are our gods. And in the case of my friend who can’t get to the stadium itself Sky TV is the surrogate church where you put your 17 dollars on the collection plate during the service. And it makes us feel good at least most of the time if you are lucky enough to be an All Black supporter.

But most of all as with the other organised religions ultimately it is all about money. The worshippers pay keeping the faith. The people on the top get rich. However the All Blacks have still a long way to go to reach their financial potential as it was timely pointed out in yesterday’s NZ Herald.

And everyone feels good and seems to be happy. Religion again fulfils it’s function.

Where does it leave us secular people ?  We are hoping that with all the sleepless nights, law changes, angst and upheaval our nation will grow up a little bit more.

I’m afraid we might be left with just the growing pains.

by  Dr. Hans B. Grueber


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Corbyn & Sanders – the end is nigh

It has been a while but now I find the time to reflect on recent events, which have send shockwaves through the political establishment on both sides of the Atlantic. Like the tsunami crossing the pacific at the time of writing the shockwaves will reach our shores.

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn has over a couple of months with his campaign and landslide victory in the election for the leadership of the UK Labour Party and leader of her Majesty’s loyal opposition rocked some pillars of our political system.


Neoliberal dogma says that calling yourself unashamedly a socialist and having a lifelong record of supporting traditional founding principles and policies of the UK Labour Party makes you unelectable. These positions are now described as far left because the political ground has shifted. Political doctrine dispensed by the majority of academic and media commentators says that elections are decided in the centre. So parties fall all over each other to occupy the centre. This makes them almost indistinguishable.

This doctrine is like all neoliberal ideology based on a falsehood created and spread by the people who want all political discourse indistinguishable in the middle ground so we keep believing that There Is No Alternative.
The example always given were the 1983 UK elections. They were called early in the euphoria after the Falkland war. The Labour leader was Michael Foot from the left. The clear left manifesto is still described by today’s neoliberally tainted commentariat as “the longest political suicide note in history”.

Or was it ?

It could as well have been that Labour lost that election despite it’s socialist manifesto. I remember the times and it was clear from the outset that the Iron Lady was hard to beat in the afterglow of those delirious days of jingoistic flag waving  at the return of the victorious  fleet.
The numbers : The vote for the Conservatives actually fell by 1.5 %. The Labour vote on the other side had fallen by 9.3 %. However this number corresponds closely with the numbers the Social Democrats which had split from Labour at the time and formed an Alliance with the Liberals, which gained 11.6 %.
We also must not forget the undemocratic first-past-the-post electoral system. The Conservative Party achieved its 144 seat majority on the basis of only 42.4% of the vote. The vast majority of voters rejected Margret Thatcher policies.

In other words this famous 1983 landslide election with the “ultimate defeat of left wing socialist policies” were lost by Labour for different reasons. There is no evidence whatsoever that the “socialist political manifesto/suicide note” had anything to do with the electoral defeat.

Still for the last thirty years we have heard not much else but this falsehood : Left wing/socialist policies make political parties unelectable.

Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide win by popular vote has shaken the foundations of this doctrine. He won clearly because of his left wing/socialist policies. This is a fact the neoliberal commentariat tries to paper over by claiming steadfastly that this victory again amounts to political suicide and the only question remains if it will be 15, 20 or 30 years in the political wilderness for Labour.

I am afraid that true to form as ideologues they are only able to see what they want to see. They are missing the mood of the crowd, which is getting increasingly angry with the neoliberal austerity policies inflicted on them. They want hope. Only radical change can give them hope. Corbyn advocates that change and gives them that hope.
Those mostly young Labour supporters who paid their three pounds in order to cast their vote have already learned one crucial lesson they never before experienced, which is that votes do count. A very dangerous development for the neoliberals who don’t want the 99% to find out that their vote can bring change.

The UK neoliberal mainstream media have been predictably hostile with fabricated headlines. Take a look at these:
“Unions threaten chaos after Corbyn win” (Daily Telegraph); “Corbyn union pals pledge strike chaos” (Daily Mail); “Labour divide deepens as Umunna quits over Corbyn stance on Europe” (The Guardian); “Now Chuka Umunna joins anti-Corbyn exodus” (The Independent); “Labour divisions widen as Corbyn takes charge” (The Times); “Corbyn: Abolish the army” (The Sun); “Why Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn is a danger to Britain” (Daily Express) and “Back Corbyn… or quit Labour” (Metro).
And as historian and commentator Chris Trotter in an after dinner talk this week said “they are just clearing their throats”.

But shock horror that is not all. The situation is confounded by events across the Atlantic.

Bernie Sanders

In the US in the meantime a senator of the small New England state of Vermont and self declared (democratic) socialist is leading the democratic race for the White House.


If anyone only six month ago would have predicted that Bernie Sanders an unashamedly  “socialist” with a long anti-establishment track record would be going into the democratic primaries as the frontrunner we would have checked their state of mind. The label “socialist” in the US being considered as toxic as child rapist.

The parallels between the US and UK events are striking. On a personal level we have two men at retirement age leading the charge. Both Corbyn and Sanders are softly spoken, unpretentious, principled and abstaining from personal attacks. Both have been in the business for over four decades but never become part of the political establishment but rather been a thorn in their thigh. Most importantly they are old enough to have experienced society before the onslaught of neoliberal ideology and have not forgotten.

Both have been focussing on the real issues concerning the people like healthcare, housing, education and the like. These fall under the overarching issue of inequality where the top 0.1% own and control more wealth than the bottom 90% combined. In both cases they have been the only ones to make inequality the centre point of their campaign and it has resonated with the people. In both cases it has created a grass-root movement, which is giving people hope they didn’t have under the same-old same-old system of the past.

In both cases the political and media establishment is in denial. In the UK Corbyn’s landslide democratic victory is framed as the ultimate defeat for Labour. In the US the frontrunner status is denied because Hilary, his closest contender, has got millions more to spend and greater name recognition. The Time cover may change that a bit.

Lessons for New Zealand ?

The question is how the huge popular movements in the countries we look at most for guidance will affect the political landscape here. Much depends of course if the neoliberal naysayers in both countries under the leadership of the same billionaire Rupert Murdoch will be able to destroy the men and the movements. The gloves will be off as the media and other billionaires realise that this could be the beginning of the end of their rule.

Earlier in the week I attended an event with a speaker putting the Corbyn win into the historical context. The average age of the 60 odd people in the room was about sixty. Only a handful of younger faces in their thirties. This is not a reason for despair. Corbyn and Sanders have shown that retirees who have not forgotten the pre-neoliberal “golden” age can inspire the young. Unfortunately the only inspirational leader in New Zealand of that age is not from the left.

Still, even here the end of neoliberal rule might be nigh.

by  Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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